Always Leeds Always Loyal: Part 2

Preston was a bit of a dampener then. Chances missed, hit on the break, equalising goal from a header from a guy whose total height was the sum of height difference between their defence and ours, and clear penalty not awarded to us??? Luck isn’t going our way right now, but it isn’t where we are now that matters, it’s where we are at the end of April. The injuries to Cooper and Shackleton have demonstrated our frailties in defence and midfield, but we go again, we keep the faith. Always Leeds Always Loyal.

In honesty, this is where the “Always Loyal” Part 2 bit comes in.  We do keep the faith, we do go again. We are loyal. Originally this article was meant to be half homage to Eric and his dedication to Leeds and half sarcastic snowflake sledging, but I fear the irony may well be lost on them. However, I hate wasting opportunities to cast aspersions on the less tolerant, so am just going to barrel on anyway.

Family or friends? In a Chris Tarrant type way, yes, there are people who I have met at football who I could call to ask a £1million question of, should the situation ever arise. There are one or two who win the LUSC Annual quiz, year in year out, who could probably tell me how many eggs were on Clarke’s fried breakfast the day he scored the winner at Wembley.  But you know that’s not what I mean.

Family – you can pick your friends, you can’t choose your family. In a way, my Leeds United family (and not in a My Leeds United Peter Ridsdale crap book type way) is something that I am lucky enough to have chosen. Leeds United fans are an eclectic group and I count myself very fortunate to have forged friendships, made mortal enemies of, sealed grudges (for life- not just for Christmas) and just generally had my 15 minutes of banter with the fellow faithful. Such is the way with the Leeds United International fan base over the years, regardless of language barriers, I have had the pleasure of travelling the world,  doing what I love doing, drinking and watching Leeds United.

I have been in some of the dingiest s**tholes and some downright palatial mansions in my time. Ok, possibly only a very small number of slighty more discerning establishments and loads of questionable, at best, drinking dives. That could be Dreamscape 3 – the places you’ll never forget! But, all with Leeds fans and all of this was done WAY before the advent of social media. We were brought together because of the Supporters Club. This was down to Eric.

Eric Carlile was instrumental in bringing Leeds fans together. Eric was on the board of Leeds United and until Bates decided he knew better, the Supporters Club was the best place to find the right travelling companions for even the  most discerning Leeds United fan. He matched people with branches and when he ran out of options for that, he started a postal LUSC branch. Eric spent hours hand writing – yes writing – by hand – on paper – letters replying to Leeds United fans all over the world. Eric Carlile connected people. He did what the  Zedbergs and Gaggles of this New World Order are doing, without secretly harvesting all your personal info and selling it on to the highest bidder for advertising and marketing services(alledgedly). Eric didn’t need noseybook or the titteratti to unite Leeds United fans. He united us.

Family. Like all families there are the good, the bad and the downright ugly. The Leeds United family is no exception. There will always be differences in opinion, unhealable rifts even, but everyone will always be accepted as what they are, whatever they are and you just get on with it, because they are family, we are Leeds United. There’s the clever ones who got a degree and therefore know everything and are right all the time about everything. There’s the thicker ones who may be short on brain power but more often than not make up for it in common sense and/or brawn. There are the airheads who haven’t got the foggiest what day it is and there are the sensible ones who can tell you what minute of the day it is by looking at the sun. The organised and the organisers, and the hapless and the helpless who at times genuinely make you wonder how they make it through the day.

The daft thing is that each one of them can have totally different opinions about Leeds United. The hi tech electronic device devotees who know it’s the truth because it says it on their phone and the low jack luddites who wouldn’t use the paper it was written on to wipe their own backsides. The “It’s my way or the wrong way and that’s that” dependable’s and the constantly shifting sand and stance ones, dependent only on what SkyTVisf**ings**t say. The ones who know a guy, who knows a guy and then those couldn’t care less, they’ll just turn up anyway.

The doom and gloom mongers and the permanently pessimistic aren’t necessarily any more well read than the eternally optimistic – there’s always next season –  ones. The annoyingly frank and indefinitely in-denial-ists may well be cut from exactly the same cloth. And, surprisingly enough, even  the steadfastly loyal to a heartbeat and the bandwagon jumpers have may have no particular intelligence or discriminating tendencies or mannerisms. Plus depending on how much Leeds United have been jerking people’s respective chains, they all may well be interchangeable at any given point or just plain completely indifferent. One of the longer suffering fans in the pub is still sore after they made him pay £50 up front one season to go in the old “Panini Stand” with his lad in the days of the old Lowfields. He completely fell out with them for at least two seasons, but then returned to the fold.

