Tag Archives: Aston Villa

Despite the Furore, Marcelo Bielsa Remains Odds-On to be Leeds’ new Boss – by Rob Atkinson

Bielsa Bruce

Bielsa, or Bruce, or A.N.Other? Nobody knows, but the bookies have an idea

There’s a feeding frenzy of speculation surrounding Leeds United right now, with various internet sources pouncing on the fans’ anxiety to fuel debate as to whether the Whites will end up with a former Argentinian coach, or a former Man U centre half. Those two possibilities represent just about as polarised a choice of footballing philosophies as you could imagine, with Marcelo Bielsa favouring a high pressing game with a fluid attacking formation, whilst Steve Bruce would probably just let the players get on with it as, keenly aware of his popularity level at Elland Road, he sits in the dugout with a tin hat on.

It’s all speculation, simply because there is very, very little hard information out there. The sensible fan will resign him or herself to sitting back and waiting for something solid to transpire – but they might also take a passing glance at those bookies’ odds, which still have Bielsa as a strong odds-on favourite, despite talk of “drastic changes” in those odds. Odds-on in a field of several is powerful medicine; it does not indicate to the thinking fan that anything at all drastic has taken place. What is doubtless going on will be a lot of hard and urgent talking and, for the moment at least, that talking is most likely between United and Bielsa. Rumours that he is analysing videos of Leeds games from last season might incline us to send the poor chap some Paracetamol, but they do not, of themselves, make any particular outcome more likely.

All that’s actually happened in the betting market is that Bruce’s odds are shortened from 20-1 to 5-1, whilst Bielsa has seen his heavy odds-on price of 1-5 go out slightly to 4-9. That’s significant movement, particularly on the Bruce side – but then again, markets react to speculation, and his name has been bruited about a lot this past 24 hours. Overall, though, Bielsa remains a hot favourite – which is the most definite thing anyone can currently say.

For the record, my preference would be for Bielsa, based simply on the brand of football we might see. I’d also be extremely open to the possibility (if it exists) of Claudio Ranieri, who still rides fairly high in the odds.

It’s been a frustrating few days, and that might carry on a while yet. But all the indications remain positive that we’re still in for a very exciting summer.

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Leeds Should Bring Robert Snodgrass Back Home, Agree? – by Rob Atkinson

Snoddy

Snoddy, come home

I’m sure this idea is out there, in light of what appears to be a sea-change of recruitment policy at Leeds United. It’s probably just that I haven’t seen it. But, surely, I can’t be alone in thinking that the time and circumstances are ripe for securing the return – even if only on loan initially – of former United talisman Robert Snodgrass.

It seems so obvious. West Ham don’t really want him. Villa definitely can’t afford him. And it would upset those Norwich and Hull upstarts, quite apart from adding significantly to the skill factor and firepower at Elland Road. It’s a proper no-brainer to me and, for the first time in years, it seems feasible – the kind of quality we should be looking to add.

I’m interested to know what readers of this blog think. Please feel free to comment as usual, giving your thoughts – but do also answer the poll below – a simple Yea or Nay.

Thanks and MOT.

 

Aston Villa the Acid Test for Rampant Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

Fortress Villa Park

Villa Park has in the past been a productive venue for various Leeds United sides down the years, but nobody at Elland Road will expect anything other than the sternest test of United’s promotion credentials when two giants clash at the famous old stadium on Thursday evening. 

History is not exactly against Leeds in this away fixture. The past throws up some memorable results for the Whites, including a surprise 4-1 victory for a relegation-destined United against a Villa side on the cusp of becoming European Champions in 1982. Nine years later, before a live ITV audience, Wilko’s Leeds repeated that scoreline and stunned Villa Park as they made their first declaration of intent to become the Last Champions of the old-style Football League. But, encouraging though history might be for the Yorkshiremen, it could count for little this time around. 

Villa Park, a bit of a gimme for Premier League sides last season, has been more of a fortress in the less demanding arena of the Championship. The Villans yield to no-one so far this season at home; Leeds would have to be at their very best to prise three points out of this match. With Kyle Bartley something of a doubt, the defence could lack some of its usual rock-like solidity although Cooper is an able deputy. For the rest of the side, the return of Pablo Hernandez and Chris Wood looks like a timely bonus. 

