Monthly Archives: January 2014

Sky TV Fail to Sell Leeds United Skipper Ross McCormack – by Rob Atkinson

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Ross Restores the Faith

As transfer deadline day wound its way down to the 11pm cut-off, you could tell that – from an earlier peak of feverish excitement – the Sky TV staff on the Jim White + Bimbo Show were starting to lose hope.  At around 8pm, in the wake of a shocked McCormack’s on-the-spot interview, the hype was palpable as the hacks demanded of him whether he would now be looking to move, having pledged himself to Leeds only two hours before.  Ross sounded distressed, unhappy – as was only to be expected.  Thousands upon thousands of Leeds United fans were out here, feeling very much the same.

That the trashy gutter reporters of Murdoch’s cess-pool of a TV station should try to capitalise on this was as sadly predictable as it was disgraceful and unprofessional.  But we have come to expect this from Sky.  When they’re not trying to pile the agony on for Leeds United, they’re leaning over backwards to reassure the Devon-based fans of that lesser United, Manchester’s second team. You may have noticed that Juan Mata has been elevated to the status of dream signing and world-class star, since his move to the Theatre of Hollow Myths.

But, in the end – all the Sky hype, excitement and pressure not withstanding – Ross has shown with the above tweet that he’s very much his own man.  He’s exhibited that “Keep Fighting” resolve and grit that were in the very DNA of the great Revie team.  He’s shown that he can bounce back, be a professional, and do it for the fans, the shirt, the badge – and for his equally-shocked team-mates who face a local derby tomorrow.

Bloody well said, Ross.  We’re so proud of you.  Now let’s show the world what it means to be Leeds.

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Leeds Fans Know How You Feel Ross, But Now is the Time to Man Up – by Rob Atkinson

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More of this, please, Ross

It’s been a shocking and distressing day for all of us – many out here are thinking back to this morning when we were grumbling about another dull deadline day in prospect.  And now – we’re wishing we could turn the clock back.

The last couple of hours have been depressing and humiliating.  For God’s sake, even Gary bloody Neville feels sorry for us.  Brian McDermott, the voice of reason in the Elland Road asylum, has been sacked – although there isn’t the courtesy of a statement from the club to confirm this.  A couple of hours before this, the club turned down a bid from Cardiff for captain and top scorer Ross McCormack.  Ross then gave a statement to pisspoor TV station Sky Sports, saying he was happy at Leeds and looking forward to playing for McDermott. A tinge of alarm there, that solidified into an icicle of dread when the axe fell on poor Brian’s honest head.

The thing is – you don’t just play for the manager.  With all due respect, Ross, you play for the fans, for the shirt, for your team-mates, for the club. Managers come and go as we all know.  It’s sad – tragic, sometimes.  But it happens – and when it does, then the senior players are under a moral obligation to stand up and be counted.  That is what the Leeds fans out here now desperately need of the Ross McCormack they’ve watched scoring goals and kissing that badge this season.  Don’t take the easy road and opt out.  Don’t lose that fight and defiant professionalism that has marked you out as star man this season.  There’s a derby match tomorrow against Huddersfield, and as usual they will play it as a Cup Final.  For once – instead of succumbing to that smaller-club chip-on-the-shoulder motivation, the Leeds players need to respond in kind.  They will need their skipper and talismanic striker to lead them in this.  They will need YOU, Ross.  And the fans will need you, too.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  They don’t come over all prima donna and let themselves be persuaded by the disgraceful Sky TV that the only option is to flounce in and demand a move.  It’s been such a horrible, horrible day – but Captain Ross McCormack and the rest of the lads in those shirts – shirts that any of us fans out here would give a year’s salary to wear – can start the fightback tomorrow.  That’s what the big players do.  That’s the professional thing to do.  You have a contract, guys, but what’s more than that – you have a duty of trust to the fans that have stuck by you through a decidedly average season.  They kept the faith after Rochdale and after Sheffield Wendies, and they cheered you to the rafters as you lost unluckily to Leicester.  Please don’t abandon them against Huddersfield.  Pride is at stake here, and it’s about much, much more than an individual player’s unhappiness.  Rise above it, fight and win, if at all possible.

The time to sit down and think things over is in the summer.  Things may be clearer by then.  Now, in the heat of the moment, is not the time to act in haste.  It’s not a time to forget the fans who worship you, and head off to the the very bottom of the Premier League, where Vincent Tan awaits.  Out of the frying pan, and into the fire?  Bite your lip, Ross, and roll those sleeves up.  You can be the hero we need in very dark times.

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Get that shirt on, go out and fight

Sky Disgrace Themselves Over McCormack Transfer Blast – by Rob Atkinson

Trash TV

Trash TV

It could only happen at Leeds. For the second time in recent history, the manager is sacked as the January transfer window closes. And, in a rare example of Murdoch’s tacky Sky Sports Transfer Deadline programme even recognising the existence of Leeds, the trashy satellite station were immediately all over Ross McCormack like a bad rash.

McCormack pronounced himself “happy to stay at Leeds and play for McDermott” only a couple of hours ago. Now, in the immediate aftermath of the brutal ending of The Strife of Brian, Ross was hauled onto the Sky airwaves, understandably gutted and shell-shocked. The presenters’ agenda was clear – could this transfer be revived? Could the knife be twisted in the Leeds United stab-in-the-back wound?

McCormack was badgered over whether McDermott’s dismissal changed things. He displayed enough ambivalence for the Sky hacks to scent blood. Cut down to Cardiff, where they collared a handy chav to plead for Ross to “come back”.

It was deeply un-classy stuff. It didn’t reflect too well on McCormack, but it showed Sky up for the tacky gutter station they are. At one point, McCormack’s distressed interview, full of shock and compassion for his ex-manager, was described as “the best thing for ages”. Such are the standards at the bottom of the journalism barrel.

I happen to believe that Brian’s dismissal means it’s more or less certain that Massimo Cellino is now calling the shots. There are strong rumours also of two players coming in on loan from Cagliari. It looks as though what amounts to more of a coup – and not a bloodless one – than a takeover is virtually done and dusted.

What next for Leeds? If we get to 11pm with our captain and top scorer still on the playing staff, I’ll be happily surprised. There’s not much else to be happy about. Leeds United are the laughing-stock of the football world tonight.

As for what might happen in the game against Huddersfield tomorrow, well who knows. The players’ state of mind can only be guessed at. As I write, Sky’s efforts to sell McCormack are redoubling. They report that his representatives have been contacted by SIX clubs since “our sensational interview”. They seem to be implicitly approving the tapping-up of our skipper. What a disgusting organisation they are.

Wake me up when it’s summer, someone – unless we’ve been relegated.

Smoked mackerel kedgeree, 89p

Yum.

Jack Monroe

This kedgeree was another recipe idea suggested by my readers based in my food shop – and it was an absolute hit – Thankyou everyone who suggested it! The mackerel can be replaced with any smoked or strong fish, and the spices can be swapped out for garam masala or curry powder, whatever you have to hand. The onions lend a soft sweetness, the rice fills you up, and the little chunks of egg and mackerel are groan-inducingly gorgeous. Try it. I hereby proclaim this one of my favourite ever recipes.

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Served two with green beans on the side.

(This post is not sponsored; I provide links to the ingredients that I use so you can see how I calculate my recipe costs, and I may earn a small commission if you click the links and make a purchase.)

1 tbsp oil
1 onion
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin

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“Fit and Proper Test” Under Spotlight as Cellino Bids for Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Cellino - fit and proper?

Cellino – fit and proper?

Rumours have been gathering pace all day that Cagliari owner Massimo Cellino is on the brink of securing a majority holding in Leeds United AFC. The implications of such a development are manifold, not least the effect on manager Brian McDermott and his backroom team. One quote attributed to Cellino when asked about McDermott’s future was “I need a coach, not a manager”. It’s fair to say the things look bleak for Brian, should the Italian Job be completed.

One vital stage in any such completion would the Football League’s decision as to whether or not Cellino’s ownership of Leeds United should be sanctioned. This involves scrutiny of any potential new owner under what is known as the “Fit and Proper Person Test” (FAPP). On the face of it, Cellino would seem to face difficulties with this. He allegedly has a couple of fraud convictions and is awaiting trial on embezzlement charges. Not on this account alone could he be considered more of a villain than Ken Bates – but you’d have thought that the Football League, even in the rather dodgy guise of ex-United CEO Shaun Harvey, might not look kindly on a man with a rap sheet like Cellino’s. It may well be that this will be the most stringent test yet of the efficacy of the FAPP Test.

There is the merest suggestion that the club might be acquired by Cellino in the name of his son – a guy who is much given to Instagram sharing and who is not, presumably, saddled with a record for dodgy deal like Papa’s.

Whether or not the FAPP test can be satisfied, or perhaps merely circumvented, this looks like being a crucial decision in the context of the whole history of Leeds United. We’re looking at a man who changes managers, or coaches, considerably more frequently that Ken Bates changes his underwear. Cellino is not a man to be swayed by fan opinion either – it tends to be “my way or the highway”. Fan engagement has been a buzz-phrase around LS11 since GFH moved in – but those days might be ending for the foreseeable future.

It looks as though the ownership issue is coming to a head just as the transfer window slams shut on us yet again – so the question of whether or not Cellino is likely to be a heavy investor will probably – subject to any promises he might wish to make in the wake of sealing a deal for United – have to wait for another day. But it would appear that the Italian is very much “hands on” in terms of transfer deals, so it’s highly unlikely that we would see Brian wheeling and dealing as he did so successfully and to such devastating effect at Reading.

Whatever happens, we’re all going to feel as if we’ve sat through some combination of gothic horror, low farce, and pantomime. It has been a deeply unsettling time to be Leeds. We shall obviously have to do our best to keep Marching On Together, but it looks like it might not be easy. The Cellino regime would be terra incognita for Leeds United – we’d just have to wait and see how things pan out. For once, even with a derby in prospect – always a Cup Final for the opposition – football is the last thing on the minds of most United fans. McDermott won’t be drawn on whether this Huddersfield home match could be his last as Leeds manager, saying only that he plans “to enjoy it”. Valedictory words? Sadly, they may well be just that.

These are dark and troubling times at Elland Road – and whatever happens in the next day or so, it seems certain that we’re not out of the woods yet – not by a long chalk.

Addendum – the Fit & Proper Test as it applies to Cellino. Grateful thanks to Max for his research and interpretation – much appreciated.

Rob, I had a look at the rules here:
http://www.football-league.co.uk/regulations/20130704/appendix-3_2293633_2128209

And also key is the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/53/enacted), which the rules use to decide whether a conviction is “spent” or “unspent” (even if outside the UK). “Spent” means they come off your criminal record (if you have one) for most purposes.

Cellino’s convictions are banned by the rules, if unspent, so you then look at the act to decide whether or not they are spent. Sentences of >2.5 years (including, obviously, life sentences) are never spent. It’s not clear what happens with suspended sentences, I would assume they are treated the same.

Cellino had a 14 month suspended sentence in 1996 and a 15 month one in 2001. For a sentence of 6 to 30 months, the time for rehabilitation, or for the convictions to be “spent”, is 10 years. So by my reading he is in the clear.

The embezzlement charges don’t count unless he’s convicted. If convicted, even if the sentence is under 6 months, he’d be disqualified for 3 years (by applying the table in the 1974 Act) from being a football director and would have to resign.

But right now – and I may have missed something, of course – by my reading he would pass the test. In 2010, when he tried to take over WHU, the convictions wouldn’t have spent, assuming the rules applied (the PL rules may be different in this respect, I don’t know)

Leeds Boss McDermott a Welcome Beacon in the Fans’ Gloom – by Rob Atkinson

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Brian McDermott looking for the best for Leeds United – with or without him

There’s a video clip doing the rounds today – it could easily be entitled “Strife of Brian”, but this is no Pythonesque spoof.  This is tragedy, pure and simple – it’s got all the necessary ingredients.  We have an embattled hero, dark and inimical forces grappling away in the background, mystery and intrigue – and most of all, the grim prospect of a very unhappy ending.  And all in a mere 2 minutes and 38 seconds.  For all its brevity, no-one could fail to be moved by the passion and courage, the honesty and unselfishness that shine through in this isolated bubble of truth and openness in the gathering murk surrounding Elland Road.  The hero is, of course, Brian McDermott and he has earned that title by his struggles to carry on in circumstances that would have seen a lesser man give up and head for the hills.

In this blog’s opinion, McDermott has also earned the respect, trust and unstinting support of everyone out here who would claim to be a Leeds United fan.  Brian has stuck his head above the parapet with the contents of that interview, not in his own best interests, but in those of the club – which he clearly equates with the fans.  He stands out in these dark and dismal times as the one real ray of light – along with maybe one or two of the playing staff.  His anger, his passion and his determination to see right done by Leeds United and its legions of supporters are an apt counterpoint to the anodyne platitudes which are all we occasionally get from the suits behind the scenes, those grey little men who argue about pounds and pence while the club slides ever backwards.  It would be hard to imagine more of a contrast than the one which distinguishes Hero Brian from the corporate clowns humiliating us as they squabble behind the scenes.

I saw a tweet today which sums up perfectly the Strife of Brian.  It invited us to imagine the situation of a man facing a tennis match against a Grand Slam champion, but having to face this virtuoso without a racquet – and with his hands tied behind his back.  This is how hamstrung our Brian has been, for pretty much all of his tenure as Leeds United boss.  Just as we’ve been made promises and have been let down, so has he – and when he is let down it’s more than just a personal disappointment – it’s his professional reputation on the line.  Matters appear to have come to a head in these last few days, as we approach the final week of a transfer window where so much was promised, so much was expected.  Brian talked of getting business done early – but he’s been betrayed in his trust.  It was all lies, yet again.  The carpet has been yanked from beneath his feet, and ours.

It seems odd then, that – with so many deserving targets for their anger and disappointment to be justly poured out – some Leeds fans are actually choosing to have a go at the man who represents our best hope of forcing some kind of breakthrough in this tiresomely endless impasse.  Some fans are absolutely calling for Brian’s head, citing tactics, transfer policy, substitutions – even his gloriously bald pate.  They portray him as an egg  or as a thumb, and they seem to think it’s funny.  Yet this is the man who is speaking out and calling for an end to all the uncertainty, all the fruitless quibbling in the boardroom, all the selfish machinations between opposing interests – and he’s doing it with dignity and professionalism.  Brian wants it sorted, and for us to start moving onwards and upwards – and isn’t that what we all want, all of us helpless and impotent bystanders out here?  Plenty of managers would refrain from comment, knowing that being too outspoken would land them a swift P45.  Plenty more would walk, leaving us to suffer without any leadership.  Still others would seek to follow a party line, cravenly hoping they’d backed the right horse.  But not Brian.  He’s stuck his neck out, to lay his head defiantly on the block.  He seems to be half-resigned to being a casualty of whatever change might finally occur – but he’s saying it’s not about his own interests.  He’s asking for a swift resolution to the takeover saga, for the club and for the fans.  Greater love hath no man…

For those who are preoccupied with details of his team selections, or substitutions, or certain of his transfer acquisitions, I would say – forget it.  We know nothing of his working conditions and the promises made and broken, except for the broad hints in that direction contained in this alarmingly frank and angry interview.  It’s impossible for us to judge the man – he’s been trying to build a house without tools, and with bricks of straw.  All we can say of him is that he’s there for us, the fans, and for the club we all love.  How can we currently ask more of him than that?  For the moment, tactics, substitutions and transfers  are irrelevant.  Football is irrelevant.  The season is a dead duck – it’s the very future of our club which is at issue here.  That’s what McDermott is telling us, and we need to listen.  In a crisis on stormy seas, the last thing you do is tip your friends overboard – and right now, Brian is the only friend we have.

Against Huddersfield at the weekend, all of the Leeds fans should be bellowing their support for this man.  We should be sending the clearest possible message to all the factions currently wrangling over our club; we should be making sure that they’re aware we have heard Brian’s message loud and clear and that we have taken it to heart.

In any conflict, it’s of the first importance to know your enemy.  We should be utterly clear on this – Brian McDermott is not the enemy here.  He speaks for us, because he cares and because he has the courage and resolve – along with the insider’s knowledge – to speak with the voice of a man who knows that what’s happening is not good for the club.  We have Brian to thank for the fact that we now know that too.  Let’s not be blind enough, naïve enough, to ignore it.  We must show our support for Brian McDermott, loud and proud – because quite frankly, he’s the only chance we’ve got.

Corporate Clowns Fighting Over Leeds United as Fans Suffer – by Rob Atkinson

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The interested parties

Finally, the silence has been broken – what we have been waiting for in terms of hard information, or at least a statement from one of the main protagonists, has at last come to light.  It’s a breaking of the impasse – but not in a good way.  What we have heard is an unedifying tale of wrangles over the terms of an agreement apparently struck last November.  It seems that the Flowers/Haigh/Un-named Others “Sport Capital” consortium found something, or maybe several things, not to their liking after the initial agreement for the sale of 75% of the GFH holding.  Various elements, it is said, were “not as originally described”.  Sport Capital therefore made a “revised” (i.e. lower) offer, which GFH have turned down, seemingly preferring to listen to other suitors, with a certain Italian prominent among the names being noised about.

In other words, it’s a mess.  In fact “mess” is really far too kind a way of describing the utter shambles, the embarrassing pantomime, that has been this takeover so far.  Quite apart from the humiliating spectacle of watching our great club being fought over by a bunch of incompetents, there are a few odd matters arising out of all this.  Not the least of these is the Sport Capital statement “We were fully justified in revising our bid because a number of things have come to light which were not as originally described“.  Now that does seem bizarre, because – let’s not forget – the Sport Capital Consortium and the existing GFH ownership have David Haigh in common.  So if Sport Capital have uncovered something nasty about the club, something that would justify a reduction of the offer which closed the original agreement – then why and how wasn’t Haigh aware of this before?  He was, after all, a senior figure in the running of the club this past year.  Even Andrew Flowers, big wheel in the club’s main sponsors Enterprise Insurance, should have had some level of knowledge.  There’s a rotten smell here, somewhere.

It’s a little odd too that Sport Capital, having (as some might say) reneged on the terms of the original agreement, are now accusing GFH of “breaching their covenant” in talking to other interested parties.  GFH are also accused of breaching their covenant with the fans – whatever that means – but it’s unlikely after today’s revelations that those fans will be confining any expressions of displeasure to GFH alone.  To the fan in the street, sick to death of being messed around by a series of chancers playing fast and loose with Leeds United – an institution of the English game, by the way – it would appear that all parties concerned are conspiring to make of our club a laughing-stock, an embarrassing soap-opera which does little but heap shame and humiliation on the heads of its loyal and fanatical supporters.

It’s difficult to take sides on the little information available, even since Flowers decided to speak out.  But the impression that goal-posts have been moved is not easy to avoid.  Flowers also said  “This boils down to much more than money but GFH have chosen to ignore that”.  But isn’t that slightly disingenuous?  To the selling party, it’s always going to be mainly about the money, surely?  Even though GFH were intending to retain a 10% stake, they will still have an interest in realising what they can for the chunk of the club they’re selling.  For Sport Capital to reduce their offer – and then cry foul and scramble for the moral high ground when the sellers refuse to lower the price – seems, to say the least, a little naïve.  And after all – if it boils down to much more than money – why have Sport Capital reduced their financial offer after an agreement had been reached?  There is much more here than meets the eye, much that we still don’t know on the basis of Flowers’ statement which – let’s face it – is only going to represent a one-sided point of view.  So when he, and Haigh, dismiss rival bids as being bad for the club and the fans – can we really trust their objectivity in a matter where they indisputably have a vested interest?

Meanwhile, hard on the heels of this new storm, Brian McDermott has had the task of trying to field a team that will stop the on-field rot by getting a result at Elland Road against Ipswich.  To say that the prevailing circumstances are not conducive to team preparation is a masterly feat of understatement.  I will try to raise the enthusiasm to write something about the Ipswich game later, but it’s hardly my prime concern right now and I freely admit that.

McDermott has been looking and sounding distinctly glum this past day or so, and all you can feel for the guy is deep sympathy – the sympathy you’d feel for any professional trying to do his job hamstrung and hindered by the manoeuvres of the crass amateurs in the chain of command above him.  Brian wants the matter swiftly concluded and, he emphasises, in the best interests of the club.  Give the guy an award for common-sense, a quality notably lacking elsewhere in what’s going on.  Reading between the lines, you can tell that Brian is half-expecting to be a casualty of whatever outcome we eventually get.  But he’s got his head down, doing his best in a difficult situation and he deserves the support of every true Leeds fan for as long as he’s at the club.

