If the form book has its way this lunchtime, Leeds United’s season will peter out with a whimper, not a bang – as Derby County, on a seemingly unstoppable roll against us, head to Elland Road in search of their eleventh consecutive victory over the Whites of LS11. Chuck in an almost-forgotten League Cup dismissal at the hands of the Rams in 2009, and defeat for Leeds today would make it a dirty dozen straight wins for Derby, our one-time rabbits – a team we just couldn’t help beating in the eighties and nineties. It’s a reversal of fortune that would dismay anyone with Leeds sympathies and – particularly given the one-way street that is the rivalry between the two clubs – you’d expect Derby fans to be over the proverbial moon.
One-way street? Well, let’s face it – it’s a fact that they regard us with a deep and abiding loathing, whilst we treat them with a casual and disrespectful lack of attention most of the time, unless we’re actually about to play them. This state of affairs isn’t that unusual – Leeds have a similar situation with a few clubs, the likes of Bradford, Barnsley and Hull for instance – they passionately hate us, we ignore them. It’s humiliating for the seething fans who have this unrequited hate – as you can easily divine from reading some of the frustrated scribblings of Rams supporters out there in the internet world. One has even gone so far as to take up his quill and describe his feelings of hatred and bitterness in a piece of embarrassingly bad doggerel which he is pleased to call verse. It’s true. Can there be anything more cringe-worthy and humiliating than that?
The poet concerned goes by the nom de plume of “I. Saw” (poets often have pen names, in order to protect their artistic integrity – but I can reveal that this latter-day Bard’s real name is “R. Sole”) and he’s described as a RamZone reporter – presumably this is his day job when he’s not illuminating the literary world with his lyrical verse. His Leeds United Meisterwerk, artistically entitled Ode to the Dirty, was actually written a few years back – but the guy’s fellow Rams are so pleased with it that they like to take it out, dust it off and republish it, suitably updated, whenever their latest United Cup Final is imminent. Indeed, it’s refreshing to see that the Derby fraternity have formed such an attachment to this piece of work, undeterred by considerations of originality, repetitiveness – or by the fact that it’s crap.
I won’t bore you with too many details as to the content of this epic whinge – it’s accessible via the link above if you really feel you need to read the whole thing – suffice to say it describes how the author first developed a hatred of Leeds because of the Whites’ habit of trouncing his favourites every time we played them. He goes on to bleat piteously about injustices and bad luck, before acknowledging that things have looked up for County lately and stating in petulant tones that this, however, will never be enough to make up for what went before. Technically as well as emotionally, it’s the work of a sulky 9 year old – the extraordinary thing is that the Derby fans seem so inexplicably proud of what is a hymn to excruciating humiliation.
The moral appears to be that, however long Derby’s current stranglehold over Leeds United may last, it won’t be enough to erase traumatic memories for their fragile and hyper-sensitive support. Perhaps the best thing that could possibly happen is a rare win for the Whites, to jolt the Rams fans out of obsessive mode and focus them on their forthcoming play-off campaign. Because it would be a shame if they didn’t go up, wouldn’t it?
It’s unlikely, but not impossible that Leeds United will beat Derby today. But if they do, look out for a tortured follow-up from the less-than-talented pen of the Derby Bard – perhaps something of an elegy, mourning the end of their run of success. Because you get the feeling that the grief of such a defeat would not be assuaged, even by promotion. That’s a little easier to understand when you look at what happened to Derby the last time they played at top level. They had a car-crash of a season, were relegated before the last of the Christmas trimmings came down and set all sorts of new records for being disastrously, calamitously bad. So there may not be much for them to look forward to if they DO go up, and the “Bard” can be expected to wax dolorous again when they come tumbling back down. Poetic justice, you might call it.
On the whole, though, I wish them success. After all, I Saw’s poetry is the kind of artistic effort that can make your eyes bleed and your soul cry out for something with more cultural merit, like Crossroads or Blankety Blank – so we really don’t want any more of that. I’m not sure if this little critique will find its way back to the enthusiastic amateur, but if it should, then I have a message for him. Please – talk to someone, before it’s too late. Don’t ever attempt poetry again, as it may be seen by people less kind and understanding than I am. And for heaven’s sake, get some treatment for this Leeds United problem you have, before it reduces you to even lowlier feats of self-humiliation. That’s no way to go through life, surely – being a Rams fan and living with that ever-present inferiority complex is punishment enough.
Oh, and – good luck in the play-offs.