To win at Aston Villa would lay down a marker for the rest of the season, as well as confirming realistic promotion ambitions that would need to be supported in the coming transfer window. But it must be said that a draw would be no small achievement either – and the fact is that Leeds will be very pleased with anything from a fixture that will see them under the most intense examination. 

Villa will be stinging yet from their 0-2 reverse at Elland Road recently, manager Steve Bruce‘s first defeat since he took up the reins of the midlands giants. Leeds, on the other hand, will be understandably buoyant after their impressive dismissal of Preston on Boxing Day. Both sides should take the field confident and expectant. 

This blog will revert to its early-season caution in predicting a hard-fought and low-scoring draw. In truth, that would look a decent result for both sides, though Leeds in particular will be uncomfortably aware of the form being displayed by the other sides in and around the top six

A draw would be nice, a win would be bloody marvellous. But defeat would be no disgrace, so the Twitterati should think before pouncing on any slip-up. Hopefully, that won’t be an issue, and Leeds can bring back at least a share of the spoils to God’s Own County

Leeds Utd Should Succeed Where Villa Failed at Luton Town   –   by Rob Atkinson

The Giant-killing field of Kenilworth Road

One swallow does not a summer make – but Leeds United‘s opening victory of the season at Sheffield Wednesday has brought with it real hope of brighter times to come. Tuesday night’s tricky looking EFL Cup tie at Luton Town, conquerors in the previous round of Aston Villa, could go a long way towards validating that hope.

A win at Luton and secure progress to the next stage of this competition would increase the burgeoning feelgood factor in and around the United squad. Comments during the Sheffield Wednesday encounter from the Sky Sports News channel repeatedly picked up on the “togetherness” of the Leeds players, even before the Whites took the lead and then sealed a derby-day win. That word togetherness speaks volumes for the mentally-attuned state of a team, and it was a novel and welcome thing to hear about a group of players wearing that famous white shirt. 

Success at Luton, followed if possible by something from Nottingham Forest away, and we’d head into the international break in fine fettle. On the other hand, defeat tonight would be no disaster – but the pressure would then be on to make amends at the City Ground next weekend.

It won’t be easy at Luton, famed cup fighters who made comparatively short work of Aston Villa. It never has been easy down there, many a nominally more illustrious team having been slain on that tight little ground with the row of conservatories along one side of the pitch. But, if United can retain and build on that precious togetherness, and with the threat they undoubtedly carry going forward, then they can and should prevail.

So much will depend on gaffer Garry Monk‘s team selection, but there is now a semblance of strength in depth about United’s squad. Monk will have his priorities straight, yet he’s expressed a desire to “go far” in this competition, and he’ll want to avoid the fright that Fleetwood gave his men – so a relatively powerful team is likely to take the field against the Hatters. 

On balance, therefore, and with a post-Wendies sense of optimism, I shall go for a 3-1 United win, hopefully in regulation time. And then? – well, it’s a case of “bring on the Big Boys”. Maybe even someone at the very top.

Hull City, anybody…?

Villa Fans ‘Celebrate’ WBA Victory by Biting Skipper Delph   –   by Rob Atkinson

Delph mauls West Brom - and then the biter was bit

Delph mauls West Brom – and then the biter was bit

Leeds United fans will have had a familiar sensation over the weekend when absorbing news of the shenanigans on the pitch at Villa Park; a few collywobbles in the pit of the stomach and that nervous, recurrent thought: “Crumbs – what if that had been us?”

Depending upon what you’ve read this morning, the – count them – two pitch invasions during Villa’s 6th Round FA Cup win over West Brom were either harmless if boisterous high spirits – or an almost literal attempt to go for the jugular of former Leeds star Fabian Delph, who commented memorably afterwards that he had “felt teeth” as he tried to escape his fans’ voracious adulation. Despite claims in other quarters that the mood had been merely celebratory, young Fab confessed that he’d found it “very, very scary”. And it takes a lot to scare a lad who’s shared a dressing room with the likes of Richard Naylor and Enoch Showumni, so it’s a statement to take with due respect.

“My armband got nicked, someone got my left boot, but I could appreciate the relief the fans are feeling after a result like that,” Delph recalled, adding though: “It was dangerous. Someone tried to take my boot off. People tried to kiss me and were biting me. It was scary.”

