Category Archives: Football

Leeds United’s Century of Yellow and Red Cards Suggests Corruption in High Places – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United are officially the filthiest team in Premier League history. That’s a matter of record – we’re the first EPL club to record a century of combined yellow and red cards over a season, with still two games to go. However, it’s a statistic that may well surprise some observers of the game – well, at any rate, those who aren’t inclined to parrot “dirty Leeds, dirty Leeds” at every opportunity. After all, for most of this season, Leeds have had Marcelo Bielsa, of blessed memory, in charge – and he’s hardly an advocate of clogging. Something stinks here – and it’s not the away dressing room floor, as Derby County are no longer on our radar.

Leeds Boss Jesse Marsch: Should United Keep, or Replace Him? – by Rob Atkinson

Jesse – retain, or dismiss?

In the wake of an inept, abject home defeat to Chelsea, it’s looking ever more likely that United will be back in the Championship next time around, and whatever your opinion on the late-season replacement of Marcelo Bielsa by Jesse Marsch, in this blog’s opinion it is far more important at this juncture to look forward than back.

This is not about blame or recrimination. It’s not even about whether, in the end, Leeds actually do end up relegated. It’s simply a matter of stick or twist – given the nature of the performances, would we be better off sticking with the likeable but untried in English football Marsch, or should we be looking at a specialist in restoring fortunes, whether that be a proven promotion winner, or a man able to keep an ailing club away from a relegation scrap.

That being the case, I’m just going to seek answers to the binary choice of keeping or sacking Jesse Marsch. Opinions as to who, if anyone, should replace him are also welcome in the comments.

At this point in mind, I must admit I’m a bit numb, and not sure of the answer to my own question. Perhaps I’m still traumatised by the brutal expulsion of Marcelo, or “God”, as I like to refer to him. I know for a fact that many Leeds fans are still grieving.

So, I’ll just leave it at the simple question of whether Marsch should stay or go. I’m not even bothering with a poll. My fellow sufferers – it’s over to you.

Marching On Together

The Cowardly Tyler Roberts Bashers Simply Cannot Claim to be Genuine Leeds Fans – by Rob Atkinson

Tyler Roberts – frequent target of fakes, bullies and cowards

Let’s start by stating the obvious, an undeniable fact that makes everything else I shall say utterly undeniable. Football support is about getting behind your club, your team and the players who wear the shirt. It’s about encouragement, not destructive abuse. It’s about stoking the confidence of those young men who wear our badge with pride and passion – it’s not about demoralising them to the point where their confidence is shattered, and they would rather wear s different badge. Support is backing, not bullying. It’s about love, not hate. It’s important to understand and accept this.

Clearly, in order to maintain their cover, the fakes themselves can’t be seen to accept it. So they carry on tediously launching into their weekly attack on Tyler Roberts, a young man whose talent far exceeds anything the amateur critics could dream of possessing – and who, incidentally, cannot hit back. So he has to just take the moronic abuse, and deal with the inevitable effect on his confidence. But he should be aware – these abusers and bullies are NOT true Leeds fans, no matter how they might rant on about having followed the club for x years. They’re fake fans, they infest social media not to support the club, but to bully and harangue their target. That much is undeniable fact, however much those who love being bullies might try to argue the point. They’re on very shaky ground; they are bang to rights as confirmed fake Leeds United “supporters”.

The very fact that the fakes get so upset about being labelled fakes is instructive in itself. They will cling to their fake support of Leeds come what may, in the face of compelling evidence that they have no feeling for the club. I happened across one the other day who referred to Marcelo Bielsa as “a fat Argie loser”. That’d get him a black eye if repeated in the hearing of sections of the Elland Road crowd, but of course he’s never to be found anywhere near LS11. And another informed me that Tyler Roberts is “the worst player ever to pull on the Leeds shirt”. The ridiculousness of that simply defies description. But that’s how fake fans, being a bit tragic, simple and over-eager, tend to give themselves away.

