Happy New Year to All Leeds Fans; the Best Fans in the World – by Rob Atkinson

Spontaneous reaction from an awestruck Derby fan

Spontaneous reaction from an awestruck Derby fan

Amid the doom and gloom of 2014, let’s all remember that we still have one massive asset – the incredible support that Leeds United is struggling vainly to deserve. The support is the lifeblood of any club, and we have simply the best around. This is not just the biased ravings of a Leeds lunatic with white-tinted spectacles on. It’s the view of other fans too, even some of those who hate us the most. The picture accompanying this paragraph is of an awestruck reaction from a Derby County fan after last night’s debacle (I don’t endorse ALL the text of this, by the way). And below, I reproduce without embellishment the views of a Cardiff fan who attended a United away game at Blackburn, which make for edifying reading, to say the very least. It’s quite long, not totally approving of ALL the antics of United’s travelling army – and many of you will have seen it before anyway. But it’s useful to remind ourselves of the high esteem in which this club’s support is held in certain parts of what might be deemed enemy territory:

I used to hate Leeds United.

I’d gleefully join in with ‘We all hate Leeds scum’ chants and sing about how they weren’t famous anymore. If there was no derby game that season it would be the first fixture I looked for and would anticipate it like a cup game.

Then I grew up a bit. I went to Leeds University for three years and saw how passionate the city is about their local team. In most cities without a team in the top flight you are just as likely to see people in Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea shirts than whoever the local team may be, but it couldn’t be further from the truth in Leeds. If you’re from Leeds, you support Leeds United – end of story. I can’t imagine what the punishment is for someone from Leeds supporting Manchester United, but I imagine it involves some kind of public stoning before being beheaded by Lucas Radebe.

As I developed a more reasoned outlook on football I began to wonder why just so many teams hate Leeds United with such a passion. Their location means they have a higher number of geographical rivals than most, but this doesn’t explain why football grounds around the UK reverberate to the tune of ‘We all hate Leeds scum’ from supporters of clubs that Leeds couldn’t care less about. From what I understand from my experience of Leeds fans (and feel free to correct me in the comments if I’m wrong), they hate Manchester United, Galatasaray and Chelsea, dislike Sheffield Wednesday and couldn’t really care less about anybody else. So why do they anger the footballing public so much?

The answer for the older generation is presumably the fact they used to be good. Really good. During the 60’s and 70’s they won several domestic trophies and deserved to win the European Cup, denied only by some ‘interesting’ referee decisions in favour of Bayern Munich. However, the last time Leeds won a trophy was 1992 and they were relegated from the Premier League in 2004, even dropping as low as the third tier for a short time. So if jealousy isn’t the reason for the widespread Leeds hatred, what is? I joined 7000 or so Leeds fans at Blackburn Rovers to see if they deserved the title of ‘Dirty Leeds’.

As soon as I arrived in Blackburn you could tell that this was more than an away day, this was more like an invasion. The streets of Blackburn were absolutely filled with Leeds fans, with a large section of them heading to the Postal Order pub. This was the place to be for the next hour, as the visitors from Yorkshire produced a fantastic atmosphere inside the local Wetherspoons, better than most teams can create inside a stadium. The only people inside the pub not having a great time were the overworked bar staff and the couple who had chosen spectacularly poorly when picking a venue for their first date. Safe to say they didn’t stay very long, and date number two doesn’t seem particularly likely.

Two large tables turned into a stage, with the Leeds fans taking it in turns to play the part of conductor. “On the table for the lads” would be chanted at the individual of choice, who would then climb up onto the table and start a song, or be booed mercilessly if they refused. One particular visitor whose size would probably most politely be described as ‘Extra Extra Large’ was encouraged onto the table a number of times, refusing each time until he was bought two pints. After downing them both in one go, he took a run up, sped towards the table with determination, leapt through the air like a salmon and…made it about six inches off the ground, crashing into the table and falling on the floor. They didn’t ask him again after that.

While the away support did have plenty of humour, there was also a touching side to a number of their chants, paying tribute to Richard Ismail, known as ‘Moody’ to Leeds fans. Moody was a lifelong Leeds fan who recently passed away after spending over a year in hospital following an assault in Sheffield. “We’re all Moody aren’t we” was chanted throughout the afternoon, with the same phrase written on a flag displayed proudly at Ewood Park.

