Leeds United‘s season is over, many will feel prematurely. The chance that was there was untaken, the nettle ungrasped. United have sadly, in colloquial parlance, bottled it.
The reasons for this will be gone into often and deeply enough over the next few weeks or so. The nature of the game, and of football pundits and supporters, demands a post mortem to follow such deep disappointment. Heads will be scratched, brows will be furrowed. Arguments will run hot and cold. So mote it be. This is the aftermath of failure, and it’s a necessary though painful ritual.
At the end of all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, though, the reasons for failure will be seen as stark and simple. Leeds seized defeat from the jaws of victory, plummeting from a handy position with a disastrous late run of poor displays and awful results. The seeds of failure were sown in January, when manager Garry Monk‘s prescription for consolidation of a play-off berth (with an outside chance of gate-crashing the automatic promotion party) was bizarrely rejected by men in suits who thought they knew better. What a bitter harvest we reaped from that insensate folly.
It must not happen again. The manager must be listened to and heeded – if he’s going to have to accept that the buck ultimately stops with him, then he deserves the tools to do the job. Monk asked for reinforcements and was betrayed, there’s really no other word for it. That harsh lesson must be learned, because it’s going to be even harder to get out of this league next time around.
Leeds United is a huge football club, a true institution of the game. Yet they have been taught the ABC of ‘Acting like a Big Club’ by comparative minnows in the shape of Reading, Huddersfield and Fulham. Even by the moderately sizeable Sheffield Wednesday. That’s nowhere near good enough, and it’s vital that Leeds should be the ones laying a marker down this summer. Anything else, and smaller but hungrier clubs will eclipse us again.
I expect next season to be intense. Aston Villa will be strong, having laid solid foundations. It’s likely that we’ll face many Yorkshire derbies, depending on the outcome of the play-offs. Middlesbrough, bolstered by parachute payments and battle-hardened by recent Championship experience, will be thereabouts. Add in Sunderland, Derby, and all the teams for whom beating Leeds is where it’s at – and you can see that it’s impossible to understate just how strong and well-prepared we must be. It’s going to take every ounce of effort, character, guts and determination – and a significant financial outlay.
This summer will decide Leeds United’s prospects for next season. It’s vital now that we step up, and win promotion soon. It would be a tragedy – nothing less – if this great club were to celebrate its centenary in two years time, below the elite level of English football. We simply have to stake our claim to enter a second century as one of the country’s select band of top clubs.
It’s time now for Leeds United to think big again, to act once more like the big club they undeniably are. Time for Leeds to prove that they’re a big club. An almighty struggle awaits and we just have to be ready.
Marching On Together, back to the top. It’s there for Leeds, if they want it badly enough. And that’s the big test now for everyone connected with Elland Road. Can we do it? Of course we can. But will we? Will we be bold, brave and brazenly assertive enough? Will we stump up the price of promotion and earn our golden ticket to the Promised Land?
That, fellow fans, is the £25 million (minimum net squad investment) question.