Some of these freaks defend themselves with “This is my opinion, am I not entitled to my opinion?“. Of course you are, stupid and offensive though it might be. That’s the nature of freedom, but freedom cuts both ways. Having heard a fake spout arrant nonsense in his or her eagerness to attack Leeds United by bullying one or more young men who have no right of reply, I am equally entitled to express my opinion, which is that such conduct identifies the prat concerned as a fake fan and no kind of Leeds supporter.

It all comes down to that. If you identify as a Leeds United supporter, then support Leeds United, the club and those who wear the colours on the pitch. Failure to do that will lead to you being identified as a fake fan, however much that might make you squeal in piteous protest. You can’t be a genuine supporter without supporting, simples. Just accept that – or head off to some other club with which, just maybe, you’ll have more affinity.

Marching On Together

As Leeds Fans Mourn Bielsa, The S*n Brands Revie’s Boys “Team of Brawlers” – by Rob Atkinson

Super Leeds.

The other day, still reeling from the loss of my latest and probably last Leeds United hero, Marcelo Bielsa, I was indulging in some gastronomic therapy in a cafe in Horbury, as I waited for Mrs. Rob to have her hair appropriately marcelled at the local salon. As I tucked into my sausage butties, I noticed a copy of Rupert Murdoch’s withered and flaccid organ on the next table, saw that it had a story about new United manager Jesse Marsch, and thought I’d have a quick and free read – as, obviously, nobody actually buys this degraded gutter rag.

I really should have known better, shouldn’t I. The piece was written (scrawled in crayon) by a hack with the unlikely name of Oscar Paul, clearly a graduate of the scumbag school of “journalism”. Swiftly bored with the task of covering the Marsch story, and aware that United’s army of fans were already hurting over the traumatic loss of Marcelo Bielsa, ‘Orrible Oscar was clearly looking for a chance to smear a Leeds legend, preferably one who had passed away and couldn’t hit back. That’s the way of things at the Super Soaraway S*n after all – find and exploit a hapless victim for the pursuit of its own disgusting agenda. Murdoch’s base bogroll has form for this going way back, as those who remember its disgraceful lies in the wake of Hillsborough will be all too well aware.

In the article I was idly perusing, the calumny was of a lesser order than the Hillsborough lies, but nonetheless gratuitously offensive and untimely for that. Stretching for a legend’s memory to daub with his masters’ own particularly noisome brand of excrement, this moronic S*n hack decided that a random reference to Leeds icon Don Revie was just what he needed, and wielded his crayon accordingly: “such is the influence Ralph Rangnick has had on (Marsch), do not expect a team of brawlers like Don Revie’s”. There. Job done, and Oscar must have been hugging himself with glee, having brown-nosed the current boss at the Pride of Devon, while simultaneously if ungrammatically dancing on Revie’s grave. It doesn’t get any better than that for an ambitious if illiterate Murdoch scribbler, surely promotion into the front ranks would follow.

Let’s consider the team that Oscar was scribbling his rubbish about – the likes of Eddie Gray and Paul Madeley having their illustrious names blackened, despite their singular lack of any inclination to “brawl”. A team of brawlers? This is lazy and glib even by the standards of the dregs of Wapping. The Revie boys could look after themselves and they stood together, as a top team should. Super Leeds operated in a brutal era, but they were not solely or even mainly about brutality. Those lads, all of them, could play, brilliantly. On their day, and there were many of them, they were peerless, incomparable. For them now to be invoked whenever some talentless purveyor of Murdoch malice is at a loss for his next sentence is harsh and unjustified in the extreme.

Let’s not forget some of the other big beasts on the prowl in that era. Arsenal with Peter Storey. Chelsea with “Chopper” Harris. Liverpool, Tommy Smith and Emlyn Hughes. Even Devon, with Stiles and Crerand. All thugs and brawlers on their day, and none of them could hold a candle to Hunter, Bremner or Giles. But none of that found a place in Oscar’s empty head, he was far too eager to perpetuate the myth of Dirty Leeds (now an ironic badge of honour among United fans weary of the 60 year old lie).

