The Mangle: Let’s do the knee-jerk again Gary September 19, 2011 The Mangle 21 Comments We’re going to get relegated. We’ll be up there come May. Grayson: one the finest young managers in England. Grayson: out. White’s the latest in a long line of starlets going to the top. White’s Bambi on Ice – get rid. Game to game, day to day even, we seem to be confused as to the destiny of LUFC and all the players and staff therein. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of inconsistency. It would be remiss, for example, to not mention the wild amplified jerking between ‘buy in some big names!’ and ‘play the youth!’ – concepts not entirely compatible, as the Arab Emirates’ Manchester colony will attest. We’re knee-jerking so much our joints are creaking like stage five arthritis, and given this backdrop, you do wonder whether there’s a connection to the good ship United also shuddering somewhat unpredictably from pillar to post when the lads actually do that marginally important act of getting on the field. There’s no way this expectation of instant gratification doesn’t transmit. To visit some of the Leeds message boards we’re all tragically over-familiar with is to witness that extreme knee-jerk logic is definitely not the exception – it’s endemic. Anything other than instantaneous militancy as a reaction to defeat or glory is largely frowned upon. It’s entirely possible that we as Leeds fans are some of the worst offenders in the culture of knee-jerk football analysis due to our current paradox of huge expectation and underwhelming resource, but it’s safe to say we’re not alone, and it’s not our fault – in the main. We’ve had a sort of ‘extremist football’ shoved down our throats for over a decade now by the mass media, where every defeat is perceived as a disaster, a ‘boss under pressure’ and, more recently, a possible player revolt engineered via Nietzsche quotes retweeted or suchlike. The next week’s victory means ‘back on track’, chasing down glory and votive offerings to gaffer-gods. At the same time we’re bombarded with invitations to instantly and publically ‘have our say’ via social networks, phone-in radio shows, forums and that abominable thing where they read out the blandest-possible emails on The Football League Show. We might not have a fully-defined viewpoint on what we’ve just witnessed just yet, and maybe by nature we’d rather be quietly philosophical, but we feel we’re obliged to spit a half-formed reaction out anyway. It doesn’t take Pulitzer-worthy investigation to realise that it’s not just us trapped in waves of hypocrisy as we deride villains, hail the villains as heroes and back round again. Pretty much everyone’s doing it, irrespective of fanbase and expectation. There was probably an age when the lag between final whistle and sociable evening activities could be used to come to terms with what went on, perhaps even come to a rounded conclusion not attached to the poles of glory or doom – but that age has so quickly dissolved under new mediums of instantaneous moaning, baiting and bragging as to be considered incredulous to us now. Left with few alternatives, we all largely buy into this culture of reactionary extremes, forgetting there were days when a quality opposition goal could be applauded without feelings of oncoming embolism and it was ever possible to face a weekend rationally without the words ‘make or break’ rattling round your skull. It would be too much to expect utter consistency on either the side of glory or despair from our team, a side whose legendary recent unpredictability so perfectly lends itself to epic knee-jerkage. But without inviting the gypsy curse to dance all over this column, we do appear to be finding a touch of consistency (“consistent red cards you mean – sack off the undisciplined wasters!” I hear someone yell…) and perhaps by the end of the month or so we should have a more reasonable eye on where we should pin realistic expectations. But hang on – realistic? Pah! We just want the crash-bang drama coming at us thick and fast. Or so they tell us. Is it not possible that living out a lurching ride of emotions on the back of some lads you don’t know might be a bit, well, unhealthy? At the risk of coming across a bit Hare Krishna (again), maybe we need to try some basic behavioural therapy: start by accepting that we may have a bit of a tendency to overreact when it comes to LUFC, then try not to instantly deride those who use phrases like ‘on the other hand’, ‘hopefully’, and ‘willing to give them time’ as heretics and Bates Lovers. Yes, the Talksport and smart phone-created monster in the machine just may well be you – but the chance to save yourself and MOT with just a little rationality providing the rhythm is still very much in your own hands.