After nearly eight years of being pushed to the very limits of loyalty under the ownership of Ken Bates, Leeds United fans could finally look forward to the heralding of a new dawn after GFHC finally confirmed their protracted acquisition of the club.
After seven excruciating months of constant speculation and frenzied bullshit, the champagne which should’ve flowed had gone flat and was replaced withan almighty sigh of relief that the whole saga was over. The news got better though, not only is the light at the end of the tunnel visible, it’s bright; GFHC immediately signalled their intentions in the most public fashion by alleviating the financial issues which had been holding up the deal to bring Jerome Thomas to Elland Road on loan.
It is no secret that GFHCs’ mysterious and wealthy backer have been keeping the cash flow ticking over at Elland Road since extending their exclusivity period during the takeover talks but having signalled their intent so soon, they have given fans reason to be hopeful about Leeds United once again.
That Crystal Palace topped the Championship table prior to kick off was a largely immaterial fact, such was the renewed buoyancy of the mood within Elland Road; even if the attendance figure was nothing to write home about. It seems a long time that feelings of confidence, happiness and positivity seeped through the terraces, and an even scarcer occurrence that they should take place together.
With the new owners in place in the East Stand boxes – (enough of a legacy with those, Ken) sitting proudly with new scarves from the club shop, Leeds came out to a rapturous reception which beguiled the swathes of empty seats. Such was the renewed belief, it mattered little that ten of the players in the squad had been involved in the humiliation by Watford as Warnock now had some better ingredients with which to improve his stock.
Alan Tate and Jerome went straight into the team as Warnock looked to end the run of seven games without a win; a miserable period which has been dogged by uncertainty and once again being subject to the spectacle that is Danny Pugh. With the return of Ross McCormack though, there were reasons to think that this match would go the way of the fairytale writers.
Leeds seemed to have that extra burst in them, ahead by a yard instead of lagging behind while Thomas was causing Palace all sorts of problems on Leeds left; finally we had an outlet with pace and the ability to take on and beat a full back. His continued skinning of the Palace back line was keeping Damien Delaney on his toes while David Norris also had an effort on goal as Leeds pressed.
The ever impressive Sam Byram was getting forward too; his cross headed goal-wards by Luciano Becchio but Julian Speroni was alert in the Palace goal twice as he kept out his and Norris’ efforts early on.
At the other end, Paddy Kenny was keeping out Owen Garven, Glenn Murray and Jonathan Parr as Leeds’ defence looked vulnerable but for all Wilfred Zaha’s step overs, there was very little in the way of an end product. For all the hype and their league position, they showed little and Zaha in particular was subdued excellently by Byram, once again playing at right back.
By the time the half time whistle came, gone was the restlessness, the boos; although at this time replaced by jeers as Zaha dived into the turf just before break; it was raining but one can’t help but feel his Tom Daley impression was a little misplaced.
After a sluggish start to the second half, Leeds took the lead. With pretty much his only marked contribution to the game, Lee Peltier put in a cross from the left which was headed down by Paul Green; a Palace defender tried in vain to clear the loose ball but ended up hitting his own player and Becchio was on hand to bundle it home.
Leeds doubled their lead when Green’s expertly taken volley flew past Speroni, a desperate last minute block not enough to keep it out. It was fully deserved too; the football had been far from vintage and while Leeds had secured more of the play, they did so without being wholly dominant or maintaining constant control. The difference seemed to this new, innate belief in the team which cascaded down the terraces and on to the pitch.
That Leeds conceded late on by allowing Peter Ramage the freedom of the box was an inevitable reminder that there is so much work to be done. Results like those against Watford, and the ‘freak ones’ which preceded it are not long forgotten and while there is much cause for hope, it cannot be forgotten that much of the squad we see performing now, were instigators in those.
It’s amazing what a difference a week makes; even with the continued interference of Ken Bates in running Leeds United for the rest of the season, this takeover has bought more than a club, it has brought hope back to fans who have given everything to a club with little reward.
It’s only one result and the very idea of promotion is still something to be smirked at but the future can be enthused over once more.
Thank you GFHC; don’t let us down.