Leeds Forever – but Liverpool for the Title Would be a Feelgood Feast – by Rob Atkinson


Liverpool - climbing back onto their perch

Liverpool – climbing back onto their perch

Liverpool, having thrashed Man U at the Theatre of Hollow Myths last week, had to work a bit harder at Cardiff, going behind twice before emerging impressive 6-3 winners.  It will, however, have been the easy triumph over the Pride of Devon that provided the Real Reds with the most pleasure – these are two clubs who, to say the least, aren’t exactly fond of each other.  The last thing either wants to see is the other winning the league – which means that there are a lot of nervous plastics out there, sweating in their Devon armchairs right now; because Liverpool seem to mean business and they are currently rather handily-placed for a late title push.

For the neutral, things could hardly be better, with the tables so dramatically turned in this long-standing battle of Lancastrian one-upmanship.  Rivalry of that depth and bitterness tends to polarise opinion – there aren’t many fence-sitters when Man U and Liverpool meet.  For me, as a true white rose White, if Liverpool were to be Champions again at the end of this season, it would be an outcome second only to seeing my own beloved Leeds back on top.  OK, so I’m a proud Leeds United fan – so what has this got to do with me?

Well, I’d have to start by declaring an interest – as a die-hard supporter of the One True United from the right (Yorkshire) side of the Pennines, I’m not exactly enamoured of Man U.  I never had much time for them, even before that awful, whisky-nosed Govan Git came down to pour his choleric bile all over what had, until then, been a relatively civilised (give or take Brian Clough and nearly all the fans) English football scene.  There was always that irritating air of spurious arrogance about them, as well as this “you’ve got to love us because of the Busby Babes” thing – which all the media seemed to lap up so eagerly, much to the disgust of real fans everywhere.  So clearly, I don’t like them – never did.  That’s in my Leeds United DNA.  But I’m not just a Leeds fan, I’m a fan of football in its widest sense – and I mourn the game we once knew which seems to be gone forever, swept away by a grotty tide of filthy lucre

Time was when Man U were grudgingly respected, other than by determined haters like me and my fellow Whites.  Since Sir Alex Taggart landed at the Theatre of Hollow Myths though, they’ve gone from “quite easy to dislike” to “impossible to stand the sight of” faster than you could say “Envious of Liverpool”.  The Purple-Conked One made it clear from the off that he was determined to “knock Liverpool off their perch”.  What we didn’t realise when he started his vendetta in 1988, showing no immediate sign of being any more successful than any of the other post-Busby failures, was that the whole face of football would have to change to realise Ferguson’s warped dream.

In 1967, Man U won their last ever proper League Title, making seven in total – quite respectable.  Then – nothing, for 26 years, culminating in a deserved last-ever old-style Football League Championship triumph for Leeds United. But since 1993, when a greedy and ruthless Aussie bought the game and gift-wrapped it for a curmudgeonly and ruthless Scot, the title “race” has been more of a procession.  The honour has ceased to be about virtuosity on the field; now it’s mainly about money and markets, and Man U have had much more of both during the whole Murdoch era.  Result: thirteen plastic titles.

Football is now a tacky, merchandise-driven, unseemly drive for profit over pride, and the dominance by Man U of such a grubby era is undeniably apt.  But we are still close enough in time to the pre-greed days for those of us of a certain age to remember when the game was about glory, not greed; when the aim was winning, not wonga, when the important people were supporters, not shareholders.  In those days, the distribution of wealth was far more even, and the field of possible title-winners was far wider; the competition (over a grueling 42 match course, with un-manicured pitches and un-pampered pros) was far more fierce.  And yet, even in this environment of white-hot combat and intense rivalry, Liverpool reigned supreme, not for months, not years, but for literally two decades.  By 1992, they had compiled an honours list that seemed likely to see them at the top of the game for many years to come – unless someone sneaked in and moved the goalposts.  Cue evil Uncle Rupert.

Man U fans can crow all they want about 20 titles (and, true to their loathsome nature, they will).  But the evidence to confound them is there for all to see, like some geological stratum separating the dinosaurs from the mammoths.  That schism dividing the game as it was up to ’92, from the showbiz shenanigans of ’93 onwards, stands out like a Tory at a Foodbank, exposing Man U as the wealth-backed, monopolising opportunists that they are.  And it has all been done with such bad grace, another indictment of this new and joyless age we’ve been plodding through these last twenty-odd years.  No gentle wisdom of the Bob Paisley variety – instead we had the sour bile of Ferguson and now seemingly a Fergie-Lite clone in the newly growly and grouchy, yet undeniably Gollum-esque David Moyes.  No loveable old-style hard-man Desperate Dan type like Tommy Smith – we just had the manufactured machismo of Roy Keane, a supposed tough-guy with an assumed snarl and trademark glower, whose typical party trick was to sneak up behind wee Jason McAteer and fell that not-exactly-scary individual with a sly elbow.

