Ben Shires: Cup loss could just be the jolt Leeds United need to keep our season on track
We should have seen it coming; after all the League Two side had Mark Wright, Reality King, waiting to pounce from the bench, all tan and teeth. Much like the shows he’s famous for, the fairytale script, it seems, had already been written.
In fairness, I should admit that on the occasions I’ve met Mark Wright he’s been a thoroughly lovely bloke who has nothing but my best wishes.
Except when it comes to football; I wanted his Crawley side to be utterly decimated, the first scalp in a triumphant cup run that Leeds fans have been craving for decades. That didn’t happen of course. Instead it was another re-run of that perennial Leeds favourite, TOWIE (‘The Only Way Is Embarrassment’).
For the long-suffering Leeds United faithful, humiliating early round FA Cup exits are of course nothing new.
The scars left by humblings at the hands of Newport, Sutton and Histon, yes who could forget Histon, are still painfully raw.
But that was Leeds in the pre-Bielsa era, back when the Premier League ‘banter boys’ had all but lost interest in us and new lows were found and then sunk to on an almost weekly basis.
The dynamic, free flowing football witnessed under the Argentine’s tenure has brought plenty of plaudits, but with it comes more scrutiny, more critique and plenty more crowing WhatsApp messages when we lose.
There are different ways of losing too. Defeat at the hands of the Premier League’s big boys is one thing; there’s little shame in falling to squads bursting with marquee signings and wage bills that dwarf the GDP of Tonga. But crashing out of the cup on national telly to a side who’s only household name was signed from Strictly Come Dancing is quite another.
But perhaps, when the dust and glitter of another failed cup campaign settles, we’ll look back on this defeat as a turning point in the season. After an absence of sixteen years, it’s taken Leeds less than six months to acclimatise to life back in the Premier League. On the pitch we’ve more than held our own against the Big Six (give or take the odd drubbing), and off it we’ve sparked delight, debate and derision in equal measure.
Amongst Leeds fans, expectation levels have also risen.
No longer is our sole concern that of avoiding an immediate return to the Championship; instead we’ve begun to visualise a solid, mid- table finish and maybe, just maybe, a late run at Europe.
But if following Leeds for the last thirty years has taught me anything (apart from how to deal with a slew of smug WhatsApp messages), it’s that complacency is a fickle mistress - just ask Peter Ridsdale.
So, whilst I won’t be clamouring for another result like the Crawley debacle again anytime soon, its stinging after effects may not be all bad.
It could just be the jolt we need to keep our season on track and forfeiting a cup run will hopefully re-focus minds as the Premier League games begin to mount up thick and fast.
When it comes to the crunch, I know which competition I’d rather we succeed in.And after all, we couldn’t really call it a proper Leeds season without at least one calamitous out and out implosion, could we?
Now, has anyone thought about making an approach for Gemma Collins in the January transfer window?