Pressure All on Sheffield United Ahead of Elland Road Clash With Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Blunts1990

Brilliantly succinct: Sgt. Wilko’s call to arms in 1990

It’s a titanic head-to-head of the Yorkshire Uniteds at Elland Road on Saturday, just a half hour after High Noon. Some are building it up as a promotion decider, others are being more circumspect. I want us to win, and I think it’s the biggest game since that decisive match against Bristol Rovers almost nine years ago – but I believe all the pressure is on the Sheffield side this time around.

The fact is that, if Leeds United win, they’ll be five points clear of third with eight games to go, and that’s a significant gap. Even a draw would leave Sheffield United two points off second place. Only a win for the Blades will see them edge ahead of Leeds United, by just a solitary point. Both teams need the win, but for Sheffield United, beaten once by the Whites already this season, it’s vital.

Little more needs to be said. Leeds United and Sheffield United both know what they have to do, both will be wary of the hype – and both will carry the confidence of a good recent run into this Yorkshire summit meeting.

As United boss Howard Wilkinson said in brilliantly brief and succinct programme notes when these two teams met at Elland Road towards the end of both clubs’ 1990 promotion season: “What can I say about today’s game that has not already been said or appeared in print? Including this afternoon’s encounter, we have five matches to go in what can turn out to be Leeds United’s most important season for a decade. So let’s get on with it.

The rest is history. Leeds beat the Blades that long ago afternoon by 4-0, going on to clinch the divisional Championship. Both teams went up, but Sheffield United had not been able to withstand the pressure or Leeds United’s own mental readiness and competitive spirit on the day.

May it turn out the same this weekend.

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Football League Urges Restraint Over Birmingham v Villa Thugs; Not as Bad as Leeds Spygate – by Rob Atkinson

Brum thug punches Grealish – but hey, it’s hardly Spygate

Fears are mounting at Birmingham City about the scale of the financial penalty to be imposed after one of their fans , at their stadium, invaded the playing area and, before the Sky TV cameras, assaulted Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish. The anxiety springs from the fact that Leeds United were fined £200,000 in the matter of standing on a public footpath and looking through a wire mesh fence.

Officials at Birmingham City fear that an actual assault on an opposing player by a home fan, compounded and aggravated by a later altercation with the same player by a home steward, might be seen as many times more serious than the non-offence attributed to Leeds United. But the Football League are set to banish any such fears.

The logic being applied by anxious officials at St Andrews is that, if Leeds had bto shell out £200,000 for an ill-defined “breach of good faith”, then an actual assault perpetrated within the confines of their own stadium could be punishable by a fine well into seven or eight figures. It is not known at this point whether Bristol City are demanding a points deduction over the matter.

The Football League, however, do not appear to see common assault as anything like as serious a matter as looking through Derby County’s mesh fence, and are prepared to reassure Birmingham City accordingly. A League spokesman confirmed that out of control home fans belting opposition players cannot be blamed on the club concerned, unless that club has the postcode LS11 0ES. “We have to have a sense of proportion here”, our FL contact told us. “We checked with Derby County after the Birmingham v Villa incident, and Fwankie wasn’t upset at all. If he had been, of course we’d have taken further action. Against Leeds United. Ha!”

LUTV: High Time Leeds United Reached For the Sky – by Rob Atkinson

LUTV, the Whites’ very own dedicated online TV channel has massive potential to be a worldwide success, given the club’s rapidly growing and endlessly fanatical global support. It would be difficult to overstate this potential even as things stand but, with a more ambitious approach, the Sky would literally be the limit.

As we stand, the service is sometimes ok, sometimes so-so – but, all too often, it goes down completely or suffers from annoying buffering problems. It’s not the sort of thing which is good for customer relations; people for whom the chance of seeing their heroes play “live” are paying good money, and they are all too often being left frustrated and disappointed as their screens freeze while their blood boils.

The answer, surely, is to emulate some of the other clubs with followers all around the globe, in seeking a superior technology as a platform for broadcasts. I’m not au fait with the commercial issues surrounding the broadcasting of a club channel as part of a Sky TV package, but it does seem to me that there is a vast and growing market out there made up of far-flung fans desperate to see anything to do with Leeds United.

It must work for the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea, or they wouldn’t be there on the Sky Sports menu. If it can be a success for them, so it could be for Leeds – especially when you consider our owner is a TV mogul in his own right.

So come on, Andrea Radrizzani, let’s get our act together like the big club we are, and fly Sky high. You know it makes sense – certainly better sense than the current hit and miss service we’re all having to make do with. I’d be a willing subscriber, and I’m certain thousands around the world would be queuing up to hand over their hard-earned cash for a decent product that doesn’t leave you gnashing your teeth and tearing your hair out.

