It’s fair to say emotions will be running high before the game on Saturday after the club announced there would be a special tribute to all those who have lost their lives during the pandemic.
Sorrow and tragedy has touched everyone over the last 18 months, and this is a real good opportunity for people to come together and pay their respects.
As a club, Leeds United has been hit hard with the sad losses of Norman Hunter, Jack Charlton, Trevor Cherry, Peter Lorimer, and most recently Terry Cooper.
I didn’t know Trevor or Terry particularly well, but had heard nothing but good things about them both. As a former left-back at the club and an ex-captain, I guess I followed in both their footsteps and the esteem they were held in was nothing short of amazing.
Similarly with Big Jack, an ex-centre-half at the club, but his achievements as a player were nothing short of unbelievable. He was one of the rocks of Don Revie’s Leeds for so many years and even when he hung up his boots and went into management he continued to be a winner, enjoying success with Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday and most famously the Republic of Ireland.
Famed for his love of Guinness and angling, Jack was a true character who will be sorely missed by all those who came across him. I had a drink with Jack on more than one occasion and he was as down to earth as they come.
One of the strangest things about returning to Elland Road on Saturday will be the absence of Norman and Peter. A pair of playing legends and I was lucky enough to get to know them both well during my time as a player and since. Everyone used to say Norman was the nicest man you could ever meet, and they weren’t wrong.
Both of them were fixtures around the place. Norman was always in the hospitality areas with a smile on his face and positive word for everyone, no matter what the result was, and Peter served the club in several capacities stretching back to my time as a player.
In later years, I’d travelled to a few games with Peter and he was always good company. Whether it was Bournemouth on a midweek or Histon on a Sunday lunchtime, Peter was always there representing the club, and was always more recognisable and more in demand than any of the rest of us who had ever had the privilege of pulling on a white shirt.
They were all legacies from a great period of the club’s history and will all be sadly missed.
Lesser known that any of the above was a defender by the name of Marius Zaliukas. I watched Marius on several occasions during his time as a Leeds player under Brian McDermott, and he is another we will be remembering when we come together at the weekend.
It’s going to be emotional…