Tag Archives: Brentford FC

2-1 To the Referee as Leeds Lose at Home to Derby – by Rob Atkinson

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TC: “This must stop”

It’s fair to say that, after Leeds United‘s controversial defeat at home to Derby County last night, United boss Thomas Christiansen was almost speechless with frustration and anger at some of the decisions made by match referee Simon Hooper. If anything, that’s an understatement. I’ve rarely seen a manager so upset and so clearly having to choose his words carefully. Even after his stint at the post-match press conference was done, Christiansen lingered, still speaking to the assembled reporters about two pivotal penalty decisions: “You saw the situations – didn’t you?” There was sympathy in the room, but also a sense that here was a man starting to be bowed down by the pressure that goes with the Elland Road hot seat.

On a night when former United manager Simon Grayson got the boot at Sunderland, his was a name being whispered in the West Stand corridors following a third successive home defeat for Leeds. Christiansen pronounced himself happy that an additional coach – Gianni Veo, touted as a “set piece coach” – is joining the Leeds backroom staff, though he didn’t claim to have been a party to that recruitment decision. It might be premature to say that the future is bleak for the Leeds manager, but it is at the very least uncertain; we can be sure that results need to pick up sharply in the very near future, starting at Brentford on Saturday in what Christiansen aptly describes as a “must-win game”.

Objectively, the performance of referee Hooper was poor; Derby’s penalty didn’t stand much scrutiny and, arguably, Leeds should have gone in at half time two up with a penalty of their own to add to Pierre-Michel Lasogga‘s 8th minute opener. In the event, both decisions went against United, a situation most Leeds fans will be wearily familiar with especially if they’ve been watching the Whites over the past five decades. I actually put this to Christiansen as he left the press conference – he just sighed and replied “This must stop”.

Given that one man may not be able to alter the course of so much history, though, it’s down to the players and the coaching staff to make Leeds a threatening team once again, miserly in defence and productive in attack. That’s what we got in the early part of the season, and it did seem that Leeds were back at it against Bristol – but since then, they’ve gone back into their shell when hosting Sheffield United and Derby. Poor refereeing decisions notwithstanding, Leeds must shoulder their portion of blame for the results that have befallen them.

After the Brentford match on Saturday, there’s yet another international break – the chance, perhaps, for new coach Gianni Veo to make his mark on at least United’s dead ball situations. How good it would be to follow up on a promising away showing at Bristol, with another winning performance and three points at Griffin Park. Not only good, indeed, but potentially vital, at least for Thomas Christiansen. And you can be sure nobody appreciates that more than he does. 

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Potency and Penetration Issues When Leeds United Haven’t Got Wood   –   by Rob Atkinson

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Cometh the hour, cometh the Kyle

Leeds United 1, Brentford 0

All’s well that ends well, as some Stratford bloke once said – and the throaty roar of joy mixed with heartfelt relief that lifted the roof off Elland Road in the 90th minute on Saturday was ample proof of the Bard’s ageless wisdom. Kyle Bartley‘s late, late header secured a hard-fought victory over troublesome Brentford that had looked for so long like being a frustrating stalemate, and the atmosphere at the end was worthy of far greater triumphs.

It was a victory wrought out of adversity, though – the cracks are beginning to show in a threadbare squad and the few precious days between now and a Boxing Day date at Preston are welcome indeed. Apart from Bartley’s golden last-gasp winner, one of the better bits of news after the Brentford game was that Chris Wood, much-maligned in various quarters but much-missed against the Bees, has a chance of being involved at Deepdale. The fact is, whatever his detractors might say, Wood is vital to this Leeds United team. Without him, the attack lacks something important. Wood is able to hold the ball up, securing a beachhead for any attack to be reinforced by runners from midfield. His unselfish work appears to pass a section of the support by; the welcome fact that he’s received less criticism this year is probably down to his admirable goal return. But Wood is more than just a goalscorer and, without him, Leeds offered much less in the attacking third and looked more laboured all over the park.

Manager Garry Monk looked as much relaxed as relieved after the match, and he has the air of a man whose plans are in place and who knows they will probably be carried through. The wind of change has been blowing around Elland Road for a while now, and January may well be a very exciting and productive time for the club. One priority publicly acknowledged is the acquisition of another striker – in placing so much reliance on Wood, United simply have too many eggs in one basket. Despite the efforts of Souleymane Doukara lately, and partly due to the relative ineffectiveness of Marcus Antonsson, Leeds are light up front. This will have to be addressed if the promotion challenge is to be maintained and Monk has been quite explicit in confirming his intentions.

