Time to end the delusion – we are no longer a ‘Big Club’

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“Leeds United don’t need to aspire to be like anybody because we are Leeds United” Brian McDermott

As a fan it made me punch the air, enthusiastically shouting “go on Brian”. I originally thought that he just gets it; he gets what it means to be Leeds. I quickly watched the actual press conference online to realise that it wasn’t said emphatically but almost dismissing the claim that Leeds could perhaps aspire to build forward, on and off the field like Brighton & Hove Albion have in recent year. But is the dismissing, arrogant, big club attitude one we need? Or do we need to start from the bottom and aspire to be like Brighton, like Swansea or even like the European giants Dortmund?

I’m one of us. I’ll fight to the end, desperately proclaiming that we’re one of the biggest clubs in England as I bellow the memorised statistics of our unquestionably superb away support. I’ll protest about how the only reason we don’t fill our ground is because 8 years of Bates takes it out of even the most loyal of fans or how it’s because of our outrageously high ticket prices. But, in reality, Bates is gone and ticket prices were lowered significantly for the‘Leeds 4 less’ campaign yet there was only around 25,000 there for Peterborough, Derby and Blackpool at home. So let’s take a moment to be honest, whispering this next bit quietly; we’re not really a big club anymore.

But we continue to pretend, to say “oh look we’re Leeds – who needs to look at any other clubs to aspire to be?” but would we not be in a better position trying to follow teams like Swansea in starting something special. Something that would require patience, bringing in young players, playing good football while encouraging the ideals of fan ownership. Swansea went from visiting Accrington Stanley to visiting Old Trafford, combined with their unpredictable victory in the League Cup through their good-natured football and a mix of young home-grown talent and bargains from abroad. Swansea have got it right but it takes time to implement a system as successful as this and Leeds fans simply won’t give anyone that time.

We’ve simply decided that we’re too much of a big club to stay out of the Premier League any longer. Any manager that starts to build something is hounded out at even showing vague signs of a bad run, despite our average squad in the past two years our expectations have been sky-high. We ignore that we’ve got a team of Championship journey men and feel that we should be knocking the metaphorical door of the automatic promotion places down purely because of our achievements in the past. Almost as if we have a divine right to be in the top division purely because of the magnificent past that Don Revie built or that Howard Wilkinson re-built after that period of turmoil in the eighties.

It’s become the norm to visit a half full Elland Road, sit down for ninety minutes with the only movement a swift ‘we are Leeds’ that ends with a collective groan as we gift the ball to the opposition once again. Any attempts to build an atmosphere are regarded as “tinpot” by the older cynics on Waccoe or Twitter. They feel the mighty Leeds United don’t need to create our own artificial atmosphere while ignorantly disregarding the 20,000 empty seats at Elland Road. Our ‘Paint It White’ campaign that was installed by GFH Capital to encourage a lively atmosphere for a Yorkshire derby involved white pieces of card placed on seats in the Kop to create a sea of white when the players walked onto the pitch. This was “disgusting” according to some fans while these same fans were amazed at Dortmund’s sensational yellow wall before their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid. As fans, we don’t realise that we need new ideas to encourage the lost generation of kids and teenagers back to Elland Road. We need to follow the ideas of Dortmund, the same they implemented into their club when on the verge of bankruptcy. Through these ideas they’ve transferred from the brink of going out of existence to the brink of joining Europe’s elite.

I’m not slamming McDermott, his words were the perfect propaganda to get fans on his side as he builds his new look Leeds United team. But if it is more than propaganda to then we could be in for more disappointment as fans. Brian, who has started so positively, needs to start from the bottom. As Revie did when he built Leeds as we know it and as Wilkinson did when he re-built Leeds United. Ignore the big club mentality, start from scratch and watch the results follow.

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Reporter – Will Rose

  • Brian Wakefield

    A decent bit of writing, but I totally disagree with not being a ‘big club’ as you’re one of the ‘bottle almost empty’ brigade that seem to spend most of their lives looking for different ways to down grade our club, perhaps you could tell me how many other clubs could go through the same decade as Leeds and still attract the kind of attention and support. Very devisive article really, could have been written by L.U.S.T

    • http://twitter.com/WillRose_ Will Rose

      Wouldn’t agree with that, Brian. I’m usually an optimist that constantly tries to big up the club (as i stated in the article). But tired of the big club attitude – Derby who haven’t haven’t had any success apart from a small period in the 70s have average nearly two thousand more than us but they haven’t had investment, they haven’t had a successful last ten years but still get the fans there. Why can’t we?

      • Bluesman

        BATES!!!!!

