Brian McDermott is ready for a “well-charged” atmosphere in front of Elland Road’s biggest opening-day crowd for 10 years tomorrow and wants Leeds United to restore the stadium’s daunting aura in his first full season as manager.
United will post their highest attendance on the first weekend of a league campaign since 2003 when they kick off the new term against Brighton and McDermott vowed to “keep the fans coming” after a surge in the take-up of seats at Elland Road.
The club’s crowds dwindled alarmingly last season but a summer of intense marketing and a raft of changes at the top of the club, including the sacking of former chairman and owner Ken Bates from his role as president, has seen ticket sales for tomorrow climb over 30,000 amid a buzz of optimism in Leeds.
McDermott said: “Elland Road’s always been a place where teams would come to and have a certain amount of fear about them. We need to make that happen this season.
“This is the first of many games at Elland Road and we want to keep those fans coming, to get as many through the gates as possible. It’s really important for us. We’ve got 30-odd thousand coming into the ground tomorrow and the atmosphere’s going to be well charged. I’m sure the players are ready for it.
“We have to use the crowd and I’ll never forget my first game against Sheffield Wednesday. The fans stuck with the players and got us over the line that day.”
Tomorrow’s attendance is expected to reach 33,000, the first time Leeds have seen a league crowd pass 30,000 for fully 16 months. The turn-out would also be a telling increase of around 10,000 on last year’s 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Their clash with Derby County in August 2004, meanwhile, was the last occasion when the first home match of a season drew 30,000, coming soon after United’s relegation from the Premiership. Leeds have been a Football League club for nine consecutive years but McDermott again steered away from the topic of promotion, saying he wanted no more than the “right result” from tomorrow’s game.
But the United boss added: “There’s a good atmosphere here, a really good vibe, and it’s important to maintain that whatever happens. One result can’t dictate how happy the place is or a club’s philosophy.”