I’ll watch this space with interest.

Leeds Owner Radrizzani in Blast at “Unacceptable” Bristol City – by Rob Atkinson

Tax-dodging Bristol City owner Lansdown

Bristol City, in common with many smaller clubs that have ideas above their station, appear to have a bit of a chip on their shoulder where Leeds United are concerned. This has manifested itself in a couple of ways this season – one laughable, one really quite contemptible.

Looking at the more ridiculous aspect first, Bristol City, in the shape of their tax-dodging majority shareholder Steve Lansdown, actually called for a points deduction for the Whites in the matter of a chap standing on a public highway and watching some alleged footballers (hey, these are Derby County players we’re talking about) training in plain sight. A heinous crime, or so the more desperate Leeds-haters alleged.

The irony is, of course, that Leeds escaped a points deduction, despite the pouting of Lansdown, Derby County coach Fwankie Lampard, and others – while Leeds have now, in effect, deducted six points from the potential seasonal totals of both Derby and Bristol City – which is deeply satisfactory.

The most recent example of the Bristolians’ dislike of all things Elland Road, though, is more troubling – and has incurred the wrath of United owner Andrea Radrizzani. It appears that Bristol City have gone back on their word over some family area tickets which were bought and sold on the clear understanding that children in the party were Leeds United supporters.

When it was noticed that the family’s sons were wearing Leeds United socks, however, the party were ejected before kick-off, having made a three hour trip from Cornwall after being told that it was fine that the lads were Leeds fans.

On hearing of the situation, Mr. Radrizzani pulled no punches:

It seems that Bristol City and their owner are understandably held in less than high esteem at Elland Road, following the ridiculous call for a points deduction, a failure to cooperate with a Leeds United documentary crew, and now this shoddy treatment of fans who were ejected from the ground despite reassurances that they’d be ok in the City family area. Bristol City’s stance is described as “unacceptable” and, indeed, you might even ask whether the Ashton Gate club have acted in good faith, the omission of which, as we’re all too well aware, carries a £200,000 penalty. Well, it does for Leeds, anyway.

It’s good to know that our owner is prepared to make restitution to this family for their bad treatment at the hands of another Football League club. Radrizzani has acted promptly and admirably, just as you would hope. Which is more than can be said for Lansdown and his twice-beaten club, May they sit and sulk impotently until we meet again.

Then again, as Andrea himself puts it: what else can you expect from a club like that? Well done, Leeds United. And, as for you, Bristol City, thanks for the six points, but otherwise – shame on you.

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, over a quarter of a century 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. And  you have to say, as bizarre as this decision is, it really looks quite sensible compared to that penalty call in Paris tonight”.

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?”

VAR, aged only a couple of years, is a travesty and a joke.

 

Looks Like Samu Sáiz WILL Return to Leeds. Good Thing or Bad? – by Rob Atkinson

Sáiz – stick or twist?

Few players in recent history have divided opinion among the Leeds United support quite like Samuel Sáiz, the mercurial Spanish playmaker with the ability to thrill and frustrate in equal measure. Sáiz had his moments in the United line-up this season but, by common consent, he hasn’t been quite the player he was before his ban last season for a spitting incident. And then we discovered a possible reason why.

It seems that Samu was under pressure to get a move away from Elland Road due to domestic circumstances, with both the player and his pregnant partner wanting to quit English football in favour of a return home to Spain. The situation was reminiscent of Tony Currie’s dilemma 40 years ago when, in order to fall in with his wife’s wishes, he was forced to accept a move back to his native London and signed for QPR.

Currie subsequently admitted that he had regrets over the move and it would seem that Sáiz is not finding his loan switch to Getafe a completely happy affair. The Spanish club, according to reports, may now opt against making the move permanent, against a background of Sáiz failing to become an automatic selection, or even a regular starter. If the permanent move does not materialise, then Sáiz will return to Elland Road, and we’d have to see what happened next.

On the plus side, Leeds could be welcoming back a potential match winner, but the other side of that coin is the odd rumour that Samu may have been thought of behind the scenes at United as a disruptive influence, on and off the field. In a squad where team spirit is so vital, as so clearly evidenced during the 4-0 thrashing of West Bromwich Albion, the introduction or even reintroduction of a fact that could destabilise things may not be a risk worth taking.

There’s also the question of whether the initial problems leading to Samu’s loan departure still hold true. If so, United might have an unhappy player on their hands, clearly another situation best avoided.

