Something Very Special is Happening in Leeds, Sporting Capital of England – by Rob Atkinson


Just champion: Josh Warrington and Leeds United

World Champion boxer and Leeds fan extraordinaire Josh Warrington is sharing top billing right now with Leeds United as the city of Leeds re-establishes its sporting pre-eminence, putting the likes of Manchester, Liverpool and London in the shade by the sheer diversity of its competitive prowess. Warrington’s great victories against Lee Selby in May at Elland Road, and Carl Frampton the other night in Manchester neatly bracket a phenomenal first half of the Championship season for leaders Leeds United. The Whites’ sensational comeback win at Aston Villa on Sunday topped off a 23 game run in which they have shown power, guts and consistency to emerge as front runners. Unfancied United have defied the critics just as Josh Warrington has, besting two supposedly superior fighters when all the experts predicted he’d be brushed aside.

Those two phenomenal boxing performances were as bookends to the incredible renaissance of Leeds United under Marcelo Bielsa in the first half of the current Championship football season. As Josh Warrington was recovering from his May demolition of Lee Selby, Bielsa was setting about putting his unique stamp on a club that had been failing, for a lack of identity and leadership, to realise its immense potential. Bielsa’s mission was to provide that leadership, create that identity, and see an underachieving club become much more than the sum of its parts. At the halfway point of the season, fresh from a defining performance at Aston Villa when the United warriors fought back from two down to clinch an unlikely victory out of extreme adversity, Leeds stand proudly top of the Championship, with a handy gap between them and the play-off pack. To describe Bielsa’s record so far as merely a success would be to make a molehill out of a mountain.

Just as Josh Warrington has succeeded against all the expert opinion that rated him as a passionate but limited fighter, so Leeds United are making a mockery of those who suggested that Bielsa’s methods could not possibly bear fruit with such a comparatively thin squad, boasting only a couple of major additions to last season’s also-rans. The major transfer acquisition of the summer, Patrick Bamford, has seen his season so far disrupted by injury, and has hardly been able to contribute to the cause. So it’s been the squad as was, plus bargain steal from Wolves Barry Douglas, supplemented by some precocious talent from the development level of the club, that has carried all before it in the league so far. What can United achieve if the injuries clear up, and if they can make some judicious purchases during the January window? It’s a question to tantalise the Whites support, which is already rubbing its eyes in delighted disbelief at the way the campaign has unfolded.

The Leeds claim to be the nation’s sporting capital is well founded. The football club has global support dating from the days when it boasted the finest club side of the post war era, a team that was respected and feared throughout Europe. The Yorkshire county cricket club is historically the best in the game as a matter of record, and the Rugby League outfit that shares Headingley is the biggest in the northern hemisphere bar none. Add in a gutsy fighter in Warrington who has worn his club colours with massive pride to become a true ambassador for the city, and it’s clear to see that Leeds has an embarrassment of sporting riches together with a vast potential to build on – and the signs are there that the building process is well under way. The revolution at Leeds United, the remarkable transformation of Headingley cricket and rugby arena and of course the fighting whirlwind that is Warrington, all combine to give the capital of West Yorkshire a growing status as the place where it’s all happening in the world of sport.

We can look ahead with some confidence now, a confidence that was only a dream prior to the big fight at Elland Road a few short months ago in May, to further progress and maybe concrete achievement in the first half of 2019. And this, of course, brings us nicely up to scratch just in time for the centenary celebrations of Leeds United, one of the truly great clubs in the English game. It’s all looking so good right now, and it’s all come about in such a short time – but the foundations are there for a new golden era across the whole City of Leeds.

With that in mind, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything bids everybody out there, whatever their sporting allegiance, a very Merry Christmas, and the Happiest of New Years for 2019. The future, we’re confident in saying, is very bright. The future, we fervently hope and believe, is yellow, blue and white. 

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17 responses to “Something Very Special is Happening in Leeds, Sporting Capital of England – by Rob Atkinson

  1. And a yellow blue and white Christmas to you to you too young sir, the season so far has to be up there with the last time we won the league, even more exciting than our last promotion. Bring on the champions ! ! !

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  2. NickB(50yrsLU)

    Same sentiments from me, and I’m hoping it will be an even happier Easter. Don’t raise your hopes too high for the January sales – Bielsa seems quite content with using what we have, and I know that will suit Radrizzani. Re. yesterday, Villa-supporting commentator John Murray was at half time unbelievably smug, saying he hoped Leeds would make more of a game of it in the second half after all the expectation. Sadly, I missed any return to him at the end of the game! Roll on the return matches, and more killer runs from Jack Clarke. Yesterday I bumped into an old Hammers-supporting friend in Tesco, and he asked which league Leeds were in now, knowing full well. He will live to regret that smirk, just as John Murray did! Season’s greetings, in both senses!

