Leeds Coach Rosler Receives the Dreaded Vote of Confidence   –   by Rob Atkinson

Down the years and decades of football history, certain conventions have come to assume the status of indisputable pearls of wisdom – some positive and others less so. Just before half-time is “a good time to score”, for instance. No intelligence is available about what might be a bad time to get a goal. Or there’s the one about the crowd on the Anfield Kop being worth a goal to Liverpool (usually a dodgy penalty). Such clichés can sometimes be viewed with some scorn, but the reason they attain cliché status in the first place  is usually because they have a certain ring of truth.

One of the most chilling football clichés of all is the one about “the Chairman’s vote of confidence” with its grim connotations of imminent termination. The general assumption, once one of these death-knell pronouncements has been made, is that the unhappy recipient of what is presumably intended to be interpreted as reassurance, now has nothing to look forward to but the sombre sound of his P45 hitting the doormat.

The hapless manager, then, hearing his ultimate boss telling everybody how happy he is with the job being done, reacts with neither happy smile nor that joyful serenity of spirit with which we would see all our efforts blessed. Rather, his brow is bespangled with cold beads of sweat; his Adam’s apple bobs up and down nervously, he quakes inwardly. He knows the subtext of the vote of confidence; he knows that he’s most likely a dead manager walking. All that remains, he fears, is the formality of the axe falling – and the ceremonial clearing of the desk.

Sadly for Uwe Rösler, this particular cliché is not peculiar to the English game. If it were, he could perhaps reassure himself that a German has nothing to fear from an Italian vote of confidence, or voto di fiducia, such as our Head Coach has received only today from Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino. Italians, Uwe might muse, optimistically, tend to go about these things rather more graphically; the prospect of waking up next to a horse’s severed head would perhaps be more like it. And, after all, Cellino was all Latin charm and affability as he delivered his ringing endorsement of Rösler’s stewardship. Nothing sinister there, surely. 

But, as Shakespeare warned us, a man can smile, and smile, and be a villain. Rösler would not be the first Head Coach to bask in the warm glow of what sounds like approbation from Cellino, only to discover shortly afterwards the metaphorical stiletto knife jutting out from between his shoulder blades. Several Leeds coaches have been thus dispatched in the Italian’s short reign at Elland Road – and he has form for such very mixed signals going back considerably further in his maverick career.

Are Rösler’s Leeds days, then, already numbered? It’s a debatable question and, sad to say, debate is pretty much all we have – in the absence of any real reliability where the soundbites coming from United are concerned. Rösler says he picks the team with no interference from above. Perhaps he does. Who knows? Cellino says he’ll give his man time and that he likes him. He’s said similar things before. Perhaps he means it this time. Who knows? All we humble fans can do is speculate, with the lessons of history our most reliable guide.

Sometimes it must occur to Leeds fans that it might be restfully nice to support some humdrum, boring club, where nothing much ever happens. Barnsley, perhaps, or even Spurs. The roller-coaster at United is so very much of a rocky ride that it’s difficult truly to appreciate such highs as we ever get, knowing – really knowing – that there’s an inevitable plunge back into the depths to follow. That’s not good for the digestion, never mind your heart or your peace of mind. But this is the club we love and, right now, it’s not exactly in the steadiest of hands. 

However this season is panning out, whatever the shortcomings of the team – or of the club’s approach to its playing staff’s contractual issues, come to that – we must surely yearn for some semblance of stability and continuity, to see us through to calmer waters. We must hope against hope that, for once, and against the notorious track record of Signor Cellino, the dread “vote of confidence” will turn out to be exactly what it says on the tin, instead of some veiled death warrant as per that hackneyed cliché. The very last thing we need right now is yet more turmoil at a club which sometimes seems to have the monopoly on it. 

So, yes Massimo. Uwe is a good professional and he’s doing the best job we can expect, given financial and other restraints. We’re glad to hear you think so too. So let’s take that as read, then, shall we? Perhaps – just perhaps – you can now let the guy get on with his job, and stop feeding the press so many quotes that might be helpful to that dubious fraternity – but really don’t do our football club many favours at all. Let’s have some peace, quiet and progress – just as if we were a normal football club. After all, we appear to be stuck with you – just as you are stuck with us, the more cynical and watchful end of football’s most fanatical and stroppy supporter base.

Seriously – can we just move on now, and forget any more votes of confidence, or whatever other football clichés? Thanks, Mr. Cellino.

Shambolic Display at Middlesbrough… But Would Leeds Coach be ALLOWED to Drop Bellusci? – by Rob Atkinson

Cellino: calling the shots?

Cellino: calling the shots?

By common consent, the main difference between Leeds United and high-flying Middlesbrough at the weekend was the less-than-helpful presence in the Whites back line of one Giuseppe Bellusci, a man to whom the intricacies of central defending appear to be what Rugby League is to Julian Clary.

Bellusci’s laughably weak attempt at a clearance, making barely any contact with a cross-ball well within his reach, led directly to David Nugent‘s opening goal. The Italian then compounded that error by heading past his own keeper under no particular pressure, to double the hosts’ advantage. The game was already as good as over at this relatively early stage, even with Middlesbrough looking rather less than dominant. Leeds – or, more specifically, Bellusci – had thrown it away, far more then Boro having had to earn their decisive lead.

Support for that point of view came from United pundit, ex-striker for the Whites and passionate Leeds fan Noel Whelan, who was particularly scathing in his summing-up, both of the  “shambolic” defender’s performance and, more generally, his suitability to represent Leeds United. Annoyingly for many, the team selection was made in spite of the availability of Liam Cooper, who had been in possession of the shirt, and had hardly disgraced himself. Some pretty fair judges feel that “disgracing himself” just about nails it as far as Bellusci’s performance on Sunday at The Riverside is concerned.

