Monthly Archives: January 2017

Leeds’ Promotion Push Bolstered by £17m Worth of New Talent   –   by Rob Atkinson

Modou Barrow (left) and Alfonso Pedraza (right)

The Leeds United powers that be have thankfully shown a pleasing amount of last-minute transfer market acumen with the deadline day acquisition of two pacy, talented wide players whose effect will potentially be to enhance the attacking unit’s potency all the way across the forward line. 

With the “try before you buy” loan signings of Alfonso Pedraza from Villareal, with an option to buy in summer for £8.5m, and Modou Barrow (purchase option £9m rising to £11m) from manager Garry Monk‘s former club Swansea City, Leeds have not only added options out wide, they have made the whole offensive situation that much more fluid. Both new signings are able to play out wide or more centrally, but their addition to the squad frees up the likes of Roofe, Doukara and even Dallas, none of whom are natural touchline-huggers, to operate further infield in support of lone spearhead Chris Wood. The advantages of this increased flexibility could be considerable, both game-to-game and within games, to stir things up as may be necessary. And suddenly having two proper wingers could even reap a bonus in terms of increased effectiveness for the misfiring Marcus Antonsson, a good striker who has starved for lack of service on his rare appearances for the first team. 

The Leeds United Twitter timeline was a toxic place to be, though, up until the signing of Barrow, with much wailing, cursing, rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth. Even after the arrival of the Swansea man, there remained some truculence and discontent. But many more were quite happy in the end, with a window that had added two quality arrivals to a highly effective if hitherto slightly patchy squad. Among those satisfied, we can presumably count Monk himself, who had appeared somewhat tense and distrait as the transfer clock ticked down. He wanted two signings and that’s what he eventually got. We can surely assume that he has the plan to make best use of the squad now in place. 

So, attention now turns to Ewood Park on Wednesday, and the urgent necessity of dealing with Blackburn Rovers. The standard approach of concentrating on each three points up for grabs as they coma along will continue to serve Leeds well, and the club will be acutely conscious of the need to restore face after the embarrassment of Sutton United

Neither new signing is available for Wednesday’s encounter, but both will be up for consideration at Huddersfield on Sunday. Six points is a lot to ask from these two tricky fixtures, but the form of our play-off and promotion rivals makes it almost a necessity to secure a maximum return if at all possible. But, according to the Monk Mantra, it’s still one game at a time and steady as she goes. 

The rest of the season beckons, with no Cup distractions. The opportunity is there for Leeds United, suitably bolstered by increased pace and width, to write another glorious page of their illustrious history. A promotion charge is a clear and present possibility, one glance at the table confirms that. In the race for the top-flight, fortune will surely favour the brave. Bring it on. 

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Leeds United Will Ignore Manager Monk’s Warning Tone At Their Peril   –   by Rob Atkinson

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Monk: time for the club to support him

As the January transfer window draws inexorably to a close, Leeds United‘s highly-rated young manager Garry Monk has delivered himself of a cleverly-loaded quote – one that his employers would do well not to ignore.

On the same day that academy graduate Alex Mowatt finally moved on to Barnsley (despite assurances that nobody in and around the first team would be sold) Monk has reacted thus: “I can only assume that the players the club have talked about will come through the door as soon as possible. I am excited. We need to strengthen.”

It’s a statement loaded with subtextual significance. Reading between the lines, the manager’s “excitement” sounds more like the onset of frustration. When he says “I can only assume” in reaction to Mowatt’s departure, it sounds very much as though the sale was not entirely desirable from his point of view – unless there are incoming reinforcements due. The unsaid addendum to “I can only assume” is “because otherwise, the club is messing me about and not supporting me as promised”.

Time is running out, fast. There is 4th Round FA Cup business to attend to this weekend, a potential banana skin of a game at Sutton Utd in which, ironically, Mowatt might have been expected to play a prominent role. But, beyond that, there will then be mere hours to provide the couple of players that Monk has continually said he needs. It would not do to frustrate and stymie a manager who has made this season so much more memorable, and for all the right reasons, than the past few have been. Garry Monk has done wonders for Leeds United, and the club is honour-bound to back up his efforts with quality recruits to give his squad the best chance of success.

Furthermore, if Leeds are once more to disappoint their fan base as well as their manager, with yet another window in which expectations have been merely managed and not met, then it really does make no sense to lose Mowatt now, with so many potentially vital games left to play. The mercurial midfielder with that wand of a left foot may not be the kind of player to build a team or a promotion challenge around but, on his day, he could be a game changer with his undoubted potential to grab a spectacular goal like a bolt from the blue. You need that kind of unexpected element in a squad. With Mowatt gone, and even Murphy and Diagouraga too, the first team pool is markedly weaker than it was at the start of January – when the aim surely had to have been to strengthen.

