Leeds United, Their Loyal Fans And Massimo - Love On The Rocks

The doomed affair in which no one will leave.
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Football is about emotions and relationships, the strongest most unbreakable relationship is between the fans and the club, the strongest emotion is love, undying love for the badge, for the club, passed from generation to generation. Players and managers come and go, legends are forged by committed performances and respect for the shirt.

Owners come and go, they are judged by their actions and the perception of their motives, seldom for their motives alone because if you are a wealthy autocratic Italian used to having your own way, its virtually impossible for a working man from Leeds to understand your mindset.

The fan hears the promises the owner makes, the timeframes he breaks and the plans he describes to an eager audience, he hears of cash spent, debts cleared and watches a soap opera unfold when all that really matters to him is what happens at 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon.

After all, the pain since relegation and another 12 months of painful mediocrity, over 5,000 Leeds fans turned up at Craven Cottage on a Wednesday night in October. Don't believe the official figures, the 4,000 or so in the away section were supplemented by at least 1,000 in the neutral area next door, Leeds fans segregated from Leeds fans and a good few more scattered in the rest of the crowd. There were another thousand or so at Elland Road, watching the beam back of a second division lower table clash with their team being led out by another new manager that none of them would have chosen. How many other clubs have that kind of support, with that kind of passion and that kind of loyalty?

The mood of the fans was defiant and proud and very loud, the 25% of a midweek crowd at a traditional ground with less atmosphere than the moon, made virtually all the noise virtually all the time. The team delivered a committed performance, they should have won, the display was the best of the season so far and delighted the new manager, Steve Evans, an honest, passionate realist who replaced Uwe Rosler - a cold pragmatist - and for a few hours at least the fans felt good.

The relationship with the owner appears to be broken, with the vast majority calling for him to go. Too high profile, too many surprises, too many strange relationships, Terry George and Mini Me, too many court cases, too many bans, too much financial shenanigans, too many decisions the fans can't understand.

Massimo Cellino sat at his table in the middle of the Flying Pizza in Leeds on Friday night amongst the hustle and bustle, chitter and chatter having a quiet meal and you can be guaranteed that in his mind he doesn't understand why the fans want him out. In Massimo's mind he bought the club, cleared the debts, sorted the off field mess, put a proper football club infrastructure in place and bought a lot of players, in fact a squad good enough to challenge. Massimo loves Leeds, not in the same way as the fans, but in his mind he loves the club and as a businessman sees the potential of the game’s last sleeping giant, a £150M+ a year club in the Premier League.

What Cellino doesn't see is how the working class fans who travel all over the place following their club see; an Italian king of the sound bite, manna from heaven for the media, making bold statements and breaking promises, sacking managers every four and a half months and acting in a very different way to anything they have ever seen before. You know what? The fans are right to want stability and an owner who wants the same as they do and Massimo is right because everything he has done has been, in his eyes, for the good of the club.

What does the future hold? The fans will follow the club forever. There were 4,500 at Bolton on Saturday, over 25% of the gate again and Cellino is insistent that he won't sell. Only time will tell....


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