Tag Archives: Australia

Can Celtic’s Tom Rogic Make the Step Up to Succeed With Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

Tom-Rogic-Leeds-United-Transfer-News-648714

Rogic – Elland Road bound?

If Celtic’s Tom Rogic is indeed fed up with coming first in a one-horse race, as the Bhoys continue to dominate their pitifully substandard league, then he could do a lot worse than throw in his lot with a massive, but massively underachieving club in the far more competitive environment of the English Championship. Swapping Celtic for Leeds United would make perfect sense for a dissatisfied player seeking legend status and an enormous challenge.

Rogic is a good player, there’s no doubt about that. With 35 caps for the Australian national team, his credentials are beyond doubt. But creditable performers from north of the border have trodden the path southwards to Elland Road many a time before, and it’s a sad fact that relatively few of these imports have flourished on Yorkshire soil. It’s a step up in terms of the ferocity of competition and also bearing in mind the pressure that comes with playing for a club like Leeds.

Rogic, though, is the type of player United should be looking to sign ahead of what will be a crucial season next time around. The campaign now fizzling out started in a veritable blaze of glory as Leeds stormed to the top of the table, and things looked extremely promising. But a combination of a lack of timely investment and a severe loss of form saw Yorkshire‘s top club plummet from that early high, and the sad fact is that we’ve witnessed another wasted season of crushing disappointment. The owners will know that it’s not been good enough, and a marker must now be put down ahead of the resumption of hostilities in August. The one undoubted high spot this term has been the fantastic support Leeds have enjoyed, if not exactly deserved. Crowds averaging well over 30,000 have been served up some dreadfully bleak fare, and the powers that be at Elland Road must surely be sharply aware that the fans’ patience, always thin, must be on the point of wearing out.

The club’s production line of young talent appears to be in solid working order again, with the likes of Tom Pearce and Bailey Peacock-Farrell staking their claims lately. More is to come from the youth levels of the club, with the likes of Jack Clarke likely to be pushing for recognition sooner rather than later. A few quality signings of the Rogic ilk, together with players like Yosuke Ideguchi and Tyler Roberts fit and raring to go – added to a few judiciously selected departures – would give the squad a leaner, hungrier look for what needs to be a determined tilt at promotion, via the play offs at the very least.

Of course, it’s all been said before, with disappointment ensuing as night follows day. But we have to maintain the hope that, next time, things just might be different. A statement of intent on the part of the club’s board will be required early in the summer transfer window. A player like Tom Rogic might just be the sort of signing that would make that positive intent amply clear.

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Genius Kewell’s Brilliant Theory on Why 5’8″ Leeds Keeper Didn’t Make It – by Rob Atkinson

Harry wearing his most intelligent and alert expression

Harry wearing his most intelligent and alert expression

As many will know, former Westlife boyband member Nicky Byrne narrowly missed out on real megastardom when his fledgling career as a footballer with Leeds United came to an abrupt end.

It has long been a matter of fevered speculation as to just why the diminutive Byrne never made it as a professional goalkeeper. There seemed to be no obvious reason why the tiny teen idol failed to make an impact in a position dominated by lanky lads of 6’4″ or thereabouts. Byrne himself, standing at a somewhat less than towering 5’8″, never revealed the reason for his sporting heartache, and it seemed fated to remain one life’s great mysteries.

But now that baffling conundrum may at last have been solved by the mighty cerebral power of Australia’s foremost intellect Harry Kewell. Such are the intricacies of Kewell’s musings that it’s really not easy to convey them in a form mere mortals will have a chance of comprehending. The best shot that Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything can make follows this paragraph. It’s complex stuff, mind, so read it slowly – and then read it over again, a couple of times if necessary. We’re trying to sum up the product of a superior mind here, so be patient with yourselves and give it every chance. You never know – a revelatory enlightenment might just dawn. Here goes, then. Take a deep breath…

Harry Kewell’s revolutionary thesis on the failure of Emerald Isle shorthouse Nicky Byrne to gain top-level employment keeping a size five football out of a goal measuring 8 foot high by 24 foot wide may be summed up in this one brilliant quote from the great man himself, as follows: (Here it comes. Are you ready??)

“He was just a little bit small.”

Wow.

