Monthly Archives: May 2014

Dear Massimo…. A Postcard From Filey to Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

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Dear Massimo

Weather beautiful, having a lovely time – wish you were here. In fact, I really wish you were here. There are a couple of questions that, given such a golden opportunity, I’d like to ask you. Things appear to be happening at Elland Road, just as this blog’s back is turned – a small matter of a silver wedding anniversary to celebrate. You know the way it is. How is the family, by the way? Anyway, as I was saying, change appears to be afoot down LS11 – and some of us out here are less than sure about the way things are going.

Personally, I’ve only had my eye off the ball for twenty-four hours or so – yet in that time, it transpires that the club is yet again unable to pay the playing staff. On the other hand, somebody appears to have found sufficient loose change – perhaps down the back of one of those banqueting suite sofas – to compass the demise of the manager. Whatever we out here may think of Brian’s predictable fate – and you’ll be aware, Massimo, that there are at least two schools of thought on that one – can the club really afford to be reaching settlements when the blokes at the sharp end aren’t getting their wages? We’ve heard the usual phrases – gentlemen’s agreement, mutual consent – but let’s face it, there’s always a few bob involved. One and a half million quid is what I’d heard. I know Brian’s a gent – a rare thing at Leeds United – but there’s a limit.

As far as this blog is concerned, no fuss will be made about the managerial change we could all see coming. New brooms tend to sweep clean, and no takeover is without its casualties. Being grown-up, sensible types, we know this. But given that mature and pragmatic outlook, what we crave above all is clarity – a few outbursts of frankness and information-sharing. If we know what’s going on, we tend to be happier and a bit more tractable. This is a significant consideration at that season-ticket selling time of the year.

The matter of our departed manager Brian is a case in point – but it’s not the only example of confusion arising out of mixed messages. We’d heard variously that you wanted to work with Brian, that you didn’t need a manager, that you couldn’t understand why the manager was at his poorly mum’s bedside rather than at his desk, and that you were astounded he hadn’t resigned. We have the likes of Lorimer and Gray to try and explain the meaning of this and other mixed bags – but you might concede that it’s not easy to pick the bones out of it all.

Would that it were only the managerial situation that’s causing such a mass scratching of heads – but things are confusing and bewildering in a wider sense, too. There’s the stadium and the now chained and padlocked training ground. It seems a long time now since you were speaking breezily of assuming control one day, and then nipping down the nearest ATM to withdraw enough cash to buy Elland Road the next. All of that early determination to act swiftly and decisively appears to have dissipated. We can well believe that you’ve found the odd skeleton in the closet – a mass grave and a veritable boneyard would not surprise us, given the immense dodginess of your immediate predecessors, to say nothing of the one before – or the chap currently in police custody in Dubai. We fans were ready for bleak news about the mess at Leeds United. What we’re really after is a revised statement of intentions in the light of the bodies you’ve dug up so far. For example, last I heard on Elland Road was the hope that it might come back under club ownership by November. Is that still the plan? It wouldn’t be surprising if it was becoming unlikely. But it’d be good to know.

Transfer policy is another thing. Mixed messages again there. Various younger Cellinos have been active on social media, outlining recruitment plans that appear to include Serie A players, an English left-back, and so on. The news from higher up is more confusing. Next season might well be one of fire-fighting and consolidation, we are told. But the club captain’s ambitions run more to a promotion challenge – and that’s quite reasonable, really. As a footballer, time is not on his side.

We are a little worried and unsettled out here, Massimo. Actually, that is to understate the case by quite a bit. Some clarity is badly needed – some good news would be welcome, too. In the absence of those two desirable factors, nerves are being shredded out here and fingernails nibbled. That’s hardly conducive to the making of financial commitments such as the purchase of highly-expensive season tickets – even if the club’s banking situation were sufficiently up and running to receive such payments. And we’re getting idiots from the likes of West Ham and no-mark clubs like that taking the mick, for God’s sake – how humiliating can it get?? We’re wondering, some of us, if it’s Fred Karno’s Army we’re following – rather than Super Leeds.

Sorry to be a nag – I know you’re busy. But all this gloominess and uncertainty is fair putting me off my cockles and mussels. So if there’s any chance of some positive tidings…? Thanks ever so.

Meanwhile, the weather continues fine on the East Coast’s golden sands. Off to Whitby today. Will write again soon. All the best!!

Rob

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UKIP : Nothing but the Same Old Story

A message of defiance and anger, but also of hope. That last thing has echoes of Clement Attlee in 1945 – still our greatest Prime Minister.

