Tag Archives: England

Call For Leeds United to Inaugurate the Howard Wilkinson Stand – by Rob Atkinson

Wilko Last Champion

Wilko walks off with the title of last English champion

Leeds United fans are calling for a club legend to be honoured, just days after he turned 75. Howard Wilkinson, United manager for eight years between 1988 and 1996, celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, reaching the three-quarter century mark to become one of the grand old men of English football. Although his Elland Road days are now over twenty years behind him, Sergeant Wilko still enjoys legendary status among United fans, and rightly so.

Leeds United was at a very low ebb indeed when they appointed Wilkinson – their fortunes had plummeted during the eighties, and it’s fair to say that there appeared to be very little light at the end of what had become a long, dark tunnel. Much nearer the bottom of Division 2 than the top, Leeds were trying to look up, but casting fearful glances behind them at the as yet unknown experience of third tier football. Something had to be done, and the decision was taken to break with the practice of hiring managers from the pool of old boys that remained of Don Revie‘s Super Leeds squad. Allan Clarke of that elite group had been given a go, but Leeds had gone down. Eddie Gray had produced a vibrant young team, but his time ran out. And Billy Bremner reached an FA Cup semi final as well as a play-off final in 1987, but a slow start the following season cost him his job.

In truth, it was unfair to blame these Elland Road alumni; the whole approach of the club had been flawed and misconceived, with false economies and disastrous short-termism to the fore, which is something that Wilkinson perceived and addressed as early as the interview stage for the Leeds job. Indeed, and most famously, Wilko turned the tables at that interview, making it a scenario where he was interviewing the United board, setting out for them the path to recovery and success over three options of short, medium and long terms. Wilkinson laid it on the line that significant investment would be necessary, to bring about an overhaul of the squad, and of the club’s infrastructure more generally. The board were duly impressed, Wilko got the job, and the rest is history.

We all know the story of the Wilko revolution, especially that thrill ride between 1989 and 1992, when Leeds emerged from a long exile to establish themselves back in the top flight and then win the last ever Football League Title. The media had this honour reserved in their own minds for Alex Ferguson‘s emerging man u side, but Leeds pooped that end-of-era party, and entered the record books as top dogs when the game moved from one epoch to another. The driving force behind it all was Wilko; without him our history would have been very different – and probably not in a good way. For this, we honour him as a true great in Leeds United history. As we know, he remains the last Englishman, and more importantly, the last Yorkshireman, to win the title of English Champions

Now, some are calling for a more substantial tribute to United’s second-greatest boss than the Howard’s Bar area of the West Stand which currently bears his name. The proposal of at least one fan in a tweet wishing the great man a happy birthday was that the East Stand should now be renamed the Howard Wilkinson Stand. It’s an idea that has some merit, particularly as it was Wilko’s success that made it possible to conceive and then build such a huge statement of a structure, something that utterly transformed the Elland Road stadium. This is a point made very succinctly by Leeds tweeter David Barstow, as can be seen in the image below.

Wilko 75

Name the East Stand after Wilko – great idea!

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything heartily endorses Mr. Barstow’s suggestion, and hopes that it might be something the Leeds ownership will seriously consider. The club owes Howard a very great debt; he provided success at a time when competition was fierce, and titles were not merely bought by the wealthiest. It was an achievement to rank alongside the successes of the Revie team, and it merits the most fulsome tribute that the club can possibly make – particularity as Howard has just reached such a significant personal landmark.

A belated Happy 75th Birthday, Sergeant Wilko, and thanks for the memories. We hope and trust that you might have further honours to come, from the club that you so gloriously revived, in the not too distant future. 

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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.

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.

