Leeds United super fan from New Zealand on his 'dream' visit that saw him 'in tears' during game at Elland Road
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Paul Smith, 61, is visiting Leeds for the seventh time in his life after becoming a huge fan of The Whites in 1973 when he watched them play in the FA Cup final against Sunderland – the first English football match to be broadcast live in his native country.
Since speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post upon his arrival three weeks ago Paul has been to watch the two home games against West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield Wednesday, saying that he was “in tears” when the club anthem ‘Marching On Together’ was played ahead of kick off.
He has also done the stadium tour at Elland Road, which he said was “brilliant”, and forked out £600 on gear at the club shop.
Paul, who went as far as to give his son the middle name ‘Leeds’, has also caught up with the former staff members at the club that gave him exclusive tours and meet-and-greets with the players and managers when he first visited in the 1980s.
Paul, who lives in Christchurch, said: “It’s been my seventh and my best time. I’ve got so much in.”
That was no small compliment from Paul, who had met and had a kickaround with the team of 1982 when he first visited as a 17-year-old and later had a meal with club legend Billy Bremner in 1987.
Speaking with Paul at a café on Kirkstall Road, he added: “It’s been wonderful. I’ve had everything pre-planned and it’s all gone smoothly.
"The hardest thing I’ve had to do was figure out how to get the bus from Leeds city centre to here!”
Paul attended his first game in seven years when he watched Leeds United draw 1-1 against West Bromwich Albion the other week. And though the result wasn’t the one he’d hoped for, he said the experience was well worth the wait.
Paul said: “It was surreal because it’s been so long since I’ve been there.
"When the players came out and they played ‘Marching On Together’ I was singing my heart out and I was crying because of that emotional attachment.”
He said he was happy with the performance as well, adding: "When you look back at our previous history against Albion it’s not good for Leeds. They are a bogie team so when I went I was thinking ‘here we go’.
"But then the boys got into it and I was thinking ‘we can do this’ and it was like ‘bang, bang, bang’.
"It was a great result. Daniel Farke has a big job ahead of him but he’s building a team that is capable of getting up.
"I don’t think we’ll get an automatic spot but I can see us making the top six.”
He added: “The team’s coming together and it’s going to be an exciting season.
"We’ve had players leaving and fans abusing some players. It’s dispiriting but you stick with your team through whatever.
"If we can get the crowd behind the team at Elland Road through the season then every game is going to be a battle.”
Paul was also able to get a ticket for the Sheffield Wednesday game at late notice, saying: “Even if I didn’t get one I would’ve gone to the ground and hung around outside to soak up the atmosphere and then sung ‘Marching On Together’ before heading back to my hotel.”
He said he had a “brilliant” time at the game despite the 0-0 result, adding: “To be part of the 36,000 Leeds United supporters belting out ‘Marching On Together’ – there’s no better feeling.”
On the game itself, he said: “I thought Leeds played better and deserved the three points but it wasn’t to be and at least they didn’t lose.”
He also undertook a stadium tour at Elland Road, saying: “It was amazing. I’ve done it before but a lot has changed since then.
"The tour guide David was very knowledgeable and had a great sense of humour. He was a huge John Charles fan and every time he could he would say his name and call him the greatest player to ever play at Elland Road. It was so funny.”
Paul also did some travelling around the country during his stay; heading to Liverpool for a tour of Anfield and London for a view of the sites.
He said: “I went to Betty’s in Harrogate this morning and had the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had. They were phenomenal.
"It’s a long way to go for brekkie but I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Paul also made a trip to the coast to watch Showaddywaddy in Scarborough, adding: “That was a phenomenal gig. I met Romeo, the only original member, who was a really nice and down to earth guy.
"It was so cool to be there.”
Summing up his trip, Paul said: “It’s the best trip I’ve had out of all seven. I’ve achieved more than what I wanted to do. The weather’s been great. The people in Yorkshire have been wonderful.
“It was a dream trip to be honest, mate. I’ve had the best time I’ve ever had.”
Paul said he was planning on heading back to Leeds in two years and hopes to bring his son who he named after the club – Daniel Leeds Smith.
He said: “That’s the plan. Hopefully his wife lets him because she’s a Man United fan!”