Tag Archives: Arsenal

Man Utd Stars “to Receive Counselling” After Unbiased Refereeing Display – by Rob Atkinson

Michael Oliver ignores Rooney's plea for sanity and dismisses di Maria anyway

Michael Oliver ignores Rooney‘s plea for sanity and dismisses di Maria anyway

It’s an enlightened football club that looks after its players after some major trauma or shock; attending to their emotional well-being instead of merely training them, like sporting automatons, to go out there and just perform, match after match. So we here at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything are particularly impressed to hear that Man United, long recognised by themselves and the population of Devon and Cornwall as The Greatest Club in the World™, are to arrange counselling for their deeply traumatised players in the wake of Michael Oliver‘s shockingly honest performance during Monday’s FA Cup 6th round home defeat to Arsenal.

The counselling will take the form of gentle reassurance for those who are having doubts about their ability to dive convincingly, whilst Angel di Maria will receive special one-to-one therapy designed to restore his confidence that he can push the referee if he sees fit and do pretty much as he likes, as per his rights as a Man U player and the long-standing traditions of the club.

Some of the younger players are haunted by doubts about their ability to emulate former stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Mark Hughes, both of whom are legendary for spending a large percentage of their playing hours for the Pride of Devon on their respective arses, having performed a perfect swallow dive and double roll, ending up in a position of abject supplication, arms outspread in entreaty, mouth agape, outraged eyes fixed firmly on the referee.

This remains the officially approved method, according to a Theatre of Hollow Myths spokesman, although there is still scope for the “drop dead” method by way of variety, also known as “the sniper in the stand“. But, our contact informed us, the younger ones are feeling rather less comfortable with this approach in the wake of Oliver’s bizarrely unbiased showing on Monday.

“They’re prey to conflicting emotions,” said the Devon official. “Don’t get me wrong, they want to dive – it’s what they’ve been trained for, after all. But some of them are worried that their technique isn’t up there with legends like Ronaldo, Hughes and even current practitioner Ashley Young. Some of these young lads are harbouring thoughts of trying to beat a man and get a shot in, instead of letting their dramatic training do its job and going down like a good’un. Michael Oliver has done a lot of damage here, and all we can do is provide whatever support and reassurance is needed.”

Worse still is the fact that even senior player appear to be having the same doubts and insecurities, something that is reflected in the fact that The Most Fantastic Club in the Entire Universe™ are struggling even to qualify via the Champions League back door. Ashley Young is a case in point. “Yes,” our man admitted, “Youngy is having a really bad time lately. He’s just not playing his natural game. Twice in recent matches, he’s worked himself space inside the area – and then he’s gone and had a shot, bless him, when all his natural instincts as well as his training tell him to hit the turf and scream for a penno. So, instead of helping the team, he’s inevitably scuffing one wide, which looks really poor and, trust me, the boy’s as sick as a parrot. But we’re hoping to help Ashley too, with this restorative therapy programme. It’s what this great club is all about.”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything was unable to get a reaction from Michael Oliver himself. When we asked his refereeing mentor for a quote, we were told that Michael is currently incommunicado “until the fuss has died down”. It is understood that the “far too honest for his own good” referee will be spending the interim period relaxing in a place where he is unlikely to encounter too many irate Pride of Devon fans, at least until such time as that self-righteous and petulant anger has dissipated. He will therefore be sojourning “somewhere on the Pacific Ocean sea-bed” for the next five years.

Man United themselves have not commented at length on the Michael Oliver controversy, beyond a brief statement to the effect that “This is what happens when we have a ref who wants to make some sort of “fairness” name for himself. We’ll be demanding a Manc ref in the future, it worked up at Newcastle as you all saw, and it’s really for the best all round.”

Adnan Januzaj, 14, who now has as many yellow cards for diving as he does goals in his Man U career, is thought to be the 45th “next George Best”.

 

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Man Utd to Sue Arsenal’s Welbeck for “Mental Cruelty” of Goal Celebration   –   by Rob Atkinson

Hands off, van Gaal

Hands off, van Gaal

In the wake of Man U’s tragicomic FA Cup exit – sorry, that should read simply “comic” – it has emerged that Manchester’s second club are prepared to go to law over hurt feelings, following former Theatre of Hollow Myths hero Danny Welbeck having the brass neck to actually celebrate his winning goal. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything has learned that swift court action is likely, and that hopes are high throughout the West Country and the Home Counties that their favourites will still be stepping out for Wembley‘s showpiece occasion, the F.A. Cup Final.

