Monthly Archives: January 2016

If Leeds Secure Limbombe and Campbell, Season is Still Alive – by Rob Atkinson

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Fraizer Campbell – loan target for United?

Opinions vary as to exactly what kind of surgery is needed on this Leeds United squad. Football managers, pundits and supporters will always differ on such thorny issues; it’s debates like these which add a lot of interest to football, outside of the actual 90 or so minutes of play. On behalf of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, and with only hours of the transfer window remaining, all I can do is offer my own humble take on the matter.

By common consent, someone is needed up front to share the goal-scoring burden with the likes of Wood, Doukara and Antenucci. The most likely candidate for this role could be Fraizer Campbell, a striker who has already been around a bit at the age of 28, and whose star has fallen somewhat since a highly promising start to his career.  That decline, though, has largely coincided with Campbell’s efforts to perform in the Premier League – his displays at Championship level have been much more fruitful, with a goals return bordering on the prolific. He’s also the kind of sinuous player who could complement the more agricultural approach of Wood, for instance. He would certainly be an asset up front for Leeds, adding something we just don’t have to our current options. It’s rumoured that Leeds have already approached his club, Crystal Palace with a loan deal for Campbell the objective.

While many feel that there are also problems in central defence as well as a vacancy for a “number 10” type of creative attacker, I would say that a higher priority is to provide a more reliable winger to balance out the contribution of Stuart Dallas. Young Belgian wide man Anthony Limbombe of NEC in the Dutch Eredivisie was a United target in the summer, and is now significantly nearer the end of his deal at NEC – and unsettled to boot. A move for this lad could paper over the cracks of Jordan Boutaka‘s less than successful spell at Elland Road; Limbombe’s pedigree appears, on the face of it, to be higher-class.

The Leeds defence will steady, I feel, once Sol Bamba shakes off his current poor form – and with the added protection now offered by the likes of Toumani Diagouraga in front of the back line. With the addition of Campbell and/or Limbombe, the attacking options should allow for enough juggling to allow for added creativity and a better scoring record over the remainder of the season.

Failing these moves, or some equivalent transfer activity – and our continued involvement in the FA Cup notwithstanding – I feel this season will taper off into another disappointingly mediocre campaign. But the addition of new blood could spark a late-season surge that might at least keep things interesting.

As ever, I would welcome the views of readers on a matter where any fan will have a heartfelt opinion.

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Latest Cellino Lie Could Signal Late Arrivals for Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

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These are confusing times, even for supporters of such a very baffling football club as Leeds United. In the last few days, the owner and the manager have been singing from radically different hymn sheets, giving your average fan in the street very little chance of divining just what the hell is going on as regards squad strengthening during this transfer window.

If this is just another attempt on the part of the club to “manage fans’ expectations”, it would be disappointing – but hardly surprising. Over the past few years, the standard modus operandi for Yorkshire‘s top club has been to encourage a froth of speculation at these troublesome times of the year, continually talking up the chances of, at first, “getting our business done early” – and then, as the days pass with very little of note happening, turning to coy references to the goodies we might expect to snap up in the emergency loans market, once that bothersome window finally slams shut (sighs of relief from the purse-string holders at Elland Road).

This time around, the story has been quite familiar – names are dropped for speculation purposes and, one by one, these names find comfortable billets at other club. Some incoming business is completed (loan for a winger, loan extension for a midfield enforcer – and even a permanent deal for the boy Dave from Brentford FC), all more than offset by the departure of one of our own (Sam Byram to Eastenders) – said departure having been made inevitable by an insulting contract renewal offer for a young man of high potential who will inevitably play for England.

The new and somewhat disturbing ingredient in this January’s melange of diversion and deception is the sharp variance in the public statements of owner and manager. In the past few days, we’ve had excited positivity from Steve Evans, talk of “going in heavy” for targets unspecified, assurances that no-one is anywhere near the mark speculation-wise – all generally exciting stuff.

Il Duce Cellino, on the other hand, has come out and said that it’s now “unlikely” Leeds will be making any further signings. This is despite another worrying injury to Chris Wood, casting doubt over our already dubious striking options, and well-documented areas of concern in the squad, notably central defenders and attacking midfielders. The thing is that Cellino said something similarly negative just before Leeds moved for Toumani Diagouraga. So who do you believe?

