Time to Get Back to Leeds United FOOTBALL Club – by Rob Atkinson


LUFC - Leeds United Farce Club

LUFC – Leeds United Farce Club

The football part of the Leeds United year – that bit where we actually put a team out onto a grassy field to take on and hopefully defeat another team – is over.  In truth, there wasn’t that much football to talk about even while the season was going on.  And yet football remains what it is all about for Leeds United – or, at least, what it should be all about.  Hence the title of this article.  I’ve even helpfully  put the word “FOOTBALL” in upper case, to emphasise its theoretical importance.

Because, over the past few years, the actual footballing aspect of Leeds United’s activities seems to have dwindled away somewhat – it has faded into the background as other issues have assumed an unwanted prominence.  The very nature of the focus put upon the club by the outside world has changed; there has generally been far more to talk or to write about off the field as opposed to on it.  Whatever the rights and wrongs of how this has come about, it is most definitely not A Good Thing.

Lately, those iconic initials LUFC have been a lie – or at least not the whole truth.  What we have been following could instead have been described in other terms – Leeds United Soap Opera, for instance.  Leeds United Farce. Leeds United Three Ring Circus, or even Leeds United Police Five.  The club has been in an almost perpetual state of flux over the past three years – and before that, what might have been described as a period of stability was actually anything but; the nature of the despot at the top of the pile saw to that.

At the risk of seeming glib and facile, what is urgently needed now is to get back to being about football.  That’s how it used to be, for most of the first thirty years of my support.  In that time, we were subjected to a varying degree of competence or incompetence as our beloved Whites set about their business in the sphere of professional sport, with varying degrees of success.  But that was where the focus was; the enemy was without and not within.  We were all about trying to defeat our competitors and get Leeds United as near as possible to the very top.

The club we have now, though, is not only under attack from the outside; it is beset by problems of an internal nature, to a far greater degree than at any other time I can remember.  We always had our problems at Leeds, but they were football problems – relegations, semi-final defeats, dodgy refereeing decisions and of course the permanent enmity and malevolence of the Football League.  This situation created the Leeds United that I love; the Damned United, the United with a siege complex where the feeling was one of “you might hate us, all of you out there – but that hate makes us stronger”.

Now, the siege complex is still there, but we’re having to look to the situation behind our own ramparts for the greatest danger to our prospects of becoming once more a great and successful football club.  The continual back-biting and internecine squabbling in the boardroom; cameras in that boardroom and bizarrely also in the toilets; stories of Class A drug use making the location of those cameras in the conveniences that bit less strange; a state-of-the-art surveillance suite located above Subway just across the road, that our former dictator might still be privy to everything that’s said or done.  It’s not even the stuff of a James Bond movie – more like some tacky and down-market 007 imitation, like the dreadful American “Our Man Flint“.  It’s embarrassing and harmful; it’s a million miles away from where we want and need to be.

Last season, things on the field were so bad from Christmas onwards, that we’ve ended up trying to take some comfort in the fact that we’ve finished once more as the top Yorkshire club.  I hate to say it, but being top club in Yorkshire these days is a bit like being the tallest mountain in Holland – not much to write home about.  In the light of what we now understand has been going on behind the scenes, though, the waning of the team’s performance in the second half of the season is, perhaps, a little more understandable.

After all, any top club needs to run like a well-oiled machine; there needs to be a feeling of smoothness and harmony to inculcate that sense of professional excellence.  It’s a game of fine margins – each and every club needs all the edge it can get, and the feel of the place is an important part of that.  The players at Leeds United must have felt, lately, that they were playing for Fred Karno’s Army – and performances dipped accordingly. With those fine margins, it doesn’t take much to derail a club’s season entirely – and this is precisely what has happened.  It’s simply elementary sports psychology – the collapse of Leeds’ season is amply demystified by those revelations of chaos and strife behind the scenes.  Clear-sighted fans who have said that – without McCormack’s goals – we might well have gone down are extremely close to the bulls-eye.

Now we have the new broom in Cellino, which appears resolved to sweep clean.  Already, one of those enemies without – the trashy and ridiculous Daily Star – is trying to foment rebellion, stating that Leeds fans are furious at the possible dismissal, along with other staff, of legends Eddie Gray and Peter Lorimer.  But that’s OK; hostility from the gutter press has always been part of the Leeds United experience – long may it remain so.  The real question is of whether Cellino, by his actions over the summer, can bring about a healthier internal state of affairs whilst keeping the fans onside.

There are rumblings of discontent, certainly.  The proposed closure of Thorp Arch over summer smacks of penny-pinching parsimony, just at the time when those dare-to-dreamers had started singing “Dirty Leeds, Filthy Rich”.  The financial landscape should become clearer over the summer; meanwhile the closure of Thorp Arch still lacks the poverty-stricken overtones of the culling of Publicity Pete’s rented tropical fish.