The Pride of Devon’s tame legal firm – Messrs. Sue, Grabbitt & Runne – has issued a brief statement in the immediate aftermath of this calamitous upsetting funny defeat. “Mr Welbeck will be hearing from us.” it read. “His unwarranted celebrations were a knife to the heart of every true football fan, the grand traditions of the game and any real prospect of world peace itself. This evil must be stopped. Danny Welbeck must die moderate his behaviour henceforth.”

Attention has also fallen upon the unprecedented display of referee Michael Oliver, who remained scrupulously honest throughout, penalising foul play from both sides and, in particular, making a point of whistling for and punishing the earnest efforts of Man U players to dive for penalties. Mr. Oliver even sent Devon’s Angel di Maria off the field of play for diving and then pushing the ref during the tantrum that followed the refusal of a penalty.

A Man U spokesman admitted “We acknowledge as a club that this behaviour is simply unacceptable. We shall never be seen to tolerate that sort of thing at this fantastic club, officially the greatest club in the Universe and all four dimensions of space-time. We have that reputation to uphold and we are keenly aware of our responsibilities. The referee’s frankly obscene levels of honesty and consistency have left us all simply horrified and deeply petulant. Michael Oliver must die moderate his behaviour henceforth…. no, as you were – die.”

Welbeck bravely hides his utter grief

Arsenal’s reluctant hero Danny Welbeck bravely hides his utter grief

Questioned afterwards about his winning goal and the turbulent maelstrom of conflicting emotions that must surely be raging in a careening torrent through his tormented psyche and devastated mind, Welbeck merely commented, “‘S’all good, man, chill. I’ve never liked Man U all that much anyway. Did you clock them tekkers after nipping in ahead of de Gay? Quality that, man.”

Louis van Gaal, 83, has denied in the past few minutes that he is to take over as manager of the England cricket team.  Wayne Rooney, 19 stone, is fat.

Madrid Prospect Kanes Arsenal as Spurs Record Rare Derby Win – by Rob Atkinson

Plucky Spuds Kick Arse

Plucky Spuds Kick Arse

Young Harry Kane, the latest product to roll off the Real Madrid talent production line in London N17, is certainly making a case for being able to join Gareth Bale at Tottenham’s mother club sooner, rather than later.

Two opportunist second-half strikes were enough to sink a below-par Arsenal, the Kings of London never quite managing to get into their usual regal stride. Kane’s first goal was an object lesson in instinctive movement and being in the right place at the right time, as the ball zipped across Arsenal’s goal line. Kane found himself in space beyond the far post and finished adroitly. The winner was simply wonderful, a back-pedalling Kane somehow managing to rise to a steepling cross and punch the ball squarely with his forehead to drop into the Gunners’ net.

In the first half, Özil had given the Arse an early lead somewhat against the run of play. Arsenal had other chances, but lacked bite and cohesion. The result, in the end, was a fair one and Spurs now stand a point ahead of their hated rivals – something to look fondly back on at the end of the season when they have been eclipsed yet again by the Emirates men.

Spurs’ umpteenth failure to qualify for the Champions League may not – quite yet – cost them the services of Harry Kane. But the writing is already on the wall; Tottenham are simply not big enough for such a talent and Kane’s imminent international preferment will only make that more blindingly obvious.

For Arsenal, this was just a bad day at the office. They can and will recover; a glance at their remaining fixtures as compared to those of Spurs will make it clear that the Gunners are destined to finish as North London top dogs yet again. But that alone will not heal the wounds inflicted at the Lane today.

The Arse will be able to comfort themselves by winning the war despite losing this battle – and by the fact that they will not have to face local derby opposition that includes Harry Kane, the latest potential Wunderkind headed inevitably for the Bernebeu and the higher-class environment of la Liga.

What IS the Point of Tottenham Hotspur? – by Rob Atkinson

Arsenal, London's PrideArsenal, London’s Pride

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is celebrating the FA Cup exit, at the hands of Leicester City, of Tottenham Hotspur FC – by reprinting this highly popular anti-Spuds article.