On hearing such transcendental genius from the lips of the antipodean master, FIFA immediately capitulated, suspending both Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini to pave the way for Kewell to take over as the game’s omnipotent overlord. Football’s governing body faces stiff competition from the United Nations, who want the Aussie as their new Secretary General, and it is believed that British TV have approached Kewell’s current employers Watford FC to test their resolve to keep him, as they want his unparalleled intellect to replace the Eggheads team in its entirety, and take on all-comers on his own.

Moves are also afoot Down Under to strip Kewell of his Aussie nationality, as an IQ in excess of 65 is illegal in that part of the world. Clive James was deported under this provision many years ago, and the reverse legislation has enabled many emigrant Britons to make a new life in less mentally demanding circumstances.

Having proved himself in the genius stakes, Kewell is now thinking of taking up chess. “I tried it last year with a head-to-head challenge against Joey Essex, but he somehow beat me,” explained the former Liverpool shirker. “Now I feel more confident, so I’ll be having another go, maybe against someone even more cleverer this time.” 

Warrior Warrington Becomes Latest Jewel in Dominant Leeds’ Glittering Crown   –   by Rob Atkinson

Josh Warrington: MOT to the top

Leeds’ own Josh Warrington: MOT to the top

Having been fortunate enough to witness many examples of sporting excellence in Leeds over the years, I was privileged last weekend, thanks to event sponsors Grosvenor Casinos, to see local Featherweight boxer Josh Warrington provide ample evidence that Yorkshire’s premier city is arguably the sporting capital of the whole nation.

If this may seem to some rather an extravagant claim, then the facts and the statistics will speak for themselves. Leeds as a city has a track record of success, history and reputation unmatched by other less fortunate sporting centres, certainly in terms of the sheer number of mainstream sports where it can boast brand leaders. Yorkshire County Cricket Club, just this week crowned County Champions for a record thirty-third time, is based in Headingley – a part of Leeds also graced by the home of the biggest Rugby League club and that code’s finest team, in the shape of Leeds Rhinos. The Rhinos, already Challenge Cup winners, are seemingly set to sweep the board this season and have been at the forefront of Rugby League for well over a decade.

Meanwhile, across the city at Elland Road, even Leeds United are showing promising signs that they might yet return to something approaching their former, peerless glory. They provided the warm-up to the Rhinos’ Challenge Cup success with a notable win of their own at much-fancied Derby County. This was an encounter embellished by a truly brilliant late winner from new signing Chris Wood, who has hit the ground running for Leeds. The Whites are unbeaten so far this nascent football season, and are being spoken of as dark horses for promotion to the Premier League.

Great times for Leeds, then. No other city, surely, can demonstrate such a high profile across the country’s three major sports – and now, with a boxer in Warrington on the very cusp of world class, it would appear that Leeds will be adding yet another asset to its portfolio of competitive excellence. At the city’s impressive First Direct Arena last Saturday night, Warrington faced the toughest test so far of a highly promising career. It was a test he passed with flying colours as he produced a display of controlled aggression, consummate skill and relentless ferocity to outclass completely a courageous opponent in Australia’s Joel Brunker.

Brunker’s gutsy and determined performance was worthy in itself of admiration, rightly so for a fighter of high reputation who had been beaten previously only once. Brunker hung in there over the full twelve rounds, refusing to fall before a veritable barrage of attacks as Warrington mixed it up and hit the Aussie from all angles. Brunker defended doggedly and landed some telling blows of his own but, as the fight proceeded, it was plain to see that his horizons were shrinking from initial ambition to mere survival in the end. That he stayed on his feet reflected immense credit on a brave but out-classed and well beaten boxer who finished up bloodied, but defiantly unbowed.

The eventual margin was as wide as it could possibly be in the absence of any actual knock-downs. Every judge awarded every round to Warrington, who can look back upon an exceedingly efficient night’s work that promises much as he raises his sights towards world glory. After this comprehensive victory, extending his perfect professional record to 22 fights and 22 wins, Warrington – a keen fan of Leeds United and Leeds Rhinos – was looking ahead to a possible appearance at United’s Elland Road stadium as he aims to make further progress towards a world title shot. At the age of 24, he may well ultimately have the world at his feet.

