Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Tipster: Dark clouds continue to hang over Manchester City and Manchester United ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League jaunts

I see the point – but I feel given the result in the recent derby clash between the two Manc clubs, it’s the reds who have more to worry about than the blues.

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6 months on from Colin but his corrosive legacy lingers long at Leeds United

A scathing post-mortem on Colin’s reign at Leeds United. This blogger lays the blame for our current, less than vibrant state squarely at the feet of Messrs. Warnock and Bates. A year after this article first appeared, I think it’s still obvious the author had a point…

Saudi Prince Makes Investment Move

More speculation of inward investment – and another Saudi Royal!!

Moyes Fluffing His Fergie-Lite Lines as the Mask Drops – by Rob Atkinson

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It sounded odd at the time. Leading up to the start of his first season at the Theatre of Hollow Myths, David Moyes chose to abandon his previous upright, downright, straightforward no-nonsense Evertonian demeanour and go for a good old-fashioned Fergie whinge with the requisite helpings of paranoia and self-righteousness. “They’re conspiring against us,” he grizzled, bitterly. “Three tough games against title contenders in the first five league outings.  It’s no’ fair.”  It was straight out of the Taggart Manual, from Chapter One: “Build a Siege Mentality”.  The thing is, however tried and trusted the lines are, you need the right kind of actor to convey them. Now that the Old Ham had gone off, could the relatively green Moyes carry on with the same old act?  Was it even such a good idea to try?

Whatever the whys and wherefores, the gambit appears to have blown up in the fledgling Man U manager’s face.  Yesterday’s humbling against Mancunian giants City was not only a salutary lesson on the field.  It also raised serious questions about the new man’s deportment off it.  On the face of it, the Moyes Whinge, as it has come to be called, looks in retrospect like a timely warning.  Of the three fixtures he was complaining about, the Pride of Devon have lost both away matches, at Liverpool and City, and gained a somewhat lucky point in a dour home struggle against Chelsea.  But the fact is that the fixtures are simply that: fixtures.  There’s a clue in the name, and while Sky may tamper slightly for TV requirements, the basic framework for the season is carved in stone.  To complain about them at the time Moyes chose to complain, and in the terms, moreover, he chose to employ in making that complaint, showed more weakness than foresight, more lack of confidence in himself and his team than lack of faith in the authorities. What message was sent out by the manager to his troops as they prepared for combat? Would they have been inspired by their leader’s belief in them?  Or would they, instead, have had a subliminal fear implanted of facing three formidable teams early in the season?  Were they, in short, afraid?

A hindsight version of the Moyes Whinge emerged this morning on the radio.  He referred again to the perceived unfairness of the fixtures arrangement.  As an exponent of psyching his team up and psyching opponents out, Fergie was tiresome, he was tedious, he was annoying and detestable in the eyes of his enemies.  But it clearly worked more often than not in the bunker that was Man U’s dressing room.  Moyes, by contrast, seemed to have waved a white flag and called for stretcher-bearers before a shot had been fired. Certain of his players, van Persie for one, are already emitting rumbles of discontent. You can imagine them asking themselves: who would we rather have as our leader as we enter the trenches?  The margins between victory and defeat are incredibly fine, one iota of backsliding by the historically dominant force, one iota of improvement in the fortunes of his enemies (the football term for “iota”, interestingly, is “Özil”) – and the tables can be well and truly turned.

It may also be that Moyes’ emergence from the comfort zone of Goodison into the fishbowl glare of the Theatre of Hollow Myths has been particularly ill-timed.  The gene-pool at the top of the Premier League appears to have expanded dramatically over the summer.  Arsenal have improved by probably more than just one Özil.  Tottenham seem to have contrived to have lost a golden nugget and replaced it with the equivalent weight in gold-dust, and to have improved in the process.  Chelsea have wound the clock back to the reign of the Special One, and you just know he will weave his magic again whilst laughing sardonically at his carping critics in the media, embittered journalists all of whose significant others are unanimous in fancying Jose.  Liverpool have looked “at it” again, despite a dip in the last two games.  Everton are unbeaten, with a new style and belief under Martinez.  The whole landscape at the top of the game has a new and, from the Man U point of view, dangerously unfamiliar look about it.

