Monthly Archives: November 2013

Major Leeds Investment – But it May Be Jam Tomorrow for “Under-capitalised” United – by Rob Atkinson

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Haigh: investment negotiator extraordinary

After the initial flurry of excitement this morning – when first Twitter went into one of its periodic #LUFC meltdowns after David Haigh promised “great news” today and then the reliable Phil Hay confirmed it was a major investment that was being talked about – things have developed further.  First, Leeds United themselves confirmed that they had granted a period of exclusivity to an English consortium who would be making a significant investment, to be in place in time for the January window.  This in itself hardly came as a surprise to those of us who had thought Lucas Radebe’s earlier expression of interest would get things moving.  But the Leeds United statement made it expressly clear that the consortium does not involve ex-players (no Lucas) or ex-owners (no Smurf).  Phil Hay then tweeted that the United board are keen to have Lucas Radebe involved with the club, in an ambassadorial role.  Good move, though apparently it’s news to The Chief. Phew.  Busy morning.

Now though, we have an interesting expert opinion from sports lawyer Richard Cramer of Front Row Legal.  He feels that today’s news is clearly positive, but will not necessarily translate into giving United the freedom of the transfer market as early as January. Leeds United, thinks Mr Cramer, seem to be under-capitalised and need money to keep going. This view might well be supported by David Haigh’s own recent injection of a “seven figure sum” in the last week.  On the face of it, that would seem to be a superfluous move if Haigh had reason to expect that major investment would be coming into the club.  But if, as Cramer says, Leeds are still relatively strapped for cash to meet running costs – then maybe Haigh’s million or so was intended to bridge the gap between now and the completion of the consortium’s injection of further capital.

This is not to say that a bucket of cold water has to be poured all over this morning’s excited speculation about “daring to dream”.  While we may not be looking at blowing the rest of the league out of the water in this coming transfer window, it is still probably the case that Brian McDermott will have options in January, and will be able to flex a little financial muscle.

Mr Cramer feels that it is when the Financial Fair Play rules kick in and start to bite that Leeds will truly come into their own.  At that point, clubs will perforce be looking to shed players and reduce expenditure in order to comply with the regulations.  It will be a time when the “naturally big clubs” – including Leeds, naturally, because there are none bigger outside the Premier League – will have a distinct advantage because of their superior income streams.  So Leeds would benefit from operating in a buyers’ market; the cream would rise naturally to the top.

Whether and to what degree this somewhat more favourable scenario would still be warped by the parachute payments of relegated Premier League clubs remains to be seen. I’ve said before that, in any event, I’m not all that convinced about the motivations behind Financial Fair Play – but let’s face it, if in the short term it helped get Leeds back up to the top flight, I’d drop principled reservations of that nature like a hot brick – as I suspect others would also.

It’s going to be an interesting several weeks between now and the end of the January 2014 transfer window.  Will the identity of those involved in this English consortium be revealed?  Will Lucas hop aboard as Ambassador-in-Chief?  Will we be able to chuck our weight around in the transfer market?  My request has already gone up the chimney to Santa – delayed presents this year, please.  Tom Ince from Blackpool and Kevin Doyle from Wolves.  That would do nicely I think, though there will be many, many opinions and we won’t know the thoughts of the only man who counts until Mr McDermott has completed any deals he manages to get done.

Today’s news though is an overall positive, even if it isn’t going to be such a massive boost in the short term.  “Jam tomorrow” is still better than “Pie in the sky, by and by”. The signs are good for the continued revival of our club over the next couple of years or so, with a realistic chance of being back where we all know we belong, back at the top, somewhere in that time frame.  Now that is a dream worth daring to dream.

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Breaking: “Major Investment” Imminent for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

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Twitter has hit fever pitch for Leeds fans yet again with strong rumours that a big investment deal will be announced later today. This rumour appears to have a genuine stamp of truth about it, and it follows weeks if not months of on-off speculation with names like Red Bull being mentioned as well as – seemingly – most of the minor royals in several middle-eastern ruling dynasties.

There is hardly any firm information out there right now, but that situation. Could well change soon with developments expected today and rumours growing stronger by the minute that this is a major deal for the future of Leeds United. Early indications are that stadium naming rights – a notoriously thorny issue with fans – will not be assigned.

All eyes and ears will be on Elland Road, though there is the small matter of a match to be played at 90s moneybags Blackburn Rovers. It is to be hoped that the match day squad remain insulated from what will be intense speculation as to the identity of the probable investors.

I will hope to have more on this as the situation becomes clearer.

