Daily Archives: 02/10/2013

Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud post pictures from the Arsenal dressing room after beating Napoli

Fantastic display from Arsenal last night. Hats off to Monsieur Wenger for continuing to produce the best football in the top-flight, whatever the resources directed at the squad. He waited long enough to splash serious money, but when he did – oh boy what a signing Ozil is!

As a Leeds fan with a very high regard for the Kings of North London, I can see the Gooners going from strength to strength now, which in my opinion is simply good for English football. Arsenal as a club are a model for just about any other I can think of. Their net spend has always been way below most other top clubs, and class just runs through the whole institution from top to bottom.

Keep on doing what you’re doing, Gunners – a shining example of what a football club should be all about.

Leeds United Chairman Nooruddin Explains “The Nature of Football” – by Rob Atkinson

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The Chairman of Leeds United, Salah Nooruddin, is a man much occupied by weighty matters. Quite apart from his duties in the world of high finance, Mr Nooruddin now obviously has to attend to the day-to-day running of a still huge football club, though some might argue that he is approaching that task with the pragmatic aim of making of it a smaller one.

Mr Nooruddin took the time out of his busy schedule yesterday to grant an interview to the media, presumably prompted by rumblings of discontent among the supporters of a club that has consistently under-achieved in the past decade and which has seen last year’s takeover completed on a scale dwarfed by the likes of those at Manchester City or even Nottingham Forest.  Indeed, little Sheffield United down the M1 appear to have shown Leeds up by getting themselves a rich billionaire. So what’s going on at Leeds? Salah was kind enough to explain, in the simplest of terms, for the benefit of the uninitiated.

Firstly, on the manager Brian McDermott: “He’s the right man to take this club forward.” Hmmmm.  Well, we already knew that one, Salah.  Tell us something new.  The chairman then drew on his extensive knowledge of the professional game as he went on to cover the perilous ground of the club’s progress this season, explaining that we’d had a good start, but that it had turned around a little bit and that this was “the nature of football”. Again, all very illuminating – but is it the nitty-gritty we need to hear?  Those of us who have watched United for the past few decades are all too painfully aware of the nature of football as it applies to Leeds.  It may be summed up as constant depression with peaks of hope and short spells of achievement, but doomed to ultimate disappointment. There’s really no need for an investment banker lecturing us about the nature of football in order for even us bone-headed and unsophisticated fans to realise that.

Mr Nooruddin then proceeded to describe how manager and players are all still settling in and testing each other, a process that some will have noticed has been going on at clubs much higher up the league who have had the bad taste to invest heavily in players and wages.  “When we brought (Brian McDermott) in we were very happy about that. I think it’s been proven on and off the field here”, the chairman confirmed. “He’s done a good job and he’s trying to rebalance the squad. He takes account of the owners’ interests, the club’s interests and the players’ interests. So far we are very happy.” So far. Well, that’s good then.

After the defeat at Millwall, Mr Nooruddin had taken to the Twittersphere to provide a more immediate summary of his feelings as to that performance.  Stating that the club were trying to bring in a striker and a winger, he went on to aver that “the current squad should have won today”.  Again, this apparently profound knowledge of the world of professional football is not backed up by any body of evidence concerning Salah’s experience in anything but banking – but what is Twitter for if not for knee-jerk reactions to events beyond your control?

After yesterday’s interview, Mr Nooruddin may well be feeling quite content that he has acted decisively to mollify United’s notoriously touchy support.  On the other hand, there is the argument that some may find his less-than-qualified statements a little worrying. Bland and glib assertions about the “nature of football” will butter no parsnips, Mr Nooruddin should understand.  Neither will his less than forensic assessment of the current squad, leading to the slightly shaky conclusion that they should have beaten Millwall, impress those match-going fans who have seen it all before, who have heard hollow promises and lame excuses without number and who just want our manager to be provided with the tools he needs to carve himself a level playing field and have some chance of competing with the Leicesters, QPR’s and Burnleys of this world.  That doesn’t seem a lot to ask.