Maybe one craggy and purple-faced individual in particular foresaw this sea-change, and perhaps this explains the abruptness of his departure from the hot-seat in Salford.  There must, after all, be a significant danger that the still debt-ridden Evil Empire will finish outside of the top six this season, favourable ref decisions notwithstanding; and on that subject – what on earth happened to Howard Webb in the Derby?  He failed utterly to live up to his Man U Player of the Season form, and must now be worried about his place in the team.  Moyes has a lot on his plate, and – sallow-faced and bug-eyed compared to the smug, well-fed, puce sleekness of his tyrannical predecessor – he frankly does not look as though he has the appetite for it.

The noisy neighbours across the border in Manchester will be well aware, as they leap and cavort in celebration in the sullen faces of Manchester’s Red minority, of the problems that are stacking up for the hapless current incumbent of Salford Towers. But those happy fans will care not one jot, as is the case with thousands of other equally happy fans the country over, outside of Devon and Cornwall.  They can see golden horizons ahead, and a game reinvigorated by true competition across a well-matched group of clubs vying for the ultimate prize.  If Man U do end up outside in the cold, there will be millions who feel it’s a reckoning that’s arrived not a minute too soon.

Leeds United Needs Another Vinnie Jones – by Rob Atkinson

Sir Vincent Peter Jones

Sir Vincent Peter Jones

The men who took Leeds United back into the top-flight the last time it happened in 1990 are, of course, legends now.  They rank alongside some of the Revie boys because they rescued the club from eight years in the wilderness and restored us to the big time.  We had our own diminutive red-haired midfielder as a sort of latter-day homage to Billy Bremner – mighty atom Gordon Strachan, who played a crucial role in the renaissance of Leeds with his leadership and goals.  It was a team effort though, and it was as a team that they succeeded – Strachan apart there was no major star, but the guts and drive of the collective effort eclipsed all rivals by the end of that fantastic season, when we were crowned Second Division Champions in sun-drenched and strife-torn Bournemouth.  And nobody in the whole club at that time epitomised guts and drive, as well as sheer fist-clenched, vein-throbbing commitment and fight, better than Mr Vincent Peter “Vinnie” Jones.

I’d been aware of Vinnie, of course – who hadn’t?  His Crazy Gang antics were legendary and he’d lifted the FA Cup, but he was regarded as a bit of a maverick – still more hod-carrier than footballer, famous for a ten-second dismissal and for his promise to Kenny Dalglish before the 1988 Cup Final against Liverpool to “tear off his ear and spit in the hole”.  Still, despite these immaculate credentials, marking him out as a potential Gelderd hero, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine him as a signing for Leeds United, where stirrings had been going on ever since Sergeant Wilko marched in and started shaking the place up.  The “marquee signing” – you didn’t actually hear that phrase in those days – was Strachan, plucked from under the nose of his old Man U mentor Ron Atkinson at Sheffield Wednesday to provide the quality at the heart of the Leeds engine room. Now that was the sort of signing I’d hoped and prayed for, and with the likes of Chris Fairclough joining Gordon at Elland Road it seemed to bode well for a real challenge as the close season wore on and 1989-90 loomed closer.

I was in a caravan on the east coast when I heard on the radio that Vinnie was signing for Leeds for around £650,000.  I frankly didn’t believe it, but when the reality sank in, my initial reaction was to think – bloody hell, Wilko, what are you playing at?  The signings of John Hendrie and Mel Sterland reassured me somewhat, but I was still having trouble seeing what the Jones Boy would bring to the United table, although our lunatic-fringe fans seemed well suited.  The early signs were not encouraging.  Strachan tells of an incident in a pre-season game against Anderlecht, where he saw an opposing player go down with his nose spread halfway across his face and blood greatly in evidence.  Vinnie had casually “done” him en passant before sidling off looking innocent, and Strach recalls thinking: my God – what have we signed here?

Vinnie himself remembers his early days at the club, and being moved to violence by the negative attitudes of some of the players being edged out as Wilko’s new broom started to sweep clean.  Among this disaffected few was John Sheridan, something of a Leeds legend – but Jones stood for no nonsense, and there were punches thrown and people seized by the scruff of the neck as he explained his views on solidarity and team spirit.  Vinnie was obviously going to be a kill or cure measure – there were signs he might have much to contribute to the collective effort, but equally that he might turn out a loose cannon which could blow up in all our faces.  Yet Wilko had a magic touch in those early years, and generally it was proved that he knew what he was doing.

