There’s a video clip doing the rounds today – it could easily be entitled “Strife of Brian”, but this is no Pythonesque spoof. This is tragedy, pure and simple – it’s got all the necessary ingredients. We have an embattled hero, dark and inimical forces grappling away in the background, mystery and intrigue – and most of all, the grim prospect of a very unhappy ending. And all in a mere 2 minutes and 38 seconds. For all its brevity, no-one could fail to be moved by the passion and courage, the honesty and unselfishness that shine through in this isolated bubble of truth and openness in the gathering murk surrounding Elland Road. The hero is, of course, Brian McDermott and he has earned that title by his struggles to carry on in circumstances that would have seen a lesser man give up and head for the hills.
In this blog’s opinion, McDermott has also earned the respect, trust and unstinting support of everyone out here who would claim to be a Leeds United fan. Brian has stuck his head above the parapet with the contents of that interview, not in his own best interests, but in those of the club – which he clearly equates with the fans. He stands out in these dark and dismal times as the one real ray of light – along with maybe one or two of the playing staff. His anger, his passion and his determination to see right done by Leeds United and its legions of supporters are an apt counterpoint to the anodyne platitudes which are all we occasionally get from the suits behind the scenes, those grey little men who argue about pounds and pence while the club slides ever backwards. It would be hard to imagine more of a contrast than the one which distinguishes Hero Brian from the corporate clowns humiliating us as they squabble behind the scenes.
I saw a tweet today which sums up perfectly the Strife of Brian. It invited us to imagine the situation of a man facing a tennis match against a Grand Slam champion, but having to face this virtuoso without a racquet – and with his hands tied behind his back. This is how hamstrung our Brian has been, for pretty much all of his tenure as Leeds United boss. Just as we’ve been made promises and have been let down, so has he – and when he is let down it’s more than just a personal disappointment – it’s his professional reputation on the line. Matters appear to have come to a head in these last few days, as we approach the final week of a transfer window where so much was promised, so much was expected. Brian talked of getting business done early – but he’s been betrayed in his trust. It was all lies, yet again. The carpet has been yanked from beneath his feet, and ours.
It seems odd then, that – with so many deserving targets for their anger and disappointment to be justly poured out – some Leeds fans are actually choosing to have a go at the man who represents our best hope of forcing some kind of breakthrough in this tiresomely endless impasse. Some fans are absolutely calling for Brian’s head, citing tactics, transfer policy, substitutions – even his gloriously bald pate. They portray him as an egg or as a thumb, and they seem to think it’s funny. Yet this is the man who is speaking out and calling for an end to all the uncertainty, all the fruitless quibbling in the boardroom, all the selfish machinations between opposing interests – and he’s doing it with dignity and professionalism. Brian wants it sorted, and for us to start moving onwards and upwards – and isn’t that what we all want, all of us helpless and impotent bystanders out here? Plenty of managers would refrain from comment, knowing that being too outspoken would land them a swift P45. Plenty more would walk, leaving us to suffer without any leadership. Still others would seek to follow a party line, cravenly hoping they’d backed the right horse. But not Brian. He’s stuck his neck out, to lay his head defiantly on the block. He seems to be half-resigned to being a casualty of whatever change might finally occur – but he’s saying it’s not about his own interests. He’s asking for a swift resolution to the takeover saga, for the club and for the fans. Greater love hath no man…
For those who are preoccupied with details of his team selections, or substitutions, or certain of his transfer acquisitions, I would say – forget it. We know nothing of his working conditions and the promises made and broken, except for the broad hints in that direction contained in this alarmingly frank and angry interview. It’s impossible for us to judge the man – he’s been trying to build a house without tools, and with bricks of straw. All we can say of him is that he’s there for us, the fans, and for the club we all love. How can we currently ask more of him than that? For the moment, tactics, substitutions and transfers are irrelevant. Football is irrelevant. The season is a dead duck – it’s the very future of our club which is at issue here. That’s what McDermott is telling us, and we need to listen. In a crisis on stormy seas, the last thing you do is tip your friends overboard – and right now, Brian is the only friend we have.
Against Huddersfield at the weekend, all of the Leeds fans should be bellowing their support for this man. We should be sending the clearest possible message to all the factions currently wrangling over our club; we should be making sure that they’re aware we have heard Brian’s message loud and clear and that we have taken it to heart.
In any conflict, it’s of the first importance to know your enemy. We should be utterly clear on this – Brian McDermott is not the enemy here. He speaks for us, because he cares and because he has the courage and resolve – along with the insider’s knowledge – to speak with the voice of a man who knows that what’s happening is not good for the club. We have Brian to thank for the fact that we now know that too. Let’s not be blind enough, naïve enough, to ignore it. We must show our support for Brian McDermott, loud and proud – because quite frankly, he’s the only chance we’ve got.