Tag Archives: English Premier League

Leeds MUST Now Beat Charlton to Help Barnsley, the Best Side to Visit Elland Road This Season – by Rob Atkinson

Paddy

Paddy Bamford wheels away after forcing the own goal that beat Barnsley 

Leeds United is once more a Premier League club. Having been promoted as Champions, much to the incredulous joy of our loyal and long-suffering fans, the season’s goals can fairly be said to have been achieved, or even surpassed. Last year, we’d have been delighted to have gone up via the play-offs at Wembley (although we all secretly know we just don’t do play-offs). This year, the resolve was there and explicitly made clear that we would not be dicking about with any end of season lotteries. The aim was automatic promotion, and in the end, that has been achieved with two games to spare. It has been a season of pride and achievement, one that we will all look back on as fondly as we do that campaign thirty years ago when Wilko’s Warriors stormed the citadels of the top flight.

All that being undeniably true, there might be those who feel that the last game of the season, against Charlton Athletic at Elland Road on Wednesday, is a dead rubber. We’re just going to have the Championship Trophy presented, see out the ninety minutes and make the most of such rest and recuperation as an abbreviated close season can offer.

But of course, with Leeds now being Marcelo Bielsa‘s United, it can’t be as simple and undemanding as that. Those weary lads will be required to go out there and achieve victory in their accustomed relentless style, as happened in a particularly satisfying manner as recently as yesterday at Derby County. And that’s just as it should be – but not only because it’s in the DNA of el Loco’s Leeds to finish on a high.

Cast your minds back to last week, and the Barnsley game at Elland Road. It was a vital match for both sides, and the nervous tension was palpable. The events of this last weekend make last Thursday seem a lifetime ago now, but the fact is that we were taken to the limit and beyond by a Barnsley side scrapping for survival. The Tykes pushed us all the way and made life exceedingly uncomfortable for a home side that had recently dismantled a Stoke team just coming off the back of a four goal thrashing of Barnsley. The sums should have added up to a comfortable passage for Leeds, but football isn’t like that, and Barnsley gave us a gruelling examination and one hell of a scare. They had no luck, Dame Fortune entirely ignored their plight, and they suffered a one goal defeat courtesy of putting the ball into their own net in the first half. Barnsley were massively hard done by; Leeds, for once, got the breaks, and we were on our way up into the Promised Land.

I can’t recall many matches like that Barnsley game. It was completely unenjoyable; even after the final whistle, the main feeling was of a slightly hollow relief that we’d somehow got the points. I was left somewhat bewildered and nauseous, the kind of feeling you have when you manage to walk away unscathed from a car accident or some similar mishap. And of course, it was even worse for Barnsley fans, who didn’t even have that sense of relief and having got away with something. All they could do was to take the positives from what had been an excellent performance, and vow to grab the campaign’s remaining points in the hope that would keep them in the Championship for next season.

That vow was half-fulfilled yesterday as the Reds of Barnsley felled the Tricky Trees of Nottingham Forest with a late, late winner at Oakwell, to keep those flickering hopes alive. Now, they must go and win at Brentford, against a side still smarting from the defeat at Stoke which confirmed Leeds as Champions and handed back the advantage to West Brom in the race for that second auto spot. It’s a big, big ask for Barnsley, but surely not beyond them, if they can match the performance they put in at Elland Road, where they were, in my view and that of many others, the best visiting side Leeds have played this season.

If Barnsley were to win at Brentford, they’d still need other results to go their way, and that’s where we can help, by beating Charlton Athletic and giving our worthy opponents of last week some sort of chance. Various disciplinary issues involving the likes of Wigan, Sheffield Wednesday and even Derby County, could yet change to landscape of the Championship’s lower half. But Barnsley can’t and won’t rely on that – they will be focused on winning at Brentford, and hoping that others can do them the favours they need against their immediate rivals. Let’s hope that Leeds United can provide that helping hand and help save the Tykes. Sorry, Lee Bowyer, thou good and faithful servant of yesteryear, because this might seem rather churlish. But it really is the least we can hope to do for the fellow Yorkshire club that pushed us all the way on that nervy Elland Road evening of last week.

