Tag Archives: authorities

Different Rules Apply for the Damned United and the Blessed Man U – by Rob Atkinson

Damned United

The title of this blog is, of course, an exercise in the bleedin’ obvious. We all know only too well that there is a Damned United and a Blessed United. The media in this country drew that distinction long ago – the Damned shall be portrayed at all times in the harshest possible light, whilst for the Blessed, it shall be all soft focus, moonlight and roses, to a background of sweet music. So mote it be.

That’s what the media do, of course. They need their standby heroes and their polar opposite reliable villains; shades of grey are a little too subtle for their target audience. The public they’re catering to is, for the most part, easily led and uncritical. Thinking is not the occupation of choice for most of that vast audience out there so, OK – the papers and the broadcast media will do the thinking, and they’ll tell the people what to think.  The pity of it is that the people who actually run the game in this country go along so easily, all unprotesting, with the clichéd template used by those making the editorial decisions.

The vast difference in the treatment by the authorities of their perennial villains and their cherished angels has been illustrated yet again, in sharp focus, over recent weeks. At nasty, naughty Leeds United, they are 101 days into the reign of Massimo Cellino – or “Convicted Fraudster Massimo Cellino” as the gutter Red Tops like to refer to him. It’s been an interesting time at Elland Road, to say the least. Cellino has gone through the place like a dose of salts, employing the kind of hands-on approach that would put even a full-contact masseur to shame. Dead wood has been cut out, there has been a detailed inventory of the club at all levels, malign influences have been neutralised – even the secret cameras in the bogs and the boardroom have been binned. Now, the new Don of Elland Road is embarking upon a player recruitment campaign in the wake of mugging Fulham FC out of £11 million for a flash-in-the-pan, disinterested and somewhat stroppy Scottish striker.

Many are now saying that Signor Cellino is the best thing to hit LS11 in several decades – yet this is the man the Football League were determined to bar from any involvement in Leeds United, preferring to leave our ailing club to the tender mercies of GFH Capital, whose erstwhile football CEO now languishes in a Dubai jail.  The League did their level best to hound Cellino from these shores, even as they turned a blind eye and cocked a deaf ear to some fairly horrendous wrongdoings elsewhere.  So Blackpool’s rapist director was left unmolested, and Birmingham’s jailed money-launderer was spared any undue attention – but Cellino was pursued with unseemly vigour by the spiteful old men of Preston, Lancashire. Fortunately, the Italian’s legal team knew far too much for the superannuated dolts of the League and he was able to take charge of a football club that sorely needed him, with results we are now beginning to see. But official resentment over that judicial defeat still simmers – and they’ll be out to get Big Mass, if they possibly can.

Meanwhile, over there on the wrong side of the Pennines, an even hotter resentment curdles still over the surprisingly stiff start to last season’s League programme for football’s darlings The Pride of Devon, the one and only Mighty Manchester United themselves.  As I wrote on October 6th last, Man U were positively seething about the relatively difficult early fixtures and – naturally – they complained loud and long, which is what they always do. My satirical spin on the matter was that the League would – equally naturally – lean over backwards to redress the balance for football’s most petulant club. Well, it turned out that I was actually a bit of a prophet, even though I thought I was merely poking fun.

This year’s opening fixtures for the Pride of Devon, you see, are a model of discreet gentleness, an opening six games designed to give Wapping’s Wondermen a maximum 18 out of 18 points fillip to get their season off to just the right start.  Man U face all three promoted teams in that initial phase of the season – Burnley, QPR and Leicester, together with Sunderland, West Ham, and Swansea – not one game against a team finishing in the top half last season. Now, what are the odds on that?? Is there a mathematician in the house??

