Category Archives: News

Three Top, TOP Leeds United Away Trips – by Rob Atkinson

We all have our favourite LUFC memories, and many will relate to games away from LS11.  Here, in reverse order, are my three favourite road trips following The Whites.

3. Sheffield Wednesday 1, Leeds United 6 12.1.1992

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Sergeant Wilko

This was Sergeant Wilko’s first return to Wednesday since he had quit Hillsborough to become Leeds boss in 1988.  It would also be Lee Chapman’s last game before his season-threatening FA Cup injury, which resulted in the drafting in of one Eric Cantona – with all the long term consequences that would entail.  But Chappy was destined to be sidelined only temporarily, and he went out in the most emphatic style.

There was a crowd of 32228 at Hillsborough, the usual vociferous contingent of travelling Leeds fans rivalling the home crowd for noise from the outset, and completely drowning them as the game went on.  Leeds United were weakened, so it seemed, by the absence of the injured Gordon Strachan and suspended David Batty, half of their legendary midfield Fantastic Four.  Any side, surely, would miss performers of such calibre.  Leeds, though, seemed determined to make light of the problem, and tore into their hosts from the start.  Full-back Tony Dorigo made an early darting run, cutting in from the left and making good progress down the centre of the pitch, before unleashing a right-foot thunderbolt that Wednesday ‘keeper Chris Woods had to tip over.  From the resulting Gary MacAllister corner, Chris Fairclough rose to head downwards, and found Chapman in splendid isolation four yards out; his finish swift and deadly for 1-0.

For a local derby, the contest had been decidedly one-way traffic – Chapman was to send two towering headers just wide before Carl Shutt had a scuffed shot smothered by Woods in the home goal.  Then, a true champagne moment as Mel Sterland fed the ball to Chapman on the right.  In a completely untypical burst of pace and control, Chappy surged between two hapless Wednesday defenders, raced into the area, and unleashed a shot that beat Woods completely, just clipping the frame of the goal to rapturous applause from the Leeds fans at the Leppings Lane End.  I remember thinking at the time that anything was possible now, if Lee Chapman could do something so utterly out of character.  And so it proved as, from a free kick awarded just right of centre some ten yards outside the box, Dorigo stepped up to absolutely hammer a left foot drive past the helpless Woods.  Cue mayhem and cavortings as the Leeds hordes behind the goal, celebrated as clean a strike as you could ever wish to see, the ball a blur as it arrowed into the far corner with deadly precision and power.

At 2-0 down, the home side were making increasingly desperate attempts to gain some sort of foothold in the match.  This desperation was adequately demonstrated when, from a harmless-looking ball into the Leeds area, Wednesday striker Gordon Watson ran in front of Chris Whyte, continued on for another step or two, and then hurled himself into the air, landing in agonised paroxysms of simulation between a bemused Whyte and Leeds ‘keeper John Lukic.  Such obvious fraud and villainy could have only one outcome, and the stadium held its collective breath for sentence to be passed on the miscreant.  Instead – amazingly – referee Philip Don pointed to the spot.  Whether none of the officials had seen the extent of Watson’s ham-acting, or whether they were moved by sympathy for the mauling Wednesday were taking from a rampant Leeds, it’s impossible to tell.  The outcome was the same either way.  Ex-Leeds hero John Sheridan stepped up, saw his penalty brilliantly saved as Lukic tipped it against his right-hand post, and then gleefully belted home the rebound to give Wednesday a massively unmerited lifeline.

This act of base and scurvy treachery required nothing less than a riposte of the utmost nobility and beauty, so we said to ourselves, though probably in more Anglo-Saxon terms.  And, happily, that’s just what came to pass.  Only six minutes after the home side’s ridiculous blagging of a comically unfair route back into the game, Leeds took effortless control again with a goal sublime in both its conception and execution.  Lukic bowled the ball out to Dorigo on the left flank; he sent it first time down the line to Gary Speed, who took one steadying touch before sending a beautiful flighted cross into the Wednesday area.  And there, inevitably, was Chapman, horizontal in mid-air, neck cocked to hammer the ball unanswerably past Woods, the perfect counterpunch to Watson’s knavish low blow.  It was a gorgeous goal, sweeping the length of the left side, taking the entire home team right out of the game, and re-establishing the two goal margin which was the least Leeds United deserved at half-time.

The second half that ensued was simply a story of how a blood-and-thunder Yorkshire derby turned into a stroll in the park for Leeds United.  It seemed as if all the life had been sucked out of the home team – a Wednesday side who, let’s not forget, were unbeaten at home since the opening day of the season, and who would go on to finish third in the table.  So they were no mugs, but Leeds United were absolutely irresistible on the day, and would have hammered far better teams than the hapless, bewildered Owls.

It’s possible that Wednesday were simply embarrassed about that cringe-worthy penalty, possibly they were dog-tired, having been run ragged since the start.  Whatever the case, their heads dropped steadily further and further as the game progressed, and they offered little resistance as Leeds proceeded to throttle the life out of them.  Chapman completed his hat-trick five minutes after the hour, heading in after Speed had struck the bar from a corner.  Poor Speedo was looking the other way, bemoaning his bad luck when the ball hit the back of the net after all, turning his frustration to joy.  Then, perennial bit-part player Mike Whitlow ventured forward, just because he could, and rose unchallenged to meet Rod Wallace’s right-wing cross and head easily over a stranded Woods.  It was left to little Wallace to administer the coup de grâce, striding clear after a shimmering exchange of passes in midfield to dink the ball over the advancing ‘keeper, and put the suffering home side finally out of their misery.  A highly satisfactory awayday slaughter of the Wendies.

2. AC Milan 1, Leeds United 1 8.11.2000

Dom Matteo....Scored A Very Good Goal....In The San Siro...

Dom Matteo….Scored A Very Good Goal….In The San Siro…

This match is so famous that I barely need to recount the action kick by kick.  The Leeds fans at one end of the San Siro were in fully, throaty voice for most of the proceedings, drawing incredulous glances from the attendant Carabinieri who were in full-on riot gear but friendly enough, muttering to each other about lunatic English tifosi (hooligans.)  The first half was a decent contest – Milan were through already, but not disposed to give Leeds an easy ride – especially after paranoid noises emanating from Barcelona, who – nervous about their own prospects – had done their best to warn Milan off taking it easy against Leeds.  So Milan pressed in front of a crowd of 52289, and their winger Serginho was causing Gary Kelly plenty of problems.  In the 26th minute, a slightly soft penalty was awarded to Milan at our end of the stadium, and 6000 Leeds fans held their collective breath as Andriy Shevchenko took careful aim only to rap Robinson’s right-hand post, the ball bouncing away to safety as the masses behind our goal celebrated as if we’d actually scored.  And then, miraculously, as the first half ebbed away, we did score.  A Lee Bowyer corner from the right found Matteo rising majestically at the near post to meet the ball with a punchy header which soared high into the net.  Cue utter pandemonium at the Leeds end as all the tension, passion and belief exploded in one almighty roar which almost lifted the hi-tec roof off the famous stadium.