Marching On Together 

Bielsa and Lasogga Need Each Other, and Leeds United Would be the Big Winners – by Rob Atkinson

Lasogga

Lasogga – the very man for Leeds United?

Sometimes, two problems can be solved simply by bringing them together in a mutually beneficial solution that leaves everybody happy. That situation might just be cropping up right now, with former Leeds United loan star Pierre-Michel Lasogga in need of a career boost having been released by Hamburg SV, and Whites coach Marcelo Bielsa looking for a class finisher who wouldn’t break the bank, to capitalise on all that possession and all those chances that went to waste in the season just tragically ended.

Whatever the doom and gloom merchants might say, Leeds under Bielsa were not very far at all from the finished article in this last campaign before the club marks its centenary. A few tweaks are needed, together with a bit more luck regarding injuries and a bit more common sense in the discipline and suspensions area. Some players clearly need shipping out too – but, if we can somehow avoid losing the crown jewels, the basis of an extremely good Championship squad is there already.

With the way Leeds play under Bielsa (forgive me for assuming he’ll still be in charge) what the team has been crying out for is a hitman capable of putting the finishing touches to what we all know has been a dramatically improved creative aspect of United’s performance. Lasogga, even with a Bielsa pre-season behind him, would never be a run all day type of striker, but he comes alive in the opposition box, as witness several finishes the season before last, the like of which we had not seen for many a moon. With someone alongside or slightly behind him to do the hard yards, the name of Kemar Roofe springing irresistibly to mind here, Lasogga is capable of providing the goals so sorely needed to turn should-have-won games into the victories we needed to make the difference. I’d challenge anyone to dispute that – it’s simply common sense.

The free transfer signing of Lasogga, together with the freeing up of wages from outgoing players, could give our squad not only a leaner and meaner look, but a decidedly more lethal potential too. This blog would like to see it happen – so, what say you all?

Marching On Together

Burnley’s Sean Dyche Embarrasses Himself After Defeat to Leeds Utd – by Rob Atkinson

sean_dyche_manager_of_burnley_looks_on_during_the_premier_league_546102

Burnley boss Sean Dyche – seemingly unsure as to the relative locations of arse and elbow

This blog is not usually in the habit of upbraiding opposition managers and coaches for their post-match comments, particularly in the wake of a defeat. It’s an edgy and sensitive time, feelings run high and the vocal cords are occasionally allowed to twang more freely than perhaps they should. But, after Burnley‘s exit last night from the Carabao Cup at the hands of Leeds United, Clarets boss Sean Dyche came out with a couple of real whoppers that really cannot be allowed to pass unremarked upon.

Firstly, and most surprisingly, Mr. Dyche – perhaps casting about for some excuse as to why his Premier League beauties had failed to beat a Championship side showing nine changes from its nominal first XI – ventured to criticise referee Darren Bond‘s decision to award United a penalty kick deep into injury time of the 90 minutes (and shortly after he’d made a similar decision at the other end). Demonstrating what can only be called an appalling ignorance of the laws of the game, Dyche said “They get a penalty, which I think is a real soft one. He (Tarkowski) does pull his shirt but the ball is seven feet above his head. It’s impossible that it’s impeded him from actually scoring a goal,” he added.

It’s hard to know where to start with that one. But let us state simply and clearly, for the avoidance of doubt and to emphasise the depth of Sean’s silliness, that a shirt pull by a defender on an attacker (which he acknowledges did happen) in the penalty area, is a foul and a penalty kick. It’s as simple as that, there are no ifs, buts or maybes, and there’s no caveat along the lines of “did it prevent a goal-scoring opportunity”. Such complexities are for decisions over cautions, not the award of a free kick or a penalty kick for an obvious foul. For a professional coach at Premier League level to suggest otherwise, and presume to criticise the referee in the process, is at best an insulting attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes. At worst, it amounts to a quite astounding ignorance of the laws of the game, and a lack of the basic knowledge needed by any football professional.

