Daily Archives: 18/10/2015

Genius Kewell’s Brilliant Theory on Why 5’8″ Leeds Keeper Didn’t Make It – by Rob Atkinson

Harry wearing his most intelligent and alert expression

Harry wearing his most intelligent and alert expression

As many will know, former Westlife boyband member Nicky Byrne narrowly missed out on real megastardom when his fledgling career as a footballer with Leeds United came to an abrupt end.

It has long been a matter of fevered speculation as to just why the diminutive Byrne never made it as a professional goalkeeper. There seemed to be no obvious reason why the tiny teen idol failed to make an impact in a position dominated by lanky lads of 6’4″ or thereabouts. Byrne himself, standing at a somewhat less than towering 5’8″, never revealed the reason for his sporting heartache, and it seemed fated to remain one life’s great mysteries.

But now that baffling conundrum may at last have been solved by the mighty cerebral power of Australia’s foremost intellect Harry Kewell. Such are the intricacies of Kewell’s musings that it’s really not easy to convey them in a form mere mortals will have a chance of comprehending. The best shot that Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything can make follows this paragraph. It’s complex stuff, mind, so read it slowly – and then read it over again, a couple of times if necessary. We’re trying to sum up the product of a superior mind here, so be patient with yourselves and give it every chance. You never know – a revelatory enlightenment might just dawn. Here goes, then. Take a deep breath…

Harry Kewell’s revolutionary thesis on the failure of Emerald Isle shorthouse Nicky Byrne to gain top-level employment keeping a size five football out of a goal measuring 8 foot high by 24 foot wide may be summed up in this one brilliant quote from the great man himself, as follows: (Here it comes. Are you ready??)

“He was just a little bit small.”

Wow.

On hearing such transcendental genius from the lips of the antipodean master, FIFA immediately capitulated, suspending both Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini to pave the way for Kewell to take over as the game’s omnipotent overlord. Football’s governing body faces stiff competition from the United Nations, who want the Aussie as their new Secretary General, and it is believed that British TV have approached Kewell’s current employers Watford FC to test their resolve to keep him, as they want his unparalleled intellect to replace the Eggheads team in its entirety, and take on all-comers on his own.

Moves are also afoot Down Under to strip Kewell of his Aussie nationality, as an IQ in excess of 65 is illegal in that part of the world. Clive James was deported under this provision many years ago, and the reverse legislation has enabled many emigrant Britons to make a new life in less mentally demanding circumstances.

Having proved himself in the genius stakes, Kewell is now thinking of taking up chess. “I tried it last year with a head-to-head challenge against Joey Essex, but he somehow beat me,” explained the former Liverpool shirker. “Now I feel more confident, so I’ll be having another go, maybe against someone even more cleverer this time.” 

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Glittering Success and Glory Are So Close for Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

Leeds, monopolising the silverware

Leeds United are not that far at all from a team that carries all before it, dominating the domestic scene with a clean sweep of sparkly honours, and looking set fair to succeed on the world stage. How good does that sound?

Sadly for most Whites fans, that glory and success, so close at hand that we can absolutely smell the silver polish, is represented by a different team in a rival sport, just a few miles up the road in leafy Headingley. Super League Champions, League Leaders and back-to-back Challenge Cup Holders Leeds Rhinos are the undoubted Kings of Rugby League, monopolising the cups, trophies and other baubles for both team and individuals. They have brought a sense of pride to the city of Leeds in a way that United used to do once upon a time, long ago – a way that the hapless and misdirected Whites can only dream of now.

That’s a bitter pill for followers of the round ball game in Yorkshire‘s biggest and best city. It’s a pill only slightly sweetened for those who, as I do, happen to follow Leeds in both sports. For those die-hard United fans who have no love for what they might term egg-chasers, it’s an unwelcome reminder that, quite frankly, we’re no longer top dogs on our own patch. And there’s very real danger inherent in that unpalatable fact.