Josh Warrington has adopted Marching On Together – the anthem of both Leeds United and Leeds Rhinos – as his rallying cry, and the effect on his vociferous support is palpable, certainly at an event like last weekend’s First Direct Arena boxing card. The atmosphere was magnificent, truly electric, the signature song rocking the place along with the massively self-assertive We Are Leeds. There is some keen rivalry between the local followers of football, rugby and even cricket but, in Warrington, there has appeared a unifying figure; a man of great promise who can call on the support of the whole city, so it seems, as he aims for the very highest level of achievement as a proud representative of Leeds who wears his heart on his sleeve and his colours on his back.

As competitive as boxing’s Featherweight division undoubtedly is, crammed with quality and with several durable fighters between the aspirant Leeds lad and his ultimate goal, it’d be foolish surely to bet against Josh Warrington, in his beloved favours of blue, yellow and white, one day wearing a World Title belt. If he does, it will be a matter of immense pride for followers of Leeds sport everywhere – and yet another sign were any needed that here, indeed, is a sporting city without equal.

No Leeds United Welcome for UK Returnee Harry “Judas” Kewell – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds fans United in grief and dignity

Leeds fans United in grief and dignity

Alan Smith. Eric Cantona. Rio Ferdinand. Three Leeds United players who opted to transfer their allegiance to the Evil Empire over the wrong side of the Pennines. In so doing, they attracted hatred and brickbats aplenty from Leeds followers. After all, they’d gone to the club we despise above almost any other, certainly as far as anything these islands can provide. So too, much earlier, had Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen, along with the less-well remembered examples of Arthur Graham and Peter Barnes in the relatively small collective of former Leeds players who have identified themselves with the Pride of Devon and their repellent supporters. These individuals, heroes to Leeds fans at one time or another, were held individually and as a category to be traitors to the real United, of Elland Road. Figuratively speaking, as well as almost literally, they had sold their souls to the Devil.

But really, all that “treachery” stuff, as applied to a small group of misguided men is just so much nonsense. In some cases, it’s even an injustice – Alan Smith, for example, made his move against a background of a Leeds United desperate for money (does this sound familiar?) He even waived his own cut of the deal so that his former club could derive the maximum financial benefit. If that’s treachery, then Steve McClaren is a Dutchman.

For real treachery – allied to on-going bad taste and a degree of insensitivity that makes expenses cheat Maria Miller look like Mother Teresa – let me commend you to Harry Kewell Esq, formerly of this parish. Kewell, wearing the number 10 shirt, was one of the Leeds United side that emerged into a cauldron of seething hatred as the stricken Whites were forced to play the first leg of a UEFA Cup semi-final against Galatasaray mere hours after the savage murder of two of their supporters. The home side refused to wear black armbands, demonstrating utter and callous disrespect. They would later demand that the second leg should be played at a neutral venue, should their disgusting fans be banned from an Elland Road return.

The players of Leeds United looked up to the crowd that night and saw snarling faces, disfigured by feverish hatred, fingers drawn across necks in the time-disgraced but locally admired “throat-slitting” gesture, the whole nightmare scene played out against a backdrop of “Welcome to Hell” banners as the bestial home fans taunted the United support, who simply turned their back on proceedings at kick-off in what must count as the most dignified display of protest in recent history.

Kewell cannot possibly have failed to absorb that evil miasma of hate and malice. He cannot have failed to appreciate the intentional hurt inflicted by the Galatasaray club – and especially their cowardly fans – to the feelings of everybody concerned with the Leeds United cause, especially of course the bereaved families of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight. Kewell must, surely, have felt as threatened and disgusted by the atmosphere prior to and during the game as any other United player that night. It was a match that, in the circumstances, should not have been played. Not that night, not so soon after those lads’ life-blood had been spilled. Perhaps never. Only the buffoons of UEFA could have made such a ridiculous decision as to rule the game should go ahead. It was an infamous night in the history of football.

If, on that night, you had predicted that any United player would, at some point in the future, willingly embrace that atmosphere, happily align himself with such a notoriously uncivilised set of “supporters” – you could have offered odds of ten thousand to one, and no takers. You’d have been laughed out of court, possibly with a few bumps and bruises for your own bad taste and lack of judgement. And yet, a few short years afterwards, Harry Kewell – “Mr. Anywhere-For-A-Fat-Contract” himself – elected to join that awful club and play for those despicable fans. It was an act of calculated disrespect to the victims, their families, their friends, the wider Leeds United community and decent football fans everywhere. It was base treachery in the raw; the act of a man who cannot see beyond his own narrow interests and who, frankly, could not give a damn.

