Remember early summer when fans were on an incredible high as the club added validity to takeover rumours by admitting they were in talks with potential investors?
As far as the fans were concerned, Leeds United were going to be the new Manchester City.
It seemed fitting too, because like City, Leeds’ rollercoaster existence has been par for the course. We’d been through it all together, had our ups and downs, bought the t-shirt and settled in for round 2… or 3… or 333 depending on your age and years of bought and paid for suffering.
But like City, there was a shining light at the end of the ride. A new era was to be spearheaded by some oil-rich Sheikhs, and Leeds United would rise like the proverbial phoenix to the top of the English footballing pyramid, where we’d join our fellow journeymen Manchester City as we peered down and laughed at Manchester United’s dying empire.
That was the dream anyway.
This being Leeds United, “living the dream” is never as simple and straightforward as we’d planned. There always seems to be a trade-off of sorts, whether that be underachievement or a rapid descent following every high, supporting Leeds United is like living with a heroin addiction. Sure, you’ll get the occasional, albeit extreme high, but you’ll spend most of your life shunned by society, desperately pleading for another hit from shady characters who promise you the world and living in total denial that a better life may be possible outside the bubble of reaffirming addicts you surround yourself with.
Despite the trade-off Leeds United have to make for any semblance of a high, we keep coming back for more, because like any good smackhead we know that “we have everything under control,” that “we can quit any time we like” and that “this time, it’s different.”
But history doesn’t suggest anything will change or that Leeds United will ever be a drug from which you’ll get a prolonged high.
Don Revie created a side that was feared throughout Europe but despite their dominance, managed just two league titles. There was far more painful near misses than there was celebration.
Howard Wilkinson came, he saw and he conquered, defying all odds to carry Leeds United to their third top flight title in 1992, only to plunge to a 17th placed finish the following season. Who else does that? As comedowns go, Howard Wilkinson’s was probably the hardest we’ve ever experienced. Until Ridsdale came along at least.
By now, most Leeds United fans have developed a defensive mechanism they use to shield themselves from these comedowns. It’s quite simple really, we just expect the absolute worse and are seldom disappointed. Whether that be denying to ourselves that a takeover is even possible, or refusing to believe that Ken Bates is anything other than the spawn of Satan, it generally serves us well.
But alas, even the most headstrong can be lured back in. Hope is the drug that every football club is built on and it doesn’t matter how jaded supporters become, sooner or later, they’ll once again be consumed.
All it took was a couple of brief statements from the club and our defence was shattered. One small hit of hope and the next two months would be spent in a restless frenzy, desperately rummaging through the gutter press for any semblance of largely poor-grade hope that would hopefully prolong our ever-fleeting high. We allowed these shady, evil characters to lure us in, keep us buying into their personal brand of hope and like every faithful smackhead, kept coming back for more – however implausible, or un-Leeds-like these promises we were fed appeared.
Amidst all the nonsense however, the takeover still appears to be pending. It’s small comfort to the masses, and maybe I’m refusing to let go of my addiction, but Neil Warnock continues to refer to the deal, we’ve had no statement from those believed to be involved announcing the deal has fallen through, and most crucially of all, Ken Bates still remains silent. Had these investors walked away I guarantee Ken Bates would have been slating them by now.
Our high came too early and proved impossible to follow. We expected an immediate follow-up, an announcement that the deal was done and Leeds United were now quasillionaires. We expected a flurry of top class signings to be unveiled, a roadmap for an era of dominance to be set-out and an unremitting run of highs to follow.
We’d all assumed – more through hope than logic – that this deal was nearing completion and that the buyers would want to be through the doors as quickly as possible to thank us for our unwavering support and reward us with a summer of massive spending. “Surely they’d want to be in place and have all their players signed by pre-season?”, we reasoned, never giving a second thought to the complexity of due diligence and the mountains of legal work it takes to complete the takeover of any business – particularly those Ken Bates is involved with, whose assets are held mostly offshore through a maze of different companies.
It’s possible that this takeover could be completed in days, weeks, months or never. It’s a precarious situation and a deal which no successful businessman was every going to rush – no matter how difficult that may be for us fans to handle – but until Leeds United announce that the deal has either been confirmed or fallen through, all we can do is learn to cope with the cold sweats, uncontrollable shakes and longing desperation until the shady bearded villain of our tale offers us another fix.