As the visitors got drunker and drunker, the chanting got wilder and wilder. Starting at “Number one is Michael Brown”, they made it all the way to “and 100, is Michael Brown” before insisting that they all dreamed of a team of Michael Browns. I’ve seen him play, and one Michael Brown is bad enough, never mind an army of them. It was at this point that things got a little out of hand, as the Leeds fans chanted “Let’s pretend we scored a goal”, counted down from ten and then went absolutely mental. Beer flew through the air, tables were overturned and pint glasses were smashed. The pub decided that it was probably time to close and the bell for time at the bar was rung at about 1:45pm. As fans filed out towards the ground or a different bar, it looked like a bomb had gone off. In fairness, many Leeds fans apologised for the damage and helped to turn the tables back over before they left.

Normally in my reports I would spend a great deal of time writing about the game itself, but honestly, it was just awful. Not so long ago Leeds and Blackburn had wonderful sides which would have made this fixture a joy to watch, but these days have gone due to the curse of the modern-day football club owner. The Venky’s have run Blackburn into the ground, while a combination of Peter Ridsdale and Ken Bates have done their best to kill off Leeds United.

Leeds had one chance of note, a beautiful flick from Ross McCormack setting up Danny Pugh who looked certain to score – only denied by a wonderful save by Blackburn’s Kean (not that one). Blackburn had a few more opportunities, forcing Paddy Kenny into making some good saves, but in all honesty it was a game worthy of being 0 – 0, and that would have been generous. The winner came just before half time, Tommy Spurr sweeping the ball into the net from a corner after some lacklustre defending.

The real story of the day was the Leeds fans. More than a third of those in attendance were from the away side, and they were also responsible for 95% of the noise. A small pocket of Blackburn fans to the right of the away end did their best to create an atmosphere, but attempting to take on 7000 Leeds supporters in an atmosphere contest is like attempting to storm a US military base with a plastic spoon, you’re not going to get anywhere. There were effectively four away ends, with the Yorkshire side bringing so many fans that they had taken up the entire stand, usually segregated to contain both home and away fans.

They sung and supported the team for 90 minutes, and didn’t do anything worthy of the ‘Dirty Leeds’ label as far as I could see. I was starting to realise that the reason so many people hate Leeds is because they aren’t Leeds. Leeds United are a reminder of how good English football used to be and the atmosphere which made the country the envy of Europe. These days are long gone, surpassed by Germany, Poland, the Balkans and many more, but the passion of Leeds United remains. When you watch a Leeds game, you don’t feel as though you are in the stale and sanitised world of English football. It almost feels as though a Leeds United away end belongs in a museum, a reminder to fans within England that watching football is something to be enjoyed, rather than endured.

Now, these Leeds fan are by no means perfect, the destruction of the pub was uncalled for and some of the chants about Sheffield Wednesday manager Dave Jones were tasteless at best, but arguably no worse than the kind of thing you’d hear at countless other grounds around the country on a Saturday afternoon.

I think far too many people fall into the trap of hating Leeds because that is what they are told they should do. Leeds fans have continued to show fantastic loyalty to their club, despite the fact they have suffered an even more spectacular fall from grace than Miley Cyrus. I have no doubts that the Leeds team of the past was well worthy of hatred, and in the old days of hooliganism being rife across England the damage done by their fans to various cities and towns is well-known. However these days are long gone, and hating Leeds United is now a fashion statement for most, rather than anything tangible.

One incident long after the game had finished demonstrated the commendable attitude that Leeds fans have to supporting their team, despite the fact that they are, more often than not, terrible at the actual football side of things. I was amongst 300 or so Leeds fans waiting at Mill Hill station, waiting for a connection back to Blackburn Central to head home. First of all a train arrived on the opposite side of the station, heading towards Preston. Several of the more drunk Leeds fans got on this service anyway, despite the fact it was heading in completely the wrong direction. Those who remained on the platform began doing the conga up and down the outside of the train, singing “do do do, you’re getting on the wrong train!” This was followed by a reworking of their earlier chant, as they bellowed “Let’s pretend our trains arrived”, counting down from ten and leaping around the platform like they’d just won the European Cup.

