Tag Archives: Birmingham City

Birmingham Zulus Prove Bravery by Assaulting Female Leeds Steward – by Rob Atkinson

On the field, this clash of Whites and Blues eventually went the way you might expect, with Leeds United edging out Birmingham City 1-0, thanks to a second half goal from home town boy Kalvin Phillips.

So much for that sideshow. The real business of the day, for a section of the visiting support anyway, was to respond to the party atmosphere surrounding Leeds United’s centenary celebrations in their own inimitable way. For these are the Birmingham City “Zulus“, legends in their own minds, always ready to prove their essential masculinity and courage by beating up target individuals carefully selected for being unlikely to hit back.

The spoils of battle on this occasion were claimed by the Zulus as, drunk on testosterone and utterly fearless when confronted by a woman in a high-vis jacket, they counted coup on a Leeds United lady steward. Never mind the fact that their team lost, never mind that at all. These boys showed their own take on pride and passion in bravely overcoming a formidably female foe.

Not much more needs to be said. With the shenanigans in Bulgaria preceding yesterday’s Zulu campaign, it’s been a significant week for those of a racist turn of “mind” and for courageous mobs motivated by a desire to pick on the most vulnerable target at hand. What a triumph this was for those Zulus. How proud of them their mothers must be. Revel in it, lads. You really are quite unique.

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“Absolutely Awful”, “Rubbish” – Some Leeds fans have had Enough of Gutter Online Press – by Rob Atkinson

Bamford

Patrick Bamford, latest scapegoat for the gutter online boo boys

In the aftermath of the Birmingham City defeat, the usual suspects were lining up on Twitter to provide their knee-jerk, clueless verdicts on this week’s chosen scapegoat. Really, the identity of the scapegoat is secondary in importance to these peddlers of lazy and destructive abuse; what is most vital to them is to be seen as part of a chorus of disapproval. The fact that they come across as ignorant and unhelpful is, evidently, of no concern to these people, who represent the very antithesis of “support”.

It wouldn’t be so bad is it was only a case of a few attention-seeking individuals who live, move and have their tragic existences on Twitter (other social media bandwagons are available). But the sorry truth is that there are various online sites, masquerading as news sources, who make a point of trawling social media for clueless negativity, and presenting the results of their dredging as if it were a news story, under the kind of headline I’ve parodied for this article. This is becoming more and more common, as these grubby sites queue up to spread anger and despair, doing their level best to demoralise proper fans, as well as the players from whom, of course, the regular scapegoats have to be selected (Patrick Bamford this week, as it happens).

This sort of thing is to good journalism, or even to amateur blogging, what Julian Clary is to Rugby League. There’s no real content, only a sort of digest of 280 character whinges from the dregs of Leeds United‘s online community, intended to destroy the target’s confidence whilst garnering the ignorant approval of slack-jawed, like-minded readers. The likes of “Sportslens” publish this rubbish regularly, as blatant clickbait, and it must be worth their while. But it’s hardly a valid contribution to any sort of debate.

Soon enough, this season will be over, and the tributes or post mortems, as appropriate, will be written. I can only hope, trust, and do my small part to ensure, that such pieces are readable and that they reflect what’s actually happened during this momentous campaign. Because, if it’s left to the likes of “Sportslens” and their dire equivalents elsewhere in the ether, then you can bet your bottom dollar it’ll be just more ordure from the sewer level of Twitter and the rest of the idiots’ platforms. And, surely, we all deserve better than that.   

Football League Urges Restraint Over Birmingham v Villa Thugs; Not as Bad as Leeds Spygate – by Rob Atkinson

Brum thug punches Grealish – but hey, it’s hardly Spygate

Fears are mounting at Birmingham City about the scale of the financial penalty to be imposed after one of their fans , at their stadium, invaded the playing area and, before the Sky TV cameras, assaulted Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish. The anxiety springs from the fact that Leeds United were fined £200,000 in the matter of standing on a public footpath and looking through a wire mesh fence.

