Nothing ever comes easily for Leeds United, that’s the lesson of history. Every single success has been hard-won, they’ve all been grim fights to the death. This season is shaping up to be no different; United have endured the most horrible last week or so, ever since the final whistle at Elland Road signalled a scrappy victory over Swansea City. Their nearest rivals have gained ground, winning games against feeble resistance, while the Whites have been kicking their heels, powerless and frustrated. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the likes of Bolton and QPR, who have capitulated so easily to Norwich and West Brom, will miraculously rediscover their missing mojo when they face Bielsa’s notorious Spygate villains Leeds.
Of course, any club can find themselves going through a bad spell, while their rivals prosper. That’s the nature of a league programme, with its ups and downs – and, generally, things do even themselves out. But few clubs have to put up with the kind of background against which this roller-coaster ride for Leeds is taking place. The Spygate furore was the ultimate example of a towering mountain being fabricated out of an insignificant molehill, with the Football League seemingly quite prepared to make utter fools of themselves in the interests of dragging the whole distraction out as far and as long as possible, all in the interests of distracting Elland Road eyes from the main focus of promotion. Certain league clubs have been complicit in this, with Bristol City‘s tax-dodging owner Stephen Landsdown sanctimoniously calling for a points deduction – and this was in a case where no rules were broken, remember. Stupid hypocrite is surely not an over the top description for that character.
What we can now expect, as the season gets to its decisive sharp end is, I’m afraid, all too easy to predict, and may be summed up as: more of the same. If you look back over the lowlights of the campaign so far, the farcical sending off of Pontus Jansson for falling over at Stoke City, for instance, you can easily envisage what’s still in store. There have been daft penalties against us right from the season’s opening day, when the award for Stoke being typical of the no-contact incidents that provoke the League’s referees to blow for a penalty against Leeds. Meanwhile, we’ve had one penalty all season. We nearly had a second, but the award was negated for an offside call subsequently shown to have been at least a yard onside.
There’s more of this to come. The bulk of fifty-fifty calls will go against us, as ever. The League does not wish to lose its prize asset if it’s possible to avoid doing so. I sincerely doubt that we’ll get another penalty, although we will have credible, stonewall claims – as has happened all season. There will be soft penalties against us – as has happened all season. Where it’s possible to send off a Leeds player, even when the decision stretches credibility, then off he will go – as has happened all season. Meanwhile, opposition defenders will get away with red card offences like denying a goalscoring opportunity – sometimes, not even a yellow will be given. This, too, has happened all season.
So it’s going to be a case of carry on hammering Leeds, but more so. Everything that can be done to keep us down will be done. It will be blatant, and sometimes even the media lapdogs will express surprise. But it will be glossed over and it will carry on. This is what we’re up against. Really, the only people that can do anything about it are the ones so proudly and defiantly wearing the shirts and badges, as they battle on to deliver the prize that so many of us, all over the world, desire so intensely. We’ll have to man up, tough it out, keep fighting. Those are the qualities this club, in its modern, global phenomenon incarnation, was built on, over the last six decades since we emerged from obscurity into worldwide prominence. And those are the qualities that will see us though now, despite the forces of League, rival clubs and media ranged against us.
Marching On Together. Let’s do this.