The problem for Leeds United is that, in a proud city where there is fierce rivalry between devotees of competing sports, continued failure and monotonous mediocrity are simply not sustainable. Watching top level professional sport is an expensive business at the best of times – and the current times are patently not the best. With continued failure and disappointment, there is no feelgood factor to lessen the sting of high ticket prices. There’s no warm glow of value for money – and that’s a matter of real concern to any citizen of the People’s Republic of Yorkshire, where traditionally pockets are long and arms are short. There is a much-told tale that copper wire was originally discovered by two Tykes fighting over a penny. Apocryphal as that may be, there can be no doubt that denizens of the Broad Acres are careful with their brass, and will sniff out value for that commodity with a bloodhound’s zeal. Like it or not, there’s precious little value in Leeds United these days. 

If you’re a youngish person of limited income but some breadth of mind – someone whose memories don’t stretch back as far as real success for Leeds United – what are you going to do? Where will you go, if you fancy spending some of your hard-gained cash on a match-day ticket? The lure of Headingley and the rampant, success-sated Rhinos must surely be hard to resist. As for the football down at Elland Road – well, would you? With cash in short supply? It’s asking a lot, especially of youngsters who simply cannot know what a rocking stadium behind a successful United side is really like. 

Some people attempt to defend football’s ludicrous prices, citing pricey theatre tickets and the like. But you don’t set out to watch Swan Lake and end up coming home depressed on a cold, wet night, after watching a bunch of overpaid, under-motivated failures slide to yet another drab, morale-sapping defeat. Ultimately, in the quest for the Holy Grail of value for money, people will tend to vote with their feet – and that tendency will increase with each additional year of disappointment, disillusion and broken promises. Add into this mix of bleak depression a glittering counter-attraction just across the city – and the clear and present danger to a complacent and decadent football club is all too easy to see. 

The day might not be far off now when the Leeds Rhinos, masters of a vibrantly exciting, brutally committed, compelling spectacle of a sport, could well be not only Rugby League’s class act, but the top of the bill in their own city, on merit, with only feeble opposition from a poverty-stricken and dystopian LS11. And, Rhinos admirer though I gladly am, that’s a day whose dawn I really do not wish to see. 

Cellino’s Promised “Beautiful Season” Turning Ugly for Leeds   –   by Rob Atkinson

cellino no

“The fans are going to enjoy next season so much, it will be a beautiful season, I promise to them.” – Massimo Cellino, April 2015

It’s been quite a week for holding people to account over promises recklessly made and then casually broken. On Thursday, ex-Tory voter Michelle Dorrell became an instant media star on the BBC’s Question Time, by castigating a shocked and speechless government minister over blatant lies told and cast-iron pledges tossed aside. The hapless Amber Rudd, incumbent Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in Cameron’s team of no talent, simply did not know where to put herself, under a withering barrage of anger and contempt from a voter who felt, with absolute justification, that she’d been conned, betrayed, abandoned. It is possible to speculate that Ms. Rudd, whose face told a tale of deep shame and helpless bewilderment, might not, perhaps, be the best card player out there. Which is unfortunate for that lady as, in her position as a professional liar, she really does need that unflinching poker face.

Compare and contrast the useless Amber Rudd with our very own master of spin and deception, Signor Massimo Cellino. It’s a bit like putting Clogiron Rovers of the Council Parks League next to European giants such as Barcelona or AC Milan. The mighty gulf is best illustrated by the fact that both these public figures lie and dissimulate – but whereas the Tory Minister looked as guilty and crestfallen as an Oxford undergraduate photographed with his wedding tackle in a dead pig’s mouth, our Massimo peddles his many fictions with a countenance as smoothly untroubled as a placid lake on a still, hot day.

Perhaps that inscrutable countenance is the key to Cellino’s undoubted success in many arenas over the span of a long, controversial and eccentric career. But there is a limit to what even such a convoluted operator as Big Mass can get away with. He is on record, as we can see above, as recently as April just gone, speaking in honeyed tones of the “beautiful season” we Leeds United fans could look forward to in 2015/16. It was a solemn and unconditional promise he made to us – a promise now being spectacularly broken as this misbegotten, shapeless, aimless, depressing campaign gets uglier by the week.

