Like many who watched the (anti)climatic finish to Take Us Home Leeds United, I was transported back to that fateful night in May. Here is a recollection of the strangest hours of my life that, up until reliving them whilst watching the documentary, I had completely repressed.
Just finished the Leeds United 'Take Us Home' documentary. Wonderful and painful at times but my lord what an incredible club we have. Quote of the doc, Angus Kinnear: 'Goal for next season is automatic we are not dicking about with playoffs'. #LUFC pic.twitter.com/zZ0Y3hVcjp— Ryan Wilson (@RYAN_PIGEONS) August 17, 2019
You can follow Joe on Twitter here - @Smudge_17
15-16th May 2019, Hong Kong
Work finished early, straight to bed and alarm set for 2:40am. Filled with anticipation and ready to watch Marcelo Bielsa’s boys inflict another humiliating blow on media-darling Frank Lampard and his Profit and Sustainability circumventing Derby County.
6 goals, 2 red cards and a handful of Kiko Casilla-clangers later, it’s 5am and Leeds’ season has ended. The whirlwind of the previous 90 minutes had drawn you in, transported you nearly 10,000 kilometres to Elland Road and suddenly spat you back out cold, sober and heartbroken. Trying to make sense of what had just happened was tough enough for those in the terraces, even harder as you watch the world’s least funny comedy of errors from the other side of the world.
Despite football being the main sport, Hong Kong is a really easy place to live in complete ignorance of any match featuring 22 men kicking a ball around. You can be totally oblivious, if you so choose, of what is going on at any and all of the 92 league clubs. Or you can direct every single one of your hopes and dreams into that one special club. A couple of hours before dawn on 16th May 2019, I rued the decisions I’d made and contemplated giving it a miss next season. Yeah right…
Zombie-like, I entered work on the morning after the Playoff to no goading from fans of other teams and was left alone in my self-pity. From the perspective of any local, English football has 20 teams, 3 of whom disappear each year and periodically re-appear presumably based on some lottery system.
It’s in those times that being a Leeds fan is hardest for me. Who is going to listen to the broadside of post-game truths that came to me whilst I sat in silence waiting for the sun to rise? And who is going to lend an ear as I explain in no uncertain terms how much of a bell Frank Lampard is?
If Leeds versus Derby on 15th May 2019 was the lowest valley, Derby versus Leeds on 12th August 2018 was arguably the highest peak. Game 2 of Bielsa’s reign was watched by some dozen Leeds fans in a small Anglo-style Pub in Hong Kong’s seedy Wan Chai district. A mini Beeston in The Orient.
The painful solitude of supporting Leeds in the prison of your own head vanishes when you meet with the like-minded and you see the men in white (or in August’s case, the men impersonating bus seats) thump a promotion rival.
Supporting Leeds is hard enough. Supporting them from nearly the other side of the world is even harder. Yet when things all fall into place, like they did on many occasions in the 2018/19 season, there’s nothing better than watching with a group of fellow sufferers in your little wannabe Kop.