An Angry Pontus Will be Better for Leeds United than the Meek Pontus of Last Season – by Rob Atkinson

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Bring on “Angry Pontus” for a Leeds promotion charge

If Leeds United are indeed to enjoy an annus mirabilis to follow the annus horribilis we’ve all just experienced, then a few changes will have to be made. One is underway; we’re currently gasping our way through the information vacuum between the termination of the hapless Hecky and the inevitable appointment of The Best Coach In The World™. Other changes are afoot too, with the acquisition of a striker recently valued at £20 million a distinct possibility for the princely sum of nowt. The snag is that Hull City‘s loss and our gain (and remember, we’ve already got one Hernandez) will require wages commensurate with his undoubted ability, failing which he might decide to join a Premier League relegation struggle at Wolves or Newcastle.

Still, these things are being dealt with, and some hard news will surely emerge shortly. But there are other areas of difficulty as well as coaching and the strike force: namely, goalkeeper, defence and a bit of steel in midfield – although the arrival of Forshaw has allayed some of the engine room anxiety, particularly if he can strike up partnerships with Messrs. Ideguchi and Klich. The goalkeeping problem is less taxing with the emergence of young Bailey Peacock-Farrell, though a more experienced keeper could well be added.

Which leaves us with defence, and the curious case of Pontus Jansson. There’s absolutely no doubt that Pontus, at his best, is exactly the sort of guy you would wish at the back, heading balls away to the halfway line, sliding in with murderous intent upon encroaching opposition forwards, and generally throwing himself about the park in the cause of Leeds United. That’s the Pontus we all remember, very fondly, from the majority of the season before last. The season just gone, though, was nothing like as impressive from Jansson. Deprived of a rock solid centre-back partner in Kyle Bartley, Pontus played through the recent campaign like a pale shadow of his former self, diffident, injury-prone, seemingly unable to get going when the going got tough. He occasionally got caught fannying about at the back instead of, as used to be his preferred method, clearing both ball and opponent far, fast and often. It was all most disappointing, and it sort of summed up our season, which flared briefly and then rapidly petered out into damp squib territory.

Now, Pontus is upset at the way certain recent remarks of his have been poorly translated, or misinterpreted, or taken out of context, or something. These utterances appeared to some fans capable of being seen as a “come and get me plea”, the implication being that Mr Jansson might be interested in various offers he might have been aware of, that would allow him to remain in England as he would wish, with just the hint that he’d ideally like to play in the Premier League. Seemingly, Pontus is irate at the way things have been lost in translation, claiming that he would “never talk bad about my club”. Doubtless, there is some inconsistency between the original quotes attributed to Jansson, and his more recent clarifications. You pays your money, and you takes your choice.

For me, though, the important thing is that, in hotly denying that he was angling for a move, Pontus showed a bit of fiery passion. Any central defender worth having should have this nasty streak in him, a part of his character that says, needle me at your peril. And it’s that irascibility, the flash of temper clearly apparent in the early days, that seemed to be missing in the season just past. Maybe it was the loss of Bartley, with the subsequent chopping and changing of defensive partnerships, or maybe it was just “second season syndrome”. But there was undoubtedly a difference, you didn’t have to be an ex-pro pundit to see that.

Now that he has, to some extent, nailed his colours to the mast, reaffirming his commitment and gratitude to Leeds United as the club that “saved his career”, maybe we can expect better things in the season to come – particularly if a certain Mr Bartley were to be lured back. We understand that Agent Ayling is on the case even as we speak. That better performance, though, is even more likely to come about if Pontus can harness some of that anger and attitude, the sort of thing he’s just displayed verbally, but that was sadly lacking in his on-field performances over the past year. A bit of anger might help restore that missing mojo.

Still, there’s a World Cup being held in the meantime, and Pontus will be hoping for more than a passing involvement in the colours of Sweden. And, if he happens to have a good tournament, then (at the risk of upsetting him) it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Pontus Jansson sidling towards the Elland Road exit door before August. I’ll just hope I’m wrong, and that instead, we’ll see Angry Pontus marshalling our defence as we challenge for promotion in 2019.

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Fergie in the Running to Take Over as Leeds United Boss? – by Rob Atkinson

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Fergie for Leeds? No, thanks

A new name is doing the rounds as speculation as to the next Leeds United team boss rages on. Former Argentina and Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa is still the heavy favourite – but, since he resigned as manager of Doncaster Rovers the other day, Darren Ferguson, son of you-know-who, is being spoken of as a possible contender.

