Daily Archives: 05/12/2013

New Leeds Deal for Alex Mowatt a Sign of the Times for Resurgent United – by Rob Atkinson

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Young prospect Alex Mowatt: new long-term deal at Leeds United

The news that young Alex Mowatt has signed a contract extension with Leeds United, only eight months or so after turning professional, is another massively positive sign that this is a club that is going places.  Mowatt, 18, has seized his chance this season and has turned in a series of fine displays, nailing down for himself a regular first team spot well ahead of schedule. His is a classic example of the old saw “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough”, and Leeds have acted fast to tie the youngster to a deal that now extends until 2017.

Mowatt himself is enthusiastic about his situation at Leeds: “I’m really pleased to have signed,” he said. “I’ve been at the club since I was six and this is where I want to play my football.  This season has gone really, really well so far and I just want to keep working hard, keep improving, and play my part in helping Leeds United get where we want to be.”  As it seems certain that there would be no shortage of interested parties, Premier League clubs among them, if Mowatt were to fancy a change of scene, it’s vastly encouraging for United and the club’s fans that such a hot prospect has no qualms about committing himself for the long term.

As with Sam Byram and to a lesser extent Chris Dawson before him, Alex Mowatt has emerged from the shadows of junior and development squad football at Elland Road and has immediately looked like the real deal.  In looks and playing style, he has reminded many good judges of a young Gary Speed.  Ex-United skipper Brendan Ormsby has said of him: “He reminds me of Gary Speed with the way he moves and uses his left foot.  I like the look of him. Although it’s a silly thing to say, he looks like he can play!  At 18 years old, Alex looks like he has a good future ahead of him. He will be a very good player if he carries on this way.”

Looks-wise, Mowatt reminds me more of Lyndon Simmonds, a young lad who shone brightly for a short while nearly thirty years ago, but who then faded away, moving on to Swansea and then Rochdale.  Ormsby’s judgement commands respect though, and you can see what he means in terms of the similarities of paying style, based in both cases on a fabulous left foot.  But Speed’s are big shoes to fill, and the lad will doubtless prefer to be recognised as the first Alex Mowatt, rather than the next Gary Speed. As comparisons go, though, it’s not a bad or an unflattering one, is it?

Leeds United is a bit of a good news factory at the moment.  These things are strictly relative, of course, and after some of the bad times we’ve had over the past decade or so, the mere absence of calamity and disaster (and Ken) are ample justification for dancing in the streets.  But it does rather feel as though better times are on their way back to Elland Road.  The laughter and chat, audible behind Jason Pearce‘s post-match Radio Leeds interview after the Wigan victory, spoke of a good atmosphere around the squad and a bond between the players.  These are essential ingredients for a successful squad, and it seems that manager Brian McDermott is wisely nurturing a feeling of unity and positivity in a tight-knit group of players.  He’s been there and done it all before has Brian, and it would take a rich and foolish man to bet against him doing it again.  With bright young stars like Byram, Dawson and Mowatt once again rolling off the Elland Road production-line, his task will be easier than if he were just to rely on the transfer market. But if that, too, can be exploited to United’s benefit in the January window, then the club might just really be going places – and sooner rather than later.

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Suarez Showing Why He’s Vital for The EPL – by Rob Atkinson

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Suarez – magician

As a Leeds United fan, it amazes me that a player of the sheer quality – and breathtaking ability to entertain – of Luis Suarez hasn’t been better appreciated in the country where he plies his trade. Last night at Anfield, he gave a performance in Liverpool’s 5-1 demolition of Norwich City to make any fan of the game thank their lucky stars that certain parties didn’t manage to drive the Uruguayan from these shores. It must have been a mighty close thing, such was the vitriol poured upon his head by various holier-than-thou types who would evidently be quite willing to see such virtuoso talent lost to English football. And this, mainly, because a silly molehill was made into a ridiculous mountain called Evragate.

