Monthly Archives: August 2017

Meet the Man Who’s REALLY Saved Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Elland Road

Leeds United, saved at last

These past few years, during a time when it’s been obvious for the most part that Leeds United really did need saving, there have been more or less extravagant claims on behalf of various parties who, their supporters would have us believe, have been the saintly figures behind various rescue acts to preserve the Yorkshire giants for their grateful fans. Such claims do not hold water. The men and the motivations behind the alleged rescue operations have been decidedly dodgy, with the “rescues” invariably accelerating United’s downhill plummet, as well as emphasising their shocking loss of credibility within a game once dominated by the heroes of Elland Road.

It’s pointless going over old ground again here, save to emphasise this blog’s viewpoint that, far from “saving Leeds United”, the various incarnations of ownership since the turn of the century have had in common their gross mismanagement of the club and its reduction to a laughing stock. For most of the time since relegation from the top flight, the story has been one of deterioration and decay, a gradual and insidious loss of status and prestige, and the disastrous admission to the club of two of the biggest villains ever to sully the name of football in general and Leeds United in particular. And yet still these two characters – Bates and Cellino – have their adherents among supposed Leeds fans, people who will still try to tell you that, without their own particular conman of choice, United might not even exist. The fact is that a club of Leeds’ stature will always eventually find a saviour, just as even the darkest night ends with the rising of the sun. It was simply our misfortune that, in the decade or so after the post-Ridsdale implosion, we managed to attract two men so inimical to the true interests of the club, and the game in a wider sense.

Enough of them. It’s with much greater optimism that we now view our club as its resurgence gathers a momentum that seems set fair to become unstoppable. The change of ownership started things off in the best possible way, in that it saw the end of Cellino (albeit to some bewildering peeps of protest from some quarters). But Massimo was gone, and we had a quite different Italian in charge; one who began to do novel things like keeping promises, investing in the team, recruiting football men to do football business – stuff like that. Andrea Radrizzani has overseen, in really a very short time, a total transformation of the club, the stadium and the playing staff at both first team and also – crucially – at U-23 level, where last season had been an unmitigated farce. So, can we point at Andrea and say, “Here is the man who saved Leeds United“? There’s quite probably a case for just such a conclusion to be drawn.

But really, you have to look back further, right back to the start of the process that would eventually see Massimo move out and Andrea move in. From this beginning, everything else has flowed. It’s the catalyst for Radrizzani’s Leeds United takeover that we’re really looking for, when we seek to identify Leeds United’s actual saviour.

And the thing is, it’s such an unlikely name, a man with only the most fleeting and tenuous connection with Leeds United, when he appeared as a veteran in the white shirt during John Charles’ testimonial in 1988, playing alongside Michel Platini and helping set up a pre-Leeds transfer Ian Rush for a hat-trick against Everton. Other than this brief glimpse of magic in a Leeds shirt, our man spent most of his career with old enemies north and south of the Scottish border, earning legendary status first at Celtic and then at Liverpool, where he’d been set the unenviable task in 1977 of replacing departed Kop hero Kevin Keegan. Naturally, he went on to surpass Keegan; success and the attainment of legend status was, after all, simply second nature to him.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, I give you the true saviour of Leeds United – not Bates, not Cellino, not even (though I would willingly kiss his Italian shoes) Andrea Radrizzani. The man and the motivation behind The Italian Job, whereby one Signor was replaced by another, is none other than Scotland hero and perennial thorn in the side of Leeds United and many others, Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish, MBE. Dalglish it was who, at a social gathering before a Champions League quarter final between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, spoke with enthusiasm to Radrizzani of Leeds United, of the size of the club and the passion of its fanbase; of how the whole place was a project just awaiting fulfillment, ready for the right person to go in and revive football’s archetypal sleeping giant.

“It was a casual chat at lunch with friends, it was my first time meeting him,” says Radrizzani. “We were talking about many things and for two minutes we talked about Leeds, the sleeping giant, the opportunity for someone coming here. He mentioned about the great opportunity if someone had a concrete project with a vision to bring back the passion. He also mentioned about how the city is passionate about the club and this is what I’m finding out.”