Any Leeds fan with any recollection of Ferguson at all will possibly treasure the memory of his almost tearful reaction to a defeat against Leeds while he was in charge of Peterborough United some years back. Certainly, this is the image of Fergie Junior that I wish to hold dear, rather than any possible involvement with Leeds United going forward. After names such as Bielsa and Claudio Ranieri have been mooted, the appointment of a relative obscurity such as Darren would be rather like missing out on Abel Hernandez for your main striker, and settling instead for Jerry Mbakogu. Actually, that could be an unfortunate choice of simile…

We’ll just have to hope that this story is an example of some hack or bookie having had a little too much sun, and that Leeds United will not be looking to catch a former Donny boss on the rebound.

Pontus Jansson Should Buckle Down at Leeds and Show Us Why We Used to Love Him – by Rob Atkinson

Pontus

Pontus as we knew and loved him

It’s been a love affair like so many others, waxing hot with passion and mutual desire in that early, devoted phase – then cooling off, with indifference where once was there was adoration. Harsh words are spoken, third party interest rears its opportunist head, and whatever the formerly enamoured couple might say only serves to emphasise the widening gap between them.

This is how things are now developing for those two erstwhile paramours, Pontus Jansson and the massed support of Leeds United. In the beginning, it looked like true love, with frequent, heartfelt declarations on both sides. Pontus said and did the right things, and the besotted Leeds crowd swooned accordingly. Pontus headed away every threat on our goal, and occasionally sallied forth upfield for attacking set pieces, nutting spectacular goals that roused the support to a fever pitch of ecstasy and adoration.

Surely, this was a love affair that would stand the test of time, with Jansson living up to the lyrics of his love ballad by demonstrating his willingness to head away footballs, opposing attackers, bricks, meteorites if need be. Pontus did it all, and communed with the support after the final whistle sounded and battle was done. Great was the love that cascaded down from the stands for our Swedish hero. Pontus was Leeds, and Leeds loved Pontus.

When the rot started to set in, it seemed scarcely believable – but, in reality, it was that age-old story of love and then loss being retold in the football idiom. Leeds fans didn’t want to believe their idol had feet of clay, and spent months in denial as Jansson’s form faded and the occasional lapses of fidelity became more frequent. Pontus started to show a tendency to bail out when the going got tough; only a few brave souls, at first, invited charges of heresy by pointing this out. The support en masse waited for signs that the beloved Pontus still loved them and would return to his brick-heading ways of those passionate early stages of mutual devotion.

But a few – a significant few – feared that the magic had gone, that the magic hat no longer fitted a swollen head, that Pontus had lost his desire and dedication. Time and again, when things were going against the team, Pontus sought the sanctuary of the changing rooms, nursing some apparent injury that would miraculously clear up when easier opponents were in the offing. It seemed as though our hero had a streak of yellow in what had seemed to be a warrior’s persona, and his adoring fans fretted at this evidence of fallibility in a man who, not so long before, had seemed to epitomise all that was good and heroic about Leeds United and its fanatical following.

Alas, the evidence against Pontus continued to pile up last season. Despite the occasional signs of defiance in defence, and the even more occasional evidence of lethal intent in attack, Pontus was, overall, the merest shadow of the Pontus we’d known and hailed as a defining hero the season before. Slowly, the truth was dawning on the Pontus fan club: here, just possibly, was yet another apparent idol who had flattered, only to deceive. We’ve seen enough of those before – but, with Pontus, it was supposed to be different.

Now, with his substandard contribution to Leeds United’s substandard season behind him, Jansson is away at the World Cup with his national team, and he’s making noises about his future that will not sound like sweet nothings to those who have worshipped him since those hearts and flowers early days. He wants to stay in England, we hear, but – despite the fact that he has a contract running until 2022, he’s not going to commit himself to seeing it out. He wants to aim for the Premier League, but if you read between the lines of his public utterances, he might rather achieve this through a transfer out of Leeds than soil his hands, feet and head by battling through another Championship muck and bullets campaign.

Maybe I’m doing Pontus a disservice, but perhaps I can be forgiven a slight bitterness. I loved Pontus too, as much as anyone, when he was doing it for Leeds and everybody was raving about this new juggernaut at Elland Road. And I’ve seen central defenders arrive on loan before, performing excellently and then, as soon as a permanent deal is signed, fading away to be the merest shadow of their former selves. It’s become depressingly regular – but I would have laughed at any suggestion of it being a route our Pontus might go down. And yet here we are, watching with horror as Jansson morphs before our eyes into just another Lubo Michalik. It’s just so sad to see a loved one end up this way.