All different but all loyal. At the last game of the season as everyone is walking past each other, it is always “See you next season then, have a good summer”, no questions asked. It is how it is.

This is what has irked me about Centenary Week.

Leeds United is 100 years old. What makes Leeds United? Not the chairmen, not the owners, not the managers, not the players. They are mere fleeting whispers on the wind for however long they decide to stay with us or how long they last before they get sold off. What makes Leeds United? The supporters make Leeds United. Because ultimately had it not been for the supporters, there would be NO Leeds United. The Supporters Club gave rise to Leeds United from the flames of the fire sale that was Leeds City at the very start. The Supporters Club have always been here, against all odds at times, but we are still here and will be here long after this lot have cleared off.

I know there will be people reading this who think the Supporters Club is a thing of the past and times need to change. I disagree. It is the one constant. My brief history supporting Leeds has seen us go from gates of 39,000 when we were basking in European glory in the 90s, to plummeting down to under 20,000 as we fell deeper into the mire of relegation under Ken’s regime. Then as we hit Division 3, you couldn’t give your ticket away, home or away at times. But even before that, Leeds fans were fickle. In the 73/74 season the official capacity was 48,000 but, for various reasons, it was (according to the trusty Rothmans Football Yearbook) rare for a game to be completely sold out. In the early 80s, home attendances fell right down, dipping occasionally to under 10,000 but then rose back when we started winning. After promotion at the start of the 90s, support again rose, but fell like a sack of spuds the second we got relegated from the top flight, with 10,000 people vanishing in the summer of 2004, and a further 8,000 mysteriously disappeared 3 years later. Who knows where they all went. And now they’re all back. As a simple example Leeds v Millwall on 2/3/2013 attracted 19,002 hardy souls. Leeds v Millwall 30/3/2019 was 34,910. Suddenly the missing 16,000 people have decided they were interested again. How very odd.

I have seen my fair share of consortium after consortium, administrations, winding up notices, CVAs threats, liquidations, amazing share selling deals and then shares being rendered worthless, Premier cards and then 6 max per fax for away tickets (apart from the 750 tickets at Brighton , which were by written invitation only!), Bates In, Bates Out, skint sheikhs, Cellino In, Cellino Out, takeover bids, failed take over bids, RMCs, other fans groups etc.etc.etc (as the great Yul Brynner famously said). The one constant has been the LUSC.

I am disappointed that the Supporters club wasn’t more involved in the Centenary celebrations but I’m more disappointed that it became more and more a split between those who have and those who have not.

The Centenary Dinner at £200 per head. I agree, it was an ensemble of the great and the good of Leeds United, but £200 per ticket? For dinner!

The Centenary shirt, limited edition of 1919 and a snip at just short of £200. Only for them to be snapped up by the anti-fans on T’Internet in order for them to skank the “proper” supporters who just want to stick it in a frame on their wall for 300% face value. By the way, the Yorkshire Rose stands up on it’s own two feet. Get it right.

Only 10,000 Centenary programmes on the day for a sell out 35,000 crowd. The game was always going to sell out. Which of the 22,000 season ticket holders and the 10,000  gold members in their right minds, would NOT have bought a Centenary programme that day?

Matchday celebrations started at 10.30am, brilliant for the locals and people who could afford to stay overnight. Not so good for the people for whom every match is a 12 hour awayday and then had a mile trek because car parking was limited.

That new light blue shirt? Our away strip is YELLOW. Bad enough that the other one is grey and pink. Where’s the hark back to heritage in Centenary year? Probably the one and only time that you would be true to tradition and stick to your original colours would be IN THE CENTENARY YEAR.

But no. Let’s pander to the New World Order, where you’re not allowed be sacred to your roots. Where being tied to your traditions and honouring your history is a bad thing. Where you are being forced to “fit in” with globalisation and shamed for not being all available and inclusive to everyman and his dog. “Football has to change with the changing times”. Why? Football was born out of the need to find something to do in between the factory closing and the pub opening. It’s a game of the masses. The common people. Stop trying to change it. It’s bad enough that we are having Saturday afternoons taken away from us because people want everything at their own convenience. Which equates to the more money you have the more convenience you are entitled to and the less inconvenience you have to put up – kerching! Given that it was a very expensive pre season in Australia as well, how much spare money do the die hard fans have? In the immortal words of Paul Daniels – Not a lot!

But, through it all together, we remain…. Always Leeds Always Loyal