The lesson of recent history is that the answer to that question is “not Cellino”, given his track record for broken promises and a generally dodgy relationship with the truth. This season alone, we’ve heard that he’s selling up and shipping out – a promise that has so far, sadly, failed to come to fruition – although there are fresh rumours of Mr. Parkin circling like a shark around an illegally-imported yacht. The overall effect is that, if you adopt a standard approach of disregarding or disbelieving il Presidente‘s public utterances, you’ll probably end up nearer to the truth than if you naively give him the benefit of any remaining doubt.

This blog, then, having listened to and digested both versions of the current Leeds United stance, will choose to take the glass-half-full approach, eagerly anticipating at least one further arrival before February dawns to banish the last realistic bit of excitement in yet another dreadfully frustrating, disappointing and bleak season (remember, Massimo promised “beautiful football and a season to remember). It’s all been dreadfully forgettable, yet again – another reminder that, if Cellino tells you it’s sunny, you only need to look out of the window to see the rain lashing down like stair-rods.

But the bottom line here is that Leeds United do need to add to the squad in this window – and not, as the popular fiction has gone, to keep alive faint hopes of participation in the play-offs. The reality is that we have lost a top performer in Byram, and the squad as it stands cannot absolutely guarantee safety from relegation, much less any starry-eyed notions of back-door promotion. Last season, we flirted with demotion – and the same uncomfortable scenario could still revisit us, make no mistake. There’s absolutely no point in being complacent on that score.

Besides which, the fans deserve to see better players – and better football. It’s been far too many years of mediocrity now and it’s way overdue that things started to improve around LS11. For this reason above all, and bearing in mind those nagging doubts over Championship security, let’s all hope that Mr. Evans is the one speaking the truth here – and that our less-than-entirely-believable owner is yet again indulging his passion for telling porkies.

The next four days will leave us all that bit more well-informed as to exactly who is on the up and up at Elland Road.

Sky & FL Confirm Today’s Leeds v Bristol City Match Switched to Monday   –   by Rob Atkinson

The Football League Panel, yesterday

The Football League and Sky TV board members – definitely not muppets

The Leeds United home game against Bristol City has been put back to Monday evening for live coverage, a joint statement by Sky TV and the Football League has confirmed. Both bodies have expressed regret at the inconvenience to supporters of the two clubs, and have undertaken to provide at least 24 hours notice in future, except when their own interests dictate otherwise. 

Leeds United FC has reacted angrily to the news, threatening to refuse entry to the Sky personnel on Monday, as well as pursuing compensation for 20,000 heated pies that will now have to go to landfill. “Is not good enough,” stated a senior Elland Road figure, adding somewhat confusingly, “League and Sky, they try to take the peace.”

Bristol City are thought to be considering a formal protest on behalf of their travelling fans, whose char-a-banc had reached the industrial wastelands of South Yorkshire before hearing of the postponement. Sky and the League have remained tight-lipped in the face of resistance to their scheduling plans. “The match will take place on Monday as arranged a full two hours ago,” said a spokesman through tight lips, “We simply can’t have peripheral bodies like clubs and fans dictating to us on fixture matters.”

Newly engaged Rupert Murdoch is 153. 

Leeds Fans’ Forum WACCOE Sets Admirable New Record – by Rob Atkinson

 

Clique

The Leeds United chat forum WACCOE, once famous for its newsworthiness and readability, has lately claimed a notable record in terms of its output over the past few years – during which time it has sadly been run by a clique of fervent attention-seekers and would-be comedians.

In this recent regrettable phase of its history, the once respected fans’ resource has been most notable for the tendency of amateur comics to hijack any thread, no matter how serious a subject was being presented for discussion. Invariably, any topic has lasted no more than the initial posting and maybe one relevant reply, before one of an alarming number of needy “look at me, aren’t I clever” types has ended any chance of serious debate by introducing their own brand of puerile schoolboy humour. Some threads have then gone on to be several hundred pages long, with the content consisting entirely of successive simpletons, each trying to out-do the previous poster for laboured and predictable “comedy”, in the interests of being thought “cool”.

