Let’s face it, it’ll be a bit of a shock if there isn’t a penalty awarded against Leeds United today. The media darlings of man u seem to be able to rack up the spot kicks if any opposing player so much as glances at Rashford & Co in the box, and with today’s ref being a mancunian from a family of Old Trafford season ticket holders, it would hardly be a surprise to see at least one awarded today.
Leeds, we understand, are going to venture into the swamp playing their normal game, which tends to give knowledgeable Whites fans the collywobbles, thinking of all that space for St Marcus to sprint into, prior to doing the half pike with double twist once in our area. The concentration from Leeds today will have to be exemplary if we’re to avoid that scenario, along with the adjacent one of having somebody vital red carded early doors. Both of these doom-laden outcomes have come about in my recent nightmares, and they could so easily translate into reality against the Pride of Devon later this afternoon.
Whatever happens, we will doubtless carry on as per the instructions of our deity incarnate, Marcelo Bielsa. And that’s just as it should be, as he’s long ago earned the right to our unquestioning trust and confidence. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that we can acquit ourselves well against the fourteen men of Manchester, and that our eleven lads will walk out there with heads held high and do battle as we’d all wish them to.
In a move hardly calculated to reinforce perceptions of fairness and impartiality, the FA have chosen Wythenshawe born official Anthony Taylor as referee for this Sunday’s meeting of Manchester United and Leeds United at Old Trafford (kick off 4:30pm). It is, of course, quite possible that this appointment is free from any taint of bias and favouritism. The question remains: with the choice of any Premier League referee, why pick one from a man u stronghold six miles from Old Trafford, whose family are strongly rumoured to hold season tickets for the Red Devils?
Actually, it’s not quite true to say that any Premier League referee could have been picked to referee this particular match, as Yorkshire’s Martin Atkinson is ineligible due to his White Rose roots – do you begin to see the difficulty here?
The problem for Anthony Taylor is that he does not wish to be excluded from involvement in some of the so-called “biggest games in the Premier League calendar”, and is therefore most anxious to scotch any rumours that he has any emotional ties to Old Trafford. In fact, he claims, winking furiously and concealing crossed fingers behind his back, he’s a supporter of Altrincham FC – so that’s ok then.
It is further claimed in defence of Mr Taylor’s impartiality that he is a founder member of a Manchester-wide organisation of football people which was formed to promote Mancunian football as a whole, rather than the interests of any one club. Soccer Can Unite Manchester(SCUM) has been close to Anthony’s heart for many years, according to one neutral Mancunian who wished to be known only as Fred the Red. Another witness for Mr Taylor who doesn’t even live in Manchester, hailing instead from Devon, has pointed out that Leeds United’s last visit to Old Trafford had ended up with man u going out of the FA Cup. “We’m didn’t even get a penalty and Jerrrmaaaaine Beckford was only a yaaaaaarrrd onsoide, and it wasn’t fair,” said our man in Ilfracombe, neutrally, “So ‘opefully Aaaaanthony can help set thaaaat record straight”.
All eyes will be on Anthony Taylor this Sunday, which is perhaps not the most conducive of circumstances in which to operate in a professional manner. Everybody is also aware that Man U have had an extraordinarily large number of penalties awarded this season and last, and many punters are placing heavy bets, not on whether the home side will get a spot kick, but rather on how many they will get, with two being the marginal favourite. But the FA have defended their appointment of Mr Taylor, saying “We are sure that, as Howard Webb has now retired, Anthony is the best possible man for this match, and that he will act entirely as we expect him to. Come on yooouu Reeee-eds!”
Alan Hardaker, 108, has let it be known (through a medium) that he entirely approves of this appointment.
In a change from the usual controversy over VAR, a probe is to be announced into possible abuses of Chelsea‘s match ticket allocation protocols, after it was revealed that their COVID-restricted 2000 strong crowd for the fixture against Leeds United consisted entirely of excitable young girls. Questions are being asked as to the fairness or otherwise of a system that favours one gender and age group so exclusively, to the detriment of Chelsea’s traditional following which normally leans more towards male Neanderthals across all age groups. It has even been suggested that the teenage female demographic had been selected exclusively by the Stamford Bridge club, the object being to disrupt the Leeds United team with a constant, shrill and piercing scream effect. The question of whether this would not affect both teams equally was dismissed when it was pointed out that the Chelsea players were quite used to that kind of annoying noise after a year or so of Frank Lampard‘s team talks.
