We’ve known it often enough at Leeds United – a player signs and, early in his time at Elland Road, there’s the opportunity in an interview to put on the sincere face and say “…there were a few clubs interested in me, but once I heard Leeds United mentioned, that was it – there was nowhere else I was going to go.” We humble fans are left to wonder about the identity of the disappointed clubs – CF Barcelona, perhaps, or Milan, Internazionale or Paris St Germain. Or possibly Doncaster Rovers or Scunthorpe. It’s become part of the transfer scene; it’s expected. Besides, nobody takes it that seriously. It’s all part of the schmoozing that seems to be de rigueur on either side of any transfer involving a club of any history or notoriety these days. You just wish the script might vary occasionally.
The thing is, there is a feeling that – here at Leeds, anyway – there is sometimes a kernel of truth concealed beneath all of the bovine ordure we’ve become used to. Hang on, we think – it’s only right what the guy’s saying. We speculate as to who else might have been in for him, whoever he might be – and the fact is that any player we might currently be making overtures to is highly unlikely to have a higher-profile option elsewhere. For most of our motley crew of incoming transfers over the past decade or so, Leeds United is the biggest club they’ve ever played for, ever will play for. So why would such relatively humble performers look elsewhere when the chance to sign for Leeds crops up? That’s not arrogance, it’s simply the way things are, with the club at its present, humble level of the game. The platitudes may be exactly that – but, used in connection with a move to Leeds, true giants of the sub-Premier League world, they’re at least partly believable. We have the history, the tradition, the stadium, the support, the training ground – well, perhaps strike that last one. But Leeds are a bigger deal than most Championship players could aspire to, and that’s an undeniable fact.
When these quotes arise out of a transfer to Fulham, though, it does become slightly comical. And, guess what, our former captain and genuine one-season wonder Ross McCormack, badge-kisser and Twitter-whinger extraordinaire, has actually been and gone and come out with the usual bull – but this time, it’s in a Fulham context. Try it for size, why don’t you – here’s what Ross said. “There was speculation in regards to other teams, but Fulham was where I wanted to be.” Funny, isn’t it? Go on, see if you can say it without a giggle. Ross must have managed it straight-faced, anyway – or he’d have grievously insulted his new friends and fellow cottagers and that would never do.
Ross might be far too busy adding up all of the different figures in his new contract to have any real appreciation of irony or unintentional humour – and let’s face it, most footballers’ brains aren’t wired that way to start off with – but he must surely be kidding himself if he thinks he’s going to convince even a diehard Fulham fan that he’s there for any other reason but the bottom line on his payslip. Your actual realistic Fulham fan, should such a beast exist, might also refer back to Mr. McCormack’s recent statement that winning promotion at Elland Road would beat playing for just any Premier League – not Championship – club; they might even wonder if, in fact, their new signing speak with forked tongue. Then again, they might equally just swallow all of this crap. They’re a bit simple, you know, some of these London boys.
It’s a snippet that has raised a smile here at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, anyway. It’s just so blatant, the way that Mr. McCormack has hardly paused for breath in between trying to convince us that he’d only leave for the top flight, and then attempting to convince the Craven Cottage faithful, all 15,000 of them, that he feels he’s joined West London’s answer to Real Madrid. As players’ wage packets and egos continue to enlarge exponentially, it’s something we’ll become more and more used to. But beneath the essential comedy of it, there’s that hint of disappointment and disillusion too, that these daft lads can honestly expect people to take them seriously when they keep coming out with the same clichés, time and time again.
Mind you, the next time some swarthy Italian B international with an eye for goal and a crafty agent breezes through the door at Elland Road and declares it his ultimate heart’s desire – I’ll probably nod approvingly and believe him implicitly. And why not? We’re Leeds United, after all, and that still makes the vital difference – as Mr. Ross McCormack may yet find out to his cost.