I’ve read a couple of articles lately, both decently-written and making some good points – but both leaving me despairing over the massively negative attitude current among a certain section of Leeds “support”. The tendency, in fact is not only massively negative, it’s eagerly, loudly, brassily negative. It embraces negativity and holds it close like it never wants to let it go. It’s the very antithesis of what support should be all about. It’s defeatism in its most depressing and demoralising form; if these articles had been written in wartime, they may very well have been taken out and shot.
The common theme of course, hammered home with relish and supportive statistics, is that We Are Not A Big Club Anymore. The people saying this say it passionately and with conviction. Not only do they wish to believe that Leeds aren’t a big club, the very idea that some fans may not believe this – may, in fact be holding dear the belief that United are still big – clearly upsets and offends them. They crop up everywhere, these pallid little people, spreading their message of gloom and churning out invidious comparisons by the bucketload. They’re becoming an effective voice wherever fans gather together to discuss matters Leeds. In fact there’s only one real problem with their whole campaign. It’s utter, unmitigated bollocks.
The fact of the matter is, no club is bigger or smaller than its fanbase, its potential for support. A very reliable gauge of this is freely available in these tech-savvy days we live in. It’s what is nattily called “online presence”. Give your mouse some exercise and find out for yourself – if you don’t already know. In cyberworld, second division, under-achieving, out-spent and unregarded Leeds United are absolutely HUGE. This is the best barometer you could wish for of the measure of passion out there, the incredible hunger and thirst for any morsel of news, any topic of debate about the Mighty Whites of LS11. They’re out there, right now, all over the globe. They’re clicking away at their computer terminals reading and digesting, or they’re writing in dozens of languages about Leeds past, present and future. Our great days on the field are an increasingly distant memory, and a large proportion of the match-day support of a decade ago are marginalised and still priced out of actual engagement with the match-going experience, despite a return to relative sanity in the pricing structure. But around the globe, in the ether, over the airwaves and most importantly inside the heads of millions of fanatics, Leeds United are top four, a phenomenon.
So, why this overweening eagerness to paint us as a small club? Is it the tiresome need of social writers to dress themselves up as that bit different? You know – slightly windswept and interesting, with that world-weary air of cynicism etching attractive lines into their fashionably-troubled yet intellectual brows. It’s odd. Any real pretensions to “cool” tend to be dissipated by the unseemly scramble to out-do each other in the negativity stakes, and they’re usually followed by eager-beaver starry-eyed acolytes who wish to attach themselves to any view that doesn’t qualify as mainstream. Perhaps that’s the answer – are we dealing with an online football-flavoured brand of snob obscurantism?
I’m not advocating the other pole of this issue, by the way. That worryingly Freudian habit of a certain Franchise’s fans to shout from the virtual rooftops about how they’re the biggest, the best and totally huge and wonderful throughout the world and all four dimensions of spacetime. I’ll mention no names here, but the initials are man u. I’d be even more concerned if our collective attitude was as deluded as that, not least because – in the case of our acquaintances from over the hills – their Devon and Cornwall-based support have made of themselves a laughing-stock with such wishful thinking. Certainly in Barcelona and Madrid, and in various other centres of realism too, not excluding Beeston.
No, all I want is for certain people to remember the basic meaning of the word “support”. It does not include the peddling of negative thinking, nor does it encompass unhelpful and misleading assertions regarding comparisons with such giants as Norwich and Dull City. All of this is willful and groundless cant, calculated to spread misery and crush hope.
Support is about identifying yourself with the club you love, and spreading the word to those less fortunate who have not seen the light. It’s about getting the shoulder behind the momentum of recent promising form – and being prepared to back it all the way, in the face of the withering carpings of naysayers as and when necessary. Support is an overwhelmingly positive thing, and it needs to espouse and reflect positivity in everything it does.
Criticism is part of this, we are not simply a massive band of yes-men. But criticism can be couched in positive terms too – this will not do for Leeds United, we said of Bates, and behold, he is gone. The same applies to ticket prices, or transfer policy, or anything else we’ve been unhappy with from time to time. We say “this will not do because We Are Leeds, and we demand better”. So we can be critical – and that can be effective – but it’s still our overriding duty to be biased, and to talk the club up – because we’re supporters. Criticism that amounts to a wholesale belittling of the club relative to other clubs who may be enjoying some temporary success – that’s just ridiculous, and so counter-productive as to be a sin. Spreading alarm and despondency is not needed, not helpful, not to be embraced. There are idiots enough in the media eager as all hell to do that, without people who are supposedly fans getting in on the act.
So please, those who peddle pessimism or deal in negativity, think again. Think not only of whatever you’re getting out of venting these frustrations of yours, but also of your obligations towards the club you’re supposed to be supporting. Let’s not give our enemies, among rival clubs’ support and within the media, such a cheap advantage. If you’re a fan, then act and speak as one. Support your club as a supporter should. After all – We Are Leeds United, and we are the best.