Category Archives: Football

Leeds’ Gjanni Alioski: Just Like Robbie Savage, Only With Skill – by Rob Atkinson

Ezgjan Alioski – brilliantly annoying

In football, the effective player may be summed up as follows: skill, plus boundless energy; dedication to the common cause and – last, but definitely not least – that priceless knack of being able to wind up and annoy the hell out of the opposition, so that they’re simply psyched out and don’t know how to cope.

Some players have one or two of these attributes, there’s not many that have the lot. When you find one that does possess the full house, what you then need is a coach able to get the most out of such a valuable individual. Here, Leeds United with their very own genius mentor Marcelo Bielsa, can be described as very well blessed.

Macedonian international Ezgjan “Gjanni” Alioski has been a stand-out player in a very impressive Leeds United side for some time now, particularly since he moved into an attacking left back role to cover for the injury absence of Barry Douglas. Because of his capacity to run all day and through the night-time too, Alioski has been able to start from very deep and still offer a threat up front. This is more than an overlapping full-back – this is a scourge of the opposition, all the way up and down their right flank, niggling, passing, running, tackling, shooting and heading. A proper pest.

Alioski’s energy and running power is a given; to this, add his ability to create and score, as well as covering the left back patrol. At the very end of a typically busy performance against West Brom, there he was, this ersatz full-back, all the way upfield on the opposition goal line to tap home a low cross from sub Jamie Shackleton. This is not a man you find on his haunches, wheezing with exhaustion as the clock runs down. Alioski puts in the miles, and his level of performance lately has been a joy to behold.

The other thing about Gjanni is that he’s annoying. He’s the kind of player you love to hate in the opposing team, someone who will pester and hassle his opponent, taking the mick, getting in his man’s face, trying all he knows to ruffle and unsettle his opponent. He’s got an annoying face, annoying hair, an annoying attitude and an annoying smile, with the ability to get right under the skin of the other team’s more volatile characters. You hate this sort of opponent, but they can be your heroes when they wear your own team’s shirt. Just as long as they can play, too.

Because it’s not enough to be annoying, you need the other things too. Robbie Savage was the classic example of a player who nicked a living on the basis of his irritant factor plus not a lot else. He had the kind of face and hair that made you want to own a baseball bat and a pair of shears. But he couldn’t really play, though – as I well recall from a 6-0 Leeds victory in the League Cup away at Leicester – he wasn’t the type to hide. If Robbie Savage had had more ability to add to his dislikability, he would have been something approaching the player Alioski is. Even now, in his role as a radio gob on a stick, Savage continues to show more irritant value than talent.

Gjanni Alioski though is much more of a complete product, and he’d be a good bet to score a few goals as well as wind up a few victims, for any team prepared to utilise his strengths. Leeds, under Marcelo Bielsa, are uniquely placed to get the best out of a player who, in less ideal circumstances, may have struggled to fulfil his potential.

As it is, though, Alioski looks set to make a significant contribution to what, for United, could well be a landmark season.

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Gallery

Another false anti-Semitism furore, this one nipped in the bud

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Originally posted on TheCritique Archives:
by Martin Odoni This evening, a little-known former leader of Camden Council implied over Twitter that Hampstead & Kilburn’s constituency Labour Party is guilty of anti-Semitic behaviour. Sarah Hayward, wording her tweet carefully so she…

Frank Lampard Now Sure the Leeds United Spies are Out to Get Him and Derby County – by Rob Atkinson

Lampard: I sense spies, spies, spies. Where are they??

Shortly after Derby County‘s latest thumping, by four goals to nil at Aston Villa, Rams manager Frank Lampard cut a huddled and morose figure as he contemplated the way in which the nefarious agents of Leeds United were conspiring to deprive him of the success he considers his birthright. When asked if his side were still affected by the aftermath of “Spygate“, a wild-eyed Lampard snapped “I don’t want to discuss that. But yes, definitely. They’re out to get me, I’m looking over my shoulder all the time”.

When asked the precise nature of this alleged ongoing effect on his stuttering team, Lampard rapped “I don’t want to discuss that. But there are spies in every bush, and they’ve all got Leeds United badges on and they’re heavily armed with bolt cutters. They’re equipped with special patent spies’ glasses too, that can see right through even B&Q green plastic mesh. It’s a conspiracy, I tell you”.

