Monthly Archives: October 2016

Ready to Meet Up Again With Leeds United Legend Gordon Strachan – by Rob Atkinson

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That Strachan goal against Leicester City

I go back a fair way with Gordon Strachan, as it happens. Not that he’ll remember a thing about it, naturally. That’s the way it goes with star footballers and star-struck fans; it’s a strictly one-way relationship, which is quite right and proper.

Nevertheless, I can mark out the last 28 years of my Leeds United love affair in some golden Strachan moments, including one meeting (with another hopefully imminent), some landmark performances and goals from the wee maestro and, latterly, many a laugh as I’ve watched him perplexing post-match interviewers with a rapier-like wit to match his dazzling displays as a player.

I remember being aware of Strachan as a young star at Aberdeen under the guidance of a grumpy Glaswegian manager called Ferguson (whatever happened to him?) who was out to upset the Old Firm monopoly in Scotland. I had a senior lecturer at Hull University at that time, who shared Gordon’s surname, but when I used it on him, as it were, he frostily informed me that it was pronounced “Strawn”. Well, that was all he knew. The name Strachan, pronounced as both Gordon and I know it should be, was to earn worldwide fame over the next decade and a half.

I looked on with jaundiced eye as the clear heir to Billy Bremner‘s throne made the wrong move south from Scotland, winding up in a title vacuum at Old Trafford. He was followed thence by his old manager at Aberdeen (that’s where he got to) and, for Strachan, the writing was on the Old Trafford wall, as the great Alex concluded that Gordon’s days as a top-flight performer were numbered. These were the early days of Sergeant Wilko‘s reign at Leeds, and I yearned for Strachan to become our King Billy reincarnate, as he was unmistakably fitted to be. But it looked as though he was destined to be a Ron Atkinson capture at Sheffield Wednesday, rather than a Rob Atkinson hero at Elland Road.

As we know, things worked out incredibly well; an ambitious Leeds trumped the Wendies’ offer and Strachan settled for being the driving force behind the Wilko revolution. I was working in Leeds the day the deal was done, and I saw it announced on a Yorkshire Evening Post billboard. Happy and delighted doesn’t do it justice, I walked home on air that day. Strachan was not only a marquee signing in himself, he was the statement of intent required to pave the way for other quality recruits at Elland Road. For Leeds, the only way was up – and up we duly went.

Near the climax of that promotion season was Strachan’s memorable rocket-shot winner against Leicester at Elland Road, possibly the most vital goal Leeds had scored on their home turf since Allan Clarke’s winner against Barcelona in the European Cup semi-final of 1975. That Leicester goal, securing a crucial win after a goal from one Gary MacAllister had threatened to poop our promotion party, was met with one of the loudest and most frantic celebrations I can remember. Gordon Strachan attained Leeds Legend status in that moment – and he would go on to confirm it many times over.

In the next couple of years, Leeds impressively consolidated their First Division status and then took the crown of Champions of England from under the noses of Strachan’s former club, Man United. As sweet as that was for all of us, the man himself still regards the Second Division title of 1990 as his greatest Leeds achievement – but his record at Elland Road cannot be classed as anything other than an outstanding success, with Strachan himself in the role of on-field Messiah.

My support for Leeds was punctuated by his goals and his masterly midfield displays. That pea-roller winner at Bramall Lane early in United’s top-flight comeback, with the mighty atom celebration sitting on an advertising hoarding behind the goal. His winner at Man City, in a live TV game that had me transfixed. So many goals, so much quality. Perhaps the culmination was in the vital game at Sheffield United as the 1992 League Title battle came to a final boil. One down and in trouble near the end of the first half, Leeds were awarded a free kick and Gordon, thinking faster than anyone else, took it quickly to cause chaos in the Blades’ box. Leeds equalised, and went on to win in the second half, breaking Man U hearts and setting up that Last Champions triumph.

I first met Strachan in 1995, at an event at Headingley, the same night Leeds lost at PSV in the UEFA Cup. He’d moved on from Leeds by then, but he was personable and entertaining, showing a love for the club that endured still, and giving very positive answers to questions about the possibility he might one day return to Elland Road. I got a picture with the wee man that evening and, twenty-one years on, I’m hoping to repeat the experience on Friday at Elland Road.

