Monthly Archives: November 2018

New Left Winger Option Could Bring Best Out of Leeds United’s Gjanni Alioski – by Rob Atkinson

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Pawel Cibicki – new option up front?

At the moment, and despite the unstinting public support he receives from the Elland Road coaching staff, it’s fair to say that Leeds United’s Gjanni Alioski is clinging onto his first team starting spot by the very tips of his fingers. He’s having the sort of season that might normally be expected to make him cast fearful glances at the January transfer window, wondering whether the club might make an astute purchase to give them options in his left-wing berth.

But the fact is that Alioski might well face a more immediate challenge from a player returning to his parent club from a loan spell abroad, in the shape of Pawel Cibicki. The 24 year old Swede has just finished a stint at Norwegian club Molde, making 13 appearances which have yielded 3 goals, a number of assists and a probable increase in confidence for a player whose ability is unquestionable. There are some who feel, or hope that, like Mateusz Klich before him, Cibicki can return to Leeds and thrive under Bielsa where he failed to hack it under previous management. Alioski is coming increasingly under the critical scrutiny of unimpressed fans, though he continues to be an automatic selection, for the moment anyway. But might this just be for the lack, so far, of any realistic competition?

The development squad at Leeds United has come through this season when the first team has looked a bit threadbare in various positions. But wide up front on the left has remained Alioski’s province, apart from the rare occasions when he’s been required to cover (and has possibly looked more effective) at left back.

Cibicki’s return though, unless the club plans to farm him out again, at least provides another option in Alioski’s first team role. It may take a while for the Swedish U-21 international – who has a vocal advocate for his value and ability in compatriot Pontus Jansson – to get up to speed in terms of fitness and the ability to fit into the Marcelo Bielsa pattern. But if he can be seen to be knocking on the door of the first team at Alioski’s expense, that must surely be good for the club. Cibicki could be a handy option off the bench, particularly as he can play as a striker or a winger, while persuading Alioski that it’s now time to buck his ideas up and produce what we all know he’s capable of.

It’s all about options, strength in depth and permutations – but, surely, a player of such undoubted ability suddenly becoming available, and doubtless with a point or two to prove, must be good news for everyone. Except, just possibly, Gjanni Alioski.

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Gary Speed, the Leeds United Legend Who Ticked All the Boxes – by Rob Atkinson

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Gary Speed of Leeds United

Gary Speed, the Leeds United and Wales star who seemed to everyone who’d witnessed his talent on and off the pitch to have the football world at his feet, left us seven years ago today. Because of the manner of his leaving, and the universal esteem in which he was held, this is a difficult piece to write, even all these years later.

People have described hearing the shocking news of Gary’s death as a “JFK moment”; you’d always remember where you were and what you were doing when the awful reality fell on your unbelieving ears. As a Leeds United fan, I can remember feeling a cold splash of shock at the back of my neck, a sensation I’ve only had on a mercifully few occasions in my life. Even though Gary had left Elland Road for his boyhood love Everton 15 years before, it was a shattering blow, as it would have been for all of those who supported him in the colours of Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United, as well as the fervent ranks of Wales fans. It was so sudden, so unexpected and inexplicable, that a player and manager who seemed to have it all should have died at only 42 years old, and apparently by his own hand.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Gary Speed was loved and admired by just about everyone, fans of his clubs and country, and rival fans alike. Within the game he was revered by his colleagues, team mates, opponents and media operatives, for his likeability and professionalism; he was known as a man without the kind of faults and flaws you so frequently find in young men who have succeeded in their professions at a young age, and who have gone on to become rich and famous. Gary had all that, but he also had a disarming and genial personality that endeared him to those he met in the course of his career. Many were the tears shed, in private and in public too, over the days and weeks following his untimely demise. Nobody who saw it will forget the sight of Shay Given weeping openly after the minutes silence that preceded the Swansea v Aston Villa match only hours after Gary’s death had been announced. Respected reporter Bryn Law, a close friend of Speed, broke down emotionally during a TV interview in which he described his shock and sense of loss. To say that the whole game reeled with the impact of such tragic and unexpected news would not be to overstate the case. Gary’s memory was honoured when Leeds United played Millwall and his fellow midfielders from the 1991–92 title winning side Gary McAllister, David Batty and Gordon Strachan laid wreaths in the centre circle before kick off.