Officials at Birmingham City fear that an actual assault on an opposing player by a home fan, compounded and aggravated by a later altercation with the same player by a home steward, might be seen as many times more serious than the non-offence attributed to Leeds United. But the Football League are set to banish any such fears.

The logic being applied by anxious officials at St Andrews is that, if Leeds had bto shell out £200,000 for an ill-defined “breach of good faith”, then an actual assault perpetrated within the confines of their own stadium could be punishable by a fine well into seven or eight figures. It is not known at this point whether Bristol City are demanding a points deduction over the matter.

The Football League, however, do not appear to see common assault as anything like as serious a matter as looking through Derby County’s mesh fence, and are prepared to reassure Birmingham City accordingly. A League spokesman confirmed that out of control home fans belting opposition players cannot be blamed on the club concerned, unless that club has the postcode LS11 0ES. “We have to have a sense of proportion here”, our FL contact told us. “We checked with Derby County after the Birmingham v Villa incident, and Fwankie wasn’t upset at all. If he had been, of course we’d have taken further action. Against Leeds United. Ha!”

Promise of Better Things to Come, Despite Leeds’ Poor Start   –   by Rob Atkinson

Two matches, two distinctly average opponents, two defeats. On the face of it, Leeds United’s start to the Championship season 2016/17 could hardly have been worse. There are obvious deficiencies in the squad, readily apparent areas of the team that require strengthening or replacing. And yet, all is not doom and gloom. Even given our pointless start, there are some promising signs that, given time, a pattern may well emerge that will be pleasing to the eye as well as effective on the park.

The problem with a radical change in approach, alongside wholesale squad additions, is that it takes a while to bed in, just as the new personnel have to be given the chance to find their feet in unfamiliar surroundings. These factors can explain, if not completely excuse, negative early-season results. But it must be remembered that this is a new Leeds. There’s a new manager with new ideas, there’s a new plan and new players in every department. More than likely, the recruitment is not finished. We can expect some departures too. 

One departure that could be expected to cause tearing of hair and rending of garments would be that of want-away tyro left-back Charlie Taylor. Not so long back, I begged leave to doubt that the boy Charlie actually had his heart set on a move at all. I felt that, perhaps, we were being spun a line, as has undoubtedly happened before.

The thing is, though, Taylor’s performances have not been those of a lad whose heart is currently pumping yellow, white and blue. And, while it may well sound all grimly determined and steely-eyed to say we’d rather lose him for nowt when his deal runs down, than sell him for millions now, those are not the kind of principles, or indeed the real-life economics, we can afford to follow. If Taylor’s heart is elsewhere, then let him follow it through the exit door while there’s some cash to be made and (maybe) reinvested. It’d would be foolish to act or argue otherwise, in this blog’s view.

Elsewhere, the picture does look more promising, with glimpses of real promise showing fro the likes of Roofe, Antonsson, Sacko and our own product Ronaldo Vieira. The problem seems to be that many of these players cannot yet function to their potential because the shape and effectiveness of the team as a whole are being negatively affected by the lack of a ball-winning, holding, defensive midfielder. If the signings of Bridcutt and/or Osman ever get over the line, I would expect the whole to start looking like more than the sum of the parts. Up to now, it’s looked rather less. 

It sounds like an odd thing to say, but I do feel there is much excitement and the prospect of some spectacular performances in the offing – once the groundwork has been done and some proper foundations are in place. Preparations in the early part of the close season were hindered by some needless shilly-shallying over the future of former manager Steve Evans. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this, it wasn’t ideal in terms of getting ready for the season ahead and, in certain respects, we are still suffering from that two defeats into the season. The important thing now is that certain fingers should stay well away from the panic button. Yet another early season brainfart from our unstable owner is the last thing we need now that we have committed to the Monk style of football and recruited our playing staff accordingly.

No, we must aim to steer a straight and careful course if we’re to avoid sinking. If the club can show some faith and belief in the squad so far assembled, then there may well be better times ahead than two losses in two opening games might seem to suggest. If not – well, then storm clouds will inevitably gather and we could well go down as SS Laughing Stock.

