Monthly Archives: December 2014

Happy New Year to All Leeds Fans; the Best Fans in the World – by Rob Atkinson

Spontaneous reaction from an awestruck Derby fan

Spontaneous reaction from an awestruck Derby fan

Amid the doom and gloom of 2014, let’s all remember that we still have one massive asset – the incredible support that Leeds United is struggling vainly to deserve. The support is the lifeblood of any club, and we have simply the best around. This is not just the biased ravings of a Leeds lunatic with white-tinted spectacles on. It’s the view of other fans too, even some of those who hate us the most. The picture accompanying this paragraph is of an awestruck reaction from a Derby County fan after last night’s debacle (I don’t endorse ALL the text of this, by the way). And below, I reproduce without embellishment the views of a Cardiff fan who attended a United away game at Blackburn, which make for edifying reading, to say the very least. It’s quite long, not totally approving of ALL the antics of United’s travelling army – and many of you will have seen it before anyway. But it’s useful to remind ourselves of the high esteem in which this club’s support is held in certain parts of what might be deemed enemy territory:

I used to hate Leeds United.

I’d gleefully join in with ‘We all hate Leeds scum’ chants and sing about how they weren’t famous anymore. If there was no derby game that season it would be the first fixture I looked for and would anticipate it like a cup game.

Then I grew up a bit. I went to Leeds University for three years and saw how passionate the city is about their local team. In most cities without a team in the top flight you are just as likely to see people in Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea shirts than whoever the local team may be, but it couldn’t be further from the truth in Leeds. If you’re from Leeds, you support Leeds United – end of story. I can’t imagine what the punishment is for someone from Leeds supporting Manchester United, but I imagine it involves some kind of public stoning before being beheaded by Lucas Radebe.

As I developed a more reasoned outlook on football I began to wonder why just so many teams hate Leeds United with such a passion. Their location means they have a higher number of geographical rivals than most, but this doesn’t explain why football grounds around the UK reverberate to the tune of ‘We all hate Leeds scum’ from supporters of clubs that Leeds couldn’t care less about. From what I understand from my experience of Leeds fans (and feel free to correct me in the comments if I’m wrong), they hate Manchester United, Galatasaray and Chelsea, dislike Sheffield Wednesday and couldn’t really care less about anybody else. So why do they anger the footballing public so much?

The answer for the older generation is presumably the fact they used to be good. Really good. During the 60’s and 70’s they won several domestic trophies and deserved to win the European Cup, denied only by some ‘interesting’ referee decisions in favour of Bayern Munich. However, the last time Leeds won a trophy was 1992 and they were relegated from the Premier League in 2004, even dropping as low as the third tier for a short time. So if jealousy isn’t the reason for the widespread Leeds hatred, what is? I joined 7000 or so Leeds fans at Blackburn Rovers to see if they deserved the title of ‘Dirty Leeds’.

As soon as I arrived in Blackburn you could tell that this was more than an away day, this was more like an invasion. The streets of Blackburn were absolutely filled with Leeds fans, with a large section of them heading to the Postal Order pub. This was the place to be for the next hour, as the visitors from Yorkshire produced a fantastic atmosphere inside the local Wetherspoons, better than most teams can create inside a stadium. The only people inside the pub not having a great time were the overworked bar staff and the couple who had chosen spectacularly poorly when picking a venue for their first date. Safe to say they didn’t stay very long, and date number two doesn’t seem particularly likely.

Two large tables turned into a stage, with the Leeds fans taking it in turns to play the part of conductor. “On the table for the lads” would be chanted at the individual of choice, who would then climb up onto the table and start a song, or be booed mercilessly if they refused. One particular visitor whose size would probably most politely be described as ‘Extra Extra Large’ was encouraged onto the table a number of times, refusing each time until he was bought two pints. After downing them both in one go, he took a run up, sped towards the table with determination, leapt through the air like a salmon and…made it about six inches off the ground, crashing into the table and falling on the floor. They didn’t ask him again after that.

While the away support did have plenty of humour, there was also a touching side to a number of their chants, paying tribute to Richard Ismail, known as ‘Moody’ to Leeds fans. Moody was a lifelong Leeds fan who recently passed away after spending over a year in hospital following an assault in Sheffield. “We’re all Moody aren’t we” was chanted throughout the afternoon, with the same phrase written on a flag displayed proudly at Ewood Park.

As the visitors got drunker and drunker, the chanting got wilder and wilder. Starting at “Number one is Michael Brown”, they made it all the way to “and 100, is Michael Brown” before insisting that they all dreamed of a team of Michael Browns. I’ve seen him play, and one Michael Brown is bad enough, never mind an army of them. It was at this point that things got a little out of hand, as the Leeds fans chanted “Let’s pretend we scored a goal”, counted down from ten and then went absolutely mental. Beer flew through the air, tables were overturned and pint glasses were smashed. The pub decided that it was probably time to close and the bell for time at the bar was rung at about 1:45pm. As fans filed out towards the ground or a different bar, it looked like a bomb had gone off. In fairness, many Leeds fans apologised for the damage and helped to turn the tables back over before they left.

Normally in my reports I would spend a great deal of time writing about the game itself, but honestly, it was just awful. Not so long ago Leeds and Blackburn had wonderful sides which would have made this fixture a joy to watch, but these days have gone due to the curse of the modern-day football club owner. The Venky’s have run Blackburn into the ground, while a combination of Peter Ridsdale and Ken Bates have done their best to kill off Leeds United.

Leeds had one chance of note, a beautiful flick from Ross McCormack setting up Danny Pugh who looked certain to score – only denied by a wonderful save by Blackburn’s Kean (not that one). Blackburn had a few more opportunities, forcing Paddy Kenny into making some good saves, but in all honesty it was a game worthy of being 0 – 0, and that would have been generous. The winner came just before half time, Tommy Spurr sweeping the ball into the net from a corner after some lacklustre defending.

The real story of the day was the Leeds fans. More than a third of those in attendance were from the away side, and they were also responsible for 95% of the noise. A small pocket of Blackburn fans to the right of the away end did their best to create an atmosphere, but attempting to take on 7000 Leeds supporters in an atmosphere contest is like attempting to storm a US military base with a plastic spoon, you’re not going to get anywhere. There were effectively four away ends, with the Yorkshire side bringing so many fans that they had taken up the entire stand, usually segregated to contain both home and away fans.

They sung and supported the team for 90 minutes, and didn’t do anything worthy of the ‘Dirty Leeds’ label as far as I could see. I was starting to realise that the reason so many people hate Leeds is because they aren’t Leeds. Leeds United are a reminder of how good English football used to be and the atmosphere which made the country the envy of Europe. These days are long gone, surpassed by Germany, Poland, the Balkans and many more, but the passion of Leeds United remains. When you watch a Leeds game, you don’t feel as though you are in the stale and sanitised world of English football. It almost feels as though a Leeds United away end belongs in a museum, a reminder to fans within England that watching football is something to be enjoyed, rather than endured.

Now, these Leeds fan are by no means perfect, the destruction of the pub was uncalled for and some of the chants about Sheffield Wednesday manager Dave Jones were tasteless at best, but arguably no worse than the kind of thing you’d hear at countless other grounds around the country on a Saturday afternoon.

