Tag Archives: hate

We Hate Nottingham Forest, We Hate Liverpool Too – by Rob Atkinson

Let me start out by saying this: there is a place in football for hate

Now, that might seem rather a provocative, not to say controversial statement, in these happy-clappy days when going to the match is supposed to be all about families, and fun. When oompah bands, high up in the stands, are strategically placed so that the newly-gentrified population in the 48 quid seats should not have to hear anything raucous or profane.

But it’s true, nevertheless. Football is tribal, football is cathartic, football is where you get to let off some steam after gritting your teeth all week.

And, for all of that, you need someone to hate.

Hate is a much misunderstood, possibly demonised word these days. It’s not really to be found in the lexicon of the politically correct. It sends out the wrong message, don’t you know, and speaks of the extreme edges of emotion and feeling, where those of pallid personalities do not wish to be seen.

But hate is a real human emotion, and you can’t simply wish, or indeed legislate it away. Properly expressed, it’s just about the best catalyst for atmosphere at a good old traditional sporting fixture.

The professionals should stay out of it, and get on with the game – it’s not really within their remit to get caught up in the atmosphere a bit of hate generates (although it’s frequently more entertaining than the football when rival teams DO let the passion affect them). However, the real arena is in the stands – or on the terraces, as we used to say in happier times.

Here is where the mutual dislike, felt in extreme measure in some cases, can safely be vented. Two sets of supporters, bound by a common loathing, hurl insults of gloriously inventive vulgarity back and forth, each seeking to outdo the other in a contest outside of the on-field engagement. The feeling is atavistic, and there’s no actual need for it to spill over into physical confrontation for honour to be satisfied. The occasion as a whole is enhanced by these pieces of human theatre.

The modern tendency towards crowd interaction being drowned out by super-powerful P.A. systems, pumping out crap music, has detracted from this phenomenon, as have the silly drums and trumpets they call “bands”. My own beloved Leeds United made an ill-advised decision a few years back to promote a “band”, but the masses behind the goal did not approve. The occasional toot and drumbeat were heard, only to be swiftly squashed by a throaty “stand up, if you hate the band”, and the experiment died an early and unlamented death. Rightly so, too. Bands at football stadia prosper only where the indigenous support lacks the moral fibre to resist such contrived attempts at a “nice” atmosphere. Sheffield Wednesday is the obvious, sad and sorry, example of such cardboard measures.

Sadly, it appears that the good old days of free expression, where a cadre of like-minded fanatics could express their hatred of “that lot from ovver t’hill”, are soon to be behind us for good. Yet there are still football clubs and historically tense fixtures which can conjure up some of that old atmosphere, so deeply do feelings run.

I’m glad to say that dear old Leeds United is one such club, so pathologically hated by so many other sets of fans, and so willingly disposed to return that sentiment with interest, that our matches against a select group of old enemies roll back the years, and set the blood pumping with an almost-forgotten vigour. Long may that remain the case – these are the real football clubs, with the real fans, and it’s this unreconstructed minority which is striving to hold back the tide of plastic, family-orientated, embarrassingly artificial bonhomie that so threatens to dull the palate as the 21st Century progresses.

It’s not P.C. It’s frowned upon by the self-appointed guardians of “The Good Of The Game”. And, admittedly, it too often spills over into taboo references, or actual violence, which is never something to be condoned. But come the day when they finally kill the last wisp of hate-fuelled atmosphere, at the last old dinosaur of a non-modern non-Meccano stadium, they’ll be well on the way finally to reading the last rites over the corpse of the game as we used to know it.

And then – why, I’ll throw in the towel, say my goodbyes to Elland Road, and sulk off to watch Frickley Athletic play those bastards from FC United of Manchester – confident that there will be enough curmudgeonly old reprobates on both sides who will be happy to spit venom at each other for 90 minutes – just for old times’ sake.

Advertisements

Sunderland v Newcastle Rivalry Not in Same League as Leeds Against Man U – by Rob Atkinson

Hate Man Utd - We Only Hate Man Utd

Hate Man Utd – We Only Hate Man Utd

Football rivalry – the antipathy between fans of rival clubs with a keen edge of hatred in extreme cases – has been going on for as long as two teams of eleven players have gathered together to dispute possession of an inflated bladder over a green sward. And I will proudly say here and now: Leeds United is an extreme case. We are top four material when it comes to despising our foes. But we like to think we’re quite picky about it. None of this “regional rivalry” nonsense for us.

