Shock for Leeds United Fans: We’re Not Top, We’re THIRD   –   by Rob Atkinson


Yesterday appeared to be a day of triumph for the Whites, as they beat Ipswich Town before a packed and rapt Elland Road to maintain their lofty position atop the Championship. Leeds United, leading the way, a promotion charge gathering momentum, the lads are in form and all’s right with the world. What could be better?

Except, it ain’t necessarily so. You see, those sporting geniuses at Paddy Power have decided, in their wisdom (and not for any sordid commercial reasons or wanting to weasel out of a bet, nosirreebob) that Leeds United didn’t win on Saturday. So we’re not top of the league, we’re only third. Because – and mark this well – own goals don’t count. As the hapless Ipswich goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski was officially credited with Leeds’ third and ultimately decisive goal, Paddy Power have airily ruled it out; Leeds didn’t win after all, the match was drawn. 

How utterly stupid, I hear you say – and you’re right. But it’s not only stupid, it’s bent, perverse, grubby and laughably self-serving. For a bookie to throw an attitude like that, simply to avoid paying out on a bet won fair and square, is utter lunacy. What credibility do they have left in the wake of such a crass decision? None; not a shred. 

As things stand, punters who bet on Leeds to win and Lasogga to score anytime are out of pocket in a totally inexcusable and scandalous manner. Lasogga undeniably scored. No arguments there. And Leeds undeniably won – yet Paddy Power denies it, for their own tawdry reasons. 

I hope that sanity prevails and that those frustrated and outraged punters get their winnings after all. But I also hope that Paddy Power’s business takes a massive hit over this – who in their right mind will place a bet with such a very unscrupulous firm? Not me, for one. And I bet all sensible punters feel the same.

Let us not forget, this is the firm that offered odds on the assassination of Barack Obama, amongst other tasteless actions. They even took bets on Ugo Ehiogu becoming manager of Birmingham City, after the former Leeds defender’s tragic death. I feel safe in saying that this is not a reputable firm.

Yesterday’s shameful decision not to honour bets on a Leeds victory disgracefully confirms that verdict. Paddy Power: pay up, shut up – and then get lost.

Oh – and we did win. And we’re still top. In the real world that is – not the murky and crooked view of a dodgy bookie. 

Advertisements

Leeds United Looking to Bounce Back After Millwall Loss – by Rob Atkinson

Klich

                    Hadi Sacko and Mateusz Klich 

NB: This article also appears in Saturday’s edition of the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Leeds United’s first loss of the season, viewed in the context of what is shaping up to be a momentous campaign, was less painful than might have been expected. The defeat was narrow and yet decisive; United were blown away by the sheer desire and commitment of a Millwall side whose performances against Leeds rarely seem to lack those qualities. In the event, the home side deserved their success, having had an early strike ruled out for a debatable offside call. Even then, there was a hint of offside about the eventual winner, but justice was probably done on the day.

Fortunately for those United fans who felt themselves to have returned to Earth with a bump, there was a chance for redemption at Burnley in the midweek Carabao Cup tie. Sure enough, Leeds dusted themselves down and revealed their gritty side to match higher league opposition, despite nine changes from last weekend. There was a grim satisfaction in ejecting the Clarets from the competition, especially as United were up against two erstwhile heroes in Chris Wood and Charlie Taylor, both of whom saw a brighter, or at any rate, more lucrative future across the Pennines at Turf Moor. Any lingering resentment over those deals was largely dissipated when Stuart Dallas’s decisive shoot-out penalty hit the back of the Burnley net and, with hindsight, the cup tie turned out to be more about current Leeds heroes than it was about Messrs. Wood and Taylor.

The biggest revelation of Tuesday night, for me, was Mateusz Klich, a Polish midfielder who had not been pulling up many trees this season so far – but he certainly seized his chance at Burnley. Klich seemed to be everywhere, closing down, making interceptions, putting in the hard yards with driving forward runs and generally giving as complete a midfield performance as we’ve seen so far this season. On that form, Klich will have given head coach Thomas Christiansen another welcome selection headache going forward; Leeds are particularly well-served in the middle of the park, but it will be difficult to overlook the case for Klich if he maintains the level of performance he showed against the Clarets. The ice-cool and languid penalty he dispatched during the shoot-out topped off his night’s work perfectly; it looks as if United can expect much more from Mateusz.

