Monthly Archives: May 2019

Time For Leeds United to Make a Real Statement; Bring Back the LUFC Smiley – by Rob Atkinson

The LUFC “smiley” badge. Iconic as hell.

It seems pretty certain that Leeds United will be playing their centenary (and hopefully promotion) season with a new badge proudly emblazoned on their various new shirts. That being the case, the design of said new badge is certainly decided already, with only an unveiling amid much ceremony remaining to be done.

This piece, then, is more a forlorn expression of hope than any real ambition to influence matters. The hope burns fiercely, though – because I like many others feel that the time is nigh, if not well overdue, for Leeds United to return to its most iconic badge ever. It’s a design of beautiful simplicity and endless appeal, quite unlike the pedestrian emblems of lesser clubs. It embodies the yellow, white and blue, it scorns the empty folderol of pretension favoured by other. It’s got a message, and that message is: We are Leeds and we are proud. It’s recognisable the world over as an elite design for an elite club. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the LUFC Smiley Badge.

It probably won’t happen. The best we can realistically hope for is the grudging inclusion of the Smiley as a detail of some other design. Even that would be better than nowt. But, just imagine. What if the club really did see sense – what if they marked 100 years of the best football club in the world, by harking back to its best badge, with those nostalgic links to the original Super Leeds era, the Don, King Billy and the rest of the legends. How fine would that be?

We’ll know soon enough, I suppose. I’ve seen pictures purporting to represent the new badge, and I can only hope they were fashionably fake news. I know what I want, and I know thousands of others want it too.

Bring back the Smiley Badge!

Marching on together

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Leeds Legend Lee Bowyer Sinks Sunderland at Wembley – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds Legend Lee Crushes Mackems

A last minute winner for Lee Bowyer’s Charlton Athletic condemned Sunderland to at least one more season in League One, and ensured that the first two playoff finals, at least, panned out as per my personal requirements.

It had been good to see Newport depart on the return journey to Wales with tears in their eyes and tails between their legs. Quite apart from having had a soft spot for Tranmere since their Cup exploits under John Aldridge, I’ve not yet forgiven Newport for our FA Cup humiliation a year or so back. Call me bitter and twisted, but that’s just the way it is.

How much more riddled with spite and vicious nastiness am I then with regard to Sunderland, who have been living off their fluke FA Cup success against Super Leeds ever since 1973? Much, MUCH more, that’s how much. The fact that one of my Whites heroes of the past few decades, Lee Bowyer, was a direct beneficiary of the Mackems’ inadequacy simply made a sweet occasion all the sweeter. I’ve frankly hated Sunderland for all the time I’ve been a Leeds fan, despised Bob Stokoe, and celebrated every time we’ve beaten the Wearsiders, as we usually do. They keep going back to Wembley, and they keep failing. They’ve done it twice this season, and I’ve loved every minute.

Now all I need is for Aston Villa to beat Derby tomorrow – with a few Fwankie tears thrown in, if at all possible. Really – is that too much to ask?

Taken 30 Years Ago Today, Leeds Legend Don Revie Was THE Greatest   –   by Rob Atkinson

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The Don of Elland Road – 30 years gone, but never forgotten

They say that great players don’t always make great managers, and Bobby Charlton is a stand-out example of that essential truth. His brother Jack, by common consent not anything like the player Bobby was, but ten times the bloke, was by far the more successful manager. Then again – he learned from the best.

And they will twist the argument around to show that average players can make great managers. We’re usually invited by a brainwashed and indoctrinated media to take Alex Ferguson as an example of this; my own choice would be Arsene Wenger, a deeply average player but a highly superior coach, tactician and innovator who made a significant dent in the Man U monopoly of the Premier League – despite the vast off-field advantages of the Salford club. Remember Wenger’s “Invincibles”?

But there are a select few examples of truly great players who went on to be truly great managers – the likes of Busby and Dalglish, for instance – and I will argue passionately to my last breath that the best of the best was Donald George Revie, who died of Motor Neurone Disease 30 years ago this very day.

Don Revie was an innovative, thinking footballer, the pivot of the famous “Revie Plan” at Manchester City when he was the first to exploit deep-lying centre-forward play to great effect as City hit the heights in the mid to late fifties. He was instrumental in the Wembley defeat of Birmingham City in the FA Cup Final of 1956, and also helped restore English pride after two batterings by Hungary – the Magnificent Magyars having trounced England 6-3 at Wembley and 7-1 in Budapest. Revie’s adapted attacking role helped the National team annihilate Scotland 7-2 and his reputation was made as a selfless team player who was adept at making the ball do the work while team-mates found space as he dropped deep, baffling the defences of the time.

