When you’ve seen your club at the very top of the game, as thousands of Leeds United fans (of a certain age) have – then you’re bound to aspire to regain those dizzy heights again. That’s only natural; but what would be the true cost to our club, in terms of its essential character and tradition? The answer to that might be fairly unpalatable.
Everywhere you look in the Premier League, that rarefied sphere we yearn to inhabit, there are magicians, geniuses, world-class performers. That’s why it’s hyped as The Greatest Show On Earth. But the hype is just about the only thing that lives up to its billing as the biggest and the best. If hype alone could power a rocket, then the Premier League would be the first franchise on Mars.
We have to ask ourselves at Leeds, where we have our own pride and our own fiercely partisan sense of identity – how many of these geniuses and magicians would we actually wish to see in a white shirt? Would we really want a Cristiano Ronaldo, for instance? Which Leeds fan would genuinely be happy to hear that that particular Ego Had Landed at Elland Road? Not me, that I do know.
If the price of Elite membership is to have to support players like Ronaldo, Yaya Toure (the crybaby birthday boy), Wayne Rooney and so on and so forth, then I’m by no means sure I’d wish to pay it. Give me a team of grafters with their feet on the ground, any day of the week. And who, pray, would we have to coach and manage such “stars”? If I may answer my own question with a negative once more, I’m dead certain that one person I wouldn’t want is the so-called Special One, Jose Mourinho himself.
Mourinho’s not had the best of weeks, losing a two goal lead at home to Swansea City and then getting hammered at Manchester City. In between times, he’s seen fit to treat club doctor Eva Carneiro most shabbily, as I’ve bemoaned here. So it’s been a bad few days for Jose, and he’s deserved every agonising second of it.
Here is a man, after all, who first came into the English game like a breath of fresh air, capturing the imaginations of fans throughout the game, endearing himself to those who, like me, enjoyed seeing Alex Ferguson taken down a peg or several. But, after a while, his arrogance began to grate more than a little. His self-awarded tag of ‘The Special One‘ lost its early appeal and took on a more ironically mocking aspect – not that Jose’s colossal ego was even slightly dented by that. Now, Mourinho appears to have become a distorted caricature of himself, a man more preoccupied with living up to his own self-image than by any need or desire to win admirers or friends along the way. His verdict on the second part of this week’s Tale of Two Cities? The 0-3 reverse in Manchester was “a fake result”. Honestly, I ask you. Here’s a man who has squandered his early impact on English football.
At one time, Mourinho might have been my ultimate dream as Boss at Elland Road. Now he’s one of those nightmares I know I could never countenance for the Leeds United I know and love. He’s put himself into a category of Untouchables, people I wouldn’t want my Whites to go anywhere near with the longest of barge poles. He’s right in the middle of that company of undesirables, along with the Rooneys and the Ronaldos, the Fergusons and the Sterlings. They’re the Too Big For Their Boots Brigade and they have no place at the kind of club I’d wish to support.
It’s not that there haven’t been such undesirables in earlier eras – more that they seem so much thicker on the ground now than in days of yore. It’s the Premier League glitz and glamour, I suppose. This hollow arrogance, together with the sycophantic need on the media pack’s part to worship it, just sets my teeth on edge. Back in the day, I wouldn’t have wanted a George Best at Leeds, nor yet a Tommy Docherty. We mooted Maradona and we tried Cantona for size, but the former was just a Bill Fotherby pipe-dream and the latter didn’t really fit our club. We don’t really like massive egos at Elland Road – but show us a grounded grafter, and we’ll crawl over broken glass to follow him.
We’ve had our geniuses at Leeds, of course we have. But they’ve been a particular type of genius: John Charles, il Gigante Buono, Billy Bremner, side before self, Eddie the Last Waltz Gray, the incomparable Johnny Giles. And of course, the one and only, undisputed and undeniable Special One, Sir Don Revie. Modest geniuses, unassuming magicians. Special Ones in the Leeds United idiom. Give me a team and a manager like that to support, and I’d truly relish seeing my club back at the top again.
But, if modern day success means following the likes of Jose Mourinho or Cristiano Ronaldo – then I’d simply rather not bother, thanks all the same.