Tag Archives: Barnsley FC

Leeds CAN Secure Automatic Promotion as Rivals Falter – by Rob Atkinson

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Garry Monk – the man with the plan

We’ve had false dawns aplenty before at Elland Road. Many a time, a false dawn has appeared to be the only possible light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. But this time, things do feel different. There’s a momentum steadily gathering, a feeling that Leeds United are developing slowly into an unstoppable force. History tells us that, often in the past, the leaders of the chasing pack benefit from a sudden uncertainty and crumbling of long-time front-runners. That scenario is developing right now at the head of the Championship – and Leeds United, to our delighted surprise, is the form horse.

One of the characteristics of a successful team is that it can grind out a result when playing badly. Leeds demonstrated that strength against Blackburn Rovers last night at Ewood Park, in a game that could easily have slipped away, but which was decided by a late and thumping header from the talismanic Pontus Jansson.

Another sign of a team going places is the quality of being able to bounce back from the occasional lapse. That’s something that this Leeds United team has been able to do on several occasions this season, going on to compile unbeaten runs after reverses that would have sapped morale in other years under other managers.

Garry Monk has had his less than brilliant moments since taking charge of United, but overall has seemed determined, self-assured and unflappable. He survived early difficulties, avoiding the ever-poised axe in the hands of maverick owner Massimo Cellino. Indeed, one of the main achievements of his first season in the Leeds hot-seat has been to marginalise Cellino, quieting talk in the media of the owner picking the team and generally remaining his own man. Other factors may have helped push Cellino into the shadows, but it’s still the mark of a strong man to succeed at Leeds where so many others have failed.

On the whole, and despite the odd, inevitable blip, Leeds United are very well placed now for the last, crucial stage of the League campaign. Free of cup commitments, with the squad enhanced by quality additions and vital players returning from injury, the platform is there for a decisive surge between now and May. Much will depend on the durability or otherwise of the teams ahead – Brighton, Newcastle and, to a lesser extent, Reading. Huddersfield and the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Derby and even Barnsley, present a threat from behind. But Leeds have the resolve and the personnel to emerge from the pack and take advantage of any crack-ups from the top two. And there are definite signs of such frailty and vulnerability in both Brighton and Newcastle.

The top two seem concerned about each other, when they should perhaps be looking fearfully over their shoulders at the play-off pack. Usually, somebody comes with a late run, exploiting a loss of bottle above them to reach the tape ahead of the pace-setters. It’s a situation that could well work in favour of Leeds United.

This weekend is the first of many pivotal League rounds to come. Huddersfield and Brighton meet tonight, in a game where any result will have some advantage for Leeds. And United have that extra twenty-four hours recovery time before having to travel to Huddersfield on Sunday. It will be very interesting to see how the Championship top six looks on Sunday evening.

But whatever happens over the next few days, there are golden opportunities for Leeds to assert themselves over the remainder of the season – and both Newcastle and Brighton will be feeling the heat. That’s a situation a canny manager like Monk can and should exploit; this blog believes that he is willing and able to do just that.

Leeds United for automatic promotion this season? You’d better believe it.

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Leeds United Will Ignore Manager Monk’s Warning Tone At Their Peril   –   by Rob Atkinson

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Monk: time for the club to support him

As the January transfer window draws inexorably to a close, Leeds United‘s highly-rated young manager Garry Monk has delivered himself of a cleverly-loaded quote – one that his employers would do well not to ignore.

On the same day that academy graduate Alex Mowatt finally moved on to Barnsley (despite assurances that nobody in and around the first team would be sold) Monk has reacted thus: “I can only assume that the players the club have talked about will come through the door as soon as possible. I am excited. We need to strengthen.”

It’s a statement loaded with subtextual significance. Reading between the lines, the manager’s “excitement” sounds more like the onset of frustration. When he says “I can only assume” in reaction to Mowatt’s departure, it sounds very much as though the sale was not entirely desirable from his point of view – unless there are incoming reinforcements due. The unsaid addendum to “I can only assume” is “because otherwise, the club is messing me about and not supporting me as promised”.

Time is running out, fast. There is 4th Round FA Cup business to attend to this weekend, a potential banana skin of a game at Sutton Utd in which, ironically, Mowatt might have been expected to play a prominent role. But, beyond that, there will then be mere hours to provide the couple of players that Monk has continually said he needs. It would not do to frustrate and stymie a manager who has made this season so much more memorable, and for all the right reasons, than the past few have been. Garry Monk has done wonders for Leeds United, and the club is honour-bound to back up his efforts with quality recruits to give his squad the best chance of success.

Furthermore, if Leeds are once more to disappoint their fan base as well as their manager, with yet another window in which expectations have been merely managed and not met, then it really does make no sense to lose Mowatt now, with so many potentially vital games left to play. The mercurial midfielder with that wand of a left foot may not be the kind of player to build a team or a promotion challenge around but, on his day, he could be a game changer with his undoubted potential to grab a spectacular goal like a bolt from the blue. You need that kind of unexpected element in a squad. With Mowatt gone, and even Murphy and Diagouraga too, the first team pool is markedly weaker than it was at the start of January – when the aim surely had to have been to strengthen.

Make no mistake, Garry Monk is putting the pressure on his employers to deliver, and rightly so. He’s saying that, with Mowatt sold, it would make no sense for there not to be incomings over the next few days. It would be against all logic, it would be foolish and it would be a betrayal. It’s all there. That one quote says it all, quite subtly, but nevertheless unmistakably. Garry Monk expects and requires action, not just words. If the club lets him down, they will potentially risk losing the best thing to happen to them in a long, long while.

Leeds United must listen to their manager, and they must heed his between the lines warning. It’s high time for the club to put its money where its mouth is.

