Leeds United: A Jekyll and Hyde club
I’ve long ago got used to the fact that I support a Jekyll and Hyde club in Leeds United (Leeds Rhinos too, but that’s another story).
It’s just something I, along with many thousands or even millions of others, have to accept as part of the package of “being Leeds”. You learn that one day they’ll be brilliant, elevating you to dizzy heights of euphoric triumph, while another, they’ll be plain awful, causing you to wish you could just hide under the bed and forget all about football. All too often, as with the away game at QPR and then three days later West Brom at home, these two extremes happen in the same week.
I remember a previous occasion, after United had gone to a stadium near Manchester to face the then champions and European champions in the FA Cup. Third-tier Leeds were long odds against getting anything from the tie but a thrashing, and yet they got stuck in, showing zero respect and less fear, eventually emerging 1-0 winners – and it could have been three. Ultimately, we had to settle for a first half clincher scored by our hero Jermaine at the Beckford End. Great was the rejoicing, and January 3 has been a Leeds United anniversary ever since.
Imagine the sense of anti-climax, then, when Leeds faced Wycombe Wanderers at home the following Saturday – and were absolutely dire, grateful in the end to scramble a point. There could hardly have been a greater contrast – but the two most recent games in this current season are certainly right up there in terms of contradictory form. Losing at Queens Park Rangers required a performance of stunning mediocrity (and a distinct lack of luck). QPR had lost seven on the spin prior to Leeds turning up, and they’ve since lost one more. It takes some doing to become their only victims in such a barren run.
So, it was on to Friday, meeting West Brom at a packed Elland Road, and if the omens had been propitious for the Rangers game, then they were distinctly bleak ahead of the clash with Albion. The Baggies were the in-form away side over the whole season, and had won nine of their previous ten away games. They had also given us a 4-1 spanking at the Hawthorns earlier in the season, we were missing top scorer Kemar Roofe, and Albion had Dwight Gayle, who just loves playing Leeds. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
And, of course, as we all now know, it was the very best of Leeds United that stepped up under the lights to hit West Brom like a whirlwind right from the off. The Whites scored in the very first minute (after 16 seconds from an Albion kick-off, just to be flash) and they rounded off a 4-0 rout at the last gasp. In between, two assists from Man of the Match, ex-Baggie Tyler Roberts, enabled Iceman striker Patrick Bamford to notch a brace of coolly-taken goals. West Bromwich Albion were simply blown away, Leeds made them look like a team of melting waxworks, and the cavorting hordes of United fans in the stands were too busy enjoying the moment to consider the essential contradictions between the Tuesday and Friday evenings.
It was all just too bizarre for words.
We’ve been reminded of exactly how good they can be, and hopefully we’ve seen the last of Mr. Hyde.