Somewhat bemused, our (undercover) Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything correspondent asked Mr. Lampard exactly what would be the point of this alleged ongoing Leeds United spying, given that Leeds had already outplayed and thrashed Derby twice in their two Championship meetings this season. Lampard snarled “I don’t want to discuss that. But you must understand, these Leeds spies are determined to ruin Derby’s whole season, so they’re still after me, getting at me, haunting my very dreams, determined to thwart me, passing on vital information to our enemies. It’s a vendetta, I tell you, a vendetta!!”

As Mr. Lampard finished his impassioned statement, his voice had risen to a peculiar thin shriek, and his face had turned blotchy and purple, with his eyes bugging out and the beginnings of a nosebleed. Concerned, our man asked if he was OK. Lampard whimpered “I don’t want to discuss that. But you tell me, would you be OK with the most evil football club in the whole world against you, following your every move, listening at doors, peeping through windows, bugging your phone lines and hacking into your special Rams iPad?? Would you? Would you??? No, you bloody wouldn’t. And now we lose 4-0 to Villa after getting beat off Forest and Millwall doing us at Shame Park. And the fans are blaming me, can you believe that? It’s Leeds United, I tell you, Leeds! Leeds, Leeds, Leeeeeeds!!!

At this point, Mr. Lampard was led away, gently restrained in the very straitjacket County used to calm Frannie Lee down after Norman Hunter bust his lip, and then, with a faint, protesting cry of “Wibble” that would bring tears to a glass eye, put firmly on the team bus back to Derby. A club spokesman stated that “Frankie just needs a rest. A nice long rest. Just leave him be for now. As regards the current situation, Frankie’s frankly in no fit state to discuss that”.

Leeds United, fresh from their 4-0 dismissal of West Bromwich Albion, confined themselves to a brief official statement: “We at Elland Road wish Frank Lampard well, and look forward to news of his complete recovery and rehabilitation”.

Shaun Harvey of the Football League is a complete arse.

Tyler Roberts a Revelation as Four-midable Leeds United Blitz West Brom – by Rob Atkinson

Tyler Roberts, Man of the Match Against former club West Brom

There were so many highlights from Leeds United‘s sparkling demolition of West Bromwich Albion, that it’s really difficult to pick out any notably outstanding element of what was the classic “statement victory”. There were a couple of coolly-taken goals from Iceman striker Patrick Bamford, there was another defensive juggernaut performance from skipper Liam Cooper, and of course we had Pablo Hernandez, our own Spanish wizard, back to his best with a sublime, world-class strike and so much more as he twinkled brightly all over the pitch.

But the abiding memory I will take away from a highly memorable evening is that of young Tyler Roberts, late of the Sandwell parish but now very definitely Leeds, striding forward from an unaccustomed deeper position to cause havoc in the defensive ranks of his hapless former club.

Tyler was a revelation on the night. Surging through midfield and beating baffled Baggies with sinuous, snake-hipped ease, he was a continual threat to West Brom and helped himself to a couple of juicy assists for the Iceman’s brace of goals. The first of these reminded me of Kemar Roofe‘s round the corner pass to Gjanni Alioski to score at Norwich early in the season. Roberts’ ball through to Bamford was part of a beautifully-worked goal that began with an intelligent ball into the area from Mateusz Klich, and was finished beautifully by our number 9 as he held off a challenge from behind to finish clinically.

On this form, Tyler Roberts should have a major part to play in the run-in to the end of the season. His work rate and decision-making on Friday were different class and, on a night when every man in a white shirt did himself immense credit, Tyler emerged as the clear Man of the Match.

Honourable mention too for Alioski, who combines tireless running with that annoying nuisance value which is so handy in demoralising the opposition. The Macedonian Marvel deserved his last-gasp clincher, put on a plate for him by sub Jamie Shackleton after more good work from Pablo and Klich.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of all about last night’s performance was its inherent topsy-turvydom, with the Whites murdering a WBA side that had won nine of its previous ten away games, just days after falling to defeat against a QPR team that had lost seven on the spin. Go figure. But the upshot was that all is forgiven from Tuesday night, in the sheer joy of seeing the real Leeds turn up to send a promotion contender packing.

The sixty-four thousand dollar question now must be: with a tough game at Bristol City coming up next weekend, can United replicate this level and standard of performance? If they’re to do that, it may well be because Tyler Roberts has now found both his niche in the team and the secret of his maximum effectiveness in this new, deeper role.

In which case, Leeds United might just have discovered the golden key to the Premier League‘s Promised Land.

