Tag Archives: Chris Wood

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

-o0o-

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Leeds United Planning to Perform All Blacks Haka at Home Games – by Rob Atkinson

Away strip

United’s Chris Wood – ready for battle

Today’s announcement by Leeds United of their new all-black away kit represents a departure from the gaudiness of the recent past and the return of the Elland Road club to their traditional black and white, all-or-nothing approach of more successful days long past. This new monochrome mentality will be backed up by the introduction, before each home match, of the traditional Maori war-dance, or “Haka”, as historically performed by the fearsome All Blacks international rugby union sides. Rumours that this has been written into United’s New Zealand international Chris Wood‘s contract, as compensation for not securing a £20 million move to Swansea City, have neither been confirmed nor denied.

It appears that there are mixed feeling among the United squad about the move to perform the Haka; some feel that they have enough on their plates mastering pattern of play niceties like blindside runs and a co-ordinated move out of defence, without having to learn a complicated war dance too. One individual though, who would rather not be named for fear of provoking a reaction among certain former team-mates at Ashton Gate, seemed eager to get into the whole ritual ‘eve of battle’ thing. “I can’t wait”, he remarked, licking his lips hungrily. “It’ll help get me in the mood to get some blood on me boots”. Elsewhere in the defensive ranks, an un-named Swedish international is rumoured to be practising the eye-rolling and snarling already, even though he will start the campaign under suspension due to various indiscretions during last term’s hostilities.

The generosity of Leeds United in paying tribute to former Championship rivals should also not be underestimated. Newcastle United, of course, are famous for playing in black and white, and also for not having won anything since the days of monochrome TV. There is a nod in the direction of Huddersfield Town, too, whose own glory days reside in the flickering, sepia days of Pathé Newsreels, the General Strike and the Jarrow march.

It may well be that the message being sent out by Leeds is a powerful warning to the effect that all this fancy dan bright and vibrant colours nonsense is to become a thing of the past down Elland Road way. Teams visiting LS11, especially in the depths of winter, will have nothing to look forward to but bleak weather, a hostile, oppressive atmosphere and cold naked steel in the hearts of the eleven assassins clad all in white. And the threat of the all-blacks on our travels will be, if anything, even more sinister.

White at home, black away, the green of the pitch, the grey of the sky – if we can just avoid too many red and yellow cards, we could be looking at some serious silverware come next May. Ka mate! ka mate! Ka ora, ka ora!  Bring it on.

 

Leeds United’s Chris Wood Escapes FA Ban for Vicious Headbutt   –   by Rob Atkinson


The FA, having announced a six match ban for Liam Cooper of Leeds United for a stamping incident, has also disclosed that it had considered a similar sanction against United’s Chris Wood, for the offence of “head-butting Tyler Blackett‘s elbow”. The governing body in its wisdom and mercy has, however, deemed that a severe warning will suffice on this occasion.

Leeds have questioned the severity of Cooper’s ban, for an offence identical to that which saw manchester united’s Marcos Rojo get off scot-free recently. However, the FA’s response to United’s protest was “Yah boo sucks, we don’t care. Watch it, you Yorkshire scum, or we’ll have 15 points off you.”

Reading manager Jaap Stam has confirmed his satisfaction with the official outcome, remarking that he never did anything like that when he was a player and that, if he did, he always got away with it.

Former FA Secretary Alan Hardaker would have been 104, if he hadn’t been dead 37 years. 

Reading Hoping to Repeat Their Dominant Defeat at Leeds Utd? – by Rob Atkinson

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Garry Monk, reacting with good humour to the suggestion that Reading and Leeds are “rivals”

Reading FC seem intent on showing that they talk a good game ahead of Saturday evening’s return clash against Leeds United at the Madejski Stadium. Royals manager Jaap Stam as well as striker Yann Kermorgant have both had their say in the run up to this fixture, and the general message from the Berks. area is that they’re none too impressed with what many are saying is the finest Leeds team for at least a decade.

