ECSTATIC: Leeds United supporter Danny Bastow. PICTURE: PAUL MENSCH
By MITCH RODD
MILDURA will now always hold a special place in the heart of lifelong Leeds United supporter, Danny Bastow.
Some 16 years following the English football giants’ relegation from the English Premier League (EPL), the Yorkshire club will finally return to the top flight after winning the English Football League (EFL) Championship.
Danny, 27, is 16,000km away from home, but he hasn’t missed out on celebrating the end of the EPL drought with family and friends around the world.
Leeds has been home to some of Australia’s best football exports, including Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell, who Danny watched don the white uniform as a child.
The lad from Wakefield, 20km outside of Leeds, is the epitome of an avid supporter. He was a season ticket holder as an 11-year-old when they were relegated in 2004, held a season ticket when they slipped into the third tier of football, and would regularly stay up at all hours of the night while in Australia to watch his boys.
The championship title and automatic promotion to the EPL was confirmed two weeks ago and Danny, who has been completing farm work in Sunraysia as part of his visa, was quickly in contact with his fellow Leeds supporters.
“It was an amazing feeling,” he said. “I’ve been on Facetime with family and with friends who are all over the world at the moment. I don’t remember exactly what was said, we’d all had a few celebratory drinks!
“I’ve been watching videos and news reports from home and it’s absolute carnage there at the moment. One of my best friends had his photo taken holding a couple of coloured smoke sticks in the street and his face has been on all the news outlets.
“West Bromwich Albion were playing Huddersfield so I stayed up until 2.30 in the morning watching it. Huddersfield’s 2-1 win secured us the title. I started work literally about an hour after the game finished so I just stayed awake and wore my Leeds shirt to work.
“There were a few Leeds supporters here last year but this year there have been a lot of lads from different areas supporting different teams. My two roommates were Germans from Hamburg and I convinced them to stay up and watch the games with me. I’d be awake at all hours of the night watching.”
The appointment of Argentinian manager Marcelo Bielsa in 2018 has worked wonders, to the point that supporters are petitioning for a statue to erected in his honour.
“Our whole attitude changed when he (Bielsa) arrived,” Danny said. “We had basically the same players as a couple of seasons ago, but what he’s managed to do with them has been incredible.”
It didn’t take long, however, for Danny’s celebrations to give way to securing work. Having come to Australia in 2018, Danny ended his second stint of working in Mildura on last Tuesday. He and a handful of other internationals packed up and headed to Hillston, NSW, where they had secured further work.
“My contract finished up and some work became available up there,” Danny said. “We thought it best to try and pass over the border while it was still relatively easy.
“This is the second year of my VISA so I’ll need to do the necessary work and hopefully I can get a sponsor so I can stay for a third.
“When I first heard there was a town with farm work, I was imagining a place with absolutely nothing, just desert. But Mildura has everything you need. And it’s the town I was in when Leeds got promoted so it was always be a special place for me.”