Doncaster and Barnsley Chop Means Four Fewer Cup Finals for Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Donny down

Donny down

As Leeds United’s season came to a brighter than expected end, with a battling draw against play-off hopefuls Derby, events lower down the table in the tawdry scrap of the relegation dogfight may well have already had an effect on the Whites’ prospects for next time around.

Leeds did undeniably well in what was a dead rubber against Derby.  After going behind early and suffering a couple of further scares, United pressed their higher-placed opponents hard for the bulk of the remaining time in the game and the season; they had a couple of penalty claims turned down, Ross McCormack was slightly unfortunate to see a vicious free-kick punched out by County keeper Grant – and Michael Brown put in an all-action, give-me-another-year’s-contract performance that included a Cruyff turn which had you thinking suspiciously about the origins of those mushrooms you had for breakfast.

The equaliser, when it came after 50 minutes, was another high point in the productive season of Matt Smith, one of the few real bright spots of a blighted campaign.  Leeds could well have won the game, but the level of performance was encouraging in itself.  It is likely, though, to be a case of “too little, too late” for many of the squad, as plans will already be afoot for a hiring and firing summer as Cellino’s Italian Job gets under way.

Next season, when it comes, will see a marked reduction in one of those irritating factors which have impeded Leeds United’s progress far too often and for far too long.  I refer of course to “Cup Final Syndrome”, whereby a number of smaller clubs try their little hearts out when facing the Whites – and often end up thrashing us.  It’s a phenomenon particularly noticeable in local derbies yet, thanks to the ineptitude of our fellow Yorkshire clubs, not only have we ended up as top dogs in the county yet again, but we have also contrived to see the back of two of those annoying and inconvenient pests in the shape of Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers.

Barnsley bit the dust last week with a 1-3 defeat at Middlesbrough – helped along the way, I like to think, by the rare dropped points (five of them) in their games against Leeds, points they would normally have nicked in previous seasons.  So, we did our bit to see off the Tykes and, even though Donny won at Elland Road recently, our 3-0 win at their council ice-rink early in the season has helped to dispatch them.  Which is nice.

Doncaster’s relegation was, if anything, a lot funnier than even Barnsley’s, coming as it did right at the death of the season when they were on the very brink of being safe.  They were happily settling for a narrow defeat at Champions Leicester in the secure knowledge that Birmingham were two down at Bolton and surely doomed.

But then Lady Luck did one of those graceful pirouettes for which she is rightly notorious, and Brum battled back – scoring through Zigic and then laying siege to the Wanderers goal.  Three minutes into stoppage time, and they pulled that last rabbit out of the hat to equalise and achieve an unlikely late escape, simultaneously sealing Donny’s fate – much to the horror of the Rovers fans and much to the amusement of anyone in Leeds colours who harbours unpleasant memories of Wembley, that day when the concourse was lop-sided with United fans, but when the minnows perversely triumphed.

There are a few reasons for hoping that next season will be better for Leeds – prominent among them of course being our understanding that we are no longer operating on Skid Row, having moved across town to Easy Street. Whether that works out, and to what extent we might now be competing at the plusher end of the transfer market, remains to be seen.  But the lessening of the intensity of competition in local derby terms can do nothing but good, as Leeds have generally speaking made really hard work of these matches, to the detriment of the overall league picture.

Even though we have ended up on top of the Yorkshire standings, our results against Huddersfield and the Wendies have left much to be desired this season as in many before.  At least there will be a little less of this unseemly parochial skirmishing next season – even given that we will have Cardiff City to add to the unsavoury attractions of Millwall.

And so, another season ends, bleak and disappointing from a Leeds United perspective, but with distinct compensations elsewhere in the form of the enjoyable suffering of others.  As I write, Man U have just slipped to their umpteenth home defeat this season – even under the peerless guidance of Sir Ryan Giggs – and Cardiff’s brief flirtation with the top flight is over. There may well be a bonus in the form of relegation for Norwich Bleedin’ City later this weekend.

Wolves and Fulham will be with us next season – always attractive fixtures – and the games against Cardiff and Norwich should be spicy, too.  We must hope that the Leeds squad can be reshaped and re-motivated, to such a pitch that we will be truly competitive next time around.  Allowing for all the distractions and side issues, we weren’t that far short this time – but it all went wrong when events off the field took over.  Next season should be slightly more peaceful – or is that hopelessly naive?  And, if all else fails – well, we might still have Old Man Browneh, weaving his elderly magic and pulling off Cruyff turns aplenty to bedazzle the opposition.

