Good morning, Leeds United family. It’s 2017.
This is a somewhat bittersweet thing for me, as the editor of this blog. See, 2016 was f*%#ing amazing here at Through It All Together. I’ve been a supporter of Leeds United for several years now, though not nearly as long as many of you. I talked a bit in our first Elland Road Report about how I stumbled into a bar in Wakefield in 2010, only to be rejected in my search for College Grove and Wakefield FC, and instead stumbled into this Leeds United fandom.
But it wasn’t until 2016 that Leeds became a f*%#ing passion. Steve Evans, admittedly and somewhat ashamedly, was the start. He might cry tears of gravy, he might need his mouth filled with manky salmon, but he also fell in love with us, and some of us fell in love with him. His tearful farewell at Preston back in May showed how much he cared, and somehow, it conveyed the feeling I had developed for the club during his tenure as well.
I was sad to see the season end, feeling like we deserved better than 13th, but also knowing we weren’t a promotion-calibre side. I wanted Evans to stay strictly because it seemed he truly cared, but it was clear Massimo wasn’t interested, and as it turned out, he had bigger plans than the steadily shrinking Steve.
Born in March of 1979, making him only five years older than me (and younger than many of you), Garry wasn’t alive for the 1960’s and 1970’s “Glory Days” of Leeds United either. And that doesn’t matter. He’s here now, and he’s glorious.
I’ll get back to that in a minute. So Leeds United became a f*%#ing passion in 2016, but Through It All Together did pretty well too. We started 2016 with a popular article about a possible rebrand and two reliable writers. We ended 2016 with ELEVEN writers, including two assistant editors, and we’re launching Leeds Ladies content later today with the addition of Maz Brown to the team. We started live-tweeting games at @ThruItAllLive, and we started mini (and not-so-mini) podcasts called Elland Road Reports.
I couldn’t be happier with how this blog has grown over the course of 2016, and it’s a big part of why I’m as f*%#ing passionate as I am now. A HUGE THANK YOU to Anthony Linley, Matt Robinson, Ben Mallis, Jack Dudley, Sean Ryan, Joshua Gilbert, James Mahoney, Toliy Ivantchouk, and now Maz Brown for all the great stuff this year. Really, it’s been amazing. Love all of you idiots (sorry Maz, you’re not an idiot, but they are); I probably love you too much. Don’t tell my wife.
Anyway, back to the pitch. Garry Alan Monk. Pep Clotet. Pontus Jansson. Kyle Bartley. Luke Ayling. Hadi Sacko. Kemar Roofe. Ronaldo Vieira. Kalvin Phillips. Rob Green. Pablo Hernandez. Eunan O’Kane. Marcus Antonsson. Tyler Denton. I might have known some of these names when the season ended last May, when I cried with Steve Evans after the final whistle at Preston. But good Lord, what they mean to us now.
That’s not to forget Charlie Taylor, Gaetano Berardi, Stuart Dallas, Liam Cooper, Souleymane Doukara, Alex Mowatt, Marco Silvestri, and the Big Kiwi up top either.
After August, yes, there were people calling for Steve Evans’ return. Yes! That really happened! I wasn’t one of them, still believing in the potential of the stubborn new head coach, but it wasn’t good. We were flirting with the relegation zone after a few weeks, and I actually started to fear another season like all the others, lost in the mediocrity of England’s second division.
I won’t wax too poetic on this topic, as it’s New Year’s Eve here in the States and we’re getting ready to watch a stupid ball drop on TV, but with all the difficulty for so many in the world today, with wars and rumours of wars and everything, you know how nice it is to have hope in a football club? To enjoy a two hour respite from all those problems every week instead of leaving as depressed as when it started? To go into 2017 expecting more than just another mid-table finish? To have pride in your side again?
A friend reminded me this week of how difficult his 2016 was, a difficult year for many around the globe. He faced real-life difficulty with his job, his marriage, his kids, basically everything this calendar year. But his football club literally saved him. The community around supporting his team, the joy of celebrating the highs and the camaraderie during the lows, they saved him from some bouts of serious depression and anxiety.
And right now as we enter the New Year, we all have something to believe in. Leeds United’s promotion campaign might not be as important as elections, or wars, or real-world relationships, but this season is f*%#ing fun.
Finally, our supporters get to experience success instead of mediocrity.
The Square Ball, our favorite fanzine that you should all support here, ran a fun re-tweet fest on their Twitter account this week that I wanted to share, a list that kind of summarized how great this year has been for our supporters. During the Villa match, TSB tweeted an innocent reminder that, for many (myself included, even at 32), this is our first taste of Leeds United glory:
If you’re under 24-25, say, you won’t really have much memory of Leeds being remotely good or exciting. THIS is Leeds. #LUFC— The Square Ball (@TheSquareBall) December 29, 2016
And the replies were amazing. We’ll share ten of the best below, and the list will be long, but I’ll finish it off with a quick conclusion at the end.
@TheSquareBall I'm 21 and 100% the best I can really remember. Unchartered territory...— Michael Milner (@MichaelMilnerr) December 29, 2016
@TheSquareBall I'm 24. It's like supporting a different club.— Dan (@DHarrison23) December 29, 2016
It's feels deserved too after going to the likes of Swindon away in league 1.
@TheSquareBall 27, i remember the last few seasons of prem quite well but this is the best we've been since— Neal Clapp (@nealio182) December 29, 2016
@TheSquareBall this is the first time in about 15 years I've been this optimistic about our side. Jansson is a fucking hero— Chris Hicken (@TartanTyke_) December 29, 2016
@TheSquareBall I've never watched a Premier League game involving Leeds United. I am 21 years old and have had season tickets for years.— Danny Ryan (@DannyRyan95) December 29, 2016
@TheSquareBall I'm 22. Best two days of my life have been scum 0-1 and Bristol Rovers. I was there for both yet this team makes me happier— Spilvestri (@stanny94) December 29, 2016
@TheSquareBall Im 24, my first year as a Leeds fan was our Prem relegation season, was certain for the last 13 years id cursed the club!— Joe Garside (@joeg2492) December 29, 2016
@TheSquareBall 24 now. Hoping this is the start of an era I can tell my kids about.— Anthony Lewis (@tonylewis92) December 29, 2016
So good. For so many of us both on staff here at Through It All Together and reading on your end, this is the first time (maybe ever) we’ve truly been excited about a Leeds United side. What a fantastic way to start 2017.
So much thanks to Monk and Clotet for the last few months, and yes, thanks to Cellino for bringing them on. Thanks to all the lads on the squad (or “players on the roster” for us Americans, haha) for the heartfelt performances since September. And thanks to everyone for reading our blog.
From all of us here at Through It All Together, Happy New Year.
We can only hope that 2017 will be even better for Leeds United, and that this time next year, we’re enjoying life back where we belong: in the Premier League. In Monk We Trust. MOT.