In the event, and despite an uncertain beginning, Vinnie played a massive part in our promotion that year.  The fans took to him from the start – the sight of him coming on as a sub in the first home game against Middlesbrough will live long in my memory.  I can see him now, in the middle of the park with the game poised at 1-1, shouting and screaming as he conveyed encouragement and instruction in equal measure, arms pumping in an ungainly, baboon-like way, team-mates and opponents alike staring at him aghast.  And then he frightened a Boro’ defender into scoring a late, fluky own-goal and we had won, setting us on our way after a disastrous opening-day defeat at Newcastle.

Vinnie just carried on making a difference.  He worked and worked, encouraged and exhorted, fought for the cause and put the fear of God up the enemy wherever he encountered them.  He scored spectacular goals, important goals.  He showed flashes of genuine ability and some of his passing was sublime.  He avoided disciplinary trouble to an amazing degree, given his lurid past.  He sold himself to no less a judge than Strachan as an honest performer who could “play a bit”.

Vinnie also created a rapport with the crowd I’ve rarely seen before or since, chilling and joking with the wheelchair-users at the front of the West Stand before games, and smoking imaginary cigars as he took the plaudits of the adoring masses after finding the net against Ipswich.  In the warm-up before the Wolves match at Elland Road, he provided one of the great moments of humour in a tense campaign, bringing down five year-old mascot Robert Kelly in the area with a signature sliding tackle, much to the delight of the Kop – and of young Robert himself.

Vinnie loved Leeds, the players and fans loved Vinnie and the partnership proved fruitful.  Up we went, and when Vincent Jones finally took his leave for the humbler surroundings of Bramall Lane and Stamford Bridge, it was with a tattoo: “LUFC Division Two Champions” proudly inked onto his expensive leg, a partner for the “Wimbledon FA Cup Winners” one on the other limb.  He was a Leeds United legend in only a little over a year at the club, a larger-than-life personality of massive ebullience and impact – and he is held in the highest of esteem in LS11 even to this day, when he mixes effortlessly in the rarefied, glitzy atmosphere of Hollywood.

So what do we need more right now than another Vinne type, as we hope to secure another long-overdue return to the top table?  Those Jonesy ingredients of passion and power, guts and gumption, are just as important in this league today as they were in those far-off times as the eighties became the nineties.  Who could possibly fulfil that role now?  Joey Barton maybe?  Even he could hardly be a greater culture shock than Vinnie was 25 years ago, but Barton is back in the QPR fold and far beyond our purse anyway – also, quite frankly, he lacks Vinnie’s essential honesty and sheer bad-boy charm.  It’s difficult to say who if anyone we might now secure to play the Vinnie part – but if it were possible, in time for the next transfer window, to distil essence of Jones, or to clone him right from his bloodstained boots and tattooed ankles up to his fearsomely-shaven head, then I’d do it, and I’d present the result gift-wrapped for Brian McDermott to deploy as he saw fit.

A man in the mould of Vinnie Jones would be just the shot in the arm our club needs right at this point in time, just the incentive for the crowd to roll up its sleeves and get behind the team for the remaining battles in this 46 game-long war of attrition.

Just imagine the fillip that our season, our whole club would receive – if only we could have our Vinnie back now.

Turks Stuffed Good and Proper as Real Madrid Cruise in Istanbul – by Rob Atkinson

Galascum - Thoroughly Stuffed

Galascum – Thoroughly Stuffed

It’s a rare night indeed when a Leeds United fan can summon up even a passing regard for the pouting, strutting enigma that is Cristiano Ronaldo, late of the Scum, currently vying for top-dollar merchant with Gareth Bale at the Bernebeu, Madrid.  If ever there was such a night though, this is it.  Ronaldo ambled through the first hour of this match and then simply seized the home team by the scruff of the neck and tore them to pieces, scoring three times. With a brace from Benzema to add to Isco’s opener, it was the Winker’s hat-trick that inflicted the most agony on the hapless Turks, thereby giving any watching Leeds fan a rare treat.