The author then challenges his Cardiff-supporting fellow fans to state why they hate Leeds, if not for the spurious reasons he’s cited in his piece. Again, I don’t agree with every last syllable – but to me, it’s remarkable how a fan of another team so completely “gets” what supporting Leeds United is all about. Take that quote from midway through: “I was starting to realise that the reason so many people hate Leeds is because they aren’t Leeds. Leeds United are a reminder of how good English football used to be and the atmosphere which made the country the envy of Europe.” Doesn’t that sum up perfectly the Leeds effect on the game as a whole? Could it be better put? I couldn’t do it.

These two snippets of enemy intelligence are, if you think about it, independent verification of what we all know to be true, deep down. We are United and we are the best. And it’s us, the fans, who truly are United. We’re the lifeblood of the club, the essence of Yorkshire’s Number One. That’s something to be genuinely proud of, when so much about the club is shamefully inadequate.

So – a very Happy New Year to the best supporters in the world. Maybe 2015 will after all bring us a little closer to what we all desire with every fibre of our being: better times for our beloved club. Whatever happens, we’ll still be here, we’ll still be the best. We always knew that – but it’s good to know that others know it too.

Keep it loud and proud in 2015 and beyond. Keep singing and shouting and being The Best.

We Are Leeds.

34 responses to “Happy New Year to All Leeds Fans; the Best Fans in the World – by Rob Atkinson

  1. It’s hard work sometimes, but – as the song goes – it’s about ups and downs. You don’t dump your kids if they don’t do well at school, and you don’t dump your team when they struggle. So, we keep the faith. This, too, will pass.


  2. Happy New Year Rob & keep up the good work.


  3. Good point to end the year on.

    Nobody does it like Leeds supporters and it was summed up at Derby last night with the fans continuously singing for 90 minutes. I go to nearly every away game. It is a fantastic day out that usually gets spoilt by what happens on the pitch for 90 minutes. We come from far and wide. Not only Yorkshire, across England, the British Isles, Europe and further afield. Despite years of mediocrity, we have a fan base like no other, we have stuck with Leeds. The FA and League Cup ties in recent years, I have had fans of the likes Arsenal and Spurs who have said, ‘god we miss you in the Premier League with that support’.

    There will be 5,400 making the trip to Sunderland on Sunday and we could have sold many many more. A lunchtime kick-off. I will be getting up at around 4.30am to make the trip up north and will not get home until around 11pm. Six days later, I will be off to Bolton. I often say to others, Leeds is a drug. Once you go, you are hooked. The sad death of Leslie Silver this week just reminded me of how good we once was. Promotion and then the league title in the space of three years after so many years of watching rubbish in the 80s although I still look back on that decade as my best following the club. It amazes me how many young followers we still generate. I live in the south of England and we have a number of young teenagers who follow Leeds United. I often ask them why. They are only old enough to remember our demise surely? I think a lot of it is to do with the support we show.
    Been a shocking twelve months following the club. Just when you think you have seen it all, something else happens. You can never say it is boring supporting Leeds and I love every minute of it.
    This was something I did on my own forum earlier, just a quick look at 2014.

    2014 – Another dull year at Leeds United.

    3-0 at Rochdale – It can’t get worse
    Next week
    6-0 at Sheffield Wednesday. Ok, we were wrong
    McDermott sacked by someone who doesn’t even own the club
    No McDermott but beat Huddersfield 5-1
    McDermott re-instated
    Cellino turned down by Football League
    Cellino wins appeal
    Stay up
    McDermott sacked
    Who is Dave Hockaday?
    Import after import signs.
    16-0 win in pre-season.
    Next game in Italy – Opposition doesn’t turn up.
    Disappointing start. Hockaday sacked.
    Highlight of 2014 – Win at Bournemouth
    Ten points from twelve for Redfearn – Does he get the job – No
    Who is Darko Milanic?
    Milanic sacked after just 32 days.
    Redfearn gets the jobs. Shoots of a recovery as the month ends with seven points from twelve.
    It couldn’t last – Dicked at Ipswich.
    Cellino told he must leave Leeds.
    Beaten by Fulham and Wigan at home and year ends with defeat at Derby.
    Finish year one point above relegation zone.
    Time running out for Redfearn?

    Surely 2015 can only get better? – Surely!!

    Keep Marching On Together.


