Sam Byram Presented With Bewildering Choice of Relegation Battles – by Rob Atkinson

Byram - spoilt for choice?

Byram – spoilt for choice?

For a young man still learning his trade after graduating from one of football’s finest academy setups at Leeds United, hot prospect Sam Byram now looks to have a tempting choice in front of him; he could be fighting relegation with either Sunderland or West Ham United this coming season.

Of course it might also be that Byram will prefer to continue his development at Elland Road, where great changes are afoot with a new head coach promising fast, aggressive, attacking football. This is surely just the kind of menu to have a pacy young wing-back, effective all the way up and down the right flank, licking his lips and champing at the bit – if I may be permitted to mix my metaphors. But the lure of the Premier League has seen United shorn of many a promising young talent before; our Sam would be in illustrious company if he decided his future would be best spent elsewhere.

This blog’s opinion, for what it is worth, is that any deal for Byram should be sanctioned only if the benefits to the club are absolutely irresistible. From that point of view, the rumours suggesting that Sunderland might be prepared to offer their richly-talented forward Connor Wickham and a cash adjustment not unadjacent to £6 million would have any discerning Leeds fan urging the club to snatch the Mackems’ hands off. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything has given its opinion on a couple of previous occasions that a nominal right-back (albeit with attacking ability) as sumptuously talented as Byram is a distinct luxury in the Championship. A player like Wickham and a cool six mill besides would provide a wealth of options in terms of building a team that could challenge at the top end of this league. If Sunderland are that keen to capture Byram, then it’d be extremely tempting to roll out the welcome carpet when they come a-calling – and make sure they get the worse of any bargain. This is something that Massimo Cellino notably has form for, with last season’s brutal mugging of Fulham over Ross McCormack being the obvious example of seeing coming a club with more cash than sense.

From Byram’s point of view, though, it’s hard to accept that he couldn’t do better than clubs likely to be scrapping away at the foot of the Premier League. Names of much greater pedigree than Sunderland or the Hammers have also been whispered as possible destinations – Liverpool, maybe, or even Manchester City. Again, Cellino would be expected to drive a hard bargain, if Byram were to be winkled out of our clutches – and at least we’d have the admittedly dubious satisfaction of seeing yet another Leeds old boy strutting his stuff at the top end of the top league.

It’s always difficult, contemplating the loss of a home-grown star – thankfully, there is no sign of the supply drying up, and this is likely to have to provide one of our club’s main income streams until that glorious time rolls around when we, too, dine at the top table in the swanky restaurant that is the Premier League. Things will be different then – or so we must hope. Leeds would be looking to storm the top flight for the third successive time, following promotion in the early sixties and late eighties and the subsequent swaggering domination of the game enjoyed by those two great sides.

Whether it’s feasible to expect a hat-trick of such achievements must be open to the gravest doubt, given the radically different landscape of football now as opposed to then. But it’s in the nature of Leeds to gatecrash cosy, elitist parties and make their presence felt. Those previous two promotion outfits have surely written that into the club’s DNA – and now, as then, we have the same promising knack of producing our own, sparkling talent.

Perhaps Sam Byram will be leaving this summer – or perhaps he will pen a new deal and stay. Either way, whatever happens has to be for the good of the club, and in the longer term at that – no short-sighted squinting at the immediate future should get in the way of a focus on lofty ambitions beyond the next season or two. This blog hopes that the lad will stay, but is philosophically accepting of the possibility that he might well be seduced away.

And, whatever his destination, surely Leeds fans will wish him all the best – especially if any deal done helps United lay the foundation for a brighter future. That, much more than the future of any individual player, is what matters above all to anyone with the interests of Leeds United at heart. 

Cellino Early Favourite to Replace Blatter as FIFA Chief   –   by Rob Atkinson

 

Blatter: Exit stage right

In the wake of Sepp Blatter‘s sensational resignation as President of FIFA, only days after his re-election to a fifth term – the immediate favourite to replace the outgoing Swiss administrator and notorious crook is – unsurprisingly – notorious crook and soon-to-be-banned Leeds United owner, Massimo Cellino.