The other particularly bright spark on Tuesday was Hadi Sacko, who had up until this match been a mercurial and frustrating, hit-and-miss performer – but again, you could see the work going on at Thorp Arch beginning to pay off in terms of the Christiansen ethos sinking in all the way through this squad. Sacko it was who made the initial breakthrough for Leeds, finishing well after bursting onto a Pablo Hernandez pass that found him in space vacated by a badly-positioned Charlie Taylor. A very sweet moment, that. Sacko showed menace every time Leeds got forward after his introduction as substitute and, again, if he can keep that up, there’s another useful iron in United’s attacking fire.

So we move on to Ipswich Town at a sold-out Elland Road today, where Christiansen’s troops will be up against no-nonsense Barnsley lad (and boyhood Leeds fan) Mick McCarthy as Town boss, assisted by former United striker Terry Connor. These two will put aside their Leeds affiliations for the day and their team will provide stern and well-organised opposition. Still, Elland Road will be rocking again and this Leeds squad provides so many options and permutations that you have to fancy United to find a way of dealing with the Tractor Boys. With some difficult games ahead, three points today would be very welcome, consolidating United’s heady occupation of Championship top spot.

These are interesting and exciting times for United fans, who will now be optimistic about seeing the Whites put that Millwall slip-up firmly behind them.

-o0o-

While you’re here – a gentle and polite reminder. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything depends on your donations to keep going. Please click HERE to donate what you can – even a quid or two makes a big difference. This blog will never hide behind a paywall, so it relies on your generosity for its continued existence. Thank you – MOT.

Burnley’s Sean Dyche Embarrasses Himself After Defeat to Leeds Utd – by Rob Atkinson

sean_dyche_manager_of_burnley_looks_on_during_the_premier_league_546102

Burnley boss Sean Dyche – seemingly unsure as to the relative locations of arse and elbow

This blog is not usually in the habit of upbraiding opposition managers and coaches for their post-match comments, particularly in the wake of a defeat. It’s an edgy and sensitive time, feelings run high and the vocal cords are occasionally allowed to twang more freely than perhaps they should. But, after Burnley‘s exit last night from the Carabao Cup at the hands of Leeds United, Clarets boss Sean Dyche came out with a couple of real whoppers that really cannot be allowed to pass unremarked upon.

Firstly, and most surprisingly, Mr. Dyche – perhaps casting about for some excuse as to why his Premier League beauties had failed to beat a Championship side showing nine changes from its nominal first XI – ventured to criticise referee Darren Bond‘s decision to award United a penalty kick deep into injury time of the 90 minutes (and shortly after he’d made a similar decision at the other end). Demonstrating what can only be called an appalling ignorance of the laws of the game, Dyche said “They get a penalty, which I think is a real soft one. He (Tarkowski) does pull his shirt but the ball is seven feet above his head. It’s impossible that it’s impeded him from actually scoring a goal,” he added.

It’s hard to know where to start with that one. But let us state simply and clearly, for the avoidance of doubt and to emphasise the depth of Sean’s silliness, that a shirt pull by a defender on an attacker (which he acknowledges did happen) in the penalty area, is a foul and a penalty kick. It’s as simple as that, there are no ifs, buts or maybes, and there’s no caveat along the lines of “did it prevent a goal-scoring opportunity”. Such complexities are for decisions over cautions, not the award of a free kick or a penalty kick for an obvious foul. For a professional coach at Premier League level to suggest otherwise, and presume to criticise the referee in the process, is at best an insulting attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes. At worst, it amounts to a quite astounding ignorance of the laws of the game, and a lack of the basic knowledge needed by any football professional.

Dyche’s second ridiculous observation was targeted at an area outside the professional arena, so is perhaps more understandable, if not excusable. The Clarets boss professed himself bemused at the level of abuse aimed by the travelling Leeds support (who were quite phenomenal, as ever) at former Whites Charlie Taylor and Chris Wood. Dyche seemed to think that the Leeds fans should have done their sums, realised how much money United had raked in from the two transfers, and applauded the departed duo politely, as if this were a cricket match on the village green, with the church clock standing at ten to three, and honey still for tea. Again, you have to wonder at the Ginger One‘s knowledge and appreciation of football and football support. Remember, these two players had both committed the ultimate sin, in fans’ eyes, of refusing to play for their club in order to facilitate a transfer away from that club. There are very few lower depths to plumb than that.

Perhaps Sean was simply nettled and disappointed, on a night when his club had exited the Carabao Cup and had been trolled afterwards by one of their own sponsors. But in that case he’d have done far better to bite his tongue, purse his lips and keep his mouth firmly shut. In making the comments he made after last night’s game, he’s simply made a fool of himself – mainly by his bizarre interpretation of the laws surrounding penalty kicks, which are really not open to being seen as he appeared to wish.