        • http://twitter.com/WillRose_ Will Rose

          Yep but Bates stop having any input (or output) in December

      • Brian Wakefield

        I just feel, rightly or wrongly, that there are some that seem to delight in the reduced attendances etc. Considering the amount of ‘Boycots’ and the ongoing issue with Bates, I think we have withstood the onslaught well and, considering the talent and skill we lack, even more so. I noticed, in the Kop yesterday, how the atmosphere suddenly evaporated when the chant went up about bates, I happen to agree that the man could have, and should have, done far more that he did and his attempt to leave a ‘legacy’ has backfired. I stil cannot understand how we could play so well against Spurs et al, yet revert to ‘hoof ball’ for the next game! Anyway, Bates has now gone, other that the token symbolic role he has, so I think it is time to stop feeding the mans obvious ego and never mention his name again and lets look forward to next season. B

        • http://twitter.com/WillRose_ Will Rose

          Yeah agree with that – very frustrating that we turned up against Everton, Spurs, Southampton, Chelsea (for 45) but couldn’t against Barnsley, Derby etc.

      • DP

        I Think the reason we don’t get the crowds in now is because we had a perfectly good team to build on when coming up from league 1. That was then stripped apart by ken bates and now we have to start all over again. People just got deflated and gave up, At the end of the day how many people have lost work since then also ? They will be back once they have a reason to I`m sure.

        • http://twitter.com/WillRose_ Will Rose

          Yeah fair point that

      • Thailand White

        Will , I work all over the world , Rio in Brazil , Dubai , Singapore, Norway, Sweden ,Thailand , Malaysia , Vietnam and Cambodia and I am amazed that when I wear my Leeds Shirts people young and old come up and talk about Leeds with great knowledge about us .

        My mates that are fans from other clubs outside the usual suspects from the top of the Prem including the likes of Newcastle , Everton , Sunderland ect that are regarded as having big support cant match our worldwide status , and poll after poll that has been conducted place us the English team most Scotts follow after their own Scottish team.

        Not having a go , but our world support still puts us in a bracket other teams will never have .

        Big Team no , big Club Yes .

  • http://www.facebook.com/steven.jackson.319247 Steven Jackson

    Very well written and correct.
    Leeds United are no longer a ‘big club,’ we are a Championship team and an average one at that.
    The team needs to be re-built and all the deadwood needs to be gotten rid of.
    Hard work is what is needed to get this team back into the top flight.
    It will probably take several years.

    • http://twitter.com/WillRose_ Will Rose

      Cheers pal – appreciate the kind words.

  • Kev Nugent

    too true for comfort Will, even a significant chunk of our home supporters seem to be content with our history and the fact that it will never be repeated , a case of don’t rock the boat wer’e having a nap. It will be 50 years of following the team (for me) in two years, never been so bored of attending Elland rd.

    • http://twitter.com/WillRose_ Will Rose

      Unfortunately, as a 16 year old, I’ve missed the history and can’t be content with that! Cheers for the comments though

  • http://www.facebook.com/reginald.glovebox Reginald Glovebox

    Leeds United ARE a big club. FACT. A club is judged on its history including what it has achieved/won. On it’s fan base around the world. On the size of its ground and the quality of its training/medical facilities. And on its potential for future growth success.

    It’s easy to argue that Leeds’ success is historical so bears no influence on our current status, but our past achievements shouldn’t count for nothing.

    Club and team are totally different concepts. I think it would be fair to say we are a big club, that is currently struggling and that the team is an average Championship one.

    My view is regardless of league position, money in the bank or current playing staff Leeds are without a doubt a big club.

    And don’t worry about BMcD, I’m sure he knows what is needed. I don’t agree that he was being arrogant. He wasn’t bragging, he has just bought into just how big we are. Easy to forget when you’ve had 10 years in the wilderness.

  • Lufc

    We averaged 26,000 only 5 years ago in league 1, of course it’s a big club. Bad economy, selling every decent player we have, awful style of play and too high ticket prices are all valid reasons why fans have had enough. People seem to forget in the 80’s we were getting 14, 15’000 at times. Show some ambition and the fans will return, just like they did in the 90’s.

    • http://twitter.com/WillRose_ Will Rose

      But thats my point! In the 80’s we’d stopped being a big club then Howard Wilkinson grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and rebuilt – exactly what we should be doing now

      • Lufc

        The only way to change it is to get a winning team. The board backed Wilkinson with big money and he did the rest. What would the crowds have been this season to watch a Leeds team with Gradel, Howson, Snodgrass and Beckford in it? It’s up to the people in charge to give leeds fans something to believe in again.

