Daily Archives: 12/03/2015

A Warm Leeds United Welcome on Saturday to Nottingham Forest’s “Tricky Trees” – by Rob Atkinson

Former United striker Dougie Freedman, now in charge of the Tricky Trees

Former United striker Dougie Freedman, now in charge of the Tricky Trees

Notts Forest (they hate being called that, so let’s go with it) are one of those annoying, middle-sized clubs with no real history or tradition, who got lucky for a brief period during an otherwise mundane existence – and whose fans have never stopped boring on about it since. In this respect, they’re even worse than Aston Villa, who had at least been there and done it in previous eras. But Notts Forest led a life of almost unrelieved dullness between the time of Robin Hood‘s departure and the arrival of one Brian Clough. Then, for a brief period, everything gelled – and there was a purple patch. Not one to compare with the dominance of Liverpool in the seventies and eighties, to be sure – or even Leeds United in the sixties and seventies. But a purple patch nevertheless, and – for many residents of Nottingham – it was the best time of their lives (always excepting the defeat of the miners in the mid ’80s…)

The magic factor that made the difference for Notts Forest is of course one man, now sadly departed. Without him, all of that unprecedented success would never have happened. His eye for a player and his ability to play his crucial part in a phenomenal double act was the vital ingredient – the difference between mere competence and spectacular success. What a pity that publicity hog and shameless ego-maniac Brian Clough went and nicked almost all the credit for himself, ruthlessly marginalising the true hero. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Peter Taylor – the divine spark behind the conflagration of conspicuous achievement at the City Ground 38 years ago. The fact that Taylor made the vital difference is undeniable – and reflects poorly on those who, to this day, accord all the kudos for everything to Old Big ‘Ed himself. They could hardly be more wrong.

The truth of Taylor’s importance to Clough is easily enough illustrated. For whatever reason, Peter Taylor remained behind at Brighton when Clough strolled into Elland Road, expecting to repeat the success of Don Revie “but better”. 44 days later, he left Leeds, an abject failure – but lollied up to the eyeballs and able to name his own terms in any future job. And he had learned the painful reality that, without Taylor, he was no better than ordinary. All of Clough’s finest achievements came about with Peter Taylor at his side. If that duo had ever worked in tandem at a big club – and there was none bigger than Leeds in 1974 – then a dynasty of success could have been founded. Taylor wouldn’t have let Clough make his rash Elland Road mistakes – he’d have set about the matter far more gently, far more constructively. It was Leeds’ calamity – and Forest’s eventual good luck – that the mainspring of the Clough/Taylor double act stayed at the Goldstone Ground, Brighton – while Clough was left alone in a hotel in Leeds to discover the unwelcome truth of his limited potential as a one man band.

Nowadays, the glory years of dominance and success are distant memories for both Forest and Leeds – though United’s early-nineties revival at least gives Whites fans a choice of eras to drone on about – and they find themselves instead as the undisputed two biggest clubs below the elite Premier League level. The meeting at Elland Road on Saturday will reflect this in a bumper crowd of over thirty thousand, with the added spice of what appears to be a keen mutual dislike between clubs, personnel and supporters. Notts Forest possibly resent the continual references to their local area’s lack of solidarity during the Miners’ Strike, and also to their ridiculous nickname. Honestly – the Tricky Trees? Who on earth was responsible for that particular weird flight of fancy? Neither have they got over the perceived injustices of the 1-1 draw between these two at the City Ground earlier in the season, when apparently the Tricky Trees should have had half a dozen penalties at least, if not more.

Saturday’s game sees Leeds United in a more relaxed frame of mind than might have been the case only a few short weeks ago. Relegation worries have been seen off, and the Whites are bobbing about comfortably in mid-table, looking unlikely to move very much either upwards or down. The most likely realistic goal for the remainder of the season will be to see if a disastrous pre-Christmas spell can be overcome for Yorkshire’s Number One to confirm that position in the league table. A win over Forest would be another step on the way to realising that baseline target.

