Tag Archives: Cardiff City

Warnock’s 2006 Blades Provide Blueprint for Successful Leeds Promotion Bid – by Rob Atkinson

blades-2006.jpg

Neil Warnock celebrates in 2006 with his promotion-winning battlers

I was watching one of those Neil Warnock half-time rant videos on YouTube the other evening, and reflecting on his undoubted ability as a rabble-rousing motivator. There’s a couple of well-known examples of these online, one during his time at Huddersfield Town when he berated his team while talking passionately about the fans who had travelled miles in the rain to support the Terriers. This was the clip that initially got me enthusiastic when “Colin” was appointed to the Leeds job; in the end, for a variety of reasons, Warnock was the right man at the wrong time for Elland Road, something that is good cause for profound regret.

Because, like him or hate him, Warnock is a winner. In the right circumstances (note that phrase well), he will fulfil the brief of getting promotion; he might not win many friends on the way, but give him the tools and he’ll finish the job. He’s doing it right now at Cardiff City, of all places. Wherever he is, he’s totally committed to success – although a lifelong Blade, his efforts at Bramall Lane were no more fervent than anywhere else he has been successful. He’s fanatically focused on getting the job done, building a team ethic, fostering the right spirit. He’ll do it with the support of the club’s board if he can, without if he has to. Only when the situation at a club is really toxic has he really found a job impossible. Note that phrase, too.

It was impossible at Elland Road for Warnock to create what he eventually created at Sheffield United. Even so, several nominally superior clubs came to Leeds and were slain in one or other of the two Cup competitions, notably Tottenham Hotspur, Gareth Bale included, who succumbed 2-1 to exit the FA Cup five years ago. Warnock had an effect at Leeds, but was eventually stymied by the regime in control, as just about every coach since has been. It’s galling to think that, if he‘d had the cooperation of the people in charge at Elland Road, we might now be a Premier League club. But the evidence is irrefutable. Wherever he’s gone, and been allowed to create his vision, success has eventually followed.

It took him a while at Bramall Lane, but when he got it right, the look of his team at work reminded me irresistibly of Wilko’s 1990 promotion winners. Remember that game against Sunderland at home, when the Mackems kicked off and Leeds had won possession and mounted an attack in the first few seconds? That team hunted the opposition down, harried them, left them nowhere to go and, eventually, overran them, I think it ended 5-0. The 2006 vintage Blades were very similar. The initial clip I’d watched of Colin bollocking his troops at half time led me on to a review of Sheffield United’s promotion campaign. Ironically, that year, they could only muster two 1-1 draws against Leeds; the previous season, when they just missed out on the play-offs, they beat us 2-0 in Sheffield, and absolutely walloped us 4-0 at Elland Road on the 30th anniversary of my first ever game there.

It’s instructive to watch that 2005/06 Blades review video, if you get the chance and can bear it. That team was the very model of a promotion-winning outfit, always at it, giving the other side not a second’s rest. The contrast with what I’ve seen lately from Leeds is stark and horrifying. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to see a fully-committed team in action; even though I’ve got no time for either Sheffield club, this was inspiring stuff. The defenders were grisly hard and completely uncompromising, the midfield was ever-busy, chasing down every ball and tackling like tigers, always with an eye for a telling pass; and the attackers – sharp and decisive, pouncing on half-chances, making channel runs until their legs turned to water, challenging for everything. Home and away, the Blades tide was usually irresistible – and when they did suffer a setback, they invariably bounced back. What would I give to see a Leeds United team perform like that?

Well, I did see it, when I was 28 years younger and had suffered eight years of thinly-attended dross in the old Division Two. Wilko’s Warriors were a team in the Warnock idiom; all of the qualities I saw in that Blades video were there in abundance with White shirts on and, with Strachan, Batty and the dearly-missed Gary Speed, three quarters of one of the greatest midfield fours ever was already in place by the end of that campaign.

It’s fashionable to look back on the Warnock era at Elland Road and deride the man as a failure. But previous history, as well as his subsequent achievements, expose that as arrant rubbish. Make no mistake, if anybody could have succeeded at Leeds, Warnock was that man. He has a PhD in getting teams, some quite unlikely teams, up into the elite. There, it becomes a different ball game, but Colin’s your man to get you to that point – and to pretend otherwise is an exercise in futility. If we really want to see a relentless juggernaut of a Leeds United team – and I think we all do – then someone of the Colin ilk is needed, if not the man himself.

Don’t get me wrong, on many levels I think the man is a disgrace, especially when he lets himself down as he did with the Wolves coach the other week. Although, apparently, he’s a nice enough bloke away from the football. But we don’t need nice, we desperately need some nasty son-of-a-bitch who’s going to motivate a squad of players to perform as a Leeds United side should perform. And for that to work, unfortunately, it’d probably need a sea-change in the way our club is run. How likely that is, I really wouldn’t like to ponder on too much, in case the answer should prove just too depressing.

