Monthly Archives: May 2016

Is Cellino Now Looking For a Monk With a Vow of Silence as Leeds Boss?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Garry-Monk

Monk – silent and celibate enough for Cellino?

So, the least surprising Leeds United news of all time is finally confirmed, after weeks of needless shilly-shallying during which owner Massimo Cellino displayed a characteristic lack of class, guts and decency. Rumour has it that il Loco wasn’t even man enough to tell Steve Evans in person that he was no longer required. Well done, thou good and faithful servant – now, kindly leave the building.

Various betting markets will now open. The first may well be as to how many Leeds coaches it is till Christmas, with five as the even money favourite. More seriously, speculation is rife as to the identity of the next mug stupid enough to work for an incompetent egomaniac like Cellino. Evans’ departure may mean that a new patsy, number seven of that ilk, is in the offing – or it may simply be that today was the last possible day to announce Big Steve’s contract would not be renewed. It’s humiliatingly disgusting either way. Leeds United is a difficult club to be proud of supporting these days. 

If the next dead man walking has at last been identified, then a fair bit of money says it could be former Swansea manager Garry Monk. (Swansea, you may remember, are one of that clutch of clubs which shared with us our dismal League One days, and who have now established themselves way ahead of us in the Premier League with a trophy on the sideboard. Current English Champions Leicester City are another).

If it is to be Monk, he will presumably have been briefed as to his working conditions. The lower league managers approached in the last week or so appear to have asked awkward questions about those conditions, before wisely concluding that they’re better off where they are. Monk, if he is the one, would have to understand that as Leeds Head Coach, he would be very much the President’s man. There must be no unauthorised yapping to the Press, like that maverick Evans. No whipping up the crowd with the Leeds salute, like that self-promoting Redders. And definitely NO attempts to become more popular with the fans than Cellino himself. That’s the ultimate no no. 

Anyone who accepts a job like Leeds under the kind of restrictions that proved unpalatable to the managers of MK Dons and Bristol Rovers may not – we might ruefully suppose – be the type of guy we really need. And therein lies the conundrum, that’s the real Catch-22. The kind of man and manager we really need – able to handle himself in the media, principled, tough, decisive, all that malarkey – would be anathema to Signor Cellino. Heavens above, we’ve just this minute got rid of one like that!

And, by the same token, the sort that il Duce really seems to want – a yes man, unprotesting, biddable sort of chap – that’s the exact opposite of the archetypal successful Leeds United boss down the years. It’s an equation that just will not balance. The best we can hope for is that Cellino might be taken out of that equation, and soon, by some court or governing body or other. Because, otherwise, the craziness and the shame will continue. 

If the President’s Lucky Seven choice for Leeds turns out to be Monk (and, of course, if Monk recklessly accepts a doomed commission) then we can assume that the vow of silence will already be signed, sealed and delivered. And the vow of celibacy can be taken as read, too – after all, no-one with the balls to stand up to Cellino will be getting anywhere near the manager’s office at Elland Road.

And – to my many detractors, most of whom have had silence imposed upon them – believe me, it gives me no pleasure to write in this vein. I would not choose to pour scorn or drip sarcasm over my beloved Leeds United. It’s painful and heart-rending. But take a step back from your lifelong loyalty and your blindness to the truth – and look at Cellino’s Leeds in the cold light of day. It’s not a pretty sight, is it?

Whoever gets the job next, unless he finds himself freed by exterior forces from Cellino, he will most certainly fail. Hamstrung, gagged and with his hands tied behind his back, just ask yourselves – how could he do otherwise?

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Millwall Should “Do a Leeds” and Start Next Season on Minus 15 Points  –   by Rob Atkinson

Millwall thugs doing what Millwall thugs do

As any Leeds United fan will remember well enough, the Football League can act with draconian viciousness when they deem it necessary. We started our first ever League One season fifteen points adrift at the foot of that division. The intention was to ensure a second successive relegation and to kill the club if at all possible. That we finished in the playoffs after briefly topping the table was an unbelievable achievement, thwarting the ill-wishers. But it’s also a fact that even such a hefty punishment is not by any means the worst the League can do.

