Leeds Kop Critics Can’t Complain at Chris Wood Reaction   –   by Rob Atkinson



Considering that last night’s draw against Fulham was settled so very late and so very spectacularly too, with a Chris Wood bicycle kick at the Kop End earning a point for Leeds United, some of the reaction today has been rather bizarre, to say the least. 

With many clubs, such a picture goal at the last gasp would be greeted with a relief bordering on ecstasy. Leeds fans, of course,  have to be a bit different. Their heroes were less than a minute from opening this season with three consecutive defeats, a shameful start unheard of for the last eighty years. Doom and gloom was on the menu, with nary a crumb of comfort. 

Then, the nominated scapegoat of the evening, a player in Chris Wood struggling for form and confidence, who had been taking some vicious stick throughout the ninety minutes, finally came good – and Leeds mercifully had their first point of the season. And yet today, the focus has not been exclusively on the brilliance and timeliness of Wood’s finish, but largely on his so-called cheek in letting the crowd know he’d not appreciated their particular brand of “support”.

This tendency to barrack players is not exclusively a Leeds United phenomenon, of course. But it’s long been a particular problem with the Leeds faithful, especially at Elland Road, where generation after generation of United players, as far back as Terry Yorath in my experience, have gone in fear and trembling of the abuse they will receive should they have an “off day”. Or, indeed, an off night, as Wood had undoubtedly experienced up until the third minute of stoppage time yesterday evening.

It’s a brand of “support” that has many an away fan visiting LS11 scratching their heads in bemusement. People beg leave to wonder how such wholesale and sustained carping and criticism is meant to encourage and motivate a player. But that’s just one side of the problem.

The other side comes when the player on the receiving end of the abuse actually manages to come through it all and, in the time-honoured style of a Roy of the Rovers, save his team at the eleventh hour. Should this player then presume to gesture to the crowd, as if to say “There you go – now shut it”, the shock and hurt of the fans, who had previously been venting their spleen, is something to behold. It’s as if they feel they have unfettered licence to hurl abuse, but should be completely immune from any response from their target. Weird. 

Chris Wood did react last night, relatively mildly in the circumstances, and it’s difficult for any rational onlooker to criticise him for it. Yes, he’d had a poor game. Yes, he’d missed chances. And certainly his work rate and willingness to chase and harry defenders compared poorly to that of his strike partner Marcus Antonsson. But the level of stick Wood took throughout the piece, in unison from a self-appointed jury of thousands, was unwarranted and arguably counter-productive. It would have taken a saint to have restrained himself from showing some kind of reaction in his moment of triumph. And, let’s face it, you don’t get saints in Leeds United shirts. 

That cupping of the ear towards the Kop, plainly intended to convey “You were saying…?” to the massed moaners and whingers behind the goal, has reaped a petulant reaction from many of those who’d been blithely handing out the stick. How dare he, was an abridged consensus. Surely players are there to take abuse without a flicker of emotion or reaction. But even footballers are only human. And it’s happened before, in a less restrained manner too. 

I can well remember, many moons ago, a certain Mark Aizlewood taking appalling stick throughout one game, which he then won with a late goal at that same Kop End. Aizlewood did not content himself with a mild cupped ear. He faced the Gelderd hordes eyeball to eyeball and coldly fired a V-sign at his tormentors. Now that is probably going too far, and Aizlewood never played for United again. But you can understand the frustration of a pro, outnumbered and vilified by thousands of amateurs who feel that the admission money they’ve paid affords them the right to scream anything they like at their representatives on the park. 

Next to Aizlewood’s two-fingered revolt, Wood’s gesture last night was mild indeed. But the reaction, in these days of social media, has been even more hysterical than when Aizlewood flicked his V-sign so long ago. And it’s a shame because, after all, it was a very special and spectacular goal, one that saved us from another defeat, the type of goal too that could well lead to the boost in confidence a player like Wood so sorely needs. And what contribution to such a return of confidence would the Gelderd End Abuse Society have made? I’ll tell you. None at all. 

