No Need for Leeds to Worry About Spygate-Obsessed Lampard at Chelsea – by Rob Atkinson

Fwankie and Marcelo, student and master

It’s the silly season, and the media’s favourite target, Leeds United, is – as usual – the subject of ever more ridiculous attempts at sensationalism designed to sell gutter rags or attract clicks on gutter websites. Among the more laughable lately have been the suggestions that United are after various superannuated Italian football pensioners, along with the perennial line that always comes out when a club with a Leeds chip on its shoulder signs a player. Yes, you know, the angle where said club has “beaten Leeds United to the signature” of whoever. Invariably, it’s one of the rare players we’ve not been linked with, have never heard of, and wouldn’t touch with the proverbial bargepole.

That mention of pensioners brings me on to the subject of Chelsea, who are hotly tipped to snatch media darling Fwankie Lampard from the clammy grasp of Derby County. The media line being peddled here is that Lampard’s move to Stamford Bridge would result in him having a Spygate-provoked tantrum at the merest suggestion that Dirty Leeds might have a Chelsea player under the covetous gaze of their transfer market binoculars. Fwankie just would not allow this, screech the media, because, you know, Spygate. And Bielsa. So it won’t happen and Leeds are doomed, these desperate hacks smugly conclude, before settling down to lick Fwankie’s boots and judiciously selected parts of his anatomy.

All very petty, all very predictable. And all, as usual, completely untrue. The fact of the matter is that any Chelsea player good enough to excite the interest of Bielsa would simply not be available. The reason for this is that Chelsea are subject to a two window transfer ban that will see them having to rely, to an extent, on youngsters they’d normally have farmed out on loan to assist in their development. But now these kids will be needed by Chelsea, so there’s little chance of anyone worthwhile being made available, QED. The only remotely plausible bit of this media fantasy – that Fwankie would be spoilt and petulant enough to block a transfer to Leeds because he’s basically a bitter child – need not concern us. Anyway, the Tearful One is going to have bigger problems on his plate, happily enough, through being hopelessly out of his depth in the top flight.

Roll on August, when the silly season makes way for the actual football season. Not that this will stop the media hating and sniping at Leeds – but at least we’ll have the odd game or two to distract us.

Marching On Together

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Leeds Now Linked With Totti, So Can They Finally Get Maradona? – by Rob Atkinson

Maradona – will he finally realise his Leeds United dream?

According to certain media sources, Leeds United are planning to tempt 42 year old Francesco Totti out of retirement to fire them to promotion. The speculation follows hard on the heels of suggestions that fellow World Cup winner Gianluigi Buffon could be in line to replace Kiko Casilla in goal, as Leeds seemingly look to experience for next season’s Championship campaign.

Given this apparent non-ageist policy, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is now asking the $64,000 question: is it finally time to make good on the ambition, dating back to the mid-eighties, of bringing Diego Maradona to Elland Road?

They say that any winning team needs a strong spine and, with Buffon in goal and the attacking partnership of Totti and Maradona, we’d only need a legendary centre-back and maybe a holding midfielder of the same ilk, and we’d be cooking with gas. Franz Beckenbauer owes Leeds United a favour or two after his pivotal role in the 1975 European Cup Final, so maybe he could slot in alongside Liam Cooper, allowing our shrewd transfer team to capitalise on the market value of Pontus Jansson. And Beckenbauer, a sprightly 73, could also act as a defensive mid, although surely our own David Batty could do a job there despite his relative inexperience at only 50 years old.

These are exciting times for Leeds United as they seek to exploit the potential of geriatric footballers the world over. Could Diego Maradona really be the jewel in our promotion crown at the age of 58?

Only time, and possibly TalkSport Radio, will tell.