As things stand, we’re not alone in our misery. Runaway title favourites Newcastle also sit on zero points from two games – but they will still be there or thereabouts when the season reaches its climax. Maybe – just maybe – Leeds United can be, too. 

It’s time for owner, players and fans alike to keep the faith. Whatever our differences, and however bleak things might look this evening after a second reverse in our opening two games, there’s rarely been a more important time to be Marching On Together. And that is precisely what we must now do. 

As Leeds’ Season Peters Out, Let’s Get Right Behind Man U! – by Rob Atkinson

Home of the ailing Canaries

Home of the ailing Canaries

Leeds United play Birmingham City away this weekend. So what? It’s been another shocking season, a fair number of the players who have donned the shirt this campaign weren’t remotely fit and proper to do so and will probably be gone by July. Quite possibly the manager and sundry staff will follow them. Leeds have been dire yet again this season; opponents Birmingham have been if anything even worse – they face the clear and present danger of relegation under their morose Geordie manager Lee Clark. It’s a meeting of busted flushes this weekend at St Andrews with the imperilled fighting the irrelevant. Move on – there’s nothing much to see here.

There’s an almost parallel situation in the Premier League this weekend as mid-table also-rans face a side urgently in need of points to avoid the drop. But there is much more potential for a bit of malicious entertainment here – IF as a Leeds United fan you can bring yourself to support our traditional bêtes rouges for once in a very long while.  Yes, folks – Man U play Norwich City on Saturday tea-time, live on Sky – and it’s time to ditch those treasured prejudices and get behind the boys in red and their dodgy interim manager.

Don’t get me wrong.  I hate Man U as much as – in fact certainly much more than – the next slavering, Leeds-mad, bile-ridden, anti-scum bigot out there. Some regular readers may already be aware of this, as I’ve dropped subtle hints from time to time.  Normally, the only time I could bring myself to wish for the Pride of Devon to succeed is against a club I hate infinitely more – the degraded dross from Istanbul, G*l*t*s*r*y.  The fact that I can now bring myself to watch TV on Saturday and wish for Man U to win is down to two factors.

Firstly, Man U are peripheral, nay, irrelevant to this season – Agent Moyes has seen to that. So it’s been neither quite so annoying when they win, nor quite so sweet when they lose (although I still enjoy this very much). Secondly – they’re playing Norwich, a nasty, jumped up little yokel of a club that I dearly wish to see take a fall and come crashing down to a status which more accurately reflects their standing in the game.  I badly want Norwich City relegated, and I will put up with even a Man U win if it helps to bring about that desirable outcome.

The fact of the matter is, this unfashionable and remote little club, under the frequently tired and emotional leadership of TV cook and wine-taster Delia Smith, have comported themselves like some latter-day Tottenham Hotspur over recent years, raiding our beloved Leeds for the few jewels in our crown much as North London’s junior club did at the beginning of our long slide down to oblivion.  It’s not big and it’s not clever – but the Spuds enjoyed themselves at our expense in the early Noughties – and it’s been those annoyingly bloody chirpy Canaries doing the same, ever since they went up to where they’ve no business being.

Over the past few seasons, Leeds fans have had to grit their teeth, grin and bear it as little Norwich – an anonymous club from the back of beyond – have used the fact of their temporarily higher league status to pluck such gems as Snodgrass, Howson, Becchio and, erm, Bradley Johnson from the Elland Road payroll.  In truth, only the first two of those four departures were all that painful – the odd twinge caused by Luciano’s departure has been relieved by his zero contribution to Naaaarritch since he joined them – but that hasn’t stopped those loveable Ciddy fans from gloating and grinning and taking the mick. Every time another transfer “coup” has been completed, there they’ve been, savouring the novelty of lording it over Mighty Leeds, crowing about us being their “feeder club” (no marks for originality there, lads) and generally cavorting all over the internet like the small-time wurzels they are.