Thank you.

As a Leeds fan, I’m quite familiar with the whole big club/small club debate – who qualifies as “big”, what are the qualifying criteria? If you currently have a crap team, does that mean you’re suddenly a crap club? And so on and so forth, ad nauseam. It’s not really a question that preoccupies me too much – certainly not to the extent of the Freudian fixation with size that afflicts the plastic followers of a certain Salford-based franchise fallen upon hard times – but it can be annoying if you follow a club like Leeds United, with all the rich tradition of the Revie era and even allowing for the fact that our history before those great days was a bit of a void. But what I’d normally argue is that, look – we’ve been Champions three times in my lifetime, we have a global fanbase and a worldwide notoriety (I won’t call it adoration), a massive web presence which show how many people count the Whites as a big part of their lives – and absolutely no significant local rivals at all. Ergo, we are big. End of.

But what of certain other clubs who are routinely referred to as “big” – not to say massive or even as a “mega-club”? Tottenham Hotspur are a bit of a peculiar animal in this respect. From some points of view, they are certainly a club of significant size.  They have a decent stadium in a major city. They deal towards the top end of the transfer market and they’ve been a steady member of the top-flight since the mid-seventies, picking up the odd trinket here and there. But Spurs have two major problems: the first is that they haven’t been Champions since 1961 – a major flaw for a club with any pretensions to size and a place in the forefront of the game. The second problem may be succinctly summed-up as “Arsenal FC”, their fierce local rivals and the team that undeniably thwarts them at every turn.

Arsenal have been stomping all over poor old Spurs for a good while now – and of course, they’ve been and gone and done it time and time again in terms of Champions League qualification, edging the hapless Spuds out repeatedly over the past few seasons. The presence of Arsenal as Tottenham’s neighbours, rivals and perennial bêtes-noires is a major obstacle to their chances of ever being regarded as a mega-club, a status that Arsenal wear casually, as of right.  Arsenal, after all, have generally been top dogs in North London, certainly over the past fifty years. They’ve had stability in the managerial chair since the mid-nineties and not that long before Wenger it was George Graham importing large quantities of silverware into the stadium graced by the famous marble halls.

Even the Gooners’ recent potless run, terminated by last May’s FA Cup success, has not detracted from Arsenal’s ability to regard Tottenham from a lofty position of pre-eminence. In the fallow period, the Gooners nevertheless played football of a sumptuous beauty and brilliance, and just as importantly they managed the transition from a famous old home to a spectacular and world-class new one. The financial burden that went with this is steadily being seen off – and yet it’s a process that Spurs have yet to embark upon. Will they negotiate it as well as the Arse have? Highly doubtful.

The sad fact as far as Tottenham are concerned is that this continued subordination to a comparatively humble status will always be a glass ceiling that they will find impossible to break through, certainly if Arsenal now blossom into one of their title-winning incarnations, capable of dominating the domestic scene for years at a stretch. And Spurs need to be up there with the big boys if they are to come anywhere near the kind of status their fans expect and desire.

The youngest of those fans who can remember the last Spurs team to be champions will be coming up for retirement any time now. It was the year that I was born. That’s a hell of an indictment for a so-called “big club” – not really elite form at all. Consider all the other clubs who have any real pretensions to this elevated status in the game. They’ve all been Champions at some point in the last 40 years – even Man U, who couldn’t win the real thing after 1967, have gorged on the post-Murdoch pale imitation. Spurs can’t realistically claim to belong in this exclusive company of Champions – they’re really just a slightly inflated West Ham.

Perennial Champions League qualification is a great advantage for Arsenal, but being on the wrong end of that equation is proving to be a major disaster for Spurs. They lost the jewel in their crown to Real Madrid, and however many millions Gareth Bale brought in, it’s difficult to see where Tottenham, despite their own transfer spree, have a replacement on their books of anything like the same quality, young Master Kane notwithstanding (and he’s not as good as Lewis Cook…) All the best players get routinely gobbled up by the Champions League cartel and Tottenham are in very real danger of becoming the richest club to have their noses pressed up against the window of the House of Quality, yearning to be inside but kept out of the spotlight by their more illustrious neighbours.

