Tag Archives: Carabao Cup

Gary Neville Has Successfully Forgotten 2010, Leeds and the Beckford End – by Rob Atkinson

Gary Neville, part owner of League newcomers Salford City FC, has reacted instantly to his team’s Carabao Cup first round home draw against Leeds United. Neville, third in his own family in the coaching stakes, tweeted “Welcome back into my life Leeds United, it’s been 15 years”. Clearly, the stress of club part ownership – or maybe his regular spats with fellow Sky pundit Jamie Carragher – has taken its toll on poor Gary’s grey matter and memory, as it was a mere nine years ago that third tier Leeds went to Old Trafford to face Champions Man U in the FA Cup third round. United made history by beating their old rivals 1-0 that day, with the home team including one G. Neville who could only look on as our Jermaine slotted home the winner in front of the Beckford End. Perhaps Gary has just been trying to forget…

It’s not the first gaffe that has come back to haunt Neville. He is on record as saying that no decent manager should ever lose 7-0. Naturally, he then proceeded to lose by precisely that score as rookie manager of Valencia, something that must have been hard to swallow even for one with as big a cakehole as our old friend Gary. Apparently, he was too speechless with shock to protest his subsequent, ignominious sacking.

Still, we’ll take his welcome back tweet as cordially intended if not factually accurate. The tables will be turned from that famous January 3rd cup shock in 2010, in that Leeds will be two leagues above their opponents, rather than two leagues below. It should be quite an occasion, anyway – maybe yet another live TV appearance for Leeds, and certainly an early highlight in the League career of Salford. Let’s hope that Gary Neville enjoys this one just as much as that other cup tie which he seems to have forgotten all about.

Welcome back into our lives, Mr. Neville. It’s been NINE years…

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Chelsea Need Some Leeds Style On-field Leadership, but Sarri Should Hold His Head High – by Rob Atkinson

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Today isn’t the first time I’ve felt a bit sorry for Chelsea, even though as a Leeds United fan, it’s in my DNA to despise them, and I normally manage that quite well. But I sympathised when they lost a Champions League Final on penalties to you-know-who, after outplaying them during the game itself. As loud as were the celebrations the length and breadth of Devon that night, I was gutted for the Bluescum. It was a question of which is the greater evil – no contest.

Today, though, I felt sorry for them at Wembley in defeat to Man City, even though I wanted City to win, naturally. I think everyone knows what happened, with the Chelsea goalkeeper, whose name I can’t be bothered to look up, refusing to come off when his number went up for substitution near the end of extra time. The lad put himself first and his manager Maurizio Sarri nowhere, showing a total lack of respect for his team-mates in the process. The outcome seemed incredible, but the player remained on the field, and his team duly went on to lose to City, with the young lad (Kepa Arrizabalaga, that’s his name) diving over one he should have saved. Coach Sarri cut a forlorn figure as he followed his defeated team up the Wembley steps, and it’s difficult to say what his future now holds. But it seems fair to say, despite his post-match attempts at smoothing things over, that he was hung out to dry by a young lad who needs to learn, and learn fast, that what the boss says, goes.

A lot of what was missing today at Wembley for Chelsea, quite apart from that vital element of respect for the coach, was a bit of on-field leadership. Now my club, Leeds United – although our squad is infinitely less costly and talented than Chelsea’s – has that quality of leadership in spades, both on and off the field. In the first place, none of our players would even think of defying coach Marcelo Bielsa – and in the second, there’d be no shortage of volunteers to point out, not so gently, the error of his ways to any player daft enough to try it. In today’s game, only David Luiz made some sort of half-hearted attempt to set a young player back onto the straight and narrow, and it wasn’t nearly enough.

A great example of what I’m talking about occurred during yesterday’s win over Bolton. Leeds were awarded a penalty during the first half (check the records if you don’t believe me) and, in the absence of regular spot kick taker Kemar Roofe, there were three contenders to grab the ball. Patrick Bamford was the man who got to it first, but Pablo Hernandez was quite interested, and tyro Tyler Roberts was positively insistent. Roberts was prepared to make an issue of it when, from the back, Luke Ayling came steaming into the area and grabbed Tyler by the scruff of the neck to usher him away and let Bamford get on with it. I’m sure that Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper et al would have intervened if necessary, but Roberts wisely yielded before things got that serious. The penalty was converted, and they all lived happily ever after.

