It Was the Man U Myth, NOT the Job, That Was Too Big for Moyes – by Rob Atkinson

Moyes - brought down by a myth

Moyes – brought down by a myth

So the dust is settling on David Moyes’ departure from the appropriately-dubbed Theatre of Hollow Myths. It was the increasingly poignant tragedy that had been waiting to happen as Moyes appeared to become progressively more haunted and helpless with every passing interview, following each successive, damaging defeat. Now, in the aftermath of his inevitable sacking, the media have gathered like a host of scavenging vultures and they’re asking one question above all. David Moyes: was he really clueless – or merely luckless?

The thing is, though – this has not really been about David Moyes at all. His sad fate would have been the natural destiny of any inheritor of what was clearly a poisoned chalice, made more poisonous by the addition of the lethal factor of self-delusion. Because Manchester United have succeeded in convincing themselves that they are something special; the Biggest Club in the World™. It is a problem that is unlikely to go away in the short term, whoever eventually succeeds the former Everton boss. The problem that Manchester United have is that the myth they have been complicit in building up could well now be the one single factor that reduces them to the ranks of also-rans.

Manchester United have willingly, eagerly saddled themselves with this “Biggest Club in the League/World/Universe” tag, one that they were only ever even apparently able to live up to through the – let’s say “unique” – approach of former manager Alex Ferguson. His intimidatory, choleric style and remorseless insistence on the accrual of each and every marginal advantage available, resulted in a domination of the rest of the pack. In a game of fine margins, Ferguson’s regime – his mind games, his fear factor, his volcanic tantrums – continually gave his club the edge over the rest. The truth of this is amply illustrated by the club’s title success last season – with a squad probably the fourth or fifth best in the league – and conversely by their hapless capitulation this season. A serpent with its head cut off is bound to find that its biting potential is not quite what it was.

Even on the morning of Moyes’ sacking, as BBC radio went into debate and post-mortem frenzy, the usual suspects were still at it. Ex-Man U player Mickey Thomas talked fluent bollocks about Moyes taking charge of “the biggest club in the world”, having to cope with “the biggest job in the world”. This lazy tendency towards hyperbole has long caused hysterical laughter in places like Munich, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan and Turin – even in London and Liverpool – and understandably so. Take any empirical measure of the size of a club – stadium capacity, attendance records, trophies won – anything – and Manchester United would have to acknowledge, in the cold light of day, that they are not world leaders. And yet the myth has persisted, has thrived even, as the club and the media have deliberately nourished it. It has been an extremely useful marketing tool in the interests of encouraging the mass-delusion of the particular type of people – of whom Dr Freud would have had so much to say – that choose to support a club based on perceived size and power. There is now a nervous terror out there in Singapore, Nairobi, Bangkok and Milton Keynes, at the thought of not being the biggest and the best – and that is very much the product of expectations fostered by extravagant and untrue claims. But, perhaps fatally, it has become self-delusion on a grand scale too.

Some of the sound-bites from the morning of Moyes’ dismissal were risible – and frankly insulting to other institutions of the game. Moyes, it was said, “lacked big club experience”. This is a man, let us not forget, who was in charge for over a decade at Everton – an undeniably massive club of illustrious history and achievement; one which was able to win League Championships in the eighties on a pre-Murdoch, pre-Sky level playing field – something which conspicuously eluded the alleged “biggest club in the world”. This casual denigration of fine and dignified football clubs is very much a part of the modern Man U psyche, and it is something that – aided by a complaisant media and a gullible support – they were allowed and able to carry off under the bluster and tyranny of Ferguson. But it’s a dog that will no longer bark when reality sets in; when the tyrant is deposed and when the superior quality of rivals has consigned the fallen champions to the hinterland of mid-table mediocrity.

Manchester United today stand in dire need of a wake-up call. Like it or not, they are not the biggest club in the world, and a continued insistence on such a demonstrably groundless claim will do them more harm than good in the future. Whoever next ascends the hot-seat will find that he is playing catch-up as thoroughbreds like Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and – yes, Everton too – threaten to disappear over the horizon. One thing Man Utd do have going for them is a large and, in parts, fanatical support – but even this is an asset that will eventually be diluted by foolish attempts to perpetuate a dying myth. All football fans share a common “we are the greatest” delusion to a certain extent, but at Man U it’s been elevated to the level of brand identity – and that cannot be sustained in a harsh, post-Ferguson reality, where there is no longer a fulminating Govan Svengali to hold the rest of the game in thrall, and to inspire fear and terror in the corridors of power.

Man U is a huge club and one that should be able to sustain success along with the other huge clubs. But they have no divine right to that success, and certainly not to utter domination as they have rather stupidly come to expect. Whoever comes next will have the best chance of long-term recovery if they have the wisdom (and if they are granted the time) to introduce a modicum of humility and respect; two qualities that have been sadly lacking over the past two decades in this part of Greater Manchester.

A failure to embrace and deal with this new mid-table reality is going to mean that things will steadily get worse before they can feasibly get better. The days of domination – of a near-monopoly – have gone, and for the game of football as a whole, that is definitely A Good Thing. The current big four, and the pretenders just behind them, will not allow that situation to be repeated. Ferguson was a one-off and not in a particularly good or healthy way. His time is gone, and now football goes on without him – and without the skew effect his tenure imposed on the game’s honours list. Manchester United now have to learn to live with this – and if they are wise, they will commit to a manager who is capable of finding for them a place in a game where it’s a lot tougher at the top than they have been used to.

Who that man will be is a matter for speculation. But again, whoever comes in, it will be necessary to be realistic. This is still a poisoned chalice of an inheritance in terms of exaggerated expectations from a global, glory-hungry fan-base; yet there is no Champions League football, possibly no Europe at all next season. Will the top players come in at that price? Will the likes of Rooney, van Persie and even Mata relish at least a season out of the Champions League limelight?

Whoever the next manager of Man Utd might be, he certainly will have a job on his hands dealing with just these problems. To expect him to labour under the weight of a hollow myth as well, is likely to be too big an ask. The spurious label of “Biggest Club in the World” proved to be a fable too far for the hapless David Moyes. His successor will have to hope – probably in vain – that wiser and more realistic counsel will prevail from now on.

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Would Leeds United Fans Welcome David Moyes? – by Rob Atkinson

McDermott: miracle man

McDermott: miracle man

The unthinkable has happened.  It’s been the talk of football for the past few weeks, the subject of fevered speculation.  Debates in pubs and clubs up and down the country have raged white hot, with arguments put passionately on either side.  And now, after a comprehensive two goal defeat at the weekend, the sensational news can be confirmed:  Brian McDermott is still in his job at Leeds United.

