A Leeds United blog of rantings, match reports and a whole load of weird shit...

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Sheffield Wednesday 1 Leeds United 1

Having endured 5 interminable months mired in a malaise of takeover speculation, Leeds United supporters have long been craving for the day when the club would finally move to make a bold public statement on the back of a matter that would dominate the national football news. That actually happened last night, and how we wish it hadn’t. Rather than bringing tidings of a potentially exciting future under new owners, the club instead were very quickly moving to condemn the actions of one idiotic thug who just 30 minutes previously had brought shame to Leeds United and the game as a whole.

It is with this low life, with whom we must start, for as much as I loathe to afford him any more attention than absolutely necessary, it is utterly inescapable that it was his despicable, cowardly intervention that pushed the evening from the bounds of a depressing, unpleasant spectacle and into the national spotlight. I can only hope that when he is brought to justice, he receives the harshest permissible punishment; this must include a prison sentence and hopefully (assuming anyone would employ him) the loss of his employment. A football banning order will immediately mentioned as a matter of course, and a lifetime sentence should obviously be the verdict, but ultimately such impositions are futile and almost impossible to make work in practice.

Indeed, it seems the individual is already subject to one such order. This revelation, along with his identity had already been published and had spread like wild fire across twitter by the time I was leaving the stadium. This was very much a pro-active move by Leeds United supporters and the wider footballing public – it is important that the few key positives from the evening are not overlooked.

Just how much coverage will be given to the incident in the press, and what the ultimate responses of the relevant authorities to the matter will be will become clear over the coming days and weeks, and while a part of me can’t help but wonder, that because it’s Leeds United, the issue may be afforded more serious treatment than it might be otherwise, I for once would quite happily tolerate my club becoming the whipping boys again, if we can finally get this issue addressed.

On the pitch assaults are a deeply concerning trend in modern football; as a Leeds fan I’ve twice witnessed Leeds players becoming the victims of such callous acts; Shane Lowry was punched during a pitch invasion that followed the final whistle at a JPT Northern Final tie in Carlisle in 2010 and 9 months previously, Casper Ankergren was confronted by two Millwall fans during the first leg of the play-off semi-final at the New Den. Most recently, former Leeds player, Alan Smith was also set upon by several Huddersfield Town fans at the end of another play-off tie. After initial uproar (to varying degrees), little in the way of serious action followed – hopefully last night will mark the moment where the line is drawn and a very strong message to all is sent out.

Last night was not just about that one incident, there are many parties that should be ashamed and made to account for their actions; sections amongst both sets of supporters are plainly culpable, but arguably even more damaging was the conduct of those placed in the roles of greater responsibility, both at Sheffield Wednesday and in the media.



While nothing will or could ever excuse, or in any way justify the behaviour of the low life at the centre of proceedings, there is little doubt that the chants from a section of the North Stand about the deaths of Kevin Speight and Christopher Loftus completely turned the mood in the Leeds end in an instant; a relatively flat, resigned atmosphere giving way to fury and outrage. Although hearing such chants is sadly by no means a rarity, to be confronted by hundreds of people joining in was rather more so, the fact that it was Wednesday fans – who are regarded quite favourably by most Leeds fans in comparison to those from other Yorkshire clubs – only appeared to add to the shock, and at that stage a number of supporters lost their heads and as those in the North Stand responded, bottles and coins rained back and forth. While it’s a sad fact that distasteful chants will almost inevitably continue amongst some less desirable elements in such a tribal sport, lines have to be drawn somewhere and mocking the dead is way beyond any line. Throwing missiles is a similarly unforgivable; I had a friend stood by the corner flag who like most, was at Hillsborough with the sole purpose of enjoying the game, not to be struck in the face with a coin – I dare she is one of far too many victims on both sides.