Supporters are there to support, but it’s ok to express displeasure and disapproval too, of course it is. Match tickets are expensive, and the poor form of your favourites is galling to behold. But there’s a line, and Leeds fans do tend to cross it distressingly often. It’s frequently said that a crowd like Leeds getting behind their team is worth a goal start, and I’ve seen this proved often enough. But, in the opposite mood, that same crowd can destroy a player and chase them through the Elland Road exit door. I’ve see that, too – and it’s not what I’d call support.

Something else frequently said is that it takes a certain strength of character to play for a club and a crowd like Leeds United. Some very good players have failed to make it at Elland Road, and there’s been this suspicion that they’ve lacked the necessary “bottle”. There’s probably something in that, and maybe the club’s woes in the last decade or so are grounded in the bottler/fighter ratio being skewed unfortunately away from the fighter type. In other words, we’ve had too many talented players who have just lacked the character to succeed at a club like Leeds with the kind of truculent, impatient crowd we have.

Chris Wood had had a nightmare last night, he could hardly put a foot or a head right all evening long. But he came through, ignored the abuse manfully, kept trying and getting in there where it hurts – and he ended up getting his just reward. That, to my mind, is the type of character we need – and maybe the crowd will come around at length to that point of view. In the meantime, Wood’s gesture to the Kop last night said that he is not weak enough to be destroyed by the abuse from the stands, that the respect of his fellow pros will see him through. It was a reaction I applaud every bit as much as I applauded his goal, and I think it speaks volumes for the guts and character of our number nine.

It’s the kind of attitude, let’s face it, that we’re going to need plenty of in the coming months. So perhaps the Kop critics will manage to be a bit less precious and indeed a lot less hypocritical from now on, should they chance to have some of their constant, destructive abuse thrown back in their faces every now and then as a tough season progresses. Or perhaps they’ll even decide to see the light, and offer a bit more encouragement and support instead. 

Yes, perhaps indeed. But, knowing that vociferous section of our support as I do, I won’t be holding my breath. 

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30 responses to “Leeds Kop Critics Can’t Complain at Chris Wood Reaction   –   by Rob Atkinson

  1. Peter Hill

    Absolutely agree, 100%! The ridiculous abuse handed out by the Leeds fans is, I’m afraid, typical of us. As a Kop season ticket holder, you hear the opinions of the self appointed critics, every one of whom think a player is rubbish, and everyone with a different player in mind. I detest the boo boys, I have never booed my team…… the owner or manager, yes! As for these softies who are squealing like a bunch of girls because Wood cupped his hand behind his ear! Personally, I would be devastated if I was told that I can hand it out, but not take it in return, but that is the situation with these clowns.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. patrick hogan

    Totally agree. Wood is well equipped to play at this level: unfortunately too often on his own up front, and hampered by injury last season, which no doubt affected his confidence. And of course a striker thrives on confidence (he is NZ captain after all, so others must believe in him). I hope this gives him some of the self type – because with the fickle frenzied fanatics on his back at every mistake, he’s going to need it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. RaynerBarker

    These people earn many times the average salary each week and if they play crap – and Wood has been dreadful since the start of the season – paying punters have every right to express their displeasure. He responded in the right way for me – showing defiance and determination to prove people wrong. Leeds fans are notorious for canning their own team – guilty m’lud, I was on the Kop when Aizlewood flicked the Vs – but there can be few clubs of equivalent size anywhere in the world at which the quality of player has been so deplorably poor over so much of its history.

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  4. Paul Willis

    100% agree. At Wembley when Wilko got the c**p from the Boo boys. The last manager to win us the league.

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  5. Good article. I have had my share of criticism over the many years, and yes I’ve been pretty frustrated. However, I have never insulted, or ridiculed someone who, no matter how you cut it is part of the family. Take Byram, Cook and now Taylor, these guys play their hearts out for this club, but they want success and the best for their families and if they are good enough to be offered a better and more secure career with an increase in salary, who are we to slag them off. It’s no more than what you or anybody else would do. Chris is a decent guy, he may not be everybodies cup of tea, yeah, there are plenty of forwards who could do a better job, BUT hes in the family, he’s one of us and slagging off and showing all this contempt is wrong. It does him no good, it does the club no good, it does you and I no good. If you tell someone long enough they are useless, then the they may as well BE useless, it won’t harm them anymore. When was the last time you heard an ex Leeds player really slag off and insult the club?
    These are frustrating times, annoying times and yes many of us are pretty angy but don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Every one of our squad are professional footballers, they have done the business, started at the bottom, and NOT got where they are because daddy is some big shot or they went to private school. Respect costs nothing. We are better than this.
    ,

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  6. Its not hard to see why Leeds have such poor home form when they’re having to play in front of a baying mob of bully boys. When are the booing morons going to realise that they are the problem? Opposition teams must love playing at Elland Road, because half the Leeds fans are doing their job for them.

