Tag Archives: history

Football League Considering Treason Charge for Ref Who Gave Leeds a Penalty – by Rob Atkinson

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Peter Bankes – professional suicide?

Peter Bankes, the referee who has defied the Football League party line to award Leeds a controversial first penalty kick in well over a year, leading to their 2-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers, could now face being sent to Coventry for his sins (they play Luton Town at the Ricoh Arena next Saturday).

Games without a penalty for Leeds United now…

Worse, it is being suggested in some quarters that the errant official could be charged by the ruling body with high treason, an offence that carries a maximum punishment of “a fate worse than death”. When asked what that fate might be, a Football League spokesman would only grimace and shake his head in a deeply ominous fashion whilst mouthing the dread word “Millwall”.

Mr Bankes was not available for comment after the game, it being understood that he was closeted with QPR manager Schteve McClaren and being grilled about what Schteve was sarcastically calling his “X-ray vision”. A Leeds source told us that the referee’s room was closed and locked for an hour after the final whistle, with Mr Bankes eventually being spirited away to Football League headquarters where he is expected to face brutal interrogation over the next 72 hours.

A Leeds source told Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything “Our only regret is that we were hoping to have a joint celebration of our centenary in 2019 with maybe a timely penalty late in the season – today’s totally unexpected award has clearly scuppered that. But we’ll take it gracefully and move on. We’d been a bit worried about the actual penalty conversion, there was a bit of chat on the pitch because nobody could remember how it’s done. Every time Marcelo has suggested practising penalties in training, the lads have just fell about laughing. Luckily, Kemar stepped up and sent the lad the wrong way, but he admitted afterwards that he’d been a bit tempted to head it”.

Rumours that United are planning to place a Tourist Information sign on the penalty spot at the Kop End, denoting a site of major historical interest, cannot, as yet, be confirmed.

Historical

Leeds United penalty – historically remarkable

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Would VAR Get Man United Relegated and Leeds United Promoted? – by Rob Atkinson

LUFC red card

Referees just love Leeds United

I’ve never really been in favour of the intrusion of modern technology into professional football. I was generally supportive of the view that the game needs its bits of controversy, things to talk about and argue over in the pub or, as years went on, via social media. And that, ideally, the game at its elite level should stay as close as possible in its essential character to the thud and blunder affairs fought out on parks pitches every Sunday morning.

But the old maxim of “the referee’s decision is final” has started to wear a bit thin, as with that other cliche “these things tend to even themselves out”. We were always asked to believe that, yes, referees made mistakes alright, but that they were honest mistakes, human errors. We were told that, over time, all clubs would get roughly the same amount of good and bad decisions, and that, ultimately, ability and fitness would be the decisive factors. And for a long time, many of us would believe these fables, we’d even repeat them to each other, wanting our beloved game to be straight.

The worm of doubt for Leeds United fans crawled out of the bad apples among the refereeing fraternity as far back as the sixties. I’ve written an article on this blog about the very worst decisions my club has been on the wrong end of – even limiting myself to the truly appalling travesties of justice, it it could have been a much longer list, space permitting. Leeds fans started giving wry smiles when referees were defended as honest Joes who were bound to make the odd mistake. We knew better, out of bitter experience. We knew exactly who would get the breaks and the dodgy calls, and we knew just as well that it wouldn’t be us.

The situation has never really improved for Leeds as far as getting a fair go from referees and the game in general is concerned. As I write, it’s 58 games since we last got a penalty kick awarded, during which time ten have been given against us, including some proper howlers. You get used to it, you come to expect it, but naturally, you never really accept it as your lot. I well remember Thomas Christiansen‘s ashen face after one match early last season; he was unable to credit what he’d seen with his own eyes, and I just thought, welcome to Leeds, mate – welcome to our world.