Leeds Taste Derby Day Defeat at Rampant Barnsley – by Rob Atkinson

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Mike Dean – doubly incompetent

In football, as in life, timing is everything. And it was the timing of two rather poor Mike Dean penalty decisions during Leeds United‘s tumultuous defeat at Oakwell this evening that may well have been the factor upon which the outcome of the game ultimately depended. Had Leeds gone in at half-time 2-0 up, with a penalty to add to Chris Wood’s bundled opener after Kyle Bartley got a Barnsley hand in his face at a corner, there could have been few complaints from a home side that looked to be under the cosh at the time. But, in the final analysis, the fragility of a 1-0 lead was exposed by a late first half smash and grab goal from the hosts – and you sensed then that the tide had turned decisively.

In the second half, Barnsley came out like a pack of ravenous hounds and punctured United’s rearguard twice in quick time in a dominant spell. Two great finishes left Leeds with what, in the end, proved to be too much to do. This always looked to be the case, even after Dean’s second shoddy call of the match, awarding Leeds a penalty from a good forty yards behind play, for a handball offence that was clearly miles outside the box. Chris Wood duly converted but, even with their hopes so fortunately boosted, United never really escaped the stranglehold Barnsley had put on them from the time of the equaliser. In the end, the injustices evened themselves out, allowing the better side over 95 minutes to enjoy a deserved victory. 

What might have transpired had the hapless Dean got his calls the right way around is anybody’s guess – though it’s tempting to suppose a Leeds side two goals to the good would have taken some pegging back. As things were, there can be few complaints, and both sets of fans will be in agreement that Mr. Dean should go back to Premier League football and practice his dubious skills there.

For Leeds, defeat might just be a timely wake-up call and a reminder that the squad still needs a bit more strength in depth. It’s to be hoped that this will be addressed in the coming days, along with the pressing need to get back to winning ways on Wednesday against a Nottingham Forest side that should be ripe for the beating. United manager Garry Monk will be focusing already on that game, and the Whites should see it as a chance to start off on another positive run. 

Lastly, it has to be said that Barnsley’s grit and attitude were as commendable as the quality of the goals they scored. Everyone knows how much beating Leeds means to the Tykes, and those victory celebrations will be sweet indeed. With Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday also flying high in the Championship, it’s turning out to be a good season for Yorkshire clubs. None of which is any comfort in defeat – but Leeds know there is stiff competition out there and it’s up to our heroes to step up to the plate now and reassert their authority. 

That process can and must start on Wednesday. After a great run since December, we now expect nothing less.

Leeds Fans Knew the Script as Barnsley Outclass Millwall at Wembley – by Rob Atkinson

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Millwall thugs break security to attack jubilant Barnsley supporters

Today’s League One Playoff Final was a script already written; certainly many a Leeds United fan, knowing what we know of the protagonists, could accurately have predicted how events would unfold. 

Predictably, Barnsley would beat Millwall comfortably at Wembley, to secure promotion to the Championship. Predictably, Millwall’s vicious minority would have a mass tantrum afterwards, charging at celebrating Yorkshire fans to spoil yet another occasion involving football’s sickest club, the shame of London. And, predictably, self-righteous Millwall fans would argue that it’s OK for them to do that and that we have no right to criticise, “because Leeds fans have been violent and have sung nasty songs“. It was all massively predictable, well in advance.

And so it came to pass, certainly in the first two particulars. Barnsley swept into a second-minute lead and never really looked back. Even being pegged back to 2-1, after Hamill‘s classy second, presented the Tykes with no real alarms or jitters. Millwall huffed and puffed, but were hopelessly outclassed. Barnsley’s promotion-clinching third after the interval flattered them not one iota. It could so easily have been more.

Then the Millwall fans showed their true colours after the game was done, trying to get at the red-shirted, jubilant Barnsley fans and generally making fools of themselves, as is their wont. One Tweet told of a disabled Barnsley supporter being tipped out of a wheelchair and kicked down some steps. Reportedly also, two Barnsley fans received stab wounds. Who knows if all of that is gospel true? But the point is, you can easily believe it of the degraded bunch of savages that forms part of Millwall’s less than massive support. Now, all that remains is for the Millwall fans who read this, and other accounts, to bleat their standard excuse: don’t point the finger at us! You do it too! And so we have, in the past, as have other sets of idiot fans. Not these days, though, never as often and not as brutally. Let’s face it, we’re not perfect, but we’re not Millwall. Thank heavens.

And surely, the Football League must now address the problem of Millwall and its classless, cowardly, disgraceful followers. This is a club with form for its fans fighting among themselves at Wembley in the past. The same thugs showed themselves up in the semi-final second leg of this play-off competition, with late pitch invasions to end Bradford‘s hopes of mounting a last-gasp comeback. It happens time and time again in a disgusting Millwall history that goes back in a similar vein for decades. It will keep on happening unless this nuisance club are cracked down on – and cracked down on hard. Whatever the problems that may, from time to time, have assailed other clubs – my beloved Leeds prominent among them – Millwall FC stands alone for the frequency and severity of their transgressions. It’s time for swift and decisive action to be taken. 

It probably won’t happen, though. Millwall are a Football League blind spot, just as Galatasaray are for UEFA. Truly is it said that there’s none so blind as those who won’t see, and the football authorities seem determined to look at Millwall’s transgressions through the darkest of blackout spectacles. The media are no better; they seem to have adopted the Beasts of Bermondsey as their token small club ripe for patronising. Meanwhile, opposition fans continue to live in fear of cowardly, mob-handed attacks. Except at Elland Road, of course, where the Millwall tough lads, no angels they, fear to tread. They usually bring about a dozen, who sit in a terrified silence, meekly accept defeat, and slink off home like the craven curs they are.

