High Time Leeds United Got Serious and Professional about LUTV – by Rob Atkinson

The Twitter hashtag #LUFC on Thursday evening was full of Leeds fans moaning, carping and complaining bitterly. This isn’t exactly an unusual state of affairs but, for once, almost every gripe was well justified. Because, departing from the usual theme of ranting about transfer activity or the lack thereof, Leeds fans on Thursday evening were up in arms about the woefully amateurish “service” provided by LUTV.

To say the service provided is not good enough hardly does justice to what an appalling travesty it is. The club have had the cheek to charge for what is likely to be pretty grim viewing – a series of pre-season friendlies with hardly a new signing to be seen – and they have failed, in the case of the York City game, to fulfil their side of this dubious bargain. The picture constantly froze, and even when there was some visual action, it was miles out of sync with the amateurish commentary. Most of the time though, the picture was pixelated or frozen. It’s not good enough, not when you’re charging folk hard brass. The package of pre-season matches is around fifteen quid, with individual games at £3.99. By comparison with that, the beer I bought at a Broadway Theatre last year, which came in at around $14 for a half pint, was pretty good value.

It’s time Leeds United got serious about their in-house TV station, and sought a satellite platform as other clubs have done, Liverpool and Chelsea being notable examples. It’s difficult to understand why this doesn’t appear close to happening; our owner is a media mogul, for heaven’s sake, and the strength of the Leeds following globally is the stuff of legends. The demand is there, surely the resources are too, and there’s simply no excuse for a club like Leeds to take our money and then provide a service that simply doesn’t work.

So let’s see LUTV on Sky, the interest would be huge if there was a reliable and professional service. Then perhaps the days of buffering, shoddy camera work and joke commentators could be put firmly behind us.

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Leeds United Transfer Window Compared by Frustrated Fans to Tantric Sex – by Rob Atkinson

Sexy, or what?

Tantric sex is an ancient Hindu practice that has been going for over 5,000 years, much as this Leeds United transfer window seems to have done – and it means ‘the weaving and expansion of energy’.

It’s a slow form of sex that’s said to increase intimacy and create a mind-body connection that “can lead to powerful orgasms”, if you’ll pardon my frankness.

Tantric sex – or Tantra as it’s often known – can be done by anyone interested in rebooting their sex life and finding new depth to their love-making.

If that sounds confusing, think of it this way – if quickie sex is the sexual equivalent of a takeaway, tantric sex is a Michelin-starred meal, slowly and lovingly prepared and all the more delicious thanks to the wait. The parallels with Leeds United’s transfer policy are absolutely inescapable.

So all the Leeds fans out there in social media land, who are showing signs of frustration redolent of a sex-starved teenager – and I’m thinking particularly of the LUFC Twatteratti here – maybe it’s time to chill out and just enjoy the ride, so to speak.

For all that it’s undeniably true to point out how little has actually happened so far, perhaps the anticipation will turn out to be a big part of the fun – and maybe when it, ahem, “all comes right in the end”, the feeling of satisfaction will be so much the greater. That’s the lesson of Tantra.

So, worry not, chill out – and look forward to the pleasures in store for us all. After all, Leeds United wouldn’t lead us all on, teasing and tantalising us for so long, just to leave us anticlimactically disappointed…. now would they? And in the meantime, we do have some possible World Cup ecstasy to look forward to.

Watch this space.

Germany the Authors of Their own World Cup Misfortune, but Leeds Hero Pontus is Smiling – by Rob Atkinson

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The Germans have a word for it, as they usually do. And, since the reigning champions were toppled out of the World Cup on Thursday, it’s a word that has gained a great deal of currency in the UK and pretty much everywhere else, really. Schadenfreude – the concept of pleasure and gratification arising out of somebody else’s misfortune – neatly sums up the national mood since South Korea applied the coup de grace to Germany’s limp 2018 World Cup campaign. To say that the nation rejoiced in the wake of this sensational result is not to understate the case. Even sober journalists and media types joined in the euphoric jollity. Everybody was queuing up to poke fun at the demise of the German national football team.