Update: Leeds United FC have now confirmed this story, stating that a period of exclusivity has been granted to “an English consortium”. They have added that no former players are involved, ruling out for the moment the rumoured participation of Lucas Radebe. Major investment though IS expected to be in place for the January transfer window.

Dare to dream! Leeds United might just be going places again. Now – about those three points at Blackburn…

Why Leeds United Still Needs a Bit of Bates – by Rob Atkinson

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Bates – “The Enemy Without”

In recent times just as in the Glory Days of the past, Leeds United have always been at their best when there’s a bit of adversity flying about, some mountains to climb – maybe a few unfair obstacles to overcome.  This is what is sometimes referred to as the “siege complex”. It’s what S’ralex Fergie used over the years at Man U to help them – with the valuable assistance of refs, authorities and media – to achieve honours and dominate in a way that teams of their relative mediocrity would not otherwise have managed.  The not-altogether-likeable Taggart was a past master at this – it was his greatest asset, much more effective than the tiresome “mind-games” which the gutter rags so loved to harp on about, but in which he was consistently out-manoeuvred by the likes of Wenger, Dalglish, Mourinho, Wilkinson and Benitez.

In a smaller way, and in humbler circumstances, Leeds teams over the past few years have benefited from this sort of togetherness, forged in the white heat of hatred and contempt from outside the club.  The “sod ’em, chaps – just get out there and fight” approach was never more clearly in operation than at the start of the 2007-08 season, United’s first in the third tier, when they began their battle to return from obscurity with the penalty of a 15 point deduction hampering them. We all know that they started that season on fire, despite the scratch squad assembled cheaply and at the very last minute, due to transfer restrictions imposed by the Football League.  A sort of “Dunkirk Spirit” bound those players together as they fought to recover from 15 points behind at the foot of League One, to actually top the table just before Christmas.  Overcoming such monumental calamity brought out the best in Leeds United.

So it was back in the sixties and seventies, when Leeds United swiftly became the most hated team in the land.  Possessed of some world-class players of devastating skill, capable of the most beautiful and effective football, the team nevertheless suffered from the media labeling it as “Filthy”, a tag that has never quite gone away.  A bond grew between those lads, a brotherhood nurtured by Don Revie, simply the best manager there ever was.  The Don, partly assisted by this early example of “siege complex” transformed an ailing provincial club with virtually no history by giving them, ultimately, the finest team in the world.

More recently than the Minus 15 era, we have had still further adversity to overcome, and this time it has brought out the best in the fans as well as the players and the club itself. The malign influence of Bates created a different atmosphere around Leeds United right from the start.  All of a sudden we had a despot at the head of the club, and not one of the “benign” variety – someone whose extreme personal charmlessness infected the way United were perceived outside the club.  There was a strong feeling as well that Bates was here to pursue his own agenda; certainly not one that was favourable to the future prospects of the Elland Road outfit.  In 1984, while chairman of Chelsea, Bates had responded to some freelance demolition work carried out on his Stamford Bridge scoreboard by a gang of contractors from Leeds by saying: “I shall not rest until Leeds United are kicked out of the football league. Their fans are the scum of the earth, absolute animals and a disgrace. I will do everything in my power to make sure this happens.” On the face of it, these are not the words of a man determined to restore Leeds United to former glories, and the fans twigged the subtle shades of meaning in the quote well enough to suspect that Papa Smurf meant us harm.

This led to the most concerted campaign of publicity and action by Leeds United fans in living memory.  They wanted Bates out of the club – and from a position of no representation, little power and organisation and zero support from the media (who you suspected found it quite funny that Leeds-hater Bates held the destiny of United in his gnarled hands) – they rallied round, gathered support, organised and hit the streets with protests and campaigns aimed at achieving a power shift in the Elland Road boardroom. Out of these beginnings, eventually, came the Takeover Saga – TOMA – and ultimately, reluctantly, Bates went.  By distinct contrast, Man U fans have gone so far as to form a whole other club, without having achieved anything like the same amount of success. After all, the Glazers are still there – despite FC United of Manchester, despite thousands of cockneys at the Theatre of Hollow Myths waving what looked for all the world like Norwich City scarves.  But out of adversity, dedicated Leeds fans helped achieve real change – that’s something to be proud of.