Even Head Coach Uwe Rösler has been somewhat equivocal in the matter, falling some way short of backing a player under heavy fire in the press. “I think it would be unfair after losing 3-0 to go into details of any individual player,” Rosler said, when asked about Bellusci. “I saw the game, you saw the game and that is where we should leave it.” Hardly a ringing endorsement of a squad member Rösler had – apparently – preferred to the evidently steadier and more reliable Cooper.

Or did he?

It does rather beg the question of where the final say rests in team selection matters. Rösler can sometimes appear rather uncomfortable when quizzed about certain decisions, and it’s a matter for some concern as to exactly how far he’s able to go in defending his own picks – or maybe excusing those of people above him in the United hierarchy. In short, many outside the club are concerned that, since the departure of Adam Pearson – who had gently ushered owner Massimo Cellino safely into the background – the Captain may now be back on the bridge again, and chucking his weight about to the detriment of the ship’s safety and smooth passage.

It will be very interesting to see exactly what the shape of the team will be for Leeds’ next game, especially the make-up of the defence. After such a very damning reaction from both press and public to Giuseppe Bellusci’s disastrous showing at Middlesbrough, you feel that some pointed questions will be asked if he survives the chop and keeps his place against Birmingham City. Those questions would almost certainly include loud voices demanding to know who exactly does pick the team, and why certain individuals are selected despite, rather than because of, current form.

Rösler is a professional and, reading between the lines of his comments about what went wrong at The Riverside, it’s clear he wasn’t exactly happy with the showing of a man who gave away Boro’s first goal and scored their second himself. It’s fair enough for us to be asking – will he be allowed to drop Bellusci, if he sees fit so to do? And, if he’s not allowed to make such a decision, with his managerial neck on the line and relying for his continued employment on getting results – then is his position as United’s Head Coach even tenable?

This blog believes that, no, it wouldn’t be. If Rösler doesn’t have full control of team selection – and there are sound reasons for believing that this may be the case – then, quite frankly, he should jump before he’s pushed. Then, clearly, the solids would hit the air-conditioning. But maybe that’s what needs to happen for some clarity to emerge in the vexed question of who really calls the shots in Leeds United’s match-day team selection.

Heavy Metal Football Turns To Wagnerian Tragedy for Leeds   –   by Rob Atkinson

Bellusci - bad day at the office

Bellusci – bad day at the office

Middlesbrough 3, Leeds United 0

Uwe Rösler‘s pre-season promise of “heavy metal football” – high-energy, high-tempo, high-pressing stuff, as we were assured – has started to take on a rather hollow ring. The only resemblance between the Leeds United showing at Middlesbrough‘s Riverside Stadium, and any type of rock-star behaviour, was a marked tendency to auto-destruction.

It would be difficult indeed to imagine Kurt Cobain, Sid Vicious or even Michael Hutchence doing a more comprehensive job of self-immolation than that perpetrated by the Whites today. United were slain almost entirely by their own hand, with Middlesbrough in the incidental role of witness bystanders who then promptly picked the corpse’s pockets and made off into the night.

Middlesbrough’s callous opportunism in exploiting Leeds’ suicidal defending was compounded by their occasionally agricultural approach to winning possession, showing no scruples when it came to scything down any white shirt near the ball. The true villain of the piece though, from United’s point of view, was the referee. Lancastrian Neil Swarbrick could and probably should have dismissed Boro’s Christian Stuani for the second or third of his trio of crude challenges on United’s Charlie Taylor. The first had earned a yellow card – but it was really no worse than either of the others. 

These things happen, as they say – but Swarbrick’s decision to disallow Mirco Antenucci‘s 55th minute strike, for the most marginal of offside calls, was at least as inflammatory for suffering United fans. Was Antenucci offside? His beard might just have been, by a gnat’s hair, if the ball got a Leeds touch on the way through. There was plenty of room for doubt though, and the laws say attackers should get the benefit of any such doubt. Not here, though, not today. Not for Leeds United. ‘Twas ever thus.

This was a pity for the sake of the game, if nothing else. A goal then and Leeds would have been one behind, with over half an hour to go – and well on top in general play. All this after inflicting on themselves two mortal wounds early in the first half. Giuseppe Bellusci was the guilty party on each occasion, first waving his head ineffectually at a passing cross, for David Nugent to gather in and score – and then diving brilliantly to beat his own keeper with an unstoppable near-post header. At that point, the Leeds defender was nailed on for the Boro Man of the Match award. 

After the ref’s questionable decision to disallow Antenucci’s second half strike, Leeds mustered only one more threat of note, Antenucci again being denied when he headed straight at the Boro keeper from Jordan Botaka‘s quality right-wing cross. After that, a discouraged United side slowly ran out of steam, and we were just waiting for the fat lady to sing and end this Wagnerian tragedy.

In true operatic style, Leeds had taken a long time to die and were awfully messy about it. With Boro’s creative vacuum filled by Uniteds’ defensive calamities, which provided all the victors’ goals, there had always seemed a chance that the Whites might claw their way back, given a little inspiration of their own. The coup de grâce, though, was yet another self-inflicted injury when it arrived on 81 minutes. Sol Bamba uncharacteristically slipped up in his own area, to present the third goal on a plate for a grateful Diego Fabbrini – and that was enough to finish off Yorkshire’s finest.