From this small beginning, the seed was sown that has brought us to where we are today, with Leeds United, so recently a basket case of a club, now showing the unmistakeable signs of growing vigour, health and confidence. A journey of a thousand miles, so they say, begins with a single step – and there’s no denying that Kenny Dalglish, on that blessed day for Leeds, applied the initial, gentle push that started Radrizzani off on the project he’s now conducting so well.

It’s frightening to contemplate where we’d now be, and in what sort of mood or depths of despair, if that chance meeting and casual conversation hadn’t taken place. Destiny took a hand, fate came a-calling, and when the two men met, Dalglish – a man of other clubs and different allegiances – spoke warmly of Leeds, of potential untapped and an institution of the game ripe for salvation. It was enough to set us on the road to recovery. Dalglish, bless him, was there when we needed him, and he said what we needed him to say.

At some future time when, we must fervently hope, (but now with much more confidence) we are truly back at the top table of the game – well, we’ll know that it’s our due, that we’re finally back where we belong. And in the still further distant future, when trophies are back on the sideboard and we’re stomping the fields of Europe again, it might be time for a few more statues to be erected around the fully-refurbished, highly impressive and club-owned Elland Road mega-stadium. It’s how we say thanks to our legends and our saviours, after all.

Laugh if you will, but consider the role played by Leeds United’s most identifiable saviour of recent years, think of the contribution he has made towards our recent, spectacular revival and resurgence. It’s no exaggeration to say that this man, in that one casual conversation, has made a pivotal difference to Leeds United history. It would be entirely fitting, in this humbly grateful blogger’s view, for one of those new statues – in some unspecified future year that I hope but don’t expect to see – to represent Celtic, Liverpool and, yes, Leeds United hero Kenny Dalglish.

New-Look Leeds United Causing Bookies Rethink as Odds Shorten on Promotion – by Rob Atkinson

Saiz

Samu Sáiz – just one factor in Leeds’ terrific start to the season

Leeds United, to the almost incredulous delight of their legions of fans, could hardly be heading into the season’s first international break in better shape. A perfect away record in the league is only slightly offset by the two goalless draws so far at home, where United have, up to now, reserved their attacking prowess for the Carabao Cup. The defence hasn’t conceded a league goal since the opening day of the season, when an injury-hit Leeds conceded from two set-pieces but still won 3-2 at Bolton. The attack, confidently predicted to be toothless in the event of a Chris Wood departure, has actually proved to have a lot of bite, more so even, since the loss of the New Zealand international. The goals have been shared around, and the ratio of strikes on goal has been very impressive when compared to last season’s more pedestrian and predictable approach.

Having opened the season as 18/1 underdogs for winning the Championship, United’s odds have most certainly shifted after such an impressive, unbeaten start to the campaign. Those pundits who predicted that the loss of last year’s Head Coach Garry Monk would see Leeds falling from grace this time around, look likely to have to eat their words, as the team under new boss Thomas Christiansen seems to have new attacking dimensions as well as a miserly defence and the newly-acquired knack of stifling their opponents’ forward play. It all adds up to a much more likely recipe for success, even given the fact that Leeds are having to assimilate so many new players. The new additions, notably Samu Sáiz, have had a considerable impact, and this can be expected to continue as players settle in and the team gels.

At this early stage of the season, such consistent and exciting performances are all the more impressive for the fact that players who were considered key personnel this time last year are either no longer at the club or, if they are still around, they’re out of favour for one reason or another. The squad appears to have strength in depth, with most departments of the team benefiting from quality cover. As the summer transfer window ticks to its close, it appears likely that some of the Wood money will be reinvested in yet more new arrivals, with the attack the main focus of attention. Leeds are strong in midfield, well-served out wide and, with the revelatory form of new skipper Liam Cooper as well as the emergence of Conor Shaughnessy, the club now seem confident that no major reinforcement is necessary in the defensive third of the team.

So, give or take a couple of extra attacking players, it seems likely that the squad is complete for now, at least until the January window opens – and who knows just how high Leeds United might be flying by then? On the evidence of the first five games in the Championship, the answer would seem to be: the sky’s the limit.

