It’s Cup Final Day for Derby County AND Leeds This Saturday – by Rob Atkinson

A typically calm moment from Derby v Leeds back in the day

A typically calm moment from Derby v Leeds back in the day

Norman stops Frannie’s lip by putting a hole in it

There’s never been a shortage of feeling in matches between Derby County and Leeds United – not since the days when it was Clough versus Revie, anyway. In the years that the two Middlesbrough lads locked horns at either Elland Road or the quagmire that was the Baseball Ground, those feelings tended to run deep, and often spilled over into epic violence, with both sets of players going at it with relish. The pictures above are fairly typical of a Rams v United clash in those far-off, halcyon days – certainly the players of each club felt a deep and mutual rivalry, and to say that the matches were keenly contested is to show a talent for understatement.

Off the field, the situation was somewhat less mutual. Derby County hated Leeds, alright – no doubt about that. But Leeds fans of that era were well aware of their beloved team’s pre-eminence over most if not all others – so the attitude towards lesser clubs (i.e. just about everybody) tended to be one of lordly indifference. The few exceptions to this rule included manchester united and, to a lesser but still vitriolic degree, Chelsea. These two were accepted as deserving of hatred, despite their obvious inferiority on the field. But the rest, busy Leeds-haters though they might be, tended to get ignored. Naturally, this did not make the Whites any more popular around the country. Spurned haters are just as hotly resentful as spurned lovers, if not more so.

Derby were a case in point back in the 70s, and it’s a situation that persists to this day. They do have a neighbourly loathing for Nottingham Forest, made the more bitter because the comically-nicknamed Tricky Trees got second and better use out of County’s discarded Clough/Taylor axis. Geographical proximity and the Cloughie factor make this mutual antipathy as real as most. But Derby hate Leeds with an almost equal passion – and, frustratingly beyond measure for their fans, it’s entirely unrequited – which really does get under the skin of your average Ram.

The history between the two clubs over the past couple of decades has been a tale of two long periods of dominance, one for each side.  First Leeds had a spell when they found they could toy with Derby as a cat does a half-dead mouse, exacting the maximum in malicious pleasure by torturing them, before dispatching them mercilessly. This was a period of acute suffering for a Leeds-hating County fan. One season, we knocked them out of both cups on their own ground, with the FA Cup win being from two goals down. On another occasion, we gave them a three goal start at Elland Road, before storming back to win 4-3 with Lee Bowyer notching a last-gasp winner before an ecstatic Kop. Later that season, we went to the incongruously named Pride Park and leathered the home side 5-0. It was not a good time to be a Derby County fan.

Then, things turned round for Derby; in a period that coincided with United’s dramatic fall from grace after “living the dream”, Leeds simply could not buy a win against the Rams. Defeat followed defeat – though at a time when most teams were beating us with monotonous regularity, the sting of each loss was not noticeably worse than those against most other teams. For Derby, though, it was like a renaissance – they were beating Leeds, for the first time in years – and they did not particularly care that this was not a Leeds of any special vintage or calibre.

The fallow period against the Rams, though, appears to be coming to an end. Firstly, we managed to avoid defeat in a late-season encounter at Elland Road. Then, last season, each team enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 win at home; honours even. Tomorrow’s first Derby-Leeds clash this season will, as usual, be Cup Final day for every Ram. They will be aching to beat us, yearning for the three points as a child yearns for Christmas. It will be very much business as usual for Derby fans, and Leeds United will have to be wary of the intense desire and expectations of the home fans, factors that can certainly inspire a side.

But tomorrow is also Cup Final day for Leeds – and not in any ersatz or theoretical sense as experienced by County followers. Leeds, being a centre of sport unrivaled anywhere else in the country, boasts widely-renowned teams in three sports, with Yorkshire CCC at the summit of the County Championship in cricket, Leeds United showing signs of revival as their glorious history positively demands – and in Rugby League, Leeds Rhinos has long been the team to beat. Tomorrow, they take the field at Wembley in the Challenge Cup Final, with the unfancied Hull Kingston Rovers in opposition. This is not a sentiment that every Leeds United fan will share, but – this being my blog to do with as I wish – I will be hoping and praying that my beloved Rhinos can confirm what the form guide suggests will happen, and bring the Challenge Cup home to Headingley.

Saturday is about two Cup Finals and two Leeds teams. My fingers are crossed that Derby’s prayers go unanswered and that they are left thwarted again, as in the good old days. But, should United stumble to a first defeat of the season, I’ll still manage to keep a smile on my face – as long as Sir Kev‘s warriors do the business at Wembley and achieve the first part of a Rhinos treble.

All Leeds, aren’t we?

Russell Crowe’s Needless White Noise Drowns Out Leeds Utd Transfer Talk   –   by Rob Atkinson

Time for Crowe to leave the arena.

Time for Russell Crowe to leave the arena

Just when things were hotting up and getting really interesting down LS11 way, with a frenzy of delicious speculation about attractive transfer targets for our club, along comes Russell Crowe with the worst-timed, least relevant tweet in recent history – telling us all what we already know and no longer very much care about.