Labour Briefing

The John McDonnell Column

The media are in a frenzy over the electoral rise of UKIP. But why are people surprised at all about the emergence and performance of UKIP?

JMcDIt falls to the left to help explain that the rise of UKIP is extremely predictable.

After weeks of canvassing you find that you need a simple doorstep response to those people who say they’re thinking of voting UKIP. We must put this explanation into readily understandable terms so people have a very straightforward narrative to support and repeat.

It goes like this.

In every period of recession opportunist politicians from the right have emerged to seize upon the hardships people face to exploit them for their own ends. They always have to find a scapegoat to distract people from the real causes of the recession.

In this recession it is UKIP. In the past it’s been Mosley’s fascists in…

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One Don Revie!! Why We Were RIGHT To Sing Through the Busby Silence – by Rob Atkinson

One Don Revie! There’s only ONE Don Revie!!

Twenty-five years to the day after we lost football’s greatest-ever manager, I’m irresistibly reminded of a tribute Leeds United fans paid to The Don of Elland Road, some time after his death.  It was a tribute paid in the face of compulsory mourning for Matt Busby, a manager rightly held in great esteem by the Establishment, and indeed by football as a whole – but this prescribed mourning was shoved at us as a fait accompli – like it or lump it.

We Leeds fans, deeply conscious of the fact that our own Don Revie’s death had been disrespectfully ignored by the FA, chose in our turn to ignore the official edict. So we paid our own tribute, singing the name of Don Revie instead of standing silent and resentful before an away game at Blackburn – and in so doing, we brought upon ourselves the self-righteous and sanctimonious disdain of many, many fools and hypocrites.

But the simple fact is that what we did at Blackburn that night in 1994 was absolutely right and proper.  It was not a calculated act of disrespect to a manager in Busby who had nothing to do with us.  Rather, it was a timely and positive tribute to our own legendary but marginalised manager, placed right in the face of official sanctimony, so that the whole world would know that it had been made – and why. Clearly, not everyone agrees with this point of view, many Leeds fans among those dissenters.  But here’s why they’re wrong to dissent.

The chanting of Revie’s name that night was admittedly pretty strong meat – it was a maverick stand to take at a time when the whole country seemed to have been brainwashed into accepting that one club’s heroes should be treated with a reverence denied to all others. Some misgivings I can understand – but I’m completely sick to death of hearing from those Leeds fans who profess still to be ashamed, all these years later, of the fact that we made the protest. The fact of the matter is, that this was the moment to stand up and be counted, collectively – and collectively, we’d not have been able to hold our heads up if some sort of gesture hadn’t been made at that game.

Look at the facts. The death of Busby was predictably and nauseatingly over-hyped by the scum-loving media. The FA-prescribed national minute’s silence was just the tip of the iceberg – there was also endless eulogising all over the TV and the sickeningly mawkish spectacle of the lone bloody piper at Old Trafford, beamed into all our front rooms whether we liked it or not.

On the other hand, the FA couldn’t even be bothered to send a representative to Don’s funeral, the hypocrites. So why the hell is there such a disparity, and more to the point, why the hell are we expected to just put up with it and go along with such blatant stinking hypocrisy and double standards? Are we supposed to have no pride? Well, I’m sorry, but sod ’em. Whatever anyone says – and I include the Leeds players of the time and those from Revie’s era who condemned what happened – the chanting of Revie’s name at Blackburn was a very necessary stand against the establishment view that Busby was a saint and Don was a sinner. It was a statement of our reverence for the Don, against a background of organised and compulsory national mourning for someone who was a hero only to Scum, City and possibly Liverpool fans. And it was an assertion of the fact that we are Leeds and nobody tells us when to show respect, especially when no bugger showed any respect for the Don in life or in death.

The players from any era who were wheeled onto camera to criticise the actions of the fans at Blackburn, have one thing in common. They haven’t got a bloody clue what it’s like to be a fan. They’re players, club employees, and they come and they go, even the best and most loyal of them. Strachan – not a clue. Eddie Gray – not a clue. Not one of them knows what it is to be a fan and continually to have the media’s favourite bloody club shoved down your throat, to the exclusion of everything and everyone you care about as a Leeds supporter.

I don’t give a toss for all the apologists who sit there bleating, oh it was a terrible thing, they dragged the name of our club through the mud. Well in case you haven’t noticed, the name of Leeds United is always being dragged through the mud, and not by us, but by the FA, by the buffoons of the Football League, by nonentities who work for or support other clubs, by the Daily bloody Mirror and other gutter rags, and by Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all. So sod ’em. We did the right thing at Blackburn, just as we did in the Galatasaray ground years later, turning our backs to the field of play. We showed pride for our club, respect for our dead, and a big fat V-sign to all those who are so overtly against us.

