Archie Gray is Leeds United through and through but cannot join in with Elland Road flow

Leeds United is, as Daniel Farke keeps saying, an emotional club and no one knows that better than Archie Gray.
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The 18-year-old does not need a window into the psyche of the fanbase right now because he is one of them, born into a family that is Elland Road furniture. A rock steady character, moulded in part by his upbringing, the Leeds in Gray makes itself known from time to time. Going after Kyle McFadzean on Saturday after an off-the-ball block was one of a number of times the youngster has got right in the face of opponents this season. His celebrations of the goal against Leicester, before it was taken away from him, was as jubilant as any of those windmilling their limbs in the stands. On Sunday night on stage at the EFL awards, discussing the goal being taken from him, he showed that Leeds self-deprecation. “Good job I didn’t celebrate it too much or I’d have looked a bit of an idiot.” And as one of the Leeds born and bred supporters in the dressing room, Gray has felt the emotions that are pouring out now that the side's unbeaten run has come to an end, just as the season is coming to its end. But where once, as a match-going fan, he could allow himself to dream of glory at the first sign of on-field positivity, or wallow on the many occasions when hope was crushed, Gray can no longer go with Elland Road's emotional flow.

One of the cornerstones of Daniel Farke's management is consistency, in mood and behaviour. No matter the heights or depths he has experienced in his first season as Leeds boss, no matter the injustice he has perceived at the hands of officials, he is yet to speak in anything other than his usual tone when talking about Leeds United. And that reflects how he wants to be and how he wants his side to be, in order to avoid peaks and troughs in the team's emotional energy.

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Speaking earlier this season Georginio Rutter was asked about the mood in the dressing room, during that incredible winning streak. "We didn't change anything, it was like this at the beginning, just the same," he said. "When we were in a bad mood, Boxing Day was a bit difficult, but I didn't see anyone like this, head down. No, we stayed focus because we knew what we can do after. After Boxing Day we were 16 points [behind] and now we're six, it's unbelievable. I think the mood is very good, but it never changed."

Right now, Leeds are just one point behind then-leaders Leicester City and two behind the current top side Ipswich Town. Yet the lack of wins in the last three games has undoubtedly changed the mood among fans. There is a natural pessimism that develops when your club goes through the doldrums, as Leeds have done so often since the glory days of the original Elland Road Grays. A fire-resistant means of protecting yourself from disappointment, having been burned too many times before.

Saturday's defeat at home to Blackburn Rovers was the biggest dose of disappointment Leeds fans have had to ingest for some time, something Gray acknowledges. But Farke's philosophy strikes a chord that runs through the teenager's words as he talks about what comes next for Leeds. "Obviously we still need to make that result right over the next three games, but we're not going to get too low with the lows," he told the YEP. "I think with these results you've got to take a bit of time to reflect on those games and what we can do right to make it right on the training pitch and make it right for the fans. I think it's one of the most important things, not getting too carried away or not getting too low when you're losing games because ultimately you've got two, three games a week, every week in the Championship. You can't afford to think too far ahead into games later in the season because [teams will] just hit you like anything. Every team in the Championship is competitive and anything can happen."

As a fan, promotion would be a dream come true for Gray. He wants to play in the Premier League at Elland Road, having missed out last season through injury, illness and the shambolic nature of that campaign, because he grew up wanting that. Unlike the 99-plus per cent of those who pass through the stadium's gates, Gray could make the childhood dream a reality and spark an outpouring of emotion that would eclipse even the Covid-impacted and largely fan-free promotion of 2020. He believes that is what, by rights, should be coming the way of his fellow fans. "It'd be a massive thing to give back to the fans what they give to us and it's definitely what they deserve," he said. "So we'll be trying our best, that's all we can do, and we'll give everything we can in these next three games to hopefully give the fans what we all want and what we all need."

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