I think far too many people fall into the trap of hating Leeds because that is what they are told they should do. Leeds fans have continued to show fantastic loyalty to their club, despite the fact they have suffered an even more spectacular fall from grace than Miley Cyrus. I have no doubts that the Leeds team of the past was well worthy of hatred, and in the old days of hooliganism being rife across England the damage done by their fans to various cities and towns is well-known. However these days are long gone, and hating Leeds United is now a fashion statement for most, rather than anything tangible.

One incident long after the game had finished demonstrated the commendable attitude that Leeds fans have to supporting their team, despite the fact that they are, more often than not, terrible at the actual football side of things. I was amongst 300 or so Leeds fans waiting at Mill Hill station, waiting for a connection back to Blackburn Central to head home. First of all a train arrived on the opposite side of the station, heading towards Preston. Several of the more drunk Leeds fans got on this service anyway, despite the fact it was heading in completely the wrong direction. Those who remained on the platform began doing the conga up and down the outside of the train, singing “do do do, you’re getting on the wrong train!” This was followed by a reworking of their earlier chant, as they bellowed “Let’s pretend our trains arrived”, counting down from ten and leaping around the platform like they’d just won the European Cup.

The author then challenges his Cardiff-supporting fellow fans to state why they hate Leeds, if not for the spurious reasons he’s cited in his piece. Again, I don’t agree with every last syllable – but to me, it’s remarkable how a fan of another team so completely “gets” what supporting Leeds United is all about. Take that quote from midway through: “I was starting to realise that the reason so many people hate Leeds is because they aren’t Leeds. Leeds United are a reminder of how good English football used to be and the atmosphere which made the country the envy of Europe.” Doesn’t that sum up perfectly the Leeds effect on the game as a whole? Could it be better put? I couldn’t do it.

These two snippets of enemy intelligence are, if you think about it, independent verification of what we all know to be true, deep down. We are United and we are the best. And it’s us, the fans, who truly are United. We’re the lifeblood of the club, the essence of Yorkshire’s Number One. That’s something to be genuinely proud of, when so much about the club is shamefully inadequate.

So – a very Happy New Year to the best supporters in the world. Maybe 2015 will after all bring us a little closer to what we all desire with every fibre of our being: better times for our beloved club. Whatever happens, we’ll still be here, we’ll still be the best. We always knew that – but it’s good to know that others know it too.

Keep it loud and proud in 2015 and beyond. Keep singing and shouting and being The Best.

We Are Leeds.

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Emergency! Leeds Need a Tony Pulis Type as MANAGER, Not Coach – by Rob Atkinson

Pulis: Wilko Mk II?

Pulis: Wilko Mk II?

The current situation at Leeds rather speaks for itself in the wake of a numbing defeat at the hands of Derby. We are one point above the relegation zone. We persist with the midfield diamond and we notoriously lack width as well as, it seems, desire, fight and leadership on the park. However much endeavour and work rate there might occasionally be, we always seem to be one disastrous mistake away from conceding yet another goal – and up front, there is little supply; some decent strikers are starving on an insufficient diet of crumbs. We seem always to be one decisive step away from an end product. Now, even Robbie Savage is saying that we are hopeless. Pot, kettle, black, you might say – but it does rather show that we’re in the clarts here. I firmly believe that the squad is not a bad one at all; but the whole is currently rather less than the sum of its parts.

Recent history makes for grim reading. After defeating Derby only a month or so back, we entered what could fairly be described as a tailspin. We haven’t scored at Elland Road since that day, losing to Fulham and Wigan. In the away game immediately after the Derby win, Antenucci – the man who had seen off County – scored after three minutes. But Leeds collapsed and lost 4-1 at Ipswich. Since then, our only goal has been a penalty at Nottingham Forest, producing the only point we have gained since that last win on the 29th of November.

All of this adds up to one thing: a re-think is needed.  As a Cellino supporter, it pains me to say it – but his hands-on model, whereby he deems it necessary simply to have a coach under his managership, has signally failed to work. Cellino has been responsible for recruiting a series of coaches who have in common the fact that they are patently not up to the demands of first team football at Championship level. We are being out-thought, out-fought and out-played in almost every game. Such victories as have come along have been made possible by the poverty of the opposition (Huddersfield and, to some extent, Derby at home) or a lot of luck in the face of opposition who should comfortably have beaten us (Bournemouth).

I remain a Cellino supporter. He’s what Leeds should be all about; maverick, full of charisma and possessed of a laconic wit which is unanswerable even in a language not his own. The guy knows how to spin a phrase and he is clearly passionate about his club and his football. He’s different, just like Leeds United. I do not subscribe to fanciful notions that he’s a crook intent on destroying the club – save all that for the restless and malevolent spectre of Ken Bates, still drifting about nastily on the wrong side of Elland Road. But I do think that Cellino is palpably wrong to take so much upon himself. He needs a football man with whom he can work, but to whom he would defer in football matters. That is the only way a true football man, a football manager, could work with Cellino. We have to be professional about this, because the current plan isn’t working.

The situation is grave and could swiftly become desperate. The Redfearn experiment certainly seems to be failing, and the loud voices of those who wished to see him permanently appointed post-Hockaday have fallen largely silent. In retrospect, it’s quite clear that his lack of managerial experience above a certain level ranks him alongside Hockaday, and maybe even Milanic, whose track record was in a brand of football utterly different to that played on the battlefields of the Championship.

PulisThose who point to our glaring defensive frailties might possibly agree with me then, when I say that the stand-out candidate for Leeds right now is Tony Pulis, who did such a fine job establishing Stoke in the Premier League, and then pulled off an incredible rescue act at Crystal Palace. Pulis is steeped in the top two leagues of English football; he is a football man through and through, someone who believes in building solidly from the back and does things his own, distinctive way. That is the main reason why, sadly, this has very little chance of happening – not as long as Massimo remains determined to be IT. But Pulis is the ideal man for Leeds, especially in this situation, especially at this time. Leeds United in turn would be a feather in the Pulis cap, the biggest club of his career. It could become the jewel in his crown. There are irresistible echoes of the advent of Sergeant Wilko a quarter of a century ago. How much would we all like that history to repeat itself?

Cellino needs to consider this situation very carefully indeed.  A continuation of his “rough diamond” policy is likely to see this slide continue. And yet, to be horribly blunt, the only people willing to work under the Italian right now, with the lapdog conditions that currently apply, appear to be those without much prospect of this type of employment elsewhere. We have in Redfearn an honest and capable football man, totally inexperienced in this sphere of management – a man who has left his first, best vocation behind him in order to fly, like Icarus, too close to the sun. He is now starting to talk a bit too much about luck and the rub of the green. It’s not a refrain you associate with winners. Neil should seek an immediate return to nurturing youth, before his wings get burned.

If Cellino were to show the wit and courage to change his modus operandi, and hire Pulis – a man to whom he would have to relinquish all control of football matters – then he might yet usher in another era of success at Elland Road. Otherwise, there may well be much more trouble ahead for a club never short of that unwelcome commodity.

The Championship is about men like Mick McCarthy, Steve McClaren, Eddie Howe – football men, men who paddle their own canoe as much as any man could these days – but also distinctly square pegs in square holes. Leeds United needs a football man and, moreover, we need one who is a perfect fit for the club that we are. We need a modern-day Wilko – and we need him badly.