That has to be a scary prospect for the proud fans of White Hart Lane, but it’s entirely realistic. Spurs may, with their serial Champions League exclusion and the still-painful loss of their talisman Bale (however ineffective he was against Sam Byram in that FA Cup tie at Elland Road), have blown their chances of ever again being thought of as a genuinely BIG club.

And if that’s the case – then, really… what IS the point of Tottenham Hotspur?

Whinging Bruce Can’t Take Shine off Arsenal Cup Triumph – by Rob Atkinson

Nice-guy Loser Bruce

Nice-guy Loser Bruce

Steve Bruce has this deceptive public image – he’s cultivated an on-screen interview demeanour which has convinced many that here is a nice, self-effacing guy. There’s a modest smile in there, or a resigned shrug, depending on how the match has gone for his team. There’s certainly none of the congested face with furious snarl surmounting a taut neck in which veins bulge with petulant fury – not these days. Perhaps the old boy’s blood pressure makes such displays inadvisable – he’s not as young as he used to be and, maybe, not in the best nick.

That Steve Bruce of old is well-remembered by Leeds fans who hold dear in their hearts the Whites’ Boxing Day 1995 beating of Man U at Elland Road. The breakthrough goal that day came from a rare penalty awarded against the Pride of Devon, duly converted with his usual classy panache by Gary MacAllister. But in the aftermath of the penalty award – a routine decision which would have been free of any controversy if it had been given against any other team – it was Steve the Bruce’s choleric reaction which grabbed the attention of onlookers from all sides. His face turned puce and seemed to swell until you feared the skin might split and pour blood and bile in equal measure onto the Elland Road pitch. He had to be restrained bodily from getting at the ref; the notion that he wanted to seize and throttle the official was hard to avoid. It took MacAllister himself to reduce Bruce’s temperature to below the critical meltdown mark – Scotland’s captain seemed to be reminding the England reject of the rules of the game where handling the ball in the area is concerned.

The guilty party, meanwhile, had slunk away without much protest at all. Nicky Butt had raised an arm and handled the ball – aside from his initial “hang on, you can’t give a pen against US” reaction, he seemed resigned that it was a fair cop. Only Bruce – and, after the match, Ferguson – had seriously seemed prepared to claim that what had in fact happened – hadn’t. But this was Steve Bruce the arrogant, bad loser – in the best traditions of the Theatre of Hollow Myths. Such behaviour was almost expected as part of the usual process of intimidation and aggression towards match officials.

Almost twenty years on, only the demeanour has mellowed – the determination and ruthlessness inculcated by Ferguson is a part of the Bruce DNA, as is a pathological unwillingness to accept that defeat, even from two goals ahead, was merited. The delivery is smoother, the visage less suffused with hate and resentment, but the message remains the same – we wuz robbed. He was singing that song at Elland Road that long-ago Christmas Eve, and he was singing it again at Wembley in the wake of Cup Final defeat. He can’t help it, it’s bred into him.

Bruce’s remarks in his post-match interview were described by cabbage-patch doll lookalike Adrian Chiles as “churlish”. That’s one word for the litany of grievances and excuses that preceded his laughable punchline “This isn’t the time to whinge”. Bruce had whinged long and hard, following the script that’s always been in his head, and his skewed reasoning and blinkered selectiveness were features hanging over from his Man U years. Arsenal’s first two goals were called into question – the first came from a free kick that Bruce felt shouldn’t have been given (wrong, Steve); the second resulted from a corner wrongly awarded (right – but you could see how ref Probert had been deceived). Bruce made no mention of the fact that Hull’s second goal came from a free kick taken 9 yards forward of the foul which led to it. Neither did he refer to the two clear penalties Arsenal could and should have been awarded. It was the one-eyed, wrong-headed Bruce of old; only the Man U shirt and the throbbing temple veins were missing.

Whatever the sulky reaction of Hull’s manager, Arsenal thoroughly deserved their victory, which owed much to resilience and bottle that many had thought the Gunners lacked. Many’s the time that the Arse have found it easy going against inferior opposition they have blown away with sumptuous football; this time, they faced a mountain no Cup Final side had ever before had to contemplate – two down in eight minutes and their game plan in tatters.

That they successfully climbed that mountain reflects immense credit on the Arsenal players and staff, together with their relatively long-suffering fans. Less credit is due to referee Probert – it was a great final despite, not because of, his slipshod efforts.

