Rob Atkinson: Watching Leeds United on TV is bad for the blood pressure

Ezgjan Alioski celebrates scoring against Derby County. PIC: Tony Johnson
Ezgjan Alioski celebrates scoring against Derby County. PIC: Tony Johnson
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I used to think the worst way of keeping up with the progress of Leeds United in away games was to listen to a radio commentary.

Without the benefit of being able to see what was going on, you were at the mercy of the man behind the microphone and, it always seemed to me, every opposition attack was an imminent crisis, with every enemy shot heading unerringly for the top corner of our vulnerable net. Being the nervous sort, I suffered more than most.

Back in those days, though, before United were such frequent live TV subjects, blood pressure wasn’t quite so high on my list of personal concerns as it is now. So listening to the wireless was uncomfortable, but just about tolerable - there was even the odd high point. I well remember listening to a young Dave Batty, of all people, scoring a late winner at Man City, and I’ll never forget hearing the goals go in at Wigan in 1987, to book us an FA Cup semi final date against Coventry.

Still, it should be easier on the nerves these days, with live TV coverage being so frequently available for those of a Leeds United persuasion. So much of the time, you can actually see what’s happening as events unfold, so you don’t have to fret unnecessarily.

But there’s the rub. TV companies seem to have such a conflicted relationship with our heroes in White. On the one hand, we’re hardly ever off the box, being Championship big-hitters. In that regard, United are popular and appreciated. But on the other hand, these people just can’t seem to be nice about us - every time we feature on, say, Sky Sports (other TV companies are available), it appears to be two solid hours of carping criticism, with nary a good word said about Leeds. It’s frequently a stressful experience, and my TV screen has stood in peril of having a coffee cup hurled at it on a few occasions this season alone. It’s a good job that I’m a Yorkshireman, so I never vent my spleen on anything I’d have to pay to replace. But it’s been a near thing, more than once.

The other night, when they showed the match against Derby County away, was a case in point. I’ll freely concede that Laurens de Bock didn’t have his best game for Leeds. Let’s face it, he had a bit of a ‘mare. But the lad couldn’t go anywhere near the ball without being verbally slaughtered by one or other commentator, and I could feel the pressure building up in my carotids and jugulars. Even when de Bock played a great diagonal ball to allow Stuart Dallas to put Leeds’ first goal on a plate for Pierre-Michel Lasogga, no credit was given. It’s as if the script is written beforehand and, ninety percent of the time, it seems to be Leeds United cast as fall guys or outright villains. Even my better half noticed, and was indignant.

Now, I don’t ask for the fawning adulation accorded to certain clubs that appear to be objects of adoration for media types. But a little less of this tedious negativity really would make a pleasant change.

It’ll be better this weekend, I’ll be back at Elland Road and I won’t have to listen to some pesky pundit running my favourites down. Time was, I recall, that this choice was available when you watched live football coverage on the telly. You could opt to hear just the crowd noise and mute the commentators. Bliss.

Now, tell me - wouldn’t it be good if they could go back to doing that? Especially for us long-suffering Leeds United fans.