Category Archives: Leeds United

Football League Considering Treason Charge for Ref Who Gave Leeds a Penalty – by Rob Atkinson

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Peter Bankes – professional suicide?

Peter Bankes, the referee who has defied the Football League party line to award Leeds a controversial first penalty kick in well over a year, leading to their 2-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers, could now face being sent to Coventry for his sins (they play Luton Town at the Ricoh Arena next Saturday).

Games without a penalty for Leeds United now…

Worse, it is being suggested in some quarters that the errant official could be charged by the ruling body with high treason, an offence that carries a maximum punishment of “a fate worse than death”. When asked what that fate might be, a Football League spokesman would only grimace and shake his head in a deeply ominous fashion whilst mouthing the dread word “Millwall”.

Mr Bankes was not available for comment after the game, it being understood that he was closeted with QPR manager Schteve McClaren and being grilled about what Schteve was sarcastically calling his “X-ray vision”. A Leeds source told us that the referee’s room was closed and locked for an hour after the final whistle, with Mr Bankes eventually being spirited away to Football League headquarters where he is expected to face brutal interrogation over the next 72 hours.

A Leeds source told Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything “Our only regret is that we were hoping to have a joint celebration of our centenary in 2019 with maybe a timely penalty late in the season – today’s totally unexpected award has clearly scuppered that. But we’ll take it gracefully and move on. We’d been a bit worried about the actual penalty conversion, there was a bit of chat on the pitch because nobody could remember how it’s done. Every time Marcelo has suggested practising penalties in training, the lads have just fell about laughing. Luckily, Kemar stepped up and sent the lad the wrong way, but he admitted afterwards that he’d been a bit tempted to head it”.

Rumours that United are planning to place a Tourist Information sign on the penalty spot at the Kop End, denoting a site of major historical interest, cannot, as yet, be confirmed.

Historical

Leeds United penalty – historically remarkable

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Would VAR Get Man United Relegated and Leeds United Promoted? – by Rob Atkinson

LUFC red card

Referees just love Leeds United

I’ve never really been in favour of the intrusion of modern technology into professional football. I was generally supportive of the view that the game needs its bits of controversy, things to talk about and argue over in the pub or, as years went on, via social media. And that, ideally, the game at its elite level should stay as close as possible in its essential character to the thud and blunder affairs fought out on parks pitches every Sunday morning.

But the old maxim of “the referee’s decision is final” has started to wear a bit thin, as with that other cliche “these things tend to even themselves out”. We were always asked to believe that, yes, referees made mistakes alright, but that they were honest mistakes, human errors. We were told that, over time, all clubs would get roughly the same amount of good and bad decisions, and that, ultimately, ability and fitness would be the decisive factors. And for a long time, many of us would believe these fables, we’d even repeat them to each other, wanting our beloved game to be straight.

The worm of doubt for Leeds United fans crawled out of the bad apples among the refereeing fraternity as far back as the sixties. I’ve written an article on this blog about the very worst decisions my club has been on the wrong end of – even limiting myself to the truly appalling travesties of justice, it it could have been a much longer list, space permitting. Leeds fans started giving wry smiles when referees were defended as honest Joes who were bound to make the odd mistake. We knew better, out of bitter experience. We knew exactly who would get the breaks and the dodgy calls, and we knew just as well that it wouldn’t be us.

The situation has never really improved for Leeds as far as getting a fair go from referees and the game in general is concerned. As I write, it’s 58 games since we last got a penalty kick awarded, during which time ten have been given against us, including some proper howlers. You get used to it, you come to expect it, but naturally, you never really accept it as your lot. I well remember Thomas Christiansen‘s ashen face after one match early last season; he was unable to credit what he’d seen with his own eyes, and I just thought, welcome to Leeds, mate – welcome to our world.

Things are different for other teams, of course, and it goes without saying that life at the non-crappy end of the stick is best exemplified by Manchester United, or the Pride of Devon, as I fondly refer to them. Their long penalty runs are matches without conceding one; it’s frequently said that nothing short of the cynical murder of an opposition player in their own penalty box will lead to a spot kick being awarded against them. One referee from the nineties, Graham Poll, frankly admitted that the best a ref could hope for when taking a Man U game during the tyrannic reign of Alex Ferguson, was to get the thing over, with as little controversy as possible, and ideally with Man U having won. That’s a mindset which must have yielded many victories in a game of fine margins; Man U were the beneficiaries of intimidated referees who wanted to avoid the Fergie treatment in the press, with a subsequent blacklisting from big matches.

