Category Archives: Leeds United

Marcelo Bielsa “To Sign Leeds United Contract Tonight” – by Rob Atkinson

It’s happening – Marcelo Bielsa will be the next Leeds United boss. I’m purposely avoiding the terms “manager” and “coach” as being, at this stage, too precise. But the implications of this appointment are that Bielsa’s stringent conditions and requirements have largely been met. In those circumstances, the continuing presence of Victor Orta notwithstanding, “Boss” seems like the best word to use.

The information is reliable, having been tweeted by the famously ITK journalist Phil Hay. So, United have got their man, a stellar appointment to put every other occupant of the Elland Road hotseat, possibly since Terry Venables, firmly into the shade. We must hope that the club intends to be fully honest and open in their dealings with Bielsa; they certainly weren’t with Venables.

Much more on this to come, obviously. In the meantime, we must wish our new Boss all the best, getting right behind him from Day One. This could and should be a pivotal moment in the illustrious history of a club approaching its centenary. From here, the only way should be up.

Welcome to Leeds United, Marcelo Bielsa. May you meet early with the success we all wish you.

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Any News, Phil? Leeds United Reporter Phil Hay Suffers Torture by a Million Tweets – by Rob Atkinson

Phil Hay

Phil Hay, perennial Leeds United Twitter target info source

One man who will be particularly relieved, and who may indeed shed tears of joy, when the white smoke eventually goes up over Elland Road and Marcelo Bielsa becomes our anointed king, is the Yorkshire Evening Post‘s chief football writer Phil Hay.

Phil is the man with his finger on the pulse of Leeds United and his ear to the ground at Thorp Arch. It’s become an article of faith that any item of Whites football news can only really be believed when it’s been presented as fact by Mr. Hay, whose articles and revelations always carry that stamp of authenticity.

The downside to this elite and privileged position is that Hay, an endearingly prolific tweeter of the snippets all Leeds fans thirst for, has to put up with a phenomenal amount of Twitter queries, amounting to an ongoing Inquisition, with demands for more news, more verbatim accounts of what’s being said and, above all, urgent confirmation of that which has not yet been confirmed. Sometimes, the strain ever so slightly shows, when representatives from the dimmer end of the Leeds Twitteratti attempt to second guess our intrepid reporter. Then, such responses as he makes can be quite terse and dry. But, ever the pro, Phil does not engage in unseemly to-ing and fro-ing. That’s a lesson I could do with learning.

It’s not just Phil Hay, of course. The equally respected Adam Pope cops for his share of incessant nagging, the likes of “Popey, can you confirm… etc”. Lee Sobot is another target for this insatiable hunger for news NOW. Of course, people do know that you can’t report developments until those developments have developed – but you sometimes have to doubt that awareness. Our professional reporters are harangued 24/7, and it’d be no wonder if they got just a teensy bit sick of it.

The last couple of weeks have been a case in point, with “Any news, Phil?” becoming a catchphrase to rank alongside any in the world of alternative comedy. It’s being used ironically now, as Tweeters take the mick out of their less patient fellow online fans. If Messrs Hay, Pope and Sobot tried to answer every desperate plea for knowledge aimed directly at them, they’d have neither the time nor the energy to get on with their actual jobs.

With this in mind, it’d be nice to think that the manic tweeters would lay off a bit, accept that things happen when they happen or not at all, and generally give our faithful correspondents a bit of time and room to breathe. Not that any such restraint is likely to happen, of course. That imperious need to know is out there, and it’s voracious.

What I will wish is for the Bielsa story to be resolved as soon as possible, so that our chaps in the press room can take a bit of a rest. Then again, once Bielsa is in – well, all the transfer business will catch fire and consume us all, won’t it? Hmmm.

Erm – any news, Phil?

With Bielsa Joining Leeds, Legendary Striker Fernando Torres Cannot be Ruled Out – by Rob Atkinson

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Fernando Torres – on his way back to Elland Road?

SkyBet have suspended betting now on the question of the next Leeds United manager – the last price available on Marcelo Bielsa was, reportedly, a not altogether generous 20-1 on. If the bookies expect you to invest £20 to gain a quid, then you can bet they’re fairly certain of the eventual outcome – and now, even that price is off the table. With other sources reporting that Bielsa has been granted a work permit, it seems nailed-on that “El Loco” will be installed in the Elland Road hotseat in the very near future.