  4. Spot on. We are on the cusp of another New Year. 2015/16 1st Division Champions. We are Leeds…….


  5. Highlandwhite

    Happy New Year ………Proud to be Leeds


  6. Thanks for a year of good reads and look fowards to more of ya posts in 2015 if there was a award for best leeds blog of the year you would defo get my vote all the best to all leeds supporters for 2015 MOT


  7. Hi Rob. 2014 was a poor year for me personally and for the club. 2015 offers hope for both. Only one thing is certain. On 31st December 2015 I’ll be looking forward to a brilliant new year for my football club. They give hope and happiness. What happens on the big green field is just a game when all is said and done, but being Leeds is something I treasure. And we should all remember that being Leeds is a state of mind, it is nothing to do with Geography

    Thanks for your blog this last year, you talk lots of sense (and a little bit of utter bollocks), but are always a good read. Happy New Year to you and yours and keep writing


    • Cheers Leftsider – I’ll take that any day of the week and thanks for making me literally LOL in front of the better half! HNY & MOT – here’s to a better 2015 and good riddance to this poxy year.


  8. I’d much rather enjoy a bit of fortune for all of us rather than read a few sanctimonious quotes to be honest..Don’t ever forget the real reason we were hated in the first place and how it is slowly fading away from us forever. I wasn’t around during the ’70s but spent most of my life trying to understand it..I don’t want other fans pity..

    Happy new year to you, Rob and all Leeds fans…


    • I honestly see it as grudging respect rather than pity or sanctimony – and the hate seems as profound and widespread as ever, if not more so! It’s just the success that’s fading away, but you never know. I remember ’88 so clearly and thinking we’d never be back. HNY & MOT fella.


  9. Shabaz Ahmed

    Happy New Year to all united fans. Our current team is third rate but club first class. See you at Bolton, mighty whites and good luck to the team in 2015.


  10. Supporting Leeds is like being part of a soap opera everyday, but for some strange reason, the majority of those pathetic “boil on the bum” Leeds haters, will always have a jealous, scathing opinion and an eye on every move that Leeds make, because their football clubs are dull, boring and very uninteresting.
    I would however, like the so-called Leeds players to do their talking on the pitch in 2015 and give the fantastic Leeds fans a less stressful year, which is easily said than done with Cellino in total charge.
    Whatever happens or doesn’t happen on the pitch, the magnificent Leeds fans are now the ONLY real asset that Leeds have and we are very appreciative of valuable Leeds Blogs like yours, to express our opinions on.
    Keep up the great work Rob, in 2015.


  11. premiumtwersk

    I have been a LU fan since I was 5 years old. My Dad moved his business from New York to London and one of the first things I remember was the replay of the 1970 F.A. cup final.

    I remember pointing to what looked like a smiley face on the player’s shirt (which was the L and U on its side). The businessman friend of my Dad told me that they were called Leeds and I precociously announced that “I like THAT team.” That’s how I became the biggest Leeds fan ever! (Stop laughing.)

    But it’s stories like that that always make me wonder how other people from all the other corners of the world also became the biggest Leeds fans ever. And now I am prepared to take a stab at the answer: Because we have a magic aura in all of us that nobody else in England has. Not Arsenal fans…not Liverpool fans…definitely not Man U fans…Nobody. These fans can only wish that they root for a team whose fans care as much as we do. Look at Arsenal, for instance. A couple of years ago they were unbeatable…and everybody and their ‘mums’ had been their fans since the 1920’s…YEAH RIGHT. Now those same fans only bitch and complain about them because the aren’t ALWAYS winning. Some fan base!

    We will overcome because we are Leeds fans. So damn proud, I am. We’re one point above relegation…and we still cheer our guys on. I know that most of us feel that Celino knows what he has on his hands…

    I sure hope so.


  12. Steven emsley

    We have fans that have passion and love their club money can’t buy these two things. I just hope that in 2015 Celino gets it right both on off the pitch, I believe he has lots of passion and he is growing to love the club. If this all happens we will storm to success. Keep the faith my fellow Leeds fans MOT

    All the best Rob and thank your good lady for letting you run this site its always a good read

    Steven Emsley
    Western Australia


  13. Hi, Rob, I have recently read that Leeds United had the second highest internet hits out of all the English clubs, from eighty different countries. That is when we are hovering just above the relegation zone of the championship. No matter what happens we’ve still got the support. Thanks Rob for blog. Can I wish you and your family a happy New year. PS. On Saturday I will be stood with Brendan and Wendy Ormsby watching there son Liam play for Tadcaster albion. Quiet a few Leeds United fans follow Tadcaster as well. These lads get paid per game. They play with passion. They could do with Liam Ormsby at Leeds. He plays in the famous number 4 shirt. All the best Rob.


