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Opinion

Leeds away in 1982 – How it was, when it was

3 weeks ago
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These back in the day articles are fun to write, but they are reliant on my memory. What is odd is that I can remember virtually every detail, yet this morning I am not sure if I had bacon or cornflakes for breakfast, the joys of getting old eh!

This time I am going to talk about Leeds, yes dirty Leeds.

It is fair to say we have had a fairly hostile relationship with our Yorkshire friends over the years, although these days it seems to have mellowed, this was confirmed when in the Peacock recently (their equivalent of the Strawberry) I was having a bit of banter with a Leeds fan who had the letters LUFC tattooed on his upper lip, and I will quote him not me, when he said “it’s funny, 20 years ago we would be rolling about on the floor now instead of talking like this’, hmm speak for yourself mate, I managed to mostly stay on the periphery of all that.

Back in the early 80s it’s also fair to say that Leeds fans had quite a reputation, however, its equally fair to say that our fans were if anything worse and with a worse reputation to match, our fans would think nothing of turning up in city centres or home fans pubs and make it known they were there, this was long before the days of mobile phones and internet, it was something we just did.

Between 1982 and 1984, Newcastle and Leeds clashed half a dozen times, including a couple of league cup ties, its a fact that none of the games went off without incident both on and off the pitch.

The 1-0 win first game of the season in August 1983 at Elland Road, saw Newcastle fans set fire to the grass bank adjacent to the stand, at the time it seemed rather frivolous but looking back now, it could easily have got worse as Elland Road had a very old and awkward looking stand that only went three quarters of the way at the side, the paddock went the full length but the seats didn’t, a very odd stand indeed.

Anyway, I am going to reminisce about the season before and the game at Elland Road on 30 October 1982. Newcastle, although not quite flying as high as they should have been, had acquired a certain Kevin Keegan and it is fair to say wherever he played, home crowds swelled considerably, a lot of this due to the away following Newcastle had (and still have).

Kevin KeeganMy day started the night before, as always, a Friday night in Newcastle and kipping on a mate’s floor in Byker. Getting up the next morning and looking for a cafe on Shields Rd for breakfast we bumped into some lads who were off to Leeds, we had not planned to go and you didn’t need tickets in those days, so after a brief discussion it was deemed there was room in the back of the van and off we went.

For some reason we had a pick up in Gosforth, Sainsbury’s (I think) was suitably called in for stocks of beer (I think it was paid for but can’t be sure) and it was about 8.30am that the Atlas hire Ford transit was crossing the Tyne Bridge with 15 squeezed into the back and three in the front, I am of course unable to confirm whether the driver had a can of refreshment in hand.

It has to be said that I only knew about three or four of the 18 on board but they all seemed like friendly types and indeed they were until we somehow reached Elland Road a few hours later. One of the lads on board I believe was actually in the Met and had an altercation with Chelsea fans at Stamford Bridge at the end of the previous season, resulting in injuries to three fans, no arrests and those fans being put back into The Shed straight after……don’t ask!

The plan for the day was head for York, few beers then leave at 1.30 to head to Leeds, as it was only a short half hour drive away.

All was going to plan apart from numerous hard shoulder toilet breaks and we arrived just outside York at 10.30, only to be flagged down by a lone plod on a motorbike who had obviously noticed us. After speaking to the driver he confirmed he was worried that the only suspension the van had was the air in the tyres, such was the weight of us all crammed in the back, he then opened the back doors…only to be told he was not getting in until he paid his £4. The driver was then asked if he had a PSV category driving licence……. Obviously not, so an instant fine! However, the plod was not interested in anything other than us passing through his village as we then became the problem of someone else, so about 20 mins later we are in York, in the pub and much fun was had.

The first hint of trouble happened when a bus load of Hartlepool fans turned up, they were playing York that day and had many more numbers than us, and while some posturing was had, it soon became clear to me that our lot were seriously more nuts than the poolies, who decided to move on before things could escalate. Most of these Poolies were good guys but amongst their number were some whose second team was Sunderland, hence the hostility.

At about 1.30 more beers were ordered and the manager of the pub reminded us Leeds was a bit of a drive away. He had enjoyed us being there because there had been no real trouble and his till coffers had swelled considerably on a Saturday afternoon. I wonder though if he was so joyous when he checked the tab machine later? Anyway, with the clock ticking and full glasses, we were still in York with kick off now less than an hour away, it was time to head to Elland Road.

Saturday afternoon traffic of course meant further delays and at 3 pm we are on the outskirts of Leeds, still with numerous toilet stops and nowhere near Elland Road. We had a crackly radio so the sport was on and as we were about to park up, there was un update from Elland Road, trouble had broken out and Kevin Keegan had been felled by a missile thrown from the crowd. A few minutes later another Newcastle player was felled by a missile, I believe it was John Anderson, however, this had been thrown by our lot – whoever threw it was aiming for a Leeds player.

We parked on grass wasteland behind the South Stand and were paying to go in, just as the referee was taking the players off the pitch because of the off field incidents.