The party went on throughout half-time and into the second half, drawing more bemused glances from the Italian police; there was only a brief hiatus in the 67th minute when the superb Serginho deservedly equalised, but then it was mounting fan fever again all the way to the final whistle and beyond as Leeds held out to qualify for an equally difficult second phase of the competition.  The scenes after the game are at least as famous as the events of the ninety minutes; the team coming back out onto the pitch in response to the demands of the faithful who were held back in the interests of crowd safety.  What followed was described by respected football commentators (as well as Alan Green) as the best example of team/fan bonding they’d ever seen.  Fans and players – even a certain Chairman – swapped chants and songs in a spontaneous celebration of a joyous night.  Even the uncertain musical efforts of Lee Bowyer were greeted by a blast of friendly derision.  It was a unique experience, and the Latin cops were clearly by now utterly convinced that these English people were absolutely barking mad.  As football nights go, you’d have to travel a long way to find one more worthy of memory – only a trophy could have improved it, but the spectacle of the game and its aftermath is one I have seen imitated but never repeated.

1. Sheffield United 2, Leeds United 3 – 26.4.1992

Jon Newsome, Superstar

Jon Newsome, Superstar

If you’re a Leeds supporter, you’ll have seen the goals from this game hundreds, thousands of time.  It plays through now, all these years later, in the Football Highlights studio of my mind; joy for the home side as Alan Cork, gleaming of bald pate, pokes the ball home to give Sheffield the lead.  Then, a midfield tussle in the swirling wind, as Leeds try valiantly to come back.  A late first-half free kick, which Gordon Strachan races to take before the home defence can set themselves, he finds Rod Wallace in the area who tips the ball past home keeper Mel Rees’s attempt to save, defenders scramble to clear, only to hit Gary Speed who bounces the ball back to ricochet off Wallace – into the net.  Pandemonium in the away end.   Level at half time, we’re breathless with drama and the hurly-burly of it all, raucous with United anthems, nervous of what’s yet to come.

The crazy game continues crazily.  A dangerous ball across the Leeds box is retrieved by home defender and future Leeds man John Pemberton, who turns it back towards the goal-line where Lee Chapman sticks out a leg for an own-goal greeted with horrified stupefaction by the Leeds fans behind the goal and we’re level again.  Then enfant terrible Eric Cantona enters the fray, and within a few minutes he is chasing a loose ball into the Sheffield half, with Rod Wallace scampering alongside and home defender Brian Gayle lumbering back in a desperate attempt to clear the danger.  And it’s Gayle, former Man City man, who finally slays Man United.  From my vantage point at the opposite end of the ground I see him get his head to the ball, and the action is suddenly slow motion.  Gayle has headed the ball, poor Mel Rees is stranded far out of his goal, the ball goes over his head in a slow, slow loop, and bounces tantalisingly towards the unguarded net…

Then I’m watching at full speed from the far end as Cantona and Wallace raise their arms in triumph, wheeling away in delight, and even as I wonder what they’re up to I realise that the ball has nestled in the Sheffield United net.  A red mist descends, and I am utterly outside of my skull and beside myself in delirious joy and fevered madness, looking around me, roaring like a demented bull, face congested with blood, eyes bulging; I grab a helpless wee St John’s Ambulance man by his lapels and scream beer and spittle into his terrified face “Get me some oxygeeeennnn!!!  I’m going to have a heart attaaaack!!!”  The mad moment passes, I drop the ashen medic and some measure of sanity returns, but we’re still cavorting and diving all over each other, a seething, sweating mass of Leeds, because we know it’s over, we know that Sheffield are beaten, and we know that Man U don’t have an earthly at Anfield, not a prayer.  We were going to be Champions; on that windiest and gustiest of days, a Gayle from Manchester City has blown the Scum away and decided in an instant the fate of all three Uniteds from Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds.

And so, of course, it panned out.  Later I watched mesmerised on TV as Liverpool beat a demoralised Man U, Denis Law and Ian St John trying to put a brave face on it, Elton Welsby’s foot bobbing away in thwarted anger as the script turned out just as none of them wanted.  Ian Rush scored his first ever goal against Them, and it was settled late on as Man U concede a second.  “And now the title goes to Leeds without any doubt at all” intoned Brian Moore in the ITV commentary as I sat there with tears of joy streaming down my unashamed face.  Gary Lineker had called into the studio earlier to complain that Rod Wallace’s goal had been offside (it was).  St John and Moore bemoaned that Man U had had no luck at all, and Welsby ground his teeth in the studio as the Man U fans outside hurled abuse at him, heedless of the fact that he shared their bitter disappointment.  All was frustration in the media and the rest of football and Leeds fans everywhere utterly failed to give a toss.  My finest hour as a Leeds fan, and my greatest ever awayday.

-oO0Oo-

Two from the same season, and one abroad that was “only” a draw – but each had a special appeal for me among the many away games I’ve seen.  I could have chosen so many others, going right back to my first ever away game, a 3-1 League Cup win at Bolton in 1977.  Still in the League Cup, there was that 6-0 win over Leicester City at Filbert Street, on a night when Robbie Savage never gave up, but proved that he was even worse than we thought.  How could we have known that he’d be worse yet as a pundit?

The golden memories are so many, I could possibly have managed a top ten quite easily.  I’d love to hear which away games others rank as their best memories.

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Murderers Don’t Execute People. Murderers MURDER People – by Rob Atkinson

Nous sommes tous Charlie

Nous sommes tous Charlie

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo atrocity in Paris earlier this week, and amidst all of the horror and the inevitable soul-searching that follows any such tragic event, an old and unwelcome misuse of terminology has reared its ugly head again and – in its own subtle and insidious way – could be set to play its part in undermining the fight against terrorism and mass murder. The word being misused is “execution”. It’s being wheeled out all over the media to refer to the acts of the cowards guilty of these foul crimes – and the danger is that, to some, it might just lend a false air of dignity and gravitas to what is more accurately just another disgusting act of terrorism. cowardice and callous rejection of all that is civilised.