This was a situation that applied throughout the Ferguson reign at Old Trafford, a period in which there was really no excuse for Man U failing to win the league in any one year. With everything in their failure, and the media vicariously lapping up the glory, Man U went from strength to strength. The learning curve their players were on under Ferguson was more than simply curved – it was totally bent.

But now, Fergie is long gone, and the major silverware eludes Manchester’s second-best football club. And yet still the “controversial” decisions accrue in their favour. Last night’s home game against Arsenal demonstrated both manifestations of the modern game; the old fashioned “lino’s call” for offside which resulted in Man U’s first goal, and the beginnings of modern technology ensuring that a goal stood which you would never see given against Man U in the days when eyesight alone judged whether the ball was over the line. Goal line technology, for a side that have seen so many narrow decisions go in their favour, is bad news for Man U. How much worse for them will it get when the video assistant referee (VAR) comes in for the Premier League next season, presumably taking away from the hapless Red Devils the marginal decisions they invariably get now?

It’ll be interesting to see what actually happens. My theory is that a club which has always suffered under the naked eye method of making decisions will be bound to do better when such a fallible system is superseded by state of the art cameras. And, equally, clubs that have always tended to get the rub of the green under “human error” will find themselves suffering disproportionately as those errors start to vanish from the game.

Could such a revolution actually result in the previously favoured club losing their exalted status, while the erstwhile pariahs come to the fore? Well, that’s probably just my over-active tendency towards wishful thinking. Still, it would be vastly entertaining and deeply satisfactory, if it ever came to pass. But the whole culture of the game and its supporting media is ranged against anything so unthinkable. During the Man U v Arsenal game last night, BT Sport‘s resident ex-referee “expert” Phil Dowd acknowledged that Man U’s first goal was narrowly offside. “But it was so close,” he demurred, “it would have been very harsh to give it. So, good goal.” That type of Man U-centric thinking still takes my breath away, even after decades of hearing stuff just like it. And it makes me think that, technology notwithstanding, the Old Trafford team will probably still be getting that annoying rub of the green for some time to come.

That’s not really any of my concern, though I’d like to think it vexes a few of you out there just as it does me. But my priority is Leeds United, and – eventually – we’re going to be playing our games under the electronic eye of VAR. And maybe then, if not before, we might actually get the odd penalty, or at least not have so many utterly crap ones given against us. And, if that proves to be the case, then I’ll happily declare myself a convert to this new technological approach. After all – who can afford to go down to the pub for an argument these days?

Can Wonderkid Jack Clarke Make Miraculous History for Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

…league games since United got a penalty kick

Leeds United’s teenage wonder and rumoured Manchester City target Jack Clarke is already making a considerable name for himself, on the back of a string of cameo performances that have seen him lend a new dimension to the Whites’ attacking play. No less a football authority than Clarke’s Elland Road manager, Marcelo Bielsa, has acknowledged the youngster’s potential to be a game changer, and it may even be that Clarke is destined to write himself into the history of Yorkshire’s No. 1 club by winning for them – whisper it in hushed tones – a penalty kick.

Some, of course, will dismiss this as fanciful in the extreme. There’s some justification for such cynical pessimism too – teams don’t go 58 games without a penalty (and having ten awarded against them over the same period) without some pretty determined referees being prepared to turn a blind eye and cock a deaf ear to all appeals, however much merit they may have. So why should a fleet-footed wide man, with consummate control and more tricks up his sleeve than you could shake a stick at, make any real difference?

The reason for guarded optimism lies in young Jack’s engaging ability to receive the ball in space out wide, in an onside position (unlike Alioski) and then jink and trick his way past his full back before making inroads into the opposition area (unlike Alioski). Keep doing this, and you’ll get chopped down in the box, sure as eggs are eggs. And keep getting chopped down in the box – well, surely you’re bound to get a decision sooner or later, even if you’ve got a Leeds United badge on your shirt.

