February 14th – for so many, a soul destroying day; another opportunity for the corporate slags to make hay with another assault on your finances; when you feel obliged to express your love, not on the spur of the moment or because the mood takes you, but because the calendar dictates that you do so.
Yes, you can opt out; to not follow the crowd is option, and yet, hamstrung by your deep held affection, it still feels like an obligation. Why do so many of us poor souls tolerate it? Why do we keep making the same mistakes, believing that this time will be different? What drives us to pursue the subject of our infatuation, blindly devoting ourselves when the chances are they have no interest in us? What at the very best can we hope for; that maybe, for a few passing moments, a beautiful, precious but all too brief period, they’ll maybe flirt with you, tantalise and flatter with flashes of promise…before inevitably breaking your heart?
That’s the Leeds United experience for you; never better distilled than in the 90 minutes that over 3000 Whites followers stood witness to at the Ricoh Arena.
With love in the air and passion on the terraces, scope to recycle programme notes about slow arousal and the innumerable opportunities to be had from footballers grappling and slipping balls between each other’s legs, I was never going to pass up the opportunity to deliver the most immature, smutty and downright juvenile report I could possibly muster.
So as the players entered the tunnel, a warm, capacious abyss, where so many men had been before…
…oh no hang on, FUCK IT!!! As much as I intended to indulge in a ‘smutfest’, the latest shower of shit, masquerading as a team performance just cannot be allowed to pass without straight comment.
Let’s be clear here; under the Bates regime, Leeds United have plunged to many new all-time lows on the pitch, each one, somehow superseding that which it followed: relegation at home to Ipswich cast into shadow by capitulation at Histon, an afternoon that in turn that still couldn’t rival the gloom of Hereford, and now THIS!
On paper, a 2-1 loss at Coventry doesn’t appear to represent a new nadir in our history, especially with pastings at the hands of Barnsley and Birmingham so fresh in the memory; it was rather, the manner of the defeat, and the circumstances in which it played out that dictate why last night was such a depressing spectacle to observe.
In the space of three transfer windows and little over 13 months, Ken Bates and Shaun Harvey have presided over the decimation of an exciting, vibrant team that was perhaps only a couple of players short of an automatic promotion slot, to a mediocre Championship side, lacking quality, pace and any tangible belief in club or themselves. Having made Grayson the scapegoat, they’ve then affronted the fan base with a stream of players spouting pro-Redfearn propaganda as they sought to fill the management void with the minimum of fuss, and more importantly, expense – tonight the fruits of their policies were ruthlessly exposed.
Sometimes in football, defeats have to be taken on the chin and merely accepted – this wasn’t one of those; the Coventry players entered the pitch displaying the sort of body language expected of an outfit that’s languished for so long at the bottom of the table, suddenly bereft of the spine of their team through injuries to Richard Wood, Sammy Clingan and the departure of Lukas Jutkiewicz. They left the pitch at the end looking like promotion contenders.
With the exception of McCormack, Leeds were diabolical in all areas of the pitch, even Snoddy was dragged down by the ineptitude of the team performance; the home side more organised, confident and damningly, far more committed. The opening goal was a case in point as Alex Nimely somehow walked through Darren O’Dea, evaded the weakest of Clayton challenges before tumbling under a mindless nudge from Pugh. Inevitably, it was McSheffrey who converted from the spot; his celebrations in front of the Leeds fans more befitting of a last minute promotion clincher – a measure of the feeble level to which his career has fallen.
The equaliser, one of only two highlights of the night, was neither deserved nor onside, but at least, just reward at least for McCormack’s commitment. The other moment of light relief came from O’Dea, his efforts at clearing the ball by attempting a diving header just a foot off the ground, rather than trusting his foot, a stark reminder of his ability – but comedy gold all the same. By chance, Leeds United may have just discovered the first ever two legged species of ungulate.
Any response to Redfearn’s half-time “bollocking” was undetectable; the Whites created only two notable chances, McCormack blazing wide and White tamely passing the ball to the keeper when clean through (see Paynter vs. Southampton). Coventry’s late winner was as inevitable as it was deserved.
In some regards, defeat came as a relief; it’s surely inconceivable that Redfearn will get the job. That said, he’s a man created in Bates’ own image; his utter lack of ambition quite overwhelming. Aidan White isn’t a winger – he can’t cross, nor can he finish; every Leeds fan on the planet knows that switching Tom Lees to right back represents tactical Armageddon, and as for subbing McCormack – the crescendo of “There’s only one Simon Grayson” and “You don’t know what you’re doing” that followed in response articulated everything. While many fans accept that Grayson’s reign had run its course; the chants very much implied the anger over how his efforts had been hamstrung by employers who’d now turned the task of appointing a successor into a shambles.
Redfearn spoke of his disappointment at the end and how he’d stressed at half-time about “not getting beat and maybe pinching something” – seemingly our current philosophy in a nutshell.
When Wednesday’s radio address came, the management situation registered little more than a passing mention, instead used primarily to set up another dig at a journalist; predictably, moments earlier, you could almost sense Ben Fry – a man, who if a Buddhist would no doubt pray to be re-incarnated as the gusset fabric in Bates’ undercrackers – sagely nodding away as his boss conveniently swung the gauntlet of blame from the management to the players.
Where to next? I’m not sure I want to know…