Monthly Archives: April 2015

Leeds United Bids a Fond Farewell to Doomed Millwall   –   by Rob Atkinson

 

Millwall’s “Leeds away” supporters’ bus will be in use full-time next season

When you bid a fond farewell to someone, it normally means you regret they’re going; that you’ll miss them and eagerly await their return. Leeds United fans have made that kind of farewell often enough – various Elland Road heroes have left us over the years, with varying degrees of regret or relief on both sides.

The fond farewell we’re bidding to Millwall FC, however, is a horse of a different colour. This farewell is one we’re glad to be making. It’s a case of “off you go, chaps, and don’t hurry back”. The Lions probably will be back at some point; we shall have to hope that by that time we’ve moved onwards and upwards ourselves, so avoiding the need to sully our boots in competition with such a very horrible club.

For Millwall, let’s face it, have been a blight on the Championship ever since they dragged themselves up to this level. They have conducted themselves in a less than admirable fashion, certainly off the field and in the stands, where they continue to be followed by a rag-tag bunch of racists and knuckleheaded thugs, who disgrace themselves at every possible opportunity. We at Leeds are familiar with the sickening glee that has accompanied their Turkish favours, so blatantly – even proudly – displayed, every time Leeds have been visitors to their Meccano ground.

This eager desire to make fun of murder and loss is what has distinguished Millwall fans from almost every other set of supporters in the country – Man U being one possible and unsurprising exception. Maybe it’s a southern thing, then – but you don’t get that sort of stuff from many other southern sets of fans – not even Spurs.

Millwall’s visits to Leeds haven’t been anything like as troublesome, mainly as they’ve largely bottled that particular trip North, turning up in dribs and drabs that make an embarrassing mockery of their much-vaunted F-troop reputation. The excuse always offered is that those fixtures have been “bubble matches” events heavily policed with fan travel controlled and tickets issued in return for vouchers. It’s the kind of arrangement that makes away support more difficult, certainly – but not impossible by any means.

Leeds have been affected by such measures – but it hasn’t stopped us taking the usual large numbers to places like Cardiff. Millwall’s recent average at Leeds has been in the order of a couple of dozen who sit shivering, high up in the stand – a sad indictment of a supposedly scary away support. The flip side of this coin is the effect on a game’s atmosphere; on the other hand, it’s preferable to having buses smashed up and your stadium befouled by some fairly uncivilised visitors.

Twitter last night was aglow with supporters of other clubs, jubilant at Millwall’s fall from grace. That says a lot about the way their particular brand of “support” is distasteful to other fans. It was somehow appropriate that it should be Rotherham United who hammered home the final nail in the Millwall coffin by beating Reading and ensuring their own safety – despite a three point deduction that has made Millwall’s failure look narrower than it really is. But Rotherham will take keen pleasure in administering the fatal blow to a club whose fans reverted to type when, shortly after a tiny band of them witnessed defeat at Leeds, a rather larger mob rioted as their favourites lost at Rotherham’s New York Stadium.

Millwall’s relegation is entirely deserved on merit; they’ve clearly been one of the three worst teams in the league, and their demotion is probably a week or so overdue. Their fans also do not deserve to be mixing it with some of the elite clubs in the game; their proper level is where they’re now returning to, and the likes of Barnsley, Burton Albion and Shrewsbury must be wished the very best of luck in dealing with the invading reprobates.

Millwall will not be missed by Leeds United, nor, I believe, by most other clubs in the Championship. May their stay at a lower level be long and unrewarding – and may their supporters reflect that, in the misery and hurt of relegation, they are reaping now what they have been sowing for far too long. 

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What a Difference 25 Years Makes: Congratulations to AFC Bournemouth   – by Rob Atkinson

Dean Court - Premier League ground

Dean Court – Premier League ground

A few days short of 25 years since Leeds United gained their last promotion to the top flight, AFC Bournemouth – the team we beat that quarter of a century ago to send us up (and them down) – have turned the tables, securing their own place at English football’s top table.

It’s all but mathematically certain – confirmation is a mere formality. For Bournemouth not to be a Premier League side next season, a ridiculous combination of results would be needed – it ain’t gonna happen. Bournemouth are Premier League – and how they deserve it.

