Leeds Disunited: Whites Support Base Divided Against Itself   –   by Rob Atkinson

Leeds Fans

Leeds fans – United? Not these days…

I remember clearly the days in the last century when the only real signs of division among Leeds United fans came during the occasional bouts of mock rivalry on the Gelderd End. It was light-hearted stuff, back then; a message to the rest of football that, such was the unity and togetherness of the White Army – even during the bleak second division eighties – we had to invent stuff to disagree about. Thus it was that half of the tightly-packed Kop would bellow “Rangers!” to a counterpoint of “Celtic!” from the other half.

The sectarian viciousness of the real thing north of the border was missing; it was just a bit of fun – usually when the lads on the park were doing quite well. By way of variety, when the mood was even more ebullient, Rangers and Celtic would be cheerfully abandoned for the rival claims of soap characters Amy Turtle and Albert Tatlock. They were crazy, happy, terraced and crush barrier days, bouncing around on your own favourite “spec” behind the goal, baying for victory but happily aware that, if you lost, you’d only wasted thirty bob or so.

Even when there was genuine discontent – during the “Adamson Out” era for instance, or in the wake of Eddie Gray‘s first sacking – the fans tended to be united in their disapproval. We won together and lost together, we celebrated or complained together. We marched on together, as our very own anthem had it. From the modern day standpoint, even the bleakest of times back then seem like heady days indeed. There was less to moan about in those days, maybe – and, again, the very cheapness of the matchday experience perhaps made it less likely that even the most vociferous of supporters would get too het up about matters Leeds. And there wasn’t such widespread and instantaneous communication then; before the Internet, with its Twitter and Facebook and its football message boards; before mobile phones, before even fanzines – before any of these, the main focus of any discontent was the supporters’ club bar or various pubs on matchdays, home or away. Nowadays, the burning issues flare up all that much more quickly and dramatically for the very ease and global reach of communication. If there’s a grievance, everybody knows – and, naturally, we all have an opinion.

So in this modern era, we pay through the nose for the dubious pleasure of seeing our club trying and failing to recover from the disaster that befell it at the dawn of the 21st century. With massively higher prices have come increased levels of discontent; with journeyman footballers “earning” in a week what we mere mortals might expect to gross in a year, has come bitter disillusionment. In that environment, issues that may have provoked only mild levels of discord in the post-match pub debate (pre-social media), now become divisive in the extreme on a pan-global scale. Positions are taken and defended, the loudest voices gather supporters about them and pitched battles are fought between opposing camps on the virtual battlefields of the World Wide Web. What was once, famously, a fiercely united band of supporters has become riven and polarised, pro-this and anti-that, rather than simply Leeds. The one-time rallying call of “We’re all Leeds, aren’t we?” has become more of a plaintive plea, an attempt to pour soothing oil on troubled waters. We might all be Leeds – but sadly we’re reduced to warring factions and there is little or no unity of purpose.

Positions have become so entrenched over the course of this last fifteen years or so – the era of Bates, GFH and Cellino – that unity, far from being something we can assume as part of the Leeds-supporting condition, has become an unattainable pipe-dream. The damage being wrought by that very lack of accord is surely visible to all who love the club, whatever side of the current divide they might occupy. Regardless of the pros and cons of the current ownership, and whether the net effect of that ownership is positive or negative, it will be hard beyond belief to restore our club to former glories whilever this deep schism in the ranks of the support persists.

For this reason, I’m taking a day or so off from airing my views on the current situation at the top of the club. Anyone who reads this blog is aware of those views anyway, and it’s struck me lately that, just now, the manifest symptoms of supporter disharmony coming out of whatever ails the club might well be doing more damage than whatever the root cause of that sickness might be.

What seems abundantly clear to me is that the current owner, whether he is A Good Thing or A Bad Thing as football club owners go, is highly unlikely to be the unifying force that is so sorely needed right now. That’s not me having a go, it’s what I believe to be a statement of fact, one that even the most passionate pro-Cellino advocate would find hard to dispute. Things have gone too far now for a spontaneous recovery. If we want a unified support – and, as far as such a thing is possible, that’s something we surely should want – then we have to acknowledge that someone is needed at the head of the club behind whom the vast majority of fans can unite. Failing that, and if things carry on as they are, then the support is bound to remain divided, to the detriment of all.

I’ve certainly never known Leeds United supporters to be so badly split, so rabidly at each others’ throats, as they have been over much of the time since the club’s precipitous fall from grace. It’s been a painful spectacle – and I’ve probably sinned as much as most in defence of my own strongly-held views from time to time in the past three years. But it’s now becoming an issue in itself, independent of the vexed question of who owns the club for good or ill. This hurtful division is an issue that needs urgently to be addressed, or we’re going to lose something that used to be a byword among football fans everywhere. We’ll lose the unity and purpose of Leeds United fans and, once that’s gone, it will be very, very hard to rediscover.