Now, it seems, their long-awaited and richly-deserved comeuppance may well be nigh.  Hovering perilously just above the Premier League relegation zone, they look ahead to their last few fixtures of the season – and they must wonder where another point is coming from, as they anticipate difficult matches against the Devon scum as well as Chelsea and Arsenal.  You might well think they’d be lucky to get the traditional Eurovision nil points, keine punkte from that little lot. Meanwhile, the likes of Cardiff and Sunderland are beginning to shake off their season-long uselessness and threaten to accrue the couple more points which might be all it takes to elevate them over the ailing Canaries.

A relegated Norwich would, of course, have to cut their suit according to their cloth – some of their stars might well be moving on.  As a new-era Leeds with some cash jingling in our pockets, would it be too much to hope for that a couple of our much-missed stars might possibly find their way back to a reinvigorated Elland Road next season – wearing a white shirt as Massimo’s United push for long overdue glory?

Most probably it is too much – but football is about dreams and sometimes dreams come true.  But first, we need to see if those not-so-lovable country bumpkins can complete their fall from grace, starting with defeat at the Theatre of Hollow Myths this weekend coming.  Then, perhaps, we can start to hope that the mickey-taking little club will come tumbling down where we can get at them.  If I’m actually going to sit there this Saturday, hoping for a Man U win – something that might very well cause me to be lavishly, spectacularly ill – then a bit of malicious pleasure at the expense of Norwich City FC is the very least I will deserve.

The Football League: Incompetent, Corrupt, Arrogant Hypocrites – by Rob Atkinson

The Football League Panel, yesterday

The Football League Panel, yesterday

The classic defence against a libel suit is “But it’s the truth, m’Lud”. I therefore have no qualms about the title of this blog, which I hope will be read by some of the parties to what was, ultimately, an indefensible decision to block Eleonora Sport’s proposed takeover of Leeds United.  In bending over backwards to apply the letter of their Owners and Directors (OAD) Test, the League have proven themselves unable – or more likely unwilling –  to see the wood for the trees. They are blatantly guilty of pettifogging insistence on the letter, as opposed to the spirit, of the so-called “Fit & Proper” test.  The fact is that any set of regulations must be capable of interpretation so as to allow for the achievement of the greater good.  In other words, rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools.  The League now stand before the football and sporting world as purblind fools. Worse, they are hypocritical fools, fools with selective vision, fools who are self-evidently prey to massive conflicts of interest.

The most obvious problem with today’s decision has nothing whatsoever to do with Massimo Cellino, and everything to do with several people who are happily getting on with the business of running various football clubs whilst at the same time carrying the burden of shady dealings which you might – on today’s evidence – have expected to disqualify them from their football activities.

Step forward, for instance, Carson Yeung of Birmingham City.  Except Carson cannot actually step forward very far, because he’s languishing in a 12′ by 12′ cell somewhere in China, guilty as charged on five counts of money laundering amounting to somewhere in the region of £55m.  Or there’s that nice Mr Owen Oyston, of Blackpool FC.  He’s a convicted rapist who did time for his crime and will be on the Sex Offenders Register for evermore – but the League have cocked a deaf’un to the misdemeanours of both these men.  Oyston’s son Karl, incidentally, was on the League panel which ruled on Cellino today.  His rapist dad remains a director and majority shareholder at Blackpool, a matter which apparently tasks the gentlemen of the League not one jot.  I wonder how Karl kept either of his faces straight?

Add to this little hymn to venal and otherwise dodgy behaviour the less than appetising track records of various other owners around the League; men who veer just the right side of criminality, but whose conduct in office would surely cause raised eyebrows in a responsible governing body. There’s the porn barons Sullivan and Gold at West Ham United.  Assem Allam at Hull City who wants to re-name his club Hull Tigers, and who advised supporters chanting “City Till We Die” to go ahead and die as soon as they liked.  There’s Vincent Tan at Cardiff City, who has ridden roughshod over the history and tradition of the Bluebirds by making them play in red, who wants his ‘keeper to chip in with some goals and who will hopefully suffer a deserved relegation for sacking the manager who gained Premier League status for him and appointing an inexperienced nobody.

