Monthly Archives: August 2013

Leeds’ First Defeat a Timely Reminder for Owners GFH Capital

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The first defeat of any season is always a bitter pill to swallow, and when that defeat ends a decent unbeaten run which had created a bit of a feelgood factor and some useful confidence, then the taste is all the sourer still. There can be little doubt that QPR deservedly edged the game at Elland Road – they came north with a game plan as they had done to Bolton’s Reebok Stadium, and they went away having done the job. Rangers had been rather unlucky to see Joey Barton’s first half goal disallowed for a clearly inappropriate offside flag, just as in the end they enjoyed some good luck when Rudy Austin’s fulminating howitzer hit the angle and bounced to safety. It was a game of fine margins, as reflected by the scoreline.

As depressing as a home defeat is, however, there can be long-term benefit if the lessons of that defeat are learned and acted upon. This match was under the Sky TV microscope, but it is an open secret that the Leeds United squad is defined more by the gaps in it than by the several excellent players it boasts for this level of football. Another striker is still needed, at least one winger is still needed. At the moment, there is a lot right with any team that Brian McDermott puts out, but the vital missing ingredients are making it very difficult for that team to be as effective as it needs to be in the attacking third of the field. Impotence in attack has its consequences further back; there is more pressure on ball retention in midfield because the options up front are not what they should be.

Brian McDermott is a downy bird, and he knows what is needed. It is the growing urgency of that need which, with the end of the transfer window looming ever closer, is giving cause for concern if not alarm. From the outside, we just have to take it on trust that work is going on behind the scenes to secure the additional players which are clearly needed in order to give Leeds a chance of sustaining some sort of competitiveness this season. If not, then it could just be a long and depressing struggle, despite the best efforts of a manager who has said all the right things and has also done so much that is right since coming to the club – as indeed have the new owners GFH-C.

Monday could be a very significant day in this season for Leeds United, and maybe even in their history as a whole. Getting the ingredients right is that important when you’re looking for the recipe for success. The QPR game has demonstrated very clearly for us just where the areas of need are – if we don’t secure some decent wide options, then surely we’ll be placing too much reliance on the likes of Diouf, who showed in his cameo performance that he’s currently far and away the best we have where quality service from the wing is concerned. After Diouf we have Ryan Hall, who still seems to be struggling to make a real impression at this level.

As is often said in too many American TV shows of a dubious standard: “OK. You got 48 hours”. That’s about the size of it for Leeds United right now, and the clock is running down. Tick tock.

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Why Liverpool Are Still the Greatest Champions

Liverpool: Champions of Champions

Liverpool: Champions of Champions

Liverpool entertain Man U at Anfield tomorrow (Sunday) in the latest meeting between clubs who, to say the least, aren’t exactly fond of each other.  Rivalry of that depth and bitterness tends to polarise opinion – there aren’t many fence-sitters when one of these fixtures crops up.  OK, so I’m a Leeds United fan – so what has this got to do with me?

Well, I’d have to start by declaring an interest – as a die-hard supporter of the One True United from the right (Yorkshire) side of the Pennines, I’m not exactly enamoured of Man U.  I never had much time for them, even before that awful, whisky-nosed Govan Git came down to pour his choleric bile all over what had, until then, been a relatively civilised (give or take Brian Clough and nearly all the fans) English football scene.  There was always an air of spurious arrogance about them, as well as this “you’ve got to love us because of the Busby Babes” thing – which all the media seemed to lap up so eagerly, much to the disgust of real fans everywhere.  So clearly, I don’t like them – never did.  That’s in my Leeds United DNA.  But I’m not just a Leeds fan, I’m a fan of football in its widest sense – and I mourn the game we once knew which seems to be gone forever, swept away by a grotty tide of filthy lucre

Time was when Man U were grudgingly respected, other than by determined haters like me and my fellow Whites.  Since Sir Alex Taggart landed at the Theatre of Hollow Myths though, they’ve gone from “quite easy to dislike” to “impossible to stand the sight of” faster than you could say “Envious of Liverpool”.  The Purple-Conked One made it clear from the off that he was determined to “knock Liverpool off their perch”.  What we didn’t realise when he started his vendetta in 1988, showing no immediate sign of being any more successful than any of the other post-Busby failures, was that the whole face of football would have to change to realise Ferguson’s warped dream.