It’s not easy to find positives to take from a day when nothing went right. Such a very, very bad day at the office would normally see the place burnt out with the loss of all staff and possibly the entire building. Leeds don’t do bad days by halves. And yet some of the Whites’ play showed promise, with flashes of brilliance from Taylor, Lewis Cook and Botaka in particular. It was difficult to see beforehand the reason for Liam Cooper‘s replacement by Bellusci, and that decision seemed dafter the longer the game went on. But Leeds will play worse than this overall (though not in defence) and win. Some belief, confidence and the sorting out of the chaos in front of the hapless Silvestri is what we urgently need now. 

With little home comfort so far this season, Leeds now face two tests at Elland Road in Birmingham City and early leaders Brighton, either side of another international break. After those two encounters, with not far off a quarter of the Championship marathon completed, we should have a reasonably good picture of exactly where we are and what this season might hold. Certainly Rösler should by then have a better idea of exactly what kind of music his mixed band of players are able to make.

Leeds Wizard Botaka In At the Riverside Deep End?   –   by Rob Atkinson

New Leeds United man Jordan Botaka: debut today?

The same ground and the same fixture that saw the introduction to English football of Middlesbrough‘s Brazilian star Juninho could today witness the debut of another mercurial talent. Almost twenty years after the Boro star made his bow, heralding a new era on Teesside, Leeds United‘s exciting new signing Jordan Botaka might just be about to unleash his own brand of magic on the Championship – in the most challenging of circumstances. 

Two decades back, Juninho stepped out against Leeds to introduce himself to an adoring Riverside Stadium. This lunchtime, Congo international Botaka is in line for a first United appearance, backed by the Whites’ travelling army and scrutinised by the critical eye of Sky Sports live coverage. The key to the tricky wide man’s first outing is the mindset of off-colour prodigy Sam Byram, United’s defender-turned-winger, who is currently the subject of much speculation and debate – not to mention the withering attack launched on him this week by Leeds’s outspoken owner Massimo Cellino.

Byram, such a hot prospect only two years ago, has reportedly turned down a new deal at Elland Road. His form over the last eighteen months has been patchy as he’s made a troubled comeback from injury. Now it would appear that his heart and soul may be elsewhere as transfer speculation has him linked with some of England’s major clubs, as well as Sunderland. In circumstances like that, his inclusion against a rampant Boro would be a risky business for United coach Uwe Rösler. It’ll have to be all hands at the pumps for Leeds at the Riverside today, just to avoid being swamped. 

And yet this has been traditionally a happy hunting ground for United since that memorable occasion of Juninho’s first game in England. A one-all draw on that occasion was distinctly respectable, but in the intervening period there have been rich pickings here for the Yorkshire giants. Only last season, the Whites turned up, struck early through Alex Mowatt, and held on grimly in the face of a Smoggies onslaught to depart triumphant. 

A win today would be in the face of similarly daunting odds. Boro are on a roll, win after win making them stand-out performers in the depressed environment of football’s far north-east. Middlesbrough will be confident of beating a Leeds side conceivably unsettled by Cellino’s latest outburst – and this alone could make the case for the benching of Byram. Gaetano Berardi is doing a fine job at right-back, and Botaka could be the wing presence United have needed to bring out the very best of Chris Wood. The case for change is compelling – and if form is the deciding factor, Byram could hardly complain about being “rested”.

Twenty years back, Junino made his mark, but Leeds were the happier side as they salvaged a draw. Today could be the start of another player’s story as Jordan Botaka waits on the wing – and another draw would be another highly worthy result. 

Divide and Rule: Cellino Deliberately Pits Leeds Fans Against Sam Byram   –   by Rob Atkinson

Cellino - it's my way or the highway...

Cellino – it’s my way or the highway…

So, Massimo Cellino is all over the media, bemoaning a player’s ungrateful refusal of a new contract. We’ve heard it all before, haven’t we – though, thanks to a certain Adam Pearson, not so much lately. But now, with Pearson gone, the shackles seem to be off il Duce – and he’s giving vent to a familiar refrain as yet another quality wearer of the white shirt is eased (not-so-gently) through the Elland Road exit door.

It seems certain now that Sam Byram – coveted by clubs of far higher current status than our own beloved Leeds – will be taking himself off to one of those clubs before too many more moons have waxed and waned. On the wane beyond dispute has been Sam’s form this season. A footballer’s effectiveness is a fine-tuned thing, as highly-strung as a skittish thoroughbred, and something has certainly affected Byram this term. Whatever that might be – interest from the top flight, a benevolent offer from Cellino of a pay cut for a new contract, or perhaps a combination of the two – the situation will hardly be smoothed over by the owner’s unfortunate habit of tossing controversial comments, like live hand grenades, broadcast into the media scrum.

The difficulty for Leeds United is that, between Cellino’s ego and Byram’s youthful obduracy, the scope for further negotiation now seems narrow to non-existent. This being the case, we appear certain to see what will ultimately be a multi-million pound talent leaving United for what will amount to a song. There’s pride and principles on both sides, no doubt – but the economics of that outcome are just pure madness from an Elland Road point of view. 

Leeds are clearly preparing for a Sam-less future. At one point, the received wisdom was that a new winger or two would see Byram move back to a right-flank defensive role in which he previously excelled, all but snuffing out the potent threat of Gareth Bale one famous FA Cup afternoon at Elland Road, as Spurs were sent packing. But this past few days, it’s become more difficult to see a first team berth for a jaded Sam, with three quality wide attackers on the staff and in-favour full-back Gaetano Berardi signed up for another two years. The writing is clearly on the wall – but that bitter pill might be sweetened by some mega-club owner’s signature on a nice, fat cheque. Alas, it seems unlikely to happen thus – and the finger of blame for that really must point directly at Massimo Cellino.