Congratulations to Barnsley, who – having been bottom of League One before Christmas, will now adorn the Championship with their classy brand of football. They have also obligingly ensured that happy division will stay relatively clean and civilised by condemning the scabby and feral Lions to prowl around at a suitably lower level. The second tier picture is complete now, and it looks an enticing prospect. On today’s evidence, Barnsley FC will not look out of place.

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Barnsley celebrate a well-deserved promotion

Same Old Story For Thug Club Millwall and Its Thug Fans   –   by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United fans above those of most other clubs can give you chapter and verse on the less than savoury nature of Millwall Football Club and some of its Neanderthal adherents. Whites supporters have had to sit there in that prefab, Meccano style stadium, watching as large parts of a crowd, swollen beyond its traditional paltry numbers by the presence of Leeds, have taken the opportunity to revel in murders in foreign parts many years ago. It’s something Millwall fans just won’t let go of, and that tells you all you need to know about the worst and least human fans in football. 

Tonight, Millwall fans were at it again, in the second leg of their playoff semi against Bradford. With minutes remaining, and Bradford pushing forward in dire need of two quick goals, proceedings were disrupted by two small-scale incursions into the field of play. Needless to say, this had a drastic effect upon Bradford’s ability to exert the necessary pressure. At one point, with the ball on the way out for a City throw, one of the local bright boys ran on to the pitch and booted it towards Bradford’s goal. So play had to start with a drop-ball instead of the swift throw Bradford needed.

As the ball was played back to the City keeper, the ref ran close by and clearly advised the Bradford man that the game was up, and to prepare for a quick getaway. The Millwall fans were preparing for a mass invasion, and the ref was chiefly preoccupied with the need to herd the players as near to the tunnel as possible before blowing the last whistle and unleashing an uncivilised horde from the touchlines.

Such has often been the case at Millwall, Old Den or New. It seemed clear in this instance that any late hopes Bradford had of making a last-gasp comeback, together with any hopes the ref had of playing the allotted span without interference, were dashed by the threat the crowd posed to order and safety. It’s not good enough, but it’s situation normal down Bermondsey way. Similar disorder has happened time and time again, while the craven suits at the Football League do nothing. This blog hopes and trusts that Bradford City will complain – not that it’s likely to do them any good. 

So, the upshot is that Millwall and its IQ-minus minority have intimidated their way to the brink of a return to the Championship. Unless Barnsley can intervene at Wembley – where Millwall’s unpleasant mob tends to fight amongst itself rather than facing equal numbers of opposition fans – it looks like we can expect to see them at Elland Road sometime next season. Not that many, though. Timid travellers, they tend to muster only a couple of dozen for the trip to LS11. 

Good luck to Barnsley at Wembley. On a football basis, they should blow Millwall away. We can but hope that they are sent back to their dingy borough, chastened and well-beaten. If not – well, it looks as if we’ll just have to put up with them for one more season.

Doncaster and Barnsley Chop Means Four Fewer Cup Finals for Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

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Donny down

As Leeds United’s season came to a brighter than expected end, with a battling draw against play-off hopefuls Derby, events lower down the table in the tawdry scrap of the relegation dogfight may well have already had an effect on the Whites’ prospects for next time around.

Leeds did undeniably well in what was a dead rubber against Derby.  After going behind early and suffering a couple of further scares, United pressed their higher-placed opponents hard for the bulk of the remaining time in the game and the season; they had a couple of penalty claims turned down, Ross McCormack was slightly unfortunate to see a vicious free-kick punched out by County keeper Grant – and Michael Brown put in an all-action, give-me-another-year’s-contract performance that included a Cruyff turn which had you thinking suspiciously about the origins of those mushrooms you had for breakfast.

The equaliser, when it came after 50 minutes, was another high point in the productive season of Matt Smith, one of the few real bright spots of a blighted campaign.  Leeds could well have won the game, but the level of performance was encouraging in itself.  It is likely, though, to be a case of “too little, too late” for many of the squad, as plans will already be afoot for a hiring and firing summer as Cellino’s Italian Job gets under way.

Next season, when it comes, will see a marked reduction in one of those irritating factors which have impeded Leeds United’s progress far too often and for far too long.  I refer of course to “Cup Final Syndrome”, whereby a number of smaller clubs try their little hearts out when facing the Whites – and often end up thrashing us.  It’s a phenomenon particularly noticeable in local derbies yet, thanks to the ineptitude of our fellow Yorkshire clubs, not only have we ended up as top dogs in the county yet again, but we have also contrived to see the back of two of those annoying and inconvenient pests in the shape of Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers.

Barnsley bit the dust last week with a 1-3 defeat at Middlesbrough – helped along the way, I like to think, by the rare dropped points (five of them) in their games against Leeds, points they would normally have nicked in previous seasons.  So, we did our bit to see off the Tykes and, even though Donny won at Elland Road recently, our 3-0 win at their council ice-rink early in the season has helped to dispatch them.  Which is nice.

Doncaster’s relegation was, if anything, a lot funnier than even Barnsley’s, coming as it did right at the death of the season when they were on the very brink of being safe.  They were happily settling for a narrow defeat at Champions Leicester in the secure knowledge that Birmingham were two down at Bolton and surely doomed.

But then Lady Luck did one of those graceful pirouettes for which she is rightly notorious, and Brum battled back – scoring through Zigic and then laying siege to the Wanderers goal.  Three minutes into stoppage time, and they pulled that last rabbit out of the hat to equalise and achieve an unlikely late escape, simultaneously sealing Donny’s fate – much to the horror of the Rovers fans and much to the amusement of anyone in Leeds colours who harbours unpleasant memories of Wembley, that day when the concourse was lop-sided with United fans, but when the minnows perversely triumphed.

