Prolific Morison Condemns Wednesday to Cup Final Defeat as Leeds Rule – by Rob Atkinson

Steve Morison - prolific

Steve Morison – prolific

Poor Sheffield Wednesday. And, make no mistake, they were poor. Insipid in build-up, impotent in front of goal – in the end, Leeds United could and perhaps should have won by more. But it would be churlish to criticise a team that comes from a goal down at half-time in a derby match – especially against opponents who traditionally regards every game against Leeds as their cup final. This is even more the case when you consider United’s recent off-the-field troubles – although, let’s face it, trouble’s as near to normality as the Whites ever get.

It’s two in a row now for United striker Steve Morison, who kept his cool to score the winner after his initial shot had been saved by Kieran Westwood in the home goal. Earlier in the second half, young Charlie Taylor had popped up in the right place at the right time to slot the equaliser home after a free kick on the edge of the area had the ball pinging about near goal. All this after the sub-par Wendies had gone in at half time leading through a disputed penalty. United manager Neil Redfearn was frank enough afterwards to admit he thought the ref had called it right. Easy to be magnanimous in victory, you might say – but in reality, so few ever are. Credit to Redders.

That two in two accolade for Morison loses a little of its lustre when you reflect that it could equally be interpreted as two goals in two years. But the big striker has played his part when given the chance this season, in a team that has struggled more often than not. You get the feeling with Morison that, in a team that plays to his strengths at this level, he’d still be a real handful. If he’s still in the white shirt next time around, we might just see much more in the way of fireworks from a much-maligned but still dangerous striker.

As for Wednesday – sadly for their fans (but comically for the rest of us), they’ve let down those supporters who turned up in numbers today for the match that means more to them than any other Championship fixture. In the end, it was just shy of 4,000 cock-a-hoop away supporters out of a crowd of over 28,000 who left Hillsborough raucously satisfied as the glum Wendies trooped sadly home.

It would take a lot to erase the memory of last season’s bitter Hillsborough experience, but Leeds made a start on that process of redemption with this much-improved performance. It’s always good to put South Yorkshire upstarts in their place and, as things stand right now, it may be that Leeds are destined to hammer home the final nail in Rotherham‘s Championship coffin next time out. If that proves to be the case, then Yorkshire’s least civilised quarter will have provided an upbeat end to what in truth has been another dismal season for Leeds.

For the moment, the glum look on the faces of those depressed Wendy fans at their Cup Final defeat is enough to bring a smile for even the most depressed United fan – together with some sort of hope for better things next season. Well, that’s what Massimo Cellino is promising us, and he’s bound to be sincere. Anyone remember the promises he made last season…?

Yorkshire Derby Joy: Sheffield Wednesday 1, Leeds United 6 – by Rob Atkinson

Take That, Wendies - Hat-Trick Hero Leee Celebrates

Take That, Wendies – Hat-Trick Hero Leee Celebrates

Today, we’re taking a look back over 23 years ago to one of Leeds United’s, let’s say, more emphatic performances on their travels. Ahead of the lunchtime kick-off at Hillsborough – a fixture we can hardly anticipate with any pleasure, given current form and the sour mood surrounding Leeds United as a club – this match in January of ’92 provides some particularly happy memories.

As 1991 turned into 1992, there was plenty to look forward to for our great club.  Against many expectations, Leeds had stayed the pace in the first half of the season, to remain Man U’s main challengers for the last ever old-style Football League Championship.  We also retained an interest in both Cups, and there was no European football to muddy the waters, as we’d “only” finished fourth on our top-flight re-entry the season before (a position, it should be noted, that gains entry to the guaranteed riches of the Champions’ League these less demanding days).  So it was the League Cup and the FA Cup that promised to be the distractions from our pursuit of the Title, and guess what?  We were drawn at home in both competitions against The Pride of Devon, our main rivals for the Championship.  You couldn’t, as they say, make it up.

History shows that our beloved neighbours from “ovver t’hill” ended our involvement in both Cups, deservedly 3-1, let it be said, in the 5th Round of the League Cup (then Rumbelows Cup).  By contrast, a distinctly unlucky exit in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup followed, when a dominant Leeds performance brought only the bitter pill of a 1-0 defeat, and a worrying injury to Lee Chapman into the bargain.   Prior to the Cup games, we had played Man U in the league at Elland Road, drawing one each in the first game of what was known at the time as a “Titanic Roses Trilogy” by unimaginative sub-editors everywhere.  So honours were by no means even, but the consequences of this mighty three match series would be felt over the remainder of the season, and – some would argue – far beyond.

The immediate fall-out was that Leeds were “free to concentrate on the League”, as the cliché runs.  Man U, meanwhile, continued on to Wembley in the League Cup, enjoying a victory over Nottingham Forest, but ended up losing amusingly at home to Southampton in the FA Cup.  The fixture congestion they suffered as the season entered its final stages would be significant, if not actually decisive, in the eventual destination of the Title.

As far as the Title went, the lads from the Theatre of Hollow Myths had suffered a shock on New Year’s Day, capitulating 4-1 at home to QPR. Later that January 1st, Leeds won competently 3-1 at West Ham, and remained well in the race for the ultimate domestic honour.  The scene was adequately set, then, for Wilko’s first return to Hillsborough since he had quit Wednesday to become Leeds boss in 1988. This would also be Chapman’s last game before his season-threatening FA Cup injury. He was destined to be sidelined only temporarily, and he went out in emphatic style.

