Football League Investigates Leeds but Finds Itself Corrupt by Mistake – by Rob Atkinson

In an amazing twist, the Football League’s probe into the Leeds United “Spygate” allegation has led to a finding that the League itself is corrupt and not fit for purpose. A red-faced FL spokesman admitted that the findings themselves are real enough, but that the direction of the investigation was misconceived. “We didn’t mean to probe ourselves,” the man from the FL confirmed, “That was just an embarrassing mistake that stemmed from noticing Shaun Harvey’s eyes are too close together. But, because the error happened, we now find that we’re utterly corrupt, useless and totally bent out of shape – so I suppose we’ll have to do something about that, like ban ourselves or whatever. It’s all a bit bemusing, all we wanted to do was rattle Leeds United a bit. Deary me”.

What happens next is unclear. The League could appeal against its own findings, but we understand that it’s struggling to find grounds. “We appear to be bang to rights on being as corrupt as you could imagine”, said our man, gloomily. One possibility is that the League might disband itself and turn control of the FL72 over to some less obviously useless organisation, such as the BBC or the Tory Party. The next few days should be very interesting.

Meanwhile, Leeds United are free to continue with preparations for their match at Stoke on Saturday, and a furtive gentleman dressed inconspicuously outside the Potters’ training ground put down his binoculars long enough to confirm that the pre-match build up was “going as well as can be expected”.

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Football League See Opportunity to Keep Leeds United Within Their Clammy Grasp – by Rob Atkinson

As many of us at least half expected, the football authorities in this country are refusing to see the Derby County “Spygate” storm in a teacup for what it is. Instead, they are assuming their grave and serious faces, and preparing to set the wheels in motion to hammer Leeds United yet again.

It’s no secret that the Football League in particular, driven by the hateful legacy of the late, unlamented Alan Hardaker, have a schizophrenic attitude towards Leeds comprised of love and hate in roughly equal measure. The hatred is a stand alone thing; like the silly kid down your street with a scum shirt on, they despise Leeds but can’t really say why, beyond a vague feeling that their dead dad would approve. The love bit is commercially-motivated: the FL simply do not wish to lose the jewel in their crown to the Premier League.

So, this ridiculous whinge from Lampard and Derby is embarrassingly being given some credence, against all sense and logic, simply because it might just open the door to a chance of clipping Leeds United’s wings. That’s the reality, that’s the measure of the League’s determination to hang onto us if they can. Against a background of one penalty award in almost 70 games, the mood in the Preston HQ is clear enough.

We now have to wait and see what the Leeds United response will be to the ominous “request for comments” on an incident which is demonstrably not without precedent. I hope that the club is prepared to set out its stall and indicate its determination not to be intimidated or cowed down by this, together with its absolute resolve to resist vigorously any attempt to apply sanctions that would threaten a highly promising situation as regards promotion.

As for the fans, we should be prepared to lobby the League in our thousands. Something like this was always likely to happen, especially with Leeds four points clear and set fair to move up and away. The League’s determination to throw a spanner in the Leeds United works must not be tolerated. If they want a fight, let’s give them a bloody good one.

Leeds’ Bielsa to be Coach of the Year, But Derby’s Lampard Favourite for Whinger Award – by Rob Atkinson

Fwankie – look at his poor little FACE!!

Whatever might be said about the relative coaching merits of Frank Lampard and Marcelo Bielsa – and it hardly needs pointing out here that the rookie has been utterly owned by the Master twice this season – there do appear to be serious doubts about young Frank’s mental durability, for want of a more appropriate phrase, given his incessant and piteous whinging over what they’re glibly calling “Spygate”.

Sadly for Frank, many of the game’s more respected voices have been united in scorn at the bleating that has emanated from the Rams’ pen over the past few days. As a general rule, those with global reputations have dismissed Lampard’s complaints as ridiculous, while poor Frankie has had to make do with lesser authorities, woman-beater Stan Collymore for instance, in his corner.

There’s also the problem for an increasingly sullen and sulky Lampard that evidence is piling up to the effect that what Sky have attempted to portray as an earth-shattering scoop has actually happened with great regularity down the years. Two of these historical incidences of espionage and skullduggery involve Chelsea at a time when Lampard was a player there – the most bizarre case involving Jose Mourinho allegedly circumventing a stadium ban by means of concealment within a laundry hamper.