There are a few reasons for hoping that next season will be better for Leeds – prominent among them of course being our understanding that we are no longer operating on Skid Row, having moved across town to Easy Street. Whether that works out, and to what extent we might now be competing at the plusher end of the transfer market, remains to be seen.  But the lessening of the intensity of competition in local derby terms can do nothing but good, as Leeds have generally speaking made really hard work of these matches, to the detriment of the overall league picture.

Even though we have ended up on top of the Yorkshire standings, our results against Huddersfield and the Wendies have left much to be desired this season as in many before.  At least there will be a little less of this unseemly parochial skirmishing next season – even given that we will have Cardiff City to add to the unsavoury attractions of Millwall.

And so, another season ends, bleak and disappointing from a Leeds United perspective, but with distinct compensations elsewhere in the form of the enjoyable suffering of others.  As I write, Man U have just slipped to their umpteenth home defeat this season – even under the peerless guidance of Sir Ryan Giggs – and Cardiff’s brief flirtation with the top flight is over. There may well be a bonus in the form of relegation for Norwich Bleedin’ City later this weekend.

Wolves and Fulham will be with us next season – always attractive fixtures – and the games against Cardiff and Norwich should be spicy, too.  We must hope that the Leeds squad can be reshaped and re-motivated, to such a pitch that we will be truly competitive next time around.  Allowing for all the distractions and side issues, we weren’t that far short this time – but it all went wrong when events off the field took over.  Next season should be slightly more peaceful – or is that hopelessly naive?  And, if all else fails – well, we might still have Old Man Browneh, weaving his elderly magic and pulling off Cruyff turns aplenty to bedazzle the opposition.

It certainly is a funny old game.

A Leeds View of Barnsley’s Demise: Karma’s a Bitch – by Rob Atkinson

The traditional relegation image, Barnsley variety

It’s true, then. What goes around really does come around – and Barnsley FC, whose primitive fans were so gleefully happy at the plight of Leeds United just a few weeks back, have now dropped into the lower league abyss which is their natural environment.  They can expect neither sympathy nor comfort from LS11 – the home of Leeds United who, just a few short weeks ago, had problems of their own that threatened to cast them ignominiously into administration and League One.  At that point, the internet rang with glee from the usual suspects, prominent among them the fans of that small club from the back streets of a former pit town in the Republic of South Yorkshire.

The Barnsley fans of my acquaintance were highly active on Facebook and the like, nudging each other in a virtual sense and snickering like excited schoolboys.  “Leeds are going into admin!” chortled one.  “Really?” spluttered his little friend. “Is that for definite?”  And so they went on, speculating about the level of the points deduction (15 at least, I reckon. Ooh no, I hope it’s 20.)  It was unedifying stuff, but sadly it’s exactly what you might have expected from a bunch of fans with such a large chip on their collective shoulder.  They “hate Leeds scum”, you see.  They couldn’t tell you why, though they might possibly remember something their dad once said about Billy Bremner or Norman Hunter.  Anyway, they were chuffed to bits at the thought of our misery and the crisis we were in, and they cavorted accordingly.

It was similar at the end of last season.  Back then, Barnsley were in relegation trouble again, come the last day of the season.  So were Huddersfield; and the two played each other, knowing that the loser would go down.  It ended up as a draw and results elsewhere saved both lesser Yorkshire clubs.  You might have expected celebration, maybe even mutual congratulation and some clog dancing in the cobbled streets with, perhaps, a spike in the troglodyte birth-rate nine months later.  But no – the sole thought in these yonners’ tiny minds was to join in with a combined chorus of Huddersfield and Barnsley as they regaled us with loud and tuneless anti-Leeds United songs.  They were bang to rights on a charge of hating us more than they loved their own dismal little clubs, even at the moment of their greatest triumph – because for Huddersfield and Barnsley, avoiding relegation from a sphere higher than their natural comfort zone is as good as it ever gets.

But now, a mere few weeks on from Leeds United’s nadir of crisis and despair, when those Toby Tykes were so happy and optimistic, things have changed and the pit boot is on the other foot.  Leeds United are safe – and apparently minted, with the potential to rebuild and ascend once more into the Promised Land. Meanwhile, Barnsley have gone, back into obscurity where they undeniably belong.  No more Cup Finals against Leeds United – they will have to settle for playing second fiddle to Sheffield’s junior club. They will face a new and bleaker financial reality as their already tiny crowds (except when Leeds came to town) dwindle even further.  Some gloomy and pessimistic “Tarn” fans are already predicting that it’ll take years to come back.  Let’s hope so.  Sentimental hypocrites aside, Barnsley will not be missed.

All their fans can do now is to prepare themselves for existence at a lower level, with fixtures against the likes of Rochdale, Scunny and perhaps York City. Those fans will still “hate Leeds scum”, but they will miss the brief taste of the big time that our visits provided, and they will yearn for the day that they might play us again.  From a Leeds United point of view, one less Cup Final Complex opponent will do us no harm next season – and it’s probable that we’ll have moved on up, long before Barnsley can hope to slither out of the lower league mire.  It’s all very satisfactory and enjoyable – and if that sounds cruel, then just cast your minds back to the fun the Tykes were having, quite recently, at our expense.

What goes around, comes around – and karma is indeed a bitch.  Suck it up, Barnsley fans.  You deserve it.

Looking Back – the Last Time Leeds United Won at Barnsley – by Rob Atkinson

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Classic 97-98 away shirt – the “Barnsley Special”

In the early part of season 1997/98, Leeds United under the guidance of George Graham became known for a brief but glorious three-match spell as “The Comeback Kings”.  It was a title hard-earned with victories against three fellow Premiership members after going behind – from one down against West Ham, for whom a young Frank Lampard had scored and then reprised his Dad’s 1980 semi-final jig around the corner flag at the south-east corner – and from three down at home to Derby County, a match I’ve already described elsewhere.