It’s tempting to suggest that there is some historical element in this tendency of ours to wish misfortune on the Germans. Two world wars during the twentieth century might lend some credence to this point of view; especially where our most senior citizens are concerned. But for people of more tender years, the motivation is less martial, more sporting. Put simply, most of us are just sick of Germany’s traditional efficiency in amassing trophies on fields of sporting conflict, especially as compared to the meagre hauls of the home countries. We are sick of losing to them on penalties, sick of them going on to beat the teams we might otherwise have beaten, lifting the trophies we might otherwise have lifted. And, much as we would love to see our own teams strut around a lap of honour, we’re sick of seeing them do that, too. As Manchester United would confirm, nobody loves a perennial winner. It’s just boring for the rest of us.

So, the German exit from Russia 2018 had its novelty value, but it gave us all a laugh too, with the comical nature of their defeat to South Korea. For once, their goalkeeper was not batting away our penalty shots to win yet another shootout for the Fatherland – instead, he was making an idiot of himself on the left wing as his team-mates desperately chased late goals; then he had to watch helpless as the Koreans streaked downfield to pop the ball into an empty net to seal Germany’s doom. Oh, how we laughed. It was as comical as it was richly satisfactory, with the commentators in tucks and everybody taking the mick. Days like this come around all too rarely; we have to make the most of them. And, oh boy, did we ever.

The thing is as well, for those feeling any slight twinge of sympathy for a beaten and ridiculed German team, they really have asked for this. If you cast your mind back to the game that Germany actually won, beating Sweden at the very last gasp, they proved themselves to be most ungracious in victory, taunting the Swedish bench and provoking an angry reaction. Our own Pontus Jansson was involved, leading the charge and looking as if he wanted to take on the whole of the German backroom staff by himself. At that point, it looked as though Sweden had suffered a fatal blow in terms of their World Cup chances; surely, Germany would now steamroller its way into the knockout phase. But a few days on, Germany are bottom of their group and have gone home, while Sweden finished top to progress. Germany’s display of arrogant triumphalism had earned them the bitter fruits of karma, and it seemed the rest of the world felt a deep sense of justice served.

Pontus is happy too. On his Instagram account, he observed after the German exit “Warm up done. Now let’s start World Cup!” The German view, though, is terse and chilling – “Yes, we deserved to go out. We are not good enough. Enjoy this while you can”.

Leeds Should Pull Out All Stops to Sign Haaland Jr. Ahead of Man Utd – by Rob Atkinson

Erling Braut Haaland, the 17 year old son of former Elland Road favourite Alf-Inge Haaland, is shaping up as quite the boy wonder in Norway’s top flight. His latest exploit is to score four goals for Molde in the opening 21 minutes of an away fixture at league leaders Brann. Interestingly, young Erling is a fanatical fan of Leeds United, whose declared dream is to play for the Whites in the Champions League.

Worryingly, though, it might just be that Haaland Junior’s European fantasy could be played out via a short cut with that lesser United from over the hills. Manchester’s second club had scouts at the Brann – Molde game, and the whisper is that covetous eyes are watching from the Theatre of Hollow Myths, with Alfi’s son having impressed the talent spotters at the Pride of Devon.

We must hope that our old favourite Alf-Inge would not allow anything so unsavoury as his son signing for Them to happen. Alfi will surely have vivid memories of being assaulted by faux hard-man Royston Keane at Old Toilet, and of the career threatening injury he sustained in that cowardly assault. This alone should persuade Haaland senior to advise his lad to steer well clear of Salford.

And, on the positive side, the young star’s development would definitely be assisted by a spell with Marcelo Bielsa, the man Pep Guardiola hails as the best coach in the world. That’s the kind of upbringing any boy wonder should be looking for – naturally, though, there would first have to be some interest from Leeds United.

But why would there not be interest? Already, Erling is being spoken of as “better than his dad”, who, we will recall, was no mean player himself. What we have here is a situation begging for the only natural outcome, which would be the boy Haaland signing for his dad’s old club Leeds. Especially as Erling is such a fan. It’s the perfect match.

Come on, Mr Radrizzani – let’s get the lad signed and snatch him from the dark forces gathering around him. You know it makes sense.