The paradox apparent between the Cherries’ fantastic achievement this season, and the Whites triumph on that long-ago May bank holiday afternoon, is one of contrasts and similarities. Then, as now, we beat Bournemouth home and away – back in 1990, our victory at Dean Court secured the Second Division Championship for United; Bournemouth, meanwhile, were condemned by defeat to the drop into the third tier.

This season, it could easily have been Leeds going down as Bournemouth ascended to the Promised Land. Thankfully, things didn’t switch around quite that much. But surely, any Leeds fan watching Bournemouth’s stylish destruction of Bolton Wanderers tonight could not have failed to be impressed by and pleased for a small club that has never before played in the top league. It’s a massive thing for the South coast club – and accomplished in the most exemplary fashion.

Leeds United should take note; this is a small club, but a very well-run one. They have a manager in Eddie Howe who is a round peg in a round hole in that he is obviously happy where he is, benefiting from solid backing and very much in charge of team affairs. Bournemouth even have their own Russian tycoon bankrolling their progress – but this is no Chelski situation where there are billions to chuck around. The Cherries have done it on a budget, done it as a team, done it with style. It’s a blueprint for other clubs of ambition. Leeds can learn from Bournemouth, just as we should have learned from Swansea and Southampton before them.

Leeds United and Bournemouth have had very different seasons; Leeds may have won the battles between the two clubs, but the spoils of a season-long campaign belong very definitely to Watford (who beat us twice) and Eddie Howe’s ebulliently effective, stylishly efficient, irresistible AFC Bournemouth team.

Congratulations to the two promoted sides, and to whoever may join you via the play-offs. May we at Leeds United benefit and prosper by your examples – and may we join you up there sooner rather than later.

Prolific Morison Condemns Wednesday to Cup Final Defeat as Leeds Rule – by Rob Atkinson

Steve Morison - prolific

Steve Morison – prolific

Poor Sheffield Wednesday. And, make no mistake, they were poor. Insipid in build-up, impotent in front of goal – in the end, Leeds United could and perhaps should have won by more. But it would be churlish to criticise a team that comes from a goal down at half-time in a derby match – especially against opponents who traditionally regards every game against Leeds as their cup final. This is even more the case when you consider United’s recent off-the-field troubles – although, let’s face it, trouble’s as near to normality as the Whites ever get.

It’s two in a row now for United striker Steve Morison, who kept his cool to score the winner after his initial shot had been saved by Kieran Westwood in the home goal. Earlier in the second half, young Charlie Taylor had popped up in the right place at the right time to slot the equaliser home after a free kick on the edge of the area had the ball pinging about near goal. All this after the sub-par Wendies had gone in at half time leading through a disputed penalty. United manager Neil Redfearn was frank enough afterwards to admit he thought the ref had called it right. Easy to be magnanimous in victory, you might say – but in reality, so few ever are. Credit to Redders.

That two in two accolade for Morison loses a little of its lustre when you reflect that it could equally be interpreted as two goals in two years. But the big striker has played his part when given the chance this season, in a team that has struggled more often than not. You get the feeling with Morison that, in a team that plays to his strengths at this level, he’d still be a real handful. If he’s still in the white shirt next time around, we might just see much more in the way of fireworks from a much-maligned but still dangerous striker.

As for Wednesday – sadly for their fans (but comically for the rest of us), they’ve let down those supporters who turned up in numbers today for the match that means more to them than any other Championship fixture. In the end, it was just shy of 4,000 cock-a-hoop away supporters out of a crowd of over 28,000 who left Hillsborough raucously satisfied as the glum Wendies trooped sadly home.

It would take a lot to erase the memory of last season’s bitter Hillsborough experience, but Leeds made a start on that process of redemption with this much-improved performance. It’s always good to put South Yorkshire upstarts in their place and, as things stand right now, it may be that Leeds are destined to hammer home the final nail in Rotherham‘s Championship coffin next time out. If that proves to be the case, then Yorkshire’s least civilised quarter will have provided an upbeat end to what in truth has been another dismal season for Leeds.

For the moment, the glum look on the faces of those depressed Wendy fans at their Cup Final defeat is enough to bring a smile for even the most depressed United fan – together with some sort of hope for better things next season. Well, that’s what Massimo Cellino is promising us, and he’s bound to be sincere. Anyone remember the promises he made last season…?

