Monthly Archives: October 2018

Notts Forest Fans Rail at Leeds ‘Cheats’, But Strangely Quiet on Their Own ‘Evil Genius’ – by Rob Atkinson

The City Ground Nottingham – home of hypocrites

Football, as befits this country’s national sport, used to have standards. Now, it seems, the Beautiful Game is more about double standards. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the city of Nottingham, where hypocrisy and sanctimony walk hand in hand wherever Notts Forest fans gather, with an overarching sense of holier-than-thou in every nook and cranny.

This past week, Notts Forest fans have been throwing their hands up in disgusted horror and emitting shrill squeaks of protest at the nature of Leeds striker Kemar Roofe‘s late equaliser against them at Elland Road last Saturday. Roofe seemed to hold his hand up and admit the goal may not have been strictly legit, but that has failed to pacify the outraged “Tricky Trees”, who had plainly never before witnessed such infamy and unfair play.

Or so you’d have thought, given the depth of their apparent disgust. A few of the City Ground bright boys even logged into a live stream of a Leeds United U-23s game from Thorp Arch earlier this week, simply so that they could be seen in the live comments, in full-on j’accuse mode, howling “cheats!” at bemused United fans watching the game online. That’s going out of your way to make a point, actually logging in to a second string game. It borders on obsession. Surely, they must feel they have a solid grievance and a steep elevation of moral high ground.

And yet… and yet… check out this YouTube clip of Darius Henderson‘s late equaliser against Middlesbrough a few years back. Surely that can’t be handball? It really can’t be – because, if it were, those highly self-righteous Notts Forest fans would remember it, and then possibly forbear from casting “cheat” aspersions on others, lest they might appear to be hypocritical humbugs

Certainly though, the Darius Henderson equaliser does appear to be a far better example of a blatant handball than Roofe’s, which was more of a clumsy lopsided tumble compared to Henderson’s classical punch. And some Forest fans certainly do seem aware of this less than glorious episode in their history – indeed, Henderson is referred to tongue-in-cheek as an “evil genius” in some quarters of the “Tricky Trees” online world. Why then be so up in arms about Roofe’s more innocuous effort – unless you are indeed the most blinkered variety of hypocrite? It’s a puzzler, right enough.

Incidentally, talking of punches, try Googling “Dawson on Jansson” – for a damning tweet which may show another incident in the Leeds v Notts Forest game where the away side appears less than wholly innocent. This little cameo should be considered alongside any claims that Pontus Jansson actually raised his hands to Michael Dawson (who, let’s face it, deserves punching as often as possible).

Going back to that Henderson handball goal against Boro, though, certainly the opposition manager on that occasion was in no doubt that his team had been cheated out of victory. “I didn’t need to see the replay, for me it was enough to see the reaction of my players,” he said. “I’m sure it was handball because my players told me it was through their reaction on the pitch.“ The Middlesbrough manager that day, so incensed at Notts Forest’s dishonesty and cheating, was one Aitor Karanka. I wonder – whatever became of him?

Perhaps the Notts Forest fans bleating online, as well as former Leeds and Forest skipper Kenny Burns, of whom I wrote yesterday, should take some time to reflect on both of the incidents highlighted here, and possibly agree that only he who is without sin should cast the first stone. Or, to be less piously biblical about it: stop lobbing stones when you’re living in a bloody great greenhouse, you utter hypocrites.

I’m sorry to speak intemperately. But it’s as clear as clear can be that Notts Forest fans are bang to rights here for cant, humbug and hypocrisy – and there’s good reason to suppose that even their manager, when he thinks back to being cheated by Forest in his Boro days, might just agree with me there.

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Former Whites Skipper In Blistering Attack on Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Kenny Burns praying for justice for Notts Forest

Former Leeds United captain Kenny Burns has added his voice to the chorus of disapproval over Kemar Roofe‘s late equaliser against Notts Forest at the weekend. Leeds had been trailing for most of the game, despite dominating play, when Roofe struck with time running out to secure United the point which was the least they had deserved. But Burns was unhappy, and has been quoted as saying that Forest were “robbed”. I use the term “has been” advisedly.