Bewilderment featured high on the list of reactions among those who knew him well, or who had even just known him as a famous footballer. The question of “Why?” has never been completely answered, the inquest stopping short of reaching a verdict of suicide, whilst acknowledging that Gary’s death had been caused by “self suspension”. Several years after Speed’s death, one of the coaches who had been involved with him as a boy footballer, Barry Bennell, was convicted as a serial child sex offender. Speed had been interviewed by police during earlier investigations into Bennell’s behaviour, and had said that he was never harmed by him; the inquest into Speed’s death found no links to Bennell. In February 2018, however, after Bennell’s conviction, an anonymous victim of the coach told Al Jazeera that he had witnessed Speed being abused. It seems unlikely that there will ever be a definitive explanation for the death of a man who had only the previous day conducted himself normally during a BBC Football Focus interview. All we are really left with, even seven years later, is shock, bafflement and a profound sense of loss.

Pg-11s-gary-speed-gettyMy memories of Gary Speed date from around the time of his Leeds United debut in 1989. He swiftly established himself as far more than just another promising midfielder, with his range of passing, awareness, powerful shot and prodigious ability in the air marked him out as a very special player. He served Leeds United well in a period of success second only to the Don Revie era, and he carried the respect and affection of the Leeds fans with him when he departed for Everton in 1996.

If I had to pick out one particular golden memory of Gary Speed, it would probably be the one so many other United fans mention when asked; the final goal of Leeds United’s 4-0 demolition of promotion rivals Sheffield United at Elland Road towards the climax of both clubs’ successful campaigns. It was a crunch game, with Leeds on the front foot from the start and, with the Whites having established a three goal cushion, Speed was released down the left by an astute Chris Kamara pass. I can still see him in my mind’s eye, outstripping the Blades defence and bearing down on Simon Tracey‘s goal at the Kop end of the ground. “Go on, Gary lad, get one yourself,” were the commentator’s memorable words as Speed unleashed a fine left foot shot just inside the far post to wrap up a comprehensive victory. It’s the stuff of which legends are made, and Gary Speed fits the definition of the word “legend” in every conceivable sense.

Seven years on, all of his fans remember him with affection tinged by the regret of a life well spent but over far too soon. Leeds play Reading tonight, and there will almost certainly be tributes paid to one of the club’s greatest servants – one of those rare players you felt could even have challenged for a place in Don Revie’s Super Leeds outfit.

RIP, Gary Andrew Speed, MBE (8 September 1969 – 27 November 2011) – still loved, still missed. 

Speed LUFC

Gary Speed’s complete Leeds United record

Leeds United Given a Penalty! FA Says “NOW are you happy??” – by Rob Atkinson

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

In what is likely to remain the most sensational football story of the year, a Leeds United team were awarded a PENALTY KICK (see para 5 of the definition below) earlier today, in a Professional Development League match away at Sheffield United.img_4539

An FA spokesman confirmed the spot kick award, explaining that the referee involved was evidently unaware of the current policy regarding Leeds United and penalties, but that he would be receiving training “as a matter of urgency”. The FA could only apologise, the spokesman added, for what was simply an unfortunate oversight.

A Football League source was more forthcoming, pointing out that they were aware of a social media campaign around the fact the United have not been awarded a penalty for 56 games stretching back over a year. “We at the Football League are cognisant of the fact that Leeds United were awarded a penalty during an Under-23s game today, and – while we cannot condone such a departure from official policy, we do at least join with our colleagues at the FA in the hope it will stop Leeds United and their irritating fans from whinging on about what is, quite frankly, a non-issue as far as we’re concerned. However, any Leeds fan hoping that today’s unfortunate occurrence will herald penalty kick awards for their team in Football League games would do well not to hold their breath”.

A joint FA/FL enquiry into today’s penalty award, now expected to be convened early next week, has been delayed pending mental health reports on the referee who made the decision.