Luton Town found this out for themselves when the League had them start the 2008-09 season a massive thirty points behind the rest. Rotherham and Bournemouth suffered 17 point deductions. The League were showing that they could play hardball – when it suited them. 

These sanctions, though, had one thing in common. They were all for administrative offences, sins of commission or omission by those charged with the running of the respective clubs. When it comes to matters involving crowd control, the League appears to be curiously wimpish in its approach. And yet these are the offences that most affect innocent, match-going fans, intent on a good day out, whose plans are ruined by bands of marauding thugs.

Millwall Football Club are a case in point. Many clubs suffer the shame of odd, isolated outbreaks of wanton thuggery by adherents masquerading under the guise of “supporters”. The difference with Millwall is that these incidents are not isolated. They are tiresomely regular, and the minority of vicious, cowardly thugs in Millwall colours, charging at defenceless families and pelting visiting coaches with half-bricks, are repeat offenders who fail utterly to respond to the occasional weak slap on the wrist.

Those thuggish fans were at it again at the playoff semi final second leg at home to Bradford. As a result, the club is on the end of a charge of “failing to control its fans” – an accusation positively reeking with irony. Millwall has got nowhere near controlling its fans in the whole time I’ve been following football.

And yesterday, at Wembley, the scene of Millwall fans scrapping like jackals among themselves at an FA Cup semi final not so long back, those thugs shamed themselves and their club yet again, running at helpless groups with women and children, striking terror into the hearts of people who just wanted a day out supporting their team. On the day, Barnsley beat Millwall easily, which was punishment of a sort. But it’s nowhere near enough.

The fact is that football has had enough of stone-age behaviour like that of the Millwall fans. Mass violence and the wanton attacking of innocent, non-combative fans has no place in the game. That sort of cowardice didn’t even fit in with yesteryear’s casuals scene, now so passé. But Millwall fans indulge in this sick behaviour time and again. There is no sign of it stopping.

So, it’s high time the Football League got its collective finger out and did something about this. Get them banned or hit them with a points deduction, it’s the only language these people understand. And, for good measure, close their ground for the first few League One games next season. It’s been done before, and for much less – as we at Leeds know to our cost. 

It’s time to stop treating Millwall with kid gloves. The League will have abjectly abandoned their duty of care towards fans of proper clubs and to the game in general, if they yet again turn a blind eye and cock a deaf ear. Make Millwall start next season 15 points behind and playing to an empty stadium. At the first repetition of mass violence or playing area incursion, deduct a further ten points. You know it makes sense. 

Give Millwall a lesson they’ll never forget. The whole game will regret it if the Football League fails now. 

Leeds Fans Knew the Script as Barnsley Outclass Millwall at Wembley – by Rob Atkinson

millwall-674918

Millwall thugs break security to attack jubilant Barnsley supporters

Today’s League One Playoff Final was a script already written; certainly many a Leeds United fan, knowing what we know of the protagonists, could accurately have predicted how events would unfold. 

Predictably, Barnsley would beat Millwall comfortably at Wembley, to secure promotion to the Championship. Predictably, Millwall’s vicious minority would have a mass tantrum afterwards, charging at celebrating Yorkshire fans to spoil yet another occasion involving football’s sickest club, the shame of London. And, predictably, self-righteous Millwall fans would argue that it’s OK for them to do that and that we have no right to criticise, “because Leeds fans have been violent and have sung nasty songs“. It was all massively predictable, well in advance.

And so it came to pass, certainly in the first two particulars. Barnsley swept into a second-minute lead and never really looked back. Even being pegged back to 2-1, after Hamill‘s classy second, presented the Tykes with no real alarms or jitters. Millwall huffed and puffed, but were hopelessly outclassed. Barnsley’s promotion-clinching third after the interval flattered them not one iota. It could so easily have been more.