This is when Strachan will return to LS11 for an evening of entertainment and reminiscence. Although it’s the night before Bonfire Night, we can expect some fireworks, as the Scot is notoriously almost as entertaining behind a microphone as he was with a ball at his feet. Organisers Events in the City could also be said to have selected the right man as the centrepiece for a Mischief Night event; Strachan’s play was usually replete with that particular commodity – and he’s never been afraid to speak his mind as a manager either.

So, on Friday, I’ll hope to meet one of my two greatest United heroes for the second time, and maybe get another picture to add to the many memories he’s provided over the years. It’s a close thing for me, between Strachan and Bremner, the obvious similarities nicely balanced out by their few important contrasts. I only met King Billy once, and I was utterly tongue-tied in the presence of greatness. If I do get the chance to talk to wee Gordon on Friday, I shall hope to do a lot better. Watch this space. 

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Huddersfield Town AFC to Close Down Next May?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Huddersfield dogs

A solemn meeting of Town fans, yesterday

In a sensational development for Yorkshire football, a Huddersfield Town insider has claimed that the 2016/17 season could be the last for Huddersfield Town as a Football Club – a status which many consider moot anyway – but nevertheless, rumours of the cessation of trading for the Terriers are shocking, to say the least – especially with the fan base having decided as early as August that Town were going up as champions.

The reasoning behind the closure rumours will go deep into the heart of many a Terriers fan. Our contact behind the scenes at Huddersfield, Mr. Terry Orr, confided to us, “For a long time now, the main priority at this club has been to finish a league season above Leeds United. This hasn’t happened for many a long year – not since the 1961-62 season, I believe. In essence, this dream has become the club’s entire raison d’être, not to mention its whole reason for existing”. Terry paused at this point as emotion appeared momentarily to get the better of him. “The fact of the matter is”, he continued, moist-eyed but smiling bravely, “that this season could be the one when we finally do it. And if we do – well, how could we possibly top that? We’ve had meetings, and we don’t think it’s really feasible. There’d quite literally be no point in going on, nothing left that we could realistically achieve. We’d just have to move on to other projects, especially with us promotion prospects already on t’way down t’bog.”

It’s a sentiment echoed in other parts of Yorkshire’s most dogged club. Supporters’ representative Mr. Gray Hound nodded wearily when we put to him what seems on the face of it an outrageous possibility. “Yes”, Gray nodded, thoughtfully, “I’ve heard whispers of this closure thing. I can understand it. From a supporters’ point of view, if we ever did finish above “them”, it’d be like the Holy Grail, Christmas and Crufts all rolled into one. I can’t really think there’d be much appetite for carrying on after an achievement like that. I mean – where do you go from there? Personally, I can barely bring myself to believe it might happen but, looking at the table, you have to say there’s some sort of a chance. And if we really did do it? I don’t know. We’d probably all retire to a nice big field and chase sticks and sniff each others’ bottoms. It’d be like following Huddersfield Giants in a way…  Then again, with us getting hammered 5-0 at Fulham and with you-know-who winning today as well, it still might never come to pass. In’t life grand?”

Leeds United refused to comment beyond a terse assertion that such a circumstance is unlikely to come about. An anonymous source stated “Is not going to ‘appen, my friend. An’ if it did – wellll, per’aps a few of us not aroun’ to see it”. 

Huddersfield Town‘s inferiority complex is 55.

Garry Monk is Creating a Bubble of Sanity Within Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson


Leeds United 2, Burton Albion 0

Little by little, bit by bit, things are looking up at Elland Road, as Leeds United manager Garry Monk appears to be insulating the football side of the club from the madness that has dogged the West Yorkshire giants over the past decade or so. Thus protected, and focused on the business of actually kicking a ball about, the men in All White appear to be quietly thriving. That focus, that separation from the bigger picture of court cases and ownership wrangles – that is what has elevated the level of performance achieved by Monk’s team above and beyond the efforts made under previous managers. 

