LeedsFansPA_468x310Firstly, I know the headline may seem like a not-so-subtle ploy to grab your attention (which, by definition, is what a headline is) but it’s perfectly justified. We are idiots.

More often than not, supporting Leeds United is a torturous experience, one which leaves us angry, upset and questioning the reasons we waste so much money doing so.

The tribal nature of football defies conventional wisdom, often impossible to explain to our loved ones who find it difficult to understand our insatiable thirst for more.

It doesn’t matter how many times we’re left inconsolable following an abject display against some random market town whose only claim to fame is giving us a hammering every year, we’ll still travel 100’s of miles on a Saturday afternoon to do the same thing again next weekend. And worse, none of us will stop to consider for one second that there may be a more enjoyable way to spend our weekends.

“Have you ever considered supporting a more successful team?” an ex-girlfriend once asked me. It sticks in my memory because I’d just returned from Valencia where we’d been beaten 3-0 in the 2001 Champions League semi-finals. I was absolutely devastated by the result, completely inconsolable and to her, it made no sense that I’d willingly put myself through such emotional distress.

Twelve and a half years have passed since that fixture and things have only got worse. So much so in fact, we now consider the failed Champions League challenge a high point of our history. It’s funny how a moment which caused such distress to so many Leeds United fans is now a treasured memory, the context of history allowing us to see clearly how impressive our Champions League run was.

Both me and the girl I was dating back in 2001 have long since moved on and settled down with different partners, but I often wonder how I’d explain the pain and suffering I’ve allowed Leeds United to put me through since then. I couldn’t offer her a rational explanation for why I didn’t go and watch a more successful team in 2001, how on earth would I justify the Bates years?

We all know the reasons we became Leeds United supporters. Most – like me – will have been a simple matter of geography. Some may have started supporting us due to success in the 1960’s and 70’s or because of Howard Wilkinson’s underdog triumph in 1992. I’m sure O’Leary’s brand of football attracted a few supporters too, but regardless of how you became a Leeds United supporter – even if it was for glory – the fact you’re reading this suggests your support hasn’t waned throughout our darkest hours.

Even those of you who started supporting Leeds United for the pleasure and glory of victory are now willingly torturing yourselves too, which makes you just as stupid as those of us who justify our support based on Elland Road’s proximity to our place of birth.

Congratulations, you’re a fully-fledged moron.

I can’t make you any less of an idiot, it’d be like the blind leading the blind (except you’d still have to witness Leeds United’s abject displays, so even the blind have an advantage over you) but I may be able to explain why you became such an idiot. An explanation I didn’t have in 2001.

Dolf Zillman called it the excitation-transfer theory which is a clever way of explaining why we feel so much additional pleasure from success when we’ve overcome tremendous adversity. It’s the basis for every Hollywood action film; the protagonist(s) can’t simply save the day, they must first endure numerous setbacks, be wronged and bested by a villain, suffer through emotional and physical turmoil and distress, self-doubt and loathing, only to finally rise up and – against all the odds – save the day in an intense and thrilling climax.

For Leeds United, a more fitting comparison may be horror films. No one “enjoys” horror films. Fear is an evolutionary trait developed to help us survive, we don’t like being scared and unless you’re a sociopath (or seriously troubled), empathy prevents you from enjoying the pain and suffering of another human-being.

But we watch horror films because excitation-transfer promises us a reward. We’ve come to believe that all the suffering we endure will ultimately be rewarded. It’s the old cliché that ‘the bad times only make the good times sweeter’. And it’s true.

If emotions were measured on a scale, with 0 being content, -10 being emotional wreck and +10 being ecstatically happy, the aim of a climatic action film is to take you from 0, up and down through the minuses, before leaving you at a positive figure. Ultimately, they improve your mood. Independence Day for example would probably hit a -3 and end at a +7.

Horror films work a little differently. They do improve your mood, but only because they’ve destroyed it first. The very best horror films have no problem taking you to -10 on our emotion scale and keeping you there throughout. They’ll give you chance to catch your breath and regulate your mood, but they’re usually setting you up for another dive. The pleasure we take from horror films comes from relief. Even if the villain isn’t caught and the characters don’t get a happily ever after, we’re relieved that it’s over. Thankful to have overcome the experience.