More relevant to Spygate is the admission of Andre Villas-Boas that he was regularly sent by Mourinho to opposition training grounds, often incognito, to suss out team news and tactics for the benefit of Jose’s match preparation. Get that, sent incognito to gather information – what more comprehensive description of spying could there possibly be? But Frank appears to be saying that his former coach Villas-Boas is a big fat liar; “I didn’t know about this and, anyway, it didn’t happen” seems to be the Lampard position.

It’s all most unseemly, and all Lampard appears to be gaining with his protracted whinging is a well-deserved reputation as a petulant ninny. And that’s hardly the kind of image you expect of the manager of a club in the muck and bullets Championship, even if it’s only Derby. But Frank seems intent on stamping his feet and complaining until somebody does something – and with the alleged offenders being perennial establishment targets Leeds United, I suppose that can’t be ruled out. But, in this blogger’s humble if not exactly disinterested opinion, all Lampard is achieving thus far is to cast himself as a petulant and childish fool.

This Championship season to date has been all about Bielsa; with a minimum of recruitment, he has transformed last year’s anonymous also-rans into stylish table toppers – as well as implementing a football ethos throughout the club that has seen both the Under 23s and Under 18s topping their respective leagues as well. If this carries on, it’ll be Marcelo first and the rest nowhere when it comes to Coach of the Year.

And Lampard? Well, we can probably close that book right now. With his desperately pitiful demeanour in defeat, and his sullen insistence on ridiculous excuses straight from the embroidered spy story pages of Girls’ Own, “Lamps” has no real rivals for the title of Whinger of the Season. So smile, Frankie lad – this is one trophy you’ll win easily, even at serial also-rans Derby County.

Leeds Loan Star Brown: Izzy Making the Bench for Stoke Away? – by Rob Atkinson

Given that Leeds United’s loan signing from Chelsea, Izzy Brown, successfully negotiated 90 minutes of a development squad match today, scoring a brace to secure victory, many will be wondering if we might be about – at long, long last – to see the talented midfielder involved at first team level for the Whites.

It’s an intriguing question, especially insofar as next Saturday’s fixture at Stoke is concerned, as Kalvin Philips will be serving the last of a three match ban. Against that, the eleven that started against Derby probably all deserve to retain their places. But the bench for that game was seriously inexperienced – so is that where we could see Izzy Brown starting off on Saturday?

My guess would be that, given Brown’s own “almost there” verdict after his second string appearance today, it’s reasonably likely that the lively midfielder will be involved at least as a sub against Stoke. And that would provide a great new option for Marcelo Bielsa, depending on how that game is going.

Brown’s imminent first team availability is well timed, with the second half of the season well under way, and the prospect of other returnees such as Bamford, Dallas, Douglas and Berardi perhaps a little further down the line. The received wisdom amongst United fans is that squad reinforcements are urgently needed – and yet the squad has coped magnificently with the rigours of the campaign so far. The appearance of Izzy on the bench at Stoke could herald the spectacle of a United squad pulsing with strength in depth for what will hopefully be a run-in to the Championship Title and automatic promotion.

Fingers crossed, whatever happens with Izzy Brown next weekend, for another three points at Stoke City. But, however that goes, the return of a few injured stars as well as the fresh dimension offered by Brown and the likes of emerging talents Shackleton and Clarke surely bodes well for the immediate future of Leeds United.

Football League to Impose 200 Mile Exclusion Zone for Argentines Around Leeds Training Ground – by Rob Atkinson

Bielsa – exclusion zone imposed

The Football League is to take a leaf out of the MoD Falklands tactical war book circa 1982 in a bid to find an appropriate sanction for the Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa, who has been found guilty of doing what everyone else in the game has been doing for years now.

In a move to be codenamed Operation Belgrano, Bielsa will be torpedoed and sunk if he is found to have strayed within 200 miles of United’s training complex at Thorp Arch. The decision has been warmly received among the has-been element of English football punditry, with a Mr S. Collymore taking a break from his latest anger management course to comment “Gotcha!” in an irritating Midlands accent.