Nottingham Forest to Change Club Motto in Wake of Leeds Defeat and Viral Pie-Fight Video – by Rob Atkinson

Bulleh

“Don’t bulleh meh, my owd duck”

Nottingham Forest, the club with the silliest nickname in football, are now set to have the silliest motto, after Leeds United rode roughshod over them at the City Ground to record a comfortable 2-0 victory.

The Forest nickname “The Tricky Trees” has been rightly mocked and derided throughout the game for years now. But, at least up until yesterday, their motto of Vivit Post Funera Virtus (Virtue Outlives Death) had lent a certain gravitas to the club, despite the laughable embarrassment of the Tricky Trees monicker. Since Saturday’s half-time shenanigans, though, when a pair of Nottingham’s finest squared up to each other over the last pie in the refreshments bar, it has been widely suggested that “Virtue Outlives Death” has become inappropriate, and should be replaced with the phrase uttered approximately 45 times, in ever higher-pitched and more indignant tones, by one of the protagonists in the now infamous Piegate Brawl. This phrase, expressed in the local Trentside vernacular, is “Don’t bulleh meh”, and translates roughly into normal English as, “I say, old chap, kindly desist from taking liberties and presuming to assault my person, you utter cad”.

Linguistic experts are even now attempting to translate the original idiom into tolerable Latin and, if they are successful, it is understood that Forest will confirm this as their new motto with immediate effect. A club spokesman commented, “Given the way Leeds United bullehed us yesterday, this seems highly apt. As a club, we should never accept being bullehed, especially on our home turf. It happened yesterday, but maybe a change of motto will change all that for future encounters with vastly superior teams. We certainly hope so, my owd duck”.

Ever willing to help, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything suggested that Forest might like to consider “Nemo Me Impune Lacessit” as a suitable Latin rendering of the sentiment squeakily expressed by the irate gentleman in the pie bar. The club, however, whilst thanking us for our advice (and asking us also to pass on their thanks to Leeds United for yesterday’s footballing seminar) felt that this translation fails to do justice to the strong local flavour of the “bulleh meh” soundbite.

The matter, therefore, remains under consideration. A further statement will be issued at a later date.

 

 

Garry Who? Chris Who?? TC’s Divine New Leeds Chopped the Forest Down – by Rob Atkinson

Divine duo

Christiansen and Radrizzani: Divine Duo

As we head into the season’s first international break, with its timely chance to pause and reflect, we can look back upon a first segment of Leeds United‘s campaign that can best be described as the stuff of which dreams are made. The Elland Road exits of Garry Monk and Chris Wood had the press pack, or at any rate that 99% of it hostile to the Whites, drooling with anticipation of United’s fall from grace. Gleefully, they speculated upon the damage that will be done by the loss of thirty-goal Wood; happily, they salivated at the jumping overboard of Garry Monk – who would actually appear to have swapped a cruise liner for a rusty tug. The reality of Leeds’ refreshing approach so far has confounded these ill-wishing souls, and they’re frankly welcome to their own purgatory. Leeds fans, by contrast, are higher than kites on Cloud Nine.

Today’s performance at Nottingham Forest surpassed even last Saturday’s demolition of Sunderland. Both were clinical displays away from home at perceived football fortresses. Both saw United make light of the loss of their erstwhile big number nine; both ended up as solid victories via a memorable goal in each half. But the high-press at Forest was even more effective than United’s stifling of the Mackems seven days ago, with the fluency of midfield passing and the incisiveness of the multi-pronged and revolving attack both even more impressive than at the Stadium of Light. It’s fair to say that today’s win at the City Ground – normally absent from United’s happy hunting ground roster – was as complete and satisfying as any away performance over recent seasons.

Count the blessings: another clean sheet, that’s four on the trot in the league; a first goal from the dazzling Gianni Alioski (and what a goal it was); the continuing development of Kemar Roofe in a central striking role, his display embellished by a neat headed finish – and last, but by no means least, a late cameo of rich promise from new signing Jay-Roy Grot. On the evidence of his short time on the pitch, this massive unit of a young striker will have much to offer over the season ahead. He showed a neat turn, the potential to dominate in the air, pace to burn – and an endearing tendency to bully opposing defenders that belies his tender years. Grot has been described admiringly by the Leeds Twitteratti as a monster, a beast, an animal. In the context of the pantheon of Elland Road heroes, these are terms of high praise indeed.