And when that momentous penalty kick is awarded, maybe even this season, we might even manage to convert it, unless we’ve actually forgotten how it’s done. In which case, I do hope that the squad occasionally watch the video of last season’s shootout at Burnley in the Carabao Cup, when we made taking penalties look as easy as shelling peas. With that encouragement, anything is possible – but maybe I should just stop wishing for penalties, and enjoy how our heroes seem to be managing perfectly well without any.

Still – it would be nice. So make those runs, young Jack, commit those defenders and just hope that, when the referee does blow his whistle, it’s not just to book you for “diving”.

Heroic Leeds Overcome Sheffield United, the League AND a Disgraceful Referee – by Rob Atkinson

Pablo celebrates after scoring United’s winner at Bramall Lane

There’s no such thing as a bad win away in a Yorkshire derby, but this 1-0 success for Leeds United at Bramall Lane was particularly sweet, and for reasons that transcended three very welcome points.

I might even go so far as to say that today’s win was every bit as satisfying as our last victory at this stadium, way back on 26th April 1992. Victory over the Blunts on that far-off Sunday proved sufficient for United to clinch the title of Last Champions, eventually finishing 4 points clear of what is now Manchester’s junior club. That was a great day – today’s result, fashioned out of adversity and good old-fashioned Football League corruption, had a savour all of its own.

As delighted as I was on the final whistle, I’d been snarling and raging at a lot of what had unfolded before me during the game, particularly a first half notable for the most abysmally atrocious refereeing performance you’ll see outside of United’s last two European finals. Referee Oliver Langford was so bad, you thought it had to be a joke or some surreal and paranoid dream. He looked on as McGoldrick of the Blunts stamped down on Mateusz Klich‘s shin in a classic over the ball challenge normally earning the perpetrator an early bath. Langford waved neither yellow nor red, he didn’t even blow for a foul. Whatever his agenda, such dereliction of duty exposed him as, at best, an incompetent fool; far more likely, given United’s treatment so far this season, he was simply as bent as any other corrupt official of this corrupt Football League, a body that seems to view its Last Champions not with veneration, but with cold hatred.

Langford wasn’t finished with Leeds in this comically bad first half display of persecution. Having booked Sheffield’s Enda Stevens after 25 minutes, he then contented himself with a mere warning for another blatantly bookable challenge; by this time I was chewing the carpet with frustration. The home side should have been reduced to 9 men by the interval, and could easily have been behind as a very decent penalty shout was ignored when Kemar Roofe was pushed and pulled out of the way in the Blunts box. And, just to add insult to injury, Kemar himself received a yellow for the heinous crime of turning his back to avoid a head to head collision. It was a Tinkleresque performance by the laughably bent Langford, and fans of a certain age will know exactly what I mean by that.

By half time, it seemed clear that I was going to get nothing out of watching this game apart from a headache, dangerously raised blood pressure and rear molars ground to powder. It’s fair to say I wasn’t looking forward to the second half.

And yet, it all came right in the end. Having endured yet more injury woe when losing skipper Liam Cooper after 21 minutes, to add to the various injustices listed above, United thoroughly deserved the two pieces of good fortune that eventually came their way. First, on 82 minutes, an overhit backpass had Blunts keeper Dean Henderson scrambling to stop the ball going out for a corner. All he managed to do was present sub Jack Clarke with an opportunity to put an open goal on a plate for Pablo Hernandez, a chance the Spanish wizard snapped up with relish, to the delight of the massed Whites in the stand behind.

And, as time ran out, Dame Fortune, that fickle jade, smiled on Leeds a second time, as a Conor Washington overhead effort beat United keeper Peacock-Farrell all ends up, but crashed against the crossbar instead of pegging Leeds back. So, we got the three points that one of the worst refs I’ve ever seen had tried so hard to deny us, and the very best of hard cheese to him, to Sheffield United and to the corrupt clowns of the Football League.

As for Leeds – the heartiest of congratulations on a win that showed character and guts in the measure needed by any team that knows it will have to battle against the odds to get anywhere. Based on today’s gritty and committed display, this Leeds United team might be about to sample a bit more of that title-winning glory that followed, with a little help from Liverpool, our previous success at Bramall Lane. Let it be.

New Left Winger Option Could Bring Best Out of Leeds United’s Gjanni Alioski – by Rob Atkinson

Pawel

Pawel Cibicki – new option up front?