Dyche’s second ridiculous observation was targeted at an area outside the professional arena, so is perhaps more understandable, if not excusable. The Clarets boss professed himself bemused at the level of abuse aimed by the travelling Leeds support (who were quite phenomenal, as ever) at former Whites Charlie Taylor and Chris Wood. Dyche seemed to think that the Leeds fans should have done their sums, realised how much money United had raked in from the two transfers, and applauded the departed duo politely, as if this were a cricket match on the village green, with the church clock standing at ten to three, and honey still for tea. Again, you have to wonder at the Ginger One‘s knowledge and appreciation of football and football support. Remember, these two players had both committed the ultimate sin, in fans’ eyes, of refusing to play for their club in order to facilitate a transfer away from that club. There are very few lower depths to plumb than that.

Perhaps Sean was simply nettled and disappointed, on a night when his club had exited the Carabao Cup and had been trolled afterwards by one of their own sponsors. But in that case he’d have done far better to bite his tongue, purse his lips and keep his mouth firmly shut. In making the comments he made after last night’s game, he’s simply made a fool of himself – mainly by his bizarre interpretation of the laws surrounding penalty kicks, which are really not open to being seen as he appeared to wish.

It’s probably too much to suppose that a hurt and humiliated football coach will have second and better thoughts, leading him to withdraw the remarks highlighted here – but if Mr. Dyche did choose to go down that road, to admit that he was factually incorrect, in error of judgement and foolish to express such dubious views – well, possibly he would emerge as a bigger man and regain some respect. But, as things stand, someone who’s on record as having said such very daft and uncalled-for things as Dyche was guilty of, cannot really ask to be viewed with much respect at all.

And Sean – respect matters. Because, win, lose, or draw, Cup progress or Cup exit, and even with the local police seemingly firmly on your side – you won’t last much longer in football without that particular commodity.

silly sean

-o0o-

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Leeds Fan Opinion: Chelsea’s Slump Down To Fitness Problems   –   by Rob Atkinson

Mourinho: who’s a silly boy, then?

Chelsea, the runaway winners of the English Premier League just a few short months ago, have made an uncharacteristically poor start to the defence of their Title. Despite taking a two goal lead on the opening day against Swansea, the champions were pegged back and had to settle for a point in a 2-2 draw. Then, in the season’s first “Elite” game when they faced Manchester’s finest at the Etihad, the Blues really set in as Roman’s Pensioners subsided to a 0-3 hammering, putting them a sizeable five points behind the leaders with only two rounds of league competition played.

As a Leeds United fan, I could normally be expected to do no more than snigger quietly at the misfortunes of such an old rival. The enmity between the Whites and the Blues stretches clear back to the 60s, when Don Revie‘s Super Leeds were the very acme of gritty northern professionalism, whilst Chelsea represented the Soft South, all rag trade moguls and Z-list luvvies, a hymn to the effete spinelessness of the namby-pamby, over-pampered mummy’s boys of West London. Only the fearsome “Chopper” Harris and the skin-headed, thuggish primates of The Shed made Chelsea worth hating. For the rest, they were mainly there for the media to adore, and for us oop ‘ere in Yorkshire to have a good laugh at.

So why should I, a Leeds fan and proud of it, spend my valuable time pointing out the problems at Chelsea? And what makes me think that I can second-guess Jose Mourinho, coach extraordinaire, sex-symbol to the militant blue rinse brigade and a veritable legend in his own mind?