It’s probably too much to suppose that a hurt and humiliated football coach will have second and better thoughts, leading him to withdraw the remarks highlighted here – but if Mr. Dyche did choose to go down that road, to admit that he was factually incorrect, in error of judgement and foolish to express such dubious views – well, possibly he would emerge as a bigger man and regain some respect. But, as things stand, someone who’s on record as having said such very daft and uncalled-for things as Dyche was guilty of, cannot really ask to be viewed with much respect at all.

And Sean – respect matters. Because, win, lose, or draw, Cup progress or Cup exit, and even with the local police seemingly firmly on your side – you won’t last much longer in football without that particular commodity.

silly sean

-o0o-

While you’re here – a gentle and polite reminder. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything depends on your donations to keep going. Please click HERE to donate what you can – even a quid or two makes a big difference. This blog will never hide behind a paywall, so it relies on your generosity for its continued existence. Thank you – MOT.

Millwall Curse Strikes Again as Leeds are Edged Out at the New Den – by Rob Atkinson

ColdBlowLane10

Cold Blow Lane back in the day

My first experience of Millwall was in the mid-eighties at their old ground, the Den, which was a sort of damp and dank above-ground dungeon, only slightly less hospitable. It was also known by its postal address of Cold Blow Lane, as if to emphasise that this was not a place of entertainment; it was a place to get to, take care of business if possible, and then get away from as quickly as possible. On my only visit, the coach got its windows put through by means of a hail of half-bricks in lieu of welcoming ticker-tape and a brass band, and we put up an abject show, losing 3-1. It was a typical Leeds United day out in Bermondsey, a tradition of hostility and defeat that we have, by and large, maintained ever since.

That old name, though, Cold Blow Lane. How apt it was, and still seems now. Today, Leeds found the chill wind of Championship reality gusting around nether regions quivering under black shorts that, combined with white shirts and white socks, gave us a slight but deceptive resemblance to Germany’s national team. Perhaps they were trying to make Herr Lasogga feel at home – but nobody remotely civilised could ever feel cosily welcome in these parts, not even at the relatively shiny New Den.

The pattern of the match was set from the start. I will predict here and now that Millwall will lose their next game, through a combination of fatigue and a feeling of “after the Lord Mayor’s show”. They’ll simply be knackered.  The home team could not have been more hyped-up and super-charged if they’d been playing in, well, a Cup Final. Taking to heart the rabid desire of the home crowd, they tore into Leeds at the first whistle, and they never let up. They could have been ahead early on, but a dodgy-looking offside decision saved Leeds and denied our former striker Steve Morison – yet Millwall were not discouraged. Every time a Leeds player got the ball in any kind of space, two or three Lions pounced hungrily, and a dispossessed United were under pressure again, every minute, all over the field. Getting to half-time on level terms was a notable achievement; getting a 0-0 draw was an expectation too far.

When the goal came, it felt strange – the sight of the ball in our net for a legitimate strike after so long a time since the opening day of the season. It was like the return of a half-forgotten childhood nightmare, and you had the feeling that, on the day, there was no way back. In the end, United tried manfully, having been swimming against a riptide of home pressure for the whole piece, but it was all effort and little penetration. We finished with ten on the park, all three subs having been used when Pontus had to limp out of the fray. It will be interesting (or maybe distressing) to see how many, if any, fit central defenders we have for Burnley in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday, and for Ipswich in the Championship at Elland Road next weekend.

But let us not be downhearted. We’re still top of the League, by virtue of our healthy goal difference – and I’d bet the tax due on Cellino’s yacht that we’d all have taken an impressive P8 W5 D2 L1 record after four home and four away games, if we’d been asked the question at the start of the season. A reminder that we are, after all, but mortal is not a bad thing at such an early stage of the season. There’s plenty of time and scope for us to pick up our heads again, and press on. This was the second “bogey ground” this season, so with the three points gained at Forest, we’re ahead of the game. And we’ll be ready for Millwall when they come to Leeds, with their dozen or so away followers.

Lessons will have been learned; the effect of application and effort on a hard but inferior team will have been noted. Hopefully, Leeds United will not be caught napping again for some little time – because that’s certainly what happened down Bermondsey way today.

One Squad Addition Leeds United Simply MUST Make in January – by Rob Atkinson

Smith 17

The much-missed Number 17

It’s been, by common consent, a fantastic summer transfer window for Leeds United, with bundles of quality signed to make the club a real force in the Championship this season. The proof of the pudding is, as they rightly say, in the eating – and the fact that many of the players signed since last season were not exactly household names pales into insignificance at the side of their stellar performances over the new campaign so far. Unknowns or not, the new lads have delivered, and United sit proudly atop The Championship. ‘Nuff said.

