Mighty Millwall Somehow Hold Leeds Reserves to a Draw – by Rob Atkinson

Pupil Harris meets Master “el Loco” Bielsa

The odd thing about Millwall fans is that it’s such a point of honour with them to be hated and not to be bovvered about it – their main anthem is “No one likes us, we don’t care” – and yet, whenever anyone is slightly critical of their notorious Lions, they turn all petulant and start to bleat piteously. This behaviour probably displays a deep-seated need to be loved – but, let’s be honest, that’s never going to happen.

The fallout from today’s hard-fought 1-1 draw between United and their chip on the shoulder rivals from darkest Bermondsey will probably centre around the touchline spat between Marcelo Bielsa and Millwall manager Neil Harris. The latter showed some balls, in defiance of his medical history, to face up to el Loco, and Harris will probably be glad, on reflection, that Bielsa left his grenade back home in Yorkshire. Shortly after this isolated flashpoint, justice was served as young Jack Harrison opened his Leeds United account with a sweetly-struck equaliser for Leeds, ensuring that Yorkshire’s top club would have something to show for their dominance of possession and all-round classier play.

Millwall, as ever, had put everything into a game that pitted them against their most bitterly-hated opponents. This blogger sees an opportunity for QPR on Wednesday, as Millwall invested two matches’ worth of blood, sweat and tears in an effort to beat United. That they came so close and yet failed will rankle with them, and I’d possibly venture a moderate wager on them not being able to reproduce their gutsy performance in Shepherd’s Bush.

Leeds will take much from this game, both the deserved point and the nature of the performance against hyped-up, frenziedly motivated opponents. The same fixture last season was where the rot set in; psychologically, then, the fact that they came back and got the point by which they now lead the division will be money in the bank in terms of morale and self-belief.

So now it’s on to two consecutive home games that provide the chance for Leeds, even shorn as they are of a group of major players, to consolidate their position as Championship favourites. Neither Preston nor Birmingham will roll over, but even this undeniably weakened United side has the defensive solidity and attacking verve to deal with the challenges from Lancashire and the Midlands.

Leeds are now the only remaining unbeaten side in the Championship, and it goes without saying that this proud record is down to Marcelo Bielsa and his staff. The next few games, without the likes of Roofe, Hernandez and Berardi, will be further tests of the Bielsa Effect, of the Argentinian’s ability to get the most out of depleted resources. If he proves able to guide Leeds through these choppy waters, then the words “In Bielsa we trust” will become even more resonant.

Marching On Together.

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Leeds v Middlesbrough Match Officials Warned “Watch Out for Ayala” – by Rob Atkinson

Boro’s Ayala – a box of dirty tricks

As if tonight’s top of the table Championship summit clash between Leeds United and Middlesbrough wasn’t sufficiently loaded with potential flashpoints, one above all others had the potential to affect both the result and the disciplinary responsibilities of the match officials at Elland Road.

With a full house expected and the electronic eyes of the Sky TV cameras ever on the lookout for controversy as well as action, the atmosphere will be edgy and intense right from the start. Both clubs have playing staff previously on the books of their opponents, and there is a long-standing rivalry between the Kings of Yorkshire and the club best known for being Yorkshire rejects.

One potential source of strife and controversy stands out above most others though, with the likely presence in the Boro side of Daniel Ayala, a man with recent form in this fixture. Last season, with Leeds two goals to the good, Mr. Ayala blatantly wrestled Luke Ayling to the floor in the United box, an action somehow missed by match officials. Understandably outraged, Ayling sprang up to remonstrate, and in the subsequent kerfuffle, Ayala, with a look of saucer-eyed innocence on his face, contrived to have his team awarded an unlikely penalty.

Not all match officials, of course, are as visually challenged as the assistant referee on that occasion appeared to be. We must give him the benefit of the doubt, after all, and assume that it was his eyesight to blame, and not the presence of the Middlesbrough away support just behind him. But Ayala’s initial assault on Ayling was crude and obvious, and it’s reasonable to say that the incident was not one in which justice was served. Fortunately, Leeds hung on deservedly to win the game 2-1.

