It gives me no pleasure to write an article under a title like that. In fact, it causes me immense pain. Loyalty is the raison d’être of the fanatical football supporter. It’s a byword for anyone who loves “their” club. It ranks right up there with passion and pride in the lexicon of the devoted follower – and that applies to followers of Leeds United far more than most.
Right now, the way the club is being run is a sick joke. The old maxim of “no one man is bigger than the club” has been torn up and thrown onto the fire by an egomaniac of an owner in Massimo Cellino, who clearly regards himself as the living embodiment of a famous old football club. He’s wrong, of course – but sadly for those of us who see that, he doesn’t recognise a world in which he can be wrong. As far as the Italian fraudster is concerned, he is the answer, whatever the question might happen to be.
That word loyalty resonates with fans, and people in general, no matter how hard times could possibly get. It’s a quality deemed to be of the first importance, especially at the very worst of times. This applies throughout most of life; stick together, guys, and we’ll get through this. But, in modern football, loyalty has been bent out of shape into a slavish obligation to turn up and support even the rottenest of regimes. And, right now – at a time when we the fans are palpably being made mugs of – those who devotedly roll up at the turnstiles, to cheer on their demoralised heroes, can only be classified as mugs. Helpless mugs who see no alternative to their lifelong habit of watching the Whites. Loyal mugs who justify the owner’s stubborn determination to stay in control, football pundits and rulers notwithstanding.
The crowd tonight, or the more vocal part of it anyway, attempted to qualify their loyalty with repeated chants of “Massimo, time to go”. But they had to be there in the first place to join in with those chants. And they had to have parted with their hard-earned cash to be there, meaning that they’re propping up a regime that they’re now loudly opposed to.
Make no mistake, the Elland Road crowd have correctly identified the villain of the piece. They’re not daft mugs – just misguided for being there at all. They know, those intuitive mugs, that Cellino is the problem. I’d hazard that the players know too – they’re certainly all too well aware from recent experience that no one “Head Coach” is going to be there long enough to make a real difference. Those players know that they’re actually playing not for any football man, but for a mad despot who will keep chopping and changing, sticking his unqualified nose in, reducing a great club to the status of a music hall slapstick routine. You can see it in, their headless chicken, panicky performances, especially under the eyes of those massed loyal, frustrated mugs in the stands. Is it any wonder that what Cellino promised would be a “beautiful season” is swiftly degenerating into ugly farce?
The time is now for the fans to organise, so far as such a thing is possible, and resolve as a body to be mugs no longer. Attendances at home and away must be made to suffer, in the hope of hitting any regime where it really hurts – in the pocket. The Cellino era needs to have the life choked out of it, if not by the League’s seemingly toothless “fit and proper” test, then by loyal, devoted people who love Leeds United – but are determined to be mugs no longer.
We have decent players for this league. We have a manager in Steve Evans who has produced winning football at his previous clubs, in a manner undreamed of by his predecessors. The problem is not in the dugout and, despite appearances, it is not on the pitch. The problem is right at the top, where the rot set in when Cellino moved in – and any semblance of sanity or stability moved out. That rot will seep down throughout the club unless it’s checked. Eventually, the Leeds United we all love might very well rot to the core, and cease to exist in any form we might recognise or wish to see.
The Elland Road crowd has taken a big step tonight towards assuring Massimo Cellino that he’s not wanted at Leeds. Now those loyal supporters must show a more painful kind of loyalty, by doing the unthinkable and staying away – withdrawing their vocal and financial support of this decaying club. They must stand up to be counted and make the rest of football sit up and take notice. They must stop being taken for mugs and they should stop acting like mugs.
Because, deep down – whatever Cellino might smugly think – Leeds United fans are definitely NOT mugs – it just currently seems that way. That’s what we have to demonstrate, and it has to start now.
And, if not now – after the rotten mess we’ve seen tonight – then… when?