It’s been a welcome change, until quite recently, to hear the golden sound of silence coming from the direction of erstwhile Motormouth Massimo. There’s been less angst and less anxiety with that sensible Mr. Pearson doing the talking. But, now that he’s run, or been pushed, off to the Far East and Hull FC’s inscrutable problems, it’s as if someone’s de-muzzled Massimo, and the familiar fusillade of soundbites has resumed, to no true Leeds fan’s delight or delectation. This past few days, we’ve heard the Italian’s views on Byram, Matt Child, Uwe Rösler and God knows what-all. It’s been the opposite situation to the relief you feel when you stop banging your head against the wall. Regrettably, it appears that the head-banging has resumed at Leeds – and we’re now shorn of that calming, restraining influence that made for a placid summer and early season. If Rösler’s ample forehead has acquired a few new worry lines, is it really any wonder?

Of course, it’s Cellino’s club and he’s a right to his say. But is it really too much to ask that such a gift for self-expression might be tempered by a bit of judgement and consideration here and there? Mouthing off in the media about Byram’s contract-renewal negotiations is hardly constructive. At best, it’s a breach of confidence. At worst, it’s a blatant attempt to set the club’s more gullible fans against one young man, who has a finite career to think of – and who might quite reasonably be casting a jaundiced eye on offers that may or may not amount to a pay cut. And this could so easily destabilise the whole club (after all, what player likes to see his team-mate’s contract linen being washed in public?) – just because of one man’s ego and the current lack of any third party restraint. 

This blog is on record as saying that Sam Byram is dispensable – albeit with regret – but only if the price is right and if that money is reinvested in the squad. It seems likely that the squad will continue to be improved, but that such improvement will probably not be funded by a healthy return on the talents of an outgoing Sam Byram. And that’s not just a great pity – it’s undeniable evidence of mismanagement – ego before economics – at the very top of the club.

The best outcome now would appear to be persuading young Sam that joining Sunderland in January would be a good move, in the hope of landing winger Will Buckley on a permanent – together with maybe Liam Bridcutt, who could definitely do an “older head” defensive midfield job – with a few million pounds and a healthy sell-on clause into the bargain. At least, that way, honour might just be satisfied. The tricky bit would be getting Byram to clamber aboard a visibly sinking ship, and hoping that the Mackems conveniently forget they could have the lad for relatively little next summer – if they avoid the drop.

It’s all a bit of a mess, quite frankly, and unhappily reminiscent of previous periods when Cellino has rampaged around Elland Road, mouthing off at (and about) all and sundry, with nobody to say him nay. For the good of Leeds United, Uwe Rösler – and all of us – it’s fervently to be hoped that those difficult days have not returned for good. 

Living with Alzheimer’s: Tips for Making the Most of Each Day – by Vee Cecil

Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, or learning that a loved one has, can be devastating. In fact, an estimated 5.3 million Americans are currently living with the illness. Although there is still no cure, scientists are working every day to find a way to eliminate Alzheimer’s for good.

For many people, finding out they have the disease is a reminder to appreciate every single day, and inspires them to make the most of their time. Here are some tips for embracing each day, whether you’re flying solo or spending time with loved ones:

Know the facts. You and those close to you will probably have a lot of questions about how you will be affected by Alzheimer’s. Don’t be shy about asking your doctor too many questions – he or she has likely answered them for other patients, and will never make you feel embarrassed for seeking information.This helpful infographic also includes lots of helpful facts about the nature and possible risk factors of Alzheimer’s, as well as what to expect in its different stages.

Be giving. Many people have found comfort with their diagnosis by helping those who are less fortunate. Volunteering for those in the end stages of a terminal illness, such as cancer patients, or volunteering to feed the hungry at a homeless shelter may help you find a meaningful way to spend your time. Making positive waves in your community is also a good way to spend time with loved ones.

Enjoy some live music. Whether you catch your favorite band in concert, listen to your grandchildren play the piano, or sing along to a catchy tune on the radio,there is evidence that music has positive effects on Alzheimer’s patients. Plus, listening to music is an activity you can appreciate whether you’re home alone on a rainy day, or surrounded by loved ones at a family picnic.

Get moving. Exercise is not only good for your body, it can also improve your mood by boosting your endorphin level.This article points out that there are many seniors with Alzheimer’s, and that swimming can provide them these benefits in a fun way that minimizes aches and pains. Swimming is a great solo activity. For example, try doing a few laps on your own around the pool. Of course, it’s also a great group activity – who doesn’t love going to (or throwing!) a pool party?

Although Alzheimer’s is a life-changing diagnosis that creates challenges for those affected by it, there is no reason to let the burden consume you. It’s perfectly OK – and normal! – to have bad days as you cope with the disease. But the more you can learn to appreciate and revel in the little things each day, the more you can simply enjoy life – and that’s a goal all of us should strive for.


Vee Cecil is a health coach and bootcamp instructor with a passion for overall wellness. When she’s not busy with clients, she enjoys spending time with her family, and sharing her favorite tips and recipes on her new blog.

Three Top, TOP Leeds United Away Trips – by Rob Atkinson

We all have our favourite LUFC memories, and many will relate to games away from LS11.  Here, in reverse order, are my three favourite road trips following The Whites.