Leeds United’s Paudie O’Connor Could do a Great Loan Job for Barnsley – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United’s Irish defender Paudie O’Connor is set to sign a new contract at Elland Road – but, according to reports, manager Marcelo Bielsa feels that O’Connor would benefit from a season out on loan to gain competitive experience.

O’Connor broke into the Leeds first team towards the end of the last campaign, when defensive injuries reduced United’s senior options. For the coming season, though, it’s likely that at least one major defensive signing will be made, so a loan out for O’Connor makes sense.

It would also make sense for a club like Barnsley, trying to put together a competitive League One squad after relegation, and themselves under a new coach, to look at what a young and promising defender could bring to the Oakwell table. Bringing in quality on loan is a well-trodden path to third tier success, and O’Connor – if he is to go out on loan – is an option the Tykes should be considering.

The best loan deals benefit all parties, and O’Connor to Barnsley, a good club in a hard and open league, would certainly fall into that category.

Crazy Boss for a Crazy Club. Leeds and Bielsa, a Match Made in Heaven… or Hell – by Rob Atkinson

Marcelo Leeds

Welcome to Leeds United, Marcelo Bielsa

The Marcelo Bielsa era at Leeds United has officially begun, with the man they call “el Loco” – the Madman – holding his inaugural press conference at Elland Road on Monday. Despite a reputation for lengthy press sessions, this was a brisk hour and twenty two minutes, with much of it taken up by the translation process. During that time, we all learned a fair bit about the new United boss. There were questions, answers, a few laughs and no grenades.

One thing that stood out was that, despite his evident dislike of false modesty, Bielsa is not short of humility. He batted back questions about Pep Guardiola regarding him as the best coach in the world, by hanging that accolade firmly around the Manchester City boss’s own neck. The overall picture was of a man who would not be settling for sound bites or stereotypes – a man indeed with his own philosophy and the determination to see that imprinted on his new situation.

When it came to brass tacks, the Argentinean revealed that he thought the Leeds United squad was top-heavy by maybe 15 players, whilst acknowledging that it needed strengthening in four or five areas. Although he stated that there wouldn’t be too many players coming in, and that he saw the youth element at the club as being a potentially useful resource, it still seems likely that there will be some significant player turnover in the near future – with outgoing players making up the bulk of that.

Overall, Bielsa’s debut day went well, and seemed to be well-received, certainly on social media. For this, we must thank the affable and efficient translator, who managed to convey not just the text of Marcelo’s utterances, but also nuance, light and shade. There was even some eye contact from Bielsa, a man notoriously not given to that – and, more remarkably still, the odd smile.

The only potential gaffe came when Bielsa was asked whether he preferred Don Revie or Brian Clough, and delivered a brief homily on his football philosophy, stating “In terms of winning the right way, I prefer to lose rather than cheat or play tricks. I prefer beautiful football rather than over-pragmatic football. Playing well brings you closer to winning things. I don’t think we can claim that playing badly is a way that achieves victory.”

That’s all well and good, but anyone working for the United cause needs to be wary of straying into heresy; sections of the press are all too ready to pounce gleefully on any apparent endorsement of the old myth that Cloughy was all good and the Don all bad. Perhaps a little while spent around LS11 will lead to a reassessment in this particular area. It was a distinctly left-field question, though and, so far, at least, nobody seems to be holding Bielsa’s slightly equivocal response against him.

If anything, this one uncertain moment summed up the abiding sense that here is an appointment that could as easily go extraordinarily wrong as it could sublimely right. In the here and now, nobody can predict which of those two extremes is the more likely – people are just settling for the near certainty that it won’t be anything in between. This union of crazy club with crazy man could indeed be a match made in heaven – or hell.

For the moment, then, it’s full ahead for the good ship Leeds with Captain Bielsa at the helm. May fair winds and calm waters see him safe to the destination we all wish so fervently to reach, there to prosper and maybe find some silver. The mission is clear, the rewards are great. And, while the voyage may be long or short, what we can most definitely predict is that it’s highly unlikely to be boring.