Crowe’s declaration that he will not, after all, be buying Leeds United (I understand that was the gist of it) might possibly have caused some hair to be torn and some clothing to be rent asunder among Whites fans – if it had come a few months back, when new ownership fever was in the air, and Massimo Cellino was embattled after yet more maverick craziness. But things have changed since then, and in a good way for once. Adam Pearson has brought some sanity to the Elland Road asylum, we’ve gone literally weeks without sacking a head coach – and there are welcome signs that seven-figure investment in the first team squad is actually here to stay. 

In these circumstances, with a slightly sedated captain on the bridge and a capable first officer with his hands on the wheel, the good ship Leeds United appears to be navigating tolerably well some still choppy waters. Give or take the results themselves, this season has a fresh and breezy feel about it. And, if we are still scanning the horizon anxiously for signs of that first win, then at least there have been no defeats so far to darken the sky. Even though we took a torpedo at Doncaster, still, it was technically a draw – and with ten men for much of that engagement too. Leeds staggered, but they have sailed on, more or less serenely. 

In the wake of our latest draw, against Yorkshire’s most successful club of last century’s inter-war period in Sheffield Wendies, glad tidings of positive transfer market activity have filled the ether. Not one, but two tricky wide attackers, a possible England U-21 central defender, and the Lord knows what-all. Bids of serious money made and accepted, players said to be “distracted” or to have “had their heads turned” at the prospect of interest from Leeds – it’s been heady, dizzying, unfamiliar stuff. And if we are still tending to founder on the jagged rocks of personal terms and other such spiky hazards, then at least a positive broadside of ambitious intent has been let loose. And that, to Leeds fans, is the sweetest sound we have heard in many a blue moon.

So, in among all this rampant positivity comes the almost forgotten figure of yesterday’s gladiator, Maximus Publicitius himself, doubtless with new films to plug and a social media profile in need of some attention, flooding the Twittersphere with irrelevancy. Crowe was all over Twitter not so long back, making a noise like a prospective Leeds owner. But when he went quiet, the United support forgot about him and got on with supporting the team or arguing with each other, as fans are meant to do. Personalities come and go, after all – but Leeds United is forever, and things do seem better now that we have a business-suited gladiator in Pearson fighting for us. For Crowe to pipe up again right now is bizarre, it’s distracting and it’s not particularly welcome. 

As one Facebook cynic put it: “For Crowe to say he’s no longer interested in buying Leeds, is like me saying I’m not going to bother sleeping with Beyonce“. Just so. It’s an irrelevant statement, seeking to opt out of something that was never really an option in the first place. For better or worse, Leeds United does not appear to be for sale – and the more pragmatic of us are moving on, still with some reservations, but more than a little mollified by the undoubted changes for the better that have taken place.

Memo to Russell Crowe from Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything: now is not a good time to be rocking the boat. There was a period when our ship perhaps needed steadying, but all that we got from you then was sound and fury, signifying nothing. More of that now is just taking away the focus from more important stuff. Please, Russell – put away the sword and the shield like a good chap, and lapse back into the silence from which you should not lately have emerged. Try to retain some credibility, against some future day when you, or someone like you, might well be needed. With Leeds United, you just never know.

But for the moment – let us get on with our transfer speculation, and the quest for that first win, in peace and optimism. Thanks, Maximus.

Prime Minister Mosley… and The 1,000 Days That Established The British Reich – by Rob Atkinson

The Daily Heil - peddling made-up rubbish since 1896

The Daily Heil – peddling made-up rubbish since 1896

The Daily Mail and the Mail Online have been indulging themselves again, venturing deep into the realms of fantasy and propaganda as they seek to plant fear and terror in the public mind over that nice Jeremy Corbyn, in an article subtly headed “Prime Minister Corbyn… and the 1,000 days that destroyed Britain”. Having originally adopted a stance of jocularly poking fun at his supposedly non-existent chances in the Labour leadership election, they now seem more than somewhat worried about Corbyn, not to say absolutely terrified. So they’ve done this little “glimpse into a crystal ball” thing, just to ratchet up the tensions a bit among their loyal if dim readership.

It’s all good, knockabout stuff in the time-dishonoured Mail idiom. Here we have the awful spectre of billionaires fleeing the country; there we find football’s Premier League reduced to a Hackney Marshes shadow of its former greedy glory as prima donnas head for pastures greener – and of course there’s the sale of our nuclear arsenal to President Putin, with our consequent cold-shouldering by the USA’s possibly pre-menstrual President Trump(!) There’s even a little joke – the boyband One Direction, leaving our shores, never to return. Geddit? It’s the stuff of a Thatcherite Tory’s nightmares, designed to get under the skin of the “Disgusted of Godalming” brigade, or anyone else daft enough to take the Mail seriously.