Leeds Players Disgrace the Old ‘Keep Fighting’ Battle Cry   –   by Rob Atkinson

The battle-cry of Legends

Look at the image above. It symbolises the commitment and passion of the great Leeds United sides of the past. Warriors all, if you cut one of them, they all bled – and as one they hunted down the offender and served up retribution. This applies to the Title-winning sides in my lifetime, and to any of the Revie Boys. You did not mess with those lads. If you wanted to play, they’d outplay you. If you wanted a fight – woe betide you. You’d be out-fought and then outplayed. You’d most likely be beaten either way. Surrender? It just wasn’t in their lexicon. 

Back, reluctantly, to the present day – leaving the memories of those beloved heroes in White back in the past where they dominated and triumphed, making us all proud to be Leeds. The cold and stark reality of today is of a very different breed of player. Too many of the current squad – the ones who should be setting an example to yet another batch of richly-promising youngsters currently emerging – would look at that picture at the top and think to themselves – Keep Fighting? What for? What’s in it for me? Can’t I just slide out from this and do something easier? Why not have a weekend off “injured”??

Six players have declared themselves injured on the eve of tomorrow’s game at Charlton Athletic. Count them. SIX. That’s to stretch the credulity of the fans rather far, surely – if not the medical staff. Don’t forget – these are fans that revere the fighters we’ve had down the years. They won’t have much time for wimps. 

Neither, it appears, do a couple of more recent United players in Messrs. Whelan and Matteo. Both are scathing in their criticism of any players who may have felt they can’t be bothered this weekend. When these men – men who have worn the shirt with pride – show their contempt and disgust, then why should the fans have any more patience, belief or faith? The fans have even more right to be disgusted – appalled – at such craven behaviour. Whatever is going on at the club, there is no excuse for desertion – and this situation stinks of precisely that. 

I exempt the club’s young stars from this criticism. They have done all that might be expected of them this season, and more besides. They have been let down abysmally by those they should be able to regard as role models and mentors – just as we, the fans have been let down. 

This, on the face of it, is rank betrayal of a stripe I’ve rarely if ever seen at Leeds United. Either that, or it’s a remarkable coincidence. The coincidence would be in the timing of all these supposed injuries, the origin of the players allegedly affected and the fact that the club is currently having a tough time. When the going got tough, certain alleged competitors seem to have waved the flag of surrender. That’s not the type of white flag we approve of at Elland Road

If what is being suggested all over various media tonight is true – then certain players should never wear the Shirt again. Perhaps, on the evidence, they don’t wish to. Either way, if they’ve chosen to claim falsely that they’re injured and unavailable, then they should do themselves and the rest of us a favour – and ship out. That type of player – cowards and faint hearts – are not wanted at Leeds. 

Never have been, never will be. 

If the WACCOE Forum Grew Up a Bit, Wouldn’t Leeds Fans Have a More Effective Voice? – by Rob Atkinson

WACCOE - could do better

WACCOE – could do better

One of the most potentially effective means whereby Leeds United fans’ discontent and opposition to the current Elland Road regime could be co-ordinated and focused is the wealth of fan forums out there. There’s the chance here for a collective voice of protest, for some kind of unified voice raised against the Fred Karno’s Army who are running things now. A much more effective army is out there and waiting to be mobilised. But, for the time being, all the potential thus afforded is being wasted in the insistence on one-upmanship, puerile and cringe-worthy humour – and the apparent need to nip in the bud any attempt at serious discussion of the issues that face our club.

The WACCOE Forum is a major offender. I should really declare an interest, as I have been virtually silenced on there for the crime of failing to go along with the right-wing, hard-of-thinking hard-core “laddish tendency” that seems to call the shots. That’s hardly going to have me singing their praises – but, the fact is that there are some seriously deep thinkers on there, people who could do a lot of good. If only they weren’t continually stifled by the Beavis & Butthead atmosphere that seems to reign. WACCOE used to be a lot more of a force for good than it is now – sadly, the overgrown schoolboys seem to have taken over, abusing powers of “moderation” on a whim, interested only in what amounts to a series metaphorical “weeing highest up the wall” contests, with each successive contributor desperately trying to outdo the one before, hoping against hope for a lol, or something similarly brainless.

