Get IIIIIIINNN!!! Leeds Legend Noel Whelan is a Cult Radio Star   –   by Rob Atkinson


Get IIIIIIINN!!! Noel, Leeds United hero past and present

Get IIIIIIINN!!! Noel Whelan, Leeds United hero past and present

How bizarre, and yet how typical of this ugly duckling of a Leeds United season, that one of the main cult Whites heroes of the moment should be an employee of Derby County FC. Not that it hasn’t happened before, one way or another. Season 1991/92 threw up a couple of candidates, with Brian Gayle ex-Man City but on the books of Sheffield United, taking the honours as he scored the own-goal that finally turned the race for the last ever Football League Championship firmly Leeds’ way. No such rich prizes are at stake this season, and we have to look off the field of play for the hero I’m talking about. Take a bow Noel David Whelan, Academy Coach at Derby County, lifelong Leeds fan and the best thing to hit the airwaves in these parts for a long, long time.

When you listen to national radio, you want impartiality (not that you get it, not as a Leeds fan). It’s annoying if such an allegedly disinterested broadcaster shows bias, they get phone calls and irate letters. But local radio is a horse of a different colour. What you want then is a bit of parochial loyalty, a touch of blinkered self-righteousness. If the ref’s having a ‘mare – or even if, in truth, he’s just not giving the lads quite as much as he might – you want the regional radio guys to get hot under the collar about it, to have a bit of a rant or moan. It saves you the trouble and it also gives you that warm feeling that maybe you’re not just paranoid, that those buggers really are out to get us. Listen, you splutter to your significant other, I said to you that the ref was bent and the lino was blind or bent or stupid. Thom/Adam thinks so too. Bloody told you, didn’t I?

Sometimes though, the local guys can be a grievous disappointment in this regard. Forgetting that they’re not national commentators with all those boring rules and restrictions, some of our home-based broadcasters and summarisers can make the mistake of being so determined to be fair, that they lean over too far the other way, ending up calling every decision against Leeds, excusing the incompetent git of a ref, justifying the actions of those cheats and animals in the opposition ranks. This is extremely bad news for the fan glued to a crackly radio at home. That, by the way, is perilous stuff at the best of times. Radio commentary is just plain scary. Every shot is arrowing straight for the far top corner of your keeper’s net, every Whites passing move breaks down, we never get the bounce of the ball. It’s horrible and not good for the hypertension at all. And then, on top of all that, you get some ever so reasonable guy who, when the commentator screams, Penalty for Leeds! Surely that was a penalty!! – this laid-back, too-fair ex-pro will simply drawl, nah, never in a million years, he went down too easy, never a pen. Forbye, it wisnae in the area. Thwarted, you grind your teeth anew and feel the blood pounding insistently in your ears. It’s so bad for the health.

I’m not naming any names in that respect (but Eddie, for Christ’s sake get your act together and remember who you’re supposed to be supporting) – what I will say is that Norman Hunter, always reliable in terms of seeing the world through Leeds-tinted specs, is sadly missed from our local airwaves. But happily, the Advent of Noel has brought us a new hero, and he makes even Norman seem like a model of bland neutrality. When play is ongoing, there’s always a bit of Whelan wit and wisdom interspersing the description of the commentator. His Leeds-ness oozes from every pore and permeates everything he says. It’s simply wonderful.

Any Leeds fans will always look forward to any Leeds goal – it’s the longed-for climax to any foray forward and confirmed atheists have been know to offer up sincere prayers for that – ahem – moment of fulfilment. But in these days of Whelan, long may they last, there’s a little extra bonus to any Leeds score. Get IIIINNNNNNN!!!! you hear this demented, exultant voice thundering, rattling the commentary gantry and the windows of nearby houses, and doubtless attracting sidelong looks of disapproval from more ordinary, everyday mortals. Noel Whelan is not here simply to provide the professional’s point of view on the intricacies of play and team-shape. He’s here to see Leeds United win, and he wants it with his very guts. You can hear this in his voice, you can tell he’s kicking every ball and a good few of the opposition. It’s a tremendous feeling; like having your own personal, Leeds-centric representative up there in the commentary box where you’d secretly long to be yourself, instead of being surgically attached to this bloody radio.