Make no mistake, Garry Monk is putting the pressure on his employers to deliver, and rightly so. He’s saying that, with Mowatt sold, it would make no sense for there not to be incomings over the next few days. It would be against all logic, it would be foolish and it would be a betrayal. It’s all there. That one quote says it all, quite subtly, but nevertheless unmistakably. Garry Monk expects and requires action, not just words. If the club lets him down, they will potentially risk losing the best thing to happen to them in a long, long while.

Leeds United must listen to their manager, and they must heed his between the lines warning. It’s high time for the club to put its money where its mouth is.

Doukara’s Screamer for Leeds Utd is an Instant Man Flu Cure – by Rob Atkinson

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The Douk celebrates a breakthrough in medical science

Leeds United 2, Nottingham Forest 0

I’ve had such a crap week, laid low with the terrifying complaint known as man flu. It’s a dread disease, enough to strike palsied horror into any male and, by the same token, it seems to reduce any woman to tears of scornful mirth as they make irrelevant comparisons with labour pains and other such gynaecological trivia. So there’s plenty of lonely misery for the hapless bloke thus afflicted, and precious little sympathy from the distaff side. Fine, we know it’s a hard life – and normally we just have to suffer in silence and see it through. Happily, though, it now appears that there may be a cure.

I base this upon my own symptomatology in a short study this evening just gone. At 7pm, I was helpless on my sofa, having missed out on refereeing duties for the local walking football lads, condemned to remain confined to barracks when I had the chance to be at Elland Road for the Forest game, and with every likelihood of being forced to cancel a trip to the Big Smoke (courtesy of that nice Mr. Branson and his tenner return ticket promotion). I was not a happy bunny; I was instead a sad, sick and sorry boy.

Just under three hours later, though, I felt as though I could run a half marathon through several brick walls. To say I felt like a new man would be a hopeless understatement. Charged with energy and glowing with health, I’d left my sniffles, snot and headaches far behind me, along with the leaden limbs and aching joints that have made this week such a nightmare. It was a hearty dose of Twitter video therapy that had done the trick and reinvigorated me – all it had taken to effect a cure was the view, from several angles, of the most stonking thunderbolt of a strike, courtesy of Souleymane Doukara, that Elland Road has seen in many a blue moon. Each different viewpoint gave me a boost, every aspect of the goal was a curative draught that restored and rejuvenated. The boom of boot on ball, the trajectory of the volley past a startled Forest keeper, the delighted roar of the crowd – all combined to provide a treat for all the senses and, lo – I was cured. A miracle!

Doukara’s goal was special; to me, that is a matter of medical fact. No word of a lie, I really do feel enlivened and repaired – even the wife’s stopped laughing at me (she’s also seen The Goal – “Did he really mean that?” she enquired). I expect it’s something to do with adrenaline or endorphins or some such malarkey – but I prefer to believe that it was the sheer aesthetic beauty of the Duke’s sublime strike that raised me off my bed of pain. I’ve seen comparable goals in the past, but I’ve usually been there in person, and I’ve never before been feeling quite so crap as I was last evening. So, when Tony Yeboah scored against Liverpool, or when Gary Mac knocked in a couple of fulminating volleys, also against the Reds – or even when Sol Bamba belted home a cracker some little while back, I could appreciate all these goals, not least because they were all at the Kop End. I wouldn’t say that Doukara’s goal was necessarily the best of this prize bunch – that much is arguable. But its remarkable effect on my waning health is not up for debate, so it’s in a category of its own as far as I’m concerned, for that reason alone.

Being a collector of data, I’d love to know if any other man flu sufferers experienced such a miracle after 73 minutes of the Forest game? We could perhaps add to the fund of mankind’s medical knowledge, who knows. I’m just happy that the Duke managed to belt home such a beauty, and not just for my own selfish reasons of feeling less bloody awful. It also finished off Notts Forest, hardly my favourite opponents. And I know for a fact that I shall never, ever get tired of watching those many angles of that ripsnorter of a goal. Everything about it is beautiful, the way Doukara ran around the falling ball onto his right foot, the way he caught it right on the sweet spot and sent it arrowing into the far, top corner, the keeper’s futile dive, which had barely started before the ball was rippling the back of his net…

The default effect of Leeds United upon my health is, generally speaking, at best neutral – and more usually slightly negative. Often and often down the years, I’ve emerged from Elland Road or whatever away dump we’ve graced with our presence, feeling deflated, depressed, physically sick, body all achin’ and racked with pain – that sort of thing. Even victories have usually been won at the cost of nails bitten down to elbows and veins throbbing in my temples. Last night was different, and it was all down to that one cathartic, sublime, unforgettable moment. So thank you, Mr. Doukara – and my long-suffering better half sends her thanks too.

