I recall my first ever encounter with Newcastle United at Elland Road back in 1983. Their fanatical fans traveled in great numbers, bolstering the attendance to over 30,000. Almost all of them dressed in homage (or lack of fashion sense) to their heroes Kevin Keegan and Terry McDermott, complete with obligatory curly black permed hair and bushy mustaches to finish the look.
The former Liverpool duo helped give them the edge that day in a 0-1 victory to the Geordies.
Both clubs were as they are now: members of the fallen elite, languishing in the English second division with both sets of fans refusing to accept their second tier status. And just like then, the Liverpool connection is evident today with Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez and vice captain Jonjo Shelvey both Anfield old boys.
The difference on Sunday will be that the Magpies have the luxury of Premier League parachute payments on display after their Manager, Rafa Benitez’s, gross spend reached £55,000,000 in the summer (adjusted to £30,000,000 after player sales).
Spirit of old
Although we all know you cannot buy promotion, a formidable task lays ahead for the Whites if they are to overcome the league leaders, who are enjoying a 9 game unbeaten run. But these are the kind of games that Leeds must perform well in if they are to stay in the hunt.
Without the spending power of Newcastle United, Leeds have edged their way into the play off positions by re-capturing the spirit of old and the “keep fighting” mantra, displaying great team ethics in their recent games. That was evident in their last gasp winner against promotion-favourites Norwich.
In that respect, Newcastle will also know they have a game on their hands in front of the first sell-out at Elland Road since 2011.
Sadly, 2011 was also the year in which Leeds United legend Gary Speed passed away, with 11 being (of course) the number on the back of his shirt. At Leeds, Speed made 248 appearances scoring 39 goals. His contribution for the Whites title-winning side of 1992 remains immeasurable.
He went onto prove himself further for Sunday’s opposition, Newcastle, scoring 29 goals in 219 appearances. Speedo passed away on November 27 of that year, and as Sunday’s fixture is close to that date, both sets of fans have planned to take part in a tribute on 11 minutes to their shared hero.
What Leeds must do on the pitch
The outcome of Sunday’s lunch-time fixture is not as black and white as it may seem on paper. If Monk’s men can get at the opposition from the outset, an early goal would lift the crowd and unnerve the Magpies. Don’t let them settle into their game; frustrate and smother them with another all-round team performance.
That kind of game is not for the faint hearted, and it’s not the type of performance we’ve seen from Leeds yet this season, but it’s the result that matters most. With Huddersfield and Norwich both having tricky away fixtures, an opportunity exists to close gaps on those above us in the league.
From their last 5, Leeds United’s results are W3 D1 L1.
Newcastle has won all five.
Leeds United player to watch
After mentioning the team ethic currently instilled in Leeds by Manager Garry Monk, I for one am looking forward to seeing how they all perform in front of a full house and a rocking Elland Road.
Newcastle Player to watch
Should he have recovered from a recent hamstring niggle, Dwight Gayle has pace to burn and the £10 million summer signing has a point to prove after dropping down a division. He is doing just that with 11 goals from 12 appearances.
Leeds United vs. Newcastle United
EFL Championship fixture
Elland Road, Leeds
Sky Sports 1, LUTV, BBC Radio Leeds, International Listings
Sunday, November 20, 2016
5:15am PT / 8:15am ET / 1:15pm BT
Leeds United’s predicted starting XI
Green, Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Taylor, Phillips, O'Kane, Sacko, Roofe, Doukara, Wood
Newcastle United’s predicted starting XI
Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett , Ritchie, Shelvey, Hayden, Gayle, Ayoze Perez, Mitrovic
This will be an emotionally-charged, close encounter. 2:2 draw.
Several staff members from Through It All Together will be there for you at the game on Sunday, we’ve got an interview with Coming Home Newcastle in our Leeds Against The World series you should read, and you can re-live the match shortly after the final whistle by going to our recaps page. MOT.