It was the worst of times – and then, suddenly it was the best of times. The Friday night had been pain and humiliation for every Leeds United fan, in the pitiless glare of the Murdoch media before the eyes of a hostile world. And yet, just a few hours later, everything had changed, unrecognisably for the better. The team started against Huddersfield looking understandably a little sorry for themselves. But they rode their luck, applied themselves when they went behind – and emerged 5-1 winners. And then we heard the manager was reinstated – in fact, contrary to the previous night’s version of reality, he was never sacked in the first place. On a personal note, I’d sustained a Twitter barrage from jubilant Millwall fans on transfer deadline night, they’d been gleefully delighted to see their least favourite Leeds fan reeling under the sheer weight of bad news. And yet on the Saturday they lost 0-3 to Reading and remain in and around the gutter of the relegation zone, where such vermin belong. Schadenfreude rarely felt so good – right, Ms Kate Murray, stroppy Miwwwaww tweeter? I am using the word correctly, I hope… And to put a tin lid on it, Man U got beaten at Stoke, despite a comical SEVEN minutes of stoppage time. Where are those penalties from the S’ralex days, eh?
Talk about Friday Night and Saturday Morning – Sillitoe never wrote such a dystopian/utopian contrast. It’s been said that a week is a long time in politics – clearly a day is the difference between epochs in the crazy world of football. These were not so much two different and contrasting days as two parallel universes. The speed with which things have turned around has been enough to leave anyone dizzy. For Leeds fans, the afterglow of the Derby Day slaughter is an oasis of happiness, paid for in full with Friday night’s pain and wretched suffering. And, in a particularly sweet twist, the club on the receiving end of this almighty volte-face was Huddersfield Town, bearers of the biggest anti-Leeds United chip on the shoulder you’re ever likely to see outside of Barnsley. Early on, they’d bossed it at Elland Road, but they were profligate; to some extent the authors of their own downfall. Nevertheless, they’d forged ahead, and then our captain McCormack missed a half-chance for Leeds. The glee in the away end was unconfined – “Ross McCormack, he don’t wanna play” they sang, innocently unaware of the tidal wave of Ross that was to engulf them, leaving them very sad and silent little Terriers by the end of the game.
For McCormack, it was a performance you just couldn’t have made up. A hat-trick, the day after the Sky Sports hacks had been doing their best to flog him to Premier League relegation candidates Cardiff. A tough game against determined derby opposition, for which the preparation had been as far away from ideal as it is possible to imagine, a fragmented miscellany of disasters large and small. A match day that had started with bleak pessimism seeping throughout the club, some of the staff turning up for work in tears, McCormack’s mentor apparently sacked. Seriously, who writes this talisman’s scripts? One hat-trick later, and Ross was on the radio, re-emphasising his commitment to Leeds United. Our captain and the top scorer in the league had stepped up to the plate and delivered, big time. We couldn’t possibly have asked for more.
And then, best of all, we heard those glad tidings that Brian McDermott is still our man. It’s true that there are still a lot of explanations needed for what has gone on in and around LS11 in that nightmare day or so – but for the time being, the warm fuzz of happiness is just too darned comfortable and I don’t want to shake it off. Leeds win, thrashing Huddersfield in what is always their Cup Final. Millwall gloated for a night and were then comically, karmically, abjectly beaten at home the next day. Man U lost at Stoke with their ineffectual manager bleating about deflections and worldies. My smile still feels as though it may require surgical removal. It’s all so different from the Friday night, and from Friday night’s nightmares. I woke up the next morning hoping I had just dreamed it all, only to realise despairingly that it was true. Never had I anticipated a home game with less appetite or enthusiasm. My get up and go had got up and gone.
And now – well, that Friday night reality, which got match day off to such a glum start, is simply not true any more. The team fought like lions (sorry, Millwall) for the badge, the shirts, the manager and the fans. Young Mowatt played beautifully and broke his goal-scoring duck. Stewart was tricky and creative out wide. Even fellow winger Jimmy Kebe played well and scored – these two are at last looking fit and sharp and promise to lend a whole new dimension to our play. The embattled team took an early, shattering blow, but then lashed back in a startling fashion, savaging the cocky Terriers in what turned out to be an epic mauling. So life is good, however temporarily. Whether it’s now a case of Marching On Together, or Forza Leeds – or maybe both – we can at least be content for the minute.
Friday was just plain horrible. But Saturday, matchday? It’s been bloody wonderful.