The Football League, 130, is spectacularly corrupt.

 

Will Leeds United Really Get a Penalty Tomorrow, Vindicating Nostradamus? – by Rob Atkinson

Nostradamus - not the actual bit that says Morison will notch on Tuesday

Nostradamus – not the actual bit that says Leeds will get a spot kick tomorrow

An ancient verse of the mediaeval soothsayer Michel de Nostredame, better known in modern times as Nostradamus, has startlingly been interpreted as a firm prediction that Leeds United will be awarded a penalty in tomorrow’s home fixture against Bristol City.

The nailed-on prediction will come as good news for United fans, who have not seen their favourites given a spot kick for more than a year now – despite many feasible claims during the 55 games over that time. The Nostradamus prediction appears quite specific; the verse in question – technically known as a quatrain – is reproduced below. As can plainly be understood, the ancient prophet has seen in the stars at least one penalty for the Whites, together with a Leeds United victory.

“Northern wind will cause the siege to be raised / Nearby the path of the hollowed mountains / Two great beasts, one will oppose and one assail / Drinking by force the waters of the Chalice triumphant.”

The mention of “hollowed mountains” nearby – a transparent reference to the Pennines separating East from West – indicates opponents from the Occident. The two great beasts are, of course, a Bristolian defender (opposing) and a United striker (assailing). “Drinking by force the waters”, etc …. well, I’ve told you enough already. Got to leave you something to work out for yourselves.

Leeds manager Marco Bielsa is delighted to see his patience being rewarded. “Bueno,” said the United coach, fluently, before mumbling unintelligibly in Spanish and then favouring us with a charming smile.

Bristol City, for their part, are not convinced about the authenticity of this supposed ancient prophecy. “We’ll be watching our defensive work, certainly,” confirmed a club insider, “but we’ve made no special plans. We can’t simply assume that we’re going to concede a historically unlikely penalty just because of some mouldy old verse. Besides which, we’ve seen another quatrain from the National Library, and that clearly states the one you’ve got is bollocks.”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, however, is utterly convinced by the prediction and is prepared publicly to endorse it. Leeds United will get a penalty at home to Bristol City tomorrow – count on it. Even put money on it, if you like*. Some blog readers have already declared their solemn intent to “lump on”. So you can take our word for it. Leeds to get a pen, and Pablo, as he did back in the mists of time, will miss it. Definitely

* Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything can accept no responsibility for money lost in wagers, bets, flutters, accas or wild-eyed punts. Sorry.

FA Explains Austin Escaped Jansson Punishment as he Doesn’t Play for Leeds, Asks Why All the Fuss – by Rob Atkinson

             Pontus Jansson: bang to rights for being a Leeds United player

An FA spokesperson has reacted with bewilderment to the controversy over their decision not to punish Charlie Austin (Southampton) for recent post-match comments to the effect that the referee was a clown and deserved to be strung up with piano wire. Some Leeds United fans are apparently “miffed” that their own Pontus Jansson received a one match ban with a £1000 fine, for comments that many perceive as somewhat milder. The FA man, Mr Lee D. Shater (Twitter handle @LeeDShater), when asked why the Leeds man had been treated differently, replied, “Well, you’ve answered your own question. Mr Jansson plays for Leeds United and Mr Austin plays for Southampton. What’s the issue here?”

Fearing that we’d perhaps failed to make ourselves sufficiently clear, our intrepid Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything reporter asked once again for the precise reason behind seemingly different responses to similar matters. Mr. Shater stated “This is like talking to a brick wall. The FA has been very clear on a number of previous occasions that playing for Leeds United is an aggravating factor in any disciplinary issue. That’s a long-established fact, and we’re frankly surprised that it should become an issue now. Now do run along, I’m a busy man”.

