Monthly Archives: May 2018

Huddersfield Release Rob Green, Plotting Raid for Leeds Keeper Wiedwald? – by Rob Atkinson

Felix Wiedwald – is “The Cat” heading for the kennels?

Just when Leeds United fans were thinking that humiliations inflicted on them in recent years just can’t get any worse – could near neighbours and Premier League superstars Huddersfield Town now be setting their sights on United’s German goalkeeping sensation Felix “the Cat” Wiedwald? Surely the board wouldn’t be daft enough to allow such a mistake to be made – and yet stranger things have happened, with the Elland Road club having lost jewels from their crown on previous occasions when local rivals have come a-hunting.

Cast your minds back over the past few seasons, and you’ll see that Barnsley were at it, somehow persuading United to sell Alex Mowatt for a paltry £500,000. Mowatt went on to shine in the ranks of Oxford United as a loan star – what a clanger Leeds dropped there.

And it was Barnsley again, some years earlier, paying a significant sum for prolific front man John Pearson. Really, we’ve been shown up far too often, and to lose a genius like Wiedwald now to the Terriers would be a bitter blow indeed. But with Rob Green moving onto pastures new and less obviously canine, there may well be room for “The Cat” in the Huddersfield kennels, as they gird their loins for another gloriously grim battle against relegation.

Town fans just love to put one over on Big Brother from up the road, so you can be sure they’ll be clamouring for their club to make this deal happen. And, with their Premier League trillions burning a hole in those Premier League pockets, Huddersfield are unlikely to be put off, even by an asking price of £10 million, if Leeds were to hold out for something approaching Bundesliga veteran Wiedwald’s true value.

We’ll just have to sit tight, rely on our illustrious neighbours to cut us a break – and hope like hell that this one doesn’t happen.

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1000 Not Out for the Leeds United Blog With Attitude – by Rob Atkinson

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Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything – 1000 not out

In December of 2012, I wrote an article about the lack of passion and commitment in the England football team, to launch the blog I’d called Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything. Leeds United were in one of their too-frequent glory-free periods, becalmed in the Championship. Corruption seeped its way through the corridors of power, whether you looked at the rulers of our national game or indeed the nation itself. Millions gazed dead-eyed and compliant at the telly box in the corner, placated by reality TV and the glitz of the Premier League. Six years on, as I clock up article number 1000, it’s self-evident that not much has changed – so there’s been plenty to write about, and ample justification for the odd body-swerve away from our heroes in white.

For the blog itself, though, Life – if not Leeds United and the Universe, never mind Everything – has been quite good. Halfway into its first full year, NewsNow syndication was granted, and my little creation went global – thanks mainly to the happy fact that there are Leeds United fans, in big numbers, simply everywhere throughout the world. Since that time, blog hits have averaged thousands instead of the initial readership of dozens – and now, with this piece, the first “millennium” has been clocked up. Other writing commitments have meant that the frequency of posting is not what it was in the early days, but still, in those thousand articles over six years, almost three million hits have been registered from a shade under two million visitors. Those are numbers I couldn’t have dreamed of as I wrote that first piece, and I’m duly grateful to everyone who’s ever clicked on the blog, made a comment, shared an article, made a donation, or whatever. You’ve all contributed to what I would modestly describe as a fairly successful project. And happily, the blog has led to other things for your humble correspondent – columns in two local newspapers, invitations with hospitality to cover various sporting events – and even admission within the hallowed portal of the Leeds United press box. Despite the occasional grumblings of the mob, perhaps I am actually doing something right.

Still, not everyone has always been happy, needless to say, about everything I’ve written here. As Abraham Lincoln said – and as he had violently confirmed to him by actor-turned-assassin John Wilkes Booth – you cannot please all of the people, all of the time. And, to be fair, I’ve never set out solely to win friends or admirers; I’ve always wanted to be opinionated and partial, being a Leeds fan is a passionate, partisan thing – and you have to speak your mind. I’ve frequently disagreed with fellow supporters and writing colleagues, and with the club itself, as well as with the more obvious groups like rival sets of fans. I’ve made myself deeply unpopular with certain of these groups, and I’ve attracted the usual inarticulate abuse, death threats and more or less sinister promises of harm to my family – mostly anonymous, as you’d expect. But it’s all been worthwhile in terms of getting deeply-held points of view off my chest, and it’s on all fours with my need as a writer of opinion pieces to be more than just a mere cypher, toeing a line drawn by external bodies. I’ve always tried to draw my own line, and this has frequently upset people – but those are the breaks. You have to stand by your own ideals.

