Can Leeds United Beat Whites Fan McCarthy’s Tractor Boys? – by Rob Atkinson

Young Mick, darling o' t'pitheads

Young Mick, darling o’ t’pitheads

I’ve always been quite impressed by Mick McCarthy – right back to the time when he stood, tall and imperious, as the dominant figure in Barnsley‘s defence back in the day. I followed his fortunes with interest as he moved onwards and upwards, to Manchester City and Celtic, before plummeting down the food chain towards the end of his career, ending up as low down the evolutionary scale as Millwall. But everywhere he went, he took with him that indestructible air of unflappable Yorkshireness, dealing with opponents and situations calmly but as firmly as he had to. And that gritty look – the kind of ruggedness to which all we Tykes secretly aspire, the forehead hammered flat through contact with thousands of muddy football as he headed clearance after McCarthyite clearance up towards the halfway line. It was the kind of profile you might expect to see carved into the prow of a raiding war-boat, noble but menacing. I was once in a panto with his granddaughter too, so there’s clearly a bond.

All of this slight infidelity where my own heroes were concerned was long before I even knew that Mick was a Leeds United fan. And it was before I witnessed him from afar, playing the calm sheet-anchor to Roy Keane’s hysterically girlish prima donna at the Japan World Cup, as Mick strove to hold the Irish squad together after fake hard man Roy flounced petulantly off home. These two factors merely cemented the respect I’ve always borne the guy; I’d have loved to have seen him wear the white shirt at some point. As it was, he was really more my mates’ hero in the late seventies, the lads who followed Barnsley and who never really offered much in the way of banter, because they were 4th Div and we were First – and never likely to meet on the field of play. It’s a good job we can’t see what the future holds.

Lately, the remaining hair has turned snowy white as the forehead has encroached further and further back, heading inexorably for the nape of his neck. But he still cuts an impressive figure, and his post match interviews, whilst not perhaps in the Gordon Strachan ballpark, are still required listening for those who like their responses laconic and deadpan; tersely funny. He talks a good game, and it seems he’s above the usual run of manager too; certainly superior, at the risk of damning by faint praise, to one R. Keane. I thought at the time that Wolves were daft to get rid; so it proved. It’s good to see him back in harness with another United old boy, Terry Connor, and doing well at Portman Road.

Mick did well at Portman Road the last time Leeds met Ipswich Town, too. After a whirlwind start from United, fresh from having mauled Huddersfield 3-0, Town battled back after Mirco Antenucci‘s early strike to put us away quite comfortably, 4-1. Ipswich have been there or thereabouts all season – can United now return to recent home form and dispatch yet another high-flying Championship challenger?

As ever in this division, the only thing that’s predictable about any game is its essential unpredictability. From that point of view, as a reader of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything sagely pointed out only this afternoon, the Championship has something going for it that the Premier League lacks. But it doesn’t make life easy for us amateur pundits. Nevertheless, here goes.

The first thing to say is that it would be no great surprise if Leeds did pull a result out of the hat tonight. We have form for sending the league’s high achievers scuttling home with tails sadly between the legs, licking unexpected wounds. Bournemouth, Derby, Middlesbrough have all come and gone with no reward – who is to say that Ipswich won’t go the same way?

Well, Mr McCarthy, his Leeds United affiliation shelved for the evening, probably will have quite a lot of say in the matter. There’s a strong ex-Leeds contingent in his squad too; Noel Hunt will have dreamed of showing us exactly what he’ll feel he never got the chance to show in a Leeds shirt. But, sadly for Leeds perhaps, Noel is injured and, in the absence too of David McGoldrick, the spotlight might just fall on another ex-White in Luke Varney. Poor old “Reg”, who cannot expect a warm Elland Road welcome due to his half-pike with triple twist in a Blackburn shirt not that long back, has not had it that easy since he left Leeds under a cloud. We must hope that capricious fate doesn’t have another shock in store for us.

Leeds themselves will be looking to replicate the first twenty minutes against Watford and then extend that level by another hour and ten or so. Ipswich will take advantage if we let them, so the kind of performance that has stopped certain teams playing against us since the turn of the year has to be the aim tonight. The likely line-up tonight could depend on whether or not a change of shape is contemplated, with Guiseppe Bellusci available again, and Billy Sharp, Antenucci and Steve Morison competing for what has been a lone striking role. Is 3-5-2 a possibility tonight? You have to cut your suit according to your cloth, and doubtless Redders will have been giving the matter some thought when he’s not been bemoaning Watford‘s zillion pound squad.

I’ll be bold and predict a 2-1 United win with – despite having lost a little faith in Nostradamus since the other week’s unfortunate dropped supernatural clanger – Morison to finally end that drought. And if Leeds do win, will Whites fans McCarthy and Connor be just a teensy bit pleased? Not a bit of it; they’re both pros down to their toenails, and on that account alone, this blog would still like to see them back at Elland Road one day.

Our Leeds United

Rob Atkinson:

Interesting take on the recent off-the-field activity aboard the good ship Leeds United. I reblog it not as an endorsement, but to canvass views – it’d be good to know what others think.

Originally posted on keirtaylorj:

View original

Man Utd, Financial Fair Play and “The United Brand”: a Leeds United Fan Accuses – by Rob Atkinson

Manchester City - Champions for now

Manchester City – Champions for now

As a Leeds United fan first and a lover of football in the broader sense second, I do find myself watching a great deal of Premier League stuff on TV and, clearly, there’s a lot to admire. And admire it I do; I will yield to no man in my ability to appreciate the quality of the Beautiful Game, so beautifully played – usually. And yet, again with my Leeds United head on, it’s rather like being a deprived and starveling urchin, stood barefoot in rags under a rainy sky, shivering in a cold wind, with my hungry nose pressed up against a bright shop window, displaying in glitzy magnificence a cornucopia of desirable things that I can neither reach nor afford. From that point of view, the over-riding emotion is envy, with shades of desire, contempt, hatred and resentment intermingled.

