Leeds United - from Champions League semi finalists in 2001, to a fairly-recently promoted Championship outfit who’s fans have caused controversy yet again.
To simply label all Leeds fans in such a degrading way as ‘scum’ would be foolish and inaccurate, because the vast majority of Leeds United supporters are not. I in fact have friends that support Leeds United and in no way would I place them in that category. Most of the Leeds faithful, that witnessed the attack on Kirkland during Friday night’s Yorkshire derby with Sheffield Wednesday, would have been rightfully disturbed by the actions of one of their own. Sadly however it only takes the actions of one simpleton to completely tarnish the image of a truly great club.
The atmosphere at Hillsborough on Friday night was ugly from the off-set. A section of Leed’s fan’s continually taunted Dave Jones with sick Jimmy Savile chants (referring to the baseless child abuse allegations he faced several years ago). It has also been reported that, when Sheffield Wednesday took the lead, Jones was said to have been nearly hit by a missile, allegedly thrown by an away fan.
Sheffield Wednesday supporters, however, cannot escape completely blameless. After their goal a flare was thrown onto the pitch. Hillsborough staff apparently took a lenient approach to the incident by jokingly reminding "Fans in the South Stand that this is a non smoking stadium.” Surely if it were the Leed’s fan’s that had thrown such an object then the repercussions would have been stronger? Owls fans also targeted Leeds manager Neil Warnock and tastelessly began singing songs about Galatasaray.
Yet this is no excuse for the behaviour of the coward that attacked Kirkland, and for the fans that ripped up seats in the stadium when Leeds scored their equaliser. The pitch invasion was shown live on TV, a platform that presumably the idiot that pushed Kirkland in the face wrongly thought would make him an instant hero. It didn’t, it simply highlighted to the watching world a human being void of intelligence and self worth. It was an act of total cowardice, considering that Kirkland seemed completely unaware of his assailant’s presence. The Sheffield Wednesday keeper is a big lad, if he were to stand toe-to-toe with the “fan,” in a licensed fight, he would most probably batter him.
It is no secret that Leeds United fans have an unwanted reputation amongst the wider football community, but it is wrong to taint the majority with the same brush. In all fairness to the majority of the Leeds supporters, Kirkland’s attacker is said to have been identified on the clubs website within an hour of the game finishing. Police have since named the thug as Aaron Cawley and have sentenced him to sixteen weeks.
To label the entire population of Leeds supporters as ‘scum’ is unjust. Every football club has an element of “support” that at some stage has bought shame upon them. Friday night was in no question a terrible night for Leeds United, but it must be remembered that there are plenty of their fans that would have been repulsed by the mindless actions of the few that have caused the masses to look at their club with scorn. It is not the Leeds United fans that are scum… it is those that invaded the pitch, ripped up seats, and Aaron Cawley in particular, that are scum.
image: © Chris Robertshaw