So that’s been the rationale behind the first thousand posts on this blog. Apart from the very occasional guest post, it’s all been my own work, and I’d imagine that this will hold true for the next thousand too, however long that might take. I’m happier paddling my own canoe and sticking to my own guns – though I am looking for a site sponsor, so I’m happy to talk to interested parties about that! But the blog, as I hope and trust, will continue to go from strength to strength, particularly as and when Leeds United gets its act together and ascends to the Promised Land of the Premier League. Then, it will be a whole new ball game, both for me and for the club I’ve loved (though not uncritically) for the best part of half a century. Roll on, that glorious day.

In the meantime, thanks to everyone, friend or foe, who has ever given up a few minutes to read this blog. Your time and patience is much appreciated. Thanks also to my little group of trolls, who have afforded me so much amusement without ever seeing the light of day on the comments page. I’m thinking here of people like “Clive”, who imagines he’s had me banned on a few occasions from NewsNow, and is always surprised to see that I’m still there. Thanks go to Clive, and the others too. You need a bit of a laugh sometimes when you’re writing and thinking about the soap opera down at Elland Road, and my trolls, as much as any other group, have been as devoted and amusing as I could possibly wish.

So, it’s onward and upwards from here. Expect post number 1001 whenever there’s anything that needs saying about our beloved Leeds United – or maybe about Life, the Universe, Everything. Please keep reading and commentating and – to those kind, blessed few – donating. It’s a sobering thought that, if every single one of the views over this thousand posts had realised just 20 pence, I’d now be over half a million quid better off. Life’s not like that sadly, but my kind donors still keep the blog going and I’m immensely grateful to them for their generosity. Here we go with Leeds United – Marching On Together.

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Here’s to the next thousand #LLUUE

 

Leeds United’s Ambitious Transfer Plans Can Transform Club’s Fortunes – by Rob Atkinson

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Abel Hernández – possible Leeds addition?

Leeds United are talking the talk, so it is reported, ahead of what could and should be a busy summer transfer window. The question now, assuming that we believe some of the tempting names being bandied about, is: can they actually walk the walk, delivering signings that will radically reshape the squad ahead of yet another season outside the top flight?

On the pessimistic side of this debate, it has to be said that, after the past several years, we’re getting used to “having our expectations managed” (some would call this “being lied to”). Time and again, transfer windows have opened to the accompaniment of earnest declarations of intent and ambition – only to slam shut again with promises unfulfilled and the squad either not noticeably stronger, or sometimes actually weakened. It’s annoying and frustrating – but maybe, just maybe, that won’t happen this time. So far, after all, under the stewardship of Andrea Radrizzani, more actual money has been spent on transfer incomings than for many a season past – though much, if not all of this could be said to have been funded by high-profile departures like Chris Wood. You might even argue that our cash has been flashed, not wisely, but too well – yet the real problem for United has been the stifling effect of the club’s wage structure, effectively ruling out many of the better performers, who sordidly insist on going to clubs where they’ll get more money.

So, looking on the optimistic side now, it’s mildly encouraging at least to hear whispers that the upper wage limit might just be less parsimonious this time around. That, if true, would provide a whole new dimension of possibilities for United’s recruitment process, in that we’d be able to attract a better quality of player – in theory, anyway. Some of the names mooted would seem to suggest that such a loosening of the salary purse-strings may indeed be under consideration. Both Abel Hernández of Hull City, and Birmingham ‘keeper David Stockdale currently command salaries that would have put them out of United’s reach in previous windows. But now, both are being talked about as serious prospects, with respected Yorkshire Evening Post reporter Phil Hay being quite clear that there is some substance behind the Hernández story. This surely indicates that a change of policy in terms of wages could indeed be possible.

By common consent, the Leeds squad needs significant surgery this summer, with some drastic snipping needed as well as some high quality grafting. Getting rid of what has been judged unhealthy excess flab in the squad may be a task in itself, with some unwisely lengthy contracts having been lavishly handed out during last summer’s mainly bargain basement splurge. And, clearly, the desperate need for quality in several areas of the park will not be met on the cheap. Or, at least, we’ll have to hope that the powers that be are not daft enough to suppose that it can.

On the face of it, the recruitment of Hernández and Stockdale would represent a hell of a good start, with perhaps the return of Kyle Bartley and a new deal for our tyro left-back Tom Pearce, a player who made such an impact towards the end of the season just gone, into the bargain. There are other noteworthy names in the mix, some of whom might appear more likely than others. But, overall, if only half of the possibilities being spoken of actually came to fruition, with a bit of dead wood clearance too, the Leeds squad would have a distinctly leaner and fitter look about it come August, and quite possibly a more generous smattering of quality. And that would be nice.

