Tag Archives: BBC

Leeds, Spurs, Everyone: Give Arsenal’s Main Man a Chance   –   by Rob Atkinson


The Tories think you are STUPID. That’s why they talk at you in three word, alliterative sentences, which they repeat over and over. 
Strong and stable. Brexit means Brexit. Magic money tree. Enough is enough. Coalition of Chaos. 

It’s the crudest and most obvious form of brainwashing you could imagine, but the Tories think – because you didn’t go to Eton, Harrow and then the Varsity – that you will be easily-led enough to vote FOR fox-hunting, the end of our NHS, tax rises for everyone except the rich, cuts in police and education, the Dementia Tax – and all the other nasties that the Nasty Party wants to foist on the many, so that the few can continue to ride their beloved gravy train.

They think you’ll be daft and masochistic enough to vote AGAINST free education, a decent living wage, investment in housing and social care and 10,000 extra police to make our streets safer. They think you’re THAT stupid. Well, are you?
I have a three word sentence for you. VOTE THEM OUT. And a four word sentence. BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. 
Because, in one respect, the Tories are right. Enough IS enough. Seven years of Tory rule have dangerously weakened our front-line defences, driven teachers to despair, piled more pressure onto overworked and underpaid nurses and junior doctors. They’ve made a mess of the economy and a laughing-stock of the nation.

Now Trump is supporting the woman who failed as Home Secretary, who is failing as Prime Minister and who wants YOU to back her vague and uncosted manifesto – in effect, sign a blank cheque – for another five grim years, so that she can continue to run down vital services and sell off infrastructure. When Trump supports something, you know it can’t be good.
The last seven years of ideological austerity, which have seen national debt double to almost £2 trillion, are ample proof that the Tories are hopelessly malign and clueless. Enough really IS enough. And this election will be your last chance to make a fresh start before the Tories rig the democracy game to make sure they stay in power forever. Don’t be stupid. Don’t let them do it. The stakes are high, have your say on Thursday, and get rid of the Tories. 
Give Mr. Corbyn your trust and your faith. Give him a chance to put things right for the many, not just the few. It’s probably the chance of a lifetime to escape the yoke of neoliberalism. 

America missed the opportunity afforded them by Bernie Sanders. Look where they are now. We must not make the same mistake. 

#VoteLabour #JC4PM #ToriesOut

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Lost: Teddy (Thrown Out of Cot). Leeds Utd Colours. Please Return to Garry Monk   –   by Rob Atkinson

Monk: my teddy went thataway


Professional football is a game of lines. Touchlines, goal-lines, defensive lines. Add to that: lines you do not cross. Mark that last one well, especially if you are a Leeds United manager under pressure (and is there any other sort?)

There are also things you can afford to lose, within reason. Football matches. Arguments with the owner (that’s probably the tactful thing to do). And there are things you cannot afford to lose, at any price. The respect and support of the fans. The respect and support of the local press who cover all aspects of the club.

In a car-crash of a radio interview with Adam Pope after today’s 0-1 home defeat to Huddersfield, Leeds manager Garry Monk crossed the line that separates professionalism from imprudent petulance. He is now in perilous territory, in danger of being turned upon by local press and fans alike. After what was really an abysmal interview performance, Garry Monk is bang to rights on a charge of lacking respect and professional calm. It’s a mistake that will not soon be forgotten, and one that will bear no repetition.

It’s easy to point at the fact that Monk is under pressure. But he is well paid to cope with that – and, not incidentally, to produce performances many times more convincing than his Leeds United team has been serving up. You can understand some early teething troubles from a new group of players. But to dismiss so contemptuously the worries and concerns outside the professional bubble of the football club – that passes understanding. It’s neither reasonable nor acceptable. 

With Cellino’s criminal record of revolving-door recruitment, the last thing I want to do is advocate hasty change. But when your manager loses the plot like that, with a respected local journalist too, then you scratch your head and wonder how Steve Evans might do with this squad. On the basis of today’s post-match demeanour, I’m really not sure that Monk is fit for purpose. I’d be delighted to be proved wrong, naturally. 

Things have to change at Elland Road, or another bleak – possibly disastrous – season beckons. At this juncture, the question is not whether there be change, but how far-reaching that change should be. On the evidence of today, as well as the obvious need to get rid of and replace the owner, there may also be a need to review the coaching situation. 

Being Leeds United manager is a tough ask. Many are found wanting. It may be that Garry Monk is showing signs that he’ll be just another who can’t cut it at Elland Road. 

As West Ham Say Goodbye to Upton Park, Memories of a Leeds Fan – by Rob Atkinson

wright hammer

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Happy Wright

Tonight we bid a sad farewell to Upton Park, or the Boleyn Ground, long-time home of Olympic Stadium-bound West Ham United. The ‘Ammers, as they’re known locally, have usually been obliging victims for Leeds United teams of most eras, and were particularly notable as lenders of a helping hand towards the end of our title run-in of 1992, when they defeated Man U in a game that turned Alex Ferguson the deepest shade of exasperated purple I’ve ever seen. So it’s fitting, as another proper London football ground bites the dust, that I should write a little about the ‘Appy ‘Ammers; some of my fondest memories are of victories there, particularly this MayDay romp in 1999.

It was an encounter, played out in front of a packed Boleyn Ground crowd of 25997, that found Leeds United in a rich run of form; ten games unbeaten since an early February reverse to Newcastle at Elland Road, after which they had reeled off seven consecutive league victories followed by three draws on the trot. The Whites’ determination to get back to winning ways after those six dropped points was exemplified by the fastest possible start.  A mere twenty seconds had ticked by when the ball nestled in the West Ham net, put there emphatically by the ebullient Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who ran at a retreating Neil Ruddock before finishing neatly with a left-foot shot past Shaka Hislop. And then the game went ever so slightly mad.