It’s not really that impressive wherever you look around the League – and yet the complacent Burghers who serve on panels such as today’s are blind to it all, blind to everything except their overweening need to find some reason – any reason – to disqualify Massimo Cellino.  They eventually got him on a matter of unpaid tax on his yacht, “Nélie”, for which he was heavily fined and had the boat confiscated.  But there’s neither rhyme nor reason, there’s neither logic nor consistency in the League stance, not given the context of the case and the precedents set by the ongoing acceptance of some of the bad boys mentioned above.  A couple of days ago, I wrote that the League’s treatment of the thousands of Leeds fans sweating upon the outcome to this saga was “Cruel and Unusual”, as defined by the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution.  It always did strike me as a blatant flouting of this amendment that the good old US of A had a liking for leaving convicted criminals incarcerated on Death Row, sometimes for decades – and then casually popping them into an electric chair and snuffing them out.  Cruel indeed – but sadly not that unusual in the States. The unconscionable lengths that the Cellino decision process has been dragged out to – only for that ultimate, smug and self-satisfied “No” at the end of weeks of torture for legions of Whites – does rather smack of this kind of cruelty on a more mundane level.

But the Football League mandarins evidently don’t care about that.  They don’t care about the conflict of interests apparent in the constitution of their panel, including as it did men in charge of football clubs with a vested interest in keeping Leeds, profitable, well-supported Leeds, in the same division as their own teams.  And not forgetting, of course, that son of a rapist.  They don’t care that their organisation is headed by a man in Shaun Harvey who, as United CEO, left Leeds under a cloud when his crooked confrère Ken Bates was ousted, the pair having compassed the near demise of United in nigh on a decade of financial dodginess and general mismanagement. They give not one solitary damn about the glaring examples of criminality elsewhere in club hierarchies throughout the League, nor indeed about the fact that Cellino wanted Leeds, Leeds and most of its fans wanted Cellino and the additional fact that the Italian has the personal wealth necessary to spark a revival at a club which has suffered in penury for twelve long and depressing years.  None of that makes one bit of difference to the shortsighted idiots and hypocritical charlatans of the Football League.  They have chosen to snatch the lifebelt away from the palpably struggling Leeds United and they are prepared to see the club suffer financially and risk possible administration, points deductions, relegation – maybe even liquidation – rather than abandon their tenacious quest to confound this potentially transforming takeover.  Is this in the best interests – interests they are duty-bound to protect, by the way – of their most famous and high-profile member club?

You tell me, then.  By its own lights, what is the Football League worth?  Have they shown an ounce of competence or common sense throughout this farcical process?  The dear old Grauniad says they’re finally stepping up to the plate“, the clear implication being that, as I’ve written above, they’ve not been too bothered in the past about much greater misdeeds than Cellino’s alleged Italian tax faux pas.  Strange how it’s always Leeds United that causes the League to get all moralistic and start enforcing draconian sanctions.  How Mr Hardaker would approve.  But nothing about this case inspires the least confidence, I would argue, in the Football League’s worthiness or ability to judge even a village Best Marrow Contest.  The holes, conflicts and inconsistencies in today’s decision conspire to make that all too tragically clear.

So I say again, tell me – given all of the above – are the Football League really fit for purpose?  Are they even remotely “fit and proper”?

Not on your bloody Nélie.

League Hope for Leeds Ownership Decision “Before Next Ice Age” – by Rob Atkinson

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Shaun Harvey: no axe to grind, honest guv.

The Football League today moved to quell growing concern at the continued delay in reaching a decision on the proposed takeover of Leeds United by Eleonora Sports.  League spokesman Lee D. Shater confirmed in a brief statement that “it is envisaged a decision can be reached sometime in the present glacial period”.  The prediction, which nails down the potential notification date to sometime in the next 5.7 million years, would seem to fly in the face of letters from Leeds United Football Club to the Football League, requesting that the matter be concluded by last Thursday. Mr Shater was dismissive of this request, stating that it was “unfeasible”. The League would, he said, stick by its 5.7 million year timescale – though he did add that the effects of global warming could potentially stretch this out to as much as 8.9 million years.