3. Sheffield Wednesday 1, Leeds United 6 12.1.1992


Sergeant Wilko

This was Sergeant Wilko’s first return to Wednesday since he had quit Hillsborough to become Leeds boss in 1988.  It would also be Lee Chapman’s last game before his season-threatening FA Cup injury, which resulted in the drafting in of one Eric Cantona – with all the long term consequences that would entail.  But Chappy was destined to be sidelined only temporarily, and he went out in the most emphatic style.

There was a crowd of 32228 at Hillsborough, the usual vociferous contingent of travelling Leeds fans rivalling the home crowd for noise from the outset, and completely drowning them as the game went on.  Leeds United were weakened, so it seemed, by the absence of the injured Gordon Strachan and suspended David Batty, half of their legendary midfield Fantastic Four.  Any side, surely, would miss performers of such calibre.  Leeds, though, seemed determined to make light of the problem, and tore into their hosts from the start.  Full-back Tony Dorigo made an early darting run, cutting in from the left and making good progress down the centre of the pitch, before unleashing a right-foot thunderbolt that Wednesday ‘keeper Chris Woods had to tip over.  From the resulting Gary MacAllister corner, Chris Fairclough rose to head downwards, and found Chapman in splendid isolation four yards out; his finish swift and deadly for 1-0.

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

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

This act of base and scurvy treachery required nothing less than a riposte of the utmost nobility and beauty, so we said to ourselves, though probably in more Anglo-Saxon terms.  And, happily, that’s just what came to pass.  Only six minutes after the home side’s ridiculous blagging of a comically unfair route back into the game, Leeds took effortless control again with a goal sublime in both its conception and execution.  Lukic bowled the ball out to Dorigo on the left flank; he sent it first time down the line to Gary Speed, who took one steadying touch before sending a beautiful flighted cross into the Wednesday area.  And there, inevitably, was Chapman, horizontal in mid-air, neck cocked to hammer the ball unanswerably past Woods, the perfect counterpunch to Watson’s knavish low blow.  It was a gorgeous goal, sweeping the length of the left side, taking the entire home team right out of the game, and re-establishing the two goal margin which was the least Leeds United deserved at half-time.

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

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

2. AC Milan 1, Leeds United 1 8.11.2000

Dom Matteo....Scored A Very Good Goal....In The San Siro...

Dom Matteo….Scored A Very Good Goal….In The San Siro…

This match is so famous that I barely need to recount the action kick by kick.  The Leeds fans at one end of the San Siro were in fully, throaty voice for most of the proceedings, drawing incredulous glances from the attendant Carabinieri who were in full-on riot gear but friendly enough, muttering to each other about lunatic English tifosi (hooligans.)  The first half was a decent contest – Milan were through already, but not disposed to give Leeds an easy ride – especially after paranoid noises emanating from Barcelona, who – nervous about their own prospects – had done their best to warn Milan off taking it easy against Leeds.  So Milan pressed in front of a crowd of 52289, and their winger Serginho was causing Gary Kelly plenty of problems.  In the 26th minute, a slightly soft penalty was awarded to Milan at our end of the stadium, and 6000 Leeds fans held their collective breath as Andriy Shevchenko took careful aim only to rap Robinson’s right-hand post, the ball bouncing away to safety as the masses behind our goal celebrated as if we’d actually scored.  And then, miraculously, as the first half ebbed away, we did score.  A Lee Bowyer corner from the right found Matteo rising majestically at the near post to meet the ball with a punchy header which soared high into the net.  Cue utter pandemonium at the Leeds end as all the tension, passion and belief exploded in one almighty roar which almost lifted the hi-tec roof off the famous stadium.

The party went on throughout half-time and into the second half, drawing more bemused glances from the Italian police; there was only a brief hiatus in the 67th minute when the superb Serginho deservedly equalised, but then it was mounting fan fever again all the way to the final whistle and beyond as Leeds held out to qualify for an equally difficult second phase of the competition.  The scenes after the game are at least as famous as the events of the ninety minutes; the team coming back out onto the pitch in response to the demands of the faithful who were held back in the interests of crowd safety.  What followed was described by respected football commentators (as well as Alan Green) as the best example of team/fan bonding they’d ever seen.  Fans and players – even a certain Chairman – swapped chants and songs in a spontaneous celebration of a joyous night.  Even the uncertain musical efforts of Lee Bowyer were greeted by a blast of friendly derision.  It was a unique experience, and the Latin cops were clearly by now utterly convinced that these English people were absolutely barking mad.  As football nights go, you’d have to travel a long way to find one more worthy of memory – only a trophy could have improved it, but the spectacle of the game and its aftermath is one I have seen imitated but never repeated.

1. Sheffield United 2, Leeds United 3 – 26.4.1992

Jon Newsome, Superstar

Jon Newsome, Superstar

If you’re a Leeds supporter, you’ll have seen the goals from this game hundreds, thousands of time.  It plays through now, all these years later, in the Football Highlights studio of my mind; joy for the home side as Alan Cork, gleaming of bald pate, pokes the ball home to give Sheffield the lead.  Then, a midfield tussle in the swirling wind, as Leeds try valiantly to come back.  A late first-half free kick, which Gordon Strachan races to take before the home defence can set themselves, he finds Rod Wallace in the area who tips the ball past home keeper Mel Rees’s attempt to save, defenders scramble to clear, only to hit Gary Speed who bounces the ball back to ricochet off Wallace – into the net.  Pandemonium in the away end.   Level at half time, we’re breathless with drama and the hurly-burly of it all, raucous with United anthems, nervous of what’s yet to come.