It’s all about pride and self-respect at the end of the day – well, I was proud of us in the Ali-Sami-Yen that night in 2000, and I was no less proud of us at Blackburn. I’ll always be glad we didn’t just meekly toe the line and do as the hypocrites in the establishment wanted us to do, as every other simple-minded donkey did. I’m glad and I’m proud that we were big and angry enough to be different and stand up for our point of view.

That’s what it means to be Leeds – we are United, and we are the best.  You know what you can do with the rest.

 

Taken From Us 25 Years Ago Today: Revie, The Don of Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

The Don - the Greatest

The Don – the Greatest

They say that great players don’t always make great managers, and Bobby Charlton is a stand-out example of that essential truth.  His brother Jack, by common consent not anything like the player Bobby was, but ten times the bloke, was by far the more successful manager.  Then again – he learned from the best.

And they will twist the argument around to show that average players can make great managers. We’re usually invited by a brainwashed and indoctrinated media to take Alex Ferguson as an example of this; my own choice would be Arsene Wenger, a deeply average player but a highly superior coach, tactician and innovator who made a significant dent in the Man U monopoly of the Premier League – despite the vast off-field advantages of the Salford club. Remember Wenger’s “Invincibles”?  There is also, of course, Jose Mourinho – and many others who pulled up no trees as players, but blossomed into legendary managers.

But there are a select few examples of truly great players who went on to be truly great managers – the likes of Busby and Dalglish, for instance – and I will argue passionately to my last breath that the best of the best was Donald George Revie, who died of Motor Neurone Disease 25 years ago today.

Don Revie was an innovative, thinking footballer, the pivot of the famous “Revie Plan” at Manchester City when he was the first to exploit deep-lying centre-forward play to great effect as City hit the heights in the mid to late fifties. He was instrumental in the Wembley defeat of Birmingham City in the FA Cup Final of 1956, and also helped restore English pride after two batterings by Hungary – the Magnificent Magyars having trounced England 6-3 at Wembley and 7-1 in Budapest. Revie’s adapted attacking role helped the National team annihilate Scotland 7-2 and his reputation was made as a selfless team player who was adept at making the ball do the work while team-mates found space as he dropped deep, baffling the defences of the time.

Revie was clearly a thinker, and developed very definite ideas about the game during his playing career, ideas he would later put into practice to devastating effect as a club manager. It is undeniable that, during his thirteen years in charge at Leeds, he elevated them from simply nowhere in the game to its very pinnacle, preaching togetherness and the team ethic above all else. Respected judges within the game have described the football played by Leeds at their peak as unmatched, before or since. In the eyes of many, that Leeds United team were the finest English side ever, a unit of grisly efficiency and teak-hardness yet capable of football which was outstandingly, breathtakingly beautiful, intricate in its conception and build-up, devastating in its effect.

Here is the scale of Revie’s achievement: in an era before the advent of lavish sponsorship and advanced commercial operations, he built a club from the ground upwards – a club with an apathetic support, which had hardly two ha’pennies to rub together, and whose prime asset was a group of raw but promising youngsters. The way that Revie nurtured those youngsters, moulding them into a team of supreme talent and majestic ability, is the stuff of legend. In some cases, he had to ward off the threats of homesickness: a young Billy Bremner was determined to go home to his native Scotland and Revie arranged for his girlfriend to move to Leeds, helping the lad settle down. Sometimes he had to adapt a player from one position to another – Terry Cooper was an indifferent winger who was made into a world-class overlapping full-back. Examples of his inspirational and man-management skills are many; he wrote the modern managerial manual from scratch.

Revie raised almost an entire squad from the junior ranks through to full international status, but he also had an unerring eye for a transfer market bargain. He took Bobby Collins from Everton, and saw the diminutive veteran midfielder produce the best form of his career. He lured a disaffected John Giles from Old Trafford where he was an under-rated performer. Giles swore that he would “haunt” Matt Busby, the manager who let him go, and Revie enabled this vow to be realised, converting Giles to a more central role after the end of Collins’ first team career. Giles and Bremner would form an almost telepathic central midfield partnership for Leeds, carrying all before them over the muddy battlefields of Division One. Revie later described his recruitment of Giles from Man U as “robbery with violence”.