To say that this represents a change in United’s recruitment policy is hopelessly inadequate. It’s like saying that Leicester City‘s 2015 title triumph was mildly surprising, or that Harry Kewell is perhaps lacking slightly in the nobler scruples. Bielsa to Leeds is a seismic event, something that shows the club are getting seriously serious in their approach to achieving promotion to the Promised Land. As the wise Yorkshireman observed when he sampled his neighbour’s parsnip wine, “Owt could ‘appen ‘ere”.

That being the case, other stories in circulation, yarns that would normally be dismissed as too outlandish and fanciful even for Coronation Street, must now be treated a little more respectfully. In layman’s terms: if Bielsa can agree to take over at Leeds, and especially if he’s managed to get the club to grant him a big say in all footballing matters including transfers, then pretty much anything can happen now. We’re entering an alternate reality here, one for which the last decade and a half has left us totally unprepared. It is indeed a whole new ball game.

So, when rumour has it that Leeds United, at Senor Bielsa’s behest, are showing an interest in former Liverpool and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres, now 34 but eminently capable still of tearing the Championship division a new one, then my advice would have to be: Titter ye not. Put aside your initial impulse to scoff, carp and otherwise demonstrate your scorn. A new reality is upon us, and who can say with any certainty what’s possible or probable under these radically different circumstances? Not I, and, I’d respectfully suggest, not you either.

Even now, though, with an improbability field so vast drifting around Elland Road, that you’d be forgiven for demanding a refund on your Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, some possibilities must be counted as less likely than others. Bielsa? Almost certainly. Abel Hernandez? Where else is the lad going to go? Kyle Bartley? Agent Ayling is on the case. But Torres – a legend in the truest football sense of the world – that has to be a bit more of a stretch. SkyBet, supremely confident about Bielsa, regard Torres to Leeds rather more circumspectly at 33-1. They appear to see Japan as his likely destination, with Premier League minnows Newcastle also much more highly fancied than Yorkshire’s Number One, at 12-1.

Then again, it’s at Leeds United where the nigh-on impossible stuff appears to be happening right now. It should be remembered that Torres would be the third ex-Liverpool striker to join Leeds in the last couple of decades, following on from Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler. Could we really see Fernando Torres leading the line for the Whites at Millwall and Rotherham next season? The way things are around LS11 at the moment, you’d better think twice about betting against it.

Leeds Bielsa Talks Now on Home Straight but Suffering Cramp – by Rob Atkinson

Having been in the last mile of negotiations for the past 24 hours or so, Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa are now staggering up the home straight and expecting to reach the finishing line, which is in sight, at any time in the next hours, days, weeks or months.

The problem at this late stage is cramp. The home straight is slightly uphill and it’s been hot and muggy, so, you know. These things are never simple, and when you start tying up with the goal in sight, it gets really tricky. Fortunately, both parties have been able to take on essential isotonic supplements from a number of distinctly salty sources along the way.

More as we get it, but don’t hold your breath.

Massive, Defining Week Ahead for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the next few days for Yorkshire‘s number one football club. The decisions due to be made by various parties could well dictate the shape, not only of the season ahead for Leeds United, but even of the next few years. A major change in management style and recruitment policy seems to be under consideration, with the abiding question being: and what happens if prime target Marcelo Bielsa doesn’t take the United helm?

That could of course turn out to be a question strictly for the pessimists and the more mischievous outposts of the press. While the glass-half-empty brigade on Twitter and the 95% of the media hostile to Leeds have done their best to stoke up doubt and despondency, the club itself, as well as respected journalists closer to the people in charge, exudes an air of businesslike calm. The expectation clearly exists that what initially appeared to be wishful thinking could actually happen. If it does – and we should know quite shortly now – then it could easily change the course of Leeds United history. And in a good way, too.

Interestingly, the betting markets still appear to assume that these great events will take place. And bookies have a vested interest in getting these things right. So this next week, so nearly upon us, could well be an epochal time for anyone with LUFC carved on their heart.