  14. HNY Rob, and thanks for reproducing this piece from the Cardiff lad. I am in my mid 50’s now and in that time I have changed my car 17 times, changed my house 9 times, changed my wife twice but have never changed my team. I passed by a fellow supporter wearing a Leeds shirt on a weekend break to Guernsey this summer gone, and as we had other family members with us, we didn’t speak but both gave a simultaneous double fist to the badge as our paths crossed. That for me summed up being a fan of the best football club in the world. No words, just a mutual appreciation that we were both Leeds. MOT for 2015.


  15. Thanks for a great year Rob on the blog.
    I felt pretty miserable after the last few games until I remembered going to Rochdale and then the Sheff Weds game!
    I just hope we can put a few wins together soon so the panic doesn’t set in . I remember that awful feeling in 2007 when the ship began to sink and we slowly went down.
    it remains a mystery why we can’t win games when we have played well. Blackburn, Fulham and Wigan.Mistakes by players who are lacking championship experience and some bad luck?


    • It worries me to hear references to luck from management. We fans have every right to bemoan our luck. In the mouths of management though, it sounds like the flimsiest of excuses.


  16. oldcomrade

    Happy New Year Rob, Its never easy being a Leeds fan but when you go away on these murky Saturday afternoons and Tuesday nights and you hear our great fans singing their hearts out , even when we’re chasing a lost cause, it makes you understand why you became a Leeds fan in the first place, The best club with the best fans in the World, why would you want to follow anyone else.


    • Couldn’t agree more. A forthcoming article along the lines of Goldilocks and the Three Bears will explain how Leeds aren’t too big, aren’t too small – they’re just right.


  17. Bitesyerlegs74

    As a Yorkshireman living in employment forced exile (Cumbria… a county just on the outskirts of 1932) that article fairly made me proud. My god we really are the best aren’t we?


  18. sniffersshorts

    Good cheer and all the best to you in gods Own country Rob, let’s just hope it’s a better year this year for Leeds United and all the Leeds United fans worldwide the tide needs to turn in our favour in 2015 happy new year to all whites fans everywhere still marching on together.


  19. Keep up the great support lads- your time will surely come as will ours. NUFC


  20. I would take Hoddle in a heartbeat and have wanted him for a while- the problem as you know isn’t the next manager- it’s the owner. Our owner doesn’t get involved like yours but our M.D Mr Lee Charnely knows exactly the type of man Ashley wants and he will have to work within, how should I put it, certain constraints- I’m sick to the back teeth to be honest but Hoddle would be better than what we’ve had before- let’s see how he handles having to constantly sell your best players every year and still have the fans expect top 6. Its a very similar situation to Leeds’- managing unrealistic expectations but that’s what big passionate fanbases want and expect. we’re not a dillusional as some would have you believe but we have now crashed out of the f.a cup third round on four out of the last five occasions and even then when we did progress it was round 4 we went out. I could go on and on but repsect the position you find yourself in and I would take ours so am conscious of keeping a sense of perspective. Its hard to remain positive every year but you have to keep trying mate. all the best to all the lads on here for the new year. Our time will come. NUFC.


    • Is Hoddle a prospect then? Fantastic coach. Thanks for being such a great contributor Grem – the best of the rest (and better than a good few of our own). It’s much appreciated – keep ’em coming!


  21. Hoddle is a via option- not because I like him- but he ticks a lot of boxes for Ashley. He’s a Londoner of course, lol, he is familiar with Graham Carr our chief scout and would fill the head coach role that Ashley is looking for. He is a good coach basically and will keep his nose out of management issues. Expect either him or Steve Maclaren- another bloke who would get on with the coaching side of things quite well and wouldn’t ruffle too many feathers. I firmly believe one of these two will be appointed within the next week or so even though neither are the fans’ choice. I personally would like Hoddle- he knows the game and is a good coach- best England side for a long time under him in my opinion- just hope he doesn’t bring Eileen Drew with him this time. NUFC


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