Rant over. I’ve had my say, and we all know what the Oscars of this world are all about. And what lesson can we take from this? Well, the obvious one is “Don’t buy the S*n”. But we all already knew that, too.

Marching On Together

26 Years Ago Today: Leeds United Crush Man U on Christmas Eve – by Rob Atkinson

fergie-nightmare

1995-96 was the last full season of Sergeant Wilko’s eventful reign at Elland Road. His influence over Leeds United was crumbling amid rumours of money problems, takeovers and dressing-room discontent, a tale that would doubtless strike a chord with Messrs. Grayson, Warnock and even Evans of more recent vintage. This was a season that had started off with a flurry of Tony Yeboah thunderbolts and some impressive results and performances which appeared to promise much. Sadly though, it petered out in a shocking late-season run following a League Cup Final humiliation at Wembley, courtesy of Aston Villa. Howard Wilkinson was a dead man walking from that time on.

This Christmas Eve match against the Pride of Devon found Leeds some way short of their peak form. Worrying signs of defensive frailty and general ineptitude had been all too obvious just the previous week at Hillsborough. United had succumbed spinelessly to a 6-2 defeat at the hands of an unremarkable Sheffield Wednesday side and – all bravado aside – there wasn’t much optimism in the hearts of the faithful as this fixture against the arch-enemy loomed.

It was certainly a different Christmas Eve for me. I hadn’t exactly led a sheltered life up to that point, but this was the first time – and the last, to date – I’d ever risen the day before Christmas to bacon sandwiches at 6 am, closely followed by numerous Budweisers with the Sunday papers in a fan-friendly pub, as we waited for our “Scum Match Special” mini-bus. The queasy feeling before any match against “Them” was therefore multiplied by unaccustomed early-morning grease and alcohol, and I was feeling several shades of not-too-good as we set off for Elland Road. It was an 11:30 kick-off, live on Sky, and it promised either to make or break the whole of Christmas for us fans, as well as for our hopeful families.

scum-programmeThe situation between the Uniteds of Leeds and Devon is one of a legendary mutual animosity, even at the best of times. Let’s not mince words here, the two sets of fans hate, loathe and detest each other – and open warfare is the norm. Revisionist football pundits would have us believe that this is strictly a one-way affair, but you only have to tune into one of Sky TV’s glitzy live love-ins for a Man U match, and whoever they are playing, our Home-Counties friends are in full voice with their “We all hate Leeds scum”. Even Alex Ferguson, back then the Media Darlings’ not-altogether-likable manager, makes no bones about it; some of his more coherent sound bites feature his opinion that Elland Road “is the most intimidating arena in Europe”. He’s also stated that going to Liverpool is nowhere near as bad as going to Leeds; clearly, he’s never been for a late-night pint in Dodge City.

So, Yuletide or not, the usual poisonous atmosphere was in evidence as the two teams walked out before a 39,801 crowd that overcast morning twenty-six years ago today. Just as Leeds were smarting from their Hillsborough debacle, so Man U were struggling to emerge from a poor run, winless for a month and dispatched by Liverpool the previous week. This seasonal fixture was a chance of redemption for both sides.

By kick-off time, I was starting to feel properly ill, and in dire need of a pick-me-up. This arrived in a most unlikely form after a mere five minutes, when a Leeds corner swung over from the right. Richard Jobson rose on the edge of the area to head towards goal, where David Wetherall, lethal against Man U in the past, was challenging for a decisive touch. But that touch came instead from the upraised, red-sleeved arm of Nicky Butt – and referee Dermot Gallagher’s whistle sounded for a penalty.

