So, Do We Want Leeds United Promoted by Default … or Not?? – by Rob Atkinson

leeds-fans

Leeds United, big club, great fans. Massive player in any league

On the face of it, any question with the question “do we want Leeds United promoted” in it would always come under the heading of “bleedin’ silly/obvious”. But circumstances alter cases and we are not living in normal times. So, weird as it would normally appear, we’ve seen genuine Leeds United fans genuinely confused and uncertain about what seems to be a genuine possibility that United, along with West Brom, may be invited to join a slightly inflated Premier League next season, with the caveat that they’d have to finish five or six places clear of the bottom in order to stay up – as there could be four or five relegated to redress the imbalance caused by no relegation at the end of this possibly truncated season.

Phew. If that’s all clear to you, we now move on to the even knottier issue of whether or not we’d want promotion this way. Certainly, it’s far from ideal  There’d be no carousing on the pitch after an ecstatic final whistle, no tension, no anticipation, probably not even the civic pride of an open-top bus parade from City Square to the Town Hall and onwards to Elland Road. Instead, it would be the meekest, mildest and probably least satisfactory promotion ever – but at least we’d be up.

The other alternatives are scarcely more attractive. Voiding the season simply doesn’t bear thinking about, so I won’t discuss it. Resuming the season in the foreseeable future seems unlikely, unless some way can be found to play behind closed doors without causing riots outside locked stadia. But at least that would permit the possibility of an earned and undisputed promotion (unless we screw up again). Ending the league now, with the positions as they are, would perhaps taint any promotion thus earned. Yes, we’re seven clear of third – but even Liverpool, twenty-five points clear at the top of the Premier League, need two more wins as it stands, for mathematical certainty. Would we really want our many critics to have the open goal of “Yeah, you went up – but it was shoddy”. As Spurs legend Danny Blanchflower famously said, “The game is about glory”. There’s a school of thought that demands any promotion should be glorious, and therefore shrinks away from any antiglorious creative accounting or artifice, whatever the circumstances.

I’m looking for input here, tell me what you think. I must confess that, if we were simply invited up alongside WBA, it would leave a slightly hollow feeling where my yellow, blue and white heart should be. Not that it’d stop me hailing us as Champions. But would any of us stick so closely to noble principles that we’d look a gift horse in the mouth and say, no – I’d rather we stayed down and earned it next year? Not forgetting, of course that – given another year in the Championship – we’d probably be saying goodbye to Marcelo Bielsa (God) and Kalvin Phillips, the Yorkshire Pirlo himself.

I must admit, I slightly lean towards going up any which way, and arguing about it later, with our Premier League status confirmed. But there’s a nagging doubt still, over how I’d actually feel.

Let me know what you think, please. Feel free to add in your own feelings, doubts, arguments. And please don’t think I’m neglecting the seriousness of this COVID-19 crisis. But that’s all over the media – and here in this protective bubble is where we talk about Leeds United, while the world outside goes crazy.

Marching on Together

EFL to Promote Leeds as Champions “On the Balance of Probabilities” – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United – ready to beat the bug

With the suspension of all domestic professional football until at least April 3rd, fans of clubs who occupy highly promising league positions are understandably worried about their favourites’ prospects of success being snatched from them by a nasty little bug – but enough of Shaun Harvey.

Leeds United, of course – along with the likes of Liverpool in the league above and Coventry in the third tier – are among the clubs for whom the future, so apparently bright a bare few days back, now seems uncertain to say the least. Seven points clear of that dreaded third place, United looked nailed-on for promotion – with the Championship title dangling as a temptingly achievable bonus. One pandemic later, and we’re all stressing about still being in this league next season (whenever that might be) sans Bielsa, sans the Yorkshire Pirlo, bereft of hope and considering legal action.

But don’t despair. The seeds of our salvation were sown a few weeks back with the decision handed down from on high that Kiko Casilla, although deemed not to be a racist, would nevertheless be banned for some racist abuse that nobody can be sure actually happened. With a cool £60,000 fine thrown in, along with a date with the FA Re-education and Indoctrination Guild (FRIG) it’s a pretty hefty penalty for something unproven. But the authorities decided they were vindicated by the lower standard of proof applicable in non-criminal cases, and happily threw the book at Kiko, concluding that he dunnit, on balance of probabilities.

