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.

 

Can Steve Morison Really Score Tonight, Vindicating Nostradamus? – by Rob Atkinson

Nostradamus - not the actual bit that says Morison will notch on Tuesday

Nostradamus – not the actual bit that says Morison will notch at Brighton tonight

An ancient verse of the mediaeval soothsayer Michel de Nostredame, better known in modern times as Nostradamus, has startlingly been interpreted as a firm prediction that Leeds United’s Steve Morison will score a goal for the club away at Brighton & Hove Albion tonight.

The nailed-on prediction will come as good news for hard-working striker Steve, who has not notched for Leeds for almost two years now – despite enjoying an extended run in the team lately. Morison himself has always remained confident in his ability and has stated in the past that it’s just a matter of time before one of those half-chances goes in. “I’ve been busting a gut, ploughing a lone furrow up front in the best interests of the team,” insisted the formerly prolific marksman, “and the Boss keeps telling me I’m doing my job, and that’s good enough for me. It’s a shame about the goals though – so I’m really glad to hear I’m guaranteed to score at Brighton. If selected, obviously.”

The verse in question – technically known as a quatrain – is reproduced below. As can plainly be understood, the ancient prophet has seen in the stars at least one goal for Steve at Brighton, together with a Leeds United victory.

“Northern wind will cause the siege to be raised / Nearby the path of the hollowed mountains / Two great beasts, one will oppose and one assail / Drinking by force the waters of the Chalice triumphant.”

The mention of “hollowed mountains” nearby – a transparent reference to the Channel Tunnel – gives away the precise location. The two great beasts are, of course, Sol Bamba and Morison himself – one a defender (opposing) and one a striker (assailing). “Drinking by force the waters”, etc …. well, I’ve told you enough already. Got to leave you something to work out for yourselves.

Leeds manager Neil “Redders” Redfearn is delighted to see his faith in Morison paying off. “Well, y’know, it’s a vindication of, y’know, the 4-3-2-1 system in’tit, which has served us well since we, y’know, ditched that bleedin’ diamond,” said the United coach, fluently. “And, y’know, Steve’s been doing great, really, just great. But, y’know, it’s good to know for sure, like, that he’s getting a goal tonight cos, y’know, if the boy Nostradamus has been that clear about it, y’know, we’ve got to be a bit optimistic, like. It’ll, like, y’know, give Steve a fillip and, y’know, boost the lad’s confidence a bit, and that has to be good for, y’know, Leeds United.”

Brighton, for their part, are not convinced about the authenticity of this supposed ancient prophecy. “We’ll be keeping an eye on Morison, certainly,” confirmed a club insider, “but we’ve made no special plans. Goals are coming from elsewhere in this Leeds team and we can’t afford to create more space for them by doubling up on Morison just because of some mouldy old verse. Besides which, we’ve seen another quatrain from the National Library, and that clearly states the one you’ve got is bollocks.”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, however, is utterly convinced by the prediction and is prepared publicly to endorse it. Steve Morison will score at Brighton tonight – count on it. Even put money on it, if you like*. Some blog readers have already declared their solemn intent to “lump on”. So you can take our word for it. Steve to score. Definitely.

* Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything can accept no responsibility for money lost in wagers, bets, flutters, accas or wild-eyed punts. Sorry.

Definitively Leeds: Jon Howe’s Evocative History of Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

Elland Road is the only place for us

The Only Place for Us: An A-Z History of Elland Road – Home of Leeds United Hardcover – Illustrated, 12 Feb 2015 RRP £19.99

No matter who you support, no matter at what level of the football pyramid your club might play, one thing at least unites pretty much all football fans. Whatever strife and disagreement exists between devotees of different teams, we all have that one place outside of our own four walls which we see – seldom or often, on TV or in gritty reality – and beholding it, we simply think: home.

