Football has-been Jamie O’Hara, best known for being sacked by non-league Billericay Town, is now employed by a down-market radio station that survives by trying to provoke fans to call in by making “controversial” statements. O’Hara now appears to have outdone himself in the irony alert stakes, with his latest desperate attempt to entice Leeds fans to call in to his lame show and have a go at Marcelo Bielsa, a world class coach he coveted for Tottenham Hotspur only last season.
35 year old O’Hara’s amateurish attempts at being controversial are cringeworthy enough, given a failed non-league appointment being the main item on his CV, but it’s even more ridiculous that he applies the word embarrassing to a Premier League club widely praised by genuine football experts, when he himself was found guilty of punching a 14 year old boy in 2017. The then 31 year old football failure lashed out after what the boy later described as a “handshake prank” – presumably O’Hara was nettled by his team’s defeat, although losing is hardly a novelty for him over the course of a less than sparkling career.
You have to admit that O’Hara has a pretty thick skin, and virtually zero self-awareness – that’s the only conclusion you can reasonably draw when a failed footballer and confirmed child-beater presumes to criticise a major football club and an international legend like Bielsa. Now that is embarrassing. Or maybe he’s simply stupid? You decide.
In this so far troubled season, it was always likely that Leeds would become a target for pundits, who are usually ex-pros who have never made any secret of their dislike for Yorkshire’s finest. So O’Hara’s brainless drivel is hardly a surprise – but the least that Leeds, and Bielsa, deserve is a better class of troll.
Nobody should find themselves under attack by a nonentity like Jamie O’Hara, least of all a club of global fame like Leeds United. That’s like a rat attacking a lion, and a past-it and toothless rat at that.
I have to admit that I’m getting more and more vexed with a section of Leeds United’s online “support”. I use the word “support” there in its loosest possible sense, as there is usually very little in the attitude of these people (or trolls, or fakes, depending on how clearly you can see behind the facade) to suggest that they have the best interests of United at heart.
The current target of this tragic tribe appears to be Tyler Roberts – a regular Welsh international and Leeds United’s Player Ambassador for Equality and Diversity. Tyler is 22 years old, a salient fact to which we shall return later. In the meantime, though, let’s just consider the fact of what has become an online campaign of abuse and negativity, against a broader background of what we mean when we talk about “supporters”.
The sad truth is that, these days, there needs only be an official LUFC tweet confirming that Tyler is in the starting line-up (or maybe even only a substitute role) to start a negativity bandwagon rolling, with many opportunistic whingers falling over each other in their eagerness to jump aboard. This is a social media phenomenon, let’s not forget, the tendency of the lonely and inadequate among us to join in the pillorying of a hapless target, particularly one who cannot answer back. It’s despicable, of course, and anathema to those who know what support is all about, with the positive effect good support can have upon a young player who needs the odd confidence boost here and there.
Social media is, let’s face it, an absolute gift to cowards everywhere, to the type of people who would never say boo to the proverbial goose, yet are emboldened by the anonymity afforded them behind their computer keyboards, and feel able to enter the market for lols and likes, that currency common to those tragically unable to show any merit in their own sorry existences, and who instead thrive on the hollow approval of kindred spirits who are similarly afflicted.
It was a case in point today. The official Leeds United Facebook account carried the story of young Tyler’s appointment as Player Ambassador for Equality and Diversity, a positive news item in these troubled times – or so you’d have thought. But no, it swiftly turned into a parade of what I earnestly hope were fake United fans, each competing with the one before to appear the cruellest and most dismissive, hoping to gain the approval of their fellow trolls. Most of these specimens probably don’t know one end of a football from another, and maybe therein lies their problem – it must rankle with these inadequates that the likes of Roberts will have far more talent in their little fingers than the trolls collectively could ever dream of. But they don’t stop to think of how they might thus appear to proper Leeds supporters. It’s all about lols and likes for them, because they simply crave the approval of – well, anyone really.
