Monthly Archives: July 2020

If You Love Leeds United, PLEASE Stay Away From Elland Road Tomorrow – by Rob Atkinson

Deserted Elland Road

A deserted Elland Road

It’s a real tragedy that fan participation is missing from the current euphoria surrounding Leeds United’s magnificent achievements this season. Sadly, though, this is the world we’re currently living in, our rights and privileges suspended for now by a nasty little virus (no comparison with Frank Lampard intended).

It’s clearly very tempting to defy the current protocols and just get out there to lead as normal a life as possible anyway, consequences be damned. You can see this everywhere you look, with packed beaches all over the place, apparently populated almost exclusively by compulsive litter bugs. But in these instances, only the generality of selfish idiots can be identified, so the focus of scorn and retribution is diffuse. That is not the case with tribal football celebrations, and most particularly not where the fans of Leeds United are concerned.

As ever, critical and unfriendly eyes will be on Leeds United, watching beadily for any chance to have a go at the club, or at its fans; there is the usual eagerness to drag the name of Yorkshire’s finest through the mud wherever possible. The next obvious opportunity to present itself is United’s final match of a triumphant season, at home to Charlton Athletic tomorrow. The game is not selected for live Sky coverage, as the remaining promotion issues will be settled elsewhere. But you can bet your mortgage that cameras aplenty will be focused on the roads and areas outside the stadium, hoping to record scenes that will drop Leeds, both club and city, right in it yet again.

It’s sadly inevitable that some will turn up, ill-advised and careless of consequences, still intoxicated on the heady wine of long-awaited success. It’s going to be a matter of scale – will it be an “understandable” turnout that can be condemned but lightly given the circumstances? Or will it be a massive breach of the safety measures in place, leading to public outrage and the usual suspects calling for United to be demoted to the National League Division 5? I hope for the former, but I fear the latter.

Please exercise your discretion tomorrow, always the better part of valour. Don’t be one of the people who turn up, selfishly disregarding the potential effect on the club. Stay away from Elland Road tomorrow, carry on your celebrations safely in your homes. If the worst case scenario pans out, we can expect neither understanding nor sympathy from those who are always champing at the bit to do us down. They’ll seize the day if we give them the chance, have no doubt about that. Don’t be one of the thoughtless ones who afford them that chance.

Remember: actions have consequences, and Leeds United rarely get away with anything. Stay home tomorrow, save your celebrations for the time when we can all celebrate without let or hindrance. It’ll feel just as good – and we won’t be risking sanctions for a great club emerging from dark times into the sunlit uplands of public approbation and the Premier League. You know it makes sense.

Marching On Together

Leeds MUST Now Beat Charlton to Help Barnsley, the Best Side to Visit Elland Road This Season – by Rob Atkinson

Paddy

Paddy Bamford wheels away after forcing the own goal that beat Barnsley 

Leeds United is once more a Premier League club. Having been promoted as Champions, much to the incredulous joy of our loyal and long-suffering fans, the season’s goals can fairly be said to have been achieved, or even surpassed. Last year, we’d have been delighted to have gone up via the play-offs at Wembley (although we all secretly know we just don’t do play-offs). This year, the resolve was there and explicitly made clear that we would not be dicking about with any end of season lotteries. The aim was automatic promotion, and in the end, that has been achieved with two games to spare. It has been a season of pride and achievement, one that we will all look back on as fondly as we do that campaign thirty years ago when Wilko’s Warriors stormed the citadels of the top flight.

All that being undeniably true, there might be those who feel that the last game of the season, against Charlton Athletic at Elland Road on Wednesday, is a dead rubber. We’re just going to have the Championship Trophy presented, see out the ninety minutes and make the most of such rest and recuperation as an abbreviated close season can offer.

But of course, with Leeds now being Marcelo Bielsa‘s United, it can’t be as simple and undemanding as that. Those weary lads will be required to go out there and achieve victory in their accustomed relentless style, as happened in a particularly satisfying manner as recently as yesterday at Derby County. And that’s just as it should be – but not only because it’s in the DNA of el Loco’s Leeds to finish on a high.

Cast your minds back to last week, and the Barnsley game at Elland Road. It was a vital match for both sides, and the nervous tension was palpable. The events of this last weekend make last Thursday seem a lifetime ago now, but the fact is that we were taken to the limit and beyond by a Barnsley side scrapping for survival. The Tykes pushed us all the way and made life exceedingly uncomfortable for a home side that had recently dismantled a Stoke team just coming off the back of a four goal thrashing of Barnsley. The sums should have added up to a comfortable passage for Leeds, but football isn’t like that, and Barnsley gave us a gruelling examination and one hell of a scare. They had no luck, Dame Fortune entirely ignored their plight, and they suffered a one goal defeat courtesy of putting the ball into their own net in the first half. Barnsley were massively hard done by; Leeds, for once, got the breaks, and we were on our way up into the Promised Land.

