Daily Archives: 17/09/2013

Can Liverpool’s Suarez “Do a Cantona” on Comeback Against Man U? – by Rob Atkinson

Sic 'em, Suarez!

Sic ’em, Suarez!

There was a feeling of inevitability all those years ago when Eric Cantona, enfant terrible and martial arts amateur extraordinaire, returned from his lengthy FA-imposed ban for being the true incarnation of “The Shit Who Hit The Fan”, to face the old enemies of Man U.  Liverpool were the visitors, before an expectant crowd of Devon day-trippers at the Theatre of Hollow Myths.  The script was written, and although the scousers aimed to poop Eric’s party by taking the lead, the man from Marseilles had the last laugh, ensuring a draw for his side with – you’ve guessed it – a penalty.

All of that was a long, long time ago – but these old rivals have memories like elephants (and backsides to match, for many of them).  So Cantona’s ban, comeback and celebratory strike will not have been forgotten by fans of either side.  Even though the personnel will be almost entirely different, give or take a superannuated Ryan Giggs, there will be many who might wonder if that old script might not be taken out and dusted off.  Man U host Liverpool in the League Cup next week.  Suarez is available for the first time since being banned for biting without due care and attention.  He’d love to take a chunk out of Man U’s season – wouldn’t he just. Could it really, actually happen?

Think of it: Suarez is the man that the Man U faithful love to hate after his run-in with their own less-than-likable Patrice Evra – and the subsequent Handshakegate Scandal. All very petty and handbags of course, as matters relating to bruised Man U egos tend to be.  But these things matter when you have a close rivalry based on mutual antipathy between Merseyside and, erm, most of the South of England.  Can Suarez, like Cantona so many years before, make his long-awaited comeback from durance vile, in the media glare – and, again like Cantona, stuff it up a hated enemy?

There would be such a neat reciprocity about it, if it actually came to pass.  How funny, how satisfactory it would be.  Cantona made his mark at the Liverpool fans’ end of the Theatre of Hollow Myths – could Suarez possibly end up laughing in the faces of the Stretford End?

I have a great respect for football omens and fate in general.  It’s tempting to look up the odds against Liverpool to win 2-1, Suarez to score at any time.  Anything above 10-1 might just tempt me to have a punt on that.  Come on, Liverpool!!

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Turks Stuffed Good and Proper as Real Madrid Cruise in Istanbul – by Rob Atkinson

Galascum - Thoroughly Stuffed

Galascum – Thoroughly Stuffed

It’s a rare night indeed when a Leeds United fan can summon up even a passing regard for the pouting, strutting enigma that is Cristiano Ronaldo, late of the Scum, currently vying for top-dollar merchant with Gareth Bale at the Bernebeu, Madrid.  If ever there was such a night though, this is it.  Ronaldo ambled through the first hour of this match and then simply seized the home team by the scruff of the neck and tore them to pieces, scoring three times. With a brace from Benzema to add to Isco’s opener, it was the Winker’s hat-trick that inflicted the most agony on the hapless Turks, thereby giving any watching Leeds fan a rare treat.

Oddly, the various TV companies that cover the Champions League seem to have a fairly benevolent attitude towards the Istanbul club, despite the notorious nature of their fans in general and of course the tragic loss suffered by Leeds United – the club and the fans – back in the spring of the year 2000.  Since then, there have been other instances of crowd behaviour that would disgrace a bunch of neolithic savages, and there are of course the perpetual occurrences of throat-slitting gestures, “Welcome to Hell” banners and so on and so forth.  In short, this is a club that glories in its own tastelessness and lack of civilised behaviour – and yet we’re always hearing the commentators going on about the incredible atmosphere, the amazing fans, ad nauseam.  It’s enough to make your ears ache if you’re a Leeds fan, or indeed any decent-minded football fan – but there you go.

We’ll never know what the media attitude to them would have been if it had been a different United suffering on that awful night 13 years ago – but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it would have been somewhat different.  As it is, the tragedy of Istanbul 2000 seems to have been conveniently swept under the carpet, and the media appear to take delight in the progress of a club that deserve nothing but ill.  Still – we’re used to these double standards, and we take our comfort where we can.

Speaking of which, tonight was a delightful exhibition of Galascum getting well and truly thrashed by an awesome Madrid team.  The incredible, unprecedented feeling of actually enjoying a Ronaldo hat-trick – one particularly special strike in there, too – was a novelty that will possibly not be repeated.  Not unless Madrid dish this sort of treatment out again in the reverse fixture, anyway.