It’s a factor that will be instrumental in any success United may enjoy this season and – incredibly – football’s craziest club does appear to be poised for success, as things currently stand. Ninth in the table, just a point outside the playoffs, and EFL Cup quarter finalists with a TV date against Liverpool at Anfield to come, damn your eyes. It seems almost too good to be true. Success is all relative, but for the current vintage of Leeds, this is as close to that elusive commodity as we could reasonably imagine. Is better yet to come? Well, you never know.

I’ve thought for a while that, the longer certain non-football personnel within the club can stay out of the limelight, the better the chances will be for the club to succeed where it matters, on the park. In previous seasons, things have been going reasonably well – but there’s been this tendency for those of us who love the club to twitch nervously, all too well aware that something would probably happen to derail us. And then it would happen – a loco rant from the boardroom in the local press, an inexplicable sacking or two – and it’d be as if the players’ heads went down and they were thinking “what kind of Fred Karno’s army outfit are we playing for here?”

This season, that dreaded twitch has been noticeable by its absence. We’ve had our bad times, and even Monk himself has been guilty of the odd gaffe. But overall, his stewardship of the football club has been characterised by a serenity, and a steadfast determination to get on with business, that has permitted no distractions to interfere with the steady progress being made.

It’s progress that has been solid if unspectacular, but Monk has made a point of commenting that the players are a group growing in togetherness and unity of purpose. Within that insulating bubble the manager has created, the squad seems happier and much better able to function as professional footballers. The difference this has made to the angst and anarchy of previous seasons is difficult to over-stress. But you only have to look at the results and performances to see that it is so.

There is still chaos and uncertainty abroad at the higher levels of the club, there’s no point in beating about the bush on that one. As we’ve seen in previous years, it’s the kind of thing that can spread throughout the whole place and negatively affect playing matters. In a highly professional and competitive environment, tiny differences can have a vast effect on relative performance – and United have thus been at a disadvantage compared to calmer, better-run clubs. The credit due to Monk for creating a vacuum between the footballing aspect of the club, and the nuttiness elsewhere around Elland Road, must be immense. It’s Monk we have to thank for the fact that we don’t look as daft nowadays on the field as we still frequently do off it. 

Today, against Burton Albion, Leeds got the job done without having to be particularly brilliant. Hard work, concentration and commitment proved to be sufficient unto the day, and two late goals from Wood and Doukara saw off determined and tough opposition before whom last season’s United might well have wilted. It was an object lesson in earning the right to win – and then pouncing just in time. 

Monk seems to be building a team and an ethos upon traditional lines; work hard, don’t accept defeat, show grit and determination, keep going to the end. That will get you a hell of a long way against most teams in this league, as was evident against Clough Junior’s men today, and also our frequent nemesis Norwich City in midweek. The foundations are being laid in blood, sweat and tears; the brilliance can and will come later.

So, it’s onwards and upwards for United on the field – and long may that continue. And, as long as Garry Monk is allowed to get on with doing his job, his way, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be at least guardedly optimistic for the future. Monk has an air of confidence about him that inspires faith and belief, in players and fans alike. He seems to expect to succeed, and there’s a determination about him to keep that vital separation of football matters from everything else. 

Winning is what matters. All else is secondary and subordinate to that. Such seems to be the Monk Mantra. Let’s hope that everybody connected to the club understands and accepts it. 

United Legend Strachan on Radio Leeds Tonight Ahead of Elland Road Return   –   by Rob Atkinson


Scotland coach Gordon Strachan can be heard by Leeds fans before they have a chance to see him in the flesh again, when he graces the studios of BBC Radio Leeds this evening at 6:00 pm. It’s expected that the one-time Whites skipper, a pivotal figure in the club’s success story of the late eighties and early nineties, will be talking about his Leeds career and memories – as well as his current responsibilities with the Scottish national team, who meet Auld Enemy England in a World Cup qualifier shortly. 