For the record, I’d also appreciated Chris Wood‘s achievement, just after half-time, of hitting the twenty mark in all competitions for this season, and here we are only in January. That gave me a little glow of satisfaction too, though I was still feeling horribly poorly and I thought I’d have to live with the tension as United ground out another 1-0 win. Doukara’s volley changed all that, it’s given me a proper fillip and probably earned me a good healthy night’s sleep before tomorrow’s capital adventure.

And for all of that – and for the three points at the expense of the Twiglets – I am, believe you me, most profoundly grateful.

New from the White House: the alternate truths historical timeline since 1946

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Some hoary old myths of World and American history have been dispelled since President Donald J Trump moved into the White House, and that process is continuing with the ongoing alternative truths campaign initiated by the President’s loyal staff. Below, we summarise the alternate truth historical timeline as it is now understood.

Donald Trump was born in 1946, and by the tender age of ten had already gained first class degrees at both Harvard and Yale, reflecting his phenomenal IQ of 276. During his teens, he became a test pilot and then the leading combat pilot in the USAF, recording 65 kills in the Korean conflict alone. Moving into his twenties, Donald took up fighting and tennis, becoming undisputed World Boxing champion at four different weights simultaneously, as well as winning the tennis Grand Slam for five consecutive years. His sporting career went from strength to strength, culminating with a late bid to become a soccer star. He subsequently helped the USA win soccer’s World Cup in 1962, 1966 and 1970, scoring a hat trick on each occasion and being lauded by Pelé and Bobby Moore as their “most difficult opponent”. Trump rounded off his club soccer career by joining Manchester United in time to win them the 1968 European Cup, scoring all four goals at Wembley.

Moving on from sport into business, Donald founded ICI and the IMF and became a multi-trillionaire in the six months after European Cup glory. This enabled him to take up responsibility for the funding of the continuance of the Apollo program, in which he took an active part, becoming the first man to walk on the moon in July 1969. Not content with this, Donald not only became the first man to hit a golf shot on the moon, he also actually achieved a hole in one, finishing 24 under par in history’s first extra-terrestrial round of golf and putting one lost ball into permanent lunar orbit. 

Back on Earth, Donald’s achievements continued apace. In the early seventies he returned to combat duties for the US Air Force, reducing Vietnam to a vanquished enemy with his 754 successful fighter sorties, knocking down an average of 2.54 MIG fighters per mission.

Having become the first American to win two wars single handed, beating Errol Flynn’s record by one, Donald Trump somewhat belatedly entered the world of entertainment, winning best actor Oscars for his first seventeen movies. He is particularly remembered for his bravura performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars, Danny Zuko in Grease and the shark in Jaws.

The historical achievements were mounting up, and there seemed to be few fields left for this remarkable man to conquer. Becoming bored with sports, space exploration and movies, it was time for Donald to tread the boards of the world’s greatest stages, creating roles such as Lear, Othello, Lady Macbeth and the Grinch.

Throughout his life up until the end of the seventies, Donald felt that his incredible singing ability had been rather masked by his mastery of acting. Now though, his gift as an operatic tenor came to the fore as he performed all the great roles in a decade of virtuoso vocal displays. Perhaps his greatest triumph was his definitive version of Nessun Dorma, which became the most widely admired operatic performance of all time, providing the theme to the Italia 90 World Cup in which Donald also made a sporting comeback at the age of 44, scoring another hat trick to win a fourth title for the USA as Germany were trounced in the Final by 5-0.

In the next two decades, Donald relaxed slightly to concentrate on his personal life and establish a reputation as the world’s greatest lover and most attractive man. During this time, Donald was heavily in demand by all of the world’s most beautiful women, all of whom wanted to bear him a little Trump to improve the planet’s gene pool. It is estimated that Donald took 12,000 lovers in this period, whilst remaining a good and faithful family man and also becoming the first swimmer to conquer the Atlantic and the Pacific. In response to doubters, Donald later swam both oceans again, in one day, followed up by a solo trek across Antarctica.