The Charlie Hebdo story is everywhere at the moment, and rightly so. It’s a high-profile atrocity, the terrorists’ answer to the maxim of peaceful people everywhere that “the pen is mightier than the sword”. It is because of this context that it’s so important we get our terminology right, and don’t risk succouring the enemy by portraying its actions in an unrealistic, even flattering, light. If we are to match the pen against the sword with any hope of ultimately winning, then we have to give an appropriate name to the criminal acts we are opposing. This is not merely a matter of semantics, it’s far, far more important. As a first principle, let’s call murder precisely that. Let’s speak of cowardly attacks, let’s talk of helpless and innocent victims. Let’s not use a legal term whose meaning has been perverted far beyond its original application.

The word “execution” in a capital punishment context, refers to application of a death warrant consequent upon judicial proceedings. It is the warrant, properly speaking, that is executed – not the miscreant at the end of the rope. Whether you’re pro or anti the death penalty wherever it might still apply, you are surely aware that it is a culmination of this lengthy legal process. It is not a random killing perpetrated by a random individual or group who have accorded themselves the right to make their own rules and enforce their own penalties, without regard for law, justice or the sanctity of life, and devil take the hindmost. When we use the word “execution” in connection with events like the chilling murders in Paris, we run the very real risk of planting incorrect impressions in uncritical minds. We are in danger of depicting the thugs and terrorists as having some kind of moral or even legal force behind their heinous actions. We must not do this. Murder is murder, and should be scorned and met with horror and outrage. Any language which seems even slightly to suggest that such an action can be mentioned in the same breath as the outcome of due process must be suppressed in the interests of preserving the truth of the matter. Murderers don’t execute people. Murderers murder people.

I was listening to the radio only a little while after the attack, and a BBC Five Live reporter was talking about some video pictures from the scene in Paris, deemed too graphic to broadcast, of “a terrorist executing a policeman.” Wrong! That policeman was not executed. He was murdered, the victim of a cowardly and tawdry act that has nothing to do with civilisation, nothing to do with the judiciary or the forces of law and justice. His family have been deprived of this man, not by a legal warrant, but by a hooded coward, a murderous thug wielding an illegal weapon. That is the fact of the matter. Use of the word “execution” can only give a false, misleading and utterly unhelpful impression.

The pen is mightier than the sword – and words (even cartoons) properly used and artfully aimed, can strike home where an arsenal of missiles might fail to reach. What more graphic proof of that than the Charlie Hebdo massacre, a visceral reaction to the wounding power of high-class satire? Given that, let us not play into the enemy’s hands by dignifying their actions with the wrong words. Let their cowardly attacks be described with scorn, derision and condemnation. Let’s not succour the thugs by appearing to admit some moral compass in their grisly world of terror and intimidation.

May the victims of this cowardly and barbaric attack rest in peace. Aujourd’hui, je suis Charlie. Demain, et dans l’avenir, nous sommes tous Charlie.

One Don Revie!! Why We Were RIGHT To Sing Through the Busby Silence – by Rob Atkinson

One Don Revie! There’s only ONE Don Revie!!

Twenty-five years to the day after we lost football’s greatest-ever manager, I’m irresistibly reminded of a tribute Leeds United fans paid to The Don of Elland Road, some time after his death.  It was a tribute paid in the face of compulsory mourning for Matt Busby, a manager rightly held in great esteem by the Establishment, and indeed by football as a whole – but this prescribed mourning was shoved at us as a fait accompli – like it or lump it.

We Leeds fans, deeply conscious of the fact that our own Don Revie’s death had been disrespectfully ignored by the FA, chose in our turn to ignore the official edict. So we paid our own tribute, singing the name of Don Revie instead of standing silent and resentful before an away game at Blackburn – and in so doing, we brought upon ourselves the self-righteous and sanctimonious disdain of many, many fools and hypocrites.

But the simple fact is that what we did at Blackburn that night in 1994 was absolutely right and proper.  It was not a calculated act of disrespect to a manager in Busby who had nothing to do with us.  Rather, it was a timely and positive tribute to our own legendary but marginalised manager, placed right in the face of official sanctimony, so that the whole world would know that it had been made – and why. Clearly, not everyone agrees with this point of view, many Leeds fans among those dissenters.  But here’s why they’re wrong to dissent.

The chanting of Revie’s name that night was admittedly pretty strong meat – it was a maverick stand to take at a time when the whole country seemed to have been brainwashed into accepting that one club’s heroes should be treated with a reverence denied to all others. Some misgivings I can understand – but I’m completely sick to death of hearing from those Leeds fans who profess still to be ashamed, all these years later, of the fact that we made the protest. The fact of the matter is, that this was the moment to stand up and be counted, collectively – and collectively, we’d not have been able to hold our heads up if some sort of gesture hadn’t been made at that game.

Look at the facts. The death of Busby was predictably and nauseatingly over-hyped by the scum-loving media. The FA-prescribed national minute’s silence was just the tip of the iceberg – there was also endless eulogising all over the TV and the sickeningly mawkish spectacle of the lone bloody piper at Old Trafford, beamed into all our front rooms whether we liked it or not.

On the other hand, the FA couldn’t even be bothered to send a representative to Don’s funeral, the hypocrites. So why the hell is there such a disparity, and more to the point, why the hell are we expected to just put up with it and go along with such blatant stinking hypocrisy and double standards? Are we supposed to have no pride? Well, I’m sorry, but sod ’em. Whatever anyone says – and I include the Leeds players of the time and those from Revie’s era who condemned what happened – the chanting of Revie’s name at Blackburn was a very necessary stand against the establishment view that Busby was a saint and Don was a sinner. It was a statement of our reverence for the Don, against a background of organised and compulsory national mourning for someone who was a hero only to Scum, City and possibly Liverpool fans. And it was an assertion of the fact that we are Leeds and nobody tells us when to show respect, especially when no bugger showed any respect for the Don in life or in death.

The players from any era who were wheeled onto camera to criticise the actions of the fans at Blackburn, have one thing in common. They haven’t got a bloody clue what it’s like to be a fan. They’re players, club employees, and they come and they go, even the best and most loyal of them. Strachan – not a clue. Eddie Gray – not a clue. Not one of them knows what it is to be a fan and continually to have the media’s favourite bloody club shoved down your throat, to the exclusion of everything and everyone you care about as a Leeds supporter.

