Daily Archives: 05/11/2013

Vote For Your Top Leeds United Manager

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything wants to know readers’ views on just who are the greatest Leeds United managers of all time.  To be helpful, there is a short list of candidates, with the obvious contenders and maybe the odd wild card.  You can also nominate and vote for your own choice if you don’t see him among the managers suggested.  Make your views known!  Have your say on the greatest Leeds United manager of all time by selecting up to three choices.

Thanks for reading and participating!

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United Flashback: Wembley 1992 as Leeds Put Four Past Liverpool – by Rob Atkinson

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Leeds United – Wembley Winners

For all the rival claims of the FA Cup and (don’t laugh) the variously-sponsored League Cup, there’s little doubt about the Wembley occasion it’s hardest to reach, the honour it’s toughest to compete for.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the FA Community Shield, or the Charity Shield as it used to be known in less politically-correct times.  This is not an event you get to be part of merely by winning a few games at home against the likes of Orient and Norwich, with maybe a semi-final against Aston Villa to spice it up.  It’s not a trophy you can win simply by the luck of the draw.  This is an event for winners, although League runners-up sometimes get a look-in if one club has been greedy enough to win the “Double”.  The Charity Shield is billed as the clash between reigning Champions and FA Cup-holders and as such it has the stardust of success and glory sprinkled all over it.

The Battle of Wembley '74

The Battle of Wembley ’74

Some will demur, saying it’s just a pre-season friendly.  Well, it does take place pre-season – but a friendly?  Before we look at this 1992 meeting of old foes Leeds and Liverpool, let’s cast our minds back to 1974 when the two sides met in the very first Wembley Charity Shield.  Kevin Keegan and Billy Bremner sent off, Giles displaying the art of the left hook on the ref’s blind side to dislodge Keegan’s perm – and all manner of malicious goings-on besides as Cup-holders Liverpool edged out Champions Leeds on penalties after a 1-1 draw for which “combative” is a hopelessly inadequate description.  Ray Clemence conning David Harvey over the ‘keepers taking the last two penalties, then grinning broadly as he reneged on the deal.  The violence and then the discarded shirts of the guilty as they walked off, dismissed by the schoolmasterly Bob Matthewson, a ref who towered over the pocket battleships in the opposing midfields.  The fuss and bother afterward as the FA decided examples should be made, long bans handed out.  A “friendly” it most definitely was not.

This 1992 match though was played out in a much lighter and more entertaining vein.  There was an air of conspiratorial glee around the old ground; Liverpool had administered the fatal blow to Man U’s title challenge at the end of the previous season with a 2-0 victory, the faithful of the Anfield Kop taunting their misery-stricken rivals with chants of “Leeds, Leeds, Leeds” as the last hopes of Man U and media alike drained away.  The real Reds then went on to Wembley and routinely won the Cup against Leeds’ old Nemesis Sunderland, so that this “Traditional Curtain Raiser to the Season” had about it a faintly gloating atmosphere – mutual congratulation was in the breeze as we all celebrated the discomfiture of the Mancunian and Mackem scum.

The game itself was a crazy mixture of potent attacking and Keystone Kops defending which foreshadowed the season both clubs were to experience, but which was avidly lapped up by both Kops at either end of Wembley.  Leeds opened the scoring when Rodney Wallace scampered into acres of space on the left before squaring for one Eric Cantona to finish confidently past Grobbelaar in the Liverpool goal.  That was on 25 minutes, but only ten more were to elapse before Liverpool were level.  A deep cross from Ronnie Rosenthal found Ian Rush with enough far-post space to plant a header past John Lukic.  This was at the Leeds fans’ end, and I remember at the time thinking that Liverpool would now go on to win, but what a cracking day we were having anyway.  But shortly before half-time, Leeds were ahead again, Tony Dorigo sending a deflected free kick beyond Brucie into the left hand corner of the net.

The second half saw the game continuing to see-saw as both sides went for it.  Liverpool contrived a second equaliser when Dean Saunders fastened on to a loose ball and powered it past Lukic in the blink of an eye.  Again that feeling of slight resignation and again Leeds blew it away, regaining the lead after 75 minutes when Cantona headed a cross ball down for Wallace to tap back to him.  Cantona looked up and calmly directed the ball wide of Grobbelaar for 3-2.  The joy among the Leeds fans at this cherry on the icing of last year’s title triumph raised itself to a still higher level when the match seemed to have been decided 4 minutes from the end.  Wallace chased a ball out wide which, instead of trickling out of play, bounced off the corner flag and gave the live-wire Rodney an ideal chance to put in a telling cross.  And there was Cantona again, lurking at the far post as Grobbelaar flapped ineffectively for the ball, watching it all the way and planting a header into the empty net.  4-2 up against Liverpool at Wembley!  Eleven months before the birth of my daughter, this was probably just about up there with the Title decider at Bramall Lane for the most joyous events of my life to that point, and for a few delirious moments I didn’t rightly know where or who I was.