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  7. As a leeds fan we expect anyone who pulls on the famous white shirt to give a 100 percent effort, you dont have to be the worlds best player but we do expect to put the side before yourself….Hughes was the perfect example of this and this is the reason why he was so popular at Elland road. Chris wood this season has looked off the pace hes slow to react and does not commit his self fully in 50 fifty challenges he missed 2 sitters last night the header he somehow managed to head it into the ground from a few yards out rather than into the net
    He deserved the bit of stick he got and last nights response to it said it all! Its a shame Wilko is not still in charge as he would of subbed him straight away like he did with Aizlewood.

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    • I beg to differ. There’s a world of difference between the reactions of Wood and Aizlewood, and I suspect that Wilko would have had no problem with our No. 9 and his gesture last night.

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  8. mrbigwheels

    Whatever Wood’s evening performance and I’m not a great fan of him… it was a truely inspired goal and should be applauded. If the support on match day don’t weld together, we will stand still. I agree with your suggested content and hope the kop with others stop trying to press the self destruct button… it gets us nowhere.

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  9. ThinLizzyWhite

    I have said before on other forums that where our fans should provide a home advantage over recent years the atmosphere has created such stress that the fans have unwittingly become the 12th player for the opposition.
    This is why home form is poor in my opinion … it’s just too intimidating for our team and opposition players have hinted at this themselves.
    If our home support were like our away support teams would be warey of stepping out of the tunnel. Instead, it’s the other way round. Our supporters need to realise the negative impact we have on our team. It’s not only Cellino’s antics that make us a laughing stock.
    Sometimes it appears that the only reason some supporters turn out is to destroy morale. After a while … as is evident … it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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  10. Well said Rob, support the players, get behind them for the full game, don’t try and destroy their morale! I feel it’s the same when they shout abuse at the referee, it’s not going to make him more favourable towards us over 50:50 decisions. MOT

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  11. Chris Wood is the same type of striker as Lee Chapman was and desperately needs some proper service or he tends to look ungainly and come under criticism, just like Chapman did when he didn’t score in games, Goals are now a lot rare for Leeds, than they were in Chapmans time and on average, the entire Leeds team is probably getting two or three goal scoring chances or shots on target, per game, which is terrible.
    No one can compare Woods “nothing” gesture to Aizlewoods V sign, which gets more shocking every time you watch it Youtube. Even Strachan looked very embarrassed by the V sign.
    Wilko was only playing Aizlewood at that time, because there was no one else and Wilko had sussed him out months earlier.
    Strachan and Vinnie Jones, both reveal in their autobiographies, that there was a clique of bad influences in the Elland Road dressing room at that time and Aizlewood and Sheridan were obviously two of them and were quickly shown exit door.
    That clique of bad influences is a bit like it was at Leeds last season, really.

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  12. As far as I can see it’s the criticality of the supporters that is a large part of what it is to ‘be Leeds’. If that critical filter allows those with the necessary character to demonstrate it, as Wood did with his rebuke, then so be it. I don’t want to support a bunch of prima donna’s, albeit talented ones, such as Spurs, bottling it season after season. I suspect the Leeds fans will grudgingly get over Wood’s cupped ear, and secretly admire it, providing he continues to show the requisite character.

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  13. I can understand Woods reaction and he is not the only one to have used the same gesture, it has been seen on numerous occasions by a player both to his own support or the opposition. I didn’t see it as a big deal he was just venting his frustrations. Woods may have got some stick last night but it sounds like the writer is inferring that it was just from the Kop there were three other areas in the ground that were well populated including the south stand and I am sure he was getting as much stick from them if not more. Overall though I thought the atmosphere last night was excellent from all parts and for the first time in a while not going quiet for long even after Fulham scored here’s hoping we can keep that up in the coming weeks. I do believe that once the players get to know each other’s game better I think if we keep two up front we will see the best of Chris Wood I don’t think it suits him as a a lone striker. Last of all I have never understood any supporter booing either a player or the team particularly while the game is in motion, one in particular was Wooton after his own goal at Watford, even after a mistake like that he is still on the pitch playing for Leeds United and should get encouragement not having is already fragile confidence smashed to pieces it doesn’t help or rye team.