Germany the Authors of Their own World Cup Misfortune, but Leeds Hero Pontus is Smiling – by Rob Atkinson

sweden-bench-angry

The Germans have a word for it, as they usually do. And, since the reigning champions were toppled out of the World Cup on Thursday, it’s a word that has gained a great deal of currency in the UK and pretty much everywhere else, really. Schadenfreude – the concept of pleasure and gratification arising out of somebody else’s misfortune – neatly sums up the national mood since South Korea applied the coup de grace to Germany’s limp 2018 World Cup campaign. To say that the nation rejoiced in the wake of this sensational result is not to understate the case. Even sober journalists and media types joined in the euphoric jollity. Everybody was queuing up to poke fun at the demise of the German national football team.

It’s tempting to suggest that there is some historical element in this tendency of ours to wish misfortune on the Germans. Two world wars during the twentieth century might lend some credence to this point of view; especially where our most senior citizens are concerned. But for people of more tender years, the motivation is less martial, more sporting. Put simply, most of us are just sick of Germany’s traditional efficiency in amassing trophies on fields of sporting conflict, especially as compared to the meagre hauls of the home countries. We are sick of losing to them on penalties, sick of them going on to beat the teams we might otherwise have beaten, lifting the trophies we might otherwise have lifted. And, much as we would love to see our own teams strut around a lap of honour, we’re sick of seeing them do that, too. As Manchester United would confirm, nobody loves a perennial winner. It’s just boring for the rest of us.

So, the German exit from Russia 2018 had its novelty value, but it gave us all a laugh too, with the comical nature of their defeat to South Korea. For once, their goalkeeper was not batting away our penalty shots to win yet another shootout for the Fatherland – instead, he was making an idiot of himself on the left wing as his team-mates desperately chased late goals; then he had to watch helpless as the Koreans streaked downfield to pop the ball into an empty net to seal Germany’s doom. Oh, how we laughed. It was as comical as it was richly satisfactory, with the commentators in tucks and everybody taking the mick. Days like this come around all too rarely; we have to make the most of them. And, oh boy, did we ever.

The thing is as well, for those feeling any slight twinge of sympathy for a beaten and ridiculed German team, they really have asked for this. If you cast your mind back to the game that Germany actually won, beating Sweden at the very last gasp, they proved themselves to be most ungracious in victory, taunting the Swedish bench and provoking an angry reaction. Our own Pontus Jansson was involved, leading the charge and looking as if he wanted to take on the whole of the German backroom staff by himself. At that point, it looked as though Sweden had suffered a fatal blow in terms of their World Cup chances; surely, Germany would now steamroller its way into the knockout phase. But a few days on, Germany are bottom of their group and have gone home, while Sweden finished top to progress. Germany’s display of arrogant triumphalism had earned them the bitter fruits of karma, and it seemed the rest of the world felt a deep sense of justice served.

Pontus is happy too. On his Instagram account, he observed after the German exit “Warm up done. Now let’s start World Cup!” The German view, though, is terse and chilling – “Yes, we deserved to go out. We are not good enough. Enjoy this while you can”.

Leeds Should Pull Out All Stops to Sign Haaland Jr. Ahead of Man Utd – by Rob Atkinson

Erling Braut Haaland, the 17 year old son of former Elland Road favourite Alf-Inge Haaland, is shaping up as quite the boy wonder in Norway’s top flight. His latest exploit is to score four goals for Molde in the opening 21 minutes of an away fixture at league leaders Brann. Interestingly, young Erling is a fanatical fan of Leeds United, whose declared dream is to play for the Whites in the Champions League.

Worryingly, though, it might just be that Haaland Junior’s European fantasy could be played out via a short cut with that lesser United from over the hills. Manchester’s second club had scouts at the Brann – Molde game, and the whisper is that covetous eyes are watching from the Theatre of Hollow Myths, with Alfi’s son having impressed the talent spotters at the Pride of Devon.

We must hope that our old favourite Alf-Inge would not allow anything so unsavoury as his son signing for Them to happen. Alfi will surely have vivid memories of being assaulted by faux hard-man Royston Keane at Old Toilet, and of the career threatening injury he sustained in that cowardly assault. This alone should persuade Haaland senior to advise his lad to steer well clear of Salford.

