Tag Archives: Elland Road

New Left Winger Option Could Bring Best Out of Leeds United’s Gjanni Alioski – by Rob Atkinson

Pawel

Pawel Cibicki – new option up front?

At the moment, and despite the unstinting public support he receives from the Elland Road coaching staff, it’s fair to say that Leeds United’s Gjanni Alioski is clinging onto his first team starting spot by the very tips of his fingers. He’s having the sort of season that might normally be expected to make him cast fearful glances at the January transfer window, wondering whether the club might make an astute purchase to give them options in his left-wing berth.

But the fact is that Alioski might well face a more immediate challenge from a player returning to his parent club from a loan spell abroad, in the shape of Pawel Cibicki. The 24 year old Swede has just finished a stint at Norwegian club Molde, making 13 appearances which have yielded 3 goals, a number of assists and a probable increase in confidence for a player whose ability is unquestionable. There are some who feel, or hope that, like Mateusz Klich before him, Cibicki can return to Leeds and thrive under Bielsa where he failed to hack it under previous management. Alioski is coming increasingly under the critical scrutiny of unimpressed fans, though he continues to be an automatic selection, for the moment anyway. But might this just be for the lack, so far, of any realistic competition?

The development squad at Leeds United has come through this season when the first team has looked a bit threadbare in various positions. But wide up front on the left has remained Alioski’s province, apart from the rare occasions when he’s been required to cover (and has possibly looked more effective) at left back.

Cibicki’s return though, unless the club plans to farm him out again, at least provides another option in Alioski’s first team role. It may take a while for the Swedish U-21 international – who has a vocal advocate for his value and ability in compatriot Pontus Jansson – to get up to speed in terms of fitness and the ability to fit into the Marcelo Bielsa pattern. But if he can be seen to be knocking on the door of the first team at Alioski’s expense, that must surely be good for the club. Cibicki could be a handy option off the bench, particularly as he can play as a striker or a winger, while persuading Alioski that it’s now time to buck his ideas up and produce what we all know he’s capable of.

It’s all about options, strength in depth and permutations – but, surely, a player of such undoubted ability suddenly becoming available, and doubtless with a point or two to prove, must be good news for everyone. Except, just possibly, Gjanni Alioski.

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Sky To Make All Leeds Games Start After 9pm Due to Pre-Watershed Sweariness? – by Rob Atkinson

Sky needs Leeds, but not the naughty language

Regular viewers of the various Sky Sports channels may have noticed a certain primness creeping into the satellite broadcaster’s football coverage of late. They’re coming across a bit like a stern Victorian maiden aunt, the type who, on hearing any form of profanity, will purse her lips and call upon high heaven to hurl a lightning bolt or two at the profaner.

Time was when sound effects microphones would pick up all sorts of four-letter naughtiness, and hardly even twitch by way of reaction. Not an eyelid would be batted in the commentary box, there would be no blushes mantling the cheeks of the presenters, no placatory words of apology for a TV audience possibly rendered rigid with shock at such audibly blue language.

Truth be told, those viewers at home didn’t give a toss anyway. They would sit there unbothered by any amount of effing and jeffing from the terraces, intent on watching the game and enjoying the atmosphere that was, let’s face it, generated in no small measure by the ripe and ribald chanting of the deeply partisan sets of opposing supporters. It’s how football is meant to be, and this nanny-like tendency to worry out loud that viewers may be offended is as annoying as it is deeply unnecessary.

But, it does seem to be the way that Sky’s football coverage is going. Time without number, just lately, I’ve heard the commentator intoning “We apologise if you were offended by any bad language you may have heard”, and I for one find it embarrassingly paternalistic and patronising.

As for their approach to Leeds United games, regular readers may well have guessed, correctly, that the headline to this piece is tongue-in-cheek. But any satire has its roots in things that could conceivably happen without any great tide of shock or surprise ensuing and, already, Sky’s attitude towards the vocal contributions of the massed Leeds support has been one of summary censorship, as we witnessed after a mere 10 seconds of United’s last TV fixture at Wigan last weekend.

