Tag Archives: Bloomfield Road

A Merry Leeds Utd Christmas And a Double Birthday Bonus – by Rob Atkinson

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Merry Christmas from The Best English Club Team Ever

First things first; a very Merry Christmas and/or Holiday Greetings to all readers of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything. I hope that you’re having a great day, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. Many of us will already be focusing on tomorrow’s live TV date at Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion, the victims of an outstanding home performance from United earlier this season, when we recorded a 5-0 win, Pierre-Michel Lasogga scoring a rather lovely brace.

On Christmas Day it’s always worth sparing a thought or two for those unfortunates who share their birthday with a world-wide splurge of significant consumerism and therefore rather disappear into the background when it comes to celebrating their own special personal anniversary. Still, they’ve never known any different – and they’ve only got their parents to blame for being bored, cold, or just plain randy the March before. We have two of these Christmas Birthday sideshows in Leeds United‘s recent history, two midfielders who, each in his own way, made telling contributions to our last two Championship titles, one of the second division and the other of the entire Football League itself.

Chris Kamara

Chris Kamara

First then, a Happy Birthday to Chris Kamara, who is better known these days for his Lionel Richie tribute act as he banters his way through various Sky TV football shows, not least Soccer Saturday where he crops up every two minutes to utter the immortal words “Unbelievable, Jeff!” Unbelievable it certainly is that Kammy is actually 60 today, and you have to say he’s taken damned good care of himself. He still looks fit enough to play, and the memories are vivid of the days in which he used to strike fear into opposition hearts wearing the white shirt of Leeds United. Kammy it was who, famously, bent an outside of the foot pass into the run of the late great Gary Speed for the youngster to get the fourth against Sheffield United as we stamped our authority on the promotion race of 1990. Kamara’s contribution that season was a highly positive influence in midfield, breaking up play, finding a fellow United man with accurate passes and cropping up with the odd goal. As with all of those heroes who ended the Eighties Exile, Kammy is a true Leeds Legend.

Gary McAllister

Gary McAllister

Today’s other birthday celebrant is Gary McAllister. Gary first came to my notice as I stood on the Kop watching Leeds play Leicester City in a vital promotion game in that 1989/90 season. We were 1-0 up through Mel Sterland‘s powerful cross shot, when McAllister decided to do his best to ruin things. First he blasted home a terrific equaliser that left Elland Road stunned – then he threatened to inflict further damage, hitting a shot of equal brilliance which – fortunately – thudded against the woodwork, leaving us weak with relief. Leeds won eventually through Gordon Strachan‘s legendary strike near the end (Have you ever seen a better goal?  Or one better timed??) – but Gary McAllister had single-handedly come close to shattering our hopes and destroying our season. As I gazed balefully at his departing back, I hoped it would be a while before we saw him again.

History tells us, of course, that Gary Mac went on to become one of the greatest Leeds United midfielders of all, in one of the game’s truly great midfield quartets, the legendary Fantastic Four of Strachan, Macca, Batty and Speed. It’s also worth remembering that he turned down a move to Clough’s Notts Forest in favour of joining Wilko’s Leeds revolution. The memories are many of Gary’s superbly-struck goals and fine performances in a Leeds shirt. He went on to serve Liverpool with equal distinction, as well as starring for Scotland, before returning to Elland Road for an initially-promising stint as manager. Sadly, labouring under the merciless regime of Bates, Gary’s spell in charge of Leeds was not to be a success – but his place in the United Hall of Fame is assured.

Gary is 53 today and is now involved in media work connected to football after several unsuccessful attempts to return to football management. Surely, he still has much to offer – although I’d have willingly seen him far from Elland Road on that day we played Leicester City with so much at stake, Gary has proved himself to be one of the game’s nice guys. Always a professional down to his toes, he had to overcome personal tragedy with the loss of his wife Denise to cancer in 2006. In an age when there are so many in the game who are impossible to admire, it’s sad that a man like McAllister is not more involved.

Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas to our two midfield legends – and Seasonal Greetings to everybody.  Cheers!