Tony Pulis is currently available – though that surely can’t last, not with the Premier League managerial merry-go-round starting to spin – and he’s definitively the right man for us. So please – let’s get him, now. Before it really is too late.

Update: Bugger! Looks like Pulis is taking the Baggies job. Great appointment for West Brom, but dear, oh dear. It’s a missed opportunity for Leeds. I maintain we need a Pulis type.  Any ideas/candidates??

Goodbye, Mr. Silver; the Last Great Leeds United Chairman – by Rob Atkinson

Leslie Silver of Leeds United

The late Leslie Silver of Leeds United

Still stuck in post-festive torpor and suffering with a heavy cold besides, I was watching “The Dam Busters” on Channel Five this afternoon, marvelling at the unaccustomed use of the “N-word” in reference to Guy Gibson’s dog, which rejoiced in a name even Nigel Farage would baulk at these days. Well, possibly. Much more to be marvelled at was the reckless bravery and absolute lack of fear among the aircrew charged with delivering the Barnes Wallis “bouncing bomb” against three dams in the industrial heartland of Nazi Germany, the Ruhr Valley. The mission was a significant success in terms of its objective, if not so much when judged by the number of lives lost. Over fifty men died as eight of the nineteen bombers failed to return.

leslie-silver-june-2009_270It felt like the weirdest of coincidences, then, that the first news I heard after the last strains of Eric Coates’ “Dam Busters March” faded away was of the death of Leslie Silver OBE, former chairman of Leeds United AFC and a past hero of Bomber Command, completing over forty ops in Europe and twenty in the Far East, where he was involved in dropping supplies into the infamous Changi gaol. Silver left the RAF at the age of 22 in 1947, having served four years during which he flew the full quota of 250 operational hours with four different squadrons. In 2013, he was awarded the Bomber Command Clasp at the age of 88.

Clearly, no ordinary man was our Mr. Silver. Having served his country so auspiciously in wartime, he then set about creating the business empire that would eventually make his fortune as well as contributing in large measure to the revival of a moribund late-eighties Leeds United. As a highly successful businessman in his fifties, Silver had been awarded the OBE in 1982, a year after joining the United board and a year before becoming Chairman, a position he held until 1996.

Leslie Silver’s time as Chairman at Leeds United encompassed the second most successful period in the club’s history, overseeing a rise from poverty at the foot of Division Two, with a disastrous relegation into the lower reaches of the league beckoning, to top-flight promotion, European campaigns and, of course, the immortal title of the Last Champions. Leeds took that final honour by four clear points in 1992, just before the restructuring of English football on a “greed is good, might is right” basis before the altar of satellite TV.

It goes without saying that Silver’s wealth, his business acumen and his vision were driving forces behind the meteoric rise of Leeds in the late eighties and early nineties. The amazing surge to success was even more abrupt and stunning than that of Don Revie’s white machine a quarter of a century before. Chief Silver and his chosen NCO, Sergeant Howard Wilkinson, plotted a path from the basement of the second tier right up to the ultimate prize in just under four years; it took Revie and Alderman Percy Woodward half as long again to make a comparable journey in the sixties.

That Silver had the vision to identify and recruit his man, and then the courage and grit to back him financially, is something for which all Leeds fans should be forever grateful. He embellished our history with a second era of glory by his astute choice of manager and his unswerving loyalty and commitment to the Wilko plan. When Silver stepped down, it was the end of sustainable success for Leeds; beyond lay only “living the dream” and the subsequent nightmare we’re all too painfully aware of today.

Leslie Silver deserves to be remembered as a major, pivotal figure in the history of Leeds United, as well as, of course, one of those long-ago heroes from the dark days of global war seven decades back. In later life, he also became the first Chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University, these days known as Leeds Beckett University – and a faculty of that institution now bears his name.

For an unassuming war hero who died with the world still riven by strife – and for the modest mastermind behind the renaissance of a sleeping football giant, who leaves us as that giant slumbers once again – the reminder of his contribution to learning in Leeds may yet be the tribute he’d have prized above all others.

Leslie Silver, 1925 – 2014. Alav HaShalom.

FA ‘Disappointed’ Over Leeds Utd Bellusci Stance – by Rob Atkinson

 

Prof. Dummfahrt in conference with himself, yesterday

Prof. Dummfahrt in conference with himself, yesterday

It has emerged from FA Headquarters that a growing disquiet over Leeds United’s determination to defend neo-Nazi thug Giuseppe Bellusci is leaving the ruling body “very disappointed”. Professor Hermann Dummfahrt, Head of FA Media Relations, was scathing when asked about Leeds’ intention to resist the unsubstantiated charges. “Nothing’s ever their fault, is it?” he snarled, bitterly. “Well, let me tell you, we at the FA have had quite enough of Leeds and we intend to scupper them good and proper, and by any means necessary.”

Prof. Dummfahrt has also reacted with dismay to news that United owner Massimo Cellino’s “Owners & Directors” suspension will not now kick in until his appeal against the Football League ban has been decided. This should mean that Cellino will, after all, be able to oversee Leeds’ limited transfer options in the January window. “The Football League. Ha!” the FA man spluttered, quite incandescent with rage. “They had one job. One!! And they’ve made a mess of it, a complete balls-up. You’d better believe me when I tell you we’ll be showing the League exactly how to deal with Leeds United”.

When asked what measures could be taken, the Professor was enthusiastic. “We have many options”, he chuckled. “There is this racism thing with Bellusci. The player claims that the everyday Italian word ‘Negareisn’t foul, racist abuse. Poppycock!! Then again, these unreliable, cheating Eyeties are all the same, it’s in their DNA – notorious liars….ahem.”

Feeling it best to move on from the topic of racism, we asked Dummfahrt what other sanctions might apply. “Well, I hear what you say – but don’t assume that our racism investigations end with Bellusci. Leeds also have a player, believe it or not, called Montenegro! Check out those last two syllables – racist as the ace of spades or what??” Hmmm. OK, yes, if you say so… but – what else do you have?

The Professor scratched his head and observed wryly “We have to be careful about these things. Forewarned is forearmed, you know? But we have shots in our locker, trust me. There’s the Lady Di situation – you’re not telling me Leeds United had nothing to do with that. And that Schweinhund Polish linesman at Wembley in 1966, who put him up to allowing that verdammt third goal, eh? Then there’s the global financial crisis – when the whole world “did a Leeds” and the poor old bankers got the blame. We’re optimistic there. And – nobody ever got nicked for the Jack the Ripper killings, did they? That’s worth a 15 to 30 point deduction on suspicion alone.”

At this point, our Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything correspondent was, to say the least, somewhat gobsmacked. Feeling that the eminent FA man was, perhaps, pulling his chain a little, our reporter asked Professor Dummfahrt if he was not straying somewhat from the path of reason and sanity. “After all, Professor,” our intrepid correspondent ventured, nervously. “A lot of people, listening to all that you’ve just said, might feel that you’re absolutely barking mad, dribblingly deranged and pursuing some insane and unjustified vendetta against a club earnestly trying to sort out its problems – just how would you respond to that?”