It might seem a little premature, then, to be looking ahead to the January window and, truth be told, it’s difficult right now to see where the squad could usefully be strengthened. However, circumstances alter cases, and there’s a lot of football to be played before the new year rolls around. It’s tolerably certain that some squad tweaks will be necessary, and this blogger is more than happy to leave such matters to Messrs. Orta and Christiansen, under the benignly watchful eye of club owner Andrea Radrizzani.

The only suggestion I would make – and I make it in the strongest possible terms – is that we must have a squad number 17. It’s absolutely necessary, in order to eradicate the last traces of Massimo Cellino from this great club, and move on into a bright future free of the Corn King’s grubby baggage. Cellino saw to it that Leeds United “retired” the number 17 three years ago, due to his silly superstition about that inoffensive number. I’m not particularly bothered about who wears number 17, but it’s imperative that the shirt be brought out of retirement and back into currency. Only then can we consider ourselves to be well and truly embarked upon the post-Cellino era.

So let’s get it done – it’d be great if somebody of true quality could be signed to fill the newly reinstated 17 shirt – perhaps a big surprise from Asia? But, whoever the new man might be, let him wear 17 with pride – and perhaps then (just to annoy Cellino and his fans a little more) hit a purple patch that will see Leeds United win this league and finally return to the top, where we all know that we belong.

-o0o-

While you’re here – a gentle and polite reminder. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything depends on your donations to keep going. Please click HERE to donate what you can – even a quid or two makes a big difference. This blog will never hide behind a paywall, so it relies on your generosity for its continued existence. Thank you to all who have already donated – it’s much appreciated. MOT

Leeds Vibrant Attacking Brand Outshining Most of Premier League   –   by Rob Atkinson


One thing we often hear presented as fact, when it’s actually merely one of those little pieces of fiction so beloved of corporate marketing types, is the alleged “gulf in class” between the Championship league and the more glittery and relentlessly hyped English Premier League. As with most of these glib generalisations, there’s an element of truth in there but – as is so often the case – it just ain’t as simple as that. 

In reality, the top teams in the Championship in any given season will give the bulk of the Premiership a good game and a run for their money a fair chunk of the time. The real gulf in class is between the Premier League élite – an exclusive band of five or six major, moneyed giants of the game – and the rest of the top flight who simply can’t hold a candle to the brilliance of the billionaires. Between these Premier League also-rans and the major contenders at the top end of the Championship, the margins are far finer. 

This weekend just gone has been a case in point. After witnessing Leeds United’s virtuoso 5-0 demolition of Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion, I then sat through two televised Premier League games on Sunday, of quite mind-numbing boredom and ineptitude, where the standard of play was palpably inferior to the fare served up by Thomas Christiansen’s troops on Saturday. First Burnley edged out Crystal Palace through a Chris Wood gift goal, then Newcastle shaded a turgid contest at Swansea. Currently, I’m watching West Ham struggle against newly-promoted Huddersfield, in a game of barely better quality than the first two. It wasn’t a Super Sunday in the EPL, and so far it’s not exactly a Magic Monday either. Despite the propaganda of the EPL, this is anything but unusual. 

Of course, most fans will already be aware that talk of uniform excellence in the top flight is merely wishful thinking with a view to selling The Brand. A glance at the EPL odds on any given weekend will show that those in the know expect the Newcastles and Huddersfields of the Premier League to be soundly sorted out anytime they play one of the real big boys, or even some of the secondary pack such as Southampton or Everton. The Premier League is really two mismatched leagues in one, and it can be carnage when excellence meets mediocrity. The same is not true when Championship contenders play top flight strugglers. 

The essential truth that has emerged from the opening part of the season is that this year’s emerging Championship aristocrats, our own Leeds United, have produced football to surpass anything Sky has shown live these past few days. I looked at the two Sunday games in the warm afterglow of that scintillating Elland Road display, and I knew – I just knew – that United could have seen off any of those four teams. The same applies to tonight’s combatants, on the evidence of the first half. 

And it’s not only this season, either. The overblown myth of Premier League superiority has been pierced and deflated on a few occasions in LS11 these past few years, by United sides with much less swagger than the current squad. Spurs, Gareth Bale and all, fell at Leeds in the FA Cup, the same season Everton were beaten in the League Cup. Lesser manifestations of Leeds than our heroes of Saturday have faced nominally higher-grade opposition, and have generally done OK. Other Championship clubs can report similar successes. It doesn’t fit in with the Premier League “we are da BEST” narrative, but it’s a fact nonetheless.