The third game in this sequence was away to Barnsley, destined to be one-season wonders in the Premiership, but always to be relied upon to raise their game against the hated Big Brother from up the road, Leeds United. Many was the time I had made the short journey to Oakwell during our second division spell in the eighties, only to see us perform scratchily, as if influenced by the humble surroundings, dragged down and ultimately defeated.  We had the odd success there, but overall it was a dire place to visit, both for itself and for the ashen taste of defeat that often accompanied the cobbled-street and pit-stack atmosphere.  This was in my mind as I contemplated the Premiership away game, in an Oakwell tarted up and much improved since the decade before.  But, in truth, the match turned out to be one of my most satisfying away trips ever.

Indeed, this article nearly copped for the title “My Greatest Awayday” before I decided it wasn’t quite that good.  But honestly – it was right up there with the best of them for sheer excitement and the joy of being able to throw a friend’s kindness back in his face as I crowed over a remarkable victory.  Let me set the scene.  A mate from the luvvie world, as we theatrical types like to call it, had won a local competition for which the prize was a ticket in the main stand to see Barnsley v Leeds.  This lad – let’s call him Martin, because that’s his name – is a rabid Barnsley fan who already had a season ticket, so he had no personal use for his prize.  He could have sold it, but out of the kindness of his heart, he passed it on to me.  It would be too, too cynical of me to speculate that he was hoping to rub my nose in another win for his Reds over my Whites – but in the event, how he was to regret that noble gesture.

The 29th November 1997 – coming up for seventeen years ago now (how that time has flown by) was not merely a damp and dismal affair.  It was not merely wet.  It absolutely teemed it down, threatening to dissolve proud civic buildings of centuries standing, promising to wash Barnsley away completely and return South Yorkshire to the marsh from which it should never have emerged.  It was a flood of biblical proportions, promising extinction on a scale that would have terrified Noah.  It really was a bitch of a nasty day.  And therein lies some of the satisfaction I derived from my spot of luck.  Redeveloped though Oakwell was relative to the dark days of Football League, Division Two – it was still a fairly spartan affair when compared to a proper football stadium.  The away end, especially, offered all the facilities of an open field without any of the rustic charm.  It was roofless, open to the elements – and that was a mighty elemental day.  If I had taken my place on that open terrace, I would surely have drowned.  As it was, I had the cosily malicious pleasure of watching my Leeds-supporting comrades drown, and looking forward to regaling those that survived with the comfy tale of my own toasty, warm and dry experience.  The keenly-anticipated pleasure of Schadenfreude is a dish best served cold – as I’m sure you’re always reminding yourselves.

So there I was, tucked up nice and warm in Barnsley’s version of a Main Stand, sat among the very poshest of the local yokels, thrilled to bits that I wasn’t out there in the open, dissolving away.  I had my complimentary programme and my hot Bovril plus obligatory pie – all free, an experience to warm any Yorkshireman’s cockles.  I was well happy.

Then the match started, and – at first – it was a depressing process of that happiness steadily waning and draining away.  Leeds were playing against the tide in the first half, and struggling to make much of it, despite vastly superior personnel.  Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink – later to be rechristened Judas Floyd Piggybank after his money-motivated departure to pastures Spanish – had briefly lifted my hopes by striking the Barnsley woodwork on five minutes.  I knew that this was a bogey ground (Leeds have a few of these) – but that early strike had given me some encouragement – soon, alas, to be brutally dashed away.

After eight minutes, Barnsley – playing with a 140 mph gale at their backs – pressed into the Leeds half and scored.  One of their frankly half-decent players, Andy Liddell, had tested Nigel Martyn with a stinging shot that the Leeds keeper could only parry out. Following up, Liddell was able to make his second effort count, and Leeds were behind. At Oakwell.  Again.  Bloody hell.

As Barnsley warmed to their task and Leeds found it increasingly difficult to repel the home attacks while playing into the teeth of a gale, the Reds had chances to double that lead.  First Liddell and then Joso Bosancic tested Martyn, but failed to beat him. Barnsley were not to be denied their second goal though, and on 28 minutes it was again a matter of our Nige in the Leeds goal being unable to do much about an initial shot in those horrible conditions.  As with the first goal, the rebound was snapped up – this time by Martin Bullock – and there we were, 2-0 down and looking likely to ship more goals as our defence became ever leakier.  It should be remembered that I had just witnessed two Leeds comebacks, and maybe this should have filled me with optimism – but it was poxy bloody Barnsley, it was a horrible day and I felt my luck – and the team’s – had run out.  I expected no third miracle.

It was with an involuntary shout of delight then, that I saw us peg back the arrears ten minutes short of half-time.  It was Hasselbaink again, blasting a fierce shot towards the Barnsley goal, only to see their keeper Lars Leese turn the ball around the post.  From the resulting corner though, Alf-Inge Haaland rose to power home a header at the home fans’ “Ponte End”. Pessimistic as I had been moments before, now renewed hope gripped me. My triumphant bellow had revealed me to the Main Stand as The Enemy, and hundreds of eyes swivelled to regard me balefully – but these were posh Barnsley folk, some of whom would actually have indoor plumbing and electricity in their hovels.  I was in no danger from these relatively civilised specimens.  United saw out the remainder of the first half, and I sat nice and warm through the break, reading my programme, sneaking occasional glances at the Leeds hordes bobbing about in the deep end and fighting over the few available lifebelts – but mostly looking forward to seeing what United could do playing with the current.

