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Pointless Appealing: Leeds Must Accept O’Kane Red and Move On with Business – by Rob Atkinson

EOK nut

Eunan O’Kane – bang to rights for sheer stupidity

One of the less controversial aspects of the defeat at Portman Road, where Leeds failed to make the most of an unremarkable Ipswich Town side pretty much there for the taking, was the straight red dismissal of Eunan O’Kane for violent conduct. The video evidence is incontrovertible; O’Kane, despite the inevitable protests, is bang to rights and was positively begging to be sent off; the referee, only yards from the incident, was always going to oblige.

What leaves a nastier than usual taste in the mouth is that this particular piece of lunacy, which went some way towards ensuring that his team-mates, employers and supporters would end up empty-handed, came hard on the heels of what now seems a rather sanctimonious tweet expressing disappointment over the equally stupid transgression of Samu Saiz a week earlier at Newport. People in glass houses shouldn’t thrown stones, we might reflect. To his credit, O’Kane himself left the field without protest; the expostulations have come from other quarters. Meanwhile, the whole sorry affair threatens to deflect us all from the more important issues arising out of this and other recent failures.

The uncomfortable fact is that, in the last three league games, Leeds United have failed to score one single solitary goal, That’s over 270 minutes of huffing and puffing to no effect, during which time they have contrived to lose to Birmingham, who were swatted aside 3-0 by Derby yesterday, and gain one point from a Nottingham Forest side who set out to stifle Leeds and comfortably managed it. Leaving aside the inglorious FA Cup episode at Newport, Leeds are suffering in the league, which is far, far more important. The loss of Saiz for six games deprives us of much of the limited cutting edge we’ve had and, without quality reinforcements during this window, the fear is that the season could be fizzling out rather early.

What appears to be happening, in line with the predictions of many much earlier in the campaign, is that the lack of depth in United’s squad is being exposed by a smattering of injuries and suspensions. These are occupational hazards of an attritional league programme, and will happen to any but the most fortunate of clubs – but the difference at the top end of the table will be the deeper resources of those who have invested sensibly in quality, providing competent back-up for most positions. United’s over-reliance on young, raw possibles, like Jay Roy Grot for instance, is ample proof that their recruitment at first team level has been – so far, at any rate – inadequate for the rigours of a Championship season.

One transfer move that has been completed, and for a player seemingly ready to step into the first team picture, too, is that of Yosuke Ideguchi, a highly-rated midfielder whose signing is seen as something of a coup for the Elland Road club. How strange it is then that, after a work permit was unexpectedly forthcoming, Ideguchi’s loan to Spanish side Cultural Leonesa has still gone ahead. One thing Leeds United really needs, to allow them maybe the luxury of playing two up top, is a combative box-to-box midfielder which might permit such a change of shape. On the bright side, the welcome signing of Laurens de Bock will provide options across the defensive line, with the versatility of Gaetano Berardi possibly allowing him to be more effective when freed from his unaccustomed left-back berth.

And it really is important to look on the bright side, after what has been a dismal January so far, especially on the field of play. The next two weeks, and this is no exaggeration, will define the rest of our season. The word from the club is that they are working hard to bring in players, with a striker high on the shopping list. As Leeds fans, we should perhaps avoid being distracted by pointless and futile appeals over daft red cards – and hope that the powers that be down LS11 way can see the urgency of the situation in and around the first team squad. The play-offs are still somehow a tantalising possibility, offering at least the chance of an exciting climax to the campaign. It’s down to the club now as to whether or not they have the ambition to seize the day and give us all a second half of this season to relish.

Really, after the start to 2018 Leeds United have provided, that’s the very least we deserve.

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Supporters of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything; Link Now Fixed

A number of people have been in touch to say that they have tried to donate to the blog, but have found the PayPal link not to be working.

I think I’ve fixed this now, or donations can be made using the email address RobofLeeds07@aol.com. Must say sorry to anyone inconvenienced or whose time has been wasted.

Thanks to all concerned for your invaluable support, it’s vastly appreciated. The blog has just had its best-ever day, with over 31,000 hits on Sunday Feb 1st. It’s down to loyal and generous contributors that I’m able to keep this going.

MOT 

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Full Circle: a Fan’s Journey from Super Leeds to The Last Champions – by Rob Atkinson

Super Leeds, Champions of 1974

Some of the regular readers of this blog might be aware that I’m in the process of writing a book, all about Leeds United.  I have made – ahem – passing references to this from time to time – with extremely gratifying results. The help I have received from the readership of this blog has been nothing short of outstanding.  I’ve had advice, input, anecdotes, suggestions – even donations – some of a generosity that has literally taken my breath away.