I can’t recall many matches like that Barnsley game. It was completely unenjoyable; even after the final whistle, the main feeling was of a slightly hollow relief that we’d somehow got the points. I was left somewhat bewildered and nauseous, the kind of feeling you have when you manage to walk away unscathed from a car accident or some similar mishap. And of course, it was even worse for Barnsley fans, who didn’t even have that sense of relief and having got away with something. All they could do was to take the positives from what had been an excellent performance, and vow to grab the campaign’s remaining points in the hope that would keep them in the Championship for next season.

That vow was half-fulfilled yesterday as the Reds of Barnsley felled the Tricky Trees of Nottingham Forest with a late, late winner at Oakwell, to keep those flickering hopes alive. Now, they must go and win at Brentford, against a side still smarting from the defeat at Stoke which confirmed Leeds as Champions and handed back the advantage to West Brom in the race for that second auto spot. It’s a big, big ask for Barnsley, but surely not beyond them, if they can match the performance they put in at Elland Road, where they were, in my view and that of many others, the best visiting side Leeds have played this season.

If Barnsley were to win at Brentford, they’d still need other results to go their way, and that’s where we can help, by beating Charlton Athletic and giving our worthy opponents of last week some sort of chance. Various disciplinary issues involving the likes of Wigan, Sheffield Wednesday and even Derby County, could yet change to landscape of the Championship’s lower half. But Barnsley can’t and won’t rely on that – they will be focused on winning at Brentford, and hoping that others can do them the favours they need against their immediate rivals. Let’s hope that Leeds United can provide that helping hand and help save the Tykes. Sorry, Lee Bowyer, thou good and faithful servant of yesteryear, because this might seem rather churlish. But it really is the least we can hope to do for the fellow Yorkshire club that pushed us all the way on that nervy Elland Road evening of last week.

Marching On Together 

Leeds United Celebrate Not Dicking Around With Playoffs, as Promotion is Sealed With Two Games to Spare – by Rob Atkinson

I make no apology to Sky Sports for nicking their “Leeds Promoted” image above. They owe us, I feel, for their snide and needless overlay of “Leeds Are Falling Apart Again” during their live lockdown coverage of a recent home game. Ultimately, Sky were wrong about the falling apart thing, as United clinched automatic promotion and the Championship Title, with two games to spare. A more apt motif for this season would be Angus Kinnear’s remark to the effect that we wouldn’t be dicking about with playoffs this season, and so we didn’t. Other teams have that nightmare before them, and they’re welcome to it.

Thanks go to Huddersfield and Stoke, both of which clubs I love very much, for making this weekend a riot of celebration and alcohol-based dissolution. You’ve been as wonderful for my spiritual well-being as you’ve been disastrous for my short term health; on balance, I’m deeply grateful.

All I need to do now is to add “As Championship Champions” to the above image, by dint of some PhotoShop type wizardry which is currently beyond me due to the effects of grain and grape. But I can do all that when I sober up, maybe sometime toward mid-August. In the meantime, I love all of you too, you’re my best mates, honest you are, salt of the earth to the very last Jack & Jill of you. Hic!!

Marching On Together

Leeds Legend Big Jack Attacked by Former York Mayor the Day After Passing Away – by Rob Atkinson

York Councillor Dave Taylor (Green Party)

I’ve never been fond of the whole huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ scene myself, not have I ever been enamoured of blood sports – it seems perverse to me that entertainment should be had at the expense of some poor creature’s life. Still, it takes all sorts and, like most people, I tend to afford my sporting heroes a bit of latitude where their tastes differ from my own. Thus, I never had any problem with Vinnie Jones, who is frequently to be found at the less harmful end of a gun as he pursues his countryside recreation. It’s just one of those things I file under inexplicable, and move on, minding my own business.

Another Leeds United legend who enjoyed a spot of sporting mayhem was Jack Charlton, lost to us at 85 on Friday after a long illness. Big Jack was beloved by many for his extraordinary contribution to the football world as player, club manager, international manager and as a pungent pundit who was never at a loss for a bon mot or two. He was larger than life, massively successful, utterly likeable and revered accordingly. It’s certainly not for me to pick faults with a man of that stature and a legend in the history of the club I love.

