Leeds United Tour Diary: Little sign there was ever going to be a friendly in Kufstein

Kufstein Arena, the stadium where Leeds United's first Austrian friendly was to be played.
(Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
Kufstein Arena, the stadium where Leeds United's first Austrian friendly was to be played. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
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Phil Hay, the Yorkshire Evening Post’s chief football writer, is reporting from Leeds United’s pre-season tour of Austria. Here is his daily diary.

Kufstein Arena, the venue for the ill-fated friendly between Leeds United and Ingolstadt, was bolted shut on Sunday with no hint that a game had ever been due to take place there.

Kufstein Arena, the stadium where Leeds United's first Austrian friendly was to be played.
(Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Kufstein Arena, the stadium where Leeds United's first Austrian friendly was to be played. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

It is, in keeping with many of the stadiums used by English clubs for pre-season games abroad, a small venue with a single bank of 700 seats and a running track around the pitch but for all the concerns about security, the fencing surrounding it and the complex in general appeared easier to police than other grounds Leeds have played at - such as Eugendorf’s in 2015.

On the walls outside there were no posters advertising the Ingolstadt match, no mention of any ticket prices and nothing to suggest that Kufstein had been looking forward to the occasion. To make the point, a sign in German warned anyone thinking of breaking in for a kickabout to keep off the pitch.

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Local media reports about the cancellation of Sunday’s friendly repeated the odd claim by the authorities in Kufstein that Leeds would be followed by “60 professional hooligans”. Who those hooligans were and how that figure was estimated is not clear.

On the walls outside there were no posters advertising the Ingolstadt match, no mention of any ticket prices and nothing to suggest that Kufstein had been looking forward to the occasion.

Phil Hay

Nonetheless, in trying to ward football supporters away from what is a quaint and quiet Austrian town, Kufstein’s decision to ban the Ingolstadt fixture had the desired effect. You could count on two hands the number of Leeds fans who arrived on Saturday night and most chose to remain in Munich, an hour-and-a-half to the north. To quote the town’s mayor, the cost of potential trouble outweighed any income, even though a large wine festival staged in the centre of Kufstein might have cashed in heavily.

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Minus a game, United’s players were put through double training sessions over the weekend, the first a mid-morning work-out and the second in the early evening. The squad are working in Jenbach, a 15-minute drive from the team hotel and the venue of next weekend’s game against Eibar.

Ingolstadt, meanwhile, salvaged a friendly at short notice against lower-league German club Mainz in the West Austrian region of Tyrol on Saturday. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.

Tranquil: The town of Kufstein, where Leeds United were due to play Ingolstadt on Sunday. (Pictures: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Tranquil: The town of Kufstein, where Leeds United were due to play Ingolstadt on Sunday. (Pictures: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

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Austria is starting to feel like the centre of the universe for clubs in pre-season. In the space of a month the country is being visited by Leeds, Brighton, Celtic, Huddersfield, Bradford, West Ham, Southampton and Watford. The list goes on.

The climate and conditions suit many managers, as do the facilities - although given the issues Leeds have had on their past two visits here, some thought will have to be given about how well Austria can work for them in the future.

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