If we want to see a difference next season – if we really yearn to see a new version of Wilko’s Warriors or even Colin’s Crusaders – then we should be wishing and agitating for change. Because, otherwise, all we’re likely to get is a further helping of the disgracefully dilettante and uncommitted poncing about that we’ve seen, and paid through the nose for, in the campaign now limping to a shameful conclusion.

In short, we need a hero. Maybe we’ll get one, some day. But just who will that man be?

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Cardiff Revisited for Leeds as Whites Crash Out of Cup at Newport – by Rob Atkinson

South Wales

South Wales: Leeds United’s 21st Century FA Cup graveyard

An early lead in the FA Cup Third Round for Leeds United in an away tie in South Wales, live on TV. A sending off for our talismanic blond striker, then a late winner for opponents many places below us in the league ladder. A classic Cup shock, to the delight of the media and the nation as a whole. Yes – that was the fate of Leeds United 16 years and one day ago at Cardiff City. And today at Newport County, the same grisly circumstances played themselves out all over again as history eerily repeated itself to leave United stunned and “free to concentrate on the League”. For Alan Smith, read Samu Saíz. For Ninian Park, read Rodney Parade. The joyous celebrations in the media and around the nation remain identical.

On that previous occasion, United’s League position could not have been better – top of the Premier League pile with the Title in their sights. Today, the situation is of comparative poverty, with Leeds in and around the Championship play-off places after an inconsistent first half of the League campaign. Exiting the FA Cup is no tragedy, it’s happened once a year for the past 46 seasons. What we must hope is that the League slump, which followed United’s virtually identical Cup defeat 16 years ago, is not now replicated by Thomas Christiansen‘s troops. In that regard, it will clearly be seen that the sending-off of late and needless sub Saíz is far more potentially damaging to Leeds than an almost predictable Cup cock-up.

The really worrying thing was that, yet again, so many of the fringe players were found wanting when asked to step up and take their chances. We all know there’s a certain pressure that goes with the territory of playing for a club like Leeds, where expectations are always higher than attainments and the weight of history can be a heavy burden on young shoulders. But this fact has to inform player recruitment; it has to be a factor when targets are identified. Quality is essential, and will become ever more so as and when Leeds move upwards. But character and guts, with the ability to handle the goldfish-bowl environment and the glare of publicity – these are vital too, and it would seem that, in too many current squad members, those characteristics – epitomised today by lone warrior and scorer Gaetano Berardi – are sadly lacking.

Despite the uncanny similarity of the two South Wales FA Cup exits, 16 years apart, there’s no hiding the fact that the squad defeated at Cardiff was light years ahead of the current bunch in skill, character, attitude, desire – all the components of a successful football unit. That’s the gulf we have somehow to bridge over the next few years, if we’re to usher in our second century in a state befitting the history and global fame of this great club. On the evidence of the entire campaign so far – and in particular, based on the unpalatable offering we had to digest against Newport on Sunday lunchtime – there are light years still to travel, and this at a time when the clubs at the top of the game are streaking further away from the also-rans at an increasing speed.

By common consent, this squad – as a whole – is simply not good enough, and it will take more than boardroom platitudes to deal with that fact. The defeat at Cardiff was the start of a long and slippery slope for United. The best we can wish here and now is that the defeat at Newport might yet be part of the process whereby, slowly and painfully though it may be, Leeds United somehow contrive a return to something like their previous illustrious heights.

Leeds United Boosted by Hat-Trick of Victories and a New Hero   –   by Rob Atkinson

Chris Wood, much-maligned goal machine


The phenomenon of three wins on the bounce for Leeds United is not simply a welcome change for long-suffering Whites fans – it’s more like something approaching a state of nirvana. Free from the worries and stresses accompanying defeat after defeat, the average Elland Road regular can relax for once, spared the jibes of a hostile media and annoyingly gloating fans of lesser clubs. Three straight wins – it’s as near to bliss as we’re likely to get right now.

Of course, it can’t be denied that this minor miracle has been achieved without the pulling-up of too many trees. Our victory at Cardiff dumped the Bluebirds unceremoniously at the foot of the table, and the other two victories – one in the league, one in the EFL Cup, were narrow affairs against another club struggling in the Championship’s basement, Blackburn Rovers. So it might not be much to write home about, although I’m clearly intending to get a blog out of it. Still – three wins is three wins, and it might just turn out to be a platform for better things to come. A victory against Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Tractor Boys on Saturday, and we really would be on a roll.

The most notable factor in the trio of triumphs over the past week or so may well be the emergence of Swedish international centre back Pontus Jansson as the next Whites folk hero. Jansson’s performance at Cardiff was simply sublime; I’ve not seen a better defensive debut in many a moon. He’s the sort of colossus who you feel would head away anything fired at him, up to and including an intercontinental ballistic missile. And when he wasn’t wielding that impressive head, he was sliding into last ditch tackles or nipping in to make handy interceptions from frustrated Cardiff attackers. Wherever the ball entered our danger zone, there was Pontus to deal with it. The man was a revelation, a magnet for the ball, a man among men and one to hang on to if at all possible. Whoever the resident defenders are at Torino, his parent club, they must be a bit good to allow for the release of Jansson on a season’s loan. The Italians’ loss will, hopefully, be Leeds United’s gain.