Now the Leeds United book project is a small but significant step nearer realisation.  At long last I have a working title and, if I have my way (and if the feedback isn’t too bad), then it’s the title that will eventually adorn the front cover of the finished, published product.  “Full Circle: a Fan’s Journey from Super Leeds to The Last Champions”.  As you can see, I’ve used it as the title of this blog post – and I’d be massively interested in what you kind and wonderful people out there think of it.

I’m most grateful to regular reader and contributor “Yorxman” for the Full Circle element of the title; he suggested it when I first stated my aim of writing a book about the years between 1974 and 1992, a period which began and ended with United as Champions.  A dour Yorkshireman managed us to that first title and we were inspired by a diminutive red-haired Scottish international midfielder.  Similar ingredients were in the mix for the 1992 triumph.  In between these twin peaks lay the decline of the late 70’s and the thinly-chronicled wilderness years of the 1980’s when Leeds and their army of followers graced many and varied second division grounds.  There is no shortage of material here – the difficulty lies in what to leave out.

The richness of these eighteen years resides in the fact that they were the last eighteen years of the old-style Football League Championship – the last couple of decades of the pre-Murdoch, pre-megabucks, muck and bullets game that people of my age and above – and maybe the generation after us – will remember with nostalgic fondness.  Much happened in that time, and I wish to reflect on major events that impacted not only Leeds, but the wider game.  We had Birmingham and Bradford disasters on the same day, shortly followed by Heysel and then a few years later, Hillsborough.  There were consequences for the future of football-watching; the terraces went, the fences did too.  Major events like these form a larger framework within which many memorable smaller incidents are worth recalling, especially in a Leeds United context.  I really will have to be choosy about what goes in and what is left out.

This will not be a book, however, that ends up with the reader unable to see the wood for the trees.  The main focus will always be Leeds, most of the recollections and descriptions will be of Leeds United’s matches and controversies – and of what it was like to watch our varyingly-successful or misfiring sides as fortunes waned and obscurity beckoned.  There were a number of highlights in the Tony Currie-inspired late seventies, but much of the book will concern itself with those second division outposts such as Carlisle and Millwall, Shrewsbury (where we once lost 5-1) and Plymouth (where we were hammered 6-3).  But there were good times too – many older Leeds fans look back on this period as some of the best years to follow United, and I can see their point, having covered so many miles in that decade myself, as well as being almost ever-present at a sparsely-populated Elland Road.

My intention is to start off with a description of the day the 1992 title was clinched, and then to journey back to where it all began for me, with a 0-2 defeat for the 1974 Champions at the hands of old enemies Liverpool.  Four days later, I saw us beat Barcelona, Johann Cruyff and all – and from then on I was there as fortunes faded and the club spiralled slowly downwards, before Sergeant Wilko arrived to take us back where we belonged.  The way my own life unfolded has curious parallels with the fluctuating fortunes of the Whites, so the opportunity is there for me to don some of Nick Hornby’s older clothes – not that I aspire to Fever Pitch excellence.  But the relationship between club and fan, as both make their way through turbulent times; that’s an important facet of this book.

Lastly, I’ll remember the day we played Norwich at home with Rod Wallace scoring a beauty before we received the League Championship trophy as Last Champions.  Then it was off to Leeds City Centre, City Square, the open-top bus and a swift hike to Leeds Town Hall to hear Cantona tell us how much he loved us.  A brief nod to the future that unfolded after that – and my first eighteen year journey with Leeds, the Full Circle from Champions to Champions, will be complete.  And it’ll then be time to think about a second book.

Much of this first one is already written, and the path is clear ahead now.  I even have a prospective illustrator whose fantastic caricatures can do justice to the many amazing characters that have worn the United shirt or sat in the Elland Road dugout – and even the boardroom.  So, much of the groundwork is done – but I still need a little help.  The more people who can share this blog post, as widely as possible, the more interest might be drummed up in the project.  I’m casting about for publishers, because I think the concept has a lot going for it, and I don’t want this to be a Kindle-only production.  So, if there are people out there with contacts in the publishing industry, or who might be in that industry themselves and interested in taking this project forward, then clearly – I’d love to hear from you.