Following those exchanges, it was plain to all in the Leeds end that any equaliser would inevitably be celebrated with exaggerated gusto, including an inevitable pitch invasion by a small number of idiots. With temperatures boiling over, the stewards that typically travel with the supporters would have been well placed to advise the Hillsborough staff to prepare for such a possibility…they couldn’t as Sheffield Wednesday had advised them their services would not be required. That’s not to say the incident would not have still occurred, but I might question whether a man capable of such a cowardly act might’ve been so bold had he not been afforded a degree of ‘safety in numbers’ by the other dozen or so idiots who ran onto the playing service.

Doubtless, many home supporters will refer to role the distasteful and libellous chants against Dave Jones in the first half played in souring the mood, while Leeds fans would then question why it’s acceptable for the continuous barracking of Neil Warnock and the singing of songs about Paddy Kenny’s wife – the fact is, there are no moral victories to be had by any fan on either side who engaged in any such chants. Just because Neil Warnock is able to laugh off the abuse he receives, doesn’t make it any more acceptable. The plain fact in this regard is that it takes two to tango and blame should be apportioned at both sides for creating the atmosphere that prevailed; the greatest condemnation however, should remain for that one individual and he alone.

Of course, individual interpretations of the amount of blame that should to be apportioned to each group of supporters are as subjective as they are futile, and will doubtless vary according to where people were sat and their individual team loyalties, however my main motivation for committing my thoughts are to do with concerns elsewhere; namely the conduct of Dave Jones and the role of Sky TV.

When asked about Leeds United supporters, Jones said “They’re all vile animals, all of them”; it may have been a statement been made in the midst of emotion, but it was also deliberate and considered, and undisputedly so, as when the Sky interviewer asked him to qualify a previous remark that he was tarring all Leeds fans with the same brush, he confirmed as much. He also made an incredibly poorly judged remark that attempted to frame the abuse from the stands he received as a having parallels with racism.

This latter remark is troubling on a number of levels; firstly to hijack what is currently another huge issue in football in an effort to employ it as some form of point scoring device in what has become a long running personal agenda, born out of a number of such exchanges (ever tried just dismissing it, Dave?) is pretty reprehensible; secondly, to describe the actions of a group of supporters as akin to racists following his other statements almost redefines the essence of hypocrisy – to be clear, my understanding of racism, or indeed any other form of ‘ism’ whether sexism, ageism, fascism or whatever else involves employing negative, hateful and harmful comments and attitudes towards people, designed to label, undermine or persecute them, based purely on their membership to a particular group, regardless of how accurately these views reflect any truth…going back to his sweeping generalisation about Leeds supporters all being vile animals, I’d suggest he has some explaining to do.

Short of issuing an apology and a retraction, having had time to reflect, Jones should be on an FA charge. While the incidents during the game will see to it that the next clash is deemed as high risk, for one of the managers to make comments that will clearly fan the flames and incite even more ill-feeling is grossly irresponsible. Had a player made such remarks, his words would undoubtedly be condemned publicly by his manager (albeit with a caveat that his reaction was “understandable”) and subjected to ‘in house’ discipline, at least. Who will Dave Jones answer to? This is a man in an esteemed job at a highly respected club and as such, should conduct himself in an appropriate manner; a right of reply should never be denied, but a measured, dignified response that reflects his position should be expected, rather than Neanderthal ramblings that place him at the same level as his detractors.

Jones is far from alone in receiving questionable abuse from supporters; he need only look to his counterpart on the right last night for proof of that. While Neil Warnock is a phlegmatic soul and a completely different personality, lessons can be learned from his ability to find perspective in the face of abuse. There are also countless footballers who have suffered similar (and in some cases, worse) than he, and yet almost every single one of them, despite their relative level of immaturity have dealt with it in a far more laudable manner; as much as I dislike many of the senior England players, none of them have reacted to criticism in quite such an incendiary way. I’ve seen many Manchester United players subjected to all conceivable insults at Elland Road, but none have reacted like Jones; on the other side of things, like Jones, Lee Bowyer was cleared in his trial, but still hammered every single week by opposing fans, even he never flinched, merely satisfying himself with a hand to the ear whenever he scored – if even Bowyer can show so much resolve, surely Jones should be capable?

