Tag Archives: Elland Road

Fan Successfully Trolls Media With Fake Leeds Striker Injury Claim – by Rob Atkinson

Social media meltdown predictably ensued after a picture did the rounds showing Leeds United’s top scorer Kemar Roofe wearing a brace on his left leg. Various gullible news sources picked up on the story, speculating that Roofe could be out for the season, despite the fact that neither the club nor the more reliable journalists have made any comments or statements.

It does appear that the “injured Roofe” image may be an old one from his early season injury layoff – the rationale behind this, and the reason I feel I can confidently dismiss the “Kemar out for season” rumour is that another picture, see above, showing Roofe without the leg brace, and apparently dating from yesterday, would seem to confirm that all is well. The picture appeared on Roofe’s Instagram account yesterday so, unless Kemar has had a spectacularly disappointing 24 hours, we can happily ignore what is probably a piece of mischief by some bored kid.

So, hopefully, all is well – and the only downside is that various ill-informed and over-eager “news sources” have ended up with egg on their faces.

Which is actually quite funny…

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Trauma and Relief as Kalvin Phillips Makes a Late Point for Leeds at Middlesbrough – by Rob Atkinson

Kalvin celebrating a late point-saver for Leeds at Middlesbrough

After Aston Villa’s late comeback against Sheffield United, Leeds United knew that a point at Middlesbrough would see them return, if only temporarily, to the Championship summit. And so it turned out, although the draw was only achieved at the last gasp of a lengthy stoppage period, which resulted from a traumatic scare over the health of teenage United star winger Jack Clarke.

Leeds had travelled north to Teesside bolstered by the fact that local rivals Sheffield United had failed to capitalise on their 3-0 lead at Villa Park and remained two points back in third place. With long term injury absentee Patrick Bamford starting his first league game for Leeds, and with the dependable Kalvin Phillips back in his defensive midfield role, Leeds were perhaps better equipped to meet the stern challenge of promotion rivals, as compared to their previous match at home to Norwich. They started brightly enough against a Middlesbrough side humbled at League Two Newport County in midweek. But the home side had the incentive of recovering from that humiliating Cup exit and, as the first half wore on, they began to trouble the Leeds defence.

Reaching the interval with the match goalless, Leeds must have been looking forward to taking greater control later on, with Pablo Hernandez replacing Jack Clarke in an effort to pierce the Boro defence. But only two minutes into the second half, Pablo was guilty of a bit of ball watching as Boro broke down the left wing, to put a dangerous ball across the edge of the Leeds box, where Lewis Wing found a smart finish to put the home side 1-0 up.

The remainder of the match was a troubled mixture of worry and frustration for Leeds, with young Jack Clarke taken ill on the Leeds bench and needing lengthy treatment with play held up. Clarke, 18, received first class treatment at the ground and was then taken to hospital for tests, with players on both sides clearly shaken that such a young player showed such alarming symptoms.

As play resumed, Boro did indeed tire after their exertions on a heavy pitch at Newport, and Leeds duly exerted some sort of control over proceedings. All of a sudden, the odds seemed much more in favour of United salvaging at least a point, or maybe even a crucial comeback victory. But the breaks still weren’t coming up front for all their attacking play, with some good chances created and missed, notably for Bamford and Kemar Roofe. Eventually, though, the pressure told and Boro were denied at the last gasp when Leeds United scored from a left wing corner. The ball found Liam Cooper, who headed powerfully goalwards where Phillips connected with the ball to dispatch the equaliser past Boro keeper Darren Randolph. The point-saving goal had come in the last of twelve added minutes, much to the joy and relief of the travelling United support who duly raised the roof of the Riverside Stadium.

A draw was probably a fair result, as each side had dominated half the game, though both would regret some missed opportunities to add to the scoring. All was well that ended well, with young Clarke evidently feeling better by the end of the day. And there was a classy touch from Boro manager Tony Pulis, who deflected questions about the lengthy stoppage time by saying  “The more important thing is making sure the boy, fingers crossed, hopefully the boy’s okay and he recovers because he’s a very, very talented young player. All our thoughts from Middlesbrough Football Club actually go to the lad Clarke.”

