Tag Archives: Christmas

A Merry Leeds Utd Christmas And a Double Birthday Bonus – by Rob Atkinson

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Merry Christmas from The Best English Club Team Ever

First things first; a very Merry Christmas and/or Holiday Greetings to all readers of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything. I hope that you’re having a great day, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. Many of us will already be focusing on tomorrow’s live TV date at Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion, the victims of an outstanding home performance from United earlier this season, when we recorded a 5-0 win, Pierre-Michel Lasogga scoring a rather lovely brace.

On Christmas Day it’s always worth sparing a thought or two for those unfortunates who share their birthday with a world-wide splurge of significant consumerism and therefore rather disappear into the background when it comes to celebrating their own special personal anniversary. Still, they’ve never known any different – and they’ve only got their parents to blame for being bored, cold, or just plain randy the March before. We have two of these Christmas Birthday sideshows in Leeds United‘s recent history, two midfielders who, each in his own way, made telling contributions to our last two Championship titles, one of the second division and the other of the entire Football League itself.

Chris Kamara

Chris Kamara

First then, a Happy Birthday to Chris Kamara, who is better known these days for his Lionel Richie tribute act as he banters his way through various Sky TV football shows, not least Soccer Saturday where he crops up every two minutes to utter the immortal words “Unbelievable, Jeff!” Unbelievable it certainly is that Kammy is actually 60 today, and you have to say he’s taken damned good care of himself. He still looks fit enough to play, and the memories are vivid of the days in which he used to strike fear into opposition hearts wearing the white shirt of Leeds United. Kammy it was who, famously, bent an outside of the foot pass into the run of the late great Gary Speed for the youngster to get the fourth against Sheffield United as we stamped our authority on the promotion race of 1990. Kamara’s contribution that season was a highly positive influence in midfield, breaking up play, finding a fellow United man with accurate passes and cropping up with the odd goal. As with all of those heroes who ended the Eighties Exile, Kammy is a true Leeds Legend.

Gary McAllister

Gary McAllister

Today’s other birthday celebrant is Gary McAllister. Gary first came to my notice as I stood on the Kop watching Leeds play Leicester City in a vital promotion game in that 1989/90 season. We were 1-0 up through Mel Sterland‘s powerful cross shot, when McAllister decided to do his best to ruin things. First he blasted home a terrific equaliser that left Elland Road stunned – then he threatened to inflict further damage, hitting a shot of equal brilliance which – fortunately – thudded against the woodwork, leaving us weak with relief. Leeds won eventually through Gordon Strachan‘s legendary strike near the end (Have you ever seen a better goal?  Or one better timed??) – but Gary McAllister had single-handedly come close to shattering our hopes and destroying our season. As I gazed balefully at his departing back, I hoped it would be a while before we saw him again.

History tells us, of course, that Gary Mac went on to become one of the greatest Leeds United midfielders of all, in one of the game’s truly great midfield quartets, the legendary Fantastic Four of Strachan, Macca, Batty and Speed. It’s also worth remembering that he turned down a move to Clough’s Notts Forest in favour of joining Wilko’s Leeds revolution. The memories are many of Gary’s superbly-struck goals and fine performances in a Leeds shirt. He went on to serve Liverpool with equal distinction, as well as starring for Scotland, before returning to Elland Road for an initially-promising stint as manager. Sadly, labouring under the merciless regime of Bates, Gary’s spell in charge of Leeds was not to be a success – but his place in the United Hall of Fame is assured.

Gary is 53 today and is now involved in media work connected to football after several unsuccessful attempts to return to football management. Surely, he still has much to offer – although I’d have willingly seen him far from Elland Road on that day we played Leicester City with so much at stake, Gary has proved himself to be one of the game’s nice guys. Always a professional down to his toes, he had to overcome personal tragedy with the loss of his wife Denise to cancer in 2006. In an age when there are so many in the game who are impossible to admire, it’s sad that a man like McAllister is not more involved.

Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas to our two midfield legends – and Seasonal Greetings to everybody.  Cheers!