An FA Premier League spokesman commented “It seems appropriate to look into these claims, as it appears unlikely that a properly-conducted lottery would come up with such a weighted result. Most of the girls in the crowd admitted when questioned afterwards that they had been briefed to squeal in an irritatingly shrill manner whenever former Blues player Patrick Bamford had the ball, but that they had mistaken debutant United defender Diego Llorente for the striker. A few of the other girls had no idea they were attending a football match, believing it to be a concert featuring BTS (Bangtan Boys).
“Whatever the outcome of our enquiry, it certainly makes a pleasant change from looking into VAR controversies,” added our FA contact. “We’re pleased to note that, on this occasion, VAR worked exactly as we have always intended, as evidenced by its utter refusal to review an incident in which United winger Ian Poveda was fouled in the Chelsea penalty area and an obvious penalty was not given. So, yes, we’re obviously very satisfied with that”.
In commemoration of perhaps the biggest offside injustice since Jeff Astle scored for West Brom at Elland Road in 1971, robbing the best team in the country of the League title in the process, Leeds United should now do whatever it takes to have the legendary Old Peacock pub opposite United’s stadium rebranded as “The Bamford Arms”. It would serve as a permanent reminder of the laughable incompetence of those who are interpreting VAR data – in this case, the notoriously error-prone Mike Dean. It would also cock a snook at those in the game and outside who revel in each successive injustice perpetrated upon football’s least-favourite club. To respond to such misfortune with classic gallows humour is the ideal riposte to such persistent persecution.And, let’s not forget, the Peacock symbol is unlucky anyway – that’s why it was dropped from our badge many moons ago.
It’s the best idea I’ve seen so far, casually mentioned on Twitter, though I’d certainly welcome any other suggestions. But I’m sure Paddy himself would approve of this one, and it would be guaranteed to infuriate the stuffed shirts of the FA Premier League – which, when you’re going to be handed the crappy end of the stick anyway, is what it’s all about. It’s such a shame that a tawdry piece of adjudication like this has tended to put Paddy’s sublime second strike, this one allowed to stand, rather into the shade. All the more reason to gift him immortality in the shape of a pub sign just over the road. Let’s do it.
Thousands of Leeds fans will have gone to bed last night, feeling that the world is a slightly sadder place following a sobering 4-1 reverse at home to an efficient Leicester City side. The defeat will have been the first thing many will have thought about on waking up this morning. And yet we all know deep down that, compared to real loss and tragedy, alongside the immensely unfair and indiscriminate habit life has of abruptly handing out shattering blows to innocents, football and its petty travails and setbacks means nothing at all.
This essential truth has hit home hard again today with the awful need that a 14 year old Leeds fan who has bravely and uncomplainingly battled leukaemia for the past two years – a big chunk of his young life – has now found out that there is no more that can be done for him, and that he has just a matter of three weeks to live.
The heartbreaking story of young Louie Jones, from Poulton-le-Fylde in Lancashire, was told today here on the Leeds Live website, and has been shared on Twitter along with a plea to Leeds United Football Club to do something for the teenage Leeds fanatic in his last few weeks. That’s the kind of request United are normally very receptive to, and I sincerely hope that will be the case for Louie, even in these testing lockdown times.
Beyond that, though, I simply haven’t the words to describe how terribly sad this story is. Courage of the type Louie is now showing, as he faces up to such a horrific certainty, is absolutely beyond my ken, so all I can do in this blog is take off my hat to the lad and reiterate my hope that maybe he’ll hear from his beloved United at what is a devastating time for him and his family.
Life still transcends football, as is right and proper. I know for sure that those who read this will hold Louie in their thoughts and, where appropriate, their prayers.
Perhaps if Aston Villa had actually beaten Leeds United, as their former journeyman striker Agbonlahor evidently expected with the utmost confidence, that gentleman would not now be contriving to make an even bigger fool of himself by refusing to let the whole matter drop. Then again, maybe he’d have been even more insufferable, in the manner of a triumphal schoolboy crowing after winning a conker fight.
Gobby’s latest argument appears to be that the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City fans don’t react as many Leeds fans have done, when either Klopp or Guardiola are referred to as myths. But TalkSport‘s shining light appears to have missed the fact that nobody – and especially no-one with any pretensions to a media career – is fool enough to take that line about either Jurgen or Pep, because it’d be self-evidently ridiculous. Equally, only a clueless dolt would level such a jibe against the world-renowned Bielsa – step forward, Gormless Gobby. The hapless former Villan seems to be judging everybody else by his own dismally low standards, as if it wasn’t bad enough already that he’s attached to a so-called radio station trying to be the aural equivalent of the Sunday Sport.
