Tag Archives: David Batty

Leeds Now Linked With Totti, So Can They Finally Get Maradona? – by Rob Atkinson

Maradona – will he finally realise his Leeds United dream?

According to certain media sources, Leeds United are planning to tempt 42 year old Francesco Totti out of retirement to fire them to promotion. The speculation follows hard on the heels of suggestions that fellow World Cup winner Gianluigi Buffon could be in line to replace Kiko Casilla in goal, as Leeds seemingly look to experience for next season’s Championship campaign.

Given this apparent non-ageist policy, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is now asking the $64,000 question: is it finally time to make good on the ambition, dating back to the mid-eighties, of bringing Diego Maradona to Elland Road?

They say that any winning team needs a strong spine and, with Buffon in goal and the attacking partnership of Totti and Maradona, we’d only need a legendary centre-back and maybe a holding midfielder of the same ilk, and we’d be cooking with gas. Franz Beckenbauer owes Leeds United a favour or two after his pivotal role in the 1975 European Cup Final, so maybe he could slot in alongside Liam Cooper, allowing our shrewd transfer team to capitalise on the market value of Pontus Jansson. And Beckenbauer, a sprightly 73, could also act as a defensive mid, although surely our own David Batty could do a job there despite his relative inexperience at only 50 years old.

These are exciting times for Leeds United as they seek to exploit the potential of geriatric footballers the world over. Could Diego Maradona really be the jewel in our promotion crown at the age of 58?

Only time, and possibly TalkSport Radio, will tell.

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Cristiano Ronaldo to Sweep Board in Fifa’s ‘Narcissist of the Year’ Awards – by Rob Atkinson

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A tender moment between CR7 and his biggest hero

Sometimes, you catch sight of a headline and, as you feel your eyebrows heading for your hairline, you wonder to yourself: “Did I really read that right?” Such a headline caught my notice the other day. “Cristiano Ronaldo opens a museum in his own honour in Madeira, Portugal“, it read. My eyebrows still haven’t returned to their default position – if fact I may well have pulled a couple of muscles there.

The thing is, the story in itself is not that surprising or earth-shattering. The impact is more of a jolt of self-affirmation – having a deep-rooted prejudice confirmed, right out of the blue like that.  You just think – well, I was right about that lad.  You see, I’ve long felt that Senhor Ronaldo has a touch of the Narcissus Complex about him. Many was the time when some noted Man U mouthpiece such as S’ralex Ferguson would say, with no evident sense of irony “Cristiano is the archetypal Man U player” or some such platitude. And I’d just nod, thinking to myself: isn’t he just. As was Royston Keane, pretend tough guy, for his blithe belief that the rules of the game were for lesser mortals. Cantona too, for his strutting, turned-up-collar arrogance – noticeably absent in his time at Leeds United where the likes of Strachan and Batty would have beaten it out of him.

So, despite Ronaldo’s much-publicised yearning to head off for pastures Iberian, I was actually quite surprised when he left the Theatre of Hollow Myths a couple of years back. He just seemed like a perfect fit for that particular club, an apt representative of the puffed-up, self-regarding Pride of Devon. Since arriving in Madrid, a constant theme has been his desire to be regarded in the same light he regards himself – if such a thing were only possible. Because, alongside his undoubted brilliance as a player and his lavish habit of scoring goals at an unprecedented rate for a winger, there has always been this “look at me” air about him.

This particular manifestation of narcissism is at its most apparent when he’s playing in a high-profile match, at the World Cup finals, for instance. There, the games are played in stadia equipped with those flying cams which zip about aerially, capturing close-ups of players from a position, seemingly, just above their heads. So whenever Ronaldo misses a goal or protests to the referee (he does this a lot), you’ll see him in a match like this, glancing at the nearest robot camera, then maybe checking out his magnified image on the inevitable big screen, admiring the pose even as he’s striking it.  He has a special “poised to take a free kick” pose as well – you’ve probably noticed.  He loves this one – legs akimbo, stock still, seemingly waiting for the crowd to subside to an awed hush. He sneaks little sidelong glances at the big screen then too, checking himself out.  It’s really quite funny and a little bit pitiful. There’s no denying that he’s a very good-looking lad, and yet this too-evident, overpowering self-adoration is curiously unattractive, casting a patina of ugliness onto features usually apt to set hearts, not all of them female, a-flutter.

