The emotional underlying Leeds United factors behind Daniel Farke's whopping understatement

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One of the reasons Daniel Farke says he took the Elland Road job is because Leeds United - prepare yourself for an understatement - is an emotional club.

That much is not in dispute, not by anyone who has been in the stadium for a big win, watched limbs cascade in response to a big goal, travelled back on the train with supporters after a painful defeat or offered any kind of opinion on any subject involving Leeds. This club draws the rawest of emotion from its fans and what, in comparison with other clubs, can often feel like extreme reactions.

Farke, whose head was requested on a platter by some after the late-December defeat by West Bromwich Albion, insists that he enjoys the level of passion always bubbling just under the surface of the fanbase.

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"I really like how emotional our supporters are," he said. "I was so interested to lead this club when I signed the contract. I know the potential this club has got. I was never naive when I signed a contract. Everyone is so emotional for this club and it's important you lead this club not like a flag in the wind. You've got to be capable of what you can do. You never take anything personally. You have to be calm when you lead this club."

Speaking after what was the most disappointing loss of the campaign so far, the 4-0 humiliation by QPR last Friday night, he added: "We're a pretty emotional club, [the players] need someone at the helm who stays calm, critical, self critical and honest."

Farke has done that part of his job well this season. There have been no touchline meltdowns worthy of viral acclaim and no press conference bust ups with the media. Even when players have left, or tried to leave, he has kept his cool and kept them from going under the bus. But you can tell there are byproducts of the club's emotional state that irk him, narratives and reactions that he cannot help from.

When some were losing their minds and others were simply confused by the persistent playing of Joel Piroe at 10 and Georginio Rutter at 9, Farke eventually and quite clearly got fed up of it and tried to end it once and for all with a painfully-detained explanation. When Piroe played at 9 during Patrick Bamford's absence on Friday night, Farke evidentally did not want that to become the story of the defeat.

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He said: "I got the feeling sometimes we were quite quick [to reach conclusions]. Four days ago, before we played Middlesbrough, everyone wants to send Patrick Bamford into, whatever, retirement and then right now he's our only hope to win games. In both directions, we shouldn’t be too much over the line. We didn't lose this game just because of Patrick Bamford and didn't win the last game just because of Patrick Bamford."

Bamford himself, on his latest podcast episode, said something that many of his fellow professionals would likely co-sign: "I don't know whether because of social media I've noticed it more [but] I feel like the human tendency is to be negative rather than positive. I feel like players on one mistake get slaughtered and it creates a narrative." Football in general has, for a long time, had somewhat of a problem with conflating criticism and negativity but the out-of-control growth of social media has definitely given the football conversation the harshest and most reactive of tones.

But opinions come out when emotions run high and they rarely run higher than when Leeds United are involved. The word meltdown has become part of the footballing vernacular in this part of the world, for good reason. Why, though, is it such an emotional club? Firstly, emotion doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Some fans just really love their club and that brings out all the feelings. They’re hopelessly addicted, tethered forever to the fortunes of a bunch of lads kicking a ball around. There’s no real explaining that to those who don’t love a team.

What else might explain the collective outbursts, though, particularly of the rage variety? Beyond the fact that football fans everywhere seem to be getting angrier and angrier - name one happy and contented fanbase I dare you - the fact that so many people are finding life difficult, increasingly so, due to societal reasons and the fact that football is where we let a lot of things out, it's possible that the 'us against the world' mentality adopted by Leeds fans, for myriad reasons, makes every success the highest of highs and every difficulty the lowest of lows. Added to that, two generations of supporters have grown up with the knowledge that their club once boasted the finest team in Europe. They know their club is massive, they believe it should still be competing at the highest level and yet look where they have existed for the vast majority of the last two decades. Agony, angst, frustration, bitterness, embarrassment even? Emotion, tonnes of the stuff. They love their club but my does it put them through the mill.

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Dan Moylan's experience of going through it with Leeds United plays out to a vast audience on The Square Ball podcasts. They have managed to turn into a business the scathing wit, brutal candour and dark humour that is often required in order to cope with Leeds United. He sees lots of factors behind the club's emotional state.