Gobby seems to be the sort of lad that tries to extricate himself from a hole by doing some more digging. The more he protests, the dafter he looks, and the dafter he looks, the harder he tries to place himself on the right side of the argument, and so on, ad nauseam.He’s in a vicious downward spiral, and is too witless to see that the only person he’s hurting is himself.
Certain facts are undeniable. Firstly, Agbonlahor stands guilty of sabotaging his favourite club’s chances of beating Leeds United, by providing all the extra motivation United could have wished for ahead of a tricky trip to Villa Park. It’s quite clear from the most cursory trawl of the AVFC hashtag (a couple of examples appear above) that many Villa fans saw this, and were justly annoyed about it.It could well be argued that Gobby has done a better job of rattling his own fanbase, than he has of winding up the Leeds support.
Secondly, Gobby has failed to minimise his own humiliation by keeping his trap tactfully shut in the wake of Villa’s heavy defeat. He has instead persisted in trying to defend the indefensible, still digging away in that hole, and now claims to be surprised that a big club like United should be rattled by a has-been like himself. But this sort of bogus self-deprecation has always been a transparent ploy to deflect attention from some horrible faux pas; everybody with any sense at all is well aware that Agbonlahor’s reckless disrespect of Leeds only days prior to a match against the Whites will live forever in football’s memory as unprofessional, immature, and the classic example of inserting one foot squarely into his mouth whilst simultaneously shooting himself in the other.
This is the last word I shall have to say on this matter, which I’m sure will be a relief to many. Ultimately, Agbonlahor is irrelevant, and I wouldn’t normally bother with a mouthpiece for a trash radio station. In this case, though, the behaviour was so extreme and immature that I was moved to highlight the ridiculousness of it. But it’s now time to stop feeding the troll, so I’ll just sum up by reproducing Kalvin Phillips’ devastating post match response to one of Gobby’s more childish efforts before the game. Succinct and brilliant, it really should have persuaded Agbonlahor that he should immediately retire to lick his wounds. Sadly, he’s got far too much ego, and far too little by way of brains, to do any such thing.
Nobody can accuse Leeds United of not going full tilt on their return to the Premier League after a 16-year absence, both on the pitch and in the transfer market. The board have backed maverick manager Marcelo Bielsa with an eclectic mix of new signings.
Besides bringing last season’s loanees Helder Costa and Illan Meslier in on permanent deals and extending Manchester City-owned Jack Harrison’s stay at Elland Road, some future prospects for the developmental squad have also joined. There are fresh faces for the first team too.
Former Bolton Wanderers loan capture Rodrigo only managed one goal during his first taste of English football a decade ago. Having since established himself at Valencia, the Brazil-born Spain forward has at least matched his tally for the Trotters at Leeds already.
Reinforcing defence was also a priority of Bielsa’s, although the expansive and open style of his team does not exactly lend itself automatically to clean sheets. Nonetheless, two full international centre backs in Robin Koch and Diego Llorente have arrived from Germany and Spain respectively.
The latter was part of an overachieving Real Sociedad side that finished sixth in La Liga last term and reached the Copa del Rey final. Koch, meanwhile, helped Freiburg progress from battling Bundesliga relegation to just missing out on European football for this season during his three years with them.
These are defenders on the up, then, and – provided they continue to improve in the crucible of the Premier League – they should serve Bielsa well. It appears as though Leeds have learned from Championship heartache and struggles to get back up into the big time.
Bielsa also has new wide options to support Rodrigo or Patrick Bamford who has the central striking berth for now. The wonderfully named Crysencio Summerville has been prolific for the Netherlands Under-19s, and the winger of Surinamese descent rejected a new deal at Feyenoord in favour of moving to Elland Road.
Brazilian wide prospect Raphinha arrived on transfer deadline day from French Ligue 1 outfit Rennes too. The 23-year-old has already played for Sporting Lisbon, one of the biggest clubs in Portugal, earlier in his career. If these options on the flanks can provide service, then they add value to the side.
Maintaining the high-intensity style demanded by Bielsa in what is a shortened season means the depth of the squad is key. Leeds have eight points from their first four games. Keep that average up, and there is nothing to worry about.
One or two transfers fell by the wayside, however. Bayern Munich’s midfielder Mickael Cuisance returned to his native France on loan at Marseille after a move to Elland Road broke down. Bielsa also missed out on creative compatriot midfielder Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese.
Despite that, the feeling is that Leeds may have done some smart business. Fans are firmly behind Bielsa after he did what managers with infinitely more experience of English football coming into the Elland Road hot seat failed to do. The adventure continues.