The battle lines are currently drawn, Leeds fan against Leeds fan, all over the internet. Let them be erased. Leeds fans are banning Leeds fans from discussion groups, simply for holding the “wrong” opinion. Let debate be free and unfettered. How much longer before we see Leeds-on-Leeds fighting in the stands, Millwall style? What begins on the Internet can so easily spill over into real life. Let’s not have that happen. We should be talking about what’s best for the club, and I believe that means a conversation about who, if anyone, can heal these rifts and see us United once more. We’re all Leeds, aren’t we?

Let’s start to act like it.

17 responses to “Leeds Disunited: Whites Support Base Divided Against Itself   –   by Rob Atkinson

  1. Pingback: Leeds Disunited: Whites Support Base Divided Against Itself   –   by Rob Atkinson – sportsdroid

  2. Karl Major

    Amen to that, but unlikely under the present regime, Parkin gets more attractive by the day, at least he is a genuine fan, one of us.


  3. Couldn’t agree more. What the club needs is a sustained spell of stability off the pitch to bring some success on it. Only this will bring unity back to lufc.


  4. The only problem I have rob is that certain individuals start a campaign , pay for some advertising etc and then expect everyone else to jump on the bandwagon , and if you don’t your not a true fan or you don’t have an grey matter between your ears….
    Leeds fans haven’t changed much in the 45yrs I’ve been supporting Leeds , quite often they love to hate and even when we’ve been at the very top certain sections are never happy and too quick to criticise… I will never forget the year after we last won the league , Rangers in the champions league , large numbers sat behind me and my mate slagin Gary mac off with a lot of venom just because we were going out and his family were rangers fans , what I’m trying to say rob is there are always sections of our support that I will always disagree with and to be honest loath.. I won’t let a few posters and chants push me into jumping on their bandwagon , we are Leeds MOT


    • I think it’s a question of degree at the moment especially, but also over the past few years. I’ve asked myself the question: will the support reunite under current circumstances. My honest answer is: no – not unless the leopard changes his spots. To regain unity will require change, and someone (or some group) with LUFC running through them like a stick of rock, and enough money to realise the dream.


      • Mr orange

        Yes I agree , but I still maintain that cellino hasn’t really had a chance to get his teeth into this club yet , football league making things as difficult as possible while other clubs are said to be run by fit and proper owners ,, owners that are more bent than Robert maxwell in his hay day..
        This summer is the test for cellino and if he fails the test then fair play , he has to go , but in the mean time what else can we do but see this season out and see what happens then ?


  5. Jack Byrne

    who would want to buy leeds with the way a small amount of people
    keep doing these stunts.they will look elsewhere ,eg sheff utd


    • Scally Lad

      True enough, sad to say. We could take a lesson from (gag) the Wendies. They’re heading for the playoffs and maybe promotion. The universe is upside down.


  6. David Dean

    I fully agree with your excellent article, Rob, but I don’t believe Cellino has anything to offer us. I have had enough – I have been clutching at straws since the start of the post Bates era. I was thrilled when GFH got rid of Bates. I was ecstatic when Cellino bought the club and ever since then I have clutched at straws, hoping against hope and giving the incumbent regime the benefit of the doubt. For most of that time something interesting has always been happening whether it be a new manager, a new signing, threat of relegation, or outside chance of the playoffs. Also there has usually been something worth watching on the field – be it the emergence or progress of the young players coming into the team or to see what difference the new manager makes. I think the season is well and truly over now – no chance of the playoffs or relegation so not much to be excited about. I have decided that I have clutched the final straw. I have three season tickets in the family stand – they will not be used again unless something exciting happens like the owner being banned. I am not voting with my feet just making better use of my time. I have loved the club since I went in the boys pen in 1961 but one or two shots on target per game and the odd 45 minutes of good play is not enough to keep me interested anymore and just not worth the effort of going. I would rather be at home listening to Popey, Noel and Katherine – it is more enjoyable. My fear for the future is that the crowds will dwindle and our young players will be sold in the summer. I don’t want to see that and I certainly don’t want to be any part of the bitterness that you quite rightly say is brewing amongst the fans of this great club. MOT in spirit until things change for the better.