Still, other relationships have hit rocky patches and still come through. It’s still possible for the Leeds support and their Pontus to rekindle some measure of the rapport that seemed to exist until comparatively recently. But it’s not for the injured party in these cases to make special efforts or resolutions. That’s for the one who strays, by word or deed – they’re the guilty element in the equation. It’s for them to renew their vows and attempt to rebuild bridges. Pontus needs to clear his mind, stop chelping about his club career until the World Cup is done with, and then settle down to win his admirers back by recalling the Jansson we used to know, possibly even – who knows? – with his partner of those heady early days, Kyle Bartley, once more by his side.

One more season of that partnership, together with improvement elsewhere in the squad, might enable Jansson to recapture his mojo, stop blaming others for his own failings and generally get back on the horse again and start heading away those bricks, to the left and to the right. If all that comes to pass, maybe Jansson will finally secure his passage to the Premier League. And it would taste all the sweeter, because he would have earned it. Along with, not incidentally, the renewed and restored adoration of his Elland Road fan club.

Pontus, you know it makes sense, and you know you owe us this – so make it happen. After all, every one of us wants the traditional happy ending.

Leeds United’s Gain Will Be Real Madrid’s Loss as Bielsa Heads to Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

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El Loco

It’s a topsy-turvy football world these days. Huddersfield Town occupy a higher league position than any other Yorkshire club, Manchester City are streets ahead of their Salford neighbours on the wrong side of the Pennines, Spurs are ahead of Arsenal – and Leeds United are set to appoint a coach seriously coveted for their own club by fans of European Champions Real Madrid.

Incredible as it might seem, the odds are ever more, as each hour passes, on Argentinian legend Marcelo Bielsa becoming the latest occupant of the Elland Road hot seat – with some well-placed sources claiming the deal is already done, all bar the work permit. To say that this would be a coup for United is to edge dangerously close to vast understatement. Anybody who can be suggested as the next coach of Real Madrid, as a feasible successor, mark you, to Zenedine Zidane himself – and yet not have that suggestion laughed out of court – must be hot property indeed. And then there’s the small matter of the opinion of Bielsa voiced by none other than Pep Guardiola – lest we forget, former Barcelona coach and current boss at runaway English champions Manchester City. According to Pep, Bielsa is “the best coach in the world”. Who are we to argue with Pep? Indeed, who is anybody to argue with Pep?

So these are heady days around Elland Road. Should the story be true, they’re liable to get even headier. And if the rumours are anywhere near the bullseye that such a coaching appointment also signals a stratospheric soaring of the United transfer ambitions, then the headiness will know no bounds. It’s safe to say that, in these circumstances, we’d be heading into next season on a high.

For the moment at least, it’s enough of a pleasing novelty to be linked with the likes of Bielsa, and of course Claudio Ranieri too. Things appear to be moving fast, though, and Don alone knows where all of our heads will be at in a couple of weeks or so. We could be celebrating, or we could be reflecting that we perhaps aimed too high. But I have a sneaky feeling that it’ll be the former state of affairs.

Roll on next season then, although – what with the World Cup as well as all of this juicy Leeds United speculation – the summer should be a lot more entertaining than usual for those of us with LUFC carved upon our hearts. One way or another, it’s going to be a very interesting next few months. 

EFL Will Schedule Dodgy Away Matches for Cold Tuesday Nights if Bielsa Takes Leeds Job – by Rob Atkinson

Bielsa – soft foreigner? Steve Evans thinks so

The Football League, having received informed assurances from omniscient football experts of the calibre of Steve Evans, now have a strategy for keeping Leeds United well away from promotion even in the event of them appointing as manager the man Guardiola and Pochettino regard as “the best coach in the world”.

According to Evans, the fatal flaw of legendary football coach Marcelo Bielsa is that he “won’t fancy it on a cold Tuesday night at Millwall/Rotherham/insert football shithole of choice”. This priceless nugget of information will therefore inform the League’s approach to arranging United’s fixtures in the coming campaign.