The fact is, such a critique has a purpose; like most Leeds fans, I find Sheffield Wednesday fans to be arguably the most amenable amongst our Yorkshire rivals, but even they have a hardcore of ‘fans’ with a hatred of Leeds that often seems to surpass their love of the Owls come match days; I spent an hour or so in a local pub, and while I emphasise there was never any hint of trouble (us Leeds fans went incognito), every song was anti-Leeds, rather than pro-Wednesday. Jones’ comments can only help increase that demographic, validating everything they believe about the club 30 miles up the road.

The final criticism needs to be levelled at Sky TV; while it was hard to disagree with anything said in the commentary box or studio said in relation to the conduct of supporters last night, the company’s ability to dictate every aspect of the football calendar at a whim really demands to be called into question. While Sheffield Wednesday versus Leeds typically hasn’t attracted the proportion of morons that some other derbies have, the wisdom of re-scheduling the game for a Friday night remains questionable in the extreme. In a month’s time, Leeds visit Huddersfield...again on a Friday evening – every season, Saturday fixtures have been brought forward to lunchtime kick-offs at police advice, which in my experiences has been a very sound move. So why do Sky seemingly even have to power to veto police decisions these days?

In some ways I guess I’m not wholly free of guilt myself; I revel in the universal hatred of my club throughout Yorkshire. Even when at our lowest ebb, the thought of other supporters celebrating our every setback at least reassures you of Leeds United’s continued relevance. As sickening as conceding the opening goal was last night, the pathetic sight of men in their 40s making a beeline from their seats in the South Stand to gloat, was still amusing…and to be honest, I don’t want to lose that. It’s what makes following Leeds United unique and our fanatical devotion to the club so incomprehensible to others. But with that comes a tightrope, a thin line that was crossed last night. Mocking “We all hate Leeds Scum” chants has proved to be by far the most effective way of diffusing the ire of confrontational fans in many stadiums, but ‘Istanbul’ chants will understandably always be something incredibly difficult to show restraint in the face of. Playing the ‘bigger man’ isn’t easy, but it’s every fan’s responsibility (on both sides) to do so. If nothing else, at least after last night football should be one step (or banned supporter) closer to achieving that.

Oh, and by the way, we drew 1-1. Cracking goal too by Tonge…what a shame it was lost in the fall-out!


21 comments:

  1. Really well written piece.

    Nice to see a fellow vile animal talking so much sense about a potential minefield of issues.

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  2. As a Wednesday fan I have to say that's a very well written piece and one that I would mostly concur with.
    Not in it's entirety but there are some very salient points in there.

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  3. Tonge's goal took a deflection, wasn't that good.

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  4. Haven't you lot been singing Munich songs for the last 30 years?
    Hardly innocent are you.......and yes it's disgusting mocking the
    dead.