In 1967, Man U won their last ever proper League Title, making seven in total – quite respectable.  Then – nothing, for 26 years.  Since 1993, when a greedy Aussie bought the game and gift-wrapped it for a curmudgeonly Scot, the title “race” has been more of a procession.  The honour has ceased to be about virtuosity on the field; now it’s mainly about money and markets, and Man U have had much more of both during the whole Murdoch era.  Result: thirteen plastic titles.

Football is now a tacky, merchandise-driven, unseemly drive for profit over pride, and the dominance by Man U of such a grubby era is undeniably apt.  But we are still close enough in time to the pre-greed days for those of us of a certain age to remember when the game was about glory, not greed; when the aim was winning, not wonga, when the important people were supporters, not shareholders.  In those days, the distribution of wealth was far more even, and the field of possible title-winners was far wider; the competition (over a grueling 42 match course, with un-manicured pitches and un-pampered pros) was far more fierce.  And yet, even in this environment of white-hot combat and intense rivalry, Liverpool reigned supreme, not for months, not years, but for literally two decades.  By 1992, they had compiled an honours list that seemed likely to see them at the top of the game for many years to come – unless someone sneaked in and moved the goalposts.  Cue Uncle Rupert.

Man U fans can crow all they want about 20 titles.  The evidence to confound them is there for all to see, like some geological stratum separating the dinosaurs from the mammoths.  That schism dividing the game up to ’92, from the showbiz shenanigans of ’93 onwards, stands out like a Tory at a Foodbank, exposing Man U as the wealth-backed, monopolising opportunists that they are.  And it has all been done with such bad grace, another indictment of this new and joyless age we’re plodding through.  No gentle wisdom of the Bob Paisley variety – instead we had the sour bile of Ferguson and now seemingly a Fergie-Lite clone in the newly growly and grouchy David Moyes.  No loveable old-style hard-man Desperate Dan type like Tommy Smith – we just had the manufactured machismo of Roy Keane, a supposed tough-guy with an assumed snarl and trademark glower, whose typical party trick was to sneak up behind wee Jason McAteer and fell that not-exactly-scary individual with a sly elbow.

The comparisons could go on all day, but the bottom line is that Liverpool at their peak – and it was a hell of a peak – typified all the values of football that some of us remember from a pre-Sky, pre-glitz, pre-greed age when it really was all about a ball.  Now, it’s all about money, and contracts, and egos, and snide bitching to the media if you don’t get all your own way – and lo, we have the champions we deserve.  In the home game against Chelsea towards the end of last season, they displayed a lack of respect for the Premier League competition, and discourtesy to other clubs who stood to gain or lose depending on whether Chelsea  won or lost, by fielding a much changed and weakened side, going down to a meek defeat and imperiling the Champions League prospects of Spurs and Arsenal.  Such is the measure of their attitude to the game where their own immediate interests are not affected.

To apply a conversion rate which sums up all the anger and disgust I feel for the way our game has been degraded – I’d say each Premier League (or Premiership, or whatever else it’s been marketed as) is worth maybe half – at the very most – of each proper Football League Championship from the days when the game still belonged to us and the world was a happier and more carefree place.

At that rate, Man U are still a good long distance behind Liverpool, which – judging by the paucity of spirit and sportsmanship they displayed against Chelsea – is precisely where they belong.  On the eve of the latest meeting between these two long-standing Lancashire rivals, it should be emphasised once and for all – Liverpool are still The Greatest.

Masterblaster Yeboah’s Best Goal for Leeds United

Yeboah Almighty

Yeboah Almighty

Mention the name Tony Yeboah to any Leeds fan – in fact to any football fan with a memory long enough to stretch way back to the mid-nineties, and you can bet that a faraway look will come into their eyes, and they’ll say “Ah, yes – that incredible goal against Liverpool.  Goal of the season, that.”  It’d be difficult to find anyone to argue the point.  But as a fanatical Leeds United fan who has a very special place in his Hero File for Anthony Yeboah, I’m going to try.

The Liverpool goal certainly was a brilliant technical piece of finishing; volleys from outside the box against a class goalkeeper invariably have to be.  At Leeds over the years, we’ve been lucky enough to see a fair few of these bazookas, and Yeboah’s late effort against the Anfield men stands comparison with any of them.  The fact of the goal being at the Kop End of Elland road was of some assistance to the spectacle, but any way you look at it, this was a hell of a strike.  It wasn’t the first goal of this type in front of the Leeds Kop and against the Reds though.  A few years before, Gary MacAllister, a future Anfield hero, scored another fizzer, the ball being played to him in mid air from the left; he let it go across his body before wrapping his right foot round it to thunderous effect, the ball scorching into the net before the ‘keeper (the same David James beaten by Yeboah) could even move.