Multiple Incoming Transfers for Leeds as Bielsa Style Means Large Squad – by Rob Atkinson

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Bielsa – deep squad vital

If every transfer deal Leeds United are supposed to be working on actually came to fruition, then United would need to expand Thorp Arch to twice its current size at least. Most of the speculation, of course, is just that. It’s the sort of thing that takes off during the silly season, when there’s no actual football being played, apart from some prima donnas’ kickabout in Mother Russia. And right now, every sort of speculation has reached fever pitch around LS11 – due to the arrival of a certain allegedly deranged Argentinean, name of Marcelo Bielsa.

The difference Bielsa makes to our recent idea of normality is really twofold. Firstly, the pursuit and capture of a coach with a global reputation must be seen as a sign of serious intent on the part of Leeds United FC, of an ambition not manifest in recent seasons. Bielsa is not daft, and he’ll have made his position and his requirements abundantly clear during the tough negotiations that evidently preceded his appointment. His track record includes a sudden, early walk-out at Lazio, when el Loco felt that he had been lied to. United must have made promises about player recruitment and the manager’s involvement in decisions; they will have to honour them, or they’ll get the Lazio treatment from the maverick Argentine.

The other thing is Bielsa’s famed style of play. The high-pressing, fluidly attacking game makes heavy demands of the players attempting it; the outcome is that, particularly towards the end of a typically hard and gruelling Championship campaign, fatigue will lead to the full use of a necessarily large squad that has strength in depth going for it.

The inevitable conclusion is that, although as usual Twitter is all aflutter because little has happened so far, things will soon start to happen, because Leeds will need a major influx of the right type of talent into what is a patchy squad. I’d fully expect significant arrivals within the next couple of weeks, to allow sufficient time pre-season for the Bielsa method to be inculcated into his players. This coaching appointment simply won’t work unless proper investment and recruitment happens, and you can bet your bottom dollar that, behind the scenes, the activity is already frenetic.

It’s going to be an exciting time between now and the start of the season in August. Enjoy the ride.

Marcelo Bielsa “To Sign Leeds United Contract Tonight” – by Rob Atkinson

It’s happening – Marcelo Bielsa will be the next Leeds United boss. I’m purposely avoiding the terms “manager” and “coach” as being, at this stage, too precise. But the implications of this appointment are that Bielsa’s stringent conditions and requirements have largely been met. In those circumstances, the continuing presence of Victor Orta notwithstanding, “Boss” seems like the best word to use.

The information is reliable, having been tweeted by the famously ITK journalist Phil Hay. So, United have got their man, a stellar appointment to put every other occupant of the Elland Road hotseat, possibly since Terry Venables, firmly into the shade. We must hope that the club intends to be fully honest and open in their dealings with Bielsa; they certainly weren’t with Venables.

Much more on this to come, obviously. In the meantime, we must wish our new Boss all the best, getting right behind him from Day One. This could and should be a pivotal moment in the illustrious history of a club approaching its centenary. From here, the only way should be up.

Welcome to Leeds United, Marcelo Bielsa. May you meet early with the success we all wish you.

Any News, Phil? Leeds United Reporter Phil Hay Suffers Torture by a Million Tweets – by Rob Atkinson

Phil Hay

Phil Hay, perennial Leeds United Twitter target info source

One man who will be particularly relieved, and who may indeed shed tears of joy, when the white smoke eventually goes up over Elland Road and Marcelo Bielsa becomes our anointed king, is the Yorkshire Evening Post‘s chief football writer Phil Hay.

Phil is the man with his finger on the pulse of Leeds United and his ear to the ground at Thorp Arch. It’s become an article of faith that any item of Whites football news can only really be believed when it’s been presented as fact by Mr. Hay, whose articles and revelations always carry that stamp of authenticity.

The downside to this elite and privileged position is that Hay, an endearingly prolific tweeter of the snippets all Leeds fans thirst for, has to put up with a phenomenal amount of Twitter queries, amounting to an ongoing Inquisition, with demands for more news, more verbatim accounts of what’s being said and, above all, urgent confirmation of that which has not yet been confirmed. Sometimes, the strain ever so slightly shows, when representatives from the dimmer end of the Leeds Twitteratti attempt to second guess our intrepid reporter. Then, such responses as he makes can be quite terse and dry. But, ever the pro, Phil does not engage in unseemly to-ing and fro-ing. That’s a lesson I could do with learning.