The crazy game continues crazily.  A dangerous ball across the Leeds box is retrieved by home defender and future Leeds man John Pemberton, who turns it back towards the goal-line where Lee Chapman sticks out a leg for an own-goal greeted with horrified stupefaction by the Leeds fans behind the goal and we’re level again.  Then enfant terrible Eric Cantona enters the fray, and within a few minutes he is chasing a loose ball into the Sheffield half, with Rod Wallace scampering alongside and home defender Brian Gayle lumbering back in a desperate attempt to clear the danger.  And it’s Gayle, former Man City man, who finally slays Man United.  From my vantage point at the opposite end of the ground I see him get his head to the ball, and the action is suddenly slow motion.  Gayle has headed the ball, poor Mel Rees is stranded far out of his goal, the ball goes over his head in a slow, slow loop, and bounces tantalisingly towards the unguarded net…

Then I’m watching at full speed from the far end as Cantona and Wallace raise their arms in triumph, wheeling away in delight, and even as I wonder what they’re up to I realise that the ball has nestled in the Sheffield United net.  A red mist descends, and I am utterly outside of my skull and beside myself in delirious joy and fevered madness, looking around me, roaring like a demented bull, face congested with blood, eyes bulging; I grab a helpless wee St John’s Ambulance man by his lapels and scream beer and spittle into his terrified face “Get me some oxygeeeennnn!!!  I’m going to have a heart attaaaack!!!”  The mad moment passes, I drop the ashen medic and some measure of sanity returns, but we’re still cavorting and diving all over each other, a seething, sweating mass of Leeds, because we know it’s over, we know that Sheffield are beaten, and we know that Man U don’t have an earthly at Anfield, not a prayer.  We were going to be Champions; on that windiest and gustiest of days, a Gayle from Manchester City has blown the Scum away and decided in an instant the fate of all three Uniteds from Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds.

And so, of course, it panned out.  Later I watched mesmerised on TV as Liverpool beat a demoralised Man U, Denis Law and Ian St John trying to put a brave face on it, Elton Welsby’s foot bobbing away in thwarted anger as the script turned out just as none of them wanted.  Ian Rush scored his first ever goal against Them, and it was settled late on as Man U concede a second.  “And now the title goes to Leeds without any doubt at all” intoned Brian Moore in the ITV commentary as I sat there with tears of joy streaming down my unashamed face.  Gary Lineker had called into the studio earlier to complain that Rod Wallace’s goal had been offside (it was).  St John and Moore bemoaned that Man U had had no luck at all, and Welsby ground his teeth in the studio as the Man U fans outside hurled abuse at him, heedless of the fact that he shared their bitter disappointment.  All was frustration in the media and the rest of football and Leeds fans everywhere utterly failed to give a toss.  My finest hour as a Leeds fan, and my greatest ever awayday.


Two from the same season, and one abroad that was “only” a draw – but each had a special appeal for me among the many away games I’ve seen.  I could have chosen so many others, going right back to my first ever away game, a 3-1 League Cup win at Bolton in 1977.  Still in the League Cup, there was that 6-0 win over Leicester City at Filbert Street, on a night when Robbie Savage never gave up, but proved that he was even worse than we thought.  How could we have known that he’d be worse yet as a pundit?

The golden memories are so many, I could possibly have managed a top ten quite easily.  I’d love to hear which away games others rank as their best memories.

Warrior Warrington Becomes Latest Jewel in Dominant Leeds’ Glittering Crown   –   by Rob Atkinson

Josh Warrington: MOT to the top

Leeds’ own Josh Warrington: MOT to the top

Having been fortunate enough to witness many examples of sporting excellence in Leeds over the years, I was privileged last weekend, thanks to event sponsors Grosvenor Casinos, to see local Featherweight boxer Josh Warrington provide ample evidence that Yorkshire’s premier city is arguably the sporting capital of the whole nation.

If this may seem to some rather an extravagant claim, then the facts and the statistics will speak for themselves. Leeds as a city has a track record of success, history and reputation unmatched by other less fortunate sporting centres, certainly in terms of the sheer number of mainstream sports where it can boast brand leaders. Yorkshire County Cricket Club, just this week crowned County Champions for a record thirty-third time, is based in Headingley – a part of Leeds also graced by the home of the biggest Rugby League club and that code’s finest team, in the shape of Leeds Rhinos. The Rhinos, already Challenge Cup winners, are seemingly set to sweep the board this season and have been at the forefront of Rugby League for well over a decade.

Meanwhile, across the city at Elland Road, even Leeds United are showing promising signs that they might yet return to something approaching their former, peerless glory. They provided the warm-up to the Rhinos’ Challenge Cup success with a notable win of their own at much-fancied Derby County. This was an encounter embellished by a truly brilliant late winner from new signing Chris Wood, who has hit the ground running for Leeds. The Whites are unbeaten so far this nascent football season, and are being spoken of as dark horses for promotion to the Premier League.

Great times for Leeds, then. No other city, surely, can demonstrate such a high profile across the country’s three major sports – and now, with a boxer in Warrington on the very cusp of world class, it would appear that Leeds will be adding yet another asset to its portfolio of competitive excellence. At the city’s impressive First Direct Arena last Saturday night, Warrington faced the toughest test so far of a highly promising career. It was a test he passed with flying colours as he produced a display of controlled aggression, consummate skill and relentless ferocity to outclass completely a courageous opponent in Australia’s Joel Brunker.

