Daily Archives: 28/09/2013

Could the Leeds United Chairman be Trying to Pass the Buck? – by Rob Atkinson

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“The buck stops here” is a phrase that was popularised by U.S. President Harry S. Truman, who kept a sign with that phrase on his desk in the Oval Office.  But where does the buck stop in football, and more specifically – where does it stop at Leeds United?  We don’t have a President – the last candidate for that position was bundled into a car and dispatched into exile in Monaco; he hasn’t been heard from since.  The next most likely candidate for stopper of the buck is the current Leeds United Chairman, Salah Abdulla Nooruddin Nooruddin.  Mr Nooruddin’s views on just where responsibility lies for the present state of the club appear somewhat ambiguous, as witness the tweets that accompany this article, specifically the one issued in the wake of the Millwall defeat.

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Leeds United is a football club quite unlike any other, as we all know – but it nevertheless shares some characteristics in common with more run-of-the-mill outfits. One of these foibles is that any praise or appreciation of the fans as a body of support; any suggestion from the suits at the top that the turnstile fodder at the bottom are not merely that, but are in fact salt of the earth heroes of whom the players, staff, directors and tea-ladies are in respectful awe – any such sentiment expressed at times of tension particularly, can be relied upon to go down well.  A well-timed word or two to this effect might even buy a stressed Chairman some useful time and room to manoeuvre.  It’s been done before.

That explains the honeyed words in the earlier tweets.  But Salah appears to have emitted the most recent tweet under some duress, in response to some angry hectoring from irate fans who can see this season falling apart.  And, looking beneath the surface of that tweet, it begs the question: just how wise or otherwise was this tweet?  What is Salah actually saying?

To say in so many words that the club are trying to bring in a striker AND a winger – a necessity I’m on record as specifying a few days ago – is encouraging.  We can but hope that, thus committed, Mr Nooruddin and Co will make good on this statement of intent. The rest of the tweet though is a little more problematic, with – once you start to dig – a few more layers to it.  “BUT with current squad we should have won today!!!” says Salah, plaintively.  Based on what, exactly?  The lack of width and creativity is nothing short of legendary this far into the campaign.  Squillions of pixels and fonts have been expended on setting out the extent and effect of that problem.  Leeds United are well known among those who love them as an impotent force, firing blanks; one that, to quote the hackneyed cliché, couldn’t score in a brothel.  This is why we need the early Christmas present Salah was coyly referring to.  It’s perplexing that the Chairman should so bluntly be stating that we should have won.  Who’s he blaming exactly?  The players themselves? The manager himself??  These are shark-infested waters, and Mr Nooruddin should be well enough aware of the esteem in which Brian McDermott is held by the supporters, to keep his toes safely out of them.  Such sentiments, expressed by a layman, could easily be misconstrued.

The view of the massive majority of the support is quite plain, and it sits very well with the characteristics of the modern game, dominated by big money and overseas owners, whether rich or not so rich.  The supporters, by overwhelmingly common consent, do not blame Brian for the current situation.  They do not even blame most of the players; they know there is some residual deadwood left over from the old regime, and they know that reinforcements are urgently needed.  Given all this, many – perhaps most – of the supporters will view the Chairman’s blithe assertion that the current squad, with all its deficiencies, “should have won” a highly competitive Championship away game, as somewhat naive, a little bizarre, slightly bonkers.  This is not really Salah’s area.  Salah’s area is to listen to that nice Mr McDermott, to take on board his wisdom concerning the personnel we need and then to set about obtaining those personnel with as little fuss and bother as possible and without undue delay.

That’s the role of the executive as opposed to the expert professional, Salah.  That’s division of responsibility, that’s delegation up the line.  All you have to do is make what the manager wants possible – to somehow find the money without which it’s NOT possible.  It’s a vital, pivotal role.  And that, Mr Nooruddin, is why the buck stops with YOU – so please.  Do not even think about passing it.

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Leeds Lose Again With McDermott Hampered by Poverty of Options – by Rob Atkinson

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  Pleasing results elsewhere involving those teams Leeds fans just love to hate could provide only the coldest of comfort as United slipped to defeat as well – the bitterest of pills to swallow against a club and fans who are the very antithesis of what football should be all about.  On days like this, you just have to look elsewhere and get what consolation you can from defeat for both Sheffield clubs, for Barnsley, for West bloody Ham and, best of all, for Man U, the archetypal scum club themselves.  All very well and good in its way – but football is about winning. There seems to be no immediate prospect of that at Leeds.

So – Leeds United went to Millwall and lost 2-0.  Millwall, a nasty, horrible team with nasty, horrible fans from a nasty, horrible part of London.  Surely, the worst of times.  We can but hope so; things can’t get much worse than this third league defeat on the trot – 4th in a row if we include the midweek cup tie in Newcastle – and fingers will be crossed that our early season form has now bottomed out.  Derby away though loom after the home clash with Bournemouth – not the most promising pair of fixtures to start our revival and charge towards promotion.  I jest.

