Tag Archives: Huddersfield Town

Monk Nails Wagner for Lacking Class as Huddersfield Edge Out Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

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Wagner – a technical breach

When the prizes are handed out at the end of this Championship campaign, it may well be that this feisty – for want of a better word – encounter between Huddersfield and Leeds United will be the one to look back on and say “that’s when the season turned”. Not so much for the result – because I fully expect United to finish above Town despite the Terriers’ success today. The significant factors to come out of this game will be the effort and emotion that Town poured into edging the contest – and the bonding effect on Leeds United of the little contretemps that followed a fortuitous winner for the home side.

I feel that United will now kick on. Burning with irritation at their opponents’ classless triumphalism and a perceived lack of respect, the Leeds players and coaching team will find a new level of togetherness. The scenes towards the end of this derby showed a “cut one of us and we all bleed” attitude that has always served Leeds teams well. The players reacted like tigers when Town coach David Wagner topped off his ill-advised pitch invasion by encroaching on the Leeds technical area. Garry Monk stood his ground, and his players piled in. Great stuff. Its something to draw on for the rest of the season, and I fully expect that to happen. I’d give a lot to be a fly on the wall at Thorp Arch when the players reconvene this week. Feisty will be the least of it.

As for Town, they could well become victims of what I have in the past termed “post-Cup Final Syndrome”. It affected supposed big boys Newcastle in the aftermath of their Elland Road win, and one glance at Huddersfield’s next six fixtures shows that there is potential for the kind of falling-away that I’ve often noticed in smaller teams after managing to win against Leeds. If this sounds arrogant, then I’m sorry. It’s borne out by verifiable facts, so there you go.

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Classless, sick dog-botherers

The lack of class embodied by the Town coach was sadly not confined to the touchline. In the stands as well, Terriers fans, hyped beyond all taste and reason, flourished a Turkish flag in a deliberately gloating gesture designed to rankle with Leeds fans still haunted by the murders in Istanbul 17 years ago. On the taste scale it was way down towards the Millwall and man united end of things. You expect more of fellow Yorkshire clubs, but clearly Huddersfield, as we’ve long known deep down, is a taste-free zone. The media make nothing of this sort of thing, but it’s among the worst aspects of our game today – and one can only feel sympathy for the bereaved families when they see yet another example of idiots taking some sort of sick, perverted pleasure in the deaths of innocent football fans.

The upshot of this afternoon will turn out to be one result that doesn’t change much, and two off-field factors that could affect things greatly. Watch for Huddersfield to fade away and see how Leeds now pick up. There’s a long way to go, and much can yet happen. 

And should these two clubs chance to meet again in the play-offs, do you think that Leeds will now lack for incentive and motivation? Not a chance. Be afraid, Town. Be very afraid.

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Leeds Need to “Nail” Huddersfield’s Mooy: Ironic Whinge from Town Fan – by Rob Atkinson

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Terriers fan, moral high-ground holder and justice evader David Foster

As the latest Yorkshire Derby edges closer, with Huddersfield Town due to host Leeds United at High Noon on Sunday, the build-up took a slightly hysterical turn earlier today, when respected YEP reporter Phil Hay observed that United’s main job would be to “nail Aaron Mooy. If he runs the show, Huddersfield will win”. A fair enough observation, you’d have thought – but the reaction among certain Huddersfield fans of nervous and delicate dispositions was frankly ludicrous.

One Town fan in particular, a Mr. Duncan Foster, twittered his distress: “What an appalling tweet. If you worked for me I would fire you. To suggest “nail” a player is wrong. You have a responsibility”. Mr Foster, you may not be surprised to learn, is a drama director – so his hissy fit and histrionics were possibly to be expected. Feelings run high when local rivals meet, and that appears to be particularly the case among the denizens of Huddersfield’s Coronation Street-style cobbled streets, with their dark, satanic mills and packs of rabid poodles.