Leeds Suffering From Terrible Penalty Calls, Even When They’re Not Involved – by Rob Atkinson

A brief and testy update tonight, having sat through West Brom against Nottingham Forest, where the result to suit our particular requirements as Leeds United fans would have been a Forest victory.

It looked as though that was how it was going, too – and then referee Lee Mason took control, with two late and palpably awful penalty decisions, both going against Forest and, by extension, Leeds.

With the West Brom trailing 2-1, exactly as per our ideal scenario, the Baggies’ Dwight Gayle found a Forest limb to dive over just inside the area, and Mason obliged with the whistle for a spot kick. It was a blatant dive, and if there’s any justice (which we know there isn’t) – Gayle will get a retrospective ban IF the Football League ever emerge from their Spygate enclave and examine the incident.

So, it’s 2-2, which isn’t that bad. But Forest should still have won, when their attacker Lolley had his shirt almost pulled off as he made his way into the Albion penalty area. Lee Mason, though, failed to see the blindingly obvious, and Leeds missed out on the ideal result of a West Brom defeat.

Call me paranoid – of course I am, I’ve been a Leeds fan for 44 years – but it does seem to me that these incidents, even in games between third parties, hardly ever favour Leeds. And really, we could do with the odd penalty decision in other games going our way – because it’s now one penalty awarded to Leeds in around 70 games, which is pretty meagre fare.

Ho hum. Onwards and hopefully upwards. And at least the Pride of Devon lost, which is always, always nice.

Daniel James a Certain Scorer in Leeds v Swansea. But for Which Team? – by Rob Atkinson

A happy Daniel James when he thought he was signing for Leeds

Some things in life are just so predictable that it’s honestly rude not to have a bet on them. Things like the Pride of Devon rediscovering their annoying luck with the appointment of Ole Gunnar “Demon Pixie” Solskjaer. Or an England batting collapse in the West Indies. And, after the farcical conclusion of Daniel James‘ protracted Swansea City to Leeds United transfer saga, there’s probably another sure fire certainty coming up when the two clubs meet at Elland Road on Wednesday evening. Let’s face it, if the lad plays, he’s going to get a goal. But – for which club?

In the immediate aftermath of the collapse of James’ move to Elland Road, various social media wags lost no time in giving the frustrated lad some well-meaning advice on exactly what to do if chosen to play for Swansea on Wednesday. The gist of it was that Daniel should momentarily forget the shirt he’s wearing and give his all instead for the shirt he wishes he could be pulling on, to make the boldest possible statement of annoyance at the cavalier manner of his treatment by Swansea on the fateful transfer deadline evening. “Wait until the last minute, Dan – then hammer one into the Swansea net, leap into the middle of the Leeds fans to celebrate, while taking off that Swansea shirt to reveal a Leeds one underneath.” That sounds like excellent advice to me, and I’m sure deep down that it’s something the thwarted and disappointed James would wish to do – it’d be impossible to blame him – but, sadly, professional standards make such a gesture rather unlikely.

So, it would appear that – if the boy is to notch on the night – it’ll count against Leeds and not for them. That is, of course, if James plays at all. With the amount of attention that would be on him, from both sides’ supporters, and with the additional pressure that would heap upon his young shoulders, perhaps a diplomatic groin strain or tight hamstring would be in order. We’ll have to see what happens on Wednesday night when, hopefully, Leeds will be fired up to deal with the Swans – with or without Daniel James.

Major Boost for Leeds as Villa Blunt Sheffield United Victory Bid – by Rob Atkinson

Sharp

The most gutted “hat trick hero” you could ever wish to see

Sometimes, you feel that things just aren’t going your way, and that you’d be better off curtailing the evening’s TV sport and slinking off upstairs with a good book. That was pretty much my frame of mind as I alternated between Sky Sports channels to see Leeds Rhinos getting turned over at Wigan on the one hand, and Sheffield United building a three goal lead at Aston Villa on the other, seemingly to turf Leeds United out of the automatic Championship promotion places.

Still, while there’s life there’s hope, and now I’m really glad that, having given up on the Rhinos (that ended up 34-16 to the Pies), I instead concentrated on the slim chance of a Villa comeback to frustrate the Blunts, whose fans were crowing about being top of the league as that three goal chasm opened up.