Burns, of course, served Forest with some distinction in the late seventies, before sealing a move to Elland Road in a £400,000 deal in 1981. His main claim to fame in the white shirt is helping get Leeds relegated in 1982, and it would seem that he’d rather forget his time at United, preferring to adopt the “whinging ex-pro” role for the Nottingham local rag. In this capacity, he has apparently set himself up as judge and jury with a Notts Forest bias, bleating at length about what he clearly sees as cheating.

The man at the centre of the row, Roofe himself, remains unrepentant, pointing out that it’s the referee’s job to spot any infringements and rule accordingly. It does seem rather ironic that those of a “Tricky Trees” persuasion, including it would appear Sky TV, should be squealing about robbery, when their team almost blagged three points from a game in which they’d been totally outplayed.

But there you go. As anyone would confirm who saw Burns play, he may not be the best judge of fairness on a football pitch. Chalk up another professional Leeds United hater who’s just had to suck it up since last Saturday. The very best of hard cheese, too.

This blog will be keeping a close eye on future words of wisdom from Kenny Burns – particularly in the wake of any situation where Notts Forest benefit from a debatable ref call, like this one, for instance. But – being all too familiar with the blinkered hypocrisy of the Burns type of pundit – we won’t be holding our breath…

Leeds are the Damned United, but Man U Takes Award for Sickest Fans – by Rob Atkinson

In the wake of the tragic helicopter crash at Leicester’s King Power Stadium last night, and with the sad likelihood that we shall shortly hear confirmation of lives lost, there has been much talk of the phenomenon of the “Football Family”, as fans of many clubs have rallied around to support Leicester City Football Club and its supporters at a very dark time.

All that is as it should be, and a respectful, reverent reaction has been almost universal. I say “almost”, because there are generally a few degraded exceptions, and those exceptions are almost always to be found among the usual suspects representing football’s least lovable “fans”. It will surprise few who are aware of their history that, on this occasion, it’s an identifiable group of Manchester United fans, the producers of a toilet roll of a fanzine known as Red Issue, who have plumbed the depths of poor taste as only they can.

This purulent rag has form going back years for the penning and publication of articles and “jokes” that take the breath away with their sheer, savage detestability. Emboldened by that curiously puzzling Manc sense of entitlement and by unjustified self-righteousness, they have disgraced themselves many a time, heaping shame and derision upon a club rarely short of that commodity. I well recall a photograph they published while Eric Cantona was at Leeds, of the Frenchman in the bath with his young daughter, accompanying the image with a caption designed to encourage their leering readers to conclude that Cantona was a paedophile. There was also a chant sung at Man U matches expressly accusing Arsène Wenger of the self same thing. In brief, these are awful, awful people with no redeeming qualities.

But they’ve outdone themselves this time, as can be seen from the disgusting tweets reproduced above, in the immediate aftermath of a football tragedy that has shocked the whole sporting world. It takes a person with his soul deeply rooted in the foulest slime at the bottom of the sewer to even think of such a thing, let alone share it with the world. But that’s Red Issue for you – the lowest of the low, even in the context of Man U fans.

But of course, it’s Leeds who are dubbed the Damned United, which is a sad indictment of people’s judgement for you. Luckily, although Leeds fans do not find halos sitting easily atop their heads, we’re in a different category entirely from the kind of filth they attract in Salford. Even Millwall fans have more to recommend them, having contributed generously to a fighting fund for young cancer sufferer Toby Nye. There is no such softer side to the arrogant, entitled and thoroughly disgusting fans of Manchester’s second club.

If I sound angry, it’s because I am. I’m sick of the media fawning that surrounds a club which embodies everything bad about the game. I’m sick of the way everyone panders to them because of their commercial clout, ignoring the many foul and detestable aspects of a club and set of supporters who feel they can do and say what they like. The media seeks to protect its own interests and preserve lucrative markets, which means they will always go easy on Man U.

As I write, they lead Everton courtesy of yet another blatantly unfair penalty award, reminding me that my own United have now gone 53 league games without even obvious penalties being given. That sums up the disparity of treatment, and maybe it’s an insight into why Man U fans such as the sickos behind Red Issue feel that they have the right to continue outraging any sense of decency.