The reaction at Elland Road was philosophical.  “We didn’t really expect to hear by last Thursday,” a source advised Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything. “We were just hoping to apply a little subtle pressure with a view to hearing some positive news, perhaps by the end of the century”. The proposed timescale of “sometime within this geothermal epoch” has caused some scratching of heads at the club, where officials confirm that all paperwork has been submitted and that everything should be in place for an announcement at any time.

ImageThe latest from the League is that part of the delay has been down to their desire to recruit a new non-executive member of the Football League board, who would be envisaged to have some vital input into the decision-making process. One surprise name in the frame is that of Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung.  The fact that Yeung is currently in jail in China is not seen as an obstacle to his involvement in the Cellino case.  “Carson is still the owner of Birmingham City, and we feel that his particular experience will prove vital in determining the suitability of Massimo Cellino to be the owner of one of the Football League family of clubs,” said Mr Shater, shredding a file marked “Documents requested from Leeds”.  A prominent sports lawyer later confirmed that Yeung’s criminal record could be of positive relevance in the Leeds case. “After all, it takes a thief to catch a thief”, he winked cheekily.

Shaun Harvey is irretrievably bent.

Brilliant, United!! Leeds Utd 4, Birmingham City 0 – by Rob Atkinson

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Cometh the hour, cometh the Beast.  As Leeds United vaulted out of the doldrums with a display of all-round excellence against Birmingham City today, it was action-man skipper Rudy Austin who was their drive and inspiration.  You can pick any cliché you like to describe the excellence of Austin’s bionic performance.  He gave 110%.  He covered every blade of grass.  He was a powerhouse in midfield, a last-ditch impassable obstacle in defence – he even found time to score the goal that provided United with a precious breathing space they’ve enjoyed all too rarely in recent times.

All that said, this was no one-man show.  From back to front, from top to bottom, Leeds were bang up for it today and would have beaten far better teams than Birmingham City, who were simply blown away by the hunger, commitment and endeavour of the Whites’ frankly voracious performance.  From the kick off, United set a tempo far too punishing for the hapless away team, and the Blues had to withstand ferocious pressure in a first fifteen minutes of siege football.  That they emerged without conceding from that opening quarter-hour was mainly about some casual finishing, but Blues had defended grimly and must have been hoping for some respite if the storm would just blow itself out.  Then City keeper Darren Randolph came out to make a neat interception but tried to be that bit too clever and had the ball nicked off him by the ubiquitous Austin.  A first time pass to Ross McCormack who looked up and, seeing an empty goal 25 yards away, calmly propelled the ball into it.

Leeds had earned that breakthrough and they now set about consolidating it. Birmingham had to redouble their defensive efforts as well as trying to make the odd foray upfield, but by and large they were swimming against a flood tide as white shirts poured forward and Leeds players won most first and second balls all over the park.  The inevitable second came after the half-hour.  McCormack found time and space wide left, and advanced on the defence before putting a quality ball into the City box where Austin, at the end of a lung-bursting 70 yard run forward, was found in splendid isolation on the edge of the six yard box to plant a neat header past the helpless Randolph.  The first half’s coup de grâce was administered by the towering Matt Smith who had headed a diagonal pass into the path of McCormack.  The striker’s shot from a narrow angle was saved, but Smith was on hand to identify the space at the near post and neatly wrong-foot Randolph to finish efficiently.

A 3-0 half-time lead was beyond the wildest dreams of the long-suffering Leeds faithful, who must have spent the interval torn between celebrating, pinching themselves and praying for a continuation of what had been a masterful performance from United, even allowing for the frailties of the opposition.  City came out with the intention of playing for pride and perhaps at least winning the second half.  The introduction of recent Leeds nemesis Nikola Zigic might have caused a few collies to wobble and Birmingham did show a greater presence in the game in the second half, pushing United back and causing the odd flurry in defence, one goal-line clearance from Tom Lees being particularly memorable with Paddy Kenny beaten by a lob.  But Leeds’ nerve held, their confidence remained high and they defended adequately when they had to while managing to attack dangerously at every opportunity.