Among other high points from the last few games was that Pablo Hernandez “worldy” strike to clinch the points at Cardiff. If he can start to put in more of a full shift, the ex-Swansea playmaker should be a real asset for United as the season goes on. And it’s good, also, to see Chris Wood scoring regularly. His winner against Blackburn in the EFL Cup was not a thing of beauty but, like Wood himself, it got the job done. And the boy takes a good, decisive penalty, putting them away hard and true with admirable cool as he did to open the scoring against our former nemesis Cardiff. Wood may have his detractors, but he’s undeniably effective.

Last, but not least, it’s lovely to see United make progress in a Cup. Norwich City are next up in a game at Elland Road that could see Leeds make a rare Quarter Final, and then – who knows? Maybe a big fish at home, like Manchester City, if they can overcome their own local minnows.

Now, that WOULD be bliss!

Pontus the Impassable Can Be the Leeds United Season Saviour – by Rob Atkinson

Football - EFL Cup - 2nd Round - Luton Town v Leeds United

Pontus Jansson – new United hero

Pontus Sven Gustav Jansson has made the kind of start to his Leeds United career that has you taking out and polishing a few superlatives, safe in the knowledge they’ll be well-used over the course of this season – if the giant Swedish international can maintain the form he’s shown so far. Jansson has brought a hitherto unknown solidity to the United back line these past couple of games, helped in no small part, it must be said, by the efforts of Kyle Bartley alongside him. But today, at Cardiff City, Jansson was the stand-out performer by a country mile, with headed clearances, last-ditch tackles, interceptions – you name it, Pontus accomplished it with consummate skill, utter commitment and precious little regard for his own safety.

A presence such as Jansson’s in defence will gradually spread confidence throughout the whole team, that growing assurance of any ball heading towards our area being summarily dealt with. It’s the sort of security that can and will reap its rewards further forward – a tighter defence will, ultimately, give the midfield less to worry about behind them, enabling a more positive influence in attack. Pontus Jansson, in a very real sense, is the foundation upon which the rest of Leeds United’s play can be built.

Cardiff started out in resolute fashion after a dismal midweek defeat at Preston. Early on, they looked determined to exorcise that ghost, at the expense of a Leeds side fresh from a narrow victory over lowly Blackburn. But, as the game wore on, and despite various alarms arising out of the odd goalmouth scramble with Rob Green still looking less than settled, it became clear that, wherever Cardiff put the ball in and around Leeds’ defensive third, there would be Jansson to clear it. When he wasn’t clearing it, he was nipping in to steal possession, or sliding in to cut out possible half-chances. He was like a magnet for the ball – and you could see the Cardiff players wondering what they’d have to do to carve out anything approaching a clear cut chance, with this colossus marshaling things for the Whites.

So, as the story continued of Cardiff pressure being rebuffed by determined United resistance, the tide slowly turned. When Leeds were denied a penalty for holding in the area, manager Garry Monk was outraged – but, within a minute, a similar offence was punished with a spot-kick, calmly converted by Chris Wood. And then the pattern resumed of Cardiff banging their collective head hopelessly against the brick wall that is Pontus Jansson. The more they hammered it forward, the more he headed it away, and his proclamation as the latest Leeds legend is surely only a matter of time. Cardiff City, for sure, will be sick of the sight of him. It was difficult to argue with the impression that the Bluebirds could have pecked away at Leeds until the White Cliffs of Dover crumbled into the sea – and still, they wouldn’t have scored. When Pablo Hernandez, once more somewhat peripheral to the action, applied a truly world-class coup de grâce, bending a fine shot in off the far post, it was no more than a merciful release for the home side, put out of their misery at last.

It was that kind of day for Leeds United, one that could have gone against them had they not found a reliable hero to repel all attacks. Pontus Jansson was that man and he was just in that kind of mood where he wasn’t going to be beaten. It was an attitude that, in due course, inspired the whole team to raise their performance levels. Long may that continue, and may our Pontus have many, many more such days in the famous white shirt. He really does seem to be the real deal, with an attitude redolent of Elland Road‘s great days. He also seems to be an engaging sort of guy who “gets” what Leeds United is all about. A swift perusal of his post-match tweets is ample confirmation of that.

A Leeds United hero? It does seem quite possible. We’ll just have to hope that, if and when he pens a permanent deal, it isn’t the ruination of him as it has been for various of his predecessors. But that’s to be needlessly pessimistic. A 2-0 win at Cardiff, giving us back-to-back victories, should be cause for looking on the bright side. And with that in mind, this blog is ready to hail Pontus Jansson as the latest entry in the Leeds United pantheon of legends.  Well played, son – now, keep it up.

Plans For Statue of Leeds Legend Mowatt at Elland Road   –   by Rob Atkinson

History-maker Alex Mowatt: to be immortalised outside Elland Road?

