Love to Hate You

by Moscowhite • Daniel Chapman,

My name is Moscowhite. I love Leeds, and I hate Manches-; I hate Manc-; I hate Manchester Un-; no. Won’t work. My name is Moscowhite. I love Leeds, and I hate the Scum.

But, like Steve Firth, I own a red shirt (unlike Steve Firth, I’m not daft enough to wear the thing at Elland Road). In fact it’s not just red, it’s red with black and white piping on the sleeves; it resembles nothing so much as a polo-neck version of Scum’s home shirt circa 1992, when Leeds beat them soundly into second place in the league. Time has dimmed my recollection of where this thing came from – I’m blaming my mother – but my hatred for Scum is outweighed by a thrifty Yorkshire regard for the value of a perfectly wearable shirt. It would be a waste of a match to burn it, so I wear it from time to time. I call it ‘My Scum Shirt’.

I think I’m in the vast majority of Leeds fans who quite naturally hate the Scum, but don’t let it rule their life. In fact, I always assume that I’m in with the vast majority of the population at large by hating everything about Old Trafford. I am often confused when speaking with otherwise well-adjusted football fans who, after some reasonable conversation on football topics, say something like, “You have to respect Sir Alex’s achievements at United, though, don’t you?” It doesn’t make any sense to me. Why wouldn’t a normal person hate the Scum? They represent all the worst excesses of the utter ruination of football since 1990; they’re the evil empire, not a football club so much as a Japanese tourist’s idea of what a football club is like. Their constant moaning and special treatment is a blight on the English game. Which other club would refuse to compete in the FA Cup, to play in a money-spinning FIFA tournament instead? Which other manager would be allowed to ride roughshod over his contractual obligations, and never speak to the BBC? Which other club would be allowed to have referees on its payroll (allegedly)?

And then there is the particular rivalry with Leeds. Mr Firth claims that there is not enough history between the clubs to justify the enmity. This is not so. Leaving aside the traditional belligerence between the Houses of York and Lancaster, Scum are the anti-Leeds. They have, historically, been given everything that Leeds have been denied. Don Revie and Matt Busby were great friends, and both achieved great things in the game; only one received a knighthood. Jack and Bobby Charlton were brothers, both World Cup winners and great servants to their clubs; but while Bobby failed as manager of Preston and took a paid ‘ambassador’ role at Old Trafford, Jack continued to work successfully as a manager at Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday and Ireland. Which one is a knight of the realm, and which one derided as a fisherman? That’s right. This isn’t about jealousy; this is about the hideously ugly bloke down the pub who always gets the girls. This is about injustice.

Is it even possible to list all the reasons why Scum’s behaviour should engender hate? How about 1991/92, when Old Trafford planted stories in the press about buying Gary McAllister to derail our title challenge; when they crowed about their superior squad depth, but whined like bitches when their first team was ‘tired’; when Ferguson couldn’t believe that already relegated West Ham could ‘try’ in a match against them – and win; and when Ferguson gracelessly claimed that, “Leeds didn’t win the league, we lost it.” And that’s just from one season! Add in Cantona, Roy Keane’s assault on Haaland (wearing a City shirt at the time, but still one of us), and Ferguson’s reversion to type when we beat them last year, claiming that a mere five minutes of injury time was, “an insult to the game”; there is never a shortage of reasons to hate Scum. And if ever we do run out, just wait for a minute, and there will be something soon enough.

Steve Firth’s final claim, that this hatred is a one-way street, is bang wrong. Just tune in to any of their games on the gogglebox, and see how long before you hear ‘We All Hate Leeds Scum’ breaking the silence at The Theatre of Wet Dreams. We’re two divisions below them, and yet they pay tribute to us every game, home and away. Find the average Scum fan (hint: take a train to Milton Keynes, and ask the first person you see) and tell them you’re a Leeds fan. They’ll almost collapse in a paroxysm of impotent hatred, impotent because they know they hate us but they don’t know why.

Hating Scum to me is as natural as breathing, and takes just as little effort; while loving Leeds, especially as we have scraped the third division barrel in recent seasons, is a constant labour of love. I will always join in with anti-Scum songs at Elland Road, because there is no point in being a team without a rival, and they are ours. Football clubs the world over are defined by who they hate, as much as by who they are, and a rousing rendition of ‘Manchester, Wank Wank Wank’ is part of the affirmation of ourselves as Leeds fans. We Are Leeds, and We Hate Scum; and Scum Hate Us, but We Are Right. Sorry, Steve. Maybe I will burn that red fucking shirt, after all.

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From The Square Ball magazine 2010/11 issue six.