Tag Archives: decline

WACCOE Watch: The Formerly Half-Decent Leeds Forum Continues to Decline – by Rob Atkinson

WACCOE - not exactly a thing of beauty

WACCOE – not exactly a thing of beauty

Ever since I was silenced – gagged – on what used to be one of the better Leeds United forums, I’ve kept an eye on the way things are going at WACCOE.com. This, remember, used to be one of the more obvious stopping-off points on the net, for anyone who wanted to hear the latest Leeds United gossip, or who hoped that they might thus become privy to some truly ITK inside knowledge. From those heady days, WACCOE plummeted to become a joke of a site, full of loud and gobby student types, right-wing boneheads, look-at-me merchants determined to present themselves as high-flyers and the most tragically desperate variety of attention-seekers.

At this point, I presumed to raise my voice in protest and, admittedly, some mild derision. Before very long, the policy switched from arguing with me or insulting me, to simply censoring my input. This was allegedly for abusing “fellow WACCOE-ers” – though as you can see from the screenshot above, if your eyesight is keen enough, there seems to be plenty of abuse flying about to this day. You might notice I’ve had to do some pretty hefty censoring of my own, due to the gutter language used.

My comment at the foot of the appalling example above was, of course, not published – after all, they gave up trying to deal with my point of view and style of expression long ago. But the point I was trying to make is a valid one – because the fact is that, on WACCOE, you can still seemingly get away with murder, or at least with vicious personal abuse – as long as the overly-hormonal moderators don’t take against you. And it’s really such a shame that what used to be an invaluable resource has sunk so very low.

That’s very much the way it is, though, quite evidently to anyone with the time and patience to trawl through all the rubbish. Plenty of regular contributors are now raising peeps of protest at the kind of thing I was complaining about way back: potentially interesting threads degenerating into childish quarrels and pitiful attempts to gain approval through puerile ‘humour’; the prevalence of right-wing, knee-jerk political views, with any more civilised opinions shouted down or ignored, etc etc etc. There’s no need for me to intervene on WACCOE now, even if they had the guts to let me; their own regulars are starting to realise how the whole thing has gone right round the U-bend.

I’ll still keep an eye on WACCOE, and I hope they’ll know that. They’ll pretend not to, of course – they affect not to notice when I refer to them these days, and they’re paranoid about the possibility of generating hits for Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything by acknowledging its existence. I do still get WACCOE individuals trying to post their abusive stuff on my blog comments – but naturally, they never see the light of day. Sauce for the goose, chaps. It’s all typically insecure, juvenile angst, anyway – and very funny on the face of it. But still, it’s tragic what’s happened to WACCOE.

There are, however, some very decent alternatives if you wish some adult, non-hypocritical coverage of all things Leeds. There’s the excellent We All Love Leeds, for instance, and even the hardly reconstructed Service Crew Forum is many a mile better than poor old WACCOE. And, of course – you’re always welcome here!

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Sacked Millwall Boss Holloway’s Decline and Fall Summed Up by Two Cup Finals Against Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Where did I go wrong?

Where did I go wrong?

Ian Holloway‘s sacking by Millwall Football Club did not come as a great surprise to anyone who has witnessed – albeit from afar – the manager’s gradual disintegration as the season has worn on. Sad though this might also look at first sight, the parting of ways may well ultimately have a happy ending, with the man heading upwards into a more acceptable appointment – and the club plummeting downwards to nearer their natural level.

The season could hardly have started on a more positive note for Holloway or Millwall. The club had one of its two seasonal Cup Finals to look forward to as an opening fixture, with a chance to break out the Turkish flags and some really disgusting football shirts in order to mock the dead, as Leeds United – crisis torn and makeshift – rolled into town. The outcome was predictable on the field; less so off it. Millwall cruised to a routine 2-0 win over a Leeds team that hardly knew each other and played accordingly – and, as naturally happens in this neck of the woods, sections of the home crowd lost no opportunity to have endless fun over the murder of two Leeds fans 14 years previously.

After the game, and after giving due credit to his victorious troops, Ian Holloway was the very epitome of sportsmanship, making no attempt to gloss over the reprehensible behaviour of some Millwall fans and expressing his disgust at the nature of the chants and songs he had heard. It was a surprising but heart-warming departure from the normal “my club right or wrong” managerial line, and Holloway’s stock rose accordingly within the precincts of God’s Own County, as respect was duly accorded.