Then the Millwall fans showed their true colours after the game was done, trying to get at the red-shirted, jubilant Barnsley fans and generally making fools of themselves, as is their wont. One Tweet told of a disabled Barnsley supporter being tipped out of a wheelchair and kicked down some steps. Reportedly also, two Barnsley fans received stab wounds. Who knows if all of that is gospel true? But the point is, you can easily believe it of the degraded bunch of savages that forms part of Millwall’s less than massive support. Now, all that remains is for the Millwall fans who read this, and other accounts, to bleat their standard excuse: don’t point the finger at us! You do it too! And so we have, in the past, as have other sets of idiot fans. Not these days, though, never as often and not as brutally. Let’s face it, we’re not perfect, but we’re not Millwall. Thank heavens.

And surely, the Football League must now address the problem of Millwall and its classless, cowardly, disgraceful followers. This is a club with form for its fans fighting among themselves at Wembley in the past. The same thugs showed themselves up in the semi-final second leg of this play-off competition, with late pitch invasions to end Bradford‘s hopes of mounting a last-gasp comeback. It happens time and time again in a disgusting Millwall history that goes back in a similar vein for decades. It will keep on happening unless this nuisance club are cracked down on – and cracked down on hard. Whatever the problems that may, from time to time, have assailed other clubs – my beloved Leeds prominent among them – Millwall FC stands alone for the frequency and severity of their transgressions. It’s time for swift and decisive action to be taken. 

It probably won’t happen, though. Millwall are a Football League blind spot, just as Galatasaray are for UEFA. Truly is it said that there’s none so blind as those who won’t see, and the football authorities seem determined to look at Millwall’s transgressions through the darkest of blackout spectacles. The media are no better; they seem to have adopted the Beasts of Bermondsey as their token small club ripe for patronising. Meanwhile, opposition fans continue to live in fear of cowardly, mob-handed attacks. Except at Elland Road, of course, where the Millwall tough lads, no angels they, fear to tread. They usually bring about a dozen, who sit in a terrified silence, meekly accept defeat, and slink off home like the craven curs they are.

Congratulations to Barnsley, who – having been bottom of League One before Christmas, will now adorn the Championship with their classy brand of football. They have also obligingly ensured that happy division will stay relatively clean and civilised by condemning the scabby and feral Lions to prowl around at a suitably lower level. The second tier picture is complete now, and it looks an enticing prospect. On today’s evidence, Barnsley FC will not look out of place.

Tarn

Barnsley celebrate a well-deserved promotion

41 Years Ago Today: Leeds Mugged by Ref & Kaiser in European Cup Final – by Rob Atkinson

Yorath avoids a red card - but nothing else went right for Leeds United

Yorath avoids a red card – but nothing else went right for Leeds United

The Great European Cup Final Robbery occurred exactly forty=one years ago today – half a lifetime’s distance in the past – and yet this, more than just about any other of the many injustices suffered by that legendary team, still sticks in the collective craw of Leeds United fans, many of whom weren’t even born on that balmy May night so long ago. It still rankles with us, to the extent that it defines how we feel about our much sinned-against club to this day. So, 41 years on, we still sing “We are the Champions, Champions of Europe” in ritual protest – but in our hearts, believing, knowing it to be true.

The story of this match may be summed up in a series of snapshots; incidents that told us, ever more clearly as the game progressed, which way the wind was blowing. There was a pair of blatant penalty shouts in the first half, the guilty man on both occasions being Franz “der Kaiser” BeckenbauerFirst he handled obviously and unmissably in the area, and then followed that up by perpetrating an illegal “scissors” tackle on Allan Clarke, inside the box on the left – you wondered how anyone could possibly fail to give either decision, unless they were irretrievably, foully bent. But the corkscrew-straight Michel Kitabdjian unblushingly neglected his duty on both occasions, earning himself a permanent place in every Leeds fan’s Little Black Book.

Before these vital non-decisions, Terry Yorath – the first Welshman to play in Europe’s biggest match, before Gareth Bale was even a twinkle in his dad’s eye – had sailed into Bayern’s Björn Andersson in what team-mate Uli Hoeness described as “the most brutal foul I think I have ever seen”. The only question arising out of that first period of play was whether Leeds United’s card was marked by the ref from the time of that 4th minute assault by Yorath – or whether, indeed, the matter was decided long before kick off. 