Jimmy’s goal apart, the first quarter of an hour had seen both sides engaging in tackles which tended on the thuggish side of enthusiastic. West Ham’s Eyal Berkovic was a victim early on, and Lee Bowyer was on the end of a clattering as the home side sought revenge. Then Ian Wright, no stranger to controversy and the disciplinary attentions of referees, led with his elbow when challenging for a high ball, and copped for a yellow card that looked a lot more justified than the second yellow he got after only 15 minutes, following an altercation with Ian Harte, Harte, Harte. So Wright was on his way back to the stand after a mere quarter of an hour, loudly protesting the injustice of the case and hell-bent, as it turned out, on venting his frustrations on the décor in the ref’s room. 

For the next half-hour, leading up to the interval, Leeds proceeded to make a one man advantage look anything but as West Ham pressed them back, causing panic in the away defence as the promptings of Berkovic and Paolo di Canio created some decent chances to possibly level the game. Leeds had managed to be distinctly the poorer side in that opening 45 minutes, and yet – as if to prove once again what a daft game football can be – they hit West Ham with a sucker punch in first half stoppage time. David Batty appeared to have committed a foul in midfield which might well have justified a booking had the ref not totally ignored it and waved for play to continue. Harry Kewell duly obliged, picking the ball up wide on the left and mesmerising the overstretched Hammers defence before cutting the ball back from the by-line for Alan Smith to convert gleefully.

2-0 then at half time and – for once – it had pretty much all gone Leeds’ way. We had been outplayed for most of the game so far, but were somehow two goals and one man to the good; courtesy, it has to be said, of some not exactly even-handed refereeing.

The second half began much as most of the first had been spent, with Leeds on the back foot and defending precariously. Straight away, the dangerous Berkovic bamboozled Jonathan Woodgate, turning him inside out before supplying di Canio with the perfect chance to pull a goal back. 2-1 to the visitors then, but the balance of the play had been with West Ham, and maybe now the momentum was theirs too. None of us could feel over-confident despite a man and a goal advantage, because all of us could recall Leeds blowing such enviable positions many times in the past.

This time, though – for once – we were not to be let down. A rare defensive slip just after the hour from the otherwise excellent Marc-Vivien Foé saw Hasselbaink sprint clear to round Hislop, who then brought him down. Penalty to Leeds and, despite the presence of defensive cover, Hislop was sent off. It was a slightly unfortunate second red card for West Ham, who felt compelled to replace Berkovic with reserve keeper Craig Forrest as the calamities mounted for the home team. Forrest’s first act was to pick Harte’s penalty out of the back of the net, and Leeds were 3-1 up and cruising against 9 men. Foé, we will remember, sadly died four years later at the tragically young age of 28, from an unsuspected heart condition whilst representing his country in the FIFA Confederations Cup.

Now at last Leeds started to dominate as a two-man advantage would suggest they should. The best goal of the game arrived on 78 minutes, Bowyer hitting an unstoppable right-footed shot from twenty-five yards, which curved slightly as it found the corner of Forrest’s net.  Just a minute later, Alf-Inge Haaland sprinted on to a Hasselbaink pass into a massive amount of space on the right hand side. Unchallenged, he was able to advance into the penalty area and beat Forrest with an accurate shot just inside the far post.

The eight outfield players in claret and blue were clearly finding the pace too hot, and suddenly there was room aplenty all over the pitch for Leeds to exploit, and exploit it they did.  Aided by the fact that the Hammers – to their eternal credit – were still trying to attack Leeds in spite of their depleted resources, Leeds were granted the licence to ping the ball about, always able to find a man or two in space, making the tired home players work overtime to chase possession as the Upton Park faithful bayed their hate at the referee. Truth to tell, we could easily empathise with the ‘Arrassed ‘Ammers; far too many times down the years we’d been in their shoes, watching impotently enraged as some git of a ref casually destroyed our afternoon. It was somewhat bizarre to watch the situation unfold in reverse – but what the hell. We made hay while the sun was shining, and happily the team was doing the same.

The game had long been over as a contest and, at 5-1 up with no credible opposition to deal with, Leeds seemed intent solely on playing out time. Smith still managed to miss a passable chance to make it 6-1 and Clyde Wijnhard contrived to get himself booked, eliciting maliciously ironic chants of “Who’s the bastard in the black” from the jubilant Leeds fans, who displayed an ironic gallows humour not altogether appreciated by the home supporters. Finally, hothead Irons defender Steve Lomas allowed his mounting frustration to get the better of him, launching an agricultural challenge in the direction of Harte and duly collecting his marching orders to reduce the hapless, helpless Hammers to eight at the death.

It had been a strange game, a romp for the Whites on the face of it – judging by the lop-sided score line anyway. But it had never been quite like that; not that our awareness of having been outplayed for long stretches diluted our joy one tiny bit. It’s a sad fact that 5-1 away wins do not come along very often, and we enjoyed this one to the full. We enjoyed it for the whole of the slightly perilous walk back to the tube station, and we were still enjoying it when we beheld the distinctly pissed-off figure of Leslie Grantham heading down the stairway to the platform where we were celebrating noisily. Leslie Grantham, soap-opera legend as Eastenders arch-villain Dirty Den; Leslie Grantham who had done serious time for killing a German taxi-driver; Leslie Grantham, Hammers fanatic, who – despite being accompanied by his two young boys – bore a grim aspect which looked rather as if he wouldn’t mind adding a couple of Leeds fans to that record.

