Tag Archives: genius

So Glad We Don’t Have a ‘Genius’ Like Mourinho at Leeds United  –   by Rob Atkinson

The not-so Special One

When you’ve seen your club at the very top of the game, as thousands of Leeds United fans (of a certain age) have – then you’re bound to aspire to regain those dizzy heights again. That’s only natural; but what would be the true cost to our club, in terms of its essential character and tradition? The answer to that might be fairly unpalatable. 

Everywhere you look in the Premier League, that rarefied sphere we yearn to inhabit, there are magicians, geniuses, world-class performers. That’s why it’s hyped as The Greatest Show On Earth. But the hype is just about the only thing that lives up to its billing as the biggest and the best. If hype alone could power a rocket, then the Premier League would be the first franchise on Mars. 

We have to ask ourselves at Leeds, where we have our own pride and our own fiercely partisan sense of identity – how many of these geniuses and magicians would we actually wish to see in a white shirt? Would we really want a Cristiano Ronaldo, for instance? Which Leeds fan would genuinely be happy to hear that that particular Ego Had Landed at Elland Road? Not me, that I do know.

If the price of Elite membership is to have to support players like Ronaldo, Yaya Toure (the crybaby birthday boy), Wayne Rooney and so on and so forth, then I’m by no means sure I’d wish to pay it. Give me a team of grafters with their feet on the ground, any day of the week. And who, pray, would we have to coach and manage such “stars”? If I may answer my own question with a negative once more, I’m dead certain that one person I wouldn’t want is the so-called Special One, Jose Mourinho himself.

Mourinho’s not had the best of weeks, losing a two goal lead at home to Swansea City and then getting hammered at Manchester City. In between times, he’s seen fit to treat club doctor Eva Carneiro most shabbily, as I’ve bemoaned here. So it’s been a bad few days for Jose, and he’s deserved every agonising second of it.

Here is a man, after all, who first came into the English game like a breath of fresh air, capturing the imaginations of fans throughout the game, endearing himself to those who, like me, enjoyed seeing Alex Ferguson taken down a peg or several. But, after a while, his arrogance began to grate more than a little. His self-awarded tag of ‘The Special One‘ lost its early appeal and took on a more ironically mocking aspect – not that Jose’s colossal ego was even slightly dented by that. Now, Mourinho appears to have become a distorted caricature of himself, a man more preoccupied with living up to his own self-image than by any need or desire to win admirers or friends along the way. His verdict on the second part of this week’s Tale of Two Cities? The 0-3 reverse in Manchester was “a fake result”. Honestly, I ask you. Here’s a man who has squandered his early impact on English football.

At one time, Mourinho might have been my ultimate dream as Boss at Elland Road. Now he’s one of those nightmares I know I could never countenance for the Leeds United I know and love. He’s put himself into a category of Untouchables, people I wouldn’t want my Whites to go anywhere near with the longest of barge poles. He’s right in the middle of that company of undesirables, along with the Rooneys and the Ronaldos, the Fergusons and the Sterlings. They’re the Too Big For Their Boots Brigade and they have no place at the kind of club I’d wish to support. 

It’s not that there haven’t been such undesirables in earlier eras – more that they seem so much thicker on the ground now than in days of yore. It’s the Premier League glitz and glamour, I suppose. This hollow arrogance, together with the sycophantic need on the media pack’s part to worship it, just sets my teeth on edge. Back in the day, I wouldn’t have wanted a George Best at Leeds, nor yet a Tommy Docherty. We mooted Maradona and we tried Cantona for size, but the former was just a Bill Fotherby pipe-dream and the latter didn’t really fit our club. We don’t really like massive egos at Elland Road – but show us a grounded grafter, and we’ll crawl over broken glass to follow him.

We’ve had our geniuses at Leeds, of course we have. But they’ve been a particular type of genius: John Charles, il Gigante Buono, Billy Bremner, side before self, Eddie the Last Waltz Gray, the incomparable Johnny Giles. And of course, the one and only, undisputed and undeniable Special One, Sir Don Revie. Modest geniuses, unassuming magicians. Special Ones in the Leeds United idiom. Give me a team and a manager like that to support, and I’d truly relish seeing my club back at the top again.

But, if modern day success means following the likes of Jose Mourinho or Cristiano Ronaldo – then I’d simply rather not bother, thanks all the same. 