Lorimer's greatest goal that never was

Lorimer’s greatest goal that never was

Leeds were completely outplaying Bayern, drawing sympathy even from the English TV commentator who was bemoaning the lack of a more even contest. Then, in the second half, the ball fell perfectly for Peter Lorimer just outside the Bayern penalty area. Lorimer timed his volley superbly, and it flew into the net, beating Sepp Maier all ends up. Immediately, all was confusion as the goal seemed to be given, until Beckenbauer urgently directed the ref to speak to his linesman. More confusion – and, scandalously, the goal was disallowed. Bayern scored twice against a demoralised Leeds near the end, and the European Cup was snatched from the hands of Revie’s old guard; the triumph that was to crown their magnificent careers torn away in the most dubious fashion imaginable.

It was the second of a hat-trick of sketchy triumphs for Bayern from 1974-76, at a time when the German influence in UEFA was as strong as that of the Italians (whose Milan side had taken the Cup Winners Cup from Leeds in an even more bent match two years earlier) – and far, far stronger than that of the unpopular English. This defeat of a gallant and far superior on the night United side was probably the luckiest Munich victory of the three – but a year before, they’d been on the point of losing to Atlético Madrid before a last-gasp equaliser enabled them to win in a one-sided replay. And, in 1976, Bayern were outplayed by St Etienne, but managed somehow to prevail for a third year on the trot.

Bremner in disbelief after Leeds' "goal" chalked off

Bremner disbelieving after Leeds’ “goal” chalked off

Leeds fans will always look at the collection of stars emblazoned arrogantly over the Bayern badge – and we will always say: one of those should have been ours. May 28 1975 was one of those pivotal nights in United’s history and, as happened frankly far too often, things turned against us – setting us on the low road when we should have been triumphantly plotting a course onwards and upwards. Things were never the same for Leeds United afterwards; Johnny Giles played his last game in a white shirt that night, which signalled the start of the break-up process, under the continuing stewardship of Jimmy Armfield, for Don Revie’s peerless Super Leeds team. How different things might have been – but that’s the story of our great club’s history; fortune has rarely smiled upon us and justice has usually gone AWOL at the crucial moments.

So it was then, so it has been ever since and so, doubtless, it will continue to be for Leeds – who always seem to cop for the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to a pitilessly unfair degree. Still, that’s why we love ’em, and that’s why we so relish the hate of others. But if there could have been one night when things went right – when we actually managed once to get our just deserts – then really it should have been that evening in the Parc des Princes in May 1975. Not for me, not for you – but chiefly for those white-shirted heroes who had waited so long to be acknowledged as the best in Europe, and who had proved it by outplaying the favourites – before being gruesomely cheated yet again.

Leeds United – Champions of Europe. We all know we have a right to sing that song, loud and proud. Long may it continue to serve as a reminder of the night that the “Der Kaiser & Kitabdjian” double-act robbed The Greatest of their rightful crown.

Leeds Still Yorkshire’s No. 1 as Hull Outclass Sheffield Wednesday   –   by Rob Atkinson

That Sheffield Wednesday Wembley feeling

In the end, it was a 1-0 landslide at Wembley as Humberside’s finest totally eclipsed a bedraggled set of Owls in the first of this season’s playoff showpieces. But for the admirable Westwood in the Sheffield Wednesday goal, the scoreline could have been an embarrassing rout. Hull City would not have been flattered by a 5-0 scoreline, utterly out-playing the South Yorkshire pretenders. 

The Sky commentators made much of the travelling throng of Wendies who packed out their end of Wembley and made themselves heard until all hope was gone. But how well do we at Leeds United know that promotions are won on the turf at the national stadium, not in the stands. The crowd contest when we played Donny in that League One playoff was even more lopsidedly unequal, with Whites fans massively dominating the spectacle. But it was Rovers who got the goal – and a similar scenario played itself out today.