Yeboah’s strike though was probably marginally better, it came from a headed knock-down forcing the Ghanaian to adjust his body shape slightly as the ball descended towards him, and he caught it so sweetly and with such velocity that James was probably slightly lucky he didn’t get a hand to it; broken wrists have been known in similar situations.  It was a violent, arcing shot, the ball dipping slightly in its trajectory and just clipping the underside of the crossbar before bouncing down to rest, relieved, in the back of the net.  David James can perhaps count himself unlucky to have been beaten by two of the finest volleys I’ve ever seen at Elland Road, then again he might reflect they’d probably have beaten any two keepers on Earth.

The thing is though – tie me up and burn me for a heretic, but I don’t think Yeboah’s howitzer against Liverpool that balmy August night was his best goal for Leeds.  In my humble opinion, that came a few weeks later at Selhurst Park, temporary home of Wimbledon FC.  I am supported in this by Guardian writer Dominic Fifield who, writing in 2011, saw this as his favourite Premier League goal.  He described it thus:

“Watching the ball cannon up from a series of scrappy headers and attempted clearances clearly tested the Ghanaian’s patience. Yeboah snapped on to the loose ball, controlled it on his chest then instep, exploded away from an opponent and lashed a glorious half-volley in off the underside of the bar from distance. It is the ferocity which is most impressive; a blistering effort.”

Sadly, I only saw this goal on television, though I’d planned to attend the match at Selhurst as I was due to be in London that weekend.  Four days previously though, I’d seen a pallid performance against Notts County in a 0-0 League Cup draw – and I just thought, well sod it, I’m not wasting my London time and money watching that sort of crap.  So I was exploring the delights of Selfridges when Yeboah broke Sky TV’s velocity-measuring equipment, and serve me right for a lapse of faith.  At least my wife found it funny, but I was understandably not amused.  Leeds won 4-2 as well, with Yeboah completing a hat-trick, and Carlton Palmer scoring a goal that might well have been Goal of the Month most of the time, but paled into insignificance next to the awesome might of Yeboah.

There are several YouTube videos devoted to paying tribute to Tony’s goals in his too-brief stay at Elland Road, and I’d heartily recommend a search, they’re well worth watching over and over.  I’d be interested to know what others think – I suspect that most will feel his effort against Liverpool was the best; it was a late winner after all, and scored in front of a packed Kop.  I should think this really, because I was actually there, stood right behind the line of the shot as it ripped past the startled James.  But I just can’t help harking back to what I think was an even greater goal, albeit in humbler surroundings.  How I wish that I’d been there for that one.  Tony Yeboah: thanks for the memories.

McCormack Boosts Leeds by Signing New Four Year Deal

McCormack Commits to Leeds United

McCormack Commits to Leeds United

The news that all Leeds fans have been waiting for – with just that slight worry that it may never come – has finally been confirmed.  Ross McCormack is staying at Leeds, having put pen to paper on a new four-year deal to end speculation that his future might be elsewhere, possibly further north and shrouded in perpetual smog.

Whatever the disappointment fans of Middlesbrough FC might be feeling at these joyful tidings, the chief emotion among the Leeds faithful will be relief.  The conviction in certain sections of the press that we were about to lose our most potent striker had amounted to an almost evangelical belief, or at least to a fevered plane of wishful thinking.  There may be excuses for certain ill-written and obsessive fan-sites of other clubs getting over-excited about the prospect of more misery for Leeds fans, but the gentlemen of the Fourth Estate do themselves no favours when they, too, sink to the levels of various anti-Leeds factions around the country.  But then again, hating Leeds in print is a standby pastime for newspaper lads and lasses since time immemorial, and it least it proves that our chant of “We’re not famous anymore” is a living hymn to irony.

The news that McCormack is staying will not exactly echo around the various leagues, ringing with significance, in the way that Gareth Bale’s forthcoming departure from Spurs will.  And yet one fan-site editor of a West Ham persuasion had pinned his colours so firmly to the mast of “GFH will sell McCormack” that you wonder if he might now perform the literary equivalent of clapping a gun to his mouth and calling in the decorators.  It’s amazing how the varying fortunes of Leeds United can still provoke such extremes of emotion, even after a prolonged period of obscurity, and even among fans of clubs we have never considered worthy of even a mild dislike.