Rothermere of the Mail and Adolf Hitler - Best Friends Forever

Rothermere of the Mail and Adolf Hitler – Best Friends Forever

But here’s the thing. The Mail is not alone in its ability (for want of a less flattering word) to dream up a “brilliant imagining” as they so modestly hail their own speculative scare-fest. Let us do some imagining of our own; let us consider how things might have panned out if Lord Rothermere, one-time proprietor of the Mail and originator of 1930s headlines such as “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” in that esteemed organ, had actually had his heart’s desire – with Oswald Mosley elected as Prime Minister instead of the Conservative Stanley Baldwin in 1935…

The night sky over London was thick with choking black smoke, a triumphant marker of the fires raging in the parks, casting a faintly demonic glow over the faces of those witnessing the first mass book-burning of the Mosley era. At last, our nation would break free of the shackles of left-wing dogma, as the works of so-called “socialist intellectuals” disintegrated before the eyes of an eagerly-watching public. The scene was repeated across the length and breadth of a British Isles looking to flourish under the jackboot of the British Union of Fascists. 

Soon, all such subversive rubbish would be gone, and the newly-formed Nationalist Government could turn its attention to other forms of cleansing, towards the day when Britain would be ethnically pure and, along with its strong ally Germany, the proud joint masters of Europe.

Soon, too, the British people would have a Royal Wedding to enjoy, as King Edward the Eighth met his bride at the altar of Westminster Abbey. And then, joy unconfined, with a spectacular coronation for our beloved new Queen Wallis, followed by a honeymoon as guests of Chancellor Hitler at his Bavarian retreat. Here, yet stronger links would be forged between Germany and Britain, as the two most powerful nations in Europe looked to extend their joint empire south to the Mediterranean, and far beyond…

At home, those with the good luck to be part of Mr Mosley’s Aryan-dominated economic miracle would thrive, due in no small measure to the opportunities afforded them by the expulsion or disposal of various groups of “undesirables”. Of the old guard, the likes of Winston Churchill were placed under house arrest shortly after the ’35 election for the expression of “Unbritish sentiments”. Rebellions in Scotland, Yorkshire and other militant and intractable parts of the United Kingdom were put down firmly but fairly, by use of reasonable military force and with an acceptable level of casualties among the rebels. The ringleaders of these mutinies had the honour to become the first traitors publicly executed since the glorious days of Queen Victoria, with a mass example of national discipline taking place via machine guns in Hyde Park in mid 1936.

By late 1938, the map of Europe had been radically reshaped as France, caught helpless between Italy, Spain and Britain/Germany, was squeezed out of existence by this quadruple Fascist Alliance. Paris fell before the massed tanks of the United British/German Army, de Gaulle was guillotined in the Place de la Concorde and the scoundrels of the much-vaunted French intellectual society were forced to flee, via Switzerland or Portugal, across the Atlantic to the United States.

As time went on, further examples of sedition were rooted out and dealt with. Subversives like Clement Attlee and Aneurin Bevan, with their dangerous notions of welfare states and national health services, have been confined to a correction camp on the Isle of Wight, from where they are unable to peddle their filth. The idea of succouring the weak and unfit bids fair to undermine national prosperity, and the British/German peoples are solidly behind the abiding concept of “Survival of the Fittest” with its associated precept of “Work Sets You Free”, shared in Germany as “Arbeit Macht Frei“. Instead of being pampered and pandered to, those unable or unwilling to make a contribution to society are housed in dedicated camps, such as Rochdale and Coventry in Britain, and Belsen, Dachau and Auschwitz in Greater Germany.

In these first three years of the Mosley administration, great strides have been made towards restoring Britain to its rightful pre-eminent world position. Great Britain is now respected abroad, in countries like Argentina and Emperor Hirohito’s Japan; we are once more a country where strong Aryans can make for themselves a good life, with no fear of racial dilution or that pollution of the mind which comes with the free publication of treacherous left-wing nonsense, now thankfully suppressed.

We at the Daily Heil can look back with pride at the part we played in bringing this new order about, as well as our sterling contribution in the first thousand days of Mr Mosley’s premiership. Let us look ahead now, under our Leader and his staunch ally Herr Hitler, to continuing prosperity for the master race in its natural homelands of Britain and Germany; we look forward with growing pride and optimism to a Kingdom/Reich which may last well beyond a thousand days, yea, even unto a thousand years!

Hail Mr Mosley and the Fatherland! Heil Hitler!! A rousing chorus, if you please, of “Hoorah for the Blackshirts”!!!

That’s one way things might have turned out, though it’s highly doubtful that the Mail would care to “brilliantly imagine” any such thing these days. All that Nazi-sympathising stuff is such a long time ago now, buried in their past and, surely, not to be mentioned by persons of taste.

Still – sauce for the goose, as they say. And alternate histories can hardly be as downright ill-grounded as pointless, biased, agenda-driven speculation about the future – now can they?

Could Leeds Be Looking For FOUR More Big Signings?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Forestieri – is there something in the air, Fernando?

The Yorkshire derby against Sheffield Wendies has almost been relegated to the inside pages today, with the real headlines being made up of fevered late-window transfer speculation surrounding our very own Leeds United. It could simply be a case of adding two plus two and ending up with well over six million – but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that United could yet add as many as FOUR more major players to what is presently, by common consent, a talented but sketchily thin squad.