I’d be far more impressed with Mr Nooruddin if he avoided all attempts to speak learnedly, as one handing down knowledge from on high, about the matter of football. He should instead be reassuring the Leeds public that he and his fellow directors are listening to the football wisdom of Mr McDermott, taking on board his recommendations based on a lifetime of experience in the game – and then applying their own specialised financial knowledge and business acumen to the task of sorting out some wonga in order to realise Brian’s wishes for his squad.

Now that would be reassuring.

The answer to the Leeds United goal scoring problem is a proper striker.

Another good read from Michael Green, late of ClarkeOneNil, now back in circulation on Lee Chapman’s Sofa, as it were. This article presents the case for Luciano Becchio of blessed memory as a “proper striker” as opposed to the frontmen we have now. The dissertation on what constitutes a “proper striker” is compelling stuff; Becchio’s scoring rate towards the end of his time at Elland Road certainly begs for his inclusion in that category, yet those goal-scoring instincts don’t appear to have served him well at Naaaaaaarritch Ciddy. And yet I remember that instinctive movement that enabled him to score at the near post against Chelsea last season in the League Cup. In that instant, he looked the real deal, right enough. Perhaps he was just more at home in LS11, and didn’t know it? Now, languishing some way short of the first XI at Carrow Road, complications of wages and transfer fees have cropped up as impediments to his path back to Leeds. It’s all quite frustrating.

I’d have also argued for the “proper striker” candidacy of Craig Mackail-Smith (Brighton) – not sure whether he fits the Luciano mould, but he’s such a pest to play against for opposing defenders, and he does seem to have that knack of nipping in for a decisive last touch into the net, certainly when the opposition is Leeds, against whom he always scores. Sadly CMS is sidelined with a serious achilles injury, and at 29 you have to ask whether he’ll be quite the same player again.

Whatever the case, it promises to be an interesting next couple of weeks, with Mr Nooruddin having been smoked out to a certain extent into conceding a ralaxation of the previous “one out, one in” policy that so hamstrung Brian in the recent window proper. Meanwhile as MG suggests, the perfect candidate might just be a frustrated and under-employed Argentinian, just waiting for the chance to come back home to Elland Road. We shall see.

After the Lord Mayor’s X-Rated Show as Exhausted Millwall Capitulate to Birmingham – by Rob Atkinson

Those Cheeky, Chirpy Millwall Chaps Amuse Themselves at Wembley

Those Cheeky, Chirpy Millwall Chaps Amuse Themselves at Wembley

We’ve seen it all before of course.  Some daft little chavvy club from the back of beyond get all worked up, bless ’em, about the prospect of playing Yorkshire giants Leeds United – all that history of achievement, all that tradition and global support – and they bust a gut, strain every sinew and try their little hearts out.  Backed by a flaky bunch of tribesmen from whatever godawful hole they represent, they raise themselves to twice-a-season heights.  Thus charged with fervent and passionate determination, they do it – they beat Leeds United, aided by our favourites’ occasional ineptitude when it comes to facing determined yet tiny opposition.  All very embarrassing.  But we know we’ll be wryly amused by what invariably comes next.

The little club relish the glory of their hard-won victory.  They can think of little else, and the praise of their manager and coaches, their fans and their big game hangers-on, washes over them like a warm ocean in which to bask under the sunshine of achievement.  We beat Leeds, we did it – but God, we’re knackered.  And there’s another game a few days down the line…

Reality bites.  The little club’s little players and their greatly-reduced band of supporters – unwelcome anywhere outside of their own early 20th century ghetto – head off for the next fixture.  There, wiped out, exhausted, nothing in the tank because they’ve given it all, they abjectly fail, surrendering meekly before the opposition they have no power to resist. They lose, heavily.  The manager is disappointed, the fans have fallen heavily back to earth.  They half-expected it anyway.  But what the hell – they beat Leeds and what a performance THAT was.  No wonder they’d nothing left.

I’ve seen it happen time and time again.  This is what the name of Leeds United means. This is what the history behind the badge says to the teams we face nowadays.  We’re a scalp, and they’ll give it all, 110 percent, Brian, anything so that they can beat us.  It’s got to the stage now whereby, every time we lose to one of these comical yonner teams – and it happens far too often – I look for their next result.  It’s amazing how often I can predict it: they’ll be knackered, they’ll get nothing there.  It’s funny how often I’m right. Normally I’ll just shrug and think that we have to learn to deal with these adrenalin junkies when we play them instead of just softening them up for the next lot.  But this time, there’s a thrill of satisfaction.