The upshot of this is that Leeds will face only fierce smaller clubs with massive anti-LUFC chips on their shoulders. All games will be played away from Elland Road, with no hot water being available, exclusively on chilly midweek evenings between late October and early March. This will involve significant planning difficulties, but the strategy is described by an EFL spokesman as well worth the trouble, with “the end justifying the means”.

The League has revealed that it will remain in consultation with Mr Evans on an ongoing basis, drawing on his knowledge of pansy foreigners to assist on the potential difficulties presented by United’s imminent appointment of a decent coach. It is understood Evans has also commented that “these latin types don’t like it up ’em”, so the administrators of the game are reviewing the possibility of cold steel bayonets being provided for home dugouts when Leeds visit.

No further statement will be issued until the Leeds vacancy is filled, though it is understood that the situation will be reviewed urgently in the event of United bucking the bookies’ odds by appointing Mr. Mick McCarthy, who has made a career out of winning at hostile football shitholes on cold Tuesday nights.

More on this developing story as we get it.

Leeds United MUST Stop Their Ruinous Bargain Basement False Economy – by Rob Atkinson

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Unrivalled support – the part of football where Leeds still rule

In the wake of Paul Heckingbottom‘s long, drawn-out, yet curiously unceremonious dismissal from his job at Leeds United, it’s important now to face up to certain unpalatable truths. The next United manager will be the club’s TENTH since 2014, giving our beloved club the unenviable title of “Highest Coaching Turnover” in that spell. That is a shameful record, a record of poor judgement and consistent failure under the auspices of successive owners. Leeds United are bang to rights on being the authors of their own misfortunes.

As a footnote to this latest sacking, somewhere amid the flurry of departures as the entire coaching staff was shown the revolving door, one of the men to leave, his contract not being renewed, was “Set Piece Coach” Gianni Vio, appointed with fanfares towards the end of the unfortunate Thomas Christiansen‘s abbreviated reign. Vio was somebody’s bright idea, yet another that didn’t pay off. It’s Leeds United who have ended up paying, over and over again, the price of rank bad decision-making, as contract after contract has had to be settled. You can see the financial folly of this, quite apart from the public humiliation of our club, when you consider that invariably it’s not just one single sacking, but a batch of them. So you multiply the cost of the settlements to be paid as contracts are more or less honoured. Then you start the costly process again – rinse and repeat.

The thing is, it’s US, the hapless, helpless supporters who are really getting rinsed. We have to suffer the slings and arrows of mickey-taking mates who follow less accident-prone clubs. In one dank corner of the national press, a certain bogroll of a “newspaper” which shall remain nameless has even had the audacity to suggest that Leeds fans must take part of the blame. With the possible exception of the dimmer end of the Twitter following, that’s arrant nonsense. Leeds fans as a vast congregation can do nothing but stand back helplessly, watching one slow-motion car-crash after another. It really isn’t good for the morale of the troops.

At some point, either now or, if not, then in the very near future as I earnestly hope, the powers that be at Elland Road must learn from the catalogue of mistakes that they have made and then repeated ad nauseam. False economy, shopping for bargains instead of concentrating on the quality end of the market, has cost United millions. They’ve set out to achieve success on the cheap, whether they’re buying players or hiring coaches, and ended up being massively expensive serial failures. That doesn’t make for good reading or writing, and the really nasty part is that the people responsible don’t take or even acknowledge the blame that is undoubtedly theirs. That’s the real sickener. And of course, they can point to that moron-market rag which is cheerfully blaming us, the real beating heart of the club.

This cycle of making do, paying up, lamenting and then doing it all again must stop. It’s time that Leeds United got serious about the business of making a success in football. Happily, there are a few behind the scenes signs that preparations are underway to make just such a quantum leap in ambition and aspiration. Capital injections, and the spreading of the net internationally to land a new manager, offer at least some cause for cautious optimism. Likewise, the names mooted as transfer targets have an unfamiliar sheen of stardust about them. It well be that Leeds United are on the point of growing up and getting serious about Life.

I certainly hope so, because surely the fans of this still great club cannot take much more of being made to look fools by association. Last season was an example of passionate support, home and away, with Elland Road packed out and the travelling army invading most of the country in their usual fanatical hordes. It was a level and intensity of support that the club did precisely nothing to merit; you have to question, though, whether another year of complacent apathy on the part of Leeds United will not see a dropping-off of support. It’s almost heresy to suggest this, but even football fans of the loyalest strip have their limit.

