How Will Leeds United Fare in the 2019/20 Championship? – by Rob Atkinson

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Marcelo Bielsa – tipped to stay on as Leeds United coach

While many Leeds United Fans are still reeling from the 2 – 4 defeat at the hands of Frank Lampard’s Derby County, bookmakers and pundits are already looking ahead to next year’s championship season.

Marcelo Bielsa’s side failed to gain promotion to the Premier League via playoffs, losing to Derby County in the semi-final second leg, meaning that the Whites will feature in next year’s championship.

This will be the 16th consecutive time that Leeds have been outside the Premier League, since their relegation in 2004 and their playoff record has so far been unimpressive considering that they have lost in the five matches they have participated in so far. These are not pleasant stats for any Leeds fan, especially given the proud history of the club.

It is no secret that having spent more than 100 days at the top of the league table this season, then failing to gain promotion via playoffs, after dropping below Norwich City and Sheffield United is quite heartbreaking. Thankfully, the few weeks or months before next season is enough time for reflections and making of big decisions at Elland Road.

What are the odds of Leeds getting to the Premier League next season?

Having spent weeks at the top of the league table, fans and football enthusiasts are hopeful that come next season, Leeds will have a better chance of promotion to the Premier League. In fact, bookmakers odds support the idea that the Whites will be one of the top contenders in the next Championship season.

The reasons for an expected Leeds United strong next season are pretty obvious. Marcelo Bielsa’s side came so close to gaining automatic promotion but for two nightmare sessions where they were beaten by 10 man Wigan Athletic and Brentford at the Easter weekend.

Also, Leeds United played some of the most outstanding football this season with an intensity and speed that surprised most of their opponents. Actually, the only major criticism came from Patrick Bamford who made several poor finishes.

They also managed to hold their own despite a series of horrific injuries, with key players like Ezgjan Alioski, Barry Douglas, Kemar Roofe, and a few others spending time on the benches due to injuries.

That said, it is important to point out that a large part of this hope rest on whether Bielsa will be continuing as manager of the Whites or not, even though it is not clear what the future holds for the Argentine after Derby County defeat.

If Bielsa agrees to stay on through next Championship season, the odds on Leeds not just faring well in next season’s championship but actually securing promotion via playoffs are very high.

The odds of Leeds United winning the Championship league outright are 10/1, with West Brom and Fulham above them at 8/1 and 7/1 respectively. If you fancy the chances of Leeds United winning the league outright, this Free Bet from Paddy Power allows you get in on the ground floor.

Of the other top sides also in relegation, Cardiff City are tipped to win the division with 12/1 odds and Huddersfield Town at 14/1 to win the league in May.

Thankfully, the chances of this happening, particularly for Leeds United, are strong as reports suggest that Marcelo Bielsa will stay put at Leeds United despite the painful semi-final defeat by Derby County.

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Here’s to Promotion for United (Next Time)

In the end, it was not to be. Leeds United finally bowed out of the Championship playoffs in the most Leeds United way possible, losing at home to a team they’d played and beaten handsomely three times this season, blowing a one goal lead from the first leg, which had been extended to two goals as half time at Elland Road approached. And, again so typically for Leeds, it was a self-inflicted wound in the dying moments of the first half on Wednesday that changed the tone and tempo of what had always been a frantic game of football.

If they had the chance to play that fatal moment again, both Liam Cooper and United’s keeper Kiko Casilla would wish to have made better decisions. But for me, our former Real Madrid man was the more culpable of the two, failing to provide a safe option for the pass back, and then impeding Cooper as he tried desperately to clear the ball away. The ball fell kindly for Derby’s sub Jack Marriott, who had only been on the field for half a minute, and he tucked away a chance that should never have materialised. And so began the painful process whereby the life blood drained out of Leeds United and what had at one time looked like a promotion season.