In other news, Man U have sacked David Moyes.

On the face of it, these two facts have very little to do with each other.  But McDermott’s continued tenure at Elland Road is, if anything, much more unexpected and sensational news than even the sacking of Moyes.  The received wisdom has been than Man U are a club that do not subscribe to the hire and fire cycle common to – well, more common clubs.  This is all part of the Man U self-image as something special, the hollow “biggest club in the world” façade that is rapidly being eroded away by a new, post-Ferguson reality.  The news that Moyes has finally gone is, really, no surprise.  He had been struggling with a job at a club founded on self-delusion, the “Biggest & Greatest” myth. Anybody would have struggled. The next man will too, unless Man U wake up and smell the coffee.  But that’s their problem, and I wish them endless bad luck with it.

The point, as far as Leeds United are concerned, is that there is now a managerial high-roller on the market, at a time when our incumbent man – nice guy though he undoubtedly is – has a record which would normally have earned him a whole pile of P45s under previous regimes at Elland Road.  It might be that people would scoff at the idea of somebody like Moyes at Elland Road – and yet ex-England boss and former Dutchman Schteve McClaren has been in charge of comparative minnows Derby County this season, to good effect.  It may also be that Moyes himself, once bitten and twice shy, would not wish to work with a character like Massimo Cellino who appears to change managers on a whim, depending how he feels when he gets up that morning.  But the question is still there to be asked: would Leeds United fans welcome Moyes to Elland Road?

The immediate objection is the fact that he’s been in charge of “them”.  But really, the Man U pedigree is a non-factor.  Let’s not forget, two of our favourite sons in Johnny Giles and Gordon Strachan were denizens of the Theatre of Hollow Myths, until they saw the light and bettered themselves. And Moyes was a square peg in a round hole at Man U – he started out by trying to act like a Fergie-Lite, attempting to carry off a whinging and moaning act worthy of the Govan tyrant.  It wasn’t in him; he’s not that type of guy, and the Man U experience has worn him down to a twitching and Gollum-esque husk of a man, bug-eyed and hunted – it’s easy to feel relief for him that his misery there is over.

What could Moyes bring to Elland Road?  A reputation untarnished by his time with Man U, for a start – certainly among football people including the more enlightened fans.  He’s liable to have benefited from a massive pay-off from his former employers, who have torn up most of a six-year contract before his bewildered eyes.  It may well be a more relaxed and a happier Moyes that walks into his next job.  And he might possibly prefer, in the immediate aftermath of his Pride of Devon experience, to shun the Premier League limelight.  Again, this appears to have been the option favoured by McClaren, another former Man U man and another highly effective operator in more conducive circumstances.  Moyes did a solid job over many years with little money at Everton.  He was recognised as a highly competent coach before that, at Preston.

The hole that Brian McDermott currently finds himself in, following yet another abject display against Notts Forest, could well be too deep for him successfully to clamber out of.  His first year at Elland Road has been one of upheaval; takeovers protracted to a farcical degree, sackings and reinstatements, the whole nine yards.  Leeds United have been – along with possibly Blackpool – the Charlie Corrolli of the Championship, the laughing-stock of the league.  In these circumstances, it’s difficult for any manager to manage but – again, even acknowledging his undoubted good-guy credentials – the performances have been abject and now the excuses are beginning to have the dull ring of repetitive hopelessness.

This blog has been a supporter of Brian McDermott – but there comes a time when you just have to acknowledge that something isn’t working and that it urgently needs remedial action.  If the time is right for a change of management (or coaching) at Elland Road, then it’s also an appropriate time to be looking at who is out there, who might be available.  Malky Mackay is a name that many might advance, and with good cause.  Billy “Job Done” Davies?  No, thanks.  David Moyes – hmmm.  It’s a fascinating thought, not all that realistic on the face of it – but just imagine.  What if Moyes, not short of a quid or two after his Man U contract is settled, were to stroll into Elland Road and re-establish himself as a football man who knows what he’s doing?  What if he were to drag our club back up by the bootstraps and get us motoring into the Promised Land?  Giles came from Man U as a player and did it for us.  Strachan too.  Could Moyes be the latest Man U discard to find success in LS11?  Could he complete a hat-trick for us to relish?

Stranger things have happened.  If you want to identify just one – it’s the fact that, after Forest cruised to victory at Elland Road in second or third gear, Brian McDermott remains Leeds United manager.  Surely that is one ongoing miracle whose days are well and truly numbered.

Leeds-Hating Gutter Press Step Up Campaign to Sell Ross McCormack – by Rob Atkinson

Daily Heil - one of the gutter brigade

Daily Heil – one of the gutter brigade

The crappier end of the press in this country can be very, very predictable indeed when it comes to their coverage of Leeds United.  I’m talking here particularly about the likes of the Mirror, the Mail (or the Daily Heil, as it’s colloquially known) and the Express – and then even a step lower than these diseased organs, down to the trash comics like the Sun and the Star.  Even the so-called “quality” papers can be relied upon, more often than not, to print rubbish about the Whites of Elland Road.  They hear the song that echoes around football grounds everywhere whenever a game of professional football is played in this country. They know from this that there’s a lot of clueless individuals out there who “all hate Leeds scum” – without knowing why, beyond the fact that their dads did too, back in the long-ago sixties and seventies.  They know that this Leeds-hating, brainless yet massive constituency forms a significant market, and they’re ready and willing to pander to it – as this will sell thousands more copies of their grubby rags.  It’s not big and it’s not clever – but it is lucrative.  And really – why let a few scruples get in the way of the bottom line?

So, in the interests of satisfying their Leeds-hating mass-market, the papers will have no hesitation in printing any old rubbish that might stir things up or cause upset around LS11 – anything they can fabricate or indiscriminately recycle to unsettle things at Elland Road is grist to their less-than-choosy mill.  Sometimes this will take the form of bare-faced lies – one outstanding rag the other week claimed that, if Massimo Cellino’s appeal against his tax evasion verdict were to fail, he would probably go to jail – and sometimes it’s just a matter of making something up and running with that.  For this latter category, the hack concerned will normally look at the best player Leeds currently have and write some illiterate piece linking that player with one of the last clubs Leeds fans would wish to see him leave for.  This is done with the aim of making the player restless if possible, irritating the Leeds fans and pleasing their army of anti-Leeds readers.