Leeds Looking for a Favour when Old Friends Millwall meet Norwich – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United roared back to the top of the Championship last night, with a spectacular 4-0 thumping of awayday specialists West Bromwich Albion – and the Whites will be hoping that the Lions’ roar will be heard in London today, with a flock of Canaries the victims.

Millwall play Norwich City at the New Den, always a formidable destination. Leeds will remember securing a last gasp draw there in the autumn, courtesy of a late Jack Harrison strike. Norwich, with the prolific Teemu Pukki always a good bet for a goal or two, will hope to go one better, but many a team expected to do well has come a cropper in this part of London.

While we’re asking for favours from old friends, it’d be nice if Sheffield Wednesday could do the honours as they host the Steel City derby on Monday evening. Hillsborough is another venue that limited Leeds to a solitary point this season, but the Owls will possibly find the Blades too sharp for them – we can but hope, for purely selfish reasons, that things work out well for Steve Bruce & Co on the night.

Next weekend sees Leeds United heading for a stiff examination away at Bristol City, with Norwich and Sheffield United at home, to Swansea and Rotherham respectively. There’s plenty of scope there for United to be pegged back – so we really could do with a couple of good turns this weekend from Millwall and Wednesday.

So, come on guys – you know we’ve always wanted the best for you…

Rodgers: Swapping Immortality for Mediocrity? Celtic Fans Are Deluded – by Rob Atkinson

Former Glasgow Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has understandably jumped at the chance to manage once again in the English Premier League, putting his desire to be involved in a more competitive competition ahead of what some are pleased to call “loyalty”.

It’s something that tends to stick in the care of the average partisan, blinkered football fan, but the bottom line is that you can’t stand in the way of a man seeking to better himself. And that is precisely what Brendan Rodgers has done. Leeds United fans have had to swallow similar bitter pills in the past, but it’s the law of the jungle. Might is right.

In leaving Scottish football, where the top flight has rarely been other than a two horse race, and has lately become a boring procession, Rodgers will once again be pitting his wits against the best. For some Celtic fans to claim that he has swapped immortality for mediocrity is to plumb the depths of self-delusion. The mediocrity resides north of the border in a league without any real excitement or class; immortality is not earned in Mickey Mouse competitions. The main interest in football up there lately was duding Rangers’ resurgence from their relegation to the bottom division.

A few other Celtic fans have sunk even lower, expressing the hope that Rodgers will die in his sleep, or fall to an IRA bullet. That sort of filth intrudes upon football occasionally, and it can crop up anywhere. But it seems far more common in an environment riven with sectarian hatred, where vicious fanatics are far more common than in the slightly more healthy competitive atmosphere in England.

Leicester City have been able to attract the manager of a so-called “big club” simply because, whatever Celtic’s size and history, the real football giants in the UK are to be found in the white heat of battle that characterises the top two English divisions. Whatever diplomatic phrases Rodgers may have employed in talking about his departure from Celtic, he plainly wanted to take up the Premier League challenge, and it’s not hard to see why.

Unless, of course, you’re a blinkered, deluded – and maybe bigoted – Celtic fan.

You Can Be Angry, You Can Be Critical, and Yet STILL Be a Loyal Leeds Fan – by Rob Atkinson

leeds-fans

Leeds fans United behind team and club


In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s irritating (not disastrous) defeat at QPR, I wrote in anger about what I thought of Leeds United‘s performance – saying that, although we didn’t get the breaks, we also lacked bottle and class. I’d still stand by that, but possibly with the slight amendment that we seemed to lack bottle and class because we failed to show bottle and class. It’s a small but important difference.

In my heart of hearts, I know that this Leeds United squad is not short of courage or quality – they’ve demonstrated on many occasions this season, though not so much lately, that they possess both attributes. The comeback win at Aston Villa, hunting down a lone Wigan attacker like a pack of hungry wolves, late levellers in adverse circumstances as at Middlesbrough. Many such moments. I know all this and I’m proud of it. But I’m sure that no group of professional footballers would expect the fans to take this as read. It’s their job to go out and prove that they have the guts and the skill, game after game, over and over again, all season long. That determination to prove they’ve got the bottle and the class was missing at QPR. And it was right, even in post-defeat anger and hurt, to point that out.