Now, even though Bates is gone from within the club, he’s still hanging around outside it, like a nasty smell that won’t entirely go away.  He has offices just over the road, and he’s busily plotting litigation after tasting the bitter fruits of defeat and being winkled out of his Presidency.  Seemingly, he can’t drag himself away from the club he stated so clearly all those years ago that he hated and wanted to see brought low.  Now we’re on our way back up again and he’s been forced out, he still won’t retire gracefully back to Monaco and die in the Mediterranean sun.  It’s a rum do.

But maybe, and here (at last) is the point of this article, we still need his loathsome presence, the occasional sight of him slithering his way around Elland Road, or even holding court to his favoured toadies in Billy’s Bar.  Maybe he represents that negative influence we seem to need around the club, to bring out the best in us and get us fighting fit and ready to rumble?  We had Brian Mawhinney, the Football League’s repulsively-oily agent of disaster in 2007, battering us with the points deduction and rallying support from the likes of fellow reptile Paul Scally.  We’ve had Chairman Bates, till he was forced out.  Both of them acted as a focus for the fighting spirit of this club, without which we tend to fall back into apathy and complacency.

Now, we have the right manager in Brian McDermott – and we look as if we’re getting to the point where the team is coming together.  We just need that extra spark, the anti-Leeds influence that we know we have to overcome, that will produce the flames of that United fighting spirit.  Maybe Bates is just what we need to provide that spark – a Bates now relegated to an impotent role, but still as repulsive and loathsome as ever.   He can serve as a reminder of what we had to put up with and what we managed, together, to overcome.  He can be the symbol of the world outside Elland Road, the world that still hates Leeds United and wants us to fail.  Given that, we can unite and fight, get behind the team, agitate for more and more improvements in the way our club is run.

That’s the way forward for Leeds.  We’re not meant to tread an easy path.  Out of adversity we’ve always wrought our greatest triumphs.  Given an enemy outside our gates to rally and unite us, we can do so again.

“Day of Shame” for Dirty Leeds, the Damned United – by Rob Atkinson

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Billy & Co: Hard, but fair

Certain traditions run like a golden thread through the pages of any clubs’ history, but these are strange times and events are taking a turn for the bizarre.  Look at West Ham, the so-called Academy of Football – managed by a brontosaurus of a coach in Sam Allardyce who believes that a 4-6-0 formation is the way forward.  None of this old-fashioned malarkey about scoring goals for our Sam; he’s going to get the ‘Ammers relegated his way.  What would Ron Greenwood think?

Then look at the Premier League “Fair Play” league.  Look where Man U are – right down there near the bottom as if they were just any old club.  Seriously, what is going on?  The referees must be giving fouls against them for goodness’ sake, and actually booking players in that red shirt that previously meant immunity from normal discipline.  Pinch me, I must be dreaming. What on Earth are they playing at?

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Clean Leeds? You’re ‘aving a larf, mate

But for a truly shocking spectacle, one that will blast the eyes of any football nostalgia freak and confound millions of armchair experts everywhere, just take a gander at the Fair Play league for the Championship. There, sat somewhat shamefacedly at the top, are the arch-satans themselves, the famously filthy Leeds United.  How that must have made Norman “Bites Yer Legs” Hunter choke on his cornflakes this morning.  Johnny Giles, known to many as a cultured performer with genius in his left foot, but by those who knew better as a pint-sized assassin, must have shaken his head sadly and wondered what things have come to.  This is not the Leeds United we all knew and loved, with blood on their boots and murder in their hearts.  What would Billy Bremner say?  Or, for those of an earlier vintage, Wilf Copping?

Just as the sound of leather on willow beguiles the senses of those sat around a village green watching cricket on a long summer evening; just as the sound of birds singing in a mellifluous dawn chorus brings promise of the balmy day to come – so the ghastly rattle of boot on bone and the anguished screech of yet another opposing player, nailed by a deadly-accurate but manifestly illegal lunge, would reassure the listener that they were at Elland Road with Norman or Gilesy going about their deadly business.  Some things just go with each other, like port and nuts, like Man U and arrogance.  If these traditions perish, what have we got left but some brave new world that we don’t quite understand?

Some will disagree, feeling that the appearance of Leeds United at the top of any league is long overdue and indubitably A Good Thing.  Those of a po-faced and purist turn of thought – the ones that yap away to each other unhappily if Leeds United rattle a few cages or shin-bones, or if earthier Leeds fans engage in verbal warfare with their like-minded counterparts at the Theatre of Hollow Myths – these more saintly people will welcome anything that further distances them and the Damned United from a bloodstained, strife-torn and controversial past.  Such tedious holier-than-thou types would like to see us as just another dull, routine club.  Look, they will squeak – we’re not Dirty Leeds after all.  We’re the cleanest and shiniest in the whole league.  They will nod a smug and satisfied little nod and then go on to remind you that we’re no longer a big club, either. Some people just have no feel for tradition.

