I knew I would probably generate some reaction, but had no idea that I was about to become a sounding board for 40 years of hurt. Last week I wrote on the back page about a lifetime of supporting Leeds United, and about how I was contemplating a break from all of that unless they were promoted this season. It seems I'm not alone. By the time I returned to work on Tuesday morning, I had received dozens of emails from Leeds fans around the country, and a few from England. One man sent an entire short story, in which a gibbering wreck of a man called Roy symbolised Leeds's fans everywhere.
Our website had been busy enough too. Elsewhere, some people had posted the article on Leeds Uinted fan websites, where the reaction was generally favourable, and, bizarrely, on a Millwall site, where I presume it generally wasn't. Clearly there are a lot of Leeds Utd fans out there, almost all of them in their mid-40s to early-50s, all of them mad as hell and wondering if they can take it anymore. The reaction was three-pronged. The majority sympathized, but urged me to keep going. "He'll be back. They always are", wrote one person on the ToEllandBack website.
"I have even recently told my son that I cannot take it anymore, that if Leeds do not go up this season, I will take all my jerseys, scarvess, programmes, cups, etc, etc, out in the garden and burn them", an Irish fan wrote to me. "But I know I won't".
A smaller few reckoned I was a fairweather fan, who could go to hell and back, which is fair enough. And then there were the League of Ireland brigade, cheerleaders for a shoddy product, and without an ounce of romance or sense between them. Elsewhere in the Sunday Tribune today (News section, page 18), I write about the dangers of such dumb patriotism, but generally I prefer to dwell on the endearing mixture of fatalism and optimism which seems to characterise Leeds fans, and which is evident in some of the following contributions from readers. My commitment to stay away until I get something in return still stands. But since I wrote that piece, results have suddenly improved. I and untold thousands of others may finally receive our reward.
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Like you I became a Leeds United fan 40 years ago. The 1970 FA Cup final replay to be exact – 29 April 1970. I remember it vividly as it was all my mum's fault! There was I, an innocent 8-year-old boy in Belfast watching a rare televised football match for the first time with no real interest in the outcome when she came into the living room and asked me who I wanted to win. When I replied nonchalantly I didn't mind, she replied with the cursed words: "I want the team in white to win because white is my favourite colour". Well, black and white telly or not, a boy loves his mother and from that moment on I was damned too! I have lived and breathed Leeds United through thick and thin ever since (mostly thin of course) and I will be staying faithfull whatever happens. We undoubtedly will be back at some point. Don't ask me when or how, but I feel it in every fibre of my tortured blue, white and yellow frame. Don't give up on us baby, as a not so great American once said. Instead, let us march on together to wherever it may take us and curse our damned bad luck on the way (interspersed hopefully with a few moments of real glory to cherish).
Believe me, I understand, following Leeds is torture, always was, always will be.
You can't opt out. Like a disease, it's not a question of choice for a fan. Whether in celebration or (almost invariably) in agony there's no get-out clause.
Thank you for the Back Stage column. I have been a Leeds United supporter since the very same day as yourself when as an 8-year-old I watched the drawn 1970 FA Cup Final between Leeds and Chelsea. To borrow a few words from 'Marching On Together' (the Leeds United song) the intervening 40 years have indeed been full of "ups and downs".
Anyway thanks again for putting down on paper what many of us long suffering Leeds fans are feeling. In many ways it was like lancing a boil.
One thing that may differ between us is I have a son in his teens. He wears his Leeds jersey with pride, even when he is surrounded by Man U, Liverpool and Chelsea pals. He loves it when grown ups say something to him like, "Ah a Leeds fan, well done son, we will be back some day". As he says, you don't even get noticed if you wear a Man U or Liverpool jersey.
Finally Diarmuid, please don't ever give up on Leeds United. I fully understand and empathise with how you feel, because I feel the very same way. Disappointment after disappointment after disappointment. My wife now gives me a wide berth on Saturdays between 4.45pm and 5.15pm. I have even recently told my son that I cannot take it anymore. But it is in my blood as it is in yours.
I vowed to do the same as you Diarmuid, after the Millwall mess, only to tune in to some online radio link the week after to hear us humiliated by Swindon. I want badly to leave, but to use your analogy I just keep walking back into the house to take more abuse.
Come on Leeds, show us you care as much as we do. Give us something back! Misery.
I too have followed Leeds for nearly 40 years on and off and I must admit, standing at Yeovil last week made me realise that, once and for all, on the pitch at least ,we are finished. This great club has been carried by us, the best fans in the world for the last 10 years. Without our blind faith, we would have been defunct long ago. It's heartbreaking to see us this bad. God knows what will happen to us should we go up, we will be hammered every week.
Marching on regardless.
You know what? If you want to stop being a Leeds fan, then go ahead. I don't think anyone will really be that upset. United are a special club. We are unique in almost every way. We're allegedly hated by everyone, and the media probably blame us for global warming and terrorism. We've never had a dull season. We have the best support in England – over 20,000 for Division 3 football with a pricing structure that charges £27 for a seat behind the goal against Oldham on a Tuesday night.
I can't just stop supporting Leeds. They're my local club, and I have a duty to support them. But there's more than that. I want to stay on this rollercoaster, right till we get back into the Premiership – because then I, and about 25,000 others, can claim to have witnessed the biggest revivial in footballing history, where a "fallen giant" retakes their rightfull place in the top flight. By the way, if you suddenly appear back when we're back in the big time, you'll be like 15,000 other "diehards" – not welcome. It's now we need support.
Ups and Downs
Why can't you people support an Irish club? I'm sick to death of hearing British wannabee gobshites banging on about 'loyalty' and such guff. What part of Leeds are you from, Diarmuid? Any chance you and your fellow travellers might get out and support an Irish team?
Well, Michael, I'm sick to death of hearing sanctimonious hezbollahs like you who get so wound up about who other people support. The reason why the League of Ireland is so poorly supported is the same as why there's no American Football League or Ice Hockey league in Canada, no basketball in Mexico and why so many small leagues around Europe are struggling. When there's something so all-consuming and of such a higher level nearby, people gravitate towards it.