It certainly is a funny old game.

38 responses to “Doncaster and Barnsley Chop Means Four Fewer Cup Finals for Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

  1. delightful piece again Rob,sums up the day and season simply and eloquently.


  2. That’s better Rob – you’ve spent the season annoying me and entertaining me in equal measure. But one thing is for sure – I will keep reading the blog. Your season sum up is bang on, we have plenty to look forward to. Keep writing


  3. RoystonLUFC

    Sorry Rob, this is nothing nothing to do with your article but I would like to extend my heart-felt gratitude to Sunderland,who today simultaneously put Norwich into the drop zone AND made certain the scum will not be playing in Europe next year.


  4. Agree with the existing comments. Always an entertaining read.
    Just lay off the scum a tad. As an anonymous mid-table Prem side, they are really just not worth it.


  5. ugandanleedsman

    That was effing hilarious! Will the heavens grant us Norwich city next season, please please, pretty please, GOD!!!


  6. David Smith

    Rob – thanks for the great blogs this season, which have arguably kept me sane in what has been a horrific season footballwise. Whilst no doubt you will be wanting to add a few more chapters to the book now that the season is over, personally I hope that you are kept busy commenting on all our transfer activity over the next couple of months – the book can wait !!


  7. RoystonLUFC

    One thing worries me though, Rob: BM is now talking-up his stature and trying to present his “achievements” in a positive light. Thus he says: “Since things have settled down our record equates to 92 points over a season” This is true – but only if we play relegation-fodder for a whole season! So while we were hopelessly out-played against The Trees, we managed a couple of derisory wins against the league’s whipping boys.

    I just think we need to keep this context in mind because I’m sure he’ll be quoting this factoid until he’s successfully booked his next season’s easy money.


    • I totally take that point, and I’ve noted a tendency towards glibness and recycled soundbite a before. My main hope lies in the assertion: Cellino is nobody’s fool.


    • Them recent matches were all against shite opposition, excepting Derby who are a good side. And one of them (forest) whooped us.


    • that said, I credit mcd with one thing, smith has been a hell of a signing, 13 goals after stepping up a league, with shite service and as a young lad, is some going. Get a decent winger to bang some quality ball into him and he will be battling Ross for highest scorer


  8. Still another 46 cup finals to go though I reckon irrrespective of which tin pot Yorkshire clubs are included in it..hard work being Goliath all the time could really do with a change to be honest.

    Have a great summer, Rob and will continue reading your blog throughout and the next season.



  9. I have absolutely no sympathy for Barnsley or Doncaster getting relegated, due to practically every fan of every Football League team dancing on Leeds grave and laughing, when we were relegated into League 1 and docked the 15 points.
    The highlight of the century for Doncaster, was when they narrowly beat Leeds in the Play-Off Final and their fans and Chairman gloated about it, rather than being professional in winning.
    Barnsley fans have also given out the constant obscene criticism about Leeds problems over the past few years, but they certainly can’t take the true criticism from you Rob, on this regular forum about the rival Yorkshire teams always raising their game, in their twice a season Cup Finals against Leeds.
    Despite such a terrible season for Leeds, have our other mouthy Yorkshire rivals down the M1 and along the A62, both noticed that Leeds have once again finished the season higher in the Championship than them both?


  10. Julian Hirst

    Well. I salute you for the tremendous effort in becoming the top Yorkshire club…!!!
    Truly you are the best, (this Season) this county has to offer at the moment.
    Barnsley went down.. Deservedly.
    Congratulations though on actually winning points this season from us…
    They contributed to your finishing in …?
    “Oh… 15th” Quite a success eh?
    Successful season Rob…….???
    You will say a season of turmoil…. With all the ownership issues, and the Prostitution of your club to convicted criminals…..
    We went down…… With an owner who will not put the financial footing and existence of our club at risk…… He didn’t take chances… The supporters will go to League 1 grounds next season.. But we won’t be sweating on wether we actually have a sound enough financial footing to keep the club afloat…..
    Our chairman has kept his promise… He kept us afloat…
    He won’t sell to the untrustworthy, or for a celebratory “Pound” whilst ripping off local traders and suppliers….
    We swapped a manager….. We didn’t sack one, and then re-instate him……
    Make the club a laughing stock by not knowing who is actually the owner, or has the power to hire and fire!!!!!!