Tactful and understanding to the last of private grief, we wisely kept our distance and refrained from seeking autographs. It had been a memorably bizarre day for Leeds United and an equally happy summer evening awaited us in the sinful fleshpots of London, crap, watery cockney beer and semi-hostile natives notwithstanding.

Dirty Den 1, Dirty Leeds 5.

The Health Problem Behind Those Tight-Fitting Leeds United Replica Shirts – by Rob Atkinson

One home, one away and one keeper's, please. All XXXL

One home, one away and one keeper’s, please. All XXXL

The new Leeds United home and away replica shirts are now available in the club shops, at an only mildly extortionate price, resplendent in traditional white and yellow respectively, innocent of any tacky sponsors logo and – apparently – quite the most desirable things since Felicity Kendal’s late 70s vintage derrière. I’ve had my say on the home shirt – I wasn’t keen, but I was clearly in the minority as far as that went. The away shirt, though, is undeniably sexy.

The only real peeps of protest have come from those chaps of “more generous proportions”, who are finding difficulties with the “snugness” of the design. It’s proving difficult, it seems, for the more portly gent to squeeze his avoirdupois into his shiny new shirt – unless he’s invested in a couple or three additional X’s on top of the standard XL. As the owner of a somewhat rounded physique myself, it’s got me thinking and, slowly but surely, a rant has developed.

It’s a rant that has its roots in a news item from a couple of years back, when BBC Radio Five Live were in crusading mode, their plan of campaign as usual heavily reliant upon taking a lazy sound-bite and stimulating a heated debate around it. On this occasion, the sound-bite was a distinctly unprofessorial (not to say yobbish) statement by one Professor Craig Currie of Cardiff University, who had given it as his august opinion that we in the UK are “a nation of lazy porkers”. Now, the good professor may have expressed himself like a lout – but, now as then, he does rather have a point.

I must reiterate here that I am something of a porker myself though not, I hope, a lazy one – but it should be clear from the outset that I’m not here to have a go at hapless fellow fatties. I’m all too well aware that we chubsters have more than enough to put up with in terms of slings and arrows and brickbats from insensitive skinny types, bad cess to them. I myself suffer from Type II Diabetes, a condition occurring typically with old age but also probable in earlier years where weight is a factor influencing health. And yet as a younger man, I was extremely fit, active and sporty – so the question arises: what other factors are at play? Why are those Leeds United shirts so tight?

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I believe that, as a nation, we have failed to address this public health issue in a number of important respects. In a nutshell, I blame the parents – but also educational institutions for their control-freak attitude to school dinners, and successive governments who have taken an alarmingly short-term and complacent approach to investment in measures to preserve the fitness and health of the population.

Let’s look at parents first. How many times have you heard of a 1960’s mum or dad, themselves brought up in an atmosphere of post-war austerity, telling their already full-up offspring “Clean your plate now – I won’t have you wasting good wholesome food.  That would feed a family for two weeks in Biafra.” That’s what I used to hear as a kid, and, although I always had to bite back a snapped “Well, send it to Biafra, then”, it was considered sound child psychology. I even relayed a watered-down version of it to my own child. But this one phrase, or variants thereof, can be held at least partly responsible for a pattern being set in childhood whereby many people feel actual guilt if they’re in danger of leaving food uneaten on a plate.

At my primary school in the sixties, those of more delicate appetites were always in danger of being sent to “stand at the wall” in the big dining room when the dreaded school dinners were being served. Leaving food on your plate was a disciplinary issue, and offenders were subjected to this diluted form of public humiliation. Looking back, it seems barbaric – a kind of child abuse. And all the time, the insidious process of habit-formation was going on, with young bodies and developing digestive systems being routinely overloaded as those plates got laboriously, reluctantly cleared. It was a mental process as well as a physical one – the feeling of guilt at any waste was ingrained early. Even now, in restaurants, we of a certain age make the old joke: finish up now, or you’ll get stood at the wall. It’s the product of misguided brainwashing 50 years ago, by parents, by teachers, by the formidable army of “dinner ladies”.

So the errant notions of childhood nutrition, arising out of an historical and hysterical “post-rationing” culture that spawned the baby-boomers, may be one factor that is now reaping an unwelcome harvest in the proliferation of Type II Diabetes in younger age-groups such as the 40-somethings. What else might be at play? Hand-in-hand with the issue of nutrition goes the equally thorny one of exercise. When I was a child, most recreation was out of doors, and nearly every patch of public land had its games of football going on whenever the players weren’t required in the classroom or at home. It was jumpers for goalposts over the length and breadth of the country, and kids ran and ran after a ball, or whatever other sporting object and, by and large, they were lean and fit as whippets as a result.

All that started to change with the advent of videos and computer games and, latterly, the Internet. Each advance of technology has had the effect of dragging the youngsters indoors to become fat and pasty as they pursue their virtual preoccupations. It was a clear, unmistakeable signal for the authorities to do something, something urgent and effective, to promote exercise and the outdoors as essential to health and development. Investment was necessary in exercise facilities, and the crucial importance of this had to become a much more up-front feature of the national curriculum. This much, surely, was self-evident.

So what have our various political persuasions of government done? Failed, utterly, that’s what. Cut back on investment. Sold off playing fields. Allowed the private sector to hire out exercise facilities at a premium price to make a fat profit and cause a problem of fat people who can’t afford to get fit. This failure to invest is a classic illustration of the wisdom of the old saw “A stitch in time saves nine”.

My own spiral downwards from fitness began with a cruciate knee ligament injury – and by the time I’d recovered, I was saving up to get married. I couldn’t afford gym fees etc – so it was too expensive to get fit again. My current health problems can be traced back to that time, and I’m sure the story is similar for many thousands of others. If misfortune strikes, part of the healing process has to be an active and healthy lifestyle, with exercise restoring the body as far as possible from an event like my knee injury. If that’s made too difficult due to financial circumstances, you pay a price in later life and declining health.