Leeds Utd Have Goalie Plan B if Gianluigi Buffon Deal Falls Through – by Rob Atkinson

Promising youngster Peter Shilton

The internet is currently abuzz with rumours that Leeds United are looking to secure the services of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, the 41 year old Italian World Cup Winner who has just been released by Paris Saint-Germain. The deal for Buffon has been regarded as unlikely, given United’s second tier status, but now some bookmakers are quoting odds as narrow as 5-2 against the legendary keeper signing on the dotted line for Leeds.

However, should the sensational swoop fail to transpire, it is believed that United are looking at alternative targets in the geriatric goalkeeper market, with the name of Peter Shilton being bruited about. Shilton, at 69, would be at the top end of the age range even for a keeper – but armchair experts are rating him a possibility and “certainly better than that clown Kiko”. The signing of older players is becoming more common since Derby County took a punt on 74 year old former England left back Ashley Cole (after being turned down by Kenny Sansom).

When approached by Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything for a comment on the likelihood of him joining United’s promotion push, Shilton confined himself to a cryptic “I don’t think Tina would be too happy”.

Former Sheffield United keeper William “Fatty” Foulke is 145.

Gary Neville Has Successfully Forgotten 2010, Leeds and the Beckford End – by Rob Atkinson

Gary Neville, part owner of League newcomers Salford City FC, has reacted instantly to his team’s Carabao Cup first round home draw against Leeds United. Neville, third in his own family in the coaching stakes, tweeted “Welcome back into my life Leeds United, it’s been 15 years”. Clearly, the stress of club part ownership – or maybe his regular spats with fellow Sky pundit Jamie Carragher – has taken its toll on poor Gary’s grey matter and memory, as it was a mere nine years ago that third tier Leeds went to Old Trafford to face Champions Man U in the FA Cup third round. United made history by beating their old rivals 1-0 that day, with the home team including one G. Neville who could only look on as our Jermaine slotted home the winner in front of the Beckford End. Perhaps Gary has just been trying to forget…

It’s not the first gaffe that has come back to haunt Neville. He is on record as saying that no decent manager should ever lose 7-0. Naturally, he then proceeded to lose by precisely that score as rookie manager of Valencia, something that must have been hard to swallow even for one with as big a cakehole as our old friend Gary. Apparently, he was too speechless with shock to protest his subsequent, ignominious sacking.

Still, we’ll take his welcome back tweet as cordially intended if not factually accurate. The tables will be turned from that famous January 3rd cup shock in 2010, in that Leeds will be two leagues above their opponents, rather than two leagues below. It should be quite an occasion, anyway – maybe yet another live TV appearance for Leeds, and certainly an early highlight in the League career of Salford. Let’s hope that Gary Neville enjoys this one just as much as that other cup tie which he seems to have forgotten all about.

Welcome back into our lives, Mr. Neville. It’s been NINE years…

Paudie O’Connor Has Found His Level Two Leagues Below Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

O’Connor – Bradford’s gain is no loss to Leeds

I was never convinced, despite assurances from fellow Leeds fans, that Paudie O’Connor had what it takes to succeed at Leeds. This is based not on rare glimpses of him in a first team shirt, but on his more frequent U-23 appearances in general, and one petulant episode after an away defeat to Barnsley’s second string in particular. I thought then, and it’s now been confirmed, that O’Connor’s future would play itself out away from Elland Road. I’m not unhappy to be proved right.

The incident in question surrounded my attempt to have a quick word with U-23 debutant Sam Dalby. O’Connor was having none of it and led Dalby away, hurling a string of four letter abuse over his retreating shoulder. I put it down to post-defeat temper and refrained from pressing the issue, as you do. But the unpleasantness and unprofessionalism of a young man who had, and still has, done little in the game, made me doubt his ability to stay the course at a club like Leeds. Now he’s gone, and many are expressing surprise at his descent to the Football League basement. I beg to differ. O’Connor not only has to work at his game, he’s got a fair bit of growing up to do too, and needs to learn to rein in his emotions, trying where possible to avoid tantrums. League Two will be a hard school but, right now, it’s just what he needs and a fair reflection of his current level of ability.