Wind forward a few months and now we’re heading towards the sharp end of the season. Millwall have declined steadily from their exhilarating start, and they’re in big trouble – and facing another Cup Final, this time at Elland Road. Leeds United have mounted a recovery of sorts, despite a mangled season of coaching staff upheaval and crises further up in the club as owner Massimo Cellino was hunted mercilessly by a pack of slavering Football League hounds.

After ending the August fixture at Millwall three points behind the Lions, United are now five points ahead, and the home game for Leeds is a genuine six-pointer. As ever with these fixtures, it’s what the fans call a “bubble match“. Away fan travel is strictly regulated under this tactic; the Millwall fans have to collect match tickets, exchanging pre-purchased vouchers for them at a service station in Yorkshire – the better for them to be kept an eye on in the hope that maybe they will not wreck any buses this time. For the past few seasons, this measure has kept the size of the ‘Wall away following down to tiny and inoffensive proportions – and so it would be today, something that would end up as an irritant thorn in manager Holloway’s tender hide.

This time, crucially, the honours went to Leeds, creating an eight point gulf between the two side that has grown steadily ever since. Leeds should, by the end of the season, be comfortably clear of the relegation zone – the gap is currently a luxurious 16 points – but it was this result that really started to relieve those nightmarish worries. Had Millwall won, Leeds would have been a scant two points ahead and the nerves would have been seriously twanging as squeaky bum time drew on. In the event, the Lions have signally failed to recover from that Elland Road defeat, currently sitting mired in the drop zone, a full eight points from safety. All quite satisfactory, and certainly a welcome change from the season opener – but how would Ian Holloway’s post-match performance compare to the heights he hit back then in sunny August?

The answer, as we all know is – not well. Not well at all. Depressingly, Holloway seized on the paucity of the Millwall away support, claiming that such restrictions made for an unfair atmosphere and that this had been a major factor in his side’s defeat. He didn’t appear to consider that no away ban was in place – that the Millwall fans had been at liberty to attend – if they could be bothered using the voucher and collect scheme. He didn’t reflect either that Leeds fans face similar sanctions at certain grounds, which doesn’t prevent them from being followed by thousands of fanatics everywhere they go. None of this penetrated Holloway’s head; he was looking for a scapegoat and he had the West Yorkshire Police in his sights, just ahead of pretty much everyone else.

Disastrously – a short while after Holloway had insisted that Millwall fans could be trusted and shouldn’t be subjected to “special measures”, so to speak – they showed their true colours with a typically disgraceful display of bad behaviour at Rotherham, in considerably greater numbers than they had mustered at Leeds. How Holloway must have wished he’d simply kept his mouth shut after the Elland Road defeat.

With the benefit of hindsight, the two games between Leeds and Millwall this season were each a barometer of the now former Lions manager’s standing at the time. As the season started, he had overseen a fairly miraculous escape from relegation the campaign before – and memories were still fresh of his impact on the Premier League as Blackpool manager a season or two earlier. He was eloquent in his post-match press call; there was a lot to admire in what he said – as I wrote at the time.

But as the Elland Road return rolled around, a different picture had emerged. Now Holloway was looking snatched and hunted; his team were embroiled in another relegation battle and, although they had snatched two unlikely wins in the previous two away games, their awful home form threatened to drag them down. Holloway arrived at the home of Leeds United desperately in need of another away win. He got nothing, and was unable to restrain his bitterness and frustration afterwards. His lack of class in seeking to blame matters on a body of men and women charged with keeping the peace in the presence of a notorious away crew did him no credit. The contrast between the Holloway defeated at Elland Road and the one so magnanimous in victory back in August was stark. This was now a man heading rapidly for the buffers, the brakes having failed.

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything called upon Ian Holloway to apologise, after the Millwall disgrace at Rotherham, for the unwise things he’d said at Leeds about what have been shown to be sensible precautions over away travel for certain sets of fans. But there’s no pleasure in seeing a genuine character brought low – and I both hope and expect that Holloway will be back, in a better situation and also a better frame of mind. It seems likely as I write that interim Millwall manager Neil Harris has a bit too much on his hands to rescue the toothless Lions this time around. And, as any regular reader will know, this blog will shed no tears as and when they drop to League One. But nobody – no club – is all good or all bad, and to the decent Millwall fans, some of whom have contacted me with reasoned comments before now, I wish you well in what will probably be a season of League One consolidation next season. And I’m sure that Millwall, too, will be back.