Since football abandoned any pretence at being a sport, or even a working-class opera, starry-eyed idealists such as myself – ancient enough to remember the olden days and once-fashionable things like glory, passion, pride and identity – have been asking themselves one wistful question.

Will we ever have a truly level playing field again?

On the face of it, you’d have to say it’s unlikely, if not completely out of the question. Even in the olden days, it was something of a relative concept. There were rich and poor back then, just as at any time you could mention in the whole of sporting history. There were big fish and there were also small fry. But now, you’re talking whales and plankton – and we all know what whales do to plankton. The gap has widened and inequality has increased fast enough and far enough to put an ecstatic beam on the face of any bloated, plutocratic Tory. And that’s not simply a situation which applies to the extremes of the game.

Even in the Premier League, that much-vaunted bastion of mega-wealth and world-class quality – the best league in the world, according to Sky TV executives (how they must laugh into their paella over that in the strongholds of la Liga) – even there, in the sparkly EPL, there is a rigid class system. There are leagues within this elite league, glass ceilings it’s almost impossible to break through. And that’s a problem being aggravated, ironically, by a device intended, ostensibly, to promote fairness.

The provisions of the Financial Fair Play rules are too complex to lend themselves to easy summary, but – without wishing to sacrifice the integrity of a sincerely-meant blog on the altar of glib over-simplification – the effect of the measures now in force appears to be the protection of “old money” and, by implication, old power. In other words, those who feathered their nests, by whatever means, at the right time and by pretty much any means, are in an advantageous position now, due to long-established income streams. In some cases, those income streams go back a long way, are not necessarily directly connected to football and are reinforced and supported by the modern day mass-media. Let’s take a case in point. Yes, you’ve guessed it – it’s this blog’s old friends Manchester United FC.

Man U were the very epitome of “old money” when the Premier League came into being, but the differentials back then had not been great enough to permit their dominance of the game over the previous 25 years since they last won the genuine English Champions title in the black & white days of 1967. In the interim, first Leeds United and then Liverpool were the big beasts of English football, with occasional cameo appearances from the likes of Arsenal, Everton, Derby and Nottingham Forest. Liverpool’s vice-like grip on the game for almost two decades was a remarkable achievement on as level a playing field as we could possibly have had at the time. But when that field was tilted towards the already cash-rich, merchandise and marketing-savvy mob at the other end of the East Lancs road, Liverpool was one of the clubs that hurtled into the abyss. They’ve never truly recovered. The astounding fact of the matter is that Leeds United have been Champions more recently than Liverpool FC. So, indeed, have Blackburn Rovers – but that was only one of those nasty, plastic ones designed especially for Man U. If the cap fits…

For the first twenty years or so after the Murdoch putsch, the Man U-friendly environment of the Australian’s Sky League kept Fergie’s humourless and joyless troops at the top, with the rest of football gasping its trophy-winning life out under the big red jackboot. Marketing-wise, this was an extremely desirable state of affairs for the money men who now owned the game. They had a leading brand, it was an almost guaranteed winner, and this opened up still further a lucrative global market with literally millions of non-matchgoing mugs the world over, desperate for more and more Man U tat and the Sky dishes for goggleboxes on which to ogle their remote heroes. One major tool in the maintenance of this near-monopoly was the extension and mass-marketing of the “United Brand“.

The United Brand was and is the media’s slavish adoption of the old Man U “there’s only one United” myth – one of the stock lies in any Pride of Devon follower’s little cupboard of self-delusion, along with “biggest in the world”, “greatest team ever”, “most tragic disaster” etc etc. Most of these big fibs are left to the individual glory-hunters themselves to pass on, whenever a likely victim presents him or herself. Talk to a Man U adherent and you’ll see what I mean. If the topic of the Busby Babes comes up, or the Munich Disaster, the Man U fan – football’s equivalent of the pub bore – will assume a far-off, beatific expression, the eyelids drooping over glazed eyes, the voice becoming a cockney drone of indoctrination. Then we’re treated to an adoring monologue of how those doomed Babes would have dominated football, and you’d never then have heard of Leeds United; how the Munich disaster is unparalleled in the history of football tragedy (conveniently ignoring Superga which destroyed the great Torino team in 1949) – and so on and so forth. It’s even understandable, to a degree; a lot of football fans are blinkered and self-obsessed when it comes to their own team. It’s just that Man U fans, encouraged by the club and their own Dads most likely, have raised it to a sort of dreadful art-form; furthermore, they actually do believe all that crap – and they really expect you to as well. They become really quite distressingly emotional when you don’t.

The role of the media in all of this, though, is far more sinister. In pushing the agenda of the United Brand, they are deliberately seeking to marginalise, not just those other Uniteds – most of whom have a more solid claim to that suffix – but all other football clubs, by their blatant elevation of one club onto a pedestal with recognition demanded by repeated use of that one word. United. All of the media do it, and it’s not simply lazy journalism as some suggest.  It’s brand protection, the Pavlovian training of consumers everywhere to hear the word United, and think of the Pride of Devon. It’s endemic within print and broadcast industries now and for a good few years past. You still get the occasional embarrassed little cough when a commentator at Newcastle United v Man U, for instance, refers lovingly to “United” and then hastily clarifies that he means the team in the Chevrolet shirts of course, not the other lot, whoever they might be. They don’t want to be thought of as biased and unprofessional, after all – even though that’s precisely what they are.