I would have kept my powder dry for as long as Paudie was registered as a Leeds United player. But he’s gone now, and I feel he’s no real loss in the grand scheme of things. It takes a certain sort of character to succeed at Leeds, and my instant impression after his hotheaded outburst was that O’Connor wasn’t the right material. Time alone will tell about that. Good luck to the lad at Bradford City.

Could Likely Man U Signing Daniel James Still Move to Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

Daniel James of Leeds United – could it yet happen?

Swansea City‘s big discovery of the season just gone was undoubtedly Daniel James who swiftly made a name for himself with a series of scorching performances for the Welsh side. His sheer pace was the most notable part of James’ game, but there was some vision too, and an eye for goal. All of this led to James coming within an ace of signing for Leeds United as the January window closed, only for a Swansea official to get cold feet and hide under a table instead of completing the deal.

Since that time, James has been touted as the one who got away, as far as Leeds were concerned – and now he appears to be on the point of a move to Manchester, to play for that city’s junior club. But could things take yet one more twist, with Daniel James appearing in a Leeds United shirt next season after all?

On the face of it, the lad has secured himself a glamour move to a club that used to be among the honours on a regular basis, and you can’t blame a player for snapping up the chance of a Premier League berth. But whether it’s a good career decision for the player himself has to be a moot point, with many a youngster having gone there and then dropped right off the radar. Daniel James carved himself a reputation as a fine Championship player last season. His quality is such that you could easily see himself making an impression as a mid to lower table Premier League performer. But with a move to Old Trafford, James would possibly be looking to cut it in the top half of the EPL – is he really at that level yet?

On the other hand, clubs like Man U frequently sign players like James only to loan them out to continue their football education. This must be a possible path for young James next season, and – if that proves to be the case – then Leeds United should be at the head of the queue for his loan-basis services. It’d make sense for both clubs, and the player too, whatever reservations fans on either side of the Pennines might have. This is how football works these days, with plenty of “mutual benefit” deals being done.

So, could Daniel James yet be ripping up the Championship in a Leeds United shirt next season, as he did for Swansea over the past nine months? It’s got to be a possibility. If James does complete his move to the red quarter of Manchester, don’t be surprised to see a season long loan move to Elland Road materialise shortly thereafter. Many stranger things have happened.

Marching On Together

Time For Leeds United to Make a Real Statement; Bring Back the LUFC Smiley – by Rob Atkinson

The LUFC “smiley” badge. Iconic as hell.

It seems pretty certain that Leeds United will be playing their centenary (and hopefully promotion) season with a new badge proudly emblazoned on their various new shirts. That being the case, the design of said new badge is certainly decided already, with only an unveiling amid much ceremony remaining to be done.

This piece, then, is more a forlorn expression of hope than any real ambition to influence matters. The hope burns fiercely, though – because I like many others feel that the time is nigh, if not well overdue, for Leeds United to return to its most iconic badge ever. It’s a design of beautiful simplicity and endless appeal, quite unlike the pedestrian emblems of lesser clubs. It embodies the yellow, white and blue, it scorns the empty folderol of pretension favoured by other. It’s got a message, and that message is: We are Leeds and we are proud. It’s recognisable the world over as an elite design for an elite club. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the LUFC Smiley Badge.

It probably won’t happen. The best we can realistically hope for is the grudging inclusion of the Smiley as a detail of some other design. Even that would be better than nowt. But, just imagine. What if the club really did see sense – what if they marked 100 years of the best football club in the world, by harking back to its best badge, with those nostalgic links to the original Super Leeds era, the Don, King Billy and the rest of the legends. How fine would that be?

We’ll know soon enough, I suppose. I’ve seen pictures purporting to represent the new badge, and I can only hope they were fashionably fake news. I know what I want, and I know thousands of others want it too.