        • http://twitter.com/WillRose_ Will Rose

          Yep but then you can’t necessarily spend big money unless the crowds are there and the crowds won’t come unless you spend big money – its a tough one

  • Bluesman

    Leeds are not a big club but they are a sleeping giant. Bring back good football and a winning side and the terraces will fill again. There will be Leeds United fever! Ken Bates saved the club to ravage it and make it poor. He destroyed the fan base and abused the fans – we also abused him, lol! Now he is gone and the future is bright. It will take more than one season for GFH to turn things around, however! There is too much debts still and things will not improve substantially until the manager has the money to invest in the squad. Just think about the talent that Leeds have sold or let go in the past 8 years and you will see that we can get it back. We just need GFH to ensure that we keep our quality youth players and a management team that can find some talent from the lower leagues, with a bit of investment for top championship players. BM is already starting to rebuild quietly across the club and I think that GFH will go about their job quietly. In my very humble opinion we are two to three season away from the Premiership. Let the good times roll!

    • RITGK

      Sleeping giant is the right term to describe us these days agreed!

  • Ev

    This post is called the art of OVER ANALYSIS and we dont really need pessamistic negativity at this time…. Leeds United are a big club, its not complicated….Leeds is one of the biggest cities in the UK and has one club but there are thousands and thousands of supporters all over the UK and the world… The current attendances are a result of BATES, Prices, Recession and demotivation…. Leeds has the potential to be one of the best supported clubs in Europe its run well and with vision. Its that Potential that Brian M and the owners present and future need to unlock….

  • yorxman

    I think if you asked fans the world over who is the biggest club outside the Premiership there would only be one answer. Football, like life, is ‘swings & roundabouts’ and Leeds time will come again

    • http://twitter.com/WillRose_ Will Rose

      It will if we’re patient and rebuild – not if keep this arrogant big club attitude it won’t (any time soon anyways)

  • jackjenkinson@gmail.com

    mcdermott will come and go whether its next season or 2 seasons after and we will either at best a mid table team in this league or a lower league i keep reading we only need 2 3 new players to challenge for the premier so bloody laughable we need major surgery from the keeper right up to number 11 and beyond will our wonderful new rich owners provide the funds some how i fear not.

    ticket prices have gone down yes but sadly not enough far enough for many who live in a city and surrounding areas badly effected by austerity polices of the present gov

    we need more things like kids for a quid the odd game for a tenner 31 quid to watch that yesterday hardly encourages the masses back.

    then theirs the disgrace ful stewarding some who wouldnt look out of place in the recently published leeds spurs brawl in the city
    some of these jobsworth s go out of their way to spoil peoples afternoon ejecting people for no more than cheering a rare goal for us

    • http://twitter.com/WillRose_ Will Rose

      The stewards need to be trained like bar staff are – they make it feel like its a privallage to be there when in reality people are spending £31 to watch us lose, they should treat the fans like paying customers. The way they’re trained needs to be completley different.

  • luke

    m sorry but we are not a big club any more. All we have is our history and the potential to be a big club again. Im sorry but its the truth. We need to accept this and get behind a manager and let him build for the future( given the right finances). Sure we could be huge and be a top four prem club. The size of the city means the fanbase is still there. But without the right backing we have to accept what we are and not bin the manager after 11 months

    • Counte of monte fisto

      The problem we have is that we act like a small club in terms of spending on squad etc but all of the other clubs in the division still view us as their biggest game. To do well at leeds we need to be much better than everyone else hull derby Cardiff turn up and the grounds half empty we turn up its full. We still have to combat that. For me as a season ticket holder I’ve missed more games this year than the last 25 combined, why I’m bored. Our football is crap, our players are crap, we have no future and our fans are comatose. I’ve renewed for next season (its what I do every weekend warnocks era aside). I’ve not boycotted this year just had better things to do for the 10 games ives missed, oh and I didn’t miss it at all. I can’t really understand how anyone can say we won’t give slow build a chance, for most of us it’s the lack of ANY build that’s the problem. Worst season ever as a fan IMHO but I start again from the end of this one.

    • http://twitter.com/WillRose_ Will Rose

      I agree with that, pal.

  • LUFC4LIFE

    r think we are a big club in some terms, Our reputation makes us big. But I do agree that if this club does eventually get back to the promised land we will need to find a place to start and become the famous side again, We do need patience I agree. It wont be happening soon, Promotion maybe next season, but II imagine if that happens we will be struggling in the prem for a bit.

    I don’t think we need to aspire though to be anyone else, We have our own way which works at times, we just need to perfect it.