Let’s face it, hating another team and its supporters for mere reasons of geographical proximity is pretty silly. I can understand it to a certain extent where two clubs share a very small area, like a town or adjacent districts of a city. There’s a territorial thing going on there that recalls the days when a team’s support was derived largely from its immediate locality, though that’s not really the case any more now with the mega clubs who have fans all over the world. After all, why would a Man U glory-hunter in Singapore or Seattle really care if Man City are based only a few miles away from “his” club? He’s more bothered as to whether or not his favourites can buy more trophies than anyone else, City, Chelsea, Arsenal, anyone.

At Leeds, hatred tends to be reserved for those who have earned it, and who are – by independently verifiable standards – intrinsically despicable. Man U pass both tests with flying colours, and it’s certainly woven into my DNA to detest them. Call me a blinkered bigot (guilty, m’Lud) but I can never really understand why Sunderland and Newcastle, who meet in derby-day combat this afternoon, share such mutual loathing when quite frankly both would be better off directing their energies towards hating someone who deserves it.

Many at Leeds have the time and energy to revile other clubs, Chelsea prominent among them. The Ken Bates era at Leeds was an uncomfortable time for these types in particular – they hated Bates for his Chelsea connections (I hate him too, but mainly for his own not-so-sweet self.) Bates never seemed keen on Leeds either, not since – during his reign at Stamford Bridge – a group of freelance demolition contractors from Yorkshire travelled down to SW6 and saw off his scoreboard. But for me, Chelsea (and Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and the rest) are only relevant insofar as they have teams that can beat Man U for much of the time, and as long as they do that, they’re just fine and dandy as far as I’m concerned.

In Yorkshire the situation may best be summed-up as follows. All other Yorkshire clubs hate Leeds United, and Leeds United regard all other Yorkshire clubs as beneath our notice – except on those annoying occasions when temporarily reduced league status means we have to soil our boots by playing them. This attitude does nothing, of course, to endear Leeds to the likes of Bratfud, Barnsleh, Uddersfailed and the Sheffield dee-dahs – but really, who cares?

I have more respect for fans of clubs like Birmingham or Everton or – yes, even Man U, who hate Leeds for reasons other than just sharing a county with us. That fits better with my world view. Ask a Newcastle fan why he hates the Mackems, and he might blither incomprehensibly for a while (well, they just talk like that up there) – but no rational reply will emerge. I could talk your ears off about why I hate the scum, and I know many Man U fans who can do the same when invited to say why they hate Leeds, which is more than many other Leeds haters can say.

The fact is – whatever the pious purists and holier-than-thou types might say – there’s nothing wrong with football hatred, properly expressed and stopping comfortably this side of actual violence – as I’ve previously written here. It adds some passion to a crowd and to a football occasion, and football would die a lingering death in the sort of sterile atmosphere some of these self-righteous hypocrites seem to want. All I’d say is: if you must hate, then hate for a good reason.

Read my other articles, and you’ll find my reasons for hating Man U – the reasons why I firmly believe anyone might reasonably hate them – are a regular feature in the occasional rants to which I’m prone. They’re nothing to do with why Southampton hate Pompey, or why Forest hate Derby (although I CAN see the Clough factor in the latter case.) Pure regional tribalism is at work there, and I suppose there’s a place for it. But that sort of thing is slightly irrational to me, while hatred based on facts and history is not. Hatred is a genuine human emotion, and the football variety is a safety valve which is useful in diffusing a lot of the negative emotions in society at large. It’s a therapy of sorts. So chew on that, you pious, pseudo-intellectual gits who preach at rabid football fans and utterly fail to understand what’s going on.

I’m happy to admit that I have a healthy hatred for the scum, and I’m equally happy that it’s so lustily reciprocated – with any luck the depth of these feelings will see the game of football, still so dependent on the atmosphere generated by its match-going followers, survive for a good long time to come.