Clearly, last season’s awkward start still rankles with somebody from the Theatre of Hollow Myths, and it has been made expressly clear that such a thing is not to happen again. True to form, the game’s so-called “ruling body” has rolled over onto its back, legs akimbo, and begged those nice people at Man U to have their way with it. There’s the standard stench of hypocrisy and favouritism about the whole thing, and absolutely no dignity, decency or integrity at all.  Plus ça change… 

The fact is, of course, that for all this breast-beating about how they get the kid-glove treatment, whilst we get the spiky knuckledusters – we probably wouldn’t want it any other way.  I mean – really – would we?  Do you fancy supporting a club that gets everything handed to them on a plate? A club that is open to accusations of crass ineptitude in any season where they don’t win absolutely everything? Not for me, thanks.

By the same token, there’s a kind of perverse satisfaction in supporting a team hated by the country’s media – swill-gobbling hacks to a man that they are – as well as by the supposed great and good in the corridors of power. For goodness sake, just look at these people – they quite literally do not have a clue. Would we even want the support and succour of such a bunch of muppets? I would respectfully submit: no, we most certainly would not. Leave that kind of patronage to Man U and their global throng of armchair supporters, their vast markets of tat-buying dunderheads from Torquay to Singapore. They know no better, they are not equipped to make judgements as to what is and what is not desirable in terms of who their “friends” are – however highly-placed.

No – this blog is quite clear in its own only slightly bitter and cynical mind; Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything would rather see our heroes in white tread the hard road than have everything smoothed over and made easy. It’s a question of self-respect and good taste, don’t you know. The only important thing is that these people should not think we’re sitting here all content, the wool pulled firmly over our eyes. We are not. We know exactly what is going on and, even if the Pride of Devon’s easy start and expected 18-point haul from their opening six games should gain them another unmerited title – we will know how it’s been accomplished. We’ll be watching the referees’ performances with our usual beady eye and, when we’re not fuming over the injustices perpetrated upon the Damned United, we’ll be pointing an accusing finger at every dodgy penalty and offside goal enjoyed by the despicable Chosen Ones.

So just think on. We’re onto you, and we know what you’re all about there, in your ivory towers. Watch it, that’s all. Just – watch it.

Silly Red Tape in Leeds Winger Stewart’s “Technicality” Deal Needs Cutting – by Rob Atkinson

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Cameron Stewart in training for Leeds United

At last, success in the transfer market for Leeds United – a rare phenomenon for a January transfer window that has normally seen United fans with their noses pressed up against the window, on the outside looking in, as lesser clubs have managed to do deals our erstwhile owner Master Bates refused to sanction.  Those days are receding into the past now as a new atmosphere and a new attitude spreads throughout the club and the support.  Cameron Stewart is described as “highly regarded” and as a wide man with pace and a finish on him, he has to be a welcome addition to Brian’s sluggish squad.  It seems tolerably certain also that a second winger is to be added in the extremely near future, with Palace’s ex-Reading man and McDermott disciple Jimmy Kebe the name on everyone’s lips.  Ross McCormack let the “two signings” cat out of the bag in an incautious tweet which he then removed.  But expect Kebe, another injection of pace and creativity, to sign sometime on Friday.  Clearly, after so many tons of BS from Bates and Warnock, it’s a case of “No Bull Gives You Wingers”.

Annoyance

There is more than a slight annoyance though, over the Cameron Stewart deal.  We’ve signed him, in McDermott’s words, “on a technicality”.  What this means is that the lad has joined on a 93 day emergency loan, which we are told will rule him out of the last four league games of the season – as well as any play-off matches which we may yet just possibly be involved with.  This restriction is due to a rule about how many clubs a player can appear for in one season.  Because Stewart has played half a game for Hull, and has also played (and scored against Leeds) for Charlton this term, he cannot sign permanently for United in this window.  The emergency loan is the only way the deal could be done – and so we have this farcical situation where the winger will be unable to contribute to the very business end of the Leeds’ bid for promotion – if that is what it’s to be.