Peering from the Kop at the other end of the ground, through an alcoholic fug, I could hardly believe my eyes. Leeds just didn’t get penalties against “Them”. It would happen the other way around alright, way too often, and even from three yards outside the area, but this was unprecedented, since our Title-winning year anyway. Steve Bruce evidently thought it was just too much to bear, and screamed his violent protests into Gallagher’s face, having to be restrained by Gary MacAllister, who appeared to be trying to explain the rules to the furious defender. The guilty look on Butt’s face, though, spoke volumes. MacAllister placed the ball on the spot, and sent it sweetly into the top right corner to make it 1-0, giving Peter Schmeichel not even the ghost of a chance. The celebrations were raucous and deafening as the Elland Road cauldron exploded with joy – and inside my skull, the trip-hammer of a beer-fuelled headache pounded away anew, utterly failing though to banish my smile of delight.

Leeds had the bit between their teeth now, and Brian Deane was suddenly clear for an instant outside the right corner of the Man U penalty area, played in by a cute pass from Carlton Palmer. Schmeichel was out swiftly to smother the chance, but Deane managed to dink the ball over him, only for it to clip the crossbar and bounce away to safety. A two-goal lead at that stage would have felt unlikely yet deserved, as Leeds United had been on the front foot right from the off. Soon, though, a lesson was to be delivered about what happens when you miss chances against this lot.

The unlikely culprit as Leeds were pegged back was Gary Speed. Receiving the ball in the left-back position, he tried to beat Butt instead of clearing long, and was robbed of possession. Butt looked up, and placed a neat pass inside to Andy Cole, whose efficient first-time finish leveled the match. Suddenly, my headache was even worse, and I was starting to wonder about the fate of my fry-up breakfast too, as it threatened to make an untimely and spectacular reappearance. Time for another reviving injection of optimism as Leeds surged forward, and Speed so nearly made up for his defensive error, playing a one-two with Tomas Brolin which gave him space to put in a right-foot shot that went narrowly wide.

The game had settled down by this time, and both sides were showing enough ambition to feel that they were in with a chance of victory. Leeds though had thrown off their Sheffield blues, and attacked with verve and purpose. Now, a defensive position was coolly handled by Gary Kelly, finding the time and space to launch a long clearance forward, where Brolin headed on. The ball was loose, and surely meat and drink for Man U’s international defender Paul Parker – but he inexplicably let it bounce over his foot. Tony Yeboah pounced on it like a hound on a rat, and he was away, surging towards goal with ex-Leeds defender Denis Irwin backing off. Yeboah in this mood was usually irresistible, and sure enough none of Irwin’s careful jockeying could prevent him from finding that vital half-yard of space. The gap appeared, Schmeichel came out to block, and Yeboah clipped the ball sumptuously just out of the Danish ‘keeper’s reach, up and over to nestle in the far corner of the South Stand net.

Again, that explosion of noise and joy, again my fragile system was assailed by the rough-and-tumble of riotous celebration. 2-1 up against the team we loved to hate; the cockneys at the far end were suddenly silent and morose. “You’re not singing anymore!” we blasted at them, and indeed, little would be heard from the away fans for the rest of the game.

The second half was another tale of give and take, both sides able to cause trouble up front, but both seemingly capable of dealing with all that was thrown at them. The onus was on Man U to retrieve a losing situation, but Leeds were rarely in great trouble, and as the game entered its final quarter there was unprecedented optimism that we could close this one out, and enter Christmas on a real high. Leeds weren’t simply sitting back and absorbing pressure – and the maxim of attack being the best form of defence was to serve them well. On 73 minutes, Jobson made a foray down the left, and was fouled by Cole chasing back. The resulting free-kick was played to MacAllister in space in the middle of the park, and he swiftly moved it out to the right wing. Brolin picked up possession and slipped the ball to the overlapping Palmer, who surged into the box and then turned past Irwin to set up Brolin again on the edge of the area. The much-maligned Swede, making the contribution I best remember him for, chipped the ball sweetly first-time, standing it up just around the penalty spot, where Brian Deane’s exemplary movement had won him the space to rise and plant a firm header past a helpless Schmeichel into the net. 3-1 and finis.