Of course, in the nature of these things – and with the transfer window being a two-way street – even if we do see four high-profile additions, we might also be bidding a few farewells of varying fondness. The least palatable of these could yet involve full-back turned winger-of-sorts Sam Byram. This blog is on record as stating that it could stomach the loss of Sam, if the club’s hand is forced by the approaching termination of his deal, if the price would be right and if quality recruits were to arrive on the back of such a sale. So, although it would be sad to lose a talent like Byram, we could hardly bitch about it at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything Towers. 

Any other departures would most likely be the more peripheral of our fringe players, and most likely we would all have our own ideas of those most likely to be deemed superfluous to Herr Rösler’s plans. 

So, who might yet arrive? The most exciting news of the day is that United have apparently agreed a deal with Watford for Fernando Forestieri, the type of tricky customer who could provide the longed-for link between midfield and attack. This deal is said to have reached the point where it’s down to club and player to agree personal terms, so it must be rated 9/10 on the scale of likelihood. 

Another name being mentioned today is that of speedy NEC Nijmegen winger Anthony Limbombe – of whom his current club have intriguingly said that he’s had his head turned by interest from Elland Road, to the point where it was felt unwise to include him in the team to play Ajax. There’s no smoke without fire – at least 7/10 for this one. 

And still, with these two attacking players thought to be likely recruits, Leeds fans are greedily eyeing further possibilities. Central defender Liam Moore of Leicester City didn’t look the most composed performer for England U-21s this summer – then again, you’re no mug to get as far as pulling that shirt on. With the difficulty Leeds are having forming a secure-looking defence, Moore’s name is still out there, probably as a loan with a view to buy. 5/10 here. 

And, lastly but definitely not leastly, our old friend Joey Barton is still without a club, having recently been spurned by West Ham. The Hammers might just be having second thoughts now, having had the hubris arising out of a win at Arsenal dispersed by two home defeats since. But an unattached Joey is still a fascinating prospect for a sleeping giant of Leeds United proportions – though you suspect that, if it was going to happen, it’d probably have been done and dusted by now. Still – 4.5/10. 

What does seem certain is that, after we were told a couple of weeks ago that our transfer business was all but done, there still seems to be a fair chance that the last week or so of this window could be a very interesting time for Leeds United fans. 

Watch this space…

Leeds “Fans” Tweet Horrific Silvestri Family Death Threats   –   by Rob Atkinson

United 'keeper Marco Silvestri - targeted by cowards

United ‘keeper Marco Silvestri – targeted by moronic cowards

Football is about the players and it’s also about the supporters; a lot of the appeal of the game is based on the on-field battle between two teams of players – as well as the off-field rivalry, often raucous and profane, between two rabidly opposed sets of fans. 

But there’s also that vexatious relationship between the players of any particular team and the supporters of the club those players turn out for. That’s always been an interesting dynamic to say the least – you often hear players say that their fans’ support is worth an extra man, or a goal start. This has often been the case at Leeds United in particular, where the fervour and volume of support, the sheer intensity of the fans, has traditionally been of legendary proportions.

Nowadays, though, there’s an extra dimension to that fan/player interaction. It used to be about massed chants and acres of swaying scarves on the Kop. The nearest a fan got to any one-to-one repartee was perhaps a supporters’ club function. All that changed with the advent of social media. Now, fans can make their views known to a wide audience via blogs and the ubiquitous Internet forum. Or they can get up close and personal, by tweeting their views directly to their heroes @Twitter. Often, this can be productive and useful, or at least funny and entertaining.

But unfortunately, there’s always the odd one or two that go way too far and cross the line. And that’s happened this week, in the wake of Leeds United’s late surrender of two points at Bristol City

There are those who feel that United ‘keeper Marco Silvestri was not entirely free of blame in at least one of City’s two last-gasp goals. Fair enough, it’s a point of view that I can relate to. And the opportunity is clearly there, in these instant communication times, to get your frustration and annoyance out there. The replacement of Silvestri by Ross Turnbull was strongly mooted. Nothing wrong with that, we all have our opinions. 

But – actual death threats, aimed at Silvestri and his family? Tweeting that you hope the Leeds ‘keeper crashes his car and dies? Really?? What on earth motivates people – even assuming that they’re clueless, attention-seeking kids – what could possibly move any human being deliberately to visit such chilling and malicious filth on another human being – all because something went awry in a game of football? Note the Twitter handles well: @billylufc_ and @akawhatadave – let’s hope they can be shamed as well as named.

Two sick products of two warped minds

Two sick products of two warped minds

And there I shall stop speculating on whatever mental process led up to the publication of such tawdry, irresponsible rubbish. It simply beats me that anyone could even imagine doing such a thing. To try and figure out the motivations behind this perversion is surely a hopeless task. We’re talking about diseased minds here, and profoundly inadequate personalities

The main point, surely, is that the player or players targeted by such evil rubbish should be protected from it in the future. This is not a case of “sticks and stones“. Direct threats in particular have to be taken seriously, lest someone should fall tragically foul of that one in ten thousand case where the sicko actually means it, and acts accordingly. And when players’ families are involved, it’s all the more important to take a very stern line where at all possible. 

