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Leeds Incident Needs To Be A Catalyst For Change

The news that the 21 year old responsible for the horrific attack on former England goalkeeper Chris Kirkland on Friday has been arrested is welcoming news.  I think I speak on behalf of all genuine football fans when I say that he should never be allowed to enter a football ground again, and that the book is thrown at the perpetrator. 

I also hope that this incident unites supporters throughout the country to eradicate these “fans” that plague the game.  But the incident on Friday is the latest in a list of uncomfortable situations that is dominating football at present.

The topics that surrounded football phone ins and discussion on Saturday evening weren’t centered around the actions on the pitch.  There were some enthralling games on Saturday that came as a welcome reminder of the positive side to football, but the agenda was overshadowed by stories surrounding the issues of racism in the game and of hooliganism, a disappointing throwback to the dark 80’s era.

Friday’s incident was disturbing viewing, and shone another bad light on football, and Leeds United in particular, a club who have had their fair share of criticism over the years. Authorities will be questioning the illogical decision to stage such a passionate Yorkshire derby on a Friday night, which merely encourages excessive drinking prior to a game that was always likely to be volatile and hotly charged.  This of course is no excuse for what happened, and it is foolish to say that this was just an isolated incident.  Sickening chants were exchanged between both sets of supporters, and missiles were frequently seen landing on the field of play.  As a football club, Leeds have spent years trying to erase the bad reputation of their own fans, and all that hard work seems to have been undone in one vile evening.

But Dave Jones’ comments at the end of the game however did little to defuse the situation, and if anything will have stoked further tensions between the supporters of both clubs ahead of the reverse fixture at Elland Road later in the season.  To label all Leeds fans as “vile animals” was unacceptable and his vilification of Neil Warnock’s decision to instruct his players to applaud the Leeds end at the final whistle was again uncalled for.

The majority of Leeds fans present at the game were simply there to cheer on their side, and were disgusted by the incident, so why should they be included in the same bracket of the few trouble causers?.  Why should all Leeds fans be tarnished with the same brush when those causing trouble are in the small minority? Admittedly, it is understandable that the chants aimed at Jones will have infuriated him, but the chanting was a two way situation, and both clubs were equally culpable, something that appeared to slip the mind of Dave Jones.

Neil Warnock too didn’t help matters when he stated that Kirkland went down “like a bag of spuds”, a comment he has since apologised for.  Although to be fair to Warnock, it appeared to be a remark that went against his general opinion that the fan should be imprisoned and of his shame of the incident.

All in all it was a night that will linger in the memory for all the wrong reasons, and the repercussions of the evening could be far reaching.   Leeds supporters may well be banned from away games in the near future, a sad consequence to the vast majority of Leeds fans who simply want to go and enjoy the game. The club may receive a heavy fine, as the authorities wish to make an example that what happened was unacceptable.

Sky may also be thinking twice about the forthcoming Yorkshire derby between Huddersfield and Leeds.  That game too has been scheduled for a Friday night for live television coverage, but this kick off time is surely now to be reviewed.  As for the idiot himself, he must accept any punishment that comes his way, and here’s hoping that a tough stance is taken by the law.

He isn’t an accurate representation of Leeds United fans, or the majority of football fans in general for that matter, but unfortunately this isn’t the way it is seen by many.  Leeds supporters are amongst the most passionate in the country, and continue to support their club in huge numbers, despite the relegations and point deductions.  The majority of the time they are a testament to their club, loyal and passionate, loud and proud, but the events of Friday evening shamed the football club

This is a testing period for football in general, with a number of ugly issues rearing their head.  It would be a refreshing change if we could return to discussing the action on the pitch, but, sadly, this seems unlikely.

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