Summertime is always a tense part of the calendar for the long-suffering fans of Leeds United – rivalled only by the January transfer window, as we wait in uncomfortable anticipation for the identity of the next star to be sold for a song. That’s the way it’s been for a good – well, bad – few years now. It remains to be seen whether things will be substantially different under the reign of il Duce Massimo Cellino.
Clearly, this year’s speculation was inevitably going to surround Ross McCormack. Top scorer last time around and always first in line to wear his heart on his sleeve when it came to confirming his love for and commitment to Leeds United, McCormack is the jewel in the crown for club and fans. Such a player is bound to be marked down by the rutting hogs of Fleet Street as the Number One target for their idle speculation, scare stories, made-up rumours and downright lies as they set about their task of appealing to the Leeds-hating majority of their readership. The lower you go into the gutter, the higher the proportion of Leeds-haters there will be among the buyers of whichever toilet roll you’re talking about – and at the very bottom of the sewer, beneath even the excrement and detritus that is the Mirror, the Mail and the Express, there you will find the Sun and the Sport, rotting away in a noisome mulch of their own writing.
So it’s a big relief when one of these illiterate rags comes out with a clearly made-up story. Such a one, you can bet your bottom dollar, is Simon Austin’s pisspoor effort today in the Sun. No sources are quoted – unsurprisingly. The whole thing stinks of a speculative effort which the hack concerned will quietly forget about when it’s proved wrong. Austin is merely doing his masters’ bidding in an effort to thrill the anti-Leeds brigade out there – all in the interests of selling more copies. This commercial prime mover, the need to sell, sell, sell, has always ranked for the Sun and similar toilet papers, far, far above any such considerations as factual reportage and journalistic integrity. The net effect of all this is that anyone who hates Leeds United will get another cheap if temporary thrill – and anybody with the individualism, originality and sheer good taste to love the club will breathe a sigh of satisfaction and murmur to themselves “It’s in the Sun, so it must be bollocks”.
Similarly, today has brought a couple of snide little reports in the Sport and the Mirror – further examples of the very worst of the British press – about the Leeds players bringing packed lunches in to training. Here, it’s the crafty implications of penury that are offensive, not so much any factual inaccuracy. It’s Fleet Street acting as a purveyor of anti-LUFC propaganda that irritates. The thought of booze-sodden hacks having a chortle over this sort of thing is annoying – but again, it’s merely a sign that they’re doing their level best to paint as negative a picture as possible of a club that it’s firmly in their commercial interests to be seen hating. It’s a gutter press thing, a talentless hack thing – it should be regarded as natural in terms of what happens all the time at the very bottom of any cess-pit. The particularly disappointing aspect is that certain internet outlets, who should know better, pick up these myths and recycle them as fact
The moral, of course, is to avoid all of the bog-roll tabloids, or – at the very least – to take their lies merely as confirmation that there’s nothing to worry about as yet. More reliable information is usually available from the better-informed blogs of several clubs, from players’ Twitter feeds, from the so-called “quality” press (some of them) – or even (occasionally) from Leeds United itself. The local press also provides an option that is almost respectable as compared to the mendacious hacks who peddle their lies for the gutter-end of the national press.
For the time being, then, there is no cause for alarm. The Sun says that Ross wants out; so we can be tolerably certain that – at present – he’s looking forward to another season of stand-out performances in the white shirt of Leeds United.