At its worst, this type of sleazy journalism can amount to illegal approaches from interested clubs with the media concerned acting as a conduit.  It’s not confined to the printed press either.  In January, Sky TV got ever so hot and bothered on deadline night, when the furore of McDermott’s abortive sacking developed into a feeding frenzy over Ross McCormack’s immediate future. With literally only a few hours of the window to go, Sky went into overdrive, doing their level best to generate interest from the likes of Cardiff and speculating frantically that the player would be making an urgent transfer request and heading off back to the Valleys.  There was genuine excitement and eagerness at Sky HQ – and a palpable grief and disappointment amounting to actual sulkiness, when nothing happened after all.

Now, we have the fag-end of the season to go; those last few games with not a lot hanging on them for Leeds, not a lot for the lazy hacks who masquerade as journalists to exercise their poison pens over.  So, we start with the traditional “let’s whip up some transfer interest in their best player” nonsense – and all of a sudden, our Ross44 is linked with the likes of Leicester and West Ham and sundry other smaller clubs.  It’s calculated to annoy and to disrupt – but we should bear in mind that, from all we now understand, transfer policy in these Cellino days will be advised by what is best for the club first and foremost – not by any desperate need for money and not by a willingness to pander to a player’s own whim.  The fact of the matter is that, for every transfer “story” in the gutter press that actually comes to be, there are perhaps 19 that never had even a whiff of truth about them, and which end up being far more useful as the wrappings of choice for those who love fish and chips.

It’s all part of being Leeds, after all.  We don’t need to foster a siege mentality at this club – it arises naturally because there is a state of siege as far as the rest of football and the assembled media are concerned.   And that’s annoying and sometimes even a bit upsetting – but really – would we have it any other way? Would we rather be a Man U, fawned over by a media which is comprised of liars, cheats and sycophants?  Not really.  It’s better to be Leeds, and to know exactly where we stand in relation to our enemies out there. We just have to remember: don’t believe everything they put in the papers. Or, in our case – disbelieve just about everything.

At least that way we’ll be nearer the truth.

Gerrard Rallies Whole Country Behind Kop Title Assault – by Rob Atkinson

Steven Gerrard inspires the troops

Steven Gerrard inspires the troops

Most football clubs have those quirky, curious “Did you realise…?” facts to relate, things that make you go “Really? Well, I never!”, or words to that effect. Leeds United, in all probability, have just as many as any other club, if not more. For instance: Did you realise… that Leeds United have been Champions more recently than mighty Liverpool, the greatest Champions of them all?  The way things are looking, this is one particular fact whose days might well be numbered.  And, although as a Leeds fan I’m rightly proud of such a pleasing statistic. it’s not before time for it to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Liverpool were perennial champions for most of my teens and twenties, when my beloved Leeds were banished to the shadowy hinterland of the game, much as they are now.  It’s a sort of nostalgic feeling, then, to look at the top flight table and see them sat there again, on their accustomed perch, leading the way. A successful Liverpool is a reminder of happier days, when the game was not so estranged from the fans, when commercial interests still came second to battle and glory on the field.  Nowadays, the commercial tail wags the football dog quite mercilessly; everything is subordinate to the over-riding preoccupation with making more and more money – with the fans being fleeced left, right and centre.

If the real Reds of Anfield do go on to clinch a first title for twenty-four years, then a large chunk of the credit must go to their long-serving skipper and midfield driving force, Steven Gerrard.  He was to the fore again last weekend as Liverpool beat Manchester City in a pulsating game of quality and character from both sides.  Gerrard played a captain’s part throughout the match and – significantly – directly after the final whistle.  As he gathered the players into a post-match huddle, you could plainly see him ramming home the message: the job is not done, we need the same performance again in the remaining games.  His face, contorted with fatigue and determination, had resolve and desire writ large in every line, his commitment radiating from every fibre of his being and into the less experienced team-mates around him.  It was a battle-cry, a rallying call. Gerrard will not permit performances to wane, nor heads to drop.  He will lead those lads to ultimate success, if he possibly can.  It was an inspirational sight to see.

There are not that many Steven Gerrards left in the game today.  Not enough warriors faithful to a cause, thinking not of the footballers’ notorious “bottom line”, but of being written into history as The Best, on behalf of a club they count it a privilege to serve.  It’s far more common to see spoiled prima donnas like Wayne Rooney, sulking on 250 grand a week until he’s mollified by a wage rise of a mere £2.6 million.  Or indeed my comparatively humble lot at Leeds United, who had the immense “stress” of wages deferral just a few weeks back, when the takeover was in flux – and found they simply could not kick a ball straight or even try a leg, most of them, because of this financial issue.  In the modern game, money is King – to a far greater extent than it ever used to be.  So, the fans can go hang, professional pride can whistle.  All that matters is making sure that money – thousands a week, even at Championship level – keeps rolling into those fat bank accounts.  When that’s sorted out, why – the players are prepared to try again, Blackpool are beaten, and what would have been a shameful, disgraceful relegation struggle is warded off.

Gerrard, in common with most footballers in the top two divisions, has more money than he will ever know what to do with.  Money – you can tell – was the very last thing on his mind as he exhorted his team-mates to a replication of their fantastic performance against City – first when Liverpool face Norwich, and then after that, in all the rest of their remaining games.  If anyone can inspire those players to the heights they hit at Anfield, then Gerrard is that man. The successful team pattern at Liverpool FC has been laid down by manager Brendan Rodgers – and he’s done a brilliant job.  But without his trusty lieutenant on the field – without that 90 minute motivator demanding effort and commitment from all around him – things might not look as rosy as they now do for the league leaders.

The midweek games were kind to them, too.  City slipped up at home to Sunderland in an unlikely lapse.  They and Chelsea remain a threat, but both have trips to Merseyside to negotiate and neither will be taking it for granted that they will now find it easy to deny Liverpool a long-awaited first Premier League crown.

As a Leeds United fan, I have no particular Premier League axe to grind.  As long as Man U don’t win it, I’m happy – and from that point of view, it looks as though I’ll be happy for a good while to come.  Arsenal are my favourites, generally speaking, from the élite end of football.  Until my own United return to the big-time, my interest in who wins what in the shake-up at the end of each season is generally limited to seeing who’s best able to deny the Pride of Devon more tarnished silverware.  But I have to say I’d love to see Liverpool win the league, and for a few reasons.  For their fans, who have suffered over the past two decades while their glory faded behind them; for the family and friends of the 96 who died at Hillsborough a quarter of a century ago, and for the 96 themselves – and for Steven Gerrard and his free-flowing, attacking team.

