Jon Howe: A health warning from Leeds United

Leeds United are bad for your health. We know this from the grueling drama of the last two games, but also through a long history of stress-induced anxiety, bouncing around the seats with wild abandon when Leeds score and the beer and food culture of the long-established football that encompasses the routine of game days. , and promotes healthy living as Boris Johnson promotes style and dignity. Add to that the long journeys you might make to get home and especially outside; getting up at silly times, coming back at silly times, and in between sleeping in the back of a buddy’s car for a bit, or a coach or dry train coming back from King’s Cross. We don’t know if we chose Leeds United, or if they chose us, either way we can’t opt ​​out, so the above is not necessarily self-inflicted, but the most unhealthy psychosis that football support regularly offers definitely is.

Most Leeds fans will remember what they wore when we beat Norwich at Elland Road three weeks ago, and a large proportion of them will strive to wear the same clothes this weekend for the visit to Southampton. Why? I couldn’t begin to explain, but it’s one of the many mindless rituals and superstitions that plague football fans when the need becomes not only huge, but rather desperate. You can also eat the same type of pie, or hamburger, or park in the same place as before Norwich.

The troubling neurosis that we somehow have tangible influence over the events of the day and the immediate fortunes of Leeds United solely through what we wear, say, do or don’t do is fine. sure an absurd notion. But amid that rare clarity of thought, there’s always the creeping suspicion that you’d better not risk it, because how can you live with yourself if it goes wrong? Why take the risk when it is not necessary?

I can exclusively reveal that my friend was solely responsible for the Good Friday defeat to Wigan Athletic at the end of the 2018/19 season, when Leeds were in top form and it finally looked like we were actually doing this ‘promotion ‘ thing, rather than just talking about it. Four of us traveled together to Preston and we won 2-0, and given the high stakes I insisted we all wore the same clothes for Sheffield Wednesday at home the following weekend. Because why not you? It’s just easy, and while I know it was an irrational obsession far beyond the lucid limits of anything you could imagine as logical, under the circumstances you wouldn’t want to jinx him. We all wore the same clothes, won 1-0 and were in the box with four games to go.

You know what happened next; my friend inexplicably went rogue for the Wigan game we lost 2-1 to 10 men after winning 1-0 and she has to live with that especially because that loss also unnecessarily caused more trauma under the form of the Derby Debacle of the Play-Offs. And while I haven’t statistically calculated the historic or other success of wearing the same clothes for the next game when Leeds have just won – and if I did, the bare facts would probably make me look dumber than I do already do – the concept that individual supporters can impact an outcome in the vague belief that they can somehow control fate, perfectly sums up the obsession we have for our football club, an obsession that basically makes no sense.

I mention all of this because I can confess that I was directly responsible for our 1-0 loss to Southampton earlier this season, and with the reverse game looming this weekend, it seems like the time is right to say the truth. If you recall, Leeds overcame an uncertain start to the season by beating Watford 1-0 in the previous fixture for our first win of the 2021/22 campaign. Meanwhile, Southampton had yet to win at all before the international break which preceded the match and which ultimately broke our momentum like a wrecking ball.

Three of us flew to Southampton early on Saturday morning, all having done the math on whether Raphinha could possibly make it back from Brazil in time to play, taking into account flight times, different time zones, possible occurrence and implications of a deep vein. thrombosis and the efficiency of baggage claim facilities at different airports in the south of England. In the pre-match pub, we huddled around a phone when the team news broke at 2 p.m., and we discovered that not only was Raphinha not even on the bench, but Kalvin Neither was Phillips, although there is not a single previous clue. that was even a remote possibility. The atmosphere immediately flowed like corked wine. We had passing conversations in the beer garden with Southampton fans who were in their own world of torment over poor form and relegation anxiety; “Leeds will win easily,” they said. We knew something else was wrong about Leeds this season and this news from the team confirmed all our fears.

It is my sad duty to report that these negative vibes which I sent out from this pub about a mile from St Mary’s stadium are DEFINITELY transmitted to the players who were changing and doing their warm-ups, and possibly resulted in the worst Leeds United performance under Marcelo Bielsa. Sorry to everyone, it was me.

And that’s why I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that wins for Norwich and Wolves will have put Leeds in the right frame of mind for Southampton’s return to Elland Road this weekend. Because the last time I had undeniably positive thoughts about an upcoming Leeds United game was when we played Newcastle at home in January, after wins over Burnley and West Ham, and so it was probably also my fault.

Therefore, the fact that Southampton have lost their last three Premier League games does not fill me with confidence. And you won’t find me suggesting the two weeks off that brought the Leeds squad back to a well-timed state of physical and mental calm and de-stressed the players ahead of the crucial final eight games. I’m not going to imply that Kalvin Phillips’ resurrection was expertly timed and timed to have maximum impact for the run-in. I’m certainly not going to suggest that Rodrigo and Raphinha look set and ready to end the season in winning form. And I wouldn’t dare to insinuate that Leeds are for once under-represented in international fixtures and that these players instead spend valuable time in the comfortable confines of Thorp Arch building a formidable siege mentality, could work in our favor .

It would be stupid and naive of me to be so bold and overconfident. And there are thousands of Leeds United fans who certainly don’t think the same, because we all know that our positive thoughts can manipulate proceedings in negative ways, just like our negative thoughts. Or so we think. That’s Leeds United fatalism for you; the life of a football fan, desperate to have an effect or stimulus beyond just singing and shouting encouragement from the stands.

And of course, it’s actually the only power we have, and the only one that matters. And when it comes to Leeds United, we know we can help make a difference, even if it kills us.


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Edward L. Robinett