In the event, the first thing we did in the second half was go perilously close to conceding a third goal that would probably have finished us off.  Liddell, that thorn in our side, went far too close for comfort and then had a shot cleared off the line by the usually useless David Robertson.  As the half wore on, it was looking more and more as though Leeds were once again going to have to slink away from Oakwell pointless.  They pressed when possible, but Barnsley were defending better in the second half than we had in the first. A mere eleven minutes from time, though, a long clearance from Big Nige found nippy Rod Wallace in space on the right.  Hot Rod had a run on goal, and once clear, he was nigh-on impossible to catch, even though he was having to wade rather than sprinting as normal. Rodney finished competently, and we were back from the dead at 2-2 – to my loud relief. More hostile stares from the indignant aboriginals.

The stage was now set for a dénouement – and it was Leeds United who struck the decisive blow to complete yet another fine turnaround.  Wallace was involved again, his run down the right culminating in a tasty cross into the Tykes’ penalty area – and there was Derek Lilley for his one and only moment of glory in a Leeds shirt a mere five minutes after entering the fray from the bench.  Fastening onto Rod’s quality wide delivery, Lilley set his sights and delivered the perfect finish to put Leeds 3-2 up, much to the delight of the thousands of drowned rats behind Lars Leese’s goal.  My own joy was flavoured with an illuminating thought: how appropriate it was, I mused while cavorting around in celebration, that – on such a very wet and sodden day, with Barnsley’s quaint little ground virtually under water – it had taken a sub to settle the matter.

I didn’t see poor old Martin after the game – I was caught up in the crowd heading back to the railway station where – just to complete a Yorkshireman’s perfect day – the throng was such that I was never asked to pay my fare and got a free ride home on top of all the other freebies I’d enjoyed that day.   I was contentedly counting my blessings; Leeds were in the top four, Barnsley had taken a decisive step towards their eventual relegation (helped along by another defeat to Leeds in the return at Elland Road) – and I’d had the immense pleasure of seeing all this, of being a part of it all – and all for nowt.  Perfect. The rain had even thoughtfully abated during my walk back to the station.  I was the only dry man on the train as the away fans sat in their puddles, soaked and steaming, but giddily happy at the events of the afternoon.

Three comeback wins on the trot – and people recall George Graham’s reign as one of austerity.  It was anything but, especially in this 97/98 season, and I have a few more happy memories from that time, so I still think quite fondly of George.  It was a shame he deserted us for Spurs though, the treacherous Scottish git.  But that was in the future, and I had a victory to celebrate – and a rehearsal to look forward to the next day when I would be able to repay Barnsley fan Martin’s kindness by taking the mick and making of his life a complete misery.

It’s a sweet and wonderful thing to be a Leeds fan sometimes, which will be something to remind ourselves of whichever way this coming weekend’s match against the Tykes ends up going.  It’s about time we had another win there, but frankly I’m not holding my breath, despite Ross McCormack’s tweeted battle-cry.  But you never know – and if we did snatch the three points, that might well seal another relegation for plucky Barnsley, a “Cup Final complex” outfit we could well do without meeting next season.  Fingers crossed.

Leeds Utd: Getting Along Fine Without Professional Yorkshiremen – by Rob Atkinson

Monty Python's Four Yorkshiremen

Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen

One of the great things about being a Leeds United fan – and there are many, it goes without saying – is that we don’t have to stumble along under the crippling burden of embarrassment that afflicts certain Yorkshire clubs, notably in this case, Barnsley FC.  I’m referring, of course, to the football-supporting choices of that most loathsome of creatures: the Professional Yorkshireman. Think of that brilliant Monty Python parody, the Four Yorkshiremen – and you’ll recognise the type I’m on about.  Now imagine one of those buggers supporting and then betraying your team.  Horrible.

There are quite a few of these sad types, notable for their carefully-cultivated air of bluff down-to-earthness.  Being down to earth is money in the bank for your Professional Yorkshireman – and of course money in the bank is a subject very close to their hearts, just as it is with genuine Tykes the length and breadth of God’s Own County. Rumour has it, after all, that copper wire was invented by two Yorkshiremen disputing ownership of a penny. So what is it that separates the odious “Professional” from the upright, genuine, sterling Yorkshiremen who, as we all know, are the salt of the earth?  I can tell you, in one unpleasant phrase: base, self-serving treachery.

The one major qualification for any Yorkshireman should (to my mind) be a parochial contempt for anything and everything beyond the Broad Acres – and most especially for that land of the misbegotten over the wrong side of the Pennines.  There’s just something wrong about that place.  The accents are appalling, the cuisine is based on what you can do with livestock blood – and when you finally get to the coast, it’s the wrong way up.  It’s true.  Just think about it.  When you’re walking in a northerly direction, the sea should be on your right, just as it’s properly on your left when you’re heading south.  That’s as it should be – as it is with all of those jewels of the East coast like Filey, Scarborough and Brid.

But in Blackpool or Morecambe, it’s all arse about face, you end up disoriented and feeling as though you’re on some alien planet – an impression that contact with the locals will only reinforce.  Take David “Bumble” Lloyd, for example.  What a pie-munching yonner he is.  But it’s a dire place altogether, even without the inbred population – the most welcome sight I ever see apart from a Leeds United goal is that lovely White Rose marker on the M62, telling me I’m heading back into civilisation.

All of the foregoing is just plain common sense to proper Yorkshiremen, people of taste and refinement, to whom a west of the Pennines accent has the same effect as fingernails drawn slowly down a blackboard.  But – brace yourselves here – there are some who live, move and have their being among us lucky sons and daughters of the three Ridings – who were actually born here, for Don’s sake – and yet who find it possible to betray us all, in the foulest, most contemptible way imaginable.

