THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

19 August ~ Only the most innocent away fan would anticipate a warm welcome upon heading for Elland Road. At most clubs, it's a tradition for the chairman to say a few words about the quality of the visiting team in his programme notes. But not if your chairman is the delightful Kenneth Bates. Before your club is even mentioned, you have to dodge numerous bricks lobbed indiscriminately at a variety of targets. My cousin, one of several Leeds fans in my family, described his regular programme note tirades as "all a bit embarrassing" as we stood at last week's League Cup first round tie against Lincoln perusing We Are Leeds, the official matchday magazine.

Bates declared that he was disappointed at losing to Derby on the season's opening day, but never mind the reasons why – better to use the defeat as a platform to slag off visiting manager Nigel Clough for making "much out of his failure to take his little boy on the pitch, apparently confusing the football ground with a playground". Clough then reportedly committed the dreadful error of ignoring "the club dress code, wanting to sit in the directors' box in a tracksuit, making not one but two requests to do so". Shocking.

Bates was happy that Leeds player Neil Kilkenny "just missed out on a call-up for Australia", as that meant he would have missed the game against Lincoln "to play in a meaningless friendly in some godforsaken part of the world" (that's Slovenia told good and proper). FIFA "really are the pits" for having "this stupid fixture in an already overcrowded list of dates". And finally, Fabio Capello's just back from holiday, allowing Bates to remind us that at the World Cup England "were crap" and that they should no longer pick "Cashley" (!!!) Cole because he's publicly stated "that he hates England (and the English)". And that must include the charming chairman of Leeds United FC.

All that before: "We welcome Lincoln City for the first round of the Carling Cup. Let us hope that we progress a little nearer to Wembley." What, no warnings against complacency? No cautious words about there being no easy fixtures in competitive football? No words of condescending praise for the tough job that managers like Chris Sutton have in assembling a doughty team on an impossible budget for another year of sweat and struggle in the League's bottom drawer?

No, because Leeds United aren't out to make friends. Like Millwall, they really don't care what other people think of them. Unlike Millwall, they don't feel the need to celebrate the fact in song. Sitting uncomfortably in the Family Stand – both physically because of the cramp-inducing lack of leg room, and mentally because me and my Dad were away fans in severely alien territory – I couldn't help but admire the way they took Lincoln apart without mercy (2-0 up after seven minutes), and the way the crowd responded. Even six Leeds-supporting family members took no pity on me, despite the fact I'd made a four-flight round trip from Germany just to watch this humiliation, all standing to cheer vociferously along with the rest of their fans at every goal. Even the fourth one – the routine conversion of a fairly ridiculous penalty decision – provoked triumphant roars.

Leeds manager Simon Grayson admitted after the game that his team had used the second half as a training exercise. I was pleased he barely mentioned Lincoln, because we played miserably, without any kind of fight or tactical clue until it was way too late. Rather than point out that the opponents were embarrassingly poor, everyone at Leeds just ignored them – before, during and after the match. So while I don't envy Leeds fans for having Ken Bates as chairman, or for having no idea who owns their team, or for having no leg room when they try to sit down, there's something unique about a club that makes you glad to be on your way home, and that you likely won't be coming back again for a very long time. Ian Plenderleith

Comments (12)
Comment by Matt Abbott 2010-08-19 13:52:17

As a die-hard Leeds fan, I can't deny that Uncle Ken is hardly the most welcoming of Chairman and he often pays little or no notice to the appropriate decorum for his matchday column. We knew this long before he came to Leeds, and as unpopular as he may be (including at Elland Road) it's just the type of person that he is. After a while you learn to laugh!

As for the apparent ignorance when it came to welcoming and indeed acknowledging Lincoln, well I can't deny that this was partly due to arrogance on our part and partly due to the fact that no-one really cares about the League Cup. We were hardly going to welcome you with open arms for a First Round tie on a Tuesday night, were we?

And yes, we don't care what people think about us. In fact we almost embrace the fact that everyone hates us. The whole "us against the world" thing, it only strengthens your passion for the club. Even the great Don Revie side of the late '60s and early '70s are known as "Dirty Leeds".