What has become famous as “The WACCOE Syndrome” is well-recognised as an inevitable consequence when a number of tragically inadequate web users, united by a common obsession, are all trying too hard to seek peer approval, a goal they deem to have been met if they can obtain “lols” or other primitive expressions of approbation from similarly motivated members of an established clique. It’s not an uncommon manifestation of needy behaviour across the entire spectrum of the Internet; but the WACCOE Syndrome sobriquet has stuck due to the extraordinary incidence of this particular human weakness on this particular forum. It is thought that only stamp-collecting groups, as well as fourteen or so Web pages dedicated to supporting man united, come anywhere near WACCOE for the tendency to seek attention and approval to quite such a disturbing degree.

However, during the past week, one item on WACCOE has managed to amass a record three responses of impeccable seriousness and undeniable merit, before the usual suspects took over with weak jokes and thinly-veiled pleas to be noticed. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything has opted not to identify the thread concerned, as it is plainly of historic value and would be in danger of desecration if pointed out to the WACCOE ruling clique.

So far, there is no sign of any other thread on the site approaching this record or duplicating what at first sight almost appears to be a conscious attempt to return to previous group values. This blog will continue to monitor WACCOE in the hope that other signs of better practice may be seen, but there is little reason for optimism. Meanwhile, the one isolated thread which displays this initial flicker of adult behaviour has remained undisturbed up until now, with the initial posting together with those precious three items of sanity still there to be savoured – if you can find them – before normal service is resumed and the kids take over. I can’t expose it to discovery, but I do recommend you try to find it while it’s still there – after all, in context, it’s like a refreshing drink in an arid and limitless desert.

Long may such a shining example of how things used to be done last – in memory of what used to be a half-decent LUFC forum. Sic transit gloria mundi…

Leeds Fans Petition Sky TV Over Short Notice Fixture Changes   –   by Rob Atkinson

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In the wake of yet another Leeds United match being selected for live coverage by Sky Sports, Whites fan Scott Jones of Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, has organised a petition calling on Sky TV to stop causing fixture changes at short notice.

The reasoning behind the petition, hosted by Change.org, is that many fans of Leeds United (and other clubs) live far from the stadium, some even abroad, and they must necessarily arrange tickets, travel and accommodation quite some time in advance. The subsequent rearrangement of fixtures will inevitably cause financial loss and great inconvenience to these fans, who are left feeling that their concerns are of no importance to the big companies concerned.

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything feels strongly that these fans, whichever club they support, have a solid argument to the effect that a minimum notice period should be observed, without which games should not be rearranged. An alternative course would be adequate compensation for fans thus affected, as a matter of course and with no quibbles.

There are, of course, two sides to every coin. Live TV coverage is of great value to those who, for whatever reason, cannot get along to games in person. And some games will suddenly assume greater significance, with a consequent justification (Sky might argue) for selecting such games at short notice. But match-going supporters remain the lifeblood of football, and their understandable worries and concerns should not lightly be dismissed, nor indeed ridden over roughshod – as it appears all too frequently is happening. At the very least, the issue is worthy of consideration by the relevant bodies, and some attention should be paid as to how supporters’ concerns might be addressed.

For the Leeds United v Middlesbrough fixture just selected for coverage and therefore put back to the Monday evening, I have heard of a large party flying in from Norway, of a group who have paid four figures for an executive box, and sundry other groups and individuals whose long-established plans have been thrown into disarray, just on Mr. Murdoch‘s airy whim. This is simply not good enough. It’s high time Sky stopped messing loyal fans about, fans who have spent time and money making travel arrangements long in advance of the original fixture, from far afield. They lose out big time and Sky doesn’t seem to care one jot.

The Change.org petition started by Scott Jones can be signed here. It’s worthy of support, so please take a little time – out of consideration for your fellow fans – to do just that.

Cellino Deserves to be Judged on This Transfer Window – by Rob Atkinson

MASSIMO-CELLINO

Sheriff Cellino – drinking in the Last Chance Saloon

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything initially supported the tenure of Massimo Cellino, despite understandable reservations arising out of his track record at Cagliari. But he’d straighten up and drive right now he was in charge of a Porsche instead of a Fiat 500, we assured ourselves. Surely his very purchase of a sleeping giant like Leeds United was evidence of a burning ambition that would be realised through his evident wealth. And, after all, he was going to buy the ground and other assets back, pronto. It was all good. Or so we thought.