Brunker’s gutsy and determined performance was worthy in itself of admiration, rightly so for a fighter of high reputation who had been beaten previously only once. Brunker hung in there over the full twelve rounds, refusing to fall before a veritable barrage of attacks as Warrington mixed it up and hit the Aussie from all angles. Brunker defended doggedly and landed some telling blows of his own but, as the fight proceeded, it was plain to see that his horizons were shrinking from initial ambition to mere survival in the end. That he stayed on his feet reflected immense credit on a brave but out-classed and well beaten boxer who finished up bloodied, but defiantly unbowed.

The eventual margin was as wide as it could possibly be in the absence of any actual knock-downs. Every judge awarded every round to Warrington, who can look back upon an exceedingly efficient night’s work that promises much as he raises his sights towards world glory. After this comprehensive victory, extending his perfect professional record to 22 fights and 22 wins, Warrington – a keen fan of Leeds United and Leeds Rhinos – was looking ahead to a possible appearance at United’s Elland Road stadium as he aims to make further progress towards a world title shot. At the age of 24, he may well ultimately have the world at his feet.

Josh Warrington has adopted Marching On Together – the anthem of both Leeds United and Leeds Rhinos – as his rallying cry, and the effect on his vociferous support is palpable, certainly at an event like last weekend’s First Direct Arena boxing card. The atmosphere was magnificent, truly electric, the signature song rocking the place along with the massively self-assertive We Are Leeds. There is some keen rivalry between the local followers of football, rugby and even cricket but, in Warrington, there has appeared a unifying figure; a man of great promise who can call on the support of the whole city, so it seems, as he aims for the very highest level of achievement as a proud representative of Leeds who wears his heart on his sleeve and his colours on his back.

As competitive as boxing’s Featherweight division undoubtedly is, crammed with quality and with several durable fighters between the aspirant Leeds lad and his ultimate goal, it’d be foolish surely to bet against Josh Warrington, in his beloved favours of blue, yellow and white, one day wearing a World Title belt. If he does, it will be a matter of immense pride for followers of Leeds sport everywhere – and yet another sign were any needed that here, indeed, is a sporting city without equal.

Sheffield Wednesday’s Forestieri Can’t Shut Up About Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

Forestieri: I blame Leeds United for this Wendies mistake...

Forestieri: I blame Leeds United for this Wendies mistake…

Sheffield Wendies‘ new signing from Watford, Fernando Forestieri, is already showing he is ideally qualified for life at Hillsborough. Either that, or it’s dawning on the lad with ever-increasing horror that he’s made a terrible mistake. Whatever the reason, Forestieri just can’t stop talking about the club he simply lacked the cojones to join: Leeds United.

He’s a rum one, is Fernando. Wherever you’ve looked this week, there he’s been, telling anyone who will listen that it’s not his fault he didn’t sign for Leeds. Seemingly unaware that the Whites have identified and snapped up a more than adequate alternative target in Jordan “The Wizard” Botaka, Forestieri seems to be labouring under the delusion that United fans are bothered, or even interested any more. But the fact is that the proliferation of News Now links and piteous tweets emanating from the Watford reject have elicited little more than bored yawns from the Elland Road faithful. Leeds fans tend to lose interest in anyone who isn’t visibly salivating at the prospect of joining Leeds, and quite rightly so, too.

Forestieri, with legend status there for the taking, lost the hearts and minds of the Whites with his initial display of apathy. His subsequent bizarre stance of preferring somewhere in the south – and then comically signing for the Wendies – has raised no more than a tickled titter among the United masses. But Fernando seems to think it’s all still frightfully angsty up here in the frozen northern wastes of LS11. He feels, unaccountably, that we still care.

Perhaps now is the time, after days of fruitless and tedious attention-seeking, for Signor Forestieri to concentrate on the situation he’s resigned himself to, rather than harping on about what might have been and hurling brickbats of blame. It’s quite likely that he’ll make the first team at the Wendies, after all – which would not have been so certain a prospect at Leeds. So he really should focus on his game, forget all the doubts and bitterness – and try bravely to make the best of a bad job. 

It’s gone, Fernando. You blew it. Yorkshire’s top club was willing to give you a chance to move upwards after Watford – but you cravenly chose to sink even lower. That’s something to think about when you run out at Hillsborough and see all those thousands of mute Wendies cunningly disguised as blue plastic seats.

But please – keep those thoughts to yourself. All this whinging about who’s to blame for you missing the boat – it really is getting rather boring, you know… 

Even Sheffield Wednesday Fans Must Concede That Leeds United Are Yorkshire’s Top Club – by Rob Atkinson

The Wednesday victorious in the century before last

The Wednesday, victorious in the century before last

If you hang around long enough as a football fan, it can’t escape your notice that self-delusion is extremely high on the list of characteristics defining your average club supporter. It’s quite probably a defence mechanism of sorts, helping hapless fanatics deal with the many disappointments their heroes will visit upon them as they faithfully follow their club’s fortunes through thin and, most likely, thinner.

Whatever the cause, this tendency to delude oneself is powerful indeed, and rare is the football fan who hasn’t, at some time or another, managed to fool themselves completely. Bobble hats and scarves have become slightly passé as part of the fan’s wardrobe essentials – but it seems that, for most, a massive pair of blinkers is still de rigueur, whoever you support.

Two of the very biggest pairs of blinkers undoubtedly belong to the supporters of a couple of clubs in the north of England, one on the wrong side of the Pennines, and one on the wrong side of the West/South Yorkshire civilisation threshold. Man U have long been famous for the eagerness with which their notoriously insecure and needy body of support will lap up obvious myths like “Biggest Club in the World” and so on. Even to this day, new signings must chant the mantra upon entering in the portals at the Theatre of Hollow Myths – “I’ve signed for the Biggest Club in the World” they intone, dutifully, and the Man U faithful smile happily in their Devon armchairs, whilst the denizens of Madrid and Barcelona, not to mention Milan and Munich, howl helplessly with laughter. Nobody is fooled and this, more than any other, is the reason why Man U fans, despite their club’s impressive honours roll, are routinely laughed at and dismissed as clueless glory-hunters.