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When Wilko’s Leeds Ruined Christmas For Fergie and Man United – by Rob Atkinson

Yeboah scores

Masterblaster Tony Yeboah gets the second for Leeds to ruin the Man U Christmas

As Yuletide approaches, it seems fitting to strike a seasonal note and invoke the Spirit of Christmas Past for a nostalgic revisiting of one particular December 24th many moons ago. All the ingredients for happiness came together that day: we ate, drank and were merry; we were uplifted and raised our voices in chorus amid a mighty throng; and we experienced and passed on goodwill to all men – except for a select few in the red shirts of Manchester United.

It was Christmas Eve 1995, and I awoke unusually early for a home match because Leeds United were due to face that other United from across the Pennines in a late morning kick-off at Elland Road. I’d stayed at a mate’s house, the plan being to gather at a local hostelry and wait for the supporters’ bus, fortified by a breakfast of bacon butties and bottled beer, whilst perusing the morning papers, unanimously predicting some away-day Christmas cheer for Fergie and his not-altogether-likeable Manchester United team. Those journalists’ anticipation of my team’s likely demise left me feeling queasy, a sensation not lessened by the pre-breakfast intake of alcohol. By the time we left for the stadium, I was feeling fairly poorly, with an uncomfortable sense that I was not going to enjoy my day. And, although Man U were recovering from a poor result at Liverpool, the boys and girls at Betulator would probably have endorsed my pessimism; it felt like very long odds against a home win to gladden the hearts of the faithful.

How wrong could I have been? Leeds were coming off the back of a humiliating thrashing at Hillsborough, and the feeling among our partially inebriated band of United faithful was that we’d either be getting more of the same, to cast a pall over Christmas itself – or that we’d mount a spectacular recovery and return to form, sending the enemy back to Lancashire beaten and subdued. And lo, it came to pass. Our heroes in White rose to the holiday occasion and rewarded the Elland Road congregation by granting their dearest wish, outclassing the invading Mancunians and recording a 3-1 victory that guaranteed we’d be opening our gifts and engulfing our turkey dinners the following day in the very highest of spirits.

There was even a Christmas miracle as, against the normal rules of these occasions, Leeds were awarded and dispatched an early penalty, much to the disgust of apoplectic Red Devils captain Steve Bruce, clearly not used to that sort of treatment. We had a brief scare as Andrew Cole notched a leveller against the run of play, but then Tony Yeboah provided a majestic finish before Brian Deane sealed the win late on with a precise header from a Tomas Brolin cross. At the end, the home fans celebrated raucously, revelling in the Yuletide spirit and the discomfiture of the away fans, that gloomy and huddled bunch, as they departed on their long and dispirited trek back to Devon.

If it sounds as though I can remember all this in vivid detail across the intervening years, well – that would be somewhat deceptive; it’s just that I’ve watched and re-watched the highlights so many times since. My main memories are of the spectacular hangover I experienced in the remainder of that Yuletide Eve; the feeling that, nevertheless, all was right with the world and that Christmas would be merry indeed – and the look of relief on the faces of my wife and infant daughter, who had feared I’d be grumpy in defeat and not inclined to carouse. It’s ridiculous of course that a mere game of football should so influence my mood at such a time of year, but that’s the way it was – and I suspect it still would be.

Perhaps that’s why they don’t tend to have football on December the 24th any more, such intense rivalry being out of keeping with festive good cheer. I can quite see that – but believe me, when you beat your biggest rivals the day before Christmas, there’s no better way to ensure the happiest of holidays.

Have a great Christmas, one and all.

Should Leeds Keep Hold of Maverick El-Hadji Diouf? – by Rob Atkinson

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Regular all-round nice guy Dioufy

He’s a rum cove, that El-Hadji Diouf.  You don’t get many like him to the pound.  At first glance, his link-up with Leeds United seemed like a match made in hell.  He was signed by a manager in Neil Warnock who had previously referred to Diouf as “lower than a sewer rat.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m sure I’ve heard more sparkling endorsements than that – even from the notoriously uncouth Colin.

For a while there, we very probably had the most gleaming, five-star example of the full set hate-wise.  The most hated club, with the most hated Chairman, the most hated manager, the most hated fans and the most hated player.  It rather made your heart swell with pride, and you felt that if Dioufy could be taken to anyone’s hearts, then perhaps Elland Road was the most likely place.  We are rather fond of our villains down Beeston way.

