Leeds United Change

Leeds United Jon Howe

Leeds United v QPR FA Cup 5th Round February 1987

It was just after 2.00pm when my Dad dropped my brother Mike and I off. Nothing unusual in that, but as we walked through the gates and saw the snaking queues trying to get into the Kop, we soon realised this would be no ordinary Saturday afternoon at Elland Road. For two teenagers captivated by the thrill of starting to attend matches sans parents, it was unusual for any game in the 1980s to be preceded by the faintest notion of not getting in. By 2.20pm that was a very real prospect, as the turnstiles were shutting and the orderly queues had descended into a heaving mass of anxious pushing and shoving. Dog eat dog.

As the vulnerable and isolated gatemen tried to close their doors on each turnstile, the mood darkened. Word spread that the Kop was full. I lost Mike in the melee and suddenly I found myself surging towards a turnstile with its door being forced open. The power of the masses projected me far further forward than my 15-year old body could have done alone; pure good fortune. Suddenly, amongst the chaos, a hand reached through the turnstile from inside the ground and grabbed me. Anyone older and bigger could never have done it, but I was pulled upwards by a complete stranger and squeezed through the closed turnstile.

I knew it was wrong, but I wasn’t about to look back. I didn’t even thank the person, I couldn’t even look back to see where Mike was, I just scampered off up the stairs and into the dangerous, unforgiving playground of the Elland Road Kop, alone for the first time.

It transpired that Mike watched the game from the Wesley Street car park with hundreds of others locked out, at a time when you could see part of the pitch from there, and he probably had as good a time as me. But in the age of no mobile phones I had no idea if my big brother was in the ground or not, so I would have to see this out on my own.

Leeds United were playing a First Division team at Elland Road again. It was the FA Cup Fifth Round against Queen’s Park Rangers, and it was like everybody had decided at the same time that we should stop feeling sorry for ourselves and remember what Leeds United meant again. The following 90 minutes were a joy-ride of adrenalin, suspense and exhilaration. Billy Bremner had re-woken the beast. My feet barely touched the ground as the Kop surged and swayed in unison throughout a thrilling, classic cup tie.

At 1-1 in the 85th minute, Brendan Ormsby buried a header from a John Sheridan corner into the Kop end net to make it 2-1 and the world was knocked off its’ axis. A riotous sea of arms and legs engulfed me for the next five minutes, and almost swallowed me whole. When I finally came up for air, the ref had blown his whistle and gasping for breath we signalled a famous victory.

I had been thrown in at the deep end of adulthood with no flotation device, I had gained a life-defining freedom from which I never looked back. Also, Leeds United seemed a different club to me after that game, it took a couple more years to fully realise it, but belief had returned to a club I had only ever previously known as mediocre and under-achieving. As I breathlessly dived back into Dad’s car at the agreed pick-up point at 5.00pm, a changed person, Stuart Hall summed up the mood perfectly in his Radio Two Sports Report analysis a few minutes later; “…the fur coats and Rolls Royces are back at Elland Road.”

Jon Howe



Jon is a freelance writer who writes for the Leeds United matchday programme.

He has written the book 'All White: Leeds United's 100 Greatest Players'.

Click here to order the book from Amazon



1 Comment

my first game. my uncle took me a few days after my 7th birthday. i can still remember the ground erupting when the winner went in. stood there in the west stand thinking "what is going on?". mental. never seen grown men behave that way before. although things seem bigger and more magnified when your young i doubt theres been many atmosperes since that have reached that level. not even the champs league days. maybe leicester and strachans winner in 1990 was as close

– Jon Newton, February 21 2014 at 09:41

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