wigan 0 – 1 leeds united: all the jellyBack
When we’ve been told by chairmen in the past that this is our lot, that there will be no more jelly and we should have had more fun with the jelly we were given, we’ve tended to take the news hard.
Looking across a sodden field at Danny Pugh or Michael Brown, thinking that we’ll never replace these two and we’ll be watching them toil for ever and ever, hearts have sunk and all we’ve had to look forward to is the end of the season and the end of contracts. And the sooner the better.
That’s how I first felt when Andrew Umbers said there would be no emergency loan signings this season, for fear of upsetting the “equilibrium of the spirit of the team”; for fear of it costing the equilibrium of the spirit of cash money, he should have said, but we’re used by now to reading behind the lines of Leeds chairmen.
It felt too much to me like an admission of defeat, though, and an admission that the season is over already, and that what we’ll get from now on is an aimless end to an aimless season.
There’s a principle at stake in all this. When you take a football club down to its essence, the deal is that we give our ticket money to the club and the club, in return, puts out the best team of players it can in order to entertain and delight us.
Umbers’ comments basically reneged on the club’s side of the bargain. There will be no more support for the playing side of the club this season; apart from that given by the thousands of men, women, children and domesticated animals who make the trip to places like Wigan on a weekly basis.
We’re lucky, then, that we have the fans that we do, and the players that we do. Those players have already achieved one important task; Leeds United will not be in League One next season, and that was far from guaranteed before Neil Redfearn a) took over and b) found something in the squad that nobody else could.
Their next task is to save the end of this season from being a meaningless wander, to give us a reason other than duty to turn up every week, and to give us something to cheer; to throw, without any extra jelly, the biggest party they can.
Step forward Alex Mowatt. Step forward, and step up, the whole damn lot of them. Mowatt added the champagne touch to this win in Wigan, but he didn’t win it alone, and this bewildering run of form represents a remarkable team effort from a bunch of players who have been through the mill this season.
When you talk about the club not keeping its bargain with the fans, it hasn’t exactly given the players everything they needed this season either; at what point do you think Tavares or Antenucci were told about Dave Hockaday? It’s shown on them this season, and we’re seeing the flipside of that now. Would we have veered this near to relegation if the players had been coached properly from day one? Something was stopping them performing the way they are now.
The way they’re performing now has flipped the future from certain doom to giddy uncertainty; from being unable to see a way this team could ever win again, I now can’t see a way this team can ever lose. Which is preposterous, given how many times Wigan rolled the ball across an almost unguarded goal on Saturday without rolling it over the line, but that’s how it feels; would you bet against Leeds at the moment?
The games won’t all be classics, but the players are making up for that with results, and with classic goals. I kind of like Mowatt’s goal even more because Billy Sharp’s pass in the one-two that set him up wasn’t perfect. It clipped off the defender’s shoulder, and it wasn’t just any defender, but Jason Pearce; sorry Pearcedogg, I still love ya, and I hope you find a dinner partner soon, but this was poetic. It also meant that Alex Mowatt had to think quickly and adjust his feet before lamping the ball into the net, rather than simply lamping the ball into the net the easy way. And that’s where Leeds are finding their differences these days: in the extra effort.
The extra effort is covering for a multitude of sins; Gaetano Berardi is ten broken commandments in one, but even he put in that bit extra when called up for this game to stay on the right side of the priest. Morison and Sharp are the front two they said could never play together; they started the game together, and were substituted together, replaced by Antenucci and Cani, the front two they said etc. Whether it’s left or right, wing or full-back, all over the pitch are players pitching in and making do and giving the extra effort to make watching Leeds that little bit more fun.
And it’s good. It’s good that this is coming from the players, and the coach, and while I was disappointed in Umbers’ comments at first, I was more disappointed in Umbers when he saluted the sale of the club from Bates to GFH, so that little dinghy of disappointment set sail long ago. Right now I’m glad. I’m glad for Redfearn, I’m glad for Mowatt, I’m glad for Berardi. I’m glad that Umbers is not going to upset the equilibrium of the spirit of the team, after all.
Because, after all, Umbers thought GFH were a good prospect; and when it comes to picking a player that’s not good form. Even with one of Redders’ many lists and Nicola Catania, sorry, Salerno, there to advise him, he’ll only screw it up anyway. Leave the football to the footballers, Andrew; we’ve got all the jelly we need.