Daniel Chapman | Writing etc

Leeds United 1-2 Derby County

There haven’t been many goals to savour at Elland Road this season. Sam Byram got on the shortlist for Goal of the Season, but his effort against Oxford was in the early rounds of the League Cup so wasn’t seen by many. Aidy White had a bigger audience for his strike against Everton in the same competition, but beyond that, there’s not much.

Ross McCormack gave us a moment, though, against Derby on April Fools Day. Just on as substitute, unmarked at the edge of the box at a corner, he let the ball roll towards him and gently lifted it over the heads of most of both teams and into the top corner. It was at the Kop end, too. It was a lovely, loose kind of a goal; the ball looked relaxed, as if it was enjoying the flight.

McCormack was understandably pleased with his effort. Running towards the fans, he paused to turn towards the dugouts. “Fuck off!” he yelled, placing an uppercut from distance square on to his manager’s chin.

The fans were happy too. “Ross McCormack!” they sang, “Fuck off Warnock!”

The goal put Leeds in the lead in yet another awful match on the awful march to what we hope becomes no more awful than mediocrity, and the celebrations, if you can call them that, demonstrated more than any post-defeat boo just how poisonous Neil Warnock has made the air around Elland Road. Surely it’s rare for a manager to have assembled a such ‘good set of honest lads’ at a football club and have both them, and the fans who pay to watch them, hate him for it so much.

The trouble with Warnock’s emphasis on honesty, you see, was that after a while nobody believed him. The post-match chuckles, the excuses (British Summer Time bore part of the brunt for this defeat, if you can believe that), the claims that our team a year ago – McCormack, Becchio, Snodgrass, Clayton – weren’t a patch on what he puts out there now – Diouf, Morison, Varney, Brown; after a while, nobody believed a word of it. By the time he blamed Tom Lees for the defeat at Ipswich, Warnocchio’s nose – already plenty big enough – was dwarfed only by the ever-growing responsibility he refused to take.

Colin can quite justifiably look back on his time at Leeds and say that the fans here never chanted ‘Warnock Out.’ We were more subtle than that. When Jason Pearce fouled Chris Martin for Derby’s penalty, “It’s all Tom Lees’s fault,” was the cry; when the team switched off to allow yet another late goal to defeat them, “Can’t fault their effort, they’re a great bunch of lads,” was the song from the Kop.

With his giggles, and his twinkles, and his amazed that we haven’t had any luck out there at all and the referee I mean what can you say about it nobody’s feeling worse than I am, Warnock might have thought we were lapping up his super-smooth post-match efforts. Well, we were certainly taking notes. But ultimately, it wasn’t singing the manager’s words back to him that summed up the way we felt about him by the end; it was Ross McCormack’s phrase that said all that needed to be said. “Fuck off Warnock.” It summed it up nicely. Just, “Fuck off.” Well said Ross. Good goal.


From The Square Ball magazine 2012/13 issue nine.