Well the launch of the new badge has well and truly hijacked Blog number 3 of 2018. Bizarrely enough however, the same themes are running through, if not parallel to my original War and Peace essay. So here’s Blog number 3, take 2.
Loyalty – there’s a thing. Traditions and respect for your history and your humble beginnings – there’s another.
We lost a great friend and mentor in Eric, and as most of you will know, I personally was absolutely outraged (that’s putting it mildly) that the Club and it’s fans did not do more to show their appreciation of this great man. Although there was some outcry at the time on facebook, there was a noticeable quiet from other fan groups. Apart from BBC Radio Leeds, I did not see anything on mainstream media. I can’t recollect anything on Look North nor Calendar despite the extraordinary long service and dedication of this one man to promote Leeds United all over the world.
This led me to think that the “New Era of Leeds United fans” were just not really that bothered about the “Old Guard”. It made me think that the old supporters groups might just be outdated now, with the “new and improved” Bi-Millenials taking centre stage. Thinking about all those “The League is more important than the Cup” comments, the cynic in me says that times have changed. The way we watch football has changed, the way we appreciate football has changed, the way we talk and react to football has changed. In short, football has changed, and I haven’t… and frankly, I’m not going to.
In the old days, unless your dad / relative / mate’s dad / relative / friend took you to watch a game, you basically were on your own. You may have been in a group at school who went together, but if you weren’t that lucky, and if you loved the team, you just went in head first, because the long and short of it was, you just wanted to watch Leeds United. These were the days when you could walk up to the turnstile and pay on the gate or climb over the walls for the more daring older members. Later on, tearing off your little paper slip from your season ticket book became the norm once terracing areas got their own season tickets. But it didn’t matter then, because you knew that everyone else on that terrace was just there to watch Leeds United as well. It didn’t matter who you were, where you came from or what you did, we were all equals – apart from the ones who had always been there. That was their spot and everyone knew it. If you went and stood in their spot, you would know about it. Terrace etiquette.
Away games were a different kettle of fish. Firstly, if you had never been to a ground before, you had to find it. This was no mean feat, as, if you remember, most grounds were in the middle of town, not these new out of town souless stadia like we have now. Walking round rows of terraced houses looking for Maine Road or Goodison Park, desperately hoping you didn’t bump into a crowd of home fans, was your first hurdle. This was of course, provided you got off at the right train station in the first place, and given that trains weren’t all that good in the old days, this was a recipe for disaster. Those paper timetables with the texture of school toilet paper were terrible if they got wet, difficult to read at the best of times. Trains though cost money, and in the 60s those who couldn’t afford it, well they just hitch-hiked, not as dangerous as it seems in those days (unless you didn’t know where Stoke was). None of this uber and googlemaps rubbish. Having said that, I think I saw something on facebook about some guy that got into a taxi to go to Stamford Bridge and the satnav took him to York. So , ho hum for technological advances.
So this is where the Supporters Clubs were a godsend. Not only did the coach pick you up, but they saved you the hassle of standing at the ticket office, hoping to God that no one could see your colours (after a few times, you stopped wearing your colours) to try and get a ticket anywhere you could. Then they would take you home, or at least to the pub on the way home, if it was open. Because all you wanted to do was to go watch Leeds United. That’s what it was all about then, watching your team. If you didn’t go and watch your team , then you never saw any football unless you caught World of Sport or Grandstand if you had a telly. None of this 600+ channels and sport on demand, every day of every week all year round, that you have nowadays. Saturday was special because Saturday meant football.
The loyalest fans went everywhere. No matter how much it cost in time and money, somehow you just did. Missing a game was unimaginable. These loyal fans weren’t celebrity fans, they didn’t tell everyone how much of a fan they were, they just went to the games and watched the 11 men on the pitch, and everyone knew it. They didn’t have famous friends, and if anything the players themselves recognised the ones that travelled everywhere, and they were proud of them. The players were proud of the fans – who’d have thought?
Nowadays, if you don’t post on social media, no one knows who you are. The loudest voices of the “fans” are those who are adept at using social media to their own ends. The ones the media take note of are the ones with all the means and the money who organise plane fly pasts and inflated overhead projections. The ones who are famous for tweeting and retweeting and commenting on whatever late breaking news SkyTVis f**kings**t-all-one-word are peddling on their “transfer window exclusives”. Are these people the real fans, or are the real fans just those who want to go watch Leeds United? And I do mean the ones that want to watch the football, not these that want to go and do anything but watch the game. Why spend your time and money going to a game if you are just going to look at your phone for 45 minutes, take a 15 minute break and then go back on your phone for another 45 minutes? May as well just stop at home and sit on the toilet and do that. At least you won’t have to get up and go for a piss. Yes, jump up and down to celebrate when we score, but bringing in smoke bombs, having beer fights and spending the game whingeing about needing a new striker and arguing with your own fans, not funny, not clever and not Leeds. Not the Leeds of old, and as it should be, not the New Era of Leeds United.
How ironic then that Leeds United bring out a new badge that they say they have consulted with 10,000 fans on and within half an hour there are 10,000 people going on change.org moaning that they haven’t been consulted. Although, if you remember Ridsdale said that 38,000 fans voted to move away from Elland Road to Swillington, so at least 10k isn’t that bad. How ironic that some complainents may be some of the same people who think that the Club need to move forward, away from the old days and embrace the next 100 years because the New Era of Leeds United is about bringing in new blood. How ironic is it that some of these same people believe that the loyal fans of the last 10+ years of decline, don’t really matter (especially when it comes to getting away tickets!), because it’s about the “new” generation of fans. How ironic is it that the simple act of recognising a proper Leeds United legend goes by without a murmur, brushed under the carpet because it’s part of the “old fashioned supporters club” era and this is the New Improved Modern Era of Leeds United. How ironic is it that remembering your history, being proud of your history and honouring the traditions of the oldest footballing tournament in the world isn’t that important, but when it comes to a new badge, all of a sudden, the words tradition and history are being used like they are going out of date ( pardon the pun).
Me, The new badge is growing on me. I never liked the shield, yes, it took us to the Champions League semi final, but it is tarred. Tarred with the horrors in Turkey, tarred with the Bowyer-Woodgate mess, tarred with Ridsdale and his gold plated fish tanks, tarred with O Leary and his book and last but by all means not least, tarred by Bates and Shaun Harvey.
All hail the New Era of Leeds United. On On On.
ps thanks to Fear and Loathing in LS11 for the picture ( I have tried to tag you in it but this version of wordpress isn’t having it)