Now, the government is wailing and gnashing its teeth at the cost to the NHS of this Diabetes explosion, and other health issues that seem set fair to bankrupt our health service. It’s a bit like a householder bemoaning a £350 plumbers’ bill which has come about because they failed to invest £2.95 in lagging the pipes. Just consider the massive folly of what has happened. Selling off the playing fields, only to reap the harvest of a nation of lazy porkers. Flogging exercise facilities and then pointing the finger at the victims of obesity-related illness is comparable to raffling off the lifeboats on the Titanic, and then blaming the iceberg for the death toll.

If we’re to reverse this helter-skelter decline in the nation’s health, we need to stop whinging and shouting “Why, oh why” from the rooftops – and actually do something. Austerity only compounds the problem; investment, investment, investment is the way forward. If it’s possible to spend a pound on exercise and thereby save a fiver later on in healthcare costs – and it demonstrably is – then that is the road we must go down, and on a macro scale.

It may be that we’d only be shutting the stable door after the lazy porkers have bolted – but we have to act now. Exercise facilities must be made available, they must be made attractive and they must be made cheap or free. Public awareness must be raised. Full-time posts must be established for professionals who will then have the responsibility of changing lifestyles and encouraging the nation to get off its backside and do something. That will create jobs, it will have a positive effect on the health of many who simply can’t afford to take advantage of what’s currently on offer – and that, in turn, would have an incalculable effect on the mental health of the population, which right now and for some time past has been crying out for a good healthy kick of endorphins; the feel-good factor.

The cost of all this? Vast. Really, humongously enormous. But the benefits down the line, the savings to be made by the nipping in the bud of all these dire health issues, would be immeasurably greater still. That’s the whole point of investment – you grit your teeth and pay up, hoping for and trusting in a positive return later. The return on the billions spent now, though, should be many more billions, possibly trillions saved in the future. This is an investment we can’t afford not to make.

Just as we now look back at the sixties and remember the influence of our parents, products of late-forties austerity, so in fifty years time our descendants might look back on the current austerity-obsession, shake their heads sadly, and wonder what might have been if we’d only shown the foresight to invest in the future, and to educate our population about the wisdom of staying as fit as possible for as long as possible. At the moment, with our short-sighted insistence on short-term savings we’re storing up trouble in the shape of a vast medical bill which will come due when our next generation grows up flabby and unhealthy, and starts keeling over in rows from the effects of cardiac disease, diabetes, strokes, and other fat-related nasties.

We simply have to pay a few bob to lag those pipes now, if we’re to have any real hope of avoiding that gargantuan plumbing bill in the future. Take it from a deeply concerned porker – a stitch in time really does save nine.

Leeds United to Miss Out as FA Introduce Selective New “Joker” Rule – by Rob Atkinson

I heff het...enOUGH of losink. I em playink - our JOKER in all games now.

I heff het…enOUGH of losink. I em playink…our JOKER in all games now

It hardly comes as news to the fans of Leeds United, long used to English football’s tiresome habit of “playing favourites”, that there is some perplexity in the corridors of power about the inability of the “most popular club” to win the league title. Since a certain choleric Glaswegian shuffled off into the sunset to brood over old feuds and current grievances, the supply of plastic EPL titles for Club Popular has dried up somewhat, much to the chagrin of the suits. Needless to say, that most popular club is not located in LS11 – the Whites of Elland Road occupy a ranking at the other end of the adulation scale, with the game’s administrators being accustomed to wrinkle their noses slightly if forced to acknowledge Leeds’ existence, affecting a rather pained expression, as if they were suffering patiently in the presence of some noxious odour.

No, the “most popular” – naturally – are the club I joshingly if not exactly fondly refer to as the Pride of Devon – due to their vast appeal to the more insecure type of West Country glory-hunter. But they’re all the rage in parts of London too, this lot – as well as Wales, Ireland, Milton Keynes, Barnsley, for God’s sake – and not to mention great chunks of the Far East and even isolated neighbourhoods in less salubrious areas of Manchester itself. 

The dilemma faced by the game’s rulers appears to be a matter of clear and present danger to those earnest men in their sober garb, as they brandish calculators and contemplate massive markets, domestic and foreign, previously of great productivity, with bale after bale of tatty replica Sharp, AIG or Chevrolet shirts being demanded every high day and holiday by precocious Man U-supporting spoilt brats. Having expressed concern over the poor form of the EPL Golden Boys, the Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore is now rumoured to have come up with a foolproof plan to redress the balance and get away from the current, annoyingly level playing field in English top flight football. The Chief’s idea is the product of much serious thought and an increasing awareness that the problem of Man U’s chronic lack of dominance is not going away anytime soon. Now, Scudamore has allegedly been inspired by the popular summer evening silly games contest of the mid 1970s, It’s A Knockout, to come up with a novel solution to a thorny problem.

Uncle Stuart - butter wouldn't melt

Uncle Stuart – butter wouldn’t melt

For those of us of a certain age, that evocative theme music is just so reminiscent of long summer evenings when we were young; coming home from playing football on the village green, hot and dusty and pleasantly tired, ready to sit down, relax – and enjoy some more seemingly innocent fun as good old “Uncle” Stuart Hall treated us to his dulcet tones, his manic laugh – but thankfully not the gift of his intimate acquaintance. Genial old rugby league fart Eddie Waring bumbled about in the background, sounding ever more like a Mike Yarwood impression of himself, joining in with Hall for the title of maddest chortler. It was quintessential family entertainment, or so it seemed in those pre-Operation Yewtree days.