Yes, avert your eyes now, for it’s the ultimate in bleak, degraded horror that I’m talking about: supporting Man U. A frisson of shuddering horror there, right? Now do not hasten to judge the weaker vessels; many of these misguided souls are insecure and inadequate, seeking to align themselves with what they perceive as size and success.  Their motivations are a subject for fascinated disgust, it’s beyond the ken of the well-adjusted to understand such perversion.  But whatever reasons they may have for their aberration must remain between them and Dr Freud, for these are sick people; we may regard them with more pity than anger.  They are squandering their birthright, and they will find no happiness in life.

But the very worst offenders are those who have achieved fame, celebrity, wealth by making the most of the place they were born; by capitalising on their God-given Yorkshire heritage.  For these people to commit the ultimate sin of selling their souls to the Pride of Devon – that’s beyond unforgivable. It’s despicable, degraded, disgusting – it’s the lowest form of base treachery you can put a name to, especially when perpetrated by one who has made a fat living off his White Rose credentials.  There are two chief offenders I have in mind: Michael Parkinson and Geoffrey Boycott.

Both of these are fairly detestable in their own right, even without any considerations of football affiliation coming into the equation.  Boycott has developed into the tiresome gob-on-a-stick type, deeply in love with his own exaggerated dialect, relishing every opportunity to be “outspoken” on the radio, as he verbally rips into cricketers more talented than he ever was. Parkinson has descended towards the testy and crotchety hinterland of senility as he has aged, chasing the coin with the avarice of a man who breeds moths in his wallet, inflicting his deadly dull “interviewing voice” on us from naff insurance adverts as he tries to flog us funeral policies with the promise of a free Parker pen.  It’s all miserably dispiriting for anyone who was ever a fan of either man, both so identifiable, by their own unremitting efforts, with the county of their birth.  But I was never a fan of either, so I can tell it like it is, and with a light heart.

Parky - Plastic Red

Parky – Plastic Red

Both have committed the unforgivable sin of giving their allegiance – the unquestionable property of one or other of Yorkshire’s football clubs – to Man U. Parkinson, in particular, is grossly culpable.  His anecdotes of Skinner Normanton, as well as other heroes of his widely-publicised Barnsley-supporting youth, made his name for him as a half-decent writer and retailer of funny stories.  But, when push came to shove, Michael shoved off, deciding that his favourite team was Man U and that he was chosen by some higher power to write a brown-nosing biography of George Best (for whom he had to delve deep into Paul Reaney’s back pocket). There may well be Barnsley fans who don’t know this, who regard “Parky” as one of their own – but those who are aware of his duplicity rightly view Michael Parkinson with contempt.  It’s many moons now since he headed south to live with his showbiz and Man U mates, and grow his eyebrows into two miniatures of Michael Heseltine’s coiffure – much the same as that other famous old Yorkshire curmudgeon and Labour Party betrayer, Bernard Ingham.  The south is welcome to Parkinson, a Professional Yorkshireman who started out as a Barnsley fan, made his name as such – and then defected to the Evil Empire.  He even tried to get his son into football by pushing him towards Chelsea.  Ugh.

Boycott - Cloughie disciple

Boycott – Cloughie disciple

Boycott, for his part, also made his name synonymous with that of the great county which gave him birth and entitled him to play for the White Rose – an honour it is impossible to surpass.  But for all that he always based his “Yorkshireness” on his achievements in “creekitt”, as he insists on pronouncing it – and although he had football trials with Leeds, playing indeed alongside the legendary Billy Bremner – he never offered his support to a Yorkshire team, preferring instead to follow Nottingham Forest due to the presence there of fellow gobshite Brian Clough.  The action, many will agree, of a scab.  When Clough departed the scene, Boycott followed the path of the weak-minded and became a Man U fan – something he clearly fails to regard as in any way inconsistent with his heavily-emphasised Yorkshireness, which he continues to play for all it’s worth in his regular radio pundit stints.

Far be it from me, a cricket novice, to criticise Boycott’s views on that sport – so I’ll leave it instead to an expert.  Steve Harmison has said of the self-styled “best opening bat” that “…the fact is that within the England dressing room [Boycott’s] views are regarded as a joke. People who only have a passing interest in the game hear the famous Geoff Boycott Yorkshire accent and may think it gives some status to his opinions. But inside the dressing room he has no status, he is just an accent, some sort of caricature of a professional Yorkshireman. Indeed, quite a few of us cringe whenever he comes near.” Damning stuff indeed, and the spectre of the Professional Yorkshireman appears to haunt that insider’s view of England’s former opener.

There are others who might possibly qualify – for want of a better word – to be called Professional Yorkshiremen.  Dicky Bird, for instance – but he strikes me as a fairly inoffensive, if overly-lachrymal, sort of bloke. And I believe he still supports Barnsley, if only on the big occasions. He certainly emerged from the woodwork to see them promoted to the Premier League – though I believe he was nowhere to be seen when they went back down, twelve short months later.

Others the accusation might be levelled at, I will not hear a word against. Fred Trueman, for instance.  Unashamedly Yorkshire, but as far as I know he never made a sideshow of it, and the stories about him are many and legendary. Fred was an effortlessly Yorkshire character and he’s much missed.  One story of when he was dining with the MCC at an exclusive restaurant bears repeating.  Apparently, he spotted the date on the menu, written in French after the style of such high-falutin places: Jeudi le deuxième Mai. Pointing to it with a calloused forefinger, he said “Aye – Ahs’ll ‘ave that for sweet.”

