Daily Archives: 20/09/2013

Happy Birthday to Leeds Utd Legend Paul Madeley – by Rob Atkinson

Mr. Rolls Royce - 69 Years Young Today

Mr. Rolls Royce – 69 Years Young Today

A short but timely piece to wish one of our greatest ever players, Paul Madeley, a very happy birthday today.  To think of one of the heroes of my youth reaching the age of 69 is enough to make anyone feel old, but the memory of Paul in a Leeds shirt is vivid.

He was one of the unsung heroes of that great Revie generation, the men who bonded to become a team feared and respected the length and breadth of Europe.  He was famous for having appeared in every outfield position for Leeds and so was dubbed a “utility player” – but that hardly did justice to his towering talent, his positional sense and calmness in tight situations and his immaculate reading of the game and distribution.  I remember him scoring against Southampton in 1978, a very rare occurence – this was the same match where Tony Currie scored that legendary “banana shot”.

Paul was often also referred to as the “Rolls Royce” of footballers, which some took as a reference to his versatility; but I always thought of the nickname as a tribute to his smooth style of play, utterly unflappable, totally reliable, quietly purring along as he covered so many miles for Leeds United between 1962 and 1980.

In more recent years Paul has not always enjoyed the best of health.  He had an operation to remove a benign brain tumour in 1992, had a mild heart attack in 2002 and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2004.  So it’s welcome news to hear that he’s still getting on and that he’s celebrating his birthday today.  The best summary of his attitude to being a professional footballer at Leeds United was related by his former manager Jimmy Armfield, who recalls:

“He once actually signed a new contract on what was virtually a blank piece of paper. I called him in to discuss terms and opened discussions by saying, ‘OK, Paul, we’ll give you so much’. He replied that he had no intention of leaving Leeds so he might as well sign the contract and let me fill in the details. I said, ‘What do you want, then, two years or three years?’ He answered, ‘Either way, I’ll leave it to you. I just want to play for Leeds,’ and that was that”.

That’s some example to put before today’s money-grabbing prima donnas.

Happy Birthday, Paul.  You’re a Leeds United legend, and your thousands of fans will always think of you as such.

All Change at Full Back for Leeds – Will We Finally Get Some Genuine Width? – by Rob Atkinson

Aidy White - Winging It in Left Back Berth

Aidy White – Winging It in Left Back Berth

Leeds United v Burnley (Elland Road) Saturday 21 September at 15:00

It seems certain that, in the absence of Steven Warnock through suspension and with Adam Drury still unavailable due to injury, Aidy White will finally get his long-awaited chance against Burnley to make an impression on this season – in the left-back slot where he has performed well enough to impress Brian McDermott in the U-21 side.  This comes a bare week or so after White seemed likely to depart on loan to Barnsley – but he made a laudable decision to stay and fight for his place.  On the other flank, it remains to be seen whether Lee Peltier, Tom Lees or maybe even Sam Byram will turn out at right-back.

A full back combination of White and Byram would offer pace and width to balance against an arguable lack of experience for an area of the team that normally requires an element of rugged know-how of the battle-hardened variety.  It’s probably unlikely that McDermott will opt to field both youngsters, but if he did then the team would at last have more potential for width going forward than it has offered all season, with the possibility of a wing-back approach as United seek to be more creative against the high-flying Lancastrians.

There is no doubt that Leeds need to carve out more in the way of chances if they are to make a real impact on this campaign.  Solid defence is all very well – only two conceded in the last three games.  But because we’ve scored only one in that time, a return of three points has seen the team drop away from the play-offs zone.  The options up front are likely to remain the same with Diouf, Poleon and Smith on the bench ready to enter the fray later on when the Burnley defence will have been – hopefully – softened up by the hard work of Noel Hunt and Luke Varney together with the elusiveness and skill of Ross McCormack.

It could be argued that United’s relative failure to create and convert chances owes as much to bad luck as it does to inadequate resources.  Sooner or later, Noel Hunt’s graft will pay off, Rudy Austin will bang one in from long range, Matt Smith  will adjust to a higher grade and be able to exploit his aerial power and ability.  A little width would help all this to come about, and attempts are surely going on behind the scenes to recruit people of enough quality in the loan market; the lack of any end product here up to now is – looking at it optimistically – a sign that some quality control is in operation and we’re not just going to sign anyone.  The exit on loan of Ryan Hall to Sheffield United would seem to set the bar a little above Hall’s own level where ability is concerned.

Burnley will present a stiff test, but Leeds will be looking to bounce back swiftly from a heart-breaking defeat on Wednesday night.  With home advantage, and an enforced change or two to freshen things up, expect United to emerge as narrow winners.

Leeds United Needs Another Vinnie Jones – by Rob Atkinson

Sir Vincent Peter Jones

Sir Vincent Peter Jones

The men who took Leeds United back into the top-flight the last time it happened in 1990 are, of course, legends now.  They rank alongside some of the Revie boys because they rescued the club from eight years in the wilderness and restored us to the big time.  We had our own diminutive red-haired midfielder as a sort of latter-day homage to Billy Bremner – mighty atom Gordon Strachan, who played a crucial role in the renaissance of Leeds with his leadership and goals.  It was a team effort though, and it was as a team that they succeeded – Strachan apart there was no major star, but the guts and drive of the collective effort eclipsed all rivals by the end of that fantastic season, when we were crowned Second Division Champions in sun-drenched and strife-torn Bournemouth.  And nobody in the whole club at that time epitomised guts and drive, as well as sheer fist-clenched, vein-throbbing commitment and fight, better than Mr Vincent Peter “Vinnie” Jones.

