Reading FC Expose Leeds’ Loss of Mojo & Jansson’s Missing Magic Hat – by Rob Atkinson

 

Rhinos

Super League Champions Leeds Rhinos on their Elland Road lap of honour

Without wishing to seem wise after the event (I like to think that my wisdom is pretty much a permanent fixture) I just knew that Leeds United’s last-gasp penalty would not go in. There would be no salvaging of a late point for the home side at Elland Road; Reading FC would depart with the three points yesterday’s script demanded. And so it came to pass as I looked on with a jaundiced eye. I just bloody knew it.

It was not a good Saturday. Leeds were sluggish and out of sorts, the referee was fussily horrible – at one point he allowed Reading to take a free kick for offside ten yards inside the Leeds half – and there was a general feeling of malaise. To say this was a bad day at the office for Leeds seems hopelessly inadequate – David Brent himself had a better day, that time he was sacked by Wernham Hogg. The only bright spot (and not even this applied to everybody in the 33,900 attendance) was the sight of the victorious Leeds Rhinos players parading the Super League champions trophy around the pitch at half time. It was good to see United saluting the achievements of another Leeds sporting institution.

It seemed to many of the Leeds persuasion, and to some impartial observers too, that Pablo Hernandez had been fouled in the build-up to Reading’s winning goal, scored with poetic injustice by last season’s United loanee failure Modou Barrow. Post-match opinions were polarised: Reading manager Jaap Stam felt it hadn’t been a foul (and also that there was no foul for the Leeds penalty); Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen disagreed, but noted that “foreign coaches should not complain”. Even so, he’d made his views clear from pitch-side at the time – afterwards though, he simply shrugged and remarked “Well, you saw it”.

For United, it was a day to forget as swiftly as possible and move sharply on. Reading, arrayed in a day-glo orange and looking like a set of highlighter pens, came to do a job; they did it, however irritatingly, and now it’s history. Leeds will have to concentrate on regaining their mislaid mojo over the next few fixtures; they’re still handily-placed, even after three successive defeats, courtesy of that scorching start to the season. But losing can become a nasty habit, and it’s something that Christiansen and his troops need to nip in the bud before an annoying blip becomes a genuine crisis.

The Leeds boss was philosophical after this latest setback, whilst hinting that a change of system is not out of the question if he judges that’s what is necessary to turn things around. One notable factor in Reading’s success was their tactic of pressing high to stop United playing out from the back as has been the preferred approach all season. On the day, the home side simply weren’t good or confident enough to deal with the way Stam’s men set out their stall to contain, frustrate and hit on the break. It was a bad, bad day; as simple as that.

And it could even have been worse, but therein lies the one positive aspect of yesterday. At long last there was a change of ‘keeper for a league game, with Andy Lonergan taking his chance to impress. Lonners pulled off a few really good saves and generally looked less error-prone than Felix Wiedwald has done on many of his appearances this term. Afterwards, when asked about the change, Christiansen said that it was something he’d been thinking about. Lonergan did his future prospects no harm at all, and we must hope that his relatively unflappable air of security might spread to a United back four that has looked shaky of late. Pontus Jansson in particular looked tentative and even clumsy at times in the Reading game; part of United’s reduced effectiveness is probably down to Jansson’s magic hat being worn slightly askew as compared to last season. 

It’s still early days, and the situation as it stands is far from dire. But Leeds must do more than hope for better days ahead; they must be proactive, and take steps to ensure that a sharp improvement comes about – sooner rather than later.

Advertisements

Video: If Abbott had been this clueless, it would be all over media

Awful, awful, awful. Yet another Tory rabbit caught in the headlights. Utterly clueless and equally hopeless.

The SKWAWKBOX

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss has developed a reputation for utter uselessness that is as well-deserved as any in Westminster – but she appears to have become the Tories’ ‘go to’ spokesperson to defend their towering Universal Credit (UC) SNAFU (‘situation normal – all f***ed up’ – and for this Tory government it really is normal).

Just over a week ago, Ms Truss was a deer in the headlights at the Tory conference in Manchester where, when challenged over the disaster of thousands of people in desperate hardship because of UC delays, she answered that it couldn’t be so bad because her experience when she visited a Jobcentre had been positive.

Today, she appeared on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme. Again the topic was UC – and again she was clueless – completely unable to give a meaningful answer to Andrew Neil’s question about why the government was…

View original post 397 more words

Super League Grand Final post #1 – Is Briscoe back?

Success for the City of Leeds, always worth a reblog.

GET 'EM ONSIDE!