The comparisons could go on all day, but the bottom line is that Liverpool at their peak – and it was a hell of a peak – typified all the values of football that some of us remember from a pre-Sky, pre-glitz, pre-greed age when it really was all about a ball.  Now, it’s all about money, and contracts, and egos, and snide bitching to the media if you don’t get all your own way – and lo, we have generally had the champions we deserve.

Only now, when Taggart has slithered into retirement, are we seeing anything like a level playing-field – and even then, it’s just among the moneyed elite of the Premier League.  Without Ferguson, we suddenly have a new Big Four, sans Man U, and all the better for that.  For all of this season, it has been the thoroughbreds of Liverpool, City, Arsenal and Chelsea dominating at the top, whilst Man U desperately cling to the coat-tails of Everton and Spurs, desperate even for the dubious compensation of Europa League qualification. Clearly, then, the era of Man U domination has been much more a function of the unique personality – to put it politely – of Ferguson, than any real superiority on the pitch.  In a game of fine margins, that crucial factor made such a difference. Hence, the whole record of the past 21 years would appear to have been slewed in one club’s favour, courtesy of one bile-ridden Glaswegian and a covey of co-operative referees.  The records, as they appear to stand, are grossly misleading.

To apply a conversion rate which takes account of the foregoing and sums up all the anger and disgust I feel for the way our game has been degraded – I’d say each Premier League (or Premiership, or whatever else it’s been marketed as) is worth maybe half – at the very most – of each proper Football League Championship from the days when the game still belonged to us and the world was a happier and more carefree place.

At that rate, Man U are still a good long distance behind Liverpool, which – judging by the paucity of ability and bottle they have displayed under Moyes this season – is precisely where they belong.  Now we’re witnessing a resurgence for the club which – under Shankly, Paisley and the other boot-room boys – dominated English football for most of my youth and early adulthood. A Liverpool title victory this season would be the closest we can now get to a return of those good old days.

Because of the Ferguson Factor, history and the record books are poor teachers for the modern student of football.  So as the Reds look to challenge strongly again at the very top of the English game, while a Fergie-less Man U, shorn of their X-factor, languish in their mighty wake – what better time than now to emphasise the simple truth once and for all? Liverpool are still The Greatest.

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30 responses to “Leeds Forever – but Liverpool for the Title Would be a Feelgood Feast – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Well said mate.

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  2. A well reasoned argument, but one that Sky and the Murdoch press will never discuss with the wider viewing and reading public.

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  3. darrell garfield

    what a load of bollocks! liverpool,the club of heysel, the club that got us all kicked out of europe, along with cheating revie,s leeds, yeah leeds and liverpool are great bed fellows.

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    • For all those who say I over edit and exclude obvious idiots – here’s a scummer.

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    • Heysel, where FIFA covered themselves in glory, showpiece of European football, fans herded into a crumbling stadium by an untrusting over-zealous police force, rival fans barely segregated, but yeah, blame Liverpool totally!

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    • Darrell, how many of `cheating Revies` Leeds games did you see? ill bet none… Dave P

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  4. what a classy article a pleasure to read thanks

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  5. Rob, I understand your sentiment but I only agree in part. Football is, as you say, all about money since 1992 and from then it is who can spend most ie Chelsea, Man City. Although I don’t like Man U or their blinkered fans I think AF did create four teams worthy of winning the top league in our country and for that I admire him.
    My reason for wanting LFC to win the top honour is more romantic for us Leeds fans, when I was 8 years old our great team went to Anfield needing a point to win the league and after the 0v0 draw we required was over Don asked Billy to take our players to the Kop and applaud. The Liverpool fans after being silent then sang Champions, Champions to our players, Total Class, it was one of Dons proudest moments . That would not happen these days.
    So LFC for the Prem for me.
    Dave P.

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    • Westaussie Whites

      Remember it well. Respect at its best and I have returned it to Liverpool ever since. The Kop are all class and so is Brendan Rogers …. Quite a few English in team not like Chelski , Arsenal and tuther Manc’s

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  6. I would rather manchester city win It myself. They’ve had to put up with similar nonsense as ourselves with crappy owners and dropping down the league, bit still kept a strong local following.

    Liverpool have almost as much “devon armchairs” as man u, plus they got everybody banned from Europe.

    Chelski are the one team I would hate to win it. I’m hoping abramovitch gets his assets frozen with this Ukraine crisis, would be funny watching all the trendy ariviste types jump ship.

