Rob Atkinson column: A bad, blank week for Leeds United

We Leeds United fans have been a little spoiled over the past few months, having seen our beloved club, for the most part, sitting happily at the summit of the Championship table, looking down on our rivals and ahead to the enticing possibility of promotion glory come the end of the season.

Friday, 22nd February 2019, 3:10 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd February 2019, 3:12 pm
Swansea City's George Byers (left) tackles Leeds United's Patrick Bamford during the Sky Bet Championship match at Elland Road, Leeds. Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

We’re always aware, of course, that this little bubble of happiness could be burst at any time, especially since the Whites failed to seize the chance of a six point cushion between themselves and second place, when losing to Norwich City a few weeks back. So another careless defeat, and success for the likes of Norwich or Sheffield United, and we’d be back down in second place with a bump, and only ourselves to blame. Still, second place will get you promotion.

How much more frustrating than the above scenario, then, to find ourselves suddenly third in the table, and out of the automatic promotion places altogether, without having had the opportunity to do anything about it? This was the story of last weekend, with Leeds stood down due to the FA Cup commitments of others. Our scheduled opponents, QPR, were otherwise engaged, losing in the Cup at home to Watford on the Friday evening, so all United could do was sit there twiddling their thumbs as both main rivals snapped up the chance to leapfrog us, with 4-0 successes against annoyingly feeble resistance from Bolton and Reading. For the last week, then, we’ve been languishing below the top two and not enjoying it one bit. And the most frustrating part of all is that this weekend’s visitors to Elland Road, Bolton Wanderers, will in all probability suddenly find their fighting spirit against Leeds, having capitulated so cravenly to Norwich last Saturday.

On the other hand, we could take the glass-half-full attitude, reminding ourselves that the events of the past week have been totally out of our hands, and that all we can really do is address our own league programme, one match at a time, trying to make sure that we continue to make steady progress towards the ultimate goal of restoring top flight status to our great club in its centenary year. We fans can perhaps be forgiven a little ingrained pessimism and even a tinge of paranoia when events appear to conspire against us.

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Certainly, some of the social media reaction to the reduced league position was verging on the petulant, especially allowing for the fact that Leeds themselves were enforced non-combatants while everyone else was making hay.

It’s as annoying as it is disappointing – but maybe the Whites can use a little of that frustration and resentment and take it out on Bolton, and Reading too, when that game comes around.

We know that most clubs in the Championship, as well as during our League One days, see Leeds, at home or away, as a kind of cup final – and that’s always been our cross to bear, ever since we fell from grace in 2004.

Every now and then, though, that’s an attitude we should adopt for ourselves; some of the players have acknowledged this a few times recently, talking about the remaining league games as cup finals. It’s an attitude we’d do well to put ourselves on the right end of.

There was a bit of this even in our last game against Swansea, with the fallout of City’s dreadful handling of the Daniel James affair still drifting across the football landscape. For whatever reason, Leeds were at it from the start and Swansea had no real answer; they could easily have been four down at half time.

If Leeds can recapture that approach against Bolton, and going forward, we could be well on our way back to the top.

Rob Atkinson is a lifelong Leeds United fan. He writes a column for the Yorkshire Evening Post every fortnight.