The hard work and persistence of Austin with the subtler promptings of young Alex Mowatt, allied to Smith’s aerial presence and McCormack’s intelligent space-seeking runs, always promised a fourth goal to set the seal on a highly encouraging afternoon. That fourth goal, when it came, was a thing of beautiful simplicity.  Smith was the scorer on 74 minutes, having had an emphatic finish ruled out for a narrow offside decision two minutes earlier.  Now though, Mowatt received possession on the left in a tight enough situation to deny him the chance to do anything but feed in a first-time cross. This he did, and the quality of the ball to the far post was such that Smith’s second goal of the afternoon was served up to him cooked to perfection on a silver plate with all the trimmings.  It was a sumptuous cross and Smith snapped up the chance gratefully, powering an unstoppable header into the net at the Kop End.

This was a performance of verve and style from United, the shape and make-up of the team proving just right for the task of dispatching a Birmingham side who are capable of much, but who were simply not allowed to perform on the day and were, in the end, sent packing, well beaten and thoroughly demoralised.  City manager Clark bemoaned the crass defending that contributed to at least two of the four goals, but in truth he will be relieved that his team escaped a far more savage beating. In the first half particularly it had been men against boys and it’s no exaggeration to say that United could have run out winners by seven goals or even more.  As match-days go, it was the kind of occasion Leeds fans have been denied for far too long.  This was a banquet of a performance after too long on starvation rations, and every man played his part to the full, though nobody could deny the marvellous Austin his man of the match accolade.

All credit to Brian McDermott and his players who have evidently made good use of the fortnight’s international break to get a few things thrashed out.  The desire and hunger of this display was wonderful to see and it sets a standard that McDermott will wish to see as a default level of performance from now on.  Whether the squad is strong enough for the long haul is severely open to doubt and there are still wrongs to be righted there.  But United’s big win has shown that, on their day and with their main men available, they are capable of handing out no end of a hiding.  More of the same next week against Huddersfield would do very nicely indeed.

Can Leeds Banish the Blues? – by Rob Atkinson

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League football resumes this weekend after the latest international break and for Leeds it’s a chance to return to winning ways on Sunday lunchtime at home to Birmingham City, who are four points and five places worse off than our heroes.  United sit 14th, 7 points behind the play-off places and, perhaps more relevantly, 8 points clear of the bottom three.

Suggestions that this is a “must-win” game for Leeds have more or less merit, depending on your expectations for this season.  Anyone who feels that there is any reasonable chance of a tilt at promotion will know that nothing less than three points will do.  The rest of us, more likely resigned to a mediocre campaign with the occasional fearful glance over our shoulders at the relegation battle, have longer-term problems in mind.  The bigger picture, we would argue, is of more importance right now than individual results; the direction of the club is being questioned after bleak failures to augment the squad by the additions of much needed talent up front and on the wings.  Nevertheless, a win is always welcome and Elland Road certainly needs to brush up its reputation as a fortress.

The Birmingham game also sees the welcome return as a special guest of Lucas Radebe, The Chief himself, one of the true heroes for Leeds fans everywhere and a man with a proud and deserved global profile.  The recent tendency of the owners GFH to look back at a glorious past strikes quite a contrast with earlier in the season when it was all “Forget about the past, the future is bright”.  Clearly, circumstances alter cases.  This visit of The Chief may well be seen as another distraction from the complaints of those whose concerns are more urgently current – and yet Leeds United icons such as Radebe should always be assured of a warm welcome home.

Whatever gloom might surround Elland Road, Birmingham under their lugubriously Geordie manager Lee Clark, have had a poorer time of it so far.  Two wins in their last 9 league games and no goals in their last three is not the stuff to strike fear into the hearts of the opposition, even opposition such as Leeds who have been sadly easy meat for Blues in the last few season with seven out of the last eight meetings going their way.  Leeds’ own current form is dodgy enough for us to take little comfort from Brum’s woes, so the match will kick off with head-to-head history perhaps the best guide – not a pleasant thought for the Whites.