The delight of witnessing Leeds United’s 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa was reserved mainly for those willing to fork out an extra fifteen quid over and above normal subscriptions, as well as a few discerning types who found other, less official methods. Doubtless those who did cough up will consider their money well spent – the chance to see the Villans, who recently demolished Liverpool seven goals to two, themselves getting royally stuffed by our own heroes was one not to miss.
Happily, many who might otherwise have paid the price were so disgusted by the cynical exploitation of fans’ desire to see their team, that they chose to miss out, preferring instead to donate the £15 to a local food bank in the wake of our disgraceful government’s refusal to help feed poor kids who risk a hungry holiday without public support. I was proud to donate myself, and would urge others to do so. Last time I looked, the total raised was over £83,000.
So in the end, it may well be that Villa’s slaughter at the eager hands of “myth club” Leeds was even less visible than you might have thought, given its PPV status. But, over on Sky Sports News, the humiliation of Villa Rentamouth Gobby Agbonlahor, who had provided so much unintentional motivation for the United lads in the run-up to the game, was all too cruelly public.
Gobby, who had described Bielsa’s Leeds as a “myth”, and who had then made various other unwisely provocative statements, can be seen in the image above, clearly wilting and finally appalled as his beloved Villa were dismantled in a one-way second half at Villa Park. Realising, perhaps, that he’d effectively delivered Bielsa’s pre-match motivational talk for him, Gobby had admitted on his Twitter account that he needed a Villa win last night, or he’d have to deactivate his account in craven embarrassment. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything understands that the former Villa striker now plans to add a personal disappearance to his virtual one, joining the French Foreign Legion “to forget”.
Whatever the feelings of the crushed and humiliated Agbonlahor, we must not forget that Gobby’s not the only one who’ll be ordering several portions of humble pie – though it’s the crestfallen TalkSport pundit who’s taking the brunt of Villa fans’ frustration and disapproval on Twitter. But the likes of Dean Smith and John Terry have had this experience coming to them, ever since the match at Elland Road when Villa histrionics in the wake of a perfectly legal goal led Bielsa, realising that the media would be all over the incident, to order his team to allow the Villans of the piece a walk-in equaliser. Terry in particular was still mouthing off at Bielsa after this gesture (later recognised with a FIFA Fair Play Award), and it gives me immense pleasure to contemplate the current misery of that deeply unpleasant man. Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold, so United’s victory, and especially the manner of it, was sweeter and more delectable than the finest iced dessert.
It’s been a fabulous start to another sporting weekend, seeing Leeds United outrun, outplay, outthink and thoroughly outclass opponents who had prevailed in every previous match this season. I’d thought perhaps we might match if not exceed Liverpool’s feat of scoring twice at Villa Park, but – with skipper Cooper and midfield fulcrum Phillips both missing – I never suspected we’d concede seven fewer than the Champions.
Of course, we’re Champions too, albeit in a slightly less grand manner, and last night we produced a performance worthy of that title. Villa fans on Twitter were acknowledging at half time that Leeds had been the better side – with the scoreline blank, they hoped for and seemingly expected better things after the interval. But once Leeds had survived a mazy run and shot from Grealish, they were utterly irresistible and thoroughly deserved a victory that could easily have been a lot more emphatic, as even Dean Smith was heard to admit. It was a fabulous win and an unmistakeable message to the football world that United are back.
On a final note of exultation, we can now consider one particular debt repaid in full. Patrick Bamford’s last hat-trick was against Leeds a few years back, for Middlesbrough. Now, he’s repeated the feat, but in our colours and at a higher level. Patrick’s hat trick has raised his seasonal tally to six, and this likeable and increasingly lethal lad appears at last to be finding his confidence and enjoying himself in exalted company. All of which pleases me immensely as a long-time supporter of our No. 9.
As for Gobby – better luck next time, son. And maybe you’ll engage brain before opening mouth before we meet again. Though, given your astounding lack of judgement and discretion this time, I won’t be holding my breath…
Ex-Villa forward and current professional motormouth Gobby Agbonlahor appears to have had a moment of self-awareness today, as the Friday night showdown between the Villans and Leeds United approaches. The former striker has tweeted an admission that, unless his side beat United, then his own Twitter presence would be unbearable to the point where he’d feel compelled to deactivate his account. The implication is, of course, that if Aston Villa do win, then there’ll be a lot more crowing and trolling to come from one of trash radio station TalkSport’s shining lights (my apologies for the gratuitous rhyming slang).
Having delivered Leeds United‘s Friday evening teamtalk for them with his previous online rants, Agbonlahor seems to have potentially painted himself into a corner from which it would be difficult to escape, should Leeds manage to take anything from Friday’s fixture. Several Villa fans have responded to Gobby’s rash tweets with anger at the incentive he has provided for the Whites to ram his words back down his virtual throat.