The Professor fixed our man with a steely glare and broke into a bout of cracked and maniacal laughter. “Mad?” he raved. “Mad?? Of course I’m bloody mad, you poor, simple soul!! How the hell do you think I qualified for a senior position at the FA in the first place??”

Almost 20,000 Leeds Fans Already Support Football League “Cellino” Petition – by Rob Atkinson

Nearly 20,000 now...

Nearly 20,000 now…

The following article has been submitted by petition organisers for inclusion on this blog, and adapted by myself for publication here.
One final push for the petition!
At the time of writing the petition has been signed by 19,599 fans. It would be great to get it over the 20,000 mark. A massive 85 countries around the world are represented by those who have signed the petition! 

The petition can be found here and we urge all your readers to take a look and, if they agree with the sentiment, sign, share on Facebook and RT on twitter! If everyone who has signed can find another fan to sign we would be approaching 40,000! Just click on the link below:

Please – Sign Here!!


If we can help show the following aims are being achieved, then we can say with justice that the petition has been a success:
 
a) To make clear the sense of injustice and the strong feelings of many Leeds fans 
b) To bring what many fans feel is extremely unfair treatment of Leeds United by the Football League to mass media attention 
c) To put additional pressure on the Football League to think again as to whether they are really acting in the club’s best interests

We ask the FL to look again at the FPP test and to ask themselves if it is truly fit for purpose, especially for an owner in situ. There are directors and owners of other clubs who have done far worse than Massimo Cellino. The crux of the matter is that he is now an owner in situ and the rules the FL developed were to assess potential owners prior to purchase. Their sole aim in this matter is to assess if that person is fit and proper to run a football club – nothing else. What better way to assess this in the Leeds United case than by monitoring how Cellino is running the club, rather than looking at old evidence to make a decision? Indeed, Cellino would be able to run any club in Italy, or be a director/owner of any other UK company. Why should these rules be so different? Are the FL really acting in the best interests of Leeds United by asking for Cellino to resign – only for him to be able to take his place again in March? Isn’t this actually just needless disruption for the sake of it, seemingly calculated to destabilise the League’s biggest club?

There is another extremely important point to make here. Those that vote on the Football League are not impartial – not by any stretch of the imagination. Financially the FL are better off with Leeds United in it. Also, other clubs have a better chance of succeeding if Leeds United are sanctioned. Sean Harvey was 100% correct not to vote – but we feel that NONE of the voters (chairman of competing clubs) are impartial. It should ALL be decided upon by completely independent parties. You wouldn’t find relatives of the victim on a court Jury so why are chairman of rival clubs asked to make a decision on Leeds United? 


It is not as simple as Cellino resigning and coming back in March as there are similar court cases on the horizon, so the question has to be asked as to whether the rules are truly fit for purpose. Whether he has or hasn’t paid the correct import duty/tax on a boat or car really shouldn’t be relevant as to whether he can do a good job for Leeds in running the club. He ran Calgiari in Italy for over 20 years! We need the Football League to take a good look at what they are trying to achieve and whether their current rules achieve it. They say he is ‘dishonest’ and therefore should be banned. How is tax duty on a boat / car worse than those that live as a tax exile in order to pay less taxes throughout their lives! What about the many other directors of clubs who have a far more chequered past than Cellino! Let’s not forget that there are the likes of money-launderers and convicted rapists among these seemingly untouchable gentlemen…

If Cellino (and his family) were to be forced out, then it is pure speculation as to what would happen next. We just hope the club would be sold without going into administration, otherwise there is a worry that the likes of Bates/Harvey could be sniffing around again and the vast majority of United fans would agree this would not be good for LUFC. There are constant rumours of others ready to take over Leeds but Cellino is the only person who wanted the club so badly he was willing to sign anything to make sure it happened – no one else was willing to pay the asking price. They clearly didn’t want the club as much as he did. Some may say he shouldn’t have signed the original Share Purchase Agreement on those terms or he should have done more in the way of Due Diligence. Had he done that who knows where we would have been now. GFH would probably still own 100% of Leeds. No one else wanted the club enough to pay the asking price. Cellino has shown he is passionate about Leeds. Whilst he has made mistakes he deserves a chance to take this great club to where he wants to take it – The Premier League and then onto the Champions League.
All of the points raised above need to be aired in public and then addressed by the authorities currently engaged in a determined campaign to oust Cellino. This latest push to get the support for the petition over 20,000 and onwards towards 25,000 is a big step on the way to obtaining the kind of national publicity necessary to make a difference – to have a real effect on the issues currently clouding Leeds United’s season.
If you haven’t yet signed – PLEASE do so, then share this widely and ask any friends to sign also. If you have signed – then please share the petition among as many people as you can in order to get even more support.
Leeds United – your club – needs you.

 

Stand Up, If You Hate Man United (And Think It Might Be TV’s Fault) – by Rob Atkinson

The Mighty Man U supporting experience

The Mighty Man U supporting experience

On Saturday 8th January 2005, Manchester United played Exeter City in the 3rd round of the F.A. Cup. It was something of a mismatch on paper, but surprisingly a plucky Exeter team held out for a 0-0 draw, and took the holders to a replay. A significant achievement for the minnows, but this game was noteworthy for another reason; to date it remains the last F.A. Cup tie involving Manchester United not to have been shown live on TV.

Even on the face of it, this is a remarkable statistic. Particularly in the earlier rounds, there are many matches from which TV companies can take their pick, and traditionally the perceived likelihood of an upset is a big draw. Given the perennial dominance of Manchester United until quite recently, it’s usually difficult to see much chance of a giant-killing, and the interest in games involving them, you might think, will be mainly for those occasions when they’re drawn against a Chelsea, or a Liverpool, or maybe even a Manchester City or an Arsenal.

Looking at the list of games included in this amazing run of uninterrupted TV spotlight, some of them really do make you wonder what the companies concerned hoped to achieve, with the chances of an embarrassingly one-sided contest surely outweighing by far any prospect of a surprise. It begs the question of whether broadcasters are putting too high a priority on audience over entertainment value. There may be a certain piquant charm in seeing the likes of Burton Albion gazing wide-eyed at the immensity of the Theatre of Hollow Myths, but some of the ties televised have lacked even this saving grace. Middlesbrough, Fulham or Reading at home? Hardly sets the pulse racing, does it?

Ten years on from that neglected Exeter tie, the unprecedented run of unbroken TV coverage shows no sign of ending. Despite a less than challenging tie away to either Accrington Stanley (who are dey??) or Yeovil to kick off their 2015 FA Cup campaign, the Pride of Devon have once again been selected for live coverage, much to the joy of their loyal fans from Milton Keynes to Singapore and back again.

Any hint of complaint about Manchester United will, naturally, bring anguished howls of protest from the direction of London and Devon, as hard-core Reds, some of whom may even have visited Old Trafford, loudly complain about this latest manifestation of “jealousy”. It’s become rather a knee-jerk reaction, but there’s really not a lot of foundation for it. Anyone truly motivated by envy (jealousy means something different, chaps, look it up) has a simple solution at hand – simply jump aboard the bandwagon. The prevalence of the Old Trafford club on our TV screens will certainly garner them increased “support” from those who just want to be identified with such a vulgar example of a club gorging (until lately) on success. It is the more negative effect of blanket coverage that should be worrying, not so much for Manchester United, but for the sport itself in a wider sense.

