Tag Archives: Derby County FC

Get IIIIIIINNN!!! Leeds Legend Noel Whelan is a Cult Radio Star   –   by Rob Atkinson

Get IIIIIIINN!!! Noel, Leeds United hero past and present

Get IIIIIIINN!!! Noel Whelan, Leeds United hero past and present

How bizarre, and yet how typical of this ugly duckling of a Leeds United season, that one of the main cult Whites heroes of the moment should be an employee of Derby County FC. Not that it hasn’t happened before, one way or another. Season 1991/92 threw up a couple of candidates, with Brian Gayle ex-Man City but on the books of Sheffield United, taking the honours as he scored the own-goal that finally turned the race for the last ever Football League Championship firmly Leeds’ way. No such rich prizes are at stake this season, and we have to look off the field of play for the hero I’m talking about. Take a bow Noel David Whelan, Academy Coach at Derby County, lifelong Leeds fan and the best thing to hit the airwaves in these parts for a long, long time.

When you listen to national radio, you want impartiality (not that you get it, not as a Leeds fan). It’s annoying if such an allegedly disinterested broadcaster shows bias, they get phone calls and irate letters. But local radio is a horse of a different colour. What you want then is a bit of parochial loyalty, a touch of blinkered self-righteousness. If the ref’s having a ‘mare – or even if, in truth, he’s just not giving the lads quite as much as he might – you want the regional radio guys to get hot under the collar about it, to have a bit of a rant or moan. It saves you the trouble and it also gives you that warm feeling that maybe you’re not just paranoid, that those buggers really are out to get us. Listen, you splutter to your significant other, I said to you that the ref was bent and the lino was blind or bent or stupid. Thom/Adam thinks so too. Bloody told you, didn’t I?

Sometimes though, the local guys can be a grievous disappointment in this regard. Forgetting that they’re not national commentators with all those boring rules and restrictions, some of our home-based broadcasters and summarisers can make the mistake of being so determined to be fair, that they lean over too far the other way, ending up calling every decision against Leeds, excusing the incompetent git of a ref, justifying the actions of those cheats and animals in the opposition ranks. This is extremely bad news for the fan glued to a crackly radio at home. That, by the way, is perilous stuff at the best of times. Radio commentary is just plain scary. Every shot is arrowing straight for the far top corner of your keeper’s net, every Whites passing move breaks down, we never get the bounce of the ball. It’s horrible and not good for the hypertension at all. And then, on top of all that, you get some ever so reasonable guy who, when the commentator screams, Penalty for Leeds! Surely that was a penalty!! – this laid-back, too-fair ex-pro will simply drawl, nah, never in a million years, he went down too easy, never a pen. Forbye, it wisnae in the area. Thwarted, you grind your teeth anew and feel the blood pounding insistently in your ears. It’s so bad for the health.

I’m not naming any names in that respect (but Eddie, for Christ’s sake get your act together and remember who you’re supposed to be supporting) – what I will say is that Norman Hunter, always reliable in terms of seeing the world through Leeds-tinted specs, is sadly missed from our local airwaves. But happily, the Advent of Noel has brought us a new hero, and he makes even Norman seem like a model of bland neutrality. When play is ongoing, there’s always a bit of Whelan wit and wisdom interspersing the description of the commentator. His Leeds-ness oozes from every pore and permeates everything he says. It’s simply wonderful.

Any Leeds fans will always look forward to any Leeds goal – it’s the longed-for climax to any foray forward and confirmed atheists have been know to offer up sincere prayers for that – ahem – moment of fulfilment. But in these days of Whelan, long may they last, there’s a little extra bonus to any Leeds score. Get IIIINNNNNNN!!!! you hear this demented, exultant voice thundering, rattling the commentary gantry and the windows of nearby houses, and doubtless attracting sidelong looks of disapproval from more ordinary, everyday mortals. Noel Whelan is not here simply to provide the professional’s point of view on the intricacies of play and team-shape. He’s here to see Leeds United win, and he wants it with his very guts. You can hear this in his voice, you can tell he’s kicking every ball and a good few of the opposition. It’s a tremendous feeling; like having your own personal, Leeds-centric representative up there in the commentary box where you’d secretly long to be yourself, instead of being surgically attached to this bloody radio.

Noel Whelan is the fan who really did live the dream, graduating from the terraces to don the Shirt and score goals for the club he loves. As a professional, when his career took him in a different direction, he made the best of it – not without the odd mishap, particularly at Coventry – and carried on scoring goals. Memorably, he scored for Boro against Man U in the Cup, and gave the old Leeds salute to the bitter cockneys who sat in the stand, hating him for his Leeds-ness and for scoring against their favourites. And all the time, he’s been Leeds, down to the very bone – and we’ve loved him for it, largely from afar.

