Category Archives: Leeds United

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

Phillips and Raphinha Struggle in Leeds’ First Win; “Not Good Enough for Big Six” – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United’s biggest stars – trust me, not worth a punt

What did we learn from Leeds United’s overdue first victory of this 2021-22 Premier League season? Not much, to be honest, that we didn’t already know. United made hard work of carving out a narrow win against a truly appalling Watford side who you’d have to say would have great difficulty scoring in the proverbial red light establishment. On this evidence, Watford are a good bet for relegation, whereas Leeds can thank their lucky stars that there are probably two or three clubs of around the same standard as the hopeless Hornets, which should see the relegation places spoken for, with United surviving for at least another season.

Anyone seeking an explanation of Leeds United’s mediocrity need look no further than the departure of legends Pablo Hernandez and Ezgjan Alioski. These two were the creative force behind the Whites’ successful Championship campaign of 2019/20, as well as their unexpectedly comfortable first season back at elite level. With their departures Leeds have lost two major talents who have not been successfully replaced. This regrettable fact also gives the lie to those who have hyped up the debatable talents of KP and Raphinha, who may now both safely be described as flash in the pan-types who should not be the subject of the recent fevered transfer speculation. The truth is, neither of these players would distinguish himself at a top six club, and the movers and shakers at Anfield, Old Trafford etc should get real and look elsewhere.

Far be it from me to second-guess the experts in the media, but it seems to me that, in talking up the “Phillips for Devon” stories, they are threatening to encourage Manchester’s second club towards yet another in a long series of disastrous purchases going back as far as Gary Birtles, and culminating in them having had their pants pulled down when Jadon Sancho was foisted upon them for a ridiculous amount of money. Neither am I in the habit of helping them avoid self inflicted misery, but it’d be cruelty to dumb animals not to warn them off the hapless Kalvin Phillips. So they should perhaps consider themselves warned, for their own good – with a similar cautionary note heading to Anfield, regarding the Brazilian in nationality only misfiring performer that is Raphinha.

I’m trying to be helpful here, to two Lancastrian clubs who clearly need some common sense advice. So pay heed, and steer well clear – you know it makes sense.

Marching On Together

Transfer Revelation: Leeds Star Kalvin Phillips “Will Be At United Next Season” – by Rob Atkinson

The tabloids are in their usual froth of eagerness to talk up the sale to a “Top 6 Club” of, well, any Leeds United player of any pedigree, to be honest. The papers know they have to keep the fans of the erstwhile €$£ clubs happy, so they will always do their best to indulge them and encourage the wishful thinking that these entitled armchair fans tend to indulge in.

Equally, the gutter rags know well that any football fan who doesn’t love Leeds United tends to hate them (although most couldn’t say why). It’s just fashionable to hate Leeds; that’s as true today as it was 60 years ago when Don Revie rocked the football world by founding a dynasty and propelling Leeds to superclub status. There’s hardly any in between with our club – we love them with a passion, everybody else settles for a blind hatred they couldn’t begin to explain. The papers know this, and their output is tailored to promote adulation of the plastic billionaire big six, as well as encouraging the ongoing demonisation of the unique phenomenon that is Leeds.

So, it’s natural – especially after his Euro 20 England heroics – that said gutter rags should decide that Elland Road is no place for the nation’s favourite swashbuckling midfielder. Engineering his transfer away from Leeds has become an urgent priority, and envious Wapping eyes are looking at Raphinha too. The Brazilian magician is being touted for Liverpool, but the tabloids, nursing happy memories of successful campaigns to move Ferdinand and Smith westwards along the M62, have decided that our own KP should join the salty nuts scattered liberally around the Pride of Devon. As if to emphasise their malicious intent, they have set the price at a measly £60m, which would probably buy Kalvin’s right boot and possibly his shin pads.

Well, I have news for the likes of the Sun, the Star and the other not so heavenly organs of the British trash press. Kalvin will be at United next season, and hopefully for a good few seasons after that. He’ll be at the only United that means anything to him and his family and many friends. A new contract is in the offing, one that will more accurately reflect Kalvin’s value to the club. And, while such a player will inevitably move on one day, I’m tolerably certain it won’t be to the sham United on the wrong side of the hills. He’s just too Leeds for that, and the extenuating circumstances that permitted Smith’s transition to the dark side don’t apply today. Have faith in the truth of that, and indulge in a wry smile when you see armchair plastics getting excited about the prospects of signing a £60m Yorkshire hero. It ain’t gonna happen.