It’s frustrating. A lot of the time, a topic will start off as something you think might go somewhere, and the first few responses develop a promising theme, with interesting points of view appearing. And then – somebody has to say something frightfully witty – and it degenerates from there. Very sad, and a waste of everyone’s time – particularly when you think of the urgent need for co-operation and a bit of constructive thinking. But the self-appointed guardians of the Forum ethos won’t have it, so it all ends up back at the lowest common denominator, with the chief offenders frantically reassuring each as to what fine and zany guys they all are. It happens time and time again, with wearisome predictability.

I’m aware that there are other forums out there, some of whom may not have plumbed the depths to quite the same extent as WACCOE and, to a lesser degree, the Service Crew Forum. But I still haven’t quite acquired the habit of anywhere else, so it’s these two that I tend to use as a yardstick of how the Leeds forums online are conducting themselves – and of how effective they might be should the time come when the fans have no other choice but to mobilise against people who seem set fair to run our club into the ground.

Ironically, people on WACCOE sometimes point a finger at this blog, alleging that no other views than mine or those closely agreeing with mine are allowed. Well, for a start, this is not a Forum – it’s a blog – although it can occasionally act like a forum, as there are frequently lively exchanges of opinion in the response thread to many of the articles. Where I do refuse to print something submitted, it’s almost always because of the level of personal abuse contained in it; one of these days, I’ll put a few of the rejected comments together and open a few eyes. From the level of whinging about this on WACCOE, I can only assume that many of these abusive comments originate from the sewer end of their readership – well, just grow up a bit guys, and express yourselves like adults, and I won’t be deleting you – will I?

The fact is, though, that WACCOE was set up is a Forum – they don’t do articles as such, it’s all about topics for discussion. I would challenge the moderators to demonstrate that my few recent contributions were so offensive as to be banned from appearing – they weren’t offensive at all, of course. Mine is a blanket ban, because the sensitive souls who moderate the thing can’t bear being challenged or disagreed with. Which makes their allegations of censorship on Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything slightly ironic – to say the least.

The point is, of course, that everybody with the interests of Leeds United at heart needs to up their game right now – because it’s more than likely that we’re going to have to make ourselves heard as a fanbase in the near future – if things continue to go downhill at Elland Road. That cause is bigger by far than any petty disagreement between neighbouring internet locations – but it surely means also that there is some growing up to be done in places like WACCOE, where the emphasis currently is on sticking the head in the sand when anything serious is raised, and having a jolly good big boys’ laugh about it all – whilst seeing who can wee the highest, naturally. It’s as pathetic as it is unproductive, and you can imagine how it affects the silent majority. What you get is the usual suspects, over and over again, self-indulgently dominating and ruining what could be a very good and useful internet resource for Leeds United fans – if only it wasn’t so insistent on the clique approach, with in-jokes, puns and other frightful examples of schoolboy humour, against the background of a determinedly blind eye turned towards anything they don’t like.

This blog will continue to shout as loudly as possible and hope to be right at least as often as it’s wrong. There’s been some humble pie eaten here lately, as the position of the blog has switched from pro-Cellino to anti – but there’s nothing to be gained by refusing to acknowledge a mistake once it’s been identified. You have to take a deep breath, trim your sails for a new prevailing wind, and sail on, hopefully in the right direction. I was wrong to back Cellino. I’ve taken that on the chin after a real effort at being loyal – and now I’m seeking what I believe would be a better future for the club I love. I know that many will condemn me for that, but equally there are many who agree. The best you can do is call it as you see it and go with the dictates of your conscience.

If it does come to a gloves-off fight between the fans and the current Leeds regime, than I would hope that a massive proportion of Leeds’ massive support would want to be in there, battling for the right outcome and a better future. In which case, the more United we can be, the better it will bode for that future. And it will be a case of “the more, the merrier” – so I do think it would be a good idea if some of the saner souls over at WACCOE – and other forums – could possibly start thinking about getting some actual grown-ups into positions of moderation – so that a change of tone and standards might be achieved, from the annoyingly adolescent to something that could be incredibly useful in a unified Leeds fan movement. That seems like common sense to me. The way things are at WACCOE right now, it’s easy to pick holes in the way the forum is run and the consequent dumbing-down of content. But that gives me no pleasure – I’d rather see it as the powerful force for fan protest that it definitely could be.

Really – is that too much to ask?