This year, as every other year, Man U fans will collectively take out an onion to wallow in commercially advantageous grief over the Munich air crash sixty years ago. They will demand respect and empathy, despite the fact that – as you can see above – they have none for anybody else. But they think they’re a special case, and that they should be treated as such. Most of them will never have heard of AC Torino‘s even more tragic and devastating Superga crash, about which I’ve written before. Add “blinkered” to “disgusting”, then.

Man U fans feel that they are a breed apart. And they really are. Just not in the way they would like to think.

Roofe Caves In On Notts Forest as Leeds United Nick Handy Point – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds score – and even the Forest players celebrate…

Let me say first of all that Kemar Roofe‘s late equaliser for Leeds United against Notts Forest – apparently, if you call Notts Forest by the name Notts Forest, it upsets Notts Forest fans. Who knew? – was definitely handball. Quite blatant, probably deliberate, 100% handball. It should have been disallowed, and the officials have made a right rickett, bless ’em. Naughty Kemar, slapped wrist.

Let me say second of all that I couldn’t give a tuppenny toss about this awful injustice. In fact, I find it hilarious and deeply satisfying. If Notts Forest (there I go again) had received their just deserts, they’d have been waltzing merrily away from Elland Road with three points, like a proper happy little band of Tricky Trees. And that would have been technically quite fair – but in the real world of professional football, where unfair stuff happens all the time, and usually to Leeds – well, let’s just say that some sort of justice was served, for once. The boot’s been on the other foot often enough, and we’ve had to bite our collective lip and get on with it.

Forest fans, of course, will squeal long and piteously about being diddled out of two points, and the very best of hard cheese to them. It’s quite pleasant to witness their outrage and the way they’re over-analysing what was just a break that went against them. But they’re like that down there. They do like to pick away at a scab, even after they’ve been told not to picket.

The Notts Forest (somebody stop me!) game was one I was anticipating with some pessimism – and yet, as with most of our less impressive results, there were positives to take – dominance of possession, restricting the opposition, and so on. Marcelo Bielsa seemed quite content as well, so he must feel we’re still on the right track. Looking back, it would have felt as though fate had dealt us a scurvy trick, had we lost – so maybe we shouldn’t feel the least bit guilty about the manner in which a point was salvaged. I know I don’t.

All hail King Kemar then, who reacted honestly after the match and didn’t try to deny the undeniable. Strangely, Sky TV did not – to the best of my recollection – stick a microphone under the nose of any of the stressed and indignant Forest players immediately after the final whistle. I wonder why?

We take the point, and we move on, still ensconced in the automatic promotion places. Despite the fact that we didn’t win, and despite the related fact that, for the 53rd league game in a row, we didn’t get a penalty, although there was another decent shout for one – it wasn’t a bad old late afternoon spectacle at Elland Road. For once, we got the rub of the green. And didn’t it feel nice? That rare experience of a home draw tasting more like a win than a loss. Knowing our luck, though, we’d better not get too used to it – because, undoubtedly, normal service will soon be resumed.

…league games without a penalty kick for Leeds United. And counting.

RIP Edna Newton, 94, Leeds United Superfan Since the 1930s – by Rob Atkinson

Edna

Leeds United superfan Edna Newton, who died this week aged 94

Whenever I hear the word “superfan”, I usually think of Gary Edwards, the Kippax painter, author, playwright and all-round good guy who has famously not missed a Leeds game for more moons than most of us would care to count. I was lucky enough to sit a couple of seats away from Gary on the Kop for a few seasons, and I was in awe of his longevity and dedication, as well as his legendary hatred of man u, the Pride of Devon, which complicated his life as a painter to the extent that he’d refuse to paint anything red, but would strip red paint for free.

Gary’s out on his own in many ways, but today I learned of another United superfan who, for sheer length of service, puts even Mr Edwards in the shade. Unfortunately, the reason that I became aware of Edna Newton is that she has sadly passed away this week at the grand old age of 94. Having accumulated that many years, Edna has probably earned her long, last rest – but it does seem a great shame that she won’t be around to witness the long overdue return of her beloved Leeds to the top flight.