Not everyone is taken in by all of this, of course. It’s a mass-indoctrination tool of the type big marketeers have used down the decades; the target group tending to be the bottom fifty percent of the intelligence scale. Which I know sounds invidious and possibly even condescending – but that doesn’t mean it’s untrue. But there has always been a sector of the public determined to resist such blandishments; so it quite rightly is where the United Brand is concerned. However, this subliminal campaign has been omnipresent and all-pervasive for such a long time now, and sadly the relatively small voice of protest tends to fall on deaf – probably dumb as well – ears.

The truth is, of course, that Newton Heath aren’t a true United, as for instance Newcastle are, or Leeds, or arguably West Ham – or even Oxford and Torquay. “United” in a football context refers to a club with the exclusive occupancy of its catchment area, no direct rivals sharing the same patch. Man U aren’t the only only United – that’s self-evident to anyone who can count. But here’s the thing: it isn’t just that they’re neither the only nor yet the first United. They’re not even a genuine one – because of the spoiling factor of having neighbours and rivals in the same area. So, sadly for the Pride of Devon, current Champions Manchester City ruin this particular myth for them – as they have ruined so much else lately.

Which brings us on to the current peril threatening the United Brand. The clear and present danger of being caught up and overtaken by one or more rivals. And – oops! – it’s already happened. Man City and Chelsea fight over the title, the likes of Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, even Southampton are scrapping to keep Man U out of the Champions League spot they regard as the very least of their divine rights. What to do?? Extend the Champions League qualification criteria again, to make sure the untouchables stay in the fold? It’s been done before. But beware of diluting the product to the point its taste becomes insipid. Hmmm, we’ll have to find some other way.

OK, how about this. If you can’t beat ‘em – nobble ‘em. The upstart clubs who have overtaken the Chosen Ones will have to be hamstrung, their income streams restricted and made inaccessible to them. How else to restore the accepted order and have the United Brand back at the top? And it has to be done quickly, before all of those millions of eager tat consumers lose their motivation, become discouraged, cease to be market movers and slavishly obedient commercial fodder.

And, lo and behold, we have Financial Fair Play, which decrees that what are seen as subordinate clubs may not be funded into competitiveness by a *spit* sugar daddy. They may not presume to compete with the clubs who are deemed to have accrued their riches through on-field success, global merchandising, exploiting historical tragedies, whatever. There’s a right way, for those who presume to control the game – the United Brand way – and there’s a wrong way, which encompasses pretty much anything a club which aspires to rise to the top could possibly do. The game’s rulers are pro-competition alright – but they’re not going to get all sentimental and misty-eyed over it, not to the extent that their preferred brand no longer dominates. The Old Guard – Man U, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich et al – must remain the Old Guard, the ruling cartel. Anything else is dangerous, because it diffuses attention, which imperils consumer focus. It’s just bad for business, old boy.

So, we’ll have just enough competition to keep things interesting – to keep the mugs hooked and consuming – but we’ll draw the line when a chosen Brand, deliberately created and carefully, remorselessly hyped, appears to be in danger of slipping from the pinnacle of the game.  FFP is all about maintaining the status quo and keeping inconvenient Johnny-come-latelys down where they belong. And the tragic thing is – it’ll probably work.

But what does the future hold if this does work as presumably intended? Because what we have here is an ever-inflating bubble, increasingly shiny and enormous as it catches all the lime-light, reflecting gaudy and brilliant shimmerings of iridescent glory. It’s huge and it’s pretty – the kind of thing to cause a child, or other similarly naive person, to stop in their tracks and gaze, open-mouthed and round-eyed in innocent wonderment. But any bubble must burst eventually, leaving that child in disappointed tears. The path we are currently set upon, seemingly committed to, can have only one end. Look at the most recent Sky and other media deal, look at the billions involved at a time of austerity in society at large (unless you’re rich…). Who do you think that colossal, obscene cost is going to be passed on to? What will be the consequences when gates start to dip? Nothing is forever.

In a hundred years time, when those with long, long memories look back and reflect on what they have seen in their lives, what their grandfathers have told them, too – when they wonder whatever happened to that grand old game they used to call football – they may wish to search for a guilty party to blame for the death of something that used to give such pleasure to so many. If that comes to pass – as I fear eventually it must – then there will be a few likely candidates to carry the can. One will certainly be the long dead Mr Murdoch of evil memory. Who can say what his eventual legacy will be, not just for football, but for society at large? Another might be a club in Man U that used once upon a time to be legendary, a symbol of fine football and hope for the future. But this club will more likely instead be remembered as a model of arrogance and greed; the club that started the FA Cup off on its slow decline towards death (by being the first to withdraw from it); the club that manipulated the game for twenty years at the start of the Premier League, and perverted a “whole new ball game” into a nightmare of greed, cynicism and conspicuous consumerism.

For my part, I won’t point the finger at an individual or a club. Well, maybe I would a bit - if I were still above ground to do so. But I think it’ll be artificial concepts and restrictive legislation that’ll be the death of the game in the end. And I’ll miss it – but I’ll be glad I was there at the end of the golden era, almost a quarter of a century ago now, when my club Leeds United were the Kings of English Football - just as it entered its terminal phase. And I’ll be certain in my own mind as to exactly where the guilt for that fatal process truly lies.

Financial Fair Play and “The United Brand”: j’accuse.

The Day the Leeds United Glory Trail Began – by Rob Atkinson

The first trophy for Revie's Boys

The first trophy for Revie’s Boys

Today was the day, 47 years ago, when the Leeds United glory trail started with victory over Arsenal in the League Cup Final at Wembley on March 2nd, 1968. It was a scrappy game between two sides not overly keen on each other – but it was settled by what was, literally, a dream of a goal.

The triumph of the Whites in the shadow of the twin towers that day marked the start of what was to be an honour-laden six years or so for Revie’s troops. In that time, they completed the domestic honours set with two League Titles, the FA Cup in 1972, and a Charity Shield. On foreign fields, they won two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups – as well as being robbed in the finals of the two other European competitions, as is copiously documented elsewhere. By the time Don Revie left for an ill-fated spell in charge of the England team, Leeds were indisputably the number one team in England; but their time at the top was done – the all-conquering squad, having matured together, was on the point of breaking up.