I don’t give a toss for all the apologists who sit there bleating, oh it was a terrible thing, they dragged the name of our club through the mud. Well in case you haven’t noticed, the name of Leeds United is always being dragged through the mud, and not by us, but by the FA, by the buffoons of the Football League, by nonentities who work for or support other clubs, by the Daily bloody Mirror and other gutter rags, and by Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all. So sod ’em. We did the right thing at Blackburn, just as we did in the Galatasaray ground years later, turning our backs to the field of play. We showed pride for our club, respect for our dead, and a big fat V-sign to all those who are so overtly against us.

It’s all about pride and self-respect at the end of the day – well, I was proud of us in the Ali-Sami-Yen that night in 2000, and I was no less proud of us at Blackburn. I’ll always be glad we didn’t just meekly toe the line and do as the hypocrites in the establishment wanted us to do, as every other simple-minded donkey did. I’m glad and I’m proud that we were big and angry enough to be different and stand up for our point of view.

That’s what it means to be Leeds – we are United, and we are the best.  You know what you can do with the rest.

 

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Most Hypocritical “Leeds Fan” of Them All? – by Rob Atkinson

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Mark “Ker-CHING” Byford: one-time Leeds fan, perennial grasping hypocrite.

Whichever club you follow, you like to think that your fellow fans are, on the whole, jolly fine fellows – lads and lasses all. Equally, you hold dear the notion that the fans of “that other lot from ovver t’hill” (Man U, for any Leeds fan worth his salt) are a ridiculous bunch, amusing and repellent all in one, fodder for those of us who revel in laughing at the Pride of Devon.  This mind-set prompted me to write about Man U’s Top Ten Embarrassing Celebrity Fans, an article which was, I’m pleased to say, widely read and well-received. I’ve a Spurs version in the pipeline; I do like to pander occasionally to my own petty prejudices.

Every now and then, though, you come across such a repellent example of loathsome slitheriness among the ranks of your own beloved club’s supporters, that you just have to hold your hands up and say: “It’s a fair cop.  We’ve got a right one here.”  It’s happened to me, today.  I’m not talking about the vile Savile (indeed, I have a picture of him in a Liverpool FC shirt).  I’m talking about someone alive, kicking and doing very nicely for himself indeed, thank you.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mark Byford: former Deputy Director of the BBC, new author, Leeds United fan, expenses claimant extraordinaire and enthusiastic proponent of what can best be described as the “Byford Brand” with a view to the ongoing feathering of his own already plush nest.

Mark Byford featured on BBC Radio Five Live just this morning, eager and ready to be interviewed about his first book which was inspired, so we’re told more than once, by a shaft of sunlight shining on the name of a soldier, Larry Byford, on a war memorial in America.  The coincidence of names led Mark Byford to research and write a book about the American Byford, fallen in conflict in Vietnam, along with the wartime experiences of his own father Lawry Byford.  A neat idea and doubtless quite moving.

The wisdom of Byford in sticking his head above the parapet at this particular time, though, might be questioned by some who feel he still has a little embarrassment to live down.  Mark Byford, after all, is the man who walked away from the loss of his job at the BBC with twice his contractual severance entitlement, so that he trousered a cool £1 million on top of his extremely generous final salary pension entitlement.  Perhaps he felt that this sensitive issue would be overlooked in the eagerness of the interviewer to help him promote his book.  Big mistake.

Victoria Derbyshire is one of those interviewers whose sweet and demure exterior belies her underlying instinct to harry her prey; at times like these she is more polecat than tabby.  In the past she has upset the likes of Jamie Oliver with her remorseless style, and when she interviewed her own Five Live boss about why he wasn’t moving to MediaCityUK in Salford when the station moved in Autumn ’11, The Guardian said: “Derbyshire’s grilling of the station’s controller Adrian Van Klaveren made Jeremy Paxman’s infamous interview with (BBC Director General) Mark Thompson look like a vicar’s tea party.”  Now, she sank her teeth into Mark Byford’s pale and exposed hide – and she simply refused to let go.  The basis of her line of questioning was simple: “Do you think you deserved your £1m pay-off?”

Try as Byford might, he was unable to shake Derbyshire from this persistent snap, snap, snap onslaught which in the end left him bloodied and bewildered as she watched narrowly from a neutral corner, fangs still bared, ready to renew her attack at any time. His quandary was clear: he didn’t want to be seen to claim he deserved the money, but he didn’t want to admit that it was undeserved, unjustifiable and contextually grotesque. The word “context”, ironically, was one coping strategy he brandished again and again, though with an amateurish petulance that defeated any attempt at calm or cool.  He was simply out-thought and out-fought, run to ground, his desired cosy “book-plug” interview metamorphosed before his horrified eyes into a pitiless exposé of his self-seeking greed and arrogance.

It was with mixed feelings that I listened to this interview.  At first, I didn’t identify the author being invited to promote his book with the grasping executive walking off into Austerity Britain with his £1 million wad.  I wasn’t even sure why I was taking against him so – perhaps it was the unctuous tone with which he spoke of heroism and duty, whilst all the time emphasising the hooks and links a writer likes to employ to make his work more readable.  Only when Ms Derbyshire switched from plug facilitator into attack mode, did I make the connection – and then I just had to marvel at Byford’s willful resistance to the notion of “moral wrongdoing”, subtly advanced with all the finesse of a battering-ram by the merciless Victoria – as opposed to strict legal and contractual rights and wrongs.  And, blindly, blunderingly, he kept on using this word “context”.  Millions out there must have been wondering – if context is the thing, then in the context of austerity, painfully slow national recovery and widespread suffering, especially at the unregarded bottom of the pile – how on earth can such an obscene level of severance pay, on top of a sleekly fat pension, possibly be justified?

Which is what, time and again, from every direction, try as Byford might to avoid it, he was being asked – and refusing to answer.  Because there is no answer that amounts to justification.  And it turns out that there is much more for Byford to justify, if he possibly could.  A litter of extravagant expenses claims drifts in his wake, going back years – the man has a sleaze quotient an MP might envy.  His new book uses the loss of an American soldier in a long-ago conflict as its prime mover.  I wonder if the soldier’s family will benefit from its sales?  I do hope so.  The e-book edition – which is, after all, just a stream of bits and bytes flowing smoothly from the ether, production overheads negligible – is ambitiously priced at an eye-watering £17.72.  Clearly, somewhere along the line, Byford is still feeling the pinch – or maybe he feels that the Byford Brand commands a unit price of that order, for a first book too, simply because, well, it’s the Byford Brand.