The radio feature will be backed by a splash article in the Yorkshire Evening Post over the next few days. Strachan’s return to Elland Road, at an evening dinner organised by Events in the City for the evening of November 4th, is being seen as an exciting prospect for those with memories of the glory days of Sergeant Wilko, Lee Chapman, the late Gary Speed, Strachan himself, and the rest. United won promotion back to the old First Division after eight years in the wilderness, and were Champions of England only two short years later. As achievements go, that’s hard to beat for any club – and even at Leeds, it’s a period outshone only by Don Revie‘s team of all talents. 

United fans would do well to listen to Radio Leeds tonight, as well as making sure they catch the YEP article when that appears. Strachan is always good value, with his forthright views, biting wit and of course his memories of the major role he played in Wilko’s United revolution.

Tickets for the Evening With Gordon Strachan event are still available at £55 each, to include a three course meal and a full programme of entertainment. A table for ten can be booked for £500 to see in person a man who has rightly gone down in United history as one of the club’s true heroes. 

Leeds United Legend Gordon Strachan in Elland Road Return – by Rob Atkinson

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Wee Gordon’s iconic strike against Leicester City in 1990

The word “legend” is bandied about all too freely in matters showbiz and sporting, but there are a handful of performers in both spheres who truly merit the accolade. One such, in the context of Leeds United Football Club at least, is current Scotland manager and former United captain and hero Gordon Strachan.

It’s twenty-five years now since the red-headed Scottish dynamo lifted the last old-style Football League Championship for the Elland Road outfit, completing a miraculous revival in the space of four years from the bottom of the old Division Two to the very pinnacle of the game. Such on-field leadership and achievement had not been seen in Leeds since the time of that other red-headed firebrand from north of the border, Billy Bremner. It is a massive tribute to Strachan that his name can justifiably be mentioned in the same breath as that of the late, great King Billy. In a world of so many sham legends, both stand proud as the genuine article.

To help mark the silver jubilee of that memorable last Championship, Strachan is due to return to Elland Road on Friday 4th of November for an evening of reminiscence at a dinner event organised by Events in the City. It’s fair to say that the Scot will be revisiting the scene of his greatest triumph, although Strachan’s own take on that might surprise a few people. As far as Gordon is concerned, the greatest achievement of his time at Elland Road was not that “Last Champions” success, but rather the Second Division Championship of two seasons earlier.

When Strachan was signed for Leeds by Howard Wilkinson in 1988, his brief was to be the on-field inspiration behind United’s longed-for return to the top flight. It was the fulfillment of that ambition, so keenly felt in the club itself and more widely in the city of Leeds and beyond, that really fired the former Manchester United man with pride. The fact that he went on to deny his ex-manager at Old Trafford, Alex Ferguson, a first English Title in 1992 ranks modestly second, for Strachan if not for the massed Leeds fans, to that initial achievement. But it must surely have added a piquant tang to the flavour of success that he savoured throughout his Leeds career.

Anybody who followed Gordon Strachan’s career will be aware of this diminutive man’s towering presence on the football field. Feisty, committed and skillful, he embodied all of the qualities that had been lacking in the Leeds midfield since the departure of Bremner over a decade before. The similarities between the two are obvious; but, if anything, Strachan was perhaps slightly more restrained on the field and somewhat more waspish off it. His performances in post-match interviews as a manager have become the stuff of legends in themselves, much admired and retold. After one defeat during his spell as Southampton manager, Strachan was collared in the players’ tunnel and asked by a reporter in what areas his team had been inferior. “Mainly that big green one out there,” was the laconic response. Gordon Strachan was still providing value and entertainment long after his playing career was done, and he continues to do as much to this day.

So it should be a memorable evening at Elland Road on November the 4th. Strachan will be assured of a warm reception in a place where he is rightly revered and, if he operates according to form, he should be well worth listening to. As the event takes place just a week before his Scotland team are due to take on the “Auld Enemy” England, in a World Cup Qualifier, there is also the prospect of some heartfelt cross-border banter to enhance and add an edge to the entertainment.

Whatever the outcome of the clash between the two oldest footballing rival nations, it’s guaranteed that Gordon Strachan will always be welcomed anywhere in England, where he gave sterling service to the Uniteds of Leeds and Manchester, plus Coventry City, as a player – as well as managing both Coventry and Middlesbrough. And the warmest welcome of all, in a city fiercely proud of its legends, will always await him at Elland Road, home of Leeds United FC.