Revie was clearly a thinker, and developed very definite ideas about the game during his playing career, ideas he would later put into practice to devastating effect as a club manager. It is undeniable that, during his thirteen years in charge at Leeds, he elevated them from simply nowhere in the game to its very pinnacle, preaching togetherness and the team ethic above all else. Respected judges within the game have described the football played by Leeds at their peak as unmatched, before or since. In the eyes of many, that Leeds United team were the finest English side ever, a unit of grisly efficiency and teak-hardness yet capable of football which was outstandingly, breathtakingly beautiful, intricate in its conception and build-up, devastating in its effect.

Here is the scale of Revie’s achievement: in an era before the advent of lavish sponsorship and advanced commercial operations, he built a club from the ground upwards – a club with an apathetic support, which had hardly two ha’pennies to rub together, and whose prime asset was a group of raw but promising youngsters. The way that Revie nurtured those youngsters, moulding them into a team of supreme talent and majestic ability, is the stuff of legend. In some cases, he had to ward off the threats of homesickness: a young Billy Bremner was determined to go home to his native Scotland and Revie arranged for his girlfriend to move to Leeds, helping the lad settle down. Sometimes he had to adapt a player from one position to another – Terry Cooper was an indifferent winger who was made into a world-class overlapping full-back. Examples of his inspirational and man-management skills are many; he wrote the modern managerial manual from scratch.

Revie raised almost an entire squad from the junior ranks through to full international status, but he also had an unerring eye for a transfer market bargain. He took Bobby Collins from Everton, and saw the diminutive veteran midfielder produce the best form of his career. He lured a disaffected John Giles from Old Trafford where he was an under-rated performer. Giles swore that he would “haunt” Matt Busby, the manager who let him go, and Revie enabled this vow to be realised, converting Giles to a more central role after the end of Collins’ first team career. Giles and Bremner would form an almost telepathic central midfield partnership for Leeds, carrying all before them over the muddy battlefields of Division One. Revie later described his recruitment of Giles from Man U as “robbery with violence”.

As the sixties wore on, the Don would add Mick Jones and Allan Clarke to his formidable squad while it grew up together in a family atmosphere at Elland Road. Rarely if ever before or since can a manager have been so involved in his team’s welfare and well-being; no mere tracksuit manager this. There would be flowers and chocolates when a player’s girlfriend or wife celebrated a birthday, a listening ear and helping hand whenever problems threatened to affect a man’s form. Revie was a father figure to his players for over a decade, forming a bond of mutual loyalty and respect that still sets the standard for enlightened management today.

Don Revie has been described in scornful terms by the ignorant, as a dossier-obsessed and over-superstitious manager, then again as a coaching genius by some people of insight and judgement, and as simply the best by his players who still survive from that amazing period of Leeds United’s dominance at home and abroad. He was perhaps too reliant on lucky suits and the lifting of gypsy curses, and other such supernatural preoccupations. He could maybe have let his team “off the leash” a little earlier than he did – when given full rein, they were next door to unstoppable. But it’s hard to hold the caution and superstition of the man against him; this was a time unlike today when livelihoods depended on a bounce of the ball, when results mattered in a bread and butter way. There were no cossetted millionaires then, no examples of young men who could pack it all in tomorrow and live in luxury for the rest of their lives. It all meant so much more in those days and the word “pressure” had real resonance.

The modern coaches have greats among their number, there’s no doubt about that. It would be invidious to single out names; after all, the media in a misguided fit of uncritical and commercially-motivated hero-worship have been busily engaged for most of the last three decades in dubbing “S’ralex” as the greatest ever. But the legend that is Don Revie can sit comfortably on his laurels, the man who – more than any other – took a sow’s ear of a football club and made of it a purse of the very finest silk which yet concealed a core of Yorkshire steel.

After a season in which a number of high profile managers have conducted themselves disgracefully by rabble-rousing in the media – and I’m thinking mainly of the two opposing managers for Monday’s Championship playoff final – it’s fitting that we can remember with fondness and immense pride a true managerial giant.

Donald George Revie (1927 – 1989). Simply The Best.

Mbappe and Neymar for Leeds in PSG Link Up? – by Rob Atkinson

Mbappe – could he win a regular starting place at Leeds?

The likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are not the most likely participants in next season’s Championship, but other current PSG might be beating a path to the Elland Road players’ entrance if there’s anything in the Twitterstorm surrounding possible investment by Qatar Sports Institute in Leeds United.