At the first hint of “language likely to offend” – and particularly because it was, from Sky’s point of view, damagingly anti-corporate in its intent, the sound engineers pounced, the audio dampers were applied, and the United chants were largely muffled. With them went most of the atmosphere, but that’s seemingly a trade Sky are willing to make, rather than allowing any neat and raucous summary of their coverage and underlying philosophy to be heard by thousands of customers.

At the moment, and for as long as Sky’s suppression of audible protest continues, this is an upsettingly lop-sided commercial relationship. Sky’s Championship coverage needs Leeds United far more than United needs Sky, with the viewing figures for Whites games far outstripping the rest of the field. And yet the most televised club in this league receives a sum which is but a fraction of what the bottom-placed Premier League club trousers – now, that’s not a good deal, that’s blatant exploitation. Add to that the continuing smattering of snide remarks and unflattering reportage, and you wonder why we bother – except that, for many fans, live TV is their best and only chance of seeing their chosen team in action.

So, don’t expect to see Leeds United games kicking off exclusively at post-watershed times of the day – not just yet, anyway. But there are rumblings of discontent about Sky’s attitude in several aspects of their coverage, both from within the club and without, among the massive broader support at home and overseas.

Let’s not forget that United owner Andrea Radrizzani is a TV mogul in his own right, and has publicly expressed strong views not wholly supportive of the status quo. It may well be – fingers crossed – that Leeds will ascend to the top flight sooner rather than later, and feast on the financial bounty now denied them. But that doesn’t make the existing situation fair or right, especially for the clubs left outside in the cold, noses pressed to the window, drooling at the banquet within. That kind of inequality sows the seeds of revolution, which is something the fat cats in the Sky boardrooms would do well to reflect upon.

Notts Forest Fans Rail at Leeds ‘Cheats’, But Strangely Quiet on Their Own ‘Evil Genius’ – by Rob Atkinson

The City Ground Nottingham – home of hypocrites

Football, as befits this country’s national sport, used to have standards. Now, it seems, the Beautiful Game is more about double standards. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the city of Nottingham, where hypocrisy and sanctimony walk hand in hand wherever Notts Forest fans gather, with an overarching sense of holier-than-thou in every nook and cranny.

This past week, Notts Forest fans have been throwing their hands up in disgusted horror and emitting shrill squeaks of protest at the nature of Leeds striker Kemar Roofe‘s late equaliser against them at Elland Road last Saturday. Roofe seemed to hold his hand up and admit the goal may not have been strictly legit, but that has failed to pacify the outraged “Tricky Trees”, who had plainly never before witnessed such infamy and unfair play.

Or so you’d have thought, given the depth of their apparent disgust. A few of the City Ground bright boys even logged into a live stream of a Leeds United U-23s game from Thorp Arch earlier this week, simply so that they could be seen in the live comments, in full-on j’accuse mode, howling “cheats!” at bemused United fans watching the game online. That’s going out of your way to make a point, actually logging in to a second string game. It borders on obsession. Surely, they must feel they have a solid grievance and a steep elevation of moral high ground.

And yet… and yet… check out this YouTube clip of Darius Henderson‘s late equaliser against Middlesbrough a few years back. Surely that can’t be handball? It really can’t be – because, if it were, those highly self-righteous Notts Forest fans would remember it, and then possibly forbear from casting “cheat” aspersions on others, lest they might appear to be hypocritical humbugs

Certainly though, the Darius Henderson equaliser does appear to be a far better example of a blatant handball than Roofe’s, which was more of a clumsy lopsided tumble compared to Henderson’s classical punch. And some Forest fans certainly do seem aware of this less than glorious episode in their history – indeed, Henderson is referred to tongue-in-cheek as an “evil genius” in some quarters of the “Tricky Trees” online world. Why then be so up in arms about Roofe’s more innocuous effort – unless you are indeed the most blinkered variety of hypocrite? It’s a puzzler, right enough.

Incidentally, talking of punches, try Googling “Dawson on Jansson” – for a damning tweet which may show another incident in the Leeds v Notts Forest game where the away side appears less than wholly innocent. This little cameo should be considered alongside any claims that Pontus Jansson actually raised his hands to Michael Dawson (who, let’s face it, deserves punching as often as possible).