Are Chelsea Wreckers Bradford City Heading for Another Glorious Wembley Battering? – by Rob Atkinson

A Bratfud fan with a typically creative solution to the problem of Fido's funeral

A Bratfud fan with a typically creative solution to the problem of Fido’s funeral

It’s been a pretty good year so far in the domestic cups, for some of Yorkshire’s minnow teams. Sheffield United, the Brave Little Blunts of Bramall Lane, are in the League Cup semis (don’t ask me to remember the sponsors, for heavens’ sake). In the same competition, Bradford City enjoyed one of their finest hours in an earlier round, with an only slightly fortuitous win over our own beloved ten-man Leeds United, celestially anointed Kings of the Broad Acres. Even poor old Sheffield Wendies managed to keep the aggregate tally against them down to single figures in losing twice in two competitions at Manchester City.

In the FA Cup, even more than usually for such a notoriously minnow-friendly institution, this was a weekend of genuine shocks, all over the shop. Again, Yorkshire’s tiddler clubs were to the fore in the tragic but not unexpected absence of Super Leeds – who had reprised their 1973 defeat at the hands of the Dirty Mackems, first time of asking. So it was left to the little guys again, the Blunts for one; they will take Simon Grayson’s Preston to a replay in Sheffield (good luck, SG).

Without any doubt at all though, the star turns of this 4th round so far are those battling Bantams from Valley Parade. In a performance they must treasure nearly as much as beating Leeds for the first time since the end of rationing, they went down to London and bearded the English title favourites Chelsea in their own lair. Feinting craftily to go two behind and thus lull the Rentboys into a false sense of half-time security, they emerged from their interval cuppas to seize the game by the throat – and proceeded mercilessly to throttle Jose’s troops to death with a four goal salvo that quite simply took their beastly breath away.

Last year’s League Cup Final achievement ended amusingly in a highly creditable (if you listened to the media) 0-5 defeat for the ten-man Bantams at the hands of Swansea City – who spent most of their time that Wembley afternoon trying to look as if it wasn’t just too, too easy. After a result like their defeat of Chelsea, though – where they made a whole nation laugh themselves weak-bladdered by slaying a far better team – plucky Bratfud must fancy their chances of at least matching last season’s feat. Maybe they can even cherish hopes of improving on it, by holding out for a 0-3 Final defeat against a Liverpool or a Palace or similar. Less of a thrashing against more illustrious opponents – that’d be progress. And you never know – it could happen.

Watching the richly comic spectacle of Mourinho’s Millionaires buckle and collapse against a genuine two-bob West Yorkshire pub team, it was impossible – despite the vitriolic hatred all Bratfud fans nurse in their bosoms where Super Leeds are concerned – quite impossible not to share in the joy and the laughter. After all, this was Chelsea, worshippers at the Altar of Mammon, for whom no trophy is beyond their Mafia-funded purse, stumbling to utter, shambolic humiliation against the rankest of rank paupers – whose team cost precisely zilch. It was beyond funny and, in the midst of all that comedy and Schadenfreude, it’s really easy to forget such little local difficulties as Bratfud’s Leeds United complex.

Anyway, as any knowledgeable Leeds fan will confirm, and as those few Bratfud fans who don’t exist in a state of permanent denial will admit, the Bantams/Whites hate affair is strictly a one-way street. We’ve always been the chip on their bitterly resentful shoulder – but, historically, we’ve had bigger, uglier, much more intrinsically detestable fish to fry. Leeds have never really gone in for hating on spurious grounds of mere proximity – it’s a sterile waste of time and passion. So, from our point of view, we have no real local rivalry, whereas every little club in Yorkshire (and elsewhere, it should be said) cordially, rabidly detests Leeds United. ‘Twas ever thus and, doubtless, ’twill ever be.

The best we can really do for those Bratfud fans who so desperately wish us to reciprocate their passionate and unrequited hatred is – well, to condescend to be pleased for them for a time, when a day like this Chelsea tie rolls around. And – as good, God-fearing, Chelsea-hating Leeds United fans – we are pleased for them. Very pleased. Really we are. It stands to reason. And besides, the Bantams actually deserved their victory, certainly far more than the faintly lucky Middlesbrough side did at Man City. It has indeed been Cup Shock Saturday, with big, shiny bells on.