Things are different for other teams, of course, and it goes without saying that life at the non-crappy end of the stick is best exemplified by Manchester United, or the Pride of Devon, as I fondly refer to them. Their long penalty runs are matches without conceding one; it’s frequently said that nothing short of the cynical murder of an opposition player in their own penalty box will lead to a spot kick being awarded against them. One referee from the nineties, Graham Poll, frankly admitted that the best a ref could hope for when taking a Man U game during the tyrannic reign of Alex Ferguson, was to get the thing over, with as little controversy as possible, and ideally with Man U having won. That’s a mindset which must have yielded many victories in a game of fine margins; Man U were the beneficiaries of intimidated referees who wanted to avoid the Fergie treatment in the press, with a subsequent blacklisting from big matches.

This was a situation that applied throughout the Ferguson reign at Old Trafford, a period in which there was really no excuse for Man U failing to win the league in any one year. With everything in their failure, and the media vicariously lapping up the glory, Man U went from strength to strength. The learning curve their players were on under Ferguson was more than simply curved – it was totally bent.

But now, Fergie is long gone, and the major silverware eludes Manchester’s second-best football club. And yet still the “controversial” decisions accrue in their favour. Last night’s home game against Arsenal demonstrated both manifestations of the modern game; the old fashioned “lino’s call” for offside which resulted in Man U’s first goal, and the beginnings of modern technology ensuring that a goal stood which you would never see given against Man U in the days when eyesight alone judged whether the ball was over the line. Goal line technology, for a side that have seen so many narrow decisions go in their favour, is bad news for Man U. How much worse for them will it get when the video assistant referee (VAR) comes in for the Premier League next season, presumably taking away from the hapless Red Devils the marginal decisions they invariably get now?

It’ll be interesting to see what actually happens. My theory is that a club which has always suffered under the naked eye method of making decisions will be bound to do better when such a fallible system is superseded by state of the art cameras. And, equally, clubs that have always tended to get the rub of the green under “human error” will find themselves suffering disproportionately as those errors start to vanish from the game.

Could such a revolution actually result in the previously favoured club losing their exalted status, while the erstwhile pariahs come to the fore? Well, that’s probably just my over-active tendency towards wishful thinking. Still, it would be vastly entertaining and deeply satisfactory, if it ever came to pass. But the whole culture of the game and its supporting media is ranged against anything so unthinkable. During the Man U v Arsenal game last night, BT Sport‘s resident ex-referee “expert” Phil Dowd acknowledged that Man U’s first goal was narrowly offside. “But it was so close,” he demurred, “it would have been very harsh to give it. So, good goal.” That type of Man U-centric thinking still takes my breath away, even after decades of hearing stuff just like it. And it makes me think that, technology notwithstanding, the Old Trafford team will probably still be getting that annoying rub of the green for some time to come.

That’s not really any of my concern, though I’d like to think it vexes a few of you out there just as it does me. But my priority is Leeds United, and – eventually – we’re going to be playing our games under the electronic eye of VAR. And maybe then, if not before, we might actually get the odd penalty, or at least not have so many utterly crap ones given against us. And, if that proves to be the case, then I’ll happily declare myself a convert to this new technological approach. After all – who can afford to go down to the pub for an argument these days?

Can Wonderkid Jack Clarke Make Miraculous History for Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

…league games since United got a penalty kick

Leeds United’s teenage wonder and rumoured Manchester City target Jack Clarke is already making a considerable name for himself, on the back of a string of cameo performances that have seen him lend a new dimension to the Whites’ attacking play. No less a football authority than Clarke’s Elland Road manager, Marcelo Bielsa, has acknowledged the youngster’s potential to be a game changer, and it may even be that Clarke is destined to write himself into the history of Yorkshire’s No. 1 club by winning for them – whisper it in hushed tones – a penalty kick.

Some, of course, will dismiss this as fanciful in the extreme. There’s some justification for such cynical pessimism too – teams don’t go 58 games without a penalty (and having ten awarded against them over the same period) without some pretty determined referees being prepared to turn a blind eye and cock a deaf ear to all appeals, however much merit they may have. So why should a fleet-footed wide man, with consummate control and more tricks up his sleeve than you could shake a stick at, make any real difference?