At the time, he spouted a few mealy-mouthed platitudes about wishing to reconcile two sets of fans divided by tragedy. Yeah, OK Harry. Nothing to do with money after all, then? He could not have more effectively alienated Leeds fans everywhere if he had sat down and thought about how to do so for a year. It was an act of a vain and stupid young man whose God-given talent had set him up financially for life, but whose poverty of taste, sensitivity and loyalty would make the poorest beggar in the street look rich. Any player who had ever been connected with Leeds United should have realised that such a move was the ultimate in terrible ideas. It’s not something that should have needed explaining, not even to the meanest intellect or the most self-involved and vacant young man.

Now, fifteen years after the murders in Taksim Square, and with his football career at an end, Kewell is once more involved in English football, for the first time since a dilatory and uncommitted stint at Liverpool, as a member of the Watford FC coaching staff. Leeds fans will not welcome his return; for us, his copybook is blotted beyond any hope of redemption. Kewell put himself beyond the pale by the manner of his leaving Elland Road, when he and his agent held the club to ransom (in stark contrast to the example of Alan Smith, cited above) ensuring his pockets were well-lined, to the detriment of the club that gave him his start. His subsequent betrayal of the soul and spirit of Leeds United, by signing for that tawdry outfit from Istanbul, added gross insult to what was nearly a mortal injury.

Words like “Judas”, “traitor” and “treachery” are bandied about a bit too freely, sometimes. That tends to become obvious only when you see a glaringly obscene example of the real thing – only then does it stand out that some dubious acts thus labelled are actually as water unto wine when it really comes down to it. So forget about those who have crossed the great divide between Elland Road and the Theatre of Hollow Myths – their defections mean nothing at all in the grand scheme of things. We have been amply repaid over the years anyway – luminaries such as Johnny Giles and Gordon Strachan have made the opposite journey and have found glory in all-white. At the end of the day, all of that is just about football – and beside the matter of life, death and justice, football remains very small beer indeed.

Life and death were the issues on that April night so long ago, and events panned out such that two lads, who simply wanted to follow their heroes at a football match, never came home – and have never received real justice. One of them had a son, George, who has had to grow up without his Dad, and who, once upon a time, angrily wanted to point out to a thick-headed footballer the betrayal he believed that footballer was guilty of perpetrating, by his thoughtless act of offering a Galatasaray shirt as a prize in an online competition. George Speight received no apology, no understanding, no acknowledgement from Kewell – just a casual insult and a hollow accusation of racism. There is no greater treachery than that, no baser example of ignorance and poor taste. And now the traitor is back among us once again. It’s very difficult to wish Watford anything but ill-luck and failure, just on this one account. 

Harry Kewell: one-time Leeds star, has-been footballer – and the worst example of self-seeking treachery it’s been my misfortune to witness.

Be the Judge: the Top Ten Leeds United Goals? – by Rob Atkinson

Now, this is not my personal selection of the top ten Leeds United goals – I suspect that I’m older than the compiler of this excellent video, so I’d have had some of my favourites from further back in there – then again, you could easily end up with a Top 20 or 30 that way. Fifty or a hundred, even – there’s a rich seam to be mined if your memory’s long enough. Off the top of my head, I’d go for David Batty‘s goal drought-ending effort against Man City – for the crowd reaction as much as anything else. And I’d have Tony Currie‘s famous “banana shot” for sheer quality. Both goals scored in games I saw from the Kop, at that end of the ground – which perhaps explains my bias.

I’m sure there are many, many more goals that could or should merit inclusion in a top ten that goes back further than this one – I’d love to hear your nominations too – but I reckon that this guy has done a pretty fair job all round. I agree with the order of his top two, for a start – I’ve always thought that Yeboah’s thunderbolt at Wimbledon was better than his goal of the season effort at home to Liverpool.