Leeds United 1 (Mowatt), Cardiff City 0

After eight barren months without a win at Elland Road, and 32 years since a win over this pesky South Wales outfit on home soil, Tuesday night’s 1-0 victory over Cardiff City came as a welcome relief to everyone with Leeds United carved painfully into their hearts.

It was a win that provoked reactions across the full gamut of human emotional response, from a devastatingly gutted Don Goodman, Sky TV’s Leeds match mickey-taker of choice, right through to the joyful elation of young Alex Mowatt himself, the scorer of a goal fit to win any game of football. Picking the ball up halfway inside Cardiff territory, almost midway through the second half, Mowatt shimmied away from a distant challenge with one sinuous matador’s flourish of his hips, looked up briefly and then back down at the ball – which he caught with an absolute purler of a left foot strike to hammer it into the top right-hand side of the Gelderd End goal.

Cue the mayhem of relief and hysteria as the hardy Leeds fans behind that malnourished goal exploded into cavorting celebration. Mowatt took the rapturous applause with a clutch of delighted – or astounded – teammates dancing dervish-like around him. Meanwhile, poor Goodman, with a face like the smell of gas, sadly relayed news of the goal to a mainly disappointed nation.

It was the undoubted high point of a low-key match between two sides currently locked together in second-tier mediocrity. But that goal will long be remembered, and not just for its sumptuous quality. It was a goal, note well, that brought to an end those two dismal runs of failure. No home wins since March was a shameful record for a club whose home was once regarded by many good judges and Alex Ferguson, as the most hostile and intimidating arena in football. And 32 years is far too long to let a club as deserving of regular sound thrashings as Cardiff are, go unchastised.

So, two monkeys were dislodged from our collective back on Tuesday night, two unwelcome ghosts were laid to rest. It’s fanciful of course – even edging close to bitter sarcasm – to suggest raising a statue to our youthful midfielder on the strength of one sublime strike. But though intended as a bittersweet jest, the jocular notion in this article’s headline sums up the relief generated by one fairly unremarkable but sorely needed victory.

In a week when Massimo Cellino bid farewell to Elland Road – as a matchday spectator, at least, and subject to any late changes of his mercurial mind – and when it also became a distinct possibility that a fans’ consortium might replace the Italian, possibly with a Gladiator on board, it was vital, crucial, utterly necessary to mark this possible fork in the road with a win. And that we did – for which Don be praised.

Onwards and upwards now? Well, perhaps. Despite the shenanigans at boardroom level, it appears that new manager (let’s call him a manager now) Steve Evans is expecting to strengthen his patchy squad significantly before the end of the loan window. And that’s with a view merely to staunching the flow of our life-blood, with the prospect of further major surgery in January. From this small beginning, great changes could come about. Maybe. 

We start anew then, with a home win under our belts, with some cocky old foes subdued for once and with a whole new era quite possibly about to begin. Will things get better now? Is the only way up? We shall see. Don’t forget – next weekend is Cup Final weekend. 

Well – it is for Huddersfield Town and their motley crew of dog-botherers, anyway…

Leeds United 22401, Cardiff City 0   –   by Rob Atkinson

Cardiff fans turn up in "blue seat" fancy dress - or are they welshing on their team?

Cardiff fans turn up in “blue seat” fancy dress – or are they welshing on their team?

Sadly, the decisive victory indicated in the title tells the story of the differing levels of support enjoyed by the two teams – not the pallid battle, deservedly edged by the visitors, on the pitch. Leeds United did little to show they merit such loyalty and patience from their unfailingly magnificent support – while Cardiff City showed enough to make them feel that their fans have been a little uncaring, sending them alone into what is normally an intimidating arena at Elland Road

In summary, naive defending and a lack of ideas and execution up front cost Leeds dear – as has too often been the case in the last few seasons. A bright spot was a home début goal for young Kal Phillips as well as his promising performance, one that gained him a generous round of applause when subbed shortly after the hour. There was, quite frankly, little else to shout about

The away goals were greeted by an eerie silence, with none present inclined to celebrate them; mute reproach for the en masse decision of the Bluebirds fans to stay home. An odd occasion altogether, one that provided far more questions than answers. 

One particularly burning question has to be about the wisdom or otherwise of getting rid of an assistant manager in SteveThompson, who had been doing well in the job and who had been pursued vigorously and recruited by Neil Redfearn as the very chap for the job and the right hand man he wanted. Thompson appears to have gone for the crime of using a disrespectful word about one of the United hierarchy, Nicola Salerno, a man who has also, apparently, since departed. So Leeds have ultimately cut off their nose to spite their face, not for the first time, isolating their manager, frustrating their long-suffering fans and generally screwing up big time. The man who will ultimately carry the can for the team’s performance, the unfortunate Redders, was not consulted and remains thwarted and disappointed. Such is the crazy and unimpressive way of things at a world-famous football club which is slowly dying for lack of care

At the moment, Leeds do not deserve the loyal and fanatical fans. They do not deserve the jewels now being polished in and around the first team after the Academy unearthed them – and they don’t deserve the professionals trying to do a professional job – while hampered at every turn by clueless amateurs

It’s difficult to say, right now, what the future holds – as this season fizzles out into yet another damp squib of mediocrity. But it’s clear enough what we need. Someone who cares for the club, someone who will do what is right for Leeds United instead of pandering to their own ego. Whether we will get that, or anything like it, has to be an area of immense doubt. 