So, what do we think? Would Sáiz be welcomed back with open arms, or would it be a case of “thanks, Samu, but no thanks”? For what it’s worth, this blogger leans narrowly towards the opinion that Sáiz is a risky and probably unwilling option and, as such, is probably best left alone to find the best move away he can secure. But I’m well aware that some would sharply disagree. It does rather look as though, however unwillingly, Sáiz may well be returning to Leeds, at least for a while, so the question of what to do with him is a pertinent one.

As ever, your opinions are most welcome. The question is: the return of Samu Sáiz: Yea, or Nay? What’s your answer – and why? Over to you.

Euro Goners Real Madrid Admit They Didn’t Live Up to Famous Leeds All White Strip – by Rob Atkinson

Real Madrid – making a mockery of Leeds United’s iconic all-white strip

Real Madrid were left ruefully reflecting upon their shock Champions League exit tonight, and were forced to admit: their performance fell way short of the standards expected of any team seeking to emulate football legends Leeds United.

It’s well-known in football circles that the Madrid kit is modelled on the famous and dazzling all-white of Don Revie’s all-conquering Leeds United side who dominated the world game in the sixties and seventies. Leeds followed up on establishing themselves as the finest club side some fine judges had ever seen, by becoming the last ever Football League Champions in 1992. Their 27 year unbroken record as English champions is unlikely ever to be equalled, never mind broken.

Naturally, the Leeds record has attracted envious attention abroad as well as at home, with the result that plucky little Real Madrid adopted the legendary LUFC all-White in an attempt to emerge from the shadow of Catalan masters Barcelona. The move appeared to have paid off to some extent, with Real managing to win several trophies down the years, prompting some over-enthusiastic pundits to mention them in the same breath as Revie’s or even Howard Wilkinson’s immortal Whites. Madrid even adopted a similar nickname – los Blancos translates as “the Whites” in Spanish, and some have interpreted this as a cheeky assertion by Madrid that they are somehow comparable to the Elland Road virtuosos.

However, all of that bravado came crashing down tonight, with Madrid falling at home to Dutch outfit Ajax of Amsterdam. Real had actually led 2-1 after the first leg in Holland, but a 4-1 reverse tonight at the Bernabeu put paid to this season’s hopes of matching Mighty Leeds. A Madrid spokesman said afterwards, “It’s bad enough losing so heavily at home, and the late red card too. But losing while wearing the all-white which is the symbol of Leeds has just made us look silly. We may possibly wear pink in future, it’s something we have to think about”.

Meanwhile, in Leeds, former Real keeper Kiko Casilla admitted that his old club had scored a PR own-goal. “Yes, it was embarrassing”, said the ex-Madrid man. “It did look as if Real were playing with ideas above their station, it was all a bit presumptuous. It’s made me glad that I seized my chance when the opportunity arose to better myself by moving to Elland Road”.

The triumph of Ajax is being hailed in Holland as a sign that they themselves might one day emulate Leeds. “Ajax were superb”, crowed one fan. “We played with vim and vigour. Who says we can’t be a second Leeds? But we wouldn’t turn out in the famous LUFC all-white. That’s just bloody rude”.

Outgoing EFL Chief Shaun Harvey To Pursue his Leeds Vendetta – by Rob Atkinson

The somewhat less than charismatic and competent Shaun Harvey

They used to say about the Canadian Mounties that “they always get their man”. Their remorseless pursuit of the ne’er-do-wells seeking to evade the long arm of the law was the stuff of legend, and many a fugitive wrongdoer must have despaired of their receding chances to outrun justice.

It would appear that Shaun Harvey who, being bald, chubby and a bit weird looking does not exactly bring to mind a tall, lean, flint-eyed lawman of implacable determination, nevertheless wishes to establish a comparable reputation for not letting his prey escape him. He’s been after Leeds United for a while now, first doing his best to ruin the club from the inside, more latterly sticking to a consistently anti-Leeds agenda as Football League Chief. Now Shaun is stepping down from that role, and Leeds look to have a decent chance of escaping the clutches of a famously corrupt and venal organisation. But it now seems that these facts do not signal an end to Harvey’s “Get Leeds” campaign.

Amazingly, it is possible that the notoriously incompetent and prejudiced Harvey may be under consideration for the top job at the Football Association, under whose benign leadership the English Premier League lives, moves and has its being. It seems rather surprising, really, that such a well-known klutz as Harvey could possibly ascend to the top of the FA. Surely there must be more competent candidates – Tory laughing-stock Chris “Failing” Grayling, for instance, or maybe whoever is responsible for Sky’s red button cameramanship. Almost anybody would be preferable to Shaun of the Dead Braincells but, incredibly, it appears that Harvey may actually be in the running.