It’s always interesting to hear what opposition players have to say about your team as they’re preparing for 90 minutes combat, but Kermorgant’s view is especially intriguing – given that his experience at Elland Road, during the Royals’ 0-2 defeat in December, consisted largely of an hour sat on the Reading bench, during which time he watched his team-mates dominate possession by playing a side-to-side passing game mainly inside their own defensive third. Leeds, a goal to the good after 19 minutes courtesy of Chris Wood, then faced a final twenty minutes when their opponents finally discovered a route across the halfway line, but – despite Kermorgant’s introduction after 62 minutes, they failed to pierce the United defence. Souleymane Doukara then settled matters with an injury time penalty, as if to emphasise that Leeds do have other goalscorers apart from the prolific Wood.

Reading’s tactics that night were more than a little baffling, though manager Stam was well pleased with his side’s display. Perhaps he and the Reading team, together with their fans, would be happy with a similar showing on Saturday. I know I would, and I suspect United manager Garry Monk might be fairly content as well. If both the display and the result are replicated, Reading can crow about two masterclass displays of possession football, with consummate lateral passing and all the offensive threat of a sickly lamb – and Leeds can retire back to their northern fortress, tight-lipped and grim of face, with six points and a seasonal double in the bag.

I’m not qualified to talk about the psychology of pre-match posturing, but I do feel that perhaps Mijnheer Stam, aided and abetted by the boy Kermorgant, has contributed a great deal towards Mr. Monk’s motivational team-talk. Let us hope so, and let us hope and trust that our boys will be heading out onto the park determined to shove certain words down certain throats. It may be, of course, that Reading will get an actual result this time, instead of just boring everybody half-way to sleep and letting the opposition do the business of scoring goals. If so, all credit due to them – you have to be grown-up about these things. Still, given this daft little war of words, sparked off by the losers of that Elland Road match in December – I can’t help hoping that we stuff them again, big time.

The subtext to all of this is an apparent desire on the part of Stam’s players, fans, the Reading FC club itself, to be perceived as having some sort of peer rivalry with our own favourite Yorkshire giants. And, really, that’s almost too ridiculous for words. Are we honestly expected to accept that Dirty Leeds, that northern powerhouse, should be viewed in terms of an actual rivalry with – I don’t know, what’s an appropriate prefix for Reading? Plucky? Upstarts? Little? Plucky little upstarts just about sums it up. However you describe them, it’s a laughable idea, as our Garry demonstrates above. 

Still, it’s got the Twitterati section of their fan-base all a-froth with excitement, and they’ll be hoping and praying for a home win, prior to bigging it up on social media. Those are the kind of aspirations you have, I guess, when you’re a Reading fan. We all know that the idea of a “rivalry” between our respective clubs is marginally more ridiculous than one between Sheffield Wednesday and, say, Barcelona. And we’ll just have to bear that in mind, whatever the result on Saturday, and whatever the provocation on Twitter and elsewhere.

Let’s just look forward to Saturday’s result possibly shutting up a few virtual loudmouths, good and proper. Wishing good luck and a fair ref to Garry and the lads; the White Army expects – now, do your duty.

Doukara’s Screamer for Leeds Utd is an Instant Man Flu Cure – by Rob Atkinson

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The Douk celebrates a breakthrough in medical science

Leeds United 2, Nottingham Forest 0

I’ve had such a crap week, laid low with the terrifying complaint known as man flu. It’s a dread disease, enough to strike palsied horror into any male and, by the same token, it seems to reduce any woman to tears of scornful mirth as they make irrelevant comparisons with labour pains and other such gynaecological trivia. So there’s plenty of lonely misery for the hapless bloke thus afflicted, and precious little sympathy from the distaff side. Fine, we know it’s a hard life – and normally we just have to suffer in silence and see it through. Happily, though, it now appears that there may be a cure.

I base this upon my own symptomatology in a short study this evening just gone. At 7pm, I was helpless on my sofa, having missed out on refereeing duties for the local walking football lads, condemned to remain confined to barracks when I had the chance to be at Elland Road for the Forest game, and with every likelihood of being forced to cancel a trip to the Big Smoke (courtesy of that nice Mr. Branson and his tenner return ticket promotion). I was not a happy bunny; I was instead a sad, sick and sorry boy.

