When a tantalising Sky Sports News tweet appeared today, promising a “major Leeds United transfer development” after 4pm, you somehow knew it wouldn’t be good news – despite David Haigh’s promise of just that for long-suffering Leeds fans sometime this week. But good news and the January transfer window don’t really go together like fish and chips for Leeds United. The January transfer window is more of a misery time for us, or at best one of bleak disappointment, leading to dull and resentful apathy. That’s the way it has been and – despite the usual promises – it’s looked for some time now as though this one will be no different.
So when this Sky Sports story finally broke, telling the world that West Ham United have made a “surprise bid” for our Captain of one week, Ross McCormack, the natural reaction was to laugh bitterly – and the first thought that went through a cynical head was, “Yeah, that’d be about right – why not really rub it in?” After all, this is the club that sold top-scorer Luciano Becchio just when we needed him most, this time last season. This is the club that sold our brightest talent and the nearest we’ve had to a Leeds United icon lately, in Robert Snodgrass. Those were to Norwich, of course, a small club who seemed to delight in being able to pick on a moribund giant. West Ham could easily be placed into that category too.
A hybrid of two riddles here: what do West Ham and Leeds United have in common – but also what’s the difference between them? Answer: both are joke clubs – but West Ham are a joke club with some money. And money talks, as we can all deduce from the deafening silence (apart from those few isolated tweets of promise) emanating from our club this past few weeks – weeks that were supposed to be about making signings and ratifying a takeover, for those who believed all the blarney we were fed in December.
It’s hard to write that riddle thing, even to make a point. But, with everything that’s gone on at Leeds United lately, it’s difficult to reach any other conclusion but that we are a joke club. A sick joke, an unfunny joke. A joke club run by joke people who believe they can get away with feeding the fans crap for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and then expect them to beg for more crap for supper. And the sickest joke of all is that they probably can get away with it. The only possible source of resistance is from the fans, and our fans are as divided as any, with some factions for GFH, some wanting the Sport Capital group, even a maverick few still harking back to Bates – and all of them willing indeed eager to have a barney with any of the rest, whilst pouring ridicule on the few real attempts out there at organising support. Read any Leeds United internet forum, and you’ll see it’s true. We might all be Leeds, but United we most definitely are not – and that’s tantamount to a licence for the suits in the boardroom to do as they think best – a scary thought for anyone who wants Leeds United once again to occupy a prominent place in English football.
There’s the story of the straw that broke the camel’s back (this is not a middle-eastern consortium reference). The moral is, of course, that if you go on piling up the burden on the poor old camel, it will eventually collapse at the addition of even one more straw. In the same way, the faith and patience of the fans – those of us who can smell the stench of what we’re being fed – is surely at breaking point. What will it take for that faith to finally collapse? And what happens then?
The only way to register a protest in today’s world is to try and hit people in the pocket, because of that aforementioned fact that money talks. It’s not the club’s fault that West Ham have seen fit to bid for McCormack. But it IS the club’s fault – presumably – that this is the only item of news we currently have to chew on, we who are so hungry, so starving for some positive tidings, a ray or two of hope that maybe we have a brighter future. That positive news, despite many coy hints, smileys and tweets from the usual suspects, has failed to materialise. Our expectations have been managed; two loans apart, the club has almost managed to negotiate yet another window with no investment anywhere near the scale of the serious players at the top of the league. That’s taking the mick, and dress it up how you like, it’s not good enough for a club like Leeds United with fans like the fanatical yet deeply put-upon Leeds fans.
Leeds United Football Club need to consider very, very carefully now as to just how much more their loyal body of fans will put up with. Nobody likes to be made a fool of, especially not in front of a gaping, jeering world of rival fans, workmates and just anybody who feels inclined to rub salt into wounds, ie almost everybody. The time is approaching when the final straw will be added to that onerous burden, and then some sort of collapse of support is possible. People will vote with their feet, people will find better things to do with the hard-earned money in their pockets. Why shouldn’t they? The club will always preach about loyalty and support – but that’s a two-way street and at the moment the traffic is strictly one-way. So why should people continue to pay still-exorbitant prices to watch football at a club which seems to have forgotten entirely what it’s supposed to be about?
It may well be that joke club West Ham are kidding themselves if they think they can tempt McCormack to join a team that has just sustained a 0-9 defeat in a semi-final and who are very probably headed for relegation. But if Leeds United have any say in the matter – and after all, they do – then they need to consider very carefully what’s best for the club and the fans before taking that usual step of buckling and grabbing the cash. That camel’s legs are trembling, and who can tell how many more straws it will take to complete the job of flattening it along with all of our hopes, our faith, our belief?
This bid for Ross McCormack may well be the acid test. Can Leeds United pass it?