Oddly, the various TV companies that cover the Champions League seem to have a fairly benevolent attitude towards the Istanbul club, despite the notorious nature of their fans in general and of course the tragic loss suffered by Leeds United – the club and the fans – back in the spring of the year 2000.  Since then, there have been other instances of crowd behaviour that would disgrace a bunch of neolithic savages, and there are of course the perpetual occurrences of throat-slitting gestures, “Welcome to Hell” banners and so on and so forth.  In short, this is a club that glories in its own tastelessness and lack of civilised behaviour – and yet we’re always hearing the commentators going on about the incredible atmosphere, the amazing fans, ad nauseam.  It’s enough to make your ears ache if you’re a Leeds fan, or indeed any decent-minded football fan – but there you go.

We’ll never know what the media attitude to them would have been if it had been a different United suffering on that awful night 13 years ago – but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it would have been somewhat different.  As it is, the tragedy of Istanbul 2000 seems to have been conveniently swept under the carpet, and the media appear to take delight in the progress of a club that deserve nothing but ill.  Still – we’re used to these double standards, and we take our comfort where we can.

Speaking of which, tonight was a delightful exhibition of Galascum getting well and truly thrashed by an awesome Madrid team.  The incredible, unprecedented feeling of actually enjoying a Ronaldo hat-trick – one particularly special strike in there, too – was a novelty that will possibly not be repeated.  Not unless Madrid dish this sort of treatment out again in the reverse fixture, anyway.

So for once I come not to bury Ronaldo, but to praise him; truly is it said that “mine enemy’s enemy is my friend”.  I still can’t stand the sight of Mr. Ronaldo, to be strictly honest.  He still has the kind of face you want to smack, still looks the sort of player that belongs with those other self-adoring prima donnas at the Theatre of Hollow Myths.  But he did Leeds United, Madrid and – whatever the mealy-mouthed hypocrites in the media might think – the whole of football a service tonight.  All those goals.  All that humiliation for a hopelessly-outclassed Galascum.  Even the late and meaningless home consolation scored to a nearly-empty stadium before Ronaldo administered the coup de grâce with the sixth.  All those glum fans who had started out so cocky and full of hope. Have it.

It was just one of those nights tonight.  For the past decade and more, I’ve winced every time I’ve seen that awful club with those disgusting fans getting anywhere, doing anything positive like winning a game, and hearing the British media fawning over them.  Tonight it was different.  Tonight, they copped for it, big time.  Tonight it was a case of “Hala Madrid” – or even “Hala Ronaldo” – just for tonight.  6-1 – SIX bloody one.  Well done, Real – and thank you, from a Leeds United fan.

Leeds United Glory Game – No 2: West Ham 1, Leeds 5 – May 1st, 1999

The 'Ome of the 'Appy 'Ammers, Innit

The ‘Ome of the ‘Appy ‘Ammers, Innit

The second in the “Glory Game” series features loveable, chirpy cockneys West Ham United, usually obliging victims for Leeds teams of most eras, and notable as lenders of a helping hand towards the end of the title run-in of 1992 when they defeated Man U in a game that turned Alex Ferguson the deepest shade of exasperated purple I’ve ever seen.  It’s fitting that I should write a little about the ‘Appy ‘Ammers; at least one irritatingly chirpy blog which claims to support them spends most of its time obsessing over our own beloved United, so perhaps here I can redress the balance a little.

This Mayday fixture in front of a packed Boleyn Ground crowd of 25997 found Leeds United in a rich run of form, ten games unbeaten since an early February reverse to Newcastle at Elland Road, after which they had reeled off seven consecutive league victories followed by three draws on the trot.  The Whites’ determination to get back to winning ways after those six dropped points was exemplified by the fastest possible start.  A mere twenty seconds had ticked by when the ball nestled in the West Ham net, put there emphatically by the ebullient Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who ran at a retreating Neil Ruddock before finishing neatly with a left-foot shot past Shaka Hislop.  And then the game went ever so slightly mad.

Jimmy’s goal apart, the first 15 minutes had seen both sides engaging in tackles which verged on the thuggish side of enthusiastic.  West Ham’s Eyal Berkovic was a victim early on, and Lee Bowyer was on the end of a clattering as the home side sought revenge.  Then Ian Wright, no stranger to controversy and the disciplinary attentions of referees, led with his elbow when challenging for a high ball, and copped for a yellow card that looked a lot more justified than the second yellow he got after only 15 minutes, following an altercation with Ian Harte, Harte, Harte.  So Wright was on his way back to the stand after a mere quarter of an hour, loudly protesting the injustice of the case and hell-bent, as it turned out, on venting his frustrations on the décor of the ref’s room.