Ironically, Aaron Mooy himself has some form in the matter of “nailing” opponents – and in a much more literal sense of that word than Hay intended. Huddersfield’s early season win at Elland Road turned on an incident which many, Town manager David Wagner included, felt should have earned Mooy a red card, when he was guilty of a two-footed challenge on Liam Bridcutt. To add insult to injury, Mooy not only remained on the pitch, he also went on to score a fine winner. Huddersfield fans are neither the first nor the only ones to suffer from selective memory disorder but, in the case of Mooy, Leeds could respond with “live by the sword, die by the sword”. Phil Hay, for his part, found it scarcely credible that anyone could seriously think he’d been advocating injuring the Town man. The Town side of the exchange reeked of small-time paranoia and opportunism, and what has to be said is a slightly precious attitude from Huddersfield’s most prominent drama queen, Mr Foster.

It has to be said also that any attempt to occupy the moral high ground on the part of “Corrie” director Mr. Foster tends to leave a slightly odd and repellent taste in the mouth. Foster, who was secretary of his local branch of Gamblers’ Anonymous at the time, narrowly escaped a driving ban in 2010. He was found with over twice the legal limit of alcohol according to a breathalyser test, asleep at the wheel of his car, which was parked three metres from the kerb, engine running and lights on. Foster escaped a ban only “by the skin of his teeth” after an emotional plea to magistrates, citing his many debts and his utter penitence. Such a narrow escape from just deserts puts him almost in the Aaron Mooy class for dodging justice, but it does also tend to make him look a bit of a hypocrite when he lectures a professional journalist about “having a responsibility” – and on the most specious and contrived of pretexts. Still, it takes all sorts.

The fact of the matter is, Phil Hay has it spot on with his analysis. Huddersfield work their best moves through Aaron Mooy, and any sensible opponent would set out to nullify him, if they can. Clearly, a team of Leeds United’s reputation and devotion to the beautiful game will take a more scientific approach than the one chosen by Mooy himself at Elland Road. We are not, after all, a side known for dirty or foul play.

After his assault on Liam Bridcutt, can that dirty dog Mooy – or indeed the hardly blemish-free Mr. Foster – really say the same? 

Leeds CAN Secure Automatic Promotion as Rivals Falter – by Rob Atkinson

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Garry Monk – the man with the plan

We’ve had false dawns aplenty before at Elland Road. Many a time, a false dawn has appeared to be the only possible light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. But this time, things do feel different. There’s a momentum steadily gathering, a feeling that Leeds United are developing slowly into an unstoppable force. History tells us that, often in the past, the leaders of the chasing pack benefit from a sudden uncertainty and crumbling of long-time front-runners. That scenario is developing right now at the head of the Championship – and Leeds United, to our delighted surprise, is the form horse.

One of the characteristics of a successful team is that it can grind out a result when playing badly. Leeds demonstrated that strength against Blackburn Rovers last night at Ewood Park, in a game that could easily have slipped away, but which was decided by a late and thumping header from the talismanic Pontus Jansson.

Another sign of a team going places is the quality of being able to bounce back from the occasional lapse. That’s something that this Leeds United team has been able to do on several occasions this season, going on to compile unbeaten runs after reverses that would have sapped morale in other years under other managers.

Garry Monk has had his less than brilliant moments since taking charge of United, but overall has seemed determined, self-assured and unflappable. He survived early difficulties, avoiding the ever-poised axe in the hands of maverick owner Massimo Cellino. Indeed, one of the main achievements of his first season in the Leeds hot-seat has been to marginalise Cellino, quieting talk in the media of the owner picking the team and generally remaining his own man. Other factors may have helped push Cellino into the shadows, but it’s still the mark of a strong man to succeed at Leeds where so many others have failed.

On the whole, and despite the odd, inevitable blip, Leeds United are very well placed now for the last, crucial stage of the League campaign. Free of cup commitments, with the squad enhanced by quality additions and vital players returning from injury, the platform is there for a decisive surge between now and May. Much will depend on the durability or otherwise of the teams ahead – Brighton, Newcastle and, to a lesser extent, Reading. Huddersfield and the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Derby and even Barnsley, present a threat from behind. But Leeds have the resolve and the personnel to emerge from the pack and take advantage of any crack-ups from the top two. And there are definite signs of such frailty and vulnerability in both Brighton and Newcastle.

