Max Gradel Signals Desire for Leeds United Return – by Rob Atkinson

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Mad Max Gradel wants to come home

Rule One of Social Media is that high profile sports stars say or do nothing without a reason – they don’t need to seek attention in their goldfish bowl existence; quite the contrary, if anything. So when, in the aftermath of the recent change of Head Coach at Leeds, former United attacking sensation Maxi Gradel comes out with a loved-up tweet about the Yorkshire giants, including the obligatory MOT hashtag, you can be tolerably sure that he’s not just passing the time of day. Max can see that Leeds United are about to buckle down and get serious about restoring elite status and, this blog believes, he wants to be a part of it.

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Max – still loves Leeds

Whether and when that might happen is a matter of conjecture, but it would be highly surprising if Gradel were not to be linked to an Elland Road return again in the summer. Given the current league position of the club, with a new coach feeling his way into the job and a brutal run of fixtures ahead, almost all of which are under the spotlight of live TV coverage, it seems more than likely that United will still be a Championship outfit next season. Should that be the case, then they will be looking for proven performers to displace some of their misfiring fringe players, and wide attack is one area that could stand some enhancement.

I believe that Leeds will be the likely destination for Ivory Coast international Gradel’s next career move; he has plenty left to offer, and still enjoys cult hero status among United fans. Moreover, it seems clear that he would relish a return to Elland Road – otherwise, why the pointed social media comments?

All in all, it seems that the prospect of Max back in the white yellow and blue of Leeds United next season could well morph into reality before too long, and most United fans will extend a warm welcome home to the talented forward. I’d give this one a good 8.5 out of 10 on the likeliness scale and, while some will say it’s merely wishful thinking, there are sound reasons on all sides to believe that a Gradel return to Leeds is going to happen.

If Max – currently on loan at Toulouse from Premier League AFC Bournemouthdoes come back, it’d be a massive step towards helping us hit the ground running for a promotion campaign next time around. He’d be that much of a shot in the arm for a club that has underachieved for too long now. Fingers crossed that Gradel’s social media output next season will reflect his contribution towards United’s return to the top.

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AC Torino and Superga: Football’s Forgotten Air Disaster – by Rob Atkinson

Today, February 6th, is the 60th anniversary of theMunich Air Disaster, a seminal event in English football history – in more ways than one. The shockwaves were felt worldwide as the heart was ripped out of a Manchester United team of massive potential, one that had already achieved much, and promised to go on and dominate at home – and possibly abroad, too. The casualty list is well-known, and especially fondly-remembered isDuncan Edwards, a young colossus of immense presence and ability with a glittering future ahead of him. He hung on to life for almost a fortnight after the accident, before succumbing to his injuries on February 19th 1958. The team’s manager, Matt Busby, was also left fighting for his life, and twice received the Last Rites, but thankfully he pulled through and went on to build another great team.

This is the story that everyone is familiar with. The name of Manchester United is synonymous in the minds of football fans everywhere with Munich, and the disaster which decimated the Busby Babes.  The event has such iconic status that it has helped garner the club a worldwide fan base, and certainly in the period preceding the last twenty years of their dominance, Man Utd were often regarded as everyone’s second-favourite team, based largely on the legacy of Munich.

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Superga Air Disaster, May 4th 1949

It may surprise a lot of people then, to hear that Munich was not the only, nor yet the worst disaster of this nature to strike a major football club. On Wednesday 4th May 1949, the Torino football team were returning home from a friendly match in Lisbon, when their aeroplane crashed into the hill of Superga near Turin, killing all 31 people on board including 18 players. The Torino football team, popularly known as Il Grande Torino, were a legendary outfit. They won the last Italian league title before World War II, and when the competition resumed after the hostilities, they won four consecutive post-war titles too. At the time of the crash, Torino was leading the title race with four games to go. They fielded a youth team in each of those games, and as a mark ofrespect, their opponents did the same. The youth team, Primavera, won those four games to claim theScudetto.