There was a crowd of 32228 at Hillsborough, the usual vociferous contingent of travelling Leeds fans rivalling the home crowd for noise from the outset, and completely drowning them as the game went on. Leeds United were weakened – so it seemed – by the absence of the injured Gordon Strachan and suspended David Batty, half of their legendary midfield Fantastic Four. Any side, surely, would miss performers of such calibre. Leeds, however, seemed determined to make light of the problem, and tore into the shocked Wendies from the start.  Full-back Tony Dorigo made an early, darting run, cutting in from the left and making good progress down the centre of the pitch, before unleashing a right-foot thunderbolt that home ‘keeper Chris Woods had to tip over.  From the resulting Gary MacAllister corner, Chris Fairclough rose to head downwards, and found Chapman in splendid isolation 4 yards out; his finish was sure and deadly.

For a local derby, the contest had been decidedly one-way traffic – Chapman was to send two towering headers just wide before Carl Shutt had a scuffed shot smothered by Woods in the home goal. Then, a true champagne moment as Mel Sterland fed the ball to Chapman on the right. In a completely untypical burst of pace and control, Chappy surged between two hapless Wednesday defenders, raced into the area, and unleashed a shot that beat Woods completely, just clipping the frame of the goal to rapturous applause from the Leeds fans at the Leppings Lane End. I remember thinking at the time that anything was possible now, if Lee Chapman could do something so utterly out of character. And so it proved as, from a free kick awarded just right of centre some ten yards outside the box, Dorigo stepped up to absolutely hammer the ball past a helpless ‘keeper. Cue raucous jubilation from the White Army behind the goal, celebrating as clean a strike as you could ever see, hurtling into the far corner with precision and power.

At 2-0 down, the home side were making increasingly desperate attempts to gain some sort of foothold in the match. This desperation was adequately demonstrated when, from a harmless-looking ball into the Leeds area, Wednesday striker Gordon Watson ran in front of Chris Whyte, continued on for another step or two, and then hurled himself into the air, landing in agonised paroxysms of simulation between a bemused Whyte and Leeds ‘keeper John Lukic. Such obvious fraud and villainy could have only one outcome, and the stadium held its collective breath for sentence to be passed on the miscreant. Instead – amazingly – referee Philip Don pointed to the spot as Whyte snarled his outraged disbelief.  Whether none of the officials had seen the extent of Watson’s ham-acting, or whether they were perhaps moved by sympathy for the mauling Wednesday were taking from a rampant Leeds, it’s impossible to say.  Ex-Leeds hero John Sheridan stepped up, saw his penalty brilliantly saved as Lukic tipped it against his right-hand post, and then gleefully belted home the rebound to give Wednesday a massively unmerited lifeline.

An act of such base and scurvy treachery required nothing less than a riposte of the utmost nobility and beauty. And, happily, so it came to pass. Just minutes after the home side’s ridiculous blagging of an unfair route back into the game, Leeds effortlessly took control again with a goal sublime in both conception and execution. Lukic bowled the ball out to Dorigo on the left flank; he sent it down the line to Gary Speed, who took one touch to steady himself, before sending a beautiful flighted cross into the Wednesday area.  And there, inevitably, was Chapman, horizontal in mid-air, neck cocked to hammer the ball unanswerably past Woods, the perfect counterpunch to suck a knavish low blow.  It was a gorgeous goal, sweeping the length of the left side of the field, taking the entire home team right out of the game, and re-establishing the two goal margin which was the least Leeds United deserved at half-time.

The second half that day was simply a story of how a blood-and-thunder Yorkshire derby turned into a stroll in the park for Leeds United.  It seemed as if all the life had been sucked out of the home team – a Wednesday side, let’s not forget, who were unbeaten at home since the opening day of the season, and who would go on to finish third in the table.  So they were no mugs, but Leeds United were absolutely irresistible on the day, and would have hammered far better teams than the hapless Owls.

Possibly, Wednesday were simply embarrassed about that cringeworthy penalty, possibly they were tired, having been run rings around since the start.  Whatever the case, their heads dropped steadily further and further as the game progressed, and they offered little resistance as Leeds proceeded to throttle the life out of them.  Chapman completed his hat-trick after the hour, heading in after Speed had struck the bar from a corner.  Poor Speedo was looking the other way, bemoaning his bad luck when the ball hit the back of the net, turning his frustration to joy.  Then perennial bit-part player Mike Whitlow ventured forward, just because he could, and rose unchallenged to meet Wallace’s right-wing cross and head easily over a stranded Woods.  It was left to little Rodney Wallace to administer the coup de grâce, striding clear after a shimmering exchange of passes in midfield to dink the ball over the advancing ‘keeper, and put the suffering home side finally out of their misery.

For Leeds, it had been their biggest away win in over 60 years as they returned to the First Division summit in the best possible manner.  The message had been sent out loud and clear: United were serious about their Championship challenge, and they would surely look back after their eventual success in the League, to identify this sumptuous display as one that defined them as potentially the best team in the land.  For Wednesday it was utter humiliation, and truth to tell it was difficult to sympathise.  Better really to lose 6-0 than to be tainted as they were with such a crass and obvious example of cheating – and it hardly reflected much credit on myopic referee Don, either.

