Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Leeds? Bid Was Massive Statement of Intent from United – by Rob Atkinson

Zlatan

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – tempted by Elland Road but forced to settle for the San Siro

News has emerged that Leeds United held “concrete” talks with Zlatan Ibrahimovic during the January transfer window, with a view to bringing the prolific Swede to Elland Road for the run-in to a possible Premier League promotion. In the end, Zlatan settled for a less challenging option, moving to ply his trade in Serie A with AC Milan, but the important aspect of this remarkable story is what it reveals about the ambition  being displayed by Leeds under the ownership of Andrea Radrizzani. 

The January window was reasonably fruitful for United in the end, with the loan signing of Jean-Kevin Augustin, whose potential is beyond dispute. But still, the neghative end of the Leeds online support was as vocal as ever, accusing the club of dragging its feet and lacking ambition. It is now quite clear, with the audacious bid for Ibrahimovic – and with interest also apparently having been registered in the PSG sensation Edinson Cavani – that United are prepared to aim high in their efforts to enhance the squad. That kind of resolve, backed up by Premier League status and a vastly richer transfer war chest if promotion should be achieved this season, bodes very well for the Leeds squad development plans and prospects in a higher sphere.

If Leeds were prepared to think this big whilst still in the Championship, who knows what their targets might be as a top flight force? It’s a mouth watering prospect, however long the delay might now be until those ambitions can be realised.

Surely though, it’s now a matter of when, not merely if Leeds go up – and the ultimately unsuccessful enquiries for two major stars in January could well be a precursor to some extremely ambitious squad building in the run up to United’s first top level season in sixteen years.

It looks as though, when that glorious day dawns and Leeds are back in the big time, they might just be going for it in an appropriately big way – and this blogger, for one, can hardly wait.

Marching On Together

Patrick Bamford On Course to be Leeds United Player of the Year – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United Can Blast Through Nine Game Mini-Season to Championship Glory – by Rob Atkinson

Bamford

Don’t you know, pump it up etc.

In the light of UEFA‘s statement today, whereby the European Championships have been postponed for a year with the express intent of allowing domestic league programmes to be completed after the COVID-19 delay, there now opens up a window of opportunity for clubs challenging for league success to achieve that goal. UEFA appears to be aiming for a completion of league programmes by the end of June – which may still be slightly optimistic – but at least some prospect of getting the thing done now seems realistic.

It all gets much more interesting and even more encouraging for Leeds United fans when you consider the nature of the club’s league performance in two seasons under Marcelo Bielsa. On both occasions, the team has leapt out of the traps fresh and vigorous, sweeping aside most opposition and roaring straight to the top of the table. Relatively less effective periods have come later in the long and gruelling campaigns – what is sometimes known as Bielsa Burnout due to the notoriously demanding training sessions he requires of his team. The current hiatus in competitive matches due to this pesky virus (and please don’t think I’m making light of it, but this is above all else a football blog and I do believe Corona is covered adequately elsewhere) is giving the Leeds players, and their counterparts at rival clubs, of course, some time to recharge the batteries and regain some of that early season oomph. Meanwhile, the players who were not at peak fitness can make progress towards that happy state of affairs, and even the likes of Adam Forshaw, who underwent surgery that was expected to end his campaign, might now harbour slim hopes of being actively involved.

So, even though all of the Championship rival clubs are in the same boat in terms of an unexpected late season delay, the outcome for Leeds United may be disproportionately favourable, given their recent history of fast starts under Bielsa. With what is, in effect, a nine game mini-season ahead of them, fully rested and with an extra pre-season under their belts, and with squad members previously not up to scratch now hitting the required standards, things should be looking very good for Leeds. Add in the fact that they would be starting this 27 point mini-season with a seven point cushion over Fulham in third place, with all their rivals having a much more difficult (on paper) set of fixtures, and it’s difficult to see much if any cause for pessimism.

For once, it may well be that Leeds United will harvest triumph out of the ashes of a national disaster, and this humble blogger is confident that – come the end of this season, whenever that might be – there will be yellow, blue and white ribbons on that famous old Football League Trophy (yeah, the one we should have been allowed to keep for good in 1992). It’s going to happen, ladies and gentlemen – so, however bleak you may feel right now, be of good cheer. United are going back to the Big Time.

Marching On Together

So, Do We Want Leeds United Promoted by Default … or Not?? – by Rob Atkinson

leeds-fans

Leeds United, big club, great fans. Massive player in any league

On the face of it, any question with the question “do we want Leeds United promoted” in it would always come under the heading of “bleedin’ silly/obvious”. But circumstances alter cases and we are not living in normal times. So, weird as it would normally appear, we’ve seen genuine Leeds United fans genuinely confused and uncertain about what seems to be a genuine possibility that United, along with West Brom, may be invited to join a slightly inflated Premier League next season, with the caveat that they’d have to finish five or six places clear of the bottom in order to stay up – as there could be four or five relegated to redress the imbalance caused by no relegation at the end of this possibly truncated season.