This was felt by some at the time to be scandalous as well as draconian, but now it’s a precedent that may well assist Leeds United, as well as the likes of Liverpool and Coventry. All three clubs are so well placed that the half-baked balance of probabilities test would have to find them overwhelmingly likely to clinch promotion. Some bookies have Leeds with a 98% chance of going up, which satisfies even the more stringent “beyond reasonable doubt” test. As for Liverpool, it’s far more likely that Boris Johnson will be hit by a meteorite than that the Reds will fail to become Champions of England for the first time since 1990 – when Leeds United coincidentally last won promotion to the top flight as second tier Champs.

So there you have it. The authorities are hamstrung by their own legal machinations, hoist by their own petard. Even if they want to seize upon this virus crisis to deny Leeds promotion (and I bet they do) – they will find that they can’t. Probably.

Marching on Together

Cruel Crufts Jibes Still Dog Huddersfield After Savage Leeds Mauling – by Rob Atkinson

Luke Ayling

Best of breed Luke Ayling shows his bite is better than his bark

Whoever scheduled an away game for Huddersfield Town at Leeds United on the very same date as the Crufts final day at Birmingham’s NEC must have had it in for the Terriers, who were exposed not only to a football lesson from Yorkshire’s Number One, but also to dog-related chants and (for want of a better word) catcalls from a jubilant home crowd as Elland Road celebrated another derby day success. It was bad enough, surely, for the away following to see their team so comprehensively outclassed, without having to listen to various canine-centric chants from the South Stand especially. Suffice to say that the Huddersfield faithful were hounded relentlessly by their United counterparts on a day when their own manager declared that top dogs Leeds are the best team in the Championship by a country mile. It was a combination of circumstances that conspired to leave each and every travelling Terrier with a hangdog expression and straining at the leash to get back home again.

On the field as well as off, there was only one side in it from the first whistle. Leeds were into their stride early on, surging forward powerfully and fluently and, when Luke Ayling smashed home a wondrous volley in off the bar which left the Huddersfield woodwork reverberating for the rest of the half, you suspected that the game was already up for the dogged but outmatched visitors.

Leeds were not at their best, rarely hitting the heights of that masterful second half display at Hull City, but what they were able to offer was far too good for Huddersfield. Leading one-nil at half time, they were even more in charge during a second half that saw them add another early goal, this time Patrick Bamford tapping in from close range after Town keeper Jonas Lossl made a fantastic save from Ben White‘s towering header. There was plenty of pressure still to come from the home side, who relied on some frantic last-ditch defending to prevent United adding more goals, with Jack Harrison particularly unlucky to be denied, yet again, by the frame of the goal, after his shimmering, jinking run and turn gave him the room to strike a great shot high against the far post.

It seems churlish to point out that things could have gone better for United in this game, when events elsewhere would seem to be unfolding precisely as any Leeds fan could wish. We can only hope for more of the same, as both West Brom and Fulham have been merrily dropping points during United’s run of five consecutive clean-sheet wins. From this point in, it would appear that the only thing Leeds United have to fear, with the possible exception of the Coronavirus, is fear itself. But a head of steam has been built up these past few weeks, together with a nice little seven point cushion between our favourites and Fulham in third, and any of the other teams in the Championship, without exception, would happily trade places with United right now.

The next week or so up until close of business next Wednesday evening should provide further insight into the potential fates of all three main automatic promotion contenders, with Fulham facing Brentford ahead of a pivotal clash at Elland Road in nine days time. Leeds face Cardiff away ahead of the Fulham summit, so that’s two tricky hurdles with no certainty that our dead-legged talisman Kalvin Phillips will be available. But the momentum that has been gathering over recent matches – causing even ex-manager Colin to use the word “unstoppable” about Marcelo Bielsa‘s Leeds – could well be enough to see United consolidate their position as overwhelming favourites finally to ascend to the Promised Land of the Premier League in this Centenary Year. Now, wouldn’t that be just perfect.

Marching On Together 

VAR Has Now Ruled That Man United Beat Leeds United to the 1992 League Title – by Rob Atkinson

1992 Champions

Leeds United, Champions of England in 1992 – now VAR says it never happened

In a controversial late decision, a Video Assistant Referee has intervened in the matter of the last ever Football League Title, ruling that Manchester United, and not Leeds United, were the last winners of the old-style League Championship.

The debate has raged over the last 27 years, with traditionalists arguing that it would be “good for the game” if the title headed for Old Trafford that year, what with Bryan Robson having been injured so much and with the emergence of Ryan Giggsy. It had been felt in some quarters that no team which includes John McClelland and Lee Chapman should finish anywhere near the title and now, almost three decades after this vile injustice was perpetrated, the new VAR system has been employed to put matters straight.