Idiots on Twitter have felt the weight of the law in the past, and this should definitely be the aim in the cases highlighted here as well as any similar cases. Leeds United have a responsibility to report the matter, fans’ groups should be seeking to assist in this, and the police should investigate and act without delay. It’s not beyond the wit of man to hold these nasty little people to account, and to leave them in no doubt that they’ve made a serious error of judgement; that such unsavoury behaviour will not be tolerated. 

Sadly, at least one prominent Leeds fans’ publication, The Square Ball, seem very reticent about requests that they should condemn these vicious tweets and assist in the ostracism of those responsible. This blog is at a loss to understand what appears to be a head-in-the-sand stance from such a respected publication. Perhaps they will have second and better thoughts. Please. 

In the meantime, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything calls upon Leeds United AFC, the Football authorities and the police to act with all speed and vigour, in order to ensure there is no repetition of such extreme unpleasantness. All decent fans of Leeds, and indeed of Football and sport in general, will surely wish to condemn the offenders and see them pulled up short. 

It’s not a pleasant subject to write or to read about. But there is no place for squeamishness here, nor for faint hearts, nor elastic principles. The players and their families must be sheltered from the kind of evil inherent in the examples you see above.

That, surely, is something we can all agree on. 

Leeds Let It Slip Late; But Sky Should Sack Disgraceful Paul Walsh   –   by Rob Atkinson

Chris Wood celebrates his first United goal

For those of us trying to keep up with events at Ashton Gate via Sky’s Soccer Special, it was relatively simple to gauge the progress of Leeds United at Bristol City – simply by listening to how hopeful, depressed, bored, hopeful again and ultimately jubilant was the demeanour of the most disgracefully biased match reporter, in Paul Walsh, that it’s been my misfortune to witness. 

Hating Leeds is a media preoccupation, we know that. But do they have to be so awfully blatant about it? Walsh was transparently hoping against hope from minute one that Bristol City could get a result. When Mirco Antenucci gave United the lead from the penalty spot in the first half, the ex-Liverpool striker sulked and pouted that the advantage was undeserved. Then Chris Wood doubled the gap after the interval, applying a fine finish after cutting inside a defender. Walsh was distraught; from that time until City’s late comeback, he was morbidly resigned to defeat. When Leeds missed a half chance to go three up, he admitted he knew little about it as he’d actually started watching one of the other games. 

Only when the home side scored what looked like a last-minute consolation did Walsh perk up and show some enthusiasm and faint hope. After that, we could tell that City had gone close again but missed without even going to the game – it was clear from Walsh’s clearly audible agonised gasp off camera. Then, at the end of six minutes injury time, Walsh got his reward with a scrappy equaliser – and smiled broadly at last. 

I’m not going to dwell on yet another Leeds capitulation, it’s too depressing. We know this was two points needlessly dropped; there is some consolation in Wood breaking his duck with that fine second-half strike. For the rest, it was flattering to deceive, late panic and surrender – the usual United stuff we’ve all seen far too much of. 

The stand-out point here, the factor diverting this blogger from bemoaning another sub-standard Leeds performance, was the unforgivably amateurish and biased display of Leeds-hating from yet another old pro in Walsh, who has evidently been well-paid for the sole purpose of rubbing our noses well and truly in it. That’s just not good enough, and I’ll be contacting Sky to complain. 

I’d urge anyone who agrees that Sky are basically taking the mick to add their voices to a chorus of protest. Paul Walsh should be sacked – he’s not of the standard we have the right to expect. Our protests will fall on deaf ears, of course. But the very act of having a go might just make us feel a tiny bit better on yet another let-down of a night for Leeds United. 

Is Watching Leeds Rhinos More Fun Than Watching Leeds United These Days? – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds Rhinos: Magical Entertainers and perennial Winners

Leeds Rhinos: Magical Entertainers and perennial Winners

Bear with me now, as we awake to another Leeds United match-day, if I write of the conflict between my feelings for the Whites and a whole other club in a whole different sport. Let me just put this painful dilemma out there.

Whilst I appreciate that by no means all the readers of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything will be Leeds Rhinos fans, nor yet even Super League followers, nevertheless there will be plenty that are. I happen to have a foot in both football and RL camps, so I feel a certain tug-of-war going on deep inside, where my loyalties live. And, even given my dual affiliation, which goes back many years now, it was still the case not so long back that I’d have considered it to be strictly no-contest between Leeds United and any other sporting interest. But now, I must confess – I’m not so sure any more.

As I said, many of you out there will not be Super League fans. Feel free to be excused, or maybe just chat amongst yourselves. Still others will love Super League, or RL anyway, as much as I do. But perhaps you’re Cas Tigers followers, or Wakefield or – God forbid – Hull FC or even Saints (spit). Again, this isn’t primarily aimed at you, though I’d love to hear your opinion if you can be bothered (and if you can set aside your petty hatred of the Rhinos…!)

