It’s Leeds United - but not as we know them as ‘unbeatable feeling’ returns

Leeds United host Wolves in their 2022/23 Premier League opener this afternoon and Matt Abbott has helped to set the scene.

Saturday, 6th August 2022, 6:00 am

The moment’s nearly upon us. Butterflies in Beeston as the Peacocks strut out of the tunnel and onto the hallowed turf. A capacity crowd, 38 games ahead of us, and that unique wave of optimism that gathers momentum over the summer. An unbeatable feeling.

If our route home involves driving up the M621, my wife has resigned to an obligatory detour. I can never resist taking the Junction 2 slip road – brushing past the stadium in all its glory. Admiring it in reverential silence, like the wide-eyed 8-year-old in 1997.

That’s the power of football, you see. When the dust settled in Brentford after last season’s finale, we all needed to sit in a dark room. It’s no exaggeration to say that the campaign overall was a traumatic experience for many of us. You usually need a decent amount of time to recover from trauma…but 76 days is an ice age without football.

For the first time since that sun-kissed demolition of Stoke in 2018, we enter the season with only vague expectations. It’s only fair to give Jesse Marsch a clean slate after he steered us to safety. And with a carousel of new recruits, it’s Leeds United – but not as we know ‘em.

Sunday’s goal-fest against Cagliari was the final boost that everybody needed. Particularly as the scoresheet was adorned with a Rodrigo hat-trick and a Bamford brace. Sure – it was only a friendly. But to see things ‘click’ in such an exhilarating fashion will add much-needed swagger to our stride.

The less said about last season’s opener, the better. But for the first time since our return to the top-flight, the curtain raiser is on home territory, and we’ve a real chance of a perfect start.

The visitors are without key man Raúl Jiménez. Although talented as he is, it’s fair to say that his ‘sportsmanship’ played more of a role in last year’s encounters. Rodrigo’s stoppage-time penalty salvaging a point at Elland Road, and then Luke Ayling’s half-volley, also in stoppage time, sealing a phenomenal comeback win at Molineux.

Much as we’re all buzzing to see the likes of Brenden Aaronson make their competitive debuts, there’ll be two names that are sorely missed. Yes – we need to move on. But Kalvin Phillips is the hometown hero whose global ascent made our hearts soar. And Raphinha brought a level of explosive talent that we’d not seen for two decades. So, farewell to Rapha and the Yorkshire Pirlo – icons in my book!

I’ll round-off by reminding you that the Leeds Fans food bank will be collecting as normal, near Bremner Square on Lowfields Road. Please bring non-perishable foods if you can – our continued donations make an enormous difference.