It’s just that I hope, by then, Leeds are mixing it in the big league against appropriately big clubs. Nothing personal, chaps.

Even Fans of “Crisis Club Leeds” are Laughing at Man U – by Rob Atkinson

Two typical "buzzin', mad for it" Man U fans

Two typical “buzzin’, mad for it” Man U fans

As a Leeds United fan, my sole motivation for watching any Man U game on TV is to see them lose, as heavily as possible.  The enlightenment provided for me by being a fan of the One True United from Elland Road enables me to see things as they are.  Thus I know for certain that Man U – the club, the hype, the glory-hunting “fans” – embody all that is worst about the game of football.  It is right and proper that they should be despised.  I’ve written before about the futility of hating a club because of mere geographical proximity – Newcastle and Sunderland fans waste such a lot of passion in this way.  Hatred should be reserved for those who earn it on merit.  Man U are intrinsically detestable, by any empirical standards – always have been, always will be.  So, although there are other clubs I’m not keen on, I only really hate Man U – and even there the hatred is tempered by the fact that I find them such a kitsch club, so utterly ridiculous.

Some find this rather odd.  With all of the goings-on at Elland Road – our decade of decline, the farcical situation surrounding successive takeovers – my beloved Leeds are, after all, not in much of a position to point the finger and laugh at an undeniably bigger and more successful club – are they?  Well, yes, they are.  WE are.  I’ll explain.

Dr Freud on the psyche of the Man U fan

Dr Freud on the psyche of the Man U fan

The thing about Man U, you see, is that despite the extensive honours list, the huge stadium, the supporters clubs on far-flung planets orbiting distant suns – they are simply a joke of a football club.  They are actually just as funny as they are detestable – especially now, when the evil influence of the Dark One from Govan is fading into the past.  Before, the determination to win at all costs, eschewing the innate class of clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal – this was easy both to hate and laugh at.  The comical desperation to be “biggest and best”, the feverish preoccupation with being Number One – it all smacked dismally of the psychiatrist’s couch and the inner yearnings of tragically inadequate and unfulfilled people.  Herr Doktor Sigmund Freud would have had such a lot to say about this motley collection of hang-ups and insecurities.  But, enough of the fans.

Now, in the post-Ferguson era, the reactions of those on the moral high-ground – i.e. myself and every other football fan who despises Man U – are somewhat different as compared to those Taggart days.  Then, when they let in a goal or slumped to the odd defeat, I and others like me would clench the fist in vicarious triumph, relishing the temporary discomfiture of the media’s champions.  Now, on the other hand, when poor David “Gollum” Moyes’ harrowed and failure-ravaged features grow more haggard with every passing defeat, when his helpless eyes grow ever more prominently buggy in that haunted, hunted face, the skin stretched as tight as his nerves, the lines of worry and insecurity etched ever deeper – it’s not quite as easy to feel triumphant glee.  Now, the reaction tends to be one of amusement, though sometimes tinged with an uncomfortably unfamiliar pity.  It’s stopped being a matter of fierce satisfaction when Man U fail.  It’s simply become funny, in an ever-so-slightly pitiful way.

My own reaction to two recent goals against them has brought this sharply home to me.  When Sunderland scored late on in the Capital One Cup semi at the Theatre of Hollow Myths – I simply collapsed laughing.  There were tears rolling down my face, my sides ached with mirth.  Alright, the nature of the goal was risible, de Gea flapping on his line like some nervous chorus girl – but then the same thing happened when Fulham got their late equaliser the other night.  I just could not stop laughing – it took the appearance of the twitching, suffering Moyes to tone down my riotous good humour into something more approaching sympathy for a man so clearly on the edge.

So what is it about the Pride of Devon that – despite everything they’ve won, and all of the damage they’ve inflicted on their rivals, by fair means and foul – they are still such an object of ridicule and derision?  And let’s not forget, this goes back even over their last couple of decades of success.  Their fans have grown wary even of admitting who they support, fearful of betraying themselves with wurzelly or cockney accents, scared of being laughed at as “glory-hunters” or plastic, armchair types from Devon or Kent.  All those trophies, all that gutter press adulation – and yet so little real pride.  That’s tragic.  But what’s really behind it?