    I don’t think we need to start from the bottom, we have a brilliant academy which is spreading across Europe, We have good players which can eventually play at the top level with experience,

    But your last pint, we never give on the big club mentality, that would be a mistake. It attracts players, It builds morale even if we aren’t a big club anymore. Its partially thrive on

    • Chimp

      I don’t really understand the big club argument. The only thing that matters is how we are doing at this moment and next season. Past teams dont win games now.

  • Beef – Cas

    Can’t agree – it’s just a fact our fans are fickle. So in fact Leeds “could” be a big club again. If they get back into the premiership and start winning, they’ll fill the ground

    • http://twitter.com/WillRose_ Will Rose

      Definitley could be a big club again. The potential is 100% there but the problem is we need to rebuild through time and patience

  • Hardy

    I think everyone realizes that we are not a “big club”, based just on the turnover of our playing staff in the years we have been in the championship, lets face it Michael Brown wouldn’t have got in our promotion winning side. Yes the gates have declined, but who can blame fans for staying away with the tyrannical tenure of Ken Bates and the last than triumphant start by our current owners GFH. Lets face facts we were privy to better players in league 1 than we have been this season. I think everyone knows deep down that GFH are not our saviours, and our new manager is not going to be given the funds needed to take the club in to the promised land of the premier league. Time will tell if BM can work his magic with such a meagre budget, I for one whole heartedly believe in Bryan McDermott,but GFH well they are a different story.

  • marty66

    The point is, the team are rubbish, for the first two games of Beano’s reign we saw the players trying really hard and then in the last two although improved slipped back into the ”oh no not another goal right at the death” frame of mind again. Beano needs to clear out virtually the whole squad and bring in players who WANT to wear the famous white shirt and are willing to give no less than 100% every time. Even if he has to scout lower leagues for talent, something that he’s renowned for as well I feel that the club is finally in the right hands as far as the manager goes. As long as he knows from day one what he has to work with be it one million or ten million I think he can build a real promotion chasing side, and what’s more if it were a choice of selling Sam and having extra funds or just having one million I’d take keeping Sam at Leeds, the boy’s a real talent and if we are to aspire to be the ”BIG CLUB” then surely keeping players that we can build around is the way forward, and in any case we have Thorpe Arch bursting at the seams with talent and I can think of at least six that would make my squad any day of the week.
    The next few months are going to be anxious times for us as fans, we know what needs to be done to re-awaken the sleeping giant, but our hands are tied and we just have to hope that Beano can act on his own beliefs and systems and the obvious cleansing of the squad asap so as he can get stuck in and believe you me he really knows how to get the job done, a very quite mannered man who takes no prisoners when it comes to the crunch, I think credit is due to Shaun Harvey for bringing him in when he did, and I believe he can also see that he’s just what the doctor ordered, (nice one Shaun it took you a while though) I’ll put the delay down to Bates. .I too have been depressed with the crap that was going on at Leeds but for the first time in years I’m feeling a little buzz in the air that the belief was coming back and if it does along with a team that looks like its going somewhere then the fans will come back too………………
    MOT 47 years and counting

  • Aplanir

    Confused?

    I keep hearing this was the worst season ever… It’s been a crap season disappointing to say the least, but worst? NO!! load of BS worst season have you forgot Peter Reid managerial attempt fare enough we were bankrupt in all sense n purpose and had a team full of loanees. Have you forgot the freefall from the premiership to almost out of the football league or your telling me they were good seasons.. I’m 48yrs old and I know for a fact I’ve seen worse seasons than this over the years

    Highlights; of season we got off to excellent start to season looking promising up till December
    Ken Bates sells club
    Finally Neil Warnock goes, rather late agreed but that alone cause for celebrations
    Brian McDermott signs as manager and I’m sure you’ll agree excellent choice
    and to top it all off Ken Bates gone 🙂 party time

    • RITGK

      Looking back on it this season could be a significante one in the clubs history

  • Grenville Hair

    The ‘big club little club’ stuff is overplayed these days, when in the big leagues (La Liga, Prem, Bundesliga) paying punters through the door makes little difference to the bottom line and what really matters is TV deals, corporate hospitality and commercial income. But it’s chicken and egg. You have to be fighting it out at the top end of the top leagues to get those, no matter how big your global fan base, and that means massive investment without any guarantee of a a return. It’s fair to say Leeds are the biggest second-tier club in Europe which has the potential to enter that bracket – there’s a reason ours is the fourth most visited UK club website. Norwich (for example) don’t, but their annual income is still over double ours cos it’s all from TV. In the eighties/nineties it was easier cos we could still afford to compete with most First Division clubs on wages and TV money was minimal. Would Strachan come to Leeds today? No chance.