  7. David Rowley

    Rob, perhaps to further illustrate the point, my 12 year old lad and 15 year old daughter now much prefer to travel away than come to ER. (we travel up from Nottingham)
    We all know that the atmosphere is often more vociferous and they, like us all I think, love the look on the faces of the locals, as they look on with “admiration” and envy at the sheer numbers, noise and passion. For me, this is what defines us as Leeds fans, united in the face of adversity, hatred, corruption or anything else they can throw at us. Sadly this is no longer evident at home and in the 12 years or so I have been bringing the kids, ER has become a place that can sometimes sap energy and excitement, rather than a place that exudes it. This is the place that I fell in love with decades ago and they ( my kids) did more recently. We have to unite the support once again and I for one agree with your stance. We
    need to put aside or at least manage our differences or risk irreparable damage and more importantly, the loss of our very identity, as without question, the best supporters in the land.


  8. Sadly, with the permanent off-the-pitch goings-on, during the Bates and Cellino years, the football business on the pitch, has always been secondary, which is absolutely crazy and totally wrong.
    They have behaved like out-of-touch politicians, who make costly, undemocratic decisions, that make everybody else suffer, namely the long-suffering Leeds fans.
    Only at Leeds, could the season be stop-starting or on hold, yet again, just like the season has ended and the football club has closed down.
    Every team at the bottom of the Championship, have all grown a pair of balls and have started to win games, but this stagnantly dead Leeds team, don’t seem to be interested in winning games any more, but surely we can’t rely on drawing every game to stay up ?. Or do we only now need to reach 40 points to be safe ?.
    The “bleak second division eighties” as you describe them, were in my view, ten times better and more exciting, than these current, horrible days of NOTHING, from a bottling bunch of so-called players, who dare to call themselves Leeds players.
    At least in those “bleak second division eighties” days, Leeds players gave their all and we hammered teams at Elland Road and were all united on the Kop, Lowfields, South Stand an half empty West Stand.


  9. patrick hogan

    Much as I respect your opinion Rob I’m not sure things are as bleak as that. Years of under performance and lack of investment haven’t helped. But cast your mind back a few months only to how positive the fans were sounding when we thought we had a professional, Adam Pearson, in control. It didn’t take much to engender hope and unify: and nor should it again.


  10. Once again very well written Rob and absolutely bang on


  11. nigel mchugh

    Rob a great blog, this is exactly what i was saying the other day when i responded to one of your blogs when you told me to get back in the knife draw.(Marching on Together)
    My point was that every detrimental issue we have faced in adversity for the last 20 years we have managed to keep orderly unity as fans, yes we have had times when some people have mis-behaved and diminished the respect of the Great Leeds United following but in general we have kept unity and respect in our own ranks.
    My concern of late has being the division and ill feeling in the terraces between the fans, it is so disappointing to read that a fellow life long Leeds fan whose children prefer away day games – this certainly should not be the case. As adults and as fans we control one entity surrouding the club and that is “Marching on Together”
    Yes, as know you at present i am still pro cellino due to the very fact that he has stumped some of his earned cash into the club and is entitled to having a major sway on things. When he came onto the club we were only weeks away again from possible administration and no doubt major turmoil, I am not stating that every move he makes is correct or totally right for the club, he has and does make mistakes. He does need direction and as stated by another fan it was a mighty shame that Adam Pearson left for his own personal ambitions.
    Maybe his developing relationship with Parkin is promising, i think Cellino needs help and support not more hate campaigns and rubbishing. He has progressively moved the club forward finanicially, some people say for his own benefit, but tell me a businessman that does not want to make money.
    Yes we pay good money to watch games and are entitled to a voice so lets communicate in the correct manner and try to find a process to communicate with Cellino, he is passionate and does care about the club.
    What he is pushing for now regarding Tv coverage is correct, David Harvey and the FL have intently bullied Leeds this season regarding the days we play. All this affecting the Fans and the club finanicially, when we down and out every other club voted for us to be punished and take a major points reduction so maybe this may lead to a lesson learned – as fans lets change our focus and give the guy some major support towards his intentions.One thing for sure there is many owners and directors of football clubs interested in this headline story!!!!!!
    Let us have some good old Saturday football back at Elland Road and let us invite the man back to watch his club as well as ours.

    Marching On Together.


    • I think we agree about the fact that such division is tragic and counter-productive. My problem is that I feel it won’t go away under Cellino, as he is divisive by his very nature. A unifying candidate(s) would hopefully sort things. I’d like to see Parkin and some other minted fans, with the likes of Gray, Hunter etc on the board as associate members overseeing the football side. But, whatever form an alternative setup takes, change is surely needed.


  12. We live in a society of minorities, so we should not be surprised if a minority of our fans feel they do not have to consider the views of the rest of us in proposing a course of action. My objection to their undemocratic ways even exceeds my concern about the uncertain status of our majority owner. In time the latter question will be settled one way or another; but objecting minorities are now a feature of the our social and political landscape – and they tend to get their often destructive way and, in respect of LUFC, I foresee only a bleak outcome if they do not desist.


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