Perhaps Leeds will now go for a name and a reputation big enough to demand that enough time and money is provided for them to work their own brand of magic. Whether that will be Marcelo Bielsa, Claudio Ranieri, or some other high profile appointment, it is now vital that Leeds should depart from the ruinous path of false economy they’ve been travelling for so long. We must instead speculate to accumulate, not dwelling on the old nightmare of “living the dream”, but instead doing what is necessary to compete in a savagely dog-eat-dog league, to emerge, finally, into the daylight of the top flight – where this club belongs.

Carpe diem, Leeds. Seize the day, as you have yet another chance to do. Get it right, before you run out of chances. It’s time to march on together to success, instead of trudging towards the next dispiriting failure. The future starts here – and, this time, we must succeed.

Only a Madman Would Want the Leeds Job. Marcelo Bielsa Might be That Man – by Rob Atkinson

Loco Bielsa – new Leeds coach?

The rumours that Leeds United are set to dispense with the services of coach Paul Heckingbottom simply refuse to go away. Indeed, they get stronger with every passing hour, and crazier too. The latest embellishment to the “Heckingbottom to get the boot at Leeds” whisper is an unlikely-sounding “and will rejoin Barnsley“. I wonder if the Tykes fans would be up for that?

Leeds fans, meanwhile, are lapping up the stories linking United with any number of replacements – even before little details like creating a vacancy have been attended to. That vacancy may well be posted quite soon though; the initial trickle of Hecky Out rumours has turned into a torrent that seems set to sweep away the former Barnsley man and lifelong Leeds hater. Even now he is on holiday, a status he mentioned in the context of being sacked, when he first occupied the Elland Road hot seat. His position now is being said by many Leeds fans, having seen this riptide of rumour swell to tsunami proportions, to be well nigh untenable.

So, if Hecky is to be gone, where does that leave Leeds United? Surely, after all the comings and goings under Cellino, and with Radrizzani already on the verge of wielding the axe a second time, only a complete nutter would consider the Leeds job. Well, the Whites may just, if the latest story is to be believed, have found that nutter in the volatile shape of the madcap Argentine, Marcelo Bielsa.

Who? Actually, if you’ve had anything to do with the LUFC hashtag these past few hours, you won’t need to ask who. For those who have not seen the Twitterstorm, though, all you need to know about Bielsa is here, together with a few bright-spark edits from the usual suspects. Suffice to say that he’s a brilliant coach who has his teams play a highly watchable brand of attacking football – and also that he is, reputedly, as mad as a box of frogs. If that’s not the identikit Leeds manager after the own heart of every United fan out there, then I don’t know who is.

Bielsa is nearly 63, so even though he might be a little cuckoo, he’s no spring chicken. But any managerial appointment is a risk for a club like Leeds and, having considered at some time or other most of the rational possibilities, maybe it’s time to try the other sort. From that point of view, the man they call Loco Bielsa would seem to be the obvious choice.

If this story does turn out to be true, then it’s safe to say that it’ll be a very interesting “however long it lasts” down at Elland Road. Twitter seems excited, and I must confess I am too. So if Hecky’s race really is run – and, let’s face it, his credibility as Leeds boss has been shot full of holes with all this talk and yet not a word from the club – then we’ll need a new man in sharpish.

And who better, in that case, than a controversial, maverick, hothead madman such as Bielsa? For an insane club like Leeds, he ticks more of the right boxes than just about anyone else you could imagine. It would be a “major coup” for the Whites, but much would of course depend on Heckingbottom’s fate, firstly – and then on whether or not the Argentine would want to work in the United management structure as it stands. But it’d be a refreshing change, a man of real stature and a genuine, one-off individual into the bargain. Since demotion from the Premier League 14 years ago, Leeds have tried just about everything to recapture the good times. It might just be that it’ll take a real nutter in the Bielsa mould to get this club back on track.

Huddersfield Release Rob Green, Plotting Raid for Leeds Keeper Wiedwald? – by Rob Atkinson

Felix Wiedwald – is “The Cat” heading for the kennels?

Just when Leeds United fans were thinking that humiliations inflicted on them in recent years just can’t get any worse – could near neighbours and Premier League superstars Huddersfield Town now be setting their sights on United’s German goalkeeping sensation Felix “the Cat” Wiedwald? Surely the board wouldn’t be daft enough to allow such a mistake to be made – and yet stranger things have happened, with the Elland Road club having lost jewels from their crown on previous occasions when local rivals have come a-hunting.

