She’s been beaten up, abused, groped and chased by knife-wielding youths - but through it all Heidi Haigh’s passion for Leeds United has remained undimmed.
A devoted fan of the Whites since she was 12, she charted her obsession in the diaries she wrote while following her team at home and away during the 1970s.
Now Heidi, who works in the careers department at Brighouse High School, has drawn on the diaries for her book ‘Follow Me and Leeds United’ which gives a graphic account of being a female fan at a time when football was regarded as a ‘man’s game’.
“There were men who definitely thought I shouldn’t be at a football match with my friends - and I’m sure there are still a few who think that today!” said Heidi, of Willowfield, Halifax.
Growing up near Selby, Heidi left school at 15 and spent all her wages on following her team at home, away and in Europe. Her unwavering devotion saw her clocking up seven seasons without missing a league game in the 1970s.
Her book vividly recalls the experience of enduring routine violence and hooliganism to attend matches, of missed trains and late-night coach journeys - and of being terrified on the terraces.
Insults and abuse were normal but Heidi, in the trademark black beret she still wears today, knew how to give as good as she got.
“I got called some horrible names and there were plenty of wandering hands. If it got too bad, I’d just turn around and give whoever it was a whack, that’s how it was then.
“There were times when I’d end up in tears because it was so frightening. The violence was terrible for all of the fans in some places. I remember Manchester City and Middlesbrough being two of the worst.”
She also recalls being crushed with her friend Linda when they were watching an FA Cup semi-final in 1977.
“The barrier behind us has bent almost double with the pressure of the fans so we moved down and got against another barrier and then everyone piled down . . . I was nearly bent double. I got it in my sides and Linda in her ribs.
“We were screaming and crying . . . I was shaking like a leaf and Linda nearly fainted.”
But 57-year-old Heidi who is married to Phillip, a fellow Leeds fan, is keen to emphasise that following her team in the ‘70s was very much a case of taking the bad alongside the good.
“Some of the best times of my life have been spent supporting Leeds. I loved the fun of following my team, the camaraderie and the friendships I made that have lasted down the years.”
Her love affair with the football club began when Heidi was taken to her first Leeds match at Elland Road as a 12-year-old on a friend’s birthday outing. When she left school at 15, she decided to follow Leeds as often as she could - sometimes having to disobey her parents to do so.
“I was working and earning my own money so I felt that I should be allowed to go . . . I was and still am very determined - stubborn even - when I set my mind to do something and once I decided I wasn’t going to miss a match, I wasn’t going to miss one!”
But it was thanks to her dad, driving her from Selby into Leeds and picking her up from late night trains, that she got home safely from many games. For Heidi, the highlight of supporting Leeds United has been the ‘privilege’ of being there under Don Revie’s leadership.
“He made me the Leeds fan I am today. He was in charge of the best team that I had the privilege of seeing play.”
l‘Follow Me & Leeds United’, released by DB Publishing, costs £12.99. It is available online from Amazon, WH Smith and Waterstones and Leeds United’s store.