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Leeds United and why heartbreak is always better than nothing at all

For ecstasy to exist, there must also be agony

There’s nothing quite like the crippling feeling of football heartbreak.

As a Leeds fan, I am suffering it today.

The last time I felt like this, Mario Mandzukic had just scored against England in extra time of a World Cup semi-final.

The collapse of the heartbroken

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The collapse of the heartbroken

All football fans have been swallowed by this sinkhole at some point in their lives.

It’s horrible, and yet, it’s why we love this game wholeheartedly, despite its cruelty.

In seven of the last eight seasons, Leeds have finished in the bottom half of the Championship.

Not quite low enough to experience the twisted thrill of a successful relegation scrap, and not high enough that even an outside shot of a play-off place has been feasible.

Leeds lost their biggest game in 15 years

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Leeds lost their biggest game in 15 years

Objectively speaking, the zone between 13th and 15th is the most boring territory for any club — a black hole of mediocrity, severely lacking tension.

The last two months of such seasons peter out into an unidentifiable nothingness.

No heartbreak, no queasy sickness, no nerve-shredding jeopardy.

But worse than that, nothing at all.

At the heart of it all

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At the heart of it all

This season, under Marcelo ‘El Loco’ Bielsa, there was something at stake — the promise of Premier League football.

Leeds became the first team in five years to not get promoted having been top of the Championship at Christmas.

We are also the first side to lose a second-tier play-off tie after winning the away leg since the play-offs were introduced 33 years ago.

Pablo Hernandez in tears after the final whistle

Reuters
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Pablo Hernandez in tears after the final whistle

And so we have a contradiction.

While I wouldn’t wish this sickening feeling on my worst enemy, it’s a thousand times better than feeling nothing.

Because what is football without emotion?

For ecstasy to exist (as I’m sure Derby fans are savouring right now) there must also be agony.

This is the beautiful game’s yin and yang.

Familiar to millions

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Familiar to millions

Only those who have endured the paralysing lows can truly be satisfied by the highs.

When you’re on the wrong end of this balance, it feels unjustly barbaric.

When it benefits you, there’s no better feeling in the world.

This is the agreement all football fans consent to when they fall in love with the game.

So while I’m ready for an extended break from football after last night’s sucker punch, the hunger will return in August, as it always does.

As the old saying goes, better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.


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