Daily Archives: 11/03/2015

Sacked Millwall Boss Holloway’s Decline and Fall Summed Up by Two Cup Finals Against Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Where did I go wrong?

Where did I go wrong?

Ian Holloway‘s sacking by Millwall Football Club did not come as a great surprise to anyone who has witnessed – albeit from afar – the manager’s gradual disintegration as the season has worn on. Sad though this might also look at first sight, the parting of ways may well ultimately have a happy ending, with the man heading upwards into a more acceptable appointment – and the club plummeting downwards to nearer their natural level.

The season could hardly have started on a more positive note for Holloway or Millwall. The club had one of its two seasonal Cup Finals to look forward to as an opening fixture, with a chance to break out the Turkish flags and some really disgusting football shirts in order to mock the dead, as Leeds United – crisis torn and makeshift – rolled into town. The outcome was predictable on the field; less so off it. Millwall cruised to a routine 2-0 win over a Leeds team that hardly knew each other and played accordingly – and, as naturally happens in this neck of the woods, sections of the home crowd lost no opportunity to have endless fun over the murder of two Leeds fans 14 years previously.

After the game, and after giving due credit to his victorious troops, Ian Holloway was the very epitome of sportsmanship, making no attempt to gloss over the reprehensible behaviour of some Millwall fans and expressing his disgust at the nature of the chants and songs he had heard. It was a surprising but heart-warming departure from the normal “my club right or wrong” managerial line, and Holloway’s stock rose accordingly within the precincts of God’s Own County, as respect was duly accorded.

Wind forward a few months and now we’re heading towards the sharp end of the season. Millwall have declined steadily from their exhilarating start, and they’re in big trouble – and facing another Cup Final, this time at Elland Road. Leeds United have mounted a recovery of sorts, despite a mangled season of coaching staff upheaval and crises further up in the club as owner Massimo Cellino was hunted mercilessly by a pack of slavering Football League hounds.

After ending the August fixture at Millwall three points behind the Lions, United are now five points ahead, and the home game for Leeds is a genuine six-pointer. As ever with these fixtures, it’s what the fans call a “bubble match“. Away fan travel is strictly regulated under this tactic; the Millwall fans have to collect match tickets, exchanging pre-purchased vouchers for them at a service station in Yorkshire – the better for them to be kept an eye on in the hope that maybe they will not wreck any buses this time. For the past few seasons, this measure has kept the size of the ‘Wall away following down to tiny and inoffensive proportions – and so it would be today, something that would end up as an irritant thorn in manager Holloway’s tender hide.

This time, crucially, the honours went to Leeds, creating an eight point gulf between the two side that has grown steadily ever since. Leeds should, by the end of the season, be comfortably clear of the relegation zone – the gap is currently a luxurious 16 points – but it was this result that really started to relieve those nightmarish worries. Had Millwall won, Leeds would have been a scant two points ahead and the nerves would have been seriously twanging as squeaky bum time drew on. In the event, the Lions have signally failed to recover from that Elland Road defeat, currently sitting mired in the drop zone, a full eight points from safety. All quite satisfactory, and certainly a welcome change from the season opener – but how would Ian Holloway’s post-match performance compare to the heights he hit back then in sunny August?

The answer, as we all know is – not well. Not well at all. Depressingly, Holloway seized on the paucity of the Millwall away support, claiming that such restrictions made for an unfair atmosphere and that this had been a major factor in his side’s defeat. He didn’t appear to consider that no away ban was in place – that the Millwall fans had been at liberty to attend – if they could be bothered using the voucher and collect scheme. He didn’t reflect either that Leeds fans face similar sanctions at certain grounds, which doesn’t prevent them from being followed by thousands of fanatics everywhere they go. None of this penetrated Holloway’s head; he was looking for a scapegoat and he had the West Yorkshire Police in his sights, just ahead of pretty much everyone else.

Disastrously – a short while after Holloway had insisted that Millwall fans could be trusted and shouldn’t be subjected to “special measures”, so to speak – they showed their true colours with a typically disgraceful display of bad behaviour at Rotherham, in considerably greater numbers than they had mustered at Leeds. How Holloway must have wished he’d simply kept his mouth shut after the Elland Road defeat.

With the benefit of hindsight, the two games between Leeds and Millwall this season were each a barometer of the now former Lions manager’s standing at the time. As the season started, he had overseen a fairly miraculous escape from relegation the campaign before – and memories were still fresh of his impact on the Premier League as Blackpool manager a season or two earlier. He was eloquent in his post-match press call; there was a lot to admire in what he said – as I wrote at the time.

