Leeds United v West Brom: Superfan travels 24,000 miles to see team play - and named his son after club

Meet the footy superfan who has travelled 24,000 miles to see his team play - and has even named his son after his beloved Leeds United.

Diehard fan Paul Smith has trekked from his native New Zealand to see the Whites take on West Brom at Elland Road tonight (Aug 18). He's been travelling to England for more than 40 years to see the team play - and reckons he's spent more than £40,000 in the process.

Paul - who gave his son Daniel the middle name 'Leeds' - said he was 'in tears' when he saw the club's stadium for the first time in seven years earlier this week.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said: "It's good to be home. I went straight down to the club shop and spent £300 on some gear. It's my life. I thought I would have a few tears and to be honest I did. Living so far away and not having the opportunity to travel once or twice a year - it was an emotional feeling.

Leeds United superfan Paul Smith from New Zealand, pictured at Elland RoadLeeds United superfan Paul Smith from New Zealand, pictured at Elland Road
Leeds United superfan Paul Smith from New Zealand, pictured at Elland Road

"Standing at the Billy Bremner statue - the 'you are home' feeling really hit because of that passion and love I have for the club."

Paul says he became hooked on the club when he watched their 1973 FA Cup final clash with Sunderland - the first English game to be broadcast live in New Zealand. Despite Leeds famously losing 1-0 to the Division Two side in one of the greatest cup upsets ever, Paul fell in love with the West Yorkshire club.

He has since made the 24,000 mile trip from Christchurch six times to stay in the city and watch his beloved team play.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He added: "You're probably looking at least £5-7,000 per trip, so I reckon it's around £40,000 over the years. My first ever game was a friendly against Borussia Dortmund but my favourite match I've ever been to was Newcastle at home in 1982 when we beat them 3-1.

"Kevin Keegan played for Newcastle that day and he came over to New Zealand a few years later. I actually met him and we had a catch up and a laugh about the game."

After falling in love with the club, he wrote to them and expressed his intention to visit, and received a response promising the utmost hospitality when he did. Paul visited in 1981, when he was just 17, and had a kickabout with the players while they trained. He also visited in 1987 and had a meal with club legend Billy Bremner, which Paul has said is a 'highlight' of his visits.

He added: "King Billy is still my all-time favourite player. I remember after watching the 73 cup final, I was walking around the shops and saw a copy of Shoot Magazine. Billy Bremner was on the front and I thought 'that's the guy who plays for Leeds, so I bought it and reap up on him.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"He used to write for Shoot and I still have everything he ever wrote for the magazine. I've met him a few times and had numerous meals with him over the years. He was great company, a really nice guy. He was the first Scotsman I ever met, so trying to understand him was actually hilarious. He's still my all time favourite player along with 'Sniffer' Clarke, who was a great goalscorer."

When asked what he thought to the last few years of the club's history, Paul described it as 'gut wrenching.'

Paul, who works two jobs as a security guard and an airport baggage handler, said: "The Bielsa years were amazing - a dream come true for a Leeds fan. Then there was hard times and Bielsa got the boot and they have just gone downhill from there. But what the hell, we're still Leeds mate and we live to fight another day."

But when asked for his opinion on the club's latest manager Daniel Farke, he said he's a 'good manager.'

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Paul said: "I've always had a soft spot for him. He's a good manager and knows how to get teams promoted. Hopefully he can do the same with us. This season will be tough with certain players not wanting to play for the club because they think they can go elsewhere and do better. I just hope we can crack on and get a few signings on the board."