leeds fansThe 44th league game of the season took Leeds to Birmingham, now virtually safe from the possibility of relegation and experiencing a new lease of life under newly installed Brian McDermott. Optimism was fresh among myself and my regular travelling partner, I’d even decided to take the risk of inviting my Real Madrid supporting Spanish workmate Raul, who had spoken of his admiration of the Leeds team of the 00’s. So onwards from London we went, Birmingham and a first away win in 140 days beckoned.

The train up consisted of copious amounts of alcohol being drunk and football stories being relayed to travellers and fans alike, another positive of the away days we venture on is the friendly nature (most of the time) that us fans participate in, rivalries put aside to talk about our mutual love for the beautiful game. Our travelling contingency arrived into Birmingham with the sun on our backs and beers in our bellies. Meeting up with the London whites in the Warwick arms, more beer was drunk, more stories relayed, and then the walk to the ground commenced, more beers, lovely sunshine, if we had anything to play for this would have been the perfect footballing day.

It was gone 2:40pm by the time St. Andrews came into view, the two thousand travelling Leeds fans had made their way into the ground and the beer and chanting was flowing. My friend Raul turned to me aghast, saying “I have followed Madrid for 20 years, never have I experienced an atmosphere like this” and right on cue, a 20 stone beer soaked Leeds fan went sliding through the sodden floor on his bare chest. The Leeds fans responded, “let’s go f****ng mental.” So much for nothing to play for. The team sheet was read out through the medium of twitter, hardly a surprise in the line-up, RossCo continuing to play behind the two strikers and Morison relegated to the bench. We entered into a sparsely populated stadium; even Leeds had only sold 2,100, some 900 short of the capacity.

The game began, the Leeds fans as vocal as ever, “Marching on Together” echoed around the ground with about as much resistance as the French to the Germans in both World Wars combined. Leeds were playing in the 4-1-2-1-2 system that had served them two home victories last week and then something dawned on me, something that I had almost forgotten happened in football, this thing began to happen lots, one player in white took the ball and kicked it directly to another player. This motion was repeated numerous times before I turned to Raul (the Spanish version of Mourinho) and asked him what on earth was going on. He replied “It would appear you are passing”. Maybe it was the heat, or the beer, or both combined. But at this point I almost fainted, Leeds United have learnt how to pass. All hail Brian McDermott.

The first half was, in all fairness completely boring, the highlights were as thus, Nathan Redmond hit the crossbar with a lobbed attempt, Morrison had a shot blocked, Leeds passed the ball, Birmingham’s Morrison shot wide, Leeds passed the ball and nearly created a McCormack goal but Great Britain’s international number 1 Jack Butland was on fine form. The first half fizzled out without much of a serious chance arising, the Leeds fans were clearly enjoying the sun, creating a new ‘Sam Byram’ chant (I will spare you the indignity of hearing it again) and in general having a wonderful penultimate away day.

Half time was the day’s highlight, walking down into the tunnels to queue for a beer, the menace was back, sliding on his front for the amusement of the hundreds of much enlightened Leeds fans; it’s never a boring away day with the whites, that’s a guarantee.

After the beer, the game started again, Leeds United had once more not scored in the first half (21 and counting I believe) but the optimism was still there, in a game providing so little, it was only a matter of one goal to secure an away win. Leeds almost grabbed that goal, McCormack fired a free kick which hit the crossbar before heading out of play for a Brum goal kick, another story of ‘so close but yet so far’. Leeds continued to exert the pressure, McCormack was central to everything, he is impressing McDermott no doubt (we all pray) and seems a new player now that his old nemesis Colin has disappeared.

For all the Leeds pressure though, nothing would go in, and it was the epitome of the season that in an open game Birmingham would get the goal, Kenny flapped at a shot and Hayden Mullins was perfectly placed to smash home, 1-0 to Birmingham and effectively game over. Cue the Birmingham fans to create some ‘noise’ but to be quickly drowned out by the never die attitude of the travelling Leeds fans. The game, much like our season, fizzled out and 1-0 was the end result. A great away day but another wait until an away win. McDermott has a lot to do, but he is a well grounded gentleman, he’s aware of the task ahead and all we can do is say, good luck.

“ooooooonneeeee Brian McDermott”

I will be in Rome (fashion and forza hunting) for the Watford game, so I suppose I’ll see you all next season! Keep the faith, Marching on Together.

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