There is a danger here, after all, that the media have not only created a monster, but that they are actively encouraging that monster to eclipse all their rivals. The basis of any sport must be healthy competition, but there is disquieting evidence that the playing field has not been level for a long time now. It doesn’t take too much digging to unearth some unsettling trends. One study over a number of matches suggested that 88% of all marginal decisions went the way of Manchester United, and of course there was also a distinct lack of penalties awarded against them in league games at Old Trafford over a period of years.

There have also been instances of referees who had displeased former tyrant manager Alex Ferguson mysteriously disappearing for months from their fixtures. In a game of fine margins, as any game is at professional level, evidence that one club enjoys preferential treatment is a matter of concern. Such a trend, given the amount of money flowing into the game, could easily lead that one club into an unhealthy dominance, to the detriment, ultimately, of the spectacle as a whole. Fierce competition is so crucial to any healthy sport, that the importance of this principle is difficult to overstate.

Success, they say, is all about the steady accumulation of marginal gains. Manchester United as an institution appears fully to appreciate this, as any club should. But these days, the media are the game’s paymasters, particularly the TV companies – and when they start favouring one club above all others, then you have to fear for the ability of others to compete in the long term. It’s a matter of concern – and it could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as more coverage (of an almost exclusively favourable nature) promotes more support ever further afield for “United” as the media love to call them. And the more support they gain, the more of a market there is which will feed on their success, so the more commercially desirable their success will become – and commercial pressure speaks volumes when knife-edge decisions are to be made.

It would be difficult to imagine that any other club should have such a long, unbroken run of live TV coverage in their F.A. Cup ties. In the 3rd round of last year’s competition, they figured in their 42nd consecutive such event when Swansea knocked out the media favourites at the earliest stage possible amid national media mourning with black armbands de rigueur in press rooms everywhere.

As a Leeds United supporter, I’ve had cause to bless the tendency of TV companies to cover even the games where “United” seem certain to roll over the opposition. On January 3rd 2010, Leeds, then of the third tier, triumphed at Old Trafford before a live ITV audience, sending the Champions spinning out of the Cup at the first time of asking. But satisfactory as this was, it’s the exception, not the rule – normally the colossus will trample the underdogs, and their millions of fans worldwide will be happy. But what about the rest of us? Are we to continue paying our satellite subscriptions, and buying our match tickets, for the privilege of watching Man U clean up as the stakes become higher, and the odds become ever more skewed in their favour?

Nowadays, of course, there is hot competition between various companies for the right to show plum ties. Rightly or wrongly, the men in suits behind the scenes seem to regard any Man U tie as “plum” – whatever the opposition. They will wring their hands and argue (probably rightly) that if they don’t take the option of showing the next Pride of Devon cup event, then some other TV station will. For better or worse, there appears to be no prospect of any cup match featuring the media darlings being left off our screens – however boring, turgid or predictable such games might frequently be.

So the view seems to be that Man U are good for the TV companies, good for audiences, good for advertisers – and clearly the guaranteed coverage is good news for Nigel McWurzel and his plastic glory-hunting chums in their bedsits in Torquay. But it’s not good for the game, not good for fairness of competition, and decidedly not fair on other clubs. Will this situation be tolerated ad infinitum? probably not. At some point, worms will start turning and – at the risk of mixing metaphors – maybe the bubble will finally burst. Then, chill winds of reality will blast through the offices of the TV moguls. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Forget George Best: King John Charles Was the Greatest British Player Ever – by Rob Atkinson

John Charles - the Greatest

John Charles – the Greatest

Ask any football fan to tell you who in their opinion was the greatest British footballer ever, and you’ll get a variety of answers. Danny Blanchflower, Tom Finney, George Best, Duncan Edwards, Dave Mackay, Billy Bremner, Kenny Dalglish, Paul Gascoigne – and many, many more, some with reasonable claims for recognition, others less so.  Probably most will go for Best, partly because of the hype that surrounds the self-proclaimed Greatest Club in the World and partly because Best himself wasn’t shy about telling everyone he was the best ever, anywhere, which must have given World Cup Winners Zidane and Maradona slight cases of mirth-induced hiccups.

The claims of Best tend to be perpetuated by the media, who have their own agenda when proclaiming superlatives about the game, especially these days when markets are so important and merchandise-buying fans must be kept happy.  So we hear that Man U are the biggest/greatest, that Old Trafford, the Theatre of Hollow Myths itself, is the finest ground this side of Betelgeuse, that the Busby Babes were going to be the greatest team in all four dimensions for ever and ever – and that Best was, well, the Best. It’s a self-perpetuating myth that glosses lightly over George’s many faults: his predilection for taking the field in important semi-finals tired and emotional as a newt, or not-so-fresh from some young strumpet’s bed; his dislike of discipline and inconveniences such as training; his waste of a massive natural talent upon early retirement and then a succession of ever more embarrassing comebacks.  This was the greatest player ever?  Really??  What does the word “great” mean, exactly?

If you ask a Juventus fan of a certain age, he’d probably have a pretty unanswerable argument to put for the unparalleled greatness of William John Charles (1931 – 2004). Proud Welshman Charles shone for several seasons in the top two leagues of the English game with Leeds United before a then British record fee of £65,000 was enough to take him to Italy.  There he scored on his debut for Juventus and never really looked back, performing with such masterly grace, skill, power and sportsmanship that the Juve fans took him to heart forever, dubbing him il Gigante Buono – The Gentle Giant.

In 1997, Charles was voted by fans of the Italian game as “best-ever foreign import” – this over and above the likes of Platini, Maradona, Law, Rush, Sivori, Gullit and Zidane (who had been at Juventus a year when the vote was taken). For a player to be deemed the best ever in that sort of company, and well over 30 years after he had left Italy into the bargain, argues for a truly special, unique performer, someone who possessed very great gifts indeed.

Those tifosi know their football, after all – and in Charles they knew they had a world-class centre-half and a world-class centre-forward, all wrapped up in one modest and loveable package.  Who else embodied skill, strength, temperament, courage better than the Gentle Giant, a man described by the Juve club doctor after his transfer medical as “quite the most perfect human machine I have ever seen”?

John Charles was all that, and so much more besides.  He has been described as being simultaneously the best defender and best attacker in the world, blessed with heading power to surpass many a player’s shooting ability, a rocket shot in either foot, an incredible physique and amazing skill on the floor, especially for such a big and powerful man.

In the whole of his career, encompassing all those seasons in the physical battleground of Serie A, he was never once sent off, nor even cautioned.  That is perhaps even his greatest achievement, considering the attention paid to trying to mark him out of his attacking contribution – and yet Charles’ spell with Juventus was so honour-laden that he carried home many tangible rewards also.

His spell at Juventus must count as the John Charles heyday, although he had enjoyed considerable success in a mediocre team at Leeds United.  Several goal-scoring records fell to the giant Welshman during his first and most productive spell at Elland Road, and yet he’d had a long spell as a central defender, another position in which he was a truly daunting opponent.  Leeds were sometimes nicknamed “John Charles United” at this period of their history and none who saw him play doubted that here was the finest footballer in the world.