The main problem for United is that the Trickies have revived somewhat since the dismissal of the useless Stuart Pearce, their results showing a distinct improvement under the guidance of former United striker Dougie Freedman. There are even some pundits who fancy them still to make a late bid for a play-off place, which would at least give the rest of us the pleasure of them collapsing in a fit of nerves against whoever they might play in the two-leg semis. But it’s more than likely that both of these mid-table pedestrians will be renewing hostilities next season, in the same league – but hopefully with better prospects – at least for Leeds.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s game still has that top flight feel about it, with memories of Curries and Strachans and Battys and Hankins taking on the likes of Shilton, Gemmill, Keane and O’Neill. It’s not a fixture that wants for historical appeal, and a fullish Elland Road will be ample tribute to that. Leeds fans will hope for three more points towards sealing Yorkshire supremacy and, with a few solid if unspectacular victories under their belts, it would be most welcome if – just for once – United could set about their visitors with enough relish to see them off convincingly. It’s not that long since Forest got the worst of a goal-laden afternoon as Leeds emerged 4-2 winners – but there have been heavy defeats for the Whites too, about which the least said the better we’ll all like it.

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything wearily dons its pundits hat then – and the prediction this week is that the Whites will see off their embarrassingly nicknamed foes by three goals to one. And, in a crude attempt at reverse psychology, I would simply like to emphasise that there is no possibility of Steve Morison scoring for Leeds, none whatsoever – just forget that completely, it ain’t gonna happen.

Glad we got that cleared up. 



Leeds: WACCOE Meltdown as Man U Could Patent the Word “United”   –   by Rob Atkinson

Seriously, folks...count on it

Seriously, folks…count on it

In a move that will dismay, even enrage, fans of Leeds United, Newcastle United and other famous old football clubs throughout the English leagues – as well as leagues elsewhere – Manchester United FC, known across the globe and in Paignton as the legendary “Pride of Devon“, have formally announced their intention to patent the word “United” for their own sole and exclusive use.

The former Newton Heath have long been offended that other clubs cheekily presume to use a suffix which they feel is their own exclusive province. Attempts on the part of the “other” Uniteds to conciliate have always fallen on stony ground and deaf ears; particularly when negotiations have included the undeniable fact that “United” in a football context signifies a club with the sole occupancy of its catchment area – as is the case with Newcastle, Leeds United, Carlisle and even Torquay – all areas which are served by just one professional club. Despite the fact that this means they’re actually, a fake United, the Man U position has always been airily to contend that it simply “doesn’t matter” and that they remain the only United anyone’s bothered about.

Such a rarefied level of auto-delusion so impressed a Regius Professor of Applied Psychology at Oxford University, that he decided to make the Salford-based club the subject of a thesis on what he described as “Walter Mitty Syndrome” – scientifically, an elevated stratum of specious self-deception. Sadly, after a full ten months work and within sight of a definitive conclusion, the good Professor succumbed to exhaustion from a chronic case of “laughing his poor, aching cods off at those arrogant idiots”.

Now the Pride of Devon have decided to go to law, and will call as witnesses representatives of the print and broadcast media, who have long followed a tacitly-agreed convention of referring to Man U simply as “United”. Strange as it may seem, this could lead to success in Court if the club can establish that the nomenclature has become solely theirs by the ancient principle of “custom and practice“. Another possible outcome is that an unbiased Judge (if such can be found) will take one look at the provenance of such evidence, and chuck the whole matter out of Court under the equally venerable statute of Nemo dictum stercus in Curia.

The Leeds United fan site WACCOE has gone into virtual meltdown at what they see as potentially a scandalously unfair development. Diverted for almost the whole of the last twenty-four hours from their usual preoccupations of reassuring each other as to how cool they all are, avidly discussing their fave sweeties (Snickers or Smarties??) – or discussing whether the best way to get to kiss a girl is by use of drugs or a blindfold, the “United” controversy has had many of the site’s users distraught – in copious floods of tears. Arguments at near-tantrum level have raged back and forth, with most proclaiming repeatedly that “you can’t patent a word. You can’t, you can’t, you can’t!” before dissolving into tragic sobs and wanting their mums. Other Leeds United fan-sites, catering for a distinctly more adult and mature user group than the broadly juvenile WACCOE, have by contrast reported a distinctly subdued reaction, with members either “not being bovvered”, or preferring to talk about Jeremy Clarkson and how crap Chelsea were last night.

The outcome of the legal proceedings is not likely to be known for some considerable time. If successful, however, it is likely that Man U would wish to adopt the word “United” as their new registered name, dispensing with the increasingly irrelevant “Manchester” prefix. There is even talk of the club relocating to the south of England to be nearer to the bulk of their fanbase. One possible wrinkle there is that Manchester City have expressed the intention, should they be left as the sole Mancunian football club in the area, of restyling themselves as “Manchester United“. Such a move would require the approval of the FA, UEFA, FIFA, Sky TV and the Gallagher brothers out of Oasis.

The average I.Q. on WACCOE is 35 at age 14.