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Are Buoyant Leeds United Facing a Blackpool Banana Skin? – by Rob Atkinson

The Mighty Tangerines celebrate one of their three throw-ins this season

The Mighty Tangerines celebrate one of their three throw-ins this season

With the kind of run Leeds United have been on lately – and, it must be said, the not exactly dominant or decisive way in which those positive results have been gained – a trip to Blackpool might just hold more in the way of a dirty great banana-skin than the long-advertised “fresh air and fun” for our Warriors in White.

That is not to say that Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything expects or would willingly accept anything less than a breezy win against the division’s whipping boys. It’s just that – well, we’ve all been here before; Leeds have this endearing habit of nicking results against the odds, or even disposing of league high-flyers as we’ve done home and away with AFC Bournemouth and Middlesbrough Ironopolis. And then, drat them all to hell and back, they go and let you down against opposition they should be rolling over and stomping into the earth. They’re a contrary mob, our Leeds – coupon-busters more often than most, and not always in a good way.

Even so, it’s difficult to see how United might contrive to lose this one, or even be held to a draw. It’s got victory written all over it; I’ve seen social media conversations devoted entirely to the knotty issue of whether we’ll prevail by five clear goals, or only four. They rightly say that pride goeth before a fall, but that’s not just pride we’re talking about there. It’s dangerously close to hubris or, as we say in the Broad Acres, proper beggin’ for a smack in t’gob. Should such a smack arrive, as would hardly be a surprise to those hard-bitten cynics among us who are students of the many and varied ways in which Leeds United can manage to lose a game, then perhaps those youthful and over-confident denizens of the internet might just consider keeping their injured gobs shut in the future.

All of that verges dangerously on the needlessly pessimistic; perhaps subconsciously this blog is attempting to ward off a negative result at Blackpool by attempting some reverse psychology with the Fates who decide this sort of thing. In reality, Blackpool are where they are – all but actually relegated, well before Easter – because they’re an ill-run club with an inadequate playing staff who have struggled against just about everybody this campaign. The Tangerines are so far behind in the Championship that the likes of Watford and Bournemouth have both lapped them at least once – and the relegation fight has long been a question of Blackpool and two others.

Leeds appear to have learned how to win ugly; Blackpool don’t seem to know one end of a football from the other. On paper, it should be boys against men – with our gallant troops ending up being castigated in the Lancashire Press for unseemly bullying and an unsporting lack of mercy. Would that it might be so. Without wishing to sound spoiled, the experience of seeing our lads hand out a good sound thrashing without once being troubled would be balm to the nerves. Wednesday’s 3-0 win at Fulham was anything but comfortable once you looked beyond the scoreline. What we need now is to go that extra mile and absolutely batter someone.

As if Blackpool’s problems aren’t already severe enough, their sketchy squad is weakened still further by several likely absentees for this weekend. Lugubrious Geordie manager Lee Clark, looking to end a run of six straight defeats, will probably miss Tom Barkhuizen for the game. The 21 year old picked up a foot injury in the loss to Charlton Athletic, and Clark explained, “Tom took a nasty whack on the top of his foot, so he’ll probably not be available for us. He hasn’t trained at all since Charlton.” Jamie O’Hara and Niall Maher are also ruled out for the game and Tony McMahon is suspended. “We are what we are tomorrow,” concluded Clark, glumly.

For Leeds, there is some chance of a first view at this level of January loan signing Granndi Ngoyi, with Rudy Austin also a possible returnee. Steve Morison is pushing for a recall against opposition that even he will fancy scoring against, and youngster Kalvin Phillips will continue to press for a Whites début at some stage. Some Blackpool fans are reportedly boycotting the match in protest at the running of the club, favouring a North West Counties Premier Division encounter instead of more probable Championship pain. It’s to be hoped that their pessimism is justified and that this blog’s wishes of royally tonking someone might be granted on Saturday by the seaside.

