For many teams there is a real reason why they don't like us; for Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool etc the hatred was born in the 60s and 70s and a true rivalry with 'Super Leeds', alongside historic roses and north/south fault lines. For others there's the simple local rivalry; Huddersfield, Bradford, Hull et al simply don't like us because we're local, more successful and their towns are full of Leeds fans anyway. For others it was our reputation off the field in the late 70s and early 80s. ICF, 657, Zulus, DLF. We were 'number one when it counted'. But the really odd thing is that teams we have no relationship with also hate us - we've become the cartoon baddie across the nation and the "we all hate Leeds Scum" ditty often seeps out of the background noise at many a TV game. Why would teams like Villa, Fulham or Rochdale sing this? We really have nothing to do with you, in any sense.
But to add a twist to this, when Leeds are in town across the 'putting a shift in/win the right to play' battlefield that is the Championship, we regularly deliver the home team's biggest crowd of the season? If they hate us that much then why do they turn out to watch us play? Leeds fans in the sold out away section often welcome the above average home gate with "You're only here to watch the Leeds" and the end of season attendance stats usually hold this to be true.
And this obsession with Leeds isn't just limited to day trippers at Oakwell, Ewood or The Valley. It's continued by the TV companies. Take a look at the Italian, Spanish or German leagues. Is there a team in their second tier, that are fourth favourites to be relegated that have FIVE of their first ten league games broadcast live on TV? To be honest I haven't checked but I doubt it. However in England next season there is, and guess which team it is? I'm sure it infuriates Forest, Derby, Ipswich and all the other true contenders for next year's title, but money talks and Sky know their biggest audiences, like at those away grounds, are when Leeds are in town. Goodman and Beagrie, 'mwah big kiss' we love you too!
So why is it that we're the team that people love to hate but love to watch too? It's probably a myriad of reasons but I'd suggest it's a mix of the horrible cliche of us being 'a fallen giant', TV execs and many older football fans still having a grudging respect for Super Leeds and latterly Wilko's 'Last True Champions', younger fans jealously wishing their away support was as large and vociferous as Leeds', the atmosphere we bring to away grounds. They probably hate us because we're seen as arrogant and too big for our boots. It's an accusation that's often levelled at Leeds and to a degree it's true; yes we do BELIEVE we should be dining at football's top table but we don't EXPECT to. We know our team now is crap but it's our club that holds the magic. Taxi drivers, waiters and bar staff across Europe, indeed the world, know us when they casually ask the obligatory 'where are you from?" Depending on their age the response will be along the lines of 'ah, Leedz YouniTed', 'Beely Bremnah' or 'Alan Smeeth'. We teach our youngsters tales of European glory, of silverware at Elland Road and days of expecting to easily beat the likes of City and Chelsea. We teach them that being the team that is hated across the nation is our true badge of pride & honour and not one to be ashamed of. Would you rather your team be talked about and hated, or generate a 'meh' response the likes of Stoke, Swansea and Southampton garner?
And the thing that will really make all those teams that hate us, hate us even more, is that, to paraphrase Keggy Keegan, "we love it!" It makes us bristle with pride, puff out our chests and sing even louder.
You know what..... we're not famous anymore.