So – Bradford march proudly on, perhaps even unto another deeply gratifying Wembley humiliation. Good luck to them, and to all the other Yorkshire small fry as they progress, against all sense and logic, in the cups. It’s all good as far as this Leeds fan is concerned. Why, I’ll even be rooting for the Blunts against Spurs on Wednesday – but then I’ll be after another enjoyable dose of Capital punishment for fellow Tykes at that there Wembley, just to help them remember their lowly place in the scheme of things. It wouldn’t do otherwise, would it? It would reflect badly on the region’s only proper football club.

After all – charity begins at home. And, nice guy and warm-hearted softy though you may be; you can really only take your faintly patronising condescension towards scruffy, unappreciative neighbours so far…

Even Fans of “Crisis Club Leeds” are Laughing at Man U – by Rob Atkinson

Two typical "buzzin', mad for it" Man U fans

Two typical “buzzin’, mad for it” Man U fans

As a Leeds United fan, my sole motivation for watching any Man U game on TV is to see them lose, as heavily as possible.  The enlightenment provided for me by being a fan of the One True United from Elland Road enables me to see things as they are.  Thus I know for certain that Man U – the club, the hype, the glory-hunting “fans” – embody all that is worst about the game of football.  It is right and proper that they should be despised.  I’ve written before about the futility of hating a club because of mere geographical proximity – Newcastle and Sunderland fans waste such a lot of passion in this way.  Hatred should be reserved for those who earn it on merit.  Man U are intrinsically detestable, by any empirical standards – always have been, always will be.  So, although there are other clubs I’m not keen on, I only really hate Man U – and even there the hatred is tempered by the fact that I find them such a kitsch club, so utterly ridiculous.

Some find this rather odd.  With all of the goings-on at Elland Road – our decade of decline, the farcical situation surrounding successive takeovers – my beloved Leeds are, after all, not in much of a position to point the finger and laugh at an undeniably bigger and more successful club – are they?  Well, yes, they are.  WE are.  I’ll explain.

Dr Freud on the psyche of the Man U fan

Dr Freud on the psyche of the Man U fan

The thing about Man U, you see, is that despite the extensive honours list, the huge stadium, the supporters clubs on far-flung planets orbiting distant suns – they are simply a joke of a football club.  They are actually just as funny as they are detestable – especially now, when the evil influence of the Dark One from Govan is fading into the past.  Before, the determination to win at all costs, eschewing the innate class of clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal – this was easy both to hate and laugh at.  The comical desperation to be “biggest and best”, the feverish preoccupation with being Number One – it all smacked dismally of the psychiatrist’s couch and the inner yearnings of tragically inadequate and unfulfilled people.  Herr Doktor Sigmund Freud would have had such a lot to say about this motley collection of hang-ups and insecurities.  But, enough of the fans.

Now, in the post-Ferguson era, the reactions of those on the moral high-ground – i.e. myself and every other football fan who despises Man U – are somewhat different as compared to those Taggart days.  Then, when they let in a goal or slumped to the odd defeat, I and others like me would clench the fist in vicarious triumph, relishing the temporary discomfiture of the media’s champions.  Now, on the other hand, when poor David “Gollum” Moyes’ harrowed and failure-ravaged features grow more haggard with every passing defeat, when his helpless eyes grow ever more prominently buggy in that haunted, hunted face, the skin stretched as tight as his nerves, the lines of worry and insecurity etched ever deeper – it’s not quite as easy to feel triumphant glee.  Now, the reaction tends to be one of amusement, though sometimes tinged with an uncomfortably unfamiliar pity.  It’s stopped being a matter of fierce satisfaction when Man U fail.  It’s simply become funny, in an ever-so-slightly pitiful way.

My own reaction to two recent goals against them has brought this sharply home to me.  When Sunderland scored late on in the Capital One Cup semi at the Theatre of Hollow Myths – I simply collapsed laughing.  There were tears rolling down my face, my sides ached with mirth.  Alright, the nature of the goal was risible, de Gea flapping on his line like some nervous chorus girl – but then the same thing happened when Fulham got their late equaliser the other night.  I just could not stop laughing – it took the appearance of the twitching, suffering Moyes to tone down my riotous good humour into something more approaching sympathy for a man so clearly on the edge.