Finally, for the crowning achievement of this extraordinary life to date, it was time for the Donald to bestow the gift of himself on politics. Starting out humbly as the power behind the Reagan and Bush dynasties, Donald also seduced Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain to ensure that the USA had a strategic platform off the coast of Europe and single-handedly causing the collapse of communism. Later, Donald became the Governor of every state barring Florida and Hawaii, reserving these for golf projects. When the time was finally right for him to run for President, Donald’s global reputation and skilfully developed power base would ensure him a landslide victory to eclipse any in history.

And this greatest of all triumphs is what we have just witnessed. Donald won all the states to romp home to the White House, gaining 99.86% of the popular vote and attracting 60 billion adoring fans to his record-breaking inauguration. In so doing, he has established a new American domination of global politics which is expected to last für ein tausend Jahre.

Hail to the Chief! Hail Donald Trump!! Hail, hail, Heil!!!

Leeds Taste Derby Day Defeat at Rampant Barnsley – by Rob Atkinson

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Mike Dean – doubly incompetent

In football, as in life, timing is everything. And it was the timing of two rather poor Mike Dean penalty decisions during Leeds United‘s tumultuous defeat at Oakwell this evening that may well have been the factor upon which the outcome of the game ultimately depended. Had Leeds gone in at half-time 2-0 up, with a penalty to add to Chris Wood’s bundled opener after Kyle Bartley got a Barnsley hand in his face at a corner, there could have been few complaints from a home side that looked to be under the cosh at the time. But, in the final analysis, the fragility of a 1-0 lead was exposed by a late first half smash and grab goal from the hosts – and you sensed then that the tide had turned decisively.

In the second half, Barnsley came out like a pack of ravenous hounds and punctured United’s rearguard twice in quick time in a dominant spell. Two great finishes left Leeds with what, in the end, proved to be too much to do. This always looked to be the case, even after Dean’s second shoddy call of the match, awarding Leeds a penalty from a good forty yards behind play, for a handball offence that was clearly miles outside the box. Chris Wood duly converted but, even with their hopes so fortunately boosted, United never really escaped the stranglehold Barnsley had put on them from the time of the equaliser. In the end, the injustices evened themselves out, allowing the better side over 95 minutes to enjoy a deserved victory. 

What might have transpired had the hapless Dean got his calls the right way around is anybody’s guess – though it’s tempting to suppose a Leeds side two goals to the good would have taken some pegging back. As things were, there can be few complaints, and both sets of fans will be in agreement that Mr. Dean should go back to Premier League football and practice his dubious skills there.

For Leeds, defeat might just be a timely wake-up call and a reminder that the squad still needs a bit more strength in depth. It’s to be hoped that this will be addressed in the coming days, along with the pressing need to get back to winning ways on Wednesday against a Nottingham Forest side that should be ripe for the beating. United manager Garry Monk will be focusing already on that game, and the Whites should see it as a chance to start off on another positive run. 

Lastly, it has to be said that Barnsley’s grit and attitude were as commendable as the quality of the goals they scored. Everyone knows how much beating Leeds means to the Tykes, and those victory celebrations will be sweet indeed. With Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday also flying high in the Championship, it’s turning out to be a good season for Yorkshire clubs. None of which is any comfort in defeat – but Leeds know there is stiff competition out there and it’s up to our heroes to step up to the plate now and reassert their authority. 

That process can and must start on Wednesday. After a great run since December, we now expect nothing less.

Leeds Graduate With a 2:1 At Cambridge, But At a Price – by Rob Atkinson

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Mowatt – winner

When the story of this season is written, the worth of last night’s narrow squeak FA Cup victory at Cambridge United will be capable of objective assessment. As things stand right now, you’d have to say it’s unlikely to be of much if any intrinsic value; it may even be that the net effect upon our campaign will be decidedly negative.

On the credit side of the ledger, yet another fine second-half performance to paper over the cracks of yet another slow start, and this time it was the shadow squad that proved itself able to pick up its game. The downside is there for all to see; a tenth booking of the season for the iconic Pontus Jansson will deprive Leeds United of his services for two vital and rather tricky league games in Derby at home and Barnsley away. Jansson’s obvious deputy, Liam Cooper, also picked up an injury that may well see him sidelined for Friday. Given those painful drawbacks, the “reward” of a fourth round trip to past Cup opponents Wimbledon or Sutton United seems more of a booby prize than anything to exult over. Last night’s may have been a Pyrrhic victory – although at least it cut the rest of the footballing world off in mid-gloat.