The down side of the former Liverpool man – other than his alarming tendency to get involved in trouble at the drop of a blob of phlegm – is that he doesn’t look the fittest of lads.  He’s not yet 33, and he’s got undeniable pedigree – but you’re not going to see him running past opponents too often. His main contribution to the Leeds team last season seems to have been an ability to hold the ball up in confined spaces, draw a foul and win a free kick.  There was an early flurry of goals, but it was this ball retention ability that really shone in a team which appeared quite inept in that regard.

Sadly, a few live games in the first half of the season were characterised by the commentator making a fuss about this facet of Diouf’s play, and refs seemed to be on the lookout for any possibility of being hoodwinked by the wily Senegalese schemer.  Give a dog a bad name, eh?  There were certainly quite a few occasions that I noticed where Diouf would go down with a pained expression on his face, only for the ref to airily wave play on, to approving noises from the gantry. This detracted greatly from his general effectiveness, but he still contributed to some reasonably encouraging performances in that pre-Christmas part of last year’s league programme.

Overall, I think I would say that it remains doubtful we have anyone else on the books who can use the ball in a confined space, under pressure from close markers, as Dioufy can.  Time and again, he can either slip the attention of a couple of defenders to find a man in relative acres of space, or (more often) he would gain one of those free-kicks.  Both of these gifts were invaluable to last season’s Leeds side which otherwise appeared to regard the ball as a bit of a hot potato. It’s only that telling lack of pace which limited his overall contribution.

In the home match against Brighton late in the last campaign, Diouf managed to get himself sent-off in the aftermath of a successful penalty conversion.  It appeared that he’d taken some stick from Brighton’s rather over-sensitive away support, and responded in sign language involving a too-public manipulation of his genitals, to shocking effect as far as the away crowd and sadly also the ref were concerned. A little surprisingly, this was Diouf’s first dismissal since he joined the club.  We were told that he was sorry, and that he remained committed to the Leeds United cause coming into this season (but as it’s turned out, we’ve hardly seen him since.)

So should we hang on to this mercurial talent, or not?  He’s been this season’s forgotten man and yet, since signing an improved contract, he’s taking more out of the club by far than when he was making a real impact on the first team. I would cautiously vote to retain him, unless the rumoured influx of cash really does turn out to be enough to buy someone as good as Dioufy – and maybe younger and faster.  If that turns out to be the case, then sadly it’ll be a no-brainer.  All’s fair in football and war – and there’s precious little room for sentiment.

What do other people think?  Keep him or get rid?  And if he goes – just who are the likely candidates to replace him, depending on whether we have a Red Bull sized budget, or just a tidgy little David Haigh one? Answers on a virtual postcard, please…

Grim Christmas ahead for fifth of people who can’t buy food

The Tories are determined to get back to the Good Old Days, when Christmas conformed to that traditional picture that’s on Christmas cards everywhere – leaded windows throwing candlelight out onto a snowy street as rosy-cheeked traders do a roaring trade in hot chestnuts ……. and Bob Cratchit tries to feed his family on £1.50 while those even less fortunate starve in the gutter, orphans wake up to just another day at the workhouse and a thin helping of gruel, Tiny Tim wastes away as he sinks towards an early death because there’s no medical treatment and no help with his disabilities.

For a traditional Tory Christmas, you see, you need the cheery gaslights and the pretty fall of snow as the local mill-owner presides at his sumptuous family feast. You need Father Christmas showering the little ones in the nursery with gifts as the fire roars in the hearth and Mama hands Papa his hot toddy. But for a Tory Christmas, reviving those long-ago good old days, you also need unlit cellars with no heating and nothing to eat so that the poor can be reminded what the “shiftless” deserve out of life according to Victorian morality. For every feast for the workers, you need a character-building famine for the “shirkers”. For every Father Christmas handing out gifts to the lucky children, you need a workhouse overseer to make sure there’s no extra helpings of cold mush for parish paupers. For every Santa, you need a Scrooge.

This is where we’re heading in 21st Century Britain as Christmas rolls around again. Back to the Good Old Days, the Poor Law, the workhouse. Back to feasts and fortune for the lucky few and crumbs and despair for the rest. Back to hypocrisy, casual cruelty, oppression and greed.

Merry Christmas.

