I have decided that the new branch phrase should be Excelsior! Why? I hear you say.

The Branch Secretary reliably tells me that the great Stan Lee uses this frequently. In fact, at the end of the last Avengers film, it was noted that he shouted this word. Loosely translated, it means ever upwards, therefore it’s relevance to both the Harrogate & District LUSC and Leeds United. I know I have used another phrase intermittently, as have noticeably several others in the last few months on social media. I cannot remember who said the phrase “onwards and upwards” first. I thought it was Buzz Lightyear, however I have been corrected, his catchphrase is ” to infinity and beyond” and we aren’t so bothered about going to infinity. The aim for Leeds United really is The Premiership, which technically is upwards, therefore, I declare the new Branch motto – Excelsior!

The game at Barnsley this weekend was a little disappointing to say the least. Apart from the fact we scored two goals, we lost the game, so let’s break down the disappointments.

First, the allocation. The first time I went to Barnsley, Oakwell was, to put it bluntly, a right mess. That was decades ago, when there used to be a ladies toilet, cunningly disguised as a bike shed in front of the goal. The Secretary informs me that back in the day when you could choose between standing and sitting, we used to get tickets not only behind the goal, but also to the side of it, in the main West Stand L5 to L8. Similar to where Leeds United put the away fans now, although the view isn’t fantastic, it is better than being stuck behind the goal. Having gone on the Barnsley website before our allocation was announced, we knew that Barnsley were charging non season ticket holders £37 for tickets, the same as we were being charged, regardless of where they were seated. £37 is a lot of money to watch a Division 2 match. It is what Leeds United charge visiting fans since Bad Papa Smurf moved them out of the Cheese Wedge, so we cannot really complain when other clubs charge us the same. Sadly, every game we play in this division which involves a team in the Yorkshire, is deemed THE “Yorkshire Derby”. Leeds United attracts fans from not just Leeds, but the surrounding areas, we know the fan base is huge in Yorkshire. So given just these factors alone, it was extremely disappointing that the allocation was so low. Barnsley could be forgiven for thinking that their fans could sell out the ground for this fixture because of the connotations of a “local derby”, however, the match was going to be on telly, at 5.30pm, and for non season ticket holders they were going to charge £37. NOT A CHANCE! It turned out that the attendance was a disappointing 17,870, with 5241 Leeds United fans. According to the footballgroundguide.com the capacity is 23,009.

Barnsley away(thanks to Julie Trimble LUSC https://www.facebook.com/groups/leedsunitedsupportersclub/ for the photo by the way)

So given the West Stand was half empty, why not give more tickets to Leeds fans? It would have generated more money for starters, maybe another 1500 at £37 per head = £55,500 and it would have prevented some of the crowd trouble generated by Leeds fans who had acquired tickets in the Barnsley end. Barnsley must be cash rich, seeing as they could afford to turn down the best part of £50,000.

This leads nicely to the second disappointment. Crowd trouble. The media immediately focused on “crowd trouble and arrests”, not football. People were sharing pictures of fans, police and stewards, with our fantastic value for money (72p) local rag the YEP, guilty as charged for their facebook pictures of “horrendous” scenes. Now I am not condoning any violence, and I am certainly not excusing any of the behaviour of the people who were caught on camera shouting and tussling with each other at the front of the pitch in the East corner, but this was a small number in comparison to the 5000+ Leeds fans who attended that game. The only way to know exactly what happened to trigger this event, is to hope that the police had those little body cameras attached to their shoulders and they were recording at the time. The tension had been mounting up after Chris Wood scored, but what actually happened is anyone’s guess really. The only thing that could and should have been done as a preventative measure was to not have the game kick off at 5.30pm in the first place. South Yorkshire police are responsible for our safety outside the environs of the stadium. Exactly the same police force have been responsible for not letting us play Sheffield Wednesday at any other time apart from midday since the 1990s and possibly longer, for what reason you ask? Safety. So, why did they agree to move this game to 5.30pm? Need you ask?