A FIFA insider, speaking on a lobby basis exclusively to Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, confirmed that Cellino’s name was the one on everyone’s lips in the corridors of power at football’s governing body. “Signor Cellino is well thought-of here,” insisted our source. “Many people believe that he is the man most likely to uphold the finest traditions of FIFA and, more importantly, oversee the crucial cover-ups that will be needed quite shortly.”

It is not yet clear why Mr. Blatter has resigned, although people close to him are whispering the words “rumbled at long last”. FIFA will be in need of a man who is used to dealing in the many and various ways in which football and other spheres of public life can be disgraced, brought into disrepute, fixed, manipulated through bribery and generally bent out of shape. These exacting requirements are thought to boil down to a short-list of one, with other feasible candidates being either locked up in jail (Carson Yeung), busy as dictators (Cameron and Kim Jong Un), too old (Ken Bates) or too dead (Thatcher). As far as can be seen for now, Cellino is the only man with the track record and moral fibre to fill the shoes of such a monumental shyster as Blatter.

Leeds United FC had no comment to make beyond a tersely-worded short statement as follows: “Thank chuff for that.”

Massimo Cellino is as honest as the day is long.  In the vicinity of the North Pole at the Winter Solstice. 

Forty Years Ago Today: Leeds Mugged by Ref & Kaiser in European Cup Final – by Rob Atkinson

Yorath avoids a red card - but nothing else went right for Leeds United

Yorath avoids a red card – but nothing else went right for Leeds United

The Great European Cup Final Robbery occurred exactly forty years ago today – half a lifetime’s distance in the past – and yet this, more than just about any other of the many injustices suffered by that legendary team, still sticks in the collective craw of Leeds United fans, many of whom weren’t even born on that balmy May night so long ago.  It still rankles with us, to the extent that it defines how we feel about our much sinned-against club to this day.  So, 40 years on, we still sing “We are the Champions, Champions of Europe” in ritual protest – but in our hearts, believing, knowing it to be true.

The story of this match may be summed up in a series of snapshots; incidents that told us, ever more clearly as the game progressed, which way the wind was blowing.  There was a pair of blatant penalty shouts in the first half, the guilty man on both occasions being Franz “der Kaiser” BeckenbauerFirst he handled obviously and unmissably in the area, and then followed that up by perpetrating an illegal “scissors” tackle on Allan Clarke, inside the box on the left – you wondered how anyone could possibly fail to give either decision, unless they were irretrievably, foully bent.  But the corkscrew-straight Michel Kitabdjian unblushingly neglected his duty on both occasions, earning himself a permanent place in every Leeds fan’s Black Museum.

Before these vital non-decisions, Terry Yorath – the first Welshman to play in Europe’s biggest match, before Gareth Bale was even a twinkle in his dad’s eye – had sailed into Bayern’s Björn Andersson in what team-mate Uli Hoeness described as “the most brutal foul I think I have ever seen”.  The only question arising out of that first period of play was whether Leeds United’s card was marked by the ref from the time of that 4th minute assault by Yorath – or whether, indeed, the matter was decided long before kick off. 

Lorimer's greatest goal that never was

Lorimer’s greatest goal that never was

Leeds were completely outplaying Bayern, drawing sympathy even from the English TV commentator who was bemoaning the lack of a more even contest.  Then, in the second half, the ball fell perfectly for Peter Lorimer just outside the Bayern penalty area.  Lorimer timed his volley superbly, and it flew into the net, beating Sepp Maier all ends up.  Then, all was confusion as the goal seemed to be given, until Beckenbauer urgently directed the ref to speak to his linesman.  More confusion – then the goal was disallowed.  Bayern scored twice against a demoralised Leeds near the end, and the European Cup was snatched from the hands of Revie’s old guard; the triumph that was to crown their magnificent careers torn away in the most dubious fashion imaginable.