At the moment, and despite the unstinting public support he receives from the Elland Road coaching staff, it’s fair to say that Leeds United’s Gjanni Alioski is clinging onto his first team starting spot by the very tips of his fingers. He’s having the sort of season that might normally be expected to make him cast fearful glances at the January transfer window, wondering whether the club might make an astute purchase to give them options in his left-wing berth.

But the fact is that Alioski might well face a more immediate challenge from a player returning to his parent club from a loan spell abroad, in the shape of Pawel Cibicki. The 24 year old Swede has just finished a stint at Norwegian club Molde, making 13 appearances which have yielded 3 goals, a number of assists and a probable increase in confidence for a player whose ability is unquestionable. There are some who feel, or hope that, like Mateusz Klich before him, Cibicki can return to Leeds and thrive under Bielsa where he failed to hack it under previous management. Alioski is coming increasingly under the critical scrutiny of unimpressed fans, though he continues to be an automatic selection, for the moment anyway. But might this just be for the lack, so far, of any realistic competition?

The development squad at Leeds United has come through this season when the first team has looked a bit threadbare in various positions. But wide up front on the left has remained Alioski’s province, apart from the rare occasions when he’s been required to cover (and has possibly looked more effective) at left back.

Cibicki’s return though, unless the club plans to farm him out again, at least provides another option in Alioski’s first team role. It may take a while for the Swedish U-21 international – who has a vocal advocate for his value and ability in compatriot Pontus Jansson – to get up to speed in terms of fitness and the ability to fit into the Marcelo Bielsa pattern. But if he can be seen to be knocking on the door of the first team at Alioski’s expense, that must surely be good for the club. Cibicki could be a handy option off the bench, particularly as he can play as a striker or a winger, while persuading Alioski that it’s now time to buck his ideas up and produce what we all know he’s capable of.

It’s all about options, strength in depth and permutations – but, surely, a player of such undoubted ability suddenly becoming available, and doubtless with a point or two to prove, must be good news for everyone. Except, just possibly, Gjanni Alioski.

Gary Speed, the Leeds United Legend Who Ticked All the Boxes – by Rob Atkinson

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Gary Speed of Leeds United

Gary Speed, the Leeds United and Wales star who seemed to everyone who’d witnessed his talent on and off the pitch to have the football world at his feet, left us seven years ago today. Because of the manner of his leaving, and the universal esteem in which he was held, this is a difficult piece to write, even all these years later.

People have described hearing the shocking news of Gary’s death as a “JFK moment”; you’d always remember where you were and what you were doing when the awful reality fell on your unbelieving ears. As a Leeds United fan, I can remember feeling a cold splash of shock at the back of my neck, a sensation I’ve only had on a mercifully few occasions in my life. Even though Gary had left Elland Road for his boyhood love Everton 15 years before, it was a shattering blow, as it would have been for all of those who supported him in the colours of Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United, as well as the fervent ranks of Wales fans. It was so sudden, so unexpected and inexplicable, that a player and manager who seemed to have it all should have died at only 42 years old, and apparently by his own hand.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Gary Speed was loved and admired by just about everyone, fans of his clubs and country, and rival fans alike. Within the game he was revered by his colleagues, team mates, opponents and media operatives, for his likeability and professionalism; he was known as a man without the kind of faults and flaws you so frequently find in young men who have succeeded in their professions at a young age, and who have gone on to become rich and famous. Gary had all that, but he also had a disarming and genial personality that endeared him to those he met in the course of his career. Many were the tears shed, in private and in public too, over the days and weeks following his untimely demise. Nobody who saw it will forget the sight of Shay Given weeping openly after the minutes silence that preceded the Swansea v Aston Villa match only hours after Gary’s death had been announced. Respected reporter Bryn Law, a close friend of Speed, broke down emotionally during a TV interview in which he described his shock and sense of loss. To say that the whole game reeled with the impact of such tragic and unexpected news would not be to overstate the case. Gary’s memory was honoured when Leeds United played Millwall and his fellow midfielders from the 1991–92 title winning side Gary McAllister, David Batty and Gordon Strachan laid wreaths in the centre circle before kick off.

