Daily Archives: 30/08/2015

Swansea Beat Man United to Crown A Weekend Mirabilis for Leeds   –   by Rob Atkinson

Chris Wood milks the adulation of the fans

Truly it is said that, for a sports fan’s very best of times, it’s not quite enough that your favourites should win. It’s necessary also for a team you despise to lose, preferably after taking the lead and crowing prematurely. It adds the aromatic spice of Schadenfreude to the jubilant celebration feast of success. When everything falls into place like this, pleasure and triumph for the good guys, pain and suffering for the baddies, it arrives like Manna from Heaven or soft, gentle rain in a parched drought. Those joyous moments don’t come along often enough, sadly – but this last two day’s melange of high points is one to remember for a long time.

By any reckoning, such a very rewarding weekend is like a great big, gaudy parcel crammed with delectable goodies, wrapped in paper of pure gold and tied with ribbons of yellow, white and blue. What a transcendentally wonderful 48 hours it has been, first and foremost in football, with Leeds United beating our former tormentors Derby County in their own backyard. The victory was thoroughly well-deserved and sealed by a truly tonking strike from Chris Wood, who is looking more and more like the real deal. United seem set to follow up their breakthrough win with some quality additions to a talented young squad. The future finally looks bright for the Whites – at least for the moment. 

Wood's wonderstrike

Wood’s wonder strike

That victory at Derby was a significant result and something in which to take significant pride and pleasure. But in the grand scheme of this weekend, especially for a fan of both football and rugby league, United’s success was in the nature of a curtain-raiser to the top of the bill, an appetiser before the main course. Leeds Rhinos, indisputably the class act of Super League, had reached Wembley to defend the Challenge Cup they won last year against Castleford Tigers. The opposition this year would come from Hull Kingston Rovers, and the outcome was to be of history-making proportions.

Hull KR undeniably froze on their big day, while Leeds Rhinos were at their imperious best. The game was men against boys; Rovers barely threatened the Rhinos try-line, with Leeds surging through their ranks at will as the Final wore on, racking up 50 points without reply. Tom Briscoe scored a record five tries, including one superb 90 yard finish, in a man of the match display. Leeds Rhinos were supreme and irresistible; Hull KR utterly obliterated. 

By this time, your Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything correspondent was feeling pretty good about his sporting Saturday. There was even the merest hint of that Schadenfreude piquancy, with card-carrying Leeds-haters like BarnsleyHuddersfield and Sheffield Wendies all comically tasting the dry ashes of defeat. The only way the day could have been improved would have been a defeat from a winning position for man u, my much-despised, Pride of Devon, favourite targets. But man u didn’t play till Sunday…

And, lo and behold, it came to pass. Sunday provided the warm afterglow to follow Saturday’s twin climaxes of joy and celebration. It was like Boxing Day used to be when I was a kid; a buffer against the downer that sometimes follows an emotional high – one more fiesta day, parties, further celebrations, even more lovely presents.

The Panther celebrates his winner against man u

My very favourite Pride of Devon defeats are the ones where they’ve ridden their luck and then taken an undeserved lead. You can see the arrogance set in; they start to swagger and believe the media fairy stories about how wonderful they are. And then, every now and again, the opposition bites back and smites the Over-rated Ones hip and thigh. Defeat is snatched by the media darlings from the very jaws of victory. So it happened today, to utterly overflow my cup of pleasure.

With a deadly one-two any champion boxer would be proud of, Swansea City recovered from the blow of going behind and promptly smashed man u left and right, to leave them bleeding and bewildered on the canvas. And then, as always happens with this shabby lot, the arrogance was replaced by truculence; the Pride of Devon starting to moan even more at the ref. They snarled and they kicked, they looked for dodgy penalties, they brought on a beanpole forward and abandoned any pretence at beautiful football. And they lost. Joy unconfined, they lost!

So it’s been another highly enjoyable day to complete a miraculous weekend that’s had just about everything. In the mix, a first win for the Whites, a brilliant clinching goal, yet more silverware for the Rhinos as they continue to carry all before them, a bracing start to Sunday at Whitley Bridge car boot sale and, of course, that sadistic pleasure at the discomfiture and defeat of the hated rabble from the Theatre of Hollow Myths. Still to come: a celebratory Chinese takeaway with wine and a good movie in the very best company I could wish for. And, Lordy Lord, it’s a bank holiday tomorrow. 

I’m a very happy man right now, as you’ve possibly gathered – but, naturally, this too shall pass. For the moment I shall just enjoy it, and look forward to Deadline Day – and then the peace and opportunity for calm reflection that comes with an international break. 

See you at the next turn of the cards. This has been a better one than most!

MOT. 



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Botaka Attitude and Desire Worth Ten Forestieris to Leeds United  –   by Rob Atkinson

 

Leeds-bound Jordan BotakaThe Wizard

Leeds United have pursued the signature of Fernando Forestieri from Watford these last few days, showing that they rated the player, conducting themselves with respect – and a fair, businesslike attitude towards a significant move in the transfer market. Forestieri did not reciprocate the respect, and his attitude too was found wanting.

It was apparent days before United abandoned their attempts to sign him that Watford’s surplus striker would have had a mountain to climb gaining the approval of Leeds followers. Quite rightly, those passionate and loyal fans expect some eagerness to be shown by potential incoming players, an evident desire to pull on the white shirt. Forestieri showed none of this, and had alienated the Leeds support well before he dropped off United’s radar. Doubtless he will be more suited to the less demanding environment at Hillsborough, where innocently delighted Wendies will ask nothing more of him than that he should choose S6 over LS11.

In the end, Leeds acted decisively, ending their interest in Forestieri and, it seems, making a successful bid for Jordan Botaka, currently of Excelsior in the Dutch Eredivisie. Botaka, 22, known as “The Wizard” for his pace and trickery on the wing, is a full international for Congo and is highly regarded as a player of great skill and enormous potential.

Just as importantly for Whites fans, he has shown the desire that we should expect of a player who wants to come to Leeds and make a real impression. The player describes his impending move to Elland Road as “not a hard decision”. That alone makes him infinitely preferable to the reluctant Forestieri, and it may well be that Leeds have dodged a bullet in avoiding what could well have been a negative element in the squad.

Good luck to Forestieri at the Wendies. On yesterday’s evidence with their limp surrender at home to Middlesbrough, he will probably need it, but at least he’s found himself another comfy, Watford-sized club. Botaka, meanwhile, has shown far more confidence and ambition, for which we roundly applaud him.

It appears also that Leeds might be buying wingers in bulk, with an English-based player also tipped to sign before the window closes. Wolves’ Rajiv van La Parra has been strongly linked, but may prove not be that man. Don’t rule out a loanee central defender either, with Leicester’s Liam Moore consistently talked up as a target. These are busy and exciting times at Elland Road

Welcome to Leeds United, Jordan. Barring any last-minute hitches, you will be joining a club where you can make yourself a legend and become a star with a global fanbase.