Make no mistake though – leaving aside all the negative connotations of those who will greet the McCormack news with dismay – this sends out yet another massively positive message, albeit somewhat delayed, as to the direction the new owners of the club are taking.  Onwards and upwards is the theme – forget the past, the future is bright and White.  McCormack would have had no shortage of suitors had he wished to leave LS11, and if the club had wished to sell, they could surely have realised a large fee in exchange for his services.  Something is going unusually right at Elland Road and the longer the season goes on, the better things seem to get.  This will remain the case even when the odd, inevitable reverse occurs – as long as the principles seemingly being applied by the owners at the moment continue to guide their actions.

IF – and it remains a significant if – Leeds can now move to plug the few gaps in their squad before this transfer window closes, then a competitive season at the right end of the table surely beckons, maybe along with a juicy cup run or two.  The wind of change has been blowing down Beeston way, and it’s putting some colour into Leeds fans’ cheeks as well as a spring into their steps.

It’s been a long, long journey from what we can now assume is the rock-bottom nadir of our great club’s proud history.  But there are undeniable signs that a renaissance is underway, and maybe – just maybe – that United are back.

The Greatest Goal I Ever Saw – Scored Against Leeds United

For any football fan asked to nominate a favourite goal, the prospect opens of a pleasurable half an hour recalling all those wonderful strikes down the years, mentally compiling a short-list, and then proudly revealing to the questioner that golden shot, header, volley or back-heel, possibly prefaced by the two runners-up in time-honoured reverse order. Bliss.

The challenge of naming the best goal ever scored against your favourites, however, is obviously not quite so enjoyable. Most of us like to think of ourselves as football purists, at least in a neutral sense, so that we can appreciate the beauty of a goal scored in a game not involving our club, even one by a despised rival. But a goal in your own team’s net is never completely free of attendant pain, and however wonderfully executed it might have been, you can’t actually enjoy it. You wince as it goes in, you home in on a possible offside flag, or any infraction of the rules that might lead to it being chalked off. When it counts, your mood sinks. You’re in no state to acknowledge the brilliance of it all. You just want your lot to set about redressing the balance.

But the fact remains; you will have seen many terrific goals scored against your own beloved side. You may possibly find that one amongst them tops even the best goal you can ever recall your lot scoring, though you will not, of course, admit that. As a Leeds United fan, I’d certainly never concede I’ve seen better opposition goals than Yeboah’s howitzers against Liverpool and Wimbledon, Strachan’s belter against Leicester, Currie’s banana shot against the Saints, Eddie Gray’s pleasure ride through the Burnley defence or any half-dozen you might care to name from Lorimer’s ferocious back catalogue.

Looked at without the partisan blinkers, though, my mind’s eye recalls some very memorable goals scored against Leeds, particularly at my end of Elland Road; the Gelderd End, or Kop. Jeremy Goss blasted home a fulminating volley for Norwich in 1993 that drew gasps of admiration. The crisply-struck blockbusters do tend to stick in the memory, and I’ve often complained that we seem to cop for more than our fair share of goal-of-the-season contenders that fly into our top corner, when they might so easily have zipped into the back row of the stand.

The one opposition goal that I’ll truly never forget, though, was in a category all of its own. In the early part of the 1990-91 season, Leeds had made a decent start to their first year back in the top flight since relegation in 1982. Consolidation of higher status was the name of the game, but United appeared to be capable of more, and would, in fact, achieve a top four finish as a prelude to actually winning the Title the following season. In these early days back in the big time, though, it was wonderful just to be there and holding our own. A visit from Queens Park Rangers wasn’t expected to present any real problems, and there was a relaxed and content air around Elland Road when Leeds moved into an early two goal lead.

Twinkle-Toes Wegerle

Twinkle-Toes Wegerle

Then, it happened, as it’s frankly happened too often in my time watching Leeds. We managed to salvage, from the jaws of victory, an unlikely 2-3 defeat. But one of those goals was scored by Roy Wegerle, South African-born U.S. international, now a golf pro, but then Leeds United’s latest nemesis. He picked the ball up wide on the right about halfway inside the Leeds half, executed a ridiculously mazy run on a by-no-means direct route to the edge of the area, during which he went past five Leeds players as if they just weren’t there, before shifting the ball finally onto his right foot and dispatching it past a flailing John Lukic. It was one of those moments when, despite your love of your own team, you just stopped for an instant, transfixed in wonder, before exclaiming “I say, what an absolute corker of a goal that was!”, or words to that effect.