When Lord Birt, outgoing Director General, favoured Byford as his successor, the Governors in their wisdom chose Greg Dyke instead.  Our hero put a brave face on it, and joked away the pain, claiming still to be friends with the man who pipped him.  “He supports Man U and I support Leeds United, and that’s the biggest problem we will have – he supports the worst team in British football and I support the best.”  All good knockabout stuff, and a laddish tone calculated to appeal to the LUFC fan in the street. But for once, I think the BBC got it absolutely right to prefer the Man U fan to the man who claimed as far back as Leeds University days to follow Leeds United – though acquaintances detected no passion for the club in him and suspected that it was a front for his research into criminality among football fans.  As with so much of his subsequent life and career, it would seem that – even back then – Mark Byford was mainly concerned with what was best for Mark Byford and his nascent Brand.

He’s frankly not the sort of bloke I care to have associated with my beloved Leeds United AFC – and nor is he the sort whose pockets I’d wish further to line by purchasing any book he writes.  I happen to think that the singularly undeserving and opportunistic Mark Byford has done quite well enough for himself already.

World Football Must “Do a Leeds” – and Banish the Evil of Racism – by Rob Atkinson

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Yaya Toure – racially abused

Eyebrows tend to be raised, lips are apt to be pursed and there is a general air of bemused surprise when any Leeds United fan (this blogger, for instance) condemns racism.  Those who will throw their hands up in horror – rightly so – whenever they encounter a racial stereotype, seem rather less scrupulous about imposing stereotypes of their own when their cosy perceptions about United fans are challenged.  Hang on a minute, they demur – Leeds supporters are about the most racist around, aren’t they?  Well, perhaps they were, once upon a time.  But times change and the Leeds United fan culture of today is a vastly different thing to the bleak days of the early eighties.  More of which later.

The events of last week have brought the whole foul problem back into sharp focus. During Manchester City’s away Champion’s League tie against CSKA Moscow, midfielder Yaya Toure was subjected to monkey chants from the grinning morons among the home support. It’s a real problem in many parts of Europe and the one thing that’s tolerably certain is that it’s not going to go away on its own.  What’s normally needed to remedy such matters is supporter organisation into a strong anti-racism movement – which was, not incidentally, the Leeds United experience – or tough sanctions from some higher authority with something approximating to a backbone.

Toure may not have been alone in suffering this awful, unjustifiable and humiliating abuse – some sources report that team-mate Fernandinho may also have been targeted. Toure was understandably disgusted and has demanded action.  He has even gone so far as to suggest that the 2018 World Cup, scheduled to be hosted by Russia, could be hit by a black players’ boycott.  I only hope that he’s serious about that, and that he can count on the support of other black players, as this would be a shattering blow to the tournament – much, much greater today than it would have been in the eighties.  A far higher proportion of the world’s best players are black today than back then, such has been the explosive development of the game in Africa, a continent where many nations are emerging as serious football powers.  A black players’ boycott of the tournament, then, could be a way to apply irresistible pressure to fans and ruling bodies alike.  A World Cup without many of its most mesmerising stars would be unthinkable; even if it went ahead it would be so devalued as to be hardly worth winning.

Jose Mourinho has a view on the issue of a possible boycott, as he does on so many issues.  He expressed “sympathy” for Toure, but said he did not support the City player’s comments afterwards.

“I respect his opinion, but I disagree,” said Mourinho. “I disagree because the history of football was made equally by many races, and the black players have fantastic contribution to what football is.

“Who is more important: the billions of people in love with the game around the world, or a few thousand that go to football stadia and have a disgraceful behaviour in relation to the black players?

“If I was a black player, I would say the other billions are much more important. Let’s fight the thousands but give to the billions what they want: the best football. Football without black players is not the best football.”

As a football man on football matters, Mourinho’s is a voice to be respected – but in the last nine words of that quote, he basically makes the case for, not against, a boycott by black players of Russia 2018.  Just imagine if you will a tournament blighted by the kind of sickening filth Toure and possibly Fernandinho had to suffer last Wednesday night. It’s too horrible to contemplate – and what message would it send out to the billions worldwide that Jose is seeking to protect from a World Cup bereft of black talent? Endemic racism is OK as long as we’re being entertained by the football? That’s not the way to go and it’s not the example to set to the world’s children.

Mourinho then is surely wrong to suggest that those billions would rather witness a tournament dragged down to gutter level by cretins whose idea of fun is to abuse a world star by making crude monkey noises.  The best thing an organised movement of black players could possibly do is to show FIFA that the situation is intolerable by refusing to have anything to do with such a toxic affair.  Perhaps then even FIFA – a body which inspires little confidence, led by a man in Sepp Blatter who is little better than a bad joke – might consider its options, faced as they would be with a sanction of such potentially seismic effect.  They certainly should consider those options, which are practically limitless.

It’s certainly pointless to wait around hoping that UEFA might put their own house in order, something they’ve proved themselves singularly incapable of doing.  Instead, FIFA should act, and act decisively.  They should advise Russia that, unless this problem can be addressed and eliminated by 2015, an alternative host nation will be found for the 2018 World Cup – it’s that serious.  They should monitor the situation, act as advised and they should then stick to their guns.  They won’t, of course, because they are truly spineless and complacent – which is why the likes of Yaya Toure and the others like him who are subjected to this evil baiting, really have no choice but to rally together and organise themselves to take their own action.  Good luck to them if that’s the path they take.

In the early eighties the experience of being a match-going, non-racist Leeds United fan was lonely and disgusting.  The atmosphere was rancid with bigotry, skin-headed, bone-headed racists sold “The Flag”, a right-wing snot-rag, outside the ground.  It was done openly, brazenly.  Dissenting voices, when raised, brought upon their owners the risk of violence.  The club was inert and complacent.  The police sat by and watched.  It was depressingly, shamefully awful.  And then, things started to change.

Civilised, intelligent Leeds United supporters, unable and unwilling to accept the evil being dispensed in the name of their beloved club, organised themselves into Leeds United Fans Against Racism & Fascism.  Fanzines were sold expounding the voice of reason against the bigoted filth being peddled by the racists.  More decent supporters woke up to what had been going on, joined the anti-racist movement, bought the fanzines, started to raise the voice of protest against the ignorance and malice of the terrace chants against visiting black players.