Now, Agbonlahor has gone further in the incentivisation stakes, with the prospect of seeing him disappear from the Twittersphere surely something that will spur Leeds on (always assuming that Gobby isn’t just emulating his fellow “gob on a stick” Katie Hopkins, who threatened many times to leave Twitter, but eventually had to be kicked off).
It promises to be a spicy old affair at Villa Park on Friday and, despite his over-use of the laugh emoticons, you get the feeling that Agbonlahor knows full well he has committed the cardinal sin of winding up an imminent opponent while wiser heads are keeping their powder dry. Really, it’s a shame that Leeds appear beset by injuries ahead of a match where they will need to be as strong as possible. The absence of skipper Liam Cooper, and more especially that of England’s Kalvin Phillips, does not bode well for United’s ability to cope with a Villa side on the crest of a wave after their 100% start to the season. Leeds, of course, will doubtless back themselves to deal with such problems – and they certainly aren’t lacking for either incentive or motivation. Credit to Gobby for that, at least.
Sometimes, in sport as in life, a helping hand can come from the most unexpected source. In the sporting arena, that helpful gesture might occasionally even emanate from within the opposition camp, giving an unexpected boost ahead of a difficult task. You’ll have doubtless heard of the phenomenon whereby some Rentagob ex-player for this or that Rovers, City or United will unwisely open their piehole and give major and unintended motivation to the next opponents of that ex-player’s former employers.
One such instance of this occurred last night in the wake of Leeds United’s slightly unfortunate home defeat to Wolves. Former Aston Villa player Gabriel “Gobby” Agbonlahor, the proud owner of two losers’ medals as the fruits of his less than glittering career, seemingly couldn’t resist the opportunity to mock Leeds United, heedless of the fact that, for the Villans, providing an extra incentive for Leeds United ahead of Friday night’s Villa Park summit was possibly the very last thing Dean Smith’s charges would have wanted. But good old Gobby, showing the kind of intellect needed to work at TalkSport, went ahead anyway – and, should Villa lose their impressive 100% record at the hands of United, it could be that Mr. Agbonlahor will find the blame fairly and squarely laid upon himself.
It’s a strange situation just now with Leeds and Villa, with the Villa fans in particular seeming to wish to generate an unnatural rivalry between their own club and the Whites, who habitually look west to Trafford or south to Chelsea for their own bêtes noires. With United still acclimatising themselves to the Premier League, and with Villa putting last season’s narrow and distinctly dodgy escape from relegation behind them with four wins in four games this time around, you might suppose the fans of Agbonlahor’s former club would be looking elsewhere themselves for rivalry fodder. But there it is, and we can probably trace this odd situation back to Villa’s rather fortunate promotion season, when Leeds missed out on doing the double over them only because of Marcelo Bielsa’s FIFA Fair Play Award-winning gesture of allowing the Villans to walk the ball in for an equaliser at Elland Road.
The reverse fixture at Villa Park had ended up with Leeds triumphant, having come back from two down – but in truth, United were the better team throughout, something that had Smith grinding his teeth on the touchline before muttering ungraciously about the Whites celebrating as though they’d won the title itself. Whatever the roots of the situation, Villa fans – who may well have something of a chip on their collective shoulder about the media adulation of Bielsa – have lost no opportunity to gloat over the contrasting fortunes of the two clubs this season, with warnings of premature exultation falling on deaf ears. But that’s fans for you.
It’s different when ex-players join in. The comments circulate more widely, and with much more chance of being noted inside the dressing room of the club targeted for such unwise trolling. You can safely bet your mortgage on the fact that Liam Cooper & Co will be well aware of Gobby’s online ramblings, including the assertions that Leeds United are more myth than legend, as well as his notion that Bielsa gets too much credit, which should more properly be laid at the feet of Dean Smith. As I said, you can forgive blinkered fans for spouting that kind of rubbish – but when an ex-player of your next opponent does it, then it can make the troops thus slighted imitate the actions of the tiger. It’s certainly not the kind of thing Agbonlahor’s former employers would have wished him to do, as they will be uncomfortably aware that Friday night’s challenge may just have become even more difficult.
Obviously, as a United fan, I hope so. I hope that Leeds will hand Villa a right pasting to ruin their 100% start, and I hope that Gobby’s words will be rammed well and truly back down the orifice whence they originated, to emerge a day later, via a natural excretory process, in the form of a TalkSport match summary. Villa are a good team, so this desirable outcome is by no means guaranteed. But if it did happen, then this blogger would be well chuffed – along with, I suspect, those well-motivated men from Elland Road.