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  5. Some good points pal, but sometimes you are well wide of the mark.
    Suggesting Dave Jones was undignified is a little jugemental when the man has suffered the worst kind of abuse from Leeds in particular for well over a decade. Players such as Lee Bowyer may have shrugged off chants about their court appearences but none has been accused of something as emotionally devestating as what Jones has. Similarly, chants of "One Jimmy Saville" are quite vile and unnecessary. Your fans seem to have a fixation with child abuse.
    The chants to Niel Warnock, on the other hand, were banter between enemies who've battled so long and so furiously that they are very nearly friends and we know would be taken as such. Likewise the chants aimed at Paddy Kenny. Likerning these chants to those of the Leeds fans is insulting.
    The Istanbul chants are of course indefensible, but if I were to have to play Devil's advocate I would point out that a) you must get that everywhere from a small section of the crowd, b) there would not have been so many singing those songs at Hillsborough on Friday if what sounded like 75% of the Leeds fans had not sung about Jimmy Saville and the false accusations levelled at Dave Jones and c) not that it is any defence but with Leeds fans' penchant for chanting about the Munich and Hillsborough disasters and similar, you bring this stuff on yourselves
    I understand the urge to leap to the defence of the decent amongst your fanbase when your name has been tarred by what could be called the arsehole contingent. However, whereas for most sets of supporters, the arsehole contingent is the minority, at Leeds it is the majority, hence why chants about Jimmy Saville could be heard throughout Hillsborough, whereas from the other end of the stadium (i.e. on the Kop) it was not possible to hear the Istanbul chants. For the away team's arsehole contingent to be louder than the home team's demonstrates just how sizeable said contingent is.
    Throwing of objects at other fans is more serious and something that we as Wednesday fans have had to contend with for years. However, if we look at the incidents on Friday, we see many more objects being thrown at Wednesday fans than by Wednesday fans. This is not to deflect attention from the seriousness of the actions of some Wednesday fans but people in glass houses shouldn't throw bits of seats and ad hoardings at fellow fans and even players (that's right, felled keeper Chris Kirkland had a seat thrown at him, not to mention the two fists that felled him in the first place).
    As I say, I have no problem with you trying to defend the few decent Leeds fans but you should not try to exhonorate every single one who didn't punch a player. Certainly his crime was the most serious but it does not excuse the rest of your idiots who showed their lack of class. In this vein, I've tried not be overly defensive of the few Wednesday fans who did their share of stupid things, but in the face of your biased presentation of the events of Friday night I felt I had to comment on a few things.

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  6. As a clarification, when I say we've had to contend with objects being thrown at fans for years, I didn't mean that we've a history of projectile aggression, I was referring to the bricks hurled at us by Leeds fans in the 60s and 70s and the fireworks aimed at our children by our dear city neighbours. Naturally I find this sudden emergance of the coin throwing wazzock at Hillsborough rather alarming.

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    1. Hi Dan and Chris

      Firstly with regard to the Dave Jones chants; I'm not condoning them here or denying his right to respond, the problem underlying the longevity of them though I feel are at least in part down to his response to them. Rather than take the moral high ground, or make a measured response, he's always resorted to mud slinging (and always turned a blind eye to the actions of his own supporters - repeatedly so at Cardiff)...it's a sad fact, but fighting fire with fire will never work. I agree that the Jimmy Savile chant was extremely distasteful, but are at least trying to take solace from the fact it only occurred once (once too often) as the general reaction of many served to ensure it wasn't repeated.

      I do feel that in some respects, such points have been made to Jones in the aftermath, as reflected in this morning's Sun article (albeit no comment again was forthcoming condemning 'Istanbul' chants). It is noticeable that he has now retracted his criticism of all Leeds fans and is now speaking of 'about 400' of the 5000+. I thought this a fair estimate, and is very much against your assertions of it being a majority.

      I am troubled by the logic implied that vile chants aimed at Warnock and Kenny are more acceptable as they date back over many years (like the Jones chants) and accepted as banter, because the two figures in question take them in their stride though. I realise the Jones chants are arguably worse, but the response of Billy Sharp to the most sickening of all abuse stands as an example to all; there are far more effective ways to make your point

      One thing I feel I MUST clear up though is regarding Hillsborough chanting; I've been going every week to Elland Road dating back to the before that day in 1989 and have NEVER heard Leeds fans sing about that tragedy, NEVER. In fact our support has drawn praise for singing in support of the JFT96 in the days leading up to, and in the aftermath of the papers being released. But being that it's Leeds, as always if enough people throw false accusations to justify their hatred of us, others are only too ready to buy into it and myth becomes fact.

      There can be no denying past problems of the despicable Munich chants, but mercifully are very rarely heard and quickly drown out on the odd occasion that any idiot tries to start one. The only occurrence of one in recent years that I recall was at the Manchester United League Cup tie and in response to an unfurling of an 'Istanbul Reds' banner; at Old Trafford the previous January, 9,000 travelled there and not a single reference was made throughout. It's a dark aspect of our history, but there's little we can do to erase it.

