Elland Road, the home of football in Leeds since 1904, has been a dependable constant throughout Leeds United's turbulent history. It has shared the highs and the lows, has witnessed the Roque Juniors and the Lucas Radebes, the Paul Okons and the Billy Bremners.
It stood proud during the club's zenith in the late 1960's and early 70's when Leeds United were one of the best and most feared teams in Europe (in more ways than one), becoming English Champions twice, winning the FA Cup, the League Cup and the UEFA cup twice, as well as finishing runners up numerous times and losing several cup finals.
The ramshackle old ground probably forgave the club a prolonged stay in England's second tier in the 1980's, when, in 1992, Leeds were (somewhat unexpectedly) crowned champions of England for a third time.
But despite the odd flirtation with minor glory in the intervening years, things have been decidedly desperate for Leeds United in the last decade or so and what Elland Road makes of it (if it could think for itself of course) is anyone's guess.
In the early 2000's the club overspent heavily in the transfer market and on players' wages (and also on goldfish, but that's another story) and took out huge loans to "chase the dream" of European glory. Then in 2002, the club narrowly missed out on a Champions League spot which meant it didn't receive the money the prestigious European competition brought in, and which the aforementioned loans were leveraged on. Unsurprisingly, this left the club up the proverbial creek and shortly afterwards, in dramatic style, Leeds United financially imploded.
Elland Road then witnessed the darkest days in the club's history.
The financial meltdown saw Leeds come excruciatingly close to going out of business, and whilst this catastrophe was eventually narrowly avoided, throughout the rest of the "noughties" the club endured a spell in administration; 25 deducted points and two relegations which culminated in a 3 year stint in the English third division, Leeds' lowest ever ebb.
With these dark days now surely behind Leeds, Elland Road looks set to accompany the team into a brighter future with a new Ł7m redevelopment of the East Stand (which at the time of construction was the largest cantilever structure in the world) which looks set to include hospitality suites, a hotel, shops and bars. These plans haven't gone down well with some Leeds fans, who would rather see the money being invested into the playing squad to ensure a return to the Premier League, but whatever the merit of the proposals, they can only improve on the sustenance currently available at the ground.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The catering at Elland Road is pretty standard for most grounds in the UK, namely; sweaty hotdogs, stodgy burgers, underwhelming meat pies and overpriced, tasteless lager. I once went to a game with a friend who ate three of the Elland Road hotdogs, all in a 60 minute period before the match started, but don't take this as a sign of their quality. The chap in question doesn't like football so the food stalls were probably a welcome diversion. He also has the metabolism of a hummingbird.
If you don't fancy the food in the ground itself, you can get pre-game refreshment outside the ground in the form of fast food wagons and a row of shops behind the South Stand. The Old Peacock pub (also behind the South Stand) is worth a visit if you fancy a rough and ready pre-match pint in a rough and ready English boozer.
It's also worth mentioning that there is a McDonalds next to the ground. Not that interesting in itself, but, it is one of the few McDonalds "restaurants" in Britain not to feature any red in its logo. This is due to Leeds' intense rivalry with Manchester United, who as you probably know, wear red. (This aversion to red is taken one step further by local Leeds Painter, Gary Lesley, who never paints anything in red and who will paint over anything red with a white coat for free!).
Alex Ferguson once described Elland Road as being "the most intimidating venue in Europe". Things may not be quite the same these days but home games regularly attract 25,000+ spectators which for 2nd tier games is good, solid support. Especially when you consider that in the 2010/11 season, Leeds had a higher average than 8 Premier League teams.
The vocal home fans all congregate in the North Stand (AKA the Gelderd End, the Kop or the Revie Stand in honour of Don Revie, Leeds' great, if not somewhat controversial, manager during their glory days) and make a fair amount of noise on match days. Away fans are located at the opposite end of the ground, either in the "cheese wedge" which seats up to 1700 or the South Stand, which can house 5000.
Unless there's a good away following present, and unless you're sat near to the North Stand, the atmosphere can be somewhat muted. For the last few seasons to minimise policing/stewarding costs, the upper tier of the East Stand (which holds 7000 fans) has been left unopened so a lot of the noise can get lost up there.
Elland Road does still buzz for games against local rivals and the-now-not-so-common big games. Recent playoff semi finals, a cup replay versus Arsenal, and a last day promotion decider versus Bristol Rovers in 2010 have seen the old ground rocking.
Elland Road is technically situated in Beeston, but football fans can just about avoid the worst bits as the stadium is in a bit of a geographical bubble.
This is definitely a good thing. Beeston is one of the most downtrodden areas of Leeds and suffers from dilapidated buildings, empty houses, high crime rates and a healthy dollop of graffiti, litter and anti social behaviour. After the 7/7 London bombings in 2005, police discovered that three of the four suicide bombers were born and raised in Beeston. Safe to say it's probably best to overlook Beeston as your summer vacation destination.
However, the city of Leeds itself (of which Beeston is only one very small part) is well worth your time and is why this section of the review gets a reasonable score.
The city centre boasts some wonderful old pubs, great restaurants, museums and art galleries and lots of shops where you can buy your partner a nice present to say thank you for letting you go watch the football.
When thinking of Leeds United fans most observers will categorise into two types. There are the violent thugs who caused uproar in the late 1970's and throughout the 80's, who despite the clubs best efforts, live on in the Football Banning Orders league table (which Leeds regularly top).
Then there are the other type of Leeds fans, the ones who ensure Leeds snap up all their allocated away tickets for each and every game and follow the club in their thousands without a hint of trouble.
The former still taint the latter but you would have to be extremely unlucky to have your match day experience ruined by any Neanderthal idiots these days.
Elland Road is situated about two miles out of the city centre but your journey to the ground shouldn't cause too many headaches (unless you've had one too many in the pubs of Leeds).
The choice of many fans is the regular and reasonably priced shuttle buses to and from the ground. If you want something more personal, a taxi will only cost you around Ł8. Fancy stretching your legs? A stroll to the ground should take no longer than 40 minutes.
Car drivers have it easy too, the stadium is just off the M621 motorway and from there you can head for the numerous car parks around Elland Road or you could park on the streets in Beeston (you should be safe on match days due to the sheer number of other supporters present).
Last season Leeds were the division's top scorers and tried to play attractive attacking football which often ended in results that wouldn't look out of place in a hockey game. Premier League ticket prices for Championship level football don't leave a great taste in the mouth, but this hasn't put off hordes of home and away fans over the last few years. Even if it's a 0-0 bore draw, the stature of Leeds United ensures a trip to Elland Road is a satisfying experience.
Stadium tours are available on Sundays if you're in the area for the weekend. The Elland Road superstore which sells Leeds United mugs, Leeds United key rings, Leeds United replica shirts, Leeds United cuff links, Leeds United.... Ok, you get the idea, is open 7 days a week and will gladly part you from your hard earned money.
Whilst you admire a statue of Leeds' greatest ever player; Billy Bremner, you can also buy a match day programme or a copy of the award winning fanzine, The Square Ball, which are both available from vendors outside the ground.
Elland Road definitely isn't the nicest ground, the sightlines in a lot of seats aren't the best, the rest of the ground is dwarfed by the imposing East Stand and you wouldn't take some of the fans home to meet your mother, however, the old stadium remains one of the principal English grounds, the 12th biggest in England, a likely venue if England ever host a World Cup and a ground which every player, manager and fan knows the name of. If you're a ground hopper or stadium junkie, Elland Road is definitely worth a visit. Just whatever you do, don't wear a Manchester United shirt.
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251 Elland Rd
Leeds, West Yorkshire LS11 8TU
0113 271 0997
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