And – it has to be said, despite the gallant efforts of the underdogs and the fact that they fought to a particularly bitter end – least credit of all to the Hull City camp. That, though, is down to the ungracious reaction of their manager, a man who – despite that Ferguson upbringing – really should have known better.

Come On, Arsenal; Win it for This Leeds Fan – by Rob Atkinson

Gooners' last Cup win, 2005

Gooners’ last Cup win, 2005

Cup Final day and I’m relaxing by the balmy waters of the North Sea in beautiful, tropical Filey. Home cares and family worries are far away. The fridge is stocked with the chilled best of grain and grape and every other comfort and convenience (ensuite) is close by. Life is good.

So it should be too. The latest Leeds United season from hell is thankfully behind us and, internal strife notwithstanding, we can relax in the knowledge that our heroes’ turgid and tedious brand of football is in mothballs for a few weeks. Meanwhile we have the World Cup to look forward to, with the cream of English talent – as well as Wayne Rooney – poncing about ineffectually in Brazil and hoping to make it as far as another penalty shoot-out defeat to bleedin’ Germany.

But today is Cup Final day, and the eyes of the civilised world – and Humberside – are on Wembley, to see whether the Arse can beat Dull City and end their epoch-long trophy drought. I find myself not a neutral, for several reasons. Firstly, I’ve never been all that keen on Hull. They’re an upstart club with one of those horrible new breed of owners in Assem Allam – a man who wants to rebrand City as the Tigers. It’s a silly idea, the fans are against it – and yet Allam remains stubbornly convinced he knows best – like Vincent Tan at Cardiff, who suffered relegation for his presumption. The least I wish Hull is a Cup Final defeat – there’d be the bonus of the look on Steve Bruce’s face, too. Don’t get me started on him.

There are more positive, less vindictive reasons. I like Arsenal. They exude class as a club, from top to bottom. They play beautiful football, and they help me dislike Spurs. Manager Arsène Wenger is a class act too – the game would be the poorer for his loss, much as it is the richer for the passing of Alex “Taggart”Ferguson. It would be good to see the Gooners on the trophy trail again. My late father in law supported them, as does my daughter’s Significant Other.

Last but not least – I have a tenner riding on the outcome. I’m not a betting man, but when the semi finals came down to Arsenal and three nothing clubs, I thought even I couldn’t jinx them. I so nearly caught a cold against Wigan – so surely the Arse will now see me home happy and ten quid richer??

Come on you Gooners. Do it for yourselves and for lovers of the beautiful game. But most of all – with some brass at stake – do it for this admiring Leeds fan.

Arsenal Cup Victory Will Be So Good for the Game & For This Leeds Fan – by Rob Atkinson

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Arsenal beat no-hopers Newton Heath to win 1979 FA Cup

Last weekend’s cup-ties almost certainly sealed the end of the Arsenal trophy drought, which has gone on far too long for a club that represents all that is best about English football.  And it’s undeniable, in this blog’s opinion, that some tangible Gooners success would be A Good Thing.  Good for the game, and good for me.

Now I should perhaps explain this attraction that Arsenal have for me. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Leeds United fan, but I feel no guilt about this.  Why? Well, like anybody in a long-term, committed relationship, I occasionally feel the need for a bit of a change, a break from an otherwise humdrum routine.  And just as many married men – and women, come to that – will argue that it’s OK to look as long as you don’t touch, I feel it’s occasionally alright to let my hungry eye wander a little. So while my heart belongs to Leeds, I’ve long had a passing fancy for The Arse and I feel that this in no way compromises my fidelity where the Whites are concerned.  After all, it’s not like I’m buying a season ticket or anything.

Arsenal is a club that commands respect, they have done for decades – but it’s been so much more the case in the Arsène Wenger era.  In this period, they’ve played football of surpassing beauty – and of course they’ve won just about every honour in the book too, giving the football world a welcome break, on a few occasions, from the grinding monotony of Ferguson’s charmless winning machine at the Theatre of Hollow Myths. The trophy cupboard has been bare for a good few seasons now, but the quality of the football has remained consistently wonderful, a treat for the most jaundiced eye.