It was a massively impressively performance, a hugely significant victory, and the sweetest possible return for United’s ex-Owls contingent.  Mel Sterland always took great delight in beating the Blades, but this victory over his boyhood favourites would have only happy memories for him, as indeed for Chapman, Shutt and of course the Sergeant himself.  Leeds would march on to the Title, Man U’s quarter-of-a-century wait would extend for another 12 delightful months – and Wednesday would recover to finish impressively, despite another awful trouncing at Highbury.

But January 12th 1992 belonged entirely to Leeds United, who looked like Champions a full four months early with this five star, six of the best Masterclass display.

Leeds Players Disgrace the Old ‘Keep Fighting’ Battle Cry   –   by Rob Atkinson

The battle-cry of Legends

Look at the image above. It symbolises the commitment and passion of the great Leeds United sides of the past. Warriors all, if you cut one of them, they all bled – and as one they hunted down the offender and served up retribution. This applies to the Title-winning sides in my lifetime, and to any of the Revie Boys. You did not mess with those lads. If you wanted to play, they’d outplay you. If you wanted a fight – woe betide you. You’d be out-fought and then outplayed. You’d most likely be beaten either way. Surrender? It just wasn’t in their lexicon. 

Back, reluctantly, to the present day – leaving the memories of those beloved heroes in White back in the past where they dominated and triumphed, making us all proud to be Leeds. The cold and stark reality of today is of a very different breed of player. Too many of the current squad – the ones who should be setting an example to yet another batch of richly-promising youngsters currently emerging – would look at that picture at the top and think to themselves – Keep Fighting? What for? What’s in it for me? Can’t I just slide out from this and do something easier? Why not have a weekend off “injured”??

Six players have declared themselves injured on the eve of tomorrow’s game at Charlton Athletic. Count them. SIX. That’s to stretch the credulity of the fans rather far, surely – if not the medical staff. Don’t forget – these are fans that revere the fighters we’ve had down the years. They won’t have much time for wimps. 

Neither, it appears, do a couple of more recent United players in Messrs. Whelan and Matteo. Both are scathing in their criticism of any players who may have felt they can’t be bothered this weekend. When these men – men who have worn the shirt with pride – show their contempt and disgust, then why should the fans have any more patience, belief or faith? The fans have even more right to be disgusted – appalled – at such craven behaviour. Whatever is going on at the club, there is no excuse for desertion – and this situation stinks of precisely that. 

I exempt the club’s young stars from this criticism. They have done all that might be expected of them this season, and more besides. They have been let down abysmally by those they should be able to regard as role models and mentors – just as we, the fans have been let down. 

This, on the face of it, is rank betrayal of a stripe I’ve rarely if ever seen at Leeds United. Either that, or it’s a remarkable coincidence. The coincidence would be in the timing of all these supposed injuries, the origin of the players allegedly affected and the fact that the club is currently having a tough time. When the going got tough, certain alleged competitors seem to have waved the flag of surrender. That’s not the type of white flag we approve of at Elland Road

If what is being suggested all over various media tonight is true – then certain players should never wear the Shirt again. Perhaps, on the evidence, they don’t wish to. Either way, if they’ve chosen to claim falsely that they’re injured and unavailable, then they should do themselves and the rest of us a favour – and ship out. That type of player – cowards and faint hearts – are not wanted at Leeds. 

Never have been, never will be. 

If the WACCOE Forum Grew Up a Bit, Wouldn’t Leeds Fans Have a More Effective Voice? – by Rob Atkinson

WACCOE - could do better

WACCOE – could do better

One of the most potentially effective means whereby Leeds United fans’ discontent and opposition to the current Elland Road regime could be co-ordinated and focused is the wealth of fan forums out there. There’s the chance here for a collective voice of protest, for some kind of unified voice raised against the Fred Karno’s Army who are running things now. A much more effective army is out there and waiting to be mobilised. But, for the time being, all the potential thus afforded is being wasted in the insistence on one-upmanship, puerile and cringe-worthy humour – and the apparent need to nip in the bud any attempt at serious discussion of the issues that face our club.

The WACCOE Forum is a major offender. I should really declare an interest, as I have been virtually silenced on there for the crime of failing to go along with the right-wing, hard-of-thinking hard-core “laddish tendency” that seems to call the shots. That’s hardly going to have me singing their praises – but, the fact is that there are some seriously deep thinkers on there, people who could do a lot of good. If only they weren’t continually stifled by the Beavis & Butthead atmosphere that seems to reign. WACCOE used to be a lot more of a force for good than it is now – sadly, the overgrown schoolboys seem to have taken over, abusing powers of “moderation” on a whim, interested only in what amounts to a series metaphorical “weeing highest up the wall” contests, with each successive contributor desperately trying to outdo the one before, hoping against hope for a lol, or something similarly brainless.

