Leeds Could Learn Humility From Forest

Monday, 26 May 2008, 8:52
3 mins read

Yesterday's play off final defeat to Doncaster ended a season of League One football that saw the Swans crowned champions by a ten point margin and they will be joined in the Championship next season by the next best two sides – Nottingham Forest and Doncaster who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively.

It also ended any hope that Leeds had of upsetting the apple cart and winning promotion with a 15 point deduction.  Don't get me wrong but had they done so then what an achievement and a benchmark that other teams could have aspired to in seasons to come.  Even reaching the play off final was remarkable when all the odds were stacked against them.  But in the end it came down to being second best over 90 minutes at Wembley to their local rivals.  And good luck to Doncaster as a result.

But what it will teach Leeds hopefully is a level of humility.   We were here when Nottingham Forest first arrived and it was here we coined the FEC Nottingham Forest statement.   All we heard were how they were twice European Cup winners and how they would walk all over the division.  They were simply too big to mix it with the little boys like Swansea City or Southend United.  They stood back and watched as the little Southend and Colchester won promotion and little Swansea missed out on the back of a penalty kick.   But what it did do was hammer home that they were a League One side for a reason.   That was doubly relevant the next season when little Yeovil humiliated them at home to reach the play off final.   And that gave us this season where Forest were proud in what they did, they went about their work professionally and got their rewards on the last day of the season.  And the other teams in the league congratulated them.   Yes they were probably back where they should be but they did it with dignity.

Compare and contrast.  Leeds United.  A team with a chip on their shoulder led by a man who has one on each shoulder.   Minimum invites for opposition directors, an unwelcome feeling to anyone who dared to run the Elland Road gauntlet this season and a belief that the only reason they were at this level was a league vendetta against them.  Totally ignoring the fact that they were relegated last season 'on the pitch' – three words that they uttered on more than one occasion.

Their fans believed that they were too good to be here and they rammed that down opposition throats every ten minutes.   "We won't be beaten at home this season" they proclaimed in September – they were beaten 4 times.  "We'll only lose three or four all season" they said in October – they lost 9.   We'll finish above you in the "real league table" they said in November as the Swans hit form – they didn't.   "Swansea will blow it soon" they said in December, we beat them with 10 men in the middle of an 18 match unbeaten run.  Spotting something missing here?   Humility and respect.

Their programme back in September was laughable.  The references to how it was so unfair that they should be deducted the points just showed a team that could have knuckled down and got on with it but instead bleated to anyone who would listen.  And to many who didn't want to for that matter.   I understand a feeling of injustice but what goes around comes around and yesterday that statement was true for Leeds United.

Had you been here with that level of humility then League One fans – traditionally full of respect – would have sat up and congratulated you on a great achievement against the odds.   But you didn't and that is the reason why large sections of fans up and down the country had a smirk on their faces yesterday as Doncaster celebrated in front of you.

Good luck to you guys next season, you'll probably walk the division as it stands at the moment but respect those around you.   I think back over two years and applauding both Southend and Blackpool on their achievements – sides that went about their business professionally and deserved the success that they had.

No doubt the Leeds fans will say that this is bitter after the event but all I say to Leeds fans is learn the lessons of Nottingham Forest and respect the likes of Hereford and Peterborough – they are at your level for a reason.   And if you escape that level then well done to you but if you want people to respect your success then respect them at the same time.

And now, if you'll excuse me, we have a Championship to prepare for.

Images courtesy of Getty Images, Athena Picture Agency and Swansea City Football Club.
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