So what is it about the Pride of Devon that – despite everything they’ve won, and all of the damage they’ve inflicted on their rivals, by fair means and foul – they are still such an object of ridicule and derision?  And let’s not forget, this goes back even over their last couple of decades of success.  Their fans have grown wary even of admitting who they support, fearful of betraying themselves with wurzelly or cockney accents, scared of being laughed at as “glory-hunters” or plastic, armchair types from Devon or Kent.  All those trophies, all that gutter press adulation – and yet so little real pride.  That’s tragic.  But what’s really behind it?

Part of the answer might be the pathological need that the whole shebang still has, despite a current status of also-rans, to promote and parade itself as God’s gift to sport and the last word in hugeness and greatness.  It applies to the club from the very top, this immense self-delusion, right down to those troubled people who are drawn to “support” them.  The most recent example of the lengths they will go to in order to give the outer appearance of confidence and attitude, is pictured below.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is (allegedly) the song sheet for the “Man U Singing Section“.

The Man U "Mutual Reassurance" songsheet

The Man U “Mutual Reassurance” songsheet

As you will see, it is full of earnest advice on how best for their well-drilled singers to comport themselves, with finger-wagging dos and don’ts and even a schedule minute-by-minute of exactly when each distinct song should be sung.  No advice is given as to what should happen if some event on the pitch should threaten to grab fans’ attention; perhaps this is deemed unlikely.  There are stern admonitions about the singing of undesirable, “offensive” songs – don’t do it, chaps, it’s not nice.  The songs and timings cited “must be adhered to”.  Have a look at it.  Some will ask whether it’s genuine – and part of even me hopes that it’s a wind-up.  For football fans to be shackled so, their spontaneous reactions crushed beneath a list of rules and regulations, with a script to rule them?  It’s got to be a sick joke, surely.  But judge for yourselves.  Fake or not, it is funny.  Let’s not kid ourselves either – there’s no smoke without fire.  This sort of thing, if it is a fake, needs a bit of reality to be hung on to; for a club that reckons itself to be the “biggest and best”, with fans to match, even the perceived need for a singing section is rank humiliation.  Do the bulk of the Man U fans really need this sort of sugar-coated reassurance, this spoon-fed “Don’t look at the League Table, guys, we’re still the best”?

At Leeds, the only thing that ever came even close to the ridiculous idea of a singing section was an ill-fated move to introduce a “band” shortly after that laughable notion had flourished into bizarre reality at Sheffield Wendies.  The idea was to get a bit of atmosphere going – which at Leeds was like pouring petrol on a blazing fire.  There may well have been a wistful undertone that the Board wished the Elland Road crowd was as “nice” as those simple Wendy souls at Hillsborough – the rank folly of that!  The Leeds fans wouldn’t have it, of course.  A few peeps were heard, immediately drowned out by a raucous “Stand up if you hate the band”, and the experiment died an early and unlamented death.

Now, if anyone had the sheer brass cojones to try the introduction of an actual singing section at Elland Road, one suspects they would be led firmly away by the throat – for those cojones to be removed with a blunt and rusty knife, braised lightly over a grill and fed to them morsel by morsel as they dangled helpless from the East Stand superstructure.  And quite right too.  There’s just something deeply inadequate and plain wrong about any club which needs such artificial backing – you can understand it happening at the Wendies.  But at Man U?  There used to be some grudging respect there, back in the day, but can any vestige of that survive such a laughable, pitiful initiative as this?

So, yes – Leeds may be a crisis club, we may just have gone through a month which makes a pantomime look like profoundly cerebral entertainment – but we can be tolerably certain that we’d never sink this low.  Whatever else may happen, we’ll still have our spontaneity, our pride.  These things tend to flourish in adversity – and we have plenty of that.  And I do even feel a bit sorry for the genuine Man U fans – there’s a hard core of them out there, somewhere, after all – though it’s much more fun, and better for my health too, that I can now simply laugh at them instead of resenting and hating them.  And of course I still do hate them, just in a different and mercifully less rabid way.  I still keenly want them to lose – but now that this happens with such metronomic frequency, the intensity of the actual hate is diluted to some degree.

And do you know what?  I really don’t miss that intensity.  I actually enjoy my football more now that I’m not feeling all anxious; now that I can usually rely upon them to fail.  And the continuing self-delusion of the whole lot of them – the club, the fans, their media lapdogs – makes it all the more sweetly satisfying every time those blessed defeats happen.