Customised Xmas Gifts Ideal For the Discerning Leeds Fan – by Rob Atkinson

ImageThere’s nothing like the run-up to Christmas to have people scratching heads and worrying over exactly what they can buy for their significant other, doting parent, hopeful child – or just a good mate.  Or some maybe even seeking inspiration for how to pamper themselves a little, with some seasonally-gifted dosh to spend.  It’s a dilemma likely to be a little easier to solve this year than last – IF you have a Leeds United fanatic on your “to buy for” list – and more especially if that Leeds-mad person is one who likes to stand out a little from the crowd.

ImageA relatively new Facebook venture, LUFC Custom, has come to my notice recently – and it’s something I’ve found worthy of looking at time and again as I ponder the question how to bring some Christmas cheer to the Elland Road devotees of my acquaintance.  It’s not an easy task, normally.  Do you go for megastore stuff and risk duplicating the efforts of others? That’s all good for the club and all that – but come on – this is Christmas.  We’re allowed to think of what we really want instead of concentrating on how best to enrich the source of all our many frustrations.

The thing about this LUFC Custom venture is that it does exactly what it says on the tin. Have a glance and see for yourselves.  There is a range of basic products – all the usual type of stuff – but here’s the thing. You actually get to embellish your purchase of choice with a range of enhancements: badges, colours, slogans, your own name or that of a gift recipient – you end up with a custom-designed item that’s truly personal to the person it’s intended for.  Now, tie me to a stake and burn me for a heretic, but I consider that to be a superior sort of choice.  Those relying on the various commercial outlets of the club itself, or on those retailers operating under licence, are likely to find that whatever Santa brings them, he’s also going to have brought for quite a few of their mates, relatives, fellow match-day sufferers, and so on.  It’s all well and good, and it helps Leeds United, and we should definitely do it.  But there is, perhaps, room for a little individuality of expression too. This is where Custom Leeds might just be able to make that important bit of difference.

Don’t listen to me – really, just have a click and a gander at what this guy has to offer. I’m simply making a recommendation here – because it strikes me as a good idea, a worthy venture and potentially something that will add to the options for showing your colours with pride.  The pride will be that bit more keenly felt if you’re sporting something that no-one else is parading around in – just something that bit different and individual to the person who’s designed it.

I’m probably set to take my own advice, as it goes.  I’ve got all the replica shirts, most of the t-shirts and sundry other items of apparel and other memorabilia.  I don’t have the drawer space or the incentive to add to all that.  My next investment may well be something that says something about me and my support for Leeds United – it may even reflect the image of this blog now that it has a respectable number of followers.  The possibilities are limited only by my imagination and the by the impoverished contents of my flea-bitten wallet.

Besides, I deserve a treat – and who knows, I could do a little shopping for others too.  It is nearly Christmas, after all.

Life, Leeds United and Universal Armageddon – by Rob Atkinson

One year on from Armageddon and the GFH Takeover

It seems daft now but, one year ago come the 21st December, we were all going to be abruptly vaporised.  Or at least, we were going to wake up with mild hangovers, and fail to enjoy the rest of the day.  The Mayan Calendar, source of these distressing rumours that so preoccupied us twelve short months ago, was a little lax on detail.

If the worst had come to the worst, and it’d been Armageddon time, then just think of all that Christmas shopping gone to waste, in a time of austerity too.  And all we’d had on TV to cheer us up was Big Brother and The X-Factor.  It would have been so easy to get depressed, even though as Leeds fans we’d had the enticing possibility of Middle-eastern Knights riding in on white camels, to save us from a fate worse than the mere end of civilisation as we knew it.  GFH Capital, had we but been aware of it, were the means by which we would eventually be rid of Kenneth William Bates Esquire.  Little wonder that we were a little distracted from the possible End of Days.