The third disappointment, our fans. Despite the (relatively) large allocation compared with some other clubs this season, many of our branch members missed out. I don’t like the disparaging phrases that have been used of late to describe fellow Leeds United fans. Whilst I have my own feelings towards some Leeds fans, you always have to recognise many Leeds fans simply cannot afford the time or money to go to games. I consider myself very lucky that I can afford my season ticket and am lucky enough to go to away games as often as I do. Since the Internet revolution, and the Television Gods taking over football as we know it, many fans who would not have been able to engage in football banter in the 80s and 90s, are now enabled. So some people who have never been to a live football game, have now the benefit of pause and rewind to be able to comment on the game. Good for them. This leads to some folk thinking that they are superior because they think that they are “proper” fans as opposed to the “armchair army”. Well, I have news for them. Lately I look around at an away game and all I see are people doing anything but watching the game. Some are on their phones looking at other scores, some are taking selfies or videos of themselves at the game, some are just watching / having a pop at the home fans trying to stir something up. I sound like an old git moaning, but I really don’t know why you would want to go to a game and not actually watch what is going on the pitch. £37 plus £1 bates tax to not watch the game. The worse thing is, that we had branch members who wanted to go, but we couldn’t get tickets for them because they had sold out, and they would have wanted to watch the game. This season we have played some of the most exciting football in years, well worth watching, yet some of our so called fans haven’t seen it and may as well have just sat in front of the box instead, just like the people that they moan about.

So, the next issue; social media. Whilst I appreciate the ease of communication that facebook provides, and The Secretary definitely does not miss those phone calls and texts late on a Friday night/ Saturday morning asking what time the bus is leaving, the world wide web sure does have its foibles. The trouble is once you write something on facebook or twitter or whatever else you use, it is there for ever and ever, and you cannot take it back. I thank my lucky stars that they did not have this when I was younger! Take our unlucky old number 19 player, for instance, look at what happened to him. I believe in Freedom Of Speech as much as the next man, but I have to draw the line when it comes to throwing insults at all and sundry, whether it be chairmen, managers or players, or their respective families. This is completely out of order, and this applies to singing and chanting as well. The odd comment can be funny, but when there is a continual barrage, its is neither big, nor clever nor funny. The press have always hated Leeds United, and this goes back to the Revie Era, and not just the team but Don himself. So, when you already have the newspaper conglomerates against you anyway, the TV Gods being awkward with Leeds United, despite them secretly enjoying our success because of the viewing figures, there really is no need to start a war on the rest of the 24 hour social media platforms, even if you are doing it after you have had a few too many. The long and short of it is that however long there appears to be “friction” in between fan groups, “fans” v Chairman, fans v fans etc. etc.  the media will reap in the benefits. “Divide and Conquer” or in its true form “divide et impera” Julius Caesar – divide and rule. Before Bad Papa Smurf the majority of Leeds fans were united. He sparked off the split between fans and to some that split is irreperable. In the last few seasons there have been attempts to “Unite” Leeds United fans, for example the Trust, this LFU thing and so on. None of these have really taken off, the march through Leeds City Centre where a select few were seen to be swearing and abusing shoppers didn’t help, and the “stunts” outside Elland Road left some with an extremely bad taste in their mouths. Personally, I think they should all just let it go. I think all fans groups who are able to engage in dialogue with Leeds United without unnecessary language and publicity stunts, should all have an equal footing.

At the end of the day, all we want to do is support our team. Our branch does it by buying season tickets or memberships and getting tickets and running coaches to away games when we can, thereby being part of that fantastic support that Garry Monk  keeps mentioning. The LUSC does it by sponsoring players and most if not all LUSC members have either season tickets or memberships. The motto of the LUSC: Always Leeds Always Loyal, Getting Members To Games Since 1919.