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Happy Birthday to Leeds Utd Legend Eddie “The Last Waltz” Gray – by Rob Atkinson

A dapper Eddie pictured in front of a dapper, all-standing Kop

A dapper Eddie pictured in front of a dapper, all-standing Kop

It’s “Legends Birthday Time” again, and today we celebrate the 66th anniversary of the birth of Sir Edwin “The Last Waltz” Gray, genius winger, loyal Leeds man through and through and thoroughly bloody nice bloke, as Tim Nice-But-Dim might say – only this time, he’d be spot on.  It was Don Revie who once said of Eddie “If that lad hadn’t pulled a muscle, nobody would ever have heard of George Best”. That’s certainly fulsome praise and a hell of a tribute to a lavishly talented player, surely one of the very best ever to pull on a Leeds United shirt.

The memories of Eddie are many, mainly as that gifted player who would torture full-backs with a genial smile on his face, but also as a manager at Leeds, in charge of a precociously gifted set of youngsters who could have gone far with just that little bit of extra investment – sound familiar? Eddie has also served his time as a pundit, commenting on the latter-day performances of his beloved Leeds United, always straining so hard for impartiality and endeavouring to avoid accusations of bias – indeed, some out here sometimes feel he tries a little too hard in this respect.  But I’ve had the honour of meeting the man a few times, and one of these was on the commentary gantry at Elland Road – when he was preoccupied by the need to find me a chair to sit on, much to my bemused delight – so I’m well aware of Eddie’s professionalism as a broadcaster, just as was the case in his days as a player, manager and most recently as the coach in those promising early David O’Leary days.

It is, of course, as a player that Eddie will best be remembered and revered by Leeds United fans of all ages.  Those who weren’t lucky enough to see him play in person may well have thrilled to video footage of his bravura performance in the 1970 FA Cup Final when, on an absolute pig of a pitch chopped-up by the Horse of the Year Show, he put in one of his greatest and most tantalising displays of sorcery out wide, reducing David Webb to a gibbering shadow of his normally efficient self.  Legend has it that Webb eventually had to be taken off with severe vapours and twisted blood – sadly he was to have his revenge in a replay gifted to Chelsea by the inevitable Sprake big-match cock-up.

Another vivid memory is of Eddie’s bewitching dance through the Burnley defence in a league match at Elland Road, when he took on and beat opponents just as he pleased before drilling a sublime near-post finish past a bewildered Peter Mellor in the Dingles goal.  It is this match that brings out Mr Gray’s slight perverse streak; he scored two that day and he always insists that it’s the other goal – a superbly-judged 35 yard lob at the Gelderd End – which he remembers as his best.  But nobody who has seen the way he destroyed a top class defence with that mazy run, will ever forget it.  It was a bit like the famous Ricky Villa goal for Spurs at Wembley – except much better.

More generally, it’s the characteristic hunched shape of Eddie Gray that you remember – never totally reliant on speed, he would beat his man with pure skill, manifesting itself in a variety of tricks, shuffles, stepovers and other sundry pieces of magic. His long-term thigh injury, sustained as a mere youngster, led him to rely far more on technique than pace and mobility, although he was no laggard either. But such were his sublime skills that he stands as possibly the last great example of the old-fashioned tricky winger, a man who could play an entire top-flight defence as a toreador plays a bull, a player of prodigious style, skill and elan.

Mere words cannot, of course, do justice to Eddie Gray the player or Eddie Gray the man.  Leeds United have been privileged by the service and unstinting support of both, and they have not always played fair by him in his various roles at the club.  But Eddie Gray’s place in the Elland Road Hall of Fame is as secure as that of any other Legend in the whole history of the club; he is synonymous with Leeds, which is after all the place he has lived and worked for most of his life since the age of 15 – not that anyone could guess this whilst trying to understand his impenetrably Scottish accent.

It was my pleasure and privilege to watch Eddie Gray weave his magic for Leeds United many times between 1975 and the end of his playing days, by which time he had become a cultured full-back who also managed the team.  His long and illustrious career gives the lie to Brian Clough’s infamous remark that, had he been a racehorse, he’d have been shot – a jibe at that long-standing injury.  This was surely the most oafish remark that Clough – a quite legendary oaf – ever made.  Even Gray, that most mild-mannered of men, took exception – reminding Clough, who was his manager at the time, that his own career was ended by injury and that he should, therefore, know better than to say anything so crass.  I’d have given plenty to see Old Big’ead’s face when that shot went home.

Eddie Gray – genius, magician, legend – and not least of these attributes, the nicest guy you could wish to meet.  Happy Birthday, Eddie, and many, many happy returns.