Why We Love Leeds…
Keegan’s rant, Shearer’s first from open play, infamous purple shirt, Ketsbaia’s last minute equaliser, Boxing Day delight, Clarence Acuna, Nobby’s last minute winner, Dyer’s goals, Shearer’s opening day point saver…
Drawing Leeds at home in the next round of the League Cup has to be one of the most evocative fixtures we could possibly have hoped for.
I’ve been a Toon fan all my life but the first season I was really aware of what was going on was when I moved into my first year at Hexham Middle School – 95/96 (nowt like a stress-free start to football life eh?) saw Keith Gillespie score a header in a nervy 1-0 win at Elland Road with just two games of the season to go.
In fact nervy is an understatement, it meant Newcastle United and Manchester United were separated by only 3 points (them having played one more game than us) and the very real chance that the title could be decided on goal difference (in the end they won by 4 points), the real headlines however weren’t made by Gillespie, the 3 points or the final score.
Kevin Keegan used a live press conference with Sky to claim he would “love it if we beat them, love it!”. This has gone down in Toon Army folklore with the national media claiming Keegan ‘lost it’ and ‘cracked under pressure’. He in fact did no such thing, he wore his heart on his sleeve and railed against the injustice of the situation, I personally loved him for that and feel many fans can still resonate with it today.
Next season, Leeds brought more memories, Alan Shearer scoring his first Toon goal from open play in a 1-0 win at Elland Road and Keegan’s last ever league match was a 3-0 victory on New Year’s Day at St James’.
Less happy was the next season’s set of fixtures against Leeds. We got hammered 4-1 in a truly awful away shirt (Gillespie’s header not bringing us 3 points this time) and clawed back a 1-1 thanks to Ketsbaia squeezing the ball under the keeper in the last minute at home. We also didn’t have much to cherish at St James’ the next year as we were on the wrong end of a 3-0 reverse. We did however enjoy success away, Nobby scoring the only goal in another 1-0 win.
Bobby Robson’s fixtures against Leeds seemed to bring plenty of goals, one of his first matches ended in a 3-2 away loss. We came back from 2-0 down to 2-2 only to lose 3-2 and nearly repeated that feat at St James’ – going 2-0 down, getting back to 2-2 and then gifting Leeds a penalty…they missed and the Toon got a point!
Newcastle and Leeds always seemed to share dramatic matches but the next four proved to be some of the most enjoyable and fruitful for the Toon Army faithful and their hordes of travelling fans. 00/01 wasn’t a particularly enjoyable season, the two games against Leeds however stood out. Firstly, we came from behind on boxing day to win 2-1, Solano equalising with a long range free kick and 2 minutes later, Clarence Acuna converting a close range header. Away we had more of the same with Solano (again), Acuna (again!) and Ameobi wrapping up a fine comeback to win 3-1. 01/02 was even better with one of the games of the season at Elland Road seeing the magpies win 4-3 despite being 3-1 down in the second half, this was made even sweeter by cementing our place at the top of the league at Christmas. At home, we again went behind but Kieron Dyer and Craig Bellamy inspired United to another 3-1 success, Duberry contributing an own goal to our cause at the Leazes End.
We didn’t have long to wait to face them away in 02/03, losing 2-0 at St James’ in a game we actually dominated! Revenge was gained in the return as Kieron Dyer hit a brace and the Toon comfortably despatched the whites 3-0.
Sadly, 03/04 saw the last competitive action between the 2 teams. Shearer scored twice on the opening day to save a point and then grabbed another in a 1-0 home win.
Since then, it’s fair to say Leeds have had a rollercoaster 10 years. The only action between us coming in friendlies, a 0-0 draw at St James’ just after our relegation seemed eerily like we were watching with the ghost of Christmas yet to come, especially with Mark Lawrenson claiming we could ‘do a Leeds’ and get relegated to league 1 (this man is actually paid to talk about football!) and a 3-2 defeat in 11/12 that proved friendlies aren’t the best form guide as our lads marched on to 5th place by the end of the season.
As you can see then, this fixture always seems to throw up plenty of drama. What memories will be made this week? With plenty of my mates from Uni being Leeds fans I don’t care…as long as it’s the Magpies rather than our Yorkshire opponents taking one more step on the road to Wembley.
HOWAY THE LADS!
All Match Betting Click HERE
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]