Although you almost certainly don’t know it, things have been rather rocky between you and me for a little while now. And it’s only now, as we hit this crisis, that I’m writing to you, even though you most likely won’t read this. But, although I’ve had occasion to make my feelings known to a good few thousand third parties, it seems that this juncture, when things are bad and there is tension on both sides, is the right time to address you more directly. Because it concerns something you suddenly seem to care about; something called respect.
The respect I’m talking about is regarded as a two-way street hereabouts – in the UK, that is, and more especially in Yorkshire. We talk here about “mutual respect” as creating a workable relationship between two parties, whereby much can be achieved. Your idea of respect, Massimo, appears to differ somewhat from that local model. It seems to have one of its carriageways missing – it looks to be a one-way process as far as you’re concerned: from us to you. You say that we, the Leeds United support, should show you respect; in fact, you demand that we should.
That’s a big problem for us, Massimo. We regard respect as something to be earned – not demanded. You once had some sage advice to give about matters of the heart and soul, in the context of football support – “You can buy a bitch for a night,” you confided, “but you can’t buy the love, my friend.” That seems so long ago now, back in your brief honeymoon period, such as it was. Many of us nodded and agreed with you. You were saying you’d just have to earn our love, and most of us liked the sound of that.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, Massimo. And little by little, bit by bit, that groundswell of support you had at first has gradually eroded away. We were quite frankly ready to adore anyone who could restore to our beloved club its pride and passion. But instead of the things we were promised – the repurchase of our spiritual home, for instance – there have been infidelities, broken vows, irrational actions. Withal, there has been a lack of respect from you to us – and the name of Leeds United made a laughing stock into the bargain.
People have come into the club, they’ve appeared to do well, gaining popularity – and then they have been unaccountably forced out. We, the fans, for whom it matters most of all, have been left in the dark and patronised through wildly varying statements from yourself or through club mouthpieces who appear to be towing a party line (take a bow, Mr. Lorimer). And yet, despite all of this, you see nothing wrong with presuming to demand our respect. It’s just not the way things are done here, Massimo. Not when so little by way of consideration and respect is coming our way.
Things have been worse lately. Just when we were thinking we might be finding a bit of stability, a respected CEO is gone, then yet another head coach and, hard on the heels of that, still another Football League ban for yourself. You’ll appeal it, but we all know there are more legal pitfalls in the offing. And all the time, this great club is losing more of its hard-earned respect and credibility. It’s been like some bizarre circus, the very antithesis of the utterly professional football club some of us were lucky enough to grow up loving, with fierce pride and a near siege-complex defiance running through the whole thing like a seam of gold.
The thing is, we just don’t know where we are with you, or what you’re going to say or do next. Things have undeniably gone best when you’ve kept your head down and let people get on with their jobs. Daring staff have even remarked on this. But you don’t seem able to maintain such a level of discretion. Every now and again, you break cover and say or do something crazy. And the club then suffers and we, the fans, cringe with humiliation. And yet you still see fit to demand our respect.
One minute, you say you are ready to sell the club (having previously said you wouldn’t be tempted to sell for a billion). Then you’re selling to Leeds Fans United and wondering out loud why on earth you’d dream of selling to anyone else. And then you pull out of that, calling the fans’ group kids in a sweetshop. And now, today, as you bizarrely demand respect – you hint once more that maybe the fans can have the club. How can we even begin to understand all this to-ing and fro-ing….. much less respect it?
When you talk about respect, Massimo, you should look at the record of Leslie Silver OBE, a man who was at the top of Leeds United during a successful period a quarter of a century ago. He guided the club from the doldrums to the very top in his modest, unassuming way. He brought in football people and had the wisdom to listen to and support them. He earned our respect and that of his staff and peers, and he is much-missed today.
That’s how it’s done in these parts, Massimo my friend. You’ll get nowhere with Leeds fans, blowing your own trumpet about achievements that look silly beside those of the giants who went before you. Demanding respect cuts no ice with the guys and girls in the stands at Elland Road. They’ve been waiting for you to earn respect – and the noise you heard at the Blackburn game, and will hear again if you break yet another promise and venture back to a match once more, that’s a raucous signal that you’ve failed. You can demand, complain, bluster. It won’t get you anywhere in Leeds.
It’s best to keep quiet now, Massimo, until you can leave with some dignity. Anything else will be seen as digging yourself a bit deeper into that hole you’re in. It’s time now to take a look at yourself, at what’s been achieved at this club in the past and how – and acknowledge that your volatile, hire-and-fire approach hasn’t worked. If respect really is so important to you that you’ve made the fundamental mistake of actually demanding it – in Yorkshire, for crying out loud! – then you need to understand that there is only one way now of finally achieving that respect.
Go with good grace and minimum fuss, Massimo. Go – and try to leave a great club in good hands. Give us the chance to regain some of the face and reputation we’ve lost on your watch. Get out while the going is good, and while something can still be salvaged from this season. No more demanding, just acceptance and a bit of humility at last.
That’s what most of us are now asking of you. Do that simple thing, Massimo – and you’ll have belatedly earned our respect. For whatever that’s actually worth to you. But please – just think about it, OK? It’s for the best, believe me.
Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything