“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