For now, though, as the manager says, it’s about fighting for each batch of three points and doing what we can. Ahead of the Liverpool EFL Cup tie, I said I’d be happy with an honourable exit from that competition, plus between 6 and 7 points from the following three tricky-looking fixtures against Villa, Brighton and Reading. Well, we went out with richly-deserved accolades and got six out of nine points, topped up nicely by the three from Brentford, so this is a happy blog. If we can secure four points from away matches at Preston and Villa, then that happiness will grow into something more like ecstasy. And then, lo and behold, it’ll be January and – hopefully – game on.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! MOT.

What a Day

Thoughts of a Brentford fan on recent events, including the impending loss of their winger Dallas to Leeds United.

The Bees Blog

Yesterday, I started by writing about how we were set to lose not only Andre Gray but Moses Odubajo to Hull City. As the day developed the news turned even more sour with reports of Stuart Dallas being set to complete a move to Leeds Utd. Cue Twitter meltdown from bees fans, myself included.

I received quite a few a few messages from Leeds fans both asking about Stuart Dallas and plenty of commiserations about selling off your top talent. First things first though, nothing is complete and no one has gone anywhere so perhaps the outrage that we all expressed yesterday is a bit preemptory. Certainly though, the Dallas deal appears all but done. It’s a huge surprise to me that we’ve agreed to this sale, not least because of the seemingly low fee involved. Is this another transfer clause that we didn’t know about?

Leeds fans perhaps mistake…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warburton: lack of class

Warburton: lack of class

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come on, Leeds.

FL to Induct “Heroic” Ref Salisbury Into the Ray Tinkler Hall of Fame – by Rob Atkinson

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A statement released today by Football League CEO Shaun Harvey reads: “Following the outstanding performance of our highly-valued match official Graham Salisbury in the Leeds United versus Brentford Championship fixture, the Football League is delighted to announce that Mr. Salisbury is to be awarded honorary admission, forthwith and with immediate effect, into the “Ray Tinkler Hall of Fame“.

This is a move almost unprecedented in the history of the game; such an elevation into the ranks of match officials most highly regarded by the League normally takes place only in recognition of achievements over a whole career – as with Howard Webb, Mike Riley and Mike Dean of Man Utd. Previous exceptional cases have included two accolades awarded to foreign referees, both for outstanding conduct in European Finals involving Leeds. Christos Michas (1973, ECWC Final, Salonika, Greece) and Michel Kitabdjian (1975, European Cup Final, Parc des Princes, Paris, France) were given honorary membership of the Tinkler Hall of Fame after going above and beyond the call of duty in each case to ensure defeat for The Damned United. Both men sacrificed their careers to stop Leeds winning the trophies concerned. The requirements for The Ray Tinkler Hall of Fame are simply that exacting.

League spokesman Ivor Whytes-Grudge was happy to elaborate on the Salisbury accolade. “Yes, we know that this is unusual, to say the least,” admitted an excited Ivor, “but Mr. Salisbury really exceeded all our expectations today. Greater love hath no man than this: that he should lay down his very reputation and integrity for a cause we all hold dear,” he added, solemnly.

So, what has the newly-honoured Salisbury actually done to deserve such a signal honour? “Are you actually kidding??” ejaculated an increasingly emotional Whytes-Grudge. “Did you see what Graham did to that beastly club today? Why, he pretty much single-handedly ensured their defeat to Brentford. You got the feeling that he wouldn’t stoop to giving Leeds a penalty even if one of their attackers had been cynically murdered inside the box. Now that’s what we call good refereeing – and how!”

Mr Salisbury himself was typically modest after the match, insisting on sharing the credit with his officials. “Yes, I was brilliant,” he quipped, his eyes twinkling. “I sorted Leeds out good and proper, didn’t I?? But think on – if my assistants had flagged for a penalty – as they would have to have done, for any other team – well, I’d have been in a very awkward position. But my colleagues were superb, they backed me to the hilt – and we’ve pulled off a famous victory. And the thought of even being mentioned in the same breath as “Sir” Ray Tinkler – the referee all of we modern officials look up to and revere – well, there’s just no greater honour. What’s integrity and honesty, compared to that?? You can stick ’em, quite frankly.”