I say this, because there are different schools of thought among Leeds fans, both in physical groups, in the pub post-game, perhaps, and online. Some feel they have a right to say what they like, however harsh, having paid their money – even to the extent of dismissing this or that player as “useless” or “should never wear the shirt again”. You see those tweets collected to make articles that purport to be the feelings of the fans as a whole but, in reality, it’s more representative of an extreme group of hypercritical malcontents.

Others hold the view that any criticism is A Bad Thing, and that we should all be totally positive as a condition of support, unwilling to hear or tolerate a bad word about anything to do with Leeds. Again, this is quite extreme, though in the opposite way – and it’s probably almost as unhelpful as the rabid critics referred to above. For me, there has to be the possibility of feeding back to the club when you honestly feel that standards are dropping. Some fans are knowledgeable, some are not – and some appear to feel they know better than the pros, be they on the playing staff or responsible for coaching and team selection.

But I firmly believe that the vast majority of fans know and love the game well enough, and have enough of a passion for their club, to be able to steer a useful middle path between the extremes, and vociferously support their club, defending them against attacks from outside, while reserving judgement when on-field performance dips.

I’m confident enough in my own regard for “my” club that I feel able to launch into them occasionally, without being thought of as negative or hostile. I wouldn’t be writing about Leeds United in the first place if I didn’t feel the highs and lows with as much pleasure and pain even as the players who trot out to the crowd’s applause. Like thousands of others, I was supporting United many years before any of those lads in the yellow shirts at QPR were born. So I wouldn’t like to think that anyone – players, staff, fellow fans or anybody else – would read what I wrote just after the final whistle last night, and think that I’m not a true fan, or that I’m disloyal or habitually negative. I’m not – anyone who knows me will know that I’m virtually defined by my abiding love for Leeds United.

It’s always a difficult situation after a disappointing defeat, especially in these circumstances, with the carrot dangling of going back top, and taking on a tired team who’d just reeled off seven straight defeats. But that’s no reason to hold back, so I said what I thought needed saying – and yes, I said it feeling bitterly angry. But that’s not to say I’m not a loyal and committed supporter – I went into print precisely because I am loyal and committed and because, loving the club and believing in the players and management, I have great expectations.

For what it’s worth, I believe that the players will be angrier and more disappointed in themselves than even the most gutted fan, and I think they will use that to bounce back at Elland Road on Friday against West Brom. I hope and believe that will happen.

But, if it doesn’t, and if we all have another bitter pill to swallow – then please don’t doubt my loyalty and commitment when, choking on that pill, I write another angry and critical piece. Because I really would be doing it for what I honestly see as the very best of reasons – to show that I care deeply. As we all do.

MOT

Lacked the Breaks, Lacked the Bottle, Lacked the Class; Simply Dreadful, Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

“Poundland Messi” Luke Freeman settles the match at QPR

As regular readers will know, I had some qualms about the match at QPR. Leeds United needed the win to go back top, Rangers had lost seven on the spin. For students of Sod’s Law, it was a disaster waiting to happen. I even wrote a pessimistic piece, observing that many a team on a poor run then go full-on Barça when they face Leeds; well, it wasn’t quite like that at Loftus Road, although Rangers matchwinner Luke Freeman did a pretty good impersonation of a Poundland Messi.

In truth, the writing was on the wall early on, when the referee missed what looked like a clear handball by Rangers inside their area. “Play on, lads”, chirruped the ref, as the advertising hoarding behind the goal displayed “Rebuilding lives after lost sight”. Even so, Leeds carried more threat than QPR before the break, with Patrick Bamford just failing at the far post to convert a low cross from Pablo Hernandez. After the break though, the rot set in with a vengeance.

United possibly lacked the breaks all night, but the longer the match went on, the clearer it was that there were deficiencies also in the bottle and class departments. Rangers, meanwhile, toiled away manfully. And they got their attacking break when Tyler Roberts carelessly lost possession on United’s left flank. The ball moved forward, a cross went into the Leeds box, and the ball was past Kiko Casilla into the net. 1-0, and you just knew it was going to be one of those nights.

Leeds had perhaps one genuinely classy move, a flowing progress upfield which deserved to be crowned with an equaliser. But Rangers cleared the ball at the last ditch, as they managed to do whenever required, all night long.

On a truly awful night for Leeds, Izzy Brown‘s long-awaited debut as a sub was probably destined to be a shocking anti-climax, and so it proved. Brown’s first contribution to proceedings was to block a likely-looking shot from one of his own team-mates – and then shortly afterwards, he picked up a deserved yellow. And Brown probably should have seen yellow again just minutes later – but by that time, the ref possibly felt rather sorry for us.

