Editor’s note: the following was originally posted on the author’s personal sports blog, midtablefinish.com. After reading it, I asked James if we could share his Leeds United love story here on Through It All Together as well. I think it will resonate with most of our readers. MOT.
When I thought about the question, I struggled to remember a time when football didn’t play an integral part in my life.
As I thought about my childhood, and the influence football had as I was growing up, I remembered various events/periods which define why I love football so much.
As a young lad where I grew up in Leeds, football was everything to us all. Every day we would be playing football in some form. I remember the 2-on-2 ‘goalie when needed’ games with every goal being decided by a ‘penalty about’, even though it clearly hit the wall (goal) in the middle and was clearly a goal; the other team were adamant it hit the post. I still wonder where ‘penalty about’ came from and why the FA didn’t ever look to implement into the professional game.
My favourite game to play was ‘headers and volleys'. For those unfortunate enough not to have played ‘headers and volleys’, I will briefly explain the premise of the game. You have 60 seconds to score with rather a header or a volley, if you score within the 60 seconds the number of goals you are required to score increases. This carries on until you don’t score enough, at which point the last person to touch the ball has to go in goal. Every last one of us lived for the moment we got home from school and could call for our mates and just play football, whether it be with the fly away balls or the over-pumped, hard-as-a-brick football. We were all just football mad.
I come from a family who in their entirety are Leeds United through and through. I tried to remember when my love for Leeds really began. I think that growing up when and where I did, Leeds United was embedded in your ethos from such an early age it’s just part of your genetic make- up.
I think as a child football fan, you do remember those cinematic moments. I remember being sat at home with my Dad watching Leeds play Liverpool and Tony Yeboah scoring that goal. At seven years of age you don't appreciate or even understand the quality of that goal. I just remember being lost in moment as my father struggled to compute when he had just seen.
I remember my first trip to Elland Road was a Boxing day match against Coventry. I remember then just being in awe as I saw the Elland Road pitch (I still get the feeling same today). The game itself wasn’t the late Christmas present I would of liked as we lost 3-1. My record at Elland Road didn’t get much better as the next four occasions I watched Leeds at Elland Road they lost. My dad genuinely thought I was cursed.
However that changed in March 1998 when we played Blackburn, I think it was mid-week, I had just recovered from an operation and a family friend had a spare ticket and took me along to the Game. We smashed Blackburn 4-0 and I just remember just being lost with euphoria as I watched my team win and me to be actually metres away from my heroes in the process.
I have had numerous ups-and-downs as a football fan in my 28 years. However, I look at football as a family member. I love it so much. 99% of the time it drives me completely mental, but I wouldn’t change for the world.
I believe if something is a constant within your life it just becomes part of who you are and football has been my constant.