There was a time not so long ago that seemingly every season at Elland Road would go to down the wire; where a major issue, whether promotion, relegation, or a play-off position wouldn’t be resolved until the final day or week of the season. None of this drifting around aimlessly in mid-table for Leeds United, the precipice of Dreamland or the abyss, that’s how our club rolled…
Not these days, where the excitement, anticipation and belief is already slowly drowning in a sea of spirit crushing reality and broken dreams following another shipwreck of a league season; any salvation that remains is already to be found in looking toward the sunnier climes of August, and all this while the snow still falls around our feet.
Yet therein lies a strange enigma; the fact that seemingly, the more effort, the greater the cost and more time you invest in watching Leeds, the more worthwhile it appears to be. Yesterday again was a case in point – if there’s anything to reassure that the ‘be all and end all’ of watching Leeds is not success on the pitch, then it’s starting the day being stuck in a pub heavily populated by Bradford City fans.
While familiar faces, with familiar routines and rituals were in place in the Leeds Station Wetherspoon’s ahead of the Blackburn train, Bradford fans milled about like illegal aliens; seemingly unsure of themselves and what constitutes protocol. One group having breakfast to our left included a middle-aged man sporting a ‘Wembley Invasion’ t-shirt, while by his feet lie a holdall containing a half and half Bradford/Villa scarf; the woman sat facing was heard to exclaim surprise when she discovered the game did not, in fact kick-off that evening…a small part of me died as I consumed my final hash brown.
Onward to Blackburn, to another Wetherspoon’s, The Postal Order. 12.20pm and already awash with Leeds fans; as often is the case the regulars were making a swift, if not too obvious retreat to the refuge offered at the tables on the outer fringes of the bar, while at the pumps the queues were already four deep with a ‘two pint protocol’ a firmly enforced, almost unspoken rule.
As pints made way for Jager Bombs which in turn lined the stomachs for more pints, so the volume rose; the inadequacy of the LUFC songbook became exposed as the most choice ditties were exposed to heavy rotation – could two such players as ordinary as Enoch and Tresor really ever dream of becoming immortalised in such an astounding way, even after the passing of several years? Then, with matters building to a crescendo, a void…for all the table clambering, for all the lager throwing, something seminal was needed, something climatic – enter Michael Brown.
“Number 1 is Michael Brown…” it started, but as number 11 was reached, a forceful cry of “Number 12 is Michael Brown…” followed; this was going the full three-figure distance, the arrival of the 90s in the count-up ratcheted the entire pub up a notch, hands were slammed on the table tops, glasses slammed down in similar fashion…”Number 100 is Michael Brown…
“We all dream of a team of Michael Browns,
Team of Michael Browns,
Team of Michael Browns…”
Pandemonium – beer showered down again, a sight resembling an Oliver Reed alternative to the Trevi Fountain. Another ode to Kandol followed before the emotionally spent masses started to make their to the doors, in their wake leaving a trail of soaked tables, a couple a broken glasses, traumatised bar staff and bewildered home supporters.
The journey home if anything topped the pre-match experience; pinning several hundred Leeds fans on a single platform, waiting for the arrival of a late running, carriage-light train is never the recipe for a peaceful evening, especially when the acoustics of Blackburn station lend themselves so well to singing. The delay was a blessing as it turned out, allowing the supporters the chance to greet an arriving steam train; on what appeared to be a Saga arranged trip, pensioners could be seen at each and every window, wiping the condensation away in an effort to work out what the hell was going on before their eyes.
Once upon the train it was time for ‘Michael Brown redux’, the whole 1 to 100 again, but this time in the confines of a desperately overcrowded train carriage, only more intense; a lone copper, situated in the middle attempted to make notes on anyone transgressing the outer boundaries of enthusiasm in the process – doubtless, he’d have been spoilt for choice as the ceiling banging 90s kicked in again…I can only imagine his mind exploded when “Let’s pretend we’ve scored a goal” followed. It almost felt like a betrayal leaving the party at Halifax as yet another 100 Michael Browns were totted up to completion…
Oh yes, there was something else wasn’t there? A game of football of sorts, almost inconveniently sandwiched in between the fun. I know it shouldn’t be like this, but people, this seems to be our lot once more. Ironically, on the evidence of recent weeks – Man City excepted – a degree of progress does finally appear to be being made. Successful teams tend to be built from the back and in Kenny, Byram, Peltier, Lees and Warnock there lies the genesis of a soild and cohesive defensive unit – beyond that, God help us!
Yesterday, like Middlesbrough, like Cardiff was reminiscent of the first season under George Graham; a side increasingly schooled in giving little away, but hopelessly lacking in any ideas whatsoever what to do in possession. On the balance of play Leeds could lay claim to deserving a win, they even had a couple of chances to do, but McCormack blazed horribly wide when played in by Morison while Luke Varney, not satisfied in finishing tamely from inside the area, chose to deny an oncoming David Norris a far better opportunity in the process.
Blackburn, like Middlesbrough were there for the taking yesterday, only whereas the Smoggies took control in the second half at the Riverside, this time the home side were universally awful; but again, Leeds couldn’t capitalise – they lacked the ideas, the patience and the nous on the pitch, while Warnock appeared to lack the conviction to tweak things from the touchline. I don’t even recall the substitutes warming up at any stage yesterday; considering that Varney, McCormack and Morison were all relatively nondescript, you have to wonder whether Ryan Hall and Habibou are proving to be captures of the sort of standard that Simon Grayson was so regularly chastised for.
Match reports as a rule of thumb should not typically offer musings on the game as an afterthought, but hey, that’s the vibe of the current away day Leeds United for you…
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