Enquiries further up the FA chain of command failed to produce anything by way of a more detailed response, with the general reaction consistently being one of mild surprise that there was perceived to be anything questionable or controversial about the treatment of either player. One official, who preferred not to be named, but whose great grand-daddy was Alan Hardaker, tried to provide a little helpful background: “Look, a lot of this may have been before your time, but Leeds United has been the FA’s bête noire, if you’ll pardon my French, for well over fifty years now. We’re only continuing to enforce long-accepted guidelines, and we’re supported in this by our colleagues at the Football League – just take a look at how long it is since Leeds have been awarded a penalty kick – over a year now, in a run stretching to 55 games. We’re all pretty proud of that. Quite frankly, Mr Jansson can count himself lucky that he wasn’t treated more harshly. Nobody forced him to play for Leeds, you know…”

Nobody at Leeds United was available for comment, but it is understood that the club will continue to monitor instances of questionable and inconsistent refereeing decisions, as well as the application of disciplinary standards at the governing body level of the game. Apparently, some thought had been given to seeking the support of FIFA, the world football administrators, but a telegram from that august organisation reading “Leeds United? Pah. Nous détestons absolument Leeds United. Ils sont comme la merde sur nos chaussures. Pah!” served as a discouragement to that course of action.

It would seem, therefore, that the club’s only option will be to grit their teeth and get on with it. Nothing is likely to change anytime soon, and speculation among the Leeds support is that Brexit will be finalised long before United receive another penalty kick. The general feeling is that success, when it comes, will be all the sweeter for arising out of adversity and in the face of extreme prejudice. Or, as one classical scholar, a United fan for 43 years, put it: “Noli illegitimi carborundum”.

Alan Hardaker, 106, is dead.

 

 

Call For Leeds United to Inaugurate the Howard Wilkinson Stand – by Rob Atkinson

Wilko Last Champion

Wilko walks off with the title of last English champion

Leeds United fans are calling for a club legend to be honoured, just days after he turned 75. Howard Wilkinson, United manager for eight years between 1988 and 1996, celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, reaching the three-quarter century mark to become one of the grand old men of English football. Although his Elland Road days are now over twenty years behind him, Sergeant Wilko still enjoys legendary status among United fans, and rightly so.

Leeds United was at a very low ebb indeed when they appointed Wilkinson – their fortunes had plummeted during the eighties, and it’s fair to say that there appeared to be very little light at the end of what had become a long, dark tunnel. Much nearer the bottom of Division 2 than the top, Leeds were trying to look up, but casting fearful glances behind them at the as yet unknown experience of third tier football. Something had to be done, and the decision was taken to break with the practice of hiring managers from the pool of old boys that remained of Don Revie‘s Super Leeds squad. Allan Clarke of that elite group had been given a go, but Leeds had gone down. Eddie Gray had produced a vibrant young team, but his time ran out. And Billy Bremner reached an FA Cup semi final as well as a play-off final in 1987, but a slow start the following season cost him his job.

In truth, it was unfair to blame these Elland Road alumni; the whole approach of the club had been flawed and misconceived, with false economies and disastrous short-termism to the fore, which is something that Wilkinson perceived and addressed as early as the interview stage for the Leeds job. Indeed, and most famously, Wilko turned the tables at that interview, making it a scenario where he was interviewing the United board, setting out for them the path to recovery and success over three options of short, medium and long terms. Wilkinson laid it on the line that significant investment would be necessary, to bring about an overhaul of the squad, and of the club’s infrastructure more generally. The board were duly impressed, Wilko got the job, and the rest is history.

We all know the story of the Wilko revolution, especially that thrill ride between 1989 and 1992, when Leeds emerged from a long exile to establish themselves back in the top flight and then win the last ever Football League Title. The media had this honour reserved in their own minds for Alex Ferguson‘s emerging man u side, but Leeds pooped that end-of-era party, and entered the record books as top dogs when the game moved from one epoch to another. The driving force behind it all was Wilko; without him our history would have been very different – and probably not in a good way. For this, we honour him as a true great in Leeds United history. As we know, he remains the last Englishman, and more importantly, the last Yorkshireman, to win the title of English Champions

Now, some are calling for a more substantial tribute to United’s second-greatest boss than the Howard’s Bar area of the West Stand which currently bears his name. The proposal of at least one fan in a tweet wishing the great man a happy birthday was that the East Stand should now be renamed the Howard Wilkinson Stand. It’s an idea that has some merit, particularly as it was Wilko’s success that made it possible to conceive and then build such a huge statement of a structure, something that utterly transformed the Elland Road stadium. This is a point made very succinctly by Leeds tweeter David Barstow, as can be seen in the image below.