The proof of the pudding, of course, is in the eating – and my contention will be put to the test at Burnley in the Carabao Cup shortly. But I honestly expect us to give a good account of ourselves, due to my conviction that Leeds United’s football this term has been a cut above much of what we’ve seen from the middle and lower echelons of the so-called “élite”. 

We shall see. But, whenever you can bear to tear your eyes away from the spectacular style and verve of Leeds United’s current performance levels, take a look at some of the Premier League dross being shown live by satellite. I’m pretty sure any objective judge, as well as we blinkered Whites fanatics, would concede that I’ve got a point. 

                                       -o0o-

While you’re here – a gentle and polite reminder. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything depends on your donations to keep going. Please click HERE to donate what you can – even a quid or two makes a big difference. This blog will never hide behind a paywall, so it relies on your generosity for its continued existence. Thank you – MOT.

Leeds’ Radrizzani Revolution Summed Up in One Magical Afternoon – by Rob Atkinson

Lasogga

Lasogga – Viduka Mk. II?

We’ve heard the phrase “dare to dream” often enough around Elland Road these past few years or so. Perhaps too often – because, when we did dare, the promised dreams usually turned to grisly nightmares. But this morning, thousands of Leeds United fans will have woken up pinching themselves to make sure that yesterday’s picture-perfect display of attacking football, defensive solidity and, oh, just everything you could possibly want, was not, after all, just some figment of an over-active imagination. For the vast majority packing out the stadium, though, the dream was real alright. It was the dedicated band of Burton Albion fans with the nightmares, as their team was hopelessly outplayed, outgunned, out-thought and outclassed in what was a virtuoso performance by United. It was men against boys from minute one, and the best part has to be that, although a dominant display like this had been coming, there is surely much more to anticipate and expect from Leeds this season.

There’s no point in downplaying this performance because it was “only Burton”. Albion are a fellow Championship side who were coming off the back of a three match unbeaten run, yet Leeds made them look several leagues inferior. The gulf between the two sides was, as BBC commentator Barry Davies once said on the occasion of another famous Leeds thrashing of hapless opponents, “an almighty chasm”. One look at the face of Burton manager Nigel Clough afterwards was enough to realise that he was only too well aware of the magnitude of the thrashing handed out to his team. I had been polishing a question along the lines of “Nigel, you said in the run-up to this game that you’d spotted Leeds’ weak spot. Can you reveal it to us now?” The pain on the face of the pro persuaded me to hold my tongue.

Leeds won at the easiest of canters, managing to introduce a new striker in the burly form of Pierre-Michel Lasogga in a manner that might have had you thinking he’d been in the team for months. There is much to look forward to from Lasogga. A few people have commented on his resemblance to Mark Viduka, and he really could be that good. Early in the game, the Viduka comparison looked spot on, as he received the ball on the right of the box, turned smartly and then pirouetted back to supply Kemar Roofe with a chance that the Burton keeper (who actually had a good game) saved well. That pirouette was very reminiscent of the Duke’s hat-trick goal in that memorable 4-3 defeat of Liverpool just over 17 years ago. It showed that, just maybe, Lasogga might be looking to fill far more illustrious boots than those vacated by Chris Wood.

There were so many other highlights, too. The sight of Roofe at last scoring the kind of goal he was serving up routinely in his Oxford days a couple of years back. Another fine, left-footed finish from young Kal Phillips, who just keeps getting better and better. And the brilliance of Samu Sáiz, as he cleverly prompted Leeds’ attacking moves, one forward pass to Roofe in particular being the sort of thing you’d normally expect to see in la Liga, never mind the Championship. That Giles-esque, chipped pass set up Roofe on the byline to cross for Lasogga’s second, a well-placed header to complete the scoring after about an hour. Enough was as good as a feast, Lasogga came off to a noisy standing ovation, and Leeds strolled through the rest of an afternoon where you suspect they could have had ten if they’d really wanted to.

And all of this, of course, without arguably the season’s star up to this point, Ezgjan Alioski, who was benched for this game after his international exertions with Macedonia in midweek. Gaetano Berardi was missing still, as was Matthew Pennington, and Leeds felt able to replace Vurnon Anita with Stuart Dallas at the interval as well as giving the young colossus Jay-Roy Grot some minutes later on. None of this disrupted the progress of the Leeds juggernaut and poor Burton were simply steamrollered flat as a pancake.

