|Ewan McGregor really ought to patronise a 'Leeds on the Road' event.|
No, that wasn’t the sound of Peter Lorimer finally breaking down in The Pavilion yesterday morning; it’s actually taken from a scene in Trainspotting; a fantastically cutting and articulate monologue from Renton in response to his mate’s misguided assertions of national pride. The unpalatable truth remains that those words could quite conceivably be spinning around in Lorimer’s head, when in his more reflective moments, he may wonder how his principles and how his soul have ended up being sold to Bates and Harvey; a plot of emotional real estate, used as foundations for another Caddick constructed re-development scheme.
But it’s not just Lormier, it’s us supporters too; we cannot be utterly absolved of blame as this season has been allowed to slide, just like so many before under the current regime with barely a whisper of dissent. According to Shaun Harvey, in defending his decision to ban LUST members from buying tickets, “Players play, managers manage and supporters support”. Damningly it seems that too many Leeds fans either buy into that mantra or have simply been battered into a mood of all-consuming apathy. For my part, I’d suggest that supporters who are worth their salt actually get off their arses and do something about it, rather than watch on silently as their club slowly has the life strangled out of it.
Again we go into the summer no longer expecting, just merely hoping for the best, as far as player recruitment and retention goes. But we do so, already knowing that a significant chunk of the ‘war chest’ is now likely to be earmarked to pay the legal fees resulting from our chairman’s latest pathetic character assassination attempt, no less than “a fortune” at Shaun Harvey’s own admittance. All this at a club that’s finished 14th, the exact same position it did at the end of Bates’ first season - "a shite state of affairs to be in", indeed!
Yet as much as people are quick to almost universally condemn Bates, where is this evident in the stands, or more constructively, at LUST meetings? Having been to every such gathering this year, the board have to be congratulated on their incredible efforts, truly astonishing progress has been made in a very short space of time, yet typically, there are only around 30 to 40 people attend, and while some brilliant ideas have been shared and developed amongst those people, the fact is that for a fan base our size, such a low turnout reflects pathetically on our support as a whole. Maybe it’s true that you get the chairman you deserve; on occasions like last Thursday night, it would be hard to argue.
So come Saturday lunchtime, and suddenly over 25,000 are at Elland Road, and as much as I’d love to see a full stadium, week in, week out, to see such a show of loyalty on this day was almost dispiriting – if ever there was an end of season game for the paying supporter to boycott, it was this. A diabolical season, being seen off in the company of a large number of players who aren’t fit to grace the white shirt…what was there to celebrate, to give thanks for? Instead, the impressive turnout felt more of a vindication for the work of Bates, rather than a reflection of discontentment. Maybe it’s just me – it’s been a long 9 months!
Like so many before it, the game was one to try and tolerate, rather than enjoy; a 90 minute endurance challenge, a spectacle in which Neil Warnock remained more animated throughout than at least half the starting line-up. But hey, at least there was Becks; finally back at the ground where his status alternated between goal scoring god, and sulky, lazy b**stard on an almost fortnightly basis, and finally receiving the recognition his exploits at the club deserved.
|Will anyone EVER tire of this photo?|
Call it hindsight, call it rose-tinted nostalgia, or just label it a simple case of not realising what you had ‘til it had gone, but Jermaine was afforded a welcome comparable with any past player I can remember at Elland Road – the feeling was mutual as well; as his “fucking great goal” was rejoiced in song, Beckford applauded the fans while actually in the process of kicking off the game, moments later in Leicester’s first attack, another ovation from the Kop was rewarded with a sly ‘Leeds salute’; the first corner of the game and more acclaim from the terraces, the applause reciprocated by old number 9. Immediately, Alex Bruce, in recognition of the acclaim offered to swap shirts – a nice touch by our centre half, and a fond memory to leave behind from his last appearance. The Kop responded in kind to the moment as inevitable chants of “Sign him up” resounded outward. I even found myself longing for him to score one more time in front of the Kop, just for old time's sake. Ironically, Bates recently revealed that he’s twice turned down the chance to re-sign Beckford; another sign of how our regime and the fan base stand poles apart on the key issue of football.