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  3. Gomersall of Rothwell

    Rob, many thanks for your witty insights and incisive commentary. I have tix for our Lads v the pride of Devon here in Perth in July. It will be a nice Scarborough warning for them and would only be sweeter if we passed them on the way up as they slide down … still there’s time – Merry Xmas

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  4. Steven Emsley

    The passion is back at our football club you could see that during the game at Villa. What a come back after going two down the players and the fans that were there showed everyone in football what we are all about. Merry Christmas and a happy new year from Western Australia

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  5. …and don’t forget GB’s number one tennis player, Kyle Edmund, from Beverley.

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  6. David Wood

    Many thanks for your blog Rob, witty and sharp it often gives me a lift for the coming week. I really think that Marcello Bielsa has not been able to field his preferred starting eleven yet. Suspensions, fatigue and further injuries will probably kick in in the new year so 2or 3 astute additions would help the cause. Anyone eyeing a transfer to Leeds should ramp up their own fitness training now! Merry Christmas to our huge worldwide fan base and a peaceful and prosperous new year.

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  7. Great article again Rob, but remember Nicola Adams as well.

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  8. Peter Rollinson

    Once again a good blog Rob.
    Living in Holland I could only follow the Villa game with my “live score” app. Like all Leeds fans I had a feeling of gloom at 2-0 then checking the score later on and finding that the lads had somehow managed to draw level gave me a warm glow which is difficult to describe. 90+4 still 2-2, 90+5, 2-3, no,it can’t be but it is YES YES. I can’t begin to imagine how it must have been for those lucky (and faithfull) supporters who were at the game. Whatever happens for the rest of the season, and lets hope more of the same,the lads have given me and lots more LUFC supporters the best Christmas ever.
    Wishing you and your family and all Leeds supporters everywhere a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year

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  9. Reality Cheque

    Another top post Rob. Our young super sub Jack Clarke became our 12th goal scorer in the Championship this season and duly rewarded our amazing 12th man fans at Villa Park!
    I am still coming down from the incredible high of that game’s climax and unwrapping my Christmas presents this morning just failed to compete this year but I am confident that Bielsa and the players will be giving us more and more amazing “presents” to celebrate over the coming months.
    I feel particularly proud to be a Leeds resident just now and am really looking forward to strolling proudly to and from Elland Road for our two festive fixtures.
    Merry Christmas to one and all.

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  10. Have an excellent Xmas and New Year Rob. Great posts all year and good input from your many followers too.
    For all you nostalgia buffs out there do you recall the 4-1 win at Villa in the championship winning season? Live on the box against a decent Villa team.
    Sunday’s performance reminded me of that. What a genius Bielsa is. I’m in my 50’s I smoke too much and enjoy ale way too much.But a couple of weeks at Thorp Arch and I reckon He’d have me ready to do a job at centre mid.
    MOT and festive wishes to all!

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    • Quality, sir. And I remember that other Villa game so well. Wilko came up with a formation to bamboozle Big Ron and we blew ’em away. Great times! They might just be coming back.

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  11. Another gem from you Rob, i really look forward to your blogs and your witticisms always make me smile, nay, chortle, especially when it come to our overblown over hyped red neighbours the other side of the Pennines, keep up the good work and a very merry Christmas to you and yours.

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  12. Merry Xmas Sir Robert, may The Roofe be with you.

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  13. Happy New Year Rob. Don’t know what I will be like if we get to the premiere, had to pull over in the car on Sunday when that third goal went in. Unbelievable. All the best everyone

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  14. Life is LUFC

    And another heart stopper on Boxing Day. I am now learning to wait until the end of the game before going into heart attack mode but I still watch through my fingers for the last minute or so.
    Thank you lads each and every one of you for your never say die mentality and your will to keep going forward with the attack until the final whistle. It is not wasted on me and the millions of other Leeds fans. MOT

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  15. I’m especially pleased for Alioski who I was beginning to doubt. Now he’s on the right he’s back to his old self. Providing we get past the usually difficult 3rd round cup hurdle we may get drawn against a premier league team and will run them ragged. I just hope its “You know Who”. Merry Christmas belated.

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