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A weekend not worrying about football

Every now then, on these pages, I reflect on the fortunes of Leeds United FC, the club that I have supported since childhood. This season is not going well. At the start of the club’s most recent fixture Leeds sat in the relegation zone, 19th in the table, one place above Southampton at the bottom. That was two weeks ago today, on Saturday 18 March. By 5pm the club had climbed five places to 14th, thanks to a 4-2 win at Wolves, as you can see here (screenshot taken from the BBC website):

Screenshot 2023-04-01 112949

Last weekend was an international weekend, no league fixtures in the top two divisions, so I have had nearly two weeks not worrying too much about the club’s position. For the previous three weekends Leeds played at 3pm on a Saturday, a time when no games are broadcast live here in the UK. I followed events in the usual way, on live updates shows on one of the sports channels, and with updates on my phone.

Leeds lost 1-0 at Chelsea on 4 March. It was 0-0 at half-time when my son and I left home to meet a friend who was spending much of Saturday and Sunday at Queens Club in Barons Court. He was competing in three sports (Padel, squash and real tennis) and by the time we arrived at the club Chelsea had taken the lead. We saw him lose a game of real tennis and he gave us a tour of the place. Over a game of pool we saw the full-time results coming through. Although Queens Club is close to Chelsea FC the train back home was full of Arsenal fans, looking relieved at the outcome of their home game against Bournemouth (2-0 down, Arsenal fought back to win 3-2 in injury time).

The following Saturday, Leeds drew 2-2 at home to Brighton, falling behind twice before earning a point. A week later, the Wolves game seemed to be going smoothly, 3-0 up after an hour, but the home side scored twice and sounded like they might equalize before they had a man sent off, and then Rodrigo’s 97th minute goal eased our nerves.

After three successive Saturday afternoons listening to, or reading about, the games, but not being able to watch them, it was a relief last weekend not to think too much about football. I took the children into town and on a rare rain-free day we wandered through Ladbroke Grove, Portobello, Powis Square and took a bus to Baker Street. From there we had a long walk with numerous stops: the Bridge and Chess shop, the Wallace Collection, the Spanish Church on James Street, John Lewis, and then through Soho until a final stop at the Toucan bar on Carlisle Street and the Elizabeth Line home.

Things will be different today. Leeds are at Arsenal, who sit 8 points clear at the top of the table, as you can see hear (again, this screenshot is taken from the BBC website):

Screenshot 2023-04-01 114424

It’s another Saturday 3pm kick-off, so there’ll be no way to watch the game. It’s also my wife’s birthday, and she supports Arsenal. She’s hoping for a home win, as you’d expect, so that they remain at least 8 points clear of Manchester City, who kick off at 12.30pm at home to Liverpool. I am trying to convince her that if City lose, then it will be okay for Leeds to win. She’s not buying it. Like most Arsenal fans she’s thinking of the worst possible outcome: a City win and a Leeds win, but that would still leave Arsenal 5 points clear. But as she, and every other Arsenal fan will tell you, City have a game in hand, and if they win that, they’ll be 2 points behind Arsenal …

Unlike last weekend, we will have another Saturday worrying about the football, whatever happens.


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