The ITV anchorman at the time, Elton Welsby, welcomed the decision, pointing out that he’d had to sit in the studio at Anfield taking vile abuse from thousands of frustrated natives of Devon as they watched their team go down 0-2 to Liverpool, handing Leeds the title. “In fact, I was as gutted as they were, so there was no need to slag me off”, said Elton, “I was desperate to see Alec Fergie get his hands on a proper League winners trophy – instead he had to settle for winning that tacky replica of Thunderbird One a few times, and it just wasn’t the same. It was only right that our lads from Old T should win, it would have been so good for the game. And now, it is!”

We approached the Leeds manager at the time, Howard Wilkinson, for his take on the decision to overturn the 1992 title result and, after speaking at length about how he hadn’t watched Liverpool beat Man U because he was eating Sunday dinner with his family and friends, he added “Of course this is a ridiculous decision. After all, Leeds won by 4 points, having won more games than the rest and lost fewer. But there you go. I s’pose I’ll have to buy Harry Bassett that drink now”.

A spokesman for the Football League defended the decision of the VAR operative to reverse the 1992 title outcome, adding that the man concerned, a Mr. S Harvey, was a man of principle and impeccable judgement. “In the end, it all came down to common sense”, said our source. “Leeds lost by four at Man City near the end of the season, and that made them unworthy. Meanwhile, Fergie’s lot lost three in a row against Forest, West Ham and Liverpool, which we felt was suspicious and unrealistic. So we awarded them a win and two draws out of those games, meaning that they finished a point ahead of Leeds”. We asked which game had been turned into a victory and which were the draws, only to receive the enigmatic reply, “Who cares? Anyway, Kiko Casilla’s a racist on the balance of probabilities, so it serves Leeds right.”

VAR, nobbut a couple of years old, is a travesty and a joke – but is set to be voted Player of the Year at Old Toilet.

 

Ex-pro Noel Hunt Confirms the Damage SOME Leeds Fans are Doing to Patrick Bamford – by Rob Atkinson

 

Short and sweet today. Please read the article linked below, and reassure yourself (if you can) that you’re not contributing to the angst of a professional footballer wearing the shirt and badge of Leeds United.

If you can honestly say that you’ve not joined in with the barrage of online abuse suffered by Patrick Bamford this season and Noel Hunt before him (as well as others in between), then good for you. You’re a true Leeds fan, whether you attend matches or not.

But if you know in your heart that you’ve acted as Hunt describes so-called “supporters” acting in this illuminating piece – then, surely, you need to take a long, hard look at yourself. And ask yourself the crucial question: “Is Leeds United really the club for me?”

 

https://www.the42.ie/noel-hunt-on-social-media-5019897-Feb2020/

Marching On Together

 

 

Big Kev is a Project for Leeds, NOT an Unneeded Quick Fix – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United fans who hailed the signing of Jean-Kévin Augustin as the coming of the Messiah, a Saviour for our season, may have been well wide of the mark. For it appears that Marcelo Bielsa, lately under fire from our online Legion of the Clueless, nevertheless is quite clear about his priorities and unshakeably confident in the ability of his squad to keep a slightly misfiring Leviathan ahead of other somewhat lesser Championship beasts.

It never pays to second-guess Bielsa, who is inscrutable at the best of times. He knows what he knows, and he’ll disclose Informand intentions to others on a need-to-know basis, according to his own judgement. We can also take it as read that he is aware of and utterly unaffected by a growing impression out there in Twitterland that he is “stubborn”, among less kindly epithets.

Will Leeds’ Unrivalled Matchday Support See Them Through? Or Will the Online Mob Spell Disaster? – by Rob Atkinson

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Leeds United matchday support – simply the best

With apologies to Charles Dickens: we have the best of fans, we have the worst of fans. We’re Leeds United, and it’s high time we acknowledged this essential truth. The dividing line is perhaps a bit blurred – but, broadly speaking, the matchgoing support, those who roll up home and away, providing that intense atmosphere and fervent backing, can have few if any rivals anywhere in the game. If the fate of the team was down to these lads and lasses, we’d be certs for promotion.
But sadly, these days, you have to factor in the virtual world, and the Leeds United presence there – if we can assume for a moment that these online fans really are genuine Leeds followers – are not of the same quality as those matchgoing heroes. The outpouring of negativity both last season (as acknowledged by several players who admitted that it does affect them) and latterly this season too, has become a real factor in the team’s nervous and jittery displays. The trolls of course will deny this, but then, they would, wouldn’t they? But the fact is that professional sport is a matter of fine margins separating success from failure – so that any diminution of support is a negative and unwanted factor. And sadly, that’s something that could well cost us dear.
I’m by no means convinced that the worst of these online offenders are genuine Leeds fans anyway – there’s a lot of recently-started Twitter accounts out there, and you have to assume that some, at least, have been created for – shall we say – mischievous purposes. That will be a minority, though – but, as ever, there will always be a number of the dimmer type of Leeds fan, always looking for a passing bandwagon to jump aboard, and thinking that departing from a party line of “Bielsa is God” makes them appear windswept and interesting. That scenario has been quite obvious recently too.
I’m no more aware than anyone else what to do about this, beyond raising our voices in objection to the negative posters and trying to rally genuine support. That’s what I’ve been trying my poor best to do, and I know others have too. Doubtless we’re all taking the same kind of stick, sarcastically being called “superfans” etc. It’s all water off a duck’s back, of course – and, anyway, a bit of stick from a few hard-of-thinking types would be well worth it if we could make only the tiniest difference to online behaviour. And I have noticed more positive and supportive tweets lately, which is encouraging.
Because, in a game of fine margins, the slightest positive effect can make the difference, and take us where we all want to be.
Marching On Together 