And if Bielsa doesn’t happen – well it’s still significant that Leeds are looking at that end of the talent market. There’s no reason to suppose that, should the volatile Argentinean decide that Elland Road is not for him, United will inevitably resort to the bargain basement outlets they’ve frequented before. The apparent change of attitude at the top of the club is at least as important as the names in circulation as possibilities as coach or new players. The intent of the club is the crucial thing, and we must presume that the nature of this intent will survive any short term disappointments.

So it’s still a case of “watch this space”, though not, you’d suspect, for too much longer. Sit back, and wait for great happenings to unfold down LS11 way. This could well be the first week of a whole new era for Leeds, maybe even one of a distinctly golden hue.

Despite the Furore, Marcelo Bielsa Remains Odds-On to be Leeds’ new Boss – by Rob Atkinson

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Bielsa, or Bruce, or A.N.Other? Nobody knows, but the bookies have an idea

There’s a feeding frenzy of speculation surrounding Leeds United right now, with various internet sources pouncing on the fans’ anxiety to fuel debate as to whether the Whites will end up with a former Argentinian coach, or a former Man U centre half. Those two possibilities represent just about as polarised a choice of footballing philosophies as you could imagine, with Marcelo Bielsa favouring a high pressing game with a fluid attacking formation, whilst Steve Bruce would probably just let the players get on with it as, keenly aware of his popularity level at Elland Road, he sits in the dugout with a tin hat on.

It’s all speculation, simply because there is very, very little hard information out there. The sensible fan will resign him or herself to sitting back and waiting for something solid to transpire – but they might also take a passing glance at those bookies’ odds, which still have Bielsa as a strong odds-on favourite, despite talk of “drastic changes” in those odds. Odds-on in a field of several is powerful medicine; it does not indicate to the thinking fan that anything at all drastic has taken place. What is doubtless going on will be a lot of hard and urgent talking and, for the moment at least, that talking is most likely between United and Bielsa. Rumours that he is analysing videos of Leeds games from last season might incline us to send the poor chap some Paracetamol, but they do not, of themselves, make any particular outcome more likely.

All that’s actually happened in the betting market is that Bruce’s odds are shortened from 20-1 to 5-1, whilst Bielsa has seen his heavy odds-on price of 1-5 go out slightly to 4-9. That’s significant movement, particularly on the Bruce side – but then again, markets react to speculation, and his name has been bruited about a lot this past 24 hours. Overall, though, Bielsa remains a hot favourite – which is the most definite thing anyone can currently say.

For the record, my preference would be for Bielsa, based simply on the brand of football we might see. I’d also be extremely open to the possibility (if it exists) of Claudio Ranieri, who still rides fairly high in the odds.

It’s been a frustrating few days, and that might carry on a while yet. But all the indications remain positive that we’re still in for a very exciting summer.

Elland Road’s England Extravaganza Proves Premier League Needs Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

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Southgate’s England win at a vibrant and atmospheric Elland Road

England‘s last stopping-off point before their Russian quest for World Cup glory was at a vibrant and atmospheric Elland Road – and the occasion told us plenty, some of it even about our national team and its chances this summer.

Talking about England first, this was a competent and dominant performance against a slightly jet-lagged Costa Rica team who were still nobody’s mugs. England pretty much won as they liked though, with Marcus Rashford, looking much more effective with better players around him, making a persuasive case for inclusion in the opening game of England’s group, ahead, perhaps, of Raheem Sterling. Rashford’s spectacular 13th minute opener brought generous cheers from the Kop, despite the lad’s day job, with Danny Welbeck‘s close range header near the end greeted equally warmly by the South Stand. In between the two decisive strikes, England passed prettily, defended well enough to leave their keeper Jack Butland largely unemployed, and a lively attack gave the Costa Rican defence plenty to think about.

But the signature note of the evening was struck by the occasion’s real star – Elland Road itself. For once in a very long while, the muted, apathetic atmosphere of Wembley was replaced by a thrillingly raucous fervour to urge on the national team, courtesy of one of football’s genuine, old-style cauldrons of white-hot atmosphere. That’s done nowhere quite so well as it is in this part of Leeds; the crowd lifted the England players to a degree that was obvious to anybody who’s suffered through some of those dreary friendlies in North London. This was dutifully acknowledged by commentators and pundits alike; Clive Tyldesley for ITV noted that the attendance was around 36,000, “but sounds like twice as much”. Indeed. Old Trafford, it’s worth mentioning, can do a similar trick – only the other way around.