If Cellino can clear out the nasties from inside the club – and indeed from over the road above Subway – then he will have taken important strides towards providing a newly-professional atmosphere within Leeds United for the re-opening of business in July.  That, for now, is his main priority in the view of this blog.  If that involves the loss of the likes of Lorimer – reviled not long back as Bates’ yes-man – and even Eddie Gray – who must now view being sacked by Leeds as one of things that just happens to him now and then – well, so be it. Cellino has got to be allowed to go forward in his own manner, and – as long as that direction really is forward – we simply have to let him get on with it.

All we should really be asking of next season is the re-emergence of Leeds United as a football club, first, last and foremost.  Enough of the embarrassing sideshows.  Enough of conflicting egos, spinning us lines and eyeing up a swift and risk-free profit.  The objective has to be the placing of our best foot forward onto the first rung of that ladder back to the top.  All else is so much hogwash and hot air.

Let’s just remember that the “F” in “LUFC” stands for Football and not Farce. Because it’s been the other way around for much too long already.

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29 responses to “Time to Get Back to Leeds United FOOTBALL Club – by Rob Atkinson

  1. I have a 14 yr old step son rob , a very good footballer at district level , I hope and pray one day that he makes it and as you can imagine my own personal dream would be to see him run out one day with a Leeds united shirt on , sadly, and its not from lack of effort from my part , his dream is to play for Liverpool, other members of his team don everton shirts , chelsea shirts and every other top premiership team shirts , and there’s even mid table scum shirts !!! Point is rob we have to end this farce asap because these lads are already lost future supporters and we have to stop the rot

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    • Glad to hear you have a prospect on your hands Mr O. Many kids end up looking at the reputation of academies rather than the stardust of the Premier League. It’d be good to think that might sway a youngster towards Leeds (when Thorp Arch re-opens) – but in reality, he might well be better off at Crewe!

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  2. Clicked on to see if you had posted today,glad to see you have.Long overdue ,but has to be done in what ever form it takes,one question though,Does that mean Eddie will lose his job as Co-Comentator on LUTV?

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  3. Being in North America, I also follow ice hockey, and perhaps coincidentally, my team, the Vancouver Canucks, has a similar relationship to the league and the rest of the sport.

    Canucks fans use the slogan “Embrace the Hate.”

    It seems fitting for Leeds.

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  4. Well said Rob, it is about time somebody tried to fix Leeds U instead of milking it.

    Barry

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  5. Rob, we can’t even take comfort in being the top yorkshire club. Hull and middlesborough are above us.

    Agree with what you say about the club being a farce though. What’s really sad is for fans under about 30, the club being a farce is what they are used to. They’ve never seen the club when it was about football rather than some sort of comedy as written by David peace.

    I still myself feel we might never escape this never ending circle of predatory chairmen, I’m not entirely convinced by cellinio, sure he’s better than gfh and bates, but I don’t think he’s going to be a miracle worker and the way he’s treating cagliari has me worried about us in a few years time.

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    • Boro are Teesside, Hull are Humberside. Both seem happy not to be Yorkshire and we’re better off without Smoggies and Codheads. So top club in Yorkshire it is for Leeds United 🙂

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  6. Andy Bentley

    I agree almost entirely Rob. I would only add that nowadays our players are also under significantly more criticism and scrutiny from our own support. Whether that be from the terraces or from social media. I don’t recall Gary Sprake being disparaged after his much publicised errors. Not by us anyway. Our rivals would provide the taunts and I, for one, would defend him, focusing on all the excellent keeping he did. Would he have recovered from his televised slips otherwise? I suspect he would have gone down the road as many recent England wannabes. Too frightened of making a mistake to the point where they lost confidence in their own ability and the skills that got them signed and selected in the first place.
    Fans didn’t turn on Mick Bates because he wasn’t Bremner or Giles. He was our player and a fine professional. With the support from the Gelderd End he did a great job for us. Today’s recent crop might not be as talented as Sprake et al, but how much better might they have been without the fear of being booed and riduculed by the very people who should be behind them. I don’t think it is coincidence that those days generated ‘WE are Leeds’ and ‘Marching on TOGETHER’. We believed it!
    Too often players perform better after leaving our club, frequently returning to the club to prove the point for their new team. (Sam Vokes for one!) We have the best support in many facets, I hope the new ownership will result in the stability that will allow a return to more positive support, not the kind that insults the families of our own players or thinks it is okay to call the manager at 3am. We expect our players to bleed for the cause, we should do the same for them. Not make cheap shots! Rant over! MOT

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    • I agree with this, but I think it’s the one aspect of our club it’d be difficult – and anyway inadvisable – to change. The immense social media following is a legacy of historic success and legendary status, so for players at our current mundane level it must be uncomfortably intense – like a goldfish bowl as opposed to the comfortable obscurity of playing for Millwall, Sheffield Wendies etc. But this is the pressure that will ultimately attract stronger characters to the club and propel us upwards. In the long term, each club returns to its natural level – and ours is top ten in the top flight. We can strive to build from there – it will take some genius to push us further. But it’ll take just proper management and stability to gain that top ten berth. Basically, we should be above Stoke and pushing on from there.