The disaster had hit Torino, and indeed Italian football, very hard indeed. Only three of the Champions’ squad were left, each having missed the fatal flight for one reason or another. The national team was also seriously weakened, as the players who died made up the bulk of the Italian squad. The Torino club itself failed to win another national title until 1976, fully 27 years after Superga. The crash was arguably the worst of its kind, in terms of the number of fatalities, the lack of survivors, and the impact on club and national football. Yet there have been other calamities, some much more recent than either Munich or Superga. In 1993, almost the entire national squad of Zambia died in an air crash. Virtually the whole of the Russian ice hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl perished in similar disaster in 2011. There are at least four more comparable incidents.

Why, then, are we so familiar with the story of Munich, but not – for instance – with the terrible loss suffered by Torino AC in 1949? We may think it’s because Manchester United are an English football club, and maybe there is some parochialism going on here. But the fame and infamy of Munich is a worldwide phenomenon, and the modern Manchester United owes much of its current global fan base to the legend that arose around theBusby Babes. Perhaps it’s because news media had progressed in the nine years between the two events, but as we have seen, much more recent tragedies remain relatively obscure.

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Munich Memorial with AIG logo highlighted – tacky

The club itself, it must be said, have not been shy about keeping the memory of the disaster very much to the forefront of the public mind, whilst being curiously reticent and some would say callous in their treatment of some of the bereaved and of the survivors. Many felt that the decision toincorporate a sponsor’s logo into the Munich memorial outside Old Trafford was somewhat tacky. And “tacky” is a term that could easily be applied to the treatment of Munich survivor Jackie Blanchflower, for instance, who was severely injured in the crash, yet was removed from his club house shortly afterwards, with virtually no compensation.

Jeff Connor, in his sensitively-written and excellent bookThe Lost Babes, draws an illuminating contrast between the club welcoming publicity about Munich, whilst seeming somewhat uncaring about the consequences for the families left bereaved, and living a reduced existence. The bitterness felt by many people close to the Munich victims does not form a part of the legend as perpetuated by Manchester United FC. It has also frequently been claimed in popular culture that the Manchester United club owes a lot of its current and recent standing to the events of 60 years ago – a famousclip fromJimmy McGovern’s “The Street” features a rant delivered by actor Jim Broadbent, his character in the BBC drama voicing just this sentiment.

Torino AC, the club so devastated by the Superga Disaster all those years ago, did not place the same emphasis on the continual commemoration and reminiscing employed by Manchester United and its fans worldwide. Perhaps this is why they struggled for so long to regain any sort of pre-eminence, whereas it was only ten years after Munich that Matt Busby was knighted in the wake of his club’s European Cup triumph. What seems certain is that the mystique surrounding Munich, which seems to suggest that the 1958 disaster stands pre-eminent in the pantheon of sporting tragedy, does not hold up to closer examination, and should instead perhaps be marked to the credit, for want of a more appropriate word, of those who have worked so feverishly over the years to promote Man Utd as the world’s premier football club.

It is right and proper that the dead of any disaster should be remembered with respect and reverence, for their achievements in life, and to mourn their loss and the sadness of potential unfulfilled. But that should apply to all such tragedies and there has been undue emphasis on the tragedy and themarketability of Munich for far too long now.

If you offer up a thought for the Lost Babes today – I’m right there with you. But come the 4th of May – let’s also light a candle, on the 69th anniversary of that disaster, for the dead of Superga.

Millwall Fan’s Employers Distance Themselves from Hurtful Leeds Jibes – by Rob Atkinson

Millwall “fan” Jamie Brinkley has had to make a humiliating and grovelling apology after

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Brinkley: heartfelt grovel

a September 2017 tweet in which he mocked the tragic murders of Leeds supporters Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight, who were killed in Istanbul almost 18 years ago. Foolishly, Brinkley omitted to hide his personal details, including the identity of his employers, Excel Currencies – an oversight that appears to have got the self-confessed “young immature man” into some hot water at work.