Going back to that Henderson handball goal against Boro, though, certainly the opposition manager on that occasion was in no doubt that his team had been cheated out of victory. “I didn’t need to see the replay, for me it was enough to see the reaction of my players,” he said. “I’m sure it was handball because my players told me it was through their reaction on the pitch.“ The Middlesbrough manager that day, so incensed at Notts Forest’s dishonesty and cheating, was one Aitor Karanka. I wonder – whatever became of him?

Perhaps the Notts Forest fans bleating online, as well as former Leeds and Forest skipper Kenny Burns, of whom I wrote yesterday, should take some time to reflect on both of the incidents highlighted here, and possibly agree that only he who is without sin should cast the first stone. Or, to be less piously biblical about it: stop lobbing stones when you’re living in a bloody great greenhouse, you utter hypocrites.

I’m sorry to speak intemperately. But it’s as clear as clear can be that Notts Forest fans are bang to rights here for cant, humbug and hypocrisy – and there’s good reason to suppose that even their manager, when he thinks back to being cheated by Forest in his Boro days, might just agree with me there.

Former Whites Skipper In Blistering Attack on Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Kenny Burns praying for justice for Notts Forest

Former Leeds United captain Kenny Burns has added his voice to the chorus of disapproval over Kemar Roofe‘s late equaliser against Notts Forest at the weekend. Leeds had been trailing for most of the game, despite dominating play, when Roofe struck with time running out to secure United the point which was the least they had deserved. But Burns was unhappy, and has been quoted as saying that Forest were “robbed”. I use the term “has been” advisedly.

Burns, of course, served Forest with some distinction in the late seventies, before sealing a move to Elland Road in a £400,000 deal in 1981. His main claim to fame in the white shirt is helping get Leeds relegated in 1982, and it would seem that he’d rather forget his time at United, preferring to adopt the “whinging ex-pro” role for the Nottingham local rag. In this capacity, he has apparently set himself up as judge and jury with a Notts Forest bias, bleating at length about what he clearly sees as cheating.

The man at the centre of the row, Roofe himself, remains unrepentant, pointing out that it’s the referee’s job to spot any infringements and rule accordingly. It does seem rather ironic that those of a “Tricky Trees” persuasion, including it would appear Sky TV, should be squealing about robbery, when their team almost blagged three points from a game in which they’d been totally outplayed.

But there you go. As anyone would confirm who saw Burns play, he may not be the best judge of fairness on a football pitch. Chalk up another professional Leeds United hater who’s just had to suck it up since last Saturday. The very best of hard cheese, too.

This blog will be keeping a close eye on future words of wisdom from Kenny Burns – particularly in the wake of any situation where Notts Forest benefit from a debatable ref call, like this one, for instance. But – being all too familiar with the blinkered hypocrisy of the Burns type of pundit – we won’t be holding our breath…

Leeds are the Damned United, but Man U Takes Award for Sickest Fans – by Rob Atkinson

In the wake of the tragic helicopter crash at Leicester’s King Power Stadium last night, and with the sad likelihood that we shall shortly hear confirmation of lives lost, there has been much talk of the phenomenon of the “Football Family”, as fans of many clubs have rallied around to support Leicester City Football Club and its supporters at a very dark time.

All that is as it should be, and a respectful, reverent reaction has been almost universal. I say “almost”, because there are generally a few degraded exceptions, and those exceptions are almost always to be found among the usual suspects representing football’s least lovable “fans”. It will surprise few who are aware of their history that, on this occasion, it’s an identifiable group of Manchester United fans, the producers of a toilet roll of a fanzine known as Red Issue, who have plumbed the depths of poor taste as only they can.

This purulent rag has form going back years for the penning and publication of articles and “jokes” that take the breath away with their sheer, savage detestability. Emboldened by that curiously puzzling Manc sense of entitlement and by unjustified self-righteousness, they have disgraced themselves many a time, heaping shame and derision upon a club rarely short of that commodity. I well recall a photograph they published while Eric Cantona was at Leeds, of the Frenchman in the bath with his young daughter, accompanying the image with a caption designed to encourage their leering readers to conclude that Cantona was a paedophile. There was also a chant sung at Man U matches expressly accusing Arsène Wenger of the self same thing. In brief, these are awful, awful people with no redeeming qualities.