My tribute to the accepted first eleven of Revie’s genius squad is reproduced below. It’s one of three poems I’ve had published on and it makes specific reference to Terry Cooper‘s Wembley premonition. The Castleford lad, destined to be hailed as the best left-back on the planet at the World Cup of 1970, had dreamed for three successive nights of scoring the winner on that day so long ago.

When the dream came true, in the 18th minute of a dour encounter, there was a slight tinge of controversy. Arsenal ‘keeper Jim Furnell, backed by most of his team-mates, claimed that he had been impeded at a corner by Leeds’ Paul Madeley and Jack Charlton. But when the ball dropped twenty yards out, Cooper made a clean connection and cracked the ball into the back of the net for as good a Wembley winner as you could wish to see. After that, Leeds shut up shop (it’s known as “parking the bus” these days) and saw the match out to collect the first major silverware of the club’s history.

Thanks for the memories, Top Cat Cooper, Billy Bremner – and the rest of the boys, not forgetting The Don himself, of course. Happy days – Glory Days.

The Revie Boys

Sprake, the Viking, error-prone
Costly gaffes are too well-known
But brilliance too, in Budapest
Gritty show, Fairs Cup conquest
Outside the fold now, Judas jibes
Allegations, fixes, bribes

Reaney, swarthy, lithe and fine
Clears a rocket off the line
Always there to beat the best
Georgie, Greavsie and the rest
Speedy Reaney, right full back
Repelling every new attack

Top Cat Cooper, number three
Once a winger, then set free
From wide attacking, made his name
The best left back of World Cup fame
Scored at Wembley, League Cup dream
Got the winner for his team

Billy Bremner, black and blue
Red of hair, Leeds through and through
A tiny giant for the Whites
Semi-final appetites
Beat Man U, not once but twice
Billy’s goals, pearls of great price

Big Jack next, our own giraffe
World Cup winner, photograph
With brother Bobby, Wembley day
The lesser Charlton many say
Was Jack; but for the super Whites
He gave his all and hit the heights

Norman Hunter, hard but fair
Tackles ending in mid-air
Studs on shinpads, bone on bone
Take no prisoners, stand alone
With enemies strewn at his feet
Angelic Norm, that smile so sweet

Lorimer, the rocket shot
Lethal from the penalty spot
Lashed the ball from distance great
Fearsome pace he’d generate
90 miles an hour clocked
Keeper left confused and shocked

Clarkey next at number eight
A predator to emulate
The  greatest strikers anywhere
On the ground, or in the air
One chance at Wembley, snapped it up
Leeds United won the Cup

Mick Jones, the workhorse, brave and strong
Graft away the whole match long
But frequently a scorer brave
Defying all attempts to save -
A hat-trick blitzing poor Man U
Five-one, in nineteen seventy-two

The Irishman at number ten
Giles, a leader among men
Skill and strategy, world class
Struck a devastating pass
John and Billy, midfield twins
Hard as nails – for who dares, wins

Eddie “Last Waltz” Gray out wide
Beats three men in one sweet stride
Jinks and shimmies, deft of touch
Didn’t seem to matter much
Who might face him, come what may
Eddie beat him anyway

“Rolls Royce” Madeley, class and style
Dependable and versatile
Would walk into most other teams
But stayed to chase his glory dreams
For Leeds and England, servant true
Recognition overdue

Twelve great players, clad in white
Internationals, as of right
Ready to play, and battle too
Many the victories, losses few
Leeds United, Revie’s Boys
Strength and power, skill and poise

Left with just sweet memories now
But even critics must allow
A squad of many talents great
Where every man would pull his weight
Cut one and find the whole team bleeds
A club United; Super Leeds

Millwall Boss Holloway Must Apologise After Rotherham Riot – by Rob Atkinson

Holloway - looking the other way

Holloway – looking the other way

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything has often in the past railed against the casual attitude of the football authorities towards the lunatic fringe of Millwall fans, a band who seemingly act as they please with little or no fear of official sanction. At various times, the FA, the Football League, police forces around the country and apologists within Millwall FC itself have leant over backwards to excuse those loveable, chirpy cockneys for the mayhem, violence and misery they routinely inflict on defenceless and innocent match-going fans of other clubs – even, on one infamous occasion, involving children wearing their own colours at Wembley as the ‘Wall fans turned on each other during their semi-final defeat. Today, yet again, this blog finds itself totally vindicated by events in its view of Millwall FC and those who follow that club.

Now, after the latest disgusting exhibition of uncivilised brutality at Rotherham United‘s New York Stadium on Saturday, we hear that “the guilty ones will be caught”. Well, it’s way past time that they were. This is not, after all, a secret problem; everyone knows that the London club has far more than its fair share of thugs. And yet as recently as a couple of weeks ago, after another defeat at Leeds United, Millwall’s manager Ian Holloway was raging about the travel restrictions that kept the away following down on that occasion, complaining that this contributed towards his team being beaten and insisting the Millwall fans were reformed, reinvented, just the type of people you’d want to see your daughter bring home when the vicar’s round for tea, more or less.

The blind stupidity of such a claim has been adequately demonstrated, yet again and at the usual human cost, at Rotherham. Which begs the question: will Holloway now apologise for his ludicrous remarks after the Leeds game? Will he, in fact, reiterate the entirely more sensible position he espoused after the opening day fixture, when Millwall fans disgraced themselves by their habitual references to murders in Turkey? On that occasion, Holloway vented his disgust at the Millwall hate mob; his position since then appears to have been revised – but not in a good way. First there was his ridiculous rant in the press after the Leeds United loss – and after Rotherham? Well, he said he “hadn’t seen it”. Selective blindness, Mr. Holloway? Most convincing, I don’t think. Monsieur Wenger does it rather better, as he does most things compared to you.