It was a beautiful goal, a wondrous, marvellous gem of a goal. I’ll certainly never forget it, and seemingly new generations of QPR fans are always finding out about it, and wishing they could have seen it live. Well, I did see it, and although I may not have appreciated it at the time, it certainly gets my nomination for “best ever against Leeds”. I’m not alone in that, either – one other thing I recall from that day is the loud and generous applause Wegerle’s effort elicited from the notoriously parochial Leeds support.

It takes a very special goal indeed to get that reaction at Elland Road, and this was definitely as special as it gets – worthy of Maradona, perhaps … or even Eddie Gray.

Take a bow, son. But with Leeds United once again hosting QPR at the weekend – let’s hope it’s Ross McCormack weaving the magic this time around.

Whites Legend – Lee “Leee” Chapman

Leee Chapman, Whites Legend and Last Champion “Leee” Chapman, Whites Legend and Last Champion[/caption]

It all started with a slightly bizarre Yorkshire Evening Post back page headline.  “Chapman Wings In”, it screamed – signaling Leeds United’s signing of the tall striker for the 1989/90 run-in.  A winger he most certainly was not, but many Leeds fans didn’t really fancy him to be all that much of a centre-forward either and it’s fair to say that the bulk of the support weren’t exactly overwhelmed by Sergeant Wilko’s latest transfer swoop.  But Lee Chapman was to win our hearts as he trod a goal-laden path to the top with Leeds, and any slight technical shortcomings were more than outweighed by his willingness to get in there where it hurts, to put his head in where many would hesitate to risk a boot.  Whites fans do love a recklessly brave warrior who’s worthy of the badge.

I well remember seeing one example of this bravery at close quarters when I attended a 0-0 draw at Tottenham shortly after we were promoted.  Challenged aerially as he went for a ball near the touchline, Chappy hurtled off the field of play to land senseless in an ungainly heap, face-first on the perimeter smack in front of where I was sitting.  Thus I was an unwilling witness to the worst case of gravel-rash imaginable when Leee (as he was fondly known by The Square Ball fanzine) tottered to his feet, his classic profile seemingly having been scraped off to a large degree by the unforgiving Spurs running track.  Such a mess of grimy blood and snot had to be seen to be believed, and I honestly wondered if he wouldn’t be out until the end of the season; but Leee – true to courageous form – was back in double-quick time to finish the campaign with thirty goals.

The following season he managed to break a wrist in trying to save a cup-tie at Elland Road, and during his absence we took the fateful decision to recruit enfant terrible Eric Cantona.  But again Chappy came back, and played a far greater part in that season’s title success than the mercurial Frenchman.  Brave he certainly was, and an unerring gatherer of goals too, sometimes clumsy in his execution of the finish, but still lethally effective.  The highlights were many – a hat-trick at home to Liverpool in an epic 4-5 defeat when he had a goal wrongly disallowed to deny Leeds a deserved draw.  Chappy had this wonderful knack of hurtling like some blond Exocet missile to connect with quality deliveries from either flank; goals at Aston Villa from a Mel Sterland cross, and at Sheffield Wednesday, courtesy of Gary Speed, stand out in the memory of those who were lucky enough to be there.  And in that Hillsborough match there was a rare glimpse of Lee’s unsuspected streak of genius as he picked up possession on the right, burst between two floundering defenders into the area, and pinged a shot against the Wednesday crossbar.  It was the gilt-edged stuff of absolute fantasy.

Lee Chapman was not a player of extravagant talent, nor did he play pretty football embellished with flicks and tricks – not usually , anyway.  But he was a devastatingly effective spearhead for Leeds over a period of several seasons, his time at the club coinciding with the second-greatest period in our history, his goals securing many a valuable win and draw, home and away.  He is fondly remembered as an archetypal Leeds player – fully committed and willing to risk injury for the sake of the shirt.  Memorably, he returned for a brief loan spell in the mid-nineties, welcomed back into the fold by rapturous Elland Road applause, only to be sent off for a stray elbow as he challenged for yet another high ball.

Leeds have had many great centre-forwards in their history – from the peerless John Charles downwards through Mick Jones, Joe Jordan, to the more modern heroes like Tony Yeboah and maybe even Jermaine Beckford.  All those names have notable achievements on their Elland Road CV, and Lee Chapman deserves his place in such a Hall of Fame; as tribute to his attitude, his bravery and of course his goals.  For a Leeds United centre-forward, there can be no higher praise than that.

