“The Past is the Past, Let’s Be United” runs a club advertisement in one corner of Elland Road. Yet when the present is so awful and the future so uncertain, the past is something to sink into, like an exhausted man might collapse into a pure cotton duvet.
Why contemplate a takeover by a convicted Italian fraudster when you can endlessly replay footage of Allan Clarke heading the winner in the 1972 FA Cup final?
Since Massimo Cellino launched his blocked takeover in January Leeds United have fallen apart, on and off the pitch. This was their 10th defeat in 16 games, a period that has seen their manager, Brian McDermott, sacked, reinstated and then left to oversee men who are not certain when they will next be paid. Doncaster Rovers had not won away in six months before a Yorkshire derby that saw the home side howled off at half-time.
David Cotterill had launched an astonishing drive into the top corner of Jack Butland’s net, and then Billy Sharp left his marker, Jason Pearce, on his backside before scoring the second.
Leeds may have paid their players only half their wages for March, but the club had the decency to pay the support staff, the people who run the catering and the ticket offices, in full. And being as unloved as they are has inspired a mood of defiance.
In the wake of Tuesday night’s 4-1 humbling at Bournemouth, McDermott had described the fans as the “soul of the club”. “Marching On Together”, the battle hymn they had taken to the semi-finals of the European Cup in 2001, was belted out in a second half in which Leeds threw not just the kitchen sink but most of the contents of the dining room at Doncaster. They deserved rather more than Ross McCormack’s 28th goal of the season, laid on by a header from Matt Smith, a young battering ram of a centre-forward.
From Peter Ridsdale to Ken Bates to the only organisation in the Gulf who have no money, Leeds have had the kind of appalling leadership more suited to a central African republic than one of Yorkshire’s greatest institutions. As the game ended, chants of “You’re not fit to own our club” drifted on the evening air.
The irony is that, by recent standards, Cellino, whose appeal against the Football League’s decision to block him is held tomorrow, is an entirely logical successor.
Leeds (4-4-2): Butland; Byram, Lees, Pearce, Pugh; Mowatt, Murphy (Tonge, h-t), Austin (White, h-t), Stewart; McCormack, Smith.
Doncaster (4-4-2): Johnstone; Neill, Quinn, Meite, Husband; Coppinger, Keegan, Wellens (Furman, 71), Cotterill; Brown, Sharp (Robinson, 84).
Referee: Darren Bond.