Bitter experience has been a harsh teacher in the months that have passed since those early, optimistic days. Far from straightening up, the Italian has become ever more twisted and bent with each passing court case and every glib lie. He’s presided over a revolving-door policy on coaches, recruiting a succession of nobodies and then blaming them for inevitable failure. He’s declined to invest in the squad as a club the size and reputation of Leeds demands. For every half-decent buy, there’s been two or three real lemons – and the drip, drip sale of talent has been maintained. The re-purchase of Elland Road has not happened, and there is little if any sign that it will. Cellino has been, to put it kindly, a big fat disappointment of almost Tomas Brolin proportions. He’s single-handedly made of Leeds United a laughing-stock to rival the David Moyes tenure at man u.

Now, more by the law of averages than good judgement, we seem to have a manager who shows signs of being able to produce winning football in the (admittedly unlikely) event of being left to get on with the job. Steve Evans has made it abundantly clear that the squad needs an influx of quality, and that fact is self-evident to any even half-knowledgeable fan. Evans’ impact on the club has been considerable, given the circumstances he’s had to put up with. There is a noticeable improvement in match-day performances, despite the odd dreadful blip. Even in unfortunate defeat at Hillsborough on Saturday, Leeds were far from outclassed or outplayed. There is good cause for some hope that our current manager can succeed where so many have failed.

So far this window, Liam Bridcutt‘s loan has been extended, and there has been a loan move too for Mustapha Carayol from Middlesbrough. Both have acquitted themselves well, and this is evidence that Evans’ judgement of a player has not been found wanting. We’ve lost Sam Byram to Everton, a tragic event that can be traced back to Cellino’s pig-headed contract renegotiation tactics. Leeds are now at the crossroads of the season, maybe even last-chance saloon in terms of the prospects of this campaign being anything other than yet another dull anti-climax. Cellino has to act positively now, back his manager, invest in quality and trust to a proper football man to do a job when given the tools.

There is still time – not much, but some – for Cellino to reinvent himself as an owner with the interests of what is still a major club at heart. But the clock is ticking. If this month expires to the accompaniment of that old refrain (we’re happy to see what the loan market has to offer…), then many, not least this blog, will take that as a final confirmation that il Presidente is a chancer, a fly-by-night con-man who is leading Leeds United up the garden path to nowhere. If it turns out that, yet again, the supporters’ expectations are being crudely managed with honeyed words and cynically empty promises, Cellino will be exposed once and for all as a fraud in the football world just as in the courts of his native Italy. If he blows this chance, he should not – surely – be granted another.

Put your hands in your pockets, Massimo, and dig deep. Silence those of us who are convinced you’re a waster, if you can. Act now, or pack up and ship out. Leeds United expects. You’ve let us down time after time. Now, you have to stand up and be counted – or it will be the end of the road for you. Tick tock, Signor Cellino.

Lucky Sheffield Wednesday Benefit From Opponents’ and Officials’ Howlers   –   by Rob Atkinson

Referee Taylor: Which way is the rule-book?

Sheffield Wednesday 2, Leeds United 0

Sometimes, a simple scoreline can be so deceptive. Without making too many excuses for the myriad inadequacies of this Leeds United performance, the match between United and Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough was one of those occasions when the score alone tells a very misleading story.

The fact of the matter is that Leeds, having more than held their own in a first half where steadier finishing would have seen them comfortably ahead at the interval, had their own ‘keeper Marco Silvestri as well as some fathomless decision-making by replacement ref Anthony Taylor to blame for a second period capitulation. Ironically, it was the home side in the unfortunate position of having to field a third-choice goalkeeper – but any observer unaware of this fact might have guessed that the novice was in the away goal. Silvestri first gave away a needless corner from a shot heading two yards wide, resulting in a scrambled opener – and then spilled a long-range shot for the predatory Hooper to claim a second for Wednesday.

In such circumstances, you could perhaps have forgiven Leeds for concluding that it simply wasn’t their day – but to their credit, they plugged away and continued to press the home side back. It took a bizarre piece of refereeing to deny United an avenue back into the game as the clock ticked towards the final ten minutes. Leeds had already been denied by the woodwork when Wendies defender Pudil committed a foul – surely a second bookable offence – that gave Leeds what seemed like a deserved goal from Liam Cooper. The referee had checked on the progress of Wednesday’s substitution of Forestieri, had seen the player making his way slowly off – and had then whistled for the Leeds free-kick to be taken, signalling a goal when Cooper bundled the ball into the home net. Bizarrely, he then reversed his decision after consultation with the fourth official and Leeds were denied. In effect, Wednesday had benefited directly from time-wasting in the shape of Forestieri’s snail-pace trudge off the pitch. Rough justice – the kind of justice meted out to Leeds United over the past half-century – had kicked the Whites in the teeth yet again.