Happy days, for some. But the appeal of It’s A Knockout was – thankfully – more down to the nuttiness of the games and the rules, than any peculiarities of the show’s host. The contests were between a number of teams representing various obscure towns around the UK. Massive costumes figured heavily, huge false heads on them which would put Joe Royle or even Wayne Rooney to shame, colourful, crazy, hilarious. There was water, there were custard pies, there were enough card-carrying prats to ensure pratfalls aplenty – it was hilarious, playful anarchy – and the presenters could be heard crying with mirth as the participants struggle gamely. Nobody was too bothered about the scoring system – and yet it was one bizarre element of this which may now restore Man U to what the suits see as that troubled franchise’s rightful place at the top of the English game.

The idea is that Man U – at their own discretion – will be able to “play their joker” whenever the need arises. It’s important to emphasise that this is not a reference to the team selection and the appearance in a Man U shirt of Angel di Maria or the latest “next George Best”. Rather, it is a maverick twist to the scoring system of any particular game – whereby the team playing its joker will have any subsequent score doubled.

Scudamore is believed to favour a refinement of this system, seeing the Man U joker double the value of any goal scored, rule out any goal against them, or produce a penalty on demand, regardless of where play happens to be on the field. It is envisaged that this would enable even a team managed by a total incompetent – or “onbekwaam” as Mijnheer van Gaal’s compatriots would say – to prevail in most games. Theoretically, at least, the return of the Pride of Devon to the summit of the game would be assured – and the Theatre of Hollow Myths would once again ring to the rafters with songs of West Country and cockney triumphalism.

One important feature of the new system is that – surprise, surprise, Leeds fans – it would not be open to all teams, as that would merely introduce an annoyingly random element whilst maintaining what is seen as an undesirable status quo. The conditions of entitlement so far envisaged are extremely stringent; only clubs who can demonstrate that every single one of their FA Cup ties since 2005 has been televised live on TV – even when they’ve played no-hopers at home (Exeter and Cambridge, for example. Or Leeds United…) – will have the option of “playing their Joker”. It has been concluded that only one club, based just outside Manchester, would fall within these parameters. Coincidentally, the identity of this randomly selected club would fit in precisely with Mr Scudamore’s idea for the future of the game.

Scudamore is said to be delighted with his plan. and hopes that its introduction will be a new start for English football, with better times ahead for all – unless you happen to be a fan of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City – or indeed any club that lacks the postcode M16 0RA.

Louis van Gaal, 83, is an extreme embarrassment.

BBC: ‘Eastenders’ Goes For Cockney Cred by Introducing Man U Family – by Rob Atkinson

Mr Harris and his ex-pug wife

Cockney reds, Mr. Reg “Prawn Baron” Harris and his ex-pug wife, Frankie Knuckles

Any soap-addicted Leeds United fan will be able to recall the most legendary reference to football in the BBC’s flagship offering, Eastenders. Saying farewell to a departing character bound for a new life “Ap Norf” in Leeds, Mark Fowler (played by Grange Hill‘s Tucker Jenkins) extolled the sporting virtues of West Yorkshire’s Number One city. “They’ve got a good football team!” he enthused, raising a glass in the Queen Vic and causing manly chests all over the Broad Acres to swell still further with justified pride. After all, at that time, the “good team” thing wasn’t even an exaggeration, as David O’Leary modestly watched “moy babies” take all comers apart with consummate ease. It was all a long, long time ago.

Now, though, as part of its quest to bring maximum realism even to its soap opera output – and building on the recent publicity surrounding the Eastenders’ 30th anniversary – the BBC has announced it will be introducing a family of Man U fans to Albert Square. It’s a move some regard as long overdue, reasoning that it’s impossible accurately to reflect life in the capital without a proliferation of glory-hunting, armchair-dwelling, plastic “cockney reds” skulking around every corner, tragically clad in the latest tacky 4th away strip. The Eastenders production office has promised us a family who will breezily reinforce all of those too-true stereotypes that make Man U the club we all just love to hate – even now that they’re crap.

The head of the family, a retired East-End boxer named Frankie “Knuckles” Kray, rules her household with an iron fist inside a chain-mail glove. No stranger to violence, she can be relied upon regularly to engage in some aggro in the Queen Vic, claiming afterwards that it was Leeds fans on the way back from Chelsea. Frankie is 46 and started supporting Man U as long ago as 1993. She is already on her fourth armchair.

Her common-law husband, Reg Harris, has also been a Man U fan since 1993, prior to which he had supported Liverpool from afar, only defecting when they “turned rabbish, squire, and stopped winning nuffink.” He is buoyed up in his change of allegiance by the fact that his hero, Zoe Ball, did exactly the same thing in order to revive a flagging career. Reg, who is in the Norwegian prawns import racket, says that supporting Man U has had a similarly positive effect on his own fortunes. He now supplies the executive boxes at the Theatre of Hollow Myths, and names Roy Keane as his least favourite player ever. He has never been to a football match, believing that he needs an up-to-date passport to venture north of Watford.

There are two children in the Kray/Harris family, Ryan and Eric. The lads were born in 2000 and 2009 respectively (coincidentally, nine months after each of the Pride of Devon‘s two most recent Champions League flukes). Both boys are fiercely proud and lifelong Man U fans who are now seriously considering defecting to Chelsea to avoid being ribbed and tweaked at school. Most of their mates have already switched clubs since Sir Taggart retired, and the lads now find themselves frustrated in their instinctive glory-hunting tendencies and laughed at by the teachers. Despite such ideological doubts, however, both are still forced by their parents to sleep in branded Cantona Kung-Fu pyjamas and, emotionally scarred, have been in touch with the NSPCC twice about this. Ryan, the elder brother, has been force-fed Quorn since he was weaned and is consequently bow-legged and afflicted with boils, wind and close-set eyes.