I would also still love to hear from people who have recollections to share of their own ’74 to ’92 experiences, or from anyone who has suggestions to make or ideas to contribute.  As far as possible, I want this book to reflect the memories and opinions of many Leeds United fans – as many as space will permit.

To all of those who have helped in so many different ways, and have made it possible for me to get this far – I say, yet again: thank you so much.  Your enthusiasm, generosity and sheer kindness and interest have combined to make what for me has been an inspiring and humbling experience.  I always knew that Leeds United fans were the best in the world, so I didn’t need any proof of that.  But if any had been necessary, there it was, mountains of it. It’s a privilege to be able to count myself as one of you – and I hope that I can do justice to the faith that so many of you have shown in a project that means so enormously much to me.

Marching On Together – At Least Until the World Stops Going Round.

The Last Champions, 1992

The Last Champions, 1992

Many Thanks and MOT – From the Leeds Utd Blog With Attitude – by Rob Atkinson

The Leeds United blog with Attitude

The Leeds United blog with Attitude

I really have to say a big “thank you” to all of those many readers of this blog who have helped it along, and for all of the many ways you’ve supported my efforts to get some provocative and hopefully entertaining articles out there on an almost daily basis.  The support I’ve received has actually been phenomenal-  in line with the hits on the blog (which will shortly pass the one million mark.)

In the first place, people have actually troubled to read the pieces I’ve written – I can now usually rely on at least 500 reads of any article, and more often the views run into thousands. I’m grateful too for the respondents – those who take the time and trouble to write replies to the articles and indeed to reply to other respondents; this has frequently resulted in some rewarding debate, which makes the blog feel like a livelier place.  I can’t say how much I appreciate the kind comments that I get as well – at least they offset the other sort!  But it’s impossible to describe just what it means to me when I read positive and constructive feedback – suffice to say that, as much as anything else, this keeps me going.  There are also those who have been kind enough to share articles via Twitter or Facebook etc – and sometimes even by re-blogging them.  That all helps immensely to build a regular readership – which, I’m happy to say, we’re well on the way to having.

Last, but clearly not least, my grateful thanks to all who have contributed financially to Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything – this has made possible much faster progress on the Leeds United book I’m working on – I’m even getting some way towards deciding upon a title!  There have been big contributions and smaller ones, but each is equally valued and appreciated.  It really is the thought that counts where this form of support is concerned, as much as any other.

Some people have indicated that they would like to contribute, but have found that the site’s PayPal button is not working for them. I’ve no idea why that might be, I’m afraid – but if it’s been a problem for anyone who does wish to donate – and if you’re set up to pay by PayPal – then simply use the email RobofLeeds07@aol.com – and all should work properly.  I will, as I’ve previously made clear, be distributing free copies of the book when it comes out, to all donors who have contributed £10.00 or more. Sadly, there has to be this minimum level, otherwise the entire print run would  be gone before I sold one book!

Thanks again – huge thanks – for everything.  Please keep reading, commenting, arguing and sharing.  It’s what makes the blogging world go ’round.

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A Year On the Blog With Leeds United: Happy Birthday! – by Rob Atkinson

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The early version blog header

One year ago today, looking to diversify in my writing life, I started a blog.  It was one of those things I thought I might devote the odd hour or so to, every other day, while plugging away at the bread and butter stuff.  It’d be a change as good as a rest, it seemed to me – a chance to write for my own pleasure about a variety of things which exercised me on a regular basis, chief among them Leeds United AFC.  I’d stick in a few of my lefty political rants too, I mused, stuff that hadn’t found its target elsewhere, but stuff I still wanted to say – and have people read if possible.  And I figured that, as I was just doing it for fun, I could quietly drop it if the going got tough, or if it got in the way of anything important.  I truly didn’t realise how it would grow through this first year, and now I think I’m stuck with it.  It’s still a labour of love, but it shows all the signs of becoming far more than that; for the time being, I’m content to go wherever it leads me.

I thought I’d nick a title from one of my heroes, the late, great genius Douglas Adams, and his legendary, superb trilogy of five, “The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy“.  So I nabbed a title, inserted Leeds United to make it mine, and there I was.  For the first few months I wrote away happily but fairly occasionally, not paying too much attention to readership, or viewing figures.  It toddled along quite nicely, my infant blog, entertaining me if not many others.  Then it got picked up by the “NewsNow” news aggregator – and the numbers went through the roof.

