'There was no falling apart' - a tribute to Pablo Hernandez and Leeds United's history-defining Swansea City moment

Leeds United playmaker Pablo Hernandez has announced his departure from Elland Road after a five-year stay. Here, Joe Urquhart pays tribute to the man who provided a moment that will never be forgotten in LS11.

Friday, 21st May 2021, 12:24 pm
Leeds United's Pablo Hernandez celebrates at Swansea City. Pic: Getty

Pablo Hernandez's history-defining goal at Swansea City has been written into Elland Road folklore.

When the Spaniard struck late Leeds fans weren't where they were supposed to be at the Liberty stadium, spilling out onto the pitch from the away end as the playmaker charged towards them shirt in one hand and the Premier League in the other.

Instead fans were restricted to living rooms, socially-distanced barbecues or even family days out as the Championship promotion race carried on behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Typical Leeds, I thought. Being so close to something so sweet after 16 years yet so far from those who it mattered to the most.

The truth is that football has provided a lot of joy in the darkest of times for Elland Road supporters over the past 14 months or so, with life as we know it screeching to a halt in front of our very eyes.

Marcelo Bielsa once described Leeds United as a "very powerful social expression", insisting that there aren't many in the world quite like it.

I'm biased, of course. But he is right. There aren't.

I asked fans on social media late last year where they were and what they were doing as Hernandez's strike crossed the line after what seemed an eternity in South Wales.

Some were tuning into a stream, others were refreshing Twitter furiously or listening to the radio for any glimmer of hope as the clock ticked towards injury-time.

For many it was all too much, opting to keep their minds focused elsewhere by shutting off the updates, heading out for a drive to calm the nerves or a trip out the house to keep the kids entertained.

As replies continued to fill my Twitter feed a common theme was developing.

Babies were awoken from much-needed naps, neighbours were disturbed from a quiet Sunday and family pets were startled left running for cover. Even strangers were unsettled on the streets of France, in America and at Blackpool Pleasure Beach to name just a few.

When we talk about moments we associate with football we remember the emotion of them - good or bad. That is exactly what Hernandez provided. A moment to remember, this time for good.

Leeds haven't had many of those in the last decade or so. But as the Spaniard swung his boot we all knew that there was to be no falling apart this time.

A point turned into three in a split second and it was the moment - the one we'd all been so desperately waiting for.

It wasn't how Leeds United supporters would have wanted to live it, nor was it how it had played out in their minds over and over when promotion was nearing completion, but each fan has an individual story to tell of where they were the very second El Mago, as he is affectionately known, weaved his magic.

It was a moment which sparked the retelling of a thousand stories and memories made in that very instant across the world... how very 2020.

Every single Leeds fan knows exactly what they were doing, where they were and how they felt when the ball finally settled into the back of the net at Swansea.

Chaos ensued and uncontrollable emotion erupted from fans wherever and whatever they were doing. Not collectively, as it would've been in a perfect world, but individually.

That goal created a moment forever ingrained into the lives and hearts of those who care so passionately about Leeds United Football Club.

Utter the words Pablo Hernandez and Swansea City and all of that comes rushing back in an instant. A moment that has been immortalised on the walls in the city centre.

Luke Ayling. Pablo Hernandez. Goal-a. Goal-a. Goal-a.