Being bitten by a horde of success-starved Villa fans might be enough to frighten anyone, but some are attempting to make rather lighter of the situation, conscious, inevitably, that the investigative processes of the FA are about to grind into motion. There is some fear out there among the Villa faithful that serious sanctions might be applied, maybe even to the extent of being chucked out of the FA Cup altogether – which seems to me to be a fear too far.

Now, if it had been Leeds – then that part of the internet which revolves around all things White would have been in a frenzy of semi-satirical pessimism by now, predicting fifteen or thirty point deductions, dissolution of the club and having Massimo Cellino hanging upside down by piano wire from a convenient lamp-post on Elland Road, I shouldn’t wonder. All good knockabout stuff, but reflective of that inner conviction in most Leeds fans’ hearts that every other bugger gets away with stuff that would see our own beloved club violently hammered – whilst the gutter press slaver away approvingly in the background, like the pack of jackals they are.

In a fine piece which appears in the excellent online magazine Sabotage Times, Emma Flowers has leapt to the defence of her adored Villa, cogently arguing that what unfolded after the match (and a bit before the final whistle too) was more a “rediscovery of Villa Park’s soul” than anything too nasty. Ms Flowers is clearly appalled by what she terms sanctimonious bleating from all parts of the media; to someone unaccustomed to seeing their club eviscerated in print and online, it really must seem a little thick. But Emma, trust me – you ain’t seen nothing. The Leeds fans’ lament that we always cop it tougher than other clubs is not mere hollow paranoia – it’s grounded in bitter experience, and plenty of it.

For instance, the demands for public shaming in the cases of Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate stopped not all that far short of an Emergency Debate in the House of Commons. The furore over one idiot choosing to jump on to the pitch at Sheffield Wednesday and pole-axe their goalkeeper was a veritable tsunami of hatred and persecution, compared to the mere ripples Villa are feeling now. The Bowyer and Woodgate thing never really died down until both players had left Elland Road and had therefore ceased to be natural targets. Woodgate in particular is viewed far more sympathetically now than when he was convicted of affray whilst on the strength at Leeds. But of course, he played for the sainted Spurs and it would have been dam’ bad form to maintain a Leeds level of scorn and horror for a lad plying his trade at Tottenham. And ever since the Hillsborough scandal, Leeds fans have been branded as vile animals – initially by the self-important Wendies manager at the time, Dave Jones – but it’s sort of stuck as a label too (not least because some Leeds fans do rather wear it as a badge of perverse honour).

Whether Villa fans will be plastered with such epithets as “vile” has to be a matter for some doubt. There’s just not the same baseline level of national hatred as exists for poor old Leeds, so it’s highly unlikely that this fledgling storm will find its way far out of the teacup. I’d be massively surprised if swingeing sanctions were applied, though its always difficult to tell which way the FA and the game’s other authorities will jump. But I’m a lot less worried for Villa – hated by Birmingham and West Brom, but largely ignored elsewhere – than I would have been for Leeds. And if that’s paranoia, then I’ll hold my hands up and insist you’re out to get me.

Let’s not make light of this Villa thing though. There are serious issues if a victorious skipper can’t get off the pitch without his own fans trying to sink their teeth into him. The truth of this matter is somewhere in between the hand-wringing of the sanctimonious and Ms Flowers’ hopeful dismissal of the matter as boyish high jinks. But players are any club’s most valuable and fragile assets, and the likes of Delph and his fellow Villans must be protected against any repetition of what does sound a rather disturbing experience. If the FA can find a way of inflicting a suitable punishment without taking the draconian step of removing Villa from the Cup (and without deducting points from Leeds United), then that would probably best fit the bill.

And perhaps then we could then be spared the likes of Mark Lawrenson crying into his coffee about what a disgrace it all is, a throwback to the eighties, and all that breast-beating rubbish. Because, let’s face it – and I’m with Ms Flowers all the way here – some people’s over-reactions really do make your teeth curl. 

 

Leeds United’s Rivals, Please Note: Lewis Cook is RUBBISH – by Rob Atkinson

So, you know – look elsewhere in the transfer window, OK? Rumours that this lad is the real deal and will play for England are as wide of the mark as a Billy Paynter volley. Trust me, you Premier League predators – you’d be wasting your time.

Oh, and – don’t be fooled by the pseudonym either. His real name is MICHAEL TONGE.

Thank you, and goodnight.