One bad apple

Thursday 25th October 2012 22:47

Kirkland attack: disgraceful

Kirkland attack: disgraceful

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Leeds FanZoner David Guile says a deduction in points is the only way to stop fans invading the pitch.

Don't tar all Leeds fans with the same brush

Talk about getting the weekend off to a bad start. I picked up the sports section of the paper last Saturday and discovered that I'm a 'vile animal'.

The newspaper helpfully provided a close-up of pitch invader Aaron Cawley viciously gurning into the face of Sheffield Wednesday keeper Chris Kirkland to illustrate how vile and animalistic I am, which was nice of them.

The Daily Mail described Cawley's cowardly assault on Kirkland as 'a new low for football'. It isn't. Disgraceful as it was, it's simply the latest in a long line of misdemeanours, albeit one that has been thrust into the public eye by the fact that it happened on Sky TV in front of a primetime audience.

Compare it with the scenes that unfolded in May 2010, when a number of Sheffield Wednesday fans reacted to their team's relegation by invading the pitch at the end of a six-pointer against Crystal Palace.

TV cameras clearly captured one fan throwing a punch at the back of Palace's Clint Hill's head. Maybe it's because he missed (although the intention was clearly to hurt Hill), or maybe it's because there was so much chaos on the field that the cameras were not able to capture the same warts-and-all close-up views that we saw in the Kirkland incident, but I don't recall any 'new low for football' headlines accompanying the story.

No fanbase has condemned Aaron Cawley in stronger terms than ours. I expect the 'typical Leeds fan' generalisations from fans of rival clubs - it's nothing we haven't heard before, and doesn't really register with most of us. It's disappointing, however, to hear the same lazy comments coming from Wednesday manager Dave Jones, who should really know better after all his years in the game.

Justifiably upset at seeing his goalkeeper attacked, he proceeded to lose the moral high ground quite spectacularly by branding all Leeds fans 'vile animals' and calling for a blanket ban on Leeds fans at any ground but Elland Road.

You have to wonder who looks out for the silent majority of Leeds supporters, who don't follow their team with the intention of chanting offensively, or getting 15 minutes of fame by disrupting the match. It's bad enough that we see our club's name dragged through the muck by an individual who plainly puts his own interests ahead of those of Leeds United.


It's difficult to find a punishment to fit this crime. Hopefully jail will stop this particular offender from rearing his ugly head again, but how much of a deterrent will it be to other fans? In five years time no-one will remember Aaron Cawley's name or what punishment the courts handed out. Fining the club will serve no purpose whatsoever, unless the club sends the pitch invader the bill. I'm expecting the customary FA charge for the club 'failing to control its fans', which suggests that what Ken Bates should have done was change into his Superman outfit, swoop down out of the director's box and carry the errant fan away from the stadium, pausing only to suspend him from a lamppost by his underwear.

I'm sorry to say that the only punishment I can think of that will leave the kind of impression that will deter all future troublemakers is a points deduction. Not a heavy one, just one or two points. It's unfair on the club and inconsistent with previous punishments, but that's never stopped the FA from punishing us in the past and if that's what it takes to prevent this kind of thing from happening again then it needs to be done. This should isolate anyone stupid enough to go onto the pitch during a game from the true fans, and hopefully make potential troublemakers think twice about what consequences their actions could have.

There's no sense in pretending that we don't have an unsavoury element in our support, and I'm sick of seeing them give ammunition to the Dave Joneses of this world. Two points would be a small price to pay to guarantee that we don't ever see a repeat of Friday night.

Am I ashamed to be a Leeds fan? No, but I'm ashamed that Aaron Cawley is. Thanks for your support, Aaron, but we'll march on without you from now on.

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