Just under three hours later, though, I felt as though I could run a half marathon through several brick walls. To say I felt like a new man would be a hopeless understatement. Charged with energy and glowing with health, I’d left my sniffles, snot and headaches far behind me, along with the leaden limbs and aching joints that have made this week such a nightmare. It was a hearty dose of Twitter video therapy that had done the trick and reinvigorated me – all it had taken to effect a cure was the view, from several angles, of the most stonking thunderbolt of a strike, courtesy of Souleymane Doukara, that Elland Road has seen in many a blue moon. Each different viewpoint gave me a boost, every aspect of the goal was a curative draught that restored and rejuvenated. The boom of boot on ball, the trajectory of the volley past a startled Forest keeper, the delighted roar of the crowd – all combined to provide a treat for all the senses and, lo – I was cured. A miracle!

Doukara’s goal was special; to me, that is a matter of medical fact. No word of a lie, I really do feel enlivened and repaired – even the wife’s stopped laughing at me (she’s also seen The Goal – “Did he really mean that?” she enquired). I expect it’s something to do with adrenaline or endorphins or some such malarkey – but I prefer to believe that it was the sheer aesthetic beauty of the Duke’s sublime strike that raised me off my bed of pain. I’ve seen comparable goals in the past, but I’ve usually been there in person, and I’ve never before been feeling quite so crap as I was last evening. So, when Tony Yeboah scored against Liverpool, or when Gary Mac knocked in a couple of fulminating volleys, also against the Reds – or even when Sol Bamba belted home a cracker some little while back, I could appreciate all these goals, not least because they were all at the Kop End. I wouldn’t say that Doukara’s goal was necessarily the best of this prize bunch – that much is arguable. But its remarkable effect on my waning health is not up for debate, so it’s in a category of its own as far as I’m concerned, for that reason alone.

Being a collector of data, I’d love to know if any other man flu sufferers experienced such a miracle after 73 minutes of the Forest game? We could perhaps add to the fund of mankind’s medical knowledge, who knows. I’m just happy that the Duke managed to belt home such a beauty, and not just for my own selfish reasons of feeling less bloody awful. It also finished off Notts Forest, hardly my favourite opponents. And I know for a fact that I shall never, ever get tired of watching those many angles of that ripsnorter of a goal. Everything about it is beautiful, the way Doukara ran around the falling ball onto his right foot, the way he caught it right on the sweet spot and sent it arrowing into the far, top corner, the keeper’s futile dive, which had barely started before the ball was rippling the back of his net…

The default effect of Leeds United upon my health is, generally speaking, at best neutral – and more usually slightly negative. Often and often down the years, I’ve emerged from Elland Road or whatever away dump we’ve graced with our presence, feeling deflated, depressed, physically sick, body all achin’ and racked with pain – that sort of thing. Even victories have usually been won at the cost of nails bitten down to elbows and veins throbbing in my temples. Last night was different, and it was all down to that one cathartic, sublime, unforgettable moment. So thank you, Mr. Doukara – and my long-suffering better half sends her thanks too.

For the record, I’d also appreciated Chris Wood‘s achievement, just after half-time, of hitting the twenty mark in all competitions for this season, and here we are only in January. That gave me a little glow of satisfaction too, though I was still feeling horribly poorly and I thought I’d have to live with the tension as United ground out another 1-0 win. Doukara’s volley changed all that, it’s given me a proper fillip and probably earned me a good healthy night’s sleep before tomorrow’s capital adventure.

And for all of that – and for the three points at the expense of the Twiglets – I am, believe you me, most profoundly grateful.

Leeds Taste Derby Day Defeat at Rampant Barnsley – by Rob Atkinson

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Mike Dean – doubly incompetent

In football, as in life, timing is everything. And it was the timing of two rather poor Mike Dean penalty decisions during Leeds United‘s tumultuous defeat at Oakwell this evening that may well have been the factor upon which the outcome of the game ultimately depended. Had Leeds gone in at half-time 2-0 up, with a penalty to add to Chris Wood’s bundled opener after Kyle Bartley got a Barnsley hand in his face at a corner, there could have been few complaints from a home side that looked to be under the cosh at the time. But, in the final analysis, the fragility of a 1-0 lead was exposed by a late first half smash and grab goal from the hosts – and you sensed then that the tide had turned decisively.