The BBC are certain that the introduction of this family, with all of its obvious tragicomic potential, is a sure-fire ratings winner. “We expect to consolidate our pre-eminent viewing figures position in London and the Home Counties,” said a Corporation spokesperson, “as well as making inroads in the West Country and Devon/Cornwall. We may even pick up the odd viewer in the North…” he speculated, feverishly, as he checked the JICTAR figures on his iPhone.

Dirty “Den” Watts, erstwhile West Ham supporter, is dead. Twice.

 

Classless Bees Boss Warburton Adds Insult to Reffing Injury – by Rob Atkinson

Salibury - Befehl ist Befehl (I voss only followink orders)

Salisbury – Befehl ist Befehl (I voss only followink orders)

A vendetta is a lot like a dog turd – if it looks like one and smells like one (and especially if there’s some cur in the vicinity with a guilty expression on his chops) then it probably is one. The evidence is mounting that one of the factors blighting this Leeds United season is – how can I put this? – the reluctance of officialdom and the authorities to grant the Whites a level playing field.

The last few games have been reasonable for United results-wise, but this has been in spite of some less than competent – some might allege less than completely impartial – refereeing. On Saturday at Elland Road, Leeds faced a high-flying, hard-working and effective Brentford side who have made a real impact on the Championship this season. That the wheels fell off for Leeds was partly down to these opposition qualities, partly down to the old failings that returned to haunt the Whites – but significantly also it was down to a simply appalling performance by referee Graham Salisbury.

Elland Road is no stranger to shoddy refereeing. Any club will have its tales to tell of dodgy match officials on their travels – the phenomenon of the “homer” referee is well-documented and has a solid factual base. But while classically-educated Leeds fans (i.e. most of us) will be familiar with the Homer of Greek rhapsodic poetry fame, so rightly celebrated for his Iliad and Odyssey, they will scratch their heads and look blank when asked about the concept of a home-biased ref at United’s ground. It’s a bit of a sick joke for long-suffering Whites supporters. A book could easily be filled with tales of how we have suffered at the hands and whistle of these arrogant, officious little men.

So, for someone to stand out in that context, he has to be extraordinary indeed. For Leeds fans, brought up on cautionary tales of Tinkler, Michas, Kitabdjian and Elleray, to be so unanimously vehement in their post-match rage and fury, something seismic must have happened. Ecce homo, ecce arbitro: Graham Salisbury. This man outdid the most ravenous of starved rats for taking the biscuit.

Let us not go into the gory details again. In the short time since Salisbury blew the final whistle and relaxed into the warm afterglow of job satisfaction, the internet has been aglow with indignant accounts of the Leeds penalty claims bizarrely turned down; of the dodgy build-up to Brentford’s goal. There’s no smoke without fire, they say. Here we have a stratospheric pall that bids fair to choke the whole of the ether and betrays a proper conflagration. The details of the game are damning enough – of possibly even greater significance is the fact that this same Mr Salisbury was hauled over the coals just a few months back, after the Watford v Brentford game, by the Bees’ rentaquote manager, Mark Warburton.

Now a proper referee, a man of integrity, moral courage and steadfast determination to Do The Right Thing, would not be affected by a mere managerial rant. But, as we saw so clearly at Elland Road on Saturday, Graham Salisbury is none of these things. Salisbury appears instead to be the sort of match official who, in his eagerness to show he’s not to be intimidated by a vociferous crowd, will lean so far the other way as to absolutely persecute the side this crowd is rooting for. I’ve seen it many, many times before at Leeds, though not to this extent. The more the crowd hollers and gets on his back, the more the ref thinks “I shall NOT be intimidated. How good am I??” You can see it in his expression, in his demeanour, in his very body language. Gestures accompanying decisions become exaggerated and defiant. He plays the crowd like the matador he imagines himself to be might play an enraged bull. He walks off afterwards, feeling wonderful, cleansed, virtuous – expecting praise for his incredible, superhuman resilience, heedless and uncaring of the crowd baying for his blood.

On Saturday, Mr Salisbury got the praise he coveted – and not just from the Football League, whom – in common with other officials at recent Leeds games – he might well have expected to be more than satisfied with him. But yet more praise was heaped on his head by the man who had quite recently torn into him – Brentford’s mercurial Mark Warburton. Not so happy, obviously, was the Leeds coach Neil Redfearn, who condemned Salisbury’s abject failure to award obvious penalties. But then again, Mr Salisbury will rationalise in his self-satisfied way, he would say that, wouldn’t he? Besides, Warburton was quite possibly only following orders. Befehl ist befehl – as they used to say in the Wehrmacht or at the Nuremberg hearings.

Warburton, in stark contrast to his anti-Salisbury hatchet-job of September, waxed lyrical this time about the same ref – especially the way he “refused to be intimidated by the crowd” for the penalty claims. If you review the incidents with the sound off, apparently, they’re not penalties. Is that so, Mr Warburton? Perhaps if you reviewed them once more, this time with your Brentford-tinted specs off, they might look different again? There’s a good few thousand present yesterday who might very well think so. But – we would say that, wouldn’t we? The BBC might have been able to shed some light – if they had included the incidents in their brief Football League Show highlights. True to form, as well as the party line, they didn’t. So I’m told.

Warburton: lack of class

Warburton: lack of class

The tiresome thing about some of the more anonymous managers these days – the ones who perhaps feel they’re not as famous as they should be – is that they tend to play what the media, wistfully remembering those glorious Sir Alex Taggart days, just love to call “mind games”. Warburton will be a happy man today. He’ll think he’s handled the hapless Salisbury just right – soften him up with a post Watford rant, continue that process by expressing, in the run-up to the Leeds game, the hope that he’ll not succumb to that notorious crowd pressure  – and then fulsomely praise him afterwards when he’s got his result.