But the real target audience here is made up of those, like myself, who follow Leeds in both sports. Do you feel the 13-a-side game exerting an ever greater hold over you? Do you find yourself continually on the edge of your seat when watching the Rhinos – and sometimes on the point of dropping off when Leeds United are playing? Worrying, isn’t it?

The problem – if it really is a problem – may, of course, be wider than just a Leeds thing. There may be Hull FC and Hull City fans who find themselves wondering which sport offers the most. It’s just fairly acute for us double Leeds fans at the moment, because the Rhinos are undoubtedly the team in Super League, whereas poor old United appear to be settling more and more for mediocrity. Even Herr Rösler’s promised “heavy metal football” is coming across so far more as senseless noise, than anything with a real beat. It’s very worrying – and not a little unsettling, too.

The issue I have at the moment is the contrasting way I feel when I’m watching the Rhinos, compared with United. Watching the Whites still gets me wound up; the desire and passion are both still there, but there’s this nagging subtext of frustration a lot of the time – of exasperation at misplaced passes, of annoyance with the tedium of the game as our heroes currently play it. Horrible though it is for me to say so, I’m sometimes actually bored watching Leeds United – and even that’s preferable to the fear and resentment I feel when we’re getting a good drubbing off the likes of Hull or Millwall or even Bradford.

Watching the Rhinos though, can be literally breathtaking, win or lose. There’s such an insistent, throbbing, ebb and flow tempo to the game of Rugby League, and there’s also the awesome realisation of what those lads are putting their bodies through for eighty minutes. Watching Jamie Peacock ploughing forward with three defenders dangling from his frame – or Ryan Hall using his power and strength to surge unstoppably over the line – these have been the sporting moments over the last few years or so that have really got my imagination and passion fired up. It’s difficult to recall too many moments like that watching Leeds United – and, believe me, I truly hate saying that. But really – aren’t there some of you out there who, if you’re honest, feel exactly the same?

I’m not here to wind anybody up. It’s a niggling, worrying issue for me, and I’m genuinely interested in how others feel, whether they agree, or violently disagree. My passion for Leeds United goes back forty years – I’m bound to feel a bit like an errant lover, trying to seem less obviously guilty about his younger mistress. But the truth is that Leeds Rhinos have come to mean a hell of a lot to me as well. Is this wrong? They’re two completely separate sports, after all. So am I being unfaithful to United, or even to the Beautiful Game itself?

I’d love to hear your views, and I’ll try to be gentle and restrained when moderating comments in an area where feelings may understandably run high. But I’m in a real quandary here and it’s actually a bit heart-wrenchingly painful.

Fellow sufferers – and others – it’s over to you.

WACCOE Watch: The Formerly Half-Decent Leeds Forum Continues to Decline – by Rob Atkinson

WACCOE - not exactly a thing of beauty

WACCOE – not exactly a thing of beauty

Ever since I was silenced – gagged – on what used to be one of the better Leeds United forums, I’ve kept an eye on the way things are going at WACCOE.com. This, remember, used to be one of the more obvious stopping-off points on the net, for anyone who wanted to hear the latest Leeds United gossip, or who hoped that they might thus become privy to some truly ITK inside knowledge. From those heady days, WACCOE plummeted to become a joke of a site, full of loud and gobby student types, right-wing boneheads, look-at-me merchants determined to present themselves as high-flyers and the most tragically desperate variety of attention-seekers.

At this point, I presumed to raise my voice in protest and, admittedly, some mild derision. Before very long, the policy switched from arguing with me or insulting me, to simply censoring my input. This was allegedly for abusing “fellow WACCOE-ers” – though as you can see from the screenshot above, if your eyesight is keen enough, there seems to be plenty of abuse flying about to this day. You might notice I’ve had to do some pretty hefty censoring of my own, due to the gutter language used.

My comment at the foot of the appalling example above was, of course, not published – after all, they gave up trying to deal with my point of view and style of expression long ago. But the point I was trying to make is a valid one – because the fact is that, on WACCOE, you can still seemingly get away with murder, or at least with vicious personal abuse – as long as the overly-hormonal moderators don’t take against you. And it’s really such a shame that what used to be an invaluable resource has sunk so very low.

That’s very much the way it is, though, quite evidently to anyone with the time and patience to trawl through all the rubbish. Plenty of regular contributors are now raising peeps of protest at the kind of thing I was complaining about way back: potentially interesting threads degenerating into childish quarrels and pitiful attempts to gain approval through puerile ‘humour’; the prevalence of right-wing, knee-jerk political views, with any more civilised opinions shouted down or ignored, etc etc etc. There’s no need for me to intervene on WACCOE now, even if they had the guts to let me; their own regulars are starting to realise how the whole thing has gone right round the U-bend.