It’s not just Phil Hay, of course. The equally respected Adam Pope cops for his share of incessant nagging, the likes of “Popey, can you confirm… etc”. Lee Sobot is another target for this insatiable hunger for news NOW. Of course, people do know that you can’t report developments until those developments have developed – but you sometimes have to doubt that awareness. Our professional reporters are harangued 24/7, and it’d be no wonder if they got just a teensy bit sick of it.

The last couple of weeks have been a case in point, with “Any news, Phil?” becoming a catchphrase to rank alongside any in the world of alternative comedy. It’s being used ironically now, as Tweeters take the mick out of their less patient fellow online fans. If Messrs Hay, Pope and Sobot tried to answer every desperate plea for knowledge aimed directly at them, they’d have neither the time nor the energy to get on with their actual jobs.

With this in mind, it’d be nice to think that the manic tweeters would lay off a bit, accept that things happen when they happen or not at all, and generally give our faithful correspondents a bit of time and room to breathe. Not that any such restraint is likely to happen, of course. That imperious need to know is out there, and it’s voracious.

What I will wish is for the Bielsa story to be resolved as soon as possible, so that our chaps in the press room can take a bit of a rest. Then again, once Bielsa is in – well, all the transfer business will catch fire and consume us all, won’t it? Hmmm.

Erm – any news, Phil?

With Bielsa Joining Leeds, Legendary Striker Fernando Torres Cannot be Ruled Out – by Rob Atkinson

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Fernando Torres – on his way back to Elland Road?

SkyBet have suspended betting now on the question of the next Leeds United manager – the last price available on Marcelo Bielsa was, reportedly, a not altogether generous 20-1 on. If the bookies expect you to invest £20 to gain a quid, then you can bet they’re fairly certain of the eventual outcome – and now, even that price is off the table. With other sources reporting that Bielsa has been granted a work permit, it seems nailed-on that “El Loco” will be installed in the Elland Road hotseat in the very near future.

To say that this represents a change in United’s recruitment policy is hopelessly inadequate. It’s like saying that Leicester City‘s 2015 title triumph was mildly surprising, or that Harry Kewell is perhaps lacking slightly in the nobler scruples. Bielsa to Leeds is a seismic event, something that shows the club are getting seriously serious in their approach to achieving promotion to the Promised Land. As the wise Yorkshireman observed when he sampled his neighbour’s parsnip wine, “Owt could ‘appen ‘ere”.

That being the case, other stories in circulation, yarns that would normally be dismissed as too outlandish and fanciful even for Coronation Street, must now be treated a little more respectfully. In layman’s terms: if Bielsa can agree to take over at Leeds, and especially if he’s managed to get the club to grant him a big say in all footballing matters including transfers, then pretty much anything can happen now. We’re entering an alternate reality here, one for which the last decade and a half has left us totally unprepared. It is indeed a whole new ball game.

So, when rumour has it that Leeds United, at Senor Bielsa’s behest, are showing an interest in former Liverpool and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres, now 34 but eminently capable still of tearing the Championship division a new one, then my advice would have to be: Titter ye not. Put aside your initial impulse to scoff, carp and otherwise demonstrate your scorn. A new reality is upon us, and who can say with any certainty what’s possible or probable under these radically different circumstances? Not I, and, I’d respectfully suggest, not you either.

Even now, though, with an improbability field so vast drifting around Elland Road, that you’d be forgiven for demanding a refund on your Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, some possibilities must be counted as less likely than others. Bielsa? Almost certainly. Abel Hernandez? Where else is the lad going to go? Kyle Bartley? Agent Ayling is on the case. But Torres – a legend in the truest football sense of the world – that has to be a bit more of a stretch. SkyBet, supremely confident about Bielsa, regard Torres to Leeds rather more circumspectly at 33-1. They appear to see Japan as his likely destination, with Premier League minnows Newcastle also much more highly fancied than Yorkshire’s Number One, at 12-1.

Then again, it’s at Leeds United where the nigh-on impossible stuff appears to be happening right now. It should be remembered that Torres would be the third ex-Liverpool striker to join Leeds in the last couple of decades, following on from Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler. Could we really see Fernando Torres leading the line for the Whites at Millwall and Rotherham next season? The way things are around LS11 at the moment, you’d better think twice about betting against it.