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Name the East Stand after Wilko – great idea!

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything heartily endorses Mr. Barstow’s suggestion, and hopes that it might be something the Leeds ownership will seriously consider. The club owes Howard a very great debt; he provided success at a time when competition was fierce, and titles were not merely bought by the wealthiest. It was an achievement to rank alongside the successes of the Revie team, and it merits the most fulsome tribute that the club can possibly make – particularity as Howard has just reached such a significant personal landmark.

A belated Happy 75th Birthday, Sergeant Wilko, and thanks for the memories. We hope and trust that you might have further honours to come, from the club that you so gloriously revived, in the not too distant future. 

Leeds United 1975 European Cup Final Keeper David Stewart Passes Away at 71 – by Rob Atkinson

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Leeds United line up for the 1975 European Cup Final – Dave Stewart (far left) RIP

Former Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion, Ayr United and Swansea City goalkeeper Dave Stewart, who played in the 1975 European Cup Final for the Whites, has died at the age of 71. Stewart, who also gained one full Scottish international cap, saving a penalty in a 0-1 defeat to East Germany, was an ever-present in the Swansea side that gained promotion to the top flight in 1981. In all, he made 55 appearances for Leeds, being second choice to David Harvey for most of his United career, including that infamous match at the Parc des Princes in Paris against Bayern Munich.

Life Leeds United, the Universe & Everything sends condolences to those family and friends Dave leaves behind, and mourns a United player who will always have a prominent place in the history of the Elland Road club, as goalkeeper for the team that played in the Whites’ biggest ever game.

DaveStewart

RIP Dave Stewart 11.3.1947 – 13.11.2018

Leeds United Must Beware Potential Baggies Banana Skin – by Rob Atkinson

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Marcelo Bielsa – taking nothing for granted

West Bromwich Albion, one of the pre-season Championship promotion favourites, have been distinctly off-colour lately, sinking to seventh in the table after defeat at Hull City became the latest example of points carelessly dropped by a talented squad that should be doing much better. This miserable run of form has put Leeds United‘s own recent blip into sharp perspective; despite injuries and a number of, shall we say, controversial decisions against them, the Whites have contrived to stay top of an extremely competitive league, and will head to The Hawthorns aiming to consolidate that position.

Yes, the misfiring Baggies have had their own injury worries, but manager Darren Moore will not be looking for any excuses ahead of a mouth-watering clash with Yorkshire’s finest. In point of fact, Moore should be able to welcome back a number of key players ahead of Saturday’s evening kick off, including the prolific (at this level) striker Dwight Gayle, who would certainly need a close eye keeping on him by a Leeds defence slightly unbalanced by the injury absences of Luke Ayling and Gaetano Berardi. Certainly, more problems can be expected from the Albion attack than the meagre threat posed by Wigan last weekend, and United will need to be wary of what is essentially a wounded and therefore dangerous animal in West Brom.

It’s a classic situation of a team bouncing back to the top of the league after a slightly difficult period, going to visit a team on the crest of a slump. So often, the confidence of the higher-placed outfit turns out to be misplaced as the home side is inspired by the challenge and comes sailing out of the doldrums to win. This is the potential banana skin waiting in the path of the Leeds juggernaut, and club, players and fans alike would do well to be extremely wary of the challenge that faces them on Saturday.

Of course, the world’s best coach isn’t likely to be all wide-eyed and unknowing, and will have his men adequately prepared. Even so, and having witnessed a win at Wigan that was a lot less convincing than it should have been, I have a slightly nervous feeling about this one. Really, a side settling well into the Bielsaball concept should be looking to deal with any and all resistance – but we know that, in the real world of dog eat dog Championship football, it frequently doesn’t work out quite so tidily clear-cut. If Leeds can add a clinical edge to their finishing, and retain the ability to dominate possession, create chances and cover back in numbers, then three points at West Brom is distinctly achievable.