Sticks and Stones? Leeds Fans Pay Dearly for Salerno’s Hurt Feelings – by Rob Atkinson

Nicola Salerno - a delicate little flower

Nicola Salerno – a delicate little flower

Without wanting to get over-simplistic about this, the facts are as follows. Steve Thompson, the assistant coach that boss Neil Redfearn so wanted at Leeds, a man he head-hunted from Huddersfield Town, was suspended and told his contract would not be renewed – sacked, in effect – apparently for being heard using a derogatory word or two about United’s then Sporting Director Nicola Salerno. Since then, Leeds – who had been doing reasonably well – have lost four games on the trot, with morale seemingly having plummeted across the whole spectrum of fans, players and staff. Right up to that lonely, newly-isolated, probably doomed figure at the top of the football part of the club, the man who carries the can for mistakes made above even his head, Redders himself.

The main question over Redders’ future now would appear to be: will he jump, or wait to be pushed? To say that there are mixed messages coming out of the United hierarchy, higher up than humble Head Coach level, would be a masterpiece of understatement. Massimo Cellino was going to stay away, then we hear he’s coming back. Salerno, having suspended Thompson for hurting his poor, delicate feelings, seems to have ended his association with Leeds since. Thompson remains suspended, Redfearn remains frustrated, isolated, powerless – so it seems – to do the job he desperately wants to do.

You might say it’s a mess – but, again, you’d be accused of putting an unrealistic gloss on the situation. It’s much worse than a mess. It’s a farce, a pantomime, a badly-written black comedy. Doomed Blackpool, with their rapist part-owner and their long-inevitable relegation, might almost look at Leeds and say to themselves – well, we weren’t the only chaotic club in this league, were we? Cellino now faces further court dates over the immediate future – a time when any proper owner might be looking at his club and wondering how such an abysmally disappointing season could be improved upon next time around.

Cellino has to accept responsibility, even in absentia, for the way the club is being – for want of a more descriptive word – run. The men making the decisions on the ground are presumably there because Cellino wanted them there. Events are not bearing out the wisdom of many of those decisions, and the Thompson fiasco is a case in point. As one glum social media user tweeted, we were rubbish, then Thompson came and we did OK – then he’s sacked and we’re rubbish again. It’s not rocket science.

Leeds United and its fans deserve far better than this. Alright, no-one should be unsackable, and insubordination is not a matter to be taken lightly. But there are degrees of appropriate response – and if a vital member of the back-room staff has been removed simply because one incautious remark caused some offence in one over-sensitive director – then the fallout from that decision is utterly disproportionate to the seriousness of such a relatively innocuous situation. Four games since then, little fight, chaotic organisation on the pitch and off, no points, decimated morale – all because of one man’s hurt feelings. If that’s the way to run a football club, then I’m a bloody Tory.

The sooner this bunch of clowns do the right thing and sell their interest in our club to someone better able to run the place – i.e. almost anyone – the better for everybody, maybe even the clowns themselves, not that I care a slice of pizza for them. There is far too much of a feeling that certain individuals think themselves bigger than the club – and that can never be true. If Salerno has gone, then we have one less of those individuals and that’s a step in the right direction – but then, why not get Thompson back? If he’d be willing to come back, that is.

Now, the rest of them, the rest of those clueless idiots in the boardroom, should get out. Because Leeds United fans – even those of us who were prepared to give this regime a chance at the outset – have had enough. Much more than enough. Yet again, it’s time for change; this time we have to get it right. Leeds United is a global name; when you look at what has been achieved at relatively small and unknown (with all due respect) clubs such as Southampton and Swansea City – surely, then, the potential at Leeds is huge and realisable.

Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany feels that the so-called Financial Fair Play rules will mitigate against the likes of Leeds and Forest ever being successful again. I’m not so sure about that. David Batty on the other hand speaks optimistically, stating that we’ll be back towards the top soon. I’m not too sure about that either. But somewhere in between is a level we can still hit – and yet, the way things are now, we’re a million miles away even from that.

As a wise man once said, a journey of a million miles starts with a single step, but all our steps right now appear to be backward ones – it’s very tempting to talk here about the proverbial Italian tank with no forward and fifteen reverse gears. And yet, really, it would be misleading to talk about cowardice – it’s not even as forgiveable as that. It’s incompetence we’re seeing, indulgence of ego against the interests of the greater good. That’s what’s so hard to forgive.

It hasn’t worked, this Italian experiment. With the League dead set against Cellino, it’s highly unlikely it can ever work. Let’s all just acknowledge that, all of us – the owners too. Cut your losses, sell up, bugger off.