It was the second of a hat-trick of dubious triumphs for Bayern from 1974-76, at a time when the German influence in UEFA was as strong as that of the Italians (whose Milan side had taken the Cup Winners Cup from Leeds in an even more bent match two years earlier) – and far, far stronger than that of the unpopular English.  This defeat of a gallant and far superior on the night United side was probably the luckiest Munich victory of the three – but a year before, they’d been on the point of losing to Atlético Madrid before a last-gasp equaliser enabled them to win in a one-sided replay.  And in 1976, Bayern were outplayed by St Etienne, but managed somehow to prevail for a third year on the trot.

Bremner in disbelief after Leeds' "goal" chalked off

Bremner disbelieving after Leeds’ “goal” chalked off

Leeds fans will always look at the collection of stars emblazoned arrogantly over the Bayern badge – and we will always say: one of those should have been ours. May 28 1975 was one of those pivotal nights in United’s history and, as happened frankly far too often, things turned against us – setting us on the low road when we should have been triumphantly plotting a course onwards and upwards.  Things were never the same for Leeds United afterwards; Johnny Giles played his last game in a white shirt that night, which signalled the start of the break-up process, under the continuing stewardship of Jimmy Armfield, for Don Revie’s peerless Super Leeds team.  How different things might have been – but that’s the story of our great club’s history; fortune has rarely smiled upon us and justice has usually gone AWOL at the crucial moments.

So it was then, so it has been ever since and so, doubtless, it will continue to be for Leeds – who always seem to cop for the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to a pitilessly unfair degree.  Still, that’s why we love ’em, and that’s why we so relish the hate of others.  But if there could have been one night when things went right – when we actually managed once to get our just deserts – then for me it would have been that evening in the Parc des Princes in May 1975.  Not for me, not for you – but chiefly for those white-shirted heroes who had waited so long to be acknowledged as the best in Europe, and who had proved it by outplaying the favourites – before being gruesomely cheated yet again.

Leeds United – Champions of Europe.  We all know we have a right to sing that song, loud and proud.  Long may it continue to serve as a reminder of the night that the “Der Kaiser & Kitabdjian” double-act robbed The Greatest of their rightful crown.

Leeds Priced Out of Beckford Move After Manc Woman Steals Him to Advertise Online   –   by Rob Atkinson

 

Young Uwe helpless to prevent Manc female S.Lapper from stealing his Beckford

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything can confirm that Leeds United had been in advanced talks to sign former hero Jermaine Beckford – until the 32 year old striker was ruthlessly stolen from under the nose of the United representative, who was helpless to prevent gorgeous, pouting Stretford beauty Ms. S. Lapper from walking off with Preston North End‘s Wembley hero. 

Sources close to the ex-Leeds, Everton, Leicester and Bolton forward quote him as saying “It all happened so fast. One minute I was celebrating a Wembley hat-trick, the next I’m up on Gumtree.com for fifteen hundred quid. It’s well bewildering, man.” Ms. Lapper, meanwhile, was keen to dismiss the whole thing as a misunderstanding, despite photographic evidence of her snatching Beckford from the grasp of the Leeds man, tentatively identified as Master Uwe Rösler (8).

The evidence against Ms. Lapper also included an online advert for the sale of Beckford, originating in Stretford, near Manchester. The advert has since been removed, and the situation regarding Beckford remains unclear. Ms. Lapper is remaining uncharacteristically tight-lipped and was a lot less available than usual last night. For the Rösler family, young Uwe’s grandad is promising to seek retribution on the un-named Stretford culprit who allegedly put Beckford up for sale. “I haf done my share off damage zere before,” nodded the former Luftwaffe man meaningfully. “If necessary, I shall be making one more flight over zis so-called Old Trafford, und showing zem vot I can still do. Let us just simply say – it vill be ein bombshell I am dropping.”