Immediately after the interval, the tie was level, and the tide had well and truly turned. Then a clear penalty edged Derby ahead before Stuart Dallas scored his second goal of the night to restore parity – but only temporarily. The denouement of this crazy night of dog eat dog football saw Derby regain their lead over two legs, before Gaetano Berardi perpetrated the kind of tackle he’s too often guilty of, to leave the contest courtesy of a second yellow card.

There was still time for Derby to be reduced to ten men, but the damage had been done by that point and Leeds were doomed to become the current longest-serving member of the Championship, much to the delight of just about everybody who doesn’t hold the Elland Road outfit dear.

So there we are and, quite honestly, things could be worse. If we can look forward to another season of Bielsaball, albeit not in the top flight, then that’s an enticing prospect. Because, let’s be honest, this has been a fabulous season, despite its gut-wrenching climax. The pity of it is that Leeds United will not be a Premier League club come its hundredth birthday in October. But there’s still the challenge of celebrating that centenary by mounting an assault on the Championship league title next time around.

To achieve that, some squad improvements will be required, and doubtless there has already been some contingency planning for the eventuality of failing to secure the promotion that had looked so likely for so long. It is also essential to retain the services of Marcelo Bielsa and his staff, so that they can set about building on the massive improvement we have seen in this remarkable season.

What we can’t afford to do – as either a football club or a fan base – is to waste time in mutual recriminations or excessive licking of wounds. Thursday was the first day of planning for next season, and it’s in that positive spirit that we must now move forward. Leeds United is a Premier League club which happens to be marooned in the league below, and all efforts should now be concentrated on resolving that contradictory situation.

In a spirit of positivity, let’s look forward to renewing hostilities with Huddersfield and Barnsley next season. And, just to show there’s no petty bitterness in this blog – good luck to Aston Villa at Wembley.

Lampard Referred for Urgent Memory Tests After Forgetting Leeds Penalty Overrule – by Rob Atkinson

Lampard: memory issues?

Derby County manager Frank Lampard has become the focus of fears within professional football about what stress can do to the memory and mental faculties of even a relatively young man. The latest example of what are suspected to be short-term memory problems in Lampard arises from the overturned penalty in Derby’s first leg semi final play off tie against Leeds United at Pride Park. The ref awarded Derby a penalty, but the award was rescinded after the assistant referee pointed out that Leeds’ Jack Harrison had played the ball instead of fouling the Derby player Bogle.

Lampard was outraged afterwards, claiming that he’d never seen a linesman overrule a referee’s decision, and insisting that, even if it was technically no foul, the award should have stood. Worryingly, Lampard appears to have forgotten the game at Elland Road between Leeds and Derby in January, when Leeds were awarded an early penalty which was subsequently (and wrongly, as it turned out) overturned on assistant referee advice. The fact that Lampard has obviously forgotten this incident completely is a clear sign of memory loss in at least the shorter term, and justifies a level of concern about his mental fitness for a demanding job.

But the problem may not just be affecting poor Frank’s short term memory. Earlier this season, during the “Spygate” furore, Lampard stated unequivocally that he’d never known or been involved with such practices. He had clearly forgotten that, during his time at Chelsea, senior management figures had circumvented an FA ban by being in attendance, concealed in a laundry hamper. Lampard will have been fully aware of this at the time, but again, worryingly, has lost all memory of it.

The gravity of the situation now for Derby is that they must win at Elland Road against an injury-depleted Leeds in Wedneday’s second leg, so County fans must hope that, at the very least, Lampard can still remember his way there.

The memory problems cited must be genuine and therefore a cause for grave concern. The only other explanation would be that Lampard has been lying through his teeth in his protests about Leeds United, in the full awareness that he’s been a party to similar incidents in his favour – and that he is therefore a humbug and a double-dyed hypocrite.

And that surely can’t be true of media darling Frankie Lampard…. can it??