So for once I come not to bury Ronaldo, but to praise him; truly is it said that “mine enemy’s enemy is my friend”.  I still can’t stand the sight of Mr. Ronaldo, to be strictly honest.  He still has the kind of face you want to smack, still looks the sort of player that belongs with those other self-adoring prima donnas at the Theatre of Hollow Myths.  But he did Leeds United, Madrid and – whatever the mealy-mouthed hypocrites in the media might think – the whole of football a service tonight.  All those goals.  All that humiliation for a hopelessly-outclassed Galascum.  Even the late and meaningless home consolation scored to a nearly-empty stadium before Ronaldo administered the coup de grâce with the sixth.  All those glum fans who had started out so cocky and full of hope. Have it.

It was just one of those nights tonight.  For the past decade and more, I’ve winced every time I’ve seen that awful club with those disgusting fans getting anywhere, doing anything positive like winning a game, and hearing the British media fawning over them.  Tonight it was different.  Tonight, they copped for it, big time.  Tonight it was a case of “Hala Madrid” – or even “Hala Ronaldo” – just for tonight.  6-1 – SIX bloody one.  Well done, Real – and thank you, from a Leeds United fan.

McDermott Seeks Re-birth of “Scary” Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Scary Leeds Salute Their Scary Fans

Scary Leeds Salute Their Scary Fans

A lot has been heard of the recent GFH mantra since the joyous ousting of Ken Bates – in an understandable effort to erase the nightmares of the Uncle Ken era from supporters’ minds, the new owners have been telling us “Forget the past – it’s all about the future”. All very well, and definitely positive in its way – but surely, a club like Leeds needs to hang on to some of its past, the grand old traditions, the glorious history?

One man certainly thinks so, and you could hardly find anyone the fans are more likely to look up to right now.  Boss Brian McDermott is setting about sorting the future out, alright – but he also has a wise and admiring eye on the past.

One manifestation of this is the restoration of a pre-match ritual that many, including myself, remember very fondly.  When I first started going to watch Leeds, you knew what to expect before kick-off at Elland Road.  The other lot would shamble out, they’d head to their allotted territory at the Elland Road end of the stadium and then kick a ball or two around between them sheepishly, aware that they had to face the Leeds United side and just about the most hostile and partisan crowd anywhere.  Then the Kop and the other United parts of the ground would start the chant “Bring on the Champions!”, before the warriors finally entered the arena.

Out they would file, United, purposeful and focused, clad all in white, muscular and determined. With not a glance to the cowering opposition, scattered in their preparatory warm-up, the Leeds United team stayed together as they arrived in the centre-circle. Here they would line up, raise their right arms in unison to salute the faithful, staying in disciplined line as each man, arm still aloft, turned to greet every section of the support to roars of approbation.

It used to make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, this telling statement of intent, this confident, almost arrogant, affirmation of superiority.  It pre-dated the “We Are Leeds” terrace chant, but that message still came across, loud and clear.  It was unique, special. It was Leeds, Leeds, Leeds alone – and there was no other team like us.

But then, it just stopped.

It probably took me a few matches to fully appreciate the awful truth that the pre-match salute had indeed been abandoned.  I was absolutely gutted; it was a time of transition and we were not the force we had been – but this betrayal of tradition, as it seemed to me, was the ultimate acceptance that the Glory Days of Mighty Leeds – Super Leeds – were finally gone.  Gone for good, as far as I knew.  Fans had much less of a voice back then; there might have been some protests, but nothing was done.

But now we have Brian McDermott.  Softly-spoken but dedicated and committed Brian, fiercely determined and one with the fans Brian.  Brian who wasted no time in distancing himself from his lifelong ambition to manage the Republic of Ireland, declaring instead that he has a job to do at Leeds United, a job he’s proud and thrilled to have and one where he’s single-minded in his resolve to succeed.

Now this new idol of the Leeds support, long-suffering and battered as we’ve been over the past disastrous decade, is giving us back some of the glorious pieces of our past we’d thought lost forever.  And he’s started with the Leeds salute as practiced by King Billy & Co all those years ago.  As a symbol of not only a new era, but a new era that is intended to re-awaken past glories and return us to the top of the game, this could hardly be more potent or evocative.  Not for the first time in his short career at Leeds, Brian has hit the nail unerringly on the head.

What can you say about a man like that, who’s come into the club as a stranger and so completely fastened on to the Leeds United legend that he knows, instinctively what we all want, what Leeds United needs.  How can you express what it means to us all?  He knows what’s needed and he acts upon it.

Results-wise, achievement-wise, we’re at the beginning of a very long journey.  There will be pitfalls on the road ahead, set-backs in our progress, times when we all doubt where we’re heading.  Money is so integral to success now and Brian McDermott will rely on his board for support as he bids to succeed.  But steps like this – just the simple restoration of an iconic tradition – speak volumes for the man and his ability to feel what it is to be Leeds.  He loved that old salute, he says.  He loved seeing them walk out like soldiers, he remembers it being “a bit scary”.  McDermott knows what makes a club tick, he’s in tune with this club’s legends.

Brian McDermott is already well on the way to becoming a Leeds United Legend himself.