Leeds United confirmed to us that Beckford had been a target, but that they would be looking elsewhere now. “Fifteen hundred is a little steep, my friend,” confided an anonymous source. “I’ve had a tip-off that Billy Paynter is ours for half that price, on eBay, with free postage…”

Ms S. Lapper is 38DD. 

Happy Birthday Cantona, Bit-Part Player for the Last Champions – by Rob Atkinson

cantonalastchampion

Eric the Last Champion

Birthday wishes today to one-time United reserve player Eric Cantona, who has attained the grand old age of 49.  Cantona joined Leeds United in 1992, just in time to qualify for a last-ever Football League Championship medal, although his involvement in the actual winning of the famous old trophy was peripheral at best.

Cantona managed to make a few appearances and score a few goals for the Last Champions.  Some of the goals were things of beauty; his effort against Chelsea at Elland Road sticks in the memory for some amazing sleight of foot which preceded a thunderous finish into the top corner.  But United were 2-0 up at the time and it is a fact that none of Cantona’s goals that season were decisive, game-changing strikes.  His major contribution towards the winning of that last-ever level-playing-field title was probably his action, in tandem with Rod Wallace, of frightening Brian Gayle into scoring a pivotal own-goal at Bramall Lane.  But the Cantona role that season was a cameo – all of the hard work had been done by the real principal players such as Strachan, Chapman, MacAllister, Speed and the rest of Wilko’s core warriors – the players he turned to late in the season after deciding that Cantona was a luxury player.

The Frenchman’s move to the Theatre of Hollow Myths was decidedly well-timed from the point of view that it coincided with an end to championships being won on merit in a competitive league.  From 1993 onwards, it would be the richest club that finished on top, so – having won one league title in the original format, Cantona had a few more bought for him in the first few years of Murdoch’s “Greed is Good” league.  In the process, the slightly brooding and insular Frenchman that Leeds fans knew was re-branded into Eric the Red by the Pride of Devon marketing machine, complete with turned-up collar, pseudo-macho stubble and the trademark strut so beloved of the insecure and needy type of fan attracted to the commercially- obsessed Man U franchise.

Cantona was a relatively brief phenomenon even at Man U.  By 1997 he was gone, taking a surprisingly early retirement and aiming for a career in films – something he was destined to be overshadowed in by another ex-United player, far more influential in Elland Road history and far better regarded in Whites folklore; one Vinnie Jones.

Ultimately, it is the Man U incarnation of Eric that will be remembered by a selective media – the chest sticking out and the collar raised as he did his best to play the part defined for him by the remorseless publicity team at the Theatre of Hollow Myths.  But we Leeds fans remember a different bloke, certainly in terms of his relationship with the crowd; one who illuminated his walk-on appearances with special goals and that Gallic touch and control; one who flickered briefly but brilliantly at the end of the successful 1992 season and the start of the next one, especially with his hat-tricks against Liverpool at Wembley and Spurs at Elland Road.  This was Eric “Ooh-Ah” Cantona, an enigma who I can still see on the balcony of Leeds Town Hall, holding the last League Championship trophy and telling us “Why I love you, I don’t know why – but I love you“.

Fickle as footballers tend to be, he walked away from the love and into the hype; he became a man and a player for the Murdoch era of money and media.  But in remembering that Cantona, the moody and petulant Kung-Fu practitioner, it’s still important to recall the more diffident and less arrogant bloke that briefly, sporadically – but still memorably – played for Leeds.

Happy Birthday, Eric – and thanks for those few, bright, pre-Murdoch memories.

Mad Massimo Cellino Broadly Hints at Rosler Sacking   –   by Rob Atkinson

Uwe Rosler: proud family history

In line with the current policy at Elland Road, owner Massimo Cellino has dropped a broad hint that new Leeds United head coach Uwe Rosler is to be sacked. Mr. Cellino has described Rosler as “a bit German for my liking”; the comments came in the hour immediately prior to confirmation that Rosler had been appointed.