Noel Whelan is the fan who really did live the dream, graduating from the terraces to don the Shirt and score goals for the club he loves. As a professional, when his career took him in a different direction, he made the best of it – not without the odd mishap, particularly at Coventry – and carried on scoring goals. Memorably, he scored for Boro against Man U in the Cup, and gave the old Leeds salute to the bitter cockneys who sat in the stand, hating him for his Leeds-ness and for scoring against their favourites. And all the time, he’s been Leeds, down to the very bone – and we’ve loved him for it, largely from afar.

Now his playing days are over, and – ever the pro – he’s earning his living still as part of the game, passing on his knowledge and experience to the Academy of a club other than Leeds. How odd that must feel to a man who so clearly has United in his DNA. But it doesn’t affect his deep and abiding partiality for the Whites; give him a mic, put him up there to watch the lads play – and he’s still passionately Leeds, desperate to see them win, straining every sinew as the Shirts toil away for the cause.

And then – we score. Get IIIINNNNNNN!!!! GET in! If things are going particularly well, a chorus of Marching On Together is not unheard of; though his singing would win few awards, the sentiment is pure gold. A model of impartiality Noel is definitely not – and that has endeared him to thousands of people for whom radio coverage is the only viable option. For those people, Noel is just like being there, or at least the very next best thing – he wants to win as much as you do and he celebrates like the fellow fan he is – as well as feeling the pain just as acutely as we all do when things are bad.

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything cannot help but feel that such passion, such absolute devotion to our one and only, beloved football club, is wasted whenever it’s not being employed in the United cause. Noel is not the first Leeds fanatic to pursue a career elsewhere. It was a standing joke at Newcastle that David Batty just couldn’t wait to be back at Elland Road. Whenever their team coach passed within sight of the stadium, his team mates would be at it, they’d rib Batts, telling him he’d be back there before long. And of course, he was. But when he wore another shirt, Batty fought and battled for that shirt, as a pro always will. I’ve seen Noel Whelan score against Leeds – it was in George Graham’s first game in charge, down at Coventry – and he looked utterly gutted and apologetic. And, naturally, he still got an ovation from the White Army that day.

Maybe Noel Whelan will one day be a part of Leeds United Football Club once more. Surely, he would grab the chance, should it ever arise – even in the sure knowledge that most such returns end in tears. But in the meantime – it’s wonderful to listen to him in his matchday stints on t’wireless, shamelessly biased, proudly Leeds, giving it the full throttle when we score, damning the officials who conspire against us. It’s simply just what is required, just what those fans out here in Radioland need.

Noel Whelan is a tonic. Every club should have one but, happily – and despite what the Derby County payroll people might imagine – he’s ours. And he’s the very Acme of one-eyed, tunnel-visioned, brilliantly biased, raucously supportive presence that any Leeds fan simply loves to hear as part of their commentary experience.

Other, more pallid broadcasters – please take note.

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43 responses to “Get IIIIIIINNN!!! Leeds Legend Noel Whelan is a Cult Radio Star   –   by Rob Atkinson

  1. Spot on Rob. It makes missing the match a lot more bearable. The downside is that when I do go to the game, I miss his commentary!

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  2. I’ve just sat for ten minutes thinking what more to say, I can’t, you have said it all. Great player, great bloke, great wit.

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  3. Could’t agree more, Noel is a breath of fresh air. When we were a goal down
    on the beach at Blackpool there was no doubt in my mind that we would equalise because Noel was so confident that we would. With all due respect (and a huge pile of it) to Eddie, his commentary predictions, made in doom-laden, dour Scottish tones, never seemed likely to come true, unless he was predicting a goal or a further goal for the opposition when they were certain to do so. Hope you can stick around Noel, you are our good luck charm.

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  4. Too true Rob he has completely altered the match day Radio Leeds experience it’s as though he is there on our behalf shouting and singing for us.
    I hope he is signed up permanently
    How could we ever return to bland and boring commentaries once more.