Time is not on Leeds United’s side. The legacy of glory and global renown will not sustain the club’s profile forever. Already too long in the shadows, a renaissance is urgently needed and somewhat overdue. A couple more humdrum seasons of empty promises, crudely-practised expectation management and barefaced lies – and it will probably be too late to salvage that big club aura.

One day, scarily soon perhaps, Leeds United might be a club whose fans think, “Sod it – we’ll not bother today. We’ll boycott it and browse the aisles in B&Q instead.” It can happen – we saw that yesterday. 

If Leeds United are to be saved from becoming just another Cardiff, Huddersfield or Blackpool – things need to change, radically for the better. And soon

Before it really is too late. 

Cardiff’s Demise Even More Satisfying Than That of Norwich City – by Rob Atkinson

Vincent Tan, contemplating his less-than-prolific Keeper

Vincent Tan, contemplating his less-than-prolific ‘keeper

The football season is over for Leeds United – in truth, it has been for some weeks, certainly well before the league programme ended with that draw against Derby.  So, the choice is between speculating about developments behind the scenes at Elland Road, or having a nice pleasurable little dance on a couple of old rivals’ graves.  I’ve done my share of Leeds United speculation for the day – it looks like it’s time to get nasty then, and celebrate the downfall of two sets of fine, feathered friends in the Canaries and the Bluebirds.

If I could have had the privilege of selecting two out of three clubs to drop out of the Premier League this season, and join us down here among the dead men, then those two would have been Cardiff and Norwich.  So, I got my own way – and I’ll be looking forward to a renewal of hostilities next season.  In the Norwich case, my desire to see them fall is something I’ve gone into already, and all of my negative feelings around that scenario were directed really at the Canaries’ annoyingly chirpy fans who took such pleasure in their favourites recruiting three-quarters of our League One midfield.  I’ve made myself suitably unpopular on their effeminately-named message board The Pink ‘Un, and that’ll do for me.  I’ve no real problem with the club itself – I’m an admirer of Stephen Fry, and even old Delia Smith is good for a laugh, especially for that famously “tired and emotional” rallying call to the Ciddy fans – something that always brings me at least a smile, no matter how grumpy I might feel.

So much for Norwich.  Cardiff is a rather more complex case – there are Leeds United reasons for my gladness to see them come tumbling back down after one solitary season out of their comfort zone, and they date back to a horrible afternoon of FA Cup combat followed by vile crowd scenes, whipped up by their idiotic then-owner Sam Hammam – an episode we need not revisit here. But there are wider justifications for my intense distaste for Cardiff City that have arisen only this season.  They relate to the club’s current owner and dictator Vincent Tan – a man whose knowledge of football would fit comfortably inside a peanut – and yet one who arrogantly thinks he knows best about everything and is prepared to ride roughshod over tradition and supporter upset alike to have his own way.

The fact is that, despite historic grievances, my sympathy has been with the Cardiff fans ever since Tan marched in and started changing their club in an arrogant and unilateral fashion.  He decided that success was more likely if the team wore a predominantly red strip – no matter that they’d always been associated with blue – the nickname “Bluebirds” is a relevant clue here.  Tan also displayed his phenomenal knowledge of the sport by openly questioning the goalkeeper’s scoring record – presumably the club’s football professionals were too polite or intimidated to laugh in his face.

But then Tan surpassed himself.  With Cardiff relatively comfortably placed in the Premier League, and wins over the likes of eventual champions Manchester City behind them, Tan decided that the manager who had realised the top-flight dream – Malky Mackay – was not, after all, good enough. The owner therefore proceeded to undermine, belittle and unsettle his manager at every opportunity over a period of weeks.  Mackay was so clearly a dead man walking – so evidently doomed to lose his job – that obviously results began to suffer, and that early season work of consolidation began to unravel.

Eventually, the inevitable happened and Malky Mackay was out of a job. Some wise Championship club is going to get themselves a very good manager for zero compensation there (I wonder who it might be? Bleedin’ Norwich, probably). Tan, further exploiting his vast oceans of football knowledge, recruited Ole Gunnar Solskjær, who had known success in the Norwegian League, but who looked from the off like a rabbit caught in the headlights in the pitiless environment of the Premier League.  Before too long under Solskjær’s inexperienced guidance, Cardiff were obviously doomed to go down.  Defeat followed defeat, and Solskjær looked more clueless with every setback.  The end, when it came, was no surprise to anyone who knew anything about football, and therefore probably an earth-shattering shock to the deluded and massively ignorant Vincent Tan.