Scott Wootton Can Become the Latest to Leave Man United For “The Damned United” – and Find Success

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This week’s signing of young defender Scott Wootton has reminded us all that the transfer history between the two Uniteds of Leeds and Manchester is notable mainly for its scarcity – understandably so, considering the bitterness of the rivalry between the two clubs.  A mutual antipathy still festers among the fans on either side despite the rarity of actual meetings of the respective Reds and Whites on the field of play.  Anyone who has witnessed the poisonous atmosphere which prevails at such meetings will appreciate the difficulties which can arise for players who have sought to serve both clubs.  Accusations of betrayal are far more common than warm welcomes back when a player swaps one shirt for the other.

Revisionists who count their history from the founding of the Premier League might not appreciate that, in the comparatively few direct deals between Elland Road and Old Trafford, Leeds have come out not at all badly.  Two transfers in particular can be said to have sparked the Whites’ greatest historical successes, but the focus in more recent years has been on the move of a certain iconic Frenchman, and the kick-start that appeared to give to Man United, a club that had starved for title success for over a quarter of a century.

The fact remains, however, that Leeds can thank the management at Old Trafford for their generosity – or misjudgement – in two different eras, firstly when John Giles (pictured above) made the move to Elland Road in the sixties, sparking the Glory Years of Don Revie’s reign, a transfer later described by Revie as “robbery with violence”.  Gordon Strachan then arrived in LS11 to complete the renaissance of Leeds under Howard Wilkinson in the late 80’s and early 90’s, cementing their position as the Last Real Champions by finishing the pre-Sky era at the pinnacle of the domestic game.

Enfant terrible Eric Cantona did much to redress the balance of transfer success between the two clubs, but there are strong grounds for suspecting that Man U’s era of domination would have happened anyway, so favourable were the conditions for a global franchise in the Murdoch-funded Premier League.  Giles and Strachan, then, stand out as the two most influential transfers between the two clubs, and there are also a few memorable if slightly lesser transfers worthy of mention: Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen left Leeds for Man U in the 70’s, but found limited success, as did Arthur Graham a few years later; while Brian Greenhoff and Danny Pugh were journeyman additions to the Leeds squad from the also-rans of the Man U gene pool.  The less said about Lee Sharpe, “Plug” Ferdinand and Alan Smith, the better.

It’s asking a lot of youngster Wootton to turn his career at Elland Road into anything like the glorious impact of a Strachan or a Giles, but there are grounds for supposing that he may have a significant contribution to make and maybe – just maybe – cause the fans of Man U to regret his departure.  Already there are wistful noises emanating from the hotbeds of support in Milton Keynes and Torquay.  One fan remarked that Wootton might have developed into “another Johnny Evans” – surely a case of being damned by faint praise. Another stated that if Wootton was to be denied his chance at Old Trafford, he might as well play for a proper club, which seems quite a generous attitude in the circumstances. Leeds fans don’t appear to hold the boy’s past against him – he seems to be regarded as a prospect rich in potential, and after all he’s made a career choice of which we can all heartily approve.

Above all, we have to respect Brian McDermott’s increasingly acute eye for a player, especially of the young, there-to-be-coached-and-improved variety.  Like it or not, Man U deal in an entirely different transfer sphere to Leeds, and it’s much more difficult for a rough diamond to be polished up for the first team there, when so many crown jewels are bought in every season.  They are bound to lose the odd star-to-be, and on this occasion we at Leeds may just be the beneficiaries of this kind of overspill.   We can certainly hope so, and hope also that this latest cross-Pennine import enjoys a long and successful career at Elland Road, returning frequently to Old Trafford to haunt those who have seen fit to let him go this week.  With our vivid memories of Gilesy and Wee Gordon, we’re certainly entitled to such a dream.

Leeds Fans – How Much Longer Are We Going to be Made Mugs Of?

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There are some glass-half-full types who might venture to suggest that this hasn’t been a summer like any other over the past ten years or so.  After all, Bates has gone, most if not all of his cronies have departed with him, and the air around Elland Road does smell sweeter as a result.  What’s more ticket prices have gone down from the actually obscene to the merely extortionate, there has been continual talk of new investment and strategic partners, and yes – we have our first seven-figure signing since we bought Richard Cresswell back when Noah was a lad.  O Brave New World that has such smoke and mirrors in it!

