Old Guard Mutiny And Loanee Love Affair TSS November 22, 2011 Leeds United 47 Comments Whilst Leeds’ 2-1 win at Turf Moor on Saturday was tainted by the one man rebellious strike of Andy O’Brien, The Whites faithful can take some encouragement from the show-stopping performance of Alex McCarthy. It seems to be a running theme at Leeds United, that as one player falls from grace, another steps up to fill the void. Hoisted onto a pedestal by the mere mortals they were sent to please, the selected few have only a limited amount of time to enjoy the praise and encouragement before the same fans that elevated their status take out their hammers of reckoning, smashing away at their pedestal until they come crashing back down to earth. It’s once they’ve landed back on earth that the true test of a Leeds United player takes place. A reactionary fanbase at the best of times, the Whites faithful and the stoic, hard-working Yorkshire spirit they’re built upon can quickly turn on a player they feel isn’t pulling their weight. When Jonny Howson was criticised for his alleged anonymity, the Leeds United skipper appealed to fans for understanding, admitting that the deeper-lying role he’d be playing was limiting his attacking chances. His insistence that the role was ‘for the good of the team’ however was something Leeds United fans quickly came to appreciate and a more tolerant, understanding fanbase emerged. Perhaps one of the most extreme examples of how quickly a player can fall from grace is Robert Snodgrass. Back in March, a poll on this site rated Robert Snodgrass as the best Leeds United signing since relegation, but a slow start to the season left Snoddy promising improvement when angry fans accused the Scottish winger of looking disinterested. Accepting blame, promising improvement and responding to fans concerns are key to successfully rebuilding pedestals at Elland Road. We’re pragmatic enough (most of the time) to understand how unrealistic our expectations can often be, but our anger is seldom derived from league position. As hard to comprehend as it may be for some players, stuttering along with half-hearted displays, steadily accruing enough points to keep us in a respectable league position isn’t always enough. It’s the heart-on-their-sleeve crusaders that really excel at Leeds United, the players who literally bleed for the cause, who chase down every ball and suffer as badly in defeat as the rest of us do. It’s why we’d take another Billy Bremner over a George Best, Luciano Becchio over Jermaine Beckford, or Andy Hughes over Ashley Cole. It’s not that Ashley Cole, Jermaine Beckford and George Best wouldn’t be valued additions to the club, but losing with the other three is so much easier to handle because there will never be a point where their effort and commitment is brought into question. They’re players we can relate to, who want exactly the same thing as we do and will put their body on the line to achieve it. Andy O’Brien once had his own pedestal at Elland Road. It was built upon his German tank like reliability, that came crashing down following his return from injury. Whether his crumbled pedestal played any part in this weekends antics is open for debate, but the team suffered as a result of his refusal to play, and that’s simply unforgivable to Leeds United fans. If the fans wrote an induction booklet for new arrivals at Elland Road, three simple words would be scrawled across the front cover – Side Before Self. It’s the one thing we expect above all else, and such an important Leeds United philosophy that it really should be written on the shirts. Alex McCarthy’s body-on-the-line display against Burnley means the youngsters stock is quickly rising at Elland Road. Expressing his desire to stay on beyond his initial month long loan will do him no harm either, but McCarthy has only seen the best side of Leeds United’s fanbase thus far, and like Tom Lees, Adam Clayton and other new incumbents to the Elland Road hype, it’s how they deal with the crushing blows of merciless fan criticism that will really test their mettle. Following the examples set by Jonny Howson and Robert Snodgrass I’d suggest, is a good place to start.