The League have confirmed that they hope to appoint this official for other Leeds games this season. “He’s the man for the job, isn’t he?” purred an admiring Ivor Whytes-Grudge. “Shaun simply adores him.”

Meanwhile, our Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything matchday correspondent, “Mutton” Jeff, reported from Elland Road that the Leeds reaction to today’s referee was surprisingly favourable. “A prominent member of the United management team told me he thought Mr Salisbury conducted himself like “a real Count” and that he was just what they’d been expecting”, said our man on the spot, who has a slight cold. So that’s ok then… Unbelievable, Jeff.

Graham Salisbury is grossly, irretrievably, bent.

Can Resurgent Leeds Draw High-Flying Bees’ Sting? – by Rob Atkinson

Old friend turned temporary foe - the Bees' ex-White, Jonathan Douglas

Old friend turned temporary foe – the Bees’ ex-White, Jonathan Douglas

Brentford, one of the real surprise packages of this Championship season, will roll up to Elland Road on Saturday – having already furnished ample proof that they are not phased by an illustrious reputation. Last September, Leeds United ventured to the Bees’ Griffin Park, with only one solitary third tier meeting between the pair at this venue since 1953. Leeds had lost 2-1 in that long-ago Coronation year – and they fared no 61 years later, brusquely dismissed 2-0. United’s record against last season’s Championship newcomers from the third tier has been uniformly awful, a 100% record of defeat. Can they do better than that, this weekend?

In point of fact, it is Brentford’s unexpectedly good performance in a higher sphere this season that might just give rise to some hope of Leeds prevailing on Saturday. Despite some unpalatable defeats against opponents they would have hoped to send packing, Leeds have managed to buck the losing trend against better-placed outfits, with wins against all of the current top three, including a memorable ‘double’ over a fine Bournemouth side. There are signs, too, that the Whites – unbeaten in the league in 2015 – are slowly but surely getting their act together, maybe just in time to avoid more than a passing flirtation with the relegation dogfight. Brentford will be a stern test of this mini-revival, a team that Leeds coach Neil Redfearn respects as fighters with pace, energy and quality out wide.

It hasn’t exactly been “Fortress Elland Road” this season, but most of United’s better performances have come at home, success on the road being much harder to come by. With some awkward trips in the offing, at places like Reading, Brighton and Middlesbrough, Leeds will know they have to capitalise on home fixtures and take maximum points if possible from Brentford and then Millwall, in order to consolidate the gap between United and the bottom three.

An intriguing selection issue will surround new signing Edgar Cani, a player ideally fitted to the sort of lone striker/target man role filled lately by Steve Morison. Star man at Huddersfield Sol Bamba will surely continue to anchor the defence, and Billy Sharp‘s late heroics might see him pushing for selction if the team formation permits. There would have to be some compelling reason, though, to change the victorious line-up from last weekend’s derby win.

For Brentford, this match may be slightly too soon to expect a return from injury for midfield general and part-time right-back Alan McCormack, but Leeds are likely to meet an old friend in the visitors’ engine room – in the shape of Jonathan Douglas, who has been a terrific performer and frequently captain for the Griffin Park outfit this campaign.

One topical oddity is that both coaches were nominated for the January “Manager of the Month” award. It was tempting to hope that Brentford’s Mark Warburton might win the accolade, and the managerial curse that goes with it, ahead of a subsequent defeat at Elland Road. Doubtless the Brentford fans were hoping for the alternate scenario, with Redders copping for the prize and the hoodoo – in the event, it was Boro’s Aitor Karanka who, unsurprisingly, got the shout, on the back of an unbeaten league record in January as well as dismissing Manchester City from the FA Cup in the Champions’ own back yard.

With an accurate prediction for the Huddersfield match under its belt, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything will stick its neck out once again, and bravely forecast a 3-1 success for Leeds tomorrow. That’s based upon little more than a hunch, liberally spiced with some wishful thinking. But it’s been one of those seasons where league positions have often been made nonsense of by results on the park – and this weekend could just turn out to be another of those funny old games.

So, lump on the Bees to get stung – and Leeds to edge that bit closer to mid-table security. And, if I’m wrong, you will see my confessional penance right here, on Monday.