As a lifelong Leeds United fan it seems silly that my favourite ever Leeds game was one where Leeds lost 7-3 but for me and 38000 others the result was not important, we were there to say thank you to one man, Lucas Radebe. It’s for that reason that this won’t be a comprehensive match report, it will be a journey back in time. Enjoy! Feel free to comment on your memories of the day and for those wanting to relive it the game is available on Dailymotion. (On a personal note, someone stole my programme from under my seat, if you happen to be reading this eight years on, please return it!)
The players who walked out were a who’s who of Leeds United greats of the past 25 years, accompanied by cult heroes, current players and many greats of world football. A spine tingling rendition of Marching On Together welcomed them onto the pitch before the man everyone was there to see made his way to the end of the tunnel with that trademark smile, I love that smile!
RADEBE, RADEBE, RADEBE RADEBE RADEBE, RADEBEEE, RADEBEEEEE, RADABEEEEEEEEEE, LUCAS! rang out around Elland Road, loud enough that it could probably be heard 6000 miles away in his birthplace Soweto as the International XI kicked off.
What followed was almost two hours of non-stop entertainment with the old Leeds favourites being accompanied by many favourite Leeds chants. One of the first was the familiar SHOOOOOOOOOOT aimed at David Batty, it continued throughout the game whether he was 40 yards, on the edge of his own box or with his back to goal. Many others followed, ‘Wilko, give us a wave’ (he did), ‘Belly’s Gonna Get Ya’ (aimed at Tony Yeboah), and two quick-witted chants aimed at Lucy Ward ‘There’s only one Robbie Savage’ and ‘We’ve only got ten men. One of my personal favourites, and one I miss hearing at Elland Road today, is ‘Stand up and sing for Leeds’.
Many of the players were great sources of entertainment. Gordon Strachan made everybody laugh by asking the much younger Gary Kelly to do the running for him. Bruce Grobbelaar was constantly making people laugh, his long jaunts outside the box and joining in with the Mexican wave were perfect for the occasion. Vinnie Jones was, well, Vinnie Jones! He played his role perfectly, getting a few crunching tackles in, playing up to his hard man image and mounting Lucy Ward in celebration. And then there was Lucas Radebe who just had to flash his smile to melt the hearts of the watching crowd.
The football on show was also good quality, great quality if you consider the age of many of the players on show. Aaron Lennon scored the first goal after McAllister and Strachan rolled back the years to leave him with an easy tap in. Mario Melchiot and John Carew scored good goals to put the International XI ahead at half time. For the second half Lucas did the unthinkable and switched teams to play against Leeds United but as this day is all about thanking him, I think we can forgive this! It wasn’t until the hour mark had passed that the fans got what they wanted. A scintillating run by Lucas Radebe into the box and a not at all planned push and gentle kick in the shins by Gary Kelly lead to a penalty, to be taken by the Chief. Radebe coolly slotted the ball home and celebrated to the delight of the crowd. Lucy Ward joined the action, replacing Gary Speed (RIP) and soon found herself on the score sheet even though she may have been marginally offside. The goals came thick and fast in the last 20 minutes with Ally McCoist scoring at the back post, Gunnar Halle putting it past Neil Sullivan at the near post and McCoist slotting home from two yards out to make it 6-2 to the International XI. Leeds’ final goal of the game came courtesy of Matt Kilgallon, a lob over Grobbelaar to make it 6-3. Within 60 seconds, the perfect ending to the game was made when Lucas Radebe scored the final goal with a quite amazing finish for a man not known for his goal scoring prowess.
The final score didn’t matter. It was all about saying thank you and good bye to Lucas Radebe. He gave us so many memories over his career at Leeds United and added to them massively at his testimonial by allowing some true greats to play alongside him, we’ll never get to see most of them play at Elland Road again.
I’m not sure we’ll see a more loyal, dedicated, humble, loveable player at Leeds United in my lifetime and if there is I can’t see a way that they could be a better person than Lucas. So from the bottom of my heart…
THANK YOU LUCAS! I couldn’t have picked a better hero.