It’s frustrating. A lot of the time, a topic will start off as something you think might go somewhere, and the first few responses develop a promising theme, with interesting points of view appearing. And then – somebody has to say something frightfully witty – and it degenerates from there. Very sad, and a waste of everyone’s time – particularly when you think of the urgent need for co-operation and a bit of constructive thinking. But the self-appointed guardians of the Forum ethos won’t have it, so it all ends up back at the lowest common denominator, with the chief offenders frantically reassuring each as to what fine and zany guys they all are. It happens time and time again, with wearisome predictability.

I’m aware that there are other forums out there, some of whom may not have plumbed the depths to quite the same extent as WACCOE and, to a lesser degree, the Service Crew Forum. But I still haven’t quite acquired the habit of anywhere else, so it’s these two that I tend to use as a yardstick of how the Leeds forums online are conducting themselves – and of how effective they might be should the time come when the fans have no other choice but to mobilise against people who seem set fair to run our club into the ground.

Ironically, people on WACCOE sometimes point a finger at this blog, alleging that no other views than mine or those closely agreeing with mine are allowed. Well, for a start, this is not a Forum – it’s a blog – although it can occasionally act like a forum, as there are frequently lively exchanges of opinion in the response thread to many of the articles. Where I do refuse to print something submitted, it’s almost always because of the level of personal abuse contained in it; one of these days, I’ll put a few of the rejected comments together and open a few eyes. From the level of whinging about this on WACCOE, I can only assume that many of these abusive comments originate from the sewer end of their readership – well, just grow up a bit guys, and express yourselves like adults, and I won’t be deleting you – will I?

The fact is, though, that WACCOE was set up is a Forum – they don’t do articles as such, it’s all about topics for discussion. I would challenge the moderators to demonstrate that my few recent contributions were so offensive as to be banned from appearing – they weren’t offensive at all, of course. Mine is a blanket ban, because the sensitive souls who moderate the thing can’t bear being challenged or disagreed with. Which makes their allegations of censorship on Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything slightly ironic – to say the least.

The point is, of course, that everybody with the interests of Leeds United at heart needs to up their game right now – because it’s more than likely that we’re going to have to make ourselves heard as a fanbase in the near future – if things continue to go downhill at Elland Road. That cause is bigger by far than any petty disagreement between neighbouring internet locations – but it surely means also that there is some growing up to be done in places like WACCOE, where the emphasis currently is on sticking the head in the sand when anything serious is raised, and having a jolly good big boys’ laugh about it all – whilst seeing who can wee the highest, naturally. It’s as pathetic as it is unproductive, and you can imagine how it affects the silent majority. What you get is the usual suspects, over and over again, self-indulgently dominating and ruining what could be a very good and useful internet resource for Leeds United fans – if only it wasn’t so insistent on the clique approach, with in-jokes, puns and other frightful examples of schoolboy humour, against the background of a determinedly blind eye turned towards anything they don’t like.

This blog will continue to shout as loudly as possible and hope to be right at least as often as it’s wrong. There’s been some humble pie eaten here lately, as the position of the blog has switched from pro-Cellino to anti – but there’s nothing to be gained by refusing to acknowledge a mistake once it’s been identified. You have to take a deep breath, trim your sails for a new prevailing wind, and sail on, hopefully in the right direction. I was wrong to back Cellino. I’ve taken that on the chin after a real effort at being loyal – and now I’m seeking what I believe would be a better future for the club I love. I know that many will condemn me for that, but equally there are many who agree. The best you can do is call it as you see it and go with the dictates of your conscience.

If it does come to a gloves-off fight between the fans and the current Leeds regime, than I would hope that a massive proportion of Leeds’ massive support would want to be in there, battling for the right outcome and a better future. In which case, the more United we can be, the better it will bode for that future. And it will be a case of “the more, the merrier” – so I do think it would be a good idea if some of the saner souls over at WACCOE – and other forums – could possibly start thinking about getting some actual grown-ups into positions of moderation – so that a change of tone and standards might be achieved, from the annoyingly adolescent to something that could be incredibly useful in a unified Leeds fan movement. That seems like common sense to me. The way things are at WACCOE right now, it’s easy to pick holes in the way the forum is run and the consequent dumbing-down of content. But that gives me no pleasure – I’d rather see it as the powerful force for fan protest that it definitely could be.

Really – is that too much to ask?

Sticks and Stones? Leeds Fans Pay Dearly for Salerno’s Hurt Feelings – by Rob Atkinson

Nicola Salerno - a delicate little flower

Nicola Salerno – a delicate little flower

Without wanting to get over-simplistic about this, the facts are as follows. Steve Thompson, the assistant coach that boss Neil Redfearn so wanted at Leeds, a man he head-hunted from Huddersfield Town, was suspended and told his contract would not be renewed – sacked, in effect – apparently for being heard using a derogatory word or two about United’s then Sporting Director Nicola Salerno. Since then, Leeds – who had been doing reasonably well – have lost four games on the trot, with morale seemingly having plummeted across the whole spectrum of fans, players and staff. Right up to that lonely, newly-isolated, probably doomed figure at the top of the football part of the club, the man who carries the can for mistakes made above even his head, Redders himself.

The main question over Redders’ future now would appear to be: will he jump, or wait to be pushed? To say that there are mixed messages coming out of the United hierarchy, higher up than humble Head Coach level, would be a masterpiece of understatement. Massimo Cellino was going to stay away, then we hear he’s coming back. Salerno, having suspended Thompson for hurting his poor, delicate feelings, seems to have ended his association with Leeds since. Thompson remains suspended, Redfearn remains frustrated, isolated, powerless – so it seems – to do the job he desperately wants to do.