I mention both horror and action films because I’m somewhat torn between what example best fits Leeds United. Excitation-transfer explains why we continue to willingly suffer the torment of Leeds United’s plight, but are we working on the assumption that all this is an action film where our happily ever after follows the relentless torment we’ve endured? Or are we stuck in some kind of purgatory, reliving the same horror film over and over again, our only reward coming from the pleasure of survival?

The first option could contradict the headline, though it largely depends on the intensity of the trade-off. Since we’d simply be building towards a point of ecstasy, enduring the nightmare of this last decade is payment for our reward. But what kind of success does it take to repay our the last decade of faithful support? A decade of absolute dominance, including several Premier League titles and European Cups would be reasonable start, I’d say.

Chances are, we’ll never receive an adequate pay-off. We’ll no doubt experience a few intense highs (promotion, for example) but in all likelihood, we’ll return to some form of purgatory thereafter, repeating a relentless cycle of torment as we’re mercilessly destroyed by teams we once considered equals. Survival will once again be our reward, continued torment broken only by fleeting spells of moderate joy which only serve to set us up for the next fall.

Yet we’ll endure and continue to follow Leeds United. Why? Because we’re idiots. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

42 Responses

  1. Mike

    I think if we can get back to the EPL we’ll have a decent chance at staying(i know i know crazy..) But call them fair-weather fans or not, more people will come back and a packed Elland Road is to be reckoned with(it says something when even Fergie didn’t like coming here). I think a good home form can keep a team afloat(see Stoke) and once back in place I think LUFC can stay up as long as we keep it sustainable.
    If we just considered stadium size alone assuming we sell out(which i think we would if we were prem again) we’d be almost top half of the premier league table in gate receipts alone. I know money isn’t all of it but it helps a bit and as has been mentioned before LUFC has the potential to be a “sleeping giant”

    • Ratty

      I bleed White,Yellow and Blue. If I was a stick of rock and you cut me in half it would say Marching on Leeds Together, I cant have a sunday lunch without Yorkshire Pudding!! Yes, I go through the Ups and Downs with you all, my weekends are ruined if we lose, beer tastes so much better when we win, I boycotted Tetleys because Carlesberg produce it in Northampton….I am Leeds, Leeds, Leeds…..as long as I am a Leeds Idiot…I don t mind been an idiot!!

  2. Ron

    Football is a modern day substitute for war. Where once we would invade a weak, pathetic neighbouring village like Manchester, we are now forced to support a football team and release vocal venom from the stands. I have thought a few times about supporting a team in Seria A or in Spain to make life easier, but you need the lows to appreciate the highs. Granted this low has gone on far too long and the time is nigh for GFH to find one very wealthy Arab.

  3. henrymouni

    It is the ‘stupidity’ of fans that keeps football going at ER and most other grounds.
    We watch a TV series, but if we don’t like it we stop and watch something else.
    We buy a product from a shop, but it lets us down and we send it back, and depending on the shop’s attitude, we may not deal with them again.
    In our personal life we will only put up with so much, then we look to pastures new.
    We watch Leeds United.
    We have been continually lied to and let down.
    The product is usually terrible and very expensive.
    The players & coaching staff are very well paid, compared to most fans, but do not like being criticised.
    The owners think the fans are a bunch of idiots, who will swallow any crap they spread.
    The are right, of course!!
    Our strength is in withdrawing our support, but fans who do so are treated as ‘fair weather fans’.
    Or ‘not real fans’.
    Some of us are proud to have stayed loyal, when our loyalty is abused.

    I would say it is essential that we are a bunch of idiots, as a ‘normal’/’sensible’ approach would be the end of our clubs.

  4. Cheesewire

    I’ve always likened it to golf. Were all shit at it but every 5 or so rounds you’ll hit that one shot that maybe Tiger Woods would have been proud of. That’s why we keep going back for more.

  5. gistheman

    Supporting Leeds is like life full of ifs, buts and may be and just if only lol!

  6. bd

    Nice article how every Leeds fan feels.

    I used to walk for a few miles to the gym and on the way there think of how leeds are screwing up and get annoyed (Oleary dark days) but after Bates last season and GFH taking Leeds no where plus i have new born and another child, i just don’t get bothered too much any more (there is more to life and we are where we are because no real money is being pumped into the club now and football has become a business) but i’ll never support anyone else.