What can most certainly be said about Cardiff’s relegation is that it is definitely A Good Thing. Not because it will discourage the incompetent likes of Tan from presuming that they know best, all the time, about everything – but because, if results had picked up after Mackay’s sacking, and Cardiff had somehow survived, this might have seemed to stand as a vindication of Tan’s ridiculous and bizarre methods – and that, whatever wounded Cardiff City supporters might currently be feeling, would not be good for the game.

The whole episode cries out for some protection of professional football men against the crazy whims of crass amateurs – although it’s highly doubtful that anything will happen, due to the inertia and complacency that characterises both the Football Association and the Football League.  So Tan will presumably carry on in his own sweet way – and the rest of the game can only hope that real football people will avoid his club as they might a bad smell.

We welcome Cardiff City back to the Championship, and we look forward to our games against them.  Leeds United’s recent record in those games is not particularly good – but perhaps there is less need to worry these days. It’s quite probable that, even now, Tan is looking for the most prolific goalscorer he can afford – and that we will see that bewildered young man in goal for the Bluebirds when we host them at Elland Road.

Let’s just hope it’s not Ross McCormack.

Leeds Fans Know How You Feel Ross, But Now is the Time to Man Up – by Rob Atkinson

Image

More of this, please, Ross

It’s been a shocking and distressing day for all of us – many out here are thinking back to this morning when we were grumbling about another dull deadline day in prospect.  And now – we’re wishing we could turn the clock back.

The last couple of hours have been depressing and humiliating.  For God’s sake, even Gary bloody Neville feels sorry for us.  Brian McDermott, the voice of reason in the Elland Road asylum, has been sacked – although there isn’t the courtesy of a statement from the club to confirm this.  A couple of hours before this, the club turned down a bid from Cardiff for captain and top scorer Ross McCormack.  Ross then gave a statement to pisspoor TV station Sky Sports, saying he was happy at Leeds and looking forward to playing for McDermott. A tinge of alarm there, that solidified into an icicle of dread when the axe fell on poor Brian’s honest head.

The thing is – you don’t just play for the manager.  With all due respect, Ross, you play for the fans, for the shirt, for your team-mates, for the club. Managers come and go as we all know.  It’s sad – tragic, sometimes.  But it happens – and when it does, then the senior players are under a moral obligation to stand up and be counted.  That is what the Leeds fans out here now desperately need of the Ross McCormack they’ve watched scoring goals and kissing that badge this season.  Don’t take the easy road and opt out.  Don’t lose that fight and defiant professionalism that has marked you out as star man this season.  There’s a derby match tomorrow against Huddersfield, and as usual they will play it as a Cup Final.  For once – instead of succumbing to that smaller-club chip-on-the-shoulder motivation, the Leeds players need to respond in kind.  They will need their skipper and talismanic striker to lead them in this.  They will need YOU, Ross.  And the fans will need you, too.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  They don’t come over all prima donna and let themselves be persuaded by the disgraceful Sky TV that the only option is to flounce in and demand a move.  It’s been such a horrible, horrible day – but Captain Ross McCormack and the rest of the lads in those shirts – shirts that any of us fans out here would give a year’s salary to wear – can start the fightback tomorrow.  That’s what the big players do.  That’s the professional thing to do.  You have a contract, guys, but what’s more than that – you have a duty of trust to the fans that have stuck by you through a decidedly average season.  They kept the faith after Rochdale and after Sheffield Wendies, and they cheered you to the rafters as you lost unluckily to Leicester.  Please don’t abandon them against Huddersfield.  Pride is at stake here, and it’s about much, much more than an individual player’s unhappiness.  Rise above it, fight and win, if at all possible.

The time to sit down and think things over is in the summer.  Things may be clearer by then.  Now, in the heat of the moment, is not the time to act in haste.  It’s not a time to forget the fans who worship you, and head off to the the very bottom of the Premier League, where Vincent Tan awaits.  Out of the frying pan, and into the fire?  Bite your lip, Ross, and roll those sleeves up.  You can be the hero we need in very dark times.

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Get that shirt on, go out and fight

Sky Disgrace Themselves Over McCormack Transfer Blast – by Rob Atkinson

Trash TV

Trash TV

It could only happen at Leeds. For the second time in recent history, the manager is sacked as the January transfer window closes. And, in a rare example of Murdoch’s tacky Sky Sports Transfer Deadline programme even recognising the existence of Leeds, the trashy satellite station were immediately all over Ross McCormack like a bad rash.

McCormack pronounced himself “happy to stay at Leeds and play for McDermott” only a couple of hours ago. Now, in the immediate aftermath of the brutal ending of The Strife of Brian, Ross was hauled onto the Sky airwaves, understandably gutted and shell-shocked. The presenters’ agenda was clear – could this transfer be revived? Could the knife be twisted in the Leeds United stab-in-the-back wound?

McCormack was badgered over whether McDermott’s dismissal changed things. He displayed enough ambivalence for the Sky hacks to scent blood. Cut down to Cardiff, where they collared a handy chav to plead for Ross to “come back”.

It was deeply un-classy stuff. It didn’t reflect too well on McCormack, but it showed Sky up for the tacky gutter station they are. At one point, McCormack’s distressed interview, full of shock and compassion for his ex-manager, was described as “the best thing for ages”. Such are the standards at the bottom of the journalism barrel.

