Daily Archives: 31/01/2014

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)