Assuming Leeds United are not awarded a penalty at the DW Stadium during their televised meeting with Wigan Athletic on Sunday (and it’s a fair assumption, as we have seen this season, when some pretty good claims have been ignored) then the Whites will have clocked up 54 league matches without getting a single spot kick. In that time, many an obvious penalty has been refused United and, of the nine awarded against them, there have been some right stinkers, such as the ones given to Stoke and Brentford since the start of the current campaign.
This has now become quite a story in various media, and it makes you wonder what effect it might have on the referees and other officials in charge of United’s games going forward. My guess is that it will simply steel their resolve; no self-respecting, God-fearing, righteously Leeds-hating referee wants to be seen as bowing to external pressure, after all. So it could be a while yet before Leeds get a penalty, and when they do, Pablo Hernandez will probably miss it (as he did our last one, sometime around the Napoleonic Wars).
So – assuming that the record continues – could we actually go a whole league season without one single penalty kick? That’s not unknown, actually, at least in the Premier League, which is the only division for which I’ve seen these statistics. It’s still quite rare, though, and I honestly do wonder whether, in the Championship, with its higher incidence of what we may term “agricultural defending”, it’s really feasible that a club can actually draw a blank for the whole campaign. But I stand to be corrected and, as ever, I welcome any informed input.
Even if any team has previously played a second tier campaign without even one penalty, I’d have serious doubts over whether that team would have managed to be promoted. Any club looked on so unfavourably by match officials must surely feel as though its card is well and truly marked, especially if they keep on getting dodgy penalties awarded against them. That’s been the Leeds United experience so far this term – and yet, despite the additional problem of injuries to key personnel, the Whites ride high in the table, and will look forward to kicking on when (if) the treatment room gets a little less busy.
Leeds have shown every sign so far that, at their best, they don’t need refereeing generosity (or even common sense) in order to win Championship matches. They’ve managed to stay right up there, even in spite of some appalling decisions against them. So – assuming I’m correct to say that no team has ever been promoted without at least one penalty being given to them – could Leeds United be the first to achieve such a difficult challenge?
I actually think that United really could see their penalty drought extend to cover the whole season, despite the fact that we have tricky players who can only be stopped by chopping them down – and yet I remain optimistic of success, hopefully via the automatic route. Because, as well as the “no penalties for you, Leeds” rule, there’s also the well-established law that United just don’t do play-offs. So it’s top two or bust for us, penalties notwithstanding.
I’d really like to know if this would be a first, and I might even check the odds and have a moderate punt on it. But, if any friendly Statto out there knows better, and can prove that I’m barking up the wrong tree, and that it’s all been done before – then, please, let me know. Ideally before I part with any of my brass to Big Bad Bert the Bent Bookie. Thank you.