'When Leeds United are winning, the city is winning' - supporters bring soul back to Elland Road on emotional day
None of what happened at Elland Road on the final day of the season would have made any sense without Leeds United fans.
Had the old stadium sat largely empty as Pablo Hernandez and Gaetano Berardi played their final game for the Whites there would have been a farewell, but not the right one.
The only sound there would have been when the directors had finished applauding the departing promotion heroes would have been the gentle sobs that escaped from an overwhelmed
Hernandez and not the raucous chanting of his name that went on for several minutes.
Marcelo Bielsa and his players would have finished the campaign on the natural high that comes from success in sporting competition but without the ovation and the lap of honour they deserved.
Only Gjanni Alioski would have walked around applauding empty seats. The season, one in which Leeds finished ninth as a newly-promoted club, would have not felt complete.
It’s only right, when something worth celebrating is achieved that human beings gather together and mark the occasion, so even though it wasn’t a capacity crowd, some measure of justice was done with the attendance of around 8,000 Whites season ticket holders.
For Hernandez and Berardi especially, their presence meant the world. It allowed them to put faces to the emotions they were feeling and the love they hold for the football club.
Elland Road discovered its soul and football its humour. The playful chiding of West Brom’s players for the paucity of their travelling support, when away fans were not permitted to attend, set the tone for the afternoon.
Football has proved it’s not quite nothing without fans but it’s certainly not what it can be and what it should be.
It needs cheering, chanting, jeering and the urgency that only the voices of those who love the sport and its teams the most can create. Graveleys has been all-too-quiet on match days since March 2020, so the sight of a queue was surely a relief for the local business.
Others too benefit from the footfall of thousands when Leeds play and the whole area hums a little louder as Whites make their way towards their famous home.
Sunday was a taste of what’s to come.
A successful team in the Championship was enough to guarantee a full Elland Road, so Premier League football will be a cast iron guarantee of much-needed revenue and support for local commerce, especially when away fans make their return to hotels, shops and pubs.
When Leeds United are winning, the city is winning. The club’s fortunes are heavily linked to the mood of the region, not just its finances.
The gathering of thousands in one place was an important step for society in general, a defiant display of confidence in the vaccine, the Covid-19 measures and our ability to finally overcome this virus and end this pandemic.
When Elland Road is finally full again football will make complete sense and life can begin to, as well. We will know then that we have won.