It was annoying, really, as Sheff Utd seemed to be getting all the rub of the green there was going. Billy Sharp, a striker who Leeds fans will remember as being unable to hack it at a big club, had put the Blunts a goal up at half time. In the second half, things took a turn for the worse with a ridiculously invalid second Blunts goal (offside, then Sharp kicking the ball out of the Villa keeper’s hands) unaccountably being allowed. Shortly after, it was 3-0 and, you’d have thought, the end of the matter after just 62 minutes.

But then, football reminded us all that it really is never over until that fat lady has sung her last, expiring note. After 82 minutes, Tyrone Mings soared to head home a corner. A still confident Sheffield United management then subbed “hat trick hero” Billy Sharp on 86 minutes, only to find their lead cut to one goal within seconds when Tammy Abrahams slammed home a rebound from nervous Blunts keeper Dean Henderson.

Then, for those of us keen not to see Sheffield United at the top of the League, there was the frustration of Villa being denied at least one clear penalty as the clock ticked down to five minutes stoppage time. Thankfully though, all was not lost. In the last minute of the extra five, Andre Green popped up at the far post to head home John McGinn‘s cross to secure Villa an unlikely draw, much to the joy of not only their own fans, but also those of Norwich and Leeds United.

As an epic game ended, the Blunts has to settle for a draw wrestled from the jaws of victory, with some Sheffield defenders indulging in some accusatory finger-pointing at their butterfingers keeper Henderson. That had some satisfying comedy value, as did the outburst of grief and rage on the sufc Twitter hashtag, where not long before had been gloating and smugness agogo. Deeply enjoyable, that.

For Leeds, this was a major boost. Whatever happens now this weekend, they will remain a minimum 2 points clear of third place, and in a much better situation than had seemed likely after 62 minutes at Villa Park. For once, I’ll say thanks to Villa, who had looked hopeless for much of the game, but who showed character to come back.

And, for the time being at least, we can all enjoy a good laugh at the expense of the Blunts.

‘Justice Delayed is Justice Denied’ But Football League Keep Leeds on the Rack – by Rob Atkinson

The Football League’s Spygate deliberations continue

The Football League’s nonsensical approach to the administration of the game of football below Premier League level is making a laughing stock of them – but they don’t appear to care a bit. And so Leeds United go into yet another vitally important Championship match, at promotion rivals Middlesbrough, with the Sword of Damocles dangling precariously over their heads. And all because a bunch of buffoons see fit to make an Everest style mountain out of the most innocuous of molehills.

The fact is that it’s long been acknowledged no rules have been broken by any employee or representative of Leeds United. The police were singularly unimpressed and unbothered by the incident and, after the briefest of considerations, sent our man on his way. Which is hardly surprising, as standing on a public highway and looking through a transparent wire fence is not exactly the crime of the century.

And yet the League stumble doggedly onwards, needing more and more time to try to find an offence where there is none. Even their desperate references to “acting in good faith” have been trumped by subsequent events, notably Swansea City’s abandonment of any professional standards during transfer deadline eve, depriving their player Daniel James of his desired (and agreed) move to, yes you’ve guessed it, Leeds United.

The Football League must surely be aware of the old legal maxim “Justice delayed is Justice denied”. It cautions against over-lengthy proceedings which fail to produce timely verdicts, to the disadvantage of all concerned. In a case where the complaint clearly has no legal base to it, relying instead on some undefined principle of broad ethics, the fact that this is still dragging on exposes those who are doing the dragging as incompetent fools. It’s remarkable, too, that we would seem to be waiting for some sanctimonious sermon on good faith, when we had the spectacle of Liverpool clearing one penalty area of snow during a League game, while leaving the other as a snowscape, in an effort to secure a marginal advantage. Is that acting in good faith? But little or nothing has been said – because, of course, it’s not Leeds.

Who knows what the League’s over-lengthy deliberations will ultimately produce by way of a verdict, or what punishment they will see fit to impose. But they appear to have painted themselves into a corner, with the pressure on them to placate those hardly disinterested parties who wish to see Leeds United’s promotion bid disrupted.

It’s a most unedifying tale, and it’s far too late to caution the League against making plonkers of themselves; that has already happened, with the continuing delay merely emphasising their status as being guilty of Rodney-esque plonkerism of the first magnitude. Whether that proceeds into culpable incompetence, with the infliction of some ridiculous punishment for breaking no rules, remains to be seen.