It does rather make you wonder whether Holloway had cause after that opening game to regret lambasting his own fans. His volte face since then suggests that he may have come under pressure to lay off the criticism of the Millwall support, who are after all a group of people accustomed to attacking others both verbally and physically, and yet curiously sensitive to any hint of criticism directed against them. There is some speculation today about whether Holloway has “lost the Millwall fans”. If he has managed to do that – could he perhaps teach the rest of us the trick?

I know how those fans simply can’t abide any criticism from personal experience; after previous articles I’ve written to have a go at the least civilised group of supporters in the UK, I’ve had my Twitter feed clogged with hateful bile, venom directed at my family, earnest attempts to find my home address with encouragement from the sidelines to pay me a visit and “sort me out” – all that kind of childish, playground rubbish. And of course they’re always ready with a leer and a Galatasaray top or a Turkish flag, to have a laugh about the murder of two Leeds fans in Istanbul and pose for a malicious photo opportunity – all in impeccable taste and good clean fun, of course. Just today, I’ve had them attempting to poke fun at my Dad’s death – it’s par for the course with that lot, and it just goes in the spam bin. But it’s funny how it doesn’t happen with any other club’s fans – only Man U come anywhere near – and contrary to their paranoid and egotistical belief, I do have a go at other clubs from time to time.

For dishing it out and yet being completely unable to take it – and only for that – Millwall fans must be the top firm in the country. Their unwillingness to travel to Leeds in numbers, mumbling pathetic excuses about travel restrictions, tells its own tale of keyboard warriors who shy away from any actual old-fashioned confrontations with one of the more notorious northern sets of fans. They evidently felt a lot braver going to Rotherham, where the victims of these big brave lads included at least one female steward.

All in all, it’s not a very impressive picture and, despite the bewildered ravings of the manager, there is absolutely no sign of improvement. As long as there are soft targets, with almost zero chance of any real resistance, the Millwall troops will be up for it; it’s only when there is some inconvenience or danger involved that they stay nice and safe at home. Holloway, in his more recent comments, would have you believe that they are a much-maligned lot and should be given a break. But that kind of talk can be dangerous; it can motivate self-righteous and yet violently-inclined people to take the next safe opportunity to demonstrate that, yes – they see themselves as having been victims of an injustice, and that they’re going to wreak havoc in revenge.

And another thing: could the Holloway rant also have had the effect of persuading South Yorkshire Police to take a less restrictive line than their West Yorkshire Police colleagues had followed for the Leeds game? Certainly, the Millwall fans were far more numerous at the New York Stadium than they had been at Elland Road. That made for a tinderbox atmosphere; the violence and hatred only really became extreme when Rotherham scored their 85th minute winner, but it seems that it was bubbling under all afternoon.

It’s also a fact that Rotherham and the local Police did have intelligence that trouble could be expected; a Rotherham United club statement read, in part:

“We were aware that a section of Millwall supporters were planning on attending this game intent on causing disorder. Contingency plans were in place to deal with this outcome with extra stewarding and Police resources in place to deal with the anticipated threat. Despite the extra resources deployed this group made numerous attempts to seek disorder throughout the afternoon resulting in the despicable scenes towards the end of the match.” 

So, why wasn’t more done to control the movements and travel arrangements of the visiting support? The events of the afternoon can surely have come as no surprise to anybody connected with either club, the Police, this blog – anybody at all, with the possible exception of the naive and credulous Mr Holloway.

It’s high time that this persistent problem was stamped out. The FA and the Football League have virtually unlimited powers to act against a club with a troublesome support, as we at Leeds have learned ourselves in the past for far smaller transgressions. Millwall are a little club who create problems out of all proportion to their size and standing in the game. That much is self-evident. So how many more times must their “fans” be allowed to besmirch the name of their club, their city and football in general, before something is done? Answers on a postcard, please.

Something needs to happen, and soon. It’s only a matter of time before this sort of thing costs a life, maybe more than one. No football club is worth the spilling of one single drop of blood, and it’s way overdue that Millwall FC realised its own continued existence is far less important than the safety and security of every single man, woman and child who attends a fixture involving it. But the first person who needs to apologise, publicly and profusely, on a charge of making light of a real problem and offering hope and succour to a band of degraded thugs, is Millwall manager Ian Holloway. That could conceivably start off a process whereby the problem might be acknowledged and addressed.

Defeat at Rotherham left Millwall six points away from possible Championship safety, a gulf that this blog earnestly hopes they will not bridge. That’s not in any spirit of wishing them onto League One; after all that division has done nothing lately to upset me. But the bigger sphere of the Championship has earned a rest from what comes along with Millwall, and it would be a happy day that sees their relegation confirmed. That currently looks more likely than not to happen; watch out for a celebratory blog post as and when.

Shame on Millwall FC, shame on their fans, shame, most acutely and deservedly, on Ian Holloway, a man who spoke long before he thought two weeks ago, and who surely must be regretting that now. Shame is the watchword where the Lions are concerned.

When you’re gone, you will not be missed.

Thank Goodness for Millwall as Leeds United Stumble Again – by Rob Atkinson

Millwall fans react with typical sportsmanship to Rotherham's late winner

Millwall fans react with typical sportsmanship to Rotherham’s late winner

It’s never good to be reflecting on the loss of a two goal lead. It’s even worse when you’re denied the euphoria of that lead in the first place, due to a glum premonition that Leeds United were flattering to deceive and that it would be all downhill from here. That was the situation at Elland Road yesterday; when I should have been overjoyed at Rudy Austin‘s terrific strike putting daylight between the Whites and a more than decent Watford outfit, instead I had this horrible feeling that it was all about to go pear-shaped – that we were going to be stung by a second swarm of annoying insects in our own backyard over the space of a few weeks – and I said so to my neighbour, predicting the eventual 2-3 defeat. She did not appreciate my pessimism one little bit.