From the retaken free kick, insult was added to injury when Pudil – who should have seen red for the foul that led to the original award – cleared the ball off the line, and Leeds United’s last chance of recovery was gone. In truth, of course, United’s own profligate finishing and the basic errors of a goalkeeper in Silvestri whose position must now surely be in jeopardy, have ended up costing Leeds dear. But yet another unprecedented piece of shoddy refereeing leaves a nasty taste in the mouth – one that Leeds fans are all too familiar with from long and bitter experience. Plus ça change… It’s difficult to see this particular football tradition ending anytime soon.

Finally – and just to put the slings and arrows of an outrageous South Yorkshire lunchtime into perspective – it appears that a Wednesday fan lost his life to a heart attack on the Hillsborough Kop as the game was in its second half. Such a tragedy would blight any occasion, and it certainly puts petty sporting rights and wrongs firmly into their unimportant place. To the late football fan and his grieving family, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything extends sincere condolences and sympathy. Rest in peace.

Yorkshire Derby Joy: Sheffield Wednesday 1, Leeds United 6 – by Rob Atkinson

Take That, Wendies - Hat-Trick Hero Leee Celebrates

Take That, Wendies – Hat-Trick Hero Leee Celebrates

Today, we’re taking a look back to almost exactly 24 years ago to one of Leeds United’s, let’s say, more emphatic performances on their travels. Ahead of the lunchtime kick-off at Hillsborough – a fixture we can hardly anticipate with any pleasure, given current form and the sour mood surrounding Leeds United as a club – this match in January of ’92 provides some particularly happy memories.

As 1991 turned into 1992, there was plenty to look forward to for our great club.  Against many expectations, Leeds had stayed the pace in the first half of the season, to remain Man U’s main challengers for the last ever old-style Football League Championship.  We also retained an interest in both Cups, and there was no European football to muddy the waters, as we’d “only” finished fourth on our top-flight re-entry the season before (a position, it should be noted, that gains entry to the guaranteed riches of the Champions’ League these less demanding days).  So it was the League Cup and the FA Cup that promised to be the distractions from our pursuit of the Title, and guess what?  We were drawn at home in both competitions against The Pride of Devon, our main rivals for the Championship.  You couldn’t, as they say, make it up.

History shows that our beloved neighbours from “ovver t’hill” ended our involvement in both Cups, deservedly 3-1, let it be said, in the 5th Round of the League Cup (then Rumbelows Cup).  By contrast, a distinctly unlucky exit in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup followed, when a dominant Leeds performance brought only the bitter pill of a 1-0 defeat, and a worrying injury to Lee Chapman into the bargain.   Prior to the Cup games, we had played Man U in the league at Elland Road, drawing one each in the first game of what was known at the time as a “Titanic Roses Trilogy” by unimaginative sub-editors everywhere.  So honours were by no means even, but the consequences of this mighty three match series would be felt over the remainder of the season, and – some would argue – far beyond.

The immediate fall-out was that Leeds were “free to concentrate on the League”, as the cliché runs.  Man U, meanwhile, continued on to Wembley in the League Cup, enjoying a victory over Nottingham Forest, but ended up losing amusingly at home to Southampton in the FA Cup.  The fixture congestion they suffered as the season entered its final stages would be significant, if not actually decisive, in the eventual destination of the Title.

As far as the Title went, the lads from the Theatre of Hollow Myths had suffered a shock on New Year’s Day, capitulating 4-1 at home to QPR. Later that January 1st, Leeds won competently 3-1 at West Ham, and remained well in the race for the ultimate domestic honour.  The scene was adequately set, then, for Wilko’s first return to Hillsborough since he had quit Wednesday to become Leeds boss in 1988. This would also be Chapman’s last game before his season-threatening FA Cup injury. He was destined to be sidelined only temporarily, and he went out in emphatic style.