In the second half, Barnsley came out like a pack of ravenous hounds and punctured United’s rearguard twice in quick time in a dominant spell. Two great finishes left Leeds with what, in the end, proved to be too much to do. This always looked to be the case, even after Dean’s second shoddy call of the match, awarding Leeds a penalty from a good forty yards behind play, for a handball offence that was clearly miles outside the box. Chris Wood duly converted but, even with their hopes so fortunately boosted, United never really escaped the stranglehold Barnsley had put on them from the time of the equaliser. In the end, the injustices evened themselves out, allowing the better side over 95 minutes to enjoy a deserved victory. 

What might have transpired had the hapless Dean got his calls the right way around is anybody’s guess – though it’s tempting to suppose a Leeds side two goals to the good would have taken some pegging back. As things were, there can be few complaints, and both sets of fans will be in agreement that Mr. Dean should go back to Premier League football and practice his dubious skills there.

For Leeds, defeat might just be a timely wake-up call and a reminder that the squad still needs a bit more strength in depth. It’s to be hoped that this will be addressed in the coming days, along with the pressing need to get back to winning ways on Wednesday against a Nottingham Forest side that should be ripe for the beating. United manager Garry Monk will be focusing already on that game, and the Whites should see it as a chance to start off on another positive run. 

Lastly, it has to be said that Barnsley’s grit and attitude were as commendable as the quality of the goals they scored. Everyone knows how much beating Leeds means to the Tykes, and those victory celebrations will be sweet indeed. With Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday also flying high in the Championship, it’s turning out to be a good season for Yorkshire clubs. None of which is any comfort in defeat – but Leeds know there is stiff competition out there and it’s up to our heroes to step up to the plate now and reassert their authority. 

That process can and must start on Wednesday. After a great run since December, we now expect nothing less.

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.

Leeds Kop Critics Can’t Complain at Chris Wood Reaction   –   by Rob Atkinson


Considering that last night’s draw against Fulham was settled so very late and so very spectacularly too, with a Chris Wood bicycle kick at the Kop End earning a point for Leeds United, some of the reaction today has been rather bizarre, to say the least. 

With many clubs, such a picture goal at the last gasp would be greeted with a relief bordering on ecstasy. Leeds fans, of course,  have to be a bit different. Their heroes were less than a minute from opening this season with three consecutive defeats, a shameful start unheard of for the last eighty years. Doom and gloom was on the menu, with nary a crumb of comfort. 

Then, the nominated scapegoat of the evening, a player in Chris Wood struggling for form and confidence, who had been taking some vicious stick throughout the ninety minutes, finally came good – and Leeds mercifully had their first point of the season. And yet today, the focus has not been exclusively on the brilliance and timeliness of Wood’s finish, but largely on his so-called cheek in letting the crowd know he’d not appreciated their particular brand of “support”.

This tendency to barrack players is not exclusively a Leeds United phenomenon, of course. But it’s long been a particular problem with the Leeds faithful, especially at Elland Road, where generation after generation of United players, as far back as Terry Yorath in my experience, have gone in fear and trembling of the abuse they will receive should they have an “off day”. Or, indeed, an off night, as Wood had undoubtedly experienced up until the third minute of stoppage time yesterday evening.

It’s a brand of “support” that has many an away fan visiting LS11 scratching their heads in bemusement. People beg leave to wonder how such wholesale and sustained carping and criticism is meant to encourage and motivate a player. But that’s just one side of the problem.

The other side comes when the player on the receiving end of the abuse actually manages to come through it all and, in the time-honoured style of a Roy of the Rovers, save his team at the eleventh hour. Should this player then presume to gesture to the crowd, as if to say “There you go – now shut it”, the shock and hurt of the fans, who had previously been venting their spleen, is something to behold. It’s as if they feel they have unfettered licence to hurl abuse, but should be completely immune from any response from their target. Weird. 