Recently, the apology reproduced on the right here appeared in social media, making it abundantly clear that young Brinkley had been hauled over the coals by his horrified bosses at Excel Currencies. Understandably, the company do not wish to be associated with the kind of online sickness perpetrated by their employee, and it is almost certain that the climbdown was at Excel’s behest, with some observers suggesting that the text of the apology was provided by the company.

Whether or not Brinkley’s grovel will be enough to save his job must remain, for now at least, a matter of conjecture. They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but this sort of thing shows that to be a complete fallacy; it is blindingly obvious that Excel Currencies wish to distance themselves as far as they possibly can from the bad taste of their hapless and clueless hireling.

The pity of it is that this episode could be seen to detract from a very positive aspect of the recent league game at Elland Road between Leeds United and Millwall. There had been some controversy over the ticket prices charged for away fans and, in the days after the fixture, it was revealed that Millwall would issue a partial refund to their fans who had travelled to see the Lions’ 4-3 victory – this was because Leeds had been found to be in breach of League regulations. Fair enough – but some of the Millwall fans then took the extraordinary and heartwarming step of donating their refunded ticket money to the Toby Nye neuroblastoma treatment appeal, to help the five year old Leeds fan in his fight against the rare cancer.

As football stories go, it just doesn’t get much better than that, and it’s very welcome positive news coming out of what has been one of football’s more strained and fraught relationships as Leeds and Millwall have maintained a mutual enmity over the years. Fair play to the Millwall fans who have made such a handsome gesture, and who have simultaneously shown that there are positives as well as negatives emerging out of even the bitterest rivalry. I won’t remember the two Millwall defeats this season with any fondness, but – of the two examples of fan behaviour cited here – I know that most Leeds fans will dismiss Jamie Brinkley as one sick and humiliated individual, whilst applauding the generosity of the over-charged Millwall faithful who decided to help a brave little boy instead of getting their money back.

Well done to all who have contributed towards young Toby’s medical care and treatment. Perhaps Mr. Brinkley himself might care to make a donation. After all, talk is cheap – especially a forced apology. Maybe if he put his money where his mouth is, people, including his disgusted employers, might think differently of him. The same applies to Danny Baker, who has managed to make and then inexplicably repeat a very tasteless tweet since the Leeds game, with no apology from him or his BBC employers. He’s not short of a bob or two surely – so, why not follow the good example of those travelling Lions, Danny? Anyone wanting to tweet Mr. Baker some encouragement to do just that will be able to reach him on @prodnose – let’s get him shelling out.

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Young cancer patient Toby Nye with Leeds skipper Liam Cooper

This Leeds Crest Ticks ALL the Right Boxes, Please Get It Done, Mr. Radrizzani – by Rob Atkinson

 


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Add a 1919 somewhere, and this crest has it all

Whether by accident or design, this week’s “New Club Crest” furore has almost chased transfer window considerations clear off the front and back pages of the Leeds United news sources, temporarily at least. That will change as the days and hours tick down, with our striking options still not reinforced – but, for the time being, “Crestgate”, as at least one national radio station calls it, remains a burning topic. It’s also one that, for once, unites much of the Leeds support. The response to the club’s proudly announced “Leeds salute” design was an almost unanimous one of horrified disapproval. On the positive side, the powers that be appear to have listened and, somewhat chastened, are urgently reconsidering.

One of the side effects of the club crest cock-up is that various sources on Twitter and other social media have favoured us all with their own designs for a new badge. It’s been a case of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, as you might expect but, encouragingly, the good has been very good indeed, putting the United Graphic Design Department to shame. It’s all very subjective, of course – but, for me at least, any new badge (if we actually need one) should combine some iconic symbol from the past with a hint of local or regional identity, and it should be very distinctly Leeds with, if possible, a nod to our forthcoming centenary.

The badge pictured above (NOT my own design) does it for me – it’d be absolutely perfect with a bit of subscript, as you get with Cup Final crests, reading 100 years of Football 1919 – 2019. There’s the smiley badge prominently featured, an image from the past rightly hailed as “brilliant” by the ever-excellent Moscowhite of Square Ball fame. And there’s the Yorkshire Rose too, and the LUFC footballs from the 1990 promotion badge. And yet it’s not too cluttered, which is a pleasant relief from certain well-meaning suggestions that have seen the light of Twitter this week.