As the sixties wore on, the Don would add Mick Jones and Allan Clarke to his formidable squad while it grew up together in a family atmosphere at Elland Road. Rarely if ever before or since can a manager have been so involved in his team’s welfare and well-being, no mere tracksuit manager this. There would be flowers and chocolates when a girlfriend or wife celebrated a birthday, a listening ear and helping hand whenever problems threatened to affect a player’s form. Revie was a father figure to his players for over a decade, forming a bond of mutual loyalty and respect that still sets the standard for enlightened management today.

Don Revie has been described in scornful terms by the ignorant, as a dossier-obsessed and over-superstitious manager by some people of insight and judgement, and as simply the best by his players who still survive from that amazing period of Leeds United’s dominance at home and abroad. He was perhaps too reliant on lucky suits and the lifting of gypsy curses, and other such supernatural preoccupations. He could maybe have let his team “off the leash” a little earlier than he did – when given full rein, they were next door to unstoppable. But it’s hard to hold the caution and superstition of the man against him; this was a time unlike today when livelihoods depended on a bounce of the ball, when results mattered in a bread and butter way. There were no cossetted millionaires then, no examples of young men who could pack it all in tomorrow and live in luxury for the rest of their lives. It all meant so much more in those days and the word “pressure” had real resonance.

The modern coaches have greats among their number, there’s no doubt about that. It would be invidious to single out names; after all, the media in a misguided fit of uncritical and commercially-motivated hero-worship have been busily engaged for most of the last three decades in dubbing “S’ralex” as the greatest ever. But the legend that is Don Revie can sit comfortably on his laurels, the man who – more than any other – took a sow’s ear of a football club and made of it a purse of the very finest silk which yet concealed a core of Yorkshire steel.

Donald George Revie (1927 – 1989) – Simply The Best.

Orient’s Dream Goes West as Rotherham Head for Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

Championship's newest stadium

The Championship’s newest stadium

What a cruel, almost barbaric way to have your season ended by shattering failure.  For, whichever way you dress it up, failure is what it most surely is, once you’ve come all this way, through 46 gruelling league games and two bitterly competitive play-off semi-finals – only to fall at the very last hurdle, thwarted by the lottery of a penalty shoot-out.  Commiserations then to Leyton Orient, who have seen their Holy Grail snatched pitilessly from their grasp.

Meanwhile, it’s a case of “To the victors, the spoils” – and, as the TV commentator instinctively identified, Rotherham will be happily anticipating their trip to Elland Road next season above all their other fixtures.  We should welcome them to the Championship too, even though it means that our burden of chip-on-the-shoulder smaller Yorkshire rivals has been cut by only one, instead of two – as had seemed likely when Barnsley and Donny took the big fall. It’s up to the “new” Leeds United to cope with such inconveniences, as the team of the past few seasons has signally failed to do; basically, if we can’t take points from the likes of Rotherham (and the Wendies, and the Udders) – then we won’t deserve to do well.

All that is for next season, however.  Meanwhile it’s appropriate to congratulate Rotherham United – and their likeable manager – on a great display at Wembley and, of course, one of THE great Wembley goals of all time.  The Millers’ old Millmoor has been consigned to history, and I for one won’t miss that away end or the perilous alley behind it.  Their new stadium looks a fantastic place and, doubtless, the away end there will be packed out when it’s time for the Leeds United travelling army to visit the New York.

Well done Rotherham – see you next season.  Unlucky, Orient – and the best of good fortune in getting it right next time around.

Rejoice! The Disgustingly Bigoted Daily Mail HATES Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Daily Heil - leaders of the gutter brigade

Daily Heil – leaders of the gutter brigade

Everybody knows that Leeds United aren’t exactly the toast of Fleet Street, or Wapping, or whatever geographical location you can choose these days as a symbol of the home and hearth of the English national press.  Actually, Fleet Street remains the single most appropriate spiritual location for the gutter end of our national newspaper industry – as the River Fleet was famously one of old London Town’s most noxious and disgusting open sewers.  Some things never really change.

Prominent among the Leeds-hating mainstream press is the scurrilous and disgusting Daily Mail – known as the “Daily Heil” by those of a discriminating nature who are all too well aware of this rag’s antecedents. The hacks at the Heil can always be relied upon to jump on the bandwagon of hating the Damned United in print and, these days, online too.  But it’s a fact that some publications are just so bloody awful that you wouldn’t actually want them printing a positive word about your beloved club.  It’d be a bit like getting a publicity break from Max Clifford.

