A few weeks ago inside Elland Road I bumped into four gentlemen stood waiting by the turnstile. I referred to them in my report on that game, the 1-0 win over Millwall, as a Last of the Summer Wine tribute act. One of the men, Mr Reg French, informed me he was 85 years old and has been attending Leeds games since the mid 1930s.
I saw three of the guys again prior to the Peterborough United game and they informed me that the reference within the write up caused much amusement in Mr French's local boozer. Reg himself, was unable to attend the game due to health reasons but I managed to obtain his telephone number in a bid to speak to him about his experiences watching his and our beloved Leeds United.
I contacted Reg and he willingly discussed his early memories watching Leeds and what he makes of current times. We didn't cover every era but I hope you enjoy reading Reg's recollections.
Mr French was born in Harehills, Leeds in 1927 and although he is unable to remember who Leeds played on his first ever visit to Elland Road, he is pretty sure it was during the 1934/35 season:
"We lived in Sherburn-in-Elmet by this point and my Father would take me on the bus to New York Street in Leeds. From there, we'd walk to catch a tram, somewhere near Swinegate. The trams would take the same route that the football special buses take now. We would get to the ground and my Father would lift me over the wall into the West Stand Paddock on to a huge pile of straw.
"It was a shame when they stopped running the trams, I wanted to ride on the last one to Elland Road but didn't manage to do so. That would have brought so many memories back to me".
Like all young lads, Reg had his heroes. He remembers Wilf Copping, Ernie Hart, Bert Sproston, Jim Twomey, David Cochrane and George Ainsley:
"Wilf Copping was a long throw expert, we haven't had too many like him over the decades. Ernie Hart was a tower of strength at the back who once received a red card and a months ban for swearing at the referee. I also liked Ainsley and Cochrane, they scored a few goals between them but the one I remember most was Willis Edwards."
As Reg pointed out, Edwards was the first Leeds United player to win an England cap when on the 1st March 1926, he played in a 3-1 win over Wales at Crystal Palace:
"Willis Edwards was outstanding and many regarded him as the finest wing half of his day. I recall being at Elland Road and seeing him score a free kick from the halfway line, I'm sure it was the day we beat Sheffield Wednesday 7-2 in the 1935/36 season. It was a cold, wet Saturday in November, that ball would've weighed a ton!"
Unbelievably, in that game, the score was 6-1 at half time.
Reg, in his youth, was a decent goalkeeper and was spotted playing for his school team in Castleford by ex Leeds player Jimmy Frew who was a coach for the West Riding F.A:
"Jimmy Frew saw some potential in me and although it was good while it lasted, I never made the grade. Ironically, Jimmy Frew also owned the sports shop in Harehills, where I was born, and he used to supply Leeds United with the football strip they wore."
In 1939, after a 1-0 home defeat to Sheffield United, the Football League was abandoned due to the outbreak of the second World War. During the War, Reg worked as a railway fireman and his job prevented him from attending many games as regional competitions were introduced.
It was August 1946 when normal service was resumed where football was concerned and Leeds United were a club renowned for bobbing between the first and second divisions without making serious impact when playing in the highest tier.
Reg remembers a tragic time for the club ten years later, when in September 1956, the West Stand where he used to watch games from was ravaged by fire: