Daily Archives: 08/01/2014

Keys & Gray: Just the Tip of the Iceberg of Institutional Hatred for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

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Two smug idiots: merely a symptom rather than the disease itself

There’s been a bit of a storm over the picture above, which I have reluctantly reproduced for the dubious benefit of those who may not have seen it so far.  It’s understandable that people should be angry and upset over what is, even allowing for the dribbling idiocy of the two has-beens concerned, such a blatant example of ignorance and disrespect.  Let’s face it, Keys and Gray are not the sharpest tools in the box.  Sky viewers were unwilling witnesses to their developing bromance over far too many years as lynchpins of the Sports Channels’ football coverage.  This came to an abrupt end when the gruesome twosome allowed the baser end of their base personalities to show itself in all its shameful horror with a short series of hatefully sexist outbursts in 2011.  Sky dropped them immediately, and they have been relegated to marginal interest media ever since – though still hopelessly devoted to each other and to their “grinning schoolboy” manner of presentation.  So clearly, we can expect moronic, insensitive behaviour from insensitive morons – that is their stock in trade.  But the important thing is – what about the people who advise them?  What sort of thought process leads up to the disgraceful picture above?

For the benefit of those who may be unaware, two Leeds United fans were brutally murdered in 2000 by followers of Galatasaray, an Istanbul club which glories in the slogan so proudly displayed by the leering Gray and Keys.  That being the case, you’d have thought that some caution might be exhibited by two formerly mainstream broadcasters, or at least by whoever bears the responsibility of doing their thinking for them.  The fact that no such caution was even thought of is down to the involvement of the media’s favourite hate figure, Leeds United  I can state this with total certainty: if the fans so tragically killed all those years ago had been followers of Man U, or Liverpool, or any other club with the scandalous exception of Leeds United, then the above picture would not have seen the light of day.  I am absolutely 100% clear about that.  And therein resides the problem for all who love Leeds United.  The level of hatred and disrespect for our club in the media, and in the football world and the country more broadly, is absolutely unprecedented.  It is institutional in its nature, all-pervading in its extent and eagerly subscribed to in just about any organisation you might care to name.  It goes back a long, long way and has affected the club in its dealings with not just the media, but the games authorities both on and off the field.  I have written in the past about how this has manifested itself, both among referees (abroad as well as at home) – and in the broadcast and print media.

Ask yourself – and try to be honest.  Yes, I’m talking here especially to those who disagree with this blog automatically, as if on principle.  Go on – ask yourself.  If the two murdered fans had been Man U supporters – would Keys and Gray have been allowed to perpetrate this moronic picture stunt?  Would they even have shown any desire or agreement to do it?  No, of course not.  But because it’s Leeds, it doesn’t matter.  Because it’s Leeds, the question isn’t even considered as to how appropriate or otherwise this might be, how insensitive, how callously, needlessly hurtful and insulting to those who were bereaved, and to the wider Leeds United community.  If it had been two Man U lads murdered, hands would have been thrown up in horror at the very idea.  No, no, guys – they’d have said – you just can’t do this.  You all know this is true, and you all know the distinction being drawn in shallow, dishonest minds between Leeds United – the Damned United – and all the other clubs.  It goes on everywhere, and it’s symptomatic of a national sickness where Leeds are concerned, manifesting itself in various degrees of shocking disrespect, overt, ugly hatred and a contemptuous dismissal of any protests from those of us who love the club.  And then they have the brass nerve to call us “Dirty” and “Damned”.

We can look after ourselves and our own, of course.  That’s what “being Leeds” is all about.  Those who strike against us as a club, or as a global community of fans, tend to reap the whirlwind – especially in these days of social media.  Keys is finding out about this right now.  But still it goes on, time after time, year after year – so we always have to be poised and ready to defend ourselves against attack from the outside.  Whether it’s a paranoid failure calling us all “vile animals”, or a complacent Match of the Day presenter waggling his ears in his eagerness to include every single managerial legend except the Don in a montage of Great Bosses, or even these two relative nobodies above, posing with smirks on their faces and those shameful shirts proclaiming their ignorance and contempt – it all comes down to the same thing.  It’s the ultimate siege complex, Leeds United against Everybody Else.  But we’re on our way back now, and they’re going to have to live with that.  Keys and Gray in isolation are nothing – two annoying bugs to be swatted away.  It’s what they symbolise in that embarrassing image that we have to be aware of – that’s what we have to be ready to deal with and oppose, especially when we are unwelcome top-flight members once again, back at the top table with the rest of them trying to pretend it hasn’t happened.

And deal with it we will.  We Are Leeds, we’re Marching On Together.  Stuff the lot of them.  All we as Leeds fans need is to know our enemy.  And that means accepting that the enemy are everywhere and that we only have each other to rely upon as we gate-crash that Premier League party.  Let them hate us, let them show themselves up in these utterly disgusting and shameful betrayals of any class or dignity.  Hate away and see where it gets you.  You won’t be able to ignore us.  We Are Leeds – and we’re on the way back.

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Enigmatic Haigh Might Just Make That Leeds United Dream Come True – by Rob Atkinson

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David Haigh – heading for the top with Leeds United?

The New Wave is, as usual, coming in slowly at Elland Road.  Then again, with Leeds United, everything always seems to take its time – and the experience of the fans over the past few years has been that the outcome was not always really all that worth waiting for.  Without revisiting all of the painful twists and turns of the past decade or so, it’s safe to say that our lot, as a group of loyal and passionate supporters, has not by and large been a happy one.  The lowlights include administration, points deductions, Bates, Histon, League One, Bates, TOMA and more Bates.  There has also been the odd highlight, but it’s fair to say we’ve been living through some Dark Ages in the history of our club.  So, are we at last on the brink of a long-overdue and richly-deserved Renaissance?

The man who probably knows most about that will give the odd nod and wink here and there – but as yet he’s not really telling.  This is, of course, David Haigh – a likeable bundle of energy and charm whose polished persona you could look at and instantly say to yourself, that fellow would make a fine politician.  And such indeed is his aspiration as a lifelong Tory.  Not that such a summing-up is necessarily a negative thing.  It’s just one facet of the David Haigh enigma – a committed Conservative activist who is also an enthusiastic philanthropist, and one, moreover, who takes a distinctly hands-on approach to that philanthropy.

He seems to be a man of contradictions.  Interviewed on the radio, for instance, he has the politician’s knack of playing his cards close to his chest.  He will talk quite a bit without really saying very much, and it can feel a bit frustrating – you sense this in the demeanour of the interviewer, too.  He’s anxious not to show his hand too early.  And yet at other times he’ll crop up on his highly-active Twitter account, coyly dropping little hints everywhere, sending the Leeds United Twittersphere into meltdown seemingly at will – and driving information-hungry fans up the wall with tantalised yet baffled hope.

The latest example of this is just a few hours old – a casual mention that Haigh is looking forward to a coffee with one Peter Virdee.  Now, Virdee’s is a name that was all over Twitter only a few days back, with suggestions that he’s both minted and possibly about to get involved with Leeds United.  Haigh’s tweet is of great interest, not only to all of those so desperate to “Dare to dream”, but even for the rest of us, divided as we are into hard-bitten cynics and the weary “wait and see-ers”.  Team strengthening?  Stadium repurchase and refurbishment?  Buying back our very own Thorp Arch training heaven?  Anything can seem possible when you’re talking the figures Virdee is reputed to deal in.  But who knows?  It’s only a coffee, after all.

What does come across very strongly with David Haigh is a cheerful optimism that he can take on this massive task – to revive a club that once enjoyed an almost global pre-eminence but has since defied most attempts to rouse the sleeping giant – and that he can and will succeed.  If there have been doubts, he’s never let them show and his habitual outlook is one of an almost insouciant conviction that he can achieve where others have so conspicuously failed.  That confidence communicates itself to fans desperate for the good times to return and for a True White, full-blooded Leeds fan to lead us.  It’s still the case at Elland Road that we’d rather have one of our own in charge than some dodgy “off comed’un”.

Despite his Cornwall roots and other initially apparent doubts about Haigh – insidious little rumours of a sneaking regard for a certain Franchise over t’other side of the Pennines, for instance – he does seem to have established himself this solid credibility as a Leeds United fan; something that counts for a great deal.  Not that we haven’t had trouble with our own, before – the memory of Peter Ridsdale is fresh enough to ensure that we won’t trust anyone just because he has a yellow, white and blue scarf about his neck.  But the appeal of Haigh seems somehow much fresher and much more believable than Publicity Pete’s self-adoring pitch – though it’s always possible this is the sharply clear vision of 20-20 hindsight.

It’s not easy at all to figure David Haigh out.  There is that enigmatic exterior to him which defies attempts to add up the elements we know are there beneath the surface.  The philanthropy is encouraging – his eager willingness to get involved in fund-raising events for causes which are clearly close to his heart.  This positive aspect looks like reflecting well on the club too, as Haigh leads Leeds into areas they may previously have been wary to tread.  One such initiative, the Beyond “It” campaign featuring openly gay ex-Leeds player Robbie Rogers’ anti-discrimination crusade, has received unequivocal backing from Haigh and a highly gratifying response from the fans of a club not always associated with such enlightened thinking.  He also supports a number of other charities in the UK including the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust, English Heritage and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. In April 2013, Haigh completed a 250km arctic charity trek for the Make A Wish Foundation, which has recently helped a very poorly little Leeds fan from my own home town.  He completed the six-day, husky drawn challenge which took him through temperatures as low as -30 to raise funds for Make A Wish which supports his niece, Sienna who lives with the genetic disorder Homocystinuria.

There appears to be little doubt that, in all of his extra-professional endeavours – which fill an already very busy life to overflowing – Haigh is the Real Deal in terms of commitment, belief and enthusiasm.  I could wish I knew more about exactly what manner of Tory he is, but the ranks of Football Club revivalists are hardly packed with the kind of radical reforming Socialist I’d personally like to see in Number 10 Downing Street.  If David Haigh can grasp the nettle of sorting out my beloved United – and bring to that task the energy and attainment so evident in other areas of his life – then he will have a very good chance of becoming one of the major figures in Leeds United history – and, what’s more, in a good way.  If that turns out to be the case, then the man’s politics will bother me not a jot.

Personal charm and likeability haven’t usually been enough to move such mountains, but beneath the Haigh enigma there appears to be evidence of a great deal more than that.  Besides which, the fact that he does seem such a very pleasant guy is still – in these first few months after the nightmare of Bates – massively important in itself.  A good radio manner with an infectious chuckle in his voice, the ability to say the right things at appropriate junctures and to deal with people in a civilised and courteous manner – all of this is the very antithesis of the old rogue who squatted on the Leeds throne for far too long.  So that, alone, commends David Haigh as The Right Sort.

Can he succeed – can he help to bring about success?  After an uncomfortably long silence that was at least partially broken yesterday with an “Investment Update” confirming that Mr Andrew Flowers of Club main sponsors Enterprise Insurance will be involved, it appears that things are still moving towards a positive conclusion.  We now know that the consortium is called Sports Capital, and that other, as yet un-named, investors will also be involved.  We know too that the financial backing is there for Brian McDermott to start bolstering his fatigued and pallid-looking squad.  There is little doubt that these are Good Things, and the way the wind is blowing suggests there will be more to come.  And as long as Leeds United AFC is seen to be moving in the right direction, engaging with fans and embracing transparency of intent and information – why then, the great majority of the fans will be happy, will be supportive, will be on-board and ready to March On Together back to nearer the top – which is United’s natural place in the order of things.  I’m pretty certain David Haigh would have no trouble agreeing with that.

Enjoy your coffee today, Mr Haigh, you likeable enigma – oh, and don’t stint yourself in bestowing that charm and appeal of yours on Mr Virdee – and on anyone else with the good of Leeds United at heart, and who might be able to restore us to our former glory.  If what I hope for and dream about can eventually emerge out of this coffee morning, I’d willingly treat you to a cappuccino or two apiece out of my own pocket.  From a socialist Yorkshireman, that’s 100% unequivocal support.