Because, despite all the feel-good changes and all of the positive talk – forget the past, it’s all about the future – there are still these nagging doubts.  Leeds United football fans are canny folk.  They know their football, and they can see quite clearly when there are gaping holes in the squad, and when the club is being stifled for lack of quality.  And despite the rich promise of million-pound Wunderkind Luke Murphy, and the more gangly potential of Matt Smith, freed from his Time Lord responsibilities in darkest Oldham to provide an aerial threat for Leeds United; plus of course the elderly skills of veteran Noel Hunt – despite all this, we can all see what’s missing.  Width, that’s what. Pace, that’s what too. And a rock-like, they-shall-not-pass presence at the centre of defence, that’s very much what also. And yet with a mere two weeks until this latest transfer window slams shut, we are still short of these aforementioned essential items, and we’re being fed a steady diet of rumours about who will have to go in order to make room on the stretched-out wage bill for incomings.

Now they’re threatening our most precious possessions, and the squad’s only sparks of flair and creativity.  Dioufy?  McCormacky??  We must keep these players, or risk becoming even more pedestrian and predictable.  Surely even a Dubai-funded Tory can see that. But the situation is such that, unless we can shed some of the real deadwood – no names, no pack drill – then we’re either going to have to wave a tearful farewell to some of our major players, or make do with what we’ve got.  Brian is not happy.  The board are saying nowt.  Are we soon to hear the fateful words “Don’t forget, there’s always the loan window opening in a week or so…”?  Save it, guys.  We’ve heard it all before, year after depressing year.

The fact is that Leeds United are almost certainly doomed to get yet further into a second decade outside of the top-flight.  The longer we stay out of that billion-dollar glare, the more we will become ever more pallid for lack of limelight, the more chance of the club ending up perpetually moribund, like a bigger version of Preston or Huddersfield.  There is an acute awareness of this among the fans – that much is obvious from the most cursory perusal of the various fan-sites and message-boards.  It’s no secret, that’s for sure – and historically, there are few more militant bunches of fans anywhere.  And yet still, the powers-that-be are following the blueprint of previous regimes, and seeking to manage our expectations, to deflect our passion and desire with blarney and vague not-quite-promises, underpinned by artfully-leaked rumours.  Multi-million pound investment imminent?  Bid possible for return of Maxi Gradel?  Ker-ching.  Another few hundred tickets sold for the opening game, and then queues all the way down the West Stand car-park for the League Cup visit of tiny Chesterfield.  But you can’t fool all the people all the time, and despite carefully-scripted exhortations from Brian McDermott, the crowd for the Wednesday game was way down.  And why not?  It’s live on Sky and some of those tickets are £36.  It’s not rocket science, chaps.

It’s about time Leeds United appointed a Minister for Truth.  I’d be up for the job.  It’s not going to happen though – but can we at least ask for a little more transparency instead of the same old, same old EVERY bloody year?  We know there is no oil-rich billionaire around the corner.  We know Maxi isn’t coming back (or Snoddy, or Howson, or Becchio).  So please – whoever you are – stop feeding us this pap, and get on with what you’re supposed to be doing.  Give Brian the support he needs instead of having the cheek to set two-year deadlines for promotion.  Carry on engaging with the fans – you’ve made a start, but there’s a long way to go.  Learn the lesson that you need to speculate to accumulate, and then maybe we won’t have to watch far smaller clubs snapping up players who would love to play for Leeds United – if the money was anywhere near par for the course.  It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.  Stop selling us a line and give us a Leeds United to be proud of again – and then we’ll be right behind you in our highly vocal thousands.  You know it makes sense.

Right-Wing Lie-Blog the “Daily Bale” reports: “Pub Owners ban British Soldiers” (It’s just Lies, Lies, Lies, folks)

Right-Wing Lie-Blog the “Daily Bale” reports: “Pub Owners ban British Soldiers” (It’s just Lies, Lies, Lies, folks)

The article reblogged here first appeared on the right-wing “Daily Bale” blog, with the clear intention of stirring up hatred and resentment towards ethnic minority populations. The Daily Bale in its “about us” section promises “through self-relief and determination” (?) to fight what it calls “left-wing evil”. In practice, this clearly means making up scurrilous stories – as in the article reluctantly reproduced here – in an effort to seduce people to their narrow-minded and bigoted way of thinking.

If you need proof that this story is faked, have a glance at an article from a real news outlet, the Knutsford Guardian, which uses the identical picture that the lying Daily Bale have used to illustrate their fabricated story.