Mr. Ayala is still up to his nasty little tricks though, and still managing somehow to be blatant about it, and yet escape the notice of the men with the whistle and the flags. The recent Boro v West Brom game was a case in point, with Ayala clearly offending and completely getting away with it. How he does this is a mystery; we can only hope that forewarned is forearmed, and that – if Ayala does play this evening – the nastier parts of his game are spotted by the officials.

Here’s hoping for a good game and a fair outcome. MOT.

Could Yaya Toure REALLY Sign for Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

We’re very nearly at the point now when we can knock all of the transfer talk on the head, at least until January. It all comes to a halt on Friday, and the word is that Leeds will be bringing at least one new face in, many tipping Chelsea’s Izzy Brown to arrive on loan.

But there exists another interesting (to say the least) possibility, with the news that free agent Yaya Touré, late of champions Manchester City and still a stellar talent, has passed a medical in London, prior to a move to a mystery club.

Yaya has let it be known that he’s not concerned with earning megabucks, and is more interested in a challenging project. It’s well-known that anybody who goes to Leeds, and is instrumental in the awakening of that sleeping giant, will be accorded lifelong “Legend” status. So, from that point of view, the move is not only possible, it would undeniably fit the bill for both parties.

Yaya would be immense for Leeds United – if he joined up, you might as well deliver him to Elland Road as a bargain bundle to include the League Championship trophy. Whether or not English football’s new Godfather, Marcelo Bielsa, would see him as a good addition to his squad has to be another matter – and, as we know, Marcelo knows best.

But Yaya Touré is still world class, he’s cheap (ish) and he’d be an amazing coup even for a major club like Leeds. It’d be a capture in the same class as that of Gordon Strachan thirty years ago. I’d like to think that this is one of those unlikely rumours that actually has legs.

Head Coach Report: Marcelo Bielsa

A thorough analysis of the philosophy and tactical approach of Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa.

The Nutmeg Assist - TNA

Following the sacking of Paul Heckingbottom in June 2018, Argentine Manager Marcelo Bielsa was appointed as Leeds United’s head coach.

Marcelo Bielsa was born in Rosario in 1955 and is one of the most influential coaches in world football. No South American has had more of influence on today managers and how there teams are set up tactically. He is the main man behind the modern-day high press. Here we provide an insight into Bielsa’s tactical philosophy, his career and why this world-renowned innovative coach nicknamed El Loco “the mad one” has inspired a generation of Head Coaches such as Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino and Diego Simeone.

Tactical Approach

Like many Other South Americans growing up in the 60’s and 70’s Bielsa took inspiration from Rinus Michel’s and his basic style is developed from the Total Football Philosophy. In his early days his basic shape was a positional 4-3-3 based…

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Man City Hotshot Set For Leeds United Move – by Rob Atkinson

Despite interest from other prominent Championship clubs, it appears that Pep Guardiola’s deep respect for Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa will see another of Manchester City’s young tearaways link up with the Whites for a season at Elland Road.

Lukas Nmecha is a strong, powerful speed machine with an eye for goal. Coveted by many, he should prove to be a real asset to whichever club can lure him away from the Etihad for the duration of this campaign. Leeds appear to be in the mix for young Nmecha, 19, and the links between Bielsa and Guardiola could see United clinch a deal.

It would appear also that Nmecha may not be the only late-window arrival at Elland Road, with a hectic and exciting few days in prospect next week.

But first… Stoke City on Sunday. Watch out for a match reaction and talking points here on Monday.

Leeds United, Club and Fans, Could Have Done Better Over Jay-Roy Grot – by Rob Atkinson

The Don – fostered family atmosphere at Leeds

In a week hardly short of news stories about Leeds United, one in particular stands out for any fan of the Elland Road club who remembers how the first faltering steps to greatness were taken under Don Revie in the sixties; how, in short, football’s greatest family club was built. So, while I could have written this week about the arrivals at Elland Road of quality recruits for the campaign ahead, I will resist that temptation.

Instead, let’s look at Joe Urquhart’s recent Yorkshire Evening Post revelations about the struggles in his Leeds career so far of a young man called Jay-Roy Grot who, at the tender age of 20, is going for a year on loan at Dutch side VVV-Venlo. Grot, a young colossus of a man at 6’4”, arrived at United last summer from NEC of Nijmegen, snatched from under the noses of Italian giants Fiorentina. Sadly, the lad’s first year at Leeds did not go well, and his confidence has suffered. The loan away from United is designed to remedy that, in the hope of seeing him return stronger in the future.