The reason for guarded optimism lies in young Jack’s engaging ability to receive the ball in space out wide, in an onside position (unlike Alioski) and then jink and trick his way past his full back before making inroads into the opposition area (unlike Alioski). Keep doing this, and you’ll get chopped down in the box, sure as eggs are eggs. And keep getting chopped down in the box – well, surely you’re bound to get a decision sooner or later, even if you’ve got a Leeds United badge on your shirt.

And when that momentous penalty kick is awarded, maybe even this season, we might even manage to convert it, unless we’ve actually forgotten how it’s done. In which case, I do hope that the squad occasionally watch the video of last season’s shootout at Burnley in the Carabao Cup, when we made taking penalties look as easy as shelling peas. With that encouragement, anything is possible – but maybe I should just stop wishing for penalties, and enjoy how our heroes seem to be managing perfectly well without any.

Still – it would be nice. So make those runs, young Jack, commit those defenders and just hope that, when the referee does blow his whistle, it’s not just to book you for “diving”.

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 Clearly Now See the Football Authorities As Corrupt – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United to the FA: “J’accuse”

It is with weary resignation rather than any real sense of surprise that we have all learned today of the FA’s decision to hand Pontus Jansson a one match ban. The defender will miss tomorrow’s home fixture against Ipswich Town, due to his emotional but honest response to the question of a Sky Sports interviewer immediately after the last home game against Brentford.

Nobody who has followed the fortunes of Leeds United for any length of time will be greatly surprised at this latest sanction, even arising as it does out of a game in which an opposing player was caught on camera aiming a head butt at Gjanni Alioski – and got off completely unpunished. As Leeds fans, we’re sadly used to this, it’s become tiresome but par for the course. We sigh, we have a whinge via club blogs, we move on – most likely to the next injustice. We’re Leeds, the Damned United, pariahs, the ones they love to hate, 51 games without a penalty and counting. It’s scandalous, but after so many years of this kind of treatment, it’s unsurprising.

The official club reaction, though, is clearly and distinctly barbed. “Leeds United accept the one match ban issued to Pontus Jansson following our game with Brentford“, says the statement from Elland Road, “purely due to the fact that the club see no value in making an appeal“. This is not the club conceding that Jansson is bang to rights and suitably punished. Anything but. Rather, it is Leeds United pointing an accusing finger at the FA, as well as their partners in crime at the Football League, and saying “We know we’re not going to get a fair deal from you, so we’ll just get on with it”. It’s tantamount to the declaration of a righteous war against a corrupt and decadent ruling body.

The club had, after all, submitted a statement of mitigating circumstances to the authorities, opining that a warning and/or a fine would be sufficient unto the day. Leeds United undoubtedly take a very dim view of this latest crass action on the part of the FA, and are now likely to review club policy regarding post-match interviews, insofar as this is contractually possible. Various strategies have been mooted, including players being told to make themselves available for interviews, but to confine their responses to “No comment”. It would be a football take on “pleading the Fifth” and could possibly raise the stakes in what might turn into a veritable Cold War between United and the game’s ruling mandarins.

What seems certain is that the person least affected by today’s decision will be Jansson himself. As a brand new father of a brand new daughter – and many congratulations from Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything to Pontus and Mrs Pontus – he rightly has far more important things on his mind than Ipswich Town, and the £1000 fine that goes with the one match ban is hardly going to break his heart – or even his bank account. The important reaction here is that of Leeds United Football Club, who appear to have sent a very clear message to the FA along the lines of “We know what you’re up to. Watch it”.

Leeds should be able to cope without Jansson against the rock bottom Tractor Boys tomorrow – although, of course, that remains to be seen. The practical effect of what most United fans – as well as the club, quite clearly – will see as an outrageously bent decision, should be negligible. But the broader implications, now that Leeds United has decided, rightly in my view, to call out the FA for what they are – well, those implications could be more serious and far-reaching than anybody could have predicted when Pontus saw a red mist descend after feeling robbed on the final whistle against Brentford, and told the truth.

