Grant Woodward: Leicester’s triumph piles on the misery for lost Leeds United

REMEMBER THIS? Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson with the old First Division trophy.
REMEMBER THIS? Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson with the old First Division trophy.
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I went to Leicester once. Years ago. There was a big shopping centre there, I remember that, but I can’t say too much else lingered long in the memory.

That’s not to denigrate the place, but it was certainly no Leeds. Oh, and they can keep their Melton Mowbrays too, give me a good Growler any time.

Still, only the emotionally dead (or your average Spurs fan) would begrudge their football club’s imminent delivery of one gleaming Premier League trophy.

It’s a fairy tale for our times and one in the eye for the dull corporate entities masquerading as football clubs. Your Chelskis, Man Cities and Man Us.

Nor can you fail to smile at the celebrations of its people. They started partying on Monday night and have shown no sign of stopping since. And who on earth could blame them?

But at the same time as feeling happy for Leicester, anyone yearning for the merest hint of a corner being turned at Leeds United can only view these scenes of joyful abandonment and feel sick to the pit of their stomach.

The canonisation of the Rainman-like Claudio Ranieri. The players’ trip for pizza that brought the entire city centre to a juddering, mob-filled halt.

For Leeds fans each one is another jab of a dagger to a heart already bearing the scars of United’s lost decade and that most tantalising of thoughts. It could have been us...

It’s a handy – if somewhat depressing – barometer of just how far Leeds have fallen when it dawns on you that you’re actually jealous of someone from Leicester.

Leeds has it all – apart from a top-flight football team. In a one-club city of some 800,000, that’s not just baffling, it’s downright criminal. And it’s a conundrum that shows no sign of being solved any time soon.

“I’d like to read a letter that I’ve written to the Yorkshire Evening Post today so that we have a clear statement for all Leeds supporters.”

With those words on the last day of January 2003, Peter Ridsdale laid bare the black hole into which Leeds were being sucked.

The £30m lost from the lack of Champions League football triggered a fire sale from which they have never recovered. They had gambled big and lost.

Even now the merest whisper of the phrase “Doing a Leeds” is enough to send a shudder through football fans up and down the country.

But that was a dozen years ago now. And still Leeds are mired in uncertainty and off the field wrangles, the latest being legal cases brought by their former kit manufacturers and shirt sponsors.

Amid such a backdrop, is it any wonder that on the field they’re struggling to get into the top half of the Championship?

YEP football writer Phil Hay put together a great piece the other day looking at the vastly different paths the two clubs have taken since they last met in 2009.

Leicester won that day and escaped the inigmony of League One football. Leeds followed them into the Championship a year later but have been marooned there ever since.

The estimated £100m poured into Leicester by their wealthy Thai owners has helped, obviously. But why on earth isn’t Leeds an even more attractive proposition to someone who could come in and inject the cash and clear thinking that would lead the club back to football’s top table?

And it’s not just Leicester who are leaving Leeds for dust. Try Brighton, Bournemouth, Burnley and Middlesbrough too.

Premier League football is the final piece in the jigsaw for Leeds. But instead the club remains a lumbering, fallen giant of English football that lurches blindly from one disaster to the next.

So as heartwarming as this week’s scenes of joy in Leicester have been, they’re yet another painful reminder of what our city is missing. The country may be asking “why Leicester?” but Leeds fans are still left wondering “why us?”.

Sonic boom’s fast response

THIS week has taught me one thing: you learn a lot about your other half when you think the world’s about to end.

There we were on Monday night, arguing over whether to stick with the snooker or endure lame BBC “sitcom” I Want My Wife Back when we heard what sounded like explosions.

We know now, of course, that they were sonic booms caused by those RAF jets going to have a quick word with a French airliner, but for a few minutes I genuinely wondered if the balloon had gone up.

So too did my wife. But unlike me, who stood there staring gormlessly out of the window in case a mushroom cloud suddenly appeared, she instantly switched into practical mode.

Bottles of water were filled in case the supply was about to be contaminated by some deadly fallout or terrorist’s dirty bomb. She later told me she was mentally packing essential items and working out an escape route to her mum’s when I told her that according to Twitter it was probably just caused by a very fast plane.

And she wasn’t the only other half who took charge. My mate’s wife had her entire family – two boys under five included – secured safely in their cellar within minutes. I wasn’t sure what shocked me more. My complete failure to do something or the calm efficiency shown by my missus.

Afterwards, I let her watch I Want My Wife Back. It wasn’t much of a reward, but it was the best I could manage.

Hot under collar over dog parks

SOME good reactions to my suggestion last week that Leeds would benefit from dog-only parks.

The debate on the YEP’s Facebook page was particularly sparky – although I’m not convinced everyone was completely clear on what was being proposed.

Essentially it was to give over a fenced-off portion of our parks to dog owners so they could let their pets off their leads without worrying about other park users. It wouldn’t stop them using the rest of the park, but they’d need to keep the lead on.

Since I put the idea forward someone got in touch to say that they already do it in some parts of the country – Victoria Park in Widnes, Cheshire being an example. I reckon it’s something that’s worth at least a trial run to see whether it works and puts more families at ease.

Full marks to the numpty on Twitter who suggested I put my children on a leash instead. I tried it once – and social services weren’t impressed.

Follow Grant on Twitter @woodwardworld