You might say it’s a mess – but, again, you’d be accused of putting an unrealistic gloss on the situation. It’s much worse than a mess. It’s a farce, a pantomime, a badly-written black comedy. Doomed Blackpool, with their rapist part-owner and their long-inevitable relegation, might almost look at Leeds and say to themselves – well, we weren’t the only chaotic club in this league, were we? Cellino now faces further court dates over the immediate future – a time when any proper owner might be looking at his club and wondering how such an abysmally disappointing season could be improved upon next time around.

Cellino has to accept responsibility, even in absentia, for the way the club is being – for want of a more descriptive word – run. The men making the decisions on the ground are presumably there because Cellino wanted them there. Events are not bearing out the wisdom of many of those decisions, and the Thompson fiasco is a case in point. As one glum social media user tweeted, we were rubbish, then Thompson came and we did OK – then he’s sacked and we’re rubbish again. It’s not rocket science.

Leeds United and its fans deserve far better than this. Alright, no-one should be unsackable, and insubordination is not a matter to be taken lightly. But there are degrees of appropriate response – and if a vital member of the back-room staff has been removed simply because one incautious remark caused some offence in one over-sensitive director – then the fallout from that decision is utterly disproportionate to the seriousness of such a relatively innocuous situation. Four games since then, little fight, chaotic organisation on the pitch and off, no points, decimated morale – all because of one man’s hurt feelings. If that’s the way to run a football club, then I’m a bloody Tory.

The sooner this bunch of clowns do the right thing and sell their interest in our club to someone better able to run the place – i.e. almost anyone – the better for everybody, maybe even the clowns themselves, not that I care a slice of pizza for them. There is far too much of a feeling that certain individuals think themselves bigger than the club – and that can never be true. If Salerno has gone, then we have one less of those individuals and that’s a step in the right direction – but then, why not get Thompson back? If he’d be willing to come back, that is.

Now, the rest of them, the rest of those clueless idiots in the boardroom, should get out. Because Leeds United fans – even those of us who were prepared to give this regime a chance at the outset – have had enough. Much more than enough. Yet again, it’s time for change; this time we have to get it right. Leeds United is a global name; when you look at what has been achieved at relatively small and unknown (with all due respect) clubs such as Southampton and Swansea City – surely, then, the potential at Leeds is huge and realisable.

Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany feels that the so-called Financial Fair Play rules will mitigate against the likes of Leeds and Forest ever being successful again. I’m not so sure about that. David Batty on the other hand speaks optimistically, stating that we’ll be back towards the top soon. I’m not too sure about that either. But somewhere in between is a level we can still hit – and yet, the way things are now, we’re a million miles away even from that.

As a wise man once said, a journey of a million miles starts with a single step, but all our steps right now appear to be backward ones – it’s very tempting to talk here about the proverbial Italian tank with no forward and fifteen reverse gears. And yet, really, it would be misleading to talk about cowardice – it’s not even as forgiveable as that. It’s incompetence we’re seeing, indulgence of ego against the interests of the greater good. That’s what’s so hard to forgive.

It hasn’t worked, this Italian experiment. With the League dead set against Cellino, it’s highly unlikely it can ever work. Let’s all just acknowledge that, all of us – the owners too. Cut your losses, sell up, bugger off.

We’re Leeds United – and we’ve got a future to carve for ourselves, somewhere a lot higher up the game than the humiliating rut you’ve got us stuck in right now. Just go. In the name of God – GO.

 

Welcome Home, Jonny: Howson Deserves Leeds Ovation   –   by Rob Atkinson

Leeds and he knows he is: local boy Jonny

Tonight sees the first return to Elland Road of prodigal son Jonny Howson, now of Norwich City. Roll out the red carpet, sound the welcoming herald and kill the fatted calf for, lo, he that was lost is returned to us, albeit temporarily – and under an enemy banner. 

Actually, we might have to amend these tributes, but only slightly. After all, we’ve lost a lot of prodigals over the past few years at Leeds United and, if we hang out the bunting every time one of them shows up back at the old homestead, it’ll be a bit of a strain on that emaciated post-Living-the-Dream budget. The red carpet’s a bit tatty from that time Uncle Ken used it to protect the tiles when he was having CCTV installed in the bogs. And we’re fresh out of fatted calves. We did have a fatted goalkeeper, but sadly he was cast out into the wilderness (transferred to Ipswich Town).

So it might be a case of “modified rapture” when Jonny comes marching home – especially if he forgets his manners and scores the winner – but, nevertheless, this blog would like to think there’ll be a warm LS11 welcome in store for our former hero. By your deeds shall ye be judged – and Mr. Howson did manage a few notable deeds during the time he graced the iconic White shirt. 

Chief among these examples of unforgettable derring-do is, of course, the Howson Howitzer that broke the resistance of Bristol Rovers‘ embattled XI as the ten men of Leeds laid siege to their goal in an attempt to get out of a promotion-threatening emergency. 0-1 down and needing the win to climb out of third-tier purgatory, Leeds were becoming desperate when Jonny, our steely-eyed and über-cool marksman, fastened on to a ball laid back to him outside the box and simply lashed it into the Kop End net. The sonic boom of joy and relief fair sent the terrified Rovers into panicky disorder; they were softened up for the kill which Jermaine duly delivered – and we were up. 