Then again, it’s Derby that we’re nestled up against in the twilight zone of mid-table Championship anonymity, along with Wigan – all three of us on 11 points as those imprudent, financially reckless clubs who actually saw fit to invest in their squads race ahead at the top.  Where’s the bloody justice, eh?   Answer me that.  A bare couple of weeks ago, things had looked much rosier.  Brian had just reaffirmed his commitment to Leeds United, and the lads promptly went and won at Bolton.  It’s been all Bleak House ever since; now we find ourselves 9 points off the automatic places and – much more relevant, this – 7 off the play-off zone.  The owners’ attempts to quash any expectations of promotion notwithstanding, it’s not good enough.  Not for Leeds United and not, you suspect, for Brian McDermott.

The fact is that, even if the GFH Master Plan (what a document that must be) doesn’t require promotion this season, it must at least demand some evidence of progress; and the customer base, or “fans” as they used to be called, will be in just the mood to let GFH know that it’s their cautious approach to investment that is holding the club back from even looking like potential challengers.  If the support is unhappy – and they are – then GFH are on the edge of a precipice in terms of the latitude they have to run Leeds the way they want to.  There will be too much pressure, too many people voting with their feet, for the investment they’ve made to promise any return in the foreseeable future.  That’s a scary thought for any investment banker.

Things have to look up for Leeds, and soon.  An influx of quality is needed, as the manager frankly admits.  McDermott knows he’s being asked to hold back the tide with a wall made of Saudi sand, and he’s not daft enough to carry the can for a situation that’s not his fault; not of his own making.  We have the man for the job – that much should not be doubted. But like anyone else, he’ll struggle to succeed if he doesn’t have the tools and the other backing anyone needs from above in any chain of command.  Struggle is not what Leeds fans are paying over the odds to witness, but it is the scenario that’s unfolding before our increasingly horrified eyes.  This situation simply has to be nipped in the bud.  GFH -it’s over to you.

How Did Leeds United Miss Out on Talented Sevilla Prospect and Local Lad Reuben Smith? by Rob Atkinson

Leeds Fan Reuben Smith - On The Books at Sevilla

Leeds Fan Reuben Smith – On The Books at Sevilla

At the tender age of eight, Reuben Smith was offered terms by Sheffield United FC – a massive step forward for any young lad who wants a career in professional football.  But Reuben – who had dazzled anyone who’d ever watched him play football, almost as soon as he could walk – had other ideas.  He’d been going along to Elland Road with his dad since he was a toddler and his heart was set on wearing the famous white shirt of Leeds United. That such a desirable link-up – for Reuben and perhaps for Leeds – never happened raises worrying concerns about the scouting system that can let a diamond slip away right from under the nose of – supposedly – one of the finest youth set-ups anywhere.

What actually happened was a phone call out of the blue from Portuguese giants Benfica, who had obviously heard good things about the lad from Featherstone near Pontefract, just a few miles from Leeds.  Benfica’s interest alerted top Spanish club Sevilla and, after completing his GCSE’s at St Wilfrid’s High School (my daughter’s school, so she is partly to blame) Reuben took a plane flight alone to Malaga, made the cross-country coach trip to Sevilla and is now a part of their youth academy.  He is being guided by Jesus Rodriguez de Moya Conde, a man who had been instrumental in uncovering the talents of Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid, Antonio Reyes late of Arsenal and recent Man City capture Jesus Navas.

Any young footballer who can earn himself a place in such a talent factory must have quite a lot going for him.  His dad talks about the boy having a sense of space, time and rhythm from an early age.  It’s no coincidence that he shows talent in other areas too; when he plays the drums it’s apparently “like watching a jazzman from the ’50s”.  “Our Reuben has a rhythm that needs to be played out somewhere,” says proud dad Dean, “and he’s playing to a different beat, his boundaries are not limited by where he’s from, just where he’s going.” This sounds like just the sort of combination of gifts and instinctive ability that could flourish in the artistic tempo of la Liga – but it is undeniably frustrating to think that the boy’s real desire was to wow the Gelderd End at Elland Road.

It’s to be hoped that such local promise does not too frequently go un-noticed by the region’s premier professional Football Club.  Leeds have shown themselves to be no slouches when it comes to nurturing young talent from raw potential right through to the first team.  Sam Byram and Alex Mowatt are testament enough to that.  But there’s no such thing as too many talented young players – and particularly those of whom it could truly be said that Leeds United blood courses through their veins.  To see a young prospect like Reuben Smith benefiting from top quality coaching in the the best league anywhere makes you pleased for the lad – but also disappointed for Leeds that the Yorkshire giants appear to have missed out on such a chance to polish another diamond of their very own. It could turn out to be an expensive oversight.

