Monday, 22 September 2014

Elland Road - Leeds United

September 20th 2014

Leeds United 3-0 Huddersfield Town 

It came as a bit of a jolt to me at the start of this year to realise I had never been to Leeds.  Indeed never even passed through the place.

I sort of fixed that to an extent in June when I dropped into Headingly for some cricket, but even then I never felt I had really visited Leeds, for the cricket ground if memory serves lives on the northern edge of the city.

Leeds to me, when I was growing up, meant Leeds United and Leeds RLFC; both very successful yet unfathomably unpopular clubs.  Today when I hear the city mentioned I immediately think of Alan Bennett.  And it was in some sort of recognition of The Great Man that I, upon arriving at the rail station with a few hours to spare, made my way directly to the Leeds Central Library, where Bennett spent a significant amount of his teenage years studying.

I am sure he studied mainly in the Reference Section, but I noted there was a Quiet Study Room on the top floor.  So I made my way there, and was delighted to come across those carved animals adorning the stairwell.  I recall Bennett describing one such as "a slavering dog looking as if it's trying to stop itself sliding down the banister".

The rather underfed looking animals to be found in Leeds Central Library

I found the room but the door, some heavy imposing wooden job, was closed, and I was just too intimidated to try the handle.  What would I do if it opened?  Pop my head in to disturb the studious individuals within and state: “Don’t mind me, I’m just having a nosey”?  So I turned away and made my way to the adjacent Art Gallery, in search of some Grimshaw.

Another, albeit perhaps lesser-known these days, Leeds luminary is the redoubtable and remarkably prolific painter John Atkinson Grimshaw.  I have a paperback copy of M.R. James ghost stories which features Grimshaw’s Moonlight Walk on the cover, and had long wanted to see more of the man’s work in the flesh, so to speak.  And surely no place better than Leeds Art Gallery, I thought.

Well there was a fair selection of his work in the 19th Century Room, from whoppers like Autumn Glory, which looked vaguely like a Black Sabbath album cover to the rather twee Iris.  But the real gem was hidden away almost down on floor level: Knostrop Cut, Leeds, Sunday Night.

'Twas just breath-taking, and I was inordinately pleased to learn than Knostrop Cut still existed, and thought had this been a car rather than a train trip I would have travelled the few miles to the south to take a snap from the same point Grimshaw had sat when he painted.

Knostrop Cut, Leeds, Sunday Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw

This was rather poignant installation (they call it) by 
Susan Miller, consisting of reproductions of plaques 
commemorating act of self-sacrifice by men, woman 
and children.  
The actual plaques may be found in Postman's Park in London.

Detail from Susan Miller's work Monument

The Leeds City Museum was next on the list, but my heart sank as I entered the Life On Earth gallery, for it was full of sad-eyed dead things stuffed and posed.  I had hoped we were moving away from this sort of stuff. 

The Leeds Story galleries were much better where I learned the entymology of the name Leeds – from the Saxon Leodis apparently.  There was also an exhibition of Egyptian artefacts – including your actual black leathery mummy.  I did wonder why I found gawping at a dead human less disturbing than the dead animals I had seen earlier, but could come up with no answer.

should have liked to have poked about the Cathedral and also gone to see if there anything of interest going on inside the busy-looking Town Hall, but time was pressing, so I almost reluctantly made my way to Sovereign Street to catch the shuttle bus to Elland Road.

Leeds Town Hall

Leeds Library and Art Gallery

The mild weather forded the opportunity for some to indulge in a little al fresco refreshments.

Elland Road, Leeds. 

Elland Road, Leeds.

Elland Road - looking towards the Don Revie stand.

The East Stand, Elland Road

Panorama of Elland Road - Leeds United.

The ground impressed me no end I have to say, with corners filled in and the two whopping great stands.  The top tier of the East stand was only sparsely populated, but this was hardly noticeable, although I felt the club would have done better to close it off completely and have the rest of the place filled.  But I guess some folks may have season tickets up there.

As to the football, well I felt there was little to choose between the sides in the first period, but the visitors simply contributed to their own downfall by silly defending.

On 20 minutes Anton Antennucci harried visiting defender Joel Lynch into making a hash of a clearance, which fell to the impressive Rudy AUSTIN who simply bashed the ball through visiting ‘keeper Alex Smithies, who almost seemed to dive out of the way of the projectile.

Pushing for an equaliser, Huddersfield were caught on the break seconds before half-time when ANTENNUCCI scored after fellow Italian Guiseppe Belusci’s chip had come back off the crossbar.  Leeds’ third in the 69th minute was a right-foot effort from Souleymane DOUKARA which, although the big lad did well to make space for himself, Smithies really should have stopped the shot.

A Huddersfield Town free-kick early in the first-half

Town's Nahki Wells makes a hash of this cutback from Harry Bunn.

Sean Scannell crosses.

Scannell and Leeds' left-back Stephen Warnock enjoy a tussle.

Home captain Jason Pearce clears from Huddersfield forward Wells 

Most of the Huddersfield support around me took this reverse with an air of resignation, bar the chap to my right who vent his spleen by kicking the vacant seat in front of him.  Unfortunately for him he was spotted by the really very pretty Stand Supervisor who, with the aid of a bobby huckled him off for questioning.

I quite literally bumped into the same lady as I was leaving the stand, and briefly considered asking for her phone number, but found her determined stride and professional expression as intimidating as the closed door in Leeds library, so simply sighed and moved on.

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