Even the slumbering Leeds United itself reacted positively to the changes afoot.  Black players were signed, the first since the brief but bright Leeds career of Terry Connor. Noel Blake, affectionately nicknamed “Bruno”, loved by the Kop.  Vince Hilaire, quicksilver winger reviving memories of Albert Johanneson in the sixties, the first black player to play in the Cup Final and a Leeds hero when the Revie revolution was still new.  It was a painfully long, slow job – but Leeds United finally managed to rid itself of one of the most degradingly awful reputations for racism and bigotry, and they largely did it as an institution, by the efforts of enlightened fans supplemented by the club’s more enlightened transfer policy at a time when there was still an unofficial bar observed by the likes of Everton FC.

I’m extremely proud of the way my club tackled its problems.  The Leeds United of today bears no resemblance at all to the sick club being brought to its knees 30 years ago, dying of the cancer of racism.  The whole world has moved on, though pockets of the disease still exist at home, yet far more significantly abroad.  We now live in a time when these manifestations of hate and ignorance are a palpable shock to the system – and that in itself is a massive change for the better.  Such inhuman behaviour has never ever been acceptable, but now it’s seen to be completely unacceptable, and FIFA above all must face up to the reality of this.

FIFA simply have to act, and they have to act now.  Despite CSKA Moscow’s revolting stance whereby they’re claiming this simply didn’t take place – the club’s deputy media manager, Michael Sanadze, told Sky Sports News that “nothing special happened” – they have been charged by UEFA with “racist behaviour”. UEFA though are an organisation clearly lacking in the backbone to apply sanctions and see them through, Lazio having been punished for comparable transgressions in the past, the stadium closure subsequently being reduced to a mere slap on the wrist.

The message from FIFA has to be clear and unequivocal.  Stop the racist abuse – or lose the World Cup in 2018.  Failing that, Yaya Toure and his black colleagues – and how good it would be to think that non-black players might also support such a move – should carry with them the good wishes and backing of every decent-minded person as they seek to reduce the tournament in Russia to the well-merited status of farce.  It would be no more than FIFA deserve for what would amount to tacit support of the racist minority whose venom threatens to poison the whole football world.

Millwall Cowards Tarnish Football Yet Again – by Rob Atkinson

The second "accident"

The second “accident”

It seems that not a Millwall match can go by without their simian fans perpetrating another disgrace and further confirming their club’s long-standing reputation as a pimple on the backside of the game.

This time, the assaults took the form of footballs hurled at QPR’s managerial duo Joe Jordan and Harry Redknapp. Jordan was hit first, the ball reportedly jamming the frame of his glasses into his face, smashing the lenses and drawing blood. Then Redknapp, who had arrived at the New Den on crutches following recent corrective knee surgery, suffered an almost identical experience, the accuracy of the throw for the ball to hit him on the side of the face doubtless thrilling the coward responsible.

Alex Ferguson’s ridiculous attempt last season to dress up the incident where van Persie was struck by the football as attempted murder was characteristically over the top and wide of the mark. Despite the bizarre claims of the slightly bewildered and out of touch former Man U dictator, a football is not of itself a deadly weapon. Jordan and Redknapp were not in danger as such, but it must be intensely annoying to be targeted by morons behind the dugouts while trying to direct the efforts of your team. That Millwall scored a second equaliser while Redknapp was still remonstrating with the classless ape concerned added grievous insult to what turned out fortunately as only a minor injury.

It’s the principle of the thing, of course – football men should be able to go about their work without being annoyed by over-excited cretins in the stand. The proportion of boneheads in the Millwall support makes this sort of thing a semi-regular occurrence at their matches, and sadly at the New Den not all the cowards are in the stands. Home manager Steve Lomas chose to try and dismiss the twin football salvo as “two accidents”. The employees of Millwall Football Club must surely at some point become sick and tired of having to make excuses for the pond-life support that shames the club so often and so deeply.

On this occasion, with Jordan’s glasses shattered, the craven apologists who spend so much time excusing the actions of what appear to be semi-feral savages must be relieved that no sliver of glass found it’s way into the old warrior’s eyes. Relieved for Jordan, yes, but more so because there must come a time when the comatose idiots at the Football League wake up to the fact that it’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt at Millwall.  The officials at that club must live in a state of constant readiness for severe sanctions following some or other exhibition of crass violence from their hard-of-thinking crowd.

A cowardly attack by throwing a football into people’s faces at short range is one thing – and a man on crutches plus another wearing glasses are about par for the course for today’s breed of snivelling Millwall thug. But how long before some bright lad turns up with a pool ball or a set of darts in case there’s no football handy? How long, with irresponsible idiots like Lomas blithering on about “two accidents”, before someone loses their sight, or worse?

Alex Ferguson was comically wrong to try and call a football an instrument of murder. But once opposing football staff at the New Den realise they’re likely to be pelted in the course of their work, and that their genial hosts will clumsily try to excuse this, then they would do well to worry about exactly what will be thrown at them next time. It may well become de rigueur for body armour and perhaps safety helmets to be worn in the away dugout at the New Den – because nothing, it seems, is beyond the pale at Millwall.

Sepp Blatter “Seeks More Time” Over Qatar World Cup ’22 Details – by Rob Atkinson

Sepp Blatter wondering whether a brewery is a good place for a piss-up, yesterday

Sepp Blatter wondering whether a brewery is a good place for a piss-up, yesterday

FIFA has confirmed that the 2022 World Cup Finals tournament will take place in Qatar after all.  There will however be no final decision on the actual timing of the tournament until after the 2014 tournament in Brazil. A well-funded, well-fed and self-important FIFA Commission, possibly including vocal opponents of a winter World Cup, has been planned “to carry out very deep consultations and investigations and show some diplomacy and wisdom” a FIFA spokesperson stated, with a commendably straight face.

The latest decisions and non-decisions have been made in spite of shock information that has slowly seeped into the heads of FIFA President Sepp Blatter and other officials since December 2010 when the event was originally awarded to the middle-eastern oil state, which has been ruled absolutely by the Al Thani family since the mid-1800s.  These shattering revelations include the news that;

  • Qatar gets quite warm in the summertime;
  • Alternative times of the year, whilst cooler (merely “bloody hot” as opposed to “blood-boilingly impossible, even for a camel“), are inconveniently taken up with league programmes in the world’s major football-playing countries;
  • Migrant workers are routinely having their rights abused;
  • There have been instances of deaths on World Cup-related construction sites.