For Leeds United fans, this is as true as it gets anywhere. Elland Road is one of those iconic stadiums, one that – despite makeovers, haphazard additions and acres of cream cladding – still manages by its very eccentricity to retain a feeling of history and tradition about the place. As a Leeds supporter, you feel this; you have a sort of kindly sympathy for less fortunate football followers who must needs worship at more anonymous altars. Some have moved grounds, helplessly led by their club’s whim. Some have seen wholesale meccano-style rebuilds, leaving nothing of the history or feeling of the place. Some labour under the indignity of seeing that second home incongruously renamed after a frozen-fish packaging company or some grisly payday loans outfit. Not at Leeds – not yet, anyway.

Feeling all of this is one thing; seeing it laid out before your greedy eyes, in brilliant depth of factual detail and wonderfully-described, lovingly-written anecdotal account – that’s something else. And The Only Place For Us: An A-Z History of Elland Road, this mighty new tome by United fan Jon Howe, really is something else. It effortlessly, comprehensively fills a large gap on any Leeds United fan’s bookshelf. Many are the club histories, with their passing nods to the development of Elland Road. Many are the ghosted autobiographies, bringing us the players’ memories of performing on that familiar stage. But never before has the place been so forensically examined, its history so assiduously chronicled. The book knows that the fans adore the stadium, it acknowledges that affinity between supporter and structure. It sets out to feed that yearning for more detail, more history, more about the place itself and all its quirks and idiosyncrasies. And what it serves up is a veritable feast.

Read the book from cover to cover, or dip into it at random; this is a book that can be devoured or sampled. The reader is taken back in time to a long-ago period when the stadium we know was merely a playing field, canted round at ninety degrees to sit with its sidelines along Elland Road, only the barest of facilities to be enjoyed by hardy supporters and one rickety stand. The Peacock pub is there, the landscape is familiar; but in a series of poignantly evocative photographs we see our club’s home gradually take shape from these rudimentary beginnings.

Those photographs – a joy in themselves. Bones of stands exposed by fire; metal bones of new stands rising out of the earth, waiting to be dressed in concrete and wood or plastic, old terracing, earthen banks, modern cantilever construction. It’s all there and the well-researched text is beautifully illustrated by these glimpses of the past as much as by the vibrant colour in the pictures of more modern days.

I read this as a fan and a lover of the Elland Road stadium. It’s my home too, my place of worship. I thought I couldn’t possibly love it more; but I was wrong. To know you is to love you, so they say, and I know Elland Road so much better now, its history and its inextricable links with the Club itself. Jon Howe’s book does that for the reader; it elevates the appreciation of something already well-loved. Anyone who has a Leeds fan in their life; someone deserving of a real treat – you could hardly do better. And, I’d venture to suggest, it’s a book with something of interest to offer on a broader basis; any football fan would surely find it fascinating.

Strongly recommended.

The Revie Boys: Super Leeds One to Eleven – by Rob Atkinson

Super Leeds

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 too
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

Eleven 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

 

 

Leeds United to Miss Out as FA Introduce Selective New “Joker” Rule – by Rob Atkinson

I heff het...enOUGH of losink. I em playink - our JOKER in all games now.

I heff het…enOUGH of losink. I em playink…our JOKER in all games now

It hardly comes as news to the fans of Leeds United, long used to English football’s tiresome habit of “playing favourites”, that there is some perplexity in the corridors of power about the inability of the “most popular club” to win the league title. Since a certain choleric Glaswegian shuffled off into the sunset to brood over old feuds and current grievances, the supply of plastic EPL titles for Club Popular has dried up somewhat, much to the chagrin of the suits. Needless to say, that most popular club is not located in LS11 – the Whites of Elland Road occupy a ranking at the other end of the adulation scale, with the game’s administrators being accustomed to wrinkle their noses slightly if forced to acknowledge Leeds’ existence, affecting a rather pained expression, as if they were suffering patiently in the presence of some noxious odour.

No, the “most popular” – naturally – are the club I joshingly if not exactly fondly refer to as the Pride of Devon - due to their vast appeal to the more insecure type of West Country glory-hunter. But they’re all the rage in parts of London too, this lot – as well as Wales, Ireland, Milton Keynes, Barnsley, for God’s sake – and not to mention great chunks of the Far East and even isolated neighbourhoods in less salubrious areas of Manchester itself. 