I’d been aware of Vinnie, of course – who hadn’t?  His Crazy Gang antics were legendary and he’d lifted the FA Cup, but he was regarded as a bit of a maverick – still more hod-carrier than footballer, famous for a ten-second dismissal and for his promise to Kenny Dalglish before the 1988 Cup Final against Liverpool to “tear off his ear and spit in the hole”.  Still, despite these immaculate credentials, marking him out as a potential Gelderd hero, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine him as a signing for Leeds United, where stirrings had been going on ever since Sergeant Wilko marched in and started shaking the place up.  The “marquee signing” – you didn’t actually hear that phrase in those days – was Strachan, plucked from under the nose of his old Man U mentor Ron Atkinson at Sheffield Wednesday to provide the quality at the heart of the Leeds engine room. Now that was the sort of signing I’d hoped and prayed for, and with the likes of Chris Fairclough joining Gordon at Elland Road it seemed to bode well for a real challenge as the close season wore on and 1989-90 loomed closer.

I was in a caravan on the east coast when I heard on the radio that Vinnie was signing for Leeds for around £650,000.  I frankly didn’t believe it, but when the reality sank in, my initial reaction was to think – bloody hell, Wilko, what are you playing at?  The signings of John Hendrie and Mel Sterland reassured me somewhat, but I was still having trouble seeing what the Jones Boy would bring to the United table, although our lunatic-fringe fans seemed well suited.  The early signs were not encouraging.  Strachan tells of an incident in a pre-season game against Anderlecht, where he saw an opposing player go down with his nose spread halfway across his face and blood greatly in evidence.  Vinnie had casually “done” him en passant before sidling off looking innocent, and Strach recalls thinking: my God – what have we signed here?

Vinnie himself remembers his early days at the club, and being moved to violence by the negative attitudes of some of the players being edged out as Wilko’s new broom started to sweep clean.  Among this disaffected few was John Sheridan, something of a Leeds legend – but Jones stood for no nonsense, and there were punches thrown and people seized by the scruff of the neck as he explained his views on solidarity and team spirit.  Vinnie was obviously going to be a kill or cure measure – there were signs he might have much to contribute to the collective effort, but equally that he might turn out a loose cannon which could blow up in all our faces.  Yet Wilko had a magic touch in those early years, and generally it was proved that he knew what he was doing.

In the event, and despite an uncertain beginning, Vinnie played a massive part in our promotion that year.  The fans took to him from the start – the sight of him coming on as a sub in the first home game against Middlesbrough will live long in my memory.  I can see him now, in the middle of the park with the game poised at 1-1, shouting and screaming as he conveyed encouragement and instruction in equal measure, arms pumping in an ungainly, baboon-like way, team-mates and opponents alike staring at him aghast.  And then he frightened a Boro’ defender into scoring a late, fluky own-goal and we had won, setting us on our way after a disastrous opening-day defeat at Newcastle.

Vinnie just carried on making a difference.  He worked and worked, encouraged and exhorted, fought for the cause and put the fear of God up the enemy wherever he encountered them.  He scored spectacular goals, important goals.  He showed flashes of genuine ability and some of his passing was sublime.  He avoided disciplinary trouble to an amazing degree, given his lurid past.  He sold himself to no less a judge than Strachan as an honest performer who could “play a bit”.

Vinnie also created a rapport with the crowd I’ve rarely seen before or since, chilling and joking with the wheelchair-users at the front of the West Stand before games, and smoking imaginary cigars as he took the plaudits of the adoring masses after finding the net against Ipswich.  In the warm-up before the Wolves match at Elland Road, he provided one of the great moments of humour in a tense campaign, bringing down five year-old mascot Robert Kelly in the area with a signature sliding tackle, much to the delight of the Kop – and of young Robert himself.

Vinnie loved Leeds, the players and fans loved Vinnie and the partnership proved fruitful.  Up we went, and when Vincent Jones finally took his leave for the humbler surroundings of Bramall Lane and Stamford Bridge, it was with a tattoo: “LUFC Division Two Champions” proudly inked onto his expensive leg, a partner for the “Wimbledon FA Cup Winners” one on the other limb.  He was a Leeds United legend in only a little over a year at the club, a larger-than-life personality of massive ebullience and impact – and he is held in the highest of esteem in LS11 even to this day, when he mixes effortlessly in the rarefied, glitzy atmosphere of Hollywood.

So what do we need more right now than another Vinne type, as we hope to secure another long-overdue return to the top table?  Those Jonesy ingredients of passion and power, guts and gumption, are just as important in this league today as they were in those far-off times as the eighties became the nineties.  Who could possibly fulfil that role now?  Joey Barton maybe?  Even he could hardly be a greater culture shock than Vinnie was 25 years ago, but Barton is back in the QPR fold and far beyond our purse anyway – also, quite frankly, he lacks Vinnie’s essential honesty and sheer bad-boy charm.  It’s difficult to say who if anyone we might now secure to play the Vinnie part – but if it were possible, in time for the next transfer window, to distil essence of Jones, or to clone him right from his bloodstained boots and tattooed ankles up to his fearsomely-shaven head, then I’d do it, and I’d present the result gift-wrapped for Brian McDermott to deploy as he saw fit.

A man in the mould of Vinnie Jones would be just the shot in the arm our club needs right at this point in time, just the incentive for the crowd to roll up its sleeves and get behind the team for the remaining battles in this 46 game-long war of attrition.

Just imagine the fillip that our season, our whole club would receive – if only we could have our Vinnie back now.