After the game, and before the seasonal celebrations could begin in earnest, other traditions had to be observed. Ferguson, naturally, had to moan about the penalty. “It was a very surprising decision, given in circumstances that were beyond me.” whinged the Purple-nosed One, in evident ignorance of the deliberate handball provisions – but perhaps aiming to justify Bruce’s undignified and almost psychotic protest at the time. And the massed ranks of the Kop Choir had to regale the departing Man U fans with victory taunts as they sulked away, silent and crestfallen, headed for all points south. To this day, there has never been another Christmas Eve Premier League fixture, this was the first and only – so as far as those occasions go, Leeds United have a perfect 100% record, with Devon’s Finest lagging some way behind on 0%.

I can’t at this distance remember the journey home, nor even how very ill I was when I got there, although I’m told I was the picture of ecstatic yet grossly hung-over ebullience. I just know it was my happiest Christmas Eve ever, ensuring a deliriously festive spirit for the whole holiday, much to the delight of my long-suffering wife and two-year-old daughter.

Merry Christmas, everybody! And God bless us, every one. (Except, of course, Them, from There.)

Marching On Together

Frank Lampard for Leeds, Replacing Bielsa? April 1st Already?? – by Rob Atkinson

A less than likely story…

The silly season is a year-round event these days, so it seems. That doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, with so much competition for online news hits that writers and editors have taken to publishing any old rubbishy speculation as news, feasibility apparently no longer featuring as a desirable attribute for some of these desperate punts.

Still, there should be a limit. One spectacularly dim Leeds-centric web source has seen a bookmaker’s price for Marcelo Bielsa’s successor in the hot seat at Elland Road, and has got all excited, publishing an extended burble that is as far removed from reality as it’s possible to get. “Lampard favourite to succeed Bielsa” screams their headline, totally forgetting that, with no prospect of the Argentinian being sacked or electing to leave, all candidates to succeed him will be equally and extremely unlikely. In short, it’s like betting on candidates for UK President when the Monarchy falls – the opposite of printing money.

The intoxicated over-excitement of leeds-live.co.uk (for that is their name) does not end there. In another article, they feature the musings of ex-Villa mediocrity turned pisspoor pundit Gobby Agbonlahor, who has been getting his jockstrap in a knot over the vociferous support given to United during the terminal phase of Saturday’s home defeat to Arsenal. Poor Gobby is indignantly upset by this defiant, phenomenal support, he admits he just doesn’t understand it, bless him and seems to resent the Leeds fans for their passion and commitment. I suppose a career spent struggling at a usually apathetic Villa Park would make manifestations of fabulous support seem a bit strange, but Agbonlahor should perhaps chill a bit and reflect on the fact that the atmosphere in football hotbeds can differ radically from that of more insipid midlands locations. Still, if hard-of-thinking outlets like leeds-live are going to give Gobby’s thoughts publicity they don’t merit, then maybe you can’t blame him for basking in some undeserved reflected glory. But it’s an unedifying spectacle to see such dross passed off as news, or even as anything approaching an informed opinion.

I blame the outlets, personally. Bookies are always compiling speculative odds lists, for better or worse, it’s just what they do and sometimes good for a laugh. And Gobby is always spouting bovine ordure – that’s what he does. The sensible thing to do would be to move on, having indulged in a wry smile and maybe a slight roll of the eyeballs. There’s no need to go spreading this crap about, as if it might ever mean anything in the real world.

When you hit these depths of profound stupidity, though, there’s often a perverse determination among the clueless perpetrators to keep on digging and see just how deeply daft they can get. So what can we expect next week? How, after all, do you top “Lampard for Leeds”? Old purple nose S’ralex himself would be a likelier shout than Fwank, who would be driven screaming clear round Leeds ring road pursued by a baying mob, and tracked by Orta’s famous binoculars, should he ever dare to pitch up in LS11. It’s honestly hard to imagine a less likely candidate – hang on, though. Could the next story be “Gobby for Next Leeds Boss”? If you’ve ever struggled through a leeds-live.co.uk “scoop”, you probably shouldn’t put it past them…

Marching On Together

Good Times for Leeds United’s Many Fake Fans and Social Media Trolls – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United – Team and Genuine fans indivisible

Rarely if ever has the distinction between Leeds United’s genuine, fanatical supporters and their increasing number of bogus, social media trolling fake followers been more starkly apparent than in the past season and a half, since the club’s elevation to the Premier League. The Arsenal game was a case in point. At 4-1 down, with a team still shell-shocked by the Etihad mauling and ravaged by injuries, suspensions and everybody’s pet virus, the genuine lads and lasses in the stands sang their hearts out in support of the shirts, proving once again that they are, beyond doubt, the best fans around.