Of course, one of the key qualities looked for in any senior football administrator in this country, would be a healthy dislike for Leeds United, coupled with an unswerving ambition to deal body blows to the Whites on a regular basis. Quite possibly, it is Harvey’s well-known obsession with shooting down United that is making him an attractive proposition for the old duffers on the board of the FA.

Whether such a move would actually come to fruition, of course, remains to be seen. It would depend on Leeds actually securing promotion, by no means guaranteed, as to whether or not Harvey would get the chance to continue his Mountie-like determination to get his prey. And, of course, the FA would have to be prepared to overlook Shaun’s abysmal record, not easy to do.

The bottom line is that, just when Leeds United thought they were leaving Shaun Harvey behind and ascending beyond his loathsome reach, it now seems just possible that the Elland Road club may be forced to think again.

Sheffield Wednesday Play Their Hearts Out for Leeds United and a Derby Day Draw – by Rob Atkinson

Wendies hold Blunts to keep Leeds in second place

It was the third Steel City Derby scoreless draw on the trot, much to the deflated disappointment of the Sky TV commentators who required a Blunts win to see Leeds United drop out of the Championship top two.

Instead, they saw a gritty if punchless performance from the Wendies, who managed to blunt Sharp’s cutting edge whilst stifling the threat from elsewhere in the away team’s attack. The whole game was more perspiration than inspiration and, in the end, a draw seemed a fair result.

For Leeds fans, this was highly satisfactory, putting a two point cushion between themselves and the play off pack. Once again, the Whites’ fate is in their own hands, and their challenge must now be to reproduce the Premier class performance that saw West Bromwich Albion sent packing last Friday evening.

There was some amusement, too, in listening to the morose men behind the mics as they strove to take some comfort from what was a disappointing night for them. All in all, as goalless draws go, this one put the cherry on the icing of one of Leeds United’s better weekends.

Leeds’ Gjanni Alioski: Just Like Robbie Savage, Only With Skill – by Rob Atkinson

Ezgjan Alioski – brilliantly annoying

In football, the effective player may be summed up as follows: skill, plus boundless energy; dedication to the common cause and – last, but definitely not least – that priceless knack of being able to wind up and annoy the hell out of the opposition, so that they’re simply psyched out and don’t know how to cope.

Some players have one or two of these attributes, there’s not many that have the lot. When you find one that does possess the full house, what you then need is a coach able to get the most out of such a valuable individual. Here, Leeds United with their very own genius mentor Marcelo Bielsa, can be described as very well blessed.

Macedonian international Ezgjan “Gjanni” Alioski has been a stand-out player in a very impressive Leeds United side for some time now, particularly since he moved into an attacking left back role to cover for the injury absence of Barry Douglas. Because of his capacity to run all day and through the night-time too, Alioski has been able to start from very deep and still offer a threat up front. This is more than an overlapping full-back – this is a scourge of the opposition, all the way up and down their right flank, niggling, passing, running, tackling, shooting and heading. A proper pest.

Alioski’s energy and running power is a given; to this, add his ability to create and score, as well as covering the left back patrol. At the very end of a typically busy performance against West Brom, there he was, this ersatz full-back, all the way upfield on the opposition goal line to tap home a low cross from sub Jamie Shackleton. This is not a man you find on his haunches, wheezing with exhaustion as the clock runs down. Alioski puts in the miles, and his level of performance lately has been a joy to behold.

The other thing about Gjanni is that he’s annoying. He’s the kind of player you love to hate in the opposing team, someone who will pester and hassle his opponent, taking the mick, getting in his man’s face, trying all he knows to ruffle and unsettle his opponent. He’s got an annoying face, annoying hair, an annoying attitude and an annoying smile, with the ability to get right under the skin of the other team’s more volatile characters. You hate this sort of opponent, but they can be your heroes when they wear your own team’s shirt. Just as long as they can play, too.

Because it’s not enough to be annoying, you need the other things too. Robbie Savage was the classic example of a player who nicked a living on the basis of his irritant factor plus not a lot else. He had the kind of face and hair that made you want to own a baseball bat and a pair of shears. But he couldn’t really play, though – as I well recall from a 6-0 Leeds victory in the League Cup away at Leicester – he wasn’t the type to hide. If Robbie Savage had had more ability to add to his dislikability, he would have been something approaching the player Alioski is. Even now, in his role as a radio gob on a stick, Savage continues to show more irritant value than talent.

Gjanni Alioski though is much more of a complete product, and he’d be a good bet to score a few goals as well as wind up a few victims, for any team prepared to utilise his strengths. Leeds, under Marcelo Bielsa, are uniquely placed to get the best out of a player who, in less ideal circumstances, may have struggled to fulfil his potential.

As it is, though, Alioski looks set to make a significant contribution to what, for United, could well be a landmark season.