Now his playing days are over, and – ever the pro – he’s earning his living still as part of the game, passing on his knowledge and experience to the Academy of a club other than Leeds. How odd that must feel to a man who so clearly has United in his DNA. But it doesn’t affect his deep and abiding partiality for the Whites; give him a mic, put him up there to watch the lads play – and he’s still passionately Leeds, desperate to see them win, straining every sinew as the Shirts toil away for the cause.

And then – we score. Get IIIINNNNNNN!!!! GET in! If things are going particularly well, a chorus of Marching On Together is not unheard of; though his singing would win few awards, the sentiment is pure gold. A model of impartiality Noel is definitely not – and that has endeared him to thousands of people for whom radio coverage is the only viable option. For those people, Noel is just like being there, or at least the very next best thing – he wants to win as much as you do and he celebrates like the fellow fan he is – as well as feeling the pain just as acutely as we all do when things are bad.

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything cannot help but feel that such passion, such absolute devotion to our one and only, beloved football club, is wasted whenever it’s not being employed in the United cause. Noel is not the first Leeds fanatic to pursue a career elsewhere. It was a standing joke at Newcastle that David Batty just couldn’t wait to be back at Elland Road. Whenever their team coach passed within sight of the stadium, his team mates would be at it, they’d rib Batts, telling him he’d be back there before long. And of course, he was. But when he wore another shirt, Batty fought and battled for that shirt, as a pro always will. I’ve seen Noel Whelan score against Leeds – it was in George Graham’s first game in charge, down at Coventry – and he looked utterly gutted and apologetic. And, naturally, he still got an ovation from the White Army that day.

Maybe Noel Whelan will one day be a part of Leeds United Football Club once more. Surely, he would grab the chance, should it ever arise – even in the sure knowledge that most such returns end in tears. But in the meantime – it’s wonderful to listen to him in his matchday stints on t’wireless, shamelessly biased, proudly Leeds, giving it the full throttle when we score, damning the officials who conspire against us. It’s simply just what is required, just what those fans out here in Radioland need.

Noel Whelan is a tonic. Every club should have one but, happily – and despite what the Derby County payroll people might imagine – he’s ours. And he’s the very Acme of one-eyed, tunnel-visioned, brilliantly biased, raucously supportive presence that any Leeds fan simply loves to hear as part of their commentary experience.

Other, more pallid broadcasters – please take note.

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Derby Back at Elland Road Next Season After QPR Sucker Punch – by Rob Atkinson

Derby 0, QPR 1    HA!!!

Derby 0, QPR 1 HA!!!

When it happened, it was as unexpected as it was funny.  Unexpected, because Derby had utterly dominated the play-off final at Wembley – even before QPR had Gary O’Neil sent off for a professional foul.  And funny, because – well, because it was Derby, one of those daft little Midlands teams that gets all excited and wets itself every time it has a result against our beloved Whites.  Derby had been on a long run of success against Leeds, and their fans grew cockier and more annoying with each one.  Now, they were sat in their devastated rows at Wembley as Bobby Zamora pounced in the last minute to snatch their dream away.  Some were open-mouthed with horror, some were angry, some were crying.  One kid was actually having a tantrum directly into his mother’s bosom.  It was richly comic and I enjoyed it very much.

So much for Derby – we’ll see them again next season when we’ll have two more chances to break a barren spell that’s gone on far too long against what used to be the ultimate rabbit team for Leeds United.  For QPR, today’s somewhat fortunate result might just have saved their profligate skins, as dire fiscal consequences were threatened over their breaching of FFP limits.  Even in the Premier League with all those Murdoch millions being flung in their direction, it may well be that the suits will be after them – with a view to clipping their financial wings to such an extent as to see them return quickly whence they came.  We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

For Leeds United though, this play-off result means more than mere malicious amusement.  It signifies that next season’s League line-up is almost complete; only one Championship spot remains to be filled.  We’ve now said goodbye to Leicester, Burnley, QPR, Barnsley (arf), Doncaster (arf) and Yeovil.  We will be hosting Cardiff (snigger), Norwich (snigger), Fulham, Wolves, Brentford and one of either Rotherham or Leyton Orient. Personally, I hope it’s Rotherham to complete the picture – for all I’ve had to say about smaller Yorkshire teams and their Cup Final chips on the shoulder.  Having said good riddance to two such daft little clubs, it’d be churlish not to welcome one, just to redress the balance a little.