    I would rather go down 3 leagues than wonder in who’s slimy hands the clubs fate is in this year……

    Like you have to


  11. Greetings from Prague rob ,, went to an Irish bar yesterday and it was funny watching the football , giggs out lol ,,
    Looking forward to the summer and hopefully cellino will bring in some quality… Mot


  12. I think we all needed the magic mushrooms at times to watch some of the dross we’ve been served up this season . 92 points guaranteed already for next season ? What a complete dipstick we have for a manager . He did have me fooled at first but playing the two unfit new signings at Hillsborough was when I lost faith . When you have to take the piss out of your own team – how bad is that ! I can’t ever remember leeds fans taking the piss like they have had to do this season . Delighted its over . Horrible .


    • All we can do now is hope and try to keep the faith. But with our new alleged billionaire talking about keeping wages levels down, it ain’t easy. Pay peanuts, get monkeys.


  13. Probably the conference is the right level for clubs like Doncaster.


  14. Ian Finlay

    Remember today. Remember the feeling of relief that it’d all soon be over for a few months. Remember Spotland, remember Hillsborough, remember Dean Court, remember Vicarage Road, remember conceding nine goals at Elland Road in the space of four days.

    Remember having to second guess the team sheet for every game since the turn of the year because you couldn’t come up with enough names worthy of the starting XI, then remember having seen it, still not being able to fathom out how the hell we were going to line up anyway. Remember the day we played with wing backs AND wingers. Remember looking at the bench, only to have Danny Pugh and Scott Wootton look back at you and make you feel like we’ve hit rock bottom. Remember seeing Danny Pugh and Scott Wootton starting the next game and realising we hadn’t.

    Remember being outraged by the sacking of McDermott and then wondering how he was still in a job when the new regime finally had the authority to do so. Remember bulls**t spewing PR campaigns, remember false idols, remember David Haigh basking in a sea of social media sycophancy, promising the world but delivering nothing. Remember Leeds fans being reduced to bleating that the Football League was corrupt while they begged a man with a track record of corruption to take over the club.

    Remember Macron decreeing that we should play in cream on the road and dressed as cigarette packets at home. Remember the growing feelings of reluctance and fear that accompanied match days. Remember checking your watch when Leeds are trailing 2-0 and not so much being gutted that there was so little time left, but distraught that there was so much. Remember the football being reduced to a sideshow and the pub being the main event, rather than vice-versa.

    Remember Leeds still being the most talked about, highest profile club outside the Premier League, but then remember it was only on the grounds of being a laughing stock. Remember back to last season, and the one before, and remember it’s all just been one long reoccurring circus. Remember the players long departed, the irreplaceable, never replaced and remember the injections of top flight quality designed to inject new momentum – remember Kebe, remember Stewart, remember Connor Wickham…on the wing.

    But then also remember that even this season, a third of the Championship’s teams are somehow still worse than ours. Remember that the size and stature of Leeds United is permanent, only our status is transient, and that in the long run the former more often than not dictates the latter.

    Remember everything that we’ve gone through, remember that our last decade has been more traumatic than that suffered by supporters at any other major club, remember the takeovers, the relegations, administration, the points deductions, the play-offs, and remember that despite it all we’ve kept coming back for more.

    Remember that those continued hard knocks have built up such a degree of immunity to pain that from this point forward, nothing can hurt us more than what’s already preceded it, that as a club we can fall no further, at worst our fortunes can only plateaux, but at best they can rocket, and when they do, remember those who’ve savoured our demise and in turn, savour their retreat from the streets of Huddersfield, Hull, Barnsley and Sheffield and back into their shells as they morosely ponder how something that’d been broken for so long could once again, function so gloriously.

    Remember that the taste of success is sweetest for those who’ve known real hardship, so we can cherish our future achievements in a way that those loyal to Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and the like could never really hope to do so.

    And remember to always believe this will happen, because without that belief we would have nothing left and no reason to stay around…well, at least until the world stops going ‘round.
    Just read this ,somes every thing up mot


  15. Crikey Ian, that was fantastic. I will always be a proud Leeds fan, but that just reinforced it for me.
    Thanks for the blogs during the season, Rob. I hope to see some of your musings during the cricket season in your part of the world.
    In the meantime, I will press the “PayPal Donate” button up top there, and I know it’s not much but i hope all your faithful readers can stump up a little cash to keep you in Yorkshire gold and hobnobs until the fixtures come out.


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