The decision also affects the ability of United’s manager to be present at any of their games inside the exclusion zone, including of course the Elland Road stadium. Instead, Bielsa will control team matters remotely via a video link to be set up on an upturned bucket in the Leeds technical area.

The Football League, confirming the measure, commented: “Yes, we know that the training ground Spygate thingy has happened before, but we always, as a matter of policy, make an example of Leeds United, especially when they’re being really annoying and troublesome, as they are currently, what with being four points clear at the top and threatening to go up”.

Leeds United have declined to comment, beyond confirming that their spy has now been sacked after inaccurately describing Derby County in his report as “a football team”. However, a Mr. F. Lampard of Direby was understood to have said “Rejoice! Rejoice!!”

The average IQ of Sky Football pundits is 63.

Leeds United “Spygate”: Let’s Not Pretend It Hasn’t Happened Before – by Rob Atkinson

A timely tweet (above) from journalist Amitai Winehouse has exposed the nauseating media hypocrisy gathering like a cloud of effluvium around “Spygate” – the ridiculously over-hyped episode of Derby County players being observed training in plain sight. There’s nothing illegal about it, and it’s clearly happened before (also reported in the Daily Telegraph) and with zero fuss. So why this eagerly overemphasised storm in a teacup? Why the dark threats of FA investigations, why the demands by media no-marks for sanctions? Could it just possibly be due to the fact that Leeds United are involved, and all these hysterical attention-seekers have spied a bandwagon ripe for the jumping on?

Some will say that United manager Marcelo Bielsa emerges from this with little credit. I say he is left in splendid isolation as the only honest man involved, while various hacks, opponents and other such hypocrites – yes, that word again – trip over each other in their desperation to make some capital out of a non-event and perhaps somehow upset a Leeds United apple cart that is threatening to become an unstoppable juggernaut.

Reviewing the Sky Sports coverage of last night’s match against a cluelessly inferior Derby County is not an edifying experience. The assembled pundits and presenters took ages to drag themselves around to addressing the actual football business of the evening – instead, they were positively salivating at “this sensational breaking story” as they termed it. The “story” was Bielsa being frank, honest and anything but contrite about what he clearly sees as a variation on scouting – but the assembled po-faced hypocrites were determined to paint it as a betrayal of trust and decency only one small step down from Judas Iscariot‘s behaviour in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Exactly how the said hypocrites feel this is justified, given the evidence in the image above, is difficult to imagine. But it’s Leeds, so they’ll do their best. At some point though, there will have to be some acknowledgement that, yes, it’s happened before and, no, the whole of the football world didn’t have a cow and demand anyone’s head on a plate. The delicious irony is that the instance above was during Jose Mourinho‘s time at Chelsea, and who was on the playing staff at the time? None other than last night’s whinger-in-chief, the initially scandalised and ultimately demoralised Frank Lampard. So does Frank know that this sort of thing has happened before? Of course he bloody does.

I took the further step earlier today of tweeting the image above to Keith Andrews, the most vocal of last night’s pundits, to ask him if he’d be commenting about Mourinho in similar vein to his over the top attack on Bielsa. Or, I asked, is he content to be receipted and filed as just another hypocrite. How that word keeps cropping up when you’re writing about Leeds United’s legions of critics. I won’t be holding my breath for a reply.

Another bandwagon-jumper was former footballer, current Midlands apologist and of course historical woman beater Stan Collymore. He called for last night’s match to be replayed, and for Bielsa to be beheaded on Tower Hill, or something. Women beaters tend to find it difficult to ascend the moral high ground, so I possibly didn’t pay too much attention to Stan’s bletherings.

At the end of the day, it was still about the football, however much Sky wished and tried to make it otherwise. And, on the football pitch, Leeds United beautifully and ruthlessly dismembered Derby County in a performance of passion, skill and control. Young Jack Clarke, starting for the first time, showed some more of his blossoming genius and was at times unplayable. He reminded me of what they used to say about the late, great Stanley Matthews: “You knew how Stan was going to beat you, you knew exactly what he was going to do. But stopping him was another matter entirely”. In the end, I felt sorry for the Derby left back, who stood in need of being taken off with twisted blood. Clarke destroyed his opponent and was heavily involved in both goals. What a prospect United have here.