There was a crowd of 32,228 at Hillsborough, the usual vociferous contingent of travelling Leeds fans rivalling the home crowd for noise from the outset, and completely drowning them as the game went on. Leeds United were weakened – so it seemed – by the absence of the injured Gordon Strachan and suspended David Batty, half of their legendary midfield Fantastic Four. Any side, surely, would miss performers of such calibre. Leeds, however, seemed determined to make light of the problem, and tore into the shocked Wendies from the start.  Full-back Tony Dorigo made an early, darting run, cutting in from the left and making good progress down the centre of the pitch, before unleashing a right-foot thunderbolt that home ‘keeper Chris Woods had to tip over.  From the resulting Gary MacAllister corner, Chris Fairclough rose to head downwards, and found Chapman in splendid isolation 4 yards out; his finish was sure and deadly.

For a local derby, the contest had been decidedly one-way traffic – Chapman was to send two towering headers just wide before Carl Shutt had a scuffed shot smothered by Woods in the home goal. Then, a true champagne moment as Mel Sterland fed the ball to Chapman on the right. In a completely untypical burst of pace and control, Chappy surged between two hapless Wednesday defenders, raced into the area, and unleashed a shot that beat Woods completely, just clipping the frame of the goal to rapturous applause from the Leeds fans at the Leppings Lane End. I remember thinking at the time that anything was possible now, if Lee Chapman could do something so utterly out of character. And so it proved as, from a free kick awarded just right of centre some ten yards outside the box, Dorigo stepped up to absolutely hammer the ball past a helpless ‘keeper. Cue raucous jubilation from the White Army behind the goal, celebrating as clean a strike as you could ever see, hurtling into the far corner with precision and power.

At 2-0 down, the home side were making increasingly desperate attempts to gain some sort of foothold in the match. This desperation was adequately demonstrated when, from a harmless-looking ball into the Leeds area, Wednesday striker Gordon Watson ran in front of Chris Whyte, continued on for another step or two, and then hurled himself into the air, landing in agonised paroxysms of simulation between a bemused Whyte and Leeds ‘keeper John Lukic. Such obvious fraud and villainy could have only one outcome, and the stadium held its collective breath for sentence to be passed on the miscreant. Instead – amazingly – referee Philip Don pointed to the spot as Whyte snarled his outraged disbelief.  Whether none of the officials had seen the extent of Watson’s ham-acting, or whether they were perhaps moved by sympathy for the mauling Wednesday were taking from a rampant Leeds, it’s impossible to say.  Ex-Leeds hero John Sheridan stepped up, saw his penalty brilliantly saved as Lukic tipped it against his right-hand post, and then gleefully belted home the rebound to give Wednesday a massively unmerited lifeline.

An act of such base and scurvy treachery required nothing less than a riposte of the utmost nobility and beauty. And, happily, so it came to pass. Just minutes after the home side’s ridiculous blagging of an unfair route back into the game, Leeds effortlessly took control again with a goal sublime in both conception and execution. Lukic bowled the ball out to Dorigo on the left flank; he sent it down the line to Gary Speed, who took one touch to steady himself, before sending a beautiful flighted cross into the Wednesday area.  And there, inevitably, was Chapman, horizontal in mid-air, neck cocked to hammer the ball unanswerably past Woods, the perfect counterpunch to suck a knavish low blow.  It was a gorgeous goal, sweeping the length of the left side of the field, taking the entire home team right out of the game, and re-establishing the two goal margin which was the least Leeds United deserved at half-time.

The second half that day was simply a story of how a blood-and-thunder Yorkshire derby turned into a stroll in the park for Leeds United.  It seemed as if all the life had been sucked out of the home team – a Wednesday side, let’s not forget, who were unbeaten at home since the opening day of the season, and who would go on to finish third in the table.  So they were no mugs, but Leeds United were absolutely irresistible on the day, and would have hammered far better teams than the hapless Owls.

Possibly, Wednesday were simply embarrassed about that cringeworthy penalty, possibly they were tired, having been run rings around since the start.  Whatever the case, their heads dropped steadily further and further as the game progressed, and they offered little resistance as Leeds proceeded to throttle the life out of them.  Chapman completed his hat-trick after the hour, heading in after Speed had struck the bar from a corner.  Poor Speedo was looking the other way, bemoaning his bad luck when the ball hit the back of the net, turning his frustration to joy.  Then perennial bit-part player Mike Whitlow ventured forward, just because he could, and rose unchallenged to meet Wallace’s right-wing cross and head easily over a stranded Woods.  It was left to little Rodney Wallace to administer the coup de grâce, striding clear after a shimmering exchange of passes in midfield to dink the ball over the advancing ‘keeper, and put the suffering home side finally out of their misery.