Liverpool as champions would be a credit to the English game.  Up front and in terms of the supply to their attackers, they have all the attributes and talent of a top-class international side.  Further back, they are merely good or very good – but in the creative and finishing part of the game, they have the stuff of greatness.  And the thing is, they’ll only get better.  So I shall look forward to the climax of this Title race with plenty of interest and in the hope that – just as things used to be when I was but a lad – Liverpool wind up on top again.  And I don’t mind in the least that I’d no longer be able to boast about my beloved Leeds being Champions more recently than the Reds.  Because it’s time for a return to the game’s real values – values that Gerrard epitomises better than perhaps any other current player.

Seriously – if there’s anybody out there who would begrudge Steve Gerrard a league title winner’s medal – I doubt that they have any real appreciation of what this game is all about.  If ever a team deserve a Title, it’s Liverpool this season.  And if ever a skipper deserved his medal – it’s Steven George Gerrard.

Looking Back – the Last Time Leeds United Won at Barnsley – by Rob Atkinson

00leeds-away-football-shirt-1997-1999-s_6597_1

Classic 97-98 away shirt – the “Barnsley Special”

In the early part of season 1997/98, Leeds United under the guidance of George Graham became known for a brief but glorious three-match spell as “The Comeback Kings”.  It was a title hard-earned with victories against three fellow Premiership members after going behind – from one down against West Ham, for whom a young Frank Lampard had scored and then reprised his Dad’s 1980 semi-final jig around the corner flag at the south-east corner – and from three down at home to Derby County, a match I’ve already described elsewhere.

The third game in this sequence was away to Barnsley, destined to be one-season wonders in the Premiership, but always to be relied upon to raise their game against the hated Big Brother from up the road, Leeds United. Many was the time I had made the short journey to Oakwell during our second division spell in the eighties, only to see us perform scratchily, as if influenced by the humble surroundings, dragged down and ultimately defeated.  We had the odd success there, but overall it was a dire place to visit, both for itself and for the ashen taste of defeat that often accompanied the cobbled-street and pit-stack atmosphere.  This was in my mind as I contemplated the Premiership away game, in an Oakwell tarted up and much improved since the decade before.  But, in truth, the match turned out to be one of my most satisfying away trips ever.

Indeed, this article nearly copped for the title “My Greatest Awayday” before I decided it wasn’t quite that good.  But honestly – it was right up there with the best of them for sheer excitement and the joy of being able to throw a friend’s kindness back in his face as I crowed over a remarkable victory.  Let me set the scene.  A mate from the luvvie world, as we theatrical types like to call it, had won a local competition for which the prize was a ticket in the main stand to see Barnsley v Leeds.  This lad – let’s call him Martin, because that’s his name – is a rabid Barnsley fan who already had a season ticket, so he had no personal use for his prize.  He could have sold it, but out of the kindness of his heart, he passed it on to me.  It would be too, too cynical of me to speculate that he was hoping to rub my nose in another win for his Reds over my Whites – but in the event, how he was to regret that noble gesture.

The 29th November 1997 - coming up for seventeen years ago now (how that time has flown by) was not merely a damp and dismal affair.  It was not merely wet.  It absolutely teemed it down, threatening to dissolve proud civic buildings of centuries standing, promising to wash Barnsley away completely and return South Yorkshire to the marsh from which it should never have emerged.  It was a flood of biblical proportions, promising extinction on a scale that would have terrified Noah.  It really was a bitch of a nasty day.  And therein lies some of the satisfaction I derived from my spot of luck.  Redeveloped though Oakwell was relative to the dark days of Football League, Division Two – it was still a fairly spartan affair when compared to a proper football stadium.  The away end, especially, offered all the facilities of an open field without any of the rustic charm.  It was roofless, open to the elements – and that was a mighty elemental day.  If I had taken my place on that open terrace, I would surely have drowned.  As it was, I had the cosily malicious pleasure of watching my Leeds-supporting comrades drown, and looking forward to regaling those that survived with the comfy tale of my own toasty, warm and dry experience.  The keenly-anticipated pleasure of Schadenfreude is a dish best served cold – as I’m sure you’re always reminding yourselves.

So there I was, tucked up nice and warm in Barnsley’s version of a Main Stand, sat among the very poshest of the local yokels, thrilled to bits that I wasn’t out there in the open, dissolving away.  I had my complimentary programme and my hot Bovril plus obligatory pie – all free, an experience to warm any Yorkshireman’s cockles.  I was well happy.

Then the match started, and – at first – it was a depressing process of that happiness steadily waning and draining away.  Leeds were playing against the tide in the first half, and struggling to make much of it, despite vastly superior personnel.  Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink – later to be rechristened Judas Floyd Piggybank after his money-motivated departure to pastures Spanish – had briefly lifted my hopes by striking the Barnsley woodwork on five minutes.  I knew that this was a bogey ground (Leeds have a few of these) – but that early strike had given me some encouragement – soon, alas, to be brutally dashed away.

After eight minutes, Barnsley – playing with a 140 mph gale at their backs – pressed into the Leeds half and scored.  One of their frankly half-decent players, Andy Liddell, had tested Nigel Martyn with a stinging shot that the Leeds keeper could only parry out. Following up, Liddell was able to make his second effort count, and Leeds were behind. At Oakwell.  Again.  Bloody hell.

As Barnsley warmed to their task and Leeds found it increasingly difficult to repel the home attacks while playing into the teeth of a gale, the Reds had chances to double that lead.  First Liddell and then Joso Bosancic tested Martyn, but failed to beat him. Barnsley were not to be denied their second goal though, and on 28 minutes it was again a matter of our Nige in the Leeds goal being unable to do much about an initial shot in those horrible conditions.  As with the first goal, the rebound was snapped up – this time by Martin Bullock – and there we were, 2-0 down and looking likely to ship more goals as our defence became ever leakier.  It should be remembered that I had just witnessed two Leeds comebacks, and maybe this should have filled me with optimism – but it was poxy bloody Barnsley, it was a horrible day and I felt my luck – and the team’s – had run out.  I expected no third miracle.