Cast your minds back over the past few seasons, and you’ll see that Barnsley were at it, somehow persuading United to sell Alex Mowatt for a paltry £500,000. Mowatt went on to shine in the ranks of Oxford United as a loan star – what a clanger Leeds dropped there.

And it was Barnsley again, some years earlier, paying a significant sum for prolific front man John Pearson. Really, we’ve been shown up far too often, and to lose a genius like Wiedwald now to the Terriers would be a bitter blow indeed. But with Rob Green moving onto pastures new and less obviously canine, there may well be room for “The Cat” in the Huddersfield kennels, as they gird their loins for another gloriously grim battle against relegation.

Town fans just love to put one over on Big Brother from up the road, so you can be sure they’ll be clamouring for their club to make this deal happen. And, with their Premier League trillions burning a hole in those Premier League pockets, Huddersfield are unlikely to be put off, even by an asking price of £10 million, if Leeds were to hold out for something approaching Bundesliga veteran Wiedwald’s true value.

We’ll just have to sit tight, rely on our illustrious neighbours to cut us a break – and hope like hell that this one doesn’t happen.

1000 Not Out for the Leeds United Blog With Attitude – by Rob Atkinson

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Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything – 1000 not out

In December of 2012, I wrote an article about the lack of passion and commitment in the England football team, to launch the blog I’d called Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything. Leeds United were in one of their too-frequent glory-free periods, becalmed in the Championship. Corruption seeped its way through the corridors of power, whether you looked at the rulers of our national game or indeed the nation itself. Millions gazed dead-eyed and compliant at the telly box in the corner, placated by reality TV and the glitz of the Premier League. Six years on, as I clock up article number 1000, it’s self-evident that not much has changed – so there’s been plenty to write about, and ample justification for the odd body-swerve away from our heroes in white.

For the blog itself, though, Life – if not Leeds United and the Universe, never mind Everything – has been quite good. Halfway into its first full year, NewsNow syndication was granted, and my little creation went global – thanks mainly to the happy fact that there are Leeds United fans, in big numbers, simply everywhere throughout the world. Since that time, blog hits have averaged thousands instead of the initial readership of dozens – and now, with this piece, the first “millennium” has been clocked up. Other writing commitments have meant that the frequency of posting is not what it was in the early days, but still, in those thousand articles over six years, almost three million hits have been registered from a shade under two million visitors. Those are numbers I couldn’t have dreamed of as I wrote that first piece, and I’m duly grateful to everyone who’s ever clicked on the blog, made a comment, shared an article, made a donation, or whatever. You’ve all contributed to what I would modestly describe as a fairly successful project. And happily, the blog has led to other things for your humble correspondent – columns in two local newspapers, invitations with hospitality to cover various sporting events – and even admission within the hallowed portal of the Leeds United press box. Despite the occasional grumblings of the mob, perhaps I am actually doing something right.

Still, not everyone has always been happy, needless to say, about everything I’ve written here. As Abraham Lincoln said – and as he had violently confirmed to him by actor-turned-assassin John Wilkes Booth – you cannot please all of the people, all of the time. And, to be fair, I’ve never set out solely to win friends or admirers; I’ve always wanted to be opinionated and partial, being a Leeds fan is a passionate, partisan thing – and you have to speak your mind. I’ve frequently disagreed with fellow supporters and writing colleagues, and with the club itself, as well as with the more obvious groups like rival sets of fans. I’ve made myself deeply unpopular with certain of these groups, and I’ve attracted the usual inarticulate abuse, death threats and more or less sinister promises of harm to my family – mostly anonymous, as you’d expect. But it’s all been worthwhile in terms of getting deeply-held points of view off my chest, and it’s on all fours with my need as a writer of opinion pieces to be more than just a mere cypher, toeing a line drawn by external bodies. I’ve always tried to draw my own line, and this has frequently upset people – but those are the breaks. You have to stand by your own ideals.

So that’s been the rationale behind the first thousand posts on this blog. Apart from the very occasional guest post, it’s all been my own work, and I’d imagine that this will hold true for the next thousand too, however long that might take. I’m happier paddling my own canoe and sticking to my own guns – though I am looking for a site sponsor, so I’m happy to talk to interested parties about that! But the blog, as I hope and trust, will continue to go from strength to strength, particularly as and when Leeds United gets its act together and ascends to the Promised Land of the Premier League. Then, it will be a whole new ball game, both for me and for the club I’ve loved (though not uncritically) for the best part of half a century. Roll on, that glorious day.