    • igiveup

      Totally agree, still care but can’t be arsed with the hassle of getting to ER to watch what is, 75% of the time, utter dross. And where is our Shez, Bairdy, Vinny, Batts, Zico type hero on the pitch these days? Since Becchio left we ain’t got one. And we ARE idiots for thinking we would get 2 or 3 half decent players in on loan during this 2 week break…long winter ahead!

    • Counte Of Monte Fisto

      Sums up my views too, Leeds used to be everything it totally defined my life. I NEVER wore the colour red, NEVER bought any product made by Sharp. Planned my holidays, days out etc around Leeds. I even missed a cousins wedding where I was an usher just to see Leeds play Brighton away.
      Now I go mainly to see my mates & once every 20 games or so go home with a real buzz. The rest even when we win is 30 seconds of ecstasy in with 90+ minutes of tedium away games are a good crack though
      Following Leeds has become a total chore but I still have my season ticket. Why because its what I am, my 6 and 4 year olds both sing mot & have kits even though we now live in enemy territory.
      Maybe one day we will have owners who share our passion but not these clowns.

  7. Paul Mcknockiter

    Whats this anniversary sob story of breaking up with you ex? You sure your over her lol

  8. Imre Banana

    The excitation transfer theory interesting – biggest high for me was not winning the league but promotion in 90 at Bournemouth – end of eight years of purgatory and the certain knowledge we would be a powerhouse in League Division One (as opposed to League One!). And we were; but we wouldn’t be now, just another Villa or Newcastle hoping to finish fifth bottom

    • Counte Of Monte Fisto

      Best season EVER, me & my mates were all 18-19-20, none of us gave a damn about everything we worry about now. The fans were the most insane crazies the world has ever seen. To top it all the football was brilliant even 2 down with 3 mins to go we were at it, never giving up. A perfect storm & I went to EVERY game including the ZDS cup away at Villa (Bairdys last game for us) & every player who played that year remains a hero to me.
      The pish poor garbage we’ve suffered since relegation make my blood boil & I think nothing of them. No mark has beens with no passion or professionalism. Andy Hughes, Prutton & a few others excepted they aren’t much better than me but care nothing for the club at all.
      Maybe one day we can see another group come through or be bought who care as much as we do.
      That hope is why we keep going even though its hard

  9. Flippin-Pop-It-Bruva

    Support anyone else lol you must be chuffing mad! I dont support Leeds because they are or have been successful i support them because its my heritage, because its my birth right and because it connects me to yorkshire and my family. There’s a point in every boys life where he has to choose his team. During the late 80’s all my classmates looked at the table and chose the top boys [ie Liverpool] regardless of anything else. For me there are two types of supporters genuine and glory. To be a genuine fan you have to meet at least one of the following criteria. 1. You were born tin that area 2. Your dad/family supports them 3. you live in that area. If you dont meet that criteria you are a supporter by proxy and the feeling you will get from supporting them will never be as deep. I know this might cause a few people to say chuff off but thats how the cookie crumbles. I dont know anyone that has given up supporting a team in adulthood cos they are rubbish and return to the table to pick a new team. Leeds is more than a superficial choice its a family and you have to go through the mill to enjoy the good times. being a Leeds fan and England fan is identical in nature, we promise so much yet deliver so little but its the hope that makes me come back for more : )

    • Mackerpacker

      I’m not from Leeds, I’m not even from Yorkshire. I’m a yellow belly from Lincolnshire. My Dad died when I was 4 and my 3 half brothers weren’t into footy. I’m 55 next birthday and have always loved football without any encouragement from anyone. I suppose you’d call me a glory hunter, true when I was a lad Leeds Utd were the biggest and the best. I tried to be passionate about a local team (not really any team in Lincs to get the juices flowing) but it was and will only ever be Leeds Utd. Allan Clarke was my favourite. Don’t tell me my feelings don’t run deep, that’s bloody arrogant and unnecessary. MOT

      • Tare

        Macker personally I have no qualms with your fan existence so take it easy.. I have never been in the Christmas card list here in Finland while supporting the Whites but life takes its toll and if you can take it seriously well life goes on.


