Ayling’s opposition welcome
Crystal Palace were the first of the two squads to arrive at Elland Road on Sunday afternoon. Roy Hodgson was standing in the passageway talking to Premier League staff when Leeds United’s party arrived.
Luke Ayling was the first man through the doorway and he was given a very warm welcome by the former England boss. Ray Lewington, Hodgson’s long-time assistant and confidant, is Ayling’s uncle.
Gracia’s rising stock
Pitchside interviews with managers became the norm during the Covid-affected seasons, but they are far rarer nowadays. Amazon has made them a part of its broadcast offering, but Sky Sports have not made them a thing.
However, for the first time during his tenure, Javi Gracia was brought out for a piece to camera in front of the John Charles Stand. The warm applause Gracia received before and after the interview summed up his rising stock at Elland Road.
There was not a huge number of fans inside the ground at that point, but enough to let Gracia feel good about his entrance. He waved back too.
Gracia behind enemy lines
Gracia had made a point in his pre-match press conference of praising Hodgson as well as his backroom staff, whom he remembers to be especially courteous in their previous meetings. However, there was someone else on the away bench the Spaniard wanted to greet before the game.
Will Hughes, one of the Watford veterans of Gracia’s FA Cup run, was among the Palace substitutes. The midfielder was a regular under Gracia at Vicarage Road.
Bamford’s bench beeline
It may now feel like it happened in an entirely different season, given what’s happened since, but in the halcyon moments after Leeds took the lead on Sunday there was a special celebration. As Patrick Bamford peeled away from the gorgeous glancing header which broke the deadlock, he arced his run from the Norman Hunter Stand penalty box towards the dugout.
Mobbed by Luke Ayling and the rest of his team-mates, Bamford and the skipper were pointing at someone in the backroom staff. They were greeted first by Georginio Rutter, but it was the architect of the set-piece Bamford finished off they were running to.
Chris and Kev remembered
Tuesday’s match may have fallen closer to the 23rd anniversary of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight’s deaths in Turkey, but Sunday’s clash with Crystal Palace was the official game chosen in collaboration with their families. Before the game, there was one minute’s applause from the players and spectators.
In the 23rd minute, the entire stadium turned its backs to the action with more generous applause for the two supporters everyone associated with the Whites will never forget.