Part of the answer might be the pathological need that the whole shebang still has, despite a current status of also-rans, to promote and parade itself as God’s gift to sport and the last word in hugeness and greatness.  It applies to the club from the very top, this immense self-delusion, right down to those troubled people who are drawn to “support” them.  The most recent example of the lengths they will go to in order to give the outer appearance of confidence and attitude, is pictured below.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is (allegedly) the song sheet for the “Man U Singing Section“.

The Man U "Mutual Reassurance" songsheet

The Man U “Mutual Reassurance” songsheet

As you will see, it is full of earnest advice on how best for their well-drilled singers to comport themselves, with finger-wagging dos and don’ts and even a schedule minute-by-minute of exactly when each distinct song should be sung.  No advice is given as to what should happen if some event on the pitch should threaten to grab fans’ attention; perhaps this is deemed unlikely.  There are stern admonitions about the singing of undesirable, “offensive” songs – don’t do it, chaps, it’s not nice.  The songs and timings cited “must be adhered to”.  Have a look at it.  Some will ask whether it’s genuine – and part of even me hopes that it’s a wind-up.  For football fans to be shackled so, their spontaneous reactions crushed beneath a list of rules and regulations, with a script to rule them?  It’s got to be a sick joke, surely.  But judge for yourselves.  Fake or not, it is funny.  Let’s not kid ourselves either – there’s no smoke without fire.  This sort of thing, if it is a fake, needs a bit of reality to be hung on to; for a club that reckons itself to be the “biggest and best”, with fans to match, even the perceived need for a singing section is rank humiliation.  Do the bulk of the Man U fans really need this sort of sugar-coated reassurance, this spoon-fed “Don’t look at the League Table, guys, we’re still the best”?

At Leeds, the only thing that ever came even close to the ridiculous idea of a singing section was an ill-fated move to introduce a “band” shortly after that laughable notion had flourished into bizarre reality at Sheffield Wendies.  The idea was to get a bit of atmosphere going – which at Leeds was like pouring petrol on a blazing fire.  There may well have been a wistful undertone that the Board wished the Elland Road crowd was as “nice” as those simple Wendy souls at Hillsborough – the rank folly of that!  The Leeds fans wouldn’t have it, of course.  A few peeps were heard, immediately drowned out by a raucous “Stand up if you hate the band”, and the experiment died an early and unlamented death.

Now, if anyone had the sheer brass cojones to try the introduction of an actual singing section at Elland Road, one suspects they would be led firmly away by the throat – for those cojones to be removed with a blunt and rusty knife, braised lightly over a grill and fed to them morsel by morsel as they dangled helpless from the East Stand superstructure.  And quite right too.  There’s just something deeply inadequate and plain wrong about any club which needs such artificial backing – you can understand it happening at the Wendies.  But at Man U?  There used to be some grudging respect there, back in the day, but can any vestige of that survive such a laughable, pitiful initiative as this?

So, yes – Leeds may be a crisis club, we may just have gone through a month which makes a pantomime look like profoundly cerebral entertainment – but we can be tolerably certain that we’d never sink this low.  Whatever else may happen, we’ll still have our spontaneity, our pride.  These things tend to flourish in adversity – and we have plenty of that.  And I do even feel a bit sorry for the genuine Man U fans – there’s a hard core of them out there, somewhere, after all – though it’s much more fun, and better for my health too, that I can now simply laugh at them instead of resenting and hating them.  And of course I still do hate them, just in a different and mercifully less rabid way.  I still keenly want them to lose – but now that this happens with such metronomic frequency, the intensity of the actual hate is diluted to some degree.

And do you know what?  I really don’t miss that intensity.  I actually enjoy my football more now that I’m not feeling all anxious; now that I can usually rely upon them to fail.  And the continuing self-delusion of the whole lot of them – the club, the fans, their media lapdogs – makes it all the more sweetly satisfying every time those blessed defeats happen.

Let’s face it – pity and empathy notwithstanding – it’s still a hell of a lot of fun to laugh at Man U.