Watch this space, folks. Leeds United finally have the war paint on after half a century of persecution; the ride could get quite bumpy from here on in.

Leeds Hero Pontus Jansson to be Punished for Telling the Truth? – by Rob Atkinson

Pontus, giving Sky the unvarnished truth

They say that the first casualty of war is truth, and history tells us that there’s a lot of merit in those telling words. Certainly, in the war that the football authorities appear to have been waging against Leeds United for well over half a century now, the truth seems to be rather less than welcome as far as the aggressors are concerned.

This is most recently evidenced by the fact that the Football League and the good old sweet FA have not reacted well to a spontaneous outburst of truth from United colossus Pontus Jansson straight after the Brentford game. In a match full of incidents that arguably merited further examination and possible punishment, the guardians of the game have made what might be termed an odd choice in order to assert their own powers of judgement.

Many who watched the Brentford match – and this includes myriad fans of other clubs who were at pains to point out that they normally had no time for the Whites – were up in arms about what was an appalling display of rank bad refereeing. Quite what the Sky interviewer, who collared Pontus straight after the final whistle, expected to hear from him must be open to question. What he got was the man’s sincere gut reaction, delivered in Anglo-Saxon idiom; a blunt expression of what so many were thinking, namely that the ref had had a ‘mare and that Leeds had been robbed blind.

The most surprising thing to me about the post-match interview was Jansson’s rigid self-control. To be buttonholed directly after a game, with the frustration of losing two points still raw and the adrenaline still pumping, must be a difficult experience to say the least. When the Sky guy patronisingly warned Pontus to watch his language, like some pettifogging lackey to Mary Whitehouse, I honestly feared for his safety. I thought perhaps the forehead of Jansson, well renowned for its ability to head bricks away, might make a sudden and calamitous impact upon the interviewer’s nose. After all, the afternoon’s other example of the art of the nut was destined to go unpunished. But no. Pontus kept his cool and confined himself to a withering criticism of an awful referee who deserved no better. It was a masterpiece of self-restraint.

Leeds United fans are wise in the ways of the football mandarins’ dealings with their beloved club. Despite the fact that the Pontus incident would normally pale into insignificance beside the butting of Alioski or the swallow dive that “earned” Brentford their penalty, Whites devotees were soon expressing their opinions that the Brentford sinners would get off scot free, while Pontus would have the book chucked at him, with a warning not to head it back. And so, seemingly, it has now come to pass, with the FA announcing today that Jansson is to be charged.

In the administration of a game where a club, with tricky forwards who have plenty of touches in the opposition box, somehow fails to be awarded a penalty kick in FIFTY consecutive matches, something is far wrong. When that same club concedes NINE penalties over the same period, with some really dodgy ones in there like the joke decisions against Stoke and Brentford, something clearly stinks. And when the only disciplinary action taken, after a game including a head-butt and a laughable dive, is to level a charge at a man who merely told the truth in the heat of the moment, then you’re suddenly all too aware of what that stink actually is. It’s the stench of corruption, of a governing body rotten to the core who have made no secret over fifty-plus years that they absolutely hate, loathe and detest Leeds United.

People are suggesting that Pontus might cop for a fine. I saw a particularly attractive idea on Twitter; that Leeds fans should subscribe to a fund to pay the fine, and that United owner Andrea Radrizzani, on behalf of the club, should match the amount raised and donate it to the treatment fund for young Toby Nye. Pressure could then be applied to the FA to donate Jansson’s fine to the same worthy cause. I think this would be extremely fitting.

Mind you, it’ll probably be a ban, because those be-suited buffoons rarely miss a chance to deal a blow to Leeds United. What we really need right now is the fostering of a siege complex, so that the players know it’s us against the world, and react accordingly. We are all well aware that, whoever was the identifiable villain of the piece in the United v Brentford game, it was not Pontus Jansson. But this will cut no ice with the FL or the FA, so we’ll just have to get on with it – in the growing hope that our final position at season’s end can deliver an emphatic middle finger salute to those enemies of the truth who now seek to hang our Pontus out to dry.