Mr. Cellino is thought to be working hard on the details of the next three head coaches’ contracts. “I work hard for Leeds,” he insisted. “I never stop, my friend”. The aim at Leeds seems to be to have enough coaches lined up to cover team affairs until June, when Cellino’s next ban is expected.

Rosler is tipped to settle in at Elland Road and organise his office today, then spend tomorrow discussing transfer policy with Cellino while pleading for more time to make an impact in the job – and reminding Leeds fans that his grandad did, after all, bomb Old Trafford; before finally clearing his desk and shipping out on Friday. His replacement could be in post as early as next week. And out by the following weekend.

Massimo Cellino, 94, is beyond a joke.

“Angry” New Leeds Coach to be Angrier Still When Sacked Before Bonfire Night   –   by Rob Atkinson

United’s new head coach, Angry Mr. X

According to clinically unstable Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino, his new “Head Coach” is angry and eager for revenge. The new mug on the block cannot yet be named, presumably because Cellino has not yet observed the courtesies involved in sacking Neil Redfearn, the present incumbent. But news of his identity will be eagerly awaited by those who are scratching their heads and wondering who could possibly be so daft as to wish to hop onto Massimo’s Mad Mental Merry-go-Round.

Whoever it is, the new guy had better get his feet under the table quick smart. He’s unlikely to have the benefit of much settling-in time, never mind a honeymoon period. The pattern at Elland Road is now firmly set: appoint, praise, tepidly support, emasculate, hog-tie, isolate, insult, sack. The Cellino process generally proceeds swiftly enough to make the tenures of previous Leeds bosses Brian Clough and Jock Stein, at 44 days each, seem like models of long service. 

So, whom can we expect – once all the blood and feathers have been cleared away following the summary chopping of the dignified and patient Redders? Names have been mentioned – Gus Poyet, late of Sunderland and thought to be the brains behind the initial Dennis Wise minus 15 miracle. Or the soon to be ex-Brentford man, Mark Warburton, who has enjoyed a great season with the Griffin Park outfit, including 6 points generously donated by the Whites. It’s hard to see how either would fit into the modus operandi favoured by Il Duce Cellino.   And where will Adam Pearson, who spent much of Cellino’s recent notorious and bizarre presser dolefully facepalming, slot into this process of continual change? Will Redders be able to head back to Thorp Arch, at least until Cellino has it ploughed under for corn?

Some of these vexed questions may be answered over the next few days and weeks. But you may be sure that others will arise – Cellino is due up before the beaks again shortly, after all. And whatever might happen at Elland Road over the summer and leading into yet another comic cuts season, you can put good hard cash on the likelihood that our new man – whoever he might be – will not last far beyond Guy Fawkes Night. By Christmas, we will probably be composing the epitaphs for his successor.

However angry and vengeful Massimo’s new man might be right now, he can expect to be at least half as miffed again once unceremoniously dumped after a ridiculously short time, by football’s most loco boss. Perhaps he should be thinking about that right now. 

For we mere fans, all there is to think about is the narrow pool of possibilities we can now rely on for what was once one of the most sought-after hot-seats in the game. Everyone knows what the score is now around LS11. Who would be just plain daft or crazy enough to take on such an un-doable job? If Screaming Lord Sutch was still above ground, I might nominate him – in the current situation, he’d be like a fresh breeze of sanity in the schizoid miasma which currently hangs over Elland Road. 

In his absence, though – well, let’s face it, we’re probably going to be stuck with MC himself. Nurse!! My pills, please – quickly!

Cellino to Sack Leeds Groundsman for “Turning Pitch Against Him”   –   by Rob Atkinson

LUFC Groundsman – “weak and babyish”

There was yet another bizarre turn of events at Elland Road yesterday, as “one chip short of a butty” owner Massimo Cellino confirmed that he is on the verge of replacing the Leeds United head groundsman. In a prepared tantrum, Mr. Cellino gave a bravura five minute rant to assembled pressmen, criticising the way the stadium was being managed. 