The dilemma faced by the game’s rulers appears to be a matter of clear and present danger to those earnest men in their sober garb, as they brandish calculators and contemplate massive markets, domestic and foreign, previously of great productivity, with bale after bale of tatty replica Sharp, AIG or Chevrolet shirts being demanded every high day and holiday by precocious Man U-supporting spoilt brats. Having expressed concern over the poor form of the EPL Golden Boys, the Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore is now rumoured to have come up with a foolproof plan to redress the balance and get away from the current, annoyingly level playing field in English top flight football. The Chief’s idea is the product of much serious thought and an increasing awareness that the problem of Man U’s chronic lack of dominance is not going away anytime soon. Now, Scudamore has allegedly been inspired by the popular summer evening silly games contest of the mid 1970s, It’s A Knockout, to come up with a novel solution to a thorny problem.

Uncle Stuart - butter wouldn't melt

Uncle Stuart – butter wouldn’t melt

For those of us of a certain age, that evocative theme music is just so reminiscent of long summer evenings when we were young; coming home from playing football on the village green, hot and dusty and pleasantly tired, ready to sit down, relax – and enjoy some more seemingly innocent fun as good old “Uncle” Stuart Hall treated us to his dulcet tones, his manic laugh – but thankfully not the gift of his intimate acquaintance. Genial old rugby league fart Eddie Waring bumbled about in the background, sounding ever more like a Mike Yarwood impression of himself, joining in with Hall for the title of maddest chortler. It was quintessential family entertainment, or so it seemed in those pre-Operation Yewtree days.

Happy days, for some. But the appeal of It’s A Knockout was – thankfully – more down to the nuttiness of the games and the rules, than any peculiarities of the show’s host. The contests were between a number of teams representing various obscure towns around the UK. Massive costumes figured heavily, huge false heads on them which would put Joe Royle or even Wayne Rooney to shame, colourful, crazy, hilarious. There was water, there were custard pies, there were enough card-carrying prats to ensure pratfalls aplenty – it was hilarious, playful anarchy – and the presenters could be heard crying with mirth as the participants struggle gamely. Nobody was too bothered about the scoring system – and yet it was one bizarre element of this which may now restore Man U to what the suits see as that troubled franchise’s rightful place at the top of the English game.

The idea is that Man U – at their own discretion – will be able to “play their joker” whenever the need arises. It’s important to emphasise that this is not a reference to the team selection and the appearance in a Man U shirt of Angel di Maria or the latest “next George Best”. Rather, it is a maverick twist to the scoring system of any particular game – whereby the team playing its joker will have any subsequent score doubled.

Scudamore is believed to favour a refinement of this system, seeing the Man U joker double the value of any goal scored, rule out any goal against them, or produce a penalty on demand, regardless of where play happens to be on the field. It is envisaged that this would enable even a team managed by a total incompetent – or “onbekwaam” as Mijnheer van Gaal’s compatriots would say – to prevail in most games. Theoretically, at least, the return of the Pride of Devon to the summit of the game would be assured – and the Theatre of Hollow Myths would once again ring to the rafters with songs of West Country and cockney triumphalism.

One important feature of the new system is that – surprise, surprise, Leeds fans – it would not be open to all teams, as that would merely introduce an annoyingly random element whilst maintaining what is seen as an undesirable status quo. The conditions of entitlement so far envisaged are extremely stringent; only clubs who can demonstrate that every single one of their FA Cup ties since 2005 has been televised live on TV – even when they’ve played no-hopers at home (Exeter and Cambridge, for example. Or Leeds United…) – will have the option of “playing their Joker”. It has been concluded that only one club, based just outside Manchester, would fall within these parameters. Coincidentally, the identity of this randomly selected club would fit in precisely with Mr Scudamore’s idea for the future of the game.

Scudamore is said to be delighted with his plan. and hopes that its introduction will be a new start for English football, with better times ahead for all – unless you happen to be a fan of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City – or indeed any club that lacks the postcode M16 0RA.

Louis van Gaal, 83, is an extreme embarrassment.