Now that the most significant obstacles have been removed from their path to FA Cup glory, I fully expect them to go on and capitalise, bringing home a legendary piece of silverware to the Emirates Stadium.  A Wembley date with Wigan should not unduly worry a team with Arsenal’s class, despite the fact that the Pies saw off Manchester’s finest in the last round.  And then it will be either Hull or Sheffield United in the Final – again, neither of those sides would be likely to present a problem.  I have my fingers crossed here that I’m not jinxing the whole thing – not just for the Gooners fans’ sake, but also because I have a financial and family interest in Arsenal finally ending that annoying trophy-less run.

Firstly – in the wake of Man City’s exit, I was on Facebook proclaiming Arsenal’s forthcoming Cup triumph – and a friend saw fit to bet me they wouldn’t win it. A gift, I thought, and I suggested a friendly tenner as an appropriate wager. Really, it should just be a matter of picking up the dosh – but the rub is that, if Arsenal now lose in the semi or the Final, I shall now feel more than my usual pang of regret.  Losing a tenner is no small matter for even the least parsimonious of Yorkshiremen, and my last football bet ended with me a fiver down, something I’ve yet to recover from.  So clearly there’s at least ten good reasons for me to keep everything crossed.

Secondly, my daughter’s Significant Other is an Arsenal fan – so I’d like to see them win something just for him.  Apparently, he flirted with being a scum fan as a young kid – and while I have magnanimously forgiven him such a childish faux pas, I certainly don’t want him going back down THAT route – so a Cup win to keep him honest would be just the thing.  My late father-in-law, Michael, was also a Gunners aficionado, bless him – he was able to remember Herbert Chapman’s fantastic team of the thirties, Ted Drake, Alex James, Cliff Bastin and all.  I’ll raise a glass to him, if The Arse can lift silverware at Wembley in May.

Some Whites will find all of this eulogising of another team a little distasteful, and I can understand that.  But it can be taken on trust that Leeds United are my one true love, unlovable though they mostly are, and that there’s really no other thing in the world outside of my family that can move me to such depths of despair, or even raise me to such heights of jubilation (if I recall correctly). Arsenal – well. they’re not really even the bit on the side.  I’m too faithful for that – it’s just that I’m a student of the game and its exposition à la  the Gunners seems to me to be the finest thing you’ll see in these islands. When they’re on song, there’s not too many better sights in the whole football world.  My connoisseur’s eye can appreciate this, but my Yorkshire heart still beats for Leeds United – and my blood runs yellow, white and blue.

The only time I went to Highbury, it was to see Leeds win there by three goals to one in a daft game that saw Phil Masinga score twice as George Graham’s managership of his beloved Gunners was coming to a tragically shady end.  I was overjoyed – when Leeds play Arsenal, my loyalties are firmly with the Whites.  That goes without saying. Even when victories over the Gunners have seen another undeserved title go to the Pride of Devon, I’ve been able to take great satisfaction in United beating my Capital favourites.  So, you see, I’m still the genuine article as far as Leeds fans go. It’s just that I have this need to appreciate class and beauty – and Arsenal’s football is beautiful, their history glitters with class.

Forgive me then for taking pleasure in Arsenal’s success – when it’s not at the expense of my beloved Leeds.  A handy by-product is that this regard for The Arse also helps me to dislike Tottenham Hotspur, although I’m sure that’s quite an easy thing to do really.  As I write, the hapless Spuds have just lost 1-3 at home to Benfica, which I enjoyed a lot.  So it’s been a good night off from Leeds United’s ongoing trauma, what with writing optimistically about Arsenal – and watching their so-called rivals lose. Tomorrow it’ll be back to the current purgatory of trying to find some glimmer of light in the Whites’ murky situation.  But still – that’s where my heart is.

At least, in May, I’ll have the distinct pleasure of seeing London’s finest lift the FA Cup, as well as the equal joy of taking a tenner off my good friend Muddy. At least, I hope so.  Surely, I haven’t given the kiss of death to the Gooners’ trophy prospects?  And for God’s sake – I have to win a bet one day.

Ex-Man U Boss Fergie Still Paranoid Over League Kings Liverpool – by Rob Atkinson

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S’ralex – the lunatic fringe view from the stands.