I can't say we aim to make Elland Road a welcoming place, but isn't that part of football? And besides, it's not as if we're made to feel welcome on our travels...

Marching On Together. Good luck in the league.

Comment by ad joc 2010-08-19 16:22:12

In my experience Leeds fans, unlike Millwall's, desperately care what people think of them. The levels of paranoia and "why does everyone hate us" bleating that emanates from Leeds fans is possibly the most enjoyable thing for a neutral to observe about them

Comment by ged1992 2010-08-19 17:28:24

In my experience when it comes to Leeds United nobody is a neutral. A fact verified by some of the 'neutrals' need to pass comment.

Comment by imp 2010-08-19 18:08:45

Matt, Just to clarify, I wasn't complaining about Elland Road not being a welcoming place - it's more a begrudging admiration, with a touch of envy. Ian.

Comment by LUFC1919 2010-08-19 21:37:22

@ ad joc: In all the years of being a football fan and a Leeds fan, I have never heard a Leeds fan ever say "why does everyone hate us?" We know you do and we love it. And, chances are, we don't give a f**k about your football team.

Comment by ad joc 2010-08-20 07:33:45

1919: They maybe don't use those exact words, but I do hear an awful lot of that sentiment implicitly or explicitly. (And frankly, I don't - hate Leeds that is - and until the last few years my sentiments were on the broadly sympathetic side of the continuum. Those last few years of Bates, Wise and fan whining, have tipped the balance though).

ged: Thanks at least for backing up my theory

Comment by Lincoln 2010-08-20 11:04:21

"What, no warnings against complacency? No cautious words about there being no easy fixtures in competitive football?" I am guessing you haven't seen Lincoln play much in the last few months Ian, Ken had little to fear. My 16 hour round trip to Leeds to watch Lincoln had misplaced optimism nicely punctured within a minute at Elland Road. However at £12 to get in it was significantly cheaper than I would have paid to watch at Sincil Bank. Sitting in the home end I found the fans to be friendly and they joined in the cheering of Lincoln fans for each succesful pass the Imps made and booed when Leeds got it. They asked how Lincoln were doing and complimented our wingers. Don't judge a crowd as a single enitity thinking alike.

Comment by imp 2010-08-20 13:11:50

Yes, the Lincoln forward line looked a bit more lively the second half, especially after they brought Facey on (I like his old-fashioned fourth division bustle), but Leeds were cruising by then. Re. your point about not judging a crowd - the 'ironic successful pass' cheering was kept up for maybe a minute or two, but it was somewhat less intensive than the massed spite at goal kicks from the home end. And to reiterate, I'm not "judging" the Leeds crowd, I'm leaning more to admiration for them making Elland Road a place where visitors don't want to come (re-reads own article for sixth time just to check that point was made). I much prefer that than to be patronised.

Comment by Lincoln 2010-08-20 15:04:11

I agree you weren't judging as such and the point was clear that it is nice to be treated as a significant other team, but want to make the point that they were still a friendly bunch underneath the chants and shouting.
Facey could certainly be described to have bustle, along with those XXL shorts.

Comment by genesisisok 2010-08-21 13:14:18

Ah, the lovely Ken Bates! Does anyone read the insane rantings of this elderly lunatic? His page is one to skip when reading the programme. How can ANYONE be taken seriously when he himself doesn't know whether he not he atually owns the club. Ken: you don't and you're just a front man for some faceless offshore investors. Given the FA's track record I have no doubt there will be some short statement that the "board" has passed the "fit & proper persons" test but I reckon no names will ever be published so the poor punter will be none the wiser about where the cash is coming, or more importantly, where it's going to. We're locked in to our club but Leeds, like so many (Portsmouth/Newcastle etc etc) simply rip off the poor punter. Sad, so sad!

Comment by ged1992 2010-08-22 19:24:30

Ken is an embarrasment and does not speak for the majority.

ad hoc QED Thanks for backing up my theory, stay neutral eh!

Comment by GCostanza 2010-08-23 03:03:27

@ AH.
Concentrate on your rabble being the best team in Sheffield, heh?

And 99% of Leeds (& all football) supporters think Master B*tes Snr.is a ****.

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