It’s to be hoped that this silly story does not descend into gutter farce. And Leeds United themselves will be hoping that they can yet escape the clutches of this ridiculous organisation, with the expectation that the Premier League would not be quite so laughably, pitifully pathetic.

Frustration Through the Window and On the Pitch for Leeds, Who Must Improve at Middlesbrough – by Rob Atkinson

What should have been – poor Daniel James robbed of his dream move to Leeds United

Last weekend, together with the finale of the January transfer window preceding it, was a period which hardly qualifies as a highlight of Leeds United’s season so far. Taking transfer deadline day first, we had the protracted Dan James transfer saga finally coming to a conclusion, but not in a good way.

All seemed agreed; Dan had travelled up to his native Yorkshire to conclude what was, evidently, a move he was very keen to make from Swansea City to Leeds. The lad duly passed his medical, and went from Thorp Arch to Elland Road for his unveiling as a Leeds United player. He’d got the Leeds kit on, and was being filmed for a video announcement – and then, from early evening until the 11 pm deadline itself, Swansea City simply “went quiet”, refusing to answer increasingly urgent calls from Leeds. Even the player himself tried to call his reticent employers, but to no avail. So, the deadline passed, and the deal fell through.

There were no winners here, despite some defiant glee from the Swansea fans, many of whom had been saying good riddance when they thought the deal was being done. Leeds United lost out on a valuable squad addition, the player lost out on a move he really wanted – and Swansea could well have lost most of all, as they now have a very disappointed footballer on their hands, one they had seen fit to leave cooling his heels for hours at Elland Road, in the dark as to exactly what was going on. As deals go, it was a bad deal all round. It would be very interesting to know what the Football League, taking their own sweet time to pronounce on whether Spygate amounts to a failure of good faith by Leeds, make of Swansea City’s idiosyncratic approach to transfer dealings. Quite possibly, we shall be denied this knowledge.

And then it was Saturday, and the much-hyped meeting of the Championships top two at Elland Road, with Norwich City intown. Sadly, just as the transfer window had ended disappointingly for Leeds, so this match turned out to be a veritable damp squib for the home side. Norwich City showed up in a determined frame of mind, ran hard, fought hard, took their chances, rode their luck in the first half especially, and ultimately emerged as fairly comfortable winners. They had exacted revenge, in all but perfection, for United’s 3-0 success at Carrow Road back in August, only Patrick Bamford’s late consolation goal preventing an exact reversal of that scoreline. And there might we, just possibly, identify a crumb of comfort.

The Norwich game had been frustrating from the very start, with Leeds battering away up to the interval and getting absolutely nowhere, while the Canaries annoyingly profited from two defensive indiscretions and, aided by two deflections, scored twice. After half time, United played as though they’d forgotten what football was all about, Norwich added a third through yet another deflection, and that was pretty much it. Bamford’s late header from a corner hardly eased the gloom, but it did give some cause for optimism about the rest of the season. Because Bamford, if only he can stay fit, is probably the most natural finisher on United’s books – and that cutting edge, for all of Kemar Roofe’s industry and endeavour, is what has been lacking to top off all the attacking verve Leeds have shown throughout this campaign.

It may well be that the Norwich game, as well as highlighting United’s deficiencies, might have shown the way forward. If, that is, Bamford can finally be accommodated within the philosophy of Bielsaball. And, with a lunchtime Saturday trip to Middlesbrough in the offing after the last week or so Leeds United have had, we can only hope and believe that this will be how it turns out.

Football League Too Busy Investigating Leeds to Look Into Millwall Knife Crime – by Rob Atkinson

A number of incidents thrown up by yesterday’s Millwall v Everton FA Cup tie would seem worthy of investigation by the relevant football authorities, but it would seem likely that the Football League are preoccupied with other matters. Notable among these is the question of whether a man in a tracksuit on public land failing to avert his eyes from the sight of footballers training in plain view should constitute an offence worthy of a points deduction for their biggest member club.