I happen to believe that Brian’s dismissal means it’s more or less certain that Massimo Cellino is now calling the shots. There are strong rumours also of two players coming in on loan from Cagliari. It looks as though what amounts to more of a coup – and not a bloodless one – than a takeover is virtually done and dusted.

What next for Leeds? If we get to 11pm with our captain and top scorer still on the playing staff, I’ll be happily surprised. There’s not much else to be happy about. Leeds United are the laughing-stock of the football world tonight.

As for what might happen in the game against Huddersfield tomorrow, well who knows. The players’ state of mind can only be guessed at. As I write, Sky’s efforts to sell McCormack are redoubling. They report that his representatives have been contacted by SIX clubs since “our sensational interview”. They seem to be implicitly approving the tapping-up of our skipper. What a disgusting organisation they are.

Wake me up when it’s summer, someone – unless we’ve been relegated.

The Lesson of Leeds United: Sort Out These Tyrant Owners – by Rob Atkinson

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Bates: Irrelevant

Many times over the past few years I despaired of the future of my beloved Leeds United.  It was a club dying under the not-exactly benevolent rule of one Kenneth William Bates, a man who had taken control at Elland Road almost 21 years after declaring his avowed intent to see the club banished from the Football League and sent into oblivion.  This perhaps wasn’t the best recommendation for the supposed saviour of United (we heard repeatedly later of how he had saved Leeds at least once, and possibly two or three times).

The next seven years made you wonder whether the Bates reign had started with the breaking of a mirror in the Elland Road boardroom, although what followed was not so much bad luck as bad management, bad PR, bad taste – just every shade of bad you could possibly think of.  Ken’s method of “saving” Leeds, involving as it did relegation to the club’s lowest ever league status, did not inspire confidence.  Administration ensued, with record points deductions which saw an institution of the game in this country being hounded by their fellow league clubs who snarled and slavered as they were ranged against a hapless and helpless United.  It was like watching a mortally-wounded lion being snapped at by a pack of degraded hyenas – or standing by, powerless and frustrated, as a beloved family member was beaten up by snarling thugs.  It was simply horrible.

All in all, then, Bates’ potential as saviour looked more like that of a man who was determined to compass the demise of the club – and many were the reminders of his 1984 Chelsea-owning vow:  ”I shall not rest until Leeds United are kicked out of the football league. Their fans are the scum of the earth, absolute animals and a disgrace. I will do everything in my power to make sure this happens.”  Seven years under a Ken Bates thus motivated is a hell of a long time; for much of that period, things were bleak, grim and joyless around LS11.  The peaks of success were achieved in spite of Bates, not because of him; promotion and a famous win at the home of the Champions in the FA Cup came against a background of player sales, transfer market impotence and managers hamstrung into a frustrated inability to do their jobs properly and effectively.  Ken Bates was to Leeds United what Myxomatosis had been to the rabbit population of Australia; if he’d been left unchecked, the club may well have died.  It was that serious.

Now of course, despite the odd white-bearded apparition seen slithering around in the vicinity of Elland Road, Ken Bates is gone from the club.  It’s safe to pick up a programme again (and even a bit cheaper) – without having to bear the embarrassment of reading his latest rants against the fans (morons) or his business associates, nearly all of whom were either suing him or being sued by him – but at the club’s expense.  No more Radio Bates FM, no more silly bloody notions of a Northern take on Chelsea Village.  Gone and irrelevant, unlamented and destined (we devoutly hope) to leave no long-term mark on our beloved Leeds.

The legacy of Bates now is more intangible than material.  Sure, there’s the cladding on the East Stand and a few vanity projects elsewhere in the stadium.  But the true impact is on the fans; as a body we are now suspicious of owners, investors, saviours – yes, especially saviours.  The fans know what they want, but for the current owners of Leeds United it’s a slow process winning their unqualified trust – even if their aims really are absolutely parallel to those of the frustrated and long-suffering United support.  I write this with feeling; I’ve been as guilty as the next man of occasionally expressing doubts and reservations about where we’re heading under GFH, or under whatever the Consortium apparently on the brink of another takeover will call themselves.  It’s just not easy to lose that suspicion which amounts almost to paranoia; it’s not easy to trust men who are, after all, businessmen wanting to show some return on their money.  Trust will come, but more solid proof may be needed before everything in the garden is rosy.

Double jeopardy: Allam and Tan

Double jeopardy: Allam and Tan

Still, relative to certain other clubs, things are pretty good at Leeds United.  We could be Hull, struggling against an embarrassing change of name being foisted by owner Assem Allam on unwilling supporters who want to be Hull City and not Hull Tigers (cringe).  We could be Cardiff City, already suffering in red after they’ve been Bluebirds these many years.  Of course these two clubs are in the Premier League, and that will mean a lot to their fans.  But at what price?  Would Leeds United fans accept an elevation which comes at such a premium?  Red instead of White, or being known as Leeds Red Bulls even?  What price tradition, pride, identity?  I know how I’d feel – I’d fight such scandalous iniquities to my dying breath, and whatever the feelings of certain complaisant short-term glory seekers, I’m sure there’d be many thousands fighting with me.  As things stand, we have to trust that our current and future owners do not intend to follow a Hull or a Cardiff route.  If that trust were to be breached, things could get pretty hot for those gentlemen.