There is some compensation for those of us with a more positive mind-set.  On a different page of the statistical website that shows Leeds in such a novel and incongruous fair-play position, we can see Ross McCormack sitting proudly at the top of the league’s scorers list, courtesy of his recent white-hot form in front of goal.  Now Ross is the kind of Leeds player any fan can warm to, outspoken in his regard for the club, ready to engage with the fans in social media – these are the sort of modern developments I can get along with.

If only those others in the team, those who bear the responsibility for defending United’s cherished tradition of “getting stuck in” and giving opposing forwards and playmakers a touch of gravel-rash from time to time – just to remind them they’re in a game – if only they could get their act together as Rossco has.  Maybe then we might start to sink towards our more accustomed place in the nether regions of the Fair Play league, whilst we’re rising slowly but surely towards the top of the League that really counts.

When I write of proud traditions in the context of getting stuck into the opposition, it’s not entirely tongue in cheek.  This “Dirty Leeds” reputation for dealing severely with upstart opponents really was a part of the culture of those early seventies times in particular.  You could hardly watch a sitcom without the name of the Yorkshire giants being brought into proceedings, by way of almost affectionate and decidedly respectful tribute.  We were quite the cultural icons.

In one episode of “Porridge“, for instance, the head screw Mackay claims to be “hard but fair”. “Yeah,” intones our hero Norman Stanley Fletcher, cynically – “Just like Leeds United”. And we get similar mentions elsewhere – “Rising Damp“, “Monty Python“, even.  Moments like that still give me that frisson of acknowledgement that I support a club outside the normal, humdrum, run-of-the-mill mainstream.  I support Dirty Leeds, the Damned United, and I’m proud of it.

So come on, Leeds – sort yourselves out and lets get the rest of football moaning and whinging about us again.  You owe it to those legendary hard-men of the past, all the way from Wilf Copping, via Billy, Norman, Big Jack and Gilesy, through to Vinnie and Batts. Where is that type of player now?  Maybe, after all, we should have made more of an attempt to sign Joey Barton.

Making a Wish Come True for Young Leeds Fan and Cancer Fighter Joseph – by Rob Atkinson

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Making wishes come true

Sometimes the big, nasty world of professional football shows its usually-hidden, more human and caring side – just when you think it’s all about winning, money, egos, money, cheating and money.  Such a cynical attitude can sneak up on you unawares even if, like me, you’ve loved the game, and one club in particular, for the best part of forty years.  It’s difficult to avoid it, with all that you hear going on, and with the tantrums and spats of the great and the not-so-good.  But then something lovely happens, and you have a rethink.

ImageSuch an item cropped up today, in our local paper as it happens.  Because I’m happy to report that it’s the story of a very brave little lad, Joseph Carolan, who happens to be local to me and who has been battling away through the different phases of chemotherapy for the treatment of  Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.  Joseph was diagnosed with the disease in May last year after a visit to the doctor with flu-like symptoms.  His treatment involved long hospital stays and, during these, he passed the time by keeping up with Leeds United’s games, becoming a staunch fan of the Elland Road club.

Joseph has had a rough time of it, enduring nine months of intensive chemotherapy – and he is now embarked upon a further two years of maintenance chemotherapy.  It’s a grueling process, especially for one so young.  Joseph has lost some of his mobility as a result of all this, and relies quite heavily on a wheelchair.  He hasn’t been able to attend school either, so he’s missed out quite heavily in a few different ways.

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Joseph and Sam Byram in the new Leeds United-themed bedroom

So what better to cheer up a young football fan than a bedroom makeover in the colours of his favourite team? Happily, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, in conjunction with Leeds United Football Club, were able to step in and help arrange just that – and what’s more they managed to go one step further and give young Joseph a really brilliant surprise.  For when it was time to unveil his new, Leeds-themed bedroom, none other than United midfielder Sam Byram turned up to do the honours.  Joseph was naturally delighted and the happy surprise was a real fillip for him as he continues to receive the treatment his condition makes necessary.  His proud dad, John, was equally thrilled at what had been arranged for the young Leeds fanatic.  “Meeting Sam and having his bedroom decorated with a Leeds theme has really boosted Joseph,” he said.  “The medication that he’s on can make him feel quite down, but this has really cheered him up.”