Media Moving on from Spygate for Concerted Effort to Sell Leeds Star Jack Clarke – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United’s Jack Clarke – the poise of the matador

The UK sports media don’t like Leeds United to have nice things. The recent embarrassing emphasis on so-called “Spygate” – the sensational exposé of a man in a tracksuit on a public highway by a wire fence, failing to avert his eyes from the spectacle of some footballers training in plain sight – was of course intended to derail the United promotion bandwagon, but Leeds have still won eight of the last eleven and are clear at the the top. All the hacks have accomplished really is to emphasise their own essential silliness. So – what to do?

Well, it’s transfer window time and, for your average grubby hack with a Leeds-hating readership to satisfy, what better opportunity for the talking up of the latest United wonderkid in the hope of provoking an auction? Such seems to be the mindset of the gutter end of the media right now, not excluding our good friends at Sky, who are positively schizo over Leeds United, simultaneously hating and capitalising on Yorkshire’s number one football club. The current focus is on United’s Jack Clarke, a young wing wizard with that touch of genius about him. The hacks have seen this divine spark, have noted it well – and are determined to bring about his departure from Elland Road at the earliest opportunity.

The stories have cropped up thick and fast – mostly the former, it has to be said – over the past few days. One mischievous rag, conscious of Leeds fans’ lack of regard for Devon’s Finest, have even linked him with Manchester’s second biggest club. Perhaps they feel young Jack would prosper under what they’re selling as the Norwegian reincarnation of Matt Busby, clearly a better mentor than some Argie who sits on a bucket.

Sky were in on the act today as well, playing tempting clips of young Clarke bamboozling full-backs and sticking the ball in the net. It’s all designed to whip up interest from one or other of their favoured clubs because, alas, so far the only enquiries seem to have been  joke ones, from the likes of Crystal Palace and Southampton – hardly the stuff of a young winger’s dreams. Meanwhile, Jack is thriving at Leeds, in and around the first team, contributing solidly to the promotion push, and with the alluring prospect of a fat new contract and maybe a Championship winner’s medal in the offing. For those who wish Leeds ill, namely just about everyone who doesn’t bleed yellow blue and white, these are not good feelings.

Let’s be honest, Jack Clarke at 18 looks to be the real deal. He has that matador’s poise, the ability to play a bewildered defender into hopeless confusion and ultimate defeat. Only the other day, he destroyed the opposing Derby County full-back, who was promptly dispatched to Aberdeen with twisted blood, there to reflect and convalesce, having been replaced at Derby by a pensioner. Clarke has the nascent promise of a youthful Stan Matthews – there’s no deep, dark secret as to how he beats his man. He dances for a moment, in possession of the ball – will the defender sell himself, or just back off, quivering? Then – a drop of the shoulder, a change of pace, and Jack is gone, leaving his man in a crumpled heap, arrowing a deadly ball into the box, and Roofe is there to snap up the chance. Or maybe Clarke swerves back on his path into the box, and curls the ball inside the far post. You just don’t know, although that initial beating of the full back, that’s an open secret. You know how he’ll do that. But, as with Stan Matthews, stopping it is another matter entirely. The media knows all this, and they’re agreed: Clarke must go from Leeds.

But anyone who knows the game will know that Jack Clarke is in the best place he could be, especially at this time of his fledgling career. Quite apart from the material and competitive career rewards dangling in front of him, he’s working with the best coach in Marcelo Bielsa that he could possibly wish for, and in a team that might have been set up specifically to showcase his devastating talent. At eighteen, Clarke needs to be protected from the predatory and kept close to the nurturing influence from which he’s currently benefiting. Jack has the role models right now, in the coaching set up and alongside him in the team, that will give his genius the best chance of emerging in full bloom. To dump him into a so-called “elite” development squad would be to risk seeing that potential stifled, instead of being honed, as it is now, under Bielsa and alongside the likes of Pablo Hernandez.

Leeds United themselves, thankfully, seem to have become a lot more selective in terms of both squad augmentation and pruning. The development squad is being enhanced with a succession of quality additions, and the progression from there to first team level is a clear path. United also recognise and reward the diamonds yielded by this rich seam, polishing some for display on a grand stage, profiting from others judiciously, with the dividend being ploughed back. It’s a policy designed to reap ever richer harvests in the near future – showing that this is a club at long last on the right track. We can safely assume that United will no longer accept derisory offers from smaller clubs for a short term profit that denies them progress and a longer term bounty.