Back in the rightly famed Broad Acres, there exists a lesser but still highly risible Band of the Deluded. These people live, move and have their being in Sheffield, an industrial graveyard of ruined splendour and very little current appeal. They wear blue and white, they have local rivals who wear red and white – and yet they measure their every success or failure in terms of the history and achievements of Leeds United, a club 35 miles to the north, which is known around the world as the Pride of Yorkshire. And yet the fans of Sheffield Wednesday, known semi-affectionately as “Wendies” to amused Leeds fans, will hotly deny accusations of obsession. That, in itself, is funny – given the Leeds-centric nature of the online output from virtual Owls. But more hilarious yet is the earnest and curiously innocent belief of the average Wendy in the street that he or she follows “Yorkshire’s Most Successful Club“.

The rationale, if such it can be called, behind such a bizarre belief is based upon a crude count-up of trophies won since the dawn of time. Sheffield Wednesday is among the oldest clubs in the professional game – Leeds United, at under a hundred years old, is a comparatively youthful spring chicken. That being the case, it will be of no surprise that the Wednesday honours list goes back rather further than the Leeds one. And it is the sheer, epochal size of that time difference that really matters here.

Leeds United had endured a depressingly uneventful existence until the arrival and masterly stewardship of a certain Don Revie. Since that time, coinciding uncannily with my own date of birth, Leeds have been the club in Yorkshire, beyond any dispute or fanciful wishful thinking from the south of that county. From a position of never having won so much as an egg cup beyond one solitary second division title in the twenties, Leeds suddenly started to dominate the English game, accruing honours in the modern era to a degree and after a fashion hitherto unknown elsewhere.

The period after Revie has been comparatively barren – and yet the Whites have still been far more successful in those forty years than any Yorkshire “rival”. The fact of the matter is that, in the post-war period from 1946 onwards, and allowing for a 15 year wait for Revie to turn up, it’s been Leeds first and the rest nowhere, all the way, barring one solitary League Cup success for the Wendies – the goal sweetly scored, almost inevitably, by a Leeds United product in John Sheridan.

For Sheffield Wednesday’s tangible rewards, apart from that single League Cup, you have to go way, way back. Not since 1935 has the FA Cup come to Sheffield. The two triumphs before that were in the pre-Wembley era, when the likes of Bury were winning FA Cups (and when Leeds United didn’t even exist). In those days, Sheffield Wednesday were simply “The Wednesday“, and they were a power back in the 20th century’s “Noughties”. They won two league titles, and added two more at the end of the 1920s. Their last honour before the ’91 League Cup was that mid-thirties FA Cup win against West Bromwich Albion. And then – nothing, until Shez popped up with the winner at modern-day Wembley against man u – the year before Leeds United became the Football League’s Last Champions.

Comparisons between eras are rarely helpful and often invidious – they’re mainly useful for disproving old-wives’ tales or, come to that, young Wendies’ tales. There can be no doubt at all that, in the years and decades since the bulk of the Sheffield honours were won, Football as a whole moved on massively; it became far more competitive and professional, broadened its scope to include European competition as standard and widened its appeal as the number one sport in the entire world. It goes without saying that Sheffield Wednesday have never won a European honour – but, significantly they’ve won only one trophy since the advent of colour TV, and their next most recent success came when George the Fifth was on the throne and a certain Herr Hitler was flexing his muscles for his own forthcoming European campaigns. Leeds prospered and dominated in a ruthless era that would see the strolling performers of the early 20th century melt like wax figures in a furnace.

For the question of who the world regards as Yorkshire’s number one – well, that isn’t even a question, really. In the eyes of the world, Yorkshire football is Leeds United first and foremost, plus sundry other outfits who tend to blur anonymously into each other. It’s certainly true to say that Wednesday would be the only even halfway meaningful rivals – Huddersfield Town have done nothing outside of the 1920s, and the rest are an embarrassment, a motley collection of failure and woe.

But even Wednesday, with their comparatively honour-laden (if ancient) history, cannot possibly hold a candle to Leeds United. Wendies rail angrily against this self-evident fact; they will produce any old trophy they can dig up in support of their hopeless position – The Late Victorian Garland for Services to Hacking and Scrimmaging, perhaps – or the Pathé News Cockerel Award for Monochrome Achievements of the Thirties. But the modern supremacy of Leeds United eclipses any or all of that, together with anything more genuine, with effortless ease.

The brutal fact of the matter is that anyone who can now remember Wednesday as Champions is currently looking down the barrel of their 100th birthday and a telegram from the Queen. The Owls have simply not been successful enough in the modern era to be compared favourably with a club in Leeds who have not only won the lot, but won it within the lifetime of one of its foremost fans (that’s me, folks). Wednesday have a proud history, and their fans rightly take pride in the very venerability of that history. But more recent arid failure denies them the right to be held as successful, or even that big. Big clubs win League Titles, and the Wendies haven’t done that since Ena Sharples was a lass.

Delusions aren’t necessarily bad things. They can comfort the insecure and bolster those who need to be bolstered. But they’re there to be shot down too, especially when the deluded are crowing that bit too busily over their false pretensions to size, success and status in England’s finest county. Those honours rightfully belong to Leeds United, as is widely and correctly acknowledged around the world – and this piece is simply here to set that record straight.