''There are moments of magic and utter despair but it is ingrained in us" - meet the Leeds United Los Angeles supporters club

We explore Leeds United's devoted following in Los Angeles in our latest We All Love Leeds feature.

By Joe Urquhart
Saturday, 10th October 2020, 12:00 pm
Leeds United Los Angeles Supporters Club at a meet up.
Leeds United Los Angeles Supporters Club at a meet up.

Leeds United boast one of the most passionate and loyal fan bases in world football.

No matter how far you go or where you travel, you're never a great distance from a club crest, scarf, car sticker or even welcoming a friendly salute, such is the outpouring.

It is a football club that has tested the very core of its support during ups and downs on and off the pitch in recent history.

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Leeds United Los Angeles Supporters Club badge.

Those far and wide, though - just like the city of Leeds - have remained steadfast and unwavering in their loyalty to the team that plies its trade in Beeston.

In the Yorkshire Evening Post’s We All Love Leeds series, we look at those supporters groups from far and wide around the world.

We examine their passion for Leeds United and get to the root of what makes the club so special to follow from all corners of the globe.

This week, we speak to Bob Gibson, a member of the Leeds United Los Angeles Supporters Club.

Leeds United Los Angeles Supporters Club at a meet up.

Tell us a little bit about who you are and where you are from...

I am originally from Leeds. After a few years in the UK grind, I got the opportunity to move to the US in 2004 to coach football (soccer).

I moved back and forth for a few years then eventually made the move permanent. I moved to Los Angeles from New York in 2010 and love it. I currently work for a children's soccer program overseeing the national business operations and instruct Grassroots courses for US Soccer.

Why are you a fan of Leeds United? What drew you to the football club?

As long as I can remember I have been a Leeds fan. My dad wasn't into football but my uncle was. The social influence at school helped shape my love for Leeds.

I just loved that we were a city with one team, all-white strip and at that time we were fighting to get out of Division Two.

What is so special about being a Leeds United supporter?

I think former Yorkshire Evening Post journalist Phil Hay said it best when he said this club isn't for everyone. When the city and the club are connected you can feel the energy across the world!

The key characteristics that we demand from our players are woven into the fabric of the people of Leeds. Hard work, grit, determination, straight-talking, and humility (sometimes) are what makes this club special.

You come across Leeds fans everywhere and give them the salute and it's a moment of togetherness and recognition of the collective suffering and happiness that this club brings us.

Tell me about the supporters club? How did it come to be? How many members do you have?

Los Angeles is a very transient city, so the purpose of the supporters club was to bring people together who love Leeds United and help people who might be new to the area find a community.

It started in 2017 when my childhood mate, Dave (club Secretary and LS14 native), moved over. We went to watch Leeds v Bolton in the pub.

There were three of us, two lads from Leeds and one from Beirut who wandered in looking for Leeds fans. We won 3-2 and decided that we should see if we could get something set up.

There are a lot of 'soccer bars' in LA so we had to find one that had not been claimed, would open at 7am, and would allow us to stream games.

Once we had that sorted we were up and running. We got some help from Leeds United Americas, set up a Facebook page and we slowly started to see fans join us for games.

We currently have about 25 members (growing every week). At the start of the 2018-2019 season, we became an official supporters club.

What makes it a great supporters club to be a part of?

It has been brilliant to have people from all over the globe come together - we have members from different UK cities, countries, and all different walks of life.

I think that a mix of people gives us a unique feel and drinking in the Santa Monica sunshine is also a big plus. It also helps keep that sense of home. Being around a group of people from Yorkshire helps you stay connected and grounded.

Do you hold any special events or meet-ups for Leeds United games and fans?

We have met for almost every game since 2017 (apart from the 4am ones!).

Our original bar was a casualty of COVID and has now closed down so we were able to find a new one, The Britannia, in Santa Monica. It was a Chelsea bar but we have taken over it now.

What does it show about Leeds United's global reach that you can have a supporters club in LA?

It reinforces the captive audience that the club has. The fact that there are now new supporters clubs popping up all over the US shows the appetite for Leeds.

A lot of credit has to go to the new team at the club who has re-established a connection between the club, city, and fans. Marcelo has attracted a new audience of people to the club too.

Why do you think Leeds fans - no matter where they are from - are so passionate and loyal to the club?

I believe that once you are Leeds that's it - it is with you for life!

Supporting Leeds is like life, there are some magical moments and utter despair. It is totally ingrained in you. Leeds is a city that does not need to shout about how great it is.

The people go about their business without the demand for the spotlight. Once you are accepted as part of Leeds, people will take care of you, it is a massive community.

Have you ever visited Elland Road? If so, what was the experience like? Do you have a favourite game or memory?

I really miss going to the games. My first game was Sheffield United at home in the 1987/88 season, we won 5-0.

I had a season ticket for years, saw us win the league, the Champions League nights, and then of course relegation. I have a lot of amazing memories following Leeds all over the country.

If I have to pick one, I would say the Liverpool 4-3 game when Mark Viduka battered them. Carlisle away in the League One play-off semi-final was also right up there.

How has it been to follow the club in recent history? There have been plenty of ups and downs...

It has given me an appreciation of the good times when they arrive! 16 years of ups and downs (had to get that in) have taken an emotional toll on many of us Leeds fans.

We have seen people come to the club who have tried to rip the heart and soul out of it. There were times under Ken Bates when I did not think last season would be possible again.

The fans have always been there, perhaps not at every game but in the background suffering and waiting for something positive.

It is such a shame for those people that are no longer with us who were waiting for this moment. The past two seasons have brought everyone together again, it's brilliant.

How do you keep up to date with what is going on with Leeds United?

The great thing about supporting a club like Leeds is that there are so many ways to stay connected. In the US we can watch every game but like many, I follow Phil Hay, Adam Pope, Graham/Joe at the YEP, The Square Ball, Talking Shutt, LS11, the list goes on...

Do you anticipate a boost in membership now Leeds are in the top flight?

Honestly, I think it is great for football! No club has the right to be in the top division, but we are a rival of so many clubs.

We have seen a boost in the first few weeks - one lad joined us this past weekend because his mum called him as she saw us on Look North for the Liverpool game.

Finally, is there anything else you'd like to mention the supporters club?

The big thing for us is that everyone is welcome. We want people who are on holiday to come, people who don't have a team yet (Jonny the club treasurer loves the additional funds!), and lifelong Leeds fans.

We have one fan, Raffi, that tells the story of his first game. He is from Beirut and he fell in love with Leeds reading Shoot magazine.

For the 1975 European Cup final, he had to sneak out of his house and listen to the game on his radio. He could only hear it if he stood in a certain part of the neighbours garden with the aerial pointed toward France (or so he says!).