As ever, the liars on the right will resort to any level of deceit, no matter how low, in order to pursue their own sick agenda. This “Daily Bale” is a typical sewer-outlet for this bile, full of lies and misleading information, their conclusions based on nothing, their intent to create hate and hostility towards British citizens who have committed the ultimate sin in the eyes of these fascists – they have a different colour skin.

Disgusting.

Is Nice-Guy Moyes Starting to “Fergify” Himself?

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Many good judges are predicting that, with the Alex Ferguson era over at Man U, the club will now struggle to continue with their run of success.  By common consent, Fergie was not the greatest coach or tactician out there – his major contribution to the success down Salford way was more to do with his choleric temperament and his habitual intimidation of referees, reporters, players, other managers – just anyone who got in his way, really.  The terrifying effect of “The Fergie Factor” made the big difference in a game of fine margins, as a legion of cowed and downtrodden individuals would confirm, if they thought it was safe. But now we have ex-Everton boss David Moyes, and his track record suggests nothing of the talent Fergie had for using tantrums and hairdryer-like bollockings to get his own way. But could it be that the new gaffer is now setting out on the process of reinventing himself? Are we about to see the Fergification of David Moyes?

It wouldn’t be the first time that a youngish football manager, with illustrious predecessors inconveniently prominent in fans’ memories, has appeared as a sheep trying to don the clothing of a wolf.  Allan Clarke, after an apprenticeship at Barnsley, returned to Elland Road as manager, and immediately started trying to come over all Brian Clough.  “I’m a winner!” he would bark whenever a microphone was pointed his way.   As a player he certainly was just that, and he’d made a decent start in management too.  But as the new boss of Leeds United, following hard on the heels of the hapless Jimmy Adamson in 1979, he was suddenly operating in a goldfish-bowl environment, all eyes trained on him, all ears hanging on his every pronouncement.  His “I’m a winner” mantra swiftly made him a laughing-stock among local football writers, and he managed to fritter away the goodwill that had been built up between the club and the reporters by previous managers Don Revie and Jimmy Armfield.  Few tears were shed among the denizens of the local Fourth Estate when “the winner” turned into a loser and took Leeds down.  The moral would appear to be: Don’t reinvent yourself – just BE yourself.  Clarkey had some limited managerial success later on, so maybe he’d learned his lesson.

The early signs of similar folly are there with the Man U new boy Moyes.  Either off his own bat, or in response to a Govan Growl of advice, he’s setting forth to sound like an echo of Fergie – the accent is there to start with, but the incipient paranoia sounds familiar too. Take his comments about the Man U opening fixtures.  If you read them without knowing it’s a Moyes quote, you’d be looking for a name at the bottom and expecting to see that it was one A. Ferguson.  In a delayed response to the fact that Man U have to face Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool in the first five games, Moyes opined: “I find it hard to believe that’s the way the balls came out of the bag, that’s for sure.  I think it’s the hardest start for 20 years that Man U have had.  I hope it’s not because Man U won the league quite comfortably last year [that] the fixtures have been made much more difficult.”

It’s to be hoped that Moyes doesn’t feel he’s under any obligation to reprise his immediate predecessor’s policies of intimidation, or the tiresome “Mind Games” so beloved of a media in thrall to the grizzled and grizzling Glaswegian.  One of the many benefits of a Fergie-less football scene – apart from the very real prospect of Man U collapsing amid internal strife and external expectations – should be the chance of a rest from all of the nonsense that went with Ferguson and the way in which all and sundry used to defer to a man who really needed nothing more than a lesson or two in manners and deportment.  It seems highly unlikely that the relatively diffident Moyes could carry this tribute act off in the longer term, so surely he’d be better off setting out to stand or fall as his own man – not as some watered-down version of the tyrant he’s replaced.

The jokes have been going around along the lines of – oh dear, a nice Man U manager, how very unusual and depressing.  But in reality, Man U are in sore need of a bit of niceness at the top level of the club – they’ve had 27 years of the other thing, and have seen their image growing steadily grubbier in the process.  Good luck to Moyes – if that’s who he decides to be.  He could be instrumental in reinventing a once-great football club.  But if he chooses merely to ape Fergie in his pronouncements and his modus operandi – as suggested by his sulky comments over the opening fixtures – then he’ll deserve all he gets, which would probably amount to a needlessly sullied reputation – and a premature P45.