Because this time it’s poxy bloody Millwall.  Horrible, repellent, disgusting Millwall, late of Cold Blow Lane and that smelly slagheap of a ground where the bricks used to fly and the home crowd rioted among themselves behind netting because their own fellow fans were all they could find to fight.  Unpleasant, racist, evil Millwall, who moved from an old Den to a New one, made of Meccano, resplendent in tacky placky blue seats – and improved not a jot in the process.  Sick, gloating, shameful Millwall who won’t let go of their pastime of celebrating violent death and taunting the bereaved extended family at every opportunity.  Millwall, the stain on the game.  They beat Leeds last Saturday and partied hearty.  Then they went to Birmingham on Tuesday evening and got well and truly stuffed 4-0, having left all their blood sweat and tears in the mud and grass of the field where they played The Whites.  I could have warned them it would happen.  They possibly feel it was worth it, to beat Leeds United.  It’s the price of fame, though of course, we’re “not famous any more”.  Yeah, right. Anyhow, it’s back to reality for Millwall and their nauseating, cowardly fans.  Suck it up.

The aftermath of the Leeds game in South Bermondsey has been predictable too.  I published a blog on the morning of the match, alerted by the bile and gut-wrenching hatred on Twitter that the morons and the cretins were up for a party during the game. Very swiftly, I was inundated with threatening messages of hate and imbecility, mostly unfit to print.  Some – a few – were from clearly educated people and even they reduced the issue to “well you lot have sung about Munich for years”.  The more I argued that a minority did that, years ago and that it has now largely stopped, the more I kept getting the same refrain, in amongst all the vicious threats of retribution and violence: “Pot, kettle, black”.  And these were the intelligent ones.  Some posed as Leeds fans, pretending to condemn from within the offended support.  Some tried to trick my address out of me. I had to change my blog settings, such was the tsunami of filth.   All for complaining about the number of appalling tweets that morning and for predicting that the afternoon’s fixture would be infected by the usual, awful, gloating references to the murders in Istanbul.

And, lo – it came to pass.  The police had promised to take action if, as in previous years, there was offensive chanting. They failed to keep that promise.  The stewards stood idly by, bovine and uncaring, just as they had at Wembley last April when these animals fought each other during an FA Cup semi-final, heedless of crying children, drunk on bloodlust, savage and ignorant, reckless of consequences or what the civilised world might think.  It happened against Leeds as we knew it would, the sick chanting, the salivating over violent death.  But now Leeds supporters organised under a unifying banner are demanding some action.

The Leeds United Supporters Trust (LUST) have issued a statement summarising the events of the day at Millwall, and asking for witnesses as to the nature and extent of any offensive chanting, with any video captures particularly welcomed.  LUST also intend to make representations to Millwall FC and to the Metropolitan Police.  The message to those who behave in this appalling manner is: we will not stand idly by and let you get away with it.  Pressure will be exerted on the relevant authorities to identify offenders and to deal with them to the full extent of the law.  Clicking on this link will present a variety of options for responding to LUST’s call for help.

Naturally, I hope that LUST are successful in obtaining some action against the lowlife scum who perpetrate these obscenities on such a regular basis.  But I shall not be living in hope, nor holding my breath.  The casually indifferent attitude of police and matchday security staff alike speaks of an acceptance that this is just the way things are in the cesspool that houses these people.  It’s not good enough – but it seems to be the case. Millwall FC and its fans evidently inhabit a grubby little bubble of the past, where the improvements in behaviour and in the attitudes of rival fans towards each other have failed to penetrate.  It is tempting to say that I hope this will not remain the case, but I’m not entirely sure I mean it.  It would be better, perhaps, for such a very backward lot to remain separated from proper football fans.  Maybe the best thing of all would be just to get rid of Millwall FC altogether.  After all, if you cut the head off the snake, you render it harmless.  It seems to me that that’s the best way to go.