And, on the positive side, the young star’s development would definitely be assisted by a spell with Marcelo Bielsa, the man Pep Guardiola hails as the best coach in the world. That’s the kind of upbringing any boy wonder should be looking for – naturally, though, there would first have to be some interest from Leeds United.

But why would there not be interest? Already, Erling is being spoken of as “better than his dad”, who, we will recall, was no mean player himself. What we have here is a situation begging for the only natural outcome, which would be the boy Haaland signing for his dad’s old club Leeds. Especially as Erling is such a fan. It’s the perfect match.

Come on, Mr Radrizzani – let’s get the lad signed and snatch him from the dark forces gathering around him. You know it makes sense.

Elland Road’s England Extravaganza Proves Premier League Needs Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

World-Cup-2018-England-costa-rica-Elland-Road-970941

Southgate’s England win at a vibrant and atmospheric Elland Road

England‘s last stopping-off point before their Russian quest for World Cup glory was at a vibrant and atmospheric Elland Road – and the occasion told us plenty, some of it even about our national team and its chances this summer.

Talking about England first, this was a competent and dominant performance against a slightly jet-lagged Costa Rica team who were still nobody’s mugs. England pretty much won as they liked though, with Marcus Rashford, looking much more effective with better players around him, making a persuasive case for inclusion in the opening game of England’s group, ahead, perhaps, of Raheem Sterling. Rashford’s spectacular 13th minute opener brought generous cheers from the Kop, despite the lad’s day job, with Danny Welbeck‘s close range header near the end greeted equally warmly by the South Stand. In between the two decisive strikes, England passed prettily, defended well enough to leave their keeper Jack Butland largely unemployed, and a lively attack gave the Costa Rican defence plenty to think about.

But the signature note of the evening was struck by the occasion’s real star – Elland Road itself. For once in a very long while, the muted, apathetic atmosphere of Wembley was replaced by a thrillingly raucous fervour to urge on the national team, courtesy of one of football’s genuine, old-style cauldrons of white-hot atmosphere. That’s done nowhere quite so well as it is in this part of Leeds; the crowd lifted the England players to a degree that was obvious to anybody who’s suffered through some of those dreary friendlies in North London. This was dutifully acknowledged by commentators and pundits alike; Clive Tyldesley for ITV noted that the attendance was around 36,000, “but sounds like twice as much”. Indeed. Old Trafford, it’s worth mentioning, can do a similar trick – only the other way around.

Lee Dixon in his punditry role was fired with enthusiasm afterwards. This is what you need, he exulted, thumbing over his shoulder at the arena behind him. Let’s take England on the road. It’s a good idea, one that’s been around for years now, but the commercial lure of Wembley has usually won the day. Perhaps there will now be a rethink. It’s no coincidence that this was one of the better England “friendly” performances; the team responded to the crowd, the occasion, the unique atmosphere. Above all, tonight showed beyond doubt that the Premier League – currently stuffed with pedestrian acts like Bournemouth, Huddersfield and Watford – positively needs the return of Leeds United. The stadium, the club and the fanatical support are all wasted on anything less than the elite group, and the so-called Premier League has been diluted too far and for too long by elements of mediocrity. The return of United cannot come too soon, for the sake of all parties concerned.

For Leeds United fans, it was a taste of what might be to come, the stadium packed out and cheering on some top class footballers who may even be destined for great things. How the fans of Yorkshire‘s top club would like to sample that atmosphere, and witness this style of performance, on a more regular basis. It’s a dream, something to hope for and aspire to. And, you never know – those dreams do occasionally come true.