When we speak of Yorkshiremen in years to come, I hope and trust that it’s men like Fred, Dave Batty, Harold Wilson (maybe), that we’ll be talking about. Not the likes of Parkinson and Boycott, who made such efforts to establish and profit from a Yorkshire background, only to betray it in the least excusable way possible.  I feel a bit sorry for Barnsley FC, being so often linked to their tawdry, shallow sort and yet being abandoned at the first opportunity by hollow traitors for a media circus like Man U.  Leeds have been lucky, over the years, to attract the support of proper Yorkshiremen, as well as those enlightened souls from further afield who can see more clearly than others that we’re the best club in the world.  Long may it remain so.

Barnsley Pay the Price Against Bolton for Leeds “Cup Final” Exertions – by Rob Atkinson

Image

Barnsley’s biggest star

Both Huddersfield Town and Millwall have enjoyed league victories over the Mighty Leeds United this season – classic David and Goliath tales of tiny, grubby backwoods clubs enjoying their moment in the limelight as they contrive to overcome a world-famous footballing superpower.

Now, little Barnsley have got in on the “David” act, making their annual pilgrimage to Elland Road and managing to escape with a point clutched gratefully in their hot, sweaty little hands. The fallout was similar to that in the earlier two cases – joy unconfined, celebration and jubilation in excelsis, dancing and cavorting in the cobbled streets and who knows what other forms of primitive festivity.  It’s anticipated that there will be a sharp spike in the birth-rate nine months hence – though sadly the limited gene pool means it’s unlikely we’ll see any such augmentation of the average IQ figure.

All of this is quite understandable, given the chip on the collective shoulders of each respective band of David fans, where this Leeds United “Goliath” is concerned.  It’s probably most acute in Huddersfield, whose fans have had to live their lives in the long shadow of Big Brother from Elland Road on the one side, and of the Pennines on the other, their only protection from the barbaric hordes of Lancashire.

But Barnsley nurse their own local-envy grudge against Leeds, seeming to feel that they must succeed in this game at any cost.  A red card is deemed a fair price to pay as evidenced by the clogging of Marius Zaliukas

Whatever motivates these quaint if rustic people to nurse such savage hatred in their bosoms – and really, who could ever tell what goes on inside those misshapen heads? – there is certainly a galvanising effect on the team they support.  Those guys can be relied upon to play well above their usual form and give even superior Leeds sides a terrible time.  The motivational aspect is undeniable and, sadly, it costs an unwary United points that should be there for the taking.  This happens time and time again – every time a Leeds fixture is in the offing, the drums start to beat, the blood stirs and an atavistic glitter is to be seen in the eyes of otherwise placid and useless players.  We Leeds fans refer to it ruefully as “Cup Final Syndrome” – much to the annoyance of the unwashed hordes in opposition camps.   The Barnsley lot, for instance, would have you believe that Leeds is “just another game”.  But this is demonstrably not so.

Quite apart from the annoying regularity with which these dingy little clubs raise their performance levels against Leeds, another noticeable factor is the slump in performance immediately afterwards.  It’s as if the players, egged on by their desperate fans, have given every last drop of blood, sweat and tears and then gone on to draw on hidden reserves to complete the job, leaving them shattered and drained.  What inevitably happens next time out is that a team of pale wraiths take the field, wave and smile wanly at the applause due to them for the Leeds display, and then capitulate to whoever they are playing, simply too shagged-out from post Cup Final Syndrome to offer any resistance. After the Leeds v Barnsley game, I predicted that it would be defeat next time around for an exhausted set of Cup Final heroes.  “It’s quite probable now that Barnsley will go on to collapse to defeat against their next opponents,” I wrote.  Naturally, I was right – the Tykes slumped to a 1-0 home reverse against Bolton Wanderers yesterday, thus further proving the point I’ve been making – which is basically that Leeds have to show equal desire against these fired-up teams.  Their superior ability will do the rest.

The truth of the matter is, of course, that this “Cup Final Syndrome” is a real factor, one that can distort results and affect the whole season.  As I’ve previously written, Leeds suffer more than most from the phenomenon – not that this is any reason for sympathy.  It’s something Leeds have to sort out and overcome, if they are to achieve anything in the foreseeable future.  It’s just the loud and indignant denials you get – from the clubs who experience Cup Final Syndrome – that amaze me. They’re prepared to swear blind that there’s no such factor at play, and yet the figures speak for themselves – as you can plainly see if you look at the results for Huddersfield and Millwall in the wake of their hard-won victories over Leeds.

The managers of those clubs concerned might see things in a different light; they might argue that if their team can reach such heights and expend such effort when they play Leeds, then they could and should do it all the time.  But that’s the point – they can’t. They almost literally do give that hackneyed 110% against Leeds.  It is their cup final. They try and they try – and they come off the field, maybe victorious, but shattered and run down, their batteries as flat as the top of Wayne Rooney’s head.  They’ve nothing left to give, with predictable consequences next time out as they succumb, knackered.  It’s all there, in those results.

Maybe the Millwall and Huddersfield fans, Barnsley supporters too, would rather have a more consistent level of performance – and in that case, maybe they’d tolerate a less superhuman level of effort against the arch-enemy Leeds United.  But do you know, I somehow doubt it?  I have this sneaking suspicion that they’d rather continue to settle, grumpily maybe, but settle nonetheless, for mediocrity and runs of defeats for most of the season – just as long as they can have those wins against Mighty Leeds.  That, for them, is what it’s all about.  It’s not as if they’re going to go up anyway – so they need those Cup Final victories, they’re a validation of sorts.  It’s a defining characteristic of the type of club they are, with the type of fans they have.

So, you small-time, small club, small-minded envious pariahs – next time you hear Leeds United fans singing to you about “your Cup Final”, and feel moved to utter an offended bleat of protest – just bite your lips, and pause a second or two.  Think on.  You might just realise that what we’re singing to you is almost literally true.