Then, of course, there was that laser-accurate long pass at the Theatre of Hollow Myths for that same Jermaine to roll the ball in at the Beckford End and send the Pride of Devon, tantrums and all, spinning out of the FA Cup. And there was his late and massively timely strike at Carlisle to secure us one of our doomed Wembley play-off occasions. For a young, local lad, Jonny Howson made a mark on Leeds United history of almost Batty-esque proportions – and there can be little higher praise for a born and bred White than that ever so slightly exaggerated accolade. 

So, tonight – at last – Jonny is back at his spiritual home Elland Road. It’s a place printed into his DNA and somewhere I’m convinced – if we ever rid ourselves of fools, incompetents and charlatans – he will one day return to stay. The manner of his leaving does not weigh against the lad; in football, once “your” club has shown willing to lose you, there’s little point hanging around. Like a good pro, he went off to distinguish himself in a Premier League midfield; he went where the ambition and desire was, and away from the decay and complacency which pervaded – still pervades – Leeds United. Who can seriously blame him for that?

In the context of the 21st Century, Jonny Howson is a United Legend – not least for the moments recalled above, among many others. But he’s a legend too because, while he was with us, he epitomised what the spirit of United could and should be about. A Leeds heart beat proudly under that Leeds badge and it showed – in his general play and in his delightful knack of popping up when most needed, to strike decisively and turn the game Leeds’ way. 

One of my favourite memories of Jonny was a game at Scunthorpe when he struck what I still think of as the best example of the “perfect hat-trick” I’ve ever seen. A clean strike with either foot for two of the goals; the other a brilliant header. It meant little in the grand scheme of things, but it was a Leeds United youth product saying boldly: here I am, in the shirt I love, and this is what I can do. Sadly, Leeds didn’t appreciate what they had and, along with several other diamonds, Jonny left to glitter elsewhere. 

I hope he gets his due from the Elland Road crowd tonight. Under his pro’s facade, Howson will still care about what’s happening at Leeds – he’ll still hurt at what’s happening to Leeds. It won’t distract him in the slightest from his job this evening – but deep down, Jonny is still Leeds – and he knows he is. 

With our cheers and applause tonight for a departed hero – let’s show him that we know it too. 

Count On Leeds United to Knock the Canaries From Their Perch – by Rob Atkinson

The only good Canaries are dead Canaries

The only good Canaries are dead Canaries

If Leeds United‘s topsy-turvy season runs true to form, then tomorrow’s visitors Norwich City might just have a nasty surprise waiting for them at Elland Road. The Whites have already sent a few Championship high-flyers home, pointless and wondering what happened, in a season that has seen them generally under-perform. The challenge of promotion-chasing opponents, though, has frequently brought out the best in United on home soil – as Middlesbrough Ironopolis, Bournemouth and Derby County could readily testify.

Norwich would be a welcome scalp as far as United’s long-suffering fans are concerned. As a club, they’ve behaved towards Leeds in a decidedly uppity fashion over the past few years, taking advantage of a rare spell of league superiority to asset-strip our squad on an unpleasantly regular basis. While it’s true to say that Fulham have acted in much the same way, and more recently too, it’s also true that Leeds had Fulham for mugs over Ross McCormack‘s transfer, which has tended to mollify folks at this end. No such consolation where our backwoods, carrot-crunching friends are concerned; they’ve been really quite rude about openly enjoying raiding us and nicking off with some of our best players – as well as Bradley Johnson.

There was also that nasty little business earlier in the season, when serial victim Cameron Jerome made one of his occasional, ill-grounded racial abuse allegations against United player Giuseppe Bellusci. Jerome’s accusations on this occasion were so lacking in any supporting evidence that a Leeds player actually got off on a charge against him; something that hasn’t happened since before the Grand Canyon was formed. Norwich City, oddly, publicly supported their player despite the total lack of any corroborating evidence – and continued this stance even after the League verdict. Still, justice was done in the end – and Jerome sulked. It will be interesting to see if any lingering grudges are settled one way or the other tomorrow evening.

For Leeds, with Head Coach Neil Redfearn having thrown down the gauntlet to his team following a pallid display against Cardiff, the team’s make up is anyone’s guess. Redders could challenge as near as possible the same XI to redeem themselves, or he could ring the changes. Either way, a Norwich side strengthened by the absence of suspended ex-White Johnson might be expected to have too much for a Leeds side shaken by recent events and lacking both motivation and morale – so it might appear.

Just bear in mind that habit of being party-poopers, though. Against all logic, it would be no great surprise to see Leeds emerge from their gloom and turn the Canaries into so many bones and feathers tomorrow. We’ll keep our fingers crossed at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything Towers – and make an only slightly tongue-in-cheek prediction of 3-1 to Leeds.

Oh – and Steve Morison to score…. FINALLY.

 

Leeds United 22401, Cardiff City 0   –   by Rob Atkinson

Cardiff fans turn up in "blue seat" fancy dress - or are they welshing on their team?

Cardiff fans turn up in “blue seat” fancy dress – or are they welshing on their team?