Chris Wood did react last night, relatively mildly in the circumstances, and it’s difficult for any rational onlooker to criticise him for it. Yes, he’d had a poor game. Yes, he’d missed chances. And certainly his work rate and willingness to chase and harry defenders compared poorly to that of his strike partner Marcus Antonsson. But the level of stick Wood took throughout the piece, in unison from a self-appointed jury of thousands, was unwarranted and arguably counter-productive. It would have taken a saint to have restrained himself from showing some kind of reaction in his moment of triumph. And, let’s face it, you don’t get saints in Leeds United shirts. 

That cupping of the ear towards the Kop, plainly intended to convey “You were saying…?” to the massed moaners and whingers behind the goal, has reaped a petulant reaction from many of those who’d been blithely handing out the stick. How dare he, was an abridged consensus. Surely players are there to take abuse without a flicker of emotion or reaction. But even footballers are only human. And it’s happened before, in a less restrained manner too. 

I can well remember, many moons ago, a certain Mark Aizlewood taking appalling stick throughout one game, which he then won with a late goal at that same Kop End. Aizlewood did not content himself with a mild cupped ear. He faced the Gelderd hordes eyeball to eyeball and coldly fired a V-sign at his tormentors. Now that is probably going too far, and Aizlewood never played for United again. But you can understand the frustration of a pro, outnumbered and vilified by thousands of amateurs who feel that the admission money they’ve paid affords them the right to scream anything they like at their representatives on the park. 

Next to Aizlewood’s two-fingered revolt, Wood’s gesture last night was mild indeed. But the reaction, in these days of social media, has been even more hysterical than when Aizlewood flicked his V-sign so long ago. And it’s a shame because, after all, it was a very special and spectacular goal, one that saved us from another defeat, the type of goal too that could well lead to the boost in confidence a player like Wood so sorely needs. And what contribution to such a return of confidence would the Gelderd End Abuse Society have made? I’ll tell you. None at all. 

Supporters are there to support, but it’s ok to express displeasure and disapproval too, of course it is. Match tickets are expensive, and the poor form of your favourites is galling to behold. But there’s a line, and Leeds fans do tend to cross it distressingly often. It’s frequently said that a crowd like Leeds getting behind their team is worth a goal start, and I’ve seen this proved often enough. But, in the opposite mood, that same crowd can destroy a player and chase them through the Elland Road exit door. I’ve see that, too – and it’s not what I’d call support.

Something else frequently said is that it takes a certain strength of character to play for a club and a crowd like Leeds United. Some very good players have failed to make it at Elland Road, and there’s been this suspicion that they’ve lacked the necessary “bottle”. There’s probably something in that, and maybe the club’s woes in the last decade or so are grounded in the bottler/fighter ratio being skewed unfortunately away from the fighter type. In other words, we’ve had too many talented players who have just lacked the character to succeed at a club like Leeds with the kind of truculent, impatient crowd we have.

Chris Wood had had a nightmare last night, he could hardly put a foot or a head right all evening long. But he came through, ignored the abuse manfully, kept trying and getting in there where it hurts – and he ended up getting his just reward. That, to my mind, is the type of character we need – and maybe the crowd will come around at length to that point of view. In the meantime, Wood’s gesture to the Kop last night said that he is not weak enough to be destroyed by the abuse from the stands, that the respect of his fellow pros will see him through. It was a reaction I applaud every bit as much as I applauded his goal, and I think it speaks volumes for the guts and character of our number nine.

It’s the kind of attitude, let’s face it, that we’re going to need plenty of in the coming months. So perhaps the Kop critics will manage to be a bit less precious and indeed a lot less hypocritical from now on, should they chance to have some of their constant, destructive abuse thrown back in their faces every now and then as a tough season progresses. Or perhaps they’ll even decide to see the light, and offer a bit more encouragement and support instead. 

Yes, perhaps indeed. But, knowing that vociferous section of our support as I do, I won’t be holding my breath. 

Cellino’s Leeds Utd Is Not A Fair Test For ANY Manager – by Rob Atkinson

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A clown… and a patsy?

You can’t blame these football men – one after another of them – for giving it a go at Massimo Cellino‘s Leeds United. They’re not blind and they’re not daft; they can see the awful mortality rate as manager after manager (I’ve given up on that head coach rubbish) falls victim to Cellino’s ongoing conviction that, however bad it gets, it’s always someone else’s fault. Each new Leeds United manager must come into the job with eyes wide open, knowing all too well that the odds are stacked heavily against them.