Derby Well Aware of How to Beat Leeds: Concede a Penalty, Go Down to Ten Men – by Rob Atkinson

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Genius Lampard, wondering how early to concede that penalty and go down to ten men

There are no flies on Derby County supercoach Frank Lampard. All season long, he’s been pointing out that anything Marcelo Bielsa can do, he can do at least as well, or even better. When Bielsa gave his Powerpoint presentation in the wake of Spygate, Lampard was swift to assure anyone who would listen that “we do that too”. And when Leeds United‘s coach earned plaudits for sportsmanship after insisting that Aston Villa be permitted to score an equaliser at Elland Road, Fearless Frank was there again, insisting that his team also stood back to let the opposition score, and pointing to the evidence of two league games against Leeds this season when they have politely conceded six goals in achieving zero points.

And now, it appears that the Lampard genius has identified the fatal weakness in the Elland Road psyche, whereby the Whites are quite incapable of avoiding defeat when the opposition concede a penalty and are reduced to ten men. Both Wigan and Ipswich have employed this crafty route to victory against Leeds, ridding themselves of their habitual uselessness to baffle the Whites into defeat. It’s a ploy that a man of Lampard’s ability will not have failed to note; stand by for a wild Richard Keogh swipe to bring down Kemar Roofe in the box as he bears down on goal early in the first leg at Pride Park. Red card, penalty – and it’ll be “job done”, as a certain former Rams manager might say.

I jest, of course. The thing is, though – in this crazy season, where the unlikely and the unimaginable have become the norm – something as daft as that could well happen. The only difference might be that it wouldn’t happen in Leeds’ favour. The Whites enter the playoffs at such a low ebb, you can’t help seeing your glass as half-empty, if not drained to the dregs.

Then again, they do say that the darkest hour is just before the dawn. It’s been a pretty dark, bleak month to finish off a dismal second half of the season, so the rosy glow of a new dawn for Leeds United might just be about to light up that far horizon, beyond which lies the Promised Land of the Premier League. You just never know.

Marching On Together!

Norwich & Sheffield United Miss Out on Wembley; Leeds Still in the Mix – by Rob Atkinson

This heavily disguised lament is brought to you from deep within the tortured soul of Glass Half Full Productions Inc. Apologies for the late hour. I’ve been speechless with disappointment.

Congratulations though to all Canaries and Blades out there; your teams both did it when it mattered.

Keep the Faith, you mighty White Army – I know it’s not easy.

Marching on Together.

FA Seeks Leeds Comments on Wigan Missiles Episode: Here’s How United Should Respond – by Rob Atkinson

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Wigan’s Massey getting into optimum position to provoke and incite Leeds United fans

Dear FA/FL

Our observations on the incident at Elland Road in which recklessly cavorting Wigan players appeared to have coins and other missiles hurled at them are as follows:

1.) This is going to happen while ever the relevant football authorities turn a blind eye to players celebrating as if they’d won the Champions League, right in front of the disappointed opposition fans. It’s not big, it’s not clever, and the results should be foreseeable by anyone of even low to average intelligence.

2.) When such celebrations amount, as they did on this occasion, to actual provocation and incitement, then the players involved have only themselves to blame for any crowd reaction thus provoked and incited.

3.) Your request for observations and comments are welcome, but we would respectfully suggest that you might address these also to Wigan Athletic Football Club, as they arguably have a case to answer for failing to control their players.

4.) Leeds United will vigorously contest any sanctions applied to the club in respect of an incident arising out of what is demonstrably negligent conduct on the part of the relevant football authorities and Wigan Athletic Football Club.

5.) We trust that you will find these comments helpful and instructive.

Yours in sport

Leeds United AFC

Is There Still One More Twist in Leeds United’s Auto Promotion Bid? – by Rob Atkinson

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Don’t forget – Jesus once wore the shirt

David Prutton, now a Sky Sports pundit but nicknamed “Jesus” by Leeds fans once upon a time, due to his startling resemblance to the alleged Son of God, might therefore be wryly amused by the fact that United’s automatic promotion hopes appeared to die on Good Friday. As yet, and with a barren Easter Monday visit to Brentford answering no prayers originating in and around LS11, there seems to be nary a sign of any resurrection for what was probably a misplaced optimism that we might find a straightforward path out of the EFL wilderness. Barring a miracle on a par with the loaves and fishes gig, it’s likely that Leeds United will, after all, have to settle for a play-offs lottery that has served them so ill on so many occasions in the past.