It’s a character trait that makes it impossible to define Ronaldo simply in terms of his technical ability, his genius with a football at his feet, or even his extravagant goalscoring record. In this way, the narcissistic flaw in his make-up serves to keep him out of the Pantheon of True Greats, players – many of lesser ability – who combined admirable qualities such as humility, modesty, self-restraint on and off the field – things like that – with their obvious talent. Marks of maturity and character all, and reminders that talent alone, even genius, is not enough. Ronaldo’s flaws are less extreme than, say, Georgie Best‘s – and he’s certainly a much better pro – but just as was the case with Best, those flaws threaten to have him remembered at least as much for the negative parts of his persona as the positive aspects of his game.

Ronaldo is simply unable to restrain this tendency to sound overtly, overweeningly in love with himself. As many know, when somebody is in love, they’re totally unable to comprehend how anyone would be able to resist loving the object of their adoration. It’s a type of tunnel vision – the lover cannot see anything but good about the loved. This would appear to be precisely the nature of Cristiano Ronaldo’s intensely passionate relationship with himself. If he ever needed a motto, he could do a lot worse than to open his Bible and paraphrase John 15:13, summing himself up with “Greater love hath no man than I for me”. By comparison, Narcissus himself comes over as having slight self-esteem issues. Ronaldo loves Ronaldo, and you get the feeling that he honestly can’t understand why the world at large can’t share in his joy.

The opening of the CR7 Museum, by the adored CR7 himself, in honour of the said adored CR7, sums all of this up quite neatly. It provides independent verification of mine and others’ long-standing summing-up of Cristiano Ronaldo, and as such it’s really more to be wryly laughed at than fumed over. But it is a pity, in its way: a footballer’s life as an active player is, after all, relatively brief. After retirement, and as the glittering career fades ever further into the past, history can take a more jaundiced view of the former star than those who were there in the instant, cheering and applauding as a virtuoso performer plied his genius trade. The later view of the legend, the “warts and all” version, can even come to focus more on the warts than on much else worthy of admiration.

If Ronaldo wants the eye of history to gaze benignly upon him (and you can bet your last penny he does), then a little humility, a little less obvious awareness of his own talent and gorgeousness would have been a big help. But it’s late in the day for that; even now he’s seen as someone in whom human virtues epitomised by the likes of John Charles or Bobby Moore are sadly absent. In the meantime though, why would Cristiano care? He is playing for one of the biggest clubs on the planet, he has won and will win many medals and trophies – his life is one grand, sweet song.

It’s just that he appears to have been blighted by a crucial part of his development; that few years spent at Man U which can have an unfortunate effect upon an impressionable young man, especially one with a certain arrogance about him, the air of a braggart. It can have him believing in his own publicity and the rightness of everything he does or thinks, an impression reinforced by a complaisant media. Other, similar examples of this type have emerged from the club, other flawed characters who would have benefited from formative years spent in a less privileged and less insular environment. It manifests itself differently in Beckham, Keane, Cantona and a few more who spring to mind – but all of these players have emerged from Man U with character issues to confront, something they’re doing with varying degrees of determination and success. It does have to be said that not everyone is carried away on such a perilous tide; Paul Scholes for instance remained firmly detached from all the hype, to his eternal credit – and simply got on with his job. Andrei Kanchelskis was another such.