Anything less than that level of performance, though, and we could well slip up on that banana skin. Fingers crossed that, with yet another international break looming, Leeds are ready to sign off this segment of the season with a performance that ticks all the necessary boxes. 

Sky To Make All Leeds Games Start After 9pm Due to Pre-Watershed Sweariness? – by Rob Atkinson

Sky needs Leeds, but not the naughty language

Regular viewers of the various Sky Sports channels may have noticed a certain primness creeping into the satellite broadcaster’s football coverage of late. They’re coming across a bit like a stern Victorian maiden aunt, the type who, on hearing any form of profanity, will purse her lips and call upon high heaven to hurl a lightning bolt or two at the profaner.

Time was when sound effects microphones would pick up all sorts of four-letter naughtiness, and hardly even twitch by way of reaction. Not an eyelid would be batted in the commentary box, there would be no blushes mantling the cheeks of the presenters, no placatory words of apology for a TV audience possibly rendered rigid with shock at such audibly blue language.

Truth be told, those viewers at home didn’t give a toss anyway. They would sit there unbothered by any amount of effing and jeffing from the terraces, intent on watching the game and enjoying the atmosphere that was, let’s face it, generated in no small measure by the ripe and ribald chanting of the deeply partisan sets of opposing supporters. It’s how football is meant to be, and this nanny-like tendency to worry out loud that viewers may be offended is as annoying as it is deeply unnecessary.

But, it does seem to be the way that Sky’s football coverage is going. Time without number, just lately, I’ve heard the commentator intoning “We apologise if you were offended by any bad language you may have heard”, and I for one find it embarrassingly paternalistic and patronising.

As for their approach to Leeds United games, regular readers may well have guessed, correctly, that the headline to this piece is tongue-in-cheek. But any satire has its roots in things that could conceivably happen without any great tide of shock or surprise ensuing and, already, Sky’s attitude towards the vocal contributions of the massed Leeds support has been one of summary censorship, as we witnessed after a mere 10 seconds of United’s last TV fixture at Wigan last weekend.

At the first hint of “language likely to offend” – and particularly because it was, from Sky’s point of view, damagingly anti-corporate in its intent, the sound engineers pounced, the audio dampers were applied, and the United chants were largely muffled. With them went most of the atmosphere, but that’s seemingly a trade Sky are willing to make, rather than allowing any neat and raucous summary of their coverage and underlying philosophy to be heard by thousands of customers.

At the moment, and for as long as Sky’s suppression of audible protest continues, this is an upsettingly lop-sided commercial relationship. Sky’s Championship coverage needs Leeds United far more than United needs Sky, with the viewing figures for Whites games far outstripping the rest of the field. And yet the most televised club in this league receives a sum which is but a fraction of what the bottom-placed Premier League club trousers – now, that’s not a good deal, that’s blatant exploitation. Add to that the continuing smattering of snide remarks and unflattering reportage, and you wonder why we bother – except that, for many fans, live TV is their best and only chance of seeing their chosen team in action.

So, don’t expect to see Leeds United games kicking off exclusively at post-watershed times of the day – not just yet, anyway. But there are rumblings of discontent about Sky’s attitude in several aspects of their coverage, both from within the club and without, among the massive broader support at home and overseas.

Let’s not forget that United owner Andrea Radrizzani is a TV mogul in his own right, and has publicly expressed strong views not wholly supportive of the status quo. It may well be – fingers crossed – that Leeds will ascend to the top flight sooner rather than later, and feast on the financial bounty now denied them. But that doesn’t make the existing situation fair or right, especially for the clubs left outside in the cold, noses pressed to the window, drooling at the banquet within. That kind of inequality sows the seeds of revolution, which is something the fat cats in the Sky boardrooms would do well to reflect upon.