All well and good, but a look at the role of club and supporters in this less than creditable tale might be instructive. The Elland Road support has been notorious since well before Revie’s time as “a hard crowd to play for”. They’re a crowd of extremes. They can get right behind their team, lifting them to peaks of effort and attainment. But, for the individual who is struggling to put a foot right, it can feel much less encouraging, with the terrace critics sometimes launching in even before a ball has been kicked. Young players of great potential can nevertheless find themselves dismissed as “crap”, and persecuted accordingly, should they fail to hit the ground running. Such was the shattering experience of Jay-Roy Grot.

Back in Revie’s day, before the term “pastoral care” had gained much currency, it was nevertheless a big part of the foundations of the Super Leeds side that grew up as a band of brothers to carry all before them. Revie saw to it that off-field problems would not get in the way of his team’s success on the park; his charges were looked after and nurtured. When the boo-boys got to a young and cherubic Billy Bremner, Revie supported and shielded him. If a player’s wife had a baby, there would be flowers from the Don, or a box of chocolates to celebrate a girlfriend’s birthday. No detail was too small, no problem too trivial. Revie looked after his lads and their families, and they repaid him by becoming legends.

Now, with the constant recent managerial changes at Elland Road, there seems to be no such continuity of care. The sad loss of Lucy Ward from her health and welfare role a few years back created a gap in the Leeds United system that remains arguably unfilled. These heartbreaking words from young Grot make for uneasy reading: “I am not someone who makes friends easily. And that also broke me up in England. Cooking, I had no problems with that. But coming home every day to an empty house, I had a hard time. I did nothing, nobody knew. I also had little contact with the other boys in the beginning”. The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that both fans and club could and should have done better in the case of Jay-Roy Grot and, going forward, they need to take this on board.

We must aim for less of the destructive booing from fans, less ignorant haranguing on Twitter, with more awareness and support coming from the club. This is not rocket science, and it’s simply not acceptable for a young player to feel as isolated as Grot evidently did. Maybe Leeds United should just ring Lucy Ward and beg her to come back? In the sad absence of the late, great Don Revie, Lucy is probably the best option.

Leeds Transfer Business NOT Complete; Could Swoop for Former Galatasaray Defender – by Rob Atkinson

Jason Denayer

One of the more believable rumours out there, in the wake of Leeds United‘s productive burst of transfer activity lately, is of a possible swoop for Manchester City‘s Belgian international defender Jason Denayer.

23 year old Denayer has yet to make a breakthrough at the Etihad, and is well down the pecking order at City. But loan moves elsewhere have been productive, notably a spell at Galatasaray, where he helped the infamous Istanbul club win the Turkish Cup.

Denayer has also taken in spells at Glasgow Celtic and Sunderland, whilst winning 8 senior caps for Belgium. His international record for such a high-ranking nation says much for his ability; what is needed for his progress to be maintained is perhaps another loan move, giving him competitive minutes in a decent league.

Leeds United needs another central defender, and squad number 5 at Elland Road remains unallocated thus far. A possible return for last season’s Everton loanee Matthew Pennington has been mooted, but many Leeds fans would rather see the club look elsewhere – though this blogger believes that the coaching of Marcelo Bielsa could bring out the very best in Pennington, a young man of vast potential.

One way or another, further business looks likely – that 5 shirt hasn’t been left empty for nothing. The presence of a club as reviled as Galatasaray on Denayer’s CV should not trouble United fans unduly; the lad is a City player, and a Belgian international – that’s what really matters.

Despite a busy week just gone, it should still be an interesting and exciting last few days of the transfer window at Leeds United.

Happy Yorkshire Day!

Leeds Fan Requests a Bremner Square Tile for Istanbul Victims Chris and Kev – by Rob Atkinson

Anthony Hawkridge’s inspired tweet

Browsing through the LUFC Twitter feed just now, I happened across something wonderful, something inspiring, something that couldn’t possibly be more fitting.

It was a heartfelt call on Twitter (see above) from a Leeds fan, Tony Hawkridge, which was promptly liked and retweeted by other Leeds fans, for Leeds United to include in their wonderful Bremner Square initiative a tile dedicated to the memory of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight, brutally murdered in Istanbul 18 years ago as they followed their beloved Whites to a UEFA Cup semi-final.