And yet that horrible banana-skin vision persists, so I’m not even going to stick my neck out far enough for a score prediction. Braver souls than I are cordially invited to give their own confident result forecasts below…

Leeds Held as Ref Mathieson Observes “St. Tinkler’s Day” – by Rob Atkinson

Tinkler - immortality beckons

Tinkler – immortality beckons

Former referee Ray Tinkler has been venerated by generations of match officials in this country and further afield ever since his one moment of real fame, way back on 17th April 1971.  On that spring afternoon, the man from Boston, Lincs managed with one crass decision to rob Leeds United of not just one but two Football League titles, thereby elevating himself to demigod status with the powers that be in English football.  The missed offside call which allowed West Brom to score a decisive second that day made the difference at the end of the season, costing United the title by one point.  Further, the resulting crowd invasion of the pitch (And Leeds will go mad! And they’ve every right to go mad!! – BBC Commentator Barry Davies) saw Elland Road closed for the first few home league games of the following season; the points dropped in playing those fixtures elsewhere saw Leeds condemned to second place behind Derby instead of comfortably Champions as they otherwise certainly would have been.

In a country where Leeds have been at odds with the football establishment for over half a century, Tinkler’s little moment in the limelight is quite enough to see his name worshiped by modern-day officials who can only dream, under the all-seeing eye of today’s blanket TV coverage, of making a similarly blatant “mistake” to the disadvantage of the Damned United.  It’s a deep, dark secret – but there is a highly-movable feast known as “St Tinkler’s Day” which is there to be celebrated by any ref who does get the chance to drop a real clanger that will cost the Whites precious points.  Generally speaking, it’s been foreign refs who have most famously “done a Tinkler” – the European Finals of 1973 and 1975 are testimony to this – but the chance will still be grasped eagerly to this day, if there is the least possibility of getting away with it.  What other explanation can there be, after all, for the kind of glaring mess-up made by Scott Mathieson in the Blackpool v United match on Boxing Day?

With the score at 1-1, the game was finely poised going into the last twenty minutes or so.  Lee Peltier had given United a first half lead with a terrific far-post header, only for the Tangerines to equalise somewhat fortuitously, Ince’s shot being deflected away from Paddy Kenny’s reach by the attempted clearance of Marius Zaliukas.

Shortly after this, Leeds’ lethal striker Ross McCormack received a ball outside the area and turned brilliantly to leave a path clear through on goal.  Defender Kirk Broadfoot has little choice but to haul the Scot back just outside the 18 yard box.  It was clearly not a penalty, but – with Broadfoot undeniably the last man – it was just as clearly a red-card offence.  Everyone could see it, Broadfoot himself seemed resigned to it.  And this is where Mathieson saw his golden chance to do a Tinkler.  With the air of a man who was thinking “I’ll be famous for this”, he produced and brandished a mere yellow, to the amazed delight of Broadfoot and the outraged horror of everyone in the United camp.  The free-kick came to nothing, and the game was destined to be a draw.  Maybe United would have overcome ten men, and maybe they wouldn’t – but referee Scott Mathieson, establishment man and Tinkler protege, had done his bit to deny them.

This was not a marginal decision, nor was it at all difficult to get right.  Mathieson’s weak excuse afterwards was that he didn’t think McCormack had the ball under control.  This opens a whole new can of worms, as Ross was being fouled and yet still looked favourite to score – but the warped logic of Mathieson’s position seems to be: Defenders! Make sure your man is incapable of proceeding on goal by whatever foul means possible – just make sure he can’t control the ball, and you won’t be dismissed!  Utter rubbish of course, but a man has to try and justify his Tinkler Tribute by any means possible.

Leeds emerge from the Blackpool game frustrated but with the knowledge of a job well done.  They looked the likelier throughout, and had the game tactically in their grasp from the word go.  An unlucky deflection and a truly woeful refereeing performance stood between United and a deserved victory.  Broadfoot was ironically dismissed in the last few minutes; a straight red for an awful tackle on Marius Zaliukas.  That’s the second time in two games that an opposition player has seen red when faced with the mighty Marius – it seems we have a good’un there, and we’ll just have to hope he remains in one piece.

Onwards to Forest now, and here’s hoping that Leeds can perform just as resolutely as they did at Bloomfield Road.  We’ll have to trust to luck as well, and make a wish that whoever the ref is at the City Ground, he’s not looking for a chance to pay his own tribute to refs’ patron saint Ray Tinkler.