Massimo has previous form in his relatively short time at Leeds for making statements amounting to promises, which he has then patently failed to deliver. He said he’d pop down the ATM and sort out the wherewithal to buy back Elland Road upon taking control of the club; many months on, it hasn’t happened (though we’re assured the process is ongoing. Perhaps the pesky cash machine ate his card?). The timescale for promotion keeps getting pushed back, too. Just as Annie the Orphan sang about tomorrow always being a day away, so our prospects of Premier League Football seem to be holding a steady distance of two years into the future, no matter how much time passes in the real world. And Cellino speaks with misty-eyed affection about each successive coach he employs one minute and then, in the next breath, he’s picking a fight with them preparatory to inserting the trusty old stiletto blade between their vulnerable back ribs. It’s all initial promise, moving through bitter disillusion and ending in bleak disappointment.

But the thing about all these lies, as they mount up into an embarrassingly big and obvious heap, is that they tend to detract somewhat from any chap’s credibility. And credibility – the very currency of the successful sporting head honcho – is now a commodity of which Cellino, poker face notwithstanding, is rapidly running uncomfortably short.

Abraham Lincoln said, with typical wisdom: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time“. Massimo Cellino, though markedly less sage, appears to have been quite successful in fooling lots of people for the longest time. But there is a limit – and now, after the latest home defeat to Brighton, the rumblings of discontent are being felt around Elland Road, one time football fortress, now reduced to the flimsiest house of cards. Some of the fans remain defiantly faithful, holding that Cellino is the real deal, simply by virtue of not being Ken Bates. It’s a camp where I once upon a time raised this blog’s standard – but not any more. There have been too many lies, too many rash, undelivered promises. A good proportion of the fans now appear to have seen through Massimo’s affable facade, and they have detected the charlatan that lies beneath – and keeps on and on lying. It’s a harsh verdict on the face of it, but it’s one amply supported by the available evidence.

Football owners are not, in the nature of these things, the most accountable people in the sport. The ones held to account tend to be the coaches, the visible face of a failing football club’s operation, the men charged with making inadequate resources do the job of competing with better-financed, more realistically-run operations. These men carry the can for the owner’s inadequacies, craziness, parsimony and tendency to be economical with the truth. It’s a thankless task, as Uwe Rosler – with his ominous recent vote of confidence/final warning – may soon find out. But the fans don’t have to accept that the coach is where the buck stops and where the blame resides. Not any more than the courts in Italy or elsewhere have to accept a man’s repeated insistence on his innocence – as more and more charges of tax evasion and other vices pile up.

One way or the other, whether it’s the courts or the fans who finally suss him out, surely even Massimo Cellino cannot continue with his steadfast avoidance of the truth, his plausible blandishments and promises – not in the long term. Not when he’s also taking unpopular decisions such as limiting away tickets on the back of a spat with Sky TV. Not when he appears stubbornly determined to lose Sam Byram for peanuts, having publicly hung the lad out to dry, unable to defend his corner. Not when he’s back in the public gaze since Adam Pearson‘s much-lamented departure, making more crazy statements and more rash promises – most of which, you can well believe, will end up as hollow and worthless as his promise of April last.

A beautiful season? With successive defeats, a winless run at Elland Road stretching back to March and a headlong downward spiral in what is not exactly a vintage Championship league table, it’s not beautiful at all. It’s an ugly pig of a season, a Luke Chadwick or a Gideon Osborne of a season, even a Katie Hopkins of a season. Any common or garden fan can certainly see that, it’s as obvious as weather through a window. And, little by little, the more we keep getting told that everything in the garden is rosy, when we can absolutely see the weeds and the brambles choking the place to death – surely even the die-hard Cellino supporters must be beginning to wonder exactly where Leeds United are heading next, under his bizarre and deceitful direction.

Bottom line, ladies, gentlemen and fellow Whites? We should have listened to Johnny Giles.