I’ll still keep an eye on WACCOE, and I hope they’ll know that. They’ll pretend not to, of course – they affect not to notice when I refer to them these days, and they’re paranoid about the possibility of generating hits for Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything by acknowledging its existence. I do still get WACCOE individuals trying to post their abusive stuff on my blog comments – but naturally, they never see the light of day. Sauce for the goose, chaps. It’s all typically insecure, juvenile angst, anyway – and very funny on the face of it. But still, it’s tragic what’s happened to WACCOE.

There are, however, some very decent alternatives if you wish some adult, non-hypocritical coverage of all things Leeds. There’s the excellent We All Love Leeds, for instance, and even the hardly reconstructed Service Crew Forum is many a mile better than poor old WACCOE. And, of course – you’re always welcome here!

So Glad We Don’t Have a ‘Genius’ Like Mourinho at Leeds United  –   by Rob Atkinson

The not-so Special One

When you’ve seen your club at the very top of the game, as thousands of Leeds United fans (of a certain age) have – then you’re bound to aspire to regain those dizzy heights again. That’s only natural; but what would be the true cost to our club, in terms of its essential character and tradition? The answer to that might be fairly unpalatable. 

Everywhere you look in the Premier League, that rarefied sphere we yearn to inhabit, there are magicians, geniuses, world-class performers. That’s why it’s hyped as The Greatest Show On Earth. But the hype is just about the only thing that lives up to its billing as the biggest and the best. If hype alone could power a rocket, then the Premier League would be the first franchise on Mars. 

We have to ask ourselves at Leeds, where we have our own pride and our own fiercely partisan sense of identity – how many of these geniuses and magicians would we actually wish to see in a white shirt? Would we really want a Cristiano Ronaldo, for instance? Which Leeds fan would genuinely be happy to hear that that particular Ego Had Landed at Elland Road? Not me, that I do know.

If the price of Elite membership is to have to support players like Ronaldo, Yaya Toure (the crybaby birthday boy), Wayne Rooney and so on and so forth, then I’m by no means sure I’d wish to pay it. Give me a team of grafters with their feet on the ground, any day of the week. And who, pray, would we have to coach and manage such “stars”? If I may answer my own question with a negative once more, I’m dead certain that one person I wouldn’t want is the so-called Special One, Jose Mourinho himself.

Mourinho’s not had the best of weeks, losing a two goal lead at home to Swansea City and then getting hammered at Manchester City. In between times, he’s seen fit to treat club doctor Eva Carneiro most shabbily, as I’ve bemoaned here. So it’s been a bad few days for Jose, and he’s deserved every agonising second of it.

Here is a man, after all, who first came into the English game like a breath of fresh air, capturing the imaginations of fans throughout the game, endearing himself to those who, like me, enjoyed seeing Alex Ferguson taken down a peg or several. But, after a while, his arrogance began to grate more than a little. His self-awarded tag of ‘The Special One‘ lost its early appeal and took on a more ironically mocking aspect – not that Jose’s colossal ego was even slightly dented by that. Now, Mourinho appears to have become a distorted caricature of himself, a man more preoccupied with living up to his own self-image than by any need or desire to win admirers or friends along the way. His verdict on the second part of this week’s Tale of Two Cities? The 0-3 reverse in Manchester was “a fake result”. Honestly, I ask you. Here’s a man who has squandered his early impact on English football.

At one time, Mourinho might have been my ultimate dream as Boss at Elland Road. Now he’s one of those nightmares I know I could never countenance for the Leeds United I know and love. He’s put himself into a category of Untouchables, people I wouldn’t want my Whites to go anywhere near with the longest of barge poles. He’s right in the middle of that company of undesirables, along with the Rooneys and the Ronaldos, the Fergusons and the Sterlings. They’re the Too Big For Their Boots Brigade and they have no place at the kind of club I’d wish to support. 

It’s not that there haven’t been such undesirables in earlier eras – more that they seem so much thicker on the ground now than in days of yore. It’s the Premier League glitz and glamour, I suppose. This hollow arrogance, together with the sycophantic need on the media pack’s part to worship it, just sets my teeth on edge. Back in the day, I wouldn’t have wanted a George Best at Leeds, nor yet a Tommy Docherty. We mooted Maradona and we tried Cantona for size, but the former was just a Bill Fotherby pipe-dream and the latter didn’t really fit our club. We don’t really like massive egos at Elland Road – but show us a grounded grafter, and we’ll crawl over broken glass to follow him.

We’ve had our geniuses at Leeds, of course we have. But they’ve been a particular type of genius: John Charles, il Gigante Buono, Billy Bremner, side before self, Eddie the Last Waltz Gray, the incomparable Johnny Giles. And of course, the one and only, undisputed and undeniable Special One, Sir Don Revie. Modest geniuses, unassuming magicians. Special Ones in the Leeds United idiom. Give me a team and a manager like that to support, and I’d truly relish seeing my club back at the top again.

But, if modern day success means following the likes of Jose Mourinho or Cristiano Ronaldo – then I’d simply rather not bother, thanks all the same. 

Leeds Fan Opinion: Chelsea’s Slump Down To Fitness Problems   –   by Rob Atkinson

Mourinho: who’s a silly boy, then?