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  5. Ps. I have just remembered one of Noel’s playing highlights, a winning goal against the red menace at Elland Road. Can’t recall the year but remember the goal vividly. He scored at the Elland Road end and I was leaning on the wall about three yards from him as he celebrated.

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    • I think it was the 2-1 when Deano got the first and Elleray gave them a pen about half a mile outside of the box for an equaliser. Pretty sure Noel provided the assist for Deano that day – but didn’t Wetherall score the other?

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    • Mr Rearguard

      September 11th 1994. Leeds United 2-1 Scum & Elleray. Noel set Deane up to make it 2-0 just after halftime. Fergie tripped up one of his own players in the technical area and Elleray awarded a penalty against Leeds.

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  6. An excellent description by you of a Leeds mad Noel Whelan, but it’s such a shame that Leeds sold him, so early in his career, when he was such a great all-round striker with great talent.
    Noel Whelan has said that he was sold to help pay for the East Stand, but I seem to remember that an in-form Tony Yeboah was keeping him out of the team and limiting his appearances, during that time as well.
    Noel Whelan is the find-of-the-season for Radio Leeds and Radioland, just like Lewis Cook has been the find-of-the-season for Leeds.
    Who needs the bland and boring Ian Baird, Andy Ritchie and Ben Parker, when Noel Whelan is now the first choice “Mr Personality”, along side the brilliant Leeds biased Adam Pope.

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  7. couldn’t agree more rob ,
    it starts off with him and popey joking about having a stand named after noel (the east stand) , then he sings full voice , marching on together with the rest of the fans … great stuff

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  8. Uthinkyourimportant

    Don’t like Ya 👀tbh ….

    But I enjoyed reading that 👍👏

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  9. For those of us living outside the UK, Internet based radio commentary is our match day lifeline. Yorkshire Radio, (YR), is available on numerous links but BBC Radio Leeds unofficially on one and that was blocked yesterday. With no other option I listened to the YR commentary and it was like listening to paint dry. After the final whistle, Popey and Noel are again available internationally and their summation of the game was more exciting and entertaining than the full YR match commentary.

    BBC Radio Leeds – please, please, please negotiate rights to broadcast your match day commentaries overseas. How can it be right that we are forced to use a service provided by the be-hated Bates to follow our beloved Whites.

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  10. Sylvia Wilkinson

    I too really enjoy his commentary,especially his tuneless rendering of ‘Marching on Together’!

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  11. David Dean

    You are so right once again, Rob. The chemistry between Noel and Popey is terrific. The infallible one is really great in his own right but knowing he is a Toffee spoils things a little. Noel makes up for that – they are a perfect team. I love the little stories they have, the banter and Noel is so knowledgable if the game, his honesty is refreshing and he says it as it is. No political correctness from Noel, he doesn’t hold back. He has free license to tell the world what the fans feel. Love it. I was not keen when the ladies first came to the media but I am in love with Katherine, she is so great and you know she is 100% Leeds. Wonderful blend with the three of them. So good that I have my little radio at the ready for commentary inside Elland Road when I am there on my own and love the build up to the match as well and of course the post match analysis on the way home back to North Yaaarkshire. Great listening all round. Well done Radio Leeds and thanks again Rob for another gud un .

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  12. Robskibeat

    I could almost cry listening to Noel on the radio, it really is like I’m on there, screaming at the ref and shouting get in. I hope he’s on next year as it will make the promotion season even more enjoyable

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  13. Loved his word-mangling yesterday when suggesting that Lewis Cook was good enough to play for England NOW: “I higher him rately.”

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  14. I like almost all of Snowy’s contributions to the commentary. I say ‘almost’ because I can’t *stand* his bellowing of “get iiiiiiiin!” over *every single fucking goal*.

    The first time it was charming; the second time was amusing; now it’s just annoying. You can never hear Pope describing the relevant goal because Whelan is shouting all over the top. He even did it for a shot that didn’t go in yesterday!

    Imagine all those great LUFC commentary moments had Whelan been involved?
    “But here’s Jonny Howson. Can he…. GET IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN!”
    “Go on Gary Speed, get one… GET IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN!”