The first half of any Leeds game is becoming a matter of some concern. Whatever team takes the field for United appears unable to come out of the blocks in full-on battle mode, and manager Garry Monk is having to do some sterling work in his half-time team talks. So far, that interval helping of bollockings/encouragement has more often than not done the trick; certainly last night Leeds were a different team in the second half and Cambridge were duly blown away after dominating the first 45 minutes. Some wags have suggested only half jokingly that Monk should deliver his half-time peroration before the team trots out at the start of the match, and you can sort of see why. But, looking at the positives of the manager’s input, it would seem he is adept at diagnosing the faults in a first-half performance and then remedying those faults, rather than deficient in his timing. The next step, presumably, is to eliminate the faults from the start – but that’s all part of the learning curve necessary for any “young group”.

In the event, goals from Stuart Dallas and Alex Mowatt saved United’s blushes, or at least postponed them till later in the competition. Now, with the serious business of accumulating more league points a priority, Leeds have to address the imminent problem of an in-form Derby County side managed by our bogeyman coach Schteve “Dutch” McClaren. In the certain absence of Jansson, whose weird pending permanent transfer has now been put back until perilously late in the window, and the probable absence of dead leg victim Cooper, it may be a case of asking Luke Ayling to slot in next to Kyle Bartley in central defence, with Coyle and/or Denton stepping up to one or both of the full-back berths. Not ideal against stiff opposition.

We will know more fully after the next two Pontus-less Championship games at what price this FA Cup progress has been secured, and we’ll just have to hope that it was a price worth paying. Four points out of Derby and Barnsley, two highly-motivated, Leeds-hating, chip-on-the-shoulder obstacles, and we’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to the next round for the fascination of revisiting Cup opponents past. Fingers crossed that last night’s damage really can be limited to the loss of a mere two points. 

Leeds’ Oxford Graduate Roofe Can Take Cup Honours at Cambridge   –   by Rob Atkinson

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The trouble with FA Cup ties, for clubs challenging for league honours in particular, is that the kind of side which will take the field for the knockout game is a matter of some uncertainty. It’s the kind of match a wise manager will use to “give game time to fringe players” or “fully utilise the squad”. In other words, don’t be surprised if the eleven on duty for the Cup is significantly weaker than the team to contest that vital promotion six-pointer.

All of which means that it’s difficult to predict Garry Monk‘s intentions for Leeds United‘s 3rd Round FA Cup clash away at Cambridge United. We might speculate that Rob Green will get the evening off, and doubtless there will be other changes from league normality. But one player most Leeds fans would love to see involved, with the aim of continuing his Elland Road settling-in process, is summer signing from Oxford United, Kemar Roofe.

Roofe shone at Oxford last season in the less demanding surroundings of League Two, scoring for fun and generally tearing the division apart. He finished as League Two Player of the Year. At Leeds, in the hurly-burly of the Championship, Kemar didn’t find his feet straight away – but just lately, he’s shown what a class act he undoubtedly is, with more than a few signs of the kind of explosive talent that made him such a hot property last year.

Against lower league opposition in the Cup, a side in Cambridge who will surely be up for it, and who are in rather good form themselves, it would be a golden chance for Roofe to persecute the kind of defence he was making hay against last term. As a confidence booster – and assuming all goes to plan – this sort of tie could be ideal. It might also be a chance to have a longer look at how Roofe could combine with the likes of Marcus Antonsson, a £2m striker who has been so peripheral to Leeds’ recent success story. That kind of Plan B assessment is vital, when the main men could be struck down by injury at any time.

This season more than most, the FA Cup will be running a poor second to the league in United’s priority list. Promotion has to be the aim that eclipses all others, and the sparkling Whites form has put them into a position where they’re ideally placed to challenge, not just for a play-off spot, but even (whisper it) for automatic promotion. This being the case, it will almost certainly be the task of the less regular league performers to dispose of Cambridge. Nevertheless, out of respect for worthy opponents if for no other reason, there will have to be a sprinkling at least of first teamers. The case for making Roofe one of these is strong; he’s young, fit and just beginning to look like a real prospect. If he can help put Cambridge to the sword, then that would be a significant step on the way to being a big hit in what could be a very big season for Leeds.

There’s still a magic to the Cup, despite the shoddy way it tends to get treated by certain clubs these days. It’s up to Leeds to make use of their resources in such a way that progress in the competition can be secured by beating a very competitive Cambridge side. The United squad has shown already that it can cope with knockout football, even succeeding in a couple of penalty shootouts. The foundations are in place for another cup run if we show we want it badly enough; those foundations just need to be topped off by defensive walls, windows of attacking opportunity which could open the door to the 4th round, and – last, but not least – that all-important Roofe.