My Leeds United: Football in Yorkshire is in poor health

The frenzied scenes of celebration among Huddersfield fans, as their club narrowly avoided relegation from the Premier League, served mainly to put into focus all that is wrong with Yorkshire football.

Saturday, 19th May 2018, 6:00 am
IMPROVEMENT NEEDED: Leeds United have endured another forgettable season in the second tier of English football.

And, much to the chagrin of any fan from the right side of the Pennines, there’s plenty wrong.

Huddersfield saved their top-flight existence in much the same way as they’d earned it in last season’s play-offs – by hanging on grimly for draws.

It was a glory-free spectacle but, sadly, it’s the best the Broad Acres currently has to offer, which is a stinging indictment of the current state of all things football in God’s Own County.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

When you look elsewhere in the county, the Sheffield clubs attained differing degrees of mediocrity, Leeds flattered to deceive and then reverted to type, Barnsley went down not with a bang but with a whimper – and the less said about the rest, the better.

Perhaps Rotherham United might earn some glory for Yorkshire in their play-off final at Wembley; that remains to be seen.

And congratulations are due to Harrogate Town, for their own elevation. But overall, the football performance of the Yorkshire area has been much the same as usual: when Leeds aren’t doing well, there’s nowt much going on.

While United remain in the doldrums, the best the county can offer is the occasional play-off success or relegation escape.

Compared to the fare being served up in parts of Lancashire, where Manchester’s finest has emerged as the best team in Premier League history, this is a humiliating state of affairs.

The fact of the matter is that just about all of Yorkshire‘s footballing pedigree, such as it is, resides in LS11.

The last two times that Leeds United have gone up to the top division, survival has been the last thing on their mind.

On both occasions, they’ve arrived, had a brief and not exactly respectful look around to gauge the lie of the land, and then set about winning things, elbowing lesser mortals out of the way and imposing themselves, much to the annoyance of national media and rival fans alike.

That’s the challenge for our county’s various clubs.

And only at Elland Road is there even the remotest expectation, never mind demand, that this challenge can be accepted.

Because, sadly, at no other club in Yorkshire will it even occur to fans or directors that such a thing is feasible.

The ultimate aspiration for the best of the rest is survival at the top table, hoping to lick up some rich men’s crumbs.

That’s the lesson of the unbridled joy with which Huddersfield’s survival was greeted.

For Leeds, such cavorting at the mere avoidance of demotion would be a humiliation they could not countenance because, whenever United do go up, the demand and expectation is always for so much more.

Which really is only right and proper - because, as history clearly shows, it is Leeds’ proud tradition to lead the way locally.

If Leeds United can’t deliver, then nobody will – and we must hope that Leeds Rhinos in Rugby League, and Yorkshire County Cricket Club too, can fulfil that urgent desire for honour and success.

In White Rose football, it’s United first and the rest nowhere; that’s the grave responsibility we carry, just by virtue of being Leeds.

With the club’s centenary approaching, it’s time to deliver on that responsibility.