But as the Elland Road return rolled around, a different picture had emerged. Now Holloway was looking snatched and hunted; his team were embroiled in another relegation battle and, although they had snatched two unlikely wins in the previous two away games, their awful home form threatened to drag them down. Holloway arrived at the home of Leeds United desperately in need of another away win. He got nothing, and was unable to restrain his bitterness and frustration afterwards. His lack of class in seeking to blame matters on a body of men and women charged with keeping the peace in the presence of a notorious away crew did him no credit. The contrast between the Holloway defeated at Elland Road and the one so magnanimous in victory back in August was stark. This was now a man heading rapidly for the buffers, the brakes having failed.

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything called upon Ian Holloway to apologise, after the Millwall disgrace at Rotherham, for the unwise things he’d said at Leeds about what have been shown to be sensible precautions over away travel for certain sets of fans. But there’s no pleasure in seeing a genuine character brought low – and I both hope and expect that Holloway will be back, in a better situation and also a better frame of mind. It seems likely as I write that interim Millwall manager Neil Harris has a bit too much on his hands to rescue the toothless Lions this time around. And, as any regular reader will know, this blog will shed no tears as and when they drop to League One. But nobody – no club – is all good or all bad, and to the decent Millwall fans, some of whom have contacted me with reasoned comments before now, I wish you well in what will probably be a season of League One consolidation next season. And I’m sure that Millwall, too, will be back.

It’s just that I hope, by then, Leeds are mixing it in the big league against appropriately big clubs. Nothing personal, chaps.

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Leeds Blog-Hating Fan Forum Abandons “WACCOE” Name – by Rob Atkinson

The new Title - can YOU detect the edit?

The new Forum Title – can you detect the edit?

The formerly half-decent Leeds United fans’ forum WACCOE will soon be no more, it has been announced. In a shock move designed to align the site’s core values more closely with the bulk of its readership, it has been decided that a name change is necessary. The old WACCOE name, it is thought, no longer represents the desired direction of what used to be regarded as an invaluable resource for fans of the Yorkshire giants. Instead, in an attempt to sum up the collective IQ of the readership, the title THICKOE has been painstakingly selected.

A spokesman for THICKOE stated, “WACCOE actually stands for We Are the Champions, Champions Of Europe.  Well, sort of. There’s a “Tuh” in there, for The. We weren’t quite sure what to do with that. But some of us think it’s silly to go on about the past, we wanted something more relevant to US as a group.” When asked what the new acronym THICKOE stands for, our hapless source – southerner Mr Iain Monkey – was unable to help. “I’m not sure about that either, to be honest with you. All suggestions are welcome, it’s a detail we overlooked. We just thought it looked a bit similar to the old one, and that it summed up what we’re all about as a group of Leeds fans who like to swear a lot, spout neo-fascist views, laugh immoderately at each other’s jokes for the purpose of mutual reassurance and – most importantly of all – try to out-do each other for the attention and approval of our betters.” Mr Monkey furrowed his brow so that the “Sieg Heil” tattoo on his forehead almost disappeared. “We did wonder about saying it stands for The Honestly Independent Cornucopia of Knowledge On Everything – but a few of the lads had a bit of a lip-tremble going on at that one – thought it sounded too much like your own site, which all our members have to promise – really, heavy duty stuff, swearing on oaf and everyfink –  to hate and ignore just as hatefully and ignorantly as they possibly can, which is a lot. So it’s a lickle bit of a nawty one – a dilemma, if you like.

There is some bewildered anxiety too, it would appear, in the re-branded site’s moderation team. A source close to the very top told us that they had tried recently to tailor the forum as per the requirements of its more prominently-lower-jawed members. “We’ve done our best with this,” Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything was advised. “We’ve tried to eliminate anyone – as you will know yourself, Rob, as a banned person – who’s kicked up too much of a fuss over the site’s support for core issues. This includes the Coalition government and our ‘firm but fair’ stance on asylum-seekers (kick them out), benefit claimants (starve them, then kick them out), teachers (aaaarrrgh), the Labour Party (starve them, then shoot them, then kick them out, then shoot them again). We feel that this brings us broadly into line with our most devoted readership, some of whose best friends are foreign types of a non-Caucasian hue. The name change is simply the logical conclusion of this -ahem – refinement of our product direction”

Mr Monkey also issued this reminder to those who may have given up in despair on a declining fansite. Former and lapsed readers of the THICKOE formerly WACCOE site, he insisted, are urged to return and see how things have come on. “We’re going great guns, honestly.  We had some really hard and cool and street nicknames for the first head coach this season – we called him Whackaday and Hockalot and, ooh, lots of others. It was really brilliant and so edgy, lots of reassuring peer approval and big-lad chortling. And anyone who disagreed was silenced, so we didn’t even have to worry about intelligent people spoiling things for the rest of us.”

It’s expected that THICKOE will finally be going live in time for next season; in the meantime the old WACCOE brand will be discreetly phased out. “We’ve made a start already,” said Mr. Monkey. “If you look carefully at the site banner (pictured above) there’s been a bit of subtle editing going on – though you’d be forgiven for not noticing! No expense has been spared to ensure that the new brand is unmistakable, but that there won’t be anything too unfamiliar for our readers, most of whom haven’t been reading for all that long, have low, sloping foreheads – and they can feel a little insecure, with distressing consequences.”