Leeds United’s talented young midfield star, Sam Byram, was delighted to be able to help make Joseph’s day when he saw his new bedroom.  Sam said: “It was great to visit Joseph and see his face light up when he showed me his room. The items that the club donated have made his bedroom like a shrine to Leeds United. It’s very easy to forget sometimes what joy football can bring to people, and it was great to be able to meet Joseph and see the smile on his face.”

Joseph, from Pontefract in West Yorkshire, had been feeling poorly for some time before his diagnosis, so he’s had quite a long spell of feeling not particularly brilliant.  His dad John again: “Due to his illness Joseph has unfortunately had to spend a lot of time in his bedroom so having it decorated to reflect his favourite team is really fantastic for him.”

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Good buddies: Joseph Carolan and Sam Byram

It was particularly heart-warming to hear that a local boy, so poorly for such a long time but now battling away to get back to some normality, should have been given such a welcome boost by his beloved Leeds United – and even more so that he should have had the chance to meet one of his heroes in person as well as having his United-style room.  The Make-A-Wish Foundation relies heavily on donations, and anyone who feels they would like to contribute can do so here.  All credit to everyone who’s been involved with creating such a wonderful surprise for young Joseph; Leeds United might well reflect that it was only because of long spells in hospital that Joseph really got into them!  But as we know, once the bug bites, it doesn’t let go – so hopefully Joseph will be a United fan for many years.  From the look of the happy photographs of this event, that seems more than probable.

All the best to young Joseph for a full recovery – and Marching On Together with Leeds United to promotion.

How Much Can Leeds Afford? Becchio and Gradel in January Would Seal Promotion – by Rob Atkinson

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Gradel & Becchio – dynamic duo

We’ve heard lately about United manager Brian McDermott having “funds” to assist with any player recruitment he might wish to undertake during the forthcoming January transfer window.  It’s a pretty vague word, funds.  Slightly more specific is the reported “seven-figure sum” invested in the past week or so by Managing Director and prospective Tory MP David Haigh.  Again, though, that doesn’t tell us too much, though it is encouraging.  We mustn’t get too giddy though.  We’re no longer living in the days when a paltry million pounds was quite a lot of money.  The one buzz-phrase surprisingly missing from this little shower of clichés is “transfer war chest” – perhaps because what Brian has is not so much of a war chest as a slightly cracked piggy bank.  But don’t be surprised if the phrase “war chest” is wheeled out at some point before the new year.

However much we have, or however little – and it’s important to acknowledge the wisdom of not being too specific as to figures because of the inflationary consequences for asking prices – the real burning questions would be: who do we go for? Who, after all, do we need?  The team is showing clear signs of increased unity and cohesion under Brian’s benign stewardship, and there must be a certain amount of wariness as to the possibility of rocking the boat too hard.  But you can never have enough good players, and for a club with an alarming track record over recent years of getting rid of our best, that maxim has a particular resonance.

Some of those players chucked overboard recently (yes ok, some may possibly have jumped ship) would be welcomed back by many.  But, of those, who would really fit in and add something significant to the existing squad?  I can think of three – and perhaps two of those might be feasible targets in January if – big if – we were to go down the route of welcoming back old boys.  My three would be Snodgrass, Becchio and Gradel. Sadly, Snods is probably beyond us for the moment, although that could and most likely would change in the event of Leeds and Norwich swapping leagues in May (Please, God. Pretty please.)  But the other two could just possibly be realistic targets – depending on exactly how much money there is in that piggy bank.

Believe me, I know how that assertion will be received by some.  I’ll probably get comments about “never go back”, “unrealistic targets”, “wage structure”, “why would he?” and all the rest.  Do save your breath, or your pixels and fonts – I’m aware of all the pitfalls.  But maybe if Leeds are taking the view that – hang on, we might actually have a shot at promotion here – there might be a more ambitious attitude to investment to bring about that promotion.  I believe that the acquisitions of Becchio and Gradel – with Becchio by far the more likely, but let’s dream a little – would pretty much guarantee a play-off place and could even open the door to the top two.  Both would add qualities that we currently just don’t possess.

McCormack has been prolific lately, but he’s a different type of striker to Luciano Becchio – and if Blackstock returns to Forest after his loan spell, we’re still going to need someone as an option for Rossco to play off.  And Becchio is a proven scorer at this level. As for Gradel – just look at those clips of him running at defenders in the white shirt. How bloody sexy is that??  He could do a hell of a lot of damage in this league, and he has a goal in him as well.  French football and French crowds are pretty insipid by English standards – could Mad Max be tempted home if we had the right kind of attractively juicy carrot to dangle before him?  It’s not impossible – though, again, some will say it is.  I wish them joy of their gloomy pessimism and inability to dream.

