FanZoner David Guile says Leeds should take a leaf out of the Rhinos' book when it comes to success.
Leeds should copy their rugby league neighbours
Apologies for my long absence. I broke my arm, then got married, then went to Portugal, in that order. I can assure you at least two of these things will not happen again.
It nearly ended up as the shortest marriage ever after my new wife caught me continually sneaking away from the wedding reception to spy on the Leeds-Peterborough score. My excuse was simple; I couldn't feel comfortable calling it the happiest day of my life until I'd seen Leeds mark the occasion with a victory. Thankfully, Luciano Becchio delivered a couple of timely wedding presents and I escaped with my marriage still intact.
Breaking my arm certainly slowed me down at work, but in the boardroom of Elland Road the long-awaited takeover continues to progress with the speed of an arthritic snail. Every day I meet one of my work colleagues in the printer room and ask him the same question; "Any news?"
The answer, almost invariably, has been "Not today", except once when he morosely said "It's just been on the news that it's all fallen through" before adding "Your arm's not going to get better if you keep hitting yourself in the head with your plaster cast like that".
The official word from the club never changes. It's progressing, they tell us, before retreating back behind the confidentiality clause. And all the while, Neil Warnock continues to galvanise the limited resources available to him into a remarkably strong unit.
Four wins from the last five, one of which saw us dispatch Everton from the Capital One Cup, have left us very much in the promotion picture. El Hadji Diouf has gone from despised loose cannon to cool-headed captain, the footballing equivalent of the Hulk giving up on smashing the world to pieces and setting down to make a quiet living advertising a well-known brand of sweetcorn.
With the promise of million-dollar Gulf investment still uncertain, the players will need to tap into their deepest reserves of self-belief. To do that, they could do worse than ask the advice of another famous Leeds-based sporting institution, who seem to have forgotten how to fail. I'm old enough to remember watching the Leeds Rhinos finish as runners-up, season after season. They carried a heavy burden of collective failure that led to them collapsing in important games. There were times when it seemed a title would never arrive.
In 2004 they cracked it, winning their first Grand Final. Three years later they did it again. And again, and again. On October 6th, 2012, they won their fifth title in six years, and are the most successful club of the Super League era. No team punches above its weight at the business end of the season quite like the Rhinos, who, for the second year running, knocked out three higher-placed teams to claim their prize.
You may wonder what relevance this has to Leeds United. I write this because I hear the same accusations of 'bottling' big games trotted out every year, particularly when we get within sniffing distance of the playoffs. I don't like hearing these accusations. They seem to hold our current squad responsible for the failings of a completely different set of players, all of whom have now left the club, and do nothing but undermine the confidence of the team.
My advice to Neil Warnock would be to exploit the connections between the two clubs and gain some sort of understanding of how the Rhinos motivate themselves to perform the way they do in the must-win games. They are living proof that a club can turn its reputation on its head. I've seen Kevin Sinfield lift trophy after trophy and it never gets any less special.
But, seeing Lee Peltier with his hands on the Playoff trophy would really be something else. My wedding day remains the happiest day of my life. So far...