It was the versatility of Charles, his ability to excel in two such different positions, stopping attacks and scoring goals with equally deadly proficiency, that made him such a valuable asset to any team he played for.  In 1958, Wales came as close as they ever would to World Cup glory, falling only to Brazil in a match for which Charles was injured – the deciding goal in a 1-0 defeat being scored by a young lad known simply as Pelé.  To this day, Welsh supporters wonder what might have been had John Charles been available for that game. The phenomenal Welshman was a potential match-winner against any opposition.

John Charles died in 2004 after a prolonged spell of ill health.  My dad remains one of his biggest fans and due to this I got to meet him a few times – a more likeable, self-deprecating and gentle man it would be hard to imagine.  For him to declare himself the Greatest is impossible to imagine.  That sort of thing is for someone who’s indisputably the best around and a showman too – the likes of Muhammed Ali.  And examples of flawed genius like Georgie Best, that doomed Belfast boy, they might come out with such immodesty as well – but that sort of blarney can’t hide the truth about genuine, five-star greatness.

I went to Elland Road to see John’s funeral cortège complete one solemn, dignified circuit of the pitch as thousands stood in silent tribute to the King.  He had his greatest years on foreign soil and became a world star, but he always came back to Leeds, his adopted home, where he was loved and revered in equal measure.

Greatness isn’t just snake-hipped skill, it isn’t just about wonderful goals and flashes of brilliance that might make you forget for a while the drink and the women and the missed training sessions – the wasted years.  That is the tragedy of Georgie Best. Greatness belongs to a different magnitude of star, one who rises literally and metaphorically above all others, encompassing skill, power, dedication, athleticism modesty, respect for opponent and team-mate alike. That was the greatness of John Charles CBE, hero of Leeds United, Juventus and Wales.

The sadness is that, in these glitzy, Murdoch-funded, money-obsessed days, you rarely hear the name of Charles mentioned when the greats are discussed – maybe just a passing reference here and there.  Some of his contemporaries still get the plaudits – Jimmy Greaves, Nat Lofthouse, the tragic Duncan Edwards, who may well have developed into a player the equal of Charles.  Perhaps John himself is tainted, in the eyes of the chattering classes, by association with what they will always see as “The Damned United” – and doomed therefore along with Don Revie and all of his greats to be left out of the reckoning when hypocrites gather to compare memories.  That is indeed regrettable, but it’s a part of the modern condition that, just as the media need heroes to shove down our eager, consuming throats, so they need a pantomime villain – and just as the former will always be Man U, the latter is always going to be Leeds, whatever those of us who know better might argue.

So let them have their skewed discussions, their little lists of greats, their exclusive club of what they deem acceptable in the history of the game.  It’s a fools’ paradise they inhabit, and just as we Leeds fans can nod wisely and tell them all exactly which was the finest English club side of all time, so we can identify the greatest British player.  John Charles, il Gigante Buono, King John. Simply the best.

Cover Your Goolies, Lads! Lash Lorimer is Back on the Ball – by Rob Atkinson

90 miles an hour

90 miles an hour

One of the most distressing things about being a Leeds United fan over the past decade or so has been to witness former heroes not exactly covering themselves in glory as, one after another, they’ve been wheeled out by local and national media to give their opinions or reactions to the ups and downs of the roller-coaster Elland Road soap opera. Even erstwhile midfield maestro Johnny Giles was at it recently, venturing into print to savage the man many see as Leeds United’s saviour, Massimo Cellino.

But perhaps the biggest let-down was the apparent disintegration of the legend that was Peter Lorimer as he seemed to be reduced from his godlike status as Mr Ninety Miles per Hour into a yes man for the then chairman and despot Ken Bates. However angry the fans got over Bates and his loathsome little tricks, Lorimer always seemed to be there, trying to pour oil on troubled waters, seeking to portray Bates as a positive factor around LS11. We weren’t fooled, and Lorimer’s pedestal crumbled into dust as he was perceived more and more as Papa Smurf’s creature.

And yet today, we have had the clearest sign to date that maybe Lash is back to something like his old form, blasting howitzer-like missiles at our enemies rather than attempting to persuade folk of Ken’s essential cuddliness. Lorimer’s article in Thursday’s Yorkshire Evening Post showed an appreciation of the fears so many Leeds fans feel at this latest crass decision by the Football League buffoons against il Presidente Cellino. The piece is full of good sense and, in a very welcome return to the old-style Leeds United siege complex, Lorimer also reflects on the historical fact that the League have taken every opportunity over the past half-century to berate, impede and generally get in the way of the Elland Road club. Peter certainly doesn’t pull his punches whatever the target, and more than one rocket shot is directed at the very vitals of those bastions of the Press who seem to have it in for the Whites.

Lorimer makes it clear that he has no time for any part of the Fourth Estate with its knife into Leeds. “For many years now,” says Lash, “I’ve refused to buy certain newspapers because in my opinion, they push an anti-Leeds agenda. They seem to take great joy for having a go at us. I’m not naming names but I think they know who they are.” I think we all do, Lash.

The former Leeds hero is clear in his own mind that Big Mass will not be taking the League’s machinations lying down. “Knowing what I do about the man, I expect Massimo to fight this move. I don’t see him walking away – not least because whatever happens, he’s allowed to regain control of the club in March. I think it’s safe to say that he’s finding out that Leeds aren’t the most popular club in the world (away from their own supporters, of course) and he must be pretty bemused by the negative attention we get.” This is classic stuff, the sort of opinionated stance you might expect from any committed Leeds fan, but all the more punchy and effective coming as it does from one of Revie’s Super Leeds Supermen. It’s the sort of thing, this blog would venture to suggest, that might well see an old hero’s reputation and status restored to him, and not before time. Lorimer is speaking for many, many United fans in this latest article; at long last he appears to be on the right side of the argument.

The Evening Post piece ends with our former Number 7 striking an ominous note for United. Reflecting on the decades-long struggle and war of attrition between Leeds and the game’s authorities, he concludes: “It was like this when I was a player and it never seems to change – when the opportunity to stick the boot in comes, there’s always someone waiting to take it. This time it’s the Football League’s turn.”

That’s a forbidding final phrase. But Lorimer may just have struck the first blow on behalf of our old heroes towards fighting back against those in the corridors of power who so devoutly wish to “stick the boot in”. The importance of a legend saying what the fanbase is thinking can hardly be over-stated. People listen; the fans feel vindicated; resistance and protest could thus be galvanised. A protest is planned for January 6th between 10 am and 12 noon outside the Football League offices in Preston. Several hundred Leeds fans are already promising to attend, Lancashire police are aware and media interest is growing. Who’s to say there won’t be a banner advertising the metaphorical shooting prowess of Peter “Lash” Lorimer at such an event?

After all, if the Cannonball Man himself really is back onside, then his could be a powerful voice raised against the pallid mandarins of the League who seem so arrogantly convinced of their own case, in defiance of all evidence to the contrary. Maybe it really is the Football League’s turn now; to suffer as Leeds United have suffered for a half a century. Cellino can be counted upon to put up firm resistance in his own style, the fans can be counted upon to stand behind him in numbers. Maybe now, at last, we can also rely upon the old guard, the old Leeds United heroes – and Peter Lorimer might just have lit the blue touchpaper on that particular rocket. It could with undeniable justice be aimed right up the self-satisfied backsides of those clueless gentlemen of the League.