Sadly, my glass-half-full prediction came to pass, much to my horror and much to the disgust of my fellow fan, who still isn’t talking to me. But I’m not going to take the blame, nor am I about to accept the title of Jonah. The bare fact is that two-nil leads should be built upon, used as a basis for grinding the opposition into the floor, giving your own followers a rare day off from biting their nails down to the elbows through fear and tension. They should not be a signal for relaxing, backing off, becoming complacent and offering hope to what should be a doomed enemy. That’s basic professionalism, surely. And Leeds have form for this kind of capitulation; for snatching defeat from the very jaws of victory. It’s nowhere near good enough: as fans, we not only have a right to be upset and disappointed – it’s positively our duty. After twenty minutes on Saturday, I should have been thinking that Leeds were going to answer my prayers for a fine victory in tribute to my late Dad who passed away this week. The fact that I was right instead to be so pessimistic obviously gives me no pleasure at all, especially in those sad circumstances.

However, all is not gloom and doom. If we had won yesterday, then the value of the victory would have been for and of itself, rather than with any slim hopes of pushing for play-offs and the unlikely like. The midweek 0-2 defeat at Brighton should have choked off any unwise, sudden optimism on that score – and yesterday’s surrender to the Hornets, in the wake of that abject pecking from the Seagulls, confirmed that we certainly won’t be departing this league in the upward direction. But it looks increasingly certain that we’re safe also from any plummet through the trapdoor below. For that, we can thank our good friends from Bermondsey, Millwall FC, whose team and fans were both on familiar form at Rotherham yesterday; the former cravenly sinking to yet another defeat, the latter launching one of their mob frenzy attacks on those who simply wished to watch or police a game of football.

You can’t say anything too nasty about Millwall, as some of their fans are delicate little flowers who take offence easily and tend to run crying and complaining if some Big Bad Blog should be too overtly critical. The curious dichotomy of fans who indulge in what some might term deeply uncivilised behaviour, side by side with those who cry foul should anyone raise a peep of protest, will not be lost on connoisseurs of bitter irony. Riotous scenes at Rotherham’s weirdly-named New York Stadium were tiresomely familiar to anyone who has followed the touring habits of the Millwall faithful. Those images of violence will not attract any sympathy for manager Ian Holloway‘s previously-expressed view that his club’s fans had cleaned up their act and should be free of the travel restrictions that saw their following at Leeds the other week reduced to one man and his dog. On this evidence, the movements of the Millwall away following must continue to be subject to the most stringent controls, as they are clearly incapable of conducting themselves as adults and should not be trusted to do so.

On the pitch, things worked out very well for Rotherham (and indeed Leeds) – and ominously badly for the Lions. They too chucked away a lead – only one goal in their case, but the outcome was the same. In what was a genuine relegation six-pointer, Rotherham – who could have found themselves ahead of their opponents only on goal difference – now have the luxury of a six point gulf between them and Millwall, who are in real danger of being cut adrift of safety along with Blackpool and Wigan, who also both keep losing, and who look ever more certainly doomed.

For Leeds, the Millwall defeat was shiny bright good news, as it preserves a healthy ten point margin over the bottom three. With the rate at which the clubs at the lower end pick up their meagre ration of points, and with just twelve games to go, it seems highly unlikely that United will now be dragged into the dogfight (fingers crossed, touch wood). It looks as though we’re safe – and our unlikely saviours are indeed those cheeky, chirpy, loveable cockneys from down Bermondsey way who, by their noble self-sacrifice, will see the Whites survive while they themselves take the big drop.

Leeds, then, face what appears to be a dead rubber of a remainder to the season. They should be able to pick up the few victories still needed to confirm Championship status for next time around, and they can afford to view the scramble for safety lower down from a lofty and impervious position – and with a certain amount of malicious glee. None of that detracts from the bleak dose of reality that Watford served us yesterday, nor does it assuage the pain and frustration of defeat from a winning position – but in a dog-eat-dog league, there are compensations in the greater pain of others.

Well done to Watford for showing the character to come back from the dead yesterday – and well done to Rotherham for a similar feat. Shame on the Millwall fans who have besmirched their club’s name for the umpteenth time – and let’s hope that Leeds learned a few lessons this weekend ahead of the visit of Whites fan Mick McCarthy and his high-flying Ipswich Town side on Wednesday. If the Whites can get a result in that game, the day after Middlesbrough have (fingers crossed again) put another nail in the Millwall coffin, then perhaps we can all relax a little more, and look forward to the summer – and some very necessary regrouping.

Death of a Leeds United Fan – by Rob Atkinson

Rob Atkinson:

Reblogging this only because I initially omitted to include an Alzheimer’s Society link – and if just a few quid can be raised in the fight against this insidious robber of life and happiness, then it’ll be worthwhile.

Thanks for all the earlier comments – you can have no idea how much it’s helped. MOT

Originally posted on Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything:

Kenneth Atkinson 7.7.1927 - 27.2.2015 Taken on my parents' wedding  dayKenneth Atkinson 7th July 1927 – 27th February 2015
Taken on my parents’ wedding day, 1959

My Dad died in the early hours of this morning. He’d been afflicted with Alzheimer’s for the very last part of his life, and there’s that inescapable feeling that this loss is just final confirmation of what has been a gradual departure over the last few years. It’s still a shock, though – and, blogs being blogs, this is where I have to say how I feel – and make my last farewell.