How a Don Revie Disciple is Spreading the Leeds Legend Down Under – by Rob Atkinson

It’s the stuff of legend; the story of how new Leeds United manager Don Revie looked for inspiration to Real Madrid in their brilliant all-white strip, as he set about the mammoth task of turning the Elland Road also-rans into the best team in Europe. There’s possibly a touch of the apocryphal about that version of events – after all, there’s strong evidence that United turned out in all-white before The Don took the helm. But the irresistible romance has persisted to this day, that of a young and visionary manager looking from afar at the early sixties Galacticos as his ideal for creating Yorkshire legends of equal prowess. Ultimately, there’s little doubt that Don Revie did create Europe’s top team, the most-feared and respected outfit just about anywhere. It was his dearest wish that United and Real should meet in competition; sadly that never happened in Revie’s lifetime.

The finished article - Yorkshire's answer to Real Madrid

The finished article – Yorkshire’s answer to Real Madrid

Now, over fifty years on, Real Madrid have emerged from their own relatively barren years to once again reign as European Champions, with another galaxy of glittering stars and wonderful footballers. They have Cristiano Ronaldo, too. At Leeds, the wheel has turned full circle in that half-century; the Whites languish once more outside the top flight, a lowly sphere they’ve inhabited now for well over a decade. A new revolution is sorely needed at Elland Road, but where is our latter-day Don Revie? The best hope for Leeds is that the club can benefit from another outstanding crop of youngsters, as we saw back at the start of the 1960s. And still we have that iconic (more or less) all white strip, the symbol of past domination and the inspiration, we hope, for future success.

All of that represents a lot of wistful nostalgia and a fair measure of somewhat shaky optimism that we might one day see achievement on a comparable scale, all based on the symbolic value of that inspirational all-white kit. But way over on the other side of the world, in New Zealand, one ex-pat Yorkshireman and fervent Leeds United fan is creating his own dominant team of all-whites – and he’s drawn inspiration from that Revie story in order to galvanise his own young team.

Jon Stanhope, Leeds United fanatic and (I’m happy to say) a regular reader of this blog, found to his bemusement when he arrived as a teacher at Trident High School in New Zealand, that none of the boys under his guidance had really heard much about Leeds United. “Brainwashed by Sky Sports Premier League coverage” is how Jon puts it. Grimly determined, he set out to put that to rights and, on taking over the reins of the school 1st XI, he echoed Don Revie’s legendary decision, changing the team’s colours from blue to all-white – their former away kit.

Jon Stanhope's Trident Whites

Jon Stanhope’s Trident Whites

The effect of that change of strip has brought about a transformation in fortunes not a million miles away from the one enjoyed by Revie’s Whites in the early days of his time at Elland Road all those years ago. Jon’s Trident High School 1st XI went on to finish third in a national tournament; the best-ever performance in their history. “It had to be the kit!!” enthused Coach Stanhope. “The lads look magnificent when they take to the field wearing the all white strip (although parents complain that it’s hard to wash !!!)”, he adds. “They know why they are wearing an all-white strip as they all know how much I love Leeds United. I feel genuinely proud when I see them lining up before games, the new white strip has lifted the team, they look like a class act wearing it and this has given them huge confidence.”

This confidence and the unprecedented achievements of Jon’s team have been rewarded by the prospect of a first-ever UK tour this coming April, playing teams from South and West Yorkshire. Jon, a native of Yeadon who moved out to New Zealand to be with his fiancée, is looking forward to seeing his charges take on all-comers in their all-white strip, as well as visiting a few stadiums and training grounds along the way. An undoubted highlight of the tour will be a visit to Elland Road to see Leeds United – “the only other team who look magnificent in all white”, as Jon puts it – taking on old enemies Cardiff City. “It should be a spicy affair,” observes Jon. “The lads and myself can’t wait to come over and they are very intrigued as to how I can be so ferociously loyal to a team that is never shown on TV!!! They don’t quite ‘get it’ just yet…..well, they will in April!!”

Jon is quite clearly one of those guys who won’t let the small matter of twelve thousand miles or so separation get in the way of his life-long love affair with Leeds United – and with the zeal of any prophet, he’s set about inspiring the young players in his team and converting them to Leeds fans as well, if he can. “The boys were not really aware of who Leeds United were when I first arrived….they know now and often come and see me on a Monday morning to tell me the Leeds score! How times are changing!!”