But the whole team performed well, and it was as complete a performance as we’ve seen for a while. Denied an early penalty by a daft offside call, Leeds simply went about their business and never gave Derby a sniff. It was wonderful to behold, as was that smacked puppy look on Lampard’s face at the end – the same expression he wore after our 4-1 battering of his outclassed team at Pride Park in August. This time, he paused after the final whistle for only a cursory handshake before flouncing off down the tunnel, doubtless pondering on how to field further questions about Spygate without sounding like he was making lame excuses.

And so a very satisfactory day ended, and now we wait to see what, if anything, our corrupt football authorities try to do about the storm the media have so assiduously whipped up. And that’s when we need to shove the evidence of prior occurrences right in their smug faces – so please, anybody who reads this, find Amitai Winehouse’s tweet and share, share, share. You know it makes sense.

Something Very Special is Happening in Leeds, Sporting Capital of England – by Rob Atkinson

Just champion: Josh Warrington and Leeds United

World Champion boxer and Leeds fan extraordinaire Josh Warrington is sharing top billing right now with Leeds United as the city of Leeds re-establishes its sporting pre-eminence, putting the likes of Manchester, Liverpool and London in the shade by the sheer diversity of its competitive prowess. Warrington’s great victories against Lee Selby in May at Elland Road, and Carl Frampton the other night in Manchester neatly bracket a phenomenal first half of the Championship season for leaders Leeds United. The Whites’ sensational comeback win at Aston Villa on Sunday topped off a 23 game run in which they have shown power, guts and consistency to emerge as front runners. Unfancied United have defied the critics just as Josh Warrington has, besting two supposedly superior fighters when all the experts predicted he’d be brushed aside.

Those two phenomenal boxing performances were as bookends to the incredible renaissance of Leeds United under Marcelo Bielsa in the first half of the current Championship football season. As Josh Warrington was recovering from his May demolition of Lee Selby, Bielsa was setting about putting his unique stamp on a club that had been failing, for a lack of identity and leadership, to realise its immense potential. Bielsa’s mission was to provide that leadership, create that identity, and see an underachieving club become much more than the sum of its parts. At the halfway point of the season, fresh from a defining performance at Aston Villa when the United warriors fought back from two down to clinch an unlikely victory out of extreme adversity, Leeds stand proudly top of the Championship, with a handy gap between them and the play-off pack. To describe Bielsa’s record so far as merely a success would be to make a molehill out of a mountain.

Just as Josh Warrington has succeeded against all the expert opinion that rated him as a passionate but limited fighter, so Leeds United are making a mockery of those who suggested that Bielsa’s methods could not possibly bear fruit with such a comparatively thin squad, boasting only a couple of major additions to last season’s also-rans. The major transfer acquisition of the summer, Patrick Bamford, has seen his season so far disrupted by injury, and has hardly been able to contribute to the cause. So it’s been the squad as was, plus bargain steal from Wolves Barry Douglas, supplemented by some precocious talent from the development level of the club, that has carried all before it in the league so far. What can United achieve if the injuries clear up, and if they can make some judicious purchases during the January window? It’s a question to tantalise the Whites support, which is already rubbing its eyes in delighted disbelief at the way the campaign has unfolded.

The Leeds claim to be the nation’s sporting capital is well founded. The football club has global support dating from the days when it boasted the finest club side of the post war era, a team that was respected and feared throughout Europe. The Yorkshire county cricket club is historically the best in the game as a matter of record, and the Rugby League outfit that shares Headingley is the biggest in the northern hemisphere bar none. Add in a gutsy fighter in Warrington who has worn his club colours with massive pride to become a true ambassador for the city, and it’s clear to see that Leeds has an embarrassment of sporting riches together with a vast potential to build on – and the signs are there that the building process is well under way. The revolution at Leeds United, the remarkable transformation of Headingley cricket and rugby arena and of course the fighting whirlwind that is Warrington, all combine to give the capital of West Yorkshire a growing status as the place where it’s all happening in the world of sport.

