Tag Archives: Barnsley FC

Aggression, Consistency & Intensity: Heckingbottom’s Ethos is Leeds Through & Through – by Rob Atkinson

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Paul Heckingbottom: happy and honoured to be here

Paul Heckingbottom‘s performance as Head Coach in the first few days since his whirlwind move from Barnsley to Leeds United could hardly have gone better. Of course he’s only been talking the talk so far; the serious stuff, the walking of the walk, starts on Saturday, High Noon at Bramall Lane, with a Yorkshire Derby against Sheffield United. Still, in advance of that baptism of fire, the new Leeds boss has excelled as he set out his stall to players, press and fans, hammering home his message to great effect.

Let’s be in no doubt: for a Royston lad who grew up as a Barnsley fan hating Leeds United, Paul gets what our club is all about. His emphasis on qualities such as consistency, aggression and intensity could be taken from Page One of any United fanatic’s Leeds-supporting handbook. These are the ideals we hold dear, the characteristics we love and expect to be hated for. Without these principles, forged through blood, sweat and tears, there would be no modern Leeds United. They’re written into the DNA of the club – and now we have a man who appears to have the same list of attributes carved upon his heart.

It’s no mealy-mouthed recitation of what he knows we want to hear, either. The qualities espoused by Heckingbottom don’t fall from his mouth like lazy platitudes, but as the solid structure behind his footballing philosophy. Aggression with and without the ball. Consistency being the golden key to league success. Intensity, the way to the fans’ collective heart. These are the principles that can lead to success for what is a talented squad. How long it will take to establish such a pattern is another matter entirely.

For the time being, though, the task of showing us all exactly what we’ve got in Heckingbottom is well under way. Already, social media doubters and naysayers are swinging into line and declaring themselves won over. That’s not a bad start before a ball is kicked. The new Leeds boss has a disarming manner about him too, when asked about the pressure that goes with working at what is perceived as a sack-happy club, he gives us the anecdote of how he tells his kids not to worry about Dad getting the sack as, if he does, they’ll all be going on holiday. We even understand his childhood hatred of United; having seven shades kicked out of you in the field behind your Mam’s house by bigger, older Leeds fans is not calculated to endear a lad to that lot up the M1. But now, those same Leeds fans are ringing to wish him luck and success at Elland Road. It’s gone full circle, and – so far, at any rate – it feels right.

I’ve certainly not heard a better Leeds United philosophy since the early, heady days of Sergeant Wilko, who breezed into a troubled Elland Road from South Yorkshire thirty years ago, and did really quite well. As a precedent, the Wilko example is not a bad one for Paul Heckingbottom to emulate, though he appears happily to be very much his own man. But he has the same air of confidence and self-assurance about him; the same conviction that his way is the right way, hopefully with the same ability to carry others along on the path he treads.

It’s early days, and the sadness that accompanied the departure of Thomas Christiansen, a genuinely nice guy, has barely begun to dissipate. But in football, you always look forward, even when making comparisons with former Leeds legends. In Hecky, a coach who sets so much store by “getting on the grass” to work with his players, we might well have found at last a round peg for the round hole that is Elland Road. This is a bloke who was doing too much at Barnsley of what he didn’t really want to be doing – now he has the chance, in this Leeds United structure, of concentrating on what he does best.

It should work well; let’s all get behind the guy in the fervent hope that it will.

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Isn’t it Time TV Stopped Pandering to the “We All Hate Leeds” Brigade? – by Rob Atkinson

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Burton Albion & Sky Sports v Leeds United

Watching Leeds United on the telly has health implications for your standard Whites fanatic, the kind with the iconic LUFC running through them like a stick of rock. Football devotees in general, and Leeds fans in particular, are hardly known for their Zen-like state of calmness, and it frequently seems to me that the telly people are doing their utmost to wind me up with their continual sniping at Yorkshire’s Number One football club. Because, whenever I’m stuck with TV coverage as opposed to being there, I always end up feeling as though my blood pressure has spiked, and I’m left foaming at the mouth, longing to give some smug pundit the baseball bat treatment.

The Burton Albion game on Boxing Day was a case in point. The Championship minnows had enjoyed two victories on the trot, and Sky Sports were all a-flutter to see them make that three against Big Bad Leeds. When the Brewers took the lead with a narrowly offside goal, the commentators glossed over it – Ronaldo Vieira shouldn’t have stepped out, their logic ran, so it was bad defending. If Vieira had stayed put, the lad would have been onside – but the pundits weren’t in any mood to let facts interfere with their “Chuffed that Leeds are losing” position. For the time being, they were as happy as a scum fan with a new easy chair (though that had changed by the time Ronnie, living up to both his names, put Kemar Roofe in for the winner).

Right at the end of the first half, Leeds defender Gaetano Berardi sailed into a challenge on Burton man Sean Scanell, and what followed was highly instructive. It was the kind of tackle that, when perpetrated by some media darling in a Man U shirt, elicits a roguish chuckle from the commentators, with the remark “That would have earned you a new contract back in the day, but now it’s a wee bit naughty”. The fact is that Berardi won the ball – with both feet, admittedly. But only the ball suffered, no blood was shed and no bones were broken. Still, the pundits were all pursed lips and sanctimony; their outraged verdict was that our man could and should have seen red.