Let’s face it – pity and empathy notwithstanding – it’s still a hell of a lot of fun to laugh at Man U.

Keys & Gray: Just the Tip of the Iceberg of Institutional Hatred for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Image

Two smug idiots: merely a symptom rather than the disease itself

There’s been a bit of a storm over the picture above, which I have reluctantly reproduced for the dubious benefit of those who may not have seen it so far.  It’s understandable that people should be angry and upset over what is, even allowing for the dribbling idiocy of the two has-beens concerned, such a blatant example of ignorance and disrespect.  Let’s face it, Keys and Gray are not the sharpest tools in the box.  Sky viewers were unwilling witnesses to their developing bromance over far too many years as lynchpins of the Sports Channels’ football coverage.  This came to an abrupt end when the gruesome twosome allowed the baser end of their base personalities to show itself in all its shameful horror with a short series of hatefully sexist outbursts in 2011.  Sky dropped them immediately, and they have been relegated to marginal interest media ever since – though still hopelessly devoted to each other and to their “grinning schoolboy” manner of presentation.  So clearly, we can expect moronic, insensitive behaviour from insensitive morons – that is their stock in trade.  But the important thing is – what about the people who advise them?  What sort of thought process leads up to the disgraceful picture above?

For the benefit of those who may be unaware, two Leeds United fans were brutally murdered in 2000 by followers of Galatasaray, an Istanbul club which glories in the slogan so proudly displayed by the leering Gray and Keys.  That being the case, you’d have thought that some caution might be exhibited by two formerly mainstream broadcasters, or at least by whoever bears the responsibility of doing their thinking for them.  The fact that no such caution was even thought of is down to the involvement of the media’s favourite hate figure, Leeds United  I can state this with total certainty: if the fans so tragically killed all those years ago had been followers of Man U, or Liverpool, or any other club with the scandalous exception of Leeds United, then the above picture would not have seen the light of day.  I am absolutely 100% clear about that.  And therein resides the problem for all who love Leeds United.  The level of hatred and disrespect for our club in the media, and in the football world and the country more broadly, is absolutely unprecedented.  It is institutional in its nature, all-pervading in its extent and eagerly subscribed to in just about any organisation you might care to name.  It goes back a long, long way and has affected the club in its dealings with not just the media, but the games authorities both on and off the field.  I have written in the past about how this has manifested itself, both among referees (abroad as well as at home) – and in the broadcast and print media.

Ask yourself – and try to be honest.  Yes, I’m talking here especially to those who disagree with this blog automatically, as if on principle.  Go on – ask yourself.  If the two murdered fans had been Man U supporters – would Keys and Gray have been allowed to perpetrate this moronic picture stunt?  Would they even have shown any desire or agreement to do it?  No, of course not.  But because it’s Leeds, it doesn’t matter.  Because it’s Leeds, the question isn’t even considered as to how appropriate or otherwise this might be, how insensitive, how callously, needlessly hurtful and insulting to those who were bereaved, and to the wider Leeds United community.  If it had been two Man U lads murdered, hands would have been thrown up in horror at the very idea.  No, no, guys – they’d have said – you just can’t do this.  You all know this is true, and you all know the distinction being drawn in shallow, dishonest minds between Leeds United – the Damned United – and all the other clubs.  It goes on everywhere, and it’s symptomatic of a national sickness where Leeds are concerned, manifesting itself in various degrees of shocking disrespect, overt, ugly hatred and a contemptuous dismissal of any protests from those of us who love the club.  And then they have the brass nerve to call us “Dirty” and “Damned”.

We can look after ourselves and our own, of course.  That’s what “being Leeds” is all about.  Those who strike against us as a club, or as a global community of fans, tend to reap the whirlwind – especially in these days of social media.  Keys is finding out about this right now.  But still it goes on, time after time, year after year – so we always have to be poised and ready to defend ourselves against attack from the outside.  Whether it’s a paranoid failure calling us all “vile animals”, or a complacent Match of the Day presenter waggling his ears in his eagerness to include every single managerial legend except the Don in a montage of Great Bosses, or even these two relative nobodies above, posing with smirks on their faces and those shameful shirts proclaiming their ignorance and contempt – it all comes down to the same thing.  It’s the ultimate siege complex, Leeds United against Everybody Else.  But we’re on our way back now, and they’re going to have to live with that.  Keys and Gray in isolation are nothing – two annoying bugs to be swatted away.  It’s what they symbolise in that embarrassing image that we have to be aware of – that’s what we have to be ready to deal with and oppose, especially when we are unwelcome top-flight members once again, back at the top table with the rest of them trying to pretend it hasn’t happened.