Meanwhile, in cyberspace, the slings and arrows of outrageous negativity were flying around wholesale, thrown from their positions of safe anonymity by a legion of so-called Leeds supporters with an agenda that is strictly anti-United, anti-Bielsa and as destructive as possible to the morale and confidence of a group of young men who cannot hit back, and who are, in some cases, moved to delete their social media presences in order to avoid the persistent riptide of effluent, rancid hatred and abuse. It really is that obvious and that disgusting – surely any real LUFC fan will join in a growing clamour for these cowards-in-hiding to grow up, belt up, leave the club to the genuine fans, and slither off back to the gutter from which they should never have emerged.

Harsh words, some will say – those self-righteous paragons in the various ostensibly pro-Leeds groups on Facebook and the like, who – when taken up on their carping, targeted abuse aimed at scapegoated players – will piteously whimper that they have a right to their opinions, a right to second-guess a coach of world standing like Bielsa, an inalienable right to demand that Radrizzani dig deeper into his pockets – despite Financial Fair Play, and regardless of the fact that the club is now better-run than at any time this side of the Millennium. This parody of “support” makes me feel literally sick, especially when you hear that genuine support, from the best fans anywhere, rolling down onto the Elland Road pitch, or from the away grounds we dominate on our annual tour of England’s footballing strongholds. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but the online resistance tends to get shouted down, because these fakes are determined, blinkered and utterly inimical to the success of the club they’ve targeted.

The sad fact is, these opportunistic cowards and inadequates will continue to make hay for as long as the sun shines, in the hope that they might influence the dimmer fringes of United’s genuine support. And, right now, the sun shines brightly for these creatures, as injuries and other unavoidable circumstances combine to harm the Whites’ chances of maintaining the progress of the last three years. Abetted by an eagerly Leeds-hating media, the fakes haven’t had it this good for many a moon, and they will be fervently hoping that the lean times continues in LS11. For them, Leeds United’s hard times are one grand, sweet song, with their biggest fear being an upswing for our heroes, with prospects of relegation fading. This would be the stuff of nightmares for your average Leeds-hating troll who does his damage under a false flag of yellow, white and blue.

Things will get better, of that I’m sure. The club is in good hands, the squad is in the best possible hands. The fakes and the trolls know this, and it burns their guts. So transparently gleeful are they in bad times for Leeds, that they betray themselves at every turn. Many reading this will recognise themselves, and will react defensively with abuse and expostulations of innocence, all of which will serve only to mark them out as guilty for the benefit those whose love of Leeds United runs deep within their veins.

The trolls and the fakes are out there, busily hating away and having a fine old time of it. But we know them, and we know what they’re all about. When the good times return – and make no mistake, this club remains on a steep upward trajectory – their weasel words can be rammed back down their malicious throats. It’s a pleasure I for one have promised myself, and I’m looking forward to it immensely.

Marching On Together

Child Beater Jamie O’Hara Says Leeds United Are “Embarrassing” – by Rob Atkinson

Jamie “Irony Alert” O’Hara in Desperate Tweet Shock

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.

Marching On Together

Why the Online Trolls and Fake Leeds “Fans” are WRONG About Tyler Roberts – by Rob Atkinson

Our Tyler, the hapless target of ignorant cowards

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.

Marching On Together

Media and Rivals Even More Desperate Now to Prise “World Class” Raphinha from Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Raphinha – he’s world class and he’s Leeds

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.

Marching On Together