Leeds United ignored Sir Alex Ferguson's warning on a night Elland Road went quid pro quo

Geoginio Rutter celebrates with the Leeds United fans at Elland Road -Credit:Greig Cowie/REX/Shutterstock
Geoginio Rutter celebrates with the Leeds United fans at Elland Road -Credit:Greig Cowie/REX/Shutterstock

Sir Alex Ferguson once said footballers should always play the game, not the occasion. How about both? Leeds United’s players were feeding on the energy rolling in off Elland Road’s stands, pumping their arms for more like Renton on a Friday night in Edinburgh.

Much like Trainspotting, last night’s tone was set by Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’. Elland Road’s in-house DJ stepped up in the same way the supporters and players would. Gone was the usual loop of pre-match fare and in came beats to get your head banging and your heart pounding.

By kick-off, you could feel the electricity crackling across the scarves being twirled and stretched around the stadium. It’s hard to recall the volume of Derby County and 2019, but this felt bigger than anything the ground has heard since then. The jeopardy of knockout football cannot be matched by league games with no immediate consequence.

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This had everything on the line and the crowd responded in kind. Farke had talked pre-match about keeping a lid on emotions and trying not to be over-motivated to impress the adoring home crowd. There was a degree of control to the Whites players, but they didn’t play like robots and ignore what was going off around them.

There was a synergy to what was happening. It was the blissful relationship Elland Road has so often yearned for, but rarely been given. This is a stadium that wants to be feral, on the edge, mindless, chaotic and burning a hole in the sky. Yet it needs the players to fuel that and players who are fuelled by it.

You could see, from virtually the first break in play, Ethan Ampadu, the captain, and Junior Firpo actively turning to the Jack Charlton Stand, asking for more, just one more hit, one more score. ‘We give you something, you give us something in return.’

Joe Rodon roams into the Norwich City half and wins the ball back twice in quick succession, a centre-back driving his side into the final third. Raise the volume. Georginio Rutter somehow heads clear a corner in his own box. Pumps his arms to the John Charles Stand. More, more, more.

An early goal acted like the perfect gift from the players to the crowd. It eased early nerves in the crowd, which boosted confidence in the players, which improved play, which led to a second goal, which nearly took the roof off the stadium. This was a football team and its supporters in perfect harmony.