When Caleb Ekuban was denied an equaliser by a fine save from the Fulham ‘keeper, who then saw his side sweep downfield to seal the match 2-0, I held my head in my hands. Not just through frustration or the pain of defeat – but because I knew there would be an immediate explosion of clueless criticism from Leeds United‘s dismal army of Twitter followers, people who seem to be perpetually ready willing and all too able to pounce on any mistake or missed chance, desperately eager to unleash their own brand of unhelpful negativity. And so it came to pass, as the LUFC hashtag was swiftly beset with a barrage of destructive tweets, from football fandom’s very own versions of Leonard Cohen and the Smiths, each of them vying to see who could be the most soul-destroyingly defeatist and treacherous.
I sometimes wonder what these people get out of it. It can’t just be the lols, likes and retweets garnered from those of a similarly pathetic outlook, can it? Perhaps they just want to provoke a reaction, in which case I’m playing into their hands. So be it, then. Certain things need pointing out, after all. One of these is the damage being done to the reputation of the Leeds United support, which has always been famous, or at least notorious, for the raucously partisan nature of its expressed fanaticism. In this digital age, though, the support base of any club will be divided – on a match day at least – into those who go along to support the lads, and those who sit at home, ensconced behind their keyboards, safely anonymous, many of them just waiting to inflict what passes for their wit and wisdom upon the rest of us, whenever things on the field start going wrong. This sort of thing is noticed in various quarters. Fans of other clubs are saying, this famous Leeds United support is nothing special, look at all those idiots on Twitter. And, tragically, they’re bang on the money.
Take the Fulham game. Ekuban was denied by a good save when he was one on one. This is a lad who has had an injury-affected season, and he’s a lad from whom you can see desire and the wish to succeed coming out of every pore. Now, this lad has been working his nuts off every chance he gets, yet feeling the pressure growing for some time. He scored last weekend, and you thought “watch him go now”. But all the talk was of another couple of chances, one on one again, which he sadly didn’t take. And so, instead of the pressure being dissipated, or even relieved a little, it continues to grow. And, lo and behold, the poor lad misses another one on one, the ball goes down the other end, and it’s in our net. How does he feel? And how will he feel if he sees the myriad tweets in response to this unfortunate event, from the army of utterly clueless and unsupportive Leeds “fans” on Twitter? Most of them don’t know one end of a football from another, and yet they’re there in their hundreds, criticising a pro’s technique. It’s ludicrous. Make no mistake, this is not support – it’s death by a thousand tweets, and it’s shameful in the extreme.
And look at Jay Roy Grot. He misses an easy header – and straight away, you get “My grandma would have put that away and she’s been dead twenty years, haw haw haw”. Well done, you Twitter morons, how very original and helpful, I must say. Think of what goes through Grot’s mind as he goes to finish the chance. Half a second is a long time – and when you’ve had a destructive Twitter campaign shooting great ragged holes through your confidence all season, it must seem like an eternity. So maybe there’s a bit of tension in the nerves and muscles as Grot attacks a ball he’d put away 99 times out of a hundred. And the ball goes narrowly over instead of in. Grot’s bang to rights, he’s missed a sitter – but those negative, clueless, lazy and destructive Leeds “fans” are just as culpable.
It’s so annoying, and it’ll likely get worse, with predictably negative results on the team’s morale, and on the confidence of those players not exactly brimming with that valuable commodity in the first place. And it’s particularly nauseating, because you absolutely know that those doling out out the abuse, just to satisfy their own delusions of expertise and knowledge of the game, will change their tune extremely quickly, once the targets of their amateur criticism find some form and start producing. It’s happened so often before, from Ray Hankin, when at least there was no Twitter, through to Jermaine Beckford. As sickening as the stupidity of these people might be, their rank hypocrisy is even more stomach-churning.
Like the thousands of Leeds fans who don’t indulge in this narcissistic “look at me” barrage of bandwagon-jumping criticism, I can see the potential, particularly in Caleb Ekuban. And, far more importantly, so can the football professionals. You’ve got to get in the positions to miss the chances, and that’s the hard part, so the old pros will murmur. Give it time, the lad will come good. I believe they’re right – they were about Beckford, who did so well he now has a stand named after him at Manchester United.
If I were in a position of authority at Elland Road, and not being able to ban these idiots from Twitter, I’d ban my playing staff from having Twitter accounts and from accessing the LUFC hashtag. I’d be that worried about the negative impact of all the criticism, stupid and ill-informed though it undoubtedly is. These so-called Leeds fans are doing the opposition’s job for them, which is treachery in anyone’s book. There’s enough pressure on any young player, just making their way in the game, simply from playing for Leeds United – without a crew of hapless amateurs chelping away in the ether. It doesn’t help, it’s positively harmful. If I were involved in player welfare, I’d look to shield them from that.
It’s pointless highlighting this, of course, except insofar as it gets it all off my chest. The guilty parties will be only too glad of whatever attention their idiocy gains for them; that’s part of the condition that afflicts them. And, even if they all shut up at once, I’d have the likes of Donald Trump and Alan Sugar polluting the virtual environment with their own brand of stupidity. Just at the moment though, I’d take those two morons over the army of dickheads out there infesting the LUFC hashtag. At least they’re not directly harming the football club I’ve loved for almost 50 years.
Rant over. For now.