Always assuming, of course, that we’re not being toyed with yet again, having those expectations ruthlessly exploited and then dashed, for the umpteenth time. But, surely – they must know they can’t get away with that again, not and keep the 30,000 crowds coming, anyway. They really must know that – mustn’t they?

Yorkshire Football Urgently Needs a Revival, and Only Leeds Can Do It – by Rob Atkinson

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Yorkshire’s best and only hope – Leeds United

The frenzied scenes of celebration among Huddersfield fans, as their club narrowly avoided relegation from the Premier League, served mainly to put into sharp focus all that is wrong with Yorkshire football. And, much to the chagrin of any fan from the right side of the Pennines, there’s plenty wrong. Huddersfield saved their top-flight existence in much the same way as they’d earned it in last season’s play-offs – by hanging on grimly for draws and relying on slip-ups from others. It was a glory-free spectacle but, sadly, it’s the best the Broad Acres currently has to offer, which is a stinging indictment of the current state of all things football in God’s Own County.

When you look elsewhere in the county, the Sheffield clubs attained differing degrees of mediocrity, Leeds flattered to deceive and then reverted to type, Barnsley went down not with a bang but with a whimper – and the less said about the rest, the better. Perhaps Rotherham United might earn some glory for Yorkshire; that remains to be seen. The point is, the football performance of the Yorkshire area has been much the same as usual: when Leeds aren’t doing well, there’s nowt much going on. And so, while United remain in the doldrums, the best we can offer is the occasional play-off success or relegation escape. Compared to the fare being served up in parts of the lesser county to our west, where Manchester’s finest has emerged as the best team in Premier League history, this is a humiliating state of affairs.

The fact of the matter is that just about all of Yorkshire‘s footballing pedigree, such as it is, resides in LS11. The last two times that Leeds United have gone up to the top division, survival has been the last thing on their mind. On both occasions, they’ve gone up, had a brief and not exactly respectful look around to gauge the lie of the land, and then set about winning the thing, elbowing lesser mortals out of the way and imposing themselves brilliantly, much to the annoyance of media and rival fans alike.

This is the responsibility that Leeds United carries, nothing less than the pride and honour of the greatest county in the land. Nobody else will pick up that baton; nobody else can. It’s down to Leeds – if they can’t do it, it won’t be done. Things are different now as compared to those two previous promotions in 1964 and 1990. That twenty-six year span – the same gap, ironically, that now separates us from our most recent League Title – was the last hurrah of old style, ultra-competitive, strength in depth professionalism, when there wasn’t a six team cartel at the top of the league, monopolising the glory. To dominate in that era, as the Revie Boys did, when there was much less of a financial divide between the great and the not so great, was an achievement indeed. The way things are now, Leeds – in order to fulfil their destiny of salvaging Yorkshire pride – will have to place themselves on a comparable financial footing to the current behemoths of the game. To say that won’t be easy is to fall into the trap of hopeless understatement – yet, if United can just barge their way into the Premier League, there would be few  if any juicier investment opportunities than a one club city of enormous prestige and illustrious history.

So, there’s the challenge. And only at Elland Road, as far as Yorkshire is concerned, is there even the remotest expectation, never mind demand, that such a challenge should be accepted. Because at no other club in Yorkshire will it even occur to the fans or the directors that such a thing is possible. The ultimate aspiration for them is to survive at the top table, hoping to lick up some rich men’s crumbs. This is the lesson of the unbridled joy with which Huddersfield’s survival was greeted. For Leeds, this would be a humiliation they could not countenance; when United do go up, the demand and expectation will be for so much more. And rightly so, for that is our proud legacy.

However hard the task, however unlikely the chance of gatecrashing that elite group, it’s the hungry and imperious expectation of success, written into the DNA of the club and its fans, that makes Leeds United the only candidates to bring some football honour and respect back to Yorkshire. If Leeds United can’t deliver, then nobody will – and we must hope that Leeds Rhinos in Rugby League, and Yorkshire County Cricket Club too, can fulfil that urgent desire for honour and success. In White Rose football, it’s United first and the rest nowhere, just as much as it has always been; that’s the grave responsibility we carry, just by virtue of being Leeds.

With the club’s centenary approaching, it’s time to deliver on that responsibility. As the Great White Hope of an entire county, let’s grit our teeth, and get on with it.

Grot Bags a Worldie as Leeds See Off Myanmar – by Rob Atkinson

Jay Roy Grot – Worldie strike

Jamie Shackleton struck the woodwork late on for Leeds United after 16 year old Ryan Edmondson had scored an opener for the Whites against the Myanmar national team in a rainy second half – but in between these two examples of youthful precocity, it was the slightly more elderly Jay Roy Grot who took the plaudits with a screamer struck from the left hand angle of the penalty box, via a slight deflection, into the far top corner.