Leeds Fans Ask Sky Pundit “Who Are You, and What Have You Done With Don Goodman?” – by Rob Atkinson

Goodman

Ouch – Don Goodman reacts as that alien probe slides on in there 

Among the many talking points emerging from Leeds United‘s victory at Wigan Athletic on Sunday – ranging from the inspiring sight of eight Whites players chasing a lone Wigan attacker in the manner of a pack of lions running down a terrified wildebeest, to Kemar Roofe openly laughing after he converted a chance presented to him by the bumbling home defence – the one that stands out for many United fans is the apparent kidnapping of Sky pundit Don Goodman and his replacement by a lookey-likey with a deep and abiding love for the Elland Road outfit.

It’s difficult to come up with an alternative explanation for the Leedsophilic nature of the co-commentary from the DW Stadium. Whoever the voice behind the mic belonged to, it certainly wasn’t the Goodman that Leeds fans know and despise. This guy, contrary to the Don Goodman modus operandi, had so much positive to say about the Whites, drooling over the skills of Pablo Hernandez, praising the organisation and desire that typify Bielsaball, generally singing a hymn of praise to our United heroes throughout the game.

The real Don Goodman, as we know from past experience, would have been bemoaning the nature of Leeds’ winner “Life is sometimes so unfair”, to quote his doleful exclamation after a United goal at Huddersfield a few years back. He’d have been vocal in his frustration that Wigan created so little. He’d have shed tears at the ruthless pooping of Wigan chairman Dave Whelan‘s farewell party. He’d have lapsed into a monumentally sulky silence as Liam Cooper & Co clinched the three points, erased Wigan’s unbeaten home record and returned to the Championship summit. All this type of thing we have heard from Goodman’s bitter repertoire on too many previous occasions, but there was none of it on Sunday.

So, the only logical deduction is that poor Don has been kidnapped, possibly by aliens, and replaced pro tem by a Leeds-supporting and highly authentic (looks and voice wise) clone or robot. Clearly, a glitch in the programming meant the tell-tale absence of any bitching about Leeds – and that’s what has given the game away. Rumours that the artificial Goodman is being touted as a replacement for Noel “Get Iiiiiinnnnn” Whelan, due to the former’s audibly greater enthusiasm for the Whites, cannot be confirmed. Whatever the future holds for the clone, who is presumably even now being dissected by evil Sky TV technicians, our thoughts and prayers must be with the original Don Goodman, wherever he may be. If his fate is to be experimented on by eager and avid aliens with anal probes and other invasive nasties in their armoury, then we must hope that the experience is neither too humiliating nor at all painful. Well, not very painful. Or, maybe just a reasonable amount of moderately excruciating pain. You get my drift – there is some payback due here.

No doubt those aliens, or representatives of the Leeds United fan-base, or whoever is responsible for Goodman’s abduction, will be effecting his return to Sky Sports and normal duties before this deception becomes common knowledge. Perhaps he will even have learned a little from his experience and, as he wriggles uncomfortably in his chair, he’ll possibly recall the nature of the probing he’s undergone, and maybe soften his attitude towards United from now on. Anything’s possible, after all.

But if Goodman’s best Leeds-hating days are behind him (fnarr) and he’s therefore of no further use to the Evil Empire, then there are surely plenty of available bitter ex-pros who can’t abide United and are willing to demonstrate this at every opportunity. Tony Gale, a former Hammer who has never forgiven Leeds for that Vinnie Jones-inspired 1-0 win at Upton Park in 1989, and has been blowing bubbles of anti-Leeds vitriol ever since, would be an obvious possibility. It’d make a change, anyway – and to be honest, I’m not quite sure I’d want to sit through another punditry performance like that given by Don’s clone on Sunday. It was rather uncomfortable, a bit like an unpopular and vaguely creepy uncle handing out the toffees and half crown coins to the youngsters at some benighted family gathering; it’s just rather too nightmarish.

The thing is, with Leeds, you know there’ll always be another live Sky game coming up soon. So perhaps we’ll see a different performance from former Wolves player and sworn enemy of the Baggies Don Goodman, when we appear before the cameras (and, occasionally, the crowd noise mics) at West Bromwich Albion this coming weekend.

Watch this space…