DISCLAIMER: Before I write I usually have some sort of idea of what I’m about to do. That is not the case today. This is one of those “work as you go” types. So bear with it. It could be a long un. But it’s full of blood, sweat and passion.
I’ve been a Leeds United fan for 21 years. You can write off the first five of those because for most of that time I was primarily interesting in sh*tting myself and running around in circles. I was a cool baby.
But then something amazing happened. I started watching Leeds and paying attention to Leeds on a regular basis.
The very first game I can remember watching live was when we beat Arsenal 3-2 at their place to stay up, with Kewell scoring one of the best goals I’ve seen to this day. And I fell in love. Unfortunately for me, my first trip to Leeds was the season we went down. A 3-2 win over Fulham, and I thought we were unbeatable. I was very sadly wrong. We very, very much beatable.
But a love was born, and it’s only gotten bigger and better since. There’s something special about Leeds United. When you walk into the stadium, take your seat, all the people around you. The atmosphere is always electric, but when the players come out to warm up and then come out and the Strings of Yasmin plays out (or it should). The players are heroes to the fans... and that has been the problem.
For the last 13 years our heroes have let us down. And that’s the hard part. Because for me it’s personal. I’d sell everything that I have, kill everyone I love to play for Leeds United. (Editor’s note: TIAT does not condone violence....)
And even as I write this there are tears running down my face because that’s how much it means to me. That’s how much it means to my father who introduced me to the one thing in my life that matters the most (aside from my family).
It’s the tale of Leeds United isn’t it?
From the Golden Generation of Revie, to the Last Champions of Wilko, to the babies of O’Leary we have these great teams that don’t win what they should and in between we have these horrible fallow years. And that’s where we are right now. In the doghouse of football.
But as always happens with Leeds, the next group seem to be stepping up to the mantle. The “Chosen Ones.” Led by Garry Monk, Pontus Jansson, Kyle Bartley, Chris Wood, Liam Bridcutt and the rest of our fantastic squad, Leeds United seem destined to return to the big time.
For the first time in God knows how long, it actually seems that Leeds really will go back up and it’s a special, special feeling. And there’s one thing driving it. The one thing that’s always driving Leeds United. The one thing that sets Leeds United apart from every other club in world football. The fans.
You can talk about your Manchester United’s and your Liverpool’s and any other club you want to. They don’t come close to Leeds United. I’ve been to Old Trafford. It’s more like a damn tourist spot than a football ground. Liverpool fans were walking out of the stadium before the end of the Plymouth game. When Leeds were being humiliated 6-0 at Sheffield Wednesday, the Leeds fans never stopped. Never gave in. Never gave up. Because that’s what they’re about.
When you go to Leeds on matchday, there is something special in the air. It’s electric. The entire city can feel it and as you get closer and closer to the hollowed area that surrounds Elland Road, that’s when you realise that Leeds United is bigger than anything anyone else knows. Words can’t describe the feeling as you walk down the road, pass the statue of the king himself Billy Bremner and walk into the stadium. Walking under that crest, knowing you are a part of something that sets you apart from the rest of the people on Earth... It’s pretty damn cool.
13 years. 13 very long, very hard years. We’ve been beaten to our knees, yet we always come back. There have been problems on the pitch and there have been problems off the pitch. But we always come back. And do you want to know why? Because we’ve been here before. Because we’ve come back from worse.
I remember the agony of relegation from the Premier League. I remember the gut wrenching feeling of losing a Play-Off final the next year. I remember the distraught of falling to the third division. I remember being on my knees, tears streaming down my face in Wembley as I watched Doncaster go to the Championship. I remember the sheer relief as Beckford clinched promotion back to the Championship.
I’ve been a Leeds fan a very long time. Yet, I’ve not yet seen the real good times. My dad was lucky. He’s seen Leeds at the summit of English football on three occasions. I want that. With all my heart, I want that.
That’s why I’ve taken to calling this group of players the Chosen Ones. Because they have the ability, the drive, the perfect blend of young and old, of youth and experience and the right manager on their side to do something special. And one man has made me believe in Leeds United more than anyone has in recent times. Pontus Jansson understands Leeds in the way no one has in a long time. The reactions say it all. He is the reason we will go back. Mark my words.
But it’s not just the 6 foot 5 Swede. His central defensive partner is just as good. Bartley is the rock to which the rest look when they need to. Liam Bridcutt is the leader in the middle of the park we’ve been missing since Howson left. Pablo brings the creativity, Chris Wood is channeling his inner Mark Viduka and will score the goals we need, Alex Mowatt proved on Monday he’s back. That kid has all the ability in the world. Monk will bring it out. Luke Ayling has been Mr. Consistency. He’s exactly what we’ve needed down that right flank. Charlie Taylor is a future England international. Only a fool would disagree. Ronaldo Vieira looks as good as his name suggests.
And the man behind them all? Garry Monk is the messiah. In the same way the Don was, in the same way Sargent Wilko was. Garry Monk is what Leeds needed at the time they needed him. He’s done exactly what was needed. He’s brought back hope. He will bring Leeds back. I know he will and I’m one sceptical bastard.
Leeds are on the brink of something special. They were on the brink in 1990 and delivered. As they did in the 60’s. And now, after more than a decade, it looks like they might just do it all over again. It’s an exhilarating feeling. But they aren’t there yet. They need us just as much as we need them. Because it won’t be easy. There are days when those players will look up to the Elland Road stands and they will see 25,000 screaming fans, urging them on at every turn. Every ball that’s kicked, every tackle made, every goal scored and every moment of doubt we need to be with them. If we do that come May we won’t need the play offs. We will take our place amongst the best in England once again.
Count on it.