One of the most distressing things about being a Leeds United fan over the past decade or so has been to witness former heroes not exactly covering themselves in glory as, one after another, they’ve been wheeled out by local and national media to give their opinions or reactions to the ups and downs of the roller-coaster Elland Road soap opera. Even erstwhile midfield maestro Johnny Giles was at it recently, venturing into print to savage the man many see as Leeds United’s saviour, Massimo Cellino.
But perhaps the biggest let-down was the apparent disintegration of the legend that was Peter Lorimer as he seemed to be reduced from his godlike status as Mr Ninety Miles per Hour into a yes man for the then chairman and despot Ken Bates. However angry the fans got over Bates and his loathsome little tricks, Lorimer always seemed to be there, trying to pour oil on troubled waters, seeking to portray Bates as a positive factor around LS11. We weren’t fooled, and Lorimer’s pedestal crumbled into dust as he was perceived more and more as Papa Smurf’s creature.
And yet today, we have had the clearest sign to date that maybe Lash is back to something like his old form, blasting howitzer-like missiles at our enemies rather than attempting to persuade folk of Ken’s essential cuddliness. Lorimer’s article in Thursday’s Yorkshire Evening Post showed an appreciation of the fears so many Leeds fans feel at this latest crass decision by the Football League buffoons against il Presidente Cellino. The piece is full of good sense and, in a very welcome return to the old-style Leeds United siege complex, Lorimer also reflects on the historical fact that the League have taken every opportunity over the past half-century to berate, impede and generally get in the way of the Elland Road club. Peter certainly doesn’t pull his punches whatever the target, and more than one rocket shot is directed at the very vitals of those bastions of the Press who seem to have it in for the Whites.
Lorimer makes it clear that he has no time for any part of the Fourth Estate with its knife into Leeds. “For many years now,” says Lash, “I’ve refused to buy certain newspapers because in my opinion, they push an anti-Leeds agenda. They seem to take great joy for having a go at us. I’m not naming names but I think they know who they are.” I think we all do, Lash.
The former Leeds hero is clear in his own mind that Big Mass will not be taking the League’s machinations lying down. “Knowing what I do about the man, I expect Massimo to fight this move. I don’t see him walking away – not least because whatever happens, he’s allowed to regain control of the club in March. I think it’s safe to say that he’s finding out that Leeds aren’t the most popular club in the world (away from their own supporters, of course) and he must be pretty bemused by the negative attention we get.” This is classic stuff, the sort of opinionated stance you might expect from any committed Leeds fan, but all the more punchy and effective coming as it does from one of Revie’s Super Leeds Supermen. It’s the sort of thing, this blog would venture to suggest, that might well see an old hero’s reputation and status restored to him, and not before time. Lorimer is speaking for many, many United fans in this latest article; at long last he appears to be on the right side of the argument.
The Evening Post piece ends with our former Number 7 striking an ominous note for United. Reflecting on the decades-long struggle and war of attrition between Leeds and the game’s authorities, he concludes: “It was like this when I was a player and it never seems to change – when the opportunity to stick the boot in comes, there’s always someone waiting to take it. This time it’s the Football League’s turn.”
That’s a forbidding final phrase. But Lorimer may just have struck the first blow on behalf of our old heroes towards fighting back against those in the corridors of power who so devoutly wish to “stick the boot in”. The importance of a legend saying what the fanbase is thinking can hardly be over-stated. People listen; the fans feel vindicated; resistance and protest could thus be galvanised. A protest is planned for January 6th between 10 am and 12 noon outside the Football League offices in Preston. Several hundred Leeds fans are already promising to attend, Lancashire police are aware and media interest is growing. Who’s to say there won’t be a banner advertising the metaphorical shooting prowess of Peter “Lash” Lorimer at such an event?
After all, if the Cannonball Man himself really is back onside, then his could be a powerful voice raised against the pallid mandarins of the League who seem so arrogantly convinced of their own case, in defiance of all evidence to the contrary. Maybe it really is the Football League’s turn now; to suffer as Leeds United have suffered for a half a century. Cellino can be counted upon to put up firm resistance in his own style, the fans can be counted upon to stand behind him in numbers. Maybe now, at last, we can also rely upon the old guard, the old Leeds United heroes – and Peter Lorimer might just have lit the blue touchpaper on that particular rocket. It could with undeniable justice be aimed right up the self-satisfied backsides of those clueless gentlemen of the League.
Are you listening, Johnny Giles?
NB: Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything would like to make it clear to female readers and lady supporters of Leeds United everywhere that this article does not imply either disrespect or disregard for the proportion of the Leeds fanbase who lack the physical attribute of goolies. Goolies in this context should be taken in an entirely symbolic sense; please be assured that this blogger is 100% respectful of the women in the Leeds United family – and he certainly does not wish to get on your tits.