The Football League Loves Leeds Utd and They Don’t Want to Let Us Go – by Rob Atkinson

All this talk of how everybody hates Leeds United, of how we’re the pariahs of the football world. What utter nonsense. If you look at the evidence, at a set of statistics that quite frankly beggar belief, you’re forced to conclude that what’s going on here is anything but hate. It’s got to be love, an unrequited adoration on the part of the Football League for its most famous member.

How else do you explain the fact that Leeds United has now gone 50 (FIFTY) league games in almost exactly one calendar year, without being awarded a penalty? And the closely related fact that, in the same span of time, NINE penalties have been awarded against us, culminating in the one against Brentford which resulted from a dive of which Tom Daley would have been justly proud. It must be love – because, evidently, the Football League just can’t bear to see us go. Not in an upwards direction, anyway.

Some cynics will say that money is at the root of this heartfelt longing to keep United where they are. Certainly, various clubs’ coffers would ring dolefully hollow without the annual visit of the White Army. Apparently, 8,000 of our number will travel for a rare untelevised trip to Blackburn after the international break. Let’s face it, that’ll keep them in hotpots for years.

Whatever the cause or motivation, the League policy of “no penalties for you, Leeds” is starting to provoke comment. Yesterday’s referee, Jeremy Simpson, was actually the last official to award Leeds a spot kick, against Reading early last season. The fact that we missed that penalty and lost the game clearly cut no ice with an outraged Football League. No penalties have been awarded to us since, and Mr. Simpson was required to atone for his sin and thereby make a fool of himself at the Brentford match, by awarding a penalty to the Bees which could charitably have been described as farcical.

The League might regard yesterday’s shenanigans as in some way making up for the penalty we got twelve or so moons ago, but, in adding a laughably one-sided refereeing display to the joke penalty, with a dubious injury-time red card thrown in for good luck, they really are letting their motives show. Perhaps a rethink is needed?

At the end of the day, if this Leeds squad under Bielsa performs to the levels of which it’s capable, it will be beyond the powers of the League and its whistle-happy henchmen to keep us down, unless they’re prepared to get really silly about this Leeds love-sickness of theirs. Perhaps sanctions will be applied in the wake of that Pontus outburst of honesty just after the final whistle? Who knows.

However much the League adores us and hotly desires to keep us within their slimy embrace, it seems likely that we will be leaving, moving onwards and upwards. It’s probably not going to be an amicable separation. These unrequited love things usually end in acrimony and bitterness. But the League will just have to suck it up and look for a new love. They’ll probably have Newcastle back next year, if that helps.

Not that I care how they feel. This was always a one-sided love. After 15 years, I’ll be happy to say goodbye and move on without a backward glance. Sorry, FL, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles. Ultimately, you’ll find, we’re simply out of your league.

Leeds v Middlesbrough Match Officials Warned “Watch Out for Ayala” – by Rob Atkinson

Boro’s Ayala – a box of dirty tricks

As if tonight’s top of the table Championship summit clash between Leeds United and Middlesbrough wasn’t sufficiently loaded with potential flashpoints, one above all others had the potential to affect both the result and the disciplinary responsibilities of the match officials at Elland Road.

With a full house expected and the electronic eyes of the Sky TV cameras ever on the lookout for controversy as well as action, the atmosphere will be edgy and intense right from the start. Both clubs have playing staff previously on the books of their opponents, and there is a long-standing rivalry between the Kings of Yorkshire and the club best known for being Yorkshire rejects.

One potential source of strife and controversy stands out above most others though, with the likely presence in the Boro side of Daniel Ayala, a man with recent form in this fixture. Last season, with Leeds two goals to the good, Mr. Ayala blatantly wrestled Luke Ayling to the floor in the United box, an action somehow missed by match officials. Understandably outraged, Ayling sprang up to remonstrate, and in the subsequent kerfuffle, Ayala, with a look of saucer-eyed innocence on his face, contrived to have his team awarded an unlikely penalty.