Sanity had barely returned when, way down at the other end, Gordon Strachan scored what must be the comedy own-goal of all time, executing a singularly ungraceful backward stagger as he tried to clear from the goal-line but succeeded only in trickling the ball over it.  Some cheered, some laughed; nobody was downcast except perhaps wee Gordon himself who looked distinctly pissed-off.  Leeds had won though, the occasion had lived up to and beyond expectations for me and my happy band and we waited joyously to watch the lifting of silverware at Wembley.

Before that happened, another display of respect and gratitude as the defeated Liverpool players trooped off into the tunnel at the United end of the ground.  The jubilant Leeds fans as a body stood to applaud their old enemies, the chants of “Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpool” drawing reciprocal if shattered applause from the bemused players in red, honour satisfied, tributes paid.  Then the Leeds players going up the thirty-nine steps to hoist the Shield high, and cheers echoing anew from our throat-sore and ecstatic hordes.  Leeds United: Champions of England – the Last Champions – Charity Shield winners and the only team ever to score four against Liverpool in all of the Anfield giants’ numerous Wembley appearances.  Vivid memories of a truly wonderful day.

Acrostic Inspiration for Leeds United Fans – by Rob Atkinson

For all the ills we’ve borne
Until the bitter end
Come rain, come wind, come gale
Know ye this for sure

Our destiny will be fulfilled
For the faithful of our tribe
Fate has a bounty in store

Yet long the road we have to tread
Old and feeble though some be
United in lack of fear or dread

Many the barriers in our path
Awesome the mountains yet to scale
Never a thought of turning back

Until the fateful day arrives
Nary a doubt will we confess
In true fidelity bound to our oath
Till our deserved reward draws near
Ever determined, ever brave
Destined to reach our ultimate goal

Safe at last we’ll gain our ends
Closer still our bond shall be
Unto the last we stood as one
Mightier now than any foe

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Most Hypocritical “Leeds Fan” of Them All? – by Rob Atkinson

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Mark “Ker-CHING” Byford: one-time Leeds fan, perennial grasping hypocrite.

Whichever club you follow, you like to think that your fellow fans are, on the whole, jolly fine fellows – lads and lasses all. Equally, you hold dear the notion that the fans of “that other lot from ovver t’hill” (Man U, for any Leeds fan worth his salt) are a ridiculous bunch, amusing and repellent all in one, fodder for those of us who revel in laughing at the Pride of Devon.  This mind-set prompted me to write about Man U’s Top Ten Embarrassing Celebrity Fans, an article which was, I’m pleased to say, widely read and well-received. I’ve a Spurs version in the pipeline; I do like to pander occasionally to my own petty prejudices.

Every now and then, though, you come across such a repellent example of loathsome slitheriness among the ranks of your own beloved club’s supporters, that you just have to hold your hands up and say: “It’s a fair cop.  We’ve got a right one here.”  It’s happened to me, today.  I’m not talking about the vile Savile (indeed, I have a picture of him in a Liverpool FC shirt).  I’m talking about someone alive, kicking and doing very nicely for himself indeed, thank you.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mark Byford: former Deputy Director of the BBC, new author, Leeds United fan, expenses claimant extraordinaire and enthusiastic proponent of what can best be described as the “Byford Brand” with a view to the ongoing feathering of his own already plush nest.

Mark Byford featured on BBC Radio Five Live just this morning, eager and ready to be interviewed about his first book which was inspired, so we’re told more than once, by a shaft of sunlight shining on the name of a soldier, Larry Byford, on a war memorial in America.  The coincidence of names led Mark Byford to research and write a book about the American Byford, fallen in conflict in Vietnam, along with the wartime experiences of his own father Lawry Byford.  A neat idea and doubtless quite moving.

The wisdom of Byford in sticking his head above the parapet at this particular time, though, might be questioned by some who feel he still has a little embarrassment to live down.  Mark Byford, after all, is the man who walked away from the loss of his job at the BBC with twice his contractual severance entitlement, so that he trousered a cool £1 million on top of his extremely generous final salary pension entitlement.  Perhaps he felt that this sensitive issue would be overlooked in the eagerness of the interviewer to help him promote his book.  Big mistake.

