Matt Abbott: April will be a daunting month for Leeds United but it’s what we’re in the Premier League for

I remember it clear as day. March 1 1997, Leeds United versus West Ham United, writes Matt Abbott.

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Saturday, 3rd April 2021, 6:00 am
April will see Leeds take on Manchester City as well as Liverpool and Manchester United. Picture: Paul Ellis - Pool/Getty Images.

I remember it clear as day. March 1 1997, Leeds United versus West Ham United.

Lee Sharpe bundled it home in the 47th minute. The Whites were victorious on my first ever trip to Elland Road, and not even George Graham’s tactics could keep me away. That was 24 years ago.

After the game, I bought a VHS copy of the 1972 FA Cup Final from the White Rose. I rushed home to watch Revie’s boys earn their own 1-0 victory. Allan Clarke’s winner infinitely more iconic than Sharpe’s, but it was from a prehistoric era… a parallel universe with plain shirts, brown balls, and sideburns. At the time, that was 25 years ago. Which bends my mind a bit.

As we know, we lost another of Revie’s greats recently. Peter ‘Lash’ Lorimer lost his long battle will illness and joined ‘Big’ Jack Charlton, Norman ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Hunter, and Trevor ‘Mr Reliable’ Cherry, as one of the icons that we’ve lost during lockdown.

Those names still glow as brightly as they ever did: a testament to their impact on the football world and to our global community of Leeds United fans.

That they’re yet to receive a proper send-off at a packed Elland Road is heart-breaking, but it’ll come.

Back to the present day, and the month of April might appear slightly daunting. What will surely be a torrid return to Beeston for Paul Heckingbottom later today is followed by a potentially gruelling hat-trick. Manchester City away, followed by Liverpool and then that lot at home.

Some fans will be wincing and watching from behind the sofa. Bracing themselves to accept one point from nine as a decent haul. But some of us will be revelling in it. Lapping it up and strapping in. Back in the big time, toe-to-toe with enemies: this is what we’re here for. Revie’s boys in ‘64/65. Wilko’s troops in ‘90/91. Bielsa’s prodigies right here, right now.

I need to address the uproar surrounding Gjanni Alioski being linked with Galatasaray. Firstly, it’d be nowhere near as bad as Harry Kewell going there in 2008.

Kewell was there on that horrific night in Istanbul. He was one of the petrified players emerging from the tunnel through a wall of shields, for a game that never should’ve taken place. He saw first-hand how it affected the club and us fans – that transfer was tough to take. Alioski’s is different.

Secondly, I’ve seen far too much competitive outrage over the tragic murders of Kevin and Chris. Like it’s an indication of how ‘hardcore’ you are. That’s both disrespectful and disingenuous.

Pay your respects today. Don’t use the anniversary to stoke hatred or xenophobia.

All Leeds, aren’t we?