As bad days at the office go, this was akin to the whole company going into liquidation and then burning down. The best we can hope is that we’ve just witnessed the season bottoming out; that from here on in, the only way is up. But with West Brom lying in wait on Friday, even that has to be open to doubt.

Maybe the United players will take a little anger and frustration away from this game alongside, yes, a chunk of shame and regret. It’s to be hoped anyone in a Leeds shirt tonight is angry, particularly with themselves. Anger is possibly the only thing about the display against Rangers that can be taken forward and used on Friday night against West Brom.

Elland Road will be packed and bouncing then, with the crowd roaring their heroes on. And the players must respond and they must deliver. Because it’s still all to play for – and those Leeds United players owe all of their fans a massively improved performance and a much better result. Big time.

One Great Three Point Performance at QPR, and Leeds are Back on Track – by Rob Atkinson

Cometh the hour, cometh the lads

If Leeds United can just see Tuesday’s fixture at Queens Park Rangers as an opportunity to be seized, rather than an obstacle to be wary of, then they could and should go into next weekend on top of the pile and conscious of having their fate in their own hands.

Even a draw would see Leeds leapfrog Sheffield United into the automatic promotion places, a mere point behind Norwich City. Both the Blades and the Canaries have put together fine, consistent runs and their exalted league positions are no fluke. On the other hand, just as Leeds are surely due to click into gear and give somebody a proper leathering, so must it be high time for a wheel or two to come off at Carrow Road and/or Bramall Lane.

As I wrote earlier, Leeds will need to be on their mettle against a bit of a wounded beast in Rangers. The Hoops have lost seven on the trot, and a lot will depend on how the game starts as to whether QPR are encouraged or demoralised. If Leeds can start fast and dominate possession from the off, as they’re quite capable of doing, then Rangers heads might drop – although that sounds like wishful thinking and probably is.

The fact remains that Leeds United have a clear run at top spot tomorrow, a chance to lay down a marker as the season gets to its business end. It will be Rangers’ third game in eight days, whereas Leeds had ten days off prior to Saturday’s defeat of Bolton at Elland Road. These are all good, positive vibes and normally they’d reduce me to a quivering mass of pessimism – but there’s nothing normal about this Championship League

Besides, after my earlier article pointing out that Leeds will need to avoid complacency despite Rangers’ bad run, some of the responses have lifted my mood towards cautious optimism. There’s some wise old heads among the readers of this blog, and many of them seem quite upbeat about United’s West London appointment – so who am I to pour cold water on such positivity?

A win is needed. A big win would be nice, but any win will do. In the spirit of optimism and possibility, I take Leeds to prevail by one or two goals. Now please, just for once, let me be right.

Beware of ‘Hopeless’ QPR Turning Up as Brilliant Barcelona Against Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

qpr or barcelona

QPR to face Leeds United on Tuesday? Or Barcelona?

We’ve seen both sides of the effect on opposing teams that a match against Leeds United so often has. It happens time and time again – one aspect is that teams who run themselves into the ground to get a result against Leeds then frequently go on to capitulate against lesser opposition next time out. I call this “Post Cup Final Syndrome” and, believe me, it really is a thing.

That’s annoying enough, but the other side of the coin might usefully be dubbed “The Barcelona Effect”. This where a team has experienced a dire run of form, getting thrashed six ways from Sunday by all and sundry – and then, the fixture list sees them turning out against our heroes. All of a sudden, this previously useless team then turns up looking like a cross between Brazil of 1970 and Pep’s all-conquering Barca side – and we get rolled over. It’s happened way too often for me to disregard this as my own personal paranoia, and I must admit – knowing that QPR have lost seven on the spin, the prospect of the same phenomenon doing for us again at Loftus Road is sending my pessimism coefficient through the roof. We need to win, we want to win, and we should win – but would any of us honestly bet on it?

I’m not here to tell a genius like Marcelo Bielsa how to prepare his team psychologically for the challenge presented by any Championship team – he’s forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know. But a lifetime of following the ups and, mostly, downs of Leeds United has taught me that things can and will go wrong for this club, unless absolutely everything is spot on – so if there do happen to be any players wearing the shirt tomorrow who are looking with relish at the dismal recent record of QPR, then please – put these thoughts from your mind.

Otherwise, as sure as eggs are eggs, we’ll end up with egg on our faces.