Are you listening, Johnny Giles?

NB: Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything would like to make it clear to female readers and lady supporters of Leeds United everywhere that this article does not imply either disrespect or disregard for the proportion of the Leeds fanbase who lack the physical attribute of goolies. Goolies in this context should be taken in an entirely symbolic sense; please be assured that this blogger is 100% respectful of the women in the Leeds United family – and he certainly does not wish to get on your tits.

Leeds Fans: TELL the Football League What They Should be Doing – by Rob Atkinson

Football League officials in sober conclave

Football League officials in sober conclave

The Football League, by their decision this week to disqualify Massimo Cellino as owner/director of Leeds United, have demonstrated their utter inability to appreciate the factors at play in this situation. The arguments have been laid before them; the fact that Cellino’s “dishonesty” is as water unto wine beside the wrongdoings of certain other Football League club shareholders and owners (there are rapists, money-launderers, porn barons and other such unsavoury chaps out there. None of these bad boys attract the attention that Cellino does from the League as they pig-headedly pursue their vendetta).

It’s also true to say that Cellino can point to a highly productive track record as Leeds owner since he first appeared on the scene. Various whimsical coaching appointment decisions aside, he’s got the club on a sounder financial footing than at any time this millennium, he’s assembled a fine and talented squad – at last being gelled by the right coach – and he’s pursuing capital investment with a view to making all our dreams we dare to dream come true. The Football League, by contrast, continue to betray themselves as corrupt, purblind fools who are clearly not fit for purpose in their brief of running the game below elite level.

The text of a current petition at Change.org is reproduced below. I would ask anyone who hasn’t signed it yet to read the arguments advanced by the petition organiser, and to sign it without further delay. If you have signed it, I would urge you to share it as broadly as possible, to ensure the maximum possible support. The grounds laid out below make good sense; this petition deserves universal support from anyone with the interests of Leeds United truly at heart. Since the latest crass League decision, support for the petition has raced up to over 9,000. We need 10,000 at least to have a good chance of generating some media interest and gaining a wider platform for the argument that Massimo Cellino has been good for Leeds United, and that – in the interests of the club and the game in a wider sense – he should be allowed to get on with the job he’s doing.

“Dear The Football League,

The Owners’ and Directors’ test (previously called Fit & Proper Persons test) was brought into effect in 2005. The purpose of the test is to better protect clubs and the reputation and image of the game, thus to protect Football League member clubs from Owners and Directors who might mismanage or ultimately guide a club into administration. With this in mind, rules and guidelines were written to protect member clubs.  The fundamental intention of the test – to protect member clubs and act in their best interests – should not be forgotten.

Since purchasing the club six months ago, Massimo Cellino has turned around Leeds United’s precarious financial position.  Under his control, the club’s debt and operating expense have reduced. Leeds United have signed 15 players – many of whom seem to be extremely talented and don’t demand the high salaries that can often force clubs into administration. For the first time since the turn of the century, Leeds United’s finances seem to be under control.

The dire financial situation which Cellino inherited was caused by the mismanagement of the two previous owners who both passed your Fit & Proper test – namely Ken Bates and GFH Capital.

Massimo Cellino has invested a lot of money in Leeds United – initially through his purchase and then through subsequent investment.  In all probability, if you force him out now, Leeds United would, again, be facing administration. Forcing Cellino out of Leeds United is not in the best interests of one of your member football clubs and would in fact, be very damaging indeed.

The Owner’s & Director’s test is particularly valid prior to an owner taking over a club. However, the same critera should not apply after ownership has begun. In many circumstances, removing the owner could cause harm and instability to a member football club. A new set of guidelines which monitor how the club is actually being run would offer much more insight into determining if the owner or director is fit and proper to run the football club.

Cellino is now a major part of Leeds United. He has owned the club for six months. He has made large contributions, both on and off the field, and many of the fans are in support of the direction he is now attempting to take the club. Cellino would not be prevented from becoming an owner or director of any other business in the UK.  Considering Cellino has owned Leeds United for six months already, an examination of the financial statements in the periods before and after his takeover would enable you to better judge his ability to control the football club. Forming an opinion based on his non-payment of import duty on a boat in Italy in 2012 is now inappropriate.

Please remember that your responsibility is to act in the best interests of Leeds United and to protect the club from being controlled by someone who might mismanage it. This needs to be the most important factor in your consideration of this matter.  Do you now genuinely believe that Cellino will not manage Leeds United in its best interests?  Are you just desperately seeking to find him dishonest so you can block him for some other reason? We sincerely hope that Shaun Harvey’s relationship with Ken Bates along with Ken Bates apparent desire to regain control of the club is not a factor in your decision.

Everyone signing this petition is requesting that you allow common sense to prevail and that you drop your pursuit of Cellino, attempting to force him out of Leeds United.  Please also take some responsibility for allowing GFH and Ken Bates to purchase Leeds United and control the club for too many years.  The club and its fans have suffered greatly under the control of previous owners and directors.

We would like to bring your attention to your charter which states that ‘The Football League is committed to providing excellent service to its stakeholders and club supporters.  The League is a listening organisation, which aims to be open and fair in its dealings with all persons representing the interests of the game.’

With the above in mind we strongly request that you act in the best interests of Leeds United Football Club and release a statement confirming that you agree that forcing Massimo Cellino out of Leeds United would not be acting in the club’s best interests; and that you will continue to monitor the situation with respect to any future foul play, as you would any other member club.”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is happy to support this petition – and to campaign for an end for the interference by the Football League in the internal affairs of their premier member club. I hope that anybody who reads this article will be prepared to support this as well – and also to help spread the word by sharing this as widely as possible.

Please get involved – please help. Leeds United is your club, so do your bit to make sure the idiots and buffoons of the League aren’t allowed to destroy it.

Leeds Fans Need to Seriously Consider 4 Month Away Games Boycott – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United's massive away support

Leeds United’s massive away support

This article was originally published on April 8 this year, at a time when Life, Leeds United the Universe & Everything, in common with all other fans and bloggers with the interests of Leeds United at heart, could clearly see that the FL, smarting from defeat in the High Court, remained determined to “get” Massimo Cellino eventually. This was true then and it’s been proven true on Monday, with the League decision once again to disqualify the Italian under its Owners and Directors Rules, the so-called “Fit & Proper Test”.

It remains the case, clearly, that the League see a dubious conviction on some relatively petty import duty transgression as being far more serious and worthy of action than, say, a conviction for rape (Oyston at Blackpool FC), money laundering (Yeung at Birmingham City) or chronic and serial mismanagement of its biggest and most celebrated member club (Ken Bates, Sean Harvey and GFH Capital at Leeds United over the past decade). This incredibly perverse set of priorities serves to characterise an organisation that has unfailingly demonstrated its naked hostility to Leeds United (its premier member club, let’s not forget) and has utterly failed to abide by its implied duty of care to this club and its fans.

The original article, reproduced below, called on various bodies and all fans to consider an away games boycott, effectively hitting other Football League clubs in the pocket and striking at the central financial interests of the League itself. This remains, in my opinion, the best way forward. The idea received a mixed reception at the time and may well do so again; the idea of giving up those beloved away trips is not easy to stomach for some of our hardier fanatics.