  10. the wylee wyla

    I was born in Somerset, no one in my family supports Leeds, I got into watching football by hanging at my Arsenal mad friend’s gaff but chose Leeds as my team once I had a better understanding of football and football history.
    I put myself through all this shi% and I’ve no reason to do it other than unrequited love of a football club. I dare to be stupid. I’m an idiot and proud of it. I’ll go marching on and never quit

  11. Craig

    I wouldn’t call us Morons, stupid or idiot’s bit harsh. I’m not from Leeds, I guess you could say my closest professional team to me would of been Luton. At now 45 I have been Leeds through and through I love them like a shit marriage for better or worse can’t say it started with Glory as im too young to have had the privilege to have watched the Great Don Revies team. We were in the old 2nd Division, I will never forget my first match I was 14 and as a Birthday treat me Mum God rest her soul took me on the Train to Sheffield we were playing at Hillsborough and worse yet she bought us tickets in the wrong end. Still great memories and many more games later from Billy to Sgt Wilko, O’leary once its in your blood you don’t switch off. Yes disappointment is an understatement but with pride and passion I can safely say when my time comes I will Die a Leeds supporter. Mot

  12. Euroboysie

    You can change your job, house and even wife but there are some thing a man never changes, now 50 years old and still upset when we lose MOT.

  13. Tare

    I have never lost my faith for the Whites fortunes but what comes to supporting well some things do not change. Women are coming and going but the LUFC Club stays for the life curve (from cradle to crave) so one for the road mates.


  14. John H

    Good piece and some thought provoking comments especially from Flippin Pop it Bruvva. It is our heritage and there is no choice. Or there is one choice and one choice only. Through thick and thin. MOT.

  15. Matthew

    To think, when we get promoted to the Premier League, the jealous little Yorkshire sides like Huddersfield, Bradford City, Donny, Sheffield(Both teams) will still be saying how much they hate us. They’l still be singing we all hate Leeds scum, though they’l a league or 2 below us ;)

  16. spellz

    “I can’t make you any less of an idiot, it’d be like the blind leading the blind (except you’d still have to witness Leeds United’s abject displays, so even the blind have an advantage over you) ”

    That was a funny line I am still laughing now, I am from London my dad supported us from dons era probably for the glory as he is a fully fledged cockney but his passion for the club rubbed off on me, as he used to take me to Elland road when he could and the vibe and environment could not be matched to any other ground I have needlessly dragged myself to since, as I said before I am a world away from my beloved club but through thick and thin regardless of how many other londoners could not understand the passion for the whites I had, I have maintained the same love and if anything through the dark times it has strengthened, I love leeds United and will refuse to swap sides with anyone else even if our club was liquidated the badge is eternally emblazoned on my chest .

    Fuck it
    now keep singing the same line and feel the passion.

  17. George Wood

    My grandad used to be a bus driver for Leeds Corporation and often drove the “Football Specials”. He’d take me along and I watched several games sat on the side of the pitch. That was it – I was addicted.

    I lived in West London and just about everyone else was Chelsea mad and in the 70’s that was a fierce rivalry.

    I even bought shares in Caspian / Leeds Sporting. That was galling when ‘my team’ effectively ‘stole’ my money. I’ll not forgive Ridsdale

  18. mrbigwheels

    Well done for making the statement or is it asking the question?.
    My judgement on this as a mature punter with 55 years of support for this Club

    and I’m not ‘torn’ here is…… We are presently viewing a horror movie with return listings being promised every month! sometimes weekly. We are, as per pattern relieved at the ending of the present listing but so eager to see the next showing just in case the ending has changed slightly. Have we survived or been pleasured?. I’m totally lost with this one over the last 6/7 seasons and just feel despite all the side shows, the greater range of fillers from the counters in the foyer and ever present goody bags offered as we transcend into the theatre of emotions..

    This next showing is going to be SH1 ………again!. But I’ll be back for more.

  19. Dlo

    Leeds is in my blood. Not just united but the city. Leeds and proud of it regardless of what happens. I remember my first game at ER and wearing my full burton kit with pride (although it was chuffing freezing!).
    ITs been in the family blood for years too. I found some old programs from the 70’s and had to share them. I would never ever support another team other that LUFC! It would piss my mum off for starters and she was there when we went mad in Paris so not to be messed with!!!