And, make no mistake, Warburton and Brentford have got a result – a right result, to compare with any in their spectacular season so far. League placings notwithstanding, for Brentford to win at Leeds is historic, earth-shattering. It’s another one up for David over Goliath. Memorable just isn’t the word. And it doesn’t matter that it was a blagged result, a smash and grab where everything went for the away side. What do the history books care for that? In years to come, Warburton will still be the Brentford boss who went to Leeds and won. They can never take that away from him.

In a way, the sheer classlessness of Warburton’s post-match comments betrays the erstwhile lower-league parvenu in him. Many managers would have emerged from a triumphant away dressing room, conscious that they’ve had the breaks, ridden their luck, got away with it. There’s a sort of nobility in acknowledging that, grinning wryly, being pleased but realistic – showing a bit of class.

But to choose, as Warburton did, to praise a refereeing performance of such grotesque ineptitude, as utterly farcical as Salisbury’s was in its ridiculous one-sidedness – that’s so lacking in class and composure as to reflect ill on a man who really should know better. Perhaps he genuinely wants to inherit the mantle of “mind-games man”, now that The “Auld Bugger” is no more. Who knows? But Mark Warburton emerges somewhat besmirched and grubby from this, certainly with less credit than he could and should have done, after such an unprecedented result.

As for Leeds, they must strive to take what positives they can. There are not many. It was a nearly-but-not-quite performance, a game Leeds might well have lost even without the Salisbury factor so bizarrely skewing matters. Redfearn’s post-match reaction was nowhere near as undignified and opportunistic as his Brentford counterpart’s – but it hardly inspired confidence either. “We can’t play well every week, mate” he said to Eddie Gray as the listening, glum, homeward-bound supporters cringed. But – the other relegation battlers lost too; our fate remains in our own hands and – surely – we won’t get a ref as calamitously bad/bent as Salisbury again. Will we??

Wearily, then, we look forward again. Not to a distantly golden future where we get a fair crack of the whip and the game’s masters leave us alone to get on with playing football – but to the next week or so when we play Reading and Millwall with six vital points at stake. This nightmare reffing Brentford débâcle means we need the whole half-dozen and then we must kick on from there. Horrifically, the Millwall game will be almost as much our Cup Final as it always is theirs.

Come on, Leeds.

BBC: “Distressing Scenes” Stopped Us Showing Full Leeds Highlights – by Rob Atkinson

Manish: "Upsetting scenes"

Manish: “Upsetting scenes”

Many fans of Leeds United – and even Huddersfield Town – were mystified at the BBC’s decision to show only brief highlights on the Football League Show of the pulsating West Yorkshire derby between Town and United on Saturday. Leeds fans have become used to an apparent BBC policy whereby matches featuring the League’s biggest and most illustrious club are given only scant coverage by the corporation, usually about thirty seconds somewhere towards the end of the programme’s Championship montage.

Derby games, though, might normally be considered a special case, with a large (for Huddersfield) and passionate crowd creating a vibrant atmosphere and adding to the spectacle of fierce local rivals going at it hammer and tongs. And yet, once again, the coverage was minimal. At the start of the programme, reference was made to “today’s early kick-off”, but this was an allusion to the Brentford v ‘Boro live Sky game – not the Town v Leeds affair which also had a lunchtime start.

When asked for an explanation of what might seem, on the face of it, to be slightly odd editorial decisions, a BBC spokesperson commented “Actually, we had planned to show extended highlights of Huddersfield Town versus Leeds United, featuring the match prominently near the start of our Championship section. But sadly, there were some distressing scenes caught by our cameras and we felt that these would be too traumatic to show to the vast majority of our viewers. We are always wary of transmitting events and unforeseen developments that may upset our audience. In this case, the game turned out in a way we could not possibly have foreseen – and we felt we had to reduce coverage to the minimum allowable and leave it till later in the programme.”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything – whilst fully cognisant of the fact that the Huddersfield player Tommy Smith sustained a head or neck injury towards the end of the game, and that scenes such as that are always difficult and possibly traumatic viewing – still felt that this incident, upsetting though it undoubtedly was, hardly justified “pulling” the full highlights. We therefore put it to the BBC that, by the time the programme was broadcast, Tommy Smith was in a stable condition in hospital, sitting up and talking to doctors. Surely, the coverage could have gone ahead as planned – maybe with a reassuring message that the player was fine now, and in no danger?

The BBC spokesperson spluttered a little, and we wondered if he had perhaps choked on a corporate nibble. “The injury to the Huddersfield player? You thought that’s what I was talking about? No, no, no,” our contact laughed uproariously. “Oh, dear me, that’s a good one…” The laughter continued unabated as we waited patiently for our man to calm down and explain himself. “Look, you’ve totally misunderstood me,” he chortled, eventually. “When I referred to distressing scenes that we couldn’t possibly have anticipated, I didn’t mean some common or garden injury! Think, man! This was a Leeds United away win, clinched by a superb goal in the last few minutes! Can you imagine anything more horrible, more upsetting for our viewers?? We couldn’t possibly expose them to that – now could we?”

Manish Bhasin is a self-satisfied git.