Still, as a season ticket holder for 64 consecutive years, Edna had seen it all, and doubtless had many tales to tell of John Charles (I knew John, she said, he was a smashing fellow), the Don Revie era and much more from the chequered history of the Greatest Club in the World. Her achievement was such that even a legend of the stature of ex-Arsenal striker Ian Wright took time out to tweet “Rest In Peace Edna”, which is a pretty nice touch.

Fans are probably still the least appreciated part of a game that would not be half the spectacle without them – yet, every now and again, sheer loyalty and devotion above and beyond the call of duty, over literally decades, will be recognised and acknowledged. Such is the case with the late Edna Newton, and deservedly so. She stands comparison with any other Leeds fan and has her own place in the pantheon of United legends.

RIP Edna Newton (1924 – 2018)

Leeds United Have TWO Jacks… But Will They Both be Aces? – by Rob Atkinson

City loanee and New York alumnus Jack Harrison

Manchester City’s Jack Harrison came on loan to Leeds United in the summer transfer window, with the plaudits of various football legends still ringing in his ears after a previous stint at New York’s Manhattan FC. He was rated the second best player under 24 in the MLS and has earned recognition at U21 level with England. So here, it was fair to assume, was a real prospect.

And, to be fair, Jack has had his moments in a Leeds shirt this season, notably a fine late strike to earn a point away at Millwall. But, overall, it’s probably equally fair to say that the Stoke born wide attacker hasn’t quite – so far, anyway – lived up to that stellar hype. It’s a case of much being expected of the lad, and yet this nagging feeling that he could and should be doing better – given his club pedigree and undoubted ability.

But there’s another (and increasingly impressive) Jack on Leeds United’s books in the shape of young Jack Clarke, who has started to get first team minutes on the back of some imperious displays at development level. Indeed, at one point, someone suggested with apparent sincerity that it really isn’t fair to play young Clarke at U23 level, as he’s just downright too good. Whatever the case, Jack has made his mark, and he seems certain to get the chance of more time in a first team shirt as the season goes on.

Young Jack Clarke celebrates with goal scorer Pontus Jansson

Clarke’s brief but impressive cameo at Blackburn Rovers recently may well have given Harrison something to ponder. The on-loan Jack was back in the team on Wednesday against Ipswich, but it’s not that harsh to say he didn’t pull up too many trees. The home-grown Jack, meanwhile, was champing at the bit from the bench, and you get the feeling that he means to make the most of any opportunities that come his way – as they surely will.

Not so long back, Jack Harrison was asked where he saw himself in five years time and, instead of acknowledging his parent club Man City, he replied “Playing in the Premier League with Leeds”. That’s quite heartwarming, and very laudable – but the up-and-coming Jack Clarke will certainly have an opinion about it.

It may not come down to a simple binary choice anyway – given the versatility demanded of and provided by modern players. It could be that some future Leeds United team will include two Jacks, both of them aces. But, on what we’ve seen so far, it’d be a brave pundit who would bet against Clarke saving Leeds however many millions it would take to make Harrison’s move to Elland Road permanent.

And – who knows? – it may not be too long before that once familiar commentary line is heard again with some regularity at Leeds matches – you know the one…

Clarke – one nil!

FA Boy Band Compliance Unit to Charge Leeds Over Trolling Niall Horan – by Rob Atkinson

Horan: deeply hurt after “innocent remark”

In the latest twist to the ongoing dispute between renegade Championship club Leeds United and the football authorities, the FA are set to charge the Yorkshire giants over what is being seen as their online bullying of former One Direction member and current solo nonentity Niall Horan.

This latest spat started when Horan remarked on Twitter that “No one likes Leeds”. The United media team, in the name of fun lolz and bantz, responded with “No one likes your solo career” and the hashtag #BringBack1D – upon which the 25 year old Irish millionaire broke down crying and contacted the FA.