So, for the second week running, United have breezily popped the bubble of a rival’s promising start to the season. We remain unbeaten, handily placed in the league, and with the enticing prospect of further possible recruitment during the last few days of the transfer window. To say there is currently a feel-good factor around LS11 is hopelessly inadequate; a masterpiece of understatement. It really is much better than that so far – but it’s important as a serious blogger for me not to get too carried away; there’s a long way to go, after all.

So I’ll confine myself to this brief summing up of the current situation at Leeds United, as follows: Andrea Radrizzani is God; Thomas Christiansen sits divinely at his right-hand side as the New Messiah (the clue’s in his name, brethren); the assembled first team squad are the Heavenly Host, the glorious anointed representatives at pitch level of this omnipotent duo – and we, the fans, are the newly-inspired believers, a teeming multitude of the faithful, looking forward with the serene confidence of ordained destiny to our unstoppable march to the Promised Land.

There. In all modesty and discretion, I think that’s fair comment.

 

Danny Ings or Benik Afobe Would Be Just Right for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Ings

Danny Ings – perfect fit for Leeds?

I was always being told in days gone by that you can’t have your cake and eat it – usually by the same people who’d murmur disapprovingly about “people today who want t’spice and t’ha’penny”. It’s that instinctive northern hostility to the concept of wanting the best of both worlds – but, really, what’s wrong with that? In any event, if Leeds United can now play their cards right, having banked an impressive number of millions from the onward moves of Taylor and Wood to Burnley, and with Liam Bridcutt heading for the Forest – then they could indeed end up in a win-win situation.

Since news of Wood’s departure for Turf Moor was confirmed, the names advanced as possible replacements have been many and varied. In fact, I can’t think of many realistic striker options who haven’t been mooted as possibilities – and most would do some sort of job. But in my mind, there are two outstanding candidates, both of whom would probably be loans rather than purchases, which could leave us with a nice little warchest for January, assuming that we’re somewhere near play-off contention by then.

The players I have in mind are Danny Ings, coming back from injury and down the pecking order at Liverpool, and Bournemouth‘s ex-Wolves striker Benik Afobe. For me, these two have more to recommend them in terms of fitting into the new Leeds style, than most other names so far advanced (notably Rudy Gestede). Then again, United have in Victor Orta a man who seems to have an eye for a player that bears comparison with the great Peter Taylor, who was the secret of Brian Clough’s success. So if he says Gestede is the man, then perhaps he has a point. Garry Monk appears to be pouting at the very idea though, so it may be that United will have to look elsewhere.

Afobe and/or Ings, perhaps on loan for the season, would provide Leeds with an admirable array of options up front, without depleting the treasury too much. Whether or not they are options United are seriously considering is another question – but it’s one that will have to be answered sometime over the next eight days before the transfer window slams shut.

The Reason Leeds United Can’t Have Nice Things? Wage Structure   –   by Rob Atkinson

History is repeating itself down Elland Road way, and it’s getting annoyingly boring. It goes like this: Player with obvious potential arrives at Leeds United having not quite done it elsewhere. Player develops and gains confidence through regular football. Player has a brilliant season (or, more rarely, two brilliant seasons) and becomes a Whites legend. Media note with disapproval that player is doing well at Leeds, and relentlessly hype-up “wantaway” stories. Player’s “head is turned”. Leeds offer player new contract at approx 50% of what he could get elsewhere. Player is sold to club of embarrassingly lower historical status. Fans distraught and humiliated. Rinse and repeat.

This is the scenario currently playing itself out with Chris Wood, who had a fabulous season last year without necessarily having eradicated the flaws in his game that stopped him succeeding at the top level. It looks as though Wood, understandably by his own lights, wishes to quadruple his current earnings by participating in the relegation fight of Burnley FC, instead of fighting for promotion with Leeds United. Forty years ago, this would have been inconceivable – but back then football was a whole different sport. Imagine in 1974/75 First Division Carlisle United swooping for Second Division Man U‘s top scorer. The press would have poured scorn on any such notion. But it happens these days; minnows feed off sharks. It’s all about money, folks.