For Leeds, it had been their biggest away win in over 60 years as they returned to the First Division summit in the best possible manner.  The message had been sent out loud and clear: United were serious about their Championship challenge, and they would surely look back after their eventual success in the League, to identify this sumptuous display as one that defined them as potentially the best team in the land.  For Wednesday it was utter humiliation, and truth to tell it was difficult to sympathise.  Better really to lose 6-0 than to be tainted as they were with such a crass and obvious example of cheating – and it hardly reflected much credit on myopic referee Don, either.

It was a massively impressively performance, a hugely significant victory, and the sweetest possible return for United’s ex-Owls contingent.  Mel Sterland always took great delight in beating the Blades, but this victory over his boyhood favourites would have only happy memories for him, as indeed for Chapman, Shutt and of course the Sergeant himself.  Leeds would march on to the Title, Man U’s quarter-of-a-century wait would extend for another 12 delightful months – and Wednesday would recover to finish impressively, despite another awful trouncing at Highbury.

But January 12th 1992 belonged entirely to Leeds United, who looked like Champions a full four months early with this five star, six of the best Masterclass display.

Cellino Confirms Cook Departure With “Not For Sale” Claim   –   by Rob Atkinson

Seasoned observers of Massimo Cellino‘s somewhat tenuous relationship with the truth will find it hard to derive much – if any – reassurance from the Italian’s claim that midfield prodigy Lewis Cook is not for sale. Sadly, the rule of thumb where il Duce is concerned appears to be that old saw “believe nothing until it has been officially denied”. At Yorkshire’s Number One club, this could more conveniently be described as “The McCormack Protocol”.

Lies

This is, of course, no way to run a football club – or any other organisation which holds the happiness and contentment of thousands of followers in its hands. It’s downright unprincipled. Such cynicism is really more the preserve of politicians and other such undesirables, operating in an arena where it is tacitly understood that misdirection and deception are simply the tools of the trade. But Cellino has brought to Elland Road standards of veracity that would make a Westminster spin doctor wince; his track record as the owner of Leeds United is littered with broken promises, slippery evasions and downright lies.

The examples of forked-tongue complex are not difficult to cite, neither are they capable of much misinterpretation. From the vow to repurchase the stadium and the training ground on Day One of his tenure, to his serial failures to stand by coach after coach, as promised, “Cellinocchio” has seen his nose growing longer with each undeniable failure to deliver on that out-dated commodity: the truth. It’s been a tawdry couple of years down LS11 way.

Now we’re just a few days into January or, as most fans think of it, the mid-season transfer window. But for Leeds fans, this time of the year has long been “Crown Jewels Sale Time”. Right now, the Leeds United treasury is crammed with diamonds, greedily coveted by predatory clubs operating at a higher level – and well aware of the short-termism that characterises United’s retention policy. 

January, crucially, is always the acid test of Leeds’ resolve to hang onto its prize assets – and it’s a test the club usually fails, leaving the fans misty-eyed at the loss of yet more potentially winning talent. Of the current crop, Sam Byram represents low-hanging fruit almost bound to be plucked before the month is out. Leeds fans have reluctantly come around to his impending loss as a result of the club’s failure to come up with an appropriate contract. The likes of Cook, Alex Mowatt and Charlie Taylor, though, would be seen as a premature cashing-in on youngsters still tied to the club and evidently content, for the moment at least.

Young Cook is the name on everyone’s lips at the moment, with firm interest registered by Premier League giants Bournemouth and a figure not unadjacent to £10m mooted. There’s rich irony there, not that any Leeds fans will relish it. Almost seven years before our Lewis was born, Leeds were beating the south coast outfit to win the second-tier championship and head on and up towards ultimate glory two years later. The same match saw the Cherries plummet into the third division, destined for a crisis that would threaten their very existence. How times change, how roles reverse. Perhaps in time our relative positions might switch back again, but that’s cold comfort in a here and now which sees Bournemouth as the shark to our small-fry status.

Given our less than completely trustworthy owner’s recent statement, it would be no surprise to see Cook go – but it would be a tragedy – and it would be further confirmation of crazy priorities at Leeds. It may be, of course, that all of this Lewis Cook brouhaha has been cynically engineered to sweeten the bitter pill of Byram’s departure and subsequent inadequate replacement. With a notoriously slithery operator like Cellino, little is too Machiavellian to rule out. But the simpler and more worrying possibility is that he’s simply lying. Again. 

