For almost as long as my brain has been able to appreciate the infinite shades of disappointment, Leeds United Football Club has been right alongside me, whispering in my ear, instructing me on the myriad ways a dagger can pierce a heart.
This, I understand from supporters of even worse football clubs, is just How It Works. Football is creator and destroyer, agony and aunt, interview and rejection letter. It holds you close, whispers sweet promises and then forgets to call as the big day approaches. You didn’t think the roller coaster only went up, did you?
As it happens though, I did, and still do, despite seeing enough roller coasters to understand the format.
Leeds, to me, have always been incredible, even (and especially), when we’ve been totally bloody hopeless. I’m something of an optimist, it turns out. Something that’ll surprise those who have heard me muttering apocalyptically about geopolitical developments.
Blame it on the fact that I had the misfortune of being born on the same day that Leeds lifted a trophy, but I’ve looked upon almost every single Leeds game of my life with the kind of confidence unbefitting a man backing a team constructed from footballing no-hopers like Casper Sloth, Edgar Çani and Giuseppe Bellusci.
We’re acting like Leeds United should have always acted
So, now that Leeds are good again and being managed by Marcelo Bielsa, the sort of dream manager who might lead my unstoppable fantasy Leeds United for a happy decade or two… well, it all feels sort of surreal. Where did my disappointment go? Who misplaced my disastrously misplaced passes, my 41% average possession, my defensive blunders?
Leeds have gone from private fantasy to public reality. We win, we dominate and, on the occasions that we don’t win, it seems like we should have won, were it not for that same cruel God who insists on striking down almost every player in the squad.
We’re acting like Leeds United should have always acted. Like we’re the best team in the world, and it’s up to whoever has the misfortune of facing us to prove otherwise. It’s a mentality my father has often preached from his era, the Revie era; that if a team didn’t know they were already beaten as they wandered out onto the pitch, they’d certainly know fifteen minutes in.
That Leeds, the Leeds that has lived on in heart and head, is this Leeds. Maybe more so than any Leeds side since our glorious return to the Championship, and our glorious almost-but-not-quite attempt at the Premier League.
As I write this 2018 has ticked over into 2019, and we’re at the top of the league. We’ve scored the fifth most goals, have the joint second tightest defence, have a 59.5% possession average and manage the most shots per game. It’s more dream than reality, and yet here we are, comforted by the baffling realness of it all as Jack Clarke appears majestically on the 45th minute to illustrate the point.
Imagination has manifested. As for reality? Well, that’s enjoying a welcome break from the spotlight, happily gnawing away in the background. We’re Leeds, again. Finally. ◉