But still – it is Leeds United, a name known everywhere, a club of massive history and tradition. These football men are confident and simply crammed with self-belief, and they all want to be the game-changer. They’d be in a different caper if that were not so. Each of them earnestly believes he can be the one to turn around the fortunes of a moribund football club. That’s the dangling carrot – that tantalising chance of earning fame and immortality in the eyes of football’s most loyal, most fanatical and yet most demanding fans. Because, whoever does restore Leeds to something like its former glory will become a legend throughout the Whites-supporting universe. It’s a chance, so it seems, to make an indelible mark on football history. No – you really can’t blame these men for trying.

But the problem is that they reckon without the self-defeating craziness of Cellino, the kind of maverick unpredictability that will ensure no rational approach can be guaranteed to work. And, so it seems to many of us, they reckon without the effect of this rotten Cellino regime on the players themselves and their confidence – as well as their morale and motivation, their hopes for stability and continuity. The last few weeks have been like a snapshot of this whole problem – the Cellino roller-coaster in  microcosm. Things are bad initially, and Cellino says he’s off, he’s had enough. Results then pick up, the mood about the place improves as talk escalates of Cellino selling the club to fans, to Steve Parkin, to anybody. But then Cellino reneges, and we really shouldn’t be surprised; it’s what he does. He’s not going to sell to the fans, he decides. And then, predictably for the cynics among us, he’s not selling at all, not in the short term at any rate. Apparently, there’s “no serious interest”. Yeah, right.

And, lo and behold, there is a depression once more over Elland Road. From two successive victories and two clean sheets when il Duce said he was off, we now have two successive defeats and two failures to score a goal since he changed his mind, or stopped lying, or however you interpret his screwball narrative. Is it too simplistic to make a connection between the turnaround in fortunes, and Cellino’s wildly-varying statements of intent? Those who still find themselves able to defend Cellinocchio might very well say so.

Well, I don’t think it is too simplistic; in fact, I think the nail has been hit on the head by anyone who makes that connection. Matters at the top of the club filter down to the players and the staff – that’s the case anywhere. The prospect of a less obviously loco form of ownership can be expected to perk things up on the field; equally, the dashing of those hopes, along with the realisation that it’s going to be crazy business as usual, will inevitably have its effect in terms of matters taking a downturn. That’s how it seems to have gone, lately.

So, where is the manager in all of this? Caught like a hapless nut in the jaws of a nutcracker, that’s where. Whatever his motivational abilities, however innovative and inspiring he might be on the training ground, it all counts for very little when the very fabric of the football club is rotting away due to the corrosive influence of a man who should never be allowed anywhere near any professional club – much less one of the stature of Leeds United. Whether the manager’s name is Steve Evans, Uwe Rösler, Neil Redfearn – or even Jose Mourinho, Pepe Guardiola or the sainted and incomparable Don Revie himself – the end will remain the same when you have an unfit person autocratically running things on a whim at the summit of the whole shebang. The wheels will inevitably fall off, the fans – being fans and emotionally involved – will vent at least part of their spleen on the visible target in the dugout, the manager thus targeted will feel himself to be a dead man walking, and the downward spiral will continue – with that malign presence in the boardroom seemingly fire-proof (unless the Football League do finally cook his goose for him).

Leeds United as it currently exists is not a fair test of a manager’s ability. In fact he can have all the ability in the world, but he might as well be King Canute trying to hold back the tide, for all the good that will do him – he’ll either have to walk or get washed away eventually. Sooner or later, as surely as night follows day, Cellino will get impatient, or bored, or simply even madder than he already is – and the whole grisly process will start again, with the credibility of a great club taking yet another fearful hit on its way down.

It’s not good enough, and we all know it. The rest of football can see it too, but, with it being Leeds, they’ll just be having a sly little snigger up their collective sleeve. If we are to get through these depressing, frustrating times, it’s unlikely to be with much real help from outside. It will be a matter of those with the best interests of Leeds United at heart – the fans and those positive elements within the club itself – sticking together and exerting such pressure as we are able, in order to bring about positive change. And again, fans being fans, that will be dreadfully hard to bring about. In the wake of today’s defeat at QPR, I’ve seen at least two moans or groans about Steve Evans, Chris Wood – even new loanee Liam Bridcutt – for every one murmur of complaint about the real culprit here, Cellino himself. And that’s really worrying – as the Italian bides his time before stating he’s going to hang around (FL permitting) after all.