That Elland Road penalty incident didn’t directly involve the coach, but it does demonstrate the importance of players showing some leadership and solidarity on the pitch, when all the manager can do is holler from a hundred yards away above the noise of a 35,000 crowd. On-field leadership is the eleventh commandment as far as football is concerned, and Chelsea grievously lacked it today. The rest of the team, faced with such blatant defiance of the manager, should have been frogmarching their arrogant young keeper off – because once the boss’s authority is compromised, it’s a slippery slope downwards. Luiz apart, the Chelsea players simply stood by and watched. Clearly, some sort of damage limitation script was agreed for the eager Sky interviewers afterwards, but the fact remains that there are big problems at Chelsea, problems that they seem to lack the essential character to deal with.

In the circumstances, I fear for Sarri, whose authority now appears to be shot through. But, for me, he can hold his head up high; the fault lies with a young professional who has set himself in defiance of his boss, as well as the senior professionals, Luiz apart, who failed to enforce their manager’s will on the field. To me, going into a penalty shoot-out just minutes after that scene of disgrace and confusion, Chelsea were certs to lose, and it was no surprise that they did, missing their first penalty and then seeing their rebellious keeper dive over one that he should have saved. Justice was served, it seemed, for everyone except poor Sarri.

Incidentally, this sort of thing has happened before, and in circumstances surprising to those who were so quick to claim that what happened to Sarri would never have happened to Alex Ferguson. Because Ferguson was the Man U manager in 1991, when they faced Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley in the League Cup Final. Les Sealey, since sadly deceased, was the Red Devils keeper, and he sustained a deep knee gash for which they wanted to sub him – but the hotheaded Sealey refused to be subbed, getting almost violent with the member of the coaching staff trying to see him off the pitch. Wednesday went on to win 1-0 with a goal from John Sheridan.

It’s not often that I look at a major final, and at the situation of a major and majorly rich, honour-laden club like Chelsea, and end up with my appreciation of the way my own club is run so greatly enhanced. But it happened today. Chelsea could learn a lot from the way things are done at Leeds – but I wish only the best for their beleaguered coach Maurizio Sarri, whatever fate now has in store for him.

Could Leeds Have a World Star on Debut at Leicester Tonight?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Kun Temenuzhkov

Kun Temenuzhkov appearing in the colours of Barcelona

Tonight’s Carabao Cup Tie at recent champions Leicester City could just see the first involvement in a senior Leeds United line up of a young international star who already enjoys global acclaim. 

Named as one of The Guardian’s top 60 young talents in the world, teenage sensation Kun Temenuzhkov has made several appearances for United’s under-23s this season after signing for the Whites in summer from Barcelona. It may be that the club see the Carabao Cup as the ideal situation to provide experience at first team level for such a hot prospect. Temenuzhkov’s absence from yesterday’s second-string match at Huddersfield has had fans speculating that his first team squad chance might be imminent. 

Whether the youngster would actually appear in the team, enabling Leeds to rest a regular striker for Friday’s summit meeting with Sheffield Utd has to be open to some doubt. But even travelling with the squad would be a sign of progress for the Bulgarian youth cap, and a mark of the esteem in which such a young player is held. 

It will be interesting to see what tonight’s team news reveals, with Leeds quite possibly looking to prioritise the sharing out of first team involvement. With a lad like Kun on the books, so highly regarded on the world stage in his age group, it might make sense to take a chance on broadening his experience. 

Two games in a few days will always test the club’s playing resources, and cup ties are increasingly seen as testing grounds for untried talent. An away clash at last season’s Champions League quarter-finalists would be a case of “in at the deep end” for Temenzhukov but, as the old saying goes, if they’re good enough, they’re old enough. 

Tonight might just be the first opportunity for Leeds fans to judge whether the latest wonderkid could actually have what it takes to succeed at Elland Road

Leeds United Looking to Bounce Back After Millwall Loss – by Rob Atkinson

Klich

                    Hadi Sacko and Mateusz Klich 

NB: This article also appears in Saturday’s edition of the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Leeds United’s first loss of the season, viewed in the context of what is shaping up to be a momentous campaign, was less painful than might have been expected. The defeat was narrow and yet decisive; United were blown away by the sheer desire and commitment of a Millwall side whose performances against Leeds rarely seem to lack those qualities. In the event, the home side deserved their success, having had an early strike ruled out for a debatable offside call. Even then, there was a hint of offside about the eventual winner, but justice was probably done on the day.

Fortunately for those United fans who felt themselves to have returned to Earth with a bump, there was a chance for redemption at Burnley in the midweek Carabao Cup tie. Sure enough, Leeds dusted themselves down and revealed their gritty side to match higher league opposition, despite nine changes from last weekend. There was a grim satisfaction in ejecting the Clarets from the competition, especially as United were up against two erstwhile heroes in Chris Wood and Charlie Taylor, both of whom saw a brighter, or at any rate, more lucrative future across the Pennines at Turf Moor. Any lingering resentment over those deals was largely dissipated when Stuart Dallas’s decisive shoot-out penalty hit the back of the Burnley net and, with hindsight, the cup tie turned out to be more about current Leeds heroes than it was about Messrs. Wood and Taylor.