The top two seem concerned about each other, when they should perhaps be looking fearfully over their shoulders at the play-off pack. Usually, somebody comes with a late run, exploiting a loss of bottle above them to reach the tape ahead of the pace-setters. It’s a situation that could well work in favour of Leeds United.

This weekend is the first of many pivotal League rounds to come. Huddersfield and Brighton meet tonight, in a game where any result will have some advantage for Leeds. And United have that extra twenty-four hours recovery time before having to travel to Huddersfield on Sunday. It will be very interesting to see how the Championship top six looks on Sunday evening.

But whatever happens over the next few days, there are golden opportunities for Leeds to assert themselves over the remainder of the season – and both Newcastle and Brighton will be feeling the heat. That’s a situation a canny manager like Monk can and should exploit; this blog believes that he is willing and able to do just that.

Leeds United for automatic promotion this season? You’d better believe it.

Huddersfield Town AFC to Close Down Next May?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Huddersfield dogs

A solemn meeting of Town fans, yesterday

In a sensational development for Yorkshire football, a Huddersfield Town insider has claimed that the 2016/17 season could be the last for Huddersfield Town as a Football Club – a status which many consider moot anyway – but nevertheless, rumours of the cessation of trading for the Terriers are shocking, to say the least – especially with the fan base having decided as early as August that Town were going up as champions.

The reasoning behind the closure rumours will go deep into the heart of many a Terriers fan. Our contact behind the scenes at Huddersfield, Mr. Terry Orr, confided to us, “For a long time now, the main priority at this club has been to finish a league season above Leeds United. This hasn’t happened for many a long year – not since the 1961-62 season, I believe. In essence, this dream has become the club’s entire raison d’être, not to mention its whole reason for existing”. Terry paused at this point as emotion appeared momentarily to get the better of him. “The fact of the matter is”, he continued, moist-eyed but smiling bravely, “that this season could be the one when we finally do it. And if we do – well, how could we possibly top that? We’ve had meetings, and we don’t think it’s really feasible. There’d quite literally be no point in going on, nothing left that we could realistically achieve. We’d just have to move on to other projects, especially with us promotion prospects already on t’way down t’bog.”

It’s a sentiment echoed in other parts of Yorkshire’s most dogged club. Supporters’ representative Mr. Gray Hound nodded wearily when we put to him what seems on the face of it an outrageous possibility. “Yes”, Gray nodded, thoughtfully, “I’ve heard whispers of this closure thing. I can understand it. From a supporters’ point of view, if we ever did finish above “them”, it’d be like the Holy Grail, Christmas and Crufts all rolled into one. I can’t really think there’d be much appetite for carrying on after an achievement like that. I mean – where do you go from there? Personally, I can barely bring myself to believe it might happen but, looking at the table, you have to say there’s some sort of a chance. And if we really did do it? I don’t know. We’d probably all retire to a nice big field and chase sticks and sniff each others’ bottoms. It’d be like following Huddersfield Giants in a way…  Then again, with us getting hammered 5-0 at Fulham and with you-know-who winning today as well, it still might never come to pass. In’t life grand?”

Leeds United refused to comment beyond a terse assertion that such a circumstance is unlikely to come about. An anonymous source stated “Is not going to ‘appen, my friend. An’ if it did – wellll, per’aps a few of us not aroun’ to see it”. 

Huddersfield Town‘s inferiority complex is 55.

Cellino’s Leeds United Go to the Dogs As Huddersfield Bite Back   –   by Rob Atkinson

Huddersfield Town will anticipate tomorrow’s open-top bus parade, among the dark, satanic mills of West Yorkshire’s bleakest outpost, in the most ebullient of high spirits. After this rare Cup Final win against their bêtes noires at Elland Road, they have much to celebrate. Leeds United were mercilessly obliterated in the second half, this after having made a reasonable start to what is usually a keenly-contested match.

The home side had actually taken the lead after Marco Silvestri in United’s goal saved an early penalty – only to be pegged back by half time before a healthy derby day crowd of almost 30,000. But Town ultimately ran out easy winners through a dominant post-interval performance when they rattled in three unanswered goals, the Whites subsiding in the end with barely a whimper, rolling over most obligingly and playing dead for their less illustrious neighbours.

