Can Leeds United Beat Whites Fan McCarthy’s Tractor Boys? – by Rob Atkinson

Young Mick, darling o' t'pitheads

Young Mick, darling o’ t’pitheads

I’ve always been quite impressed by Mick McCarthy – right back to the time when he stood, tall and imperious, as the dominant figure in Barnsley‘s defence back in the day. I followed his fortunes with interest as he moved onwards and upwards, to Manchester City and Celtic, before plummeting down the food chain towards the end of his career, ending up as low down the evolutionary scale as Millwall. But everywhere he went, he took with him that indestructible air of unflappable Yorkshireness, dealing with opponents and situations calmly but as firmly as he had to. And that gritty look – the kind of ruggedness to which all we Tykes secretly aspire, the forehead hammered flat through contact with thousands of muddy footballs as he headed clearance after McCarthyite clearance up towards the halfway line. It was the kind of profile you might expect to see carved into the prow of a raiding war-boat, noble but menacing. I was once in a panto with his granddaughter too, so there’s clearly a bond.

All of this slight infidelity where my own heroes were concerned was long before I even knew that Mick was a Leeds United fan. And it was before I witnessed him from afar, playing the calm sheet-anchor to Roy Keane’s hysterically girlish prima donna at the Japan World Cup, as Mick strove to hold the Irish squad together after fake hard man Roy flounced petulantly off home. These two factors merely cemented the respect I’ve always borne the guy; I’d have loved to have seen him wear the white shirt at some point. As it was, he was really more my mates’ hero in the late seventies, the lads who followed Barnsley and who never really offered much in the way of banter, because they were 4th Div and we were First – and never likely to meet on the field of play. It’s a good job we can’t see what the future holds.

Lately, the remaining hair has turned snowy white as the forehead has encroached further and further back, heading inexorably for the nape of his neck. But he still cuts an impressive figure, and his post match interviews, whilst not perhaps in the Gordon Strachan ballpark, are still required listening for those who like their responses laconic and deadpan; tersely funny. He talks a good game, and it seems he’s above the usual run of manager too; certainly superior, at the risk of damning by faint praise, to one R. Keane. I thought at the time that Wolves were daft to get rid; so it proved. It’s good to see him back in harness with another United old boy, Terry Connor, and doing well at Portman Road.

Mick did well at Portman Road the last time Leeds met Ipswich Town, too. After a whirlwind start from United, fresh from having mauled Derby County 2-0, Town battled back from Mirco Antenucci‘s early strike to put us away quite comfortably, 4-1. Ipswich have been there or thereabouts all season – can United now return to recent home form and dispatch yet another high-flying Championship challenger?

As ever in this division, the only thing that’s predictable about any game is its essential unpredictability. From that point of view, as a reader of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything sagely pointed out only this afternoon, the Championship has something going for it that the Premier League lacks. But it doesn’t make life easy for us amateur pundits. Nevertheless, here goes.

The first thing to say is that it would be no great surprise if Leeds did pull a result out of the hat tonight. We have form for sending the league’s high achievers scuttling home with tails sadly between the legs, licking unexpected wounds. Bournemouth, Derby, Middlesbrough have all come and gone with no reward – who is to say that Ipswich won’t go the same way?

Well, Mr McCarthy, his Leeds United affiliation shelved for the evening, probably will have quite a lot of say in the matter. There’s a strong ex-Leeds contingent in his squad too; Noel Hunt will have dreamed of showing us exactly what he’ll feel he never got the chance to show in a Leeds shirt. But, sadly for Leeds perhaps, Noel is injured and, in the absence too of David McGoldrick, the spotlight might just fall on another ex-White in Luke Varney. Poor old “Reg”, who cannot expect a warm Elland Road welcome due to his half-pike with triple twist in a Blackburn shirt not that long back, has not had it that easy since he left Leeds under a cloud. We must hope that capricious fate doesn’t have another shock in store for us.

Leeds themselves will be looking to replicate the first twenty minutes against Watford and then extend that level by another hour and ten or so. Ipswich will take advantage if we let them, so the kind of performance that has stopped certain teams playing against us since the turn of the year has to be the aim tonight. The likely line-up tonight could depend on whether or not a change of shape is contemplated, with Guiseppe Bellusci available again, and Billy Sharp, Antenucci and Steve Morison competing for what has been a lone striking role. Is 3-5-2 a possibility tonight? You have to cut your suit according to your cloth, and doubtless Redders will have been giving the matter some thought when he’s not been bemoaning Watford‘s zillion pound squad.

I’ll be bold and predict a 2-1 United win with – despite having lost a little faith in Nostradamus since the other week’s unfortunate dropped supernatural clanger – Morison to finally end that drought. And if Leeds do win, will Whites fans McCarthy and Connor be just a teensy bit pleased? Not a bit of it; they’re both pros down to their toenails, and on that account alone, this blog would still like to see them back at Elland Road one day.

14 responses to “Can Leeds United Beat Whites Fan McCarthy’s Tractor Boys? – by Rob Atkinson

  1. I hear they’ve got six players out , if this is true then I think Ipswich bubble is about to burst and panic set in , the loss against Norwich on Sunday will have knocked em for six and I think they’ll still be reeling ,, but we have a problem in midfield with Austin out , I think there’ll be goals but can’t see an out and out winner SO 1-1


  2. Rob,
    I am in for some of that howsabout 3-1??


  3. Ropey Wyla

    Got to admit it is hard not to like Mick, he’s like the Clint Eastwood of football. His sides play good aggressive football and he resurrects players even when they are stone cold dead and cremated. If Redders were to see his tenure terminated at some point, Mick would be an ample replacement.


  4. Had a £5 treble Us newcastle and blackburn pays 46/1 waiting to see team selection to have morison to score3 or i may have a bet on Billy to score 3 both players are 100/1 miracles happen.


  5. Whiteshotgun

    Varney what a cock knob wallet never good enough for Leeds and to think I ever thought he valued wearing the white shirt shame on me …. Eat your words you desperate prick we are bigger than you WE ARE LEEDS a belated win for your Dad Rob and all whites everywhere


  6. Shotgun got his Karmic wish re: Varney.
    Rob’s Dad got a belated tribute win.
    A great pity that Newcastle let madman down. A draw for Scum with the others winning would have been great


  7. The only Makem manager Ive had any respect for. Good man Mick, Proper football man and as dry as sticks as they say up here.


  8. as you know us Geordies are an emotional lot- Gus probably called him a fat makem w******!! It would have made me mad as well. ha ha


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