Are YOU a True Leeds United Fan? Find Out Here – by Rob Atkinson

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The Badge and Bielsa – two articles of faith for true Leeds fans

As it’s become quite clear that my guidance is needed out there, in terms of what precisely constitutes a true Leeds United fan, I’ve decided to respond positively and offer my help, in the earnest hope that some deluded and unworthy folk might thus find enlightenment.

Despite the tongue-in-cheek opening paragraph, this is not a joke. There are far too many negative voices out there, and it’s well documented that the players are aware of this and have admitted they’re affected by it. The know-all “fans” behind all of the concerted discouragement seem to feel it’s enough to say “man up and get on with it”, rather than mending their own ways and rediscovering what the meaning of the word “supporter” really is.

I’ve taken plenty of flak for continually pointing this out, and I care not a jot. Because I do think it’s important that there should be voices on social media making at least some attempt to rally the troops and cut out all of the damaging stuff that threatens to help derail our campaign. Happily, I’m only one of quite a few spreading a more positive message. But I do feel that there are people out there, masquerading as Leeds fans, with a definite agenda aimed at keeping us from achieving promotion. Check out how many of the Twitter accounts are of recent origin. There are some opportunists about, seeking to recruit the unwary to their campaign of defeatism.

The fact is that our league position is only dodgy if the poor run continues. It’s down to EVERY #LUFC fan now to do their best to make sure this doesn’t happen. Get behind the team and cut out all the whinging and negativity. If you really are a true Leeds United supporter, you’ll get right behind this, now, when it’s most needed. It’s as simple as that.

#MOT to the Premier League #WGUAFC

 

Marcelo Bielsa Weighs up Leeds United’s Crucial Championship Run In – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United fans will need no reminder as to the importance of finishing inside the top two. The Championship playoffs are effectively cup ties and, no matter what the final league placings may have been, those three matches at the end of a long season can be reduced to a lottery.

Marcelo Bielsa’s side have stuttered at times this season and January’s final away fixture produced a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Queens Park Rangers. Hope, however, has been stirred by a string of poor results by league leaders West Bromwich Albion. Automatic promotion is within Leeds’ grasp but what will it take to get over the line?

Setting the Standard

Marcelo

All sides at the top of the Championship can be inspired by Sheffield United’s exploits this season. Promoted into the top flight at the end of 2019/20, the Blades were among the favourites to go down this year but an impressive first half of the campaign means that Chris Wilder’s men look perfectly safe. In fact, Sheffield United are now 6/1 in the Premier League betting markets for a top six finish.

The Blades should give Leeds hope moving forward, but firstly, they have to get into the top flight. Crucial fixtures lay in wait but perhaps the most important game of all is already out of the way. The third round FA Cup defeat to a second-string Arsenal side would have been disappointing but promotion is a priority and the knockout competitions can prove to be an unnecessary distraction.

Another positive is that Leeds have already played league leaders West Brom twice, picking up a useful four points in the process. Fellow promotion hopefuls Fulham and Brentford await but the majority of Leeds’ remaining fixtures are against sides in mid-table or in the bottom half.

Cutting Edge

Patrick Bamford’s penalty miss against QPR was blamed, in part, on the section of the crowd that are getting on the striker’s back. It was unfortunate and unhelpful but that miss does highlight one area that the club needs to address.

Bamford is the man charged with scoring the goals that will take Leeds United back into the top flight but with just ten strikes in his first 27 league matches of 2019/20, it’s a record that needs to improve. With Eddie Nketiah recalled to Arsenal at the start of January, striking options could make the difference between automatic promotion and another nervous battle in the playoffs.