For Huddersfield, this was ample payback for the three-nil beating they took in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. On that occasion, Leeds rode their luck and emerged with a slightly flattering victory that rankled deeply with Terriers fans. Wind forward to today’s debacle, and the one thing you could say without fear of contradiction is that both teams got exactly what they deserved.

Huddersfield are showing the benefits of life as a club with some unity and a cohesive approach behind the scenes. Leeds, on the other hand, flatter to deceive at the best of times – and at their worst, as here today and a short while back at Brighton, they are truly, dismally appalling.

In between times, the Whites had strung together three victories of varying quality and merit. But, against Huddersfield, they failed to derive any inspiration from a large crowd – and they proceeded, limply and almost disinterestedly, to let that crowd down and betray their loyal and long-suffering fans. Not for the first time this season either, let it be noted. And most likely, not for the last.

Leeds United continues to resemble a headless chicken of a club, bereft of any organisation or direction at the top, and with a tendency to run around in ever-decreasing circles before finishing up a twitching mess on the floor. The most pertinent question that Cardiff, Bolton and Blackburn – United’s three recent league conquests – can ask themselves is: how on earth did we lose to an outfit in that state? Huddersfield made no such mistake. Like a slavering, famished pack of hounds, they scented blood and pounced for an easy kill. 

Perhaps the sole consolation on the Leeds side of things today will fall to those simple souls who are happy to proclaim their undying support for, and faith in, our loco owner Massimo Cellino. The picture here of a pro-Cellino demonstration can leave nobody in any doubt of the multitude of fans thronging to proclaim their backing for Il Duce. 

Flat earthers unite en masse to demonstrate their unshakable faith


Really: with a power base like that behind him – how on earth can Cellino possibly fail?

Live TV Incentive for Huddersfield Town’s Cup Final – by Rob Atkinson

Huddersfield fans - a different breed

Huddersfield fans – a different breed

Excitement levels were rising today in the avenues, alleyways, streets and kennels of Huddersfield, with the news that their seasonal Cup Final against the club they’re utterly obsessed with, big brother from down the road, Leeds United, will be televised live by the Sky cameras.

Local boy Jack Russell was almost beside himself with gleeful anticipation as he gave his reaction to the momentous news. “It’s momentous news, this,” he yapped eagerly. “We have a bone to pick with Leeds after their two lucky wins against us last season. And it’s a bone that I’m off to dig up right now,” he added, before scampering off to cock his leg against the gas-lit street-lamp outside his owner’s ramshackle two-up, two-down.

Elsewhere, anticipation reached fever pitch amid a positive orgy of excited yelping and bottom-sniffing. The dark, satanic charity shops of West Yorkshire‘s most 19th Century spot were being stocked with Big Match merchandise: Town v Leeds collars, baskets and feeding bowls were flying out of the door as trade became brisk a few short hours after the news broke that the locals’ Cup Final would indeed be screened before the whole nation.

Huddersfield fans have mixed feelings about the comparatively long wait for their season’s high-point; the match does not take place until November 7th, with a lunchtime kick-off. But the feeling among the majority is that the league games leading up to the Final will enable Town to prepare adequately for a challenge they failed to meet twice last season. “It’s not abart results in t’other games afore t’Coop Final,” insisted local character Al Sation. “It’s all abart t’proper preparation, like, cos t’most impooortant thing is to beat Leeds, or at least gerra draw, or at t’very least keep it darn under three this time.”

Meanwhile, large areas of Huddersfield are expected to subscribe to mains electricity for the first time, in order to be able to use their new Sky TV subscriptions for The Big Day. Others have stated that they don’t hold with such new-fangled nonsense, and will attempt instead to run reconditioned Sky HD boxes off the gas supply or perhaps by steam. “If we gerrall this leccy nonsense tekkin’ a foot’old in t’Tarn, it’ll be t’beginning o’ t’end,” barked octogenarian rat-catcher Fred Bassett. “T’place’d go to t’dogs. Not that that’s a bad thing, tha knos…”

Leeds fans groups declined to comment specifically on the Huddersfield game, merely expressing mild surprise that the local derby against Sheffield Wendies had not been selected for live coverage. “We’re that used to being on the box,” said one world-weary Whites fan. “It’s getting to the point that we’re always on – but I suppose it is nice for the smaller clubs to have their time in the spotlight. Even Huddersfield!”, he added, chortling merrily.

