Aidan White, Andy Gray, Jamie Ashdown and Rodolph Austin’s contributions are picked over.
“Let’s just go in,” says Natasha. “It’s cold out here.” I yank the door open and it yelps, and Lee falls from behind it. “Nat!” he says, as he struggles to regain his balance. Nobody calls Natasha ‘Gnat’, except Lee. “Nat, did you get my text?”
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.
If the internet has only served one purpose over the last decade, its as an enabler for the prurient interests of teenage boys. The tight grip that your mate’s older brother used to hold over access to videos of naked girls and photos of dead bodies has given way to the generous, take-it-all free-for-all of Google. The collapse of the music industry has been well documented, but just as significant has been the collapse of the playground economy, where a week of charging 50p a look would generate profit enough for a weekend bottle of MD20/20. Nowadays if you hear about it, and you like the sound of it, and you want to see it, you Google it, and you get it. Porn, dead people, and Norwich City games.
On New Year’s Day, when a mobile phone was placed before me and I first saw the now infamous photo of ten year old Leeds fan Kai with El Hadji Diouf, I didn’t really know what to think. It made no sense to me that a ten year would wake up, liberally apply tanning lotion around his blonde mohican, and make his way to Elland Road without anyone stopping him and saying, ‘Let’s just think through what we’re doing here.’ Why, after all, would anyone let a young boy run the risk of enduring ridicule and causing offence, by walking the streets of Leeds dressed up as a Leeds United player?
And the players came out on the pitch and everyone in the crowd was like, ‘ROOOAAARRR’ and I don’t know how the players weren’t frighted cos it was dead loud and it must have been louder where they were cos they were in the middle and we were at the side. And the crowd was shouting ‘ROOOAAAARRR’ and that’s how we knew the game was going to begin. And it was Leeds against Bolton in the Championship and the winner would free Princess Kisnorba from the space castle where she had been imprisoned by the evil Fergzos so it was dead important that Leeds won cos if Bolton won they wouldn’t be able to free her cos they don’t have spaceships in Bolton so they can’t go into space which is where Fergzos’s castle is but if Leeds won they could do it cos there’s loads of spaceships in Leeds cos Leeds is MINT.
It shouldn’t require blind optimism to imagine that Leeds United can compete with Chelsea. A short decade ago, after all, our chairman was their chairman; only one division separates our two clubs; and football, after all, is eleven against eleven.
Leeds scored against Crystal Palace, and our owners elect from GFH Capital jumped up from their comfy seats in celebration. From across the pitch, long lense cameras were trained on the scarf-waving young men, anxious to give Leeds fans a look at the new gang who will be running our club. Salem Patel and David Haigh are almost absurdly familiar faces already, and Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey, was soon identified by the internet chorus. To Andrew’s left, however, one grey haired old lady passed under the radar.
Go to Elland Road for the game or don’t, listen on the radio or the internet or just follow on Twitter or check the result the next day, on the BBC Sport site later on or get a ticket, get a ticket in the Kop or the South Stand, West or East, upper or lower or don’t,
“The battle of Krusevac,” nobody has said, “Was won on the playing fields of Wetherby.” Of course, that it was a battle at all was ridiculous. I’m not sure when Under-21 internationals started to be played in hate-filled ampitheatres where up-and-coming young footballers could be subjected to torrents of abuse, racist or otherwise, but I’m not sure it’s a vision of youth football I’m keen to endorse.