Monthly Archives: May 2021

Leeds United’s Premier League Return Has Been a MASSIVE Disappointment (To all But Those Who Matter) – by Rob Atkinson

God

At the start of the Premier League campaign so recently completed, one of the big issues for discussion and debate was: how will Leeds United, 16 years exiled from the elite, fare on their long-delayed return? The battle lines were drawn, with Leeds haters, wishful thinkers, embittered ex-pros and various other pond life on one side – and Those Who Matter on the other.

The views were starkly polarised. For the various factions who, for one reason or another, wished Yorkshire’s only giant club nothing but misery, there was a fairly unanimous feeling that United’s tenure in the top flight would last for three seasons: autumn, winter and spring. The predicted final tables from back then make for amusing reading now, with Leeds appearing in many forecast bottom threes and with the likes of the previous season’s miracle club Sheffield Utd going from strength to strength.

My own forays into social media at this time were seen as baselessly optimistic, bordering on drug-fuelled delusion. One Arsenal fan of tender years, and even tenderer grey matter, could not believe that I refused to accept United’s inevitable fate with meek submissiveness. The poor lad got quite hot under the collar at my refusal to acquiesce, and eventually blocked me in a fit of outraged pique, promising to re-establish contact around Easter, when our fate was sealed. Still waiting on that one.

Then there was the Brighton fan who was so sure that we’d zero chance of survival without Ben White, condescendingly explaining as if to a child that sadly no deal was possible as we’d be direct rivals in the struggle against the drop. Haven’t heard from him lately, either.

On the other side of the coin, the optimism and positivity that characterised the online output of many prolific Leeds writers must have seemed mere bravado to the uninitiated. But we’d just witnessed two miraculous seasons in the Championship during which we’d proved we were the best outside the game’s elite. In the first season, we suffered a late attack of stage fright, and failed to get over the line – but in the second, we walked the league by ten points, to a background of wailing, gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair from the anti-Leeds fraternity who were witnessing their worst nightmare come true. They’d forecast another late season blow up and the departure of Marcelo Bielsa back to the Argentine, tail between legs. But we knew better – we knew that Bielsa is God incarnate, brought to God’s own county to return the chosen people to the Promised Land. So mote it be.

And thus it has come to pass, with yet more amusement in store for us as the haters refused to let the evidence of their own eyes divert them from their predictions of misery falling upon Elland Road. Karen Carney brought the undeserved ridicule of unreconstructed misogynists down upon the heads of female football pundits, with her silly theory that Leeds’s promotion was down to the COVID break. But this was never about gender – male pundits game out with theories just as daft if not dafter, proclaiming that Bielsa was a myth (Gabby “Gobby” Agbonlahor) and other exercises in mental frailty and lack of perspicacity from the likes of Andy Hinchliffe, Kris Boyd et al.

Overall, opinion has remained polarised. There was early encouragement for the nay-sayers when results were poor during a spell where Leeds were deprived by injury of the international defenders they’d signed in lieu of poor Ben White. That chorus of “we told you so” turned sulkily quiet with the emergence of Pascal Strujik and the recovery of Diego Llorente. Since those two were deployed in harness, United’s defensive performance has improved markedly, with Sky’s beloved graphic highlighting Leeds’s weakness from set pieces becoming more redundant with every passing week.

In the last ten games of the season (over a quarter of the campaign, let’s not forget), Leeds were second only to a resurgent not to say desperate Liverpool in the form table, and came within a short head of challenging for some form of European qualification – a “failure” which may well turn out to be a blessing in disguise. But that late season charge, unaided by any COVID break (sorry, Karen) has surely dispelled another myth beloved of Leeds-haters, the oft-mooted “Bielsa Burnout”. Sorry, lads (and lasses), but – like so many of your pet theories – the burnout was just so much pie in the sky, meaning you’ve had to gorge on the humble variety instead.

So, what of the future? Inevitably, there will be departures, and we’ve already bid a tearful farewell to two of our favourite sons in the Lion and the Magician. Thank you, thank you to Gaetano and Pablo, your legend status is secure and you’ll never be forgotten. Success elsewhere, lads, but you’ll always be welcome home anytime. There will inevitably be additions over the summer, and we’ve learned to trust the judgement and acumen of Victor Orta. He won’t let us down – and of course Marcelo Bielsa, or “God” as he’s fondly known hereabouts, will continue the biggest and best project of his incredible life.

I foresee more progress, a clear path ahead to establishment as a giant amongst the elites as Marcelo continues to build his legacy, and not least of all, more bitter disappointment for those whose happiness is entirely dependent on Leeds failing and falling. Let it be.

Marching On Together

Let’s Not Have England’s Best Interests Get in the Way of Hating Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Lord Bamford

I will say here and now that there is very little chance of England winning the delayed Euro ’20 tournament being held this summer. I hope I’m wrong about this, after all, I was nobbut five years old when the Three Lions actually won owt, and it’s become increasingly clear over the intervening decades that the chances of it happening again while I remain above ground to see it are slim and dwindling towards non-existent.

That’s not to say we don’t have a fine crop of players – we do. Yet that’s been equally true in the past, but we’ve always somehow contrived to fall short each and every time. I expect this depressing trend to continue from next month onward to the climax of the event on my 60th birthday.