Sadly, the decisive victory indicated in the title tells the story of the differing levels of support enjoyed by the two teams – not the pallid battle, deservedly edged by the visitors, on the pitch. Leeds United did little to show they merit such loyalty and patience from their unfailingly magnificent support – while Cardiff City showed enough to make them feel that their fans have been a little uncaring, sending them alone into what is normally an intimidating arena at Elland Road

In summary, naive defending and a lack of ideas and execution up front cost Leeds dear – as has too often been the case in the last few seasons. A bright spot was a home début goal for young Kal Phillips as well as his promising performance, one that gained him a generous round of applause when subbed shortly after the hour. There was, quite frankly, little else to shout about

The away goals were greeted by an eerie silence, with none present inclined to celebrate them; mute reproach for the en masse decision of the Bluebirds fans to stay home. An odd occasion altogether, one that provided far more questions than answers. 

One particularly burning question has to be about the wisdom or otherwise of getting rid of an assistant manager in SteveThompson, who had been doing well in the job and who had been pursued vigorously and recruited by Neil Redfearn as the very chap for the job and the right hand man he wanted. Thompson appears to have gone for the crime of using a disrespectful word about one of the United hierarchy, Nicola Salerno, a man who has also, apparently, since departed. So Leeds have ultimately cut off their nose to spite their face, not for the first time, isolating their manager, frustrating their long-suffering fans and generally screwing up big time. The man who will ultimately carry the can for the team’s performance, the unfortunate Redders, was not consulted and remains thwarted and disappointed. Such is the crazy and unimpressive way of things at a world-famous football club which is slowly dying for lack of care

At the moment, Leeds do not deserve the loyal and fanatical fans. They do not deserve the jewels now being polished in and around the first team after the Academy unearthed them – and they don’t deserve the professionals trying to do a professional job – while hampered at every turn by clueless amateurs

It’s difficult to say, right now, what the future holds – as this season fizzles out into yet another damp squib of mediocrity. But it’s clear enough what we need. Someone who cares for the club, someone who will do what is right for Leeds United instead of pandering to their own ego. Whether we will get that, or anything like it, has to be an area of immense doubt. 

Time is not on Leeds United’s side. The legacy of glory and global renown will not sustain the club’s profile forever. Already too long in the shadows, a renaissance is urgently needed and somewhat overdue. A couple more humdrum seasons of empty promises, crudely-practised expectation management and barefaced lies – and it will probably be too late to salvage that big club aura.

One day, scarily soon perhaps, Leeds United might be a club whose fans think, “Sod it – we’ll not bother today. We’ll boycott it and browse the aisles in B&Q instead.” It can happen – we saw that yesterday. 

If Leeds United are to be saved from becoming just another Cardiff, Huddersfield or Blackpool – things need to change, radically for the better. And soon

Before it really is too late. 

Millwall Now Second to Cardiff in ‘Too Scared for Leeds Trip’ Stakes   –   by Rob Atkinson

Too soft to go to Leeds: massed Cardiff fans safe at home

Too soft to go to Leeds: massed Cardiff fans safe and well-guarded at home

Prior to this weekend, it had been thought that the seasonal award for “Scarediest Fans in the Championship” would have gone to the stalwarts of Millwall FC, after their entire away following for the recent defeat at Elland Road turned up on a skateboard and spent the match, pale of face and quivering silently, high up in the West Stand. 

However, it has now emerged that the followers of Cardiff City have somehow contrived to out-chicken even those tragically faint-of-heart Millwall “supporters”, by bringing a grand total of zero fans to their away fixture at Leeds United. The trip to LS11 is generally accepted as the acid test by which other Championship clubs can measure their fan’s moral courage or lack thereof. Millwall achieved a rating of “lily-livered“, which was expected to see their supporters crowned “Most Frit 2014/15“. But the Cardiff score has taken them into the realm of the spineless, with a provisional rating of “Soft as an embryo jellyfish“.

A spokesman for the Bluebirds Travel Club, Dai Arrear, confirmed that there had been absolutely no appetite at all for a tough trip North. “The guys are staying in the Valleys, isn’t it,” he quavered, nervously. “They didn’t fancy it, see. So they’re stayin’ yer, boyo, where it’s a bit more peaceful, like.”

The response at Leeds was one of frank puzzlement. United’s away allocation is invariably over-subscribed and the club take a vociferous following with them, even for a midweek “bubble” match. “We thought that clubs like Millwall and Cardiff would return the compliment,” said one baffled Leeds “Barmy Army” regular. “It’s most upsetting and really a bit rude. We always plan a warm welcome for our visitors, as we invariably receive around the country ourselves. To have not one single fan representing you at an away match – it’s ridiculous. Shameful.”

Millwall fans will be relieved to have avoided the unwanted title of “Softest Cissies in the League” in what is expected to be their last season at this level for some time. But the fact remains that both of these clubs trade on what seems now to be an entirely unmerited reputation for exuberant feistiness. It is to be hoped that both will do better in their respective leagues next time around. Millwall are expected to be in League One for the 2015/16 season, and it may well be that trips to Barnsley and Sheffield United will be easier on their jumpy nerves than the Elland Road ordeal. 