England International Defender Seeks Fresh Start, Leeds Would be Ideal – by Rob Atkinson

Steven-Caulker-England

Steven Caulker, England cap

What do you do if you’re an ambitious Championship club with a thrifty approach to recruitment – and an English international central defender aged just 26 suddenly becomes available, and for nowt? Why, you snap him up, of course, if you’ve not been trampled flat in the rush. Players of this quality normally command 8 figure fees, but here we have a lad in Steven Caulker who is looking for a fresh start after facing up to issues with his mental health, allied to gambling and alcohol problems. His most recent employers, Queens Park Rangers, have just released him, so he is currently without a club. Caulker is currently occupying what the professionals term, with some feeling, last chance saloon. He needs someone to show some faith in him, and he needs the best possible care and rehabilitation. For the club willing to take a calculated risk, a diamond of a player is waiting to be rescued.

For several reasons, not all of them football-related, I’d love to see my club Leeds United be the one to make this move and show this faith. It would be a dreadful shame for football and for the lad himself, if such a promising career were to be allowed to fizzle out. You’d worry for Caulker, in the long and barren future ahead, and you’d wonder if the game itself was perhaps derelict in its duty to look out for a young man battling with personal demons that have ruined so many young men before.

At Elland Road, there’d be a unique challenge waiting for Steven Caulker – if the club wish to offer him the chance, and if he’s prepared to get in, get his head down, and resurrect his career and his chances of life-affirming success. It’s not too late for Caulker; he just needs that chance. I’d like to think that Leeds United are progressive enough to reach out and provide the support and faith needed.

It’s common knowledge that Leeds could do with some strengthening of the defensive ranks; Kyle Bartley is still much missed and, despite the sterling performances of Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper, a player of Caulker’s quality would represent an improvement in United’s rearguard. The lad was on loan at Liverpool not so long back, and was brought up at Tottenham; his pedigree is indisputable. Coming to the end of the road at QPR does not mean he’s a busted flush; some club is likely to benefit from the renaissance of a major talent, should the requisite support and understanding be available.

Let that club be Leeds United. In doing some real good for a troubled player, they may well do themselves a power of good too. And all for nothing more than wages. 

That’s got to represent a good deal, even up here in Yorkshire. And a chance surely well worth taking. 

England’s Iceland Showing Would Have Disgraced Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

Woy

Woy, wesigned to the wepurcussions of failure

As a Leeds United fan over the course of the past decade or so, you need to have developed a certain gallows sense of humour. The ability to have a laugh at yourself, or at least a reluctantly tolerant smile when the pain is just too intense, has seen many of us through many an agonising and humiliating moment. And this forms a mindset where, faced with some setback or disappointment unconnected with our beloved Whites, we might grimace cynically and say through gritted teeth “That were just like watching Leeds” – a wry inversion of the “just like watching Brazil” hymn of praise. When one of us says that something was “just like watching Leeds”, you can tell it’s not been an enjoyable experience.

So it came to pass that, as England‘s abject, shameful performance against Iceland unfolded, the Facebook statuses and the Tweets started, on my Whites-centric feed mostly with that common theme. That was just like watching Leeds. Wow, you thought. That bad, eh?

The thing is, though – it was actually so much worse than watching Leeds. Because our national side gave a performance of staggering ineptitude, incredible cluelessness. England were nervous and anxious at best, simply incompetent and bumbling the more the game went on. Rooney, supposedly reinvented as a deeper midfielder, spraying accurate passes about, could hardly hit a ten yard ball. His passes were off target, his services in from wide were over-hit (as were “quality delivery merchant” Harry Kane’s). It was, in short, a typical Rooney, typically English international finals performance. 

For the rest, they nearly all seemed afflicted by the same nightmare conviction that, whatever they attempted, it simply wouldn’t come off. Only when Marcus Rashford came on, with the innocence and arrogance of his youth, did England look remotely like getting anywhere. The men in white lacked the belief, the character and the guts to seize the game by the scruff of the neck. In the context of nightmares again, it was as if they needed to get moving, but found themselves wading through a foot of treacle, their energy drained, their heads empty. The longer it went on, the worse it got. It was a shameful embarrassment of a performance. After their early penalty joy, England could have played from now until Christmas, and still might have failed to score. 

