They understand more than most the notion of marches at Leeds United. It echoed around Elland Road at ten past one on Sunday; the old anthem, about marching all together, filling a grand old stadium, full for the first time in six years.
And then they watched Newcastle’s relentless current march, you suspect, back to the Premier League, where Leeds left 12 years ago.
There are no guarantees about returns. It is not the exclusive club it felt on creation. Big clubs get evicted. Parachute payments can drift away from target areas. What Newcastle are doing is not as simple as some might say, or indeed as easy as the team is currently make it look.
Victory was their ninth on the trot (eight in the Championship). It moved them five points clear of second placed Brighton and nine clear of a play-off place.
They equalled a club record set in 1994, of nine successive victories, when Kevin Keegan was in charge. It is starting to feel a bit like that time as well.
“They told me (about the record) and I was really pleased,” said Rafa Benitez. “When you win you want to win as many as you can. We concentrate, get three points in every game and after you see the record. Every game in the Championship is difficult.
“I wouldn’t say it was comfortable. It was a great effort. Because we scored two goal people say it was easy.”
The hero, with both goals, was Dwight Gayle. He had woken in the morning to headlines about a fight on a night out in Liverpool. ‘He scores with no teeth,’ was the cry from the traveling support as he headed down the tunnel, when it was all done. Benitez would confirm only that he was aware of the incident. It did not seem enough to derail the juggernaut the Spaniard has taken control of.
He paid tribute to his players, for equalling the record, and for the run.
“You have to give credit to our players," he added. "I said before, if we have the fans, the staff, the players, all together and pushing in the same direction, we will be stronger. I prefer to fight against complacency.”
They never looked complacent. Jonjo Shelvey dominated from the heart of midfield, Gayle’s threat and movement caused Leeds’ two central defenders problems until he was replaced by Aleksandar Mitrovic with 11 minutes remaining.
Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark were commanding at the back, Ayoze Perez probed. It was beyond efficient, controlling, smothering, taking the sting from Leeds and their noisy supporters.
The final cry of Leeds, Leeds, Leeds had barely carried into the Yorkshire sky when Newcastle took control. For ten minutes the home side barely got out of their one half. Bar a five minute spell before half-time, there was precious little for Benitez and his players to concern themselves with. He still tinkered, he still whispered into the ears of his men, but they took control and largely kept it.
Vurnon Anita had a shot deflected wide after four minutes. Rob Green blocked well to deny Gayle in the seventh and in the 23rd the goalkeeper, backpeddling, palmed the ball into the path of Gayle. From close range Newcastle were in front. Four minutes later Yoan Gouffran then cut inside from the right and shot wide.
Karl Darlow would then save smartly from a Pontus Jansson header, from a right wing corner. He did the same four minutes after the break, getting down smartly to his right to deny Eunan O’Kane.
It was the last chance for Leeds, who had appealed for a penalty at the end of the first half.
In the 54th minute, the ball was moved cleverly down the Newcastle right, quick and incisive, and it ended with a low cross and a finish from six yards from Gayle. It looked so simple. The forward barely celebrated.
“Their second goal was the one moment when you really saw their quality,” said Garry Monk.
“We played against a very good side. They have great quality but we competed well.”
That was game over, it was no secret. The stadium was emptying with five minutes of normal time remaining.
Newcastle march on.
Leeds (4-4-1-1): Green; Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Taylor; Roofe, O’Kane, Vieira (Sacko 62), Doukara (Antonsson 78); Phillips; Wood.
Newcastle (4-2-3-1): Darlow; Anita, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Shelvey, Colback (Hayden 83); Ritchie, Perez, Gouffran (Diame 76); Gayle (Mitrovic 79).Reuse content