This is very much a what-if scenario.  I doubt that, in the real world, we’ll be making the level of investment required for such an audacious double swoop.  Becchio on loan, maybe.  The lad is plainly deeply unhappy at Norwich, and would probably walk back to Elland Road given the chance.  Gradel would be the cherry on the icing on the cake.  It’s undeniable that either or both “could do a job”.  Can anybody seriously dispute that?

Happy Birthday to Andy Ritchie: A Shining Light in Leeds’ Wilderness Years – by Rob Atkinson

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Andy Ritchie: post-Revie hero, 53 today

Happy Birthday today to one of the real stars of a fallow period for United: Andy Ritchie, a terrific striker who – from humble beginnings – made it as a hero of the Gelderd End at the One True United.

You could say of Andy that, by the time he arrived at Elland Road, he owed us a favour or two.  At the age of 18 while playing for man u, he had knocked in a hat-trick against Leeds in a 4-1 win for the Pride of Devon.  Not content with such precocious achievement, he did it again the following year, this time against Spurs.  Two top flight hat-tricks whilst still in your teens would seem to be a sign of real talent and the potential to succeed at the highest level – yet, in line with the brilliance of the managerial policy at the Theatre of Hollow Myths in those days, Ritchie was deemed surplus to requirements for “The Biggest Club In The Universe™”.  He was surprisingly sold in 1980 to Brighton and Hove Albion – doubtless to make room for some real talent at man u – such as Garry Birtles, Alan Brazil and Peter Davenport.

At Brighton, Ritchie again showed his worth as a striker to be respected, clocking up 26 goals in 102 appearances in what was always a struggling team.  Somewhat typically for his career, which turned out to be a bit of a saga of missed opportunities, he then moved on to Leeds United in 1983 in a swap deal which saw Terry Connor heading south to the Goldstone Ground.  The missed opportunity in question was the 1983 FA Cup Final which saw Brighton draw 2-2 with man u at Wembley.  This game was famous for the last minute of that draw, when one Gordon Smith was clean through with only Gary Bailey to beat.  “And Smith must score…!” shrieked the commentator.  Well, he didn’t – and Brighton let the country down by losing a replay 4-0.  The incident has gone down in Brighton folklore, they even had a fanzine with the title “And Smith Must Score”.  No disrespect to the hapless Gordon, but you suspect that Andy Ritchie would have scored. And how different might history have been then?

At Leeds, Ritchie settled down well and won the hearts of the fans he’d miffed with that hat-trick years earlier.  He was a solid performer for United in an era when they were few and far between, leading the line well and always reliable in front of goal.  He scored two hat-tricks for the club in season 1984-85, and played a prominent part too in the 1986-87 season, which saw Leeds under Billy Bremner reach the FA Cup semi-final and a Playoff Final replay, only to miss out narrowly on both fronts.

Ritchie’s career after Leeds saw him head back to lancashire, becoming a folk hero at Oldham as a player and later as manager.  With Oldham, Andy at last returned to the top flight, helping keep an unfashionable and poorly-resourced club there for a respectable three years, becoming founder members of the Premier League.  There was time at Oldham, too, for Ritchie to add to his unfortunate list of FA Cup near-misses.

Ritchie wound down his playing career at Scarborough, and then entered management and coaching at a number of clubs, including Oldham and Leeds United.  He is currently doing some football punditry with BBC Radio Leeds – he was the summariser for the win over Middlesbrough last weekend – and his name still crops up when lower league managerial jobs are vacant.

Andy Ritchie will probably go down in history as one of Oldham Athletic’s finest ever players – but he was a significant part of a generally bleak time in Leeds’ history too and is fondly remembered as a fine striker that we should probably have done more to hang on to.  Happy Birthday, Andy – thanks for some golden memories that lit up some very grey and dismal years for Leeds United.

Grim Christmas ahead for fifth of people who can’t buy food

The Tories are determined to get back to the Good Old Days, when Christmas conformed to that traditional picture that’s on Christmas cards everywhere – leaded windows throwing candlelight out onto a snowy street as rosy-cheeked traders do a roaring trade in hot chestnuts ……. and Bob Cratchit tries to feed his family on £1.50 while those even less fortunate starve in the gutter, orphans wake up to just another day at the workhouse and a thin helping of gruel, Tiny Tim wastes away as he sinks towards an early death because there’s no medical treatment and no help with his disabilities.