It was with an involuntary shout of delight then, that I saw us peg back the arrears ten minutes short of half-time.  It was Hasselbaink again, blasting a fierce shot towards the Barnsley goal, only to see their keeper Lars Leese turn the ball around the post.  From the resulting corner though, Alf-Inge Haaland rose to power home a header at the home fans’ “Ponte End”. Pessimistic as I had been moments before, now renewed hope gripped me. My triumphant bellow had revealed me to the Main Stand as The Enemy, and hundreds of eyes swivelled to regard me balefully – but these were posh Barnsley folk, some of whom would actually have indoor plumbing and electricity in their hovels.  I was in no danger from these relatively civilised specimens.  United saw out the remainder of the first half, and I sat nice and warm through the break, reading my programme, sneaking occasional glances at the Leeds hordes bobbing about in the deep end and fighting over the few available lifebelts - but mostly looking forward to seeing what United could do playing with the current.

In the event, the first thing we did in the second half was go perilously close to conceding a third goal that would probably have finished us off.  Liddell, that thorn in our side, went far too close for comfort and then had a shot cleared off the line by the usually useless David Robertson.  As the half wore on, it was looking more and more as though Leeds were once again going to have to slink away from Oakwell pointless.  They pressed when possible, but Barnsley were defending better in the second half than we had in the first. A mere eleven minutes from time, though, a long clearance from Big Nige found nippy Rod Wallace in space on the right.  Hot Rod had a run on goal, and once clear, he was nigh-on impossible to catch, even though he was having to wade rather than sprinting as normal. Rodney finished competently, and we were back from the dead at 2-2 – to my loud relief. More hostile stares from the indignant aboriginals.

The stage was now set for a dénouement - and it was Leeds United who struck the decisive blow to complete yet another fine turnaround.  Wallace was involved again, his run down the right culminating in a tasty cross into the Tykes’ penalty area – and there was Derek Lilley for his one and only moment of glory in a Leeds shirt a mere five minutes after entering the fray from the bench.  Fastening onto Rod’s quality wide delivery, Lilley set his sights and delivered the perfect finish to put Leeds 3-2 up, much to the delight of the thousands of drowned rats behind Lars Leese’s goal.  My own joy was flavoured with an illuminating thought: how appropriate it was, I mused while cavorting around in celebration, that – on such a very wet and sodden day, with Barnsley’s quaint little ground virtually under water – it had taken a sub to settle the matter.

I didn’t see poor old Martin after the game – I was caught up in the crowd heading back to the railway station where – just to complete a Yorkshireman’s perfect day – the throng was such that I was never asked to pay my fare and got a free ride home on top of all the other freebies I’d enjoyed that day.   I was contentedly counting my blessings; Leeds were in the top four, Barnsley had taken a decisive step towards their eventual relegation (helped along by another defeat to Leeds in the return at Elland Road) – and I’d had the immense pleasure of seeing all this, of being a part of it all – and all for nowt.  Perfect. The rain had even thoughtfully abated during my walk back to the station.  I was the only dry man on the train as the away fans sat in their puddles, soaked and steaming, but giddily happy at the events of the afternoon.

Three comeback wins on the trot – and people recall George Graham’s reign as one of austerity.  It was anything but, especially in this 97/98 season, and I have a few more happy memories from that time, so I still think quite fondly of George.  It was a shame he deserted us for Spurs though, the treacherous Scottish git.  But that was in the future, and I had a victory to celebrate – and a rehearsal to look forward to the next day when I would be able to repay Barnsley fan Martin’s kindness by taking the mick and making of his life a complete misery.

It’s a sweet and wonderful thing to be a Leeds fan sometimes, which will be something to remind ourselves of whichever way this coming weekend’s match against the Tykes ends up going.  It’s about time we had another win there, but frankly I’m not holding my breath, despite Ross McCormack’s tweeted battle-cry.  But you never know – and if we did snatch the three points, that might well seal another relegation for plucky Barnsley, a “Cup Final complex” outfit we could well do without meeting next season.  Fingers crossed.

The Hillsborough Disaster Warnings That Weren’t Heeded – by Rob Atkinson

Hillsborough - an Anfield tribute

Hillsborough – an Anfield tribute

Incredibly, a quarter of a century has flashed past already, since that awful spring day in 1989, when 96 football fans turned up to follow their team towards Wembley – and never came home again.  I was one of 14,915 at Elland Road that day, watching Leeds eke out a 1-0 home win over Brighton as Wilko’s first half-season meandered to an uneventful close.  When the news filtered through that there had been “trouble” in the semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, the initial reaction was predictable: “the scousers are at it again.”  Heysel was still fresh in the memory, English clubs were still banned from Europe – and nobody judges football fans quite like other football fans (or at least, so we thought until the Sun got going).  We were tolerably certain, as a bunch of Leeds supporters, that the Liverpool fans had caused more bother, and we glumly predicted another indiscriminate backlash that would envelop us all.

As we were on our way out of Elland Road, though, the full, awful impact started to hit home.  There were deaths – people had actually died at an English football stadium – something that hadn’t happened on anything like this scale before.  Apart from the Bradford fire – a very different disaster – the only comparable event in England had been the Burnden Park tragedy at Bolton, when 33 had lost their lives in a crush at a hopelessly inadequate ground with over 85,000 attending an FA Cup quarter final. That had been well over a generation before, in 1946.  Surely, it couldn’t really be happening again, on an even greater scale, in the shiny bright late eighties?

But as we looked on in horror, the TV and radio news brought increasingly sombre statistics while the death toll steadily mounted – and later the sheer ghastliness of the event would be magnified as the tale of criminal incompetence and official negligence was revealed – and as the filthy end of the press jumped on the “blame the fans” bandwagon that other football supporters had vacated as soon as the scale of the catastrophe became apparent.

If you were a Leeds United fan, a chill ran through you when you thought about what had happened; when you realised that this had, indeed, been a disaster waiting to happen.  The Hillsborough Stadium was so oriented that the organising authorities found it easier, more convenient, to allocate stands to the fans of opposing semi-finalists based on where the bulk of those fans were travelling from.  So in 1989, Forest got the large Kop End, while the much larger Liverpool contingent were shovelled into the Leppings Lane End behind the opposite goal.  It was the same the year before, when the same two teams contested the 1988 semi-final.  And similarly, in 1987, when Coventry of the Midlands faced Leeds United of the North, the greater Leeds numbers found themselves packed tight in Leppings Lane, while the smaller Coventry band enjoyed the wide open spaces on the Kop.