As if it really mattered, any Leeds fan with even an inkling of insight and football knowledge can see that Tyler Roberts is a very talented young man; one who, if properly coached with his latent ability sufficiently nurtured, has the potential to become an effective top-flight and international footballer. And it doesn’t really matter, on the face of it, as Roberts has the evident approval of the only man who really does matter, one Marcelo Bielsa. Against that, it is futile to argue – though of course the trolls will still try – those lols and likes aren’t going to just fall into their laptops, you know. Sadly, every coward needs a scapegoat who can’t strike back and, in that respect, Tyler is a credible target for them. And they won’t care that he’s only 22. For yer average cowardly troll, the younger the better – as it’s the youngsters, generally speaking, whose confidence can most easily be knocked, which is the Holy Grail for cowards, fakes and trolls.
Tyler Roberts is very young, as previously stated. It’s his tragedy that this puts him in the crosshairs of those who like to snipe from deep cover with no possibility of consequences. And, seemingly, it’s Leeds United’s tragedy that they have so many such creatures among their largely blameless and authentic online support. Still, it’s a significant and vociferous, if repellent, minority – and several Leeds players over the last year or so have confirmed that this sort of criticism, brainless and unqualified though it may be, does affect confidence. And that is detrimental to individual and team performance, whether or not you care to believe it.
Tyler Roberts has years ahead of him to fulfil that undoubted potential and become an integral cog in an effective Leeds United machine. This blog sincerely hopes that he will achieve that; if he does, it will be very much in spite of these clueless trolls. It’s worth considering that, when Harry Kane was just a year or so younger than Tyler Roberts is now, he was on loan at Leicester City, and not pulling up too many trees. I saw him playing for the Foxes in a sensational play-off semi-final defeat to Watford, and he didn’t particularly catch the eye. But he was young, and his greatness was ahead of him.
I’m not saying that Tyler Roberts will go on to emulate Harry Kane, who is a fabulous player – but Tyler too is young, and he will only get better, especially under the guidance of Bielsa. Whether he’ll be able to rise above the catcalls of the online, anonymous mob is a question yet to be answered; he’ll have to find and count on an inner core of strength that will allow him to mature into a consistent performer who lives up to the promise those flashes of brilliance so clearly reveal. Fingers crossed on that one. Trolls and fakes aside, every Leeds fan should be a Tyler Roberts supporter, gladly offering the encouragement every young, talented player needs. If we can do that, we’ll all reap the rewards.
Well, all but the cowardly, anonymous minority, that is.
Brace yourselves, fellow Whites. United now have a proven world class talent on their hands in the shape of Raphinha, bought at the bargain price of only £17m from Rennes just over a year ago – and now, some are saying that the bidding for Raph’s services would have to start at over five times that amount.
Look at the evidence. Yes, it’s been just two sub appearances so far in the famous Brazilian shirt for the Leeds star – but in those two cameos, Raphinha has made a stunning impression. There were rumours that Colombia’s left back required treatment for twisted blood after the chastening experience of being given the Raph Runaround last night, and many fans of the many times World Champions are demanding his inclusion as a starter, having observed the electrifying effect of the United man on the Verde-Amarela performances these past couple of games.
The fact is, you don’t get anywhere near the Brazilian squad if you’re some mug (unless your name is Fred) – and Raphinha now seems set to become a legend even in that exalted company. So, it seems certain that speculation will be rife over the next couple of transfer windows, with the avowed intent of various media outlets and pundits being quite clear: get Raphinha out of Leeds as soon as possible. Because, let’s face it, they just can’t abide us having nice things.
Even some Leeds fans on Twitter and other such social media platforms are openly conceding that we’re not going to be able to enjoy the spectacle of Raphinha in a White shirt for too much longer. That may even be borne out by events over the next year or so (though this blog considers it treason to say so). It’s a situation we’ve come up against in the past, and it was exacerbated then as it is now by the fact that the media and the usual suspects in the dingy ranks of washed-up ex-player punditry do not like Leeds United to have their very own world stars. They don’t like it one little bit, and so, whenever we do end up with a star in our squad, the campaign begins, urgently to talk up his move to one of the media darling clubs.
Sadly (and illegally, but don’t expect any justice to be meted out) these media campaigns are usually accompanied by what is known as “tapping up” – indirect, illicit and informal overtures made by covetous clubs, or by members of said club’s playing staff, towards the player being targeted. It happened with Rio Ferdinand during the 2002 World Cup, when members of the England squad attached to a certain club west of the Pennines which draws its support largely from Devon, did their level best to turn young Rio’s head. It worked, too – though the parlous financial predicament then afflicting Leeds United also played its part.