We can look ahead with some confidence now, a confidence that was only a dream prior to the big fight at Elland Road a few short months ago in May, to further progress and maybe concrete achievement in the first half of 2019. And this, of course, brings us nicely up to scratch just in time for the centenary celebrations of Leeds United, one of the truly great clubs in the English game. It’s all looking so good right now, and it’s all come about in such a short time – but the foundations are there for a new golden era across the whole City of Leeds.

With that in mind, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything bids everybody out there, whatever their sporting allegiance, a very Merry Christmas, and the Happiest of New Years for 2019. The future, we’re confident in saying, is very bright. The future, we fervently hope and believe, is yellow, blue and white. 

The real reason the smaller parties are pressuring Labour to table a Motion of No Confidence in the Government

TheCritique Archives

by Martin Odoni

I see a lot of people on social media at the moment – especially supporters of the Scottish National Party – have still not figured out the real reason many of the smaller parties are pushing for Labour to call a Motion of No Confidence in the Government. Jeremy Corbyn did call a Motion of No Confidence in the Prime Minister last night, but only such a Motion in the whole Government can trigger a General Election.

Some are trying to argue that Corbyn is being either cowardly or indecisive, and that he lacks the courage of the leaders of the smaller parties, like Nicola Sturgeon, Vince Cable, Caroline Lucas et al. In reality, these other leaders are being no braver or more decisive at all, and nor are they, on this evidence, noticeably honest. That is a particularly sad reflection in Lucas’ case, who historically…

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What a clever move by Corbyn!

TheCritique Archives

by Martin Odoni

Jeremy Corbyn tonight tabled a Parliamentary Motion of No Confidence in the leadership of the Prime Minister. The timing and the wording of the move were just brilliant.

Brexit VONC motion tabledCorbyn tables a Motion of No Confidence in the Prime Minister

Corbyn appeared to have veered away from such a Motion during the course of today’s debate over Theresa May’s failed Brexit discussions in Brussels late last week. He appeared to use it as a threat at first today, in case May continued to resist setting a date for the vote on her (obviously-already-doomed) Brexit deal. After she set the date (sort of) for the week commencing the 14th of January, the threat appeared to have been withdrawn. However, just as the media were heading on a very predictable tirade of Corbyn chickens out! headlines, right at the end of the debate, he went and tabled the Motion anyway…

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Football League Considering Treason Charge for Ref Who Gave Leeds a Penalty – by Rob Atkinson

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Peter Bankes – professional suicide?

Peter Bankes, the referee who has defied the Football League party line to award Leeds a controversial first penalty kick in well over a year, leading to their 2-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers, could now face being sent to Coventry for his sins (they play Luton Town at the Ricoh Arena next Saturday).

Games without a penalty for Leeds United now…

Worse, it is being suggested in some quarters that the errant official could be charged by the ruling body with high treason, an offence that carries a maximum punishment of “a fate worse than death”. When asked what that fate might be, a Football League spokesman would only grimace and shake his head in a deeply ominous fashion whilst mouthing the dread word “Millwall”.

Mr Bankes was not available for comment after the game, it being understood that he was closeted with QPR manager Schteve McClaren and being grilled about what Schteve was sarcastically calling his “X-ray vision”. A Leeds source told us that the referee’s room was closed and locked for an hour after the final whistle, with Mr Bankes eventually being spirited away to Football League headquarters where he is expected to face brutal interrogation over the next 72 hours.

A Leeds source told Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything “Our only regret is that we were hoping to have a joint celebration of our centenary in 2019 with maybe a timely penalty late in the season – today’s totally unexpected award has clearly scuppered that. But we’ll take it gracefully and move on. We’d been a bit worried about the actual penalty conversion, there was a bit of chat on the pitch because nobody could remember how it’s done. Every time Marcelo has suggested practising penalties in training, the lads have just fell about laughing. Luckily, Kemar stepped up and sent the lad the wrong way, but he admitted afterwards that he’d been a bit tempted to head it”.

Rumours that United are planning to place a Tourist Information sign on the penalty spot at the Kop End, denoting a site of major historical interest, cannot, as yet, be confirmed.

Historical

Leeds United penalty – historically remarkable