Leeds United, under new ownership, has done a lot of good things amid an atmosphere of renewed optimism. That atmosphere is about to be dissipated by the cold wind of an unwelcome reality check. Twitter is all aflutter about the increasingly strong rumours of Wood’s departure, and suggestions as to his replacement are many, but almost all sadly unfeasible. Sign Danny Ings, they say. Or Peter Crouch, or Jordan Rhodes. But the pesky elephant in the room, poised ready to sit on and squash any such fanciful notions, is the Leeds United wage structure.

In short, the wage structure is the factor that prevents the Whites from competing at the top end of even the Championship transfer market. Despite a lot of wishful thinking that players will flock to sign for the Leeds United brand, Super Leeds, the Revie Boys, Champions of Europe and all that, the annoying truth is that said players are only really interested in the bottom line on their sleek, fat contracts. All else is whimsy. The players want megabucks, and the parsimonious Yorkshireness of the LUFC wage structure doesn’t cater for such munificence.

And that is the sad truth, folks. Beyond which I’m a little too soul-destroyed right now to go much further. Wood will depart and, whatever transfer fee we receive, the reinvestment of that sum will be affected by the wages we are prepared to offer any potential like-for-like replacement. And that’s why we can’t have a Jordan Rhodes, a Danny Ings, or even a Nahki Wells. Because, unlike Middlesbrough, Wolves and even Sheffield Wednesday, we tend to shy away in thrifty horror at paying the going rate. That’s why we’re still in the second sphere, and will most likely languish there still when our proud centenary rolls around. That’s why we can’t have nice things.

We’re just too damned stingy, and that’s the real bottom line.

Has There Ever Been A Worse UK Government Than This?

A Tory speaks. Some of his “facts” are a bit shaky – 42 million voted for Brexit?? Not in THIS reality – but his annihilation of this disastrous generation of Tories is spot on.

Peter Reynolds

I am a member of the Conservative Party – just.  My annual subscription is due and I feel physically sick at the prospect of doing anything that is supportive of the appalling collection of third and fourth rates that presently sit round the cabinet table.

The Conservative Party has Lost Its Way. We Need To Get Back To Being Tories.

We need to re-focus on our fundamental principles: individual liberty, individual responsibility, small government, free markets, evidence-based policy and a benevolent, responsible, one-nation approach.

Let’s face it, we’ve had a privileged toff, little more than a ponce on the nation, who from his position of wealth found it very easy to impose austerity on people with whom he was totally out-of-touch. Throughout his political career he vacillated and dithered on policy because he has no principles except self-advancement.  Now we have some fake Tory, an authoritarian bureaucrat with big government…

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Saiz Matters for Leeds as United Give Port Vale a Proper Seeing To – by Rob Atkinson

Saiz

Leeds United 4, Port Vale 1 (Carabao Cup 1st Round)

Elland Road on Wednesday night had that air of a football stadium being dragged at long last into the 21st century – not kicking and screaming, but purring with a deeply fulfilled sense of gratified satisfaction. The old stadium had that slick, modern look about it, with the state-of-the-art electronic advertising hoardings proclaiming that a new era is underway in LS11. But it was the vibrant, fluid attacking play of Leeds United, resplendent in their all-white strip with its gold trim, which really announced that things are different now – even though the team showed nine changes from that impressive opening day win at Bolton.

From the start, the Thomas Christiansen style of play was again in evidence, with the players looking to pass it around efficiently, finding space and supporting possession, and with a creditable amount of sheer hard work going into harrying the opposition when they had the ball. If Leeds can build on this approach, then we could be in for a highly enjoyable season. The work ethic and the obvious comfort on the ball of the Leeds players both bode well for United’s prospects, and the 15,000 plus crowd had many a chance to express their approval.