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      • Well the pressures there because we are the biggest club outside the premiership by a long way.

        Leeds is the biggest city in Europe without a top flight team. wakefield doesn’t even have a professional club, our catchment area is huge.

        other than maybe rangers we are the biggest club in Europe outside their relative top flight.

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      • Precisely right.

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      • Andy Bentley

        Social media is here to stay and we all have opinions. They used to be shared in the pub rather than being sent as abusive tweets etc. I disagree though that this pressure will attract stronger characters who will lead us to our ‘rightful’ place. Getting the best out of our players might. McCormack is the exception to the rule in not leaving to follow the money and instant premiership football. Even he was the subject of abuse before this season. Personally, I would prefer to see the likes of Wooton nurtured to learn his trade. He will be a far better player in the future. I would rather he is playing for us and not against us when he has matured.
        By the way, Accrington Stanley and Royal Engineers also have history and legendary status. I don’t believe in the notion of rightful place unless we finish in the top two or win the play offs. Hopefully next season!

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      • I think there is a limit on how long history will sustain you, and this is what Leeds United have to watch out for. That said, we are still within a reasonable distance from our main glory period (and we did have a supplementary one in the 90’s). We’re not so far in time from great days, as is the case with the likes of Wolves, Huddersfield, Preston etc. There’s still an opportunity there, but a warning too.

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      • Leeds is a lot bigger place than acrington though, and acrington has burnley and blackburn within a few miles. only club we have that close is bradford and theyre as much of a financial basket case as Leeds

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  7. Rob, your sentiments are mirrored by the vast majority of Leeds United supporters everywhere, I’m sure. We just have to hope (because that’s all we can do) that Cellino genuinely has the best interests of LUFC at heart and he sees his actions as necessary to move the football club forward. Too early to tell…..the jury’s still out!!

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  8. Rob, you are spot on about the priority being football and you are right, we should support Cellino. From the stories that are coming out though, he has a lot of problems to sort out. The cost of the lease for TA is crazy money. If the rest of the clubs finances are in the same state of affairs Cellino will be very busy man for some time to come. Anyway, out with the old and in with the ne that is what I feel about it all. A new era is beginning. It will take two to three years though to sort the business side out and probably the same to establish a really good team. It is different this time though for several reasons. Cellino is experienced in football and he has the knowledge, the authority and the finances to carry his plans through. As fans we should remember though that he won’t waste money and we should not expect that of him. I feel fairly confident that he will tackle all the problems in a proper manner.

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  9. Agree with most of that but sadly Leeds aren’t even the tallest mountain in Holland.

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  10. Well Rob you have once again hit the Nail on the head, I think you have echoed the thoughts of every mighty whites fan, when are we going to be a club where our footballing prowess is talked about instead of the comedy of errors which have been with us, frankly since probably just after Mr Ridsdale`s tenure, (although, ironically I actually think we were other fans second team with David O`Leary in charge, due to our attacking intent). For me we should be looking at teams like Swansea City who like us hopeful wannabes came out of the flames of destruction like a swan shaped phoenix. Swansea City have got to where they are by being re- built on your new broom philosophy, using prudence, frugality, and financial logic off the pitch, and fast attacking, exciting football on it, with young men who want to play for the club, and who put everything in to winning. We are much further ahead than when Swansea nearly vanished into the pit of non-league football, Mr Cellino seems a no nonsense geezer with a good head, who thankfully does not suffer fools, just what we need, I wont however be enjoying any cold beers this summer, picking up a glass will be difficult….. my fingers will be permanently crossed!

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  11. I think we need to cut some ties with the past, hard but true. By all accounts there are so many so called legends at the club on matchdays that you can’t move for them and their hangers on in the East stand hospitality areas, but is that what we really want ? Well it’s what Ken wanted, but as someone who never dreamed of hobnobbing with that crowd, in nearly 50 years supporting the club, I want a new start . We’ve got two statues outside the ground , they should be inside it and anyone else should pay like we do . Certain living legends were happy to take the silver while we suffered and got called morons for our efforts .I’d wager if they had to pay like we do to watch the garbage served up, then they would be working on their golf handicaps on a Saturday instead .

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