Picture courtesy of @LUFCBuff
It seems the mercurial nature of Leeds United’s on-pitch antics have started (or continued, depending on how you read it) to spread amongst the fans and into the inevitable expectation blackhole. The pervasive dichotomy sits in between the two peaks of ‘Leeds are the best thing to happen to the premier league. They are over achieving. Marcelo Bielsa is a genius‘ and ‘Leeds are overhyped, under performing and Marcelo Bielsa is naïve and lacks a track record‘.
The clash in perception needs to be contextualised and to ignore two integral elements of these raging claims is to miss the point altogether. Firstly, Leeds have been out of the top league for 16 years. They have known shysters, conmen, lost everything and played journeyman no-names that either left when they had the opportunity or just mysteriously disappeared as if they never existed. Secondly, football has changed. The smell of mud, sweat and pools coupons have long since disappeared. They have been replaced with dry wipe training facilities, car parks filled with vehicles that cost more than your average house price and promotional videos from players that missed out on love Island auditions. Some fans remember the past, some envisage the future. It is within these walled parameters that football clubs are measured. Are you a blood and guts kind of supporter or are you dreaming of the heady heights that only the wealth of an American football franchise can muster?
This is the current in-fighting amongst the Leeds United tribe.
What is perhaps a little more disconcerting is the frequency with which this amnesiac, ambition induced paroxysm occurs.
Every day of the week.
Leeds United fans know it is happening because outside of the blindsiding tweets that declare certain players as barely existing at a professional level after they lose to a high quality team and a single moment in a match is proposed as the vital time that everything went to hell in a handbasket, the hero worship, outrageous claim posts come thick and fast, only serving to prepare a pedestal from which this well meaning team fall from.
You may be reading this and be thinking that this is usual football fan fodder that falls from the lips of the loyal folks on the terraces. Those terraces are shut and social media is taking a fresh battering as a result.
So who is right?
Both, kind of.
My personal feeling is that those with the fresh wounds of Luton on a Tuesday night, rain slanting just right to smash into your face for 2 hours, and coasting 50mph tailbacks on the M1, will be more than happy with how Leeds are getting on and, actually, just really enjoy the vigorous banter at the top table instead of being a national laughing stock. (Don’t forget, Leeds were a national laughing stock.) They will also enjoy the absolute irritation and annoyance that Leeds, and its bloodthirsty followers, sharing oxygen with the best teams in the league will cause. The nether zone of the championship, even the top of it, is prime territory for a right royal piss take.
Why are some Leeds fans getting frustrated with not getting the results now?
- The shit-housing in football at the minute is relentless.
- Leeds are formerly the most despised team in England. (I say formerly because I don’t think any can seriously hate Leeds at the minute, can they? Bielsa is grandad Marcelo and everyone would love a hug from him).
- Leeds are competing.
It feels like a razor blade thin emotional journey. Some of the faithful have drunk the Kool-Aid and now look to the heights of the premiership. Not the style of football, mind, more the style of club. They want all the accoutrements of that ‘big club’. The coronation of the kings of English football, dethroned all those years ago and now back, at the castle gates with an enormous army in tow. But the project isn’t quite there yet. And it is hard to swallow. It is tantalising how close Leeds United are to having a very special team with a very special manager. Perhaps the time limits that are hovering over Bielsa’s head is pushing at the sides of everyone’s brains. Will he be there long enough to get those 11 players he wants, some of Europe’s finest, that will go to Old Trafford and take the game to the enemy? Or, will Bielsa make a grand exit with an almost complete job? The idea of this is torturous.
So here are some ‘definites’ for you:
- Leeds will finish mid-table this year.
- They will delight and frustrate in equal measure.
- There will be surreal, sublime moments that confound all explanation. Positive and negative.
- Bielsa will not speak in English to the press.
- Talksport will talk never ending, unfounded and headline grabbing dross in search of listeners that have the England flag in their twitter name.
- Other teams will wish, behind closed doors, that their team was as admired in victory and defeat as Leeds United.
So sit tight and remember the journey. It is difficult because the top ten is right there. The fans don’t have a thing to worry about at the minute. Perhaps the advent of a flood of money from outside investors that think Leeds is just a hop, skip and a jump from the London eye is actually the bit where the worrying should start. But for now, just enjoy and let the others worry about defending.
Oh and careful what you wish for. Leeds United found promotion in the extended training session that was the end of the Championship schedule and have fared very well in the premier league. Fans are eager to get back to the chicken Tikka pies but perhaps they have forgotten how often they witnessed failure and took none of the responsibility.
Leeds United are dead, Long live Leeds United.