Why Beating Leeds Is About More Than Just Football

This Saturday Huddersfield Town will host the Championship leaders and arguably the best side in this division. Under usual circumstances, I would resign myself to defeat and just hope for a good performance - especially so in the wake of Town’s most recent result.

This time it’s different though. It isn’t just any old table-topping team coming to the John Smith’s Stadium, it’s our bitter rivals, Leeds United. I have been asked a few times this week by friends who support other teams, why I care so much about our game against Leeds United.

Invariably, my answer is rambling and complicated and leaves the person who asked it looking more confused than they were at the beginning. So, in a bid to get the previously poorly articulated gripes off my chest, join me as I lay out the reasons why beating Leeds means much more than just three points.

Firstly...I Never Hated Leeds

I first got into football when I was seven after watching Arsenal play someone (I think it was Shaktar Donetsk) on TV. Before that point, I’d never really taken an interest in the game as no-one in my family really had a deep, burning passion for football.

Because of that, for the following seven years I was an avid armchair Arsenal fan, cheering the Gunners on as Sylvain Wiltord sealed the title at Old Trafford and watching on in awe as the Invincibles swept aside all that lay in front of them.

Then, at the age of fourteen, I was invited down to the McAlpine by a neighbour to watch Town beat Scunthorpe United 3-2. From the very moment that John McAliskey’s winning goal hit the back of the net, I was hooked.

Over the next year or so I slowly replaced the Arsenal tops in my wardrobe with the blue & white stripes of Town shirts. I loved every single thing about Town at that point, but something I never fully understood was the hatred of Leeds.

Frank, my neighbour had, of course, told me about ‘Lids’ as he called them, and warned me that they were a horrible bunch. Personally, though, I had always quite liked them. Apart from one painful evening at Highbury, they had always been willing lambs to the slaughter when it came to my previous love, Arsenal.

In fact, I was sad when they were relegated. I felt sorry for them and looked forward to seeing them in the Premier League again. I held this opinion for quite some time, and even let out a cheer when Jermaine Beckford scored the winner for them at Old Trafford in the FA Cup.

Hating Leeds was something old people did and I wasn’t going to get drawn into all of that. Oldham and Peterborough were the teams I truly hated, and no-one could convince me that Leeds were worse than those two…

(Peterborough fans...eurgh.)

Slowly It Changed

The first time I began to realise that Leeds were a bit scummy was when I met my mate at the cinema before we played them in, perhaps 2008 or 2009. My friend, who was red-faced and out of breath went on to tell me how he had been chased through Town by a group of Leeds fans.

Bastards,” I thought, but it could happen with any set of fans I supposed. At that point, I still vividly recalled a group of Oldham fans clambering over one another to get off their coach and ‘have a chat’ with my mate who had simply reminded them of the score as they sat in traffic.

I can’t quite recall if it was the same game, but after watching Town beat Leeds 1-0 courtesy of a Nathan Clarke goal, I and another friend walked past St. Andrews car park back up into Town.

The Leeds fans were all penned in by a line of police over by their coaches and were stood growling and posturing at the Town fans that walked by. My friend, emboldened by the police protection put the index finger of his left hand up and made a zero shape with his other hand.

Hilarious banter, I’m sure you’ll agree. Unfortunately, one Stone Island clad Leeds fan didn’t quite see the funny side. To show the true extent of his displeasure he strained every fibre of his being to summon the biggest greeny the world had ever seen and project it right at my friends face.

Fortunately, it fell just short of my buddy's (how many more synonyms for 'friend' can I use?) face, instead nestling on his neck and dripping down onto his collar. Obviously, as a teenager (most importantly one who hadn’t been covered in spit) I found this hilarious and laughed almost constantly on the remainder of our walk back to the bus station.

On reflection though, it was pretty vile and not the type of reaction you might expect of a grown adult when confronted with nothing more than childish banter. Anyway, on both those occasions, nothing had directly affected me, so I was content enough to file Leeds fans away in my brain as ‘ones to avoid’.

(An astonishing likeness to the Leeds fan that spat on my friend.)

Burning Hatred

As I’ve stated earlier, I didn’t really hate Leeds United as much as other Town fans for quite some time. Strangely, it wasn’t until the promotion season of 2016-2017 that I began to develop full-on feelings of hatred towards them.

Prior to that season, I had maintained friendships with Leeds fans that had never spilt over into any animosity. We laughed about the failings of our respective teams and indulged in the occasional joke at one anothers expense.

It was all fun and games until Town started to do well in the league. I started to receive notifications on Twitter from people with usernames prefixed with ‘LUFC’ calling me a dog botherer when I retweeted a victory wave from a win away at Ipswich or Rotherham.

I’d tweet how excited I was about the prospect of challenging at the top of the table and be told by someone with Billy Bremner as their profile picture that I was obsessed with Leeds.

That would happen whilst I wasn’t tweeting about Leeds, and come from a Leeds fan that insisted I was obsessed with them.

It felt as though a series of spotty stalkers were criticising me for invading their personal space. To the Leeds fans I encountered, their ‘personal space’, I would soon find, was at the top of the football pyramid, or failing that at the top of everyone’s agendas.

Then it began to transfer to Leeds fans that I actually knew. Soon enough there was an added edge to the banter and very clear and distinct jealousy. As I wrote at the time, Town were the blushing bride and Leeds United were the drunken spinster in the corner mumbling ‘it could have been me’ under her breath.

(Paddypower absolutely nail Leeds fans on YouTube.)

That kickstarted my hatred for Leeds. Ever since that moment my Twitter timeline and conversations with Leeds United supporting friends have been tainted with (at first) unrequited hatred. I get text messages from them when we lose, and then I am told I’m obsessed when I reply.

On Twitter and Facebook we’re hit with posts about how big Leeds are and how their true rivals are Manchester United, whilst also simultaneously being told that we're dog botherers, have no fans and are in their shadow.

So it’s my conclusion that Leeds fans are pricks, or, that at the very least, supporting Leeds turns normal, well-balanced people into occasional pricks. Lose on Saturday and my phone will be red hot with notifications of jubilation from Leeds fans.

They will gloat like no other fanbase I have ever known. Then to add insult to injury, they’ll tell me that I’m obsessed with Leeds before booking into a tattoo parlour to have the result scribbled onto their chests (which are usually reserved solely for wanking.)

I don’t want to beat them on Saturday for the points (although they would be very much welcome), I don’t want to beat them because I hate losing (I’m used to it), I just want to beat them so that I don’t have to suffer a typhoon of bullshit from their absolutely, one hundred percent, not bothered fans.

To just finish off this article, if you’re a Leeds fan reading this and are busy drafting a vitriolic tweet in your head or some form of witty comeback, don’t bother. Sending me one only confirms what I already know, you’re obsessed with Huddersfield Town.

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