Some so-called Leeds United “fans” – mainly the type who spend most of their existences refreshing Twitter, rather than getting off their backsides to go along and support the team – have a distinctly warped idea of the meaning of the word “support”. It’s a word that should be close to the heart of any real football fan, but some of these tragic individuals appear to be utterly unfamiliar with the whole concept of getting behind a team, encouraging them, displaying some partisan fanaticism and alway, ALWAYS keeping the faith.
The Leeds United support base, for me, is divided between the match-goers – still the best bunch in the game – and the non-attendees, whose number includes a significant minority of people who attach themselves to United with the apparent purpose of delighting in any setback and doing their level best to demoralise and dishearten the players the rest of us support through thick and thin. Some of these will clearly be bogus online presences, but that doesn’t explain the sheer volume and levels of negativity out there. It’s not something I’ve heard anyone explain away, but it’s as irritating and damaging as it is inexplicable. And the damage I’m referring to is being sustained directly by the team and its prospects of success.
Football teams thrive on support – how often have you heard the saying “our crowd is worth a goal start”? In the days before social media, you didn’t need to know any more than that – it was your incentive to get along to the game, sing your heart out and support the lads. Those dear, simple days are far behind us now and while, as I stated earlier, the Leeds matchday support is second to none at home and away, the story on Twitter, Facebook etcetera, is markedly different. The LUFC hashtag on Twitter is best avoided for any supporter with a history of high blood pressure, which is bad enough – but the actual players should certainly be banned from ever even looking at such platforms. Any sports psychologist would surely agree with this position, as much of the output is as negative as it is clueless. The point is that the insidious effect of this drip, drip, drip type criticism is well known and widely acknowledged. So the concerted effect on Patrick Bamford of what he will doubtless have read on Twitter, will inevitably be less than positive.
Strikers, more than most footballers, thrive on confidence. Knock a lad’s confidence and, eventually, you will see a deterioration in performance and output. It’s not rocket science, it’s simply common sense. It may well be that some of these moaning Minnies on Twitter are too profoundly stupid to appreciate the damage they’re doing, but that won’t apply to all of them. Some of that dismal number will know exactly what they’re doing, and will enjoy the idea that they can have such an effect, something they surely can’t often experience in other areas of their lives. To them, I say – please go away, be a man united fan or whatever, just don’t darken our Twittersphere again. And I also say “j’accuse“. It’s your fault we lost at QPR today, just as surely as blame attaches to the appalling referee, so it also attaches to you. In a very real sense, you missed that penalty. Anyone who saw Bamford step up to take it would have been fearing he’d miss. The body language was not typical of confidence and self-belief, and it’s those qualities that have been drained away by these non-fans on social media.
Rant over. It’ll have no effect, of course. I’ll get the usual abusive responses, thin-skinned plonkers telling me that they have a perfect right to say what they like, to whom they like. And, sadly, it’s true. Just don’t think you can say these things in the name of Leeds United “support” – not without being picked up on it and challenged over your supposed attachment to a club that would be better off without you. But that’s not enough to deter people who seem to revel in United’s misfortunes, and who remain silent when things are going well.
If there’s one thing more than any other that can make me wish for the good old days pre-social media, it’s this. In many ways, things were better back then, although the likes of Terry Yorath and George McCluskey among others, who suffered greatly from some minority terrace barracking, might possibly beg to differ. But all that notwithstanding, there was an honesty about support in those days that is absent from large areas of the online LUFC presence. And what worries me is that this great club, which has always relied on the fanatical fervour of its support, may well pay a heavy price for the abominable attitude of some of its so-called fans.
If only we could all go back to “Marching On Together” – but seemingly, that’s just too much to ask.