      In terms of the coin throwing, it happened in equal part from both the home and away sections as I've made clear; yes, I accept the seat throwing is undoubtedly worse still, and would hope that every smashed seat is traced back to the specific ticket holder so they can be banned, though would add that even in the darkest days, home supporters (Leeds fans included) would never resort to smashing up their own stadium.

      Warnock was initially going to come in for a degree of criticism for his remarks about Kirkland going down easily, but having viewed the replays, he did come out yesterday publicly to apologise for the comment he made. We will have to just agree to disagree on the fact that players have the right to applaud what Jones has since acknowledged to be the large majority of supporters who turned up to do as everyone else should've done - merely support the team.

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    2. the point I was making re Kenny and Warnock was not that it is acceptable because it's being going on a long time, but that it's acceptable because it's meant - and taken - in the spirit of fun. Chants about accusations of child abuse obviously can not be said to be in the same spirit at all. That's why Jones' reaction may have been a little extreme, because what he's had to put up with from your idiots would be enough to break most people. He does well not to be calling for each and every Leeds fan's head on a platter in my opinion. If it was me, I would not be able to restrain myself sufficiently to only call the fans "vile animals", regardless of the proportion of fans chanting such horrible things.

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  7. Have to agree with a lot of the points Dan L makes here. While I know that there are a number of decent Leeds fans (Some of whom I count amongst my friends), it is hard to endure anyone trying to defend a group of supporters who have earned a nationwide reputation for chanting about the Munich and Hillsborough disasters. That's not to say I in any way condone the chanting about Istanbul but at the same time, due to this reputation the more aggressive sections of fans feel it is more 'acceptable' to respond in kind. To be honest, this fact in itself is quite sad.

    With regards some of the Warnock/Kenny chants, as Dan mentioned it is largely banter and it is clear that they too see it as such. This is clearly evidenced by events yesterday. The Kop rang with chants about Paddy Kenny which from a neutral's point of view may have been seen as very serious and offensive. The fact that Kenny pulling down his shorts at the Kop in response was met by cheers from the our fans revealed the true nature of the chants. It's a love-hate relationship, we love to hate him and by the looks of things it's mutual. Ditto with Warnock, I clearly remember playing Palace in the championship years back when we were winning two-nil . When faced with chants of 'Warnock, Warnock, what's the score?', he held up 2-0 with his hands, and was cheered for doing so. That being said, any respect I had for Warnock dissolved friday night, with two acts that were in my view completely unacceptable. The first, telling the players to clap the fans. After the scenes we'd endured, That was bang out of order. Maybe our fans weren't innocent in the night's events, but I didn't notice Jones demanding that the Wednesday players clap our fans. Secondly, his comments about the incident in press interviews after the game were ridiculous. Trying to deflect criticism away from himself and the club by claiming Kirkland made a meal out of it was nothing short of cowardly in my opinion.

    Overall, while you do make some good points I feel that attacking Jones for his comments while ignoring those made by your own manager, combined with the fact you skim over the numerous chants by Leeds fans during these exchanges shows the true, Biased nature of your article, which makes it very difficult for me to give too much credence to your opinions on the matter.

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    1. Chris,I could be wrong here but this is the first I've ever heard of Leeds fans chanting anything bad about the Hillsborough disaster, if they are it truely saddens me.

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    2. Warnock has since admitted he was wrong to say what he said about Kirkland. It was a heat of the moment comment as was Jones' comments about our fans.

      I have to agree that the chants about Jones are awful - chants/banter/abuse are, in my opinion, acceptable under most circumstances but not if they relate to people dying or, in this case, unfounded claims of paedophilia.

      I would also concur with Steve that I've never heard our fans chants about Hillsborough.