So it’s well done to Hull City and Rob Snodgrass, and the very best of hard cheese to the Wendies, who also had their very own ex-White in the team. Tom Lees was the man who gave the ball away to give Hull the decisive goal, and what a strike it was. Congratulations, Agent Lees. You made it look like an accident. 

Leeds United, then, even in their current chaotic incarnation, remain top dogs in Yorkshire. Local derby hostilities will resume next time around, despite all the confident rhetoric from certain big mouths down Sheffield way. Those mouths can munch away on some humble pie while Yorkshire’s finest at Elland Road try to get their act together.

See you next season, Wendies. So glad you’re still with us. 

Now Mickey Mouse Turns Down Cellino and Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

In the latest twist to the Leeds United managerial saga, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything can reveal that yet another household name has turned down the chance to take over at Elland Road.

The latest in a growing list of potential Leeds managers to decide his future lies elsewhere is Disney legend Mickey Mouse. We understand that Mr. Mouse was approached earlier this week by United owner Massimo Cellino, who told the popular cartoon rodent that Leeds was “With me in charge, a club with your name written all over it, my friend”.

Asked about his reasons for turning down this fabulous opportunity, Mr. Mouse was reticent. “I can’t say too much, as I understand personal friends of mine could also be in line for this job. But it just wasn’t right for me at this time. I’ve not been that busy lately, and I’m really looking for something slightly longer term than the next week or so that Massimo was talking about. But I appreciate his interest in me, and I wish him and Leeds well in the future”.

Cellino himself remains defiant and insists he still has “many special options”. Rumours that Miss Piggy is a candidate appear to be wide of the mark, as she has been linked with a position working under Prime Minister David Cameron on several highly sensitive projects including acting as a mouthpiece at the PM’s pleasure. The Chuckle Brothers, astrologer Russell Grant and Penelope Pitstop’s arch-nemesis, The Hooded Claw, are other names being spoken of in informed circles. But, despite his outward show of bravado, it is believed that the failure to reach agreement with Mickey Mouse has hit Cellino particularly hard, and he is now expected to spend the weekend contemplating more fibs about the possible sale of the club before launching into another impassioned rant on Monday.

The latest betting odds for next permanent (periods over 24 hours) Leeds manager reflect the uncertainty of this market. Current incumbent Steve Evans is still available at 5000/1, attracting sizeable punts from a Mr. C Ranieri of Leicester as well as an un-named former England striker. Evans’ current situation is described by the man himself as “deeply hurt but still pathetically eager”.

Massimo Cellino is a complete and utter lunatic.

32 Years Since Bates’ Vow: Has Leeds Utd Finally Been Destroyed?   –   by Rob Atkinson

BatesEyes

Remember this quote from then Chelsea chairman Ken Bates in 1984, after Leeds United fans had damaged a scoreboard at Stamford Bridge? “I shall not rest until Leeds United are kicked out of the Football League. Their fans are the scum of the Earth, absolute animals and a disgrace. I will do everything in my power to make this happen”. 

These were unequivocal words and, we may now reflect, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, that Bates was not perhaps the wisest choice to make when a vacancy arose for “Saviour of ailing West Yorkshire football club”. In the event, when Uncle Ken finally got his mitts on the club, he oversaw a historic plunge into the third tier, with the sideshows of various legal disputes involving the game’s authorities and others. When United, under Simon Grayson, finally hauled themselves back into the Championship and started to look like feasible contenders for the top flight again, the sales started; the club’s finest players were flogged off and inadequately replaced, most of the proceeds disappearing into a financial black hole, or going to fund vanity projects such as the East Stand refurbishment. Tellingly, the gleaming edifice is known by many Leeds fans to this day as “the Delph Shelf“.

