Sometimes, a good old-fashioned cliché is the only thing to resort to, especially when things seem bleak and morale is low. So I have a couple to offer that may help at this uneasy time when Leeds United stand on the brink of yet another new beginning and we’re all questioning what’s wrong in the club after one of the worst results in our entire history. The two that spring to mind are “The darkest hour is the one just before the dawn” and “Let your faith keep you strong“. There may well be others equally applicable.
The thing about clichés is that they wouldn’t be quite so hackneyed and frequently-quoted if they didn’t have that element of truth and common sense about them. The central message of any such quotation as related to Leeds United right now must be that the club needs positive support in bad times even more than in good. This is no time to spread despair and linger over the agony and humiliation – for such it surely is – of a defeat to an inspired but much lowlier team. What we have to do now, as a massive collective of followers for one of the world’s most famous and fanatically-supported football clubs, is: stick with it. Tough it out. We’ve had bad times before, and ultimately they’ve helped make the good times even sweeter.
Rochdale was a bad experience, worst of all for the fans who made the journey and backed their men to put on a professional display for the shirts they were wearing and the badge on those shirts. The fans that make these trips are the single most notable thing about the Leeds United of today. They are a modern phenomenon, supporting a mediocre team with almost unfailing good humour and vociferous enthusiasm. Fans of clubs we visit are in awe of the sheer passion these fantastic fans generate. But clearly, any group of football followers will have a collective breaking-point. That point was reached at Rochdale; the fans had had enough and they said so. They expressed their anger and their pain in terms that even the most complacent and overpaid player could easily understand. The manager was brave enough to emerge after the game and take his share. He has expressed no disagreement, but has remained dignified and determined. When success comes, Brian McDermott is the kind of man who will think back to yesterday at Rochdale so that he will not be carried away in the flush of achievement. Brian is a steady man, and he will take on board the disappointment and suffering of those loyal fans.
But we’ve had our moan now. It was a message that had to be sent out, and our representatives at Spotland duly obliged. It’s done; let’s move on. We stand on the brink of – quite possibly – a major upturn in the fortunes of Leeds United. Just as efforts over the past year in team building are very much a work in progress, so the achievements behind the scenes and the changes wrought there are possibly slightly under-appreciated. But Leeds United today as a club is a very different entity than the one labouring under the yoke of Bates’ last few months in charge. This is something for which we should all be truly grateful.
Rochdale is gone, just as Histon disappeared into the past. Not so long after Histon, we were winning at Man U – and this was at a time when that was quite a hard thing to do. Rochdale will be remembered as a low point, but the highs which will follow are apt to be all the sweeter for that bitter experience. Such are the slings and arrows of outrageous Leeds United.
Now we wait for the tangible results of all the backroom activity currently going on at the club and at the Football League. We can justifiably wait with some excitement; the signs are good that the club is about to commence operations on a whole new level. The FA Cup meant little to us this season, in reality. The pride and feelings of the fans, granted. But as a competition, it is one that we can manage without – just as long as our progress in the right direction is maintained. That’s the cause in which we should be lending our support. What’s about to happen might just be a massively significant time in the history of our club, and we must be seen to be behind the teams – the ones off the field as well as on it. And we’re a team ourselves, a massive united group of fanatical supporters who all wish to be involved in the success of United. Any team needs to pull together, and that’s just what we need to be doing, right now and going forward.
So please – put Rochdale behind you and get your chin up. We’re Leeds and we’re proud even in those times when the team give us little reason to show that pride. Players come and go, teams evolve. Even management and owners aren’t forever. But the club and the fans are bound together in perpetuity, and we must seek to go forward as a united force.
We Are Leeds, Marching on together. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re going to stay with them forever – at least until the world stops going round. Let’s remember that.