The Imp of the Perverse; we all possess one; that metaphorical demon that hovers by your shoulder, whispering words of temptation into your ear in an effort to entice you into performing acts that you know to be wrong. It’s a concept that was popularised by Edgar Allan Poe and that transcends all mediums of modern storytelling. It’s that little voice in your head that might urge you to jump when looking over the side of the skyscraper, or poke your hand into the workings of some heavy industrial machinery…or buy another ticket for a Leeds United game.
While fundamentally a literary construct, used to define such irrational temptation, this demonic inner voice is often afforded visual form; most commonly it appears as the classic, red, pitchfork wielding devil, often waging ideological warfare with an opposing angel who’s busy chewing off the subject’s other ear. But the Imp can also take on a human appearance, take the case of Eminem doing battle with a principled Dr. Dre’s physical embodiment of Stan’s “muthaf**king conscience”, back in the time when he was still relevant.
This week, step forward Lee Peltier, commandeered by the LUFC hierarchy to become the club’s own Imp. ‘Pelts’ put his name to a letter addressed and emailed to members, pleading for their attendance at the Birmingham game; a desperate measure by the commercial department made in the face of tumbling attendances to stem to the exodus. Only 17,484 had passed through the turnstiles at Charlton, further affirmation that the promises of so many not to return while Bates remains were not merely empty threats.
Few heeded the captain’s words as a paltry 22,152 (barely 20,000 of which were home supporters) turned up yesterday. I was amongst them, but as a 20-year season ticket holder I had no dilemma to ponder as my money had been long invested/squandered many years ago. My personal Imp had been banging on to me about buying tickets for the upcoming Southampton game on Tuesday – a principled stance about refusing to endorse Bates’ tenure through any further cup ticket purchases had seen me resist to this point…after yesterday it appears that even my Imp has sacked off selling the spectacle of watching Leeds United as a hopeless cause.
Elland Road is supposed to be a place where you can lose yourself, win, lose or draw, for 90 minutes; where life’s other troubles are forgotten about and superseded by joy, despair, outrage and countless other emotions. Standing in N11 for the Birmingham game was an anaesthetising experience, even the biting autumn chill didn’t register; the more depressing and niggling troubles of everyday existence that ought to be sidelined, became a refuge in which to retreat, just as a way to escape the grim realities of the football – sadly, this is becoming the norm.
On the post-match phone-in, Eddie Gray spoke of the abysmal atmosphere in the stands and the need for the crowd and the team to inspire each other. Predictably for a Yorkshire Radio phone-in, the main issue was sidestepped. While fingers can be pointed at the performance of the team and tactics of Neil Warnock, the main problem does reside in the stands, not the Kop though, but in the shiny new executive boxes to the East.
Apathy exists at Elland Road before a ball is kicked not because of Warnock, nor the players’ efforts, but because Leeds fans have nothing to buy into, nothing to believe in. Nobody believes the current side are capable of challenging at the top end of the Championship and the prospect of a takeover, that back in August would’ve sparked street parties, seems likely now to predominantly inspire relief over Bates’ departure, above any tangible excitement about the club’s future. Back in August, a new regime would doubtless have added 10,000 to the next home gate – you wonder now whether 25,000 gate to herald any ‘new dawn; would be out of reach.
The conduct of David Haigh’s since his intentions became public has done little to inspire; his bold promises of missed deadlines, crass public statements, his willingness to trample over LUST for his own purposes, his need to create and engage an audience of sycophantic slags on twitter that hang on his every word, despite the fact he never offers them anything of substance…oh and the complete secrecy regarding funding – Leeds fans have suffered nearly 8 years of bullshit David, you’ll have to forgive the growing scepticism.
Back to the pitch though, where all our pre-occupations should be, but where so little is happening to keep us pre-occupied. That Neil Warnock stated following the defeat that he was less upset than he was after the Charlton performance is a clear pointer to where the club stands. The “two or three” players “badly needed” since August remain so, and with the confidence gone, the team have little quality to fall back on as a get-out in tight games.
The return of Danny Pugh, like some footballing bogeyman that just won’t die is a damning indictment of Leeds’ strength in depth, as is Warnock’s perceived need to persist with jaded Rodolph Austin who at the moment looks more suited to playing behind Clyde Wijnhard in the Masters side, rather than the Championship.
Whether Warnock has currently better options open to him in the middle is debateable, but some of his other tactical decisions are rather more open to question. If Lee Peltier was a regular at right-back for (a far stronger) Leicester last season, why is he not playing there now? Having finally vacated the left-back slot he was back in the centre of defence, and was hopeless. Moreover, to allow the switch, the more solid Tom Lees moved to right back – for a player who looks horrified every time he’s expected to run with the ball, it’s ploy that continues to baffle.
Moving on to the midfield, the ghosts of last season linger, the pedestrian triumvirate of Austin, Tonge and Norris, nullified by a Birmingham side that passed and ran through them, at times, almost unopposed; while Becchio, up front, again an cut an anonymous figure. While 11th position in the league is not an utter disaster, you do wonder where the team would be, were it not for the emergence of Byram and the arrival of Diouf.
Inevitably, it was those latter two who combined for United’s one moment of quality in the game, the latter unable to direct a fantastic diagonal cross towards the bottom corner, allowing the keeper the chance to save. Shortly afterwards, the visitors delivered the killer blow; a quick ball out of defence by Murphy, a smart dummy by King that flummoxed Pearce and then an incisive 30 yard strike by Leroy Lita. Nobody closed him down, Pearce choosing to point at the unmarked Burke down the left, rather than throwing himself towards the ball, while the reliably anencephalous Pugh backed away from a position in which he could influence matters to his more comfortable retreat of ‘no man’s land’. Much as in the stands, nobody chose took responsibility on the pitch… defeat usually follows.
In response, Leeds offered very little; the keeper was barely troubled and a rusty looking Ryan Hall had little time to affect matters in his brief cameo. Upon leaving it was hard not reflect upon the fact that over in Greater Manchester, Dominic Poleon had made it two goals and two assists in four starts for Bury – it seems even Kevin Blackwell is capable of getting one up on Leeds United these days.