The biggest revelation of Tuesday night, for me, was Mateusz Klich, a Polish midfielder who had not been pulling up many trees this season so far – but he certainly seized his chance at Burnley. Klich seemed to be everywhere, closing down, making interceptions, putting in the hard yards with driving forward runs and generally giving as complete a midfield performance as we’ve seen so far this season. On that form, Klich will have given head coach Thomas Christiansen another welcome selection headache going forward; Leeds are particularly well-served in the middle of the park, but it will be difficult to overlook the case for Klich if he maintains the level of performance he showed against the Clarets. The ice-cool and languid penalty he dispatched during the shoot-out topped off his night’s work perfectly; it looks as if United can expect much more from Mateusz.

The other particularly bright spark on Tuesday was Hadi Sacko, who had up until this match been a mercurial and frustrating, hit-and-miss performer – but again, you could see the work going on at Thorp Arch beginning to pay off in terms of the Christiansen ethos sinking in all the way through this squad. Sacko it was who made the initial breakthrough for Leeds, finishing well after bursting onto a Pablo Hernandez pass that found him in space vacated by a badly-positioned Charlie Taylor. A very sweet moment, that. Sacko showed menace every time Leeds got forward after his introduction as substitute and, again, if he can keep that up, there’s another useful iron in United’s attacking fire.

So we move on to Ipswich Town at a sold-out Elland Road today, where Christiansen’s troops will be up against no-nonsense Barnsley lad (and boyhood Leeds fan) Mick McCarthy as Town boss, assisted by former United striker Terry Connor. These two will put aside their Leeds affiliations for the day and their team will provide stern and well-organised opposition. Still, Elland Road will be rocking again and this Leeds squad provides so many options and permutations that you have to fancy United to find a way of dealing with the Tractor Boys. With some difficult games ahead, three points today would be very welcome, consolidating United’s heady occupation of Championship top spot.

These are interesting and exciting times for United fans, who will now be optimistic about seeing the Whites put that Millwall slip-up firmly behind them.

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Burnley’s Sean Dyche Embarrasses Himself After Defeat to Leeds Utd – by Rob Atkinson

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Burnley boss Sean Dyche – seemingly unsure as to the relative locations of arse and elbow

This blog is not usually in the habit of upbraiding opposition managers and coaches for their post-match comments, particularly in the wake of a defeat. It’s an edgy and sensitive time, feelings run high and the vocal cords are occasionally allowed to twang more freely than perhaps they should. But, after Burnley‘s exit last night from the Carabao Cup at the hands of Leeds United, Clarets boss Sean Dyche came out with a couple of real whoppers that really cannot be allowed to pass unremarked upon.

Firstly, and most surprisingly, Mr. Dyche – perhaps casting about for some excuse as to why his Premier League beauties had failed to beat a Championship side showing nine changes from its nominal first XI – ventured to criticise referee Darren Bond‘s decision to award United a penalty kick deep into injury time of the 90 minutes (and shortly after he’d made a similar decision at the other end). Demonstrating what can only be called an appalling ignorance of the laws of the game, Dyche said “They get a penalty, which I think is a real soft one. He (Tarkowski) does pull his shirt but the ball is seven feet above his head. It’s impossible that it’s impeded him from actually scoring a goal,” he added.

It’s hard to know where to start with that one. But let us state simply and clearly, for the avoidance of doubt and to emphasise the depth of Sean’s silliness, that a shirt pull by a defender on an attacker (which he acknowledges did happen) in the penalty area, is a foul and a penalty kick. It’s as simple as that, there are no ifs, buts or maybes, and there’s no caveat along the lines of “did it prevent a goal-scoring opportunity”. Such complexities are for decisions over cautions, not the award of a free kick or a penalty kick for an obvious foul. For a professional coach at Premier League level to suggest otherwise, and presume to criticise the referee in the process, is at best an insulting attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes. At worst, it amounts to a quite astounding ignorance of the laws of the game, and a lack of the basic knowledge needed by any football professional.