And deal with it we will.  We Are Leeds, we’re Marching On Together.  Stuff the lot of them.  All we as Leeds fans need is to know our enemy.  And that means accepting that the enemy are everywhere and that we only have each other to rely upon as we gate-crash that Premier League party.  Let them hate us, let them show themselves up in these utterly disgusting and shameful betrayals of any class or dignity.  Hate away and see where it gets you.  You won’t be able to ignore us.  We Are Leeds – and we’re on the way back.

The Pride of “The Damned United”

Image

Was ever another phrase so obviously coined with one intention, only to be taken up and brandished with pride to the completely opposite effect? Author David Peace – a Huddersfield Town fan – has described his book “The Damned United” as “an occult history of Leeds United.” The word “history” in this connection is somewhat optimistic – the book is decidedly fictionalised, and the point of view is the imagined perspective of Brian Clough as he struggled through his 44 days in what could fairly be described as enemy territory. The book was a success, met by a measure of critical acclaim. The film it spawned was of more dubious quality, famous for the lengthy list of goofs on its Internet Movie Database page, and widely regarded as particularly one-eyed in its depiction of personalities and events, none of which bears much resemblance to actuality.

It is the tag though – that Damned United tag – which seems set fair to achieve iconic status, and not with the intended pejorative effect. With a typical sense of gallows humour, devotees of the Elland Road club have taken the label and made of it a badge of honour, waving it under the nose of the millions who despise Leeds United as a symbol of inverted defiance. We Are The Damned United, they say – do your worst. The tiresome recycling of allegations about Don Revie, the endless litany of “Dirty Leeds” myths and the omnipresent attitude that the West Yorkshire club exemplify all that is shady about football, all of this is held up to ridicule as those who love the club glory in the new name. Sod the lot of you. We are Dirty Leeds, The Damned United, and we are proud. It’s a unifying message, the foundations of a siege complex that can rally support behind any popularly-hated institution. It’s an assertion of individuality, of a refusal to conform to the cosy standards beloved of media and Establishment. It takes gritty character to be a Leeds fan in the face of such universal hatred, and those of sufficient character know they’re part of something unique and special. We Are The Damned United.

It’s also had the welcome effect of reclaiming a measure of ownership and identification with that word “United”. It’s highly doubtful that Town fan Peace could have foreseen or desired that effect, but there it undoubtedly is. For decades, the press, the football establishment in the UK and elsewhere – and of course Man U themselves – have been unrelenting in their efforts to corner the term “United” exclusively for the Salford-based franchise. It’s been an important marketing tool, a vital part of the attempt to sell the myth of The Biggest Club In The World™ (Copyright © The Gutter Press since the late 50’s) to children of all ages from Devon to Singapore. It’s seeped into the public consciousness like the subliminally insidious selling technique it is, and of course the tat-consuming, replica-shirt-buying, Sky-subscribing suckers have fallen for it in their millions. But now there is The Damned United, inextricably linked with Dirty Leeds, and suddenly that formerly football-related suffix isn’t quite so exclusively Man U any more.

Dirty Leeds The Damned United

The contrasting psyches of the Leeds United and Man U support is an apt illustration of how the two sets of fans have embraced such polar-opposites in terms of club and image. The Man U fans desperately want that monopoly of terminology, they need to believe the press-powered fairy-tale that there’s “only one United”. The motivation for being identified with what they are always being told is the “biggest and best” has a Freudian compulsion at the back of it, a sense that there is an inadequacy which yearns to be compensated for, an insecurity which needs bolstering. There are people like that everywhere, victims of society, and so you find Man U fans all over the place, as common and undiscriminating as flies. Leeds fans, on the other hand, tend to support their team – where the connection isn’t simply local and tribal – for reasons of perverse pride. It’s a manifestation of defiance and a refusal to be categorised as a commercial target group. The pride is palpable, and the negative image of the club feeds this. Sod you lot. We Are The Damned United. The emergence of such a potentially iconic label was not good news for Man U-inclined inhabitants of armchairs everywhere, and again, this is not an effect the author would have counted as one of his aims in producing his work.

