Monthly Archives: June 2016

Will Marcus Antonsson, Leeds’ New Scandinavian, Be a Bakke? Or a Brolin?   –   by Rob Atkinson


Scandinavia is quite a productive marketplace for players of reasonable quality at competitive prices and, as such, it is a market that Leeds United has dipped into from time to time, usually with a fair degree of success. The Yorkshire Evening Post has marked the occasion of United’s acquisition of their latest “Skandy” import, Marcus Antonsson, by running a poll to see which of seven predecessors should be regarded as best value. Eirik Bakke is looking a strong favourite at the moment, with the prematurely tubby Tomas Brolin predictably trailing in a poor seventh and last place.

In between those two extremes are several others of whom Leeds fans will have more or less fond memories. Alf Inge Haaland, by common consent, served United well in the three years leading up to the Millennium. He was an effective midfielder with a knack for popping up with useful goals here and there – and he seemed to “get” Leeds United in a way that certain players do, establishing thereby a distinct rapport with the Elland Road crowd. His role in the self-inflicted injury of Roy Keane, who comically did a cruciate in a vain attempt to foul Alf, is still talked of today in tones of distinct approval. The only real blot on Alfi’s copybook was a belter of a goal he scored at the Gelderd End – sadly, for Man City on his first return after leaving United.

Among others, Kasper Schmeichel did OK in goal for Leeds, managing to some extent to live down the unfortunate fact of his parentage. Leeds fans still ask why, oh why was he transferred – but Kasper’s determination to run his United contract down made selling him for a million a real no-brainer. Gunnar Halle is fondly remembered for his attitude and commitment, and Casper Sloth is still awaiting the verdict of a jury that has been out for virtually his whole time at Leeds so far.

The Tomas Brolin era at Elland Road started with high expectations – but it was all downhill from there. With his one real bright spot being a fine performance in a Christmas Eve 3-1 tonking of manchester united, when he set up the killer goal for Brian Deane, some remember him even better for a comedy moment at Selhirst Park. Playing for Crystal Palace against United, he sustained a head injury and had to go off to be bandaged. During his absence, Leeds scored and Brolin copped some good-humoured but intense stick when he reappeared, his head swathed in about half a mile of white medical dressing, like some sort of fabric motorcycle helmet. Sadly for the unfortunate Tomas, this head-dress almost literally exploded when the ball struck him fair and square in the skull, leading to a peak of hilarity among the away support. He may not have been revered at Elland Road, but for that comedy moment as well as his part in the humbling of the Pride of Devon, he is unlikely to be soon forgotten.

EIRIK BAKKE LEEDS UNITED 1999/2000

So, we welcome our latest Scandinavian recruit – and we must simply hope that he turns out to be more Bakke than Brolin. The advance publicity is promising, with the additional plus point that this appears to be a Garry Monk signing, not another of Cellino’s cock-ups. Antonsson was in demand elsewhere and has an impressive recent CV, after a prolific spell of late. All Leeds fans will wish him well, with the earnest hope that he will be followed into the LS11 area by other signings of equal or even greater quality.

Welcome Marcus – you’ve joined what is still a great club. All the best in helping restore us to our rightful elite position in the game.

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England’s Iceland Showing Would Have Disgraced Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

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Woy, wesigned to the wepurcussions of failure

As a Leeds United fan over the course of the past decade or so, you need to have developed a certain gallows sense of humour. The ability to have a laugh at yourself, or at least a reluctantly tolerant smile when the pain is just too intense, has seen many of us through many an agonising and humiliating moment. And this forms a mindset where, faced with some setback or disappointment unconnected with our beloved Whites, we might grimace cynically and say through gritted teeth “That were just like watching Leeds” – a wry inversion of the “just like watching Brazil” hymn of praise. When one of us says that something was “just like watching Leeds”, you can tell it’s not been an enjoyable experience.

So it came to pass that, as England‘s abject, shameful performance against Iceland unfolded, the Facebook statuses and the Tweets started, on my Whites-centric feed mostly with that common theme. That was just like watching Leeds. Wow, you thought. That bad, eh?