I’d certainly like to see something like this, should a change actually have to happen. Another option, obviously, would be to retain the current shield, which has become iconic in its own right – again, probably with that subscript acknowledging the Centenary. What do people think? I’d be grateful for any views or alternative suggestions – even from the 10,000 who are taking the rap for the Leeds salute effort – not that I know a single man Jack or girl Jill of them.

Here’s hoping that, on more considered reflection, the club gets it right next time.

 

 

New Leeds United Badge, a Considered Response – by Rob Atkinson

No, no, no. For the sake of our pride and sanity, please God – NOOOOOOOOOO!!!

A thousand times no. Bring back the Smiley, give us a football in a Yorkshire rose. But not this. This is the worst idea ever.

No.

Leeds United and the Strange Case of the Migrating Millwall Injury – by Rob Atkinson

There are many who will say that the match between Leeds United and Millwall at Elland Road on Saturday was a strange affair – bordering on the bizarre. How right they would be, for the game’s pivotal incident saw a phenomenon surely unprecedented in the history of sports injuries and physiotherapy.

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Ref! I think he’s broken my left leg!!

With Leeds a goal behind and playing poorly, there was some frustration building for the home side, so when United skipper Liam Cooper sailed into a fearsome-looking tackle on George Saville in midfield – and with the Whites’ recent record of red cards – you feared the worst. Sure enough, the Millwall player collapsed in a stricken heap, clutching his left leg in evident agony. To the momentary relief of the crowd, the referee reached for his yellow card as he walked over – and this is when things took a turn for the surreal.

On the touchline, there was outrage from the Millwall contingent, who clearly expected Cooper to be dismissed – a stance reinforced on the field by former United flop Steve Morison. As the pressure mounted on the referee, the Millwall physio worked urgently to save the life of Saville – evidently a hero to the Millwall fans who sang this name throughout – and the medical situation started to appear grave, with the injury mysteriously migrating from the left leg caught by Cooper’s challenge, to the right leg now being treated intensively by the physio. Left leg or right, the player was clearly mortally wounded, something that may have influenced the ref almost as much as Morison screaming at him.

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Never mind which bloody leg, keep howling with pain son – or it might only be a yellow… 

Fortunately for the expiring Saville, salvation was at hand. From being on the point of passing away, brave George was hauled back from the brink by the sight of the red card being brandished at the Leeds skipper, and promptly hopped back up onto his feet, fully restored to health and vigour. It is understood that the novel technique of healing a fatal left leg injury by treating the right leg may now be adopted as standard practice, due to the spectacular results effected by the expertise of the Millwall medical staff.

All better now

Well done, lad – the ref’s sent him off. Up you get, now

The spontaneous recovery must have come as a deep relief to the travelling Millwall faithful who, judging by their continual songs about Turks and knives, had clearly anticipated the possibility that Saville would require surgery from an Eastern European doctor. Such a miraculous restoration to health for their brave lad was due reward for these fine supporters of Football’s Family Club of the Year 2017 – an accolade surely just as well deserved as Man U’s “Greatest Club in the World”.

How we shall all look forward to next season, and a continuation of this friendly rivalry – if Millwall stay up, that is…

 

 

Leeds United Aims Sarcastic Parting Shot at Man Utd Failure CBJ – by Rob Atkinson

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Borthwick Jackson: Pick up a runner? Me?? Can’t be arsed, mate

When a young player arrives on loan at a club in the next league down, with much to prove and a new army of fans to impress, you expect a lot. When that player is moving to Leeds United, from their hated rivals over the Pennines in Salford, then those expectations are spiced with a feeling of, well, he’d better knuckle down and work his socks off, or he’ll get short shrift here.