Phew. If that’s all clear to you, we now move on to the even knottier issue of whether or not we’d want promotion this way. Certainly, it’s far from ideal  There’d be no carousing on the pitch after an ecstatic final whistle, no tension, no anticipation, probably not even the civic pride of an open-top bus parade from City Square to the Town Hall and onwards to Elland Road. Instead, it would be the meekest, mildest and probably least satisfactory promotion ever – but at least we’d be up.

The other alternatives are scarcely more attractive. Voiding the season simply doesn’t bear thinking about, so I won’t discuss it. Resuming the season in the foreseeable future seems unlikely, unless some way can be found to play behind closed doors without causing riots outside locked stadia. But at least that would permit the possibility of an earned and undisputed promotion (unless we screw up again). Ending the league now, with the positions as they are, would perhaps taint any promotion thus earned. Yes, we’re seven clear of third – but even Liverpool, twenty-five points clear at the top of the Premier League, need two more wins as it stands, for mathematical certainty. Would we really want our many critics to have the open goal of “Yeah, you went up – but it was shoddy”. As Spurs legend Danny Blanchflower famously said, “The game is about glory”. There’s a school of thought that demands any promotion should be glorious, and therefore shrinks away from any antiglorious creative accounting or artifice, whatever the circumstances.

I’m looking for input here, tell me what you think. I must confess that, if we were simply invited up alongside WBA, it would leave a slightly hollow feeling where my yellow, blue and white heart should be. Not that it’d stop me hailing us as Champions. But would any of us stick so closely to noble principles that we’d look a gift horse in the mouth and say, no – I’d rather we stayed down and earned it next year? Not forgetting, of course that – given another year in the Championship – we’d probably be saying goodbye to Marcelo Bielsa (God) and Kalvin Phillips, the Yorkshire Pirlo himself.

I must admit, I slightly lean towards going up any which way, and arguing about it later, with our Premier League status confirmed. But there’s a nagging doubt still, over how I’d actually feel.

Let me know what you think, please. Feel free to add in your own feelings, doubts, arguments. And please don’t think I’m neglecting the seriousness of this COVID-19 crisis. But that’s all over the media – and here in this protective bubble is where we talk about Leeds United, while the world outside goes crazy.

Marching on Together

EFL to Promote Leeds as Champions “On the Balance of Probabilities” – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United – ready to beat the bug

With the suspension of all domestic professional football until at least April 3rd, fans of clubs who occupy highly promising league positions are understandably worried about their favourites’ prospects of success being snatched from them by a nasty little bug – but enough of Shaun Harvey.

Leeds United, of course – along with the likes of Liverpool in the league above and Coventry in the third tier – are among the clubs for whom the future, so apparently bright a bare few days back, now seems uncertain to say the least. Seven points clear of that dreaded third place, United looked nailed-on for promotion – with the Championship title dangling as a temptingly achievable bonus. One pandemic later, and we’re all stressing about still being in this league next season (whenever that might be) sans Bielsa, sans the Yorkshire Pirlo, bereft of hope and considering legal action.

But don’t despair. The seeds of our salvation were sown a few weeks back with the decision handed down from on high that Kiko Casilla, although deemed not to be a racist, would nevertheless be banned for some racist abuse that nobody can be sure actually happened. With a cool £60,000 fine thrown in, along with a date with the FA Re-education and Indoctrination Guild (FRIG) it’s a pretty hefty penalty for something unproven. But the authorities decided they were vindicated by the lower standard of proof applicable in non-criminal cases, and happily threw the book at Kiko, concluding that he dunnit, on balance of probabilities.

This was felt by some at the time to be scandalous as well as draconian, but now it’s a precedent that may well assist Leeds United, as well as the likes of Liverpool and Coventry. All three clubs are so well placed that the half-baked balance of probabilities test would have to find them overwhelmingly likely to clinch promotion. Some bookies have Leeds with a 98% chance of going up, which satisfies even the more stringent “beyond reasonable doubt” test. As for Liverpool, it’s far more likely that Boris Johnson will be hit by a meteorite than that the Reds will fail to become Champions of England for the first time since 1990 – when Leeds United coincidentally last won promotion to the top flight as second tier Champs.

So there you have it. The authorities are hamstrung by their own legal machinations, hoist by their own petard. Even if they want to seize upon this virus crisis to deny Leeds promotion (and I bet they do) – they will find that they can’t. Probably.

