Look at the image above. It symbolises the commitment and passion of the great Leeds United sides of the past. Warriors all, if you cut one of them, they all bled – and as one they hunted down the offender and served up retribution. This applies to the Title-winning sides in my lifetime, and to any of the Revie Boys. You did not mess with those lads. If you wanted to play, they’d outplay you. If you wanted a fight – woe betide you. You’d be out-fought and then outplayed. You’d most likely be beaten either way. Surrender? It just wasn’t in their lexicon.
Back, reluctantly, to the present day – leaving the memories of those beloved heroes in White back in the past where they dominated and triumphed, making us all proud to be Leeds. The cold and stark reality of today is of a very different breed of player. Too many of the current squad – the ones who should be setting an example to yet another batch of richly-promising youngsters currently emerging – would look at that picture at the top and think to themselves – Keep Fighting? What for? What’s in it for me? Can’t I just slide out from this and do something easier? Why not have a weekend off “injured”??
Six players have declared themselves injured on the eve of tomorrow’s game at Charlton Athletic. Count them. SIX. That’s to stretch the credulity of the fans rather far, surely – if not the medical staff. Don’t forget – these are fans that revere the fighters we’ve had down the years. They won’t have much time for wimps.
Neither, it appears, do a couple of more recent United players in Messrs. Whelan and Matteo. Both are scathing in their criticism of any players who may have felt they can’t be bothered this weekend. When these men – men who have worn the shirt with pride – show their contempt and disgust, then why should the fans have any more patience, belief or faith? The fans have even more right to be disgusted – appalled – at such craven behaviour. Whatever is going on at the club, there is no excuse for desertion – and this situation stinks of precisely that.
I exempt the club’s young stars from this criticism. They have done all that might be expected of them this season, and more besides. They have been let down abysmally by those they should be able to regard as role models and mentors – just as we, the fans have been let down.
This, on the face of it, is rank betrayal of a stripe I’ve rarely if ever seen at Leeds United. Either that, or it’s a remarkable coincidence. The coincidence would be in the timing of all these supposed injuries, the origin of the players allegedly affected and the fact that the club is currently having a tough time. When the going got tough, certain alleged competitors seem to have waved the flag of surrender. That’s not the type of white flag we approve of at Elland Road.
If what is being suggested all over various media tonight is true – then certain players should never wear the Shirt again. Perhaps, on the evidence, they don’t wish to. Either way, if they’ve chosen to claim falsely that they’re injured and unavailable, then they should do themselves and the rest of us a favour – and ship out. That type of player – cowards and faint hearts – are not wanted at Leeds.
Never have been, never will be.