But they’ve outdone themselves this time, as can be seen from the disgusting tweets reproduced above, in the immediate aftermath of a football tragedy that has shocked the whole sporting world. It takes a person with his soul deeply rooted in the foulest slime at the bottom of the sewer to even think of such a thing, let alone share it with the world. But that’s Red Issue for you – the lowest of the low, even in the context of Man U fans.

But of course, it’s Leeds who are dubbed the Damned United, which is a sad indictment of people’s judgement for you. Luckily, although Leeds fans do not find halos sitting easily atop their heads, we’re in a different category entirely from the kind of filth they attract in Salford. Even Millwall fans have more to recommend them, having contributed generously to a fighting fund for young cancer sufferer Toby Nye. There is no such softer side to the arrogant, entitled and thoroughly disgusting fans of Manchester’s second club.

If I sound angry, it’s because I am. I’m sick of the media fawning that surrounds a club which embodies everything bad about the game. I’m sick of the way everyone panders to them because of their commercial clout, ignoring the many foul and detestable aspects of a club and set of supporters who feel they can do and say what they like. The media seeks to protect its own interests and preserve lucrative markets, which means they will always go easy on Man U.

As I write, they lead Everton courtesy of yet another blatantly unfair penalty award, reminding me that my own United have now gone 53 league games without even obvious penalties being given. That sums up the disparity of treatment, and maybe it’s an insight into why Man U fans such as the sickos behind Red Issue feel that they have the right to continue outraging any sense of decency.

This year, as every other year, Man U fans will collectively take out an onion to wallow in commercially advantageous grief over the Munich air crash sixty years ago. They will demand respect and empathy, despite the fact that – as you can see above – they have none for anybody else. But they think they’re a special case, and that they should be treated as such. Most of them will never have heard of AC Torino‘s even more tragic and devastating Superga crash, about which I’ve written before. Add “blinkered” to “disgusting”, then.

Man U fans feel that they are a breed apart. And they really are. Just not in the way they would like to think.

Roofe Caves In On Notts Forest as Leeds United Nick Handy Point – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds score – and even the Forest players celebrate…

Let me say first of all that Kemar Roofe‘s late equaliser for Leeds United against Notts Forest – apparently, if you call Notts Forest by the name Notts Forest, it upsets Notts Forest fans. Who knew? – was definitely handball. Quite blatant, probably deliberate, 100% handball. It should have been disallowed, and the officials have made a right rickett, bless ’em. Naughty Kemar, slapped wrist.

Let me say second of all that I couldn’t give a tuppenny toss about this awful injustice. In fact, I find it hilarious and deeply satisfying. If Notts Forest (there I go again) had received their just deserts, they’d have been waltzing merrily away from Elland Road with three points, like a proper happy little band of Tricky Trees. And that would have been technically quite fair – but in the real world of professional football, where unfair stuff happens all the time, and usually to Leeds – well, let’s just say that some sort of justice was served, for once. The boot’s been on the other foot often enough, and we’ve had to bite our collective lip and get on with it.

Forest fans, of course, will squeal long and piteously about being diddled out of two points, and the very best of hard cheese to them. It’s quite pleasant to witness their outrage and the way they’re over-analysing what was just a break that went against them. But they’re like that down there. They do like to pick away at a scab, even after they’ve been told not to picket.

The Notts Forest (somebody stop me!) game was one I was anticipating with some pessimism – and yet, as with most of our less impressive results, there were positives to take – dominance of possession, restricting the opposition, and so on. Marcelo Bielsa seemed quite content as well, so he must feel we’re still on the right track. Looking back, it would have felt as though fate had dealt us a scurvy trick, had we lost – so maybe we shouldn’t feel the least bit guilty about the manner in which a point was salvaged. I know I don’t.

All hail King Kemar then, who reacted honestly after the match and didn’t try to deny the undeniable. Strangely, Sky TV did not – to the best of my recollection – stick a microphone under the nose of any of the stressed and indignant Forest players immediately after the final whistle. I wonder why?

We take the point, and we move on, still ensconced in the automatic promotion places. Despite the fact that we didn’t win, and despite the related fact that, for the 53rd league game in a row, we didn’t get a penalty, although there was another decent shout for one – it wasn’t a bad old late afternoon spectacle at Elland Road. For once, we got the rub of the green. And didn’t it feel nice? That rare experience of a home draw tasting more like a win than a loss. Knowing our luck, though, we’d better not get too used to it – because, undoubtedly, normal service will soon be resumed.