By this point, Mr Monkey himself was shifting uncomfortably in his seat, a nervous tic rapidly developing in one bloodshot eye. “I shouldn’t really be talking to you, you know,” he quavered. “The THICKOE lot really hate you. We all do in fact. You’re always having a go and calling us thick and rightwing. That might be true, but it’s not nice to say so, is it?? And you delete any comments that don’t say nice things about you, so all of our well-hard swearing and the frets we fretten you with, that is all just wasted. And all the nice comments you get are well fake, innit, they are all really obviously all writ by the same geezer, that’s YOU, so don’t think we don’t know what you are all about, so there.” Mr Monkey rose at this point and flounced out, ignoring our polite offer of another coffee and some fairy cakes.

Mr. Monkey is 78, but his IQ is only 50.

Man Utd Stars “to Receive Counselling” After Unbiased Refereeing Display – by Rob Atkinson

Michael Oliver ignores Rooney's plea for sanity and dismisses di Maria anyway

Michael Oliver ignores Rooney‘s plea for sanity and dismisses di Maria anyway

It’s an enlightened football club that looks after its players after some major trauma or shock; attending to their emotional well-being instead of merely training them, like sporting automatons, to go out there and just perform, match after match. So we here at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything are particularly impressed to hear that Man United, long recognised by themselves and the population of Devon and Cornwall as The Greatest Club in the World™, are to arrange counselling for their deeply traumatised players in the wake of Michael Oliver‘s shockingly honest performance during Monday’s FA Cup 6th round home defeat to Arsenal.

The counselling will take the form of gentle reassurance for those who are having doubts about their ability to dive convincingly, whilst Angel di Maria will receive special one-to-one therapy designed to restore his confidence that he can push the referee if he sees fit and do pretty much as he likes, as per his rights as a Man U player and the long-standing traditions of the club.

Some of the younger players are haunted by doubts about their ability to emulate former stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Mark Hughes, both of whom are legendary for spending a large percentage of their playing hours for the Pride of Devon on their respective arses, having performed a perfect swallow dive and double roll, ending up in a position of abject supplication, arms outspread in entreaty, mouth agape, outraged eyes fixed firmly on the referee.

This remains the officially approved method, according to a Theatre of Hollow Myths spokesman, although there is still scope for the “drop dead” method by way of variety, also known as “the sniper in the stand“. But, our contact informed us, the younger ones are feeling rather less comfortable with this approach in the wake of Oliver’s bizarrely unbiased showing on Monday.

“They’re prey to conflicting emotions,” said the Devon official. “Don’t get me wrong, they want to dive – it’s what they’ve been trained for, after all. But some of them are worried that their technique isn’t up there with legends like Ronaldo, Hughes and even current practitioner Ashley Young. Some of these young lads are harbouring thoughts of trying to beat a man and get a shot in, instead of letting their dramatic training do its job and going down like a good’un. Michael Oliver has done a lot of damage here, and all we can do is provide whatever support and reassurance is needed.”

Worse still is the fact that even senior player appear to be having the same doubts and insecurities, something that is reflected in the fact that The Most Fantastic Club in the Entire Universe™ are struggling even to qualify via the Champions League back door. Ashley Young is a case in point. “Yes,” our man admitted, “Youngy is having a really bad time lately. He’s just not playing his natural game. Twice in recent matches, he’s worked himself space inside the area – and then he’s gone and had a shot, bless him, when all his natural instincts as well as his training tell him to hit the turf and scream for a penno. So, instead of helping the team, he’s inevitably scuffing one wide, which looks really poor and, trust me, the boy’s as sick as a parrot. But we’re hoping to help Ashley too, with this restorative therapy programme. It’s what this great club is all about.”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything was unable to get a reaction from Michael Oliver himself. When we asked his refereeing mentor for a quote, we were told that Michael is currently incommunicado “until the fuss has died down”. It is understood that the “far too honest for his own good” referee will be spending the interim period relaxing in a place where he is unlikely to encounter too many irate Pride of Devon fans, at least until such time as that self-righteous and petulant anger has dissipated. He will therefore be sojourning “somewhere on the Pacific Ocean sea-bed” for the next five years.

Man United themselves have not commented at length on the Michael Oliver controversy, beyond a brief statement to the effect that “This is what happens when we have a ref who wants to make some sort of “fairness” name for himself. We’ll be demanding a Manc ref in the future, it worked up at Newcastle as you all saw, and it’s really for the best all round.”

Adnan Januzaj, 14, who now has as many yellow cards for diving as he does goals in his Man U career, is thought to be the 45th “next George Best”.