We’ve taken some stick these past few weeks since the Derby game. Seemingly everyone has appeared from under their rock to take a poke at us while we’re down, too broken to fight back. And although we’re all thrilled that we won’t be denied the bubonic pleasure of Richard Keogh’s company next season, something should, in vivid coda-chrome colour, be very clear; there’s not a club on earth that wouldn’t want what we’ve got.
Our fan base is utterly sensational.
We couldn’t have imagined the response we would receive to the initiatives we launched as a Trust this season. Whether it was coming together to honour Albert Johanneson, voting for the Paul Madeley man of the match award or donating to the LUFC food bank. Your kindness and generosity throughout the season literally fed hundreds of families going through difficult times in Leeds; you proved once again that Leeds bring more. We’ve been absolutely blown away by your support, you should feel immensely proud.
Throughout the summer we will continue to work with the club on members’ issues as well as finalising plans for the centenary season celebrations and looking forward to the AGM, we will keep you updated as soon as we are able.
The season started with squeezing into a single terrace behind the goal at York City. I don’t remember the score but I do remember how many Leeds fans were spilling out of the back of Bootham Crescent that evening, York having wholly underestimated the sheer numbers all the intrigue surrounding Leeds’ new Argentinian manager would draw.
Intrigue quickly turned to awe as the season began in earnest, watching on as Bielsa-ball transformed a team that finished 13th in the previous season into an expertly tuned football orchestra capable of playing Argentina’s 1986 symphony in full on the Elland Road turf (including the “Hand of Roofe”). A renaissance in footballing ideology lead to the seemingly week on week real-time evolution of players, Kalvin Phillips in particular found his groove, transformed into a real Yorkshire maestro. The early season stanzas had much to appreciate.
By Christmas we were top and in impressive form, playing beautifully and building up points at the summit of the Championship table. We were halfway there, but as the New Year bedded in so too did the injuries, 31 in total throughout the season in a squad of 28 players. By mid-January an even bigger distraction had arrived at our door.
From the outset the media-dubbed “spygate saga” seemed an exaggerated and entirely juvenile concern. It divided opinion among neutral commentators and most disappointingly, brought out some inexcusable xenophobic rhetoric towards señor Bielsa from sections of the British sports media, ever looking for a pantomime villain to match the time of year. Soon followed a letter of contrived joint complaint from fellow professionals clamouring to parade their moral outrage at such a “heinous betrayal” of English football culture and the vague good faith code of conduct set out by the EFL. In the end a £200,000 storm in a teacup, blown out of all proportion; something I’m sure we won’t forget in a hurry. Somos nosotros contra el mundo…
The second half of the season was difficult; enduring disappointing losses to QPR, Norwich and Sheffield United, missed chances at key moments were still intersected by moments of sheer brilliance. The team’s performance from start to finish at home against West Brom was breath taking; Pablo getting us underway inside the first 16 seconds with a goal that seemed to sum-up his excellent season.
Eventually though Norwich pulled away and Sheffield United just kept winning (lets not talk about the Easter weekend), Leeds were heading for the play-off lottery. A fantastic ball by Harrison and another tidy finish from Roofe offered a very good start, for a moment, it might have even been our year.
So… Wednesday night… Play-offs… Derby. For the majority of the first half I sat under the floodlights and watched, beaming with Northern pride as the team I’ve loved since before life explained to me what that word really means, had one foot on the Wembley turf. I felt privileged. There was a brief interval from this golden feeling when Kiko forgot the English for “Keeper’s!” but it came straight back with the defiant cries of We are Leeds from every corner of the ground. We are perhaps at our best when defiance is the only thing we have. The applause at the end of the game for a team that made us dream all season, right to the last, was as equally defiant.
There were times throughout the year when we were genuinely blessed to be Leeds fans. Blackburn on boxing day, Villa a few days before, Derby away (twice), West Brom at home, all in the same season. The club asked us to believe and we dared to, despite decades of emotional scar tissue and Leeds falling apart… again. How many times this season did it feel different? After how many games did you walk away from Elland Road thinking “what a team, what a club”? When it’s good, it’s really really good but no matter what we’re all in it together. Our bonds are intangible, equal parts hope and a toxic, reminiscent addiction to David Batty and those heady days of early noughties Champions League football.
2018/19 didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped and again we have to feel it right where it hurts but I’ve NEVER heard another stadium sound the way Elland Road did at kick off that night against Derby. And no matter what shade they throw our way, every football fan in the country that had that racket blistering through their television will have wished it for themselves. We are ludicrously passionate, we are endlessly loyal, we could only be Leeds United fans. To be a part of it is indeed a genuine privilege. We take it with us where ever we go, and no one can take it away from us.
We go again; MOT