The latest in a long line of articles with a distinct and rank anti-Leeds flavour appeared today under the byline of journalistic nonentity Patrick Collins, for whom you will search Wikipedia in vain – a damning indictment of the status and esteem of any “national” journalist.  This particular Patrick is not to be confused with Patrick Barclay, who is a distinguished and erudite sports writer. But the Lesser Patrick’s lazy piece, published by HeilOnline, was typical of the anti-Leeds genre – take a handy quote, put a conveniently negative spin on it, burble on a bit and then submit it, to an uncritical and tasteless editor.  Another day’s work done, another small addition to the Heil‘s record of shame.

One phrase ostensibly describing Don Revie’s Leeds United – and you can imagine the Lesser Patrick toiling over this until he thought he’d got it just right – went as follows: “Those of a certain age will recall a team of extravagant talent, irredeemably tainted by a taste for cynical brutality.”  Now there is rich irony here, albeit of the unconscious kind, something that will have sailed right over the empty head of your average Heil hack.  Because the fact is that, whenever such a wretched scribbler uses the words “irredeemably tainted”, readers everywhere will smile knowingly and think of the history of the Daily Heil. It’s not a story of which anybody but a moron such as Paul Dacre, or some of his allegedly noble and undeniably moronic predecessors, such as Lord Rothermere, could possibly be proud. The record of the Mail is littered with headlines which expose an editorial attitude that belongs in a Berlin bunker.  It is a history of abject shame and an utter poverty of proper journalistic and editorial standards.  If this is not true, then let them sue me.

Just to take the odd example from the past; in the 1930s, this “newspaper’s” proprietor, Lord Rothermere was vociferous in his support for various friends overseas, notably Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.  The Heil’s editorial stance towards these “heroes” of Fascism was therefore somewhat sympathetic, to say the very least. In January 1934, Rothermere himself penned an article headed “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” – and the paper provided details including an address to write to, in the earnest hope that “…young men may join the British Union of Fascists…” The Spectator commented at the time “…the Blackshirts, like the Daily Mail, appeal to people unaccustomed to thinking. The average Daily Mail reader is a potential Blackshirt ready made. When Lord Rothermere tells his clientèle to go and join the Fascists some of them pretty certainly will.”

More recently, the Heil has further immersed itself in disgrace and infamy with a series of headlines attacking minorities – usually conveniently vulnerable minorities – with absolutely no scruples as to whether or not their content contained any truth at all.  One example of this was the trumpeting of the alleged discovery of a “gay gene” which, the rag hoped, might lead to abortions of those pregnancies which could supposedly be identified as leading to the birth of what they would presumably refer to as “gay babies”.  The mind boggles painfully at that – but it’s pretty standard fare, sadly, for the Heil. Columnists in modern times have tended to include those who might be relied upon to continue the not-so-grand Heil tradition of bigotry and ignorance in print as well as online; the prejudiced, ridiculous and brainless Richard Littlejohn is an apt example of this policy.

For all of the reasons referred to above, I’m never all that bothered when another clueless and talent-free Daily Mail hack has a go at my beloved Leeds United. It’s an irritant, nothing more.  And the good bit is that it gives me the kind of excuse I’m always craving to have a go, in my small and humble way, at such a very despicable and diseased organ.

So keep it coming, you modern representatives of Rothermere’s shameful legacy. I’d hate to be identified in any positive way with such a very tawdry publication, fit as it is for nothing better than wiping rear ends; it follows that I’m almost always glad to see the football club I love attacked so regularly by the likes of the Heil.

After all, just as we are defined by the quality and decency of our friends and allies, so too can we be judged in the best possible light by the bigotry and stupidity of our critics and enemies. ‘Twas ever thus – and long may it continue to be true.

Simeone’s Tantrum Must Have Been Real-ly Sweet for Beckham – by Rob Atkinson

Mr. Angry "Cholo" Simeone

Mr. Angry “Cholo” Simeone

Atlético Madrid 1, Real Madrid 4 (aet) – Champions League Final 2014

David Beckham must have permitted himself the slightest of malicious smiles in the wake of his former club Real Madrid’s Champions League triumph over city rivals Atlético, who were coached by Beckham’s World Cup ’98 nemesis Diego Simeone. Those of a certain age will readily remember how the wily Argentinian fouled Beckham, who petulantly kicked out at his antagonist instead of getting up and getting on with it.

Beckham was foolish, but Simeone had exploited the situation to his best advantage, admitting later that he feigned injury from the kick in order to get the England player sent off.  That’s exactly what happened, and the gallant ten men of England ended up going out on penalties in a familiar hard luck story. The unfortunate if misguided Beckham was vilified at home for his immature reaction to Simeone’s deliberate provocation, something he took years to live down.  Surely he must have harboured some resentment ever since?

