My Leeds United: Old mate behind Elland Road facelift

FACELIFT: Rob's old schoolmate is behind the proposed rebranding of Elland Road.
FACELIFT: Rob's old schoolmate is behind the proposed rebranding of Elland Road.
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Every now and then, life deals you one of those ”could have knocked me down with a feather” moments, the kind of surprise that used to have my grandmother exclaiming that she’d go to t’foot of our stairs.

I never really understood that one, but I had such a moment myself this week and I was, as the more eloquent Yorkshire people might say, truly gobsmacked.

In common with most Leeds United fans, I’m delighted to hear that our famous old Elland Road stadium is finally getting a makeover, some much-needed beautification in advance of the new season. The ground has an appeal all of its own anyway, but there’s no denying all that concrete and steel could do with a touch of adornment here and there. New owner Andrea Radrizzani appears to appreciate this; plans are now afoot to enhance the stadium aesthetics in time for the first home game of the new campaign, against Preston.

Imagine my surprise, though, when I discovered via Facebook that it’s another former member of my old Hemsworth High School sixth form group who’s behind the imaginative rebranding of Elland Road. Paul Peppiate was the star of the

A-level art class in my time at Hemsworth; you could tell that he was destined for great things, and he went on to make his mark as a graphic and motion designer of note, working on many prominent TV productions. If you ever watched

“Goodnight Sweetheart” or “Heartbeat”, among others, you’ll be familiar with his work and now, as Chief Operations Officer of Works Ltd, the Leeds-based design company, he’s turned his talents to the transformation of Leeds United’s

iconic stadium. The thing is, though, that Paul – whisper it softly – is a diehard follower of that other United from over the hills near Manchester. It’s an irony not lost upon Paul himself, but he’s determined to do all he can to enhance the appeal of Elland Road and Leeds United, club loyalties notwithstanding. When we were at the same school all those years ago, I wasn’t really aware of his Old Trafford connection, though I happily noted in later times the

professional progress of my old Hemsworth co-student. It was only after re-establishing contact via social media that I found to my dismay that I’d gained a Facebook friend with what is, to me, a baffling football allegiance. Still,

you have to be grown-up about these things, and I waited patiently for the occasional Man U defeat, with the opportunity that afforded me to rub the sting of failure well and truly in. Really, it would serve me right if a certain

Monsieur Cantona figured prominently in the East Stand graphic – but I understand that wiser counsel and the dictates of good taste have prevailed. In truth, the actual design element is being undertaken by a Leeds fan Works employee,

which has to be a good thing – but there’s no doubt that the driving forces behind the project have a strong devotion to our 2010 FA Cup victims. Given that perhaps incongruous fact, the dedication and enthusiasm behind the project is

praiseworthy indeed; as Paul says, “We’re putting our heart and soul into it”. A productive working relationship has sprung up between the Works and Leeds United, with Radrizzani showing his desire to improve the Elland Road fan

experience and genuinely give something back to the supporters after a distressing few years. At the end of the day, Brian, it’s all about the football; being able to show pride in your club and stadium. If that means working

hand-in-hand with Old Trafford devotees, well – what better way of moving forward in the modern era, burying past differences and becoming truly United? It’s a strangely warm feeling – and I’m hoping it’ll continue at least until the

next time we knock “them” out of the Cup.