As the sharks circle and the vultures flap overhead in the next few weeks, we will learn quite a bit more about our current situation under a man who has proved time and again that he’s unfit to run a club like Leeds United. And whatever happens, whatever lies and broken promises are exposed – you can be sure that the blame will be apportioned anywhere other than the office of one M. Cellino. 

Is It Really “Tinpot” to Celebrate Anniversary of Leeds’ FA Cup win at Man U? – by Rob Atkinson

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That goal at the Beckford End

January 3rd, remember the date…

…so the song goes, and enough Leeds United fans still sing it loud and proud, even six years on, to make you realise that most of us see the famous FA Cup win at the Theatre of Hollow Myths as an occasion well worth commemorating. Which, of course, is just as it should be. We went to the home of the champions as a third tier team, unwisely dismissed by Man U’s own official website as “minnows”, with the general opinion among the gloryhunters from all across the south of England being that here was a good chance to play a few kids, enjoy the day and still give Leeds United a damned good thrashing. And we won. 1-0 it was courtesy of Jermaine, but it could so easily have been three; Beckford again and Snodgrass going agonisingly close in the second half. The Pride of Devon were beaten fair and square in one of the biggest shocks for years. It remains one of Leeds United’s comparatively few genuine giant-killings, with us having more usually been the giants.

It seems natural that such an achievement, against such despised foes who had been so confident of brushing us aside, should be celebrated as a beacon in our history – and especially so in such a very murky and depressing part of that history. We’d come through administration, points deductions and the experience of having the whole of the game trying to kick us while we were down (this sounds very familiar over half a decade later). We’d recovered, somewhat, from the very brink of extinction. We were at a low ebb, but still in there and fighting. These are experiences that no Man U fan has ever had, or ever will, the kind of episodes in your club’s existence that makes you realise what it truly is to be a fan. Of course we were right to celebrate such an iconic victory and of course we are right to mark its anniversary. It goes without saying – or so you’d have thought.

Incredibly, though, there is a small but vociferous minority who appear to cringe away from any reference to the whole January 3rd thing. They don’t like it, and they can be seen in small pockets everywhere across social media, yapping unhappily that it’s “tinpot” to mark the occasion. These are the people, of course, who feel that they know what’s right and what’s wrong and never hesitate to tell others what to do and think. When they see anyone taking pride in a past achievement, it rubs them up the wrong way – and then their instinct for being killjoys and trying to suppress this celebration really kicks in. They crop up on Facebook and in the various Leeds United forums. They are evident on Twitter, trying to pack their desire to control how others act into 140 characters. They are everywhere, and they are quite vocal – because they hate the thought that people out there are getting any pleasure out of remembering a great day. It really does get their backs up.

Well, good. I’m delighted every year to see January 3rd marked with pride and joy. It gives me a buzz when people post the text of the commentary to Jermaine’s goal at the Beckford End, or if they put up the video to enjoy all over again. It’s a feel-good thing, and something to relish when Christmas and the New Year are done and dusted. And it’s all the more enjoyable if it offends the killjoys – that certainly eggs me on to make sure I get full value out of the anniversary of the day we became the Ultimate Scum-busters. Don’t forget, because of the “Biggest in the Universe” accolade they award themselves, the gloryhunters will never experience the fierce pride and joy of going into a match as such rank underdogs – and emerging victorious. It’s a pleasure they have denied themselves, and the very best of hard cheese to them. And, believe me, they hate it when their noses are rubbed in this humbling defeat every 3rd of January. They absolutely loathe it.

So tell me, what better reason than that for making sure that we really go overboard about it? A famous General once advised that, if in doubt, do what you know your enemy doesn’t want you to do. In this case, the inescapable conclusion is that January the 3rd should be shoved down the throat of the scum fan in your life, mercilessly and as often as possible. There’s no comeback for them from that. A League Cup victory at Elland Road a couple of years back isn’t even in the same ballpark, and they know it. The giant-killing honours and bragging rights are ours for as long as we want them, so those of us who wish to should continue to celebrate as we see fit. It won’t please the “Tinpotters”, of course. But, really – who gives a toss?