If he has, then that resentment might just have had the edge taken off it at the end of the Champions League Final in Lisbon at the weekend.  Leading 1-0 deep into stoppage time, Simeone’s Atlético team were cruelly pegged back by an equaliser in the 93rd minute.  In extra time, Real’s class told as they ran out 4-1 winners – all of which proved a touch too much for the temperamental Simeone, who completely lost it on the touchline and appeared to be trying to get at the referee or others on the pitch who had offended his sensibilities.

For Beckham, it must have felt like the ultimate pay-off.  He’d had quite a bit of his own back for the disaster of ’98 by scoring a penalty against Argentina to defeat them 1-0 in the group stages of the 2002 World Cup, which would prove to be Simeone’s last appearance on that exalted stage. But to see one of his former clubs in Real inflict such a hammer-blow on his old enemy must have been a moment of great satisfaction – human nature being what it is.

Simeone, who has had great success this season as his team won la Liga, consigning Real to the ignominy of third spot, felt this reverse as a bitter blow to which he clearly reacted bitterly.  It’s almost certain that he will face UEFA sanctions for his unseemly display as Atlético’s defeat was confirmed – and the way in which the baser end of his nature was revealed will long be remembered by those who were queuing up to praise him in advance of the Lisbon final.

It had even been suggested in that run-up to the game that a film should be made of the rise of the Madrid underdogs, with Burt Lancaster playing the part of coach “Cholo” Simeone.  Quite apart from the fact that Lancaster would find this a difficult role to play, on account of having been dead these past 20 years, it may now be felt that he wasn’t in any case an appropriate actor to portray Cholo’s complex mixture of passion, slyness and thuggery.

Vinnie & Eric

United old boys Vinnie & Eric

As to who possibly could play this demanding role – a cross between former Leeds United stars turned film actors Vinnie Jones and Eric Cantona might just be ideal, if impossible to find outside of this blog’s imagination.  It’s just a thought, after all – but apart from the errant Argie portraying himself, I just can’t think of a better candidate.

Derby Back at Elland Road Next Season After QPR Sucker Punch – by Rob Atkinson

Derby 0, QPR 1    HA!!!

Derby 0, QPR 1 HA!!!

When it happened, it was as unexpected as it was funny.  Unexpected, because Derby had utterly dominated the play-off final at Wembley – even before QPR had Gary O’Neil sent off for a professional foul.  And funny, because – well, because it was Derby, one of those daft little Midlands teams that gets all excited and wets itself every time it has a result against our beloved Whites.  Derby had been on a long run of success against Leeds, and their fans grew cockier and more annoying with each one.  Now, they were sat in their devastated rows at Wembley as Bobby Zamora pounced in the last minute to snatch their dream away.  Some were open-mouthed with horror, some were angry, some were crying.  One kid was actually having a tantrum directly into his mother’s bosom.  It was richly comic and I enjoyed it very much.

So much for Derby – we’ll see them again next season when we’ll have two more chances to break a barren spell that’s gone on far too long against what used to be the ultimate rabbit team for Leeds United.  For QPR, today’s somewhat fortunate result might just have saved their profligate skins, as dire fiscal consequences were threatened over their breaching of FFP limits.  Even in the Premier League with all those Murdoch millions being flung in their direction, it may well be that the suits will be after them – with a view to clipping their financial wings to such an extent as to see them return quickly whence they came.  We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

For Leeds United though, this play-off result means more than mere malicious amusement.  It signifies that next season’s League line-up is almost complete; only one Championship spot remains to be filled.  We’ve now said goodbye to Leicester, Burnley, QPR, Barnsley (arf), Doncaster (arf) and Yeovil.  We will be hosting Cardiff (snigger), Norwich (snigger), Fulham, Wolves, Brentford and one of either Rotherham or Leyton Orient. Personally, I hope it’s Rotherham to complete the picture – for all I’ve had to say about smaller Yorkshire teams and their Cup Final chips on the shoulder.  Having said good riddance to two such daft little clubs, it’d be churlish not to welcome one, just to redress the balance a little.

Some may feel that parts of this article are unfeeling and a little callous – taking pleasure in the discomfiture of others.  And they’d be right – but I will temper the effect a little by saying I hold no ill-will against any professionals who tried, failed and are now suffering at Wembley Stadium, or on their miserable way home.  I respect their efforts – and I felt for Keogh of Derby who was unlucky enough to have made the error that led to Zamora’s excellently-taken goal.  Still – that’s football, but it’s not for a fan to glory in the pain of professionals (unless they play for or manage Man U).