Alex Ferguson has been mercifully quiet since his retirement, contenting himself in the main with a seat in the stands from which to glare down balefully at the struggles of his hapless and helpless successor, David “Gollum” Moyes.  It’s been a quieter and more peaceful – even saner – game without the rantings of the whisky-nosed old curmudgeon.  Although Moyes’ plight has been pitiful to behold, at least some light has been shed on what was behind the success of virtually the same team last season, which looks so spectacularly inept this time around.  It’s been Fergie all the time it seems; terrifying opponents, refs and FA officials alike into granting his team every advantage they could wish for.  Now that he’s subsided into a brooding and impotent silence, away from the arena itself, the game seems a fairer and cleaner thing, with everyone a lot happier – fans all over Devon and Cornwall and in Milton Keynes who have Man U sympathies always excepted.

The old tyrant’s broken that silence this weekend though, deigning to pronounce upon the Premier League Title race, for which he sees a wider-than-usual field of maybe as many as six possible contenders.  Pushing the margins of credibility, he includes old charges Man U among these contenders, along with the Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea and even Everton and Spurs.  Notable by their absence from this select group of “Fergie’s Favourites” is Liverpool FC, a name that the Govan Gob studiously avoided mentioning, wary perhaps of bringing on an attack of apoplexy.  Clearly, the purple-nosed Taggart clone still has a problem with a club he vowed to “knock off their perch” when he first slithered south all those years ago.  How he failed to do that, despite all those lies, damned lies and statistics, is detailed below.

Let’s face it – Man U fans can crow all they want about 20 titles, but the evidence to confound their plastic claims is there for all to see, like some geological stratum separating the dinosaurs from the mammoths.  That schism dividing the game up to ’92, from the showbiz shenanigans of ’93 onwards, stands out like a Tory at a Foodbank, exposing Man U as the wealth-backed, monopolising opportunists that they are.  Seven titles in their history before Uncle Rupert bought the game for them.  Thirteen in the twenty years after the game went mad for money when, aided by more riches than anyone else, combined with the threat of Fergie to cow refs and officials, the Pride of Devon all but cleaned up in what was no more or less than a game of craps played with the dice heavily loaded in their favour.  And it was all done with such bad grace, another indictment of this new and joyless age we’ve been plodding through.  No gentle wisdom of the Bob Paisley variety – instead we had the sour bile of Ferguson himself and now seemingly a Fergie-Lite clone in the newly growly and grouchy David Moyes.  No loveable old-style hard-man Desperate Dan type like Tommy Smith – we just had the manufactured machismo of Roy Keane, a supposed tough-guy with an assumed snarl and trademark glower, whose typical party trick was to sneak up behind wee Jason McAteer and fell that not-exactly-scary individual with a sly elbow.

The comparisons could go on all day, but the bottom line is that Liverpool at their peak – and it was a hell of a peak – typified all the values of football that some of us remember from a pre-Sky, pre-glitz, pre-greed age when it really was all about a ball.  Now, it’s all about money, and contracts, and egos, and snide bitching to the media if you don’t get all your own way – and lo, we have the champions we deserve – but not, it seems, for very much longer – despite the wishful thinking of a silly and deluded old man.

To apply a conversion rate which sums up the way our game has been degraded in the Fergie/Murdoch era – let’s say that each Premier League (or Premiership, or whatever else it’s been marketed as) is worth maybe half – at the very most – of each proper Football League Championship, won on a level playing field in the days when the game still belonged to us and the world was a happier and more carefree place.  At that rate, Man U are still a good long distance behind Liverpool, which, on the basis of the history of English football as a whole, is precisely where they belong.

Ferguson might choose to ignore the challenge of a newly-invigorated Liverpool, but then again, football knowledge was never the strong point of the Demented One.  For bullying and intimidation, he wouldn’t have had much to learn from Torquemada, but his opinions on the game can safely be set aside in favour of those from saner minds – i.e. just about anyone else.  Meanwhile, it should be emphasised once and for all, for the avoidance of doubt and despite the latest nonsense from S’ralex – Liverpool are still very much The Greatest.

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Video

Clarke……One Nil! Hear the Late, Great David Coleman as Leeds Utd Win the Cup

David Coleman died today, and with him went another piece of our youth for all those of my generation who grew up listening to him describe Cup Finals, historical athletics achievements and so much more, all in that distinctive, much imitated voice – the voice of the seventies, surely.