But consider: the League has today acted to bar Massimo Cellino, yet this sanction has to be finite, lasting only until March, when the conviction it’s based on will be spent. So now my call is not for an open-ended boycott, but rather a refusal to buy tickets for away games for the duration of this Football League sanction. I believe that this would be feasible and a high-profile way of making a point by a set of fans who normally turn up in their thousands, lining the pockets of the very people who are against us.

The Football League, having lost an appeal against its disqualification of Massimo Cellino in front of an independent QC, are now showing their true colours in the wake of that humiliating defeat.  Rather than personifying dignity and acceptance of the outcome of a judicial process, they hastened to point out that they were “disappointed” and stated they would be considering the judgement. There is no humility, only arrogance.  There is no recognition of the duty of care they have towards their largest member club and its thousands of long-suffering fans – only naked malice and an avowed intent to plunge that club back into the crisis from which it appears to be on the point of emerging.  It amounts to a vendetta.  Two facts above all have emerged from this over-long saga.

  1. The Football League do not have the interests of Leeds United at heart.
  2. Leeds United are too big for the Football League.

Item 1 above is the mildest way of putting what is increasingly obvious – that the League regard the Leeds takeover situation, not as a chance for a famous old club – exercising its own judgement and right to secure a stable future – to get back onto an even keel, but as an opportunity to hammer that club further into the mire. How else to explain the zest with which its lawyers conducted their side of the appeal argument before Tim Kerr QC?  They resorted to trying to discredit the independent Italian legal expert because of a harmless if misguided comment on a social media platform.  Yet, in the same breath, they were relying on the portions of that witness’s evidence which aided their case.  Kerr rightly threw such selective pleading out of the window – but the underlying message was of a determination to deny Leeds United their rich new owner that amounted to vindictiveness and malice.

The background to this attitude is odd, to say the least.  One of the League’s member clubs has as a majority shareholder a convicted rapist.  The son of that unsavoury character sat on the panel which originally decided that Massimo Cellino was not a fit and proper person to act as a football club owner or director.  The irony is immediately apparent, as is the stench of arrogant hypocrisy.  Really, you couldn’t make it up – if you did, it would be dismissed as fanciful.

Any fan of Leeds United, if of long enough standing, will have witnessed examples of the Football League going through back-breaking contortions to make life as difficult as possible for the Whites of Elland Road.  It’s a tradition that dates back to Alan Hardaker and his rabid hatred of Don Revie.  Hardaker is dead now – but the ugly attitude towards Leeds lives on, through the unctuous reptile that is Brian Mawhinney, as he did his worst in 2007, to the present day with Shaun Harvey in charge – the same Harvey who, in cahoots with Ken Bates, did his level best whilst employed at Elland Road to fulfil his master’s 1984 vow to see Leeds and its fans banished, destroyed, erased from existence. Lest we forget: “I shall not rest until Leeds United are kicked out of the football league. Their fans are the scum of the earth, absolute animals and a disgrace. I will do everything in my power to make sure this happens.” So said Ken Bates, and he came pretty close to success – aided by then Leeds CEO and current FL CEO, Shaun Harvey.

A salute to the League

A salute to the League

The fact of the matter is that Leeds United are simply too big and too historically important for an antiquated and inept organisation like the League.  This is, after all,  a body that embraces failure and the presence of also-rans as core values.  The members of the League are, by definition, clubs who have either failed to stay in the Premier League, or who have never been good enough to get there.  It’s a has-been or never-was League for bit-part players, chorus members.  The stars, the principals in the pantheon of English football, ply their trade outside of the jurisdiction of the FL. At the moment, Leeds United form part of the Football League’s brigade of failures.  The events of the past few months have shown us clearly how vital it is for United to shake the dust of this two-bit organisation from their feet, and move on up.

Meantime, we are necessarily subject to the rules and attitudes of an outfit that has shown itself beyond reasonable doubt as “not fit for purpose”.  Until Leeds can drag themselves out of the Football League quicksand, they will have to fight their own corner as best they can.  As things stand, Massimo Cellino is in – he is the new owner of the club.  He has the wherewithal and the experience and determination to bring success in a higher sphere to Elland Road, whilst at the same time restoring that famous old ground to club ownership and bringing it up to 21st century standards – the same applies to the training complex at Thorp Arch.  These are good and necessary steps for Leeds – and they are initiatives that the League would prefer to see nipped in the bud, as they remain openly determined to oust Cellino if at all possible.

The fans are in a unique position here to have their say and to vote with their feet.  Those fans are rightly famous throughout the country as providing a travelling army of away support which brings atmosphere and vast income to every ground they visit over the course of a season.  Home clubs keep all of their gate receipts these days, so that away support – so vital to our competing clubs – benefits Leeds United only in terms of vocal encouragement.  The clubs in the Championship – and, by extension, the Football League – benefit financially to a great degree, from the loyalty and commitment of the Leeds United away fans.  Now those fans should put club interests before their own, and be prepared to make a significant sacrifice in order to make an unanswerable point to the Football League – who they have propped up with their hard-earned cash since 2004.

For, surely, it is now time to consider a boycott of ALL away games by ALL fans of Leeds United FC.  The only way of influencing such blind, uncaring officialdom as we are up against, is to hit it hard, in the pocket, where it really hurts.  I would now like to join those voices calling for the Leeds United support to do just that – by withdrawing attendance at away games and letting the other clubs and the League bear the brunt of greatly reduced income as a result of such a boycott.  I should like to see Leeds United Football Club, if possible, refusing to take allocations of away tickets for the duration of any such action.  If the Football League wish to act against the best interests of Leeds United – and its fans – then let fire be fought with fire.  It wouldn’t take long for impoverished Championship clubs to start squealing and complaining to Shaun Harvey and his corrupt crew, as they see their income plunge without that Leeds United pay-day.

Supporters groups such as LUST could be instrumental in backing and organising an initiative such as this.  It seems drastic, and there will be many who would baulk at the removal of one of their lives’ major preoccupations, even if only temporarily.  But those people should ask themselves: why do we have to settle for such unremittingly harsh and malicious treatment from the Football League and its member clubs – think back to the self-interested clubs vote that confirmed the 15 point deduction before the start of 2007/08 – and yet continue to line the pockets of those club and the tin pot League to which they belong?  Why should Leeds United tolerate this situation any longer?  Drastic situation call for drastic measures.  It’s time to fight back.

I should like to see, initially, at least some wider debate about the merits and demerits of an away games boycott.  I’m sure it’s an argument that would rage hot and heavy.  But I believe, at this stage, that such a boycott is our one good chance of having our say and of the powers that be simply having to listen.  The alternative is that they will smile smugly at any peeps of protest, and carry on regardless in their business of keeping Leeds in crisis – to the approval of their rapist and embezzling cronies in Championship boardrooms who continue to be regarded as fit and proper against all justice and logic.

I’d like to call upon LUST, and the MPs of Leeds constituencies, to take up cudgels against the treatment being meted out to Leeds United by the incompetents at the League.  They should be putting the question – why should a football club, alienated and ostracised by the League of its current membership, continue to contribute so massively to the financial well-being of that League?  I believe it’s time to call a halt.  The gloves are off now; if the League want to batter us, then let’s batter them right back.

That’s my say.  What do the Leeds United fans out there think?