Some may feel that parts of this article are unfeeling and a little callous – taking pleasure in the discomfiture of others.  And they’d be right – but I will temper the effect a little by saying I hold no ill-will against any professionals who tried, failed and are now suffering at Wembley Stadium, or on their miserable way home.  I respect their efforts – and I felt for Keogh of Derby who was unlucky enough to have made the error that led to Zamora’s excellently-taken goal.  Still – that’s football, but it’s not for a fan to glory in the pain of professionals (unless they play for or manage Man U).

My satisfaction is in the woe of rival fans who have, in their turn, taken immense satisfaction from the suffering of Leeds fans in our various crises. It’s the nature of football support, tit for tat.  I make no apology for delighting in the sorrow of fans of Derby, Norwich, Doncaster, Cardiff – or any other clubs’ fans where they have had the cause and opportunity to crow at the troubles of my beloved Leeds United.  As I’ve said before, it’s OK to hate rival fans. Positively healthy, in fact. You reap what you sow and – tragic though it all might appear to the more soft-hearted among us – tough.

Roll on next season then, when it all starts all over again – and this time next year we’ll either be celebrating or gritting our teeth – and doubtless we’ll be laughing at the fate of a few old rivals.  It’s such a great game, football.

Leeds United – the Top Five Injustices and the Refs Involved

Lorimer!

Lorimer!

When I heard that Brian McDermott was “optimistic” over Rudy Austin’s red card appeal this week, I had a little smile to myself and thought, “You’ve not been at Leeds long enough to know, mate.” It could be of course that a wily McDermott was doing his best to sway the appeal panel by opining the Austin incident was a “complete accident”. Whatever the case, the appeal was turned down, as most Leeds fans would have expected. We don’t really get the breaks where the football authorities are concerned. Sour grapes? Judge for yourselves.

Prompted to cast my mind back over history, I thought I’d highlight some famous instances where Leeds have signally failed to get the rub of the green. The focus is mainly on referees, and I’ve had no compunction about naming and shaming. In reverse order of spectacular bentness, the candidates for “Injustice of the 20th Century” are:

No. 5: Wolves 2, Leeds 1 – 8th May 1972 (Ref: Bill Gow)

I’ve placed this as least serious from a refereeing point of view because – in the crucial penalty incident – Mr Gow was unsighted and badly let down by his linesman J C Collins of Macclesfield, an inexperienced official who apparently “froze”. It does seem to have been a blatant handball and a definite penalty though – in a match where Leeds would win the Title and therefore the “Double” if they could avoid defeat. Tellingly, Mr Gow got home that night to be greeted by his wife saying “It looked a penalty on the telly.” My main culprits for this game are the callous officials of the FA and Football League, who insisted a tired team should play a title decider a mere two days after a gruelling FA Cup Final against Arsenal. Leeds did not even get to celebrate their Cup triumph, heading straight off to Wolverhampton with their battered and wounded bodies and their missing heroes. It was a shoddy affair that you could not envisage these days. Respected “Guardian” writer Eric Todd described the uncaring treatment of a gallant Leeds side as “scandalous”.

No. 4: Leeds United 1, West Brom 2 – 17 April 1971 (Ref: Ray Tinkler)

No doubts about the culprit here. Ray Tinkler’s face as he walked off the Elland Road pitch after this display wore a tellingly apprehensive expression; that of a man who knew he was walking out of a storm and into a typhoon. The game turned on an offside call – or more accurately, two of them. Already one down against opponents they’d been expected to beat easily, Leeds were pressing hard. A victory was vital in the race for the Title, anything less would pass the advantage to Arsenal. Then Norman Hunter gave the ball away on halfway with most of the Leeds side committed forward. The ball bounced off Tony Brown into the Leeds half where a clearly-offside Colin Suggett is loitering as the linesman flags for the free-kick. Tony Brown continues his run when Tinkler fails to blow in response to the flag, passes the ball to Astle – also in an offside position – who scores. A season’s work, in the words of Don Revie, is undone in a few mad moments. Barry Davies, commentating for the BBC, memorably remarked “…and Leeds will go mad. And they’ve every right to go mad..” Strong stuff from a sober professional. In the wake of the crowd disturbances that ensued, Leeds were forced to play their first home games of the following season away from Elland Road, a sanction that led to points being dropped, and probably contributing to their narrow failure to win the 1972 title as well. So Mr. Tinkler may well have done us for two Championship crowns. Cheers, Ray.