Bring back the Smiley Badge!

Marching on together

Leeds Legend Lee Bowyer Sinks Sunderland at Wembley – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds Legend Lee Crushes Mackems

A last minute winner for Lee Bowyer’s Charlton Athletic condemned Sunderland to at least one more season in League One, and ensured that the first two playoff finals, at least, panned out as per my personal requirements.

It had been good to see Newport depart on the return journey to Wales with tears in their eyes and tails between their legs. Quite apart from having had a soft spot for Tranmere since their Cup exploits under John Aldridge, I’ve not yet forgiven Newport for our FA Cup humiliation a year or so back. Call me bitter and twisted, but that’s just the way it is.

How much more riddled with spite and vicious nastiness am I then with regard to Sunderland, who have been living off their fluke FA Cup success against Super Leeds ever since 1973? Much, MUCH more, that’s how much. The fact that one of my Whites heroes of the past few decades, Lee Bowyer, was a direct beneficiary of the Mackems’ inadequacy simply made a sweet occasion all the sweeter. I’ve frankly hated Sunderland for all the time I’ve been a Leeds fan, despised Bob Stokoe, and celebrated every time we’ve beaten the Wearsiders, as we usually do. They keep going back to Wembley, and they keep failing. They’ve done it twice this season, and I’ve loved every minute.

Now all I need is for Aston Villa to beat Derby tomorrow – with a few Fwankie tears thrown in, if at all possible. Really – is that too much to ask?

Taken 30 Years Ago Today, Leeds Legend Don Revie Was THE Greatest   –   by Rob Atkinson

revieportrait

The Don of Elland Road – 30 years gone, but never forgotten

They say that great players don’t always make great managers, and Bobby Charlton is a stand-out example of that essential truth. His brother Jack, by common consent not anything like the player Bobby was, but ten times the bloke, was by far the more successful manager. Then again – he learned from the best.

And they will twist the argument around to show that average players can make great managers. We’re usually invited by a brainwashed and indoctrinated media to take Alex Ferguson as an example of this; my own choice would be Arsene Wenger, a deeply average player but a highly superior coach, tactician and innovator who made a significant dent in the Man U monopoly of the Premier League – despite the vast off-field advantages of the Salford club. Remember Wenger’s “Invincibles”?

But there are a select few examples of truly great players who went on to be truly great managers – the likes of Busby and Dalglish, for instance – and I will argue passionately to my last breath that the best of the best was Donald George Revie, who died of Motor Neurone Disease 30 years ago this very day.

Don Revie was an innovative, thinking footballer, the pivot of the famous “Revie Plan” at Manchester City when he was the first to exploit deep-lying centre-forward play to great effect as City hit the heights in the mid to late fifties. He was instrumental in the Wembley defeat of Birmingham City in the FA Cup Final of 1956, and also helped restore English pride after two batterings by Hungary – the Magnificent Magyars having trounced England 6-3 at Wembley and 7-1 in Budapest. Revie’s adapted attacking role helped the National team annihilate Scotland 7-2 and his reputation was made as a selfless team player who was adept at making the ball do the work while team-mates found space as he dropped deep, baffling the defences of the time.

Revie was clearly a thinker, and developed very definite ideas about the game during his playing career, ideas he would later put into practice to devastating effect as a club manager. It is undeniable that, during his thirteen years in charge at Leeds, he elevated them from simply nowhere in the game to its very pinnacle, preaching togetherness and the team ethic above all else. Respected judges within the game have described the football played by Leeds at their peak as unmatched, before or since. In the eyes of many, that Leeds United team were the finest English side ever, a unit of grisly efficiency and teak-hardness yet capable of football which was outstandingly, breathtakingly beautiful, intricate in its conception and build-up, devastating in its effect.