The idea of changing times is one that all Leeds fans will wish to embrace after the last mainly miserable decade and a half at Elland Road. The fans, as Massimo Cellino has pointed out, remain the real wealth of the club – with enthusiasm bordering on the fanatical among thousands who live too far from LS11 to hope to see their heroes in the flesh. It’s a globe-spanning devotion that deserves to be rewarded by success. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything wishes the Trident High School team – and their inspirational Coach Stanhope – every success on their forthcoming tour to the UK. Three points against Cardiff City wouldn’t go amiss, either.

I’d like to think that Leeds United itself might perhaps extend some courtesy to a team visiting from so far away. The story of success after a change to all-white is a blessedly familiar one in Leeds, and maybe the way it seems to be playing itself out again half a century on and half a world away, can serve as some little inspiration for the current staff and players of the Mighty Whites. Let’s hope so. Leeds United and Trident High School 1st XI – Marching On Together! 

How Premier League CEO Scudamore Blew the Gaff on Man Utd Bias – by Rob Atkinson

Pet lip:  Premier League CEO Scudamore misses those Man U days of success

Pet lip: Premier League CEO Scudamore misses those Man U days of success

As a Leeds United fanatic, a card-carrying cynic and someone with no faith in the football authorities these days to run a fair and disinterested league competition, I have written many times on this blog about my belief that the Man U domination of the game in this country after 1993 (the FA Premier League début season) was deeply suspicious. The last season or so’s steep decline, with a squad not at first markedly different to the one that romped home in Taggart’s final season, begs the question: what’s really different? It has appeared ever since The Demented One left that the change of stewardship is behind this relative failure. But was Alex Ferguson the sole factor in the unprecedented success enjoyed by the Pride of Devon over the last two decades?

These days, following a series of revealing comments over the past year or so from people who should know whereof they speak, it appears that at least a couple of other factors have been at play throughout that twenty year period. I have said over and over again in Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, that the Fergie years have been trophy-laden for three well-defined reasons, none of them all that adjacent to the quality of their playing squad. They may be summed up as: Ferguson, match officials and the rulers of the game itself. These three influences conspired over two decades to exaggerate the success of Man U out of all proportion to the abilities of their playing and coaching staff in that period, many of whom have gone on to enjoy sustained mediocrity elsewhere. Add into the mix the drip, drip, drip effect of blind, unquestioning media adulation, spearheaded by Murdoch’s Sky empire and endorsed by lapdog attitudes from the terrestrial broadcasters who know which side the commercial bread is buttered, and you have what is technically known as a “Scum-friendly environment”.

This may to the unwary sound like just another conspiracy theory.  But you only have to look at the unprecedented before and after picture of Man U’s record pre-Murdoch as compared to their success under Uncle Rupert. After all, we’re talking an almost total domination of the Premier League era here, by a club that – for the 26 years immediately preceding the league reorganisation – couldn’t buy a title. Seven times Champions in their whole history prior to 1993, and then thirteen Premier League titles in the first twenty years after Rupert Murdoch bought the game.

That’s such a sharp delineation between failure and success – it’s not coincidental that the demarcation line is the inception of the Premier League, the changing of football in this country from a sport to a brand – and the new understanding that the game was now about markets and money to a much greater extent than it had ever been before. Man U were the new brand leader, and they had better succeed – or the Premier League product might not fulfil its immense potential for dominating the world in terms of TV audiences, syndication and merchandising. And that would never do. So the game leant the way of the Man U scum – as we at Leeds United fondly refer to them – and the pressure applied by Ferguson to match officials was allowed to take effect. Professional sport is a matter of extremely fine margins; a slight bias over a long period will skew outcomes to a massive degree – and that’s exactly what has happened.