For a traditional Tory Christmas, you see, you need the cheery gaslights and the pretty fall of snow as the local mill-owner presides at his sumptuous family feast. You need Father Christmas showering the little ones in the nursery with gifts as the fire roars in the hearth and Mama hands Papa his hot toddy. But for a Tory Christmas, reviving those long-ago good old days, you also need unlit cellars with no heating and nothing to eat so that the poor can be reminded what the “shiftless” deserve out of life according to Victorian morality. For every feast for the workers, you need a character-building famine for the “shirkers”. For every Father Christmas handing out gifts to the lucky children, you need a workhouse overseer to make sure there’s no extra helpings of cold mush for parish paupers. For every Santa, you need a Scrooge.

This is where we’re heading in 21st Century Britain as Christmas rolls around again. Back to the Good Old Days, the Poor Law, the workhouse. Back to feasts and fortune for the lucky few and crumbs and despair for the rest. Back to hypocrisy, casual cruelty, oppression and greed.

Merry Christmas.

Leeds United Fans – Why do Some Appear to Revel in Negativity? – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds, Leeds, Leeds!

Leeds, Leeds, Leeds!

I’ve read a couple of articles lately, both decently-written and making some good points – but both leaving me despairing over the massively negative attitude current among a certain section of Leeds “support”.  The tendency, in fact is not only massively negative, it’s eagerly, loudly, brassily negative.  It embraces negativity and holds it close like it never wants to let it go.  It’s the very antithesis of what support should be all about. It’s defeatism in its most depressing and demoralising form; if these articles had been written in wartime, they may very well have been taken out and shot.

The common theme of course, hammered home with relish and supportive statistics, is that We Are Not A Big Club Anymore.  The people saying this say it passionately and with conviction.  Not only do they wish to believe that Leeds aren’t a big club, the very idea that some fans may not believe this – may, in fact be holding dear the belief that United are still big – clearly upsets and offends them.  They crop up everywhere, these pallid little people, spreading their message of gloom and churning out invidious comparisons by the bucketload.  They’re becoming an effective voice wherever fans gather together to discuss matters Leeds.  In fact there’s only one real problem with their whole campaign. It’s utter, unmitigated bollocks.

The fact of the matter is, no club is bigger or smaller than its fanbase, its potential for support.  A very reliable gauge of this is freely available in these tech-savvy days we live in. It’s what is nattily called “online presence”.  Give your mouse some exercise and find out for yourself – if you don’t already know.  In cyberworld, second division, under-achieving, out-spent and unregarded Leeds United are absolutely HUGE.  This is the best barometer you could wish for of the measure of passion out there, the incredible hunger and thirst for any morsel of news, any topic of debate about the Mighty Whites of LS11. They’re out there, right now, all over the globe.  They’re clicking away at their computer terminals reading and digesting, or they’re writing in dozens of languages about Leeds past, present and future.  Our great days on the field are an increasingly distant memory, and a large proportion of the match-day support of a decade ago are marginalised and still priced out of actual engagement with the match-going experience, despite a return to relative sanity in the pricing structure.  But around the globe, in the ether, over the airwaves and most importantly inside the heads of millions of fanatics, Leeds United are top four, a phenomenon.

So, why this overweening eagerness to paint us as a small club?  Is it the tiresome need of social writers to dress themselves up as that bit different?  You know – slightly windswept and interesting, with that world-weary air of cynicism etching attractive lines into their fashionably-troubled yet intellectual brows.  It’s odd.  Any real pretensions to “cool” tend to be dissipated by the unseemly scramble to out-do each other in the negativity stakes, and they’re usually followed by eager-beaver starry-eyed acolytes who wish to attach themselves to any view that doesn’t qualify as mainstream.  Perhaps that’s the answer – are we dealing with an online football-flavoured brand of snob obscurantism?

I’m not advocating the other pole of this issue, by the way.  That worryingly Freudian habit of a certain Franchise’s fans to shout from the virtual rooftops about how they’re the biggest, the best and totally huge and wonderful throughout the world and all four dimensions of spacetime. I’ll mention no names here, but the initials are man u.  I’d be even more concerned if our collective attitude was as deluded as that, not least because – in the case of our acquaintances from over the hills – their Devon and Cornwall-based support have made of themselves a laughing-stock with such wishful thinking.  Certainly in Barcelona and Madrid, and in various other centres of realism too, not excluding Beeston.