My satisfaction is in the woe of rival fans who have, in their turn, taken immense satisfaction from the suffering of Leeds fans in our various crises. It’s the nature of football support, tit for tat.  I make no apology for delighting in the sorrow of fans of Derby, Norwich, Doncaster, Cardiff – or any other clubs’ fans where they have had the cause and opportunity to crow at the troubles of my beloved Leeds United.  As I’ve said before, it’s OK to hate rival fans. Positively healthy, in fact. You reap what you sow and – tragic though it all might appear to the more soft-hearted among us – tough.

Roll on next season then, when it all starts all over again – and this time next year we’ll either be celebrating or gritting our teeth – and doubtless we’ll be laughing at the fate of a few old rivals.  It’s such a great game, football.

Little Hammer FOUND!! But Where WAS HammersFan aka HF?? – by Rob Atkinson

The Bitch is back...

The Bitch is back…

Some of us in the blogging world have been concerned for the safety of this HF lad, despite the fact that he was always an irritating and yet consistent pain in the arse for fans of the clubs he obsessed over.  Leeds United (of course) was the jewel in his blogging crown; not content with his alleged West Ham blog “The Game’s Gone Crazy”, he operated a supplementary effort called – wait for it – “The Game’s Gone Crazier”, where he made weak jokes at the expense of football clubs that he, as a Hammers fan, felt threatened or diminished by.

But there’d been no word from him since February.  Not a peep.  Had he got a job, or a girlfriend – or was it something more sinister than that? What had happened to him?  Had he simply grown up?

But now he’s back, and as drearily predictable as ever.  Still – I’m glad no misfortune had overtaken him.  You’d have thought that, as with banging your head against a brick wall, it’d be nice when it stops. But that long, echoing silence was perturbing.  There was this sneaking worry that, against all parental advice, he’d gone along with a dodgy geezer from Plaistow to see some puppies, and had had his innocence cruelly snatched from him.

He’s actually a bit vague as to where he’s really been all this time; there’s just a couple of weak and unconvincing excuses relating to his alleged first love West ‘Am and also to his undoubted obsession Leeds United (inevitably the subject of his comeback piece).  So: does anybody have any idea what really happened? Was it something to do with juvenile court, or has he been busy knocking doors for the UKIP Youth?  Had he, perhaps, been abducted by illegal aliens and incarcerated somewhere near the New Den?  Or had he just been cheeky to a teacher or a constable – and had his dongle taken off him for the duration?

I’ll be going back to ignoring his drivel now I know he’s still alive and dicking. But curiosity compels me to try and clear up this mystery of what caused his long silence.  Can any ‘Appy ‘Ammer shed some light?

Cellino Needs to Understand the Meaning of “We Are Leeds” – by Rob Atkinson

We Are Leeds

We Are Leeds

Massimo Cellino continues to divide opinion among fans of Leeds United as he goes about assessing the nature and extent of the undoubted mess behind the scenes at Elland Road.  He appears to be a decisive sort of bloke, to say the least.  Draconian, even – just how severe and ruthless he can be we will probably see in the not too distant future.

Right now, his work has hardly begun.  But, early days though these are, it’s proper and relevant to wonder about Cellino’s long-term aims.  Part of this longer-term view has to involve the question of whether or not the King of Corn knows exactly what he’s bought into.  What would constitute success for Leeds United?  After all, the club has been out of the spotlight for well over a decade.  Surely, expectations are on a whole different level from the days when the club was at the forefront of the game?

One school of thought is that for any owner to buy into a limited view of the potential of Leeds would be a big mistake.  After all, Cellino hasn’t acquired a Leicester City here, nor even a Newcastle United a West Ham or a Sheffield Wednesday. These are all clubs whose fans will happily accept membership of the Premier League, albeit two-thirds of the way or so down the modern pecking-order.  At Elland Road, the club anthem is “Marching On Together” – but a shorter, more tribally-assertive chant is heard with even greater regularity. “We Are Leeds”, it states – quite simply and without qualification.  In those three short words, the fans sum up the identity of a club that knows it’s out on a limb – and of those fans themselves, who expect such a massively loaded chant to be taken as confirmation, were any needed, that this is not just any club.

On the last two occasions that Leeds United has motored into the top flight, it has had a brief look around, settled in – and then taken over at the top.  It actually took longer for Revie’s troops to do this than it did for Wilko’s Warriors – but the Revie dynasty compensated by lasting longer.  In both cases though, there was a distinct lack of respect and trepidation as the Whites moved on up. There was no suggestion of timid apprehension. They came, they saw and, in due course, they conquered.