At times during the Bates era, I used to wish that something official could be done about him, to have him forcibly excised from our club.  “Fit and proper?”, I’d think to myself, unable to understand how any governing body could accept this of such a transparently villainous and malicious, self-serving old curmudgeon.  I saw managers depart and I knew they’d not had a fair chance.  I used to hope that maybe the League Managers Association (LMA) would advise its members not to work for Bates, and force the issue that way.  I doubt it would ever have come to that – too many peace-at-any-price merchants in those particular corridors of power.  But that’s how desperate I felt, that’s how much I wanted rid.  It’s just a year ago since the beginning of the end of Bates.  What a very much happier year it has been.

Now, with things so much more positive around Elland Road, and with the promise of better things yet to come, I can feel some sympathy for fans – and managers – who are suffering under tyrants, much as we did.  Particularly, I feel sympathy for Malky Mackay, the manager of Cardiff City who got them at last into the Premier League and whose reward is that he probably won’t be their manager for much longer.  He’s been issued with a “resign or be sacked” ultimatum by owner Vincent Tan, a man whose football knowledge adds up to precisely zero.  Still, having ruined the Bluebirds image, he feels qualified to criticise the coaching, tactics and transfer policy of a football man, a solid professional and a man of dignity and restraint in Mackay.  This manager is a dead man walking and he must know it – but still, he’s travelled to Anfield with his team, hoping against hope that he can coax a performance out of what must be a bewildered, angry and confused group of players – at the daunting home of a formidable Liverpool side.  And then, he’ll be gone.  I fervently hope he sticks to his guns and refuses to walk, and I hope too that every penny of his contract is paid up to him.  He will emerge with massive credit for a job well done; he will not be out of work for long.

If there are any hitches with the terms of his dismissal, though, the LMA should show it does have some teeth – and withdraw their members from availability for the Cardiff manager’s position.  Maybe they should do that anyway, to show some solidarity and to demonstrate to Tan and the others like him that the cadre of football professionals will not be made to jump through hoops at the petulant whim of wealthy but clueless, spoiled and egotistical individuals who are just looking for a shiny toy to play with.  I would love to see Tan in the position of having to manage his own football affairs.  His players wouldn’t be able to perform for laughing.  And after all, why should any honest professional, player, coach or manager want to work for such a man?  Let him paddle his own canoe, and let him sink without trace.  In the long run, it would even be better for the fans that way.

English football stands today in real danger of being dragged down to the level of certain other leagues throughout the world, where petulance and tantrums rule over sober judgement and the sanctity of professionalism.  This is something that should be resisted, tooth and nail.  As Leeds United fans, we feel a rivalry with pretty much any other set of fans anywhere, and an antipathy with several groups who don’t need naming here – but decidedly, Cardiff would be among that number.  However, in this situation, I believe that solidarity and the greater interests of the game as a whole should transcend any mere club or fan rivalry.  I’d be happy to stand alongside any Cardiff fans who wanted to protest about Tan and his treatment of a manager who has delivered a lifelong wish for them.  I would be proud to stand four square with them, and chant and sing as lustily as any.  Ultimately, no club is an island, and what can happen to one could happen to any or all.  We have the thin end of an almighty big wedge here, and if something is not done soon, then we might be surprised at some of the changes that will be imposed on clubs that might appear impervious to such interference.  And, of course, more good, honest managers like Malky Mackay will be humiliated in the press, and will lose their jobs at the whim of a megalomaniac who isn’t fit to run a pub quiz.

We at Leeds United should be as conscious of all this as anybody else.  We were nearer to disaster than many would care to admit when the first rumblings of a takeover were heard halfway through 2012.  And who knows what the future yet holds for Leeds?  At the end of the day, the notorious truculence and militancy of the Leeds United support may yet be its biggest asset – especially if, as usual, the game’s various governing bodies turn out to be about as much use as a pet rock.  So we need to stand ready at all times to look out for the interests of our club, which is so close to the hearts of so many of us.  And in the meantime, we cannot afford to ignore the plight of our counterparts at other clubs.  Solidarity and the will to organise and resist are immensely powerful forces if wielded wisely – as we found in our own fight against Bates, the will of the fans being, I believe, instrumental in giving impetus and direction to the takeover.

Let’s support the Hull and Cardiff fans where and how we can.  Let’s see if we can’t apply some pressure, as an organised and cosmopolitan movement of fans, to bodies like the FA, the Football League, the Premier League, the PFA and last but not least the LMA.  Maybe then the message would be brought home to Vincent Tan and similar tyrants that the game is bigger than them – bigger by far – and that their actions if seen to undermine the foundations of that edifice, will not be tolerated.