After an uneventful first half, there was a feeling that the United players welcomed the post interval rain. Certainly the pace picked up slightly and, in the end, Leeds could and should have scored more. And so ends a season of disappointment, on a slightly contrived positive note – but there have been benefits accruing from this controversial tour. One definite plus was the chance for some of the young guns of Elland Road to integrate and perform in a senior environment, far from home and making the most of a bonding experience.

Some of these kids, whoever might arrive over summer, could well figure for Leeds next season. The exotically named Bryce Hosannah caught the eye, as did Tyler Denton and scorer Edmondson. Sam Dalby showed flashes of promise too, as did young Jack Clarke.

We’ll be relying on decent business in the transfer window if we’re to mount a promotion challenge, but sooner or later, if the kids stay united, then the club will reap the benefit of their rich promise.

And well done to Jay Roy Grot, who has looked about as mobile and threatening as an Ikea wardrobe for the most part in his Leeds career so far. But his goal was a special strike, and he should be heading into the summer with a bit more confidence now.

Overall, it’s been a decent warm-down after a frustrating season. Now we’ll see what a summer of rest and recruitment can do for United’s prospects as they head towards the centenary of their formation – surely a milestone worth marking by elevation into the big time.

Leeds United End of Term Report: Disappointing, Must do Better – by Rob Atkinson

Wheels fell off at Millwall away

Millwall away – where United’s wheels fell off

Watching Leeds United struggle vainly to perform as you’d expect a big club to do, challenging for honours, winning promotions and all that sort of thing, may quite aptly be compared to banging your head against a brick wall. There’s no sense to it, there’s plenty of pain involved for no gain, and it’s really quite pleasant when it stops. We’re at that stage of blissful hiatus now, with the final whistle having blown on United’s season last Sunday, the main reaction from another bumper crowd at Elland Road being sighs of relief rather than triumphal acclaim.

Fellow under-achievers Queens Park Rangers had rolled up for this last-day clash of mediocrities; as it turned out though, the Londoners didn’t really fancy the prospect of a battle in the heat. So, it was a routine win for United against desultory opposition and, other than some typically promising performances from Leeds’ younger guns, none of us were left any the wiser. But at least the tiresome league programme was over for a couple of months; now for the interesting part of the football calendar, with the World Cup and a transfer window in the offing. There’s also the daft post-season business in Myanmar, but that may usefully be ignored.

The trouble is that transfer window time of year is fast becoming nearly as disappointing for long-suffering Leeds fans as the actual football spectacle, such as it may be. And the reason is that United are competing in an inflated transfer market, against smaller but arguably more ambitious clubs – and they’re denying themselves the chance of being truly competitive at the top end by what is increasingly being exposed as a short-sighted and self-defeating wages policy.

Just as the season recently expired was getting underway, back in August of last year, I wrote an article here entitled The Reason Leeds United Can’t Have Nice Things? Wage Structure. I argued that this ‘hands tied behind the back’ policy of severely capped wages was stopping us from recruiting as we should do, and also from hanging on to the few diamonds we’d managed to polish up. This was just as Chris Wood, the scorer of thirty-odd goals the year before, was being sold to Premier League Burnley, a smaller club that could at least triple Wood’s earnings. I predicted doom and gloom but, for a time at least, it looked as though I was going to be delightfully wrong.

Despite the departure of Wood, who duly followed Charlie Taylor to Dingle-Land, United started the season like a runaway train, barrelling to the top of the league with a flurry of victories, including notable two goal successes at Sunderland and Nottingham Forest. This left me feeling a strange combination of unusually happy and rather daft, due to my seemingly unwarranted pessimism. But then the wheels fell off, at Millwall of all places, and the Whites were never quite the same again. The rest of the season was, quite frankly, a disaster interspersed with the odd calamity, as Leeds at first flattered to deceive, but ended up deceiving nobody. A managerial change and a better than expected January transfer window failed to bring about the necessary transformation, and United’s campaign drifted to a deeply unsatisfactory conclusion.

So, can we now expect a more enlightened wage structure, as befitting one of the game’s true giants? The jury is out, but it’s not counting its chickens as it ponders that vexed question. Leeds, however, must surely know that they can’t expect the extraordinary loyalty of their fans to be maintained without some encouragement in the shape of ambition in the transfer market. To average over 30,000 paying premium prices in such a let-down of a season is truly extraordinary – but will they all be back next season?

Champions Wolves have shown the way: speculate to accumulate. United – it’s over to you.