So two years prior to the Hillsborough Disaster, I and thousands of others were packed into the smaller Leppings Lane End on that April the 12th of 1987.  The atmosphere was electric; it was United’s first FA Cup semi for ten years and Billy Bremner’s men had been in terrific form as they challenged for a double of the Cup and promotion to the old Division One. We were jammed in like sardines on that terrace, looking up you could see fans climbing out of the back of the crowd, up over the wall and into the upper tier of the stand where space was more freely available.  Down on the packed terrace, it was swaying, singing fever pitch from before the kick-off right through to the heart-breaking climax of extra time.  You weren’t an individual, you were part of a seething mass that moved as one, shouted and sang as one and breathed – when it could – as one.  When Leeds scored their two goals, it was mayhem in there – you couldn’t move, you couldn’t breathe, you just bobbed about like a cork on stormy waters, battered by the ecstasy of the crowd, loving it and, at the same time, just a bit worried about where your next gulp of oxygen was coming from.  Leeds took the lead early, David Rennie scoring down at the far end.  That shattering celebration was topped when, having gone 2-1 behind, Leeds clawed it back right in front of us as Keith Edwards headed an equaliser and the United army exploded with joy.  It was the single most jubilant and yet terrifying moment of my life to that point.

Later, after the match was over, as we trailed away despondently from the scene of an heroic defeat, there was time to reflect on what had been an afternoon of highs and lows, with the physical reaction of that epic few hours inside a pressure cooker swiftly setting in.  With the benefit of twenty-twenty hindsight, it’s easy enough now to look back over twenty-seven years and think: “Yes, we were lucky.” Lucky that the incompetence threshold wasn’t passed that day when we were there.  Lucky that enough of the terrace fans got into the upper tier to relieve the pressure ever so slightly – was that a factor?  So lucky that it wasn’t us, when it so easily could have been.  The warning signs were there – they just weren’t perceived by those of us – the fans – for whom it had just been another somewhat uncomfortable but thrilling spectator experience.  That those signs weren’t recognised or heeded by those responsible for public safety is a far more damning fact.

Tragically, the luck we’d had that day wasn’t shared by 96 Liverpool supporters two years later.  They set off to support their heroes, and tragically never returned.  Twenty-five years on, they still await justice. Their families and friends, veterans of a quarter of a century of grief and loss, have never given up the fight, despite cover-ups and official brick walls, despite scurrilous press coverage which reached an obscene and disgusting low point with the Sun – that vanguard of the gutter press – and its sickening lies.

Now, there is a new inquest, and we await the latest official findings, leading to what we must hope will finally be Justice for the 96.  And indeed for all of the friends and family they left behind.  Twenty-five years is far too long to wait for this; that wait must not be extended any further.  Let’s have that justice now, so that the dead can sleep more peacefully and the living can have closure of a sort – and move on with the business of being alive. And – as a footnote – how appropriate and fitting it would be if Liverpool FC could go on to seal this year’s Premier League title for the first time since the year after Hillsborough.  It’s been too long a wait for that, too – and there could be no finer tribute to the 96, surely, than eventual justice and the return of the Championship to Anfield.

Let it be.

Leeds United Book Project Still Needs Publisher and Anecdotes – by Rob Atkinson

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Leeds United – Football League Champions

This article was originally published on March 6 this year.

In late 1992, there was a sea-change in English football with the introduction of the FA Premier League – a “whole new ball game” as the moguls at BSkyB termed it, with more than a passing nod to the surface glitz and glamour of the Wide, Wide World of Sports, state-side.  Nothing has been quite the same since, we’ve been living with the consequences – good and ill – of that Murdoch-inspired schism in our game for well over twenty years now.  The current state of play is unrecognisable from the dear old muck and bullets game we used to know – prices have sky-rocketed, wages have transcended the merely obscene and have attained a level which is truly, nauseatingly gut-wrenching – and we’ve had to put up with a Taggart clone riding roughshod over our beloved sport for the greater part of the Uncle Rupert era.  A whole new ball game indeed.

At the time of the change, though, Leeds United were the reigning Champions of England.  Many will recall this, perhaps not entirely as accurately as they might.  You will hear it said that Leeds “pipped” Man U to the title, or that those hard-done-by heroes and the Pride of all Devon somehow gifted the Championship crown to an undeserving and opportunistic Leeds.  All myth and fancy, of course – but the media never did let facts get in the way of a nice bit of propaganda to support the delusions which drift like opium smoke around the Theatre of Hollow Myths.  Leeds won the title by four clear points, despite losing or drawing several winnable games late on, so if anything the margin could and should have been greater.  They won the most games and lost the fewest, scoring the second highest goal tally and conceding few with a mean defence.  They had the indisputably best midfield around and they were undeniably worthy champions – the Last Champions.  This is one of the things I want to nail once and for all at the latter end of the book I’m now writing, a book that ends with the revolution of ’92.

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Cruyff has the honour of meeting Bremner

Leeds were also reigning champions where this book starts, with my first games in LS11 as a comparative latecomer at the age of 13 in 1975.  I saw us lose to Liverpool in the league and then beat Barcelona in the European Cup semi-final before a 50,000 sell-out at Elland Road.  I was hooked after the Liverpool game, hooked for life.  And I was star-struck with wonder as Armfield’s heroes in white dismissed Barca, Johann Cruyff and all, with King Billy Bremner scoring my first ever live Leeds goal.  What an honour that was for a newly-fanatical kid of 13.  We couldn’t know it at the time, but I’d just witnessed the last hurrah of Revie’s Immortals at home in Yorkshire.  They were to burn brightly again, in Barcelona and in Paris – but were doomed as so often before to be cheated of their just reward.  From ’75 onwards, it was a time of decline and then stagnation, until Sergeant Wilko stomped into Elland Road and dragged us back to the top in his own inimitable style.

Those fallow years of bleak exile in the wilderness form a thinly-documented part of United’s post-Revie history.  It’s a gap I aim to fill, and I can draw upon many of my own memories in order to do so.  Attention is also demanded for the late seventies mini-revival under Armfield and Adamson, with a peak in 1978/79 when a Tony Currie-inspired Leeds played some fantastic football and threatened briefly to revive former glories.  Alas, it all crumbled into dust and relegation – but some rich promise was there, for a while.  The basic premise of my book (which still lacks for a title, among other important attributes like a publisher) is to take the time between my first game in April 1975 when Leeds were Champions, and the Charity Shield match against Liverpool at the old Wembley in 1992, when Leeds were Champions again – and try to describe what it was like to witness such a fall from glory, such a humiliating yet exciting spell in the shadows and then such a meteoric rise back to the very top.  The fact that this process covered the last seventeen years of the original Football League epoch lends a kind of poignancy to the whole saga of triumph, despair and triumph again.