Leeds Legend Gordon Strachan Prepares for Elland Road Return   –   by Rob Atkinson

That’s Champion: Leeds Legend Strachan Returns to Elland Road


LEEDS UNITED fans will have a unique opportunity to relive the glory days when club legend Gordon Strachan returns to Elland Road for a glittering dinner that will mark the 25th anniversary of the team winning the title during the 1991-92 season.

Both individual tickets and tables are already selling fast for the event, which will be held in The Centenary Pavilion at Elland Road on Friday 4th November 2016, just a week before the current Scotland manager prepares to take on England in a World Cup qualifying match. 

During the event, Gordon will talk about the special times he enjoyed captaining Leeds United to the league title and what it felt like to deny the team’s arch-rivals Manchester United, as well as his former boss Alex Ferguson, who finished as runners-up. 

There will also be a three course dinner served, followed by entertainment by a renowned comedian.

A spokesperson from event organiser Events in the City, said: “It’s hard to believe 25 years have passed since Leeds United last lifted a trophy and this will be a great opportunity for Leeds fans to relive lots of the memorable moments with Gordon from that amazing season. 

“The fact it takes place a week before the England vs Scotland game will also make it a special occasion and I’m sure the Leeds fans will have plenty to say about that as well!”

The event starts at 7pm, with dinner served at 8pm. The remaining tickets are £55 per person or £500 for a table of 10. Anyone wanting to reserve places should call 07585 002386 or email office@eventsinthecity.co.uk.

Routine Win for Leeds Utd, Cup Final Heartbreak for Barnsley –   by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United 2, Barnsley 1

Routine for Leeds United these days appears to be outplaying determined but inferior opposition, getting into a winning position – and then having a late attack of the collywobbles which threatens to chuck a deserved victory straight down the sanitary facilities. Like that, this win over derby-day foes Barnsley was routine, right enough. It’s just that, lately, the Whites seem able to avoid the khazi part of the equation and grind out a positive result after all. So many times in the past, Leeds at 2-0 up would have been pegged back to 2-1 and had immediate conniptions. Now things are that bit different; now we have Pontus Jansson.

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is quite the fan of our borrowed Swedish colossus. Alongside Kyle Bartley, who took time off from defensive duties to grab the opener against Toby and his Tykes, Jansson is forming an on-loan central defensive partnership for United that is starting to look as good as anything in this league. Surely the most important piece of pending transfer business for Leeds in January is to secure these two on permanent deals. We all know it makes sense.

I’ve said before that increased reliability from a more solid back line would pay its dividend in terms of greater freedom and confidence in midfield and up front. It’s starting to pan out that way, with the team more often able to take the lead and then consolidate with a second goal, as at Cardiff recently. The man who delivered the coup de grâce that day was at it again against the South Yorkshiremen, Pablo Hernandez finding the bottom corner after an assist from Eunan O’Kane. At 2-0, Leeds were dominating the visitors, forcing errors all over the pitch and revelling in this unfamiliar feeling of confidence. And although Barnsley did break through with a worrying amount of time still left, forcing poor Charlie Taylor into an own goal, the Whites held out – and that’s a sign of durability and determination for which we can all be gratefully thankful.

So, three points for Leeds against opponents who have been troublesome in the past both home and away. Barnsley share with just about all the smaller Yorkshire clubs – and a good few further abroad – that “we all hate Leeds” chip on their collective shoulder. It’s served them well in the past, imbuing their play with a Cup Final intensity that has often seen a bewildered Leeds crumble. On this occasion, though, it was just too big an ask in the end – and the South Yorkshire Reds had to trail home empty handed, the banquet and the open-top bus cancelled, the souvenir t-shirts and DVDs on hold, till next time at the soonest.

The latest international break is well-timed too, and three points is the ideal way to go into a time for regrouping, planning and recovering from injuries. And, on a day when we marked the sad loss of the late, great Don Revie‘s son Duncan, a win was a fitting tribute to Leeds United’s first family at a time of such sadness. 

RIP Duncan Revie