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    3. I have NEVER heard Leeds fans chant about Hillsborough disaster

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  8. I've been a season ticket holder at Leeds for 25 years & NEVER once have I heard a chant regarding Hillsborough. I don't condone any behaviour by Leeds fans on friday night, but Wednesday's fans were utterly disgusting too. It was a good old Yorkshire derby atmosphere that contained tit-for-tat chanting back & forth with no hostility until the Istanbul chanting started. That changed everything! And yet YOU call Leeds scum?? You're Pathetic. Time to grow up a bit.

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  9. I have followed LUFC since 1982 & i have never heard any chants about the disaster, Liverpool & Leeds fans have always had respect for each other, but if you throw enough shit some will stick....

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  10. I'd like to clear up one or two things that have been raised. Firstly regarding the chants about Hillsborough, I had been told of occasions in the past where chants have been heard inside the stadium, I will freely admit I have never heard one myself INSIDE a ground. However I was inclined to believe what my friends told me as I have twice heard offensive chants about the disaster in and around pubs after games, once after a match between us at Hillsborough, and once while in Leeds.

    I made my point about the Kenny and Warnock chants to illustrate that such chants, while potentially very offensive, are incomparable to ones such as those regarding Jimmy Saville and levelled at Jones. I would point out that I did not join in with such chants, and felt uncomfortable hearing some of them. However it is more likened in my mind to the insults thrown by work colleagues than blatant abuse. Warnock in particular doesn't have a reputation for holding his tongue, and I feel would respond far differently to chants he felt crossed the line. I will accept that he has apologised for the comments he made, and would make clear that the earlier comment was written before I knew that he had retracted the response in question.

    Once more, let me reiterate that in no form am I suggesting that all Leeds fans are the same, and that I am well aware that as in most cases, it is the minority at fault here. Nor am I suggesting that Leeds solely have such sections of fans. All football clubs have such fans, something which isn't likely to ever change sadly.

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    1. Hi Chris,

      All I can say regarding the Hillsborough songs is that I've never encountered, as seemingly appears to be the case with the Leeds fans who have commented subsequently; I accept it's entirely possible that a handful of idiots may have done so in a pub, but mercifully that's never happened in the stands. On a similar note, I did hear a song that included a line about the death of Billy Bremner while I was drinking in The Pheasant on Friday, but again, thankfully I've never heard it near or within the stadium.

      I can accept your point about the chants about Jones being more offensive, though I do think anything that touches upon anyone's personal life, although a fact of footballing life still can't be made excuseable, simply on the lines of a lack of reaction.

      It's heartening to have received almost unanimously fair-minded feedback from the Wednesday fans, even if there is understandably a different, more defensive stance towards Jones. My main contention was always the need to acknowledge some joint responsibility and for Jones to have been far more measured and even handed in his words. Hopefully the fact that the police have quickly addressed the matter...and maybe some conciliatory words in the Spring will ensure the return goes off peacefully

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  11. As a Wednesday fan, I think Ken's piece is very well-written and I can't argue with any of it. When I first started watching Wednesday in the early 1980s there was a small hooligan element that caused quite a few problems, notably the Oldham riot in 1980 which led to parts of Hillsborough being closed for the next four home games. Jack Charlton, who was Wednesday's ultra-popular manager at the time, threatened to resign and this had the effect of nipping a lot of the silliness in the bud. Wednesday have got an idiot element just like Leeds have - let's not forget the fools who ran on the pitch to throw punches at Palace fans and supporters after we were relegated in 2010.

    Unfortunately, this definitely is society's problems as well as football's and these people will never go away. I really hope bridges can be built between the clubs as all the Leeds fans I've ever encountered have been very knowledgeable about the game and have spoken well about Wednesday.

    Both our clubs should be in the Premier League, although with luck like Wednesday's at the moment, I can't see any light at the end of the tunnel on that front!

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    1. Thanks very much for the feedback.

      It appears from most comments in the aftermath, that the vast majority of supporters have been able to take a sensible, reasoned view on events. Hopefully the clubs can move to soothe any possible tensions ahead of the Elland Road game, and maybe Wednesday will review their stewarding for such games, while Leeds tighten up the membership scheme which is still all too easy exploit for those not on the database

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