Tag Archives: Brendan Rodgers

Rodgers: Swapping Immortality for Mediocrity? Celtic Fans Are Deluded – by Rob Atkinson

Former Glasgow Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has understandably jumped at the chance to manage once again in the English Premier League, putting his desire to be involved in a more competitive competition ahead of what some are pleased to call “loyalty”.

It’s something that tends to stick in the care of the average partisan, blinkered football fan, but the bottom line is that you can’t stand in the way of a man seeking to better himself. And that is precisely what Brendan Rodgers has done. Leeds United fans have had to swallow similar bitter pills in the past, but it’s the law of the jungle. Might is right.

In leaving Scottish football, where the top flight has rarely been other than a two horse race, and has lately become a boring procession, Rodgers will once again be pitting his wits against the best. For some Celtic fans to claim that he has swapped immortality for mediocrity is to plumb the depths of self-delusion. The mediocrity resides north of the border in a league without any real excitement or class; immortality is not earned in Mickey Mouse competitions. The main interest in football up there lately was duding Rangers’ resurgence from their relegation to the bottom division.

A few other Celtic fans have sunk even lower, expressing the hope that Rodgers will die in his sleep, or fall to an IRA bullet. That sort of filth intrudes upon football occasionally, and it can crop up anywhere. But it seems far more common in an environment riven with sectarian hatred, where vicious fanatics are far more common than in the slightly more healthy competitive atmosphere in England.

Leicester City have been able to attract the manager of a so-called “big club” simply because, whatever Celtic’s size and history, the real football giants in the UK are to be found in the white heat of battle that characterises the top two English divisions. Whatever diplomatic phrases Rodgers may have employed in talking about his departure from Celtic, he plainly wanted to take up the Premier League challenge, and it’s not hard to see why.

Unless, of course, you’re a blinkered, deluded – and maybe bigoted – Celtic fan.

Advertisements

Leeds Ram Wigan Chairman’s Taunts Back Down His Throat as Mowatt Strikes – by Rob Atkinson

Mowatt - poise, polish and a lethal finish in either foot

Alex Mowatt – poise, polish and a lethal finish in either foot

Outgoing Wigan chairman Dave Whelan became the second club figurehead in a matter of weeks to make the mistake of speaking in haste before repenting at leisure. Not so long back, Middlesbrough owner Steve Gibson saw fit to poke fun at the Massimo Cellino situation, by sanctioning the display of a huge banner displaying his own none-too-attractive mug above the legend “Fit and Proper“. In associating himself with other “fit and proper” Football League types like convicted rapist Owen Oyston, Gibson perhaps did himself no favours. But he committed a greater sin in winding up the Whites, who promptly scored a smash and grab win against the Smoggies. Thanks for the motivation, Steve. And for the three – no, sorry – six points. Very kind, if not all that clever.

Dave Whelan yesterday. Not a racist - honest...

Dave Whelan yesterday. Not a racist – honest…

Then yesterday at Wigan‘s DW Stadium, Dave Whelan, a bluff old cove who some think of as anti-semitic due to rather unwise and ill-considered comments in the wake of appointing Malky Mackay as manager, just couldn’t resist having a pop at visitors Leeds United. When he made his valedictory address to Wigan’s tiny and scattered band of home supporters, old Whelan reflected on a tenure that had seen his club reach and stay for a while in the Premier League, as well as enjoying an unlikely Wembley success against Manchester City. But then he simply had to permit himself an FA Cup jab at the Whites that must have made his manager hold his head in his hands. “Leeds haven’t won the Cup in 25 years“, huffed the old gent, inaccurately (whisper it, but it’s actually 43 years and counting). The travelling United faithful who made up a fair proportion of the crowd and nearly all the noise, were not impressed – and proffered some loud and anatomically impossible advice, in a raucous chorus, as to what Whelan should forthwith do with himself. The players, for their part, merely rolled up their sleeves and prepared for battle.

The result was another 1-0 away win, not quite as Alamo-esque as the Boro one, but still defying the possession and total shots on goal statistics. The Whites’ winner, when it arrived early in the second half, was a fine strike from the increasingly deadly Alex Mowatt, who wrapped his right foot around the ball on the edge of the area to send it hurtling mightily beyond a helpless Scott Carson in the Pie-eaters’ goal. It was a sublime strike – particularly when you remember that Mowatt is supposed to be left-footed (as evidenced by a series of clinical recent free-kick goals). The presence of Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers in the stands will have worried those keen to see United hang onto their young stars; as Eddie Gray apparently murmured, “Well, he’s not here to watch any Wigan players”. Leeds duly hung on to see the match out and complete another welcome victory, all the more satisfactory for that sense of having put a bigmouth in his place.

It’s probably too much to hope for that any other club owner or departing chairman will be so kind as to do Redders’ team talk for him, but really, you never know. The irony with which the Leeds crowd so regularly sing “We’re not famous any more” is calculated to a nicety. The fact is that some of the clubs at this level are still pinching themselves at the privilege they have in regularly hosting an outfit with such a global reputation. And some individuals are simply so carried away with the excitement and glamour of this, that they just can’t refrain from a little unwise counting of chickens before hatching time. How their harassed managers must silently damn their folly when the points then slip away, West Yorkshire-bound.

So much for silly old Mr Dave Whelan then. On the day, as on so many days this season, the one and only Whelan of the moment was Noel David of that ilk, a former United hero who had an endearing habit of scoring against Man U in his playing days, and who – although he now earns a footballing crust elsewhere in the Championship – remains Leeds to the core, wearing his heart on his sleeve and utterly failing to remain impartial. How the Leeds fans love him for it; for his “GET IINNNNNN!!!” when Leeds score and his wit and caustic humour in commentary with Adam Pope on Radio Leeds. It’s such a treat to listen to – that victory cry of Snowy Whelan’s when Leeds score is just something else; you can virtually hear the veins in his neck bulging. It’s fantastic stuff, and a marked contrast to the rather more low-key commentary available elsewhere.

So Leeds march on and it’s been another satisfactory weekend with three points for the Whites, and losses for some of those we love to despise, notably Millwall, who are beginning to look ever more comically doomed to the drop. Next week it’s a resurgent Nottingham Forest at Elland Road and another stiff test for Redders’ Leeds. But it’s fair to say the pressure is all but off now; we’re looking cautiously upwards instead of back at the dog-eat-dogfight.

More on Forest – and Snowy Whelan – during the coming week here on Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything. Stay tuned…

Leeds Forever – but Liverpool for the Title Would be a Feelgood Feast – by Rob Atkinson

Liverpool - climbing back onto their perch

Liverpool – climbing back onto their perch

Liverpool, having thrashed Man U at the Theatre of Hollow Myths last week, had to work a bit harder at Cardiff, going behind twice before emerging impressive 6-3 winners.  It will, however, have been the easy triumph over the Pride of Devon that provided the Real Reds with the most pleasure – these are two clubs who, to say the least, aren’t exactly fond of each other.  The last thing either wants to see is the other winning the league – which means that there are a lot of nervous plastics out there, sweating in their Devon armchairs right now; because Liverpool seem to mean business and they are currently rather handily-placed for a late title push.

For the neutral, things could hardly be better, with the tables so dramatically turned in this long-standing battle of Lancastrian one-upmanship.  Rivalry of that depth and bitterness tends to polarise opinion – there aren’t many fence-sitters when Man U and Liverpool meet.  For me, as a true white rose White, if Liverpool were to be Champions again at the end of this season, it would be an outcome second only to seeing my own beloved Leeds back on top.  OK, so I’m a proud Leeds United fan – so what has this got to do with me?

Well, I’d have to start by declaring an interest – as a die-hard supporter of the One True United from the right (Yorkshire) side of the Pennines, I’m not exactly enamoured of Man U.  I never had much time for them, even before that awful, whisky-nosed Govan Git came down to pour his choleric bile all over what had, until then, been a relatively civilised (give or take Brian Clough and nearly all the fans) English football scene.  There was always that irritating air of spurious arrogance about them, as well as this “you’ve got to love us because of the Busby Babes” thing – which all the media seemed to lap up so eagerly, much to the disgust of real fans everywhere.  So clearly, I don’t like them – never did.  That’s in my Leeds United DNA.  But I’m not just a Leeds fan, I’m a fan of football in its widest sense – and I mourn the game we once knew which seems to be gone forever, swept away by a grotty tide of filthy lucre

Time was when Man U were grudgingly respected, other than by determined haters like me and my fellow Whites.  Since Sir Alex Taggart landed at the Theatre of Hollow Myths though, they’ve gone from “quite easy to dislike” to “impossible to stand the sight of” faster than you could say “Envious of Liverpool”.  The Purple-Conked One made it clear from the off that he was determined to “knock Liverpool off their perch”.  What we didn’t realise when he started his vendetta in 1988, showing no immediate sign of being any more successful than any of the other post-Busby failures, was that the whole face of football would have to change to realise Ferguson’s warped dream.

In 1967, Man U won their last ever proper League Title, making seven in total – quite respectable.  Then – nothing, for 26 years, culminating in a deserved last-ever old-style Football League Championship triumph for Leeds United. But since 1993, when a greedy and ruthless Aussie bought the game and gift-wrapped it for a curmudgeonly and ruthless Scot, the title “race” has been more of a procession.  The honour has ceased to be about virtuosity on the field; now it’s mainly about money and markets, and Man U have had much more of both during the whole Murdoch era.  Result: thirteen plastic titles.

Football is now a tacky, merchandise-driven, unseemly drive for profit over pride, and the dominance by Man U of such a grubby era is undeniably apt.  But we are still close enough in time to the pre-greed days for those of us of a certain age to remember when the game was about glory, not greed; when the aim was winning, not wonga, when the important people were supporters, not shareholders.  In those days, the distribution of wealth was far more even, and the field of possible title-winners was far wider; the competition (over a grueling 42 match course, with un-manicured pitches and un-pampered pros) was far more fierce.  And yet, even in this environment of white-hot combat and intense rivalry, Liverpool reigned supreme, not for months, not years, but for literally two decades.  By 1992, they had compiled an honours list that seemed likely to see them at the top of the game for many years to come – unless someone sneaked in and moved the goalposts.  Cue evil Uncle Rupert.

Man U fans can crow all they want about 20 titles (and, true to their loathsome nature, they will).  But the evidence to confound them is there for all to see, like some geological stratum separating the dinosaurs from the mammoths.  That schism dividing the game as it was up to ’92, from the showbiz shenanigans of ’93 onwards, stands out like a Tory at a Foodbank, exposing Man U as the wealth-backed, monopolising opportunists that they are.  And it has all been done with such bad grace, another indictment of this new and joyless age we’ve been plodding through these last twenty-odd years.  No gentle wisdom of the Bob Paisley variety – instead we had the sour bile of Ferguson and now seemingly a Fergie-Lite clone in the newly growly and grouchy, yet undeniably Gollum-esque David Moyes.  No loveable old-style hard-man Desperate Dan type like Tommy Smith – we just had the manufactured machismo of Roy Keane, a supposed tough-guy with an assumed snarl and trademark glower, whose typical party trick was to sneak up behind wee Jason McAteer and fell that not-exactly-scary individual with a sly elbow.

The comparisons could go on all day, but the bottom line is that Liverpool at their peak – and it was a hell of a peak – typified all the values of football that some of us remember from a pre-Sky, pre-glitz, pre-greed age when it really was all about a ball.  Now, it’s all about money, and contracts, and egos, and snide bitching to the media if you don’t get all your own way – and lo, we have generally had the champions we deserve.

Only now, when Taggart has slithered into retirement, are we seeing anything like a level playing-field – and even then, it’s just among the moneyed elite of the Premier League.  Without Ferguson, we suddenly have a new Big Four, sans Man U, and all the better for that.  For all of this season, it has been the thoroughbreds of Liverpool, City, Arsenal and Chelsea dominating at the top, whilst Man U desperately cling to the coat-tails of Everton and Spurs, desperate even for the dubious compensation of Europa League qualification. Clearly, then, the era of Man U domination has been much more a function of the unique personality – to put it politely – of Ferguson, than any real superiority on the pitch.  In a game of fine margins, that crucial factor made such a difference. Hence, the whole record of the past 21 years would appear to have been slewed in one club’s favour, courtesy of one bile-ridden Glaswegian and a covey of co-operative referees.  The records, as they appear to stand, are grossly misleading.

To apply a conversion rate which takes account of the foregoing and sums up all the anger and disgust I feel for the way our game has been degraded – I’d say each Premier League (or Premiership, or whatever else it’s been marketed as) is worth maybe half – at the very most – of each proper Football League Championship from the days when the game still belonged to us and the world was a happier and more carefree place.

At that rate, Man U are still a good long distance behind Liverpool, which – judging by the paucity of ability and bottle they have displayed under Moyes this season – is precisely where they belong.  Now we’re witnessing a resurgence for the club which – under Shankly, Paisley and the other boot-room boys – dominated English football for most of my youth and early adulthood. A Liverpool title victory this season would be the closest we can now get to a return of those good old days.

Because of the Ferguson Factor, history and the record books are poor teachers for the modern student of football.  So as the Reds look to challenge strongly again at the very top of the English game, while a Fergie-less Man U, shorn of their X-factor, languish in their mighty wake – what better time than now to emphasise the simple truth once and for all? Liverpool are still The Greatest.