But, soft. Perhaps the time for despair is not yet nigh. Any neutral observer looking at the twists and turns taken by this season’s Championship promotion race will note that it’s been a consistently inconsistent affair, predictable only in its inscrutable unpredictability. You couldn’t have made it up, such observers would say, possibly gasping and throwing their hands in the air to signify outraged disbelief. If you were writing a script, they might add, you wouldn’t have dared include so many plot twists, for fear of being dismissed as some lunatic sensationalist with a bevy of bats in the belfry. Why, then, should we assume that all is done and dusted with two games yet to be played for each interested party? Why on earth would we now presume to predict an outcome that has from day one been so capriciously impossible to foresee?

Out of such perverse logic might appear the odd straw for fans of Leeds United eagerly to clutch with a fierce defiance born of pure desperation. Could Ipswich get a point at Bramall Lane while a depleted Leeds triumph over the division’s form team Aston Villa, leaving things on a last day knife-edge? Of course not. But then again, you might have argued as dismissively about ten man Wigan’s chances of overcoming a one goal deficit to beat the Championship’s best home ground team in Leeds. And you’d surely have bet against a QPR side that had lost seven on the bounce somehow defying the match stats to see our heroes off 1-0 the other week. All of which proves the truth of the old saw about not counting chickens before they’ve hatched.

Of course, in public, I’m maintaining a front of stoical resignation and predicting yet more play-off disappointment for my beloved Whites. My perceived sanity and any remaining shreds of credibility probably depend upon this outward display of common sense. But this little blog is my private fantasy land – and here, all things are possible until the actual point at which it can be shown they haven’t actually happened. So, just between you and me, gentle reader, I will cling on to my faint but still flickering hopes that a miracle could yet occur, and that we might yet see our favourites ascend to the Promised Land as of right, instead of having to trust to that fickle and Leeds-hating jade Lady Luck. You never know, it could still just happen.

Hell fire, friends – we might yet even win the Championship. The kind of roller-coaster script this year’s League has apparently followed might actually demand a properly daft denouement like that. Keep the faith.

Marching On Together 

Please, Leeds, PLEASE – Not the Play-offs – by Rob Atkinson

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If anyone thinks I might be losing my nerve here, losing a bit of faith and belief – then let me tell them, they couldn’t be more right. At the time of writing, with Leeds United having somehow contrived to seize defeat from the jaws of victory against the ten men of Wigan Athletic at Elland Road last Friday – Good Friday? Don’t make me laugh – I am having a severe attack of the football-related collywobbles. Fatalistic is what I’m feeling. My experience of being a Leeds fan, together with my knowledge of the Whites’ appalling play-offs record down the years, leads me to believe that it’s automatic promotion, or bust. Currently, I have a nasty feeling that we might have blown it.

Obviously it’s tight at the top. Right now, before the Easter Monday games are played, Leeds are out of the top two only on goal difference, and both United and the Blunts still have nine points to play for. All of which means that anything could still happen, and there may well be another twist or two still to come. Really, we have to hope that this is the case – as the alternative to going up as of right is to submit ourselves to the lottery of the play-offs. And then, the logic goes: lottery implies a large element of chance and luck. Leeds United do not get much luck, not of the good sort, anyway. Ergo, if it’s the play-offs for Leeds… we’re screwed.

You don’t exactly have to be a student of Elland Road history to see the truth of this. Right back to the very first year of the play-offs, we lost out in the most tragic and unfortunate of circumstances to Charlton Athletic, having thought we were on our way up after a John Sheridan free kick put us ahead in a replay at neutral St. Andrews. Let’s draw a veil over what happened next. After that first, ill-starred attempt, we’ve had a few more stabs at the promotion lottery, with consistently negative outcomes. The semi-finals have usually been OK, but once we get to that showpiece play-off final, it just all turns to angst and despair. Really, it’s almost preferable to finish right out of the picture and kid on we were never that bothered about going up – not that we have such an option this time around. The play-offs, for Leeds United, have always been about misery and disappointment. Does anybody really believe it would be any different this time around?