Bewilderment featured high on the list of reactions among those who knew him well, or who had even just known him as a famous footballer. The question of “Why?” has never been completely answered, the inquest stopping short of reaching a verdict of suicide, whilst acknowledging that Gary’s death had been caused by “self suspension”. Several years after Speed’s death, one of the coaches who had been involved with him as a boy footballer, Barry Bennell, was convicted as a serial child sex offender. Speed had been interviewed by police during earlier investigations into Bennell’s behaviour, and had said that he was never harmed by him; the inquest into Speed’s death found no links to Bennell. In February 2018, however, after Bennell’s conviction, an anonymous victim of the coach told Al Jazeera that he had witnessed Speed being abused. It seems unlikely that there will ever be a definitive explanation for the death of a man who had only the previous day conducted himself normally during a BBC Football Focus interview. All we are really left with, even seven years later, is shock, bafflement and a profound sense of loss.

Pg-11s-gary-speed-gettyMy memories of Gary Speed date from around the time of his Leeds United debut in 1989. He swiftly established himself as far more than just another promising midfielder, with his range of passing, awareness, powerful shot and prodigious ability in the air marked him out as a very special player. He served Leeds United well in a period of success second only to the Don Revie era, and he carried the respect and affection of the Leeds fans with him when he departed for Everton in 1996.

If I had to pick out one particular golden memory of Gary Speed, it would probably be the one so many other United fans mention when asked; the final goal of Leeds United’s 4-0 demolition of promotion rivals Sheffield United at Elland Road towards the climax of both clubs’ successful campaigns. It was a crunch game, with Leeds on the front foot from the start and, with the Whites having established a three goal cushion, Speed was released down the left by an astute Chris Kamara pass. I can still see him in my mind’s eye, outstripping the Blades defence and bearing down on Simon Tracey‘s goal at the Kop end of the ground. “Go on, Gary lad, get one yourself,” were the commentator’s memorable words as Speed unleashed a fine left foot shot just inside the far post to wrap up a comprehensive victory. It’s the stuff of which legends are made, and Gary Speed fits the definition of the word “legend” in every conceivable sense.

Seven years on, all of his fans remember him with affection tinged by the regret of a life well spent but over far too soon. Leeds play Reading tonight, and there will almost certainly be tributes paid to one of the club’s greatest servants – one of those rare players you felt could even have challenged for a place in Don Revie’s Super Leeds outfit.

RIP, Gary Andrew Speed, MBE (8 September 1969 – 27 November 2011) – still loved, still missed. 

Speed LUFC

Gary Speed’s complete Leeds United record

Leeds United Given a Penalty! FA Says “NOW are you happy??” – by Rob Atkinson

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…league games without a penalty for Leeds. And counting…

In what is likely to remain the most sensational football story of the year, a Leeds United team were awarded a PENALTY KICK (see para 5 of the definition below) earlier today, in a Professional Development League match away at Sheffield United.img_4539

An FA spokesman confirmed the spot kick award, explaining that the referee involved was evidently unaware of the current policy regarding Leeds United and penalties, but that he would be receiving training “as a matter of urgency”. The FA could only apologise, the spokesman added, for what was simply an unfortunate oversight.

A Football League source was more forthcoming, pointing out that they were aware of a social media campaign around the fact the United have not been awarded a penalty for 56 games stretching back over a year. “We at the Football League are cognisant of the fact that Leeds United were awarded a penalty during an Under-23s game today, and – while we cannot condone such a departure from official policy, we do at least join with our colleagues at the FA in the hope it will stop Leeds United and their irritating fans from whinging on about what is, quite frankly, a non-issue as far as we’re concerned. However, any Leeds fan hoping that today’s unfortunate occurrence will herald penalty kick awards for their team in Football League games would do well not to hold their breath”.

A joint FA/FL enquiry into today’s penalty award, now expected to be convened early next week, has been delayed pending mental health reports on the referee who made the decision.

The Football League, 130, is spectacularly corrupt.

 

Will Leeds United Really Get a Penalty Tomorrow, Vindicating Nostradamus? – by Rob Atkinson

Nostradamus - not the actual bit that says Morison will notch on Tuesday

Nostradamus – not the actual bit that says Leeds will get a spot kick tomorrow

An ancient verse of the mediaeval soothsayer Michel de Nostredame, better known in modern times as Nostradamus, has startlingly been interpreted as a firm prediction that Leeds United will be awarded a penalty in tomorrow’s home fixture against Bristol City.