In the course of this video, Liverpool come in for a fair bit of punishment, actually. All four of Viduka’s famous quartet are there – even the offside winner, which seems a little harsh. And of course Yeboah picked on the Scousers too, with that wondrous dipping volley.

Speaking of “Goals of the Season, there’s one in there that should have been a winner – but it wasn’t, due to the clueless ineptitude of Andy Gray. Long before he got sacked for his sexist pig double-act with his hirsute mate Richard Keyes, Gray used to apply his “expertise” to the Sky version of MoTD‘s annual beauty contest for goals. He passed over little Rodders’ effort against Spurs, saying that the Spurs defence had basically stood aside and politely waved Wallace through. Andy – yooouu PLONKER. And, to add insult to injury, he actually chose a bog-standard far-post header by Alan Shearer against Leeds. Clueless Scottish git.

Anyway, see what you think if you have a few spare minutes. It’s a video well worth watching – and you can decide for yourselves about the goals left out, and what order these ten should have been in according to your own preferred favourite.  But most of all, just enjoy these mainly fabulous goals all over again. 

Why Kewell is Leeds United’s Only REAL Judas – by Rob Atkinson

Harry Kewell has been tweeting his bizarre admiration for that scum club from Istanbul and their sub-human “fans” again. What a shallow, vapid creature Kewell is. No loyalty, no sense of decency, no redeeming characteristics at all. Just a pea-brain with room for thoughts only about the most important person in his life: Harry “Judas” Kewell.

Here’s an article I wrote earlier this year about why the IQ-minus Aussie is such a disgrace – and why, the rival claims of Ferdinand, Cantona, McCormack and McQueen notwithstanding, he’s Leeds United’s only REAL Judas.

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything

Leeds fans United in grief and dignity Leeds fans United in grief and dignity

Alan Smith. Eric Cantona. Rio Ferdinand. Three Leeds United players who opted to transfer their allegiance to the Evil Empire over the wrong side of the Pennines. In so doing, they attracted hatred and brickbats aplenty from Leeds followers. After all, they’d gone to the club we despise above any other. So too, much earlier, had Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen, along with the less-well remembered examples of Arthur Graham and Peter Barnes in the relatively small collective of former Leeds players who have identified themselves with the Pride of Devon and their repellent supporters. These individuals, heroes to Leeds fans at one time or another, were held individually and as a category to be traitors to the United of Elland Road. Figuratively speaking, they had sold their souls to the Devil.

But really, all that “treachery” stuff, as applied to a small…

View original post 1,148 more words

Former Leeds Hero Kisnorbo Showing Ominous Signs of Heat Stroke – by Rob Atkinson

Paddy showing early signs of brain fatigue

Paddy showing early signs of brain fatigue

For the second time in a few days, this blog finds itself having to speculate on matters medical. Just recently, I was expressing concerns over Giuseppe Bellusci’s endangered coccyx as a result of his habit of making vertical landings on his tailbone after scoring for Leeds. Now, there is worrying evidence that former skipper Paddy Kisnorbo, currently plying his trade in the sun-drenched environment of his native Australia, may be suffering the effects of chronic heat exhaustion, a condition that can cause confusion, among other undesirable symptoms.

The root cause of this concern can be traced to Kissa’s bizarre recent statement that Ken Bates’ stewardship at the club was A Good Thing for all concerned and that, should the Evil Papa Smurf return to his former role as club despot, many would actually welcome him back. So ridiculous are these opinions – really, Paddy would have made more sense had he sat on a pork pie for a week saying “wibble” – that many are very worried about his state of mind, speculating that the intense heat in Melbourne may have actually melted his brain. Paddy’s cranium and its contents have been a cause for concern in the past, as witness a spectacular head injury whilst at Leeds and his long term use of a bonce bandage thereafter.

Kisnorbo was a genuine hero at Leeds, with the image of the bloodied warrior at the forefront of his fearsome reputation, endearing him to Leeds fans who famously appreciate those willing to shed blood for the cause. Only now is it becoming apparent that the damage may have been more serious than first thought. The long-term effects of a significant concussion, allied to later exposure to heat over a long period of time, can give rise to confusion as previously stated – and even to hallucinations; seeing or hearing things that aren’t true. This is the only feasible explanation for Paddy’s apparent conviction that Bates was anything other than a malign influence at Leeds and somebody who would be chased away by an angry mob, should he ever again darken the doorstep of Elland Road.