Dyche’s second ridiculous observation was targeted at an area outside the professional arena, so is perhaps more understandable, if not excusable. The Clarets boss professed himself bemused at the level of abuse aimed by the travelling Leeds support (who were quite phenomenal, as ever) at former Whites Charlie Taylor and Chris Wood. Dyche seemed to think that the Leeds fans should have done their sums, realised how much money United had raked in from the two transfers, and applauded the departed duo politely, as if this were a cricket match on the village green, with the church clock standing at ten to three, and honey still for tea. Again, you have to wonder at the Ginger One‘s knowledge and appreciation of football and football support. Remember, these two players had both committed the ultimate sin, in fans’ eyes, of refusing to play for their club in order to facilitate a transfer away from that club. There are very few lower depths to plumb than that.

Perhaps Sean was simply nettled and disappointed, on a night when his club had exited the Carabao Cup and had been trolled afterwards by one of their own sponsors. But in that case he’d have done far better to bite his tongue, purse his lips and keep his mouth firmly shut. In making the comments he made after last night’s game, he’s simply made a fool of himself – mainly by his bizarre interpretation of the laws surrounding penalty kicks, which are really not open to being seen as he appeared to wish.

It’s probably too much to suppose that a hurt and humiliated football coach will have second and better thoughts, leading him to withdraw the remarks highlighted here – but if Mr. Dyche did choose to go down that road, to admit that he was factually incorrect, in error of judgement and foolish to express such dubious views – well, possibly he would emerge as a bigger man and regain some respect. But, as things stand, someone who’s on record as having said such very daft and uncalled-for things as Dyche was guilty of, cannot really ask to be viewed with much respect at all.

And Sean – respect matters. Because, win, lose, or draw, Cup progress or Cup exit, and even with the local police seemingly firmly on your side – you won’t last much longer in football without that particular commodity.

silly sean

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Saiz Matters for Leeds as United Give Port Vale a Proper Seeing To – by Rob Atkinson

Saiz

Leeds United 4, Port Vale 1 (Carabao Cup 1st Round)

Elland Road on Wednesday night had that air of a football stadium being dragged at long last into the 21st century – not kicking and screaming, but purring with a deeply fulfilled sense of gratified satisfaction. The old stadium had that slick, modern look about it, with the state-of-the-art electronic advertising hoardings proclaiming that a new era is underway in LS11. But it was the vibrant, fluid attacking play of Leeds United, resplendent in their all-white strip with its gold trim, which really announced that things are different now – even though the team showed nine changes from that impressive opening day win at Bolton.

From the start, the Thomas Christiansen style of play was again in evidence, with the players looking to pass it around efficiently, finding space and supporting possession, and with a creditable amount of sheer hard work going into harrying the opposition when they had the ball. If Leeds can build on this approach, then we could be in for a highly enjoyable season. The work ethic and the obvious comfort on the ball of the Leeds players both bode well for United’s prospects, and the 15,000 plus crowd had many a chance to express their approval.

Samu Sáiz was the obvious star of the show, with a very well-taken hat-trick – and his immediate priority must now be to keep his feet on the ground, continue to work hard, and maintain the standard he has set for himself. The only small nits to pick were a slight tendency to wave imaginary yellow cards, together with a suggestion that he may have been involved in a spitting incident towards the end of the first half. But otherwise, the impression Sáiz made on his competitive debut could hardly have been greater; by scoring a hat-trick on his first team bow, he has potentially catapulted himself into the Carl Shutt class of United legends. Praise indeed.

Let’s not overlook other impressive performances though. After the distressing concession of a penalty at Bolton, when he appeared to be attempting to swap shirts with his opponent about half an hour early, Conor Shaughnessy looked classy and composed in the sometimes intimidating Elland Road arena. It seems important to make that point, as there is a tendency among United fans to dismiss young players as “not good enough” after errors like the one at Bolton. But Shaughnessy showed character and application, hardly putting a foot wrong all night. Decidedly, he looks to have every chance of being good enough.

Overall, it was an extremely satisfactory night for Leeds, with that buzz of new beginnings around a stadium that is looking better every day – emphasising that home is once again truly our home. At this early stage of the season, we already have a lot to be thankful for and, seemingly, plenty more to look forward to. Not to overplay a First Round League Cup win over fourth-tier Port Vale – but you can only beat what’s put in front of you, and the fact is that Leeds despatched their opponents with considerable style.

Quite apart from the Sáiz hat-trick, there was also a debut goal for Caleb Ekuban, who finished decisively after a step-over by that man Samu. By this time, the first half leveller scored by Vale’s ex-United man Tongeh was but a distant memory. Leeds had won at a canter, and they’d put on a better show than for many a long month past in so doing. The three terrific strikes from the right boot of Sáiz will be remembered for a long time to come – although Leeds fans, being Leeds fans, will be hungry for more.

On the sparkling evidence of Wednesday night, those fans are unlikely to be disappointed.