For the time being, it’s all smoke and mirrors. But I’ve been dreaming of linking Mbappe to Leeds for ages now – so ‘ave it.

More to follow, without a doubt.

As Leeds Fanatics, Let’s Get Right Behind Aston Villa on Monday – by Rob Atkinson

Good luck Monday, Dean Smith, you horrible git

As the Bank Holiday fiesta of sudden death football that is the playoff finals finally begins, the thoughts of every Leeds United fan must surely be: it could have been us in that Championship playoff decider. Should have been. But, once you get past that, and also past the essential silliness of a system that will promote one of two clubs that have been proven as inferior to United, both in the regular season and in our meetings on the field, you have to decide which of these two you want to see take the Premier League place that should have been ours. There’s no point in turning a blind eye, or whinging about what’s happened. We all knew the rules, daft though they may be.

So, who do we want to see go up? And, by extension, with whom do we wish to renew hostilities next time around? Both Aston Villa and Derby County have done their darnedest this season to capitalise on incidents surrounding our league meetings; both have cynically attempted to make mountains out of molehills, eagerly assisted by a complaisant and Leeds-hating media. But, for all that I can’t abide Villa manager Dean Smith, and even though I’d cheerfully swing for that annoying little toad Grealish, there can be no real comparison to the serial whingers of Derby County, with all of the Spygate nonsense, that loathsome hypocrite Lampard and all. And it is in a spirit of Frank and honest bitterness and resentment that I wish them despair and heartache at Wembley on Monday – I hope with all my heart that we can meet again next season, just to rub it in again exactly why we’re better than them, in every way, any day of the week. And I hope that Middlesbrough prove to be of some use for a change, and successfully sue Direby’s backside off over the shady Pride Park operation.

So it’s “Up The Villa” for me on Monday. I’d be most interested to hear other views as ever, both agreeing and disagreeing. But please keep it polite, and give your reasons.

Marching On Together

Bielsa and Lasogga Need Each Other, and Leeds United Would be the Big Winners – by Rob Atkinson

Lasogga

Lasogga – the very man for Leeds United?

Sometimes, two problems can be solved simply by bringing them together in a mutually beneficial solution that leaves everybody happy. That situation might just be cropping up right now, with former Leeds United loan star Pierre-Michel Lasogga in need of a career boost having been released by Hamburg SV, and Whites coach Marcelo Bielsa looking for a class finisher who wouldn’t break the bank, to capitalise on all that possession and all those chances that went to waste in the season just tragically ended.

Whatever the doom and gloom merchants might say, Leeds under Bielsa were not very far at all from the finished article in this last campaign before the club marks its centenary. A few tweaks are needed, together with a bit more luck regarding injuries and a bit more common sense in the discipline and suspensions area. Some players clearly need shipping out too – but, if we can somehow avoid losing the crown jewels, the basis of an extremely good Championship squad is there already.

With the way Leeds play under Bielsa (forgive me for assuming he’ll still be in charge) what the team has been crying out for is a hitman capable of putting the finishing touches to what we all know has been a dramatically improved creative aspect of United’s performance. Lasogga, even with a Bielsa pre-season behind him, would never be a run all day type of striker, but he comes alive in the opposition box, as witness several finishes the season before last, the like of which we had not seen for many a moon. With someone alongside or slightly behind him to do the hard yards, the name of Kemar Roofe springing irresistibly to mind here, Lasogga is capable of providing the goals so sorely needed to turn should-have-won games into the victories we needed to make the difference. I’d challenge anyone to dispute that – it’s simply common sense.

The free transfer signing of Lasogga, together with the freeing up of wages from outgoing players, could give our squad not only a leaner and meaner look, but a decidedly more lethal potential too. This blog would like to see it happen – so, what say you all?

Marching On Together

How Will Leeds United Fare in the 2019/20 Championship? – by Rob Atkinson

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Marcelo Bielsa – tipped to stay on as Leeds United coach

While many Leeds United Fans are still reeling from the 2 – 4 defeat at the hands of Frank Lampard’s Derby County, bookmakers and pundits are already looking ahead to next year’s championship season.

Marcelo Bielsa’s side failed to gain promotion to the Premier League via playoffs, losing to Derby County in the semi-final second leg, meaning that the Whites will feature in next year’s championship.

This will be the 16th consecutive time that Leeds have been outside the Premier League, since their relegation in 2004 and their playoff record has so far been unimpressive considering that they have lost in the five matches they have participated in so far. These are not pleasant stats for any Leeds fan, especially given the proud history of the club.