What I really need is input in the form of memories and anecdotes – the experience of fellow fans who, like me, were there through it all, or even those who followed from afar, separated from events in England, but still fanatically involved.  I know there are many such far-flung but devoted Leeds fans out there.  And I need help, advice, assistance.  I’m confident I can write the thing, and it will be written in the same idiom that has seen this blog grow and thrive.  It’s taking shape well, a good few thousand words in.  But I could use – and would be very grateful for – any information and advice about publishers, publishing, contacts – that sort of nitty-gritty thing.  And I still need a title! – although I’m now fairly certain that “Full Circle” will figure in it somehow.  All feedback is gratefully received; do people think a book of the kind I’m proposing has a market out there?

I mustn’t end without saying how massively grateful I am for the help, encouragement and assistance I’ve already received.  To those who have dug into their pockets and donated to this blog, enabling me to give more of my time to the book project – thank you so much.  It’s a humbling experience to discover the willingness of people out there to help get an embryonic project off the ground.  I appreciate the time you’ve secured for me to put the work in and get this thing down in words.  I’ve sent emails to everyone who’s provided such generous support, but rest assured – when The Book finally sees light of day, you’ll receive a copy of whatever it’s eventually titled, with my sincerest compliments.

Going forward – publishers, agents, those with connections – please do get in touch if you can help.  I’m confident I can produce a worthy addition to any fan’s Leeds United bookshelf, given some supplementary material and someone who will take a punt on me and maybe profit from it.  Who knows, maybe it can be a Leeds United book with something to say about football in a broader sense too.  You can rest assured that those I dislike will not be neglected!  Football is a tribal thing and, true to my tribe, I will be looking to have a pop here and there at that lot from ovver t’hill.  It’d be rude not to, after all.

Finally, after a big influx of blog followers over the past few weeks, can I just say welcome to anybody who’s new to “Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything”. I hope you’ll all stick around and be regular readers and responders! MOT

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Full Circle – The last Football League Champions in ’92

Marching On Together: Please Support This Fast-Growing Leeds United Blog – by Rob Atkinson

Unrivalled support

Unrivalled support

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is growing rapidly. Back in September of last year, just before it was included on the News Now platform, the blog had received a total of only 13,000 hits in a little under nine months.  It was growing, but very slowly.  Now, that figure stands on the brink of the 900,000 mark. Sometime in May, if not before, somebody will register the one millionth hit. There are 1,182 WordPress followers, with an additional 2,891 following by email.  And it’ll be onwards and upwards from here.

I’m determined to see this blog continue to grow and thrive. Other projects will spring from it, notably a book about the varied fortunes of Leeds United between the Championship success of 1974 and that of 1992 – a “Full Circle” period that includes the thinly-chronicled second division years of the 1980s.  I believe that I provide a valuable service in trying to keep Leeds United fans – and others – around the world informed and amused.  Many are the comments I have had saying that this blog has cheered things up when the situation around Elland Road has seemed bleak.  It’s heart-warming and fulfilling to get feedback like that; it inspires me, as it would any writer, to carry on trying to provide what readers want.  I’m passionate about Leeds United Football Club, and I don’t hold back from communicating this in my blogs – which I try to keep coming at the rate of roughly one per day (sometimes more) where other commitments allow.

Every little helps

Every little helps

To do any and all of this, I need your help. I need individuals to read and share the blog so that those numbers continue to climb – this is so important. I also need small donors, people willing to click the PayPal button on the top right of each page, and give even a quid or two – or maybe commit to a quid or so a month – because it all helps. Many of you have been kind enough to do this already, for which I am humbly grateful – and as those people know, I always write to express that gratitude. Those who have donated £10 or more will receive a complimentary copy of the Full Circle book when it is published.

To put the value and helpfulness of small donations into context: if everybody who ever clicked on an article on this site had donated as much as 10p a time, I’d have been able to fund publication of my book under my own steam by now.  Every little counts – and there are a lot of you out there, with more joining every day.  Please help, if you can.

But as well as straightforward donations and increased readership and following, I also need people who are prepared to get more heavily involved – those who are willing and able to place adverts, sponsor sections of the blog - or even the whole thing. I would ask anybody interested in this to visit the Contacts section – and drop me a line. Again it helps the blog – and with hits running to an average of 25,000 a week and rising, it should be of benefit to you and your business, too.  And I know that there are some extremely enterprising and successful people out there, following this and other blogs – well, you’d be extremely welcome on board here.  But hurry – if Signor Cellino nips in first for a full site sponsorship, I can hardly say no!  And I believe he does have a few bob to spare…

This blog is going places.  I really believe that. It’s just a matter of time – and of how much support and encouragement I can hope to receive from my valued readers and fellow Leeds United fans. So, please help if you can – become a Friend of the Blog. Join in and get on board, and let’s make a big success.  Respond to the articles, join in the debates that ensue.  There are exciting times ahead - Leeds United may be about to turn a corner, so let’s all go forward and succeed together.  I’m actually thinking of instituting a Friends of the Blog list – and I’m open to any other suggestions for helping Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything keep on growing and thriving.

Last, but not least – to my small but dedicated band of trolls, the ones who write in so often and so passionately - but for my eyes alone (as their input hardly ever sees the light of day) – do not worry; none of this is aimed at you! You just continue to entertain me and make me laugh, if you will; I require nothing more from you.  You certainly help with the blog’s readership figures – but my request for actual help and support is aimed at true Leeds United fans and friends and followers of the blog.  Thanks, though –  I’m glad we could clear that up…

Ciao – Siamo Leeds.  Marciando Avanti Insieme

Welcome to Elland Road, Blackpool AND Their ‘Fit & Proper’ Rapist Owner – by Rob Atkinson

Blackpool director Oyston - guilty after every appeal, but "fit & proper"

Blackpool director Oyston – guilty after every appeal, but “fit & proper”

Massimo Cellino’s first home game as Leeds United owner throws up an interesting comparison, as – despite the recent appeal decision in his favour – the Italian remains under the shadow of Football League action at some point in the next few months.  The visitors, Blackpool, have as majority shareholder (and still registered as a director and therefore “fit and proper” in the eyes of the powers that be) convicted rapist Owen Oyston.  In a further twist of irony, Oyston’s son Karl sat on the Football League panel that shook its collective head, tut-tutted in righteous disapproval and sighed in a faintly scandalised fashion - as it ruled Cellino disqualified under its Owners and Directors rules, for import duty unpaid in Italy on an American yacht called Nélie.