Of course, what I’m trying to do here is apply a little reverse psychology, hoping that Fate will listen and be influenced enough to either send us up automatically, or make sure that we buck our previous play-off trend and have ourselves a glory, glory day at Wembley. It’s pretty much all I can think of just now, and at least I’m having a go. As ever, I’ll welcome your comments, the more optimistic the better. Now is the time to be clutching at straws – we can save the post mortems for such time as the worst has happened.

Marching On Together.

DIARY OF A CHAMPIONSHIP FAN – PART TWO: WHEN LEXIT MEANS LEXIT – by Patrick Hogan

Families, communities, a whole nation divided over LEXIT

It’s April 2019 and it’s been going on too long now. The people have spoken and yet have had to suffer interminable setbacks; delays, long drawn out negotiations, broken promises, missed deadlines, and things are still not resolved. In your darkest moments you imagine it going on forever. The issue has divided the nation. And yet still you’re living in this impasse. 

It’s time for Leeds to leave the EFL! LEXIT IS LONG OVERDUE!

There was the time you’d outlined in bitter tones to your bitter other half that though LUFC were big other lesser teams had been acquired and funded by billionaires who virtually bought them entrance to the hallowed portals of the Premiership. Look at Wolves in the 2017-18 season you’d said. Loans to buy of top international players through the workings of an agent on the board! And then the skewed distribution of TV money. Relegated teams coming down with huge parachute payments. An outrage that unlevelled the playing field in all sorts of ways. 

‘Well other teams seem to manage to get promotion,’ she’d come back with. 

And for the reasons you’d outlined you’d answered. And what had been her rejoinder? ‘There is no magic money tree! You reap what you sow!’ 

‘And we’d sown Bates had we?’ you’d replied.

‘Who? You live according to your means,’ she’d added. 

You‘d been feeling quite proud of that little snippet of repartee about Bates that hadn’t earned you any points till only later in the pub in your retelling of the spat to friends. The clarity of the scene lived in your mind. It wasn’t when you’d told her that she’d sounded like Theresa May but when you’d added with deliberate vitriol that she was starting to look like her that your missus had packed her bags and left again.

You’ve been a fan of Championship football for years although not through choice. And you’ve praised its qualities of honesty, speed, intensity, and so on that you’d outlined to disinterested pseudo Arsenal, Spurs (add a team) fans who’d never been to any of the grounds of the teams they purported to follow whilst they’ve waxed lyrically about their ‘support’ at work or at the pub watching Sky Sports. The Championship was beneath them. Unless of course they’d picked one of the ‘wrong’ teams like West Ham, WBA, (insert suitable name again) and were then doomed to explore the delights of ‘yo-yo-ness’; until they realised their mistake quickly and bought a Liverpool shirt, etc. backing it up with a flaky reason for their sudden change of allegiance.

But it isn’t as easy as that for you. You loyalties lie in whatever sphere your club happens to find itself. This brings you to another sad memory about the currently departed missus. You’d told her often enough that Leeds would get out of that division – and then it had happened. But not how you wanted. It had been almost unthinkable but only one year on from a play-off final Leeds were in League One! And a brief glance at a map showed you that Swansea and Yeovil were a long way away. And oh she had laughed. And without a word you’d walked out and not come back for three days while you licked your wounds and studied a road atlas looking for places like Cheltenham only to find she’d gone. 

Well she’s not laughing now. Or she might be but not at home. Your bet is she’ll come back contrite when your forecasted Lexit proves to be right. And when she does she’ll find you looking at next season’s fixture list and wondering how much places like Old Trafford, Goodison, and Anfield have changed since you were last there. And also Highbury – scrub that. Arsenal were now at a ground you’d never been to. Add to that list White Hart Lane. And no longer would you have to trek to the old Boleyn ground, a loss you’re prepared to bear stoically if Lexit finally happens.