It is no secret that having spent more than 100 days at the top of the league table this season, then failing to gain promotion via playoffs, after dropping below Norwich City and Sheffield United is quite heartbreaking. Thankfully, the few weeks or months before next season is enough time for reflections and making of big decisions at Elland Road.

What are the odds of Leeds getting to the Premier League next season?

Having spent weeks at the top of the league table, fans and football enthusiasts are hopeful that come next season, Leeds will have a better chance of promotion to the Premier League. In fact, bookmakers odds support the idea that the Whites will be one of the top contenders in the next Championship season.

The reasons for an expected Leeds United strong next season are pretty obvious. Marcelo Bielsa’s side came so close to gaining automatic promotion but for two nightmare sessions where they were beaten by 10 man Wigan Athletic and Brentford at the Easter weekend.

Also, Leeds United played some of the most outstanding football this season with an intensity and speed that surprised most of their opponents. Actually, the only major criticism came from Patrick Bamford who made several poor finishes.

They also managed to hold their own despite a series of horrific injuries, with key players like Ezgjan Alioski, Barry Douglas, Kemar Roofe, and a few others spending time on the benches due to injuries.

That said, it is important to point out that a large part of this hope rest on whether Bielsa will be continuing as manager of the Whites or not, even though it is not clear what the future holds for the Argentine after Derby County defeat.

If Bielsa agrees to stay on through next Championship season, the odds on Leeds not just faring well in next season’s championship but actually securing promotion via playoffs are very high.

The odds of Leeds United winning the Championship league outright are 10/1, with West Brom and Fulham above them at 8/1 and 7/1 respectively. If you fancy the chances of Leeds United winning the league outright, this Free Bet from Paddy Power allows you get in on the ground floor.

Of the other top sides also in relegation, Cardiff City are tipped to win the division with 12/1 odds and Huddersfield Town at 14/1 to win the league in May.

Thankfully, the chances of this happening, particularly for Leeds United, are strong as reports suggest that Marcelo Bielsa will stay put at Leeds United despite the painful semi-final defeat by Derby County.

Here’s to Promotion for United (Next Time)

In the end, it was not to be. Leeds United finally bowed out of the Championship playoffs in the most Leeds United way possible, losing at home to a team they’d played and beaten handsomely three times this season, blowing a one goal lead from the first leg, which had been extended to two goals as half time at Elland Road approached. And, again so typically for Leeds, it was a self-inflicted wound in the dying moments of the first half on Wednesday that changed the tone and tempo of what had always been a frantic game of football.

If they had the chance to play that fatal moment again, both Liam Cooper and United’s keeper Kiko Casilla would wish to have made better decisions. But for me, our former Real Madrid man was the more culpable of the two, failing to provide a safe option for the pass back, and then impeding Cooper as he tried desperately to clear the ball away. The ball fell kindly for Derby’s sub Jack Marriott, who had only been on the field for half a minute, and he tucked away a chance that should never have materialised. And so began the painful process whereby the life blood drained out of Leeds United and what had at one time looked like a promotion season.

Immediately after the interval, the tie was level, and the tide had well and truly turned. Then a clear penalty edged Derby ahead before Stuart Dallas scored his second goal of the night to restore parity – but only temporarily. The denouement of this crazy night of dog eat dog football saw Derby regain their lead over two legs, before Gaetano Berardi perpetrated the kind of tackle he’s too often guilty of, to leave the contest courtesy of a second yellow card.

There was still time for Derby to be reduced to ten men, but the damage had been done by that point and Leeds were doomed to become the current longest-serving member of the Championship, much to the delight of just about everybody who doesn’t hold the Elland Road outfit dear.

So there we are and, quite honestly, things could be worse. If we can look forward to another season of Bielsaball, albeit not in the top flight, then that’s an enticing prospect. Because, let’s be honest, this has been a fabulous season, despite its gut-wrenching climax. The pity of it is that Leeds United will not be a Premier League club come its hundredth birthday in October. But there’s still the challenge of celebrating that centenary by mounting an assault on the Championship league title next time around.

To achieve that, some squad improvements will be required, and doubtless there has already been some contingency planning for the eventuality of failing to secure the promotion that had looked so likely for so long. It is also essential to retain the services of Marcelo Bielsa and his staff, so that they can set about building on the massive improvement we have seen in this remarkable season.

