One year away from Elland Road, my heart aches for its atmosphere

Tomorrow marks a year since we were last allowed inside Elland Road, writes poet and Leeds United fan Matt Abbott.

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Saturday, 6th March 2021, 6:00 am
The Crowdies have done a great job but real supporters, like Matt Abbott, are desperate to return to Elland Road. Picture: JONATHAN GAWTHORPE.

As if Luke Ayling’s mid-flight karate kick screamer wasn’t historic enough already.

Cannoning in off the crossbar inside three minutes. Inching us a step closer to the title on an unstoppable run of form and silencing West Yorkshire rivals in the process.

If only we’d known what was to come. Or perhaps it’s better that we didn’t…

Either way, life just isn’t the same watching us launch an attack towards an empty Gelderd End.

Hearing the ball slam against the stanchion, followed by a dozen cheers from coaching staff and directors. Gjanni Alioski clapping the ‘crowdies’ had its novelty value at first, but it soon worn off.

I’m resigned to the fact that I won’t get the chance to visit Elland Road during our first season back in the big time. And like all fans who aren’t existing season ticket holders, I’m not hopeful of my chances of getting my hands on a ticket once we’re eventually allowed back in – even at full capacity.

And the fact is, whilst the pandemic continues to deprive us of our core need as football fans, it’s now taking place whilst the owners discuss plans to expand and develop the stadium.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m fully behind the current owners’ vision. And like most fans, I accept the fact that our shabby shed in Beeston needs a lick of paint here and there.

But the longer I’m unable to be there – whether through Covid or unprecedented demand – the more chance there is that it will’ve changed by the time I’m back. I don’t mind floodlights or dugouts being upgraded.

But the stands themselves are almost iconic with their lopsided industrial charm.

This season has provided us with some incredible memories. Going toe-to-toe at Anfield was so surreal that Salah’s late winner didn’t even hurt, and the hammerings that we dished out at Villa Park and the Hawthorns were sublime. On our own patch, the 1-1 draw with Manchester City was exhilarating, and we’ve had a few nice wins as well – the latter stages of the 5-2 against Newcastle United was a real buzz.

But even the grimy bits of match-days are appealing right now. Queuing eagle-eyed for a space at the urinal just before kick-off.

Necking a gassy plastic pint at half-time. Being elbowed from all angles when we score a goal, and the occasional putrid stench from one of your neighbours. I miss it all.

Badly. My heart aches for the atmosphere.

Andrea Radrizzani speaks of a ‘new skin’ for the club. Which is all well and good. But let us enjoy the old one just a bit longer…