You honestly wonder how much more the fantastic fans of Leeds United are prepared to take.  If you got a couple of the more cynical type of satirical sitcom writers together, and asked them to pen a series about a football club setting out its stall to take the mickey out of its large and loyal fan-base, then they wouldn’t even be able to imagine or approach the farcical reality that now confronts us.  We deserve a lot better than this; but it’s a situation that has gone on now, with a few changes in the principal cast, for quite a few years.  In this time, we have seen clubs that suffered alongside us in the bowels of League One go on to comparatively great things.  Southampton, Swansea – even Norwich.  For heavens’ sake, Norwich have managed to prosper with three-quarters of our League One midfield and our top-scorer of last season warming the bench.  Reality would be funny if it wasn’t so utterly sickening.  For many, of course – the sad acts out there whose chief pleasure is to see Leeds United wounded and suffering – it is funny, in fact it’s riotously amusing.  And this all adds to the depression and misery for our fans, people who live and breathe Leeds United, people though who seem to be the least significant factor in the thinking of those who are wrangling over a great club.

It has to stop, and stop soon.  Clearly, this transfer window – despite the lies we were told last month and for most of this – is not going to be of any real help to us, and therefore this season is yet another write-off.  The only realistic aim now is to make sure we stay in this league, hoping that the ownership issue can be sorted out to leave us with a regime that can support the club’s immense potential and the fans’ justifiably sky-high ambitions.

That should be the bottom line, but right now it appears nothing more than a pipe-dream.  The clowns fighting over Leeds do not deserve any more of our faith or patience.  They don’t deserve to be associated with such magnificent support.  So step aside, clowns – and let’s have somebody in who knows their football, loves the club and has the will, imagination and financial muscle to take us forward.

There must be somebody like that out there, surely.

There IS a legal definition of bedroom for bedroom tax purposes

Very interesting case-law development on the Bedroom Tax. Anyone affected should appeal, quoting CH/140/2013. Take advice, or simply contact your Local Authority, quoting that reference. You should act BEFORE MARCH 2014 to ensure you don’t run out of time. ACT NOW!!

Clearest Sign Yet That Ross Will Stay at Leeds: Mail Report He’s Off – by Rob Atkinson

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Ross: staying or going?

The ever unreliable Daily Mail are reporting that Leeds will accept an offer of £5 million to be tabled by West Ham on Monday, pending discussions of Massimo Cellino’s takeover of the club.

The inherent contradiction here is that, if a takeover endgame were indeed in progress, then it is highly unlikely that any major incomings or outgoings would be sanctioned by the current owners – as this might affect the plans of imminent buyers of the club.  Such elementary common sense does not appear to have been allowed to get in the way of the Mail‘s desperate desire to flog the “Ross Is Off” story for all that it’s worth.

It may just be that this Mail report is the best sign yet that McCormack will be in the Leeds United team to face Ipswich on Tuesday.  Whether this will prove to be his last game in a Leeds United shirt is another matter.  The tweets of Messrs Haigh, Patel and Nooruddin, though, appear to confirm that those gentleman have been made fully aware of the strength of feeling among the Leeds support.  It has been said that their intentions regarding Ross were made clear last summer, when a number of bids from Middlesbrough were rejected.  The pull of Premier League money may be stronger – let’s wait and see if the resolve to keep our captain at Elland Road holds true.

If not, then the suits in the boardroom are going to have to do some mighty fast talking to keep the fans onside and face the rest of the season in anything other than turmoil.

Respite, Paranoia and ITV – The Good and the Bad of Leeds United’s “Lost Weekend” – by Rob Atkinson

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Chiles and Keane – fatal attraction

A lot of Leeds United fans find it very difficult indeed to negotiate a whole weekend without their “fix” of the Whites – no matter what form our heroes currently happen to be in.  Lately, the fare has been quite poor – to the extent that the most recent defeat, a somewhat harsh and narrow affair at home to league leaders Leicester last weekend, was hailed as “refreshing” and “encouraging”.  Clearly, when we’ve drawn a blank again and lost, and yet we seek comfort from this, a break is not a bad idea.  There was no choice in the matter anyway; after our humiliating Cup exit to lowly Rochdale, we were without a game this weekend – so it was a matter of filling the time as best we could.  Leaving aside those unfortunates who would have been dragged out shopping, the options seemed quite clear-cut: discuss the mess and confusion at Elland Road with like-minded sufferers on the internet, or watch other, more progressive teams do battle in the 4th Round.