The Leeds game will, in fact, be Huddersfield’s second live TV date of the season, in addition to Wolves away in October. But the John Smith’s Stadium outfit have admitted that the trip to Wanderers will now be treated as just another warm-up game in preparation for the real thing. Talk of fixtures against Leeds being treated as Cup Finals has long been a bone of contention among Terriers fans – but it certainly remains the case that this is the fixture that means more to them than any other. The televised Leeds game is set to gain the highest viewing figures of any TV event among Huddersfield viewers – with the possible exception of Crufts.

Football League Issue “Apology” to Huddersfield Over Leeds Match – by Rob Atkinson

The Football League board, yesterday.

The Football League board, yesterday

The Football League have moved to smooth ruffled feathers at Huddersfield Town, after a “misunderstanding” led to the hosts in Saturday’s West Yorkshire derby missing out on the current “penalty against Leeds United” refereeing policy. A League spokesman, Ivor Whytes-Grudge QC, confirmed that a “formal apology” had been issued, but insisted that it was just a communications breakdown that had led to the Terriers being denied a spot-kick at some point in the game. The formal League position is that the appointment of an official from the Premier League pool was to blame; the League’s own refs, they say, are well aware of current requirements as can be seen from statistics in recent matches involving Leeds.

When pressed on the matter of penalties, Mr Whytes-Grudge was emphatic. “The League has nothing to be ashamed of here. This has been a simple mistake and, as we all know, mistakes will happen from time to time. But if you look at Leeds last three games, it’s clear we’ve been doing our bit – at least with our own officials,” he added, wryly. “In those three games prior to Huddersfield, there has been a well dodgy penalty awarded against Leeds in each match. Further, in the Birmingham game at Elland Road, two nailed-on awards for Leeds were brilliantly refused. And against Bournemouth, the ref managed to award a penalty near the end and send the Leeds player off – when the foul was outside the box, with covering defenders. Sadly, the silly lad Kermorgant missed it – we’re actually considering a disrepute charge over that.”

What went wrong in the Huddersfield game, then? Surely, they’re feeling dogged by bad luck? “Well, it was a shame, but it was just one of those things. We had the appointment of Chris Foy imposed on us, after he was dropped for that weekend from the Premier League. Then – and we have to hold our hands up here – it was down to us to brief Mr. Foy thoroughly on current Football League policies. And that didn’t happen. Our bad.”

So will normal service be resumed this weekend? Mr Whytes-Grudge was cautious. “We’ll have to see about that. This Huddersfield complaint had to be looked into, and we’ve had to do a proper grovel – but it has rather brought things out into the open. The Leeds coach, Redfearn – he was starting to make a few remarks about them being got at and, when you’re sussed, you have to have a rethink and come up with a Plan B. We might just have to be a little bit subtle from here on in – know what I mean?”

Legendary Football League administrator Alan Hardaker, 102, is dead.

BBC: “Distressing Scenes” Stopped Us Showing Full Leeds Highlights – by Rob Atkinson

Manish: "Upsetting scenes"

Manish: “Upsetting scenes”

Many fans of Leeds United – and even Huddersfield Town – were mystified at the BBC’s decision to show only brief highlights on the Football League Show of the pulsating West Yorkshire derby between Town and United on Saturday. Leeds fans have become used to an apparent BBC policy whereby matches featuring the League’s biggest and most illustrious club are given only scant coverage by the corporation, usually about thirty seconds somewhere towards the end of the programme’s Championship montage.

Derby games, though, might normally be considered a special case, with a large (for Huddersfield) and passionate crowd creating a vibrant atmosphere and adding to the spectacle of fierce local rivals going at it hammer and tongs. And yet, once again, the coverage was minimal. At the start of the programme, reference was made to “today’s early kick-off”, but this was an allusion to the Brentford v ‘Boro live Sky game – not the Town v Leeds affair which also had a lunchtime start.