In the second half, it was yours truly seeing red, as Albion’s goalscorer Tom Naylor, delivered the classic over-the-top leg-breaker on Vieira, studs into Ronnie’s standing leg, an absolutely atrocious challenge. From the Sky gantry, there was only the most sheepish of reactions – “Ooh, that’s another bad one” etc. There was none of the red card bloodlust, none of the hysteria that Berardi’s comparatively innocuous challenge had prompted. On the day, both incidents resulted in yellow cards – harsh in Berardi’s case, and a gross under-reaction to the Naylor assault on Vieira. But it was the Sky reaction that was the most disgusting aspect of the whole matter; they even edited the Naylor foul out of their highlights package, focusing the disciplinary spotlight firmly on the Berardi challenge. Sky TV do seem to have a heavy hand in editing Leeds highlights – the other week, they even edited Gjanni Alioski’s sumptuous winning goal right out of their Barnsley v United clip, which is a tad harsh, even by their ant-Leeds standards.

The thing is, these are not isolated examples. It happens time and again, most weeks in fact. There’s usually some dedicated Leeds-hating has-been in the co-commentary seat, and always an anti-United spin on the description of pivotal events. It’s no mystery as to what’s behind it – hating the Elland Road boys is still a national preoccupation, a good four decades after the Super Leeds era that got them all in such a resentful froth. So it’s in broadcast media’s commercial interests to hype up the hate, just as it is for them to view Man U through sentimentally rose-tinted glasses, catering to their tragic legions of armchair TV subscribers. Both attitudes are commercially sensible – but it doesn’t make them right.

Let’s face it, Leeds United are big box office for Sky’s Championship coverage, and it’s about time a little bit more respect was shown, if not outright gratitude. That’s only right and just, not that these are words figuring prominently in any broadcaster’s lexicon. But, for the sake of my blood pressure if nothing else, and to prevent me hurling something at my costly flat-screen technology – it’s time for the TV companies to wise up, grow up, and lay off my beloved Leeds.

This is Not the Time to Push That Leeds United Panic Button – by Rob Atkinson

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Christiansen and Radrizzani of Leeds United

A little sober analysis of last night’s defeat at the hands of a rampant pack of Wolves will reveal that, after a bad start where we got properly mauled, things could have turned out oh so differently. The fact is that, in the wake of Gjanni Alioski‘s excellent finish to pull us back into the game at 2-1 down, Leeds United were on the up and up, exerting considerable pressure on a home team that were doing some post-interval creaking after a dominant first half. A second yellow meaning a red for Ronaldo Vieira changed all that, and Wolves were able to reassert their authority with two more goals, leaving the scoreline looking rather lop-sided. But the positives were there for United against an expensively assembled side that looks certain to dominate the division this campaign.

Some Leeds United fans, so overjoyed at sending Middlesbrough coach Garry Monk back up the A1 with nowt, have then failed to see beyond that 1-4 scoreline, leading to renewed calls for the revolving door on the Elland Road manager’s office to be greased up ready for an impending departure. Whites boss Thomas Christiansen will not be unaware of the calls in certain quarters for his replacement, but he has troubles of his own to contend with – a tendency to concede ridiculously harsh penalty kicks, and doubts over the future of a certain Herr Lasogga among them. Yet Christiansen’s poise and dignity are still the hallmarks of his brief stewardship at Elland Road; he remains defiant and determined. The facts back up the theory that he’s not had the best of luck with various factors beyond his control, and – given the comical frequency of managerial turnover during the previous regime – surely it is time for the club to stick to its guns and give its man the opportunity and resources to do the job for which he was hired.

A visit to arch-nemesis Barnsley on Saturday is hardly the kind of trip Christiansen would choose as he looks to bounce back from the Molineux mangling; the Tykes have in common with so many other Championship clubs an almighty chip on the shoulder where Leeds are concerned, and this tends to inspire them to hit heights they find unattainable on less Cup Final-ish occasions. So we can expect a fired-up opposition to be waiting for us at Oakwell, but that’s the name of the game for a club like Leeds, and it’s high time we learned to deal with it. Again, Christiansen will be aware of this syndrome, having fallen foul of it at Millwall not so long back.

For many, that was where the rot set in, though worrying signs had been visible against Birmingham City just four days earlier, despite a 2-0 success against the Blues. There are many who feel that, despite his respectable goal return, it’s been the introduction of Lasogga to the team and his presence around the squad that has made the difference between the early season Leeds that was carrying all before it, and the misfiring machine we’ve been watching more lately. There does seem to be some issue, and a few conflicting rumours, where Lasogga is concerned, and this is just one of the factors on Christiansen’s worry list right now. But the priority should be to give him every opportunity to get that list sorted.

Happily, owner Andrea Radrizzani currently seems inclined to take the path of least resistance, keeping faith in his man and, although his motives might be open to question, that has to be A Good Thing for the time being at least. Whether Radrizzani is motivated by a deep personal conviction that he has the right man, or whether he is trying to establish his Leeds United ownership credentials by being as obviously as possible Not Cellino, remains a moot point. Whatever the reason, Christiansen deserves the chance to turn the currently less than ideal situation around. The performance against Middlesbrough showed that his methods have some merit, and it may well be that another endorsement of his ability and leadership was on its way against Wolves – until Vieira’s dismissal signalled the end of United’s chances.

The buzz phrase at Leeds United, for the time being at least, must be “Keep the Faith”. Christiansen has much in place within his squad that has been both pleasing to the eye and effective at times this season. The aim must be to regain a position where the whole of the team performance is greater than the sum of its parts; lately that equation has been the wrong way around on too many occasions, but in the last two matches there have been definite signs of a return to form.

Keep Fighting, as they used to say in the old days. And keep behind the team. Now is not the time to push that panic button.

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.

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.