An examination of this issue could persuade Leeds to utilise the classic “libel defence” against any charge arising out of the Twitter exchange, ie that their statement was true and no one does like Horan’s solo career. After all, his original X Factor audition was as a solo artiste, and he was eliminated (although Louis Walsh liked him, allegedly).

Derby County fan Horan, in an emotional statement to the football authorities, claimed that he was “deeply hurt”. His remark had been “innocent”, he insisted, adding “Anyway, no one does like Leeds. They don’t, they don’t!“, before stamping his feet and flouncing off, muttering about “Poor Franny and that thug Hunter” and “that spawny 4-1 win at Pride Park”.

When asked about their Twitter riposte to Horan’s tweet, Leeds United would only comment “We should make it absolutely clear, this was just a joke on our part; we’re not really advocating that One Direction should re-form. God, no”. However, the FA’s notorious Boy Band Compliance Unit are said to be taking a dim view of United’s attitude towards one of their fave solo stars, and are likely to relegate the Whites to the Conference with immediate effect.

FA Chairman Greg Clarke is 103.

Five of the Best Inflicted on Harry Kewell as Leeds Wonderkids Batter Notts County – by Rob Atkinson

It’s possibly a little uncool to crow about an U-23 victory, even of the most decisive variety, and away from home too. But allow me to make an exception in the case of the Leeds United second string’s wilful destruction of their Notts County equivalents at Ilkeston this afternoon. Notts County, by their appointment of former Leeds star turned shameless Judas Harry Kewell, have entered my little black book, that symbolic item inspired by big Jack Charlton‘s own record of those who had upset or annoyed him. I wish them nothing but ill, and their disgrace of a coach too.

Kewell was possibly the most talented performer to emerge from the United youth setup since Eddie Gray. He had all the ability in the world, simply oozing technical skill, vision and an unerring eye for goal. Like many another fan, I was seduced by all of this, but there was a nagging doubt from quite early in his Leeds career. I remember in those early days, he scored a sublime narrow-angle volley against Derby County in a game Leeds won 4-3 from being 0-3 down. It was a cracking strike, a sumptuous finish, and any other youngster would have been climbing the floodlight pylons in sheer elation. But not Kewell – he strolled back to the halfway line with the merest, indolent celebratory wave of his arm, as if to say “make way for a genius”. Well, genius he was, on the ball anyway, but something missing in his character, maybe a measure of humility, separated him from the greats like Eddie Gray. It also proved fundamental to his later transgressions.

I won’t recount that degraded fall into infamy and disgrace again here, I’ve done it before in detail. The selfishly-engineered move to Liverpool, depriving a broke Leeds of much-needed cash. His lack of bottle coming off in a Champions League Final with Liverpool 0-3 down, then cavorting uninjured with his unearned winner’s medal after Liverpool had fought back to triumph without him. And the ultimate, calculated insult – the crass insensitivity of his move to that bestial, feral Istanbul club hated with such good reason by all fans of Leeds United. Let’s leave it at merely listing these things, they speak for themselves, after all.

It’s going to take many more incidents like today’s humbling of a team from Kewell’s Notts County, before any United fan will seriously suggest we’ve achieved payback. But it’ll do to be going on with – so well done to Leeds United’s increasingly impressive U-23 side on another outstanding display – one that I’d like to think was inspired by the identity of the opposition boss.

Chalk one item off in my little black book.

When Leeds Star Saiz Rediscovers His Mojo, He’ll Make Opponents Suffer – by Rob Atkinson

Samu Saiz – desperate to score for United

It’s becoming quite common knowledge that Samu Saiz, Leeds United’s mercurial, twinkle-toed Spanish playmaker, has not scored a league goal for upwards of far too long. It’s a barren run that seems to be affecting his confidence, however much he contributes to the team overall. You get the feeling he’s desperate to score, and this could be bringing an element of “trying too hard” into his game. But that overall contribution is still significant; take for example his brilliant ball into the box to fashion United’s goal at Blackburn.

Saiz has scored this season, though, and the goal I have in mind – against Bolton in the Carabao Cup – summed up the strengths of the man. He received the ball inside the opposition area, brought it under instant control, used his quick feet to find a yard of space, and finished neatly past a helpless Wanderers keeper.