Of course Chris and Kev are already honoured by the plaque on an Elland Road wall nearby. But Billy Bremner‘s statue has been a focal point for United fans ever since it was raised in 1999, two years after Billy’s untimely death. You often hear fans say, I’ll meet you at Billy’s statue. It’s iconic, a symbol of the club’s greatest captain, and of the pride which runs through Elland Road right down to its last rivet.

The Bremner Square refurbishment of the statue area is a fantastic idea, and has been carried into reality in an equally fantastic manner. Phase one is complete, with the names of many die-hard United fans etched forever into the fabric of the club. What better way after all to pay tribute to, and be recognised by, the greatest club in the world?

There is more to come though, another phase of development, with yet more names to be added to those already honoured by inclusion in Bremner Square. I’ve thought of getting one for myself, or of arranging one for my late Dad, who bequeathed me my love of Leeds. But a greater opportunity presents itself, with this idea of the inclusion of two names that symbolise the most tragic and needless episode to befall our club and its massive family of fans.

I’m sure that the club will see the compelling case for including a Chris & Kev tile in phase two. I’m equally sure that, if a cost is involved, then any appeal for the meeting of that cost would be over-subscribed many times by Leeds fans, myself most heartily included, eager and willing to chip in.

There are no obstacles to the realisation of this excellent idea. It’s the right thing to do. I’d appeal to anyone who reads this to contact the club and press the case, in the certain knowledge that the club would listen and empathise. We can make sure that the horror of Taksim Square is addressed and superseded by the pride and honour of Bremner Square.

Leeds United – it’s over to you. Let’s get this done.

Chris and Kev

Rest in Peace

Leeds in “Best Championship Left Back” Swoop – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United have had an offer accepted by Wolverhampton Wanderers for their attacking left back Barry Douglas. The offer is thought to be in the region of £6m with add-ons, for a player whose Wolves deal has a year to run.

Douglas had an impressive scoring and assist record last term, and his likely sale is not being greeted with enthusiasm by Wolves fans. It is thought that the player would add balance to the Leeds side under Marcelo Bielsa, complementing the attacking threat of Luke Ayling on the right.

Douglas is reported to be in talks with United over personal terms. Meanwhile, Leeds are said to have up to three other significant offers on the table for further unidentified players. Bielsa was known to want a full back, which explains the Douglas bid. He has also prioritised a winger and a centre forward.

This could yet be a very exciting transfer window for Leeds United, despite the frustration of the summer so far.

RIP Paul Madeley, the Rolls Royce Footballer who Only Wanted to Play for Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Paul-Madeley-993215

RIP Paul Madeley, Leeds United’s “Rolls Royce” legend

Another star from the Super Leeds galaxy has left us, with the sad death of Paul Madeley at 73. Paul was the archetypal Mr Versatile, a man whose ability to excel in a number of diverse roles possibly even counted against him as he was less likely to pin down a regular starting berth in a team of superstars that carried all before them. For a team like that to be able to call on a man like Madeley was a godsend – we can only be thankful that “the eleven Pauls” were never far away whenever a gap appeared in the ranks due to injury or suspension.

Really, after that,  there are few words. We all know what Paul was all about, we know he’d have walked into just about any other side at that time, we know that he was preoccupied above all else with playing for Leeds United – to the extent that he told his manager he’d be happy to sign a blank contract and let his boss fill in the amounts and the term of the agreement. Contrast that with the prevailing attitude today, and it’s clear that we were lucky enough to have a real diamond for so long in Paul – and clear also  that we have just lost a genuine legend.

It’s appropriate really that we should take a short break from wondering which football mercenaries we might be recruiting for the season ahead, in order to raise a glass to the memory of Paul Madeley and his legacy of decency, service and loyalty. A better servant to the club he loved you will not find, and I say this in the full knowledge that his team-mates were from the elite end of the stars of that time. That Madeley’s name is a watchword for the qualities listed above, when his contemporaries at Elland Road could also be described thus, says so much about his status in the pantheon of Leeds United legends.

Versatile, dedicated, unselfish – irreplaceable.  RIP Paul Madeley, 1944 – 2018