Mr Blatter has stated that he has “sympathy and regret for anything that happens in any country where there are deaths on construction sites, especially when they are related to a World Cup.”  But he feels that such considerations must not be allowed to get in the way of his vision for football. “The Fifa World Cup 2022 will be played in Qatar. There you have it.”

Such an autocratic approach has been welcomed by the authorities in Qatar itself, where this is pretty much how they run things all the time.  The state is ruled absolutely by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani who seized power in 1995.  Corporal and capital punishment continue to be practised, and several elements of the Western way of life are severely proscribed, including sexual orientation and freedom of expression.  A Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, also known as Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb was handed a life sentence, apparently simply for words he has uttered or written.  FIFA have either been aware of all of these factors at all relevant times since 2010, or have become aware of them since – but there is no indication that their decision has been in any way affected, beyond Mr Blatter’s “regrets”.

The area of labour is similarly fraught.  Many cases of ill-treatment of immigrant labour have been observed. Qatar does not maintain wage standards for its immigrant labour. Under the provisions of Qatar’s sponsorship law, sponsors have the unilateral power to cancel workers’ residency permits, deny workers’ ability to change employers, report a worker as “absconded” to police authorities, and deny permission to leave the country. As a result, sponsors may restrict workers’ movements and workers may be afraid to report abuses or claim their rights.  It’s a system thought to be much-admired by some Cabinet Members in the UK’s coalition government, though nobody has been available to comment upon this.

One fact that may well have had some bearing on the FIFA stance is that Qatar has proven reserves of oil and natural gas, putting the state at the top of Forbes’ list of the world’s richest countries.

FIFA: “Putting money and commercial opportunism ahead of liberty and human rights since 1904”

It’s a Twitter Bad Taste Jamboree for Millwall Fans as Leeds are in Town – by Rob Atkinson

Millwall Beauty Queens Parade for Police Five

Millwall Beauty Queens Parade for Police Five

Twitter is a good place to avoid today for Leeds fans – or indeed for anyone whose idea of good taste precludes taunting rival supporters over two bloody murders thirteen years ago. Millwall fans are generally the exception to the rules of taste though, as they are to most rules – not excluding those governing grammar, basic hygiene and indeed evolution.

It’s not hard to find Millwall fans on Twitter today. Those of this dismal fraternity who are able to find their way around a computer are there in the ether, in force, to celebrate the first of Millwall’s two cup finals this season.  Their team face Leeds United, the cause of all those chips on rival fans’ shoulders everywhere.  The effect is accentuated with Millwall fans, for whom the chip on the shoulder invariably possesses a higher IQ than the diseased organ inside the skull.

It’s pointless to regale you here with the output of the South Bermondsey twitterati.  It’s all there, for those who might want to source it.  Hashtag #sickeningbile might be a useful route to go.  Strong stomachs are required; this is no place for the queasy. Youngsters who weren’t even born when Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight met their awful fate in Taksim Square Istanbul, are gleefully evident, aping their elders, glorying in the blood spilled by two lads who went overseas to watch a football match – and never came home.

Most football clubs suffer from a minority of this sort, people who genuinely seek approval for dragging their very souls through the gutter as they seek to out-do each other in aiming jibes at the misfortunes of others.  It’s been a blight on football for over 50 years, certainly since the time of the Munich Air Disaster.  Man U fans are only too well aware of the fashion down the years for tasteless chants and songs on that sad subject.  My own Leeds United have shameful form for it; Liverpool too and various other clubs.  Man U fans will climb on their high horse a few times every year over this, but they are not without sin, reveling in their own sick celebration over Hillsborough and Istanbul, plumbing the depths over the Heysel tragedy.  It’s hard to find a club that doesn’t attract a lunatic fringe of this kind of “support” – but it’s usually a minority and it’s been greatly reduced in recent years.  Only Millwall buck this trend.  There it’s most of them, most of the time.  There, civilised behaviour and rules of taste and respect seemingly don’t apply.

Millwall fans, rather than condemning the examples of pond-life in their midst, tend to glory in them.  “No-one likes us, we don’t care” they sing defiantly, happy with their grisly reputation, proud of a record that would sicken a psychopath.  They’re more famous of course for their tendency towards violence, usually in gangs of herd-instinct cowards seeking small groups of rival fans to attack.  When none such are available, they will be content to fight among themselves and disgrace the game in this country that way. They had a set-to at Wembley last April in the FA Cup semi-final.  Bewildered Wigan fans looked on as their team cruised to victory and the Millwall animals tore into each other like sharks drunk on blood.  Images of crying children caught up between bloodied “adults” lacing into their own kind shocked and revolted the nation.  As usual, nothing effective was done.

It’s about time, though, that something was done.  Millwall is the land that time forgot, a throwback to an uglier era that the rest of the game is doing reasonably well in leaving behind.  Only at Millwall does this anti-culture still flourish, by word and by deed.  In Leeds, the old men of the sixties and seventies Service Crew sit around swapping stories on internet forums these days, their boots hung up for good.  Even West Ham fans are emerging from their own savage past.  Man U fans are too busy travelling up and down between Devon and the Theatre of Hollow Myths to engage in fisticuffs – they’re an aging population too.

The modern football fan is a relatively peaceful person, obsessed with the media fishbowl of the Premier League, horrified by the price of everything, as likely as not to be a student, or a female; a far cry from the working man’s army of previous decades.  Not so at Millwall.  Millwall defies evolution, laughs at progress, dismisses a family atmosphere as “soft”, spouts poison on the internet, looks for easy targets down scary back-alleys. Millwall is the past in defiance of the present and the future.  Millwall should be consigned to that past, to the dustbin of football history – and their shrinking legion of “fans” left to lob half-bricks at each other.

It’s high time to get rid of Millwall.

PS – see below for the evidence of one Millwall cretin glorying in his following the Twitter account of Turkish murderer Ali Umit Demir. Disgusting – but we shouldn’t apply normal human standards to some Millwall apes.

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Sky Sports Football Coverage Crisis Looms – by Rob Atkinson

Image

In the wake of this week’s Capital One Cup 3rd Round ties and the draw for the 4th round of the competition, a looming crisis for the BSkyB organisation – rights holders for live TV coverage – has been revealed.  The draw has thrown up ties between Newcastle and Manchester City, clearly a glamour tie – and also, before the determination of the West Bromwich versus Arsenal 3rd round game, the winners of that were pitted against Chelsea.  Arsenal duly went on to knock West Brom out on penalties, to confirm a London derby against Chelsea at the Emirates – and Sky TV were thrown into immediate crisis.

