By Nigel Flanagan
Some supporters just never give up. They see optimism and hope in every change at their club, they offer cult status to players before they have kicked a ball and they turn out in their thousands for a pre - season kick about. I’ve seen this at Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea, as supporters of a great club tend to identify more with the ‘great’ than the actual ‘club’
Others never believe. They see every signing as a lack of ambition, every change as proof of another season that will be lost and become bitter at every turn. They might even form their own club or boo their team, becoming obsessed with local rivals rather than their own under achieving team. Everton, Aston Villa, Arsenal and Forest currently fit this mould.
But Leeds fans incredibly are both. We have split consciousness. We moan all week and then at the weekends we transform into a bristling mass of utter commitment. Whether we like it or not, that is what attracts Neil Warnock.
No other club in the history of football in this country comes anywhere near us in terms of football injustice and near misses, the kind of things that sap support and passion. Leeds City banned and sold off. The whole Revie era of disgraceful refereeing that robbed us of the European Cup Winners cup, the European Cup, the League Championship and FA cup double. The FA and Football League who have treated us to refusals to rearrange games, record levels of penalty points and derision over our justifiable appeals. The media who denigrate Revie and that whole team, who say Manchester United ‘lost’ the League Championship in 1992 rather than Leeds winning it.
Now we have the tyranny of Bates. But he’s more Mussolini than Hitler, a dying light who will be replaced sooner or later.
But we are still here. Without Premier League football for over 8 years, we are still packing in the crowds, and in all manner of measurements still among the best supported clubs in the world.
Warnock has an ego and this kind of support appeals to it. Bloody minded, out to rock the boat and change the football world. The manager has form in promotions as everyone knows but he is unaccepted amongst the football royalty, as Revie wasn’t. Not romantic enough like Shankly or Busby, not suave like Mourhinio, not ‘old school’ like Hodgson or Moyes and not as powerful as Ferguson. He is an outsider like Leeds and like Leeds fans.
The team will be better than the sum of its parts. It has a number of outsiders – like Diouf, like Paddy Kenny, like Norris, all unfashionable. The spirit will be large this season and we respond to that like Yorkshire Lions. It will be 4 – 4 – 2 most of the season and it will be bloody. Vinnie Jones played out of skin here – because of the fans. Yes he needed Strachan to play with but those days of top players dropping a League have gone. Warnock sees that this division is a slog that can be won by organised teams. He has picked players who want to be organised.
This season will see the fans unite with the manager and the team and explode sooner or later, but give it a few games. I only wish we had been able to sign Joey Barton.