For the next half-hour, leading up to the interval, Leeds proceeded to make a one man advantage look anything but as West Ham pressed them back, causing panic in the away defence as the promptings of Berkovic and Paolo di Canio created some decent chances to possibly level the game.  Leeds had managed to be distinctly the poorer side in that first half, and yet – as if to prove once again what a daft game football can be – they hit West Ham with a sucker punch in first half stoppage time.  David Batty appeared to have committed a foul in midfield which might well have justified a booking had the ref not totally ignored it and waved for play to continue.  Harry Kewell obliged, picking the ball up wide on the left and mesmerising the overstretched Hammers defence before cutting the ball back from the by-line for Alan Smith to convert gleefully.  2-0 at half time and – for once – it had pretty much all gone Leeds way.  They had been outplayed for most of the first forty-five minutes, but were somehow two goals and one man to the good; courtesy, it has to be said, of some not exactly even-handed refereeing.

The second half began much as most of the first had been spent, with Leeds on the back foot and defending precariously.  Straight away, the dangerous Berkovic bamboozled Jonathan Woodgate, turning him inside out before supplying di Canio with the perfect chance to pull a goal back.  2-1 to the visitors then, but the balance of the play had been with West Ham, and maybe now the momentum was theirs too.  None of us could feel over-confident despite a man and a goal advantage, because all of us could recall Leeds blowing such enviable positions many times in the past.  This time, for once, we were not to be let down.  A rare defensive slip just after the hour from the otherwise excellent Marc-Vivien Foé saw Hasselbaink sprint clear to round Hislop, who then brought him down.  Penalty to Leeds and, despite the presence of defensive cover, Hislop was sent off. It was a slightly unfortunate second red card for West Ham, who felt compelled to replace Berkovic with reserve keeper Craig Forrest as the calamities mounted for the home team.  Forrest’s first act was to pick Harte’s penalty out of the back of the net, and Leeds were 3-1 up and cruising against 9 men.  Foé, we will remember, sadly died four years later at the tragically young age of 28, from an unsuspected heart condition whilst representing his country in the FIFA Confederations Cup.

Now at last Leeds started to dominate as a two-man advantage would suggest they should.  The best goal of the game arrived on 78 minutes, Bowyer hitting an unstoppable right-footed shot from twenty-five yards, which curved slightly as it found the corner of Forrest’s net.  Just a minute later, Alf-Inge Haaland sprinted on to a Hasselbaink pass into a massive amount of space on the right hand side.  Unchallenged, he was able to advance into the penalty area and beat Forrest with an accurate shot just inside the far post.

The eight outfield players in claret and blue were clearly finding the pace too hot, and suddenly there was room aplenty all over the pitch for Leeds to exploit, and exploit it they did.  Aided by the fact that the Hammers – to their eternal credit – were still trying to attack Leeds in spite of their depleted resources, Leeds were granted the licence to ping the ball about, always able to find a man or two in space, making the tired home players work overtime to chase possession as the Upton Park faithful bayed their hate at the referee.  Truth to tell, we could easily empathise with the ‘Arrassed ‘Ammers; far too many times down the years had we been in their shoes, watching impotently enraged as some git of a ref casually destroyed our afternoon.  It was somewhat bizarre to watch the situation unfold in reverse – but what the hell.  We made hay while the sun was shining, and happily the team was doing the same.

The game had long been over as a contest and, at 5-1 up with no credible opposition to deal with, Leeds seemed intent solely on playing out time.  Smith still managed to miss a passable chance to make it 6-1 and Clyde Wijnhard contrived to get himself booked, eliciting gleefully ironic chants of “Who’s the bastard in the black” from the jubilant Leeds fans, displaying a gallows humour not altogether appreciated by the home supporters.  Finally, hothead Irons defender Steve Lomas allowed his mounting frustration to get the better of him, launching an agricultural challenge in the direction of Harte and duly collecting his marching orders to reduce the hapless, helpless Hammers to eight at the death.