Dad was a ridiculously handsome man who failed utterly to pass those fortunate genes on to me, bequeathing instead a fanatical love for Leeds United Football Club. He was Mr. LUFC to me, John Charles’ greatest fan and a dedicated match-goer through the Don Revie glory years – when I was just a small child with no interest in the game…

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Death of a Leeds United Fan – by Rob Atkinson

Kenneth Atkinson 7.7.1927 - 27.2.2015 Taken on my parents' wedding  day

Kenneth Atkinson 7th July 1927 – 27th February 2015
Taken on my parents’ wedding day, 1959

My Dad died in the early hours of this morning. He’d been afflicted with Alzheimer’s for the very last part of his life, and there’s that inescapable feeling that this loss is just final confirmation of what has been a gradual departure over the last few years. It’s still a shock, though – and, blogs being blogs, this is where I have to say how I feel – and make my last farewell.

Dad was a ridiculously handsome man who failed utterly to pass those fortunate genes on to me, bequeathing instead a fanatical love for Leeds United Football Club. He was Mr. LUFC to me, John Charles’ greatest fan and a dedicated match-goer through the Don Revie glory years – when I was just a small child with no interest in the game. I wondered back then what all the fuss was about, to be honest – but when he finally relented and took me to my first ever match, that was it. I was hooked for life, and the many misfortunes of the Whites, together with their sadly few triumphs, have been mine too over the past forty years. Thanks, Dad. It was somewhat of a poisoned chalice you passed on to me, but I wouldn’t be without it.

Kenneth Atkinson was much, much more than just a football fan, of course. He was at various times a National Service soldier, a fine and well-loved teacher, a wonderful gardener, a DIY God, a Bing Crosby and Gracie Fields fan who was also much addicted to military and brass band music – and of course he was a son, a brother, a father and a grandfather. He was never happier than when he was in his garden or his garage, pottering about and making things beautiful. Those last three words would be a fine epitaph for anyone, I feel.

He was a Tory too, my Dad – but that wasn’t his fault. He’d caught it off his Ma and it came down a long line of impecunious smallholders, so I never held it against him. It gave us something else to argue about when the football was just too depressing for words. He liked to display the remnants of his language skills, as well, having won prizes for them in the early forties at the Kings School, Pontefract. I once went for a job at a frozen foods head office, and he left me a note, mixed French and Latin: “Courage, mon brave, à bas les peurs. Bonne chance. Per ardua ad Fish Fingers!” His was a unique and not completely accessible sense of humour. As he got older, he’d laugh helplessly at any jokes we told him – but in years gone by, only his own witticisms really tickled him. Then, when he’d said something he thought incredibly funny, he’d sit there, tears rolling down his cheeks, throbbing with silent, painful mirth until we were all in tucks just at the sight of him. It makes me smile now, just to think of it.

As Dad got older, the Alzheimer’s condition took an ever firmer grip on him. And yet, quite late in his life, he was active and nimble of mind. He loved to tell and write about his early memories of Pontefract, his home for all the 87 years of his life, and the place from which he set off on his travels to all four corners of the earth. I published on here a piece he wrote about his childhood in Old Church in Ponte, and this shows he had a tale or two to tell – and told them well. Really, the first thing that convinced me he was losing his grip on reality was an increasing sympathy for Man U and “Fergie”, as he referred to a man I can never bring myself to acknowledge. But that probably says more about my extreme prejudice than it does about my Dad’s state of mind.

I’ve never been very good at goodbyes, but this one has been coming for a while. I’ll remember him for the things he loved – the football, the garden, his immaculate tool shed. And the people, too – his wife, my Mum, who he was crazy about for well over fifty years, his parents when they were around, we three lads, his brother and sisters, two of whom went before him, and of course his three grandchildren. I was always proud that his only grand-daughter – my daughter Kate – was born on his 66th birthday; surely the best present he ever got. I’ll leave the actual goodbye to a quote from her, earlier today:

When I think of being little, I always think of sitting with my Grandad in his beautiful garden. I can’t imagine my next birthday, because it’ll be the first in my life that isn’t his birthday too. I’ll miss his huge hands and I’ll miss his terrible French and I’ll miss his stories about teaching and travelling. Goodbye Grandad. I love you forever, and I hope you’re back in your garden now.

As someone who always raised his own flowers, I’m sure he’d not wish them now. But if anyone is moved to make a small donation to the Alzheimer’s Society, then that would be a blessing and very much appreciated.

RIP, Dad. I hope Leeds can do the decent thing and wallop Watford for you. Say hi to Don and Billy and Gary and John Charles for me, won’t you.

And last of all – à bientôt, Papa xx

Football League to “Dish the Dirt” on Russell Crowe (Just In Case…)   –   by Rob Atkinson

Russell Crowe - bloodless coup?

Russell Crowe – bloodless coup?

The Football League‘s clandestine “Stop Leeds United Getting Serious Investment” Task Force was swinging into action yet again yesterday amid some alarm at FLHQ that Hollywood A-lister Russell Crowe might possibly be contemplating getting financially involved in the club he has long supported. A League spokesman confirmed “Our special anti Leeds United people are looking into this. And there will doubtless be something we can – ahem – stone the Crowe with, never fear! (chortle)”

As a first step, the League have consulted the Forbes “Rich List” and it is understood that they were perturbed by what was revealed about the actor’s heavy-duty financial clout. A senior figure in the FL structure –  who refused to be named, but admitted that his initials were Shaun Harvey – also expressed “concern” that Crowe is already involved in part-ownership with a highly successful Australian Rugby League club, showing no signs of leading them into administration. The League are understood to be taking the threat of good news for Leeds extremely seriously.