Samu Sáiz was the obvious star of the show, with a very well-taken hat-trick – and his immediate priority must now be to keep his feet on the ground, continue to work hard, and maintain the standard he has set for himself. The only small nits to pick were a slight tendency to wave imaginary yellow cards, together with a suggestion that he may have been involved in a spitting incident towards the end of the first half. But otherwise, the impression Sáiz made on his competitive debut could hardly have been greater; by scoring a hat-trick on his first team bow, he has potentially catapulted himself into the Carl Shutt class of United legends. Praise indeed.

Let’s not overlook other impressive performances though. After the distressing concession of a penalty at Bolton, when he appeared to be attempting to swap shirts with his opponent about half an hour early, Conor Shaughnessy looked classy and composed in the sometimes intimidating Elland Road arena. It seems important to make that point, as there is a tendency among United fans to dismiss young players as “not good enough” after errors like the one at Bolton. But Shaughnessy showed character and application, hardly putting a foot wrong all night. Decidedly, he looks to have every chance of being good enough.

Overall, it was an extremely satisfactory night for Leeds, with that buzz of new beginnings around a stadium that is looking better every day – emphasising that home is once again truly our home. At this early stage of the season, we already have a lot to be thankful for and, seemingly, plenty more to look forward to. Not to overplay a First Round League Cup win over fourth-tier Port Vale – but you can only beat what’s put in front of you, and the fact is that Leeds despatched their opponents with considerable style.

Quite apart from the Sáiz hat-trick, there was also a debut goal for Caleb Ekuban, who finished decisively after a step-over by that man Samu. By this time, the first half leveller scored by Vale’s ex-United man Tongeh was but a distant memory. Leeds had won at a canter, and they’d put on a better show than for many a long month past in so doing. The three terrific strikes from the right boot of Sáiz will be remembered for a long time to come – although Leeds fans, being Leeds fans, will be hungry for more.

On the sparkling evidence of Wednesday night, those fans are unlikely to be disappointed.

 

Leeds Loanee Turned Down Ajax to Add Some Vim to Whites Defence   –   by Rob Atkinson

CBJ

Leeds United‘s newest recruit is a young left-back or central defender by the name of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. The 20 year old is on a season-long loan from a shady Salford-based franchise, and comes to Elland Road with something to prove after failing to make much of an impression at Wolverhampton Wanderers last season.

The new ownership and management structure at Leeds United should be credited with some solid good judgement, based on their recruitment record so far, and hopes will be high that young Cameron, who has apparently chosen Leeds over Dutch giants Ajax of Amsterdam, can be a further vindication of United’s recent transfer market acquisitions. A few notable markers have been laid down for the progress of CBJ (let’s call him that, to save pulling a tongue muscle). On the evidence of Sunday’s season opener at Bolton, Leeds have purchased well and wisely. 

We haven’t yet seen all of the signings in serious action, but Pennington, on loan from Everton, looks replete with class and composure. Anita, too – a free transfer from promoted Newcastle – looked neat and tidy once called on from the bench. He seems to offer an ability to read the game from a defensive berth, and an endearing willingness to stride forward and have a good dig at the opposition goal. 

Add to that the home-grown potential of Kalvin Phillips, the commitment and passion of the wrongly-maligned Cooper, and the wealth of possibilities in central and wide midfield, and it can be seen that Leeds are but an additional central defender and a support striker away from being a force in this league. Possibly an irresistible force. 

If the judgement displayed so far in the recruitment of the above-mentioned signings, to say nothing of Alioski, Saiz and Klich, is borne out by young CBJ also proving himself, then we’ll  have an embarrassment of riches in the squad, with quality backed up by quality all over the park. The talk now is of a young Premer League striker of pedigree coming in on loan to take some of the pressure off the broad shoulders of Chris Wood. All of a sudden, we are cooking with gas at Elland Road. 

Last but not least in the instant gratification stakes, the loan signing of CBJ has prompted a petulant meltdown on the mufc Twitter feed. Which is nice for its own sake, but encouraging too. Even the Prima Donna types who “support” man u from their Devon hovels wouldn’t have tantrums over the loan of a non-talent. Hopefully, CBJ will be more of a Strachan than a Wootton when judged against arrivals to Leeds from the wrong side of the Pennines. 

In the meantime, the future is bright – the future is White. Let’s buckle up and enjoy the ride.