Lee Dixon in his punditry role was fired with enthusiasm afterwards. This is what you need, he exulted, thumbing over his shoulder at the arena behind him. Let’s take England on the road. It’s a good idea, one that’s been around for years now, but the commercial lure of Wembley has usually won the day. Perhaps there will now be a rethink. It’s no coincidence that this was one of the better England “friendly” performances; the team responded to the crowd, the occasion, the unique atmosphere. Above all, tonight showed beyond doubt that the Premier League – currently stuffed with pedestrian acts like Bournemouth, Huddersfield and Watford – positively needs the return of Leeds United. The stadium, the club and the fanatical support are all wasted on anything less than the elite group, and the so-called Premier League has been diluted too far and for too long by elements of mediocrity. The return of United cannot come too soon, for the sake of all parties concerned.

For Leeds United fans, it was a taste of what might be to come, the stadium packed out and cheering on some top class footballers who may even be destined for great things. How the fans of Yorkshire‘s top club would like to sample that atmosphere, and witness this style of performance, on a more regular basis. It’s a dream, something to hope for and aspire to. And, you never know – those dreams do occasionally come true.

If Leeds Target Hernandez Signs for Galatasaray, We Write Him off as ‘No Loss’ – by Rob Atkinson

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Abel Hernandez – do the right thing, son

Whispers are going around that Abel Hernandez, supposedly in advanced talks to join Leeds United, might instead be on the verge of throwing in his lot with a club many, including myself, see as a disgrace to football and a blot on the name of the game –Galatasaray. The tragic history between Leeds and the Turkish outfit needs no retelling here; suffice to say that any player who would even consider such a move should never sully the famous white shirt of Yorkshire’s number one football club.

The only comparable case is of a player who had previously moved on from Leeds, not in the most auspicious of circumstances, before eventually signing for the Istanbul side. This was Harry Kewell, who was actually in the United side on that infamous evening at the Ali Sami Yen, when, just a day after the murder of two Leeds fans, the sick animals in the home crowd chose to mock and disrespect our loss. That Kewell could choose to sign for such a club, with such fans, says all we need to know about the depths to which his character was capable of sinking. Kewell’s name has been mud around Leeds and its worldwide support ever since, and rightly so.

Hernandez may possibly be unaware of the friction between the clubs, that’s possible. Having no prior connection to Leeds, it may not signify with him anyway. But any player with a choice between United and the club from Turkey‘s foulest gutter must be aware that, if he chooses the latter, he will be thought of as no loss to Leeds. There are some gulfs that can’t be breached, and Leeds should never give the time of day to anybody with connections to that club. If he decides he’s off to Istanbul, we should not mourn him, we should simply look elsewhere.

Yes, Hernandez would be a steal on a free, despite his high wages. Yes, he promises goals, especially at Championship level, if he stays fit. But, if even the smallest part of his head or his heart is telling him “Go to Turkey” – then, good riddance, and we move on to targets with better taste and a greater sense of decency.

Of course, it may just be scaremongering of the most grotesquely tasteless kind by that section of the media – about 95% of it – which delights in that attitude where Leeds are concerned. And if the lad decides to come to Leeds, there’ll be a warm welcome for him from this blog. We’ll have to see what actually happens. But, if Hernandez makes this most despicable choice out of those available to him then, as far as I’m concerned, he’s nothing – and certainly no loss to Leeds United.

Leeds Should Bring Robert Snodgrass Back Home, Agree? – by Rob Atkinson

Snoddy

Snoddy, come home

I’m sure this idea is out there, in light of what appears to be a sea-change of recruitment policy at Leeds United. It’s probably just that I haven’t seen it. But, surely, I can’t be alone in thinking that the time and circumstances are ripe for securing the return – even if only on loan initially – of former United talisman Robert Snodgrass.

It seems so obvious. West Ham don’t really want him. Villa definitely can’t afford him. And it would upset those Norwich and Hull upstarts, quite apart from adding significantly to the skill factor and firepower at Elland Road. It’s a proper no-brainer to me and, for the first time in years, it seems feasible – the kind of quality we should be looking to add.