It was the kind of performance to ring the changes between epochs, a signal demonstration that what had been is no more; here was a new era and it’s one to get excited about. Four areas of the club are radically altered from what many see as a reasonably successful season last time around. The owner is now the sole owner, and has been going about things very much his own way; everything Andrea Radrizzani touches seems currently to turn to gold. And it’s his birthday today. Many happy returns, sir.

The other three areas are recruitment, coaching and the team. Victor Orta has demonstrated his unerring eye for a player, pulling off some remarkable coups in the transfer window lately completed. The Wood exit has summed up Orta’s success; the income from that deal has virtually financed all of the incomings, including the loan deal that has provided us, in Lasogga, with a striker who looks better and who provides more options than the effective but one-dimensional Wood. And the coaching of Thomas Christiansen has been a revelation; the likes of Roofe and Liam Cooper have grown under his tutelage, almost overnight, into the players they clearly had it in them to be. The team looks solid at the back, creative in midfield and fluidly lethal up front. Many are still trying to assess the ability of new keeper Felix Wiedwald, or even properly to learn his name. He’s had that little to do so far, beyond linking up well with the back line to distribute the ball across the defensive third.

These are heady times to be a Leeds supporter; it’s difficult for many of us to keep our feet on the ground after so long in the doldrums. The first defeat will be the big test for the support; you suspect that, as far as the squad is concerned, Christiansen has plans and a message for that contingency. On the evidence of yesterday in particular, and the season so far in general, that first setback may (fingers crossed) be some way off. In the meantime, supporting United currently feels so good that you wonder if it’s not somehow bad for your health. But these are good feelings, and we deserve them – they’ve been a long time coming, after all.

Whatever the long and short term future may have in store for us all, there’s one thing that’s quite certain: this demolition of Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion, with the scoring debut of Lasogga as the icing on the cake, will live long in the memory. It truly was the stuff of dreams – and it really happened, just as we recall it. So we can stop pinching ourselves right now, and settle in for what looks like being a season to savour.

-o0o-

While you’re here – a gentle and polite reminder. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything depends on your donations to keep going. Please click HERE to donate what you can – even a quid or two makes a big difference. This blog will never hide behind a paywall, so it relies on your generosity for its continued existence. Thank you – MOT. 

When Leeds United Beat Bayern Munich to Become Champions of Europe – by Rob Atkinson

If Only

As alternative sporting histories go, this is The Big One. Every Leeds United supporter knows that we are the Champions, Champions of Europe – we sing about it virtually every week. It’s not self-delusion, nor yet is it hubris; it’s a 42 year old sense of outraged injustice and the knowledge that if our victory in 1975 was merely moral, Bayern’s was emptily pyhrric. The WACCOE song is a continuing protest against the conspiracy of circumstances that, aided and abetted by lavishly bent referee Michel “Corkscrew” Kitabdjian and Bayern Kaiser Franz Beckenbauer, robbed United of their rightful final accolade. But now, in a well-written and entertaining reimagining of history, author Simon Turner has provided us with a taste of karmic retribution.

The book is called “If Only – an Alternative History of the Beautiful Game” and at least that one chapter is indeed beautiful, for Leeds fans of a wistful or maybe vengeful disposition. Simon doesn’t go for the easy option of “if onlying” the 1975 Bayern robbery, perhaps with a “what if Lorimer’s goal had stood” device; he leaves that sad chapter of history to stand as the injustice it was, opting instead to imagine revenge as a dish served cold 26 years later in 2001. I’ll avoid too many spoilers, because this is a book well worth reading and enoying and I hope you’ll do just that. But imagine the sweetness of Bayern losing out despite being the better side and because, in large measure, of refereeing “blunders”. A mirror image of ’75, in other words – and that works so much better than simply making believe Billy Bremner‘s boys had won as they undoubtedly deserved to.

I must admit, I bought the book for that Bayern/Leeds rematch alone; but I did read the first chapter (Scotland as World Champions in 1930) as a sort of hors d’oeuvre before skipping on to my main course of Schadenfreude mit Sauerkraut, as O’Leary‘s babies vanquished the Whites’ teutonic arch-nemesis. After that feast, even I didn’t need dessert, so the rest of the book is still awaiting my attention. But, having read those two chapters, I’m confident that the rest of the fare will be of like quality, and I’m looking forward to it very much.