Saturday the 29th July saw Hull FC beat Leeds Rhinos 43-24 in the Challenge Cup semi final in Doncaster and it also saw Tom Briscoe targeted by Hull. Time and time again he was exposed to high kicks by Albert Kelly and, mostly, Mark Sneyd and he was found wanting, being at fault for allowing many of Hull’s points to be scored. Many Rhinos fans and rugby league supporters cast doubts over Briscoe’s ability and confidence and questioned whether he should be in the first team picture.

Coach Brian McDermott stood by his man, defended him in the press and stated that the winger and his teammates were working on helping develop Briscoe’s ability in this area. As the season got to the business end and the pressure increased as the Grand Final began to loom large, his improvement was evident – against Hull in the semi final he was…

View original post 235 more words

From Milk Crate to Press Box, 42 Years at Leeds United’s Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

IMG_1148

Sitting where Frannie Lee wouldn’t dare – within right-hook range of Big Norm

My Elland Road history is one of a gradual progression that has seen me following the varied fortunes of Leeds United from many different vantage points within that famous old stadium. I started out in the much-lamented Lowfields Road stand, its venerable roof famously braced by cross wires to stop it being blown away by anything above a stiff breeze. My spectating debut was in the funny little “shelf” area that ran the length of the stand between the terraces below and the seats above. I attended a good few games there, with our Gray and, solemnly in charge, my Dad – who saw that our match-day equipment included milk crates for us kids to stand upon, thus enjoying some sort of view.

When I first started going to Elland Road independently, I stood on the Lowfields terraces, but found the passion and buffeting of that experience a little too much – softie that I was. So the next move was to the Boys’ Pen, in the North-East corner of the ground. I stayed there until a ticket mix-up meant that I faced a choice between missing a League Cup tie against Everton, and braving the rigours of the Kop. I screwed up my courage to make my debut on that mighty and cacophonous hill – and never looked back. From that time on, I was a dedicated Gelderd-Ender and the Kop years represent my golden era of United support.

When the Kop went all-seater in the wake of Hillsborough and the Taylor Report, it never felt quite the same to me, and I sympathise with those who never experienced the thrill and surge of a packed Gelderd. One moment I’ll always remember is when Dave Batty scored against Man City early in our League Title season of 1991/92. As Batty himself later admitted, he was never much of a goal-scorer “but, against City, I were prolific”. Over a hundred games after his previous goal, at City in the late 80s, Batts hit the back of the net against the same opponents in ’91 – and at the Gelderd End, too. The whole stadium erupted in joy unconfined; I believe injuries were sustained on the Kop that day but, trust me, nobody felt any pain. It was a magical moment, the stuff from which legends are woven.

When my time on the Kop came to an end, my attendance at Elland Road growing less frequent, I became something of a nomad, taking in the view from the South, West and East of the stadium.  I was getting older and more curmudgeonly, less able and willing to tolerate the stresses of a packed crowd, or of bored kids making me get up and sit down all the time as they passed to and fro. I was becoming my grumpy Dad and, frankly, it had ceased to be fun. I was even considering a flirtation with Ponte Collieries, though my heart and soul belong to Leeds and always will. I just couldn’t hack it any more; I’d never got over the loss of the terraces, not that I’d last five minutes there, these days.

But now I’m back, a habitué of the press area courtesy of semi-regular Leeds United newspaper columns and, though I say it myself as shouldn’t, what has become a pan-global blog. Finally, I’m finding myself somewhat cossetted in experiencing an environment a bit kinder to middle-aged sensibilities. Last Saturday, I watched the Ipswich Town match beside one of my heroes, Norman Hunter, a legend of the Don Revie era at Leeds. I was utterly star-struck, but Big Norm was chatty and amiable – until the game started. Then he was kicking every ball, totally absorbed in the action, grievously upset at every United mistake (and there seemed to be a lot). It was an education for me in terms of what an old pro expects of the current crop, with the desk in front of us taking some punishment as Norm fulminated away. On my other side was erstwhile press-box doyen Don Warters, former Leeds United correspondent for the Yorkshire Evening Post. As Norman stumped off just before full-time, on his way to do his corporate bit in one of the lounges, I remarked that he didn’t seem too happy. Don grinned and replied, “He never is”.

I guess such hyper-involvement and the severely critical outlook goes with the territory for those guys who’ve been there and done it, especially at the level Norman, Billy and the rest played. But still, looking on the bright side – we did win on the day to stay top and, despite a couple of awayday blips recently, we’re still doing quite well overall. The football has been genuinely exciting so far this campaign, a real pleasure to watch and even to write about. What’s more, it’s a great view among all the scribes, the club kindly provides sandwiches, coffee and other such civilised comforts – and the company is amazing. All in all, just when I thought I was coming to the end of my Leeds United journey, it’s really wonderful to be back at Elland Road.

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.

 

Lowfields Road

Lowfields Road stand, towards the end of its life – but with the “Shelf” easily identifiable

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. 

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.