Yorkshire’s premier club is on a rather more even fiscal keel nowadays, but the Pride of Devon does not like to take no for an answer, and will expect its mates in the media to spin a possible transfer for all its worth. Apparently, they can also rely on their current player Bruno Fernandes to exploit his friendship with Raphinha in an attempt to soften up Brazil’s latest star. “I miss Raphinha,”sobbed Ole’s protégé the other day, taking out an onion. As we well know, the denizens of Old Toilet are not above this sort of skullduggery, in very much the same way that the sea is not above the clouds.
Annoyingly, once the media has decided that such-and-such a player is too good for Leeds (and we currently have at least two in this category with Kalvin Phillips also on the hit list), then we can expect a constant drip, drip of rumour, fabrication and propaganda, all aimed at achieving the outcome of winkling another diamond away from us. It’s an increasingly prevalent factor in modern football, though as I’ve said, it’s hardly a novelty for us Leeds fans. And, of course, as fans, there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it (other than share this and other like-minded blogs, naturally).
It’s the way of the world, sadly, and we just have to count ourselves lucky that we don’t follow an arrogant, complacent, entitled plutocrat European Super League wannabe club like some I could mention. We can also hold out a bit more hope these days, given the nature of the people currently in charge at Elland Road, that maybe we won’t simply roll over and give in when the media campaign ramps up, and the moneybags clubs start to agitate for the jewels in our crown. There does seem to be a defiance about Leeds these days, an authentic identity and a sense that we’re going places ourselves, instead of providing the means whereby others succeed. We must hope so, not only in the interests of Leeds United, but for other similar clubs – the likes of Villa, West Ham and Everton – who never know whether they stand to be abandoned, exploited, or both by the nefarious and untrustworthy ESL mob.
Good luck to Raphinha, and to our Kalvin. May they prosper and find success – hopefully with Leeds United. But, if their destiny does lay elsewhere, then let it not be elsewhere in the Premier League – and may the realisation of that destiny be sold for an eye-wateringly high price by our newly savvy club. One way, or the other, we simply have to prioritise our own interests, instead of assisting rivals as they twist the knife in our back. These days, I’m more confident that this is how it shall be.
What did we learn from Leeds United’s overdue first victory of this 2021-22 Premier League season? Not much, to be honest, that we didn’t already know. United made hard work of carving out a narrow win against a truly appalling Watford side who you’d have to say would have great difficulty scoring in the proverbial red light establishment. On this evidence, Watford are a good bet for relegation, whereas Leeds can thank their lucky stars that there are probably two or three clubs of around the same standard as the hopeless Hornets, which should see the relegation places spoken for, with United surviving for at least another season.
Anyone seeking an explanation of Leeds United’s mediocrity need look no further than the departure of legends Pablo Hernandez and Ezgjan Alioski. These two were the creative force behind the Whites’ successful Championship campaign of 2019/20, as well as their unexpectedly comfortable first season back at elite level. With their departures Leeds have lost two major talents who have not been successfully replaced. This regrettable fact also gives the lie to those who have hyped up the debatable talents of KP and Raphinha, who may now both safely be described as flash in the pan-types who should not be the subject of the recent fevered transfer speculation. The truth is, neither of these players would distinguish himself at a top six club, and the movers and shakers at Anfield, Old Trafford etc should get real and look elsewhere.
Far be it from me to second-guess the experts in the media, but it seems to me that, in talking up the “Phillips for Devon” stories, they are threatening to encourage Manchester’s second club towards yet another in a long series of disastrous purchases going back as far as Gary Birtles, and culminating in them having had their pants pulled down when Jadon Sancho was foisted upon them for a ridiculous amount of money. Neither am I in the habit of helping them avoid self inflicted misery, but it’d be cruelty to dumb animals not to warn them off the hapless Kalvin Phillips. So they should perhaps consider themselves warned, for their own good – with a similar cautionary note heading to Anfield, regarding the Brazilian in nationality only misfiring performer that is Raphinha.
I’m trying to be helpful here, to two Lancastrian clubs who clearly need some common sense advice. So pay heed, and steer well clear – you know it makes sense.