Such was the situation facing Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, a left back of some promise a while back, as he arrived at Elland Road from Old Trafford via a less than impressive stint at Wolves last season where, so the story goes, he pulled up no trees. Still, all bigotry and hatred aside, his provenance suggested a certain amount of pedigree – surely, he’d provide a bit of quality on the left flank and maybe ruffle some feathers at the Pride of Devon by doing it for the Whites? No such luck, as it turned out. Perhaps we should have known, from other recent experiences of signing players from Them.

Borthwick-Jackson ended up making half a dozen appearances for Leeds, putting in barely an ounce of effort the whole while and looking supremely uninterested in soiling his Premier League sensibilities with anything so grubby as hard work and commitment. Now he’s returned ignominiously to his parent club, so he’s – nominally at least – a Premier League player again. Not that he’s got any real chance of getting anywhere near a first team appearance. On what he showed at Leeds, his prospects at Man U are about as promising as mine would be, should I ever wish to set foot inside the repulsive place. Here we have a young man whose body language suggests a languid assumption that the football world owes him a living. Unless he reappraises his attitude, and pronto, he’ll be heading for the butt end of League Two before long, and ruing the day.

On the face of it, Leeds bade CBJ a polite farewell, but it’s not difficult to detect the acid beneath the surface of the usual platitudes. Let’s not forget, this boy failed not because of a lack of ability, or injury, or any other misfortune – it was because of his rank bad attitude and lack of application, hideously unforgivable at any level of the professional game. So for Leeds United to wave him off with  “Borthwick-Jackson joined Leeds back in August and went on to make six appearances for the Whites. We would like to thank Cameron for his efforts during his time at the club” is, to say the least, slightly tongue in cheek. By that reckoning, I should be thanked for my efforts every time I pop the seal on a can of lager. The boy never tried a leg, and Leeds are surely making a barbed reference to that fact in citing his “efforts”. Then again, he’s probably arrogant and thick-skinned enough to take the words at face value. There’s just something rotten in the state of that club over the hills.

So, a short and nasty episode is over, and our playing staff is lighter by one waste of space. Presumably, the wage bill is that much lighter too, with some potential wages being freed up for a proper player or two. We can but dream. This transfer window has been more than a little frustrating so far, and it’s fair to say that one of its high points has been the shedding of this unworthy excuse for a professional footballer. Which puts our recruitment efforts into unfortunate context. We really must do better and, with two weeks of the window still to go, perhaps we yet will.

Meanwhile, it’s goodbye to Cameron. And good riddance, too. 

Pointless Appealing: Leeds Must Accept O’Kane Red and Move On with Business – by Rob Atkinson

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Eunan O’Kane – bang to rights for sheer stupidity

One of the less controversial aspects of the defeat at Portman Road, where Leeds failed to make the most of an unremarkable Ipswich Town side pretty much there for the taking, was the straight red dismissal of Eunan O’Kane for violent conduct. The video evidence is incontrovertible; O’Kane, despite the inevitable protests, is bang to rights and was positively begging to be sent off; the referee, only yards from the incident, was always going to oblige.

What leaves a nastier than usual taste in the mouth is that this particular piece of lunacy, which went some way towards ensuring that his team-mates, employers and supporters would end up empty-handed, came hard on the heels of what now seems a rather sanctimonious tweet expressing disappointment over the equally stupid transgression of Samu Saiz a week earlier at Newport. People in glass houses shouldn’t thrown stones, we might reflect. To his credit, O’Kane himself left the field without protest; the expostulations have come from other quarters. Meanwhile, the whole sorry affair threatens to deflect us all from the more important issues arising out of this and other recent failures.

The uncomfortable fact is that, in the last three league games, Leeds United have failed to score one single solitary goal, That’s over 270 minutes of huffing and puffing to no effect, during which time they have contrived to lose to Birmingham, who were swatted aside 3-0 by Derby yesterday, and gain one point from a Nottingham Forest side who set out to stifle Leeds and comfortably managed it. Leaving aside the inglorious FA Cup episode at Newport, Leeds are suffering in the league, which is far, far more important. The loss of Saiz for six games deprives us of much of the limited cutting edge we’ve had and, without quality reinforcements during this window, the fear is that the season could be fizzling out rather early.