Now this, to me, is ridiculous.  Sure, you need rules – and this rule is presumably in place to prevent the daft situation of one player appearing in a bewildering variety of different shirts over one league season.  But rules should be our servants, not our masters – in other words they should be there to do a job, and not to cock things up that might otherwise have worked out for the best.  It is clearly Leeds United’s intention that Cameron Stewart will be a Whites player for the foreseeable future – the lad has evidently signed a 3 year deal which will commence in summer.  It’s equally clear that his involvement for Hull Tigers this term has been extremely marginal – one half of one game.  And yet because of this, it may well come about that Leeds will enter a play-offs campaign shorn of someone who could easily have established himself as the main United threat by then.  Not to put too fine a point on it, that sucks.

Common-Sense Dispensation

What this situation is crying out for is the football equivalent of a Papal Dispensation – some ultimate arbitration that can over-rule the sort of silliness created by the rules as they are being applied in this case.  Leeds United have done the right thing in getting the deal done by whatever means possible – if Brian McDermott wants the player, then that is the priority.  But now we need to be looking at either getting the 93 day period extended, citing unusual circumstances and the folly of having an important team member ruled out of the season’s climax – or alternatively, we should strongly request an ad hoc lifting of the “three clubs” rule.  Such a request would be based on the twin arguments that (a) Stewart has appeared for less than one full game for Hull, which is a negligible issue – and (b) a deal is actually in place which will see him become a permanent Leeds player in summer.  This is simply a common-sense argument, and there should always be latitude for the application of common-sense in any set of rules or regulations.

If such a solution could be found – and with the welter of legal eagles and sharp practice merchants surrounding any such deal, it can’t be beyond the wit of man to sort it out – then maybe some of the air of “they’ve always got it in for us”, which hangs permanently over Elland Road, may lift slightly.  I’m as paranoid as the next man, as any reader of this blog will confirm – but there is good reason for that.  Far too often in the past, Leeds have had the crappy end of the stick and have had to watch others being treated with comparative kid gloves.  Should the scenario of Stewart becoming our main man over the coming weeks act itself out, with the new winger firing us to play-off qualification with games to spare, then it would be to say the least controversial that he would have to put his feet up on the strength of half a game for Hull.  And if Leeds then go on to confirm their historical play-off ineptitude, yet another instance of injustice would be added to the club’s long list of grievances against officialdom.

Perhaps, after all, the authorities might look back on situations such as Leeds having to play for the Title only two days after winning the FA Cup in 1972 – and perhaps they may feel that this Stewart anomaly is a good chance to redress the balance a little.  They could even be reminded that rules have been waived in unusual circumstances before, so there is some precedent..  Man U were allowed to sign cup-tied players for their run to the FA Cup Final in 1958 in the wake of the Munich disaster.  Of course, the two situations are hardly comparable; then again, it shouldn’t take a tragedy for common-sense to come into play, and perhaps even the mandarins who rule the game might see this.  Let’s hope so – and let’s keep our fingers crossed for a rare instance whereby that precious commodity of common-sense prevails.

Keys & Gray: Just the Tip of the Iceberg of Institutional Hatred for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

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Two smug idiots: merely a symptom rather than the disease itself

There’s been a bit of a storm over the picture above, which I have reluctantly reproduced for the dubious benefit of those who may not have seen it so far.  It’s understandable that people should be angry and upset over what is, even allowing for the dribbling idiocy of the two has-beens concerned, such a blatant example of ignorance and disrespect.  Let’s face it, Keys and Gray are not the sharpest tools in the box.  Sky viewers were unwilling witnesses to their developing bromance over far too many years as lynchpins of the Sports Channels’ football coverage.  This came to an abrupt end when the gruesome twosome allowed the baser end of their base personalities to show itself in all its shameful horror with a short series of hatefully sexist outbursts in 2011.  Sky dropped them immediately, and they have been relegated to marginal interest media ever since – though still hopelessly devoted to each other and to their “grinning schoolboy” manner of presentation.  So clearly, we can expect moronic, insensitive behaviour from insensitive morons – that is their stock in trade.  But the important thing is – what about the people who advise them?  What sort of thought process leads up to the disgraceful picture above?