When Ken found the heat in the kitchen too hot, he did not trouble himself overmuch with the need to secure ambitious, committed buyers who would take the club upwards towards its proper place among football’s elite. Instead, we got saddled with GFH, the poorest Middle East finance house in creation, and the unedifying spectacle ensued of more in-fighting, more egomaniac games, even less team investment, with criminal goings-on and jailbird revelations to follow. How glad we all were when they were marginalised and pushed into the background by the arrival of our very own King of Corn, il Duce Massimo Cellino himself. And how disastrously wrong we were to afford him any kind of welcome; we should have chased his taxi southwards out of the city and not stopped until it drove into the English Channel. If things were bad under Bates and worse under GFH, they have become positively farcical under Cellino.

There is no need to go into all the ins and outs of the Cellino regime so far, the broken promises, the lies, the false declarations of intent to sell up. We all know the sorry story all too miserably well. Suffice to say that we have now reached a situation where figures of no great stature in the game are being approached to take nominal charge of team affairs – and are saying “thanks, but no thanks”. And who can blame them? It would take a ridiculously self-confident man, one capable of the most exquisite degree of self-delusion, to willingly give himself up on the sacrificial altar of working for Cellino. The lessons of the last couple of years are starkly clear – taking the hot-seat at Elland Road is a shortcut to professional suicide. It’s a no-win situation that has left a trail of shattered reputations in its wake.

Meanwhile, the man who can accurately boast the best Leeds United managerial record since the heady days of Simon Grayson is being treated scandalously, with zero respect. Steve Evans has been left disgracefully unenlightened about his future, despite vague promises and inconclusive meetings, to watch the position he still currently occupies being hawked around any Tom, Dick or Harry who might yet be daft enough to be seduced by the name of Leeds United. Nobody of any common sense or professional pride will touch this job, though, surely. Nobody with his head screwed on properly wants to work with a lunatic.

The only real candidate is the man currently in possession, the man who knows the score, who is already committed to the task, who has done well and has won over many doubters, all while losing a medically worrying amount of weight. You couldn’t blame him for giving in to the hurt, salvaging his dignity and walking away. But Steve Evans wants to keep his job, he “gets” Leeds United and he has a burning desire to succeed, as he has undeniably done elsewhere. Yet the idiot in charge seems to have turned away from this man who has won the grudging respect of some of the most cynical of the fans – Cellino just lacks the guts, class and decency to come out and say so.

The football club’s dirty linen is being washed in public while the sporting world looks on and laughs. The manager of MK Dons turned us down. The Bristol Rovers manager is being courted, but Leeds United have not met that club’s conditions for talking to their employee, who has an improved three year contract on the table, waiting for him to show good sense and sign. It’s all going on, dreadfully humiliating and utterly cringeworthy, in the full glare of media and rival fan attention, while the long-suffering fans of Leeds United bow their heads, wondering how much worse things can get.

In 1984, Leeds United had good times ahead of them, they had chances even to establish a dynastic power at the top of the game – and they certainly put silverware on the table that we could never have imagined in that Orwellian, second division year of ill omen, when some freelance demolition contractors from West Yorkshire did a number on Ken’s scoreboard. But the Curse of Bates had been pronounced and, all this time later, you really do have to ask yourself: will he end up with his spiteful wish fulfilled? He paved the way towards the slippery slope we’re now descending like a greased pig. Rudderless, with no clear plan, with little if any communication between club and fans, miles behind other clubs already planning for next season – and with professional football men seemingly unwilling to touch us with a bargepole – we may well be about to plunge yet again into the abyss.

If that happens, we might despairingly look back to Bates’ words in 1984, we might ponder on his potless and clueless successors in the Elland Road boardroom since his own departure – and we might say to ourselves: well, he warned us, did Ken. And it looks as though he’s got his way after all. And what would Ken Bates say to that?

Perhaps: “Revenge is a dish best served cold”.

Same Old Story For Thug Club Millwall and Its Thug Fans   –   by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United fans above those of most other clubs can give you chapter and verse on the less than savoury nature of Millwall Football Club and some of its Neanderthal adherents. Whites supporters have had to sit there in that prefab, Meccano style stadium, watching as large parts of a crowd, swollen beyond its traditional paltry numbers by the presence of Leeds, have taken the opportunity to revel in murders in foreign parts many years ago. It’s something Millwall fans just won’t let go of, and that tells you all you need to know about the worst and least human fans in football. 