The thing is, though – it was actually so much worse than watching Leeds. Because our national side gave a performance of staggering ineptitude, incredible cluelessness. England were nervous and anxious at best, simply incompetent and bumbling the more the game went on. Rooney, supposedly reinvented as a deeper midfielder, spraying accurate passes about, could hardly hit a ten yard ball. His passes were off target, his services in from wide were over-hit (as were “quality delivery merchant” Harry Kane’s). It was, in short, a typical Rooney, typically English international finals performance. 

For the rest, they nearly all seemed afflicted by the same nightmare conviction that, whatever they attempted, it simply wouldn’t come off. Only when Marcus Rashford came on, with the innocence and arrogance of his youth, did England look remotely like getting anywhere. The men in white lacked the belief, the character and the guts to seize the game by the scruff of the neck. In the context of nightmares again, it was as if they needed to get moving, but found themselves wading through a foot of treacle, their energy drained, their heads empty. The longer it went on, the worse it got. It was a shameful embarrassment of a performance. After their early penalty joy, England could have played from now until Christmas, and still might have failed to score. 

Over forty-odd years, I’ve seen many abject performances from Leeds United. I’ve seen lack of effort punished, lack of pride and commitment bringing their inevitable dread reward. I’ve seen it all as far as bad times go, and – lest we forget – some good times too. But as far as the awful side of things is concerned – well, with hand on heart and with God as my witness, I’ve never, ever seen anything as bad from a Leeds team as I saw from that Three Lions shower last night. Just like watching Leeds? We should be so lucky.

People keep on coming out with the fact that Iceland has a population less than that of Leicester, but that – hur, hur – Leicester has been able to spring its own surprise lately. Very good. Apparently, it’s also true to say that Iceland has more volcanoes than professional footballers. On last night’s evidence, that could be true of England too. The bottom line is that such a performance – for want of a more appropriately descriptive word – goes way beyond unacceptable and plumbs greater depths than anything even the most unfortunate of us will have seen from our club sides, where work-rate and a bit of fight are the very least we demand and expect.

Just like watching Leeds? Not on this occasion. Leeds would have given that Iceland side a decent game. Leicester would almost certainly have beaten them. Perhaps, this coming season, when the performance levels of our lads in White dip below our meagre expectations, some terrace wit might start off a rendition of “England – it’s just like watching England…”

That, at least, would have the comparison the right way around.

Dear Brexiteer. What we need you to do now.

The best take I’ve seen on Brexit.

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So well done, first of all. You listened to the arguments, the same ones I listened to. You heard all the same information I did, you listened to the same debates that I did, but you voted to leave. And you won. I take that – it was a democratic process and sometimes in the democratic process you lose, as I have done.

The referendum has activated the political energies of people who haven’t been interested in politics for some time, so we are told, and many of them are like you, who voted to leave. So here’s the plea of the losing side to you now.

Firstly, don’t stop – don’t stop with your political passion and activism, because we need you now. We need you to be active, we need you to keep talking to the people who you trusted with this vote, and we need you to…

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Leeds Eyed by THREE Billionaires Amid Transfer Frenzy? – by Rob Atkinson

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They really could do worse than rename the close season as the silly season. Trawling through the Leeds United stories at this time of year above all is an exercise in sorting out the absolutely unbelievable rumours from the merely outlandish. Today has been a case in point. Top of the poll in terms of credibility is a likely move for Swedish attacking hotshot Marcus Antonsson for a mooted £1.25 million. There even appears to be a possibility that this deal could be done as early as tomorrow (Monday), with some sources stating that a medical is booked. This, despite what we’ve been told about a board meeting on Tuesday holding the key to any imminent transfer business.

The Antonsson story may well have some legs, but from here on in it gets progressively less likely. Another story doing the rounds is that young striker Ashley Fletcher has had his £7,000 a week wage demands met by Leeds, as he considers a move away from his current billet at Manchester’s second-ranked club (no, apparently that’s not Stockport County). Fletcher spent a portion of last season on loan at Barnsley, who stormed back from bottom of League One just before Christmas to gain promotion to the Championship via the play-offs, easily out-classing Millwall at Wembley. Could Leeds United really tempt a player away from rival clubs in darkest Manchester and the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire? Decide for yourselves – but money talks, and some sources are hinting that Leeds currently appear not to be short of a bob or two.

