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Leeds United Ashley Tabony

 

It took three more years before I finally convinced dad to take me on the ultimate pilgrimage, Elland Road. As an early 10th birthday present we set off for Yorkshire in September 1976 for the game against Newcastle. We dropped mum with some relatives and headed for Leeds. I remember we parked up at the old dog track, and when I got out of the car, there they were, those floodlights I'd read about, the biggest AND BEST in the world. And that wonderful view of the West Stand across Fullerton Park. This was where I belonged, it just felt right, I was deeply in love by now.

I think we were quite late into the ground, but there was a problem with our tickets and for a while I found myself stood by the tunnel, next to the pitch, while dad sorted it, the players were warming up,and I was stood looking at them this close, and utterly starstruck. In the end we were nestled on the front row, down towards the south stand, dad had his flask and hipflask out, all was good with the world.
I don't remember much about the game, it was 2-2, and I do remember my dad disappointing me by suggesting Carl Harris was no Eddie Gray replacement, but once again the result was secondary to the visit.

By this time I had become an autograph hunter, so we came out of the West Stand and I went a-hunting. I can look at my autograph book from that day now and remember the mayhem, chasing Newcaslte players like Nattrass and Craig first, then our boys. Jordan signed as he got into his car, these blokes were real, this was just incredible.

Eventually the car park is all but clear, just me, dad and the steward on the door of the players lounge. It is 6pm and dad wants to head home, but I need two autographs, THE two autographs, Billy Bremner and Allan Clarke. Dad took my book off me and went and asked the guy at the door to take it in and get it signed, the bloke didn't take the book, I felt sick.

Dad said "he says if you want the autographs that badly, go and get them yourself".

I walked on air to the door, opened it and walked in. Billy looked round and said "what can we do for you son?" I explained, and in a flash he and Sniffer had a stool for me in between them both, and a glass of Coke.

They signed my book, and spoke to me kindly, and talked of where I lived and how I was to stay loyal to Leeds United forever because they always would. Just magical, I can remember to this day what it felt like, just bloody magical.

I came out 20 minutes later and to this day my dad maintains the look on my face at that moment was the purest joy he has ever witnessed. Thanks Billy and Sniffer, you gave me and my dad one of our greatest memories, just by giving a bit of your time.

I got home from school early that week to find Billy had been sold to Hull, I guess this was why he and his mate Sniffer had been talking , and yet he still had time for a little Brummie in a snorkel parka armed with a Bic biro.

Billy and Sniffer, my greatest Leeds United heroes.

 

Ashley Tabony

 

 

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