We’re Leeds United – and we’ve got a future to carve for ourselves, somewhere a lot higher up the game than the humiliating rut you’ve got us stuck in right now. Just go. In the name of God – GO.

 

Welcome Home, Jonny: Howson Deserves Leeds Ovation   –   by Rob Atkinson

Leeds and he knows he is: local boy Jonny

Tonight sees the first return to Elland Road of prodigal son Jonny Howson, now of Norwich City. Roll out the red carpet, sound the welcoming herald and kill the fatted calf for, lo, he that was lost is returned to us, albeit temporarily – and under an enemy banner. 

Actually, we might have to amend these tributes, but only slightly. After all, we’ve lost a lot of prodigals over the past few years at Leeds United and, if we hang out the bunting every time one of them shows up back at the old homestead, it’ll be a bit of a strain on that emaciated post-Living-the-Dream budget. The red carpet’s a bit tatty from that time Uncle Ken used it to protect the tiles when he was having CCTV installed in the bogs. And we’re fresh out of fatted calves. We did have a fatted goalkeeper, but sadly he was cast out into the wilderness (transferred to Ipswich Town).

So it might be a case of “modified rapture” when Jonny comes marching home – especially if he forgets his manners and scores the winner – but, nevertheless, this blog would like to think there’ll be a warm LS11 welcome in store for our former hero. By your deeds shall ye be judged – and Mr. Howson did manage a few notable deeds during the time he graced the iconic White shirt. 

Chief among these examples of unforgettable derring-do is, of course, the Howson Howitzer that broke the resistance of Bristol Rovers‘ embattled XI as the ten men of Leeds laid siege to their goal in an attempt to get out of a promotion-threatening emergency. 0-1 down and needing the win to climb out of third-tier purgatory, Leeds were becoming desperate when Jonny, our steely-eyed and über-cool marksman, fastened on to a ball laid back to him outside the box and simply lashed it into the Kop End net. The sonic boom of joy and relief fair sent the terrified Rovers into panicky disorder; they were softened up for the kill which Jermaine duly delivered – and we were up. 

Then, of course, there was that laser-accurate long pass at the Theatre of Hollow Myths for that same Jermaine to roll the ball in at the Beckford End and send the Pride of Devon, tantrums and all, spinning out of the FA Cup. And there was his late and massively timely strike at Carlisle to secure us one of our doomed Wembley play-off occasions. For a young, local lad, Jonny Howson made a mark on Leeds United history of almost Batty-esque proportions – and there can be little higher praise for a born and bred White than that ever so slightly exaggerated accolade. 

So, tonight – at last – Jonny is back at his spiritual home Elland Road. It’s a place printed into his DNA and somewhere I’m convinced – if we ever rid ourselves of fools, incompetents and charlatans – he will one day return to stay. The manner of his leaving does not weigh against the lad; in football, once “your” club has shown willing to lose you, there’s little point hanging around. Like a good pro, he went off to distinguish himself in a Premier League midfield; he went where the ambition and desire was, and away from the decay and complacency which pervaded – still pervades – Leeds United. Who can seriously blame him for that?

In the context of the 21st Century, Jonny Howson is a United Legend – not least for the moments recalled above, among many others. But he’s a legend too because, while he was with us, he epitomised what the spirit of United could and should be about. A Leeds heart beat proudly under that Leeds badge and it showed – in his general play and in his delightful knack of popping up when most needed, to strike decisively and turn the game Leeds’ way. 

One of my favourite memories of Jonny was a game at Scunthorpe when he struck what I still think of as the best example of the “perfect hat-trick” I’ve ever seen. A clean strike with either foot for two of the goals; the other a brilliant header. It meant little in the grand scheme of things, but it was a Leeds United youth product saying boldly: here I am, in the shirt I love, and this is what I can do. Sadly, Leeds didn’t appreciate what they had and, along with several other diamonds, Jonny left to glitter elsewhere. 

I hope he gets his due from the Elland Road crowd tonight. Under his pro’s facade, Howson will still care about what’s happening at Leeds – he’ll still hurt at what’s happening to Leeds. It won’t distract him in the slightest from his job this evening – but deep down, Jonny is still Leeds – and he knows he is. 

With our cheers and applause tonight for a departed hero – let’s show him that we know it too. 

