Tag Archives: Aston Villa

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!”

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Frank Lampard Now Sure the Leeds United Spies are Out to Get Him and Derby County – by Rob Atkinson

Lampard: I sense spies, spies, spies. Where are they??

Shortly after Derby County‘s latest thumping, by four goals to nil at Aston Villa, Rams manager Frank Lampard cut a huddled and morose figure as he contemplated the way in which the nefarious agents of Leeds United were conspiring to deprive him of the success he considers his birthright. When asked if his side were still affected by the aftermath of “Spygate“, a wild-eyed Lampard snapped “I don’t want to discuss that. But yes, definitely. They’re out to get me, I’m looking over my shoulder all the time”.

When asked the precise nature of this alleged ongoing effect on his stuttering team, Lampard rapped “I don’t want to discuss that. But there are spies in every bush, and they’ve all got Leeds United badges on and they’re heavily armed with bolt cutters. They’re equipped with special patent spies’ glasses too, that can see right through even B&Q green plastic mesh. It’s a conspiracy, I tell you”.

Somewhat bemused, our (undercover) Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything correspondent asked Mr. Lampard exactly what would be the point of this alleged ongoing Leeds United spying, given that Leeds had already outplayed and thrashed Derby twice in their two Championship meetings this season. Lampard snarled “I don’t want to discuss that. But you must understand, these Leeds spies are determined to ruin Derby’s whole season, so they’re still after me, getting at me, haunting my very dreams, determined to thwart me, passing on vital information to our enemies. It’s a vendetta, I tell you, a vendetta!!”

As Mr. Lampard finished his impassioned statement, his voice had risen to a peculiar thin shriek, and his face had turned blotchy and purple, with his eyes bugging out and the beginnings of a nosebleed. Concerned, our man asked if he was OK. Lampard whimpered “I don’t want to discuss that. But you tell me, would you be OK with the most evil football club in the whole world against you, following your every move, listening at doors, peeping through windows, bugging your phone lines and hacking into your special Rams iPad?? Would you? Would you??? No, you bloody wouldn’t. And now we lose 4-0 to Villa after getting beat off Forest and Millwall doing us at Shame Park. And the fans are blaming me, can you believe that? It’s Leeds United, I tell you, Leeds! Leeds, Leeds, Leeeeeeds!!!

At this point, Mr. Lampard was led away, gently restrained in the very straitjacket County used to calm Frannie Lee down after Norman Hunter bust his lip, and then, with a faint, protesting cry of “Wibble” that would bring tears to a glass eye, put firmly on the team bus back to Derby. A club spokesman stated that “Frankie just needs a rest. A nice long rest. Just leave him be for now. As regards the current situation, Frankie’s frankly in no fit state to discuss that”.

Leeds United, fresh from their 4-0 dismissal of West Bromwich Albion, confined themselves to a brief official statement: “We at Elland Road wish Frank Lampard well, and look forward to news of his complete recovery and rehabilitation”.

Shaun Harvey of the Football League is a complete arse.

Major Boost for Leeds as Villa Blunt Sheffield United Victory Bid – by Rob Atkinson

Sharp

The most gutted “hat trick hero” you could ever wish to see

Sometimes, you feel that things just aren’t going your way, and that you’d be better off curtailing the evening’s TV sport and slinking off upstairs with a good book. That was pretty much my frame of mind as I alternated between Sky Sports channels to see Leeds Rhinos getting turned over at Wigan on the one hand, and Sheffield United building a three goal lead at Aston Villa on the other, seemingly to turf Leeds United out of the automatic Championship promotion places.

Still, while there’s life there’s hope, and now I’m really glad that, having given up on the Rhinos (that ended up 34-16 to the Pies), I instead concentrated on the slim chance of a Villa comeback to frustrate the Blunts, whose fans were crowing about being top of the league as that three goal chasm opened up.

It was annoying, really, as Sheff Utd seemed to be getting all the rub of the green there was going. Billy Sharp, a striker who Leeds fans will remember as being unable to hack it at a big club, had put the Blunts a goal up at half time. In the second half, things took a turn for the worse with a ridiculously invalid second Blunts goal (offside, then Sharp kicking the ball out of the Villa keeper’s hands) unaccountably being allowed. Shortly after, it was 3-0 and, you’d have thought, the end of the matter after just 62 minutes.

But then, football reminded us all that it really is never over until that fat lady has sung her last, expiring note. After 82 minutes, Tyrone Mings soared to head home a corner. A still confident Sheffield United management then subbed “hat trick hero” Billy Sharp on 86 minutes, only to find their lead cut to one goal within seconds when Tammy Abrahams slammed home a rebound from nervous Blunts keeper Dean Henderson.

Then, for those of us keen not to see Sheffield United at the top of the League, there was the frustration of Villa being denied at least one clear penalty as the clock ticked down to five minutes stoppage time. Thankfully though, all was not lost. In the last minute of the extra five, Andre Green popped up at the far post to head home John McGinn‘s cross to secure Villa an unlikely draw, much to the joy of not only their own fans, but also those of Norwich and Leeds United.

As an epic game ended, the Blunts has to settle for a draw wrestled from the jaws of victory, with some Sheffield defenders indulging in some accusatory finger-pointing at their butterfingers keeper Henderson. That had some satisfying comedy value, as did the outburst of grief and rage on the sufc Twitter hashtag, where not long before had been gloating and smugness agogo. Deeply enjoyable, that.

For Leeds, this was a major boost. Whatever happens now this weekend, they will remain a minimum 2 points clear of third place, and in a much better situation than had seemed likely after 62 minutes at Villa Park. For once, I’ll say thanks to Villa, who had looked hopeless for much of the game, but who showed character to come back.

And, for the time being at least, we can all enjoy a good laugh at the expense of the Blunts.

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.

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.