No, all I want is for certain people to remember the basic meaning of the word “support”. It does not include the peddling of negative thinking, nor does it encompass unhelpful and misleading assertions regarding comparisons with such giants as Norwich and Dull City.  All of this is willful and groundless cant, calculated to spread misery and crush hope.

Support is about identifying yourself with the club you love, and spreading the word to those less fortunate who have not seen the light.  It’s about getting the shoulder behind the momentum of recent promising form – and being prepared to back it all the way, in the face of the withering carpings of naysayers as and when necessary.  Support is an overwhelmingly positive thing, and it needs to espouse and reflect positivity in everything it does.

Criticism is part of this, we are not simply a massive band of yes-men.  But criticism can be couched in positive terms too – this will not do for Leeds United, we said of Bates, and behold, he is gone.  The same applies to ticket prices, or transfer policy, or anything else we’ve been unhappy with from time to time.  We say “this will not do because We Are Leeds, and we demand better”.  So we can be critical – and that can be effective – but it’s still our overriding duty to be biased, and to talk the club up – because we’re supporters. Criticism that amounts to a wholesale belittling of the club relative to other clubs who may be enjoying some temporary success – that’s just ridiculous, and so counter-productive as to be a sin. Spreading alarm and despondency is not needed, not helpful, not to be embraced.  There are idiots enough in the media eager as all hell to do that, without people who are supposedly fans getting in on the act.

So please, those who peddle pessimism or deal in negativity, think again.  Think not only of whatever you’re getting out of venting these frustrations of yours, but also of your obligations towards the club you’re supposed to be supporting.  Let’s not give our enemies, among rival clubs’ support and within the media, such a cheap advantage.  If you’re a fan, then act and speak as one.  Support your club as a supporter should.  After all – We Are Leeds United, and we are the best.

Latest Bates Court Case Could Cost Leeds United Over £1m – by Rob Atkinson

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Cuddly yet litigious Uncle Ken

Ken Bates is due back in his favourite arena shortly as the litigation fanatic returns to the courtroom – and this time the quarry in his sights is Leeds United AFC itself.

The latest legal wrangle concerns Bates’ abruptly-terminated role as Leeds president – a position he was entitled to as a non-negotiable condition of the sale of Leeds United to present owners GFH Capital.  Bates remained in an executive position for some months after the sale, and was then due to move into the honorary office of Club President for a three year term ending in 2016.  However, only a matter of months into this arrangement, Bates was dismissed by GFH for “gross misconduct”.

The gross misconduct cited was said to consist of agreeing a contract (worth £500,000) for private jet travel for Bates between Leeds and his home base in Monaco.  The agreement was said to have been put in place without the knowledge or consent of the new board.  Bates will argue that the contract was set up while he was still chairman and therefore had the executive power to negotiate and authorise such a deal.  It has also emerged that, although his term as President came with a £250,000 a year salary – £750,000 over the three year term – Bates had waived this remuneration.  He has, after all, frequently claimed that he “never took a penny out of the club”.

The current legal tussle started when Leeds United sought reimbursement from Bates of costs incurred partly from the private jet contract, together with other expenses in excess of £100,000 including meals and Sky TV subscriptions which the club allege were not used to the benefit of the club.  Bates has entered a defence against that action, and counter-claimed for “wrongful dismissal” in the matter of the early termination of his Presidency.  It is thought that, if Bates were to be successful in a wrongful dismissal claim, he could be entitled to part or all of the £750,000 salary package technically due for the 3 year Presidential term, a sum he had voluntarily waived.  Legal costs on top of that could push United’s bill up over one million pounds.

These revelations come at a time when Managing Director David Haigh – a prospective Tory parliamentary candidate for Northampton South and new Chairman of Leeds United Ladies – has revealed that he has injected “a seven figure sum” into Leeds United AFC, to go towards Brian McDermott’s team-strengthening plans in the January transfer window. The irony of this is plain – should Bates be successful in his courtroom strategy, the club might possibly break even over the next few months, with Haigh’s seven-figure sum probably just about offsetting the amount Leeds could have to shell out to the wily Riviera-based octogenarian.  Swings and roundabouts.

Leeds United fans will have to cross their fingers and hope that the forthcoming court case ends as many have before, with Ken having to retire to his lair and lick his wounds. Ironically, it’s understood that in those previous instances of legal defeat, it’s often been Leeds United who had to pick up the bill, as Chairman Ken was allegedly sallying forth into battle backed by club funds.  We must sit and wait, in the hope that some of those pigeons now come home to roost and that Bates is finally sent packing without having further drained the resources of the club he’s claimed to have twice “saved”.