Leeds United play Birmingham City away this weekend. So what? It’s been another shocking season, a fair number of the players who have donned the shirt this campaign weren’t remotely fit and proper to do so and will probably be gone by July. Quite possibly the manager and sundry staff will follow them. Leeds have been dire yet again this season; opponents Birmingham have been if anything even worse – they face the clear and present danger of relegation under their morose Geordie manager Lee Clark. It’s a meeting of busted flushes this weekend at St Andrews with the imperilled fighting the irrelevant. Move on – there’s nothing much to see here.
There’s an almost parallel situation in the Premier League this weekend as mid-table also-rans face a side urgently in need of points to avoid the drop. But there is much more potential for a bit of malicious entertainment here – IF as a Leeds United fan you can bring yourself to support our traditional bêtes rouges for once in a very long while. Yes, folks – Man U play Norwich City on Saturday tea-time, live on Sky – and it’s time to ditch those treasured prejudices and get behind the boys in red and their dodgy interim manager.
Don’t get me wrong. I hate Man U as much as – in fact certainly much more than – the next slavering, Leeds-mad, bile-ridden, anti-scum bigot out there. Some regular readers may already be aware of this, as I’ve dropped subtle hints from time to time. Normally, the only time I could bring myself to wish for the Pride of Devon to succeed is against a club I hate infinitely more – the degraded dross from Istanbul, G*l*t*s*r*y. The fact that I can now bring myself to watch TV on Saturday and wish for Man U to win is down to two factors.
Firstly, Man U are peripheral, nay, irrelevant to this season – Agent Moyes has seen to that. So it’s been neither quite so annoying when they win, nor quite so sweet when they lose (although I still enjoy this very much). Secondly – they’re playing Norwich, a nasty, jumped up little yokel of a club that I dearly wish to see take a fall and come crashing down to a status which more accurately reflects their standing in the game. I badly want Norwich City relegated, and I will put up with even a Man U win if it helps to bring about that desirable outcome.
The fact of the matter is, this unfashionable and remote little club, under the frequently tired and emotional leadership of TV cook and wine-taster Delia Smith, have comported themselves like some latter-day Tottenham Hotspur over recent years, raiding our beloved Leeds for the few jewels in our crown much as North London’s junior club did at the beginning of our long slide down to oblivion. It’s not big and it’s not clever – but the Spuds enjoyed themselves at our expense in the early Noughties – and it’s been those annoyingly bloody chirpy Canaries doing the same, ever since they went up to where they’ve no business being.
Over the past few seasons, Leeds fans have had to grit their teeth, grin and bear it as little Norwich – an anonymous club from the back of beyond – have used the fact of their temporarily higher league status to pluck such gems as Snodgrass, Howson, Becchio and, erm, Bradley Johnson from the Elland Road payroll. In truth, only the first two of those four departures were all that painful – the odd twinge caused by Luciano’s departure has been relieved by his zero contribution to Naaaarritch since he joined them – but that hasn’t stopped those loveable Ciddy fans from gloating and grinning and taking the mick. Every time another transfer “coup” has been completed, there they’ve been, savouring the novelty of lording it over Mighty Leeds, crowing about us being their “feeder club” (no marks for originality there, lads) and generally cavorting all over the internet like the small-time wurzels they are.
Now, it seems, their long-awaited and richly-deserved comeuppance may well be nigh. Hovering perilously just above the Premier League relegation zone, they look ahead to their last few fixtures of the season – and they must wonder where another point is coming from, as they anticipate difficult matches against the Devon scum as well as Chelsea and Arsenal. You might well think they’d be lucky to get the traditional Eurovision nil points, keine punkte from that little lot. Meanwhile, the likes of Cardiff and Sunderland are beginning to shake off their season-long uselessness and threaten to accrue the couple more points which might be all it takes to elevate them over the ailing Canaries.
A relegated Norwich would, of course, have to cut their suit according to their cloth – some of their stars might well be moving on. As a new-era Leeds with some cash jingling in our pockets, would it be too much to hope for that a couple of our much-missed stars might possibly find their way back to a reinvigorated Elland Road next season – wearing a white shirt as Massimo’s United push for long overdue glory?
Most probably it is too much – but football is about dreams and sometimes dreams come true. But first, we need to see if those not-so-lovable country bumpkins can complete their fall from grace, starting with defeat at the Theatre of Hollow Myths this weekend coming. Then, perhaps, we can start to hope that the mickey-taking little club will come tumbling down where we can get at them. If I’m actually going to sit there this Saturday, hoping for a Man U win – something that might very well cause me to be lavishly, spectacularly ill – then a bit of malicious pleasure at the expense of Norwich City FC is the very least I will deserve.