Marching on Together

Cruel Crufts Jibes Still Dog Huddersfield After Savage Leeds Mauling – by Rob Atkinson

Luke Ayling

Best of breed Luke Ayling shows his bite is better than his bark

Whoever scheduled an away game for Huddersfield Town at Leeds United on the very same date as the Crufts final day at Birmingham’s NEC must have had it in for the Terriers, who were exposed not only to a football lesson from Yorkshire’s Number One, but also to dog-related chants and (for want of a better word) catcalls from a jubilant home crowd as Elland Road celebrated another derby day success. It was bad enough, surely, for the away following to see their team so comprehensively outclassed, without having to listen to various canine-centric chants from the South Stand especially. Suffice to say that the Huddersfield faithful were hounded relentlessly by their United counterparts on a day when their own manager declared that top dogs Leeds are the best team in the Championship by a country mile. It was a combination of circumstances that conspired to leave each and every travelling Terrier with a hangdog expression and straining at the leash to get back home again.

On the field as well as off, there was only one side in it from the first whistle. Leeds were into their stride early on, surging forward powerfully and fluently and, when Luke Ayling smashed home a wondrous volley in off the bar which left the Huddersfield woodwork reverberating for the rest of the half, you suspected that the game was already up for the dogged but outmatched visitors.

Leeds were not at their best, rarely hitting the heights of that masterful second half display at Hull City, but what they were able to offer was far too good for Huddersfield. Leading one-nil at half time, they were even more in charge during a second half that saw them add another early goal, this time Patrick Bamford tapping in from close range after Town keeper Jonas Lossl made a fantastic save from Ben White‘s towering header. There was plenty of pressure still to come from the home side, who relied on some frantic last-ditch defending to prevent United adding more goals, with Jack Harrison particularly unlucky to be denied, yet again, by the frame of the goal, after his shimmering, jinking run and turn gave him the room to strike a great shot high against the far post.

It seems churlish to point out that things could have gone better for United in this game, when events elsewhere would seem to be unfolding precisely as any Leeds fan could wish. We can only hope for more of the same, as both West Brom and Fulham have been merrily dropping points during United’s run of five consecutive clean-sheet wins. From this point in, it would appear that the only thing Leeds United have to fear, with the possible exception of the Coronavirus, is fear itself. But a head of steam has been built up these past few weeks, together with a nice little seven point cushion between our favourites and Fulham in third, and any of the other teams in the Championship, without exception, would happily trade places with United right now.

The next week or so up until close of business next Wednesday evening should provide further insight into the potential fates of all three main automatic promotion contenders, with Fulham facing Brentford ahead of a pivotal clash at Elland Road in nine days time. Leeds face Cardiff away ahead of the Fulham summit, so that’s two tricky hurdles with no certainty that our dead-legged talisman Kalvin Phillips will be available. But the momentum that has been gathering over recent matches – causing even ex-manager Colin to use the word “unstoppable” about Marcelo Bielsa‘s Leeds – could well be enough to see United consolidate their position as overwhelming favourites finally to ascend to the Promised Land of the Premier League in this Centenary Year. Now, wouldn’t that be just perfect.

Marching On Together 

VAR Has Now Ruled That Man United Beat Leeds United to the 1992 League Title – by Rob Atkinson

1992 Champions

Leeds United, Champions of England in 1992 – now VAR says it never happened

In a controversial late decision, a Video Assistant Referee has intervened in the matter of the last ever Football League Title, ruling that Manchester United, and not Leeds United, were the last winners of the old-style League Championship.

The debate has raged over the last 27 years, with traditionalists arguing that it would be “good for the game” if the title headed for Old Trafford that year, what with Bryan Robson having been injured so much and with the emergence of Ryan Giggsy. It had been felt in some quarters that no team which includes John McClelland and Lee Chapman should finish anywhere near the title and now, almost three decades after this vile injustice was perpetrated, the new VAR system has been employed to put matters straight.

The ITV anchorman at the time, Elton Welsby, welcomed the decision, pointing out that he’d had to sit in the studio at Anfield taking vile abuse from thousands of frustrated natives of Devon as they watched their team go down 0-2 to Liverpool, handing Leeds the title. “In fact, I was as gutted as they were, so there was no need to slag me off”, said Elton, “I was desperate to see Alec Fergie get his hands on a proper League winners trophy – instead he had to settle for winning that tacky replica of Thunderbird One a few times, and it just wasn’t the same. It was only right that our lads from Old T should win, it would have been so good for the game. And now, it is!”

We approached the Leeds manager at the time, Howard Wilkinson, for his take on the decision to overturn the 1992 title result and, after speaking at length about how he hadn’t watched Liverpool beat Man U because he was eating Sunday dinner with his family and friends, he added “Of course this is a ridiculous decision. After all, Leeds won by 4 points, having won more games than the rest and lost fewer. But there you go. I s’pose I’ll have to buy Harry Bassett that drink now”.