The problem lies in the unacknowledged Sky protocol known within the organisation by the secret code-phrase “Some Clubs Ultimately Matter” (SCUM).  The origin of this protocol goes back at least eight years in the case of the FA Cup.  Statistics for the secondary League Cup competition are not available owing to its comparative lack of importance. However, a Sky TV spokesperson admitted that the last Man U game not to have been broadcast live was “a bloody long time ago, like when Noah was a lad”.

The SCUM protocol is of such importance to Sky TV’s marketing and commercial departments that it is regarded as the prime reference document when live TV games are chosen.  Hence the dilemma now being faced by decision-makers, who normally at least attempt to put up some sort of justification for selecting yet another tedious Man U stroll at an embarrassingly quiet Theatre of Hollow Myths.  Off the record, a Sky commentator remarked, “We’ve got a problem this time.  People are going to want to see the two obvious stand-out ties in the next round.  Newcastle v City and Arsenal v Chelsea are both huge.  We’ll struggle to justify leaving one of those out to cover Man U reserves diving for penalties against a pallid side like Norwich”.

There was some glimmer of hope for the Sky executives in the short time between the draw being made and the end of the West Brom v Arsenal tie.  Sky Sports News covered the penalty shoot-out at the Hawthorns by remote reporting, and it would appear that pundit Alan McInally had failed to read the SCUM script.  Executives and studio presenters alike cringed as the Scot egged on Arsenal’s collection of spotty pubescent junior footballers to convert the penalties needed for victory.  It is expected that McInally may be carpeted and reminded of his responsibilities to shareholders.

“The problem is,” confirmed Sky’s un-named spokesperson, “if we failed to show a Man U cup game, we’d get flooded with complaints from Devon, Cornwall, the Home Counties – all over the south of England really.  That’s a lot of Sky subscriptions – we have to take our commercial survival seriously.  That’s why the SCUM protocol is so important to us.”

A high-level meeting is expected in the next few days to try and thrash out some acceptable fiction whereby either the game at Newcastle or the one at Arsenal can be omitted to allow the organisation to fulfill its obligations to SCUM and the Man U supporters, the bulk of whom live within easy travelling distance of Sky’s Isleworth HQ.  “We have to sort this out,” said one harrassed executive, “At the end of the day, SCUM is too vital to us all for considerations of mere football merit to prevail.”

Istanbul “Front Runner” for Euro 2020 Semis and Final – are UEFA Stark, Staring Mad? – by Rob Atkinson

Turkish Fans "Demonstrating Their Cultural Uniqueness"

Turkish Fans “Demonstrating Their Cultural Uniqueness”

As if eager to demonstrate once and for all that they are out-of-touch, irresponsible, lacking in judgement and foolhardy to the point of actual insanity – it would appear that UEFA are genuinely considering Istanbul as a host city for the semi-finals and final of the Euro 2020 Championships.  Our beloved FA, itself a body which has frequently demonstrated its own lack of fitness to run a piss-up in a brewery, stated today that it believes Istanbul is the “front runner” and main rival to Wembley’s own bid.  Istanbul lost out to Tokyo in its bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, after all.  FA General Secretary Alex Horne said: “We’ve taken some soundings, there’s a sympathy for Turkey and it does feel like they are the front-runners.  We get the politics around Istanbul, having not got the Olympics.”

Demir

Demir

Well, forgive me, but I don’t “get” this at all.  Turkey has just about the most horrific history of football violence it’s possible to imagine.  Istanbul in particular is home to Galatasaray, whose fans’ party piece is to raise banners when “welcoming” visiting teams to the airport or to their bear-pit of a stadium, the banners bearing the warm and comforting message of “Welcome to Hell”.  Other touching signs of friendship and bonhomie include mimed throat-slitting actions performed en masse.  Sadly, these ugly manifestations of Turkish culture have been shown to be no mere gestures.  In the spring of 2000, two Leeds United fans – Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight – were brutally attacked and murdered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. Ali Umit Demir and three other men were arrested for the killings, and Demir was jailed but released for retrial after a successful appeal.  When the four men first appeared in court, they were cheered by members of the public, Demir being described as a “patriot” by residents of Istanbul.

More than 13 years on, it is still unclear whether Demir will ever face an appropriate penalty for his admitted crime of stabbing Mr Loftus and Mr Speight.  Over the time since these tragic killings, fans of Turkish clubs have continued to disgrace themselves on numerous occasions with acts of violence and displays of hostility which UEFA have consistently failed to address, despite the alacrity with which they deal with lesser offences elsewhere.  It has been reported that certain UEFA officials regard knife-carrying and its concomitant perils as “part of the culture” in Turkey, and this may partly explain their casual attitude towards what goes on there – but it certainly does not excuse it.

No Leeds United fan and, for that matter, no Manchester United fan needs any instruction about the atmosphere and the dangers of following football in Istanbul. Personal experiences of fans from both clubs leave little room for doubt that it’s a place to visit and roam around in only with extreme reticence and caution.  The idea of masses of fans from different nations adding their high-spirits and nationalistic fervour to the cocktail of hatred and overt hostility which is so much a part of the fabric of Istanbul – it’s just too horrible to contemplate.  You’d have thought that even a pea-brained UEFA pen-pusher could have accumulated enough evidence, both anecdotal and empirical, to realise this.  But no.  Self-satisfaction and pompous idiocy rules in the corridors of UEFA, and they will seemingly be willing to compound their laxity of recent years in failing to deal with what has happened there, by a whole new level of crass stupidity in contemplating taking a major Championships to a murderous pit.

It is to be hoped that wiser counsel – if any should exist in the game’s higher authorities – will prevail, and some safer place will be found.  The idea of awarding the final stages of a prestigious tournament to Istanbul is a bit like inviting an arsonists’ self-help group to organise a bonfire in a petrol dump – only more so.  If the madmen of UEFA have their way in this, the consequences could be dire; you only have to ask the Man United fans ill-treated by the local police, or the Leeds fans who, heart-sick at their bereavement of the night before, turned their backs at the start of the match against Galatasaray, because that club had failed, along with UEFA, to postpone the game, or even to order that black armbands should be worn.

It may be that one day Istanbul will be a fit place for civilised football fans to visit, and maybe even for a tournament to be held. But that day is not yet, it won’t be here by 2020 and it won’t be for many more years after that.  Most sensible football fans would confirm that.  Now we just have to find a way to persuade the fools in UEFA, and in our own FA, what their own eyes and ears should have told them long ago.