Hoofball - Hopefully a thing of the past very soon. - Laurence Griffiths
Despite a 4-0 hammering at Manchester City, there is more of an air of positivity around Leeds United following the trip to the Etihad. Stephen Clark looks at how the fans ability to laugh through the pain has lifted the gloom slightly, and how we should never accept mediocrity.
"You're nothing special, we lose every week" - Just one of the classic songs belted out by 6,100 loyal Leeds United supporters at Manchester City on Sunday where gallows humour was at its finest. Despite being outclassed on the pitch, the noise from the away section was a constant source of merriment to a bemused Etihad crowd. What it should be seen as is a turning point, the moment that should end a 12 month period of misery and herald a new and more positive era at Elland Road.
Positivity is the key word here. At the moment the fans are the only positive thing the club has. Financially bankrupt off the pitch, tactically bankrupt on it, Leeds United Football Club had drawn heavily on the wealth it's supporters, both emotionally and financially to keep it on an even keel.
Defeats at Barnsley and Middlesbrough had seen Neil Warnock cash his last cheques at the bank of supporter tolerance and things could have turned ugly had yesterday's performance come at Blackburn next weekend.
However at the home of the English Champions, Leeds fans looked around them and thought to themselves - We belong here. On one of the biggest stages in the country, and despite the paucity of quality on display from the men in white shirts, Leeds United's supporters showed why they are some of the best in the land.
From drowning out Blue Moon at the start, to asking "Is there a fire drill?" as the City supporters headed for the exits early, Leeds United's fans sang their hearts out in a display of self-mockery and balls out defiance. They never once turned on the team and only called for the manager to go when it was clear the result was in no doubt.
Henry Winter is a long term admirer of the Leeds support and once again he was rich in his praise of the fans. His match report for the Telegraph bemoaned our absence from the top flight:
"Premier League grounds could do with some of the noise that Leeds bring."We're not famous anymore," they sang. Even as the white shirts were being bypassed time and again, Leeds fans kept singing."
He also stated a more telling point regarding the tactics and demeanour of our manager. Neil Warnock was appointed as the man who would motivate a squad on the fringes of the play-off race into contenders. Instead he has dismantled that squad and built one in his own image. Yet Winter didn't see anything inspirational from the Leeds boss yesterday:
"Afterwards, Warnock sounded like a man expecting the P45 to arrive in the next post. He argued there were issues behind the scenes at Elland Road that would handicap any manager, but Warnock could still have filled Leeds with more drive and direction yesterday. Leeds have a great history, and passionate support but the team seem far off even reaching for the stars again."
I remember standing at White Hart Lane three years ago as the clock wound down looking round and thinking to myself, "As a 3rd division team, should I be happy that we have narrowly lost to Premier League Spurs in the FA Cup?"
The answer I gave to myself was a resounding NO, and I roared the team on as we grabbed a late equaliser for a famous result. It's the same reason that our win at Old Trafford in the previous round is not considered one of the great giant killings. Imagine if Man Utd had lost to Bournemouth in the FA Cup 3rd Round this season, it would have gone down as one of the biggest shocks in the history of the competition, yet the league positions would have been exactly the same.
If we accept the mediocrity we are currently wallowing in, we will end up as a Huddersfield Town, a Wolverhampton Wanderers or an Ipswich Town - small provincial clubs who have had great days in their history, but never look like making it back to the summit of the English game.
Maybe I'm deluded but I still see enormous potential in Leeds United. It is a one club city standing in the top 10 in terms of all time average attendances. I still see us being a force in the top flight as something which will happen, not something that is a pipe dream. All it takes is a little positivity.
Imagine how great it would be to have the support we showed on Sunday focused on cheering the team on, instead of laughing at ourselves. And what do we need to change the mentality? A little bit of positivity on the pitch. Neil Warnock's anti-football tactics have never been what Leeds United are about. We are a club built on high pressure attacking and exciting football, mixed with a steel backbone and a mentality to "Keep Fighting".
Play attacking football and we'll roar them on. I would rather watch us go for it and get picked off, than sit back, launch the ball forward and hope to pick up scraps. Play players in their natural positions where you can get the best of them. Why play Aidy White, all left foot on the right? Time and time again on Sunday he would get into a decent area and then stop to get the ball on his left foot, losing momentum and on most occasions the ball.
What is to be lost by playing Ryan Hall, Habib Habibou, Chris Dawson, Zac Thompson, Dominic Poleon. Get them in the team, encourage them to play their natural game and see what happens. It can't be as mind numbing and soul destroying as recent weeks.
So out of a season ending defeat has come some acknowledgment that change has to be made. The manager has been told in no uncertain times that he is not wanted, and seems resigned to his fate (although not resigned enough to resign!). Nigel Adkins is looking like the preferred successor (I think Jose Mourinho maybe just out of our league, although nothing wrong with thinking big!) and a move to appoint him would be seen as a step in the right direction.
Let's not forget where our conquerors on Sunday were just 15 years ago. Ask anyone on the terraces at Maine Road in 1998 if they saw themselves as the richest club in the world and champions of England by 2012 and whilst most of them would have laughed at you, there would have been the odd deluded dreamer who would have said that it was possible. In 15 years time, remember which camp I was in!