In the meantime, thanks to everyone, friend or foe, who has ever given up a few minutes to read this blog. Your time and patience is much appreciated. Thanks also to my little group of trolls, who have afforded me so much amusement without ever seeing the light of day on the comments page. I’m thinking here of people like “Clive”, who imagines he’s had me banned on a few occasions from NewsNow, and is always surprised to see that I’m still there. Thanks go to Clive, and the others too. You need a bit of a laugh sometimes when you’re writing and thinking about the soap opera down at Elland Road, and my trolls, as much as any other group, have been as devoted and amusing as I could possibly wish.

So, it’s onward and upwards from here. Expect post number 1001 whenever there’s anything that needs saying about our beloved Leeds United – or maybe about Life, the Universe, Everything. Please keep reading and commentating and – to those kind, blessed few – donating. It’s a sobering thought that, if every single one of the views over this thousand posts had realised just 20 pence, I’d now be over half a million quid better off. Life’s not like that sadly, but my kind donors still keep the blog going and I’m immensely grateful to them for their generosity. Here we go with Leeds United – Marching On Together.

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Here’s to the next thousand #LLUUE

 

Leeds United’s Ambitious Transfer Plans Can Transform Club’s Fortunes – by Rob Atkinson

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Abel Hernández – possible Leeds addition?

Leeds United are talking the talk, so it is reported, ahead of what could and should be a busy summer transfer window. The question now, assuming that we believe some of the tempting names being bandied about, is: can they actually walk the walk, delivering signings that will radically reshape the squad ahead of yet another season outside the top flight?

On the pessimistic side of this debate, it has to be said that, after the past several years, we’re getting used to “having our expectations managed” (some would call this “being lied to”). Time and again, transfer windows have opened to the accompaniment of earnest declarations of intent and ambition – only to slam shut again with promises unfulfilled and the squad either not noticeably stronger, or sometimes actually weakened. It’s annoying and frustrating – but maybe, just maybe, that won’t happen this time. So far, after all, under the stewardship of Andrea Radrizzani, more actual money has been spent on transfer incomings than for many a season past – though much, if not all of this could be said to have been funded by high-profile departures like Chris Wood. You might even argue that our cash has been flashed, not wisely, but too well – yet the real problem for United has been the stifling effect of the club’s wage structure, effectively ruling out many of the better performers, who sordidly insist on going to clubs where they’ll get more money.

So, looking on the optimistic side now, it’s mildly encouraging at least to hear whispers that the upper wage limit might just be less parsimonious this time around. That, if true, would provide a whole new dimension of possibilities for United’s recruitment process, in that we’d be able to attract a better quality of player – in theory, anyway. Some of the names mooted would seem to suggest that such a loosening of the salary purse-strings may indeed be under consideration. Both Abel Hernández of Hull City, and Birmingham ‘keeper David Stockdale currently command salaries that would have put them out of United’s reach in previous windows. But now, both are being talked about as serious prospects, with respected Yorkshire Evening Post reporter Phil Hay being quite clear that there is some substance behind the Hernández story. This surely indicates that a change of policy in terms of wages could indeed be possible.

By common consent, the Leeds squad needs significant surgery this summer, with some drastic snipping needed as well as some high quality grafting. Getting rid of what has been judged unhealthy excess flab in the squad may be a task in itself, with some unwisely lengthy contracts having been lavishly handed out during last summer’s mainly bargain basement splurge. And, clearly, the desperate need for quality in several areas of the park will not be met on the cheap. Or, at least, we’ll have to hope that the powers that be are not daft enough to suppose that it can.

On the face of it, the recruitment of Hernández and Stockdale would represent a hell of a good start, with perhaps the return of Kyle Bartley and a new deal for our tyro left-back Tom Pearce, a player who made such an impact towards the end of the season just gone, into the bargain. There are other noteworthy names in the mix, some of whom might appear more likely than others. But, overall, if only half of the possibilities being spoken of actually came to fruition, with a bit of dead wood clearance too, the Leeds squad would have a distinctly leaner and fitter look about it come August, and quite possibly a more generous smattering of quality. And that would be nice.

Always assuming, of course, that we’re not being toyed with yet again, having those expectations ruthlessly exploited and then dashed, for the umpteenth time. But, surely – they must know they can’t get away with that again, not and keep the 30,000 crowds coming, anyway. They really must know that – mustn’t they?