If we’re ever going to be united enough to apply the necessary pressure that could bring about change, then we have to act united in the first instance – and a vital part of that is knowing your enemy. So, who is Leeds United’s enemy? It’s not Steve Evans, coming to terms with the impossibility of his job under the pressure of eking out results with a disconsolate squad. It’s not even the players who, after all, just want to perform and achieve for a proper football club that is going places. We all know, those of us who can see the blindingly obvious, who our enemy is. It’s that serial liar, that crazy, maverick, mercurial clown in the boardroom. It’s Massimo Cellino, quite plainly and clearly. So let’s not become distracted and start heaping needless pressure on innocent bystanders.

I look forward to the next Leeds United manager who will be allowed to do the job he’s been engaged to do. It seems unlikely at this juncture that his name will be Steve Evans, for whom the vultures are already gathering, more’s the pity. But we should all be clear on one thing – whoever might occupy the manager’s seat at Elland Road, he’s going to be on a loser as long as that nutter owns the club. Until Cellino goes, all we have to look forward to is more of the same – whoever’s notionally picking the team. Which is a tragic thought and, believe me, I’d love to be proved wrong. I’ve been wrong many times before, not least when I championed Cellino at the start of his reign. It goes with the territory of commenting on this bizarre club we all love so much.

But even given that flawed track record of mine – I gravely doubt, to my infinite regret, that I’m wrong about this.

Derby County Keeper Still Rooted to Spot Hours After Leeds Winner   –   by Rob Atkinson

Chris Wood celebrates his stunning winner at Derby

Derby County goalkeeper Scott Carson is reported to be “still frozen to the spot”, over six hours after Chris Wood‘s late winner for Leeds United flashed inside his left-hand post this lunchtime. Local reporters are telling us that Carson, formerly on the books at Elland Road, was left helpless by the accuracy and ferocity of Wood’s thunderous strike. The keeper has not moved since, with all efforts to lure him from his goal-line proving futile.

A correspondent for the Derby Telegraph said “The latest is that Scott is still just standing there, legs braced as if about to dive for the ball, eyes fixed on the position where Wood struck his shot. He’s absolutely rigid and can’t be moved. He seems to be alive and even conscious. It’s like some catatonic state. The goalpost is still shaking, too.”

The new Leeds striker Wood, who has now scored three goals in his last three games, was modestly unassuming about his wonder strike. “Yeah, I caught it well and it’s went in off the beans on toast, as Merse likes to say. I killed it dead from Cooky’s pass, and it just sat up and asked to be hit. So, y’know, I hit it. The keeper’d no chance, he never moved.”

When we put it to Wood that Carson had in fact still not moved, the Leeds hero nodded understandingly. “Well, I caught the ball a hell of a lick and it probably shocked him, like. We never noticed he was still just stood there in the last few minutes and then stoppage time, we were all trying to keep the ball. Later, when we were about to get on the team bus back to Leeds, someone said the lad was still out there. It did seem a bit weird at the time, but I honestly thought he’d be in and changed and home by now.”

A Derby County spokesman confirmed in the last few minutes that Carson is still frozen in the position he was left immobilised in when the ball zipped past him. “Scott’s still out there and we haven’t been able to shift him,” he stated. “Luckily we’ve got a two week international break now, so we’re hoping he’ll move sometime in the next fortnight. Or at least say something, or blink maybe. It’s a bit unnerving, really.”

United Head Coach Uwe Rösler preferred to focus on his team’s “fantastic performance”, rather than discuss a statuesque goalkeeper. “The lads were brilliant,” he enthused. “We scored two fine goals and we controlled the game apart from a twenty minute spell after the interval when we let them back in it. I am so pleased for Tom Adeyemi, who now has his first goal for us. And yes I am sorry their keeper has had this reaction, but it is really not my concern.”

Derby County are nineteenth.