Let’s start by exploding some myths.  There are those who now feel that, since Thursday, when the FL announced it was ratifying Cellino as a Leeds United director, there is nothing further to worry about.  This is manifestly untrue, and readers of that brief statement from the Football League will note the presence of giveaway words like “currently”.  There is no stick to beat Cellino with at present – but the League are keeping their powder dry and believe me, they mean to get their man, as and when possible.  On Thursday, the League merely rubber-stamped Cellino’s current status as fit and proper, having no other choice.  He had been found not subject to the OaD disqualifications by a stage of the League’s own process and – for now – that’s it.  But if the Italian judge in the Nélie case, Dr Sandra Lepore, in her reasoned judgement, were to impute dishonesty against Cellino, then he had better watch out again.  Fortunately, he has some decent lawyers and what looks like a sound defence.

So, that’s the “Massimo is now safe from the League” myth dealt with.  Now – what about Oyston?  Here we have a convicted rapist who apparently causes the Football League no qualms at all.  Ah, but – I hear you say – that conviction was ages ago and it’s “spent” now – so it’s not fair to say that the Football League are being unfair in a comparative sense.  The problem with that argument is that it is factually incorrect.  Oyston was found guilty of rape – a foul and horrible crime against the person – and sentenced to 6 years in prison.  He actually served three years and six months,  The rules relating to how convictions become “spent” – i.e. when they do not have to be disclosed in most circumstances and so become less restrictive in terms of professional status etc – are made under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA).  In Oyston’s case, it is entirely clear that his offence will never become spent, as he was sentenced to (and actually served) over two and a half years.  The other limb of the League’s Owners & Directors test relates to “dishonesty” – and it is this provision that threatens to snare our Massimo.  As for Oyston – if it is to be argued that rape is not a dishonest act, then surely what should really be on trial here is the set of regulations that permits such a grotesque result in the first place.  Can you really have an “honest” rapist??

Given that the League – which argued its case in front of Tim Kerr QC with unprecedented zeal and was not above the odd dodgy trick either – seem determined to “get” Cellino, then why, we are surely justified in asking, do they not display a similar determination to rid themselves of a character like Oyston?  And yet that question never arises, except in this and other blogs who seem to feel there’s a blatant contradiction here.

Is it because Oyston was convicted before the Owners and Directors rules were laid down?  That dog won’t bite, I’m afraid.  One of the salient points to emerge from the Cellino appeal was that the OaD rules are on-going in their application.  In other words, should any owner or director be found to rest within the scope of disqualification at any time, then the League can consider that person under OaD – and act accordingly.  So, after all that – why is there no action against Oyston?  And why, on the other hand, is there such a remorseless determination to exclude Cellino?

Some will point out that Oyston has always maintained his innocence and has persisted with all possible avenues of appeal.  As regards his protestations – well, to paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies in the Profumo case, “he would say that, wouldn’t he?”  The appeal options have availed Oyston naught.  He lost in the Court of Appeal and he lost again at the European Court of Human Rights, which held that his appeal was “manifestly ill-founded”.  Given all of that, the Football League would appear on the face of it to have some explaining to do, as to why they continue blithely to ignore the fact that they are, in effect, nurturing a rapist viper in the bosom of their “football family”.

As Blackpool visit Leeds United on Saturday, the two contradictory sides of this whole issue are brought into close contact, whether both parties are actually present at the match or not.  The more that Leeds United fans get to know Massimo Cellino, the more warmly he is regarded.  His deeds in the short period of his control have more than matched the words he uttered beforehand.  He has cleared off at least two debts that could have led to Leeds United being wound-up and going to the wall (whether in their heart of hearts the League mandarins consider this to be A Good Thing will probably remain moot).  But Cellino is undeniably acting as a fit and proper owner should, in protecting the best interests of his club.  Our various owners in recent history have signally failed to do this; indeed the newly released financial results for the most recent period available cast severe doubt on the fitness of GFH to run a piss-up in a brewery, never mind a leading football club.  Which begs more questions: why were the Football League not more diligent in investigating GFH? Or Ken Bates?  Why pursue the one man who is ready, willing and able – through his own resources – to steer Leeds United away from crisis?

The Football League, instead of sulking about their appeal defeat, need to look at this whole picture – including some of the dubious characters currently infesting boardrooms up and down the land.  They need to be very sure that they are pursuing rectitude and not a vendetta.  The upshot should be that they act fairly – and are seen to be acting fairly.  It might seem, on the face of it, rather unfair to drag Oyston’s name into all of this, when he’s served his time and so on.  But it’s the League who have to carry the can for that as well, in allowing such seemingly blatant contradictions to persist.  They have hung Mr Oyston out to dry, simply by giving the appearance of leaving him – a convicted rapist and guilty under the law of a foul and disgusting crime – in undisturbed peace, whilst harassing Cellino at every turn as he tries to do thousands of people a good turn by saving their beloved football club.

It simply doesn’t add up, and the Football League would appear to be bang to rights on the most glaring double standards rap you could possibly imagine.  I hope that these arguments can eventually be put directly to a responsible person in the League – perhaps by a Leeds area MP willing to take up cudgels on the club’s behalf.  And I hope we get some answers because – again, on the face of it – Leeds United could very well lose their saviour in the next few months, under the least transparent and most unfair set of circumstances imaginable.

Do these arrogant, faceless people really imagine that we’re going to tolerate that?

Why Vincent Tan’s Crystal Palace ‘spying’ outburst stinks of desperation at Cardiff City

Rob Atkinson:

An honest Cardiff fan’s clear-eyed view of owner Vincent Tan’s latest desperate tactic to help avoid a relegation he will have brought upon the club himself.

Originally posted on Metro:

Vincent Tan has again failed to place the blame on himself (Picture: Getty Images)

Cardiff City fans woke up this morning to the rather dramatic headline ‘Palace in Prem spy probe’ screaming out at them from the back page of the Sun.

Having read the article I came to the conclusion that the whole story could be summed up in one word: desperation.

The report claims last weekend’s Cardiff team sheet was leaked by someone within the club to someone with close links to Crystal Palace.

But does that account for the woeful way in which City capitulated and had no fight in them?

So the opposition knew who was playing before hand, so what?

I could have told you the two possible line-ups that we would have gone with, taking into account the fit players we had in the squad.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out…

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