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Sorry about the background colour, Massimo…

Which brings us neatly to the least likely rumour of all, which has led to a revival of the frequently popular #TOMA hashtag; as not one, not two, but three billionaires are said to be interested in purchasing the Elland Road club, possibly as a consortium of simply obscene wealth. Because, if you believe the whispers, these guys – unlike current owner Massimo Cellino – are actually rich billionaires. Australian, too – which may explain a certain lack of intellectual and financial rigour. Still – if they’re that rich (and if they actually exist) – who cares?

So, this probably really is the silliest of silly seasons, but at least the rumours are positive, for once – and they’re certainly entertaining, to this jaded and careworn blogger, anyway. And, let’s face it, a preoccupation with transfer rumours of greater or lesser likelihood, together with that old Leeds United favourite #TOMA – it’s got to be better than babbling on about Leave versus Remain. Hasn’t it?

The next couple of weeks could be pretty interesting and – just possibly, for once in a long, long while, actually in a good way.

England Will Need True Warriors Against Wales   –   by Rob Atkinson


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Any Leeds United fan worth his or her salt will nod and give the thumbs-up to a player prepared to shed blood in the United cause. It’s in the DNA of the club; such players are an integral part of our history. The blood shed will preferably be that of an opponent, but your archetypal Elland Road patron warmly appreciates the warrior who leaves the field of battle liberally bespattered with his own gore. It’s a mark of commitment, and that goes down well with us northern folk.

Down the years, we’ve been lucky enough to have many such doughty battlers gracing the white shirt. Hunter, Giles, Vinnie, Billy, the list is long and impressive. Sadly, the standard is lower these days, the commitment less nakedly obvious. The same appears to apply to the national team, also. I was reminded of this when I received a t-shirt from my good friends at The Art of Football, an online firm with a difference, specialising in quality prints to adorn the proudest chest.

The shirt I received, pictured above, bears the unmistakable figure of Stuart “Psycho” Pearce, a player I for one would have absolutely loved to have seen in a Leeds United shirt. His commitment was exemplary, he was a man who’d have been an asset to any team, anywhere at any time. England, like Leeds United, have had a few of these over the years. Terry Butcher, so famously pictured with a pint or two of his own blood soaked into his England shirt – another image available in this Euro ’16 range. Tony Adams, neck veins bulging as he bellowed the National Anthem before every International of his career. Pearce himself, stepping up to the plate in a penalty shoot out, exorcising the ghost of a previous miss by belting the ball past the Spanish keeper at Euro ’96, at one with the fans as he ran to them, his pride and fight written all over his face. 

Where are these players now? John Terry might have been the last for England, though maybe Cahill can succeed to his crown. I have to confess, I can’t remember the last Leeds player in this warrior category. And United will need someone of that ilk to challenge next season. But England need a man like that as soon as Thursday – because the Welsh will have their war paint on, there’s no doubt about that. 

Perhaps if the existing England players can channel some of that Psycho Pearce spirit in time for their next test, we might overcome a Welsh team with much commitment but relatively few world-class performers. The fans, too, could do worse than embody the Pearce approach, focusing on getting behind the shirts instead of acting like idiots in the pubs and bars. The atmosphere will be fierce on Thursday, the stakes high. We will need warriors on the pitch and the pride and passion of supporters in the stands if we’re going to match Wales in either arena. 

Let players and fans be inspired by the image of Stuart Pearce at his most committed, with the flag of St. George behind him. Given that, we can succeed despite the famous bravery and desire of the Welsh. 

England Expects!

Cellino Losing Patience With Leeds Coach Garry Monk   –   by Rob Atkinson


Change could be afoot at Elland Road with unmistakable signs that owner Madssimmo Cellino is getting bored – ahem – that is, losing patience with Head Coach Garry Monk. Monk, who was appointed earlier today, admits that his fate is out of his hands, but feels that he has lived up to expectations so far, with an unbeaten record to his credit.

Cellino himself would make no comment, other than to confirm that Monk’s successor should be in post by Monday lunchtime, and on his bike by Monday teatime.