The issues surrounding that shoddy affair have been gone into, not wisely but too well. A lot of ignorant and uninformed opinion conspired to have Suarez painted as an out-and-out villain and a racist to boot, whilst anointing Patrice Evra, Man U’s typically dislikable defender, as Saint Injured Party of Dakar. Neither conclusion stands up to intelligent analysis. The cultural mores of Uruguay make Suarez difficult to convict on the evidence of what happened in this case, while Evra’s tendency to make trouble and exploit situations will invariably speak for itself.

Less easy to dismiss was the bizarre incident when Suarez decided to take a chunk out of the arm of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanović. Any supporter of Suarez would have shaken his head despairingly at that one – it was inexcusable. But by this time, Suarez was cast ineradicably in the public eye as A Nasty Man – and sometimes that kind of thing can become a self-fulfilling prophesy, with the subject of all the negative attention liable to crack under the strain.

I have to confess that I would instinctively defend Suarez over Evragate, even if the deeper issues didn’t support the view that he’s not quite the despicable git he’s been painted. Evra is an unpleasant individual with a track record of winding up opponents in the approved Man U manner. As a Leeds fan, that is anathema to me. But the way in which Suarez was hung out to dry, vilified by people who evidently couldn’t have cared less about the positives the little South American brings to our game – to me, this was shocking and uncalled-for. I felt then and I still feel now that he should have been cut some slack and certainly not hounded as he was. Maybe then there’d have been no biting incident. Who knows? Luis Suarez is a volatile character. It’s part of his make-up, and he’s most definitely not alone in that. But so is sublime talent an integral part of the Suarez package, as he so extravagantly demonstrated last night.

Players score great goals sometimes, occasionally hat-tricks and sometimes even more. Our own Ross McCormack rattled up a four goal haul at Charlton recently and that was an outstanding performance. But it was as water unto wine when compared to the Suarez Masterclass which saw Norwich slaughtered by the world-class talent of a Latin magician.

You’d have to go a long way to see goals of greater quality than three of the four that Suarez scored last night. The fourth was merely very good, and Liverpool’s fifth was served up on a plate for young Raheem Sterling by … Luis Suarez.  If ever a man took on and routed an opposing team of eleven helpless men, with only incidental help and support from the ten bit-part players on his own side, that man was Suarez.  He was that good.

Looking at the four goals he scored, all showed exemplary technique, reflexes, balance, artistry, sheer star quality. Three were blinding efforts that would have graced any game of football ever played, any time, anywhere. The body shape of the man as he dispatched each chance with exactly the right contact to send the ball fizzing into the Norwich net told of a very special talent in the person of a natural athlete and superb technician. These were special goals in a fabulous performance; Suarez has been building up to this ever since the delayed start to his season, after suspension for the Ivanović incident and a summer of speculation as to whether he would be part of the English game this season. Even when it seemed that the danger of him being lost to our game was past, speculation was still rife about interest from Arsenal – and what an addition the Uruguayan would have made to that outstanding team.

What was made finally, undeniably clear at Anfield last night was that to even risk harrying Luis Suarez out of our game would have been the most arrant folly. Players like that come along once a generation; the Evras of this world are ten-a-penny stuff by comparison. The goals that Suarez scored against Norwich will be talked about, admired and replayed for years – decades. You don’t ever forget quality, genius like that. And that quality, that genius, could so easily have been lost to the game, just because an ignorant cabal of self-appointed judges got bees in their bonnets when they felt that precious Patrice Evra had been insulted. It was a disproportionate, foolish and unwarranted reaction and – in talent and entertainment terms – it could have cost us dear.

Look at those goals, and marvel. Watch them a few times over – you won’t regret it. Luis Suarez, Superstar. It’s about time we all focused on the immense positives he has brought to our game, and started to appreciate the worth of the man. He sparkles, he entertains – he even plays the game with a smile on his face – mostly. There’s plenty you can’t say that about. Thank heavens that Anfield’s magician was not lost to the game of football in England.