For the benefit of those who may be unaware, two Leeds United fans were brutally murdered in 2000 by followers of Galatasaray, an Istanbul club which glories in the slogan so proudly displayed by the leering Gray and Keys.  That being the case, you’d have thought that some caution might be exhibited by two formerly mainstream broadcasters, or at least by whoever bears the responsibility of doing their thinking for them.  The fact that no such caution was even thought of is down to the involvement of the media’s favourite hate figure, Leeds United  I can state this with total certainty: if the fans so tragically killed all those years ago had been followers of Man U, or Liverpool, or any other club with the scandalous exception of Leeds United, then the above picture would not have seen the light of day.  I am absolutely 100% clear about that.  And therein resides the problem for all who love Leeds United.  The level of hatred and disrespect for our club in the media, and in the football world and the country more broadly, is absolutely unprecedented.  It is institutional in its nature, all-pervading in its extent and eagerly subscribed to in just about any organisation you might care to name.  It goes back a long, long way and has affected the club in its dealings with not just the media, but the games authorities both on and off the field.  I have written in the past about how this has manifested itself, both among referees (abroad as well as at home) – and in the broadcast and print media.

Ask yourself – and try to be honest.  Yes, I’m talking here especially to those who disagree with this blog automatically, as if on principle.  Go on – ask yourself.  If the two murdered fans had been Man U supporters – would Keys and Gray have been allowed to perpetrate this moronic picture stunt?  Would they even have shown any desire or agreement to do it?  No, of course not.  But because it’s Leeds, it doesn’t matter.  Because it’s Leeds, the question isn’t even considered as to how appropriate or otherwise this might be, how insensitive, how callously, needlessly hurtful and insulting to those who were bereaved, and to the wider Leeds United community.  If it had been two Man U lads murdered, hands would have been thrown up in horror at the very idea.  No, no, guys – they’d have said – you just can’t do this.  You all know this is true, and you all know the distinction being drawn in shallow, dishonest minds between Leeds United – the Damned United – and all the other clubs.  It goes on everywhere, and it’s symptomatic of a national sickness where Leeds are concerned, manifesting itself in various degrees of shocking disrespect, overt, ugly hatred and a contemptuous dismissal of any protests from those of us who love the club.  And then they have the brass nerve to call us “Dirty” and “Damned”.

We can look after ourselves and our own, of course.  That’s what “being Leeds” is all about.  Those who strike against us as a club, or as a global community of fans, tend to reap the whirlwind – especially in these days of social media.  Keys is finding out about this right now.  But still it goes on, time after time, year after year – so we always have to be poised and ready to defend ourselves against attack from the outside.  Whether it’s a paranoid failure calling us all “vile animals”, or a complacent Match of the Day presenter waggling his ears in his eagerness to include every single managerial legend except the Don in a montage of Great Bosses, or even these two relative nobodies above, posing with smirks on their faces and those shameful shirts proclaiming their ignorance and contempt – it all comes down to the same thing.  It’s the ultimate siege complex, Leeds United against Everybody Else.  But we’re on our way back now, and they’re going to have to live with that.  Keys and Gray in isolation are nothing – two annoying bugs to be swatted away.  It’s what they symbolise in that embarrassing image that we have to be aware of – that’s what we have to be ready to deal with and oppose, especially when we are unwelcome top-flight members once again, back at the top table with the rest of them trying to pretend it hasn’t happened.

And deal with it we will.  We Are Leeds, we’re Marching On Together.  Stuff the lot of them.  All we as Leeds fans need is to know our enemy.  And that means accepting that the enemy are everywhere and that we only have each other to rely upon as we gate-crash that Premier League party.  Let them hate us, let them show themselves up in these utterly disgusting and shameful betrayals of any class or dignity.  Hate away and see where it gets you.  You won’t be able to ignore us.  We Are Leeds – and we’re on the way back.