With the highly diverting and eminently preferable Jermaine Beckford side show over, it was sadly time to concentrate on the football, only I couldn’t, this season’s taken its toll. I spent my time trying to punctuate the boredom by counting down the minutes in my head and scanning through my twitter timeline – it seemed that everyone felt the same. At least we had Danny Pugh, his efforts to scale as yet undiscovered heights of hopelessness an on-going quest that you can but only witness in awe. An early lapse necessitated a desperate shirt pull that had sections of fans demanding a red card and the disappointment amongst many was palpable as the ref settled for yellow – a tad harsh?... maybe not, as our utility man (football talk for shit in all positions) was to prove in the lead up to Leicester’s opening goal - while Michael Brown’s sliced attempt at a clearance possessed a real comedic flair, it couldn’t compete with Pugh’s laughable attempt to get the ball ahead of Martyn Waghorn; the Leicester forward went on to finish with aplomb – of course he did, this is Leeds.
If the first half was intolerable, the not exactly surprising decision of Nigel Pearson to remove a love struck Beckford at the interval ensured that the prospect of one last 45 minutes was almost unbearable. So it proved; while I found myself constantly distracted from the football in the opening period, it seemed the whole of N11 were engaged in conversation for most of the second period. Mid-way through the half I found myself eavesdropping on a conversation about an episode of The One Show that apparently involved very charming guest appearances by Julia Bradbury and Richard Hammond…sadly as the discussion moved on to the lovely Alex Jones, a defiant WACCOE chant swept over the Kop, leaving me frustrated in my quest to discreetly gauge opinion on the lovely Welsh lady.
Out of nowhere, Leeds equalised… it had to be Danny Webber, didn’t it?! The one man who could still hold aspirations of pipping Connolly and Pugh to become the most consistently awful Leeds player of the season, undeservedly capping a 30 minute object lesson in the art doing the square root of f**k all with a tap-in, following Snoddy’s good work. It was like a final kick in the teeth, like I was even going to be denied a full-on rant of self-righteous indignation, my efforts undermined by a fortunate Leeds escape that saved the team from that 11th home defeat and lower half finish…still, it did spark a few minutes of excitement as the team displayed a token spell of desire and will to win. It came to nothing though.
|Hoping clubs do actually do their business in May...|
So to injury time, and there it was, it took its time, but finally arrived; a last gasp, deflected Leicester City winner. On the balance of play, just reward for the visitors, on the balance of the season, a more fitting epitaph, you'd struggle to find; self-righteous indignation, back on the agenda.
In the end, I felt compelled to stay for the ‘Lap of Thanks’, just to revel in the spectacle of a watching a collection of sheepish looking footballers, awkwardly making their way around the stadium in an apologetic fashion, heads bowed as the supporters celebrated all that they haven’t achieved over the last 9 months. Danny Pugh chose to carry his baby around with him – a touching fatherly gesture or a move made to ensure that nobody tried to deck him? I’ll let you decide. At least Warnock enjoyed himself, playing up to the chants from the Gelderd End, though mercifully stopping short of removing his tracksuit pants as he stripped off souvenirs to distribute to the masses.
Whether Warnock will be sporting a rather bigger smile nice year is another thing entirely. When I was scanning through my radio pre-sets this morning I was quite taken aback (and a little pleased) to hear Debbie Gibson’s ‘Shake Your Love’ get and airing and it threw into perspective the job at hand for our manager. I can hazily recall the pop princess in her pomp back in the late 80s and her battle for chart supremacy and teenage magazine spreads with arch-rival Tiffany.
|The Rolls Royce of pop princessess|
I rather see Leicester City as a footballing representation of Debbie Gibson; awash with natural talent, a splash of glamour and possessing all the resources and potential to thrive in the higher echelons of next year’s Championship. Step forward Leeds United, the Tiffany of the league. While the Debbie Gibsons of this world with the right guidance can effortlessly glide towards the top, our rather less desirable looking outfit will have to slum it out, week upon week of touring the shopping malls-cum-football stadia of the nation in the hope that our hard graft and endeavour will pay dividends; that grit, dedication and a steely ambition will get us to where we want to be.
It’s not often that I’d suggest that a football club draw inspiration from a fleeting 80s icon, but examine the career of Tiffany and therein lies a lesson. For Leeds next year we’re going to need a team of grafters, players driven to get to the top and unrelenting in their pursuit; players capable of working harder than the opposition at every venue. We may support the biggest club in the league, but while Bates rules we’ll never have a side that, ability-wise, reflects that. That’s not to exempt Bates of his responsibilities – even Tiffany was received significant financial backing in her promotional slog… and in the end, when it mattered, when it really mattered, she only went and pipped Debbie Gibson to that coveted maiden top slot. A lesson for all at Elland Road that it can be done!
Only in our dreams?
Well, Tiffany, never believed every word that Debbie sang…