Count On Leeds United to Knock the Canaries From Their Perch – by Rob Atkinson

The only good Canaries are dead Canaries

The only good Canaries are dead Canaries

If Leeds United‘s topsy-turvy season runs true to form, then tomorrow’s visitors Norwich City might just have a nasty surprise waiting for them at Elland Road. The Whites have already sent a few Championship high-flyers home, pointless and wondering what happened, in a season that has seen them generally under-perform. The challenge of promotion-chasing opponents, though, has frequently brought out the best in United on home soil – as Middlesbrough Ironopolis, Bournemouth and Derby County could readily testify.

Norwich would be a welcome scalp as far as United’s long-suffering fans are concerned. As a club, they’ve behaved towards Leeds in a decidedly uppity fashion over the past few years, taking advantage of a rare spell of league superiority to asset-strip our squad on an unpleasantly regular basis. While it’s true to say that Fulham have acted in much the same way, and more recently too, it’s also true that Leeds had Fulham for mugs over Ross McCormack‘s transfer, which has tended to mollify folks at this end. No such consolation where our backwoods, carrot-crunching friends are concerned; they’ve been really quite rude about openly enjoying raiding us and nicking off with some of our best players – as well as Bradley Johnson.

There was also that nasty little business earlier in the season, when serial victim Cameron Jerome made one of his occasional, ill-grounded racial abuse allegations against United player Giuseppe Bellusci. Jerome’s accusations on this occasion were so lacking in any supporting evidence that a Leeds player actually got off on a charge against him; something that hasn’t happened since before the Grand Canyon was formed. Norwich City, oddly, publicly supported their player despite the total lack of any corroborating evidence – and continued this stance even after the League verdict. Still, justice was done in the end – and Jerome sulked. It will be interesting to see if any lingering grudges are settled one way or the other tomorrow evening.

For Leeds, with Head Coach Neil Redfearn having thrown down the gauntlet to his team following a pallid display against Cardiff, the team’s make up is anyone’s guess. Redders could challenge as near as possible the same XI to redeem themselves, or he could ring the changes. Either way, a Norwich side strengthened by the absence of suspended ex-White Johnson might be expected to have too much for a Leeds side shaken by recent events and lacking both motivation and morale – so it might appear.

Just bear in mind that habit of being party-poopers, though. Against all logic, it would be no great surprise to see Leeds emerge from their gloom and turn the Canaries into so many bones and feathers tomorrow. We’ll keep our fingers crossed at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything Towers – and make an only slightly tongue-in-cheek prediction of 3-1 to Leeds.

Oh – and Steve Morison to score…. FINALLY.

 

Leeds United 22401, Cardiff City 0   –   by Rob Atkinson

Cardiff fans turn up in "blue seat" fancy dress - or are they welshing on their team?

Cardiff fans turn up in “blue seat” fancy dress – or are they welshing on their team?

Sadly, the decisive victory indicated in the title tells the story of the differing levels of support enjoyed by the two teams – not the pallid battle, deservedly edged by the visitors, on the pitch. Leeds United did little to show they merit such loyalty and patience from their unfailingly magnificent support – while Cardiff City showed enough to make them feel that their fans have been a little uncaring, sending them alone into what is normally an intimidating arena at Elland Road

In summary, naive defending and a lack of ideas and execution up front cost Leeds dear – as has too often been the case in the last few seasons. A bright spot was a home début goal for young Kal Phillips as well as his promising performance, one that gained him a generous round of applause when subbed shortly after the hour. There was, quite frankly, little else to shout about

The away goals were greeted by an eerie silence, with none present inclined to celebrate them; mute reproach for the en masse decision of the Bluebirds fans to stay home. An odd occasion altogether, one that provided far more questions than answers. 