Thanks, Mr Peace. You could hardly have aided our cause any more effectively, and Dirty Leeds have gained from the exposure in popular culture. The book may have been an attempted exposition of Clough’s state of mind as that complex character negotiated his time in purgatory; the film may have been an amusing romp through the mythical hinterland that borders but rarely intrudes on the territory of actual fact. But the label will probably out-live the pair of them, and will flutter bravely and proudly in the vanguard of the Leeds United juggernaut as it – eventually – thunders its way back to The Top.

McDermott’s LUFC Promotion Formula

Image

Brian has said it himself: promotion next season is the expectation – nothing less will be good enough.  So how should he set about realising this desirable outcome?

Recruitment with a view to moulding a competitive and combative squad goes without saying.  We will all have our ideas about who needs to come in – from those who wish to see us reclaim our lost boys from the likes of Norwich and Leicester to the more forward-looking who would prefer hungry players, new to Leeds but maybe familiar to McDermott, your le Fondres and your Robson-Kanus and so on.

How else can Brian make a difference?  What have the problems been in the past?  One major drawback for a less-than-excellent United squad has been the difficulty of coping with the massive anti-Leeds chip on the collective shoulder of our rivals: the so-called “46 Cup Finals Syndrome”.  This is a crucial factor, but it is one that can be exploited by a real leader.  A certain charmless Scottish git over the Pennines in Salford is well-known for his preference for fostering what is known as a “siege complex” among the various teams he’s had There over the years.  He’s generally had a squad to compare with the best anyway, but there’s been that undeniable edge provided by the attitude of “They all hate us, lads, so let’s get stuck in and ram it back down their throats”.  The fact that Brian appears to be a mild and likeable guy, as opposed to the bile-choked monster in charge at the Theatre of Hollow Myths, is no impediment to the fostering of a “them against us” mindset.  It’s just good psychology, good man-management, and most of all, good for cohesion and team spirit.  There hasn’t been enough of that at Elland Road lately.

The hate comes mainly from opposition fans, particularly in Yorkshire where we will again play quite a few “Derbies” next season after Huddersfield’s and Barnsley’s mutually-collusive escape from relegation.  This fever of hate, eclipsing all other emotions, was adequately demonstrated when the cameras focused on a rabble of Barnsley fans in the very moment of relief after their last-ditch reprieve.  Were they applauding their team, or proclaiming their barely-salvaged Championship status?  No, their tiny, obsessed minds could find no room for anything but a tuneless chorus of “We All Hate Leeds Scum”, with the similarly brainless Huddersfield fans happily joining in. Clearly, fellow Whites, we are not famous any more.  If Brian does choose to utilise the hate of Leeds for positive gains in terms of team bonding and incentive to win, he will not find it in short supply.

Beyond this, we the fans have a massively important part to play.  But Leeds have usually been helped by terrific support; given the least encouragement, the fans will be like a 12th man out there.  We know from awed testimony in the past that playing at Elland Road can be an intimidating experience for the very best.  McDermott’s fostering of an atmosphere and team ethic comparable to that at Reading last season, where a squad not over-packed with stars pulled back an 18 point deficit to pip Southampton for the Championship Title, would not go amiss.  The fans would respond to the effort and togetherness of such a team, there is a parallel there with Wilko’s promotion side of 1990, who used to set about the opposition with voracious hunger and would usually wear them down before over-running them.  That kind of thing would certainly do; I remember Wilko’s Warriors very fondly, and they’re just the kind of team we all love down in LS11.

Once the business of Summer is done – and you sense that Brian wants to do his shopping early so that he can put his print on a super-fit squad – then the fine-tuning can start towards next season.  We hear that improvements are afoot at Thorp Arch – training pitches to match Elland Road dimensions, with equivalent watering systems; squad-numbered reserved parking spaces for the players.  Small enough improvements, but brought about in the name of increased professionalism.  It’s all good.

Give Brian the squad he wants, and let him turn them into lean, mean, motivated machines, ready to feed on hate and use it as fuel for a tank of a team which will grind the opposition into the turf, and we could be all set for a memorable season with the reward we all crave waiting at the end of it.