This video shows highlights of the Centenary FA Cup Final at Wembley on 6th May 1972, a game whose only goal will forever be remembered in terms of Coleman’s memorably laconic description. As the ball winged in from the right, crossed by Mick Jones, Coleman simply intoned: “Clarke ……… one-nil!” There was the implication that a goal followed such a chance for Sniffer as surely as night follows day – and so it most usually did. But this was a special, historic day, the only time to date that Leeds have ever won the FA Cup, and so the commentary has a special resonance, much as Kenneth Wolstenholme‘s did for the World Cup Final of 1966. As Coleman recapped the Clarke goal at Wembley that day, he added that it was “an example of the Leeds one-two”. He usually had the right words for any occasion, and his unique voice always enhanced whatever game he was describing.

A marvellous commentator and a giant of sports coverage over many years, he even saw a new term introduced into the language courtesy of Private Eye magazine. “Colemanballs” was an affectionate reference to his occasional lapse – and it’s as much a tribute to him as anything else that will be said on this sad day of his death at the venerable age of 87.

David Coleman, 1926 – 2013 RIP  A sad loss who will be much missed – thanks for the memories.

Thierry Henry to Fire Leeds United to Promotion? – by Rob Atkinson

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Thierry Henry – short term deal with Leeds?

Twitter didn’t exactly go into meltdown last night but, on the basis of one optimistic tweet from Phil Hay, the respected local journalist with his finger on the pulse of Leeds United, it did start to get decidedly warm.  The gist of it was that good things were being heard about the imminent takeover of Leeds United and that good times might just be about to roll.  A couple more juicily-tantalising snippets were added into what became a heady mix, with David Haigh tweeting that he couldn’t wait to be at the Barnsley match next weekend as Elland Road would be “rocking”.  We heard also that Haigh is over in Austria, a country linked strongly to Red Bull who have in turn been linked strongly with Leeds United.

Now, it would be all too easy to take these morsels of information and add them up to make something totally unrealistic.  Then again, the elements do seem to combine of themselves into the oft-talked about “Dare to Dream” scenario.  One particularly exotic rumour that arises out of such an optimistic outlook is the possibility that one of Red Bull’s most marketable assets, Thierry Henry, might be on the point of jumping on board at Leeds United to provide the sort of boost that even a pair of Red Bull wings could hardly hope to emulate.  Even at the age of 36, the French superstar could inflict massive damage in this league, even if mainly from the bench.  Could there be anything in it?

On the face of it – why not?  The team is in good shape at the moment; there are a couple of obvious areas where improvement is needed and all Leeds fans will be hoping to see those addressed in January.  But with the current doubt over the fitness and commitment of El-Hadji Diouf, there may well be a vacancy in the squad for someone who can do something special, someone who can add a touch of class and elevate the profile of the club at the same time.

The combination of Diouf and Warnock was an unlikely one – but it happened.  Let’s not forget either that Dioufy was something of a star with World Cup heroics behind him and a global profile.  Thierry Henry is all this, and more – and at this stage of his career, what could be more of a challenge to him than the task of reviving a sleeping giant, a club where he would catch the imagination of the fans and raise the atmosphere that extra notch or two, giving the whole place a lift and the team new impetus?  That’s a scenario well known to Leeds fans with long enough memories as the “Gordon Strachan factor”.

This week promises to be very interesting indeed.  If those tweets from Hay and Haigh carry what I believe they do in between their lines, then it’s fair to say we might expect some significant news before the Barnsley game.  Just how significant that news might be is anyone’s guess – but my guess is that an announcement is distinctly possible  of further takeover details making that “Dare to Dream” scenario burst into reality.  And what was on David Haigh’s mind when he was talking about “Elland Road rocking” on the pre-Christmas weekend when football crowds are notoriously thinned out by last-minute shopping?  It does make you wonder.

Thierry Henry in a Leeds shirt?  Bizarre.  But how wonderful it would be, what an incredible boost.  It seems too good to be true, of course – but if you’re going to dare to dream, then why not be extravagant about it?  A legend like Henry in the famous white shirt – that’d be a hell of a good dream as far as I’m concerned, but could it actually happen?  You just never know – it possibly could.