No. 3: Chelsea 1, Leeds United 0 – FA Cup Semi Final at Villa Park 29 April 1967 (Ref: Ken Burns)

The classic FA Cup Semi: two fine teams, not at all fond of each other – the fashionable Kings Road fancy dans of Chelsea against Don Revie’s battle-hardened stormtroopers. Or so the Press would have it. Chelsea were ahead late on, a fine goal from Tony Hately being the difference. Leeds thought they’d drawn level when Cooper scored, but the effort was chalked off for offside, despite vociferous complaints from the Leeds players who swore blind that Cooper had come from an onside position. Then, a free kick 25 yards out. The ref took some seconds organising Chelsea’s defensive wall, and then caught the eye of John Giles – a commonly-accepted signal for the free kick to be taken. Giles rolled the ball to Lorimer, who smashed it into Bonetti’s net. Leeds were joyful, Chelsea despaired – but referee Burns ruled the goal out, ordering a retake because Chelsea’s wall was not far enough back – a technical offence against Leeds. The retaken free-kick came to nothing, and Leeds were out of the Cup in the cruellest circumstances.

No. 2: Bayern Munich 2, Leeds United 0 – European Cup Final, Parc des Princes Paris May 28 1975 (Ref: Michel Kitabdjian)

38 years on, this still sticks in the collective craw of Leeds United fans. 38 years on, we still sing “We are the Champions, Champions of Europe” in ritual protest. Two blatant penalty shouts in the first half, the guilty man on both occasions was Der Kaiser, Franz Beckenbauer. First he handled blatantly in the area, and then a “scissors” tackle on Allan Clarke – you wondered how anyone could fail to give either. Leeds were completely outplaying Bayern, drawing sympathy even from the English TV commentator who was bemoaning the lack of a more even contest. Then in the second half the ball falls perfectly for Peter Lorimer just outside the Bayern penalty area. Lorimer times his volley superbly, and it flies into the net, beating Sepp Maier all ends up. Then confusion as the goal seems to be given, until Beckenbauer urgently directs the ref to speak to his linesman. More confusion, then the goal is disallowed. Bayern score twice against a demoralised Leeds near the end, and the European Cup is snatched from the hands of Revie’s old guard; the triumph that was to crown their careers torn away in the most dubious of circumstances.

No. 1: Leeds United 0, AC Milan 1 – ECWC Final, Salonika, Greece 16 May 1973 (Ref: Christos Michas)

This is the Grand-daddy of bent matches, a game almost universally acknowledged to have been as straight as a corkscrew, allegations of bribery, the referee banned by UEFA afterwards – and still the 1973 Trophy is written into the extensive honours list of AC Milan. Justice, as they say, is a gag. Peter Lorimer on the match: “It was wholly, indisputably and wretchedly bent…” Johnny Giles was out with an injured hamstring, but he’d been working for the media and had heard that the ref was “in Milan’s pocket”. His gloomy view before the game was that it was one Leeds United wouldn’t be allowed to win. Three minutes gone, and Milan are awarded a free-kick, a decision that could charitably be described as dodgy. A weak shot takes a cruel deflection on its way into the Leeds net, and it’s 1-0 early on. From then onwards, it was a story of United pressure thwarted by thuggish challenges from the Milanese, decision after decision going against the increasingly frustrated and demoralised Leeds team, two, possibly three good penalty shouts waved away by Michas, and inevitably the game finished with Milan leading by that early goal, collecting the trophy to hoots of anger and derision from the outraged Greek crowd who cheered the defeated Leeds side as they limped round on a lap of honour “after this most dishonourable of matches.”

There has been a petition to UEFA with a view to overturning the result in this wretched blot on the history of the game, awarding the trophy and medals retrospectively to Leeds. UEFA did nothing. I’ve opened another petition – since the original effort in 2009, Christos Michas has died. It seemed appropriate to try to revive the matter. That petition can be supported here.

Leeds have frequently been the victims of poor decisions and examples of prejudice against them over the years. They are still, to the best of my knowledge, the only team to concede a goal to the background of the referee punching the air in celebration – supposedly of a good advantage decision, but really? Would it happen if the victims had been Man U?

These are the 5 most blatant examples I could find of occasions when Leeds have suffered at the hands of officialdom, referees in particular. I’m sure there are many less famous instances, and I’d be interested to hear the recollections of others. It’s a well-known saying in the game that bad decisions, like bad luck, tend to even out over time so that all teams are more or less equal in the long run. I think any Leeds fan would have a wry grin at that one.