Over forty-odd years, I’ve seen many abject performances from Leeds United. I’ve seen lack of effort punished, lack of pride and commitment bringing their inevitable dread reward. I’ve seen it all as far as bad times go, and – lest we forget – some good times too. But as far as the awful side of things is concerned – well, with hand on heart and with God as my witness, I’ve never, ever seen anything as bad from a Leeds team as I saw from that Three Lions shower last night. Just like watching Leeds? We should be so lucky.

People keep on coming out with the fact that Iceland has a population less than that of Leicester, but that – hur, hur – Leicester has been able to spring its own surprise lately. Very good. Apparently, it’s also true to say that Iceland has more volcanoes than professional footballers. On last night’s evidence, that could be true of England too. The bottom line is that such a performance – for want of a more appropriately descriptive word – goes way beyond unacceptable and plumbs greater depths than anything even the most unfortunate of us will have seen from our club sides, where work-rate and a bit of fight are the very least we demand and expect.

Just like watching Leeds? Not on this occasion. Leeds would have given that Iceland side a decent game. Leicester would almost certainly have beaten them. Perhaps, this coming season, when the performance levels of our lads in White dip below our meagre expectations, some terrace wit might start off a rendition of “England – it’s just like watching England…”

That, at least, would have the comparison the right way around.

England Will Need True Warriors Against Wales   –   by Rob Atkinson


ArtofFootball
Any Leeds United fan worth his or her salt will nod and give the thumbs-up to a player prepared to shed blood in the United cause. It’s in the DNA of the club; such players are an integral part of our history. The blood shed will preferably be that of an opponent, but your archetypal Elland Road patron warmly appreciates the warrior who leaves the field of battle liberally bespattered with his own gore. It’s a mark of commitment, and that goes down well with us northern folk.

Down the years, we’ve been lucky enough to have many such doughty battlers gracing the white shirt. Hunter, Giles, Vinnie, Billy, the list is long and impressive. Sadly, the standard is lower these days, the commitment less nakedly obvious. The same appears to apply to the national team, also. I was reminded of this when I received a t-shirt from my good friends at The Art of Football, an online firm with a difference, specialising in quality prints to adorn the proudest chest.

The shirt I received, pictured above, bears the unmistakable figure of Stuart “Psycho” Pearce, a player I for one would have absolutely loved to have seen in a Leeds United shirt. His commitment was exemplary, he was a man who’d have been an asset to any team, anywhere at any time. England, like Leeds United, have had a few of these over the years. Terry Butcher, so famously pictured with a pint or two of his own blood soaked into his England shirt – another image available in this Euro ’16 range. Tony Adams, neck veins bulging as he bellowed the National Anthem before every International of his career. Pearce himself, stepping up to the plate in a penalty shoot out, exorcising the ghost of a previous miss by belting the ball past the Spanish keeper at Euro ’96, at one with the fans as he ran to them, his pride and fight written all over his face. 

Where are these players now? John Terry might have been the last for England, though maybe Cahill can succeed to his crown. I have to confess, I can’t remember the last Leeds player in this warrior category. And United will need someone of that ilk to challenge next season. But England need a man like that as soon as Thursday – because the Welsh will have their war paint on, there’s no doubt about that. 

Perhaps if the existing England players can channel some of that Psycho Pearce spirit in time for their next test, we might overcome a Welsh team with much commitment but relatively few world-class performers. The fans, too, could do worse than embody the Pearce approach, focusing on getting behind the shirts instead of acting like idiots in the pubs and bars. The atmosphere will be fierce on Thursday, the stakes high. We will need warriors on the pitch and the pride and passion of supporters in the stands if we’re going to match Wales in either arena. 

Let players and fans be inspired by the image of Stuart Pearce at his most committed, with the flag of St. George behind him. Given that, we can succeed despite the famous bravery and desire of the Welsh. 

England Expects!