That’s the real Saiz, the one we haven’t seen enough of since his ban for spitting at Newport last January. There are signs, though, that he has rediscovered his form and technical touch; add confidence to that, and you have a formidable player.

There does seem, however, to be an increasing groundswell of impatience and disapproval among the usual suspects that constitute the lower end of the Leeds Twitter following. It hardly needs saying that this sort of thing is exactly the opposite of what is needed. As I’ve said many times before, the supporters’ job is to support – their sketchily-informed criticism is not required. The club employs expensive talent for that.

Stick by Saiz, and just wait for his mojo and therefore his confidence to return. When those attributes are rediscovered, our Samu will lead opponents a merry dance, while providing us with the kind of spectacle and memories that should define and adorn a promotion-challenging season. Give the lad your trust and backing, and he’ll repay you tenfold. Maybe even starting with tonight, against Ipswich Town.

Just wait and see.

Leeds United Clearly Now See the Football Authorities As Corrupt – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United to the FA: “J’accuse”

It is with weary resignation rather than any real sense of surprise that we have all learned today of the FA’s decision to hand Pontus Jansson a one match ban. The defender will miss tomorrow’s home fixture against Ipswich Town, due to his emotional but honest response to the question of a Sky Sports interviewer immediately after the last home game against Brentford.

Nobody who has followed the fortunes of Leeds United for any length of time will be greatly surprised at this latest sanction, even arising as it does out of a game in which an opposing player was caught on camera aiming a head butt at Gjanni Alioski – and got off completely unpunished. As Leeds fans, we’re sadly used to this, it’s become tiresome but par for the course. We sigh, we have a whinge via club blogs, we move on – most likely to the next injustice. We’re Leeds, the Damned United, pariahs, the ones they love to hate, 51 games without a penalty and counting. It’s scandalous, but after so many years of this kind of treatment, it’s unsurprising.

The official club reaction, though, is clearly and distinctly barbed. “Leeds United accept the one match ban issued to Pontus Jansson following our game with Brentford“, says the statement from Elland Road, “purely due to the fact that the club see no value in making an appeal“. This is not the club conceding that Jansson is bang to rights and suitably punished. Anything but. Rather, it is Leeds United pointing an accusing finger at the FA, as well as their partners in crime at the Football League, and saying “We know we’re not going to get a fair deal from you, so we’ll just get on with it”. It’s tantamount to the declaration of a righteous war against a corrupt and decadent ruling body.

The club had, after all, submitted a statement of mitigating circumstances to the authorities, opining that a warning and/or a fine would be sufficient unto the day. Leeds United undoubtedly take a very dim view of this latest crass action on the part of the FA, and are now likely to review club policy regarding post-match interviews, insofar as this is contractually possible. Various strategies have been mooted, including players being told to make themselves available for interviews, but to confine their responses to “No comment”. It would be a football take on “pleading the Fifth” and could possibly raise the stakes in what might turn into a veritable Cold War between United and the game’s ruling mandarins.

What seems certain is that the person least affected by today’s decision will be Jansson himself. As a brand new father of a brand new daughter – and many congratulations from Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything to Pontus and Mrs Pontus – he rightly has far more important things on his mind than Ipswich Town, and the £1000 fine that goes with the one match ban is hardly going to break his heart – or even his bank account. The important reaction here is that of Leeds United Football Club, who appear to have sent a very clear message to the FA along the lines of “We know what you’re up to. Watch it”.

Leeds should be able to cope without Jansson against the rock bottom Tractor Boys tomorrow – although, of course, that remains to be seen. The practical effect of what most United fans – as well as the club, quite clearly – will see as an outrageously bent decision, should be negligible. But the broader implications, now that Leeds United has decided, rightly in my view, to call out the FA for what they are – well, those implications could be more serious and far-reaching than anybody could have predicted when Pontus saw a red mist descend after feeling robbed on the final whistle against Brentford, and told the truth.

Watch this space, folks. Leeds United finally have the war paint on after half a century of persecution; the ride could get quite bumpy from here on in.