Cardiff should have the chance to redeem themselves next time around and may well be encouraged by the thought that, having achieved a zero away following for this weekend, at least things can’t get any more embarrassingly shameful than that, next year.

For now, though, they will remain objects of ridicule, laughed at for being “as scared as David Camoron bottling a live debate with Ed Miliband“. Whether that rather severe judgement seems a little harsh is open to some doubt. But the once-notorious “soul crew” – long prefixed with the letter R in and around Leeds – do seem to be bang to rights on a charge of moral cowardice – and that’s not something they’d be proud to sing about in the Valleys this week.  

Tory Press To Use “Miliband’s a Leeds Fan” Smear Tactics??   –   by Rob Atkinson

Miliband - the dirtiest smear yet...

Ed Miliband’s a Leeds United fan – the dirtiest tabloid smear yet…

As the General Election draws closer, and the various tax-dodgers, fox-hunters and perverts who form the natural band of Tory supporters start to gibber quietly with barely-restrained panic, the brainless yet powerful moguls behind the country’s filthiest gutter rags are casting about for more dirty tricks to use against the Great White Hope of the Labour Party, Edward Samuel Miliband.

Great White Hope?? I hear you expostulate, outraged in your righteous anger. Isn’t that a bit – well – racist?? No, not at all – not in this context. Definitely not. Ed, you see, is a Leeds United fan – a true White – as well as the person adjudged this morning by the Financial Times as having an 82% chance of being the next Prime Minister. So May the 8th, or a few coalition negotiating days after that, could see our new leader giving the old Leeds salute on the doorstep of Number 10. It’s a thought to conjure with, right enough.

Meanwhile, the gutter press are unlikely to miss a trick in their quest to find any nasty little fact or fiction with which to smear the unflappable Ed – something they seem ever more desperately eager to do, despite the line being peddled not so long back that Miliband was a figure of fun and unelectable, so why bother. The Tories and their poodles in the Press are suddenly very much bothered and more than a little rattled and threatened – they need something salacious, scandalous or just plain unpopular to sling at the man who threatens to oust current incumbent David Camoron from his unelected tenure in Downing Street.

And what, in the dim and undemanding public mind, could be more disgusting or repellent than a chap being outed as a Leeds fan? We’re still the club they love to hate – still the name that pillocks such as Jimmy Greaves and various other has-beens can barely bring themselves to spit out with all the venom at their command. Unpopular doesn’t really begin to describe it. Leeds United, as an institution, is marginally less palatable for Joe and Jill Public than a slug sandwich.

And yet, so far, the Daily Heil and its bottom-feeding brethren at the sewer end of Fleet Street have failed to make capital of this. Instead, they’re concentrating on other, seemingly less damaging issues. Not all that damaging to Miliband, anyway. Today, it’s a peculiar non-story about the Labour leader’s love-life prior to his thirteen-year relationship with barrister Justine Thornton, his wife since 2010 and the mother of his two children Daniel and Samuel. It’s a shocker that, isn’t it? 45 year old man had relationships before he met his wife. A heinous crime.

Really, it’s just too laughable for words – and resounding testimony to just how worried the Tory press has become of late. The Daily Heil, by the way, is owned by Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere – who, interestingly, is a non-dom – a category of tax avoiders who have been much in the news this past day or so. The fact that the gloves are now coming off may not be entirely unrelated to this issue.

So it is laughable – except for the people incidentally involved in the revelations about Miliband’s pre-current relationship history. One of those people just happens to be a woman who was recently bereaved of her husband and is therefore currently going through a very dark and lonely time indeed. She’ll need all the sympathy and support she can get right now – but there she is, on the front page of Viscount Rothermere‘s toilet roll of a so-called newspaper, being shamefully exploited because Jonathan Harmsworth doesn’t want a Labour government interfering with his opportunist taxation arrangements. Pass the sick bag, do. The reference in this article to Ed Miliband and his impeccable choice of football club is intentionally light-hearted – but really, I’d rather they used that, for all the good it would do them –  instead of intruding so callously on the grief of a woman whose only “crime” is once to have been involved with the man who will probably be our next Prime Minister.

I want Ed Miliband to be the next Prime Minister. We all should really – we’re all Leeds, aren’t we, after all? And yet I’m aware that, in the demographic of Leeds United support, that ain’t necessarily so. There are plenty of you out there who, for reasons I just can’t begin to fathom (unless you really are slavish believers of tabloid tripe), intend to do all they can to vote this incompetent and corrupt shower back into the power they should never have had their hands on in the first place. Which, I feel, is a shame.

But if I can do my bit, through Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, to highlight some of the nasty-minded, shamefully-motivated tricks that are currently being played by the rich and powerful to protect their own vested interests – then this article will not have been in vain. If it results in just one or two people thinking for themselves, instead of believing what they’re being fed by self-interested and greedy owners and editors, then all of the pixels and fonts thus invested will have been worthwhile; indeed, cheap at the price. Especially if that all ends up with a tick going in what I firmly believe to be the right box on May 7th.

Ed for PM! Let’s have a Leeds fan in Number Ten, not least because it will further annoy and discomfit all of those rabid Whites-haters around the country and the world. For all the right reasons, of which there are many – and even some of the less serious and more light-hearted ones –

VOTE LABOUR THIS TIME.