When Wilko’s Leeds Ruined Christmas For Fergie and Man United – by Rob Atkinson


Yeboah scores

Masterblaster Tony Yeboah gets the second for Leeds to ruin the Man U Christmas

As Yuletide approaches, it seems fitting to strike a seasonal note and invoke the Spirit of Christmas Past for a nostalgic revisiting of one particular December 24th many moons ago. All the ingredients for happiness came together that day: we ate, drank and were merry; we were uplifted and raised our voices in chorus amid a mighty throng; and we experienced and passed on goodwill to all men – except for a select few in the red shirts of Manchester United.

It was Christmas Eve 1995, and I awoke unusually early for a home match because Leeds United were due to face that other United from across the Pennines in a late morning kick-off at Elland Road. I’d stayed at a mate’s house, the plan being to gather at a local hostelry and wait for the supporters’ bus, fortified by a breakfast of bacon butties and bottled beer, whilst perusing the morning papers, unanimously predicting some away-day Christmas cheer for Fergie and his not-altogether-likeable Manchester United team. Those journalists’ anticipation of my team’s likely demise left me feeling queasy, a sensation not lessened by the pre-breakfast intake of alcohol. By the time we left for the stadium, I was feeling fairly poorly, with an uncomfortable sense that I was not going to enjoy my day. And, although Man U were recovering from a poor result at Liverpool, the boys and girls at Betulator would probably have endorsed my pessimism; it felt like very long odds against a home win to gladden the hearts of the faithful.

How wrong could I have been? Leeds were coming off the back of a humiliating thrashing at Hillsborough, and the feeling among our partially inebriated band of United faithful was that we’d either be getting more of the same, to cast a pall over Christmas itself – or that we’d mount a spectacular recovery and return to form, sending the enemy back to Lancashire beaten and subdued. And lo, it came to pass. Our heroes in White rose to the holiday occasion and rewarded the Elland Road congregation by granting their dearest wish, outclassing the invading Mancunians and recording a 3-1 victory that guaranteed we’d be opening our gifts and engulfing our turkey dinners the following day in the very highest of spirits.

There was even a Christmas miracle as, against the normal rules of these occasions, Leeds were awarded and dispatched an early penalty, much to the disgust of apoplectic Red Devils captain Steve Bruce, clearly not used to that sort of treatment. We had a brief scare as Andrew Cole notched a leveller against the run of play, but then Tony Yeboah provided a majestic finish before Brian Deane sealed the win late on with a precise header from a Tomas Brolin cross. At the end, the home fans celebrated raucously, revelling in the Yuletide spirit and the discomfiture of the away fans, that gloomy and huddled bunch, as they departed on their long and dispirited trek back to Devon.

If it sounds as though I can remember all this in vivid detail across the intervening years, well – that would be somewhat deceptive; it’s just that I’ve watched and re-watched the highlights so many times since. My main memories are of the spectacular hangover I experienced in the remainder of that Yuletide Eve; the feeling that, nevertheless, all was right with the world and that Christmas would be merry indeed – and the look of relief on the faces of my wife and infant daughter, who had feared I’d be grumpy in defeat and not inclined to carouse. It’s ridiculous of course that a mere game of football should so influence my mood at such a time of year, but that’s the way it was – and I suspect it still would be.

Perhaps that’s why they don’t tend to have football on December the 24th any more, such intense rivalry being out of keeping with festive good cheer. I can quite see that – but believe me, when you beat your biggest rivals the day before Christmas, there’s no better way to ensure the happiest of holidays.

Have a great Christmas, one and all.

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9 responses to “When Wilko’s Leeds Ruined Christmas For Fergie and Man United – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Life is LUFC

    I suspect if I look over the garden fence I will still see that grin… thanks for the very happy memory, my Christmas is now as complete as yours was then.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours.

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  2. It was a live SKY game and I seem to remember it being the only game on that day, which wasn’t surprising, but it’s a game that seems to get forgotten well behind the ground-breaking 2 -1 win in 1994.
    Yeboah looked fantastic that day and even Brolin had one of his best games for Leeds and the atmosphere was unbelievable.
    I remember the usual unfriendly welcome from the Leeds fans as the Man U players got off the coach next to the players entrance and spotted the then Radio Leeds pairing of Bryn Law and Norman Hunter, who were stood at the back of those unwelcoming Leeds fans, with smiles on their faces.
    A great day !

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  3. Howard Mackey

    Merry Christmas to you and your family Rob and i hope you all have a Happy and Healthy New Year.
    Howard.

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  4. Peter Rollinson

    Have a great Christmas Rob and family. Keep up the great work,love your blogs,MOT.
    Pete

    Like

  5. Robert Mynett

    I remember it well – my brother and I were late and missed the first goal by minutes but fortunately still made it to enjoy the thrashing of the enemy. A bright patch in an otherwise pretty poor season.

    Like

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