…league games without a penalty kick for Leeds United. And counting.

Leeds United Have TWO Jacks… But Will They Both be Aces? – by Rob Atkinson

City loanee and New York alumnus Jack Harrison

Manchester City’s Jack Harrison came on loan to Leeds United in the summer transfer window, with the plaudits of various football legends still ringing in his ears after a previous stint at New York’s Manhattan FC. He was rated the second best player under 24 in the MLS and has earned recognition at U21 level with England. So here, it was fair to assume, was a real prospect.

And, to be fair, Jack has had his moments in a Leeds shirt this season, notably a fine late strike to earn a point away at Millwall. But, overall, it’s probably equally fair to say that the Stoke born wide attacker hasn’t quite – so far, anyway – lived up to that stellar hype. It’s a case of much being expected of the lad, and yet this nagging feeling that he could and should be doing better – given his club pedigree and undoubted ability.

But there’s another (and increasingly impressive) Jack on Leeds United’s books in the shape of young Jack Clarke, who has started to get first team minutes on the back of some imperious displays at development level. Indeed, at one point, someone suggested with apparent sincerity that it really isn’t fair to play young Clarke at U23 level, as he’s just downright too good. Whatever the case, Jack has made his mark, and he seems certain to get the chance of more time in a first team shirt as the season goes on.

Young Jack Clarke celebrates with goal scorer Pontus Jansson

Clarke’s brief but impressive cameo at Blackburn Rovers recently may well have given Harrison something to ponder. The on-loan Jack was back in the team on Wednesday against Ipswich, but it’s not that harsh to say he didn’t pull up too many trees. The home-grown Jack, meanwhile, was champing at the bit from the bench, and you get the feeling that he means to make the most of any opportunities that come his way – as they surely will.

Not so long back, Jack Harrison was asked where he saw himself in five years time and, instead of acknowledging his parent club Man City, he replied “Playing in the Premier League with Leeds”. That’s quite heartwarming, and very laudable – but the up-and-coming Jack Clarke will certainly have an opinion about it.

It may not come down to a simple binary choice anyway – given the versatility demanded of and provided by modern players. It could be that some future Leeds United team will include two Jacks, both of them aces. But, on what we’ve seen so far, it’d be a brave pundit who would bet against Clarke saving Leeds however many millions it would take to make Harrison’s move to Elland Road permanent.

And – who knows? – it may not be too long before that once familiar commentary line is heard again with some regularity at Leeds matches – you know the one…

Clarke – one nil!

FA Boy Band Compliance Unit to Charge Leeds Over Trolling Niall Horan – by Rob Atkinson

Horan: deeply hurt after “innocent remark”

In the latest twist to the ongoing dispute between renegade Championship club Leeds United and the football authorities, the FA are set to charge the Yorkshire giants over what is being seen as their online bullying of former One Direction member and current solo nonentity Niall Horan.

This latest spat started when Horan remarked on Twitter that “No one likes Leeds”. The United media team, in the name of fun lolz and bantz, responded with “No one likes your solo career” and the hashtag #BringBack1D – upon which the 25 year old Irish millionaire broke down crying and contacted the FA.

An examination of this issue could persuade Leeds to utilise the classic “libel defence” against any charge arising out of the Twitter exchange, ie that their statement was true and no one does like Horan’s solo career. After all, his original X Factor audition was as a solo artiste, and he was eliminated (although Louis Walsh liked him, allegedly).

Derby County fan Horan, in an emotional statement to the football authorities, claimed that he was “deeply hurt”. His remark had been “innocent”, he insisted, adding “Anyway, no one does like Leeds. They don’t, they don’t!“, before stamping his feet and flouncing off, muttering about “Poor Franny and that thug Hunter” and “that spawny 4-1 win at Pride Park”.

When asked about their Twitter riposte to Horan’s tweet, Leeds United would only comment “We should make it absolutely clear, this was just a joke on our part; we’re not really advocating that One Direction should re-form. God, no”. However, the FA’s notorious Boy Band Compliance Unit are said to be taking a dim view of United’s attitude towards one of their fave solo stars, and are likely to relegate the Whites to the Conference with immediate effect.