Russell Crowe is playing his cards close to his chest, asking his near 1.7 million Twitter followers if purchasing a stake in Leeds would be “a good idea”. He has also been in tweeting dialogue with a Leeds fan group, discussing ways and means. The League position on consultation with fans is unequivocally clear. “We don’t like it,” stated our incognito contact, “Once you start involving riff-raff like fans, you’re on the slippery slope to some sort of new-age, new-fangled, hippy, pinko liberal “democracy” thing. We really don’t go for that at all. Give us a good old-fashioned familiar, honest, fit and proper rapist or money-launderer – they’re the sort of people that we really can do business with. You know where you are with them.”

United’s currently suspended owner Massimo Cellino, meanwhile, has confirmed that he does not intend “immediately” to return as Leeds President when his disqualification lapses. Instead, he will pursue remedial avenues of his own, as an individual, with no formal connection to Leeds United AFC. “Is better this way,” the Italian insisted. “Now, when horse’s head found in bed with a one-a these guys scare half to death, like-a that brutto figlio di puttana bastardo, Signor Shaun, no need to worry about sanction for club. I will take care of business in my own special way, my friend.”

Russell Crowe himself had nothing specific to say about any potential League investigation, but confirmed through a spokesman that he would give the signal to “unleash hell”, should circumstances indicate that such a course of action is necessary. The veteran actor dropped a further hint as to his likely attitude, cryptically proclaiming: “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next. We are Leeds.”

The officials of the Board of the Football League, both individually and collectively, are understood to be “cacking themselves” after seeing the Cellino and Crowe quotes. A senior figure has sent out for clean underwear three times today alone, and evidence has been shown to us of a bulk order of “Nicky” quilted toilet roll as well as some Far-Eastern “herbal relaxation infusions”. It appears that the investigation into Mr. Crowe will proceed – but preparations are also well advanced for a sudden retreat, if and when necessary. “If hell is unleashed, we shall all be leaving the country the same day,” our source confirmed, pale of face and wringing palsied hands. “This really is becoming a bit too dodgy, even for seasoned duckers and divers such as us. Whether we’re dealing with Crowe or Cellino, or even waking one fine morning with some severed item of equine anatomy, it’s a distinctly worrying picture. A mad Italian and an erstwhile Hollywood hell-unleasher. Jesus. Those are two seriously intimidating mothers, though – aren’t they?? Criminy.”

Shaun Harvey, 94, is incontinently scared. 


Nostradamus Apologises to Leeds Fans for “Bad Day at the Office”   –   by Rob Atkinson

Nostradamus in happier days

Nostradamus in happier days

The post-match press conference for Brighton & Hove Albion‘s 2-0 victory over an “off the pace” Leeds United was enlivened by the unexpected and unscheduled appearance, from beyond the grave, of Nostradamus.

The 16th century French prophet, whose ancient prediction that Steve Morison would score in a Leeds win against Brighton had received some publicity this week, appeared out of thin air, looking slightly sheepish, but otherwise in pretty good form for a man dead these many years. This was, in fact, the first interview Nostradamus has granted since his death in 1566, and he was keen to emphasise that things had changed for him in the almost five centuries since then.

Speaking before the Brighton and Leeds coaches gave their post-match reaction, Nostradamus got straight to the point. “Yeah, man – I know I’m gonna get hammered for that Morison thing. It was a bad day at the office, a real bitch of a day, really. But you gotta remember that quatrain was written something over 450 years ago, well before League football had even started. You gotta cut me some slack, man. None of us is perfect, not even Don.”

So, now that he’s broken his 449 year silence, will he be maintaining an interest in the game?

“Hell, yeah man – I’m not that dead! I’m a big football fan and I have been since the 1870s. There’s quite a few of us up there, and we have some pretty lively discussions, let me tell you. I’m an Arsenal fan myself, big French influence there, which is pretty freakin’ cool.”

We can expect more predictions, then? Nostradamus was slightly more cautious on that score. 

“Weeeell – it’s not impossible, let’s put it like that. It’s difficult to know how to go about it after all this time. You may have noticed, I’ve kinda left the mediaeval French vibe behind – too inaccessible, man. Since I’ve been up there, I’ve had the chance to talk to people like Warhol, Lennon, Oscar Wilde – he’s quite the Brighton fan, actually, so he’ll be tickled pink tonight.”

Many Leeds fans in the football afterlife fraternity?

“For sure. A lot of the real individual types, the movers and the shakers, they tend to be Leeds. They’re proud to be different and not to take the easy path. So, you’ve got the likes of Thomas More and a lot of those mediaeval martyr guys. Then there’s Lord Nelson – NOT a Pompey fan as you’d think. Einstein, he’s Leeds, there’s Archimedes, Galileo, guys like that. There’s even – well let’s just say someone who was really big a coupla millennia back. He asked me not to mention his name, though, reckons he’d get crucified in the press. And General George Custer, he’s a massive fan – but then he always did tend to be up against it and he certainly fancied the odds against him.”

Any Man U fans? There’s a lot of speculation over who they have following them…

“Nope, you never see any of them. I don’t wanna be too specific, but those guys ended up, y’know, elsewhere.” 

So is Nostradamus at all embarrassed at the failure of his Steve Morison prediction?

“Noooooo, not really. As I said, it was a long time ago. I don’t even do the old-style quatrains any more, couldn’t tell you myself what they mean these days. It may even be that the Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything guy misinterpreted it. I am sorry if I raised the fans’ hopes though. That really sucks, and you can believe me when I say I regret it. All I can tell you as of now is that Morison will score, and sooner rather than later. Just, y’know, watch this space, man.”

At this point the coaching staff from the two clubs came into the Press room and Nostradamus felt it was time to go. With a cheery wink and a very passable Leeds salute, he promptly de-materialised – having agreed to deliver our best wishes to the LUFC faction in the great beyond.

Leeds next game is another tricky one, at home to Watford. At this stage, no predictions are available – from this world or the next.

Nostradamus is 511.