I’m among the number that quite welcomed a Leeds-free weekend.  There’s definitely something missing, but at least we don’t suffer another loss and the bleak down of depression that follows.  There was also the small matter of continued lack of progress on the TOMA and transfer fronts to chew over and, in the absence of much in the way of information from the suddenly tight-lipped United owners, the various social media platforms were abuzz with debate, with plenty of virtual rocks being flung in the direction of the suits in the boardroom.  That kind of thing certainly fills some time and – given a wide enough circulation – it can prompt some defensive tweets from various of the protagonists.  But it doesn’t do much to cheer up Leeds fans who are starting to suspect that our bright new start is becoming more of a dull old continuation of the same, depressing story.  As things stand, TOMA 2 (or 3, depending on how you count these things) appears to be in doubt, and incoming transfers appear to be a tantalising but remote prospect.  In other words, it’s shaping up to be a January no different from the last few.  Not a happy thought.

So that’s the mixture of respite and paranoia that dominated the mood in which all things Leeds were discussed, argued over and complained about over this lost weekend.  The net effect was negative; we might well have enjoyed some Leeds-free time a little more if other matters were looking up, but they aren’t, so we didn’t.  The main source of diversion from all of this gloom was the FA Cup, which was having somehow to stagger along without us.   The offerings at #LLUUE Towers were limited to good old ITV, as BT Sport is just too kitsch to contemplate.  The best games were reserved for highlights anyway, though I did watch Bournemouth against Liverpool when our Championship fellow-travellers did well against one of the top teams this season, without enjoying much luck.  There was a slightly grisly sideshow too, as Martin Skrtel had to have his head stapled back together at pitch-side.  If they’d have let him bleed a bit, then that godawful Liverpool away shirt might have ended up looking a bit more familiar – but you couldn’t fault the lad’s stoicism.

The real down-side of the ITV coverage is having to endure the burgeoning bromance between Adrian Chiles and Roy Keane.  It should be said that this appears largely to be a one-way love affair, with Chiles clearly smitten with unrequited adoration of the alleged tough-guy Keane.  Royston’s “hard” image seems to be something that all ITV staff are contractually obliged to big up; the references to “ooh, I’ll let you tell Roy that” bespattered the commentary of the match as well as the studio exchanges, during which Roy sat there, trying his best to look appropriately tough.  Adrian does appear to have it bad though, and it must be said that his is not a face designed to show hormonal devotion to its best advantage.  When you look, as Chiles does, like a warning for what may happen if cabbage patch dolls are allowed to breed, the last thing you should be doing is simpering foolishly on camera.  Every time the lens focused on Keane, we were treated to a trademark glower, and Chiles swooned anew.  It was hideously uncomfortable stuff.

Jermaine Pennant

Jermaine Pennant

There’s more of this unedifying spectacle to come, presumably, with Chelsea v Stoke lined up for us later on.  Stoke City have just released former United loanee Jermaine Pennant, so there’s bound to be speculation as to whether we might be making a move for him at some point in the remaining days of the window – or are we all wingered-up now?  In any event, the subject of incoming transfers is likely to remain on the back burner while renewed bids for our skipper of one week, Ross McCormack are still likely from West Ham.  The Hammers seem to have deduced from their 0-9 reverse in the League Cup semi that more firepower is needed, and there are whispers that the next effort to recruit Ross might involve a bid not unadjacent to £5 million.  David Haigh has said that our position was made clear in the summer when we refused to sell despite months of nagging from Middlesbrough.  But £5m is a LOT of money, and the next seven days might be just a little too interesting for comfort – particularly for anyone with a memory for United’s tendency to sell a vital player or two at this time of year.

Any weekend without Leeds United is liable to be less fulfilling than normal, and this one has certainly felt like that – even without the sting of defeat that has become so familiar.  The discontent out here in fan-land, the relative silence from the club, the speculation over Ross and the conflicting stories in the press over whether our saviour might be Italian or simply non-existent – all of this has conspired to make it a respite without much in the way of relaxation or comfort.  Things will get back to something more like normal on Tuesday when we meet Ipswich at Elland Road.  A repeat of the performance against Leicester might yield a better result, particularly if Jimmy Kebe continues his improvement in form and match fitness.  Depending on that result, and on other developments – who knows how things will be looking seven days from now?

Whoever does know – they’re not saying, for the moment.  Tune in again throughout the week, for the very latest on the tragicomic Leeds United soap opera.