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything wishes Paddy Kisnorbo a full recovery from what seems to be his currently troubled state of health – and we hope and trust that he will be seeing things more clearly again in the very near future.  

Alessandro del Piero for Leeds? It Could Actually Happen – by Rob Atkinson

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del Piero – Leeds-bound?

All of those Leeds fans devastated by the Football League’s refusal to confirm the loan transfer of Andrea Tabanelli may just find that there is some consolation in the pipeline.  We may actually have our Italian signing, after all.  His name?  One Alessandro del Piero.  Now that would be something of a coup – and those mourning the loss (apparently) of Tabanelli could cast off their funereal garb and don some happy clothes.

This could just be one of those stories that go with the territory of having a minted owner.  We’re going to get rumours with our King of Corn, just as the likes of West Ham did with their King of Porn.  But then again, it might just be true – and it might happen even if Boss Brian McDermott isn’t all that keen.

Sports Direct News are reporting that Leeds United’s prospective new owners want to make former Italy international Alessandro Del Piero their marquee signing.  The player will be out of contract in September with current club Sydney FC in the Aussie League.  At the age of 39, this wouldn’t only be a playing deal; del Piero would also have a coaching role at Elland Road.  But a player of such undoubted world class might well have a contribution to make on the field, even at such a venerable age.

On the craziness scale, this probably scores at least a 9.5 – but with the way things are likely to go under the legendarily eccentric and hands-on Cellino, it’s unlikely to be the last bizarre link of some evening star to LS11.

Watch this space…

A Day to Forget for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

All quiet on the Leeds United front

All quiet on the Leeds United front

One of the most fertile sources of inspiration for this Leeds United blog has let me down badly today. The quite wonderful in every way Vital Leeds has this endearing habit of publishing on a daily basis the notable United events for that date down the years. It’s thrown up a crop of birthdays recently – Norman Bites Yer Legs, Paul Madeley, Sergeant Wilko, Johnny Giles – which has allowed this blog to pay its own tribute to the celebrating stars concerned. To my shame, I missed out on Paul “Speedy” Reaney, who must have had this year’s big day when my back was turned. But I’ll catch you next time Paul, you legend, with your back pocket famously occupied throughout the sixties by a well-shackled George Best. I only wish such a worthy anniversary had coincided with today.

For today, my normally reliable fount of historical LUFC events is a dry hole. There’s some stuff in there alright, but really it’s not the sort you want to dig up. Frequently, the Vital Leeds retrospective will lay before me a nice, juicy away win, or a fondly-remembered tonking of some bitter rival to relive with lip-smacking relish. Or maybe a European adventure; a trip I was on myself, perchance, to one of the continental Superpowers like Milan or Barça or Real Madrid. Or perhaps simply some point of controversy that absolutely begs to be regurgitated and chewed on all over again, just as succulent and tangy the second time around and semi-digested to boot.

But not today. Today, the normally sparkling cornucopia of all things Leeds has become a barren gulch, offering nothing, nada, bupkis, zilch, zip. Some dusty draws and a few unpalatable defeats, and that’s it. No birthdays, or other points of interest. Well, ta very much. Ver non semper viret, and all that, as I know from my own experience – but I do hope the spring is flourishing tomorrow. I’ve come to rely on it.  At this rate, I’ll be forced to fall back on some gratuitous Man U bashing, or maybe have a pop at those malodorous troglodytes from Bermondsey with their guttural tribal chants and dubious ancestry.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that it’s another pesky international break, coming just when we don’t need it too as our beloved Leeds lads have at last managed to find some form.  They supplied the bullets for Rossco to drill four lethal holes in Charlton Athletic’s rearguard last weekend, the first time a United player had scored four league goals away from home since Tom Jennings did it in the late twenties.  That outstanding performance was worth waiting for – but now a two week hiatus threatens to break our train of thought, so to speak.  We can but hope that the Whites are still bang at it when the Smoggies roll into town a week on Saturday.  That’s rather too far away to think about just now – first we have to worry about our bevy of international stars (alright then, mainly Ross and Rudy) and their chances of avoiding injury on the world stage. Fingers crossed there.