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    • Well I specified the Kop because that was where this flashpoint occurred which was the main point of the article.

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      • I realise that it was at the Kop end and that was the basis of your post but comments like “Chris Woods made the Kop look daft last night ” and not “Chris Woods made his critics look daft last night” doesn’t help.

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      • I’ve been a proud Kopite for over 40 years, I’ve witnessed some glorious celebrations and some fantastic support from that North end of the ground. But last night they did themselves no credit and I stand by what I said – Wood had the last laugh and made them look daft.

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  14. With all due respect I have been standing on the Kop since the late 60s but he certainly hasn’t made me look daft by being our main striker and scoring one goal. Yes there were supporters on the Kop giving him some stick that is football and always has been but he wasn’t the only one getting stick on Tuesday, better players than him have had to take it over the years, but you get that at every football ground in the country. It was great to see him score a goal and at that time in the match but he still has a bit to go before he can say he has made the “Kop” look daft. As I said earlier I don’t boo the team or individual players I think it is counter productive but I like most football supporters will criticise players who we think are not playing up to the standard we would expect. one goal from God knows how many chances I am afraid does not get him off the hook though I hope it has give him the confidence to give us more of the same.

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    • Well it’s clearly nettled you, Aneeb, but my point stands. I doubt that Wood will lose much sleep over it, as I said he has the respect and support of fellow pros and he will consider that he’s shut the doubters up very nicely thanks.

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  15. Ropey Wyla

    As always, Rob the blog tells it how it is. If you give it, don’t be surprised if you get it back. Wood deserves our backing as do all our players.

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  16. A scrambled one all draw and all the sanctimonious Leeds fans appear in the blink of an eye to defend the indefensible. Let me start by saying I am pleased for Chris Wood,great goal and timely too but the reaction was disgraceful. I don’t buy this “struggling for form” hokum either. A full pre season training behind him and he trots round in a dream world most of the time( qpr being the worst example). The problem with Wood is not just his lack of pace and mobility,he actually looks like he’s just got out of bed. One goal in every ten chances isn’t a good ratio either. People who pay their money and take the trouble to turn up for games are perfectly entitled to complain. This isn’t exclusive to Leeds either,look at the sick that full back at Liverpool gets,or lescott at villa etc. If Wood had anything about him he would have celebrated his goal with dignity. After all he’s taking home 20k a week.

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  17. Although I don’t rate Wood I have never jeered him or any other Leeds player,I came close to breaking my duck with Crainey and Ricketts though. I also think some of the comparisons between Wood and Viduka,also Wood and Chapman are similar to Woods efforts on goal. Wide of the mark.

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    • I happen to think that, given an injury-free run and some decent service, Wood will get his share this season. But, even in that event, I doubt many words will be eaten.

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      • No-one wants Wood to score hatfuls more than me but I somehow can’t see it or indeed see any doubters eating their words.lets see what Saturday brings. And we need a new keeper too,Hammersfan must be bad laughing at the thought of Robert Green playing for Leeds,bless him.

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      • Not heard a peep from him in ages.

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  18. David Dean

    Late comment due to holiday. Agree 100% as usual. Chris Wood has been so poor that I understand the feeling of the crowd and their frustrations but this adds fuel to Cellino’s ‘madness tank’ – best to keep quiet or a few moans and groans. Boo them off the pitch if you want but during the match support or groan but that is the limit. I remember the disgraceful treatment Clough’s Billy Bremner, John McGovern, received at Elland Road – it was embarrassing. He went on to lift 2 European Cups and we became so bad after 1975 I stopped going – when you were a rookie fan. I came back in the 90s and I’m back again now for my third stint. I am a nurturing fan. Returned in the 90s to baptise my son and then in 2010 to baptise my grandsons. MOT and keep the faith – we will return.

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