Tonight, Millwall fans were at it again, in the second leg of their playoff semi against Bradford. With minutes remaining, and Bradford pushing forward in dire need of two quick goals, proceedings were disrupted by two small-scale incursions into the field of play. Needless to say, this had a drastic effect upon Bradford’s ability to exert the necessary pressure. At one point, with the ball on the way out for a City throw, one of the local bright boys ran on to the pitch and booted it towards Bradford’s goal. So play had to start with a drop-ball instead of the swift throw Bradford needed.

As the ball was played back to the City keeper, the ref ran close by and clearly advised the Bradford man that the game was up, and to prepare for a quick getaway. The Millwall fans were preparing for a mass invasion, and the ref was chiefly preoccupied with the need to herd the players as near to the tunnel as possible before blowing the last whistle and unleashing an uncivilised horde from the touchlines.

Such has often been the case at Millwall, Old Den or New. It seemed clear in this instance that any late hopes Bradford had of making a last-gasp comeback, together with any hopes the ref had of playing the allotted span without interference, were dashed by the threat the crowd posed to order and safety. It’s not good enough, but it’s situation normal down Bermondsey way. Similar disorder has happened time and time again, while the craven suits at the Football League do nothing. This blog hopes and trusts that Bradford City will complain – not that it’s likely to do them any good. 

So, the upshot is that Millwall and its IQ-minus minority have intimidated their way to the brink of a return to the Championship. Unless Barnsley can intervene at Wembley – where Millwall’s unpleasant mob tends to fight amongst itself rather than facing equal numbers of opposition fans – it looks like we can expect to see them at Elland Road sometime next season. Not that many, though. Timid travellers, they tend to muster only a couple of dozen for the trip to LS11. 

Good luck to Barnsley at Wembley. On a football basis, they should blow Millwall away. We can but hope that they are sent back to their dingy borough, chastened and well-beaten. If not – well, it looks as if we’ll just have to put up with them for one more season.

Time to Go, Massimo: More Charges, The Last Straw? 

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything reproduces below a statement made today by the Leeds fans’ group Time to Go, Massimo. It is a statement with which we find ourselves in full agreement. 

Leeds United has today found itself, once again, in the headlines for the wrong reasons. Rather than news about the Head Coach, a multi-million pound signing or information on key staff appointments at Elland Road or Thorp Arch, we are being dragged through the gutter AGAIN by Massimo Cellino and his shambolic ownership.

The charge, surrounding the transfer of Ross McCormack to Fulham in the Summer of 2014, in which Massimo Cellino has also been separately reprimanded, yet again highlights the inability of the current regime to perform one of the most basic of tasks required at a football club – selling players.

It is abundantly clear that Massimo Cellino is out of his depth at Leeds United; his toxic regime lurches from crisis to crisis, with no sign of that abating.

Time To Go Massimo

West Ham Farewell Party Confirms the Love For Elland Road   –   by Rob Atkinson

Elland Road

Elland Road, THE place of worship for thousands

Just nine days short of 480 years since another Boleyn met her end, on a Tower Green scaffold one sad Tudor morning, the curtain finally fell on West Ham United’s Boleyn Ground last night. It was the climax of 112 years of East End football history, fittingly topped off with a thrilling late victory and then the obligatory lasers and fireworks – spectacular high jinks, warming the cockles before the cold reality of the bulldozers moving in to do their grim work. 

Poor little Queen Anne was snuffed out by a French swordsman imported specially for the occasion by her kindly husband King Henry VIII. One swing of that fine blade left la Boleyn shorter by a head – and it was deadly twin thrusts from another Frenchman that could have cut short the farewell celebrations at the Boleyn Ground. West Ham had taken an early lead, but two goals from French prodigy Martial threatened rudely to poop the Hammers’ party. Fortunately, not least for this hardly unbiased viewer, the Irons roared back with two late goals to secure victory and put the Champions League hopes of Manchester’s finest back in their own hands. What a game, what a night. But then, chillingly, comes the bleak reality of the following day.