Victoria Derbyshire is one of those interviewers whose sweet and demure exterior belies her underlying instinct to harry her prey; at times like these she is more polecat than tabby.  In the past she has upset the likes of Jamie Oliver with her remorseless style, and when she interviewed her own Five Live boss about why he wasn’t moving to MediaCityUK in Salford when the station moved in Autumn ’11, The Guardian said: “Derbyshire’s grilling of the station’s controller Adrian Van Klaveren made Jeremy Paxman’s infamous interview with (BBC Director General) Mark Thompson look like a vicar’s tea party.”  Now, she sank her teeth into Mark Byford’s pale and exposed hide – and she simply refused to let go.  The basis of her line of questioning was simple: “Do you think you deserved your £1m pay-off?”

Try as Byford might, he was unable to shake Derbyshire from this persistent snap, snap, snap onslaught which in the end left him bloodied and bewildered as she watched narrowly from a neutral corner, fangs still bared, ready to renew her attack at any time. His quandary was clear: he didn’t want to be seen to claim he deserved the money, but he didn’t want to admit that it was undeserved, unjustifiable and contextually grotesque. The word “context”, ironically, was one coping strategy he brandished again and again, though with an amateurish petulance that defeated any attempt at calm or cool.  He was simply out-thought and out-fought, run to ground, his desired cosy “book-plug” interview metamorphosed before his horrified eyes into a pitiless exposé of his self-seeking greed and arrogance.

It was with mixed feelings that I listened to this interview.  At first, I didn’t identify the author being invited to promote his book with the grasping executive walking off into Austerity Britain with his £1 million wad.  I wasn’t even sure why I was taking against him so – perhaps it was the unctuous tone with which he spoke of heroism and duty, whilst all the time emphasising the hooks and links a writer likes to employ to make his work more readable.  Only when Ms Derbyshire switched from plug facilitator into attack mode, did I make the connection – and then I just had to marvel at Byford’s willful resistance to the notion of “moral wrongdoing”, subtly advanced with all the finesse of a battering-ram by the merciless Victoria – as opposed to strict legal and contractual rights and wrongs.  And, blindly, blunderingly, he kept on using this word “context”.  Millions out there must have been wondering – if context is the thing, then in the context of austerity, painfully slow national recovery and widespread suffering, especially at the unregarded bottom of the pile – how on earth can such an obscene level of severance pay, on top of a sleekly fat pension, possibly be justified?

Which is what, time and again, from every direction, try as Byford might to avoid it, he was being asked – and refusing to answer.  Because there is no answer that amounts to justification.  And it turns out that there is much more for Byford to justify, if he possibly could.  A litter of extravagant expenses claims drifts in his wake, going back years – the man has a sleaze quotient an MP might envy.  His new book uses the loss of an American soldier in a long-ago conflict as its prime mover.  I wonder if the soldier’s family will benefit from its sales?  I do hope so.  The e-book edition – which is, after all, just a stream of bits and bytes flowing smoothly from the ether, production overheads negligible – is ambitiously priced at an eye-watering £17.72.  Clearly, somewhere along the line, Byford is still feeling the pinch – or maybe he feels that the Byford Brand commands a unit price of that order, for a first book too, simply because, well, it’s the Byford Brand.

When Lord Birt, outgoing Director General, favoured Byford as his successor, the Governors in their wisdom chose Greg Dyke instead.  Our hero put a brave face on it, and joked away the pain, claiming still to be friends with the man who pipped him.  “He supports Man U and I support Leeds United, and that’s the biggest problem we will have – he supports the worst team in British football and I support the best.”  All good knockabout stuff, and a laddish tone calculated to appeal to the LUFC fan in the street. But for once, I think the BBC got it absolutely right to prefer the Man U fan to the man who claimed as far back as Leeds University days to follow Leeds United – though acquaintances detected no passion for the club in him and suspected that it was a front for his research into criminality among football fans.  As with so much of his subsequent life and career, it would seem that – even back then – Mark Byford was mainly concerned with what was best for Mark Byford and his nascent Brand.

He’s frankly not the sort of bloke I care to have associated with my beloved Leeds United AFC – and nor is he the sort whose pockets I’d wish further to line by purchasing any book he writes.  I happen to think that the singularly undeserving and opportunistic Mark Byford has done quite well enough for himself already.