However, there’s always the odd person who is willing – nay, eager – to abandon any such scruples and weigh in on the attack even against a beloved public figure, just as soon as they are safely dead and unable to defend themselves or retaliate. In the case of York councillor and former City Mayor Dave Taylor, we’re talking about a very odd person indeed, with a particularly lousy sense of timing. Councillor Taylor chose to bray his delight at the news of Big Jack’s passing, barely 24 hours after that sad event. For a person in public life to put into print on social media such very tasteless comments as Taylor did must surely indicate supreme self-confidence or profoundly arrogant stupidity. I offer no verdict on that point, beyond noting that the offending Facebook status was removed when poor Dave became aware he’d upset folk with his crass comments.

Sadly for those of a reckless demeanour and possessed of mouths that flap without brain being engaged, nothing ever disappears from the Internet, and Taylor’s unwise and tasteless remarks are quite easy for anyone to find. I shall not reproduce them here, I wouldn’t wish to sully this blog with such crass idiocy and, after all, the necessary details are indelibly out there. Suffice to say that the initial remark was along the lines of I hear Jack Charlton is dead. Good – later toned down to some weasel words about having no sympathy and finally deleted altogether. But it may be that some of Jack’s legions of fans and friends will choose to pursue and harry Councillor Taylor, who might well pay the price so many public figures pay when they choose to chelp not wisely, but too well. And there’d be some justice in that, along with maybe some comfort for those appalled by Taylor’s sheer lack of taste and respect. Who knows? The Green Party are unlikely to welcome the publicity that their York councillor is attracting, and they will have a decision to make as to what, if any, disciplinary action is appropriate.

Councillor Taylor, pictured above, looks like the kind of chap who seeks and welcomes attention. But it seems that, in the matter of his attack on the late and deeply lamented Jack Charlton, he may already be regretting the attention he’s attracted. He might just have bitten off more than he can chew. I do hope so.

Marching On Together

Are Leeds Haters Derby County About to Do Bielsa’s Boys TWO Massive Favours? – by Rob Atkinson

                            Derby County love to hate Leeds United

There’s no better motivation than self-interest so, while you’d never normally expect Derby County to be caught doing any good turns for Leeds United, the Rams’ next two fixtures present exactly that possibility.

The fact is that, if Derby’s season is to bear any fruit at all, then they will have to win points from games at West Bromwich Albion and at home to Brentford. From a Leeds United point of view, draws in those two fixtures would be almost as valuable as Derby victories – always supposing that the Whites do their bit and dispose of Stoke and Swansea. But, for their own aspirational reasons, Derby will need to go for the wins. Ambition is all, and the Rams, along with their bitterly Leeds-phobic support, will reluctantly set aside their morbid fear of doing United a favour, if the upshot is that they once more end up in the play-offs.

Derby’s rancid hatred of Leeds has always puzzled me slightly, with a tinge of amusement in there too. It’s largely a one-way affair, though last season’s play off debacle hardly warmed the cockles of United hearts as far as our view of those sheepish rivals was concerned. Possibly, quite probably, the animosity towards Leeds is down to the Brian Clough factor, as is so much else in the tripartite history of Leeds, Derby and Nottingham Forest. In those latter two footballing communities, Clough is revered as a god; Derby and Nottingham sometimes forget to hate each other in their shared adoration of Old Big ‘Ed. But Clough’s Brief tenure at Elland Road exposed the fact that, without his significant other Peter Taylor, Cloughie hardly emerges from the ranks of the ordinary. Unlike legends such as Revie, Shankly and Busby, who stood alone with their assistants in the background, Clough and Taylor were much more interdependent, the whole being rather more than the sum of the two parts. Maybe it was this exposure of their idol as being stood upon feet of clay that both East Midlands clubs find it impossible to forget or forgive.

Whatever the causes and history, Derby County, the club and its supporters alike, have cordially hated Leeds United for decades now. So how ironic would it be, a year on from that freaky, fluky night at Elland Road that saw last season expire in a White haze of misery, if it now fell to the Rams to butt our two main rivals out of our path, leaving the road to glory clear before us? Irony probably doesn’t do it justice, this would be Schadenfreude as cold and sweet as a classic Riesling, leaving a tingling aftertaste to thrill the jaded palate of any Leeds fan.

The cherry on the icing on the top of the cake, though, would be the chance to clinch promotion or even the Championship title itself on Derby’s home soil, administering that ungrateful serpent’s bite in the wake of the Rams having given us a reluctant leg up. Or is that simply too much to ask? Possibly it is, but a bit of gluttony for glory is understandable right now.

It all starts later this afternoon, with Derby’s visit to WBA. They should be fired up and ready to do or die. For once in a very long while, the blog wishes them the very best of luck, and a solid victory to build on with Brentford next in their sights. Come on you Rams!

Marching On Together