Alternative histories are usually entertaining, whatever the variable quality of the writing, but this one really is a tour de force – well researched, brilliantly imagined and, at least in the case of the Leeds chapter, deftly using the actual history of one era to spice the alternate version in another. It’s a fine piece of work, and I strongly recommend it. Clicking on the link above will provide purchase details; the book is also available for Kindle devices (that’s the format I’ve got).

I’ll quote in full the “about the author” paragraph: “As a long-suffering supporter of Walsall Football Club, Simon Turner has witnessed countless ‘if only’ moments over the years. He lives in Lichfield with his wife Val, daughter Ellie, who has the good sense to follow athletics rather than football, and son Edward, who deliberately annoys him by supporting Aston Villa

For a Walsall fan to have written such a therapeutic piece, as far as Leeds fans with long memories are concerned anyway, is praiseworthy indeed. I certainly wish I’d written it, but reading it – and getting just that tantalising hint of feeling just how it would be if we really could get revenge for an ancient robbery – well, that was definitely the next best thing.

Meet the Man Who’s REALLY Saved Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Elland Road

Leeds United, saved at last

These past few years, during a time when it’s been obvious for the most part that Leeds United really did need saving, there have been more or less extravagant claims on behalf of various parties who, their supporters would have us believe, have been the saintly figures behind various rescue acts to preserve the Yorkshire giants for their grateful fans. Such claims do not hold water. The men and the motivations behind the alleged rescue operations have been decidedly dodgy, with the “rescues” invariably accelerating United’s downhill plummet, as well as emphasising their shocking loss of credibility within a game once dominated by the heroes of Elland Road.

It’s pointless going over old ground again here, save to emphasise this blog’s viewpoint that, far from “saving Leeds United”, the various incarnations of ownership since the turn of the century have had in common their gross mismanagement of the club and its reduction to a laughing stock. For most of the time since relegation from the top flight, the story has been one of deterioration and decay, a gradual and insidious loss of status and prestige, and the disastrous admission to the club of two of the biggest villains ever to sully the name of football in general and Leeds United in particular. And yet still these two characters – Bates and Cellino – have their adherents among supposed Leeds fans, people who will still try to tell you that, without their own particular conman of choice, United might not even exist. The fact is that a club of Leeds’ stature will always eventually find a saviour, just as even the darkest night ends with the rising of the sun. It was simply our misfortune that, in the decade or so after the post-Ridsdale implosion, we managed to attract two men so inimical to the true interests of the club, and the game in a wider sense.

Enough of them. It’s with much greater optimism that we now view our club as its resurgence gathers a momentum that seems set fair to become unstoppable. The change of ownership started things off in the best possible way, in that it saw the end of Cellino (albeit to some bewildering peeps of protest from some quarters). But Massimo was gone, and we had a quite different Italian in charge; one who began to do novel things like keeping promises, investing in the team, recruiting football men to do football business – stuff like that. Andrea Radrizzani has overseen, in really a very short time, a total transformation of the club, the stadium and the playing staff at both first team and also – crucially – at U-23 level, where last season had been an unmitigated farce. So, can we point at Andrea and say, “Here is the man who saved Leeds United“? There’s quite probably a case for just such a conclusion to be drawn.

But really, you have to look back further, right back to the start of the process that would eventually see Massimo move out and Andrea move in. From this beginning, everything else has flowed. It’s the catalyst for Radrizzani’s Leeds United takeover that we’re really looking for, when we seek to identify Leeds United’s actual saviour.

And the thing is, it’s such an unlikely name, a man with only the most fleeting and tenuous connection with Leeds United, when he appeared as a veteran in the white shirt during John Charles’ testimonial in 1988, playing alongside Michel Platini and helping set up a pre-Leeds transfer Ian Rush for a hat-trick against Everton. Other than this brief glimpse of magic in a Leeds shirt, our man spent most of his career with old enemies north and south of the Scottish border, earning legendary status first at Celtic and then at Liverpool, where he’d been set the unenviable task in 1977 of replacing departed Kop hero Kevin Keegan. Naturally, he went on to surpass Keegan; success and the attainment of legend status was, after all, simply second nature to him.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, I give you the true saviour of Leeds United – not Bates, not Cellino, not even (though I would willingly kiss his Italian shoes) Andrea Radrizzani. The man and the motivation behind The Italian Job, whereby one Signor was replaced by another, is none other than Scotland hero and perennial thorn in the side of Leeds United and many others, Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish, MBE. Dalglish it was who, at a social gathering before a Champions League quarter final between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, spoke with enthusiasm to Radrizzani of Leeds United, of the size of the club and the passion of its fanbase; of how the whole place was a project just awaiting fulfillment, ready for the right person to go in and revive football’s archetypal sleeping giant.