By the end of August, I’d had a total of 13,000 views in eight and a half months. Now it’s a gnat’s whisker under 400,000.  Just yesterday I wrote an article which, by itself, has attracted over 30,000 readers in 24 hours.  To say the blog has grown is hopelessly to understate the case.  It’s surpassed my expectations many times over. In this, I’m lucky to be writing primarily about Leeds United, a club that has always generated enormous interest and always will.  My sidelines of taking swipes at traditional enemies have extended my readership among fans of other clubs.  It’s been, in short, a very encouraging first year – particularly the time since late August when I was fortunate enough to see the reach of the thing extend to the entire globe.

The upside of all this has been considerable, for me personally and by implication for my other work – books I have in progress and articles I write elsewhere.  There have also been downsides.  From the shallow depths of my one year’s experience, I would certainly tell any would-be blogger – go for it, but you’ll need a thick skin and an even temper.  The vast majority of the people out there will judge a site on its merits; they have the choice of reading or ignoring it, after all.  But you get the odd few who read every word you write and insist on hating every single syllable.  They then write in and tell you how useless it is, how you can’t write: “I could of done better than that rubishy nonesense if I could of been arsed” was one of the more literate attempts at scathing critique, selected at random from my Black Museum of rejected feedback.

Desk

The home of the blog

The best thing, I have found, is to ignore all of this sort of stuff, on the basis that a heckler denied the oxygen of attention will soon burn himself or herself out – still, they can be very persistent, and occasionally I’ve not been able to resist having a bite back. Sometimes I’ll resort to editing a negative comment of particular filth and violence, so that it reads more acceptably and thereby annoys the perpetrator.  Whenever I’ve done this, I’ve added the response “It’s good to be King”, just to distinguish the contributions I’ve tampered with.  Only today this so enraged some petulant herbert that he threatened to “slash me with a nife (sic)” if he ever saw me around LS11 – and of course he may well see me – if he ever goes to games.  I mention that merely to illustrate the phenomenon of the tantrum-prone troll – it’s not really much of a problem, more a mild irritation and, as I’ve said – best ignored.  The one thing that these types have in common beyond appalling literacy skills is their essential cowardice – they strike from behind the shield of anonymity and will not emerge into the daylight of honesty and accountability.  It takes all sorts, I suppose – but what a futile existence.

I’m confident now that this blog will continue to grow, and to assist and support my other endeavours.  It’s provided a platform of sorts, for which I’m very grateful – and by far the greater part of the feedback has been positive, constructive, thought provoking and intensely rewarding.  It’s emphasised for me as well just how incredibly passionate the fans of Leeds United are; how much anything to do with our great club is seized upon eagerly by voracious readers with an endless appetite for all things Leeds.  I can certainly relate to that, so it’s extremely fulfilling for me to be able to contribute, in some small measure, to the massive body of work out there surrounding the ups and downs of the Mighty Whites of Elland Road.  It will continue to be my pleasure and privilege to do this, and I hope to see this site continue to thrive, to grow and to spread the Leeds United word even further and even wider.

To all of those who have read anything I’ve written this past year – thank you.  I hope you’ll keep reading.  I’d be grateful if those readers could spread the word, follow the blog, share it among their Leeds fanatic friends.  If you want to buy the blog half a bitter for its birthday, you can even do that – there’s a donations link over to the left.  Seriously, every little helps, whether it’s a quid or a buck or a share or follow –  and there’ll be much more to come from Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything as the next year rolls by – hopefully a year of great progress for our club as all the signs are that we may be on the verge of an exciting new era and headed unstoppably for the big time again.  It’s been far too long, but you can’t keep a good club down, never mind a great one like Leeds.  I’ll look forward to charting our progress, being supportive, showing incredible bias of a totally non-journalistic flavour and perhaps criticising when it seems appropriate.

Every time anyone clicks on an article in this blog, it means such a lot to me, just as every time Leeds United take a step forward it means such a massive amount to every one of us fanatics out here.  The next year should be one of continued growth and improvement here on this humble blog and much more importantly there at Elland Road where the stars and heroes do their best to make the dreams we dare to dream come true.  Marching On Together, we can all look forward confidently to better times ahead.

Adorable newborn twins hold each other while receiving first bath – video

If any one image ever sent out out a message that some things are more important than football, politics, economics, anything at all, then this one is IT. Just watch and wonder and feel the warmth and love. These are two new human beings, two blank slates that life is yet to write on. But they well know how important they are to each other, and it shows – just click on the “read more” link, look and marvel at it. Fantastic.