The groundsman in question was maintaining a dignified silence yesterday, but stands accused of:

  • Using purple gardening gloves
  • Refusing to plant corn at the Kop goalmouth
  • Deliberately taking 17 minute tea breaks
  • Wibble
  • Failing to salute a Cellino family member
  • Making Redders a cup of tea without leave

It is rumoured that Cellino has a new groundsman lined up, late of a legendary but unnamed Serie C club and a man with a formidable range of experience in the continental style of digging up a pitch.

Further developments are expected next week, or at the next full moon, whichever is the sooner. 

Massimo Cellino is stark, staring mad. 

Leeds United Should be the 1973 Cup-Winners Cup Holders – by Rob Atkinson

Image

Milan v Leeds 1973 – Leeds Never Stood A Chance

Forty-two years ago today, one of the most notorious injustices in the history of European Football competition was visited upon the hapless heads of Leeds United at the European Cup-Winners’ Cup Final in Salonika, on 16 May 1973. There seems little doubt that the Greek referee, one Christos Michas, was bribed by Leeds’ opponents on the night, AC Milan. UEFA acted in the wake of this tawdry sham, banning Michas from officiating – a tacit admission that something about the match was very wrong indeed. This appeared to be a view shared by the crowd which attended the Final all those years ago; they roundly booed the Milan team as they sheepishly paraded the trophy, showing great sympathy to the unfairly beaten Leeds United team.

The game was littered with what might charitably be called dodgy decisions by Michas – fouls not given against Leeds, whose every little transgression was rigorously punished. Milan, it seemed, could do no wrong – Leeds were up against impossible odds, to the outrage and disgust of the largely neutral crowd. A Leeds player uninvolved through injury that night, Johnny Giles, had overheard enough before the match to glumly inform his team-mates in the dressing room that they “would not be allowed to win”. Not the best motivation, perhaps, but borne out in the end by the events which unfolded on the pitch.

An attempt at overturning – indeed reversing – this shoddy result took place in 2009 when Yorkshire & Humber MEP Richard Corbett gathered the support of over 12000 people for a petition he presented to UEFA on the 36th anniversary of the 1973 Final. UEFA refused to act on the petition, addressing a long-winded response to Mr Corbett, but failing utterly to expunge from their record such a shameful incident. Milan are still recorded as the 1973 Cup Winners, a situation so bizarre as to be frankly laughable.

At a time when the fortunes of the Elland Road club are once again at a low ebb, there’s frequently some comfort to be had in looking back at what has, at times, been a glorious and trophy-laden history for Yorkshire’s premier football outfit. But some anniversaries – this is one, and there’s shortly to be another when we remember being robbed in Paris in 1975 – simply remind us of how much more that great team could have achieved on a level playing field – if they had not been thwarted at every turn by incompetent or bent refereeing, official intransigence by the Football League, the FA and UEFA – or a grisly combination of all these negative factors.

The European Cup Winners Cup Final in Greece 42 years ago today goes down in history as yet another occasion when Leeds United were the bridesmaids and not the brides – the bald facts of the matter will record Leeds as big-time losers once more, sadly, when the real story of that game goes far beyond the result into very murky territory indeed. Leeds fans will quite rightly see their team as the moral victors on a day of disgrace for UEFA. Tragically, the surviving warriors in white from that May evening so long ago will almost certainly never see matters put right – and so the winners’ medals will continue to adorn trophy cabinets that are shamed by their presence there.

On a day when we yet again face an uncertain future, and when the prospects of more silverware for our great club seem very distant indeed, we salute the real winners of the 16th May 1973 – Leeds United.

That Cellino Leeds United Press Conference in Full   –   by Rob Atkinson

Cellino clarifies his philosophy

Massimo Cellino clarifies his philosophy