    We’d never have heard a word of “Have you ever seen a better goal…” because Noel would have roaring those same two words over the top, not letting the actual commentator get a word in.

    He needs to dial it down.

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    • Haha!! I should say, you miserable sod – but that’s made me laugh like a drain. Can’t agree – but the rendition of classic goals given the Snowy treatment is ball-achingly funny – so thanks 😂

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  15. Whelan’s positivity and optimism is a welcome antidote to Pope’s unctuous questions – ‘any news on loan players or signings Brian, Neil ….’ and anxious pessimism. Miss Hannah is growing on me – she has a sharper mind than either of her male colleagues. Bairdy too is shrewd. Ritchie though is awfully grim (a poor judge too). But for me the best by far on Yorkshire radio is the Huddersfield man,who sounds like a refugee from County Cricket, so cerebral and grammatically well-formed are his sentences. He’s up there with past greats like Don Mosey and the presiding cricket ‘don’ dave Callaghan. But back to football, Umbers was right,Popey, we didn’t need any new signings, we’re not ‘down to our bare bones’. Relax, enjoy.

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  16. Noel sings MOT as badly as I do. For that alone I love the guy. Popey has always been a star. Katherine Hannah balances the team (as per David Dean’s comment above) with her fair input. It’s just embarrassing that she still gets cruel jibes from dickhead fans stuck in a sexist past.
    Dunno about partiality. Everything I hear the Radio Leeds team say is no less than the truth! It’s just the critical omissions that I’d question. Like: why did Redders pick an unchanged side when the same mistake hasn’t worked for him in the past? Einstein and doing the same thing expecting a different outcome etc…

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  17. The Prussian Army recruitment policy comes to mind. If a recruit was dull but hardworking he’d be conscripted into the rank and file. If he was bright but lazy he’d be offered a commission. However, if a recruit was bright and hardworking he’d be taken out and shot. I can’t see Redders being shot by Leeds.

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  18. I grew up on Norman Hunter and Bryn Law, it’s sad to see what Radio Leeds has become.

    Pope and that dopey lass were bad enough, but Noel Whelan has managed to make it even worse.

    Celebrating every goal like you’ve won the cup is just plain sad, and the way he ran down Darko and talks up Redfearn is disgusting.

    You may want to listen to someone acting like the pissed up knobhead sat next to you, but I’d rather have someone more professional.

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  19. Come to think of it, the only time anyone on Radio Leeds has made sense in the last few years was when they had that fan on.

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  20. They had you on?

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  21. Loved your Noel Tribute, Rob!
    Agree entirely with Peter earlier. I live in Australia and the BBC Radio Leeds “listen live”‘s message about the broadcast not being available “due to contractual reasons” is pure bullshine.
    If you’re that way inclined, you can get online and watch extremists teach you how to make WMD’s, or watch a million varieties of porn, but you can’t listen to a Leeds United football match?
    The Cone Of Silence is lifted occasionally by some kind soul and Ustream, but even that is unreliable.
    I enjoy Noel’s banter, but also I think Ritchie is very good too. MOT

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  22. Thank you
    Fantastic Blog
    Good luck

    Like

  23. wetherby white

    whats wrong with a bit of Leeds bias anyway! Weve had plenty of Leeds haters in the media and Sky over the years and what about the Bradford love in on Look Notrh every night of the week? Always think that Leroy Rosenior has some good things to say about Leeds on the football League show as well-good bloke.

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  24. Peter Haddock

    I live in America and at one point got so frustrated with the LUTV commentary that I sent Eddie a polite and respectful letter acknowledging his greatness as a player, but reminding him that the audience can’t (“cannae”) see the action, and that it would be appreciated were he to at least describe the action before moaning about it. I am convinced that this brought about a 3-4 match period while we were in League One where Eddie was a model commentator – then he returned to his old ways………

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    • I had the privilege of sharing the commentary position with Eddie back in League One days, and a more pleasant, polite and knowledgeable guy you could not wish to meet. As many will know. But, as a commentator for someone relying on words to paint the picture, he simply drives me MAD with frustration!

      Like

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