Here is the scale of Revie’s achievement: in an era before the advent of lavish sponsorship and advanced commercial operations, he built a club from the ground upwards – a club with an apathetic support, which had hardly two ha’pennies to rub together, and whose prime asset was a group of raw but promising youngsters. The way that Revie nurtured those youngsters, moulding them into a team of supreme talent and majestic ability, is the stuff of legend. In some cases, he had to ward off the threats of homesickness: a young Billy Bremner was determined to go home to his native Scotland and Revie arranged for his girlfriend to move to Leeds, helping the lad settle down. Sometimes he had to adapt a player from one position to another – Terry Cooper was an indifferent winger who was made into a world-class overlapping full-back. Examples of his inspirational and man-management skills are many; he wrote the modern managerial manual from scratch.

Revie raised almost an entire squad from the junior ranks through to full international status, but he also had an unerring eye for a transfer market bargain. He took Bobby Collins from Everton, and saw the diminutive veteran midfielder produce the best form of his career. He lured a disaffected John Giles from Old Trafford where he was an under-rated performer. Giles swore that he would “haunt” Matt Busby, the manager who let him go, and Revie enabled this vow to be realised, converting Giles to a more central role after the end of Collins’ first team career. Giles and Bremner would form an almost telepathic central midfield partnership for Leeds, carrying all before them over the muddy battlefields of Division One. Revie later described his recruitment of Giles from Man U as “robbery with violence”.

As the sixties wore on, the Don would add Mick Jones and Allan Clarke to his formidable squad while it grew up together in a family atmosphere at Elland Road. Rarely if ever before or since can a manager have been so involved in his team’s welfare and well-being; no mere tracksuit manager this. There would be flowers and chocolates when a player’s girlfriend or wife celebrated a birthday, a listening ear and helping hand whenever problems threatened to affect a man’s form. Revie was a father figure to his players for over a decade, forming a bond of mutual loyalty and respect that still sets the standard for enlightened management today.

Don Revie has been described in scornful terms by the ignorant, as a dossier-obsessed and over-superstitious manager, then again as a coaching genius by some people of insight and judgement, and as simply the best by his players who still survive from that amazing period of Leeds United’s dominance at home and abroad. He was perhaps too reliant on lucky suits and the lifting of gypsy curses, and other such supernatural preoccupations. He could maybe have let his team “off the leash” a little earlier than he did – when given full rein, they were next door to unstoppable. But it’s hard to hold the caution and superstition of the man against him; this was a time unlike today when livelihoods depended on a bounce of the ball, when results mattered in a bread and butter way. There were no cossetted millionaires then, no examples of young men who could pack it all in tomorrow and live in luxury for the rest of their lives. It all meant so much more in those days and the word “pressure” had real resonance.

The modern coaches have greats among their number, there’s no doubt about that. It would be invidious to single out names; after all, the media in a misguided fit of uncritical and commercially-motivated hero-worship have been busily engaged for most of the last three decades in dubbing “S’ralex” as the greatest ever. But the legend that is Don Revie can sit comfortably on his laurels, the man who – more than any other – took a sow’s ear of a football club and made of it a purse of the very finest silk which yet concealed a core of Yorkshire steel.

After a season in which a number of high profile managers have conducted themselves disgracefully by rabble-rousing in the media – and I’m thinking mainly of the two opposing managers for Monday’s Championship playoff final – it’s fitting that we can remember with fondness and immense pride a true managerial giant.

Donald George Revie (1927 – 1989). Simply The Best.

Mbappe and Neymar for Leeds in PSG Link Up? – by Rob Atkinson

Mbappe – could he win a regular starting place at Leeds?

The likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are not the most likely participants in next season’s Championship, but other current PSG might be beating a path to the Elland Road players’ entrance if there’s anything in the Twitterstorm surrounding possible investment by Qatar Sports Institute in Leeds United.

For the time being, it’s all smoke and mirrors. But I’ve been dreaming of linking Mbappe to Leeds for ages now – so ‘ave it.

More to follow, without a doubt.