What appears to be happening, in line with the predictions of many much earlier in the campaign, is that the lack of depth in United’s squad is being exposed by a smattering of injuries and suspensions. These are occupational hazards of an attritional league programme, and will happen to any but the most fortunate of clubs – but the difference at the top end of the table will be the deeper resources of those who have invested sensibly in quality, providing competent back-up for most positions. United’s over-reliance on young, raw possibles, like Jay Roy Grot for instance, is ample proof that their recruitment at first team level has been – so far, at any rate – inadequate for the rigours of a Championship season.

One transfer move that has been completed, and for a player seemingly ready to step into the first team picture, too, is that of Yosuke Ideguchi, a highly-rated midfielder whose signing is seen as something of a coup for the Elland Road club. How strange it is then that, after a work permit was unexpectedly forthcoming, Ideguchi’s loan to Spanish side Cultural Leonesa has still gone ahead. One thing Leeds United really needs, to allow them maybe the luxury of playing two up top, is a combative box-to-box midfielder which might permit such a change of shape. On the bright side, the welcome signing of Laurens de Bock will provide options across the defensive line, with the versatility of Gaetano Berardi possibly allowing him to be more effective when freed from his unaccustomed left-back berth.

And it really is important to look on the bright side, after what has been a dismal January so far, especially on the field of play. The next two weeks, and this is no exaggeration, will define the rest of our season. The word from the club is that they are working hard to bring in players, with a striker high on the shopping list. As Leeds fans, we should perhaps avoid being distracted by pointless and futile appeals over daft red cards – and hope that the powers that be down LS11 way can see the urgency of the situation in and around the first team squad. The play-offs are still somehow a tantalising possibility, offering at least the chance of an exciting climax to the campaign. It’s down to the club now as to whether or not they have the ambition to seize the day and give us all a second half of this season to relish.

Really, after the start to 2018 Leeds United have provided, that’s the very least we deserve.

Leeds United Announce Signing of Left Back Laurens De Bock – Rob Atkinson

Not everyone can bank 100k from sports betting. In fact, most bettors never even come remotely close. That said, if you choose your spots wisely, it’s still entirely possible for the average sports bettor to make a pretty penny every now and again.

If you’re betting on the Championship, you’ll know that Leeds United’s chances at finishing the season on top are slim-to-none. LUFC is currently 6th in the league on 43 points, though they’re still 18 points back of league leaders Wolves. Nobody is catching Wolves, but Leeds remains very much alive in the promotion playoff battle.

Leeds got a boost on Wednesday when the club announced the signing of 25-year-old Belgian left back Laurens De Bock. De Bock inked a four-and-a-half year deal with the English side after completing the £3M move from Club Brugge.

United’s new defender made more than 170 appearances for Club Brugge after joining the side from KSC Lokeren in the summer of 2013. He has additionally earned 11 caps with Belgium’s under-21 side, though he has still yet to debut for the country’s high-powered senior national team.

De Bock has made the vast majority of his professional appearances as a left back, though he does have a bit of experience in central defence, as well. The player has been an integral cog with his club over the last several years, though this season Club Brugge switched their formation to one that deploys three centre halves at the back. That move has essentially cost De Bock his spot as a regular first-team starter.

De Bock has moonlighted playing on the left side of the midfield at times this season, but he was reportedly more interested in first-team work at his traditional spot at left back.

Laurens won a league title with Club Brugge, and he’s also played in Champions League and Europa League in the past. That kind of big-game experience should suit the player well with his new side, which is fighting for promotion into the Premier League.

He’ll fill the gaping hole at left back left by Charlie Taylor, who departed Leeds for Burnley last summer. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson was signed on loan from Manchester United to replace Taylor, but the youngster has failed to leave his mark in his brief time with his new club. Vurnon Anita, Gaetano Berardi and Stuart Dallas have also tried to hold down the fort at the position, though none of them have succeeded.