It was a perilously uncertain time, therefore, from two sharply differing points of view. In the mundane real world, ancient rumours were disturbingly current that everything was about to end in a most summary fashion, and people rightly or wrongly got into quite a tizz about this. On Planet Leeds United, however, such airy-fairy considerations were as water unto wine against the appalling possibility that Uncle Ken might continue to have us clutched firmly by the unmentionables in his cold and merciless talons.  It was a real worry at that time – just a year ago – and along with that nagging background concern about the planet suddenly vanishing into the awful void of space, it caused a few nails to be bitten even among normally phlegmatic Leeds fans.  Yet consider.  Let’s, as they say, look at the big picture.  Life could seem awfully bleak – until you consider the alternative.  And really, it was and is worthwhile stopping a moment to draw breath and ponder just how unimaginably fortunate we are simply to be here at all.   So – bear with me here – let’s wax philosophical a while – and see if that affects our world view, or even our appreciation of the New Order that eventually did take over, after all that stress and worry, at Elland Road.

Leave aside for the moment then the incredible miracle of having a habitable planet to live on – which as far as we know exists nowhere else in the whole of creation (as I write, and subject to any revelations NASA may be about to make from their current Mars Rover, or about the increasing number of newly-discovered but vastly distant exoplanets).  It’s long odds against us even having a suitable rock to live on – but given that we do, that’s hardly even the start of the battle.

The thing is, even given our temperate and nurturing planet Earth, it’s still vanishingly improbable that you should be alive today and able to read this.  Anyone who knows enough about the birds and the bees will be aware of the myriad possible ways genes can combine to create a living organism, from the simplest virus or amoeba right up to the most complex and beautiful form of life we know, i.e. Ross McCormack.  And if that earliest amoeba hadn’t, in the face of awesome odds, somehow come into being on a hot, wet rock somewhere, then ultimately – no Rossco.

Each of us, then, has to be thankful for his or her own unique existence; in the first place that their parents met when they did, and that they then followed a course of actions leading up to just the right place, time, and romantic ambience for our life’s journey to begin.  This is how we all came about, after all – even Mr Bates – and any departure from that chain of events would have seen us never existing.

Further, behind those parents, on both sides and stretching back generations without number, the same miraculous combination of fortuitous circumstances had to occur, and it had to keep on occurring.  Any stumble off that chance-studded path of destiny, at any time over thousands, millions of years, and we just wouldn’t be around, any of us.  No you, no me, no David Haigh, no Salah Nooruddin.  It’s that serious, this business of genetic chance.

So this is the massive lottery we have all won – in fact if you calculated the odds of a lottery win next Saturday, with one to follow it the Wednesday after, going right up to, say, Easter of the year 2084 and maybe a pools win and a tax rebate each week after that till Leeds United buy back Thorp Arch – you’d still be way, way short of the odds you’ve had to beat, just to be alive right now.  It’s true.

And not only are you here, you lucky sod – you’re a human being instead of, say, a fruit fly (I exclude our Norfolk-based readers from this statement).  What are the odds against that?  Have you any idea of the factor by which insects out-number humans?  You could so easily have been a wasp, or even Ken the Anti-Christ himself.  It’s difficult to say which is the less desirable.

What’s more, not only are you a human being, you also live in a time of relative peace and prosperity and one, moreover, in which Leeds have been Champions three times in living memory, and remain the Last Real Champions.  How many of the hundred billion people who have ever existed wouldn’t give their eye-teeth to swap places with us, with our mains water and services, our electric light and labour-saving devices, our Billy’s Bar and our information super-highway?  Or, alternatively, how many Newcastle fans, who would have to be in their mid-nineties now to remember a Title-winning Toon Army, would opt instead to be Leeds, with all our glorious memories?

We might, instead of our fortunate and cossetted existences, have emerged in the 12th century, digging privies for the feudal Lord, or for a brief and consumptive existence in the typhoid slums of 19th century London.  Or we could have been born at a time when Leeds United were a mere appendix to a footnote in football history, meriting hardly a passing mention anywhere the game was discussed. Are you cheering up yet?

On the whole, we don’t have it so bad, and as we’ve seen, there is good cause for all of us to be extremely grateful we’re here at all.  And that makes even Big Brother seem a little easier to live with, though naturally we’d draw the line at the former Chelsea owner Papa Smurf still being in charge down Beeston way.  A little philosophical rumination along these lines might have been therapeutic for traumatised Leeds fans a year back, unsure as we were whether to be more worried about TOMA or the End of the World.

And just think – if those ancient predictions had been right and we’d all been plunged into oblivion two shopping days short of last Christmas, well then – at least we’d have been spared the January sales and the heart-wrenching loss of Luciano Becchio.  Every cloud…..