By Rob Atkinson
The news that all Leeds fans have been waiting for - with just that slight worry that it may never come - has finally been confirmed. Ross McCormack is staying at Leeds, having put pen to paper on a new four-year deal to end speculation that his future might be elsewhere, possibly further north and shrouded in perpetual smog.
Whatever the disappointment fans of Middlesbrough FC might be feeling at these joyful tidings, the chief emotion among the Leeds faithful will be relief. The conviction in certain sections of the press that we were about to lose our most potent striker had amounted to an almost evangelical belief, or at least to a fevered plane of wishful thinking. There may be excuses for certain ill-written and obsessive fan-sites of other clubs getting over-excited about the prospect of more misery for Leeds fans, but the gentlemen of the Fourth Estate do themselves no favours when they, too, sink to the levels of various anti-Leeds factions around the country. But then again, hating Leeds in print is a standby pastime for newspaper lads and lasses since time immemorial, and it least it proves that our chant of "We're not famous anymore" is a living hymn to irony.
The news that McCormack is staying will not exactly echo around the various leagues, ringing with significance, in the way that Gareth Bale's forthcoming departure from Spurs will. And yet one fan-site editor of a West Ham persuasion had pinned his colours so firmly to the mast of "GFH will sell McCormack" that you wonder if he might now perform the literary equivalent of clapping a gun to his mouth and calling in the decorators. It's amazing how the varying fortunes of Leeds United can still provoke such extremes of emotion, even after a prolonged period of obscurity, and even among fans of clubs we have never considered worthy of even a mild dislike.
Make no mistake though - leaving aside all the negative connotations of those who will greet the McCormack news with dismay - this sends out yet another massively positive message, albeit somewhat delayed, as to the direction the new owners of the club are taking. Onwards and upwards is the theme - forget the past, the future is bright and White. McCormack would have had no shortage of suitors had he wished to leave LS11, and if the club had wished to sell, they could surely have realised a large fee in exchange for his services. Something is going unusually right at Elland Road and the longer the season goes on, the better things seem to get. This will remain the case even when the odd, inevitable reverse occurs - as long as the principles seemingly being applied by the owners at the moment continue to guide their actions.
IF - and it remains a significant if - Leeds can now move to plug the few gaps in their squad before this transfer window closes, then a competitive season at the right end of the table surely beckons, maybe along with a juicy cup run or two. The wind of change has been blowing down Beeston way, and it's putting some colour into Leeds fans' cheeks as well as a spring into their steps.
It's been a long, long journey from what we can now assume is the rock-bottom nadir of our great club's proud history. But there are undeniable signs that a renaissance is underway, and maybe - just maybe - that United are back.