Cristiano Ronaldo is simply the most obvious example of the kind of young man who in many ways summed up the character of a club like Man U, but in many more ways was in sore need of being taken down a peg or two when the time was still ripe for his character to develop along more attractive lines. The moral is, I suppose: If you have a talented youth who thinks he’s the bees’ knees – send him to Barnsley where he’ll learn the rudiments and have the more offensive edges knocked off him. You won’t produce quite such a polished player that way, it must be admitted. But you would end up with a much better all-round bloke; one who would perhaps guffaw derisively at the thought of opening a museum in his own honour.

Happy Birthday to Batts, Leeds United’s 90s Midfield Enforcer – by Rob Atkinson

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‘Ave it

Many Happy Returns to David Batty, who celebrates his 45th birthday today and who is fondly remembered by his fans as one of Leeds United’s very favourite sons of the recent past.  Batts was the archetypal Yorkshire Terrier of a midfielder, snapping away in the tussle for possession of the ball, exploiting seemingly endless reserves of energy as he harried his opponents, closing down and chasing – and when he got the ball, he could certainly use it too.  Best remembered for those ferocious challenges, Batty was no mean interceptor of the ball either, and I well remember one time when he nipped in to take the ball neatly off the toes of an opponent, sliding it first time to a White shirt in the enemy area to set up another goal for Leeds.  The creative side of his game was frequently under-estimated by those who saw him as merely a demolition man, but his fellow pros knew better.  Batts commanded respect for his technical ability as much as the granite-hardness of his approach to the game.

ImageIt has to be said that goals weren’t exactly David’s business, although he had a ferocious shot on him with the ability to strike the ball cleanly – “pinging it” as they say in the game.  This talent was sadly seen most often on the training ground, but occasionally he’d catch one in a real game – and when he hit the ball properly, it stayed hit.

The goal I best remember him for was not a spectacular strike, nor did it involve him in an Eddie Gray-style mazy dribble through bewildered opposition defenders.  But it was nonetheless memorable when it happened, because it came at the end of an epic goal drought that had lasted fully four seasons since his last goal for Leeds, ironically against the same opposition in Manchester City.  This gave rise to my favourite Batts quote: “I don’t score many,” he remarked laconically, “but against Man City, I’m prolific.”

The goal that broke the drought saw possibly the wildest celebration for any one goal at Elland Road for many years – with the possible exception of Gordon Strachan’s fabulous and crucial strike against Leicester City in the promotion run-in of 1990.  Even then, Strachan’s goal did not carry the injury toll of Batty’s, the celebration of which reputedly caused broken ankles and concussions as the Gelderd End completely lost its collective head in disbelief. It was simply enough executed: Strachan on the right played a short pass inside to Batty, who was probably only in the area because we were already comfortably in front – and he took one touch to control before finishing clinically to take the roof off the stadium.

ImageThe man himself remarked afterwards that he was taken aback at the sheer intensity of the celebrations – he was mildly chuffed to have scored, of course, but the joy of the Kopites at seeing their long wait ended and their local hero get one at last – it was something to behold.  It’s worth a moment or two to watch it again – click here to do just that. Tony Dorigo’s sumptuous connection on the half-volley for a top-class, top-corner first goal is almost forgotten now, but in any other context we’d still be raving about it. Just look at the crowd behind the goal when Batty’s effort goes in – no wonder there were injuries, and yet you can bet that the afflicted weren’t feeling any pain. Happy memories.

Batts went on to serve with distinction at Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United after leaving Elland Road; under the misguided transfer policy of the time we replaced him, in effect, with Carlton Palmer – not the best deal ever done.  He came back eventually of course.  It’s widely-known that towards the end of his Newcastle days his team-mates there would point at Elland Road as the coach passed by on the way back to the frozen north, and ask Batts when he was off “home”.  It didn’t last long enough, but it felt good to have the prodigal return.

Happy Birthday, Batts and thanks for the memories of a local lad who made good and wore the colours of Leeds United with pride and passion – a top professional and a Leeds legend.