Thanks to the Stoke fanzine Duck for the picture. Their editorial talks about the loss of another fanzine, one of Stoke’s oldest – The Oatcake. Like our own old Harrogate fanzine “We Are Leeds”, it was something that truly reflected, in their own words, what selected fans thought and have been thinking for the past 30 years. Gone are the days of normal fans typing stuff out on pieces of A4 and sending things off to the printers for next month’s edition to sell outside the ground. Long gone are the days when people were just allowed to write what they wanted to say without fear of repercussion or accusations of offensiveness from anyone else (Club or other fans). The fanzines of old have now been replaced by bigger, better, brighter things with colour photos and adverts from sponsors cluttering up the pages, forced into trying to keep up with modern social media platforms. Anyone who hasn’t seen our old fanzine, please have a look at it in the fanzine archive bit on the website. It will give you a glimpse into what it used to be like in the old days of the Harrogate branch.
Leeds United used to have many fanzines, The Hanging Sheep, To Ell and Back, The Square Ball to name but a few, and the LUSC newsletter – The Elland Road Roar , of course. Like many clubs, fanzines captured the feelings of the fans at the time and more often than not, reflected what the regular match attendees (home and away) were experiencing. When we travelled away, one of the first things we looked for were the oppositions’ fanzines. These fanzines are now in sad decline. In fact any half time reading material is in decline, and now the EFL have decided that (because fans matter) clubs shouldn’t be forced to produce a matchday programme, if they don’t want to. Such is the influence of social media and other media platforms, even though programmes do sell out regularly at clubs, because fans matter so much, they aren’t needed… apparently.
The reason why this excerpt is so important, and so particularly poignant at this moment in time, is those four sentences. Supporters are what makes a football club special: not those it employs. They are fleeting custodians. The club belongs to the supporters. Always will.
My sentiments exactly.
This blog has been my mouthpiece for the last few years and I stand by what I believe in. I have been saying this for ages. The football club belongs to it’s loyal fans.
It is good to know that these same opinions are echoed by other fans in other clubs. We have seen evidence of this, this week at Bury, in some very unfortunate circumstances. I feel for those fans. I have felt the same way once upon a time. In fact, worrying about what would happen to Leeds United is, and has been, an occupational hazard for the long standing Leeds United supporter. I think most people will remember that a decade or two ago, Leeds fans genuinely believed that by buying shares in the Club we would be investing in and securing our long term future. Those who had money at the time showed their loyalty by buying these shares, which were then rendered worthless by the consortium that took us over not long afterwards. Like I said, occupational hazard.
Chairmen and owners will come and go, but we, the loyal fans, will always be here. Big money companies, charlatans who purport to have money and conglomerates who simply want to come in and strip the clubs of their assets to make a quick buck and throw it to the next set of lions, will always be attracted to football. They circle around like vultures, hovering over their prey, waiting for their turn to have a peck at the potentially rich pickings, especially with those clubs (like ours this last year or so) who play attractive football, and attract the advertising revenue.
Long gone are the days of the Jack Walkers and Dave Whelans, the philanthropic ones who were interested only in the football club because of football and nothing else. Jack Walker being one of the few who actually were able to buy the title and (probably) be proud of it. I can’t really ask him , can I? Modern football is about money – yes I have said it again. Money, money, money. In a rich man’s world… as ABBA so profoundly put it.
In a previous blog, I painstakingly talked about what football meant to me, and how it differed with the ones who I am unfortunate to stand next to at away games (when I can get a ticket). The ones who are basically there to chat with their mates, take selfies and jump about until they get bored and then go and chuck beer all over themselves – anything but hold their concentration for 90 minutes and watch what is going on in front of them on the pitch. These would never have the patience to get through a programme, let alone read and take in what the opposition fans think from a fanzine. Half the time I don’t think many of them can actually read what it says on their ticket and follow the simple instructions to their seat, seeing as they just go stand anywhere anyway. Who knew that being able to read the row and seat number and finding the corresponding seat could be so difficult! Literacy! Who needs it right?
So back to Bury and to comments that popped up about not feeling sorry for them. It’s worth noting that the 15 point deduction we got lumped with, was voted on by the Chairmen of the clubs not the fans. I agree some fans rubbed it in, but we all know that every club has that element of loud mouth opinionated part timers who cannot fathom the simple rules of integrity and honesty which constitute the unwritten law of football supporters.
I felt very sorry for the Bury fans. The club has been in existence since 1885, since the beginnings of football in this country. The working class beginnings of most clubs, where factories and industries fielded their own teams, hence Arsenal (Woolwich Arsenal – munitions depot) etc. If you understand the history of a club and are aware of it’s origins, it is difficult to understand why you wouldn’t feel sympathy for an institution which has been let down by unfit and improper owners. Fans don’t matter. Take for example Wimbledon – oh the memories of Plough Lane are flooding back. Wimbledon was ripped apart. Forced to move from their old home to groundshare with Palace initially after the Taylor Report, and then the roots of the Old Crazy Gang were torn up by moving to Milton Keynes of all places, a decade or so later. Thereby causing a massive schism in the fan base.
Divisions aside, going back to what football means can also change perspectives of people. Take Roy Keane for example. Leeds fans will never forget what he did to Alfie but coming out with that “Prawn sandwich brigade” comment, acknowledging the presence of non traditional football fans in a stadium, endeared him even to the most hard nosed Leeds fan. The newcomers and bandwagon jumpers who don’t understand the heritage of the humble beginnings of football, will never understand what it means to loyally follow your team.
Everyone starts as a newcomer, you have to start somewhere, you are not born a Leeds fan – although there may be parents out there who disagree! Something happens to make you a fan of Leeds United and then stay a loyal Leeds fan. It could be that a parent takes you and you get hooked, or it could be (as in many of the International fan base) you watched us on the telly. There are many reasons why we love our club so much. Then, there are certain things that happen, that just cement your faith and loyalty (if it actually needed cementing). Bringing in Bielsa comes to mind straight away. Another highlight for me was the (at the time – very bizarre) stroke of genius signings of two South African players Phil Masinga and Lucas Radebe. I remember that cup game against Walsall when the lights went out and Masinga got a hattrick. It wasn’t so much the hattrick, it was that not many clubs were signing players outside of Europe at that time. Who would know that 25 years later, Lucas would be what he is now.
The thing that unites us is that we are here now, we have been there before and we will still be there. We are the loyal Leeds United and we will never be defeated.