The nailed-on prediction will come as good news for United fans, who have not seen their favourites given a spot kick for more than a year now – despite many feasible claims during the 55 games over that time. The Nostradamus prediction appears quite specific; the verse in question – technically known as a quatrain – is reproduced below. As can plainly be understood, the ancient prophet has seen in the stars at least one penalty for the Whites, together with a Leeds United victory.

“Northern wind will cause the siege to be raised / Nearby the path of the hollowed mountains / Two great beasts, one will oppose and one assail / Drinking by force the waters of the Chalice triumphant.”

The mention of “hollowed mountains” nearby – a transparent reference to the Pennines separating East from West – indicates opponents from the Occident. The two great beasts are, of course, a Bristolian defender (opposing) and a United striker (assailing). “Drinking by force the waters”, etc …. well, I’ve told you enough already. Got to leave you something to work out for yourselves.

Leeds manager Marco Bielsa is delighted to see his patience being rewarded. “Bueno,” said the United coach, fluently, before mumbling unintelligibly in Spanish and then favouring us with a charming smile.

Bristol City, for their part, are not convinced about the authenticity of this supposed ancient prophecy. “We’ll be watching our defensive work, certainly,” confirmed a club insider, “but we’ve made no special plans. We can’t simply assume that we’re going to concede a historically unlikely penalty just because of some mouldy old verse. Besides which, we’ve seen another quatrain from the National Library, and that clearly states the one you’ve got is bollocks.”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, however, is utterly convinced by the prediction and is prepared publicly to endorse it. Leeds United will get a penalty at home to Bristol City tomorrow – count on it. Even put money on it, if you like*. Some blog readers have already declared their solemn intent to “lump on”. So you can take our word for it. Leeds to get a pen, and Pablo, as he did back in the mists of time, will miss it. Definitely

* Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything can accept no responsibility for money lost in wagers, bets, flutters, accas or wild-eyed punts. Sorry.

FA Explains Austin Escaped Jansson Punishment as he Doesn’t Play for Leeds, Asks Why All the Fuss – by Rob Atkinson

             Pontus Jansson: bang to rights for being a Leeds United player

An FA spokesperson has reacted with bewilderment to the controversy over their decision not to punish Charlie Austin (Southampton) for recent post-match comments to the effect that the referee was a clown and deserved to be strung up with piano wire. Some Leeds United fans are apparently “miffed” that their own Pontus Jansson received a one match ban with a £1000 fine, for comments that many perceive as somewhat milder. The FA man, Mr Lee D. Shater (Twitter handle @LeeDShater), when asked why the Leeds man had been treated differently, replied, “Well, you’ve answered your own question. Mr Jansson plays for Leeds United and Mr Austin plays for Southampton. What’s the issue here?”

Fearing that we’d perhaps failed to make ourselves sufficiently clear, our intrepid Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything reporter asked once again for the precise reason behind seemingly different responses to similar matters. Mr. Shater stated “This is like talking to a brick wall. The FA has been very clear on a number of previous occasions that playing for Leeds United is an aggravating factor in any disciplinary issue. That’s a long-established fact, and we’re frankly surprised that it should become an issue now. Now do run along, I’m a busy man”.

Enquiries further up the FA chain of command failed to produce anything by way of a more detailed response, with the general reaction consistently being one of mild surprise that there was perceived to be anything questionable or controversial about the treatment of either player. One official, who preferred not to be named, but whose great grand-daddy was Alan Hardaker, tried to provide a little helpful background: “Look, a lot of this may have been before your time, but Leeds United has been the FA’s bête noire, if you’ll pardon my French, for well over fifty years now. We’re only continuing to enforce long-accepted guidelines, and we’re supported in this by our colleagues at the Football League – just take a look at how long it is since Leeds have been awarded a penalty kick – over a year now, in a run stretching to 55 games. We’re all pretty proud of that. Quite frankly, Mr Jansson can count himself lucky that he wasn’t treated more harshly. Nobody forced him to play for Leeds, you know…”

Nobody at Leeds United was available for comment, but it is understood that the club will continue to monitor instances of questionable and inconsistent refereeing decisions, as well as the application of disciplinary standards at the governing body level of the game. Apparently, some thought had been given to seeking the support of FIFA, the world football administrators, but a telegram from that august organisation reading “Leeds United? Pah. Nous détestons absolument Leeds United. Ils sont comme la merde sur nos chaussures. Pah!” served as a discouragement to that course of action.