Watching such a thrilling match and then such an emotional farewell event had me wondering how those Hammers fans were feeling as the night and the occasion went by. There must surely have been a slightly unreal air about the place. Is this really the last time? Is this familiar old place really going to be torn down pitilessly, along with all the memories of good times and bad? Those questions must inevitably have gone through thousands of baffled, barely believing cockney minds. 

I have my own recollections of the Boleyn Ground – or Upton Park, as it was also known. Only a few, but marked each time by a Leeds United win, which obviously makes for good memories. And enough of those memories to make the place quite familiar to me. So even I can hardly credit the fact that, so soon, it will all be gone. But if I had to guess, based on my own forty-odd years of football fandom, just how those West Ham fans were feeling last night, I’d wager there was a lot of sadness and a sea of tears after the jubilation of victory, as the loss of a beloved place of worship started to sink in. And, I ask you, how on earth must they be feeling this morning?

It’s a bit hard to put myself in their shoes. The nearest comparison I can make is that last occasion, before the suits brought in the seats, standing on the Kop terraces against the Wendies. That was emotional enough. I literally can hardly imagine how I would feel if Elland Road itself – my second and spiritual home since 1975 – was condemned to be rased to the ground. Words would not be able to express the awful emptiness I would feel, the nightmare sensation of being cast out of my comfort zone, never to return. It came close enough – too close for comfort – to actually happening, with a firm proposal to relocate put to the vote in the 90s. For me, it didn’t really hit home or seem real at that time. I truly know that now.

I know it, because of what I saw in the coverage of the Boleyn’s last game. Because it’s a stadium I’m familiar with, I was suddenly forced to contemplate the same grisly fate befalling Elland Road. It’s a simply horrible thought. It certainly gave me nightmares and, this morning, I really feel for those displaced, dispossessed Hammers fans. 

Some will point to the grandeur of their new surroundings at the Olympic Stadium. Well, whatever floats your boat. And there’s the small matter of 52,000 season tickets sold already ahead of the next campaign. The Hammers are moving up to a different level, it’s a whole new ball game now. So it may well be. But is it worth it? Well, you could rebuild the Bernebeu or the Camp Nou in Roundhay Park and, for me, the answer would still be no.

It’s a bit different for us. We’ve been the best, on more than one occasion, and we’ve sustained that excellence at a fortress called Elland Road. So much of what Leeds United have achieved is part of the concrete, the steel, even the hallowed turf of that venerable old stadium. Maybe it would have been harder for us than it’s turning out to be for those Hammers who said “goodbye” last night. But honestly, I doubt it. I think it’s going to be very hard indeed on those fans, once the dust has settled. 

All I can say for myself is that last night reinforced for me the emotional pull of Elland Road, the fundamental attachment I so strongly feel for the place. I’m quite certain that the same is true for thousands of other Leeds fans. Perhaps it takes being a spectator at an event like last night to really bring home what being at home is actually all about. And what losing that home would heart-breakingly mean.

Hammers fans still have their memories; they’ll still be able to replay the mind’s eye video of countless great matches and famous victories. But the place where all those things happened will soon be dust, and there’s an awful finality to that. When the place is gone, the memories will be harder to put into their proper setting. Even ghosts need a place to float around in.

Every time I see Elland Road, a thousand precious memories become real again for me – some pretty bad ones too, make no mistake. But they’re all part of that fund of recollection any football fan builds up, and they’re inextricably linked with that loveable ramshackle old stadium, with its incongruously shiny newer bits. Even they’ve been with us over a quarter of the club’s lifetime. I love every inch of the place, down to the last rivet and the smallest blade of grass. Part of my life would be gone, if I had to go through what the Hammers fans went through last night. What they’re only starting to get used to this morning. 

Congratulations to West Ham, on a fine victory and a fitting way to mark the end of an era. I’m really pleased for you – and yet I’m sorry for you too. God knows I’d love the experience again, of beating that lot and reducing them to misery. I’ve always loved that. But – at the cost of a large chunk of my soul? I think not. I really think not.