“It was a casual chat at lunch with friends, it was my first time meeting him,” says Radrizzani. “We were talking about many things and for two minutes we talked about Leeds, the sleeping giant, the opportunity for someone coming here. He mentioned about the great opportunity if someone had a concrete project with a vision to bring back the passion. He also mentioned about how the city is passionate about the club and this is what I’m finding out.”

From this small beginning, the seed was sown that has brought us to where we are today, with Leeds United, so recently a basket case of a club, now showing the unmistakeable signs of growing vigour, health and confidence. A journey of a thousand miles, so they say, begins with a single step – and there’s no denying that Kenny Dalglish, on that blessed day for Leeds, applied the initial, gentle push that started Radrizzani off on the project he’s now conducting so well.

It’s frightening to contemplate where we’d now be, and in what sort of mood or depths of despair, if that chance meeting and casual conversation hadn’t taken place. Destiny took a hand, fate came a-calling, and when the two men met, Dalglish – a man of other clubs and different allegiances – spoke warmly of Leeds, of potential untapped and an institution of the game ripe for salvation. It was enough to set us on the road to recovery. Dalglish, bless him, was there when we needed him, and he said what we needed him to say.

At some future time when, we must fervently hope, (but now with much more confidence) we are truly back at the top table of the game – well, we’ll know that it’s our due, that we’re finally back where we belong. And in the still further distant future, when trophies are back on the sideboard and we’re stomping the fields of Europe again, it might be time for a few more statues to be erected around the fully-refurbished, highly impressive and club-owned Elland Road mega-stadium. It’s how we say thanks to our legends and our saviours, after all.

Laugh if you will, but consider the role played by Leeds United’s most identifiable saviour of recent years, think of the contribution he has made towards our recent, spectacular revival and resurgence. It’s no exaggeration to say that this man, in that one casual conversation, has made a pivotal difference to Leeds United history. It would be entirely fitting, in this humbly grateful blogger’s view, for one of those new statues – in some unspecified future year that I hope but don’t expect to see – to represent Celtic, Liverpool and, yes, Leeds United hero Kenny Dalglish.

New-Look Leeds United Causing Bookies Rethink as Odds Shorten on Promotion – by Rob Atkinson

Saiz

Samu Sáiz – just one factor in Leeds’ terrific start to the season

Leeds United, to the almost incredulous delight of their legions of fans, could hardly be heading into the season’s first international break in better shape. A perfect away record in the league is only slightly offset by the two goalless draws so far at home, where United have, up to now, reserved their attacking prowess for the Carabao Cup. The defence hasn’t conceded a league goal since the opening day of the season, when an injury-hit Leeds conceded from two set-pieces but still won 3-2 at Bolton. The attack, confidently predicted to be toothless in the event of a Chris Wood departure, has actually proved to have a lot of bite, more so even, since the loss of the New Zealand international. The goals have been shared around, and the ratio of strikes on goal has been very impressive when compared to last season’s more pedestrian and predictable approach.

Having opened the season as 18/1 underdogs for winning the Championship, United’s odds have most certainly shifted after such an impressive, unbeaten start to the campaign. Those pundits who predicted that the loss of last year’s Head Coach Garry Monk would see Leeds falling from grace this time around, look likely to have to eat their words, as the team under new boss Thomas Christiansen seems to have new attacking dimensions as well as a miserly defence and the newly-acquired knack of stifling their opponents’ forward play. It all adds up to a much more likely recipe for success, even given the fact that Leeds are having to assimilate so many new players. The new additions, notably Samu Sáiz, have had a considerable impact, and this can be expected to continue as players settle in and the team gels.

At this early stage of the season, such consistent and exciting performances are all the more impressive for the fact that players who were considered key personnel this time last year are either no longer at the club or, if they are still around, they’re out of favour for one reason or another. The squad appears to have strength in depth, with most departments of the team benefiting from quality cover. As the summer transfer window ticks to its close, it appears likely that some of the Wood money will be reinvested in yet more new arrivals, with the attack the main focus of attention. Leeds are strong in midfield, well-served out wide and, with the revelatory form of new skipper Liam Cooper as well as the emergence of Conor Shaughnessy, the club now seem confident that no major reinforcement is necessary in the defensive third of the team.

So, give or take a couple of extra attacking players, it seems likely that the squad is complete for now, at least until the January window opens – and who knows just how high Leeds United might be flying by then? On the evidence of the first five games in the Championship, the answer would seem to be: the sky’s the limit.