The top flight is, it almost goes without saying, a very different place these days – and not necessarily in a good way.  But the tradition of supporter expectation goes back a lot further at Leeds than it does at most other clubs. Some ostensibly big clubs have given up on the idea of ever being champions, and one allegedly massive outfit in the north-east has even acknowledged that winning trophies appears nowhere near the top of its agenda.  For that one-time giant, the balance sheet and the income that goes along with Premier League status is first, last and everything.  But what sort of message does that send out to the fans?  And could you see such a state of affairs being accepted at Leeds?

Whatever the contrast between the top-level environment now, as opposed to when Leeds United last breathed that rarefied air, the assumptions of the support upon attaining that level will be that the club will then set about finding the best and most effective way to the top.  It’s in the DNA of Leeds United fans to want to compete at the summit of things – and a dim view would be taken of any lowering of standards, any reduction of objectives. That begs the question of what is possible – and what kind of player will we be looking to attract?

At the top end of the Premier League, there now seems to be an acceptance that the player is King – and that those demanding egos will settle for nothing less than ever-increasing pampering and worship from clubs and fans alike. The ridiculous Yaya Touré “birthday” story is ample confirmation of that. Is that the kind of thing that Leeds United fans really want to see happening in the name of their club?  So the supplementary question to the main one of “What do we expect once promotion is achieved?” might well be: “Hang on – do we really want promotion at all??” Of course we bloody do!! – I hear you say, indignantly. And yet it would seem quite possible that, once promoted, our legacy of extravagant expectations could well be at odds with our characteristic, cynical suspicion of the kind of “flash” behaviour exhibited by Mr Touré – as well as by sundry other pampered, overpaid, out-of-touch egomaniacs in the self-proclaimed “Best League in the World”.

As you might have gathered, this blog finds itself in somewhat of a dilemma. The question of whether Cellino is sufficiently aware of the historical expectation levels associated with this club is one that has troubled me for a while.  It is quite possible that he might be looking at turning us into Premier League survivors-and-little-more, such as Newcastle.  That would be bad enough, at least on the face of it.  But what if he did then want to go the extra mile and get us up there into that top four?  It’s an almost impossible dream anyway; the competition would be hot and ludicrously expensive. But if we did make it – how would we, as fans, relate to the kind of players and egos that would inevitably then populate our first team squad?  Would we feel any connection with them at all?  Or would we long for the days of Jermaine Beckford (for the younger ones) or Gordon Strachan, or Billy Bremner (for the lucky and really lucky ones)?

Football is a competitive sport and, over time, you have to be aspirational; you have to be aiming higher.  In the case of Leeds United – whether Massimo Cellino is aware of this or not – you have to be aiming for the very top.  But now there is that baffling conundrum: in aiming for and reaching that summit -would we be mortgaging the very soul of the club?    Look at Manchester City – how on earth can the City fans, many of whom were visiting third tier outposts of the game not so long back, possibly relate to the fact that their best midfielder appears to have the mental processes of a four-year old?

Where Leeds United are right now – stuck in the league below the top one and about to embark, we must hope, on a rebuilding of the club – is a good place and the right time to be considering what we actually want for our club in the longer term.  It’s the right time and place, because what we demand now, in this comparatively normal and down-to-earth league, might just have an effect on where we end up in the next few years, depending upon the readiness of Cellino to listen.  And what this comes down to is that old saw “Be careful what you wish for – you might get it”.

Does Cellino really know what “We Are Leeds” means, and the pride and ambition behind that raucously-assertive statement?  If he does – is he game for trying to get the club eventually back up to that old, accustomed place near the top of the game?  And if he actually manages that – in these new days of footballers with world-class talent, massive egos and wage packets, but tiny brains – would we end up thanking him for it?  Or might we instead damn him?

Just what do we want?  I feel that the answer might eventually lie in a radical restructuring of the game in this country, possibly on the German model of fan-owned clubs and a more affordable product for all – and almost certainly a FIFA-ratified wage cap that escapes the beady eye of the European pay commissars. That could take years and would certainly meet with stiff opposition from the current interested parties.  But that sounds to me much more like the kind of environment I’d like to see Leeds United promoted into. The current set-up invites along those ambitious enough to want merely to be cannon-fodder for the “big” clubs – the likes of Southampton and Leicester. Try as I might – I can’t see Leeds United, the club or the fans, wanting to settle for that as a way of life.

It’s a conundrum alright – ambition versus dissatisfaction with what we’re shooting for. I’d love to know what Massimo thinks, and what his understanding really is of the Leeds United mentality.  And I’d love to know what you think – so your views are, as ever, most appreciated.