The reason for my pessimism is best summed up thus; the football establishment in this country hates Leeds United, and that hatred is to the fore whenever decisions are being made that could perhaps reflect some credit on the Elland Road pariahs. The latest example is the frankly ridiculous choices made today regarding the England squad’s offensive depth. As ever, the claims of Patrick Bamford have been overlooked – despite the fact that he’s just enjoyed an outrageously productive Premier League season during which he has scored 17 goals, provided his share of assists, been victimised by VAR, run the gonads off some of the best defenders in the best league in the world, and has generally shown himself to be the nearest thing to Harry Kane that would potentially be available to England in the unfortunate circumstance of the boy Harry doing himself an unthinkable mischief.

I would say that, of course – I’m a Leeds United fan and I wear my yellow, white and blue blinkers accordingly. But it’s a view held outside the fold as well. One caller in to one of the football chat stations earlier today voiced the identical opinion – Bamford is the best Plan B we have should England find themselves Kaneless and bereft. And this was a Leicester City fan, doubtless still traumatised by Paddy’s world class finish at the King Power stadium a few months back, to go alongside his two assists in that 3-1 Leeds victory. But, regardless of what Bamford brings to the table, Mr. Southgate has opted to do without – a decision I feel will come back to haunt him. And I reiterate: I hope I’m wrong.

If anyone can explain to me a rationale behind the decision to exclude Paddy that doesn’t amount to bog-standard Leeds-hating, then I’d be very interested to hear it. Yes, I know our Kalvin has been selected – and I hope that he will recover from his worrying shoulder injury in time to play his part for the nation. Even so, the stirrings in the sewer end of the Press are currently to the effect that, with Rice and possibly Henderson available, Kalvin may just be superfluous. This despite the fact that the lad hasn’t put a foot wrong for England, even though he’s been used in a role far different from the one that’s allowed him to be the prime mover for Leeds. So I won’t hold my breath expecting Kalvin to enjoy England glory this summer.

On the face of it, Lord Bamford‘s exclusion from the squad defies all logic and reason and, in his place, I’d be distinctly miffed. And yet we may take some consolation from the fact that our aristocratic striker will benefit greatly from some rest over the summer, and will certainly be motivated by his exclusion to do even better for Leeds next time around.

There’s a case to be made too for Jack Harrison, who must surely have felt that he’d played himself to within an ace of England recognition. But the same problem presents itself – he’s just too Leeds. And for as long as the powers that be in the England setup continue to show a willingness to cut off their noses just to spite their smug faces, then our consistent record of failure over the past 55 years is likely to continue being extended into the forseeable future. And that’s a great shame.

Marching On Together

Leeds v Spurs: A View From the Oppo – by Ryan Curtis

El Loco

You lot really do big up Bielsa, don’t you?

The first game between our teams at our place played so much into our hands, space everywhere and avoidable mistakes meant our best players Kane and Son had a field day.

Fair enough the man at the helm has taken you guys into the Premier League and sustained you but this is Leeds United, you’ve spent a few quid, this should be fairly normal right?

The media do it too. When you were pumped by Manchester United away in an awful display they’re pining over the “open game” and how it’s always great to watch Leeds, anyone else and they’re just saying it’s awful defending.

And yet despite all of that, I’m jealous of you guys.

Not of the players, nor the style of play or even the performances but the simple fact your club have a manager seemingly with fine principles outside of football, given him stability, time and a proper influence over the club and unsurprisingly players buy into it.

Just from watching the respective Amazon docs on our two clubs, even despite friendly edits, you get the feeling the two ownerships are chalk and cheese. Your lot seem to be passionate football fans as opposed to Levy who definitely got picked last in the playground.

Now given the power he never had at school he wields it hiring and firing managers, creating no real footballing plan and worst of all signing us up to the greed ridden European Super Club without a whisper to fans.

For all the ‘Dirty Leeds’ stick you guys get I’ve always thought of you as a proper football club with proper football fans and I’ve seen the emotional rollercoaster in my Leeds pals over the years… often a rollercoaster that was just broken, or about to crash!

So it’s good to see you back, a proper club, with proper history and everything this Super League went against.

I feel even closer to Leeds for personal reasons recently as I sadly lost a pal of mine Jatinder. A proper Leeds lad and a massive fan. We’d have conversations over a few beers about the plight of Leeds and like you lot he was buzzing to see where you are now.

In these times we had to watch the funeral by online stream with part of it at Elland Road where his family hung a scarf and a picture on the Billy Bremner statue and all the staff came out to pay their respects, I thought that was a touch of class from the club.

I’m sure if Jit was around today we’d have struck a deal over a Guinness saying we don’t mind too much if Leeds have another defensive howler on Saturday as Spurs need the points more and perhaps it knocks Chelsea out of Europe which we’d both agree is a good thing.

Leeds can win all the other games, will have had a great season and are going in the right direction, and more importantly from what I’ve seen the soul of the club is very evident.

The same can’t be said for us.

A few more clubs like us could do with Marching On Together.

By Ryan Curtis

Spurs For Life