So there’s not really a hell of a lot to write about today, neither of a historically-significant nature nor any currently burning issues as we’re match-less for another eight days.  It might as well be the cricket season for all there is to chew the fat about – on which note I’m reminded that the Ashes Series down under is just around the corner. But still, it’s by far preferable to have something Leeds-oriented to write about – and if I hadn’t already managed to fill a blog of respectable length, I might very well try a bit harder to do just that.  Maybe tomorrow will bring me more in the way of inspiration, as I turn once more to Vital Leeds and check what’s been happening to our great club on November 16th down the years.

Failing that – the 16th is my Mum’s birthday, so I could write to her instead.  Something always turns up.

Murdoch to Hammer Another Nail Into Football’s Coffin?

Uncle Rupert

Uncle Rupert

News is emerging that Rupert Murdoch may be about to unveil a “Summer Super League” plan for football, whereby 16 “elite” clubs would compete in a league-type competition throughout the traditional European close season.  Matches would be played in cities around the world in a transparent move to open up new markets and further popularise the Sky/Murdoch brand before an international audience possibly running to billions.

The drawbacks to such a plan spring readily to mind.  There is an obvious issue around the physical and mental demands upon players who might now be called upon to perform without a break in the whole calendar year.  That is, assuming that the players involved would be the senior players of the “elite” clubs envisaged as making up this league; but that does seem a fair assumption.  It is hardly likely that a project like this would have the necessary appeal and marketability if the competing teams were to field development squads – stars would be a pre-requisite for success.

What, then would be the impact on existing competitions?  It would be easy to imagine that the effect on, say, domestic cups could be quite shattering.  We’ve already had the precedent of Man U withdrawing from the FA Cup one season for some money-making prestige junket to South America where they competed for a version of the World Club Championship, and predictably sank without trace.  If the likes of Man U, Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal were to be invited (as they most certainly would be) to compete in Murdoch’s latest commercial fandango, then we could quite probably predict that – at the very least – the FA Cup, and certainly the League Cup would slide yet further down the priority list for these in-demand clubs.  Already we see shadow squads competing for the League Cup, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see withdrawals from that competition, and the treatment of the FA Cup as a proving ground for promising younger players.  It would be the eager crowds in the Far East, Australia, the USA and the Middle East who would have the pleasure of seeing the Premier League’s major talents performing in the flesh.

The question also arises: what of the World Cup, and the slightly lesser competitions held on individual continents?  Would FIFA be prepared to take on Murdoch and his increasingly omnipresent empire?  The days when domestic cup competitions caused a thrill of excitement and a sense of occasion are already receding into golden memory.  Will the same happen to the four-yearly cycle of the greatest international tournament of them all?  It’s not impossible; and if it were to happen, we’d know what to blame – the three M’s.  Murdoch, Money and Markets.

The time is fast approaching when Football as we know it will be in sore need of rescue by seemingly the only people left who actually care enough to want to preserve its proud history and tradition: the fans.  Obviously, I mean those of us who are old enough to remember the game’s great days, before Murdoch got his talons on it; when you stood on a packed terrace and sampled an incomparable atmosphere as you cheered on your favourites for under a pound and moaned mightily when that went up to £1.50.  When the only games shown live on the box were really big ones, Cup Finals, major International games, European nights and maybe the odd smattering of League games here and there.  Those were the days when you would have laughed out loud at any suggestion that one day you might be asked to fork out £60 a month for “entertainment” which might include Norwich v Wigan on a Monday evening.

That’s the reality we have now, and it’s scary to look ahead and see how much more our game might change now that Uncle Rupert has had this spiffy new idea.  He’ll want to make sure his audiences have their entertainment in a way that doesn’t put undue strain on their attention-spans, and allows enough time to sell, sell, sell in those commercial breaks.  Didn’t someone once have a great idea about playing four quarters instead of two halves?  What about time-outs?  Why bother with boring draws, can’t we have an exciting shoot-out?

If you doubt things might actually go down that road – just cast your mind back 25 years, and see if you could have imagined then the kind of game we have to watch today, and ask yourself: couldn’t it maybe happen?  Aren’t we in real danger of losing the last vestiges of the game we used to know and love?  And isn’t it maybe time to think just what the hell we can do about it?