Too Many Leeds United “Fans” Forget That Saiz Matters – by Rob Atkinson

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Saiz leaves early after zero dribbles and one spit

Characteristically, Leeds United has contrived to make a drama out of a crisis, compounding the humiliation of an FA Cup Third Round exit at minnows Newport by adding the embarrassment of an on-pitch spitting scandal, as well as the six-match loss of star player Samu Sáiz. To make matters even worse, the intellectually-challenged end of the Whites’ support then took to Twitter with the express intention, so it seemed, of unleashing their long-repressed bigotry and incipient racism by attacking Sáiz in the worst kind of Daily Mail-reading Colonel Blimp-inspired terms. It made for very unedifying reading, even for Twitter after one of Leeds’ frequent bad days at the office.

There’s no getting around the fact that spitting at a sporting opponent is a disgusting matter, deserving of punishment and not to be tolerated – or even mitigated, if it comes to that. It initially seemed an odd affair to me, with some confusion and delay surrounding the red card in the immediate aftermath of Newport’s late winner. But Sáiz appears now to have admitted, acknowledged and apologised for his transgression, so that’s that. He’s bang to rights and indefensible, he’ll have to do his time, repent at leisure and make sure he sticks to his vow that this will never happen again.

Incidentally, and particularly for those who think I’m an uncritical Sáiz apologist, his conduct has worried me before, and I’ve gone into print hoping he’d see the error of his ways. This was over an early season tendency to wave imaginary cards when fouled, something that risked attracting the ref’s attention negatively, and a habit I’ve always hated. So I don’t see Samu as any sort of paragon of virtue; even so, some of the stick and abuse he’s received from alleged Leeds fans since the Case of the Newport Spit has been sickening in the extreme – decorum prohibits the reproduction of many of the remarks here. Suffice to say that there’s been a nasty, racist overtone in the murkier regions of the Leeds Twitter hashtag, many of the boneheads who like to comment there seeming to have forgotten what the little Spanish wizard has contributed to our faltering season so far.

It’s not big and it’s not clever, but then again, that just about sums up some of our Twitter knuckle-draggers. Sadly, the temptation to jump aboard a Brexiteer anti-“foreign signing” bandwagon appears to have been just too much to resist for many of these hard-of-thinking opportunists, with some of them engaged for hours on end in trying to outdo their IQ-minus cronies in a competition to see who could be the most offensively tasteless in their treatment of United’s best player this season.

The subtext emerging was of a groundswell of opposition, again mainly at the thicker end of United’s online adherents, to the idea of signing non-British players in the first place. Some Leeds fans, apparently, will not be happy until United’s first team consists of blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan stereotypes, goose-stepping their way towards the lower leagues with the Sieg Heils echoing from the stands – a harking back to the early and mid-eighties. But those days are gone; the continental and global lads are here to stay, they will continue to provide the best hopes of success – and the Twitter and other social media morons are welcome to crawl back under the stones from which they should never, in these more enlightened times, emerge.

It’s to be hoped that this will be a storm in a teacup, that United will safely negotiate the enforced and unfortunate absence of Sáiz – and that, when he returns, he will be given the warm welcome that his value to the team deserves. And that will probably be the case, because Leeds will surely move to cover for the lad’s loss, while the bulk of the United support are a silent yet match-day raucous majority, who will always be behind the men in the shirts, whether they hail from Selby or Spain.

Samu’s been a silly lad, but many, many young footballers are guilty of that; he’s not the first, he’ll not be the last, and it’s got absolutely bugger-all to do with his nationality. So, enough of all that nonsense. What we need now is to get stuck in as a United Leeds for the rest of the season, that’s boardroom, management, players and fans – and put this sorry incident behind us. The rest of the transfer window promises to be interesting or maybe even exciting, and meanwhile there’s a formidable array of opposition waiting to tackle a Samu-less Leeds. Let’s stick together, ignore the ten-a-penny haters – and show them all what we’re really capable of.