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Dirty Den 1, Dirty Leeds 5

It had been a strange game, a romp for the Whites on the face of it – judging by the lop-sided score line anyway.  But it had never been quite like that; not that our awareness of having been outplayed for long stretches diluted our joy one tiny bit.  5-1 away wins do not come along every day, and we enjoyed this one to the full.  We enjoyed it for the whole of the slightly perilous walk back to the tube station, and we were still enjoying it when we beheld the distinctly pissed-off figure of Leslie Grantham heading down the stairway to the platform where we were celebrating noisily.  Leslie Grantham, soap-opera legend as Eastenders’ Dirty Den, Leslie Grantham who had done time for killing a German taxi-driver, Leslie Grantham, Hammers fanatic, who – despite being accompanied by his two young boys – bore a grim aspect which looked rather as if he wouldn’t mind adding a couple of Leeds fans to that record. 

Tactful and understanding to the last of private grief, we wisely kept our distance and refrained from seeking autographs.  It had been a memorably bizarre day for Leeds United and an equally happy summer evening awaited us in the sinful fleshpots of London, crap cockney beer and semi-hostile natives notwithstanding.

Dirty Den 1, Dirty Leeds 5. 

Whites Legend – Lee “Leee” Chapman

Leee Chapman, Whites Legend and Last Champion “Leee” Chapman, Whites Legend and Last Champion[/caption]

It all started with a slightly bizarre Yorkshire Evening Post back page headline.  “Chapman Wings In”, it screamed – signaling Leeds United’s signing of the tall striker for the 1989/90 run-in.  A winger he most certainly was not, but many Leeds fans didn’t really fancy him to be all that much of a centre-forward either and it’s fair to say that the bulk of the support weren’t exactly overwhelmed by Sergeant Wilko’s latest transfer swoop.  But Lee Chapman was to win our hearts as he trod a goal-laden path to the top with Leeds, and any slight technical shortcomings were more than outweighed by his willingness to get in there where it hurts, to put his head in where many would hesitate to risk a boot.  Whites fans do love a recklessly brave warrior who’s worthy of the badge.

I well remember seeing one example of this bravery at close quarters when I attended a 0-0 draw at Tottenham shortly after we were promoted.  Challenged aerially as he went for a ball near the touchline, Chappy hurtled off the field of play to land senseless in an ungainly heap, face-first on the perimeter smack in front of where I was sitting.  Thus I was an unwilling witness to the worst case of gravel-rash imaginable when Leee (as he was fondly known by The Square Ball fanzine) tottered to his feet, his classic profile seemingly having been scraped off to a large degree by the unforgiving Spurs running track.  Such a mess of grimy blood and snot had to be seen to be believed, and I honestly wondered if he wouldn’t be out until the end of the season; but Leee – true to courageous form – was back in double-quick time to finish the campaign with thirty goals.

The following season he managed to break a wrist in trying to save a cup-tie at Elland Road, and during his absence we took the fateful decision to recruit enfant terrible Eric Cantona.  But again Chappy came back, and played a far greater part in that season’s title success than the mercurial Frenchman.  Brave he certainly was, and an unerring gatherer of goals too, sometimes clumsy in his execution of the finish, but still lethally effective.  The highlights were many – a hat-trick at home to Liverpool in an epic 4-5 defeat when he had a goal wrongly disallowed to deny Leeds a deserved draw.  Chappy had this wonderful knack of hurtling like some blond Exocet missile to connect with quality deliveries from either flank; goals at Aston Villa from a Mel Sterland cross, and at Sheffield Wednesday, courtesy of Gary Speed, stand out in the memory of those who were lucky enough to be there.  And in that Hillsborough match there was a rare glimpse of Lee’s unsuspected streak of genius as he picked up possession on the right, burst between two floundering defenders into the area, and pinged a shot against the Wednesday crossbar.  It was the gilt-edged stuff of absolute fantasy.

Lee Chapman was not a player of extravagant talent, nor did he play pretty football embellished with flicks and tricks – not usually , anyway.  But he was a devastatingly effective spearhead for Leeds over a period of several seasons, his time at the club coinciding with the second-greatest period in our history, his goals securing many a valuable win and draw, home and away.  He is fondly remembered as an archetypal Leeds player – fully committed and willing to risk injury for the sake of the shirt.  Memorably, he returned for a brief loan spell in the mid-nineties, welcomed back into the fold by rapturous Elland Road applause, only to be sent off for a stray elbow as he challenged for yet another high ball.