Naturally, none of this has ever been acknowledged. It’s been of paramount importance, after all, that the Premier League should at least retain the appearance of being a fair competition, on the proverbial level playing field. But now – Ferguson has gone, Man U are failing, the referees are not by any means as intimidated, opposing teams are not scared any more; not, as they used to be, beaten before they took the field. And now people are speaking out, very revealingly – and in some cases that is clearly intentional, in other cases less so. Ex-referee Graham Poll is one who has made his views known quite deliberately; he has spoken out about the feelings of a ref in the Fergie years, how the priority was to get off the field without having made any close calls against Man U – and, ideally, with them having won the game. What is the cumulative effect of that kind of insidious pressure over twenty years? Self-evidently, it’s significant; look at the trophy records, the penalty for and against statistics, the time added on if Man U weren’t winning – and so on and so forth.

Poll has also written about the unprecedented scenes when three penalties were given against Man U in a home game against old rivals Liverpool. Even though things have changed in terms of the favourable decisions enjoyed by Man U, these were the first penalties awarded against Man U as the home team since December 2011 – well over two years without conceding a home league penalty. Poll’s observations on that make for interesting reading for anyone who, as I do, strongly suspects that Man U had it easy from match officials in the Fergie years.

And then, to put the tin lid on it, we had Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore sounding off, in earnestly worried tones, about how the Premier League “brand” is being adversely affected by the difficulties Man U were having last season (happily, it’s carried on in pretty much the same vein this time around). It’s difficult to believe that he was quite aware of the import of what he was saying – this was a tacit admission, after all, that the supposedly disinterested rulers of the game actually have a vested interest – as I’ve been saying long and loud – in the regular success of Man U. “It’s a double-edged sword,” said Scudamore, at the time. “When your most popular club isn’t doing as well, that costs you interest and audience in some places.” The hapless Peter doesn’t identify the other edge of that sword, but he’s clearly perturbed by the prospect of a future with Man U as the also-rans they’ve been this last two campaigns.

Speaking in greater depth about the ethos of the Premier League, as well as its duty to fans around the world, Scudamore went on: “There are lots of fans around the world who wish Manchester United were winning it again. But you have to balance that off against, generally, we’re in the business of putting on a competition and competition means people can compete.” The wistful tone of that last sentence was massively telling. Other clubs will insist on competing, particularly now that Ferguson is history. How very inconvenient and bad for business. What a deuced bore.

The FA Premier League mandarins at a high level clearly see even competition, where any old Tom, Dick or Manuel (or even Jose) can win the League, as their cross to bear, something that will inhibit their ability to market their “brand” around a global audience in thrall to Man U. But they have made a rod for their own back in allowing the creation of that trophy-winning monster, under the inimical sway of a tyrant from Govan, to become so all-consuming in the first place. Now they’re reaping what they have sown – in pumping up the bubble of unrealistic success for one favoured club, they have left themselves without a Plan B for when that bubble bursts – as bubbles inevitably will.

For real football people – the fans out here, the people who have always gone along to the match, with little if any thought of global markets and syndication deals – this new reality of genuine competition has come as a breath of fresh air. There’s a new top four out there, of varied make-up which usually excludes Man U, and they’ve all played wonderful football and succeeded on their own merits.

We’ve also seen less of the media-beloved “mind games” which are so tiresome to the fan in the street. We’ve not missed that old curmudgeon, railing at authority whenever he gets any less than his own way and intimidating anybody who gets in his way. Football seems fresh and new again; Man U were seventh last time – which is probably about where they should have finished the season before. The first twenty years of the Premier League can be seen as a statistical blip, the product of a tyrant dominating and bullying the people charged with the responsibility to see that the game is run fairly. The evidence is there; listen to Poll, listen to what Scudamore is actually saying. Look at the results and standings this season and last.

We’re so very sorry, Mr Scudamore, if your product and your brand are suffering from the failure of “your most popular club”. Perhaps you should take the view that popularity is there to be earned by whichever club can succeed on merit? That it’s not something to be inculcated by the favourable treatment of one chosen club, amounting to institutional bias over twenty long years. Perhaps you can learn that – and then all we will have to regret is the two decades when, aided by Ferguson and a terrified cadre of referees and officials, you – blatantly and with malice aforethought – sold the game down the river.