Well, silly as it might seem, Jose has been and gone and dropped the Portuguese equivalent of a right, proper clanger so far this season and, such being the nature of the man, he’s not going to see the error of his ways unless someone’s prepared to slap him (metaphorically) about the face with the irrefutable evidence of it. The mistake that Jose has made is fundamental, and it’s set fair to reduce the champions’ nascent season to rubble. Not that this would necessarily be a bad thing – but I would like to see the Blues back to something like their normal, imperious form by the time they’re called upon to demolish Manchester’s lesser club. So, there is method in my madness, as you can see. 

Mourinho’s tragic error is in the all-important area of fitness. If a football club is deficient in this respect, then all else falls into ruin. Fitness is to a football club what greed is to a bank or to a multinational corporation – neither entity can function without that one vital quality which is the mainspring of their entire operation.

Last season, fitness was not a problem for Chelsea FC. It was a quality clearly obvious even to the most unobservant eye; it leapt out of the TV screen every time a Chelsea player got a knock or went down injured. Fitness underpinned all of Chelsea’s endeavours, protecting them against injury and the effects of gruelling competition. Wherever the Blues played, there too was this unmistakable quality of fitness – as embodied by surely the fittest occupant of a Chelsea bench-coat it’s ever been my pleasure to behold.

Doctor, my heart...

Doctor, my heart…

Take a demure bow, Eva Carneiro, Chelsea club doctor and, beyond doubt, the most acceptable face of Chelsea there has ever, ever been. And yet the arrogant and deeply silly Jose (my wife will kill me for this) has found it necessary to remove her as a delectable match-day presence, thereby denying Chelsea’s valuable, thoroughbred playing staff the benefits of her inestimable professional expertise and – far more seriously – the rest of us the privilege of simpering helplessly over her international-class cuteness and beauty. It’s a sad loss to the game as a whole, to Chelsea in particular and to everyone out here in TV land who simply longs for a Blues player to get hurt, just for the chance of another glimpse of that exquisite pocket Venus of an MD.

In depriving Chelsea of any further manifestations of Eva, Jose Mourinho has reduced their overall fitness levels by at least 95% (on the empirical sexism scale) and – it seems clear – has demoralised and depressed, into the bargain, a playing staff that carried all before them only last season. And what clearer indication could there be that a clanger has indeed been dropped, than the occurrence of two simultaneous injuries during the City match – on Eva’s very first enforced night off? Honestly, I ask you. Those lads were clearly pining for her.

So if Mourinho wishes his club to emerge from this deep early slump, he should order forthwith a large slice of humble pie for himself, a large bouquet of flowers and a case of Adega de Borba Premium 2011 for the gorgeous Eva – and then he should do the only decent thing, admitting that even The Special One can get things spectacularly wrong, and humbly begging Dr. Carneiro to return, pretty please.

Jose - she's behind you...

Jose – she’s behind you…

And if, as I suspect, Mourinho finds it impossible to contemplate such an humiliating climbdown – even though he will know, deep down, that I am right – why, then, he should simply pack the good lady doctor off, with no hard feelings, to Elland Road – where she would be better appreciated by players, staff and especially by most of those fans possessing a Y chromosome. And most especially by this besotted fan, whose heart belongs to club and family, but who can yet raise considerably more than a cheer for the scrumptious Eva Carneiro.

Come to Leeds United, Eva, love. Sod Chelsea, they clearly don’t deserve you. Come to Elland Road, and make our injury stoppages a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Perhaps then I could go back to being utterly indifferent to the goings-on at Stamford Bridge – excepting always when I need the Blues to beat the even more loathsome reds, otherwise known in this parish as the Pride of Devon…

No Official Response to WHY Mancunian Ref Taylor Was Picked for Man Utd Match – by Rob Atkinson

Former Man U favourite Howard Webb celebrates with his team-mates... but at least he wasn't from Manchester

Former Man U favourite Howard Webb celebrates with his team-mates… but at least he wasn’t from Manchester…

Leeds United fans have cause to remember Wythenshawe referee Anthony Taylor – not too fondly, though – for his performance in a game between United and Middlesbrough early in the 2011/12 season. Taylor contrived to send off Jonny Howson and Max Gradel of Leeds as well as Boro’s Tony McMahon in a game which then United manager Simon Grayson described as “not having a dirty tackle in it”. Middlesbrough won the match 1-0.