A spokesman for the Football League defended the decision of the VAR operative to reverse the 1992 title outcome, adding that the man concerned, a Mr. S Harvey, was a man of principle and impeccable judgement. “In the end, it all came down to common sense”, said our source. “Leeds lost by four at Man City near the end of the season, and that made them unworthy. Meanwhile, Fergie’s lot lost three in a row against Forest, West Ham and Liverpool, which we felt was suspicious and unrealistic. So we awarded them a win and two draws out of those games, meaning that they finished a point ahead of Leeds”. We asked which game had been turned into a victory and which were the draws, only to receive the enigmatic reply, “Who cares? Anyway, Kiko Casilla’s a racist on the balance of probabilities, so it serves Leeds right.”

VAR, nobbut a couple of years old, is a travesty and a joke – but is set to be voted Player of the Year at Old Toilet.

 

Ex-pro Noel Hunt Confirms the Damage SOME Leeds Fans are Doing to Patrick Bamford – by Rob Atkinson

 

Short and sweet today. Please read the article linked below, and reassure yourself (if you can) that you’re not contributing to the angst of a professional footballer wearing the shirt and badge of Leeds United.

If you can honestly say that you’ve not joined in with the barrage of online abuse suffered by Patrick Bamford this season and Noel Hunt before him (as well as others in between), then good for you. You’re a true Leeds fan, whether you attend matches or not.

But if you know in your heart that you’ve acted as Hunt describes so-called “supporters” acting in this illuminating piece – then, surely, you need to take a long, hard look at yourself. And ask yourself the crucial question: “Is Leeds United really the club for me?”

 

https://www.the42.ie/noel-hunt-on-social-media-5019897-Feb2020/

Marching On Together

 

 

Big Kev is a Project for Leeds, NOT an Unneeded Quick Fix – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United fans who hailed the signing of Jean-Kévin Augustin as the coming of the Messiah, a Saviour for our season, may have been well wide of the mark. For it appears that Marcelo Bielsa, lately under fire from our online Legion of the Clueless, nevertheless is quite clear about his priorities and unshakeably confident in the ability of his squad to keep a slightly misfiring Leviathan ahead of other somewhat lesser Championship beasts.

It never pays to second-guess Bielsa, who is inscrutable at the best of times. He knows what he knows, and he’ll disclose Informand intentions to others on a need-to-know basis, according to his own judgement. We can also take it as read that he is aware of and utterly unaffected by a growing impression out there in Twitterland that he is “stubborn”, among less kindly epithets.

Will Leeds’ Unrivalled Matchday Support See Them Through? Or Will the Online Mob Spell Disaster? – by Rob Atkinson

leeds-fans

Leeds United matchday support – simply the best

With apologies to Charles Dickens: we have the best of fans, we have the worst of fans. We’re Leeds United, and it’s high time we acknowledged this essential truth. The dividing line is perhaps a bit blurred – but, broadly speaking, the matchgoing support, those who roll up home and away, providing that intense atmosphere and fervent backing, can have few if any rivals anywhere in the game. If the fate of the team was down to these lads and lasses, we’d be certs for promotion.
But sadly, these days, you have to factor in the virtual world, and the Leeds United presence there – if we can assume for a moment that these online fans really are genuine Leeds followers – are not of the same quality as those matchgoing heroes. The outpouring of negativity both last season (as acknowledged by several players who admitted that it does affect them) and latterly this season too, has become a real factor in the team’s nervous and jittery displays. The trolls of course will deny this, but then, they would, wouldn’t they? But the fact is that professional sport is a matter of fine margins separating success from failure – so that any diminution of support is a negative and unwanted factor. And sadly, that’s something that could well cost us dear.
I’m by no means convinced that the worst of these online offenders are genuine Leeds fans anyway – there’s a lot of recently-started Twitter accounts out there, and you have to assume that some, at least, have been created for – shall we say – mischievous purposes. That will be a minority, though – but, as ever, there will always be a number of the dimmer type of Leeds fan, always looking for a passing bandwagon to jump aboard, and thinking that departing from a party line of “Bielsa is God” makes them appear windswept and interesting. That scenario has been quite obvious recently too.
I’m no more aware than anyone else what to do about this, beyond raising our voices in objection to the negative posters and trying to rally genuine support. That’s what I’ve been trying my poor best to do, and I know others have too. Doubtless we’re all taking the same kind of stick, sarcastically being called “superfans” etc. It’s all water off a duck’s back, of course – and, anyway, a bit of stick from a few hard-of-thinking types would be well worth it if we could make only the tiniest difference to online behaviour. And I have noticed more positive and supportive tweets lately, which is encouraging.
Because, in a game of fine margins, the slightest positive effect can make the difference, and take us where we all want to be.
Marching On Together