No, Kalvin Phillips will be at United next season and for a good while yet. And if anyone reading this initially misunderstood the blog headline – well, what on Earth are you doing here anyway?? Get back to the Daily Star, and never darken my site again.

Marching On Together

Leeds Denied Stonewall Penalty Week After Struijk Sent Off For Nowt. Is it a Vendetta? – by Rob Atkinson

“These things even themselves out over the course of a season” is a phrase beloved of many bland and beige football pundits and commentators as they seek to dismiss blatantly criminal refereeing decisions as marginal calls. I’ve sat there and seethed many a time after yet another complacent attempt to put into soft focus yet another massively unfair travesty of justice perpetrated on my long-suffering football club, aptly dubbed “The Damned United”.

It’s been a bit different over the past week or so though, certainly last night at Newcastle, when the decision to deny United new boy Dan James a penalty, when he was blatantly chopped down in the area with the ball nowhere near (picture above) was met with incredulous derision and explicit criticism. To hear this from respected ex-pros almost provided an atom or two of comfort after witnessing the latest in a long, long line of “We wuz robbed” situations for the Whites (or the Lilacs, on this occasion). So often, as a Leeds fan, you catch yourself thinking, bloody hell, how on Earth did he make THAT decision? And words like “conspiracy” and phrases like “bent as a nine bob note” start whirling around your possibly paranoid brain. Then a Carragher or even a Neville (Don forgive me, I’m even forgetting how to hate Neville) chirps up to agree that said decision ranks alongside Brexit for sheer mind numbing stupidity – and, for once, you feel the tiniest bit validated. And, given our history with referees and pundits, that really is a bizarre and novel feeling.

It was the same last week, with several luminaries making it very clear that they found the decision to send off Pascal Struijk utterly wrong. Again, there was an oddness to the incident, with the ref initially appearing to wave play on – even though Leeds were in possession, so clearly it wasn’t a standard advantage call. The inescapable conclusion is that the ref didn’t feel it was a foul, so it follows that his decision to show a red card must have been prompted by his realisation that the young Liverpool lad was badly injured. And THAT really does open a can of worms.

Even so, hard on the heels of the usual feelings of frustration and downright resentment, there came a minuscule crumb of comfort that people were seeing what’s happening with Leeds, and that they’re prepared to speak out about it. Once that starts happening, it’s surely not long before people other than rabidly biased Leeds fans start to wonder what’s going on. Would van Dijk have been sent off if he’d been the one making the challenge for which Struijk saw red? (Answer: no – he’s made an identical challenge and not even a yellow resulted). Would Cristiano Ronaldo have been awarded a penalty kick if it was him being chopped down playing for the Pride of Devon, instead of Dan James of Leeds? (Answer: of course he would, don’t be so deuced naive).

Once those questions start being asked on a regular basis, and assuming that the likes of Mike Dean will continue to hand Leeds the crappy end of the stick, then a pattern will eventually form, and the scales will start dropping from complacent eyes. And then, it may not be just us Leeds fans who are asking: is the game actually pursuing a vendetta against Leeds United? And, with myriad similar incidents burned into our brains going back the thick end of fifty years, we all know the answer to THAT one. What will be fascinating to behold is what will happen when others realise it too.

Marching On Together

Challenge for Leeds United Fans: What Does “FA” Actually Stand For? – by Rob Atkinson

In Victorian times, “FA” stood for “Fanny Adam’s” a young murder victim of 1867 whose name, by some bizarre twist of nautical humour, came to be synonymous with – well, nothing.

These days, the two letters are supposed to evoke thoughts of an august ruling body for our national game. But, clearly, that’s nonsense, for as we all know, and as has been proved yet again only today, that ruling body is characterised by arrogance and complacency, together with a bumbling inability to get anything right, and further soured by their implacable hatred of Leeds United.

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of the red card saga here. It’s clearly pointless raising issues of precedent; the FA don’t care about such issues, they’re simply focused on dispensing injustice liberally around LS11, and if that makes them look ridiculous and foolish, well, so be it.

So I’ll just ask for suggestions as to what “FA” stands for, to us Leeds fans, here and now. I’ve à few choice ideas of my own, so it would be inappropriate to ask you to keep it clean. Let’s just stick it to them and carry on…

Marching On Together