If I’m correct about all that, then – all media hue, cry and desperation notwithstanding – young Jack Clarke will remain exactly he is, shining and dazzling on either wing, tormenting opposing defences with his prodigious, precocious talent, in the colours of Leeds United, settled and happy on the brink of a sensational career. Which is exactly what we would all of us wish and hope for.

Sky Sports et al not included.

The Football League Should be Apologising to Leeds Utd, Not Investigating Them – by Rob Atkinson

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Football League board – time to say “sorry” to Leeds United

Any balanced view of this season’s Championship competition will naturally focus on its most prominent, most talked about, most successful and most controversial club and coach – namely Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa. And that view, if it really is sufficiently balanced, will be that both club and coach are by far more sinned against than sinning. The Football League, instead of announcing yet another investigation into their biggest attraction, following the latest ridiculously overhyped storm in a teacup, should instead be issuing a grovelling apology to the players, staff and fans of Leeds United – because the Whites have ascended to and maintained their position at the top of the table with what is effectively a millstone around their collective neck.

Consider the evidence. Against a background of a disastrous injury list which has blighted most of the season so far, the League has consistently acted, via their supposedly neutral on-field arbiters, to make life far more difficult than that heavy casualty count alone would have achieved. As if it’s not enough for United to be labouring under the burden of the loss of so many key players, they have also been denied stonewall penalty after stonewall penalty, on an almost game-by-game basis, while some of the softest awards you can imaging have been given at the other end. The Leeds penalty award count now stands at one in around seventy league matches, a quite ridiculous proportion for a team that regularly has a high number of touches in the opposition area.

And it’s not just penalties. Pontus Jansson, victim of a stupidly soft second yellow card at the weekend, has already served a ban this season for comments about the match referee, made in the immediate aftermath of a hotly contested game. Identical incidents elsewhere resulted in no charge and no further action, but Pontus was banned – seemingly for the offence of committing his indiscretion while wearing a Leeds United shirt. Now Jansson will be banned again for the away game at Rotherham, having been sent off ultimately at Stoke for falling over in pursuit of a Stoke attacker whose progress was not impeded in any way.

And of course, there’s Spygate – something the League clearly sees as a golden chance to throw a spanner in the works of what is, so far, a remarkably successful season for a squad which is basically last season’s also-rans plus a scattering of talented kids. From the outside looking in, the mountain of a formal investigation being made out of the molehill of a bloke on a public highway looking through a wire fence at Derby players training in plain sight is truly laughable. The League do not seem to shy away from the prospect of making the,selves look very silly over this, prompted by a select group of rival Championship clubs who clearly see no alternative way of pegging Leeds back. It’s almost as if the League don’t want to see Leeds United leaving their jurisdiction, for some (possibly financial) reason – but surely, that can’t be the case. Can it?

If Leeds United succeeds in attaining promotion this season, as they still appear on course to do, it will be little short of a miracle. With few high profile additions, and those with serious injury problems, the team performance has been transformed out of all recognition as compared to last season. That is the genius of Marcelo Bielsa, and credit to the squad for buying into his methods and philosophy. But that this group of players, supplemented where necessary by callow youth, should be dominating each game and the whole campaign with such obstacles laid so regularly in their way, is truly remarkable. Leeds and Bielsa deserve a vast amount of credit for their revolutionary approach to bring about such radical improvement, and surely all true Leeds fans will happily pay tribute to exactly that.

But Leeds and Bielsa also deserve perhaps even greater credit for rising above the needless and frivolous forces working against them, whether those forces may be incompetent refereeing as is demonstrably the case in so many fixtures, or indeed the pettifogging attitude of the ruling body, so ready to pounce on a virtual non-issue and magnify it into something that has the anti-Leeds media frothing over with malicious excitement.

This daft investigation should be concluded speedily, with any necessary clarification of rules, or any new rules, made clear forthwith. Leeds must be acknowledged as having broken no existing rules; instead they have merely acted, through the experience and long-standing methodology of Bielsa, as many have acted in the past, including such a luminary as Jose Mourinho (by his own admission and despite limp denials from Frank Lampard). That should all happen at the earliest possible juncture.

And then the League, in recognition of the myriad ways they have failed their biggest club this season, should hold up their hands, eat a large slice of humble pie – and say “sorry” to Leeds United.