By Mark Rasdall
I have been lucky enough to have seen Leeds United crowned league champions three times since I started supporting them about forty five years ago. I say lucky because many football supporters will never experience this. Triumphs for their clubs may lie well back in the last century or even the one before that.
Many younger Leeds fans will not have experienced that fantastic Sunday in 1992 knowing only struggle and near misses, although there have also been some great days out - especially during the O'Leary years. I certainly don't say lucky in terms of the club getting it's fair share of the rub of the turf or balanced judgements by any of the so-called football authorities, either in England or Europe. We have had to fight for everything in the face of adversity and almost universal contempt - which is where I first came in.
We are fighting again this season. Neil Warnock has fashioned a hard-working and well-organised side out of some good players and squad members. We have an excellent youth setup and there seems to be a real desire to play for the club again from most of those involved. Peter Lorimer - my favourite player as a child - once wrote a piece in a football annual called 'keep on fighting' and we are going to need to do that this season as much as we have ever done. Quite apart from the lack of funding for new players and the interminable corporate situation, the squad is small and injuries are already mounting up after just five league games out of the forty six: Green, Norris and now McCormack. Add to this the long-term unavailability of Nunez (who I really rate) and Somma (what is the latest news there?) and those promising youngsters may be thrown in earlier than expected. This has shadows of Aaron Lennon trying to help us avoid the drop...
The other, ongoing problem we face as Leeds United is that those Revie years and the success that came from them have marked us out, even today, as the team to beat. I can handle that - as can my sons who remain a bit mystified by my/our siege mentality - and 'dirty Leeds' is just fine by me. But if you look at the clubs immediately above us - Huddersfield, Middlesboro and Forest (who we play next Saturday) - and those immediately below - Bolton, Sheff Weds and Barnsley - they have all played in the top division relatively recently (yes, I can remember a game against the Dudds in April 1972 when we won 3.1 at Elland Road). They are all equipped to beat us and would not, let's face it, be seen as giant killers. If you then add Blackburn, Blackpool, Hull (we'll see you on Tuesday) and Wolves with their parachute payments and other clubs who have played in the top league, I can see only Peterborough and Cardiff as teams I don't remember Leeds playing against at that level. We've already beaten Peterborough who were unusually poor at London Road and, of course, lost at Cardiff again yesterday.
So, they say that our league championship is the toughest, if not the most glamorous, league in England and you can see why. If we become league champions it won't be the same as in 1969, 74 or 92 as it will just mean promotion but how we would celebrate that, as we frequently do as unofficial (remember that unfairness thing?) champions of Europe. I just think it's going to be really tough without all the extra help we can get. Neil is, in my view, undoubtedly the man for the job, but like King Canute, he alone cannot stop the tides that continue to flow against us