Not all match officials, of course, are as visually challenged as the assistant referee on that occasion appeared to be. We must give him the benefit of the doubt, after all, and assume that it was his eyesight to blame, and not the presence of the Middlesbrough away support just behind him. But Ayala’s initial assault on Ayling was crude and obvious, and it’s reasonable to say that the incident was not one in which justice was served. Fortunately, Leeds hung on deservedly to win the game 2-1.

Mr. Ayala is still up to his nasty little tricks though, and still managing somehow to be blatant about it, and yet escape the notice of the men with the whistle and the flags. The recent Boro v West Brom game was a case in point, with Ayala clearly offending and completely getting away with it. How he does this is a mystery; we can only hope that forewarned is forearmed, and that – if Ayala does play this evening – the nastier parts of his game are spotted by the officials.

Here’s hoping for a good game and a fair outcome. MOT.

Leeds United, Club and Fans, Could Have Done Better Over Jay-Roy Grot – by Rob Atkinson

The Don – fostered family atmosphere at Leeds

In a week hardly short of news stories about Leeds United, one in particular stands out for any fan of the Elland Road club who remembers how the first faltering steps to greatness were taken under Don Revie in the sixties; how, in short, football’s greatest family club was built. So, while I could have written this week about the arrivals at Elland Road of quality recruits for the campaign ahead, I will resist that temptation.

Instead, let’s look at Joe Urquhart’s recent Yorkshire Evening Post revelations about the struggles in his Leeds career so far of a young man called Jay-Roy Grot who, at the tender age of 20, is going for a year on loan at Dutch side VVV-Venlo. Grot, a young colossus of a man at 6’4”, arrived at United last summer from NEC of Nijmegen, snatched from under the noses of Italian giants Fiorentina. Sadly, the lad’s first year at Leeds did not go well, and his confidence has suffered. The loan away from United is designed to remedy that, in the hope of seeing him return stronger in the future.

All well and good, but a look at the role of club and supporters in this less than creditable tale might be instructive. The Elland Road support has been notorious since well before Revie’s time as “a hard crowd to play for”. They’re a crowd of extremes. They can get right behind their team, lifting them to peaks of effort and attainment. But, for the individual who is struggling to put a foot right, it can feel much less encouraging, with the terrace critics sometimes launching in even before a ball has been kicked. Young players of great potential can nevertheless find themselves dismissed as “crap”, and persecuted accordingly, should they fail to hit the ground running. Such was the shattering experience of Jay-Roy Grot.

Back in Revie’s day, before the term “pastoral care” had gained much currency, it was nevertheless a big part of the foundations of the Super Leeds side that grew up as a band of brothers to carry all before them. Revie saw to it that off-field problems would not get in the way of his team’s success on the park; his charges were looked after and nurtured. When the boo-boys got to a young and cherubic Billy Bremner, Revie supported and shielded him. If a player’s wife had a baby, there would be flowers from the Don, or a box of chocolates to celebrate a girlfriend’s birthday. No detail was too small, no problem too trivial. Revie looked after his lads and their families, and they repaid him by becoming legends.

Now, with the constant recent managerial changes at Elland Road, there seems to be no such continuity of care. The sad loss of Lucy Ward from her health and welfare role a few years back created a gap in the Leeds United system that remains arguably unfilled. These heartbreaking words from young Grot make for uneasy reading: “I am not someone who makes friends easily. And that also broke me up in England. Cooking, I had no problems with that. But coming home every day to an empty house, I had a hard time. I did nothing, nobody knew. I also had little contact with the other boys in the beginning”. The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that both fans and club could and should have done better in the case of Jay-Roy Grot and, going forward, they need to take this on board.

We must aim for less of the destructive booing from fans, less ignorant haranguing on Twitter, with more awareness and support coming from the club. This is not rocket science, and it’s simply not acceptable for a young player to feel as isolated as Grot evidently did. Maybe Leeds United should just ring Lucy Ward and beg her to come back? In the sad absence of the late, great Don Revie, Lucy is probably the best option.