The truth is though you’ve extolled the virtues of the Championship for years; how it’s more exciting, and harder for overpaid non-performers dropping from the Premiership who just want the bright lights of places like London, and the TV coverage you’re tired of being a Championship fan. Or rather you’re tired of Leeds being a Championship team. And if Leeds are now geared up to be a Premiership team again, you, who has served his penance for past owners’ misdemeanours, feel you’re more than ready to be a Premiership fan again. Admittedly Bournemouth, Brighton and Southampton are further than the likes of Reading, Stoke and Derby but you’ll take that. And in leaving wish all Championship fans luck in the future – obviously not those in places like Bermondsey and Sheffield.

And the delicious irony is that the EFL will have to struggle along without its prize asset and cash cow once Leeds have left despite their best efforts to keep you in their league. At this moment you feel there’s light at the end of a long tunnel even if that glorious light is slightly overshadowed by the spectre of Shaun Harvey following you to the Premiership and getting a top job. You will not let him be the black dog Cerberus chasing you in your dreams. And surely after Lexit there’ll be better referees and kick-off times, less biased commentary and punditry, and the ability to attract top talent – in short, all the things that Lexiteers have promised you.

But back to the mythical magic money tree for a moment. The one you’d yearned for so long and that other teams had seemed to conjure up to get promotion. The amazing thing was that so far the missing missus had been proved right. Fifteen players loaned out; and the few incoming loans and couple of money signings not having played a major part in the process this season. If Lexit is achieved it will be by organisation, dedication, planning and commitment. All the qualities you’ve brought to bear in your support. 

And the club will have played its part too of course.

So there you are. Still waiting and praying for Lexit but this time with genuine hope of an early deliverance. You long to say to the EFL (and Shaun Harvey in particular) ‘In the name of God go!’

Yes, the LUFC fraternity (and of course sisterhood) have spoken with one voice and their combined wish is this: ‘Lexit means Lexit! And it has to happen soon!’

And with that thought constantly in mind you retire to the pub with fellow minded fans to feel the consolation and solidarity of their emotions as they empathise with what you’re going through. And for a short while you can relax as one of them retells your favourite Man U joke. You may know it word for word but there is a comfort in repetition and usually a new pair of ears to take in its poignancy – 

‘The wife decided to wear a Manchester United top for a week to see the public reaction. On The 1st morning she was spat on, swore at, punched in the face twice, kicked up the arse and received 3 death threats……..Don’t know how she’ll get on when she leaves the house.’

“Terrible Site”, “Click Bait and Little Else” – Leeds Utd Fans Rubbish this Internet “News Source” – by Rob Atkinson

HITC hack

Your average HITC hack

Many Leeds United fans seem to have had enough of one particular Internet site that purports to be a source of news, but relies heavily on ambiguous headlines quoting nonentities from the world of Twitter. The site concerned is HITC, who appear to be bang to rights on a charge of publishing any old rubbish under sensationalist headlines with no discernible attempts to back up their drivel with hard information from authoritative sources.

It’s not immediately clear either exactly what HITC stands for – well, clearly they stand for making a fast buck by publishing clickbait, but I was meaning what do the initials stand for. I did have a quick peruse of the site in an effort to find out, but my eyes started to bleed after five minutes, so I decided I’d just write something by way of parody, to expose the formulaic nature of their “reporting” and the paucity of any real content.

So what do the initials HITC stand for? It’s over to you, gentle readers – feel free to give me the actual answer, if you can find it – or feel equally free to make outlandish and insulting suggestions along the lines of Horribly Ignorant Tosh Creator (only better than that).

Thanks for reading. Bear with me here, I’m horribly nervous about Friday and Monday, and I need to distract myself. Be kind. MOT!