Ok, deep breaths here…I’m Adam, I’m a Leeds fan and…and…and…
GODDAMMIT! I MISS LUKE VARNEY!!
I pondered one recent Friday night; I was sat in the bath at the time, warmly congratulating myself on avoiding a televisual rendez vous with Chris Smalling and England versus Chile, having instead arranged a reunion with Max Von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn and a profanity spewing 12 year old at Leeds Town Hall.
Smalling is one of those footballers who’s universally known and set fair for a long and established career, despite being fundamentally shit. Would I celebrate his disappearance off the international radar? Oh yes.
So to Luke, a player who stands comparison with Smalling in that he enjoys a degree of standing with the game (by that, I mean I’d actually heard of him and could recognise him in the street BEFORE Leeds signed him…not a common recent phenomenon) but having initially toasted his retreat into the LUFC wilderness, where he doubtless spends his days reassuring David Norris that people still do speak of him, I now find myself hollow.
Cut to this morning: bacon sandwich in hand, I slump on the sofa and turn on the television, boot up the Sky box and on comes the last channel I was watching the night before…it’s showing ‘Friends’ – seriously, what are the chances? I’d estimate at least 50/50…Anyway, it happens to be one of those episodes when Janice returns to the fray (Oh. My. God! – yes, her) and at the finale she tells Chandler she’s going back to her ex-husband.
For the 0.00001% of you uninitiated with ‘Friends’, Janice is a regular character with whom Chandler has an on/off relationship. Essentially, while liking the girl and often warming to her upon each reappearance, Chandler soon finds himself driven to the edge of despair by certain facets…her voice, her laugh, her personality, and by the end always vehemently celebrates her departure.
In this episode though things were different, they were different as there seemed an element of finality to this farewell. Instead of feeling relief, Chandler broke down and begged Janice to stay, to not give her ex another shot. This time it felt like she was going for good and for all the head banging irritation she inflicted upon him, he could only think of the positives he stood to lose, the fun, the laughter, even that underlying charm she evoked while in the process of driving him mad. Suddenly now, things made sense.
Luke Varney is no good for me, nor you, nor Leeds United; as a club we’re blessed(?) with more than our fair share of awful footballers, but Luke is different. Take the recently returned Danny Pugh for instance, for much of his time here utterly anonymous and uninspiring, just like David Norris, the most apt way to describe him would be with a shrug. Aidy White, still dining out on looking fantastic as a 16 year-old on his Brunton Park debut and clinging onto a degree of legitimacy in the hearts and minds of a declining few on the basis that he’s an Academy product and has only proven himself inarguably awful in every position other than left back. Then we have Michael Brown, a man fortunate to be celebrated for his crapness, but does he possess the humour to take in on board or the good grace to thank the masses? No.
But then there’s Luke. Luke’s different. He buys into the best possible mantra: if you’re going to be crap, at least be funny. Those other guys turn being rubbish into one long, mediocre slog, punctuated by abysmal passes, half-hearted challenges…a whole multitude of mediocrity. Luke has style though, his misses are epic rather than merely lacklustre, last season’s Capital One miss against the Saints still defies description; his sulks too have a certain je ne sais quoi about them; the elegant simplicity of a bowed head and a frown, à la Tottenham, archetypal classic schoolboy stuff, way more endearing than the showy, overly aggressive pointing and staring the epitomises any McCormack goal celebration that takes place in the aftermath of some Kopite branding him a “lazy Scottish ***!’ and a million times more memorable than the hateful, low key, “Look, I’m a pro doing my job”, handshake led goal commemoration common to other belittled footballers.
This is why I miss Luke and why his banishment to the fringes of the action upsets me so; he makes being crap, being irritating, being exasperating, into a comedic art form and based on the season thus far, this is what we lack. In these wilderness years, seasons have alternated between the exciting promotion chasing campaigns and the utterly forgettable, but when we’ve endured the latter, we’ve always had a clown to wipe away our tears, to assure us that when you feel like crying, like giving up, that laughter is the greatest medicine.
Remember the Blackwell years? Apparently it was him and Gary Kelly at the start. Well, for me, when I grasp for positives from that most tedious of periods in our history, it may have been Blackwell that imbued that era with misery, but at least we had Michael Ricketts stepping in to offer light relief. When everything went sour under McAllister and the looming thundercloud of a Telfer/Lubo/Huntington defensive backbone finally produced the mother of all concessionary s**t storms, he at least left us Enoch to brighten our darkest days. When Leeds initially stuttered in adjusting to life back in the Championship, it coincided with Fede Bessone’s brief dalliance with the left back position, then as Larry’s reign neared its end, we could at least console ourselves with a barrage of Paul Rachubka jokes.
This season though, it’s been threatening to drift into that solemn pattern of the nondescript; win, loss, win, loss – hopes raised, only to be dashed until hope remains no more. We can only pray that from the embers of inconsistency a sustained play-off push emerges, that last night’s victory over Wigan, the recent promise of defensive cohesion, of all around stability, and the continued prolifcacy of McCormack does not simply represent another false dawn. If we are again to disappointed again, then I for one will grasping for my own little LUFC comfort blanket and casting a longing look toward the stands, hoping that Luke will once more step into the breach and let us again smile through the tears.
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