The Verdict

It’s widely perceived that scoring is a concern but, going into the end of January, Leeds United had a healthy return of 43 league goals. That tally compares favourably with any side in the top six, but, so far, the defence has been key to the club’s progression. At the same point in time, Leeds had conceded just 24 goals – seven less than leaders West Brom.

Yes, Bamford does need to improve and, with Nketiah going back to Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, his need for competition has now been met with the loan signing from RB Leipzig of Jean-Kevin Augustin. As for the fixtures, if Leeds United can avoid defeat against promotion rivals while picking off the sides at the bottom, another playoff horror show can be comfortably avoided.

As Some Leeds “Fans” Have Demoralised Bamford, Is It Time for Some Big Kev Swagger? – by Rob Atkinson

Bamford – trying to hear no evil

Even in the triumphant moments following his winner against Millwall in midweek, you could tell that Patrick Bamford has been got at by the relentless negativity and sheer destructiveness of a section of Leeds United’s “support” (for want of a more appropriate and descriptive word). Bamford had stuck away a diving header to complete the comeback from two down against one of our real bogey sides. His celebration was pointed – a strained, unsmiling face, ears covered in a defensive signal, not cupped in mockery. Despite his two goals, this was not a happy man. The famous Leeds United boo boys – mostly Twitter or other social media trolls, but there is a matchday gang too – might just be on the point of chasing yet another demoralised striker out of the club.

That would be a hell of a shame, but no real surprise, we’ve seen this sort of thing before. In Bamford’s case, I’ve been doing my best to blame online trolls, of which Leeds United have an ample sufficiency. But a picture of some vile graffiti aimed at our No. 9, daubed inside the South Stand by some witless moron, confirms that supporter stupidity is not confined to the Internet in all its various manifestations. Those critical of Bamford’s gesture might be described as “disingenuous at best”. Personally, I think that description has altogether too many letters.

Against Wigan this weekend, things didn’t go that well for anyone and, predictably, the self-appointed football experts were all over social media again, seemingly happy with the opportunity an unlucky defeat to a jammy goal affords them, and taking sideswipes at players and management alike, presumably in the name of constructive support. Such clowns don’t allow the fact that their knowledge of the game amounts to zero, to prevent them from having their vapid say and, once again, Bamford was the favourite target. Clearly, these bright boys and girls will not be happy until he’s relegated to the U-23s, at which time they can turn their fire on some other hapless individual.

Despite the fact that Patrick Bamford is a tireless worker, a goal scorer who never stops trying even when singled out for ritual abuse, someone without whom the side has usually struggled and who is clearly beloved of his team mates – despite all that, perhaps it’s time to take the spotlight off him for a bit. New signing Jean-Kévin Augustin is waiting in the wings, and – after a bit of indoctrination into the complexities of Bielsaball – he should be ready for his first team bow sooner rather than later. He also seems to be anything but lacking in confidence. Big Kev, as he’s known by some (and now by himself too, if you glance at his Twitter bio) could be the very man to allow Patrick Bamford some much needed “me time” during which he can get his head straight and rid himself of all the negativity and downright hostility some so-called Leeds fans seem to think it’s so cool to project. Lone man up front for Leeds is a big ask, and it may be that Paddy needs a bit of a break.

Not that I would presume to second-guess Marcelo Bielsa, it’s just that I hate to see a lad putting his body on the line match after match, only to be shredded by a few simpering idiots from the safety and non-accountability of their keyboards. It seems to me, from what I’ve been able to glean of Big Kev, that he may be a little more durable in the face of unqualified and clueless criticism. At the very least, he’d have a honeymoon period to allow him to settle in. Or so you’d hope.

I guess though that the famously steadfast Bielsa, who is actually starting to be questioned by some of these hard-of-thinking nonentities, will stick firmly to his own favoured approach – and he will know better than anyone else just how much or how little Bamford is being affected by the online chorus of disapproval. So far, Paddy’s reaction has been defiance, with a post-match comment about having a lot he could but won’t say, and maybe that should reassure those of us with the lad’s (and the team’s) interests at heart that he’ll be able to come through the slings and arrows being flung at him by the online Neanderthals. Let’s hope it stays that way, and that Bamford carries on with his job of shooting us to promotion.

But – if things do become intolerable – there is at least now an alternative. And I’d hope that Big Kev’s endearingly cocksure confidence, together with his evident desire to be at Elland Road and helping achieve Leeds United’s goals, will stand him in good stead if Mr. Bamford does eventually, temporarily, need to be taken out of the dumb clucks’ firing line.