Good luck, Reuben Smith, wherever your career takes you – within reason.  And don’t anyone be surprised if, in a few years time, their Premier League status firmly re-established and operating once again alongside the country’s top clubs, Leeds United find themselves shelling out a good few million quid on a stellar talent that they could have had for nowt.

It’s a Twitter Bad Taste Jamboree for Millwall Fans as Leeds are in Town – by Rob Atkinson

Millwall Beauty Queens Parade for Police Five

Millwall Beauty Queens Parade for Police Five

Twitter is a good place to avoid today for Leeds fans – or indeed for anyone whose idea of good taste precludes taunting rival supporters over two bloody murders thirteen years ago. Millwall fans are generally the exception to the rules of taste though, as they are to most rules – not excluding those governing grammar, basic hygiene and indeed evolution.

It’s not hard to find Millwall fans on Twitter today. Those of this dismal fraternity who are able to find their way around a computer are there in the ether, in force, to celebrate the first of Millwall’s two cup finals this season.  Their team face Leeds United, the cause of all those chips on rival fans’ shoulders everywhere.  The effect is accentuated with Millwall fans, for whom the chip on the shoulder invariably possesses a higher IQ than the diseased organ inside the skull.

It’s pointless to regale you here with the output of the South Bermondsey twitterati.  It’s all there, for those who might want to source it.  Hashtag #sickeningbile might be a useful route to go.  Strong stomachs are required; this is no place for the queasy. Youngsters who weren’t even born when Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight met their awful fate in Taksim Square Istanbul, are gleefully evident, aping their elders, glorying in the blood spilled by two lads who went overseas to watch a football match – and never came home.

Most football clubs suffer from a minority of this sort, people who genuinely seek approval for dragging their very souls through the gutter as they seek to out-do each other in aiming jibes at the misfortunes of others.  It’s been a blight on football for over 50 years, certainly since the time of the Munich Air Disaster.  Man U fans are only too well aware of the fashion down the years for tasteless chants and songs on that sad subject.  My own Leeds United have shameful form for it; Liverpool too and various other clubs.  Man U fans will climb on their high horse a few times every year over this, but they are not without sin, reveling in their own sick celebration over Hillsborough and Istanbul, plumbing the depths over the Heysel tragedy.  It’s hard to find a club that doesn’t attract a lunatic fringe of this kind of “support” – but it’s usually a minority and it’s been greatly reduced in recent years.  Only Millwall buck this trend.  There it’s most of them, most of the time.  There, civilised behaviour and rules of taste and respect seemingly don’t apply.

Millwall fans, rather than condemning the examples of pond-life in their midst, tend to glory in them.  “No-one likes us, we don’t care” they sing defiantly, happy with their grisly reputation, proud of a record that would sicken a psychopath.  They’re more famous of course for their tendency towards violence, usually in gangs of herd-instinct cowards seeking small groups of rival fans to attack.  When none such are available, they will be content to fight among themselves and disgrace the game in this country that way. They had a set-to at Wembley last April in the FA Cup semi-final.  Bewildered Wigan fans looked on as their team cruised to victory and the Millwall animals tore into each other like sharks drunk on blood.  Images of crying children caught up between bloodied “adults” lacing into their own kind shocked and revolted the nation.  As usual, nothing effective was done.

It’s about time, though, that something was done.  Millwall is the land that time forgot, a throwback to an uglier era that the rest of the game is doing reasonably well in leaving behind.  Only at Millwall does this anti-culture still flourish, by word and by deed.  In Leeds, the old men of the sixties and seventies Service Crew sit around swapping stories on internet forums these days, their boots hung up for good.  Even West Ham fans are emerging from their own savage past.  Man U fans are too busy travelling up and down between Devon and the Theatre of Hollow Myths to engage in fisticuffs – they’re an aging population too.

The modern football fan is a relatively peaceful person, obsessed with the media fishbowl of the Premier League, horrified by the price of everything, as likely as not to be a student, or a female; a far cry from the working man’s army of previous decades.  Not so at Millwall.  Millwall defies evolution, laughs at progress, dismisses a family atmosphere as “soft”, spouts poison on the internet, looks for easy targets down scary back-alleys. Millwall is the past in defiance of the present and the future.  Millwall should be consigned to that past, to the dustbin of football history – and their shrinking legion of “fans” left to lob half-bricks at each other.

It’s high time to get rid of Millwall.

PS – see below for the evidence of one Millwall cretin glorying in his following the Twitter account of Turkish murderer Ali Umit Demir. Disgusting – but we shouldn’t apply normal human standards to some Millwall apes.

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