One particularly burning question has to be about the wisdom or otherwise of getting rid of an assistant manager in SteveThompson, who had been doing well in the job and who had been pursued vigorously and recruited by Neil Redfearn as the very chap for the job and the right hand man he wanted. Thompson appears to have gone for the crime of using a disrespectful word about one of the United hierarchy, Nicola Salerno, a man who has also, apparently, since departed. So Leeds have ultimately cut off their nose to spite their face, not for the first time, isolating their manager, frustrating their long-suffering fans and generally screwing up big time. The man who will ultimately carry the can for the team’s performance, the unfortunate Redders, was not consulted and remains thwarted and disappointed. Such is the crazy and unimpressive way of things at a world-famous football club which is slowly dying for lack of care

At the moment, Leeds do not deserve the loyal and fanatical fans. They do not deserve the jewels now being polished in and around the first team after the Academy unearthed them – and they don’t deserve the professionals trying to do a professional job – while hampered at every turn by clueless amateurs

It’s difficult to say, right now, what the future holds – as this season fizzles out into yet another damp squib of mediocrity. But it’s clear enough what we need. Someone who cares for the club, someone who will do what is right for Leeds United instead of pandering to their own ego. Whether we will get that, or anything like it, has to be an area of immense doubt. 

Time is not on Leeds United’s side. The legacy of glory and global renown will not sustain the club’s profile forever. Already too long in the shadows, a renaissance is urgently needed and somewhat overdue. A couple more humdrum seasons of empty promises, crudely-practised expectation management and barefaced lies – and it will probably be too late to salvage that big club aura.

One day, scarily soon perhaps, Leeds United might be a club whose fans think, “Sod it – we’ll not bother today. We’ll boycott it and browse the aisles in B&Q instead.” It can happen – we saw that yesterday. 

If Leeds United are to be saved from becoming just another Cardiff, Huddersfield or Blackpool – things need to change, radically for the better. And soon

Before it really is too late. 

Millwall Now Second to Cardiff in ‘Too Scared for Leeds Trip’ Stakes   –   by Rob Atkinson

Too soft to go to Leeds: massed Cardiff fans safe at home

Too soft to go to Leeds: massed Cardiff fans safe and well-guarded at home

Prior to this weekend, it had been thought that the seasonal award for “Scarediest Fans in the Championship” would have gone to the stalwarts of Millwall FC, after their entire away following for the recent defeat at Elland Road turned up on a skateboard and spent the match, pale of face and quivering silently, high up in the West Stand. 

However, it has now emerged that the followers of Cardiff City have somehow contrived to out-chicken even those tragically faint-of-heart Millwall “supporters”, by bringing a grand total of zero fans to their away fixture at Leeds United. The trip to LS11 is generally accepted as the acid test by which other Championship clubs can measure their fan’s moral courage or lack thereof. Millwall achieved a rating of “lily-livered“, which was expected to see their supporters crowned “Most Frit 2014/15“. But the Cardiff score has taken them into the realm of the spineless, with a provisional rating of “Soft as an embryo jellyfish“.

A spokesman for the Bluebirds Travel Club, Dai Arrear, confirmed that there had been absolutely no appetite at all for a tough trip North. “The guys are staying in the Valleys, isn’t it,” he quavered, nervously. “They didn’t fancy it, see. So they’re stayin’ yer, boyo, where it’s a bit more peaceful, like.”

The response at Leeds was one of frank puzzlement. United’s away allocation is invariably over-subscribed and the club take a vociferous following with them, even for a midweek “bubble” match. “We thought that clubs like Millwall and Cardiff would return the compliment,” said one baffled Leeds “Barmy Army” regular. “It’s most upsetting and really a bit rude. We always plan a warm welcome for our visitors, as we invariably receive around the country ourselves. To have not one single fan representing you at an away match – it’s ridiculous. Shameful.”

Millwall fans will be relieved to have avoided the unwanted title of “Softest Cissies in the League” in what is expected to be their last season at this level for some time. But the fact remains that both of these clubs trade on what seems now to be an entirely unmerited reputation for exuberant feistiness. It is to be hoped that both will do better in their respective leagues next time around. Millwall are expected to be in League One for the 2015/16 season, and it may well be that trips to Barnsley and Sheffield United will be easier on their jumpy nerves than the Elland Road ordeal. 

Cardiff should have the chance to redeem themselves next time around and may well be encouraged by the thought that, having achieved a zero away following for this weekend, at least things can’t get any more embarrassingly shameful than that, next year.

For now, though, they will remain objects of ridicule, laughed at for being “as scared as David Camoron bottling a live debate with Ed Miliband“. Whether that rather severe judgement seems a little harsh is open to some doubt. But the once-notorious “soul crew” – long prefixed with the letter R in and around Leeds – do seem to be bang to rights on a charge of moral cowardice – and that’s not something they’d be proud to sing about in the Valleys this week.