Chelsea, the runaway winners of the English Premier League just a few short months ago, have made an uncharacteristically poor start to the defence of their Title. Despite taking a two goal lead on the opening day against Swansea, the champions were pegged back and had to settle for a point in a 2-2 draw. Then, in the season’s first “Elite” game when they faced Manchester’s finest at the Etihad, the Blues really set in as Roman’s Pensioners subsided to a 0-3 hammering, putting them a sizeable five points behind the leaders with only two rounds of league competition played.

As a Leeds United fan, I could normally be expected to do no more than snigger quietly at the misfortunes of such an old rival. The enmity between the Whites and the Blues stretches clear back to the 60s, when Don Revie‘s Super Leeds were the very acme of gritty northern professionalism, whilst Chelsea represented the Soft South, all rag trade moguls and Z-list luvvies, a hymn to the effete spinelessness of the namby-pamby, over-pampered mummy’s boys of West London. Only the fearsome “Chopper” Harris and the skin-headed, thuggish primates of The Shed made Chelsea worth hating. For the rest, they were mainly there for the media to adore, and for us oop ‘ere in Yorkshire to have a good laugh at.

So why should I, a Leeds fan and proud of it, spend my valuable time pointing out the problems at Chelsea? And what makes me think that I can second-guess Jose Mourinho, coach extraordinaire, sex-symbol to the militant blue rinse brigade and a veritable legend in his own mind?

Well, silly as it might seem, Jose has been and gone and dropped the Portuguese equivalent of a right, proper clanger so far this season and, such being the nature of the man, he’s not going to see the error of his ways unless someone’s prepared to slap him (metaphorically) about the face with the irrefutable evidence of it. The mistake that Jose has made is fundamental, and it’s set fair to reduce the champions’ nascent season to rubble. Not that this would necessarily be a bad thing – but I would like to see the Blues back to something like their normal, imperious form by the time they’re called upon to demolish Manchester’s lesser club. So, there is method in my madness, as you can see. 

Mourinho’s tragic error is in the all-important area of fitness. If a football club is deficient in this respect, then all else falls into ruin. Fitness is to a football club what greed is to a bank or to a multinational corporation – neither entity can function without that one vital quality which is the mainspring of their entire operation.

Last season, fitness was not a problem for Chelsea FC. It was a quality clearly obvious even to the most unobservant eye; it leapt out of the TV screen every time a Chelsea player got a knock or went down injured. Fitness underpinned all of Chelsea’s endeavours, protecting them against injury and the effects of gruelling competition. Wherever the Blues played, there too was this unmistakable quality of fitness – as embodied by surely the fittest occupant of a Chelsea bench-coat it’s ever been my pleasure to behold.

Doctor, my heart...

Doctor, my heart…

Take a demure bow, Eva Carneiro, Chelsea club doctor and, beyond doubt, the most acceptable face of Chelsea there has ever, ever been. And yet the arrogant and deeply silly Jose (my wife will kill me for this) has found it necessary to remove her as a delectable match-day presence, thereby denying Chelsea’s valuable, thoroughbred playing staff the benefits of her inestimable professional expertise and – far more seriously – the rest of us the privilege of simpering helplessly over her international-class cuteness and beauty. It’s a sad loss to the game as a whole, to Chelsea in particular and to everyone out here in TV land who simply longs for a Blues player to get hurt, just for the chance of another glimpse of that exquisite pocket Venus of an MD.

In depriving Chelsea of any further manifestations of Eva, Jose Mourinho has reduced their overall fitness levels by at least 95% (on the empirical sexism scale) and – it seems clear – has demoralised and depressed, into the bargain, a playing staff that carried all before them only last season. And what clearer indication could there be that a clanger has indeed been dropped, than the occurrence of two simultaneous injuries during the City match – on Eva’s very first enforced night off? Honestly, I ask you. Those lads were clearly pining for her.

So if Mourinho wishes his club to emerge from this deep early slump, he should order forthwith a large slice of humble pie for himself, a large bouquet of flowers and a case of Adega de Borba Premium 2011 for the gorgeous Eva – and then he should do the only decent thing, admitting that even The Special One can get things spectacularly wrong, and humbly begging Dr. Carneiro to return, pretty please.

Jose - she's behind you...

Jose – she’s behind you…

And if, as I suspect, Mourinho finds it impossible to contemplate such an humiliating climbdown – even though he will know, deep down, that I am right – why, then, he should simply pack the good lady doctor off, with no hard feelings, to Elland Road – where she would be better appreciated by players, staff and especially by most of those fans possessing a Y chromosome. And most especially by this besotted fan, whose heart belongs to club and family, but who can yet raise considerably more than a cheer for the scrumptious Eva Carneiro.

Come to Leeds United, Eva, love. Sod Chelsea, they clearly don’t deserve you. Come to Elland Road, and make our injury stoppages a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Perhaps then I could go back to being utterly indifferent to the goings-on at Stamford Bridge – excepting always when I need the Blues to beat the even more loathsome reds, otherwise known in this parish as the Pride of Devon…