A hostile reception at Elland Road - Carl Marston’s Travels with Town
- Credit: Archant
Football writer Carl Marston has visited 120 Football League grounds over the last 30 years, many of them reporting on Ipswich Town. Here he recalls trips to the hostile home of Leeds United
Home advantage was always a big advantage at Elland Road, the famous home of Leeds United - you could almost sense the hostility, seeping through to the press lounge.
The home crowds are passionate, loyal, and unforgiving, making sure that the visitors never feel comfortable in the midst of a cauldron of noise.
I have visited Elland Road on many occasions, and in the early days it was never one of my favourite grounds - the press used to be packed into a rather cramped press lounge, almost in the attic, with the stewards professional but never smiling.
It was the same for everyone, players, fans, the press - this was Leeds United, where visitors were respected but never particularly liked.
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Of course that's all probably changed now - I haven't been to this corner of West Yorkshire for a few years, but I used to be a regular.
Perhaps I'm being a little unfair, and certainly my first experience of Elland Road probably dampened my spirits for future visits - due to the weather, not any antics on the pitch, in the stands or in the resplendent press box.
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Basically, all I got to report on, from that first visit, was a pitch inspection - and a failed pitch inspection at that!
As a young and aspiring journalist, at the time, I was looking forward to writing a match report of the big game, a rare chance for me to cover Town during the mid-1990s.
But heavy rain dashed those hopes. All I mustered was a few words from the referee - which I composed in the back of the car on the way back down the motorway.
The situation was rescued somewhat by an impromptu stop-off, on the way back, to see former Ipswich Town John Duncan's Chesterfield team in action at their old Saltergate ground.
I can't remember much about that game, or even who were the opposition. It was probably entertaining, maybe route one football, but it wasn't Leeds v Ipswich in the Premier League!
Of course, a Leeds v Ipswich fixture in the top flight is pie-in-the-sky these days, although both clubs do seem to be on the up.
Town lead League One, going into this weekend's home match against Tranmere, while Leeds are setting the pace in the Championship.
And next month, Leeds will be celebrating 100 years as a football club - they were formed exactly 99 years and 345 days ago.
And as for Chesterfield! Well, enough said about them, struggling near the foot of the National League.
Ground: Elland Road
Club: Leeds United (formed on October 17, 1919, following the demise of Leeds City FC)
Town's first visit: 4-1 away defeat on February 12, 1955
Town's last visit: 2-0 away defeat on Otcober 24, 2018
Town's overall record at Elland Road: P41 W8 D11 l22
The site of Elland Road was first used by a rugby league club, Holbeck Rugby Club, when they purchased the land in 1898. It was initially known as the Old Peacock Ground, named after a nearby pub.
Leeds City FC took up residence in 1904, until that club folded in 1919. Non-league side Yorkshire Amateurs were brief tenants before the ground was sold to newly-formed Leeds United for the sum of £250 in 1920.
My first trip, to report on a match rather than a failed pitch inspection, was a few years later when Town claimed a fine 2-1 victory on September 16, 2000.
It was a great day all-round. Not only did I finally get to file a match report from Elland Road, but the home fans ended up turning against their own team, such was the lack-lustre performance of the hosts.
More importantly, it was a great day for Jermaine Wright, who capped his then-best display in a Town shirt with the winning goal, past keeper Nigel Martyn.
It was midfielder Wright's second goal for Town, since his switch from Crewe for £500,000 during the summer of 1999, shortly after the departure of Kieron Dyer for Newcastle United.
I caught up with a delighted Wright after the match.
"Leeds fans turned against their team as the match went on, and that worked for us," admitted match-winner Wright.
A happy day - perhaps Elland Road is not such a bad place, after all!