Leeds United’s Elland Road, a stadium that stirs the passion even in lockdown

Even in lockdown, Elland Road is a proper football stadium. Keeping fans out of the grounds to protect against coronavirus has been necessary, but has made for hollow, sterile atmospheres.
Illustration: Graeme Bandeira.Illustration: Graeme Bandeira.
Illustration: Graeme Bandeira.

Leeds United’s home is different.

The 15,000 cardboard cut-outs of fans, flags and banners give it a proper feel, but those in the director’s box create the new normal’s most partisan atmosphere.

The 123-year-old stadium is not the greatest place for spectators, looking a little shabby as venues around it develop.

THE BEAUTIFUL GAME: Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Picture: Jonathan GawthorpeTHE BEAUTIFUL GAME: Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
THE BEAUTIFUL GAME: Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Upgrades will have to be made for the Premier League and there are long-term plans for a new West Stand to mirror the 14,900-seater East (extended in 1994), taking capacity to 50,000, if they establish themselves in the top flight.

What it is, though, is a great place for fans.

When Gareth Southgate wanted England to get a good send-off before heading to the last World Cup, he knew where to come.

It was Elland Road’s third England game, and it also hosted Euro 96.

Don Revie’s side in the 1960s and 70s was helped by building a certain mystique and mood, and a bearpit atmosphere at big home games, especially European nights.

Howard Wilkinson and David O’Leary’s sides profited too.

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Chants of “Leeds, Leeds, Leeds” and “Marching on Together” have been the soundtrack to many a great victory.

The beauty of Marcelo Bielsa’s football means plenty a spectator will want to see how Leeds fare in next season’s top-flight but they will struggle to get in. As soon as the turnstiles open, it will be a campaign for the fans.

Illustration: Gareme Bandeira

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