We are in the paddock adjacent to the South Stand and clearly there had been serious off the pitch trouble as there were plenty broken seats, we learned quickly that Leeds and Newcastle fans had been seriously at it, as NUFC had been allocated half the lower seats, and the police had decided to move the Newcastle fans out of that section and in with us.

Next thing I see ( I am pleased my climbing abilities were limited) is dozens of Newcastle fans scaling the fences to get back in at the Leeds fans to our left, including at least three or four from our transit, the police had no chance of controlling this and fights broke out in this section again, where despite being seriously outnumbered, the Newcastle fans who had got over gave a seriously good account of themselves, I won’t lie, absolute nutters, fearless and game. The players did not come back on until control was regained by the police but it was several minutes as more and more Newcastle fans attempted to join in. Don’t get me wrong, it was not one sided as Leeds fans were equally game, seats were thrown back and forward and it took a while before things calmed down.

Many arrests were made and I remember thinking, gonna be a lot more room in the back of the van on the way back.

Eventually order restored and the game was played out in the most hostile of atmospheres, a game we lost 3-1 after scoring first.

At full time there was more mayhem as Newcastle fans were locked in, but within minutes the gates were forced and like an overflowing fizzy pop bottle the Newcastle fans spilled out everywhere, again the police struggled to contain things as fights broke out almost everywhere in view, but somehow most Newcastle fans were forced towards where the buses were. For the record, this was toward the infamous underpass just beyond the Leeds United supporters social club, this underpass was a bottle neck where home fans often attacked visiting fans. However, on this occasion, because of our late arrival we were parked on the grass wasteland along with masses of cars and other forms of transportation that home fans used.

Somehow and I really don’t know how, most of us managed to get back to the transit. I was a little conscious of the advertising and phone number on the side of the van but others were not…when we thought all those who had not been arrested were back, we decided best thing was to head away. Unfortunately, one of our number being brave, stupid or both, decided to shout out the back of the van… “c’mon you Leeds, we’ll take you all”, there were plenty Leeds still about who charged toward the van. Bravery gone, the same lad then shouted “pull away quick there is loads of them”, at which point the driver did pull away quickly…only for he who shouted to fall out the back doors with cider bottle in hand and seriously hurt himself! Nothing to be done except reverse back and get him before the pack of hounds got to him, some did, some kept their distance, but we all (incl me for once ) jumped out the back of the van and dragged him in while punches were exchanged. I thinks we were lucky cos the main body of Leeds hooligans had gone toward the underpass and this lot, although mouthy, were not really full on into it…looking back I think we were very lucky.

Doors closed, the driver made off in whatever direction we could go, a quick inspection confirmed the lad had seriously cut himself and was leaking claret from his knee and wrist, we had to stop and get directions to a hospital. Initially, the police just wanted us away, but seeing the amount of blood gave us quick directions, so some 15 minutes later we are parked outside St James Hospital while he was in A and E.

The hospital is away from the ground, so we decided best thing was go to the nearest pub and have a few more quiet beers while waiting for him to return. Our numbers were fewer as the driver waited in A and E with one one who was hurt, while we ended up in an old fashioned pub close by. I think out of the 18 who started, there were about 12 of us left, including the two in A and E. The next thing in this eventful trip was to play a drinking game, don’t ask me why, but we ended up playing a game where the forfeit was drinking two fingers of beer, doubling up each time to a maximum of a pint. One lad, a little slower than the rest, had to neck three pints and promptly spewed everywhere, which of course delighted the more sedate locals and bar manager. Rather than make a scene, which some wanted to do, we moved on to another nearby pub.

It was now about 8pm and still no sign of our colleagues in A and E (one of whom was the driver). We then became aware that news of Newcastle fans being still in Leeds had travelled around the city, and a very friendly Leeds fan in full regalia appeared. He had a pint at the bar and was very jolly, while we eyed him suspiciously, he chatted to us from a distance asking if we had enjoyed the game. A couple of replies of yes but not the result, he then walked over and in the friendliest possible way said “you do know you are all gonna die later, as we know you are here”. Our lot were so drunk I don’t think they even responded but about an hour later the manager asked us to leave, just as a brick came flying through the window. A quick look outside confirmed many were waiting, oddly enough though they did not come in. As we had moved pubs our van was not in the car park, which was fortunate, as otherwise I have no doubt it would have been smashed to nothing.

The manager, while asking us to leave, had also called the police when the brick came through the window. So within minutes they were there clearing the mob away, asking what we were doing and why we were there, once we explained about A and E a call was made and our chap somehow jumped the queue. Word was also given to him where we were, and as such they were given a police escort both back to the van and then on to us, whilst the large baying mob were kept at bay….we were then swiftly shoved out the pub and into the van and told to GO.

That was it really, except about three hours later I woke up on the metal floor in a van which was full of sick, blood and I have no doubt, urine. I glanced out the window and noticed a sign saying Scotch Corner and the North, the driver had only initially set off the wrong way down the M1 just to add to our misery…

So there you have it, Leeds away in 1982.

So come on you lot, tell me your stories!

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