For Leeds, Sam Byram is pressing for a start, seemingly now recovered from his chronic hip problems.  Midfielder Luke Murphy and striker Luke Varney are two more who will be hoping for recalls, with the make-up of the team, as ever, dependent upon the shape and formation manager McDermott deems best-fitted to deal with our opponents.  Birmingham have had injury worries over midfielder Wade Elliott and left-back David Murphy, both of whom will be assessed prior to kick off.

Both teams have a lot to prove and amends to make to long-suffering fans.  Leeds were awful at Derby, losing 3-1 – a scoreline that flattered them if anything.  Birmingham arguably fared even worse, losing at home to a Bolton side who have keeled over to almost all other opposition this term – even Leeds.  This Elland Road clash is a battle of the demoralised, and much will depend on who can deal the better with their currently reduced condition.  Leeds have apparently had a Big Meeting to thrash things out, and it’s to be hoped that the air has been sufficiently cleared for them to overcome a team that have been problematic lately.

I will put my most optimistic head on and, based on absolutely nothing but blind faith and wishful thinking, go for a 2-0 win to Leeds – which would at least buy GFH a few more days of grace and allow them perhaps to mollify a grumpy fan base with some success in the loan market.

King to Reign at Elland Road? Marlon Tipped to Sign for Leeds

Marlon King aka "The Accused"

Marlon King aka “The Accused”

Yesterday I wrote an article about Leeds United being linked with Celtic’s Anthony Stokes, a rumour which – I think I made it clear – I’m not at all happy with. There were two planks to my argument against the recruitment of Mr Stokes – firstly that he’s not very good, having failed to pull up any trees south of the border (he’s done better up in Scotland, but quite frankly my Gran could score for fun up there and she’s been dead for 21 years) – and secondly that he doesn’t appear to be the nicest of chaps, with various indiscretions laid at his door, including the alleged nutting of a hapless Elvis impersonator.

Today was another day, and it has brought another none-too-tasty rumour. This one I find more palatable on the grounds of ability, but possibly even less so where personal conduct is concerned. Marlon King. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The lad can play a bit, and even at the ripe old age of 33, it’s likely that he could be relied upon to give most Championship defences a thing or two to think about. He’s done the business at this level for quite a few clubs – one notable failure being a loan spell at Leeds, but at that time he was played out of position by the famously clueless Kevin Blackwell, so it was hardly a surprise that he ended up goal-less.

So, on the grounds of ability and scoring potential, and especially for free, this seems potentially a good signing. But there is a flip-side to Marlon’s coin, and that is his conviction in 2009 for sexual assault and ABH whilst on the books of Wigan Athletic, offences for which he received an 18 month sentence. It was also alleged that King had headbutted Dean Windass whilst at Hull City on loan, though this is not a crime which would necessarily alienate him as far as Leeds supporters are concerned. But the fact that Mr King has 14 convictions on his record since 1997 is doubtless a concern to Leeds United or any other club thinking of taking a punt on him. The rumour I saw today was on a Birmingham City fan site, and the responses from Leeds fans were not entirely positive. We’ve had our bad boys in the past, of course – Bowyer and Woodgate are particularly unedifying examples – but King appears to be a repeat offender at least in terms of getting on the wrong side of the law. Some of his transgressions are much worse than others, it must be remembered, and a record which includes a sexual assault conviction is a severe drawback to say the very least.

The fact remains though that King seems to have settled down somewhat since leaving jail on the more recent of two occasions. He has served Birmingham well, and he does retain the knack of scoring goals at second tier level. Worryingly however, he has been arrested and bailed yet again as recently as April this year after a car crash which left one man severely injured.

On balance, I feel that this would not be an ideal signing for Leeds United, though I’m not quite as emphatically of that opinion as I was with the Stokes rumour. If that leaves me open to a charge of putting on-field ability ahead of off-field misdemeanours and convictions, then – well, guilty, m’Lud. King will certainly end up wearing some club’s shirt next season, and quite probably in the Championship. If push comes to shove, I’d rather see him scoring goals for Leeds than against us, but overall I’m hardly impressed by the standard of striker tipped to be joining us down at LS11 for the new campaign. Can we have some better quality rumours, please?