What we can’t afford to do – as either a football club or a fan base – is to waste time in mutual recriminations or excessive licking of wounds. Thursday was the first day of planning for next season, and it’s in that positive spirit that we must now move forward. Leeds United is a Premier League club which happens to be marooned in the league below, and all efforts should now be concentrated on resolving that contradictory situation.

In a spirit of positivity, let’s look forward to renewing hostilities with Huddersfield and Barnsley next season. And, just to show there’s no petty bitterness in this blog – good luck to Aston Villa at Wembley.

Lampard Referred for Urgent Memory Tests After Forgetting Leeds Penalty Overrule – by Rob Atkinson

Lampard: memory issues?

Derby County manager Frank Lampard has become the focus of fears within professional football about what stress can do to the memory and mental faculties of even a relatively young man. The latest example of what are suspected to be short-term memory problems in Lampard arises from the overturned penalty in Derby’s first leg semi final play off tie against Leeds United at Pride Park. The ref awarded Derby a penalty, but the award was rescinded after the assistant referee pointed out that Leeds’ Jack Harrison had played the ball instead of fouling the Derby player Bogle.

Lampard was outraged afterwards, claiming that he’d never seen a linesman overrule a referee’s decision, and insisting that, even if it was technically no foul, the award should have stood. Worryingly, Lampard appears to have forgotten the game at Elland Road between Leeds and Derby in January, when Leeds were awarded an early penalty which was subsequently (and wrongly, as it turned out) overturned on assistant referee advice. The fact that Lampard has obviously forgotten this incident completely is a clear sign of memory loss in at least the shorter term, and justifies a level of concern about his mental fitness for a demanding job.

But the problem may not just be affecting poor Frank’s short term memory. Earlier this season, during the “Spygate” furore, Lampard stated unequivocally that he’d never known or been involved with such practices. He had clearly forgotten that, during his time at Chelsea, senior management figures had circumvented an FA ban by being in attendance, concealed in a laundry hamper. Lampard will have been fully aware of this at the time, but again, worryingly, has lost all memory of it.

The gravity of the situation now for Derby is that they must win at Elland Road against an injury-depleted Leeds in Wedneday’s second leg, so County fans must hope that, at the very least, Lampard can still remember his way there.

The memory problems cited must be genuine and therefore a cause for grave concern. The only other explanation would be that Lampard has been lying through his teeth in his protests about Leeds United, in the full awareness that he’s been a party to similar incidents in his favour – and that he is therefore a humbug and a double-dyed hypocrite.

And that surely can’t be true of media darling Frankie Lampard…. can it??

Derby Well Aware of How to Beat Leeds: Concede a Penalty, Go Down to Ten Men – by Rob Atkinson

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Genius Lampard, wondering how early to concede that penalty and go down to ten men

There are no flies on Derby County supercoach Frank Lampard. All season long, he’s been pointing out that anything Marcelo Bielsa can do, he can do at least as well, or even better. When Bielsa gave his Powerpoint presentation in the wake of Spygate, Lampard was swift to assure anyone who would listen that “we do that too”. And when Leeds United‘s coach earned plaudits for sportsmanship after insisting that Aston Villa be permitted to score an equaliser at Elland Road, Fearless Frank was there again, insisting that his team also stood back to let the opposition score, and pointing to the evidence of two league games against Leeds this season when they have politely conceded six goals in achieving zero points.

And now, it appears that the Lampard genius has identified the fatal weakness in the Elland Road psyche, whereby the Whites are quite incapable of avoiding defeat when the opposition concede a penalty and are reduced to ten men. Both Wigan and Ipswich have employed this crafty route to victory against Leeds, ridding themselves of their habitual uselessness to baffle the Whites into defeat. It’s a ploy that a man of Lampard’s ability will not have failed to note; stand by for a wild Richard Keogh swipe to bring down Kemar Roofe in the box as he bears down on goal early in the first leg at Pride Park. Red card, penalty – and it’ll be “job done”, as a certain former Rams manager might say.

I jest, of course. The thing is, though – in this crazy season, where the unlikely and the unimaginable have become the norm – something as daft as that could well happen. The only difference might be that it wouldn’t happen in Leeds’ favour. The Whites enter the playoffs at such a low ebb, you can’t help seeing your glass as half-empty, if not drained to the dregs.

Then again, they do say that the darkest hour is just before the dawn. It’s been a pretty dark, bleak month to finish off a dismal second half of the season, so the rosy glow of a new dawn for Leeds United might just be about to light up that far horizon, beyond which lies the Promised Land of the Premier League. You just never know.

Marching On Together!