Wednesday night we saw something very unusual at Elland Road - and I’m not talking about Neil Warnock’s badly drawn eyebrows or the convincing midweek win against Blackpool - one of Leeds United's many bogie teams.
Like that bit in Zulu - from nowhere - or from the general direction of Holbeck - thousands of fresh souls descended upon baltic Beeston to join the die hards and cheer Leeds United to victory. The 25,000 turn out was the highest gate of the season and 6,000 higher than the average. Hopefully it will prove to our frugal f**kwit of a President what many fans have been screaming at him for years. It pays to charge less. Simples. Instead of the “You want Premiership football - you pay Premiership prices” we were told prior to relegation to League One we now have the ”Watch Leeds for Less” initiative - introduced by new owners GFH after asking fans what would bring them back to the Theatre of Broken Dreams.
At present it’s only been applied to the recent FA Cup ties and a couple of league games, but Wednesday nights results have to be encouraging. From those six thousand many will have boosted the clubs income by buying overpriced pies, pints, programmes and parking. More importantly, it was very apparent that many had taken their kids - maybe for their first game. They are the future of any football club and last night will have been a solid investment. At that impressionable age, nothing can make your choice of team easier to rescind than going to your first game and seeing them get battered in front of an apathetic, miserable braying crowd, but while the Blackpool game wasn’t the most thrilling of contests, the positive atmosphere can only have helped the players - and they did a decent job - albeit against a team on the slide.
There was a bit less hoofing and, with the reintroduction of Tonge and Green, the joyful sight of simple and intelligent passes being exchanged along the ground. Overall, it was a comfortable victory that would have left the new kids feeling either delirious - or like many of us - mildly content. They will have nagged their parents to buy scarves, replica shirts or all manner of branded tat in the club shop. They will naively feel that this new found faith may be reciprocated with repeat performances on the pitch.
This will make them want to return. They’ll keep trying to maintain the high of that first fix. When it doesn’t happen there’ll still be a few begging to come back for more - even when the prices are jacked back up again or the playoffs are mathematically impossible, because they loved the whole experience of that first game against Blackpool - all the shouting, the blokes swearing at the ref for missing that back pass, the beautiful floodlit pitch, the funny songs about Tom Ince and his dad, Paddy Kenny’s acrobatic saves, Varney’s misses and the roar when the ball hit the back of the net from Morison’s boot.
Last night people voted with their feet and for me this demonstrates that “Watch Leeds for Less” shouldn’t just be a one off, like a free bag of smack to hook the kids. It should be applied across the board for every game until the end of the season (with maybe some reward for existing Season Ticket holders) - and then they should seriously look at reducing ticket prices for next season.
Currently, tickets for Leeds are amongst the most expensive in the Championship and fans have been feeling short changed with the entertainment on offer. Despite Coldplay winning a Brit Award for best live act, people generally don’t like to pay a small fortune to watch something dull and after months of hoof-ball at exorbitant prices many fans had fallen out of love with the club. Last night may well have won a few of them back.