Jon Howe: The beginning and the end of the story
In his latest column for leedsunited.com, lifelong supporter Jon Howe reflects on where the story began and where it ended.
Howe is the author of two books about the club, ‘The Only Place For Us: An AZ History of Elland Road’ – which has been updated in a new version for 2021 – and ‘All White: Leeds United’s 100 Greatest Players ” in 2012. .
For all trivia fans, a quick quiz question will only be valid for a few more weeks: What was important in Leeds United’s 2-0 win at Bradford Park Avenue in the FA Cup fourth round February 2n/a 1952? No, that wasn’t the last time Leeds appeared in the FA Cup fourth round, although heaven knows it feels like it was. No, you probably guessed it already, but this was the last competitive game Leeds United played without Queen Elizabeth II on the throne.
We’ve watched and read a lot this week about the Queen’s remarkable longevity, and as Leeds fans this is perhaps put into context for us by the fact that virtually everything that has happened in history of our club occurred under his supervision. Jim Milburn and Ray Iggleden scored the goals for Leeds that day, while John Charles played, but at this stage he was still selected primarily as a centre-half, and indeed it was the 98e of his eventual 327 appearances for Leeds, but he had scored just four of his eventual 157 goals. Either way, there was still a long way to go.
To put the reign of Britain’s longest-serving monarch into perspective, she has been on the throne longer than the West Stand in Elland Road has fulfilled its duty. The Queen had been in her service for four years when a nighttime fire destroyed our existing stand in September 1956, and when she took up duty in 1952 the wise old bear that is now the West Stand was the kind of well-to-do fantasy of the space age a parochial club like Leeds United could only dream of.
The burning and construction of the West Stand has often been said to be the event that sparked the formation and development of the modern Leeds United we see today. Visually, the West Stand has been the perpetual backdrop for the entire journey since, but the discovery, flourishing and then sale of John Charles to Juventus – partly to cover the cost of rebuilding – reawakened the club. world of possibilities, and the realization that the name ‘Leeds United’ could extend far beyond LS11.
Of course, it doesn’t take the Queen’s passing to remind us that the upgrading of Elland Road is long overdue – and I’m not convinced that the wooden seat I still sit on in the North West Corner today may not have its origins in the reign of George Vl – but as a way of putting his durability and stamina into proportion, Leeds United’s next game will be a one off game for the vast majority of fans and an important game for the club itself; the first under the new monarch King Charles lll, although we have of course cheered a ‘King Charles’ at Elland Road before.
For the record, February 9e 1952, 47,985 fans gathered at Elland Road for the Second Division match against Rotherham United, an attendance which was 21,400 more than the season’s average gate of 26,585. The huge crowd gathered to score the death of George Vl three days earlier and, before kick-off, sang the anthem Abide With Me before observing a minute of impeccable silence and then launching into a warm rendition of the national anthem. They then settled in to watch Leeds win 3-0. I’m sure everyone who was there remembered the show for the rest of their lives as a fitting mark of respect.
Fast forward to 2022, and in completely unrelated news, Jesse Marsch’s Leeds are currently in the midst of nearly a month without a game. It’s a lot like the pandemic when everything came to a halt under unprecedented circumstances and no one really knew what the right thing to do was. The only thing we know is that someone would have been unhappy with what the football authorities chose to do in terms of scheduling football matches around the time of mourning for the Queen’s death, he is therefore quite pointless to discuss further and moving on to how Leeds United handle the extended break is arguably more constructive.
From October 2n/a and the home game against Aston Villa, Leeds have eight Premier League matches before the six-week World Cup break. At other stages of the season this unscheduled month-long break could be seen as a godsend, but as things stood Jesse Marsch was busy trying to fit in a bunch of new players at a new club. and a new system. like getting his loads up to peak match fitness at the start of a new season. When Leeds United’s campaign came to an abrupt halt following the Brentford defeat, it was hardly at a time when Marsch could be entirely happy with the way things were going either, despite the many positives we have. seen in the first six games of the season.
Another mini pre-season probably isn’t what everyone wanted, but just like the pandemic it’s a case of make-do and no doubt Leeds will host the odd friendly behind closed doors, and line up as many senior players as the rules allow in under-21 matches. It should also not be forgotten that Leeds will have several players on international duty and likely competing for World Cup squad selection.
When construction of Aston Villa at home finally begins, we might even have a squad practically fully fit, and in terms of wear and tear, we might find that the team has a more robust quality afterwards, and given our retribution injury experiences last season, it just might make the difference this time around.
So I’m looking for the positives and trying to decide if the break is a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s something that’s forced upon us in unique circumstances and you have to make the most of it. And ultimately, football is just a small cog in the system when you look at the bigger picture, and Leeds United is an even smaller part of it.
As part of her Silver Jubilee celebrations, the Queen visited Elland Road on July 12, 1977 and was greeted by 40,000 cheering fans. She marched along the West Stand – then in her riding peak at just 20, and newer than the East Stand now – and partly along the Kop as schoolchildren performed parades and routines of dance on the ground which they had been training for weeks. She left within minutes, but I’m sure the visit left a lasting impression and that’s about all she could talk about for weeks, if not years after…
The Queen was also present for our one and only FA Cup final victory in 1972 and presented the silver cup to captain Billy Bremner. Alas, given the rollercoaster ride Leeds United have had in their 70-year reign, I’m not sure we can call it a lucky omen, but then it’s Year Dot in many ways, and certainly not just for Leeds United. So if it starts again and builds a new story, Leeds United are always ready to turn the page and create a new story, and to say the least, we can’t wait to get started.