That might well establish Mr. Taylor as a referee of less than optimal competence, certainly in Whites fans’ eyes – and yet he has gone on to officiate regularly in the Premier League, appearing to court controversy at about the same rate as any other referee on the roster – less, even, than some that we could name (and have named in the past). The other week, though, proud Mancunian Taylor dropped a particularly public clanger when failing to award a clear penalty against Man U at Newcastle United‘s St James Park, in a game won by the visitors with a late goal. Tim Krul gifted an easy chance to Ashley Young, who snapped it up before he could even remember to dive – and another Man U smash and grab was done. Same as it ever was, you might say. A penalty not given against Man U and a spawny late winner for them too – what’s so unusual?

The major issue here, though, may not have been the missed penalty – nor even the unsavoury spitting incident that Cisse of Newcastle admitted and apologised for, with Evans of Man U characteristically denying any wrongdoing, in accordance with club policy – despite clear video evidence. No, the real bugbear here is the fact that – for no apparent reason and with no possible justification – the authorities saw fit to appoint a Mancunian referee for a match involving a Manchester-based club.

To my knowledge, there was always a rule whereby a referee from the same area as one of the teams contesting a match would not be selected to take that fixture. That just seems like good, plain common sense, and I haven’t heard of any change to what was always a rigidly-observed convention. The not exactly infrequent situation whereby what seemed an obvious penalty was not awarded against Man U becomes even more unfortunate and embarrassing when combined with this additional and avoidable referee situation. Why on earth would the authorities court even more controversy than arises as a matter of routine, every time Man U get off scot free on a stonewall penalty shout?

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything has been a loud and frequent critic of the kid-glove treatment that is still handed out to the Pride of Devon, even now in these post-Ferguson times when – presumably – the powers that be are in somewhat less of a state of abject fear than they were when the Demented One was in charge of Man U and, by extension, the game. So this is not, perhaps, a voice that will be seen to be particularly impartial or unbiased. And yet the facts speak for themselves. It is simply true to state that rarely a month goes by without some blatantly naff decision in favour of the denizens of the Theatre of Hollow Myths. It’s no secret, and there’s plenty of internet wringing of hands that goes on about it, with a predictably bland and complacent attitude on the part of both Man U, their hordes of armchair fans and the nominal rulers of the game. But to have them allocated their own, local referee as well, for a game that might well have been tricky for van Gaal’s men had decisions gone as they perhaps should – that really rather does take the biscuit, if not the actual urine sample.

I’ve not been able to find any guidance or regulation which formalises rules as regards geographical origin of referees insofar as it’s relevant to any particular fixture – I’m aware that there are some pretty nifty sleuths out there though, so any input to clear the matter up would be welcome. But it’s surely just common sense and good practice to select an official who hails from as far as possible from the homes of any two competing teams. It just makes for a fairer feel to proceedings. And – let’s face it – you could actually choose a ref from Devizes, and he’d be just as likely an adoring fan of “Nitid” as not. Those glory-seekers are all over the place, after all. But it rubs the nose of every fan of every other club in the league well and truly in it, to make such a daft and open-to-suspicion appointment as a Mancunian ref for a Man U match.

Are they really that stupid at the FA and/or EPL? Are they really that loftily complacent and arrogant as not to bother even giving the impression of ensuring fair play?? The distasteful combination of yet another bottled penalty decision, together with the fact that it was a blatantly Manc ref that bottled it, leaves a decidedly nasty taste in the mouth.

So what are these idiots and incompetents actually up to? I first asked this question immediately after the game in question. Predictably, there has been zero response. But, surely, it’s time we were told.