"Everyone in football naturally tends towards the unhappiness and pessimism," he told the YEP. "Social media amplifies and catalyses it. There’s little escape from it now and reading everybody else’s anxiety fuels your own, so the whole thing snowballs and compounds. All that is against the backdrop of the widening financial gap and the increased threat of financial Armageddon via Profit and Sustainability Rules and loss making. As for Leeds-specific factors, our highs and lows are particularly pronounced versus most other clubs. We’ve gone from being the best team in the world during Revie’s time to a near decade in the wilderness in the '80s, to champions in '92. We were stable for a bit in the '90s but then went all boom and bust: 2001 and the Champions League to 2007 and League One. Then the monumental struggle back up. Bielsa and that football. And you’ve got several generations of fans who’ve lived through some or all of it. I’ve seen us knocked out of the play-offs five times, losing three finals. But I’ve also seen us play Barcelona and Real Madrid in the champions league at Elland Road. We’re the ultimate club of ‘nearly’ and ‘what if’. Fans expect us to fall short, because we’ve done it far more than we’ve succeeded. We’ve never properly followed our successes. I think our history and social media have created a more anxious fanbase than many clubs. Our ceiling is so high, but we’ve also experienced the floor. And it’s low. The stakes are always so high when it comes to the cost of failure. In part because of the state of football in general, but also because we’ve often gambled as a club instead of building sold foundations."

Sounds fun, being a Leeds fan. The BBC's Adam Pope started covering the club 'properly' as he puts it, in 2005. Almost 20 years on he's the voice of it, synonymous with coverage and commentary. He's seen and heard plenty, most of it highly dramatic for reasons both positive and negative. The scars are real.

"The highs and lows just seem to be so much more stark," he told the YEP. "So when you when you've experienced what the club have had, a terrible play-off final defeat, and then relegated the next year, docked 15 points, administration as well and the ignominy of League One and come out of it, I thought that might in some ways flatten out the accusation that Leeds fans feel they're bigger and better. I wondered if it might bring some reality to proceedings for some Leeds fans who maybe felt like the club was something it wasn't. But it didn't. What I found is that it's the same old feelings that rage from from nought to 100mph. And it can be over anything, it's not just the big moments, not just the relegations or the promotions but it can literally be one result or one person's performance or a perceived slight from another club. I still don't think I've got my head around why that happens."

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As Pope notes, Leeds have had it so bad at times that 'doing a Leeds' has become a phenomenon of its own. Other clubs love to see them struggle, to an obsessive point in some cases. Many of those struggles have been self-inflicted and many have not, with a cumulative effect, only heightening emotions.

"There has been, I think, an inordinate amount of injustice and unfairness levelled towards Leeds, obviously starting with the dirty Leeds tag which is just some bias thing predicated on wrong information," said Pope. "There's the European final with the referee, the West Brom game with the offside. I can see why fans do rage off the scale. It accounts for this historical sort of feeling that the club has been hard done by and therefore the fans have been hard done by. And it's a large fan base anyway, so it's going to affect more people, and it's a big city. So all those things go into the mix. But fundamentally, I do think people do tend to go off the scale quicker than they do other clubs. Or more divergent than at the other clubs. Everything is a disaster and everything is brilliant, nearly all at the same time, all in the same week. There's more of a gallows humor than at other clubs, like all the predicting of play-off defeat before the automatic promotion places are even sorted."

It takes a certain kind of person to be able to play football in the maelstrom of emotion that is Leeds United. This current team has been finding that out over the course of this season. When harnessed, it can be incredibly powerful. A 'push in the back' as Pascal Struijk once said. When the emotion takes over and the football does not match it, it can be painful to watch. Whatever happens from now until the final final whistle in May, Farke and his squad's ability to withstand the strength and depth of feeling around about them will be tested to its limit. As ever, with this club, it can only be the highest of highs or the lowest of lows. Another missed opportunity or a glorious triumph. Wild celebrations or bleak despondency. It's going to be emotional.

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