I’m interested to know what readers of this blog think. Please feel free to comment as usual, giving your thoughts – but do also answer the poll below – a simple Yea or Nay.

Thanks and MOT.

 

An Angry Pontus Will be Better for Leeds United than the Meek Pontus of Last Season – by Rob Atkinson

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Bring on “Angry Pontus” for a Leeds promotion charge

If Leeds United are indeed to enjoy an annus mirabilis to follow the annus horribilis we’ve all just experienced, then a few changes will have to be made. One is underway; we’re currently gasping our way through the information vacuum between the termination of the hapless Hecky and the inevitable appointment of The Best Coach In The World™. Other changes are afoot too, with the acquisition of a striker recently valued at £20 million a distinct possibility for the princely sum of nowt. The snag is that Hull City‘s loss and our gain (and remember, we’ve already got one Hernandez) will require wages commensurate with his undoubted ability, failing which he might decide to join a Premier League relegation struggle at Wolves or Newcastle.

Still, these things are being dealt with, and some hard news will surely emerge shortly. But there are other areas of difficulty as well as coaching and the strike force: namely, goalkeeper, defence and a bit of steel in midfield – although the arrival of Forshaw has allayed some of the engine room anxiety, particularly if he can strike up partnerships with Messrs. Ideguchi and Klich. The goalkeeping problem is less taxing with the emergence of young Bailey Peacock-Farrell, though a more experienced keeper could well be added.

Which leaves us with defence, and the curious case of Pontus Jansson. There’s absolutely no doubt that Pontus, at his best, is exactly the sort of guy you would wish at the back, heading balls away to the halfway line, sliding in with murderous intent upon encroaching opposition forwards, and generally throwing himself about the park in the cause of Leeds United. That’s the Pontus we all remember, very fondly, from the majority of the season before last. The season just gone, though, was nothing like as impressive from Jansson. Deprived of a rock solid centre-back partner in Kyle Bartley, Pontus played through the recent campaign like a pale shadow of his former self, diffident, injury-prone, seemingly unable to get going when the going got tough. He occasionally got caught fannying about at the back instead of, as used to be his preferred method, clearing both ball and opponent far, fast and often. It was all most disappointing, and it sort of summed up our season, which flared briefly and then rapidly petered out into damp squib territory.

Now, Pontus is upset at the way certain recent remarks of his have been poorly translated, or misinterpreted, or taken out of context, or something. These utterances appeared to some fans capable of being seen as a “come and get me plea”, the implication being that Mr Jansson might be interested in various offers he might have been aware of, that would allow him to remain in England as he would wish, with just the hint that he’d ideally like to play in the Premier League. Seemingly, Pontus is irate at the way things have been lost in translation, claiming that he would “never talk bad about my club”. Doubtless, there is some inconsistency between the original quotes attributed to Jansson, and his more recent clarifications. You pays your money, and you takes your choice.

For me, though, the important thing is that, in hotly denying that he was angling for a move, Pontus showed a bit of fiery passion. Any central defender worth having should have this nasty streak in him, a part of his character that says, needle me at your peril. And it’s that irascibility, the flash of temper clearly apparent in the early days, that seemed to be missing in the season just past. Maybe it was the loss of Bartley, with the subsequent chopping and changing of defensive partnerships, or maybe it was just “second season syndrome”. But there was undoubtedly a difference, you didn’t have to be an ex-pro pundit to see that.

Now that he has, to some extent, nailed his colours to the mast, reaffirming his commitment and gratitude to Leeds United as the club that “saved his career”, maybe we can expect better things in the season to come – particularly if a certain Mr Bartley were to be lured back. We understand that Agent Ayling is on the case even as we speak. That better performance, though, is even more likely to come about if Pontus can harness some of that anger and attitude, the sort of thing he’s just displayed verbally, but that was sadly lacking in his on-field performances over the past year. A bit of anger might help restore that missing mojo.

Still, there’s a World Cup being held in the meantime, and Pontus will be hoping for more than a passing involvement in the colours of Sweden. And, if he happens to have a good tournament, then (at the risk of upsetting him) it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Pontus Jansson sidling towards the Elland Road exit door before August. I’ll just hope I’m wrong, and that instead, we’ll see Angry Pontus marshalling our defence as we challenge for promotion in 2019.