Angry Leeds Fans in Protest at F.L. HQ, Preston TOMORROW – by Rob Atkinson

The Football League: rubber-stamped as corrupt

The Football League: rubber-stamped as corrupt (and incompetent)

The Football League Operations Centre at Edward VII Quay, Navigation Way, Preston PR2 2YF will be the scene of peaceful protest tomorrow, as Leeds United fans turn up in force to hold the League to account for their callous and ignorant treatment of its biggest and most famous member club. The local police are fully aware of the planned protest and have liaised with the organisers to ensure a smooth and peaceful event, between 10:00 and noon on the day.

There is no need to go over the fine details of the League’s mistreatment of Leeds United here. It’s all been well-documented enough – and the League in its complacency has taken not a blind bit of notice despite all the articles, arguments and logic placed before it. Serenely ignorant, they have blundered on, determined to act in the worst interests of United, flying in the face of their own guiding principles. It is time, therefore, to turn up in numbers and to make some noise. We must devoutly hope that the media will take an interest so that, perhaps, a few ripples may spread further afield. This blog understands that BBC Look North are interested in the event – again, let us hope so.

The other purpose of the protest event is officially to present to the FL a printout of the Change.org petition (publicised on this blog a number of times in the past few weeks). This petition has now broken the 20,000 barrier. That’s not so far off an average home attendance for Leeds in these parlous days; pretty good going for a campaign that is largely confined to online media and will therefore not have reached the ears of many less tech-minded Leeds fans.

The protest in Preston is the culmination of months, years, decades of shoddy treatment of our club Leeds United at the hands of the League. Finally, we have the opportunity to be heard.

Support the petition. Support the protest. Make your voice heard. We may never get another chance as good as this.

Crocodile Tears from Lineker and Stelling Won’t Fool Leeds Fans – by Rob Atkinson

Gary "Wingnut" Lineker

Gary “Wingnut” Lineker

What have Gary Lineker and Jeff Stelling got in common? Well, they’re both engaging chaps who front popular football programmes on the telly; they have both developed a “style” – for want of a better word – designed to endear them to the less demanding fans out there – and, most recently, they have both taken out an onion and wept tears of breathtaking falseness over what they sincerely hope is the impending demise of Leeds United.

Lineker is the latest incarnation of Match of the Day man, presiding over the ongoing popularity of a football highlights programme with fifty years of variable quality behind it. It was under his stewardship that one of the programme’s less glorious deeds was perpetrated when, in the wake of S’ralex’s long-overdue retirement from the Theatre of Hollow Myths, the programme put together a montage of managerial greats, with the Purple-Nosed One at the head of the parade, natch. This item was notable to real students of the game for its studied failure to even mention the name of the greatest club manager of all, Sir Don Revie. It was a tawdry attempt to reinvent history and appeal in the most insidious and deceitful fashion to the vast army of the programme’s viewers out there who “all hate Leeds” – but couldn’t tell you why, beyond a mumbled “….well, me Dad hated ’em, like…” Complaints to the BBC elicited nothing more than that cowardly corporation’s usual bland, patronising stonewall response – and Lineker did nothing other than essay his well-practised boyish grin, which apparently has middle-aged women the nation over suddenly needing a change of undies.

Now Lineker’s Twitter account states that he “genuinely feels for Leeds fans”. He clearly feels the need to qualify his sincerity by use of that word “genuinely” – that’s a sign of someone talking about someone or something on which they’d normally waste no finer feelings. But Gary feels “the heart has been torn out of the club”, hence his crocodile tears. Well, we’ll wait until the next time Match of the Day needs to revisit the managerial greats issue, thanks, and see if you’ve actually learned anything – no breath will be held.

Stelling: Countdown to hypocrisy

Stelling: Countdown to hypocrisy

Jeff Stelling is a sort of semi-comic front man for Sky’s Soccer Saturday programme, where one of his chief delights is to let a few seconds of tension build up for Leeds fans out there in TV land, before delivering a hammer blow with news of another goal against us – all with that trademark smug smirk on his gob. Now he, too, has chosen to sob publicly about his anguish over the Leeds situation. Jeff clearly thinks no small beans of himself – part of his counterfeit yet tear-stained lament includes the telling phrase “On the field, it is a total shambles with unknown player after unknown player coming into the club – I defy Leeds fans to say they have heard of them because I certainly haven’t – and it looks like it is going to be a terrible, terrible season”. Overlooking for a moment the fierce hope detectable in those last few words, it’s amusing to see that Stelling is so sure that, if he’s never heard of a player, then no Leeds fan can possibly have heard of him either. That’s some ego, for a Hartlepool fan. Unbelievable, Jeff! If he were to cast his mind back, Stelling might possibly reflect on who, exactly, had heard of Patrick Vieira before he signed for Arsenal – or Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Leeds), Eric Cantona (Sheffield Wendies on trial), and so on and so forth. Mr Stelling should, perhaps, wind his neck in a little and admit the possibility that he is not the fount of all football wisdom – except, maybe, when compared to Paul “I fink he’s only got free goals all season, Jeff” Merson. The Sky front-man’s expert opinion is that Leeds are doomed to relegation this season. Wishful thinking, Jeff?

When times are hard and you’re not all that popular to begin with, then you should expect wolves in sheep’s clothing, people who will smile and smile and be villains, well-meaning types who will sidle around behind as if to pat you on the back, before slipping a knife between your ribs. Leeds United and Leeds fans should be familiar from past experience with all of these unsavoury types, and their crocodile tears and weasel words should not fool us now. Just wait for better times to roll around, and the soft sawder and treacly syrup of ersatz sympathy will disappear like a ghost at cock-crow – it’ll be all open nastiness and overt bitching again. And do you know? I actually prefer it that way, so please bring it on.

We’re Leeds United, we hate to be pitied and we love to be hated. Your hate is what makes us stronger, after all – so please forget all the bovine ordure Gary and Jeff – let’s get back to normal eh? As soon as you like, there’s good chaps.