It would seem, therefore, that the club’s only option will be to grit their teeth and get on with it. Nothing is likely to change anytime soon, and speculation among the Leeds support is that Brexit will be finalised long before United receive another penalty kick. The general feeling is that success, when it comes, will be all the sweeter for arising out of adversity and in the face of extreme prejudice. Or, as one classical scholar, a United fan for 43 years, put it: “Noli illegitimi carborundum”.

Alan Hardaker, 106, is dead.

 

 

Call For Leeds United to Inaugurate the Howard Wilkinson Stand – by Rob Atkinson

Wilko Last Champion

Wilko walks off with the title of last English champion

Leeds United fans are calling for a club legend to be honoured, just days after he turned 75. Howard Wilkinson, United manager for eight years between 1988 and 1996, celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, reaching the three-quarter century mark to become one of the grand old men of English football. Although his Elland Road days are now over twenty years behind him, Sergeant Wilko still enjoys legendary status among United fans, and rightly so.

Leeds United was at a very low ebb indeed when they appointed Wilkinson – their fortunes had plummeted during the eighties, and it’s fair to say that there appeared to be very little light at the end of what had become a long, dark tunnel. Much nearer the bottom of Division 2 than the top, Leeds were trying to look up, but casting fearful glances behind them at the as yet unknown experience of third tier football. Something had to be done, and the decision was taken to break with the practice of hiring managers from the pool of old boys that remained of Don Revie‘s Super Leeds squad. Allan Clarke of that elite group had been given a go, but Leeds had gone down. Eddie Gray had produced a vibrant young team, but his time ran out. And Billy Bremner reached an FA Cup semi final as well as a play-off final in 1987, but a slow start the following season cost him his job.

In truth, it was unfair to blame these Elland Road alumni; the whole approach of the club had been flawed and misconceived, with false economies and disastrous short-termism to the fore, which is something that Wilkinson perceived and addressed as early as the interview stage for the Leeds job. Indeed, and most famously, Wilko turned the tables at that interview, making it a scenario where he was interviewing the United board, setting out for them the path to recovery and success over three options of short, medium and long terms. Wilkinson laid it on the line that significant investment would be necessary, to bring about an overhaul of the squad, and of the club’s infrastructure more generally. The board were duly impressed, Wilko got the job, and the rest is history.

We all know the story of the Wilko revolution, especially that thrill ride between 1989 and 1992, when Leeds emerged from a long exile to establish themselves back in the top flight and then win the last ever Football League Title. The media had this honour reserved in their own minds for Alex Ferguson‘s emerging man u side, but Leeds pooped that end-of-era party, and entered the record books as top dogs when the game moved from one epoch to another. The driving force behind it all was Wilko; without him our history would have been very different – and probably not in a good way. For this, we honour him as a true great in Leeds United history. As we know, he remains the last Englishman, and more importantly, the last Yorkshireman, to win the title of English Champions

Now, some are calling for a more substantial tribute to United’s second-greatest boss than the Howard’s Bar area of the West Stand which currently bears his name. The proposal of at least one fan in a tweet wishing the great man a happy birthday was that the East Stand should now be renamed the Howard Wilkinson Stand. It’s an idea that has some merit, particularly as it was Wilko’s success that made it possible to conceive and then build such a huge statement of a structure, something that utterly transformed the Elland Road stadium. This is a point made very succinctly by Leeds tweeter David Barstow, as can be seen in the image below.

Wilko 75

Name the East Stand after Wilko – great idea!

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything heartily endorses Mr. Barstow’s suggestion, and hopes that it might be something the Leeds ownership will seriously consider. The club owes Howard a very great debt; he provided success at a time when competition was fierce, and titles were not merely bought by the wealthiest. It was an achievement to rank alongside the successes of the Revie team, and it merits the most fulsome tribute that the club can possibly make – particularity as Howard has just reached such a significant personal landmark.

A belated Happy 75th Birthday, Sergeant Wilko, and thanks for the memories. We hope and trust that you might have further honours to come, from the club that you so gloriously revived, in the not too distant future.