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  7. Darrell must have been to all those cheating revie games between 1961 and 1974 and have first hand evidence of all that was bad about that era… unless, shock horror, somebody told him and he swallowed the story whole

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  8. Totally agree rob ,, I hope Liverpool win it , not only will it piss off the scum , which in its self is good enough reason, but also the same teams winning it year in year out turns us into la liga or even worse the SPL

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  9. Aw, thanks! Was a great admirer of Cantona, until he left you, that is! Big fan of Dave O’Leary’s team also, saddened at what happened after. Hope to see you back at the top table soon where ye belong!

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  10. Great article Rob.the ties between Liverpool and leeds goes back to revie and shankly, they used to keep in touch quite regularly.The Liverpool kop shouted champions when leeds won the league title their many years ago.

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  11. what nonsense….just another jealous fan that cant make a fair comment on the beautiful game, to suggest the teams that sir alex ferguson built from your gift that was Cantona,giggs,hughes,robson,keane,schoels,ronaldo..etc etc wher not worthy winners…pathetic article..cud be a scouser

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  12. This is the best article I’ve ever read about man-u and accurately sums up the premiership years to a ‘T’
    You sir are a gent and a scholar !!!

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  13. As an exiled scouser married to a Leeds lass living in leeds for over 30 years I have felt not one second of animosity for my lfc fanaticism. I go back to the 70’s when there was love/fear/respect between our 2 great clubs and fans. So wonderful to read the above and be reminded of it. Marching on together you’ll never walk alone. JFT96.,

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    • Top man – agree with every word. We’re both genuine old style football clubs, we’ve both been The Best. You maintained your status, we fell away – that’s football. All the best for the run in – MOT YNWA and most of all JFT96

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  14. Liverpool have always been friendly rivals to Leeds and I am disgusted with people on here that are still blaming Liverpool for Heysel, when it was the Juventus fans who started the trouble in the first place, by beating up a young Liverpool fan, who had accidentally strayed over the weak wire netting fence, separating the two sets of supporters.
    Juventus, fans and Galatasaray fans are still getting away with stabbing English fans, every time that English clubs have the misfortune of playing those teams away in the Champions League.
    In 1992, I remember watching on ITV, the Liverpool fans taunting the Man Utd fans with “you lost the title on Merseyside”, to which I and every Leeds fan will always be extremely grateful for, as Leeds won the Championship on that memorable day.

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  15. lookslike the football league has told cellino he’s failed the fit and proper test rob , creek , paddle , shit

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  16. I’m a scum fan and I have to admit you are dead right.

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  17. I’m actually a scum bucket and a dribbling coward with the IQ of a brick.

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  18. I’m making a proper fool of myself here, aren’t I? A right fuckin div. OK well I’m not really a scum fan, I’m a Wendy. My real name is Terry Fuckwitt. I’m as thick as pigshit, me. Will anyone be my friend? I can’t help the way I smell.

    PS – if you can’t find me under T Fuckwitt, try A. Ogram.

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  19. I agree, but I won’t really care until we’re back up there. I’m much more pleased about you know what, obviously.

    And also about the FANTASTIC news that Forest want Colin! Good old Neil is still trying to get us promoted. He knows it’s too late for us this year but wants to get us off to a good start next time and help us financially. There are already rumours of him wanting Forest to agree to sign Peltier!

    If he gets the job maybe, just maybe, please maybe, we’ll be getting 3 or 4 million in soon. There’s Peltier of course, easily worth 3 quarters of a million (and we won’t have to pay the c— any more). He’s bound to want to give us half a million each for Pearce and Austin and only QPR could be so stupid as to let him have Fat Paddy for nowt – we can get an easy 2 million there and make Colin jump for dog biscuits and bark into the bargain.

    Not to mention Mrs Norrris. Colin will pay now rather than wait until the summer, and of course that ancient slowcoach at left back who thinks he’s Brazillian after scoring that goal at Yeovil (or did he just say he’d had a Brazillian?) is worth £200,000. With any luck we can even make him pay for Brown.

    So poor old Forest – who I’ve always liked, but not when they’re in our way – will finish in mid table next year and we’ll have several extra million off the wage bill and a transfer fund (who needs Italian serial tax dodgers when you’ve got Colin on your side?)

    Does anyone know if we still have Dreary’s registration? Colin likes a cripple.

    Rob, you may as well abandon any plans you had for a Regret of the Season competition now. I’m sure we’re unanimous in wishing we’d kept Varney.

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  20. Forget what I aid about Brown, I was getting carried away. Forest are bound to want reimbursing for the hearse.

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  21. Site moderator comments: This response was just loads of vile crap from safe anonymity, as you’d expect by the name the scummer has used. I’m not publishing it because it’s nowhere near the standard required, again as you’d expect. I might have though, if the scum coward had provided an email address, but naturally he was far too scared of the consequences of THAT. Incidentally, the IP address showed Kent – Salford my arse.

    Like

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