Today was never going to go well; Leeds travelled to Oakwell not only in an abysmal run of form, not only short on goals, but now also deprived of our most likely source of inspiration. Not content with the despicable comments designed to undermine him in the local press and on Stasi FM by Lorimer and Bates, fate had decreed to vomit violently into Simon Grayson’s turkey korma – without Snoddy where was our spark coming from, where were the goals? That said, we were playing Barnsley anyway, so what did it matter?
Barnsley! Sodding, twatting, backwards f**king Barnsley! What is it with Leeds and clubs like this? How do we regularly find ourselves, seemingly, helplessly dragged into petty one-way rivalries with tin pot outfits that invariably give our side a pasting? Unsurprisingly, all things considered, I set off on the short trip with the same sort of trepidation that a dog might on a trip to the vets to have its balls lopped off.
Arriving in the town I found little had changed. I parked in a side street opposite a branch of PC World where staff were excitedly marketing the launch of the Commodore Amiga, bullishly dismissing claims that the Sega Mega Drive was going to spark a new gaming revolution. A short walk up the hill got me to the Metrodome in good time a quick drink and also a ‘Big Foot’; a hot dog of such astounding length that I found myself reminiscing about Enoch Showumni’s spell at the club.
On arrival at the stadium I decided in a moment of inexplicable naivety to place a bet and found myself having the same conversation with a number of other supporters – who the hell did we fancy to score? Clayton from long range seemed the only feasible option, but as news of his absence filtered through, many decided not to bother – needless to say, they had the right idea.
The one positive from the team news was Grayson’s decision to go with a 4-3-3 cum 4-5-1 formation, not least as the possibility of winning the midfield battle with an engine room boasting Brown and Varynen without reinforcements was nigh on inconceivable. The only major issue was the decision to place the resoundingly one-footed Ramon Nunez on the left, rather than the right; with McCormack’s tendency to drift infield at the first opportunity, a lack of width looked a distinct probability.
Regardless, Leeds started the game reasonably well with Keogh spurning an early opportunity, while at the other end Barnsley offered little in a low key opening. Perversely the balance of the game tipped resoundingly in the home side's favour when they lost the services of their key player, as Jacob Butterfield limped off. While most opponents would regard that as an opportunity to take a stranglehold on the game, Paddy Kisnorbo deemed it the signal to reach for the self-destruct button; he dithered, like a bewildered dementia patient, waiting to be guided back to their room by a nurse, as Ricardo Vaz Te relieved him of the ball, strode into the box and lashed the ball into the bottom corner, a mere 60 seconds after his introduction from the bench.
The goal was enough to spark riotous scenes in the corner of the main stand as a small collective of men in their 20s, seemingly on their lunch break from performing community service, took the moment as the signal to spend the remaining 75 minutes taunting the 5,500 Leeds fans in the North Stand.
After the goal, Barnsley seized control of the game, their midfield constantly first to any loose balls, most of which were supplied by an increasing shaky looking Leeds backline. When we did threaten, it was exclusively through Nunez from long range. As the team trooped off at half-time, they did so to a mixture of boos and galvanising shouts of encouragement – another disappointing half, but things could still be turned around.
Dickie Bird’s appearance at half-time briefly lifted the spirits and elicited what ultimately provided the final discernible round of applause of the day from the Leeds end. The inevitable chants of “Sign him up!” as he dribbled with a football, almost felt too close to the bone…he was certainly quicker over the grass than Paddy.
The second half brought a capitulation to eclipse just about any (bar maybe Preston) as Barnsley bossed the game with embarrassing ease. Yet somehow in the midst of this non-contest, amongst the sea of shit representing the club, Kisnorbo and Connolly still managed to stand out as beacons of utter mediocrity; both performances utterly unforgivable.
The less said about the goals conceded the better, they were all pathetic. The fact that Vaz Te has scored more times in 136 minutes against Leeds than in 7 years for Bolton speaks volumes. Sadly the same thing could be said about the inaction of the South Yorkshire Police, around 20 of whom stood looking on ambivalently as the community service brigade chanted about Istanbul.
After the fourth goal went in, those Leeds fans that remained could only find solace in defiance and humour, the former making way for the latter as a storming rendition of “Marching on Together” was followed by a rather mocking chant of “Bring on the Arsenal”. Ultimately though, a flattened, demoralised following spent the closing stages watching on in a resigned fashion, only sparking into life to greet the players with a crescendo of boos at the final whistle.
A humiliated Grayson trooped off, head down, and only Clayton amongst the team acknowledged the support with any applause, the rest couldn’t wait to get off – shameful. The Barnsley fans partied as if they’d secured promotion, the irony of the club using ‘Chelsea Dagger’ as the goal celebration music at Oakwell, inescapable. As much as I want Larry to succeed, at the moment he’s making it increasingly easier for Bates to turn the knife.
So once again, the Leeds fans found themselves miserably trudging away from Oakwell, while the home supporters made a bee-line to the club shop to order this season’s commemorative DVD and the community service crew went back to litter picking on the grass verges of the M1.
Same old Leeds, same old shit.