  20. Drogheda White

    Been a Leeds fan since two or three seasons before O’Leary era.Born and living in Ireland it had mostly to do with Gary Kelly being from my home town and then Harte, Mcphail, Maybury, Keane and O’Leary so it was an Irish allegance so to speak at the time. Was odd though coz my Dad is a West Brom fan and my brother is West Ham. Regardless, since ive been able to pay for it, ive attend less games then id like, (first game was 4-1 home win against Nottingham Forest 2nd April 2011), been to 10/15 games since. No reason to put myself through all this hurt and confusion, but i will never change, i have a passion for Leeds (United and the city itself) that i cant explian but im loving every minute and will love every minute til i die, Leeds to my last breath!!! MOT!!!

  21. Irving08

    Father – a Yorkshire Amateurs veteran – thought he was a reincarnation of Wilf Copping in games with us RAF kids, and he became his camp team’s exponent of the Revie plan at the ripe old age of 40. So, how – growing up in deepest Lincolnshire – could I not support the team from ‘mucky Leeds’ ? My heart swelled with pride when I first saw ‘the Peacocks’ beat Lincoln City – our local team – in March 1956. There are times when i have felt like giving up, notably in the last couple of years in the old First Division, and then when we came down in 2003, but like many supporters, I am unable to resist the call of adversity. I sometimes long for the day when the team no longer needs my support.

    • John

      The Revie Plan was something Man City did when Revie was still a player!

      I wish I could give up supporting Leeds, I really do…

  22. Tare

    But let us forget gloom and doom The Chief is back in town. A real Gentleman and the Great footballer for the Whites. We all most got it Chief (semi final v Valencia). Tare

      • Tare

        Yep commanding CB is still in the hunt eh.. Hunter, Fairclough, Molenaar but the scale is narrow. The Chief was only CB to challenge all time LUFC team CB position but even though he would have been on the bench.


      • John

        Not sure he’d make the best pair of CBs – let’s see, Hunter, Charlton, McTraitorMcQueen, Madeley, Cherry and Rioscum were probably all as good as the Chief and in some cases better. We could say he beats McScum and Rioscum for sticking around for longer, but I still don’t fancy his chances. Still great of course.

        I heard that Lucas wants to be involved with the club. Bit of coaching and some scouting maybe?

  23. Svein Kristiansen

    Yes many Leeds supporter are idiots. But than so are many supporters of other teams to.

  24. Anthony McCrea

    Started following during the O’Leary era, first rime I saw leeds was at anfield we were beat 3-1, I jumped up when Leeds scored and roared pretending to all the liverpool fans around me that I was pissed about letting in a goal, I sat down and sank my teeth into my mates arm/coat after seeing my first live Leeds goal, first game at elland road was exicter city. bristol, coventry and a few games since im still supporting on, I love a day in Leeds quite different to a Donegal sporting day out, this sunday 15 of us donegal leeds united fans hitting the pub in Letterkenny for the match against Birmingham, and the show goes on!

  25. PMH

    Some of you seeing my occasional comments here may have figured out that I am a Leeds lad transplanted to Boston, USA. I grew up in the Revie era and Eddie Gray was my idol. Some of the games back then were life threatening. There was a pitched battle with bricks after a game against Chelsea, I think, and my family was lucky to escape alive after a Cardiff City FA Cup game. The team back then played some sublime football on occasion. But, we were still somewhat frustrated because with obviously the best team in the land we did not win a ton of trophies. Getting goals in the big games was the major challenge. A typical game was against LIverpool where we would dominate possession, and then get beat by a Kevin Keegan goal in the 89th minute, Keegan having been completely invisible until then. Your football team is like your family. They may be dysfunctional in the extreme, but that’s what you’ve got and you have to make do.

    At this point in time, I am happy just seeing the team make steady progress and be thereabouts in the Championship. Premiership survival is not a realistic goal without significant extra cash. When we do go up, I don’t want to be a QPR or Crystal Palace. Our proper place is top six of the Premiership, and we need the financing to make that happen. .

    • TSS

      “Your football team is like your family. They may be dysfunctional in the extreme, but that’s what you’ve got and you have to make do.”


  26. colin shorthouse

    i have supported leeds since the bobby collins era ,and one thing sticks out in this modern era.we will saying the same thing in ten years time .next season when we are in the premiership .theres no money and no motivation to get there ,it is as if k.b is still at the helm


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