Leeds have had many great centre-forwards in their history – from the peerless John Charles downwards through Mick Jones, Joe Jordan, to the more modern heroes like Tony Yeboah and maybe even Jermaine Beckford.  All those names have notable achievements on their Elland Road CV, and Lee Chapman deserves his place in such a Hall of Fame; as tribute to his attitude, his bravery and of course his goals.  For a Leeds United centre-forward, there can be no higher praise than that.

Happy Days Are Here Again – Bring On the New Season!

Good Riddance, Taggart

Good Riddance, Taggart

The best football season since the mid-eighties (apart from 1991-92, obviously) is almost upon us.  Despite the recession, austerity, bankers bonuses and the scandalous price of a pint, I’ve rarely felt so positive and optimistic about the immediate future.  Even the fact that Leeds United are crap, and will almost certainly remain crap despite the best efforts of poor old Brian McDermott, my outlook is one of sunny anticipation and excitement for the feast of football that awaits my tired and cynical old eyes.  And why?  I’ll tell you why. It’s because Fergie’s gone, that’s why.  Say it again and say it with relish.  Fergie.  Is. GONE.

Don’t get me wrong.  It wasn’t his annoying habit of winning things for the Mighty Man U that bothered me.  It wasn’t his oft-paraded bloody stop-watch held up as a mute instruction to the ref regarding time-keeping.  It wasn’t even his arrogance over whether he chose to adhere to various rules which bound other managers, things like press interviews, his notorious BBC ban, stuff like that.  The fact that he clearly considered himself above mere rules was irritating, but not on its own the reason why I loathed him so much.  It was none of these things in isolation.  And after all, when he lost it was such a pleasure.  Thank you Leeds in ’92, Blackburn in ’95, City in ’12 and a few others.  But it didn’t happen often enough, and really, he was almost as horrific in defeat as he was in – shudder – triumph.

The real problem with Fergie was the sheer, all-round, ever-present, all-pervading unpleasantness of the man.  His particular brand of arrogant Glaswegian gittery and the way in which he held sway over the entire game and media too – the whole Fergie package – that’s what got my goat.  Whoever we support, we’ll have had managers who crossed the line in this or that respect, and made you see why fans of other clubs regarded them as less than nice.  But Ferguson exceeded all these limits, most of the time – and not in a good way.  Comical defeats apart, I really can’t think of a solitary redeeming feature.  If I absolutely HAD to put my finger on one thing that annoyed me above all else – it was the demeanour of the man when he was happy, when he’d just won or when Man U had scored a goal.  Sadly, these events happened all too often, and the results were always utterly repellent.  When the Mighty Reds scored, there he’d be, emerging from his dug-out in that annoying daft old man shuffle, fists clenched and waving in uncoordinated celebration, casting a glance of odious triumphalism at the sullen members of the opposition coaching staff, champing away happily on his ever-present wad of gum while his nose throbbed an ugly shade of victorious purple.  A most unpleasant sight.

Happily though, it is one we shall behold no more.  Fergie has retired upstairs, where his baleful presence need be of concern only to the inheritor of the poisoned chalice, David Moyes Esq.  Moyes may wish to cast his mind back 43 years to the effect a newly-retired but still-powerful-in-the-background Busby had on HIS successor.  But that is his problem.  All we need wish is that an early and unceremonious exit for Moyes – should he fail – isn’t a signal for the caretaker return of the Govan Guv’nor, just when we all thought that nightmare was over.  Perish the thought.

So I’m really looking forward to a Fergie-less season, and even to the slight bewilderment of the assembled media, who will be wondering where to brown-nose, who to target for their obsequious flattery.  Again, their bereft sadness is not my problem.  I’m just going to enjoy the football scene as it will appear to me – bright and shiny, replete with promise and optimism after the removal of that horrible, nasty man.  Man U will be that bit more difficult to hate, with the really-quite-likeable Moyes in charge, however long that lasts. But I’ll manage, it’s in my DNA as a fan of the One True United after all.  And Mourinho is back, and Wenger is still there – men you can’t help but respect and admire.  It’s going to be a good season in the Premier League, something I can really enjoy for once, whatever my beloved Leeds United do to screw things up one division lower.

And it’s all thanks to That Man finally being gone. Hallelujah!!

Beckham To Retire At Last

Beckham To Retire At Last.