FA Chairman Greg Clarke is 103.

Five of the Best Inflicted on Harry Kewell as Leeds Wonderkids Batter Notts County – by Rob Atkinson

It’s possibly a little uncool to crow about an U-23 victory, even of the most decisive variety, and away from home too. But allow me to make an exception in the case of the Leeds United second string’s wilful destruction of their Notts County equivalents at Ilkeston this afternoon. Notts County, by their appointment of former Leeds star turned shameless Judas Harry Kewell, have entered my little black book, that symbolic item inspired by big Jack Charlton‘s own record of those who had upset or annoyed him. I wish them nothing but ill, and their disgrace of a coach too.

Kewell was possibly the most talented performer to emerge from the United youth setup since Eddie Gray. He had all the ability in the world, simply oozing technical skill, vision and an unerring eye for goal. Like many another fan, I was seduced by all of this, but there was a nagging doubt from quite early in his Leeds career. I remember in those early days, he scored a sublime narrow-angle volley against Derby County in a game Leeds won 4-3 from being 0-3 down. It was a cracking strike, a sumptuous finish, and any other youngster would have been climbing the floodlight pylons in sheer elation. But not Kewell – he strolled back to the halfway line with the merest, indolent celebratory wave of his arm, as if to say “make way for a genius”. Well, genius he was, on the ball anyway, but something missing in his character, maybe a measure of humility, separated him from the greats like Eddie Gray. It also proved fundamental to his later transgressions.

I won’t recount that degraded fall into infamy and disgrace again here, I’ve done it before in detail. The selfishly-engineered move to Liverpool, depriving a broke Leeds of much-needed cash. His lack of bottle coming off in a Champions League Final with Liverpool 0-3 down, then cavorting uninjured with his unearned winner’s medal after Liverpool had fought back to triumph without him. And the ultimate, calculated insult – the crass insensitivity of his move to that bestial, feral Istanbul club hated with such good reason by all fans of Leeds United. Let’s leave it at merely listing these things, they speak for themselves, after all.

It’s going to take many more incidents like today’s humbling of a team from Kewell’s Notts County, before any United fan will seriously suggest we’ve achieved payback. But it’ll do to be going on with – so well done to Leeds United’s increasingly impressive U-23 side on another outstanding display – one that I’d like to think was inspired by the identity of the opposition boss.

Chalk one item off in my little black book.

When Leeds Star Saiz Rediscovers His Mojo, He’ll Make Opponents Suffer – by Rob Atkinson

Samu Saiz – desperate to score for United

It’s becoming quite common knowledge that Samu Saiz, Leeds United’s mercurial, twinkle-toed Spanish playmaker, has not scored a league goal for upwards of far too long. It’s a barren run that seems to be affecting his confidence, however much he contributes to the team overall. You get the feeling he’s desperate to score, and this could be bringing an element of “trying too hard” into his game. But that overall contribution is still significant; take for example his brilliant ball into the box to fashion United’s goal at Blackburn.

Saiz has scored this season, though, and the goal I have in mind – against Bolton in the Carabao Cup – summed up the strengths of the man. He received the ball inside the opposition area, brought it under instant control, used his quick feet to find a yard of space, and finished neatly past a helpless Wanderers keeper.

That’s the real Saiz, the one we haven’t seen enough of since his ban for spitting at Newport last January. There are signs, though, that he has rediscovered his form and technical touch; add confidence to that, and you have a formidable player.

There does seem, however, to be an increasing groundswell of impatience and disapproval among the usual suspects that constitute the lower end of the Leeds Twitter following. It hardly needs saying that this sort of thing is exactly the opposite of what is needed. As I’ve said many times before, the supporters’ job is to support – their sketchily-informed criticism is not required. The club employs expensive talent for that.

Stick by Saiz, and just wait for his mojo and therefore his confidence to return. When those attributes are rediscovered, our Samu will lead opponents a merry dance, while providing us with the kind of spectacle and memories that should define and adorn a promotion-challenging season. Give the lad your trust and backing, and he’ll repay you tenfold. Maybe even starting with tonight, against Ipswich Town.

Just wait and see.