When asked for an explanation of what might seem, on the face of it, to be slightly odd editorial decisions, a BBC spokesperson commented “Actually, we had planned to show extended highlights of Huddersfield Town versus Leeds United, featuring the match prominently near the start of our Championship section. But sadly, there were some distressing scenes caught by our cameras and we felt that these would be too traumatic to show to the vast majority of our viewers. We are always wary of transmitting events and unforeseen developments that may upset our audience. In this case, the game turned out in a way we could not possibly have foreseen – and we felt we had to reduce coverage to the minimum allowable and leave it till later in the programme.”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything – whilst fully cognisant of the fact that the Huddersfield player Tommy Smith sustained a head or neck injury towards the end of the game, and that scenes such as that are always difficult and possibly traumatic viewing – still felt that this incident, upsetting though it undoubtedly was, hardly justified “pulling” the full highlights. We therefore put it to the BBC that, by the time the programme was broadcast, Tommy Smith was in a stable condition in hospital, sitting up and talking to doctors. Surely, the coverage could have gone ahead as planned – maybe with a reassuring message that the player was fine now, and in no danger?

The BBC spokesperson spluttered a little, and we wondered if he had perhaps choked on a corporate nibble. “The injury to the Huddersfield player? You thought that’s what I was talking about? No, no, no,” our contact laughed uproariously. “Oh, dear me, that’s a good one…” The laughter continued unabated as we waited patiently for our man to calm down and explain himself. “Look, you’ve totally misunderstood me,” he chortled, eventually. “When I referred to distressing scenes that we couldn’t possibly have anticipated, I didn’t mean some common or garden injury! Think, man! This was a Leeds United away win, clinched by a superb goal in the last few minutes! Can you imagine anything more horrible, more upsetting for our viewers?? We couldn’t possibly expose them to that – now could we?”

Manish Bhasin is a self-satisfied git.

Huddersfield Complete Hat-Trick of Cup Final Defeats – by Rob Atkinson

2-1 in yer latest Cup Final...

2-1 in yer latest Cup Final…

Almost exactly a year ago, Huddersfield Town rolled up to Elland Road confident of easy pickings against a Leeds United side traumatised by the events of “Black Friday” – the eve of the local derby when a new owner-in-waiting sacked the manager and all of a sudden moves were afoot among the media to get our captain to declare he wanted out.

Bad times, as anyone would agree. Could the Whites bounce back and do a job on their mad-keen neighbours Huddersfield? For lowly Town, this was always one of the big fixtures – their fans demanded a victory over the Goliath from the big city. At first all seemed well for the minnows – they were ahead and, in one corner of the stadium their small pack of fans yapped and barked gleefully, prominent among the songs being a taunt about Captain McCormack not wanting to play for Leeds.

Prescient as that appears now, at the time it was a joke too far and McCormack, with the help of his team-mates in white, rammed the quip back down those doggy throats as the Terriers were eclipsed 5-1 in a stunning comeback. McCormack scored three, and it was a silent and bedraggled pack of hounds that sloped off back to their kennels that night.

Poor Huddersfield fared no better on their next visit to Elland Road, earlier this season, when Leeds put three past them without reply and could easily have had more. Again, the away support was silenced early as Rudy Austin slammed home an opener in front of the South Stand. Then Bellusci struck a sublime chip against the Town bar, the rebound dispatched firmly by Antenucci – and it was Antenucci again to complete the scoring after the interval. For me, the day was embellished by corporate hospitality and selfies with Terry Yorath and Massimo Cellino himself. It was a particularly good day for Leeds – but for Town it was their second Cup Final trouncing in just a few months. Surely, things could only get better for our canine friends?

Sadly for dog-lovers everywhere, today illustrated the fact that there has been no improvement in the fortunes of West Yorkshire’s poor relations – dogged though their efforts may be, they are seemingly doomed to failure. At their Meccano stadium, Town must have been hoping it would be third time lucky after two fruitless trips to Elland Road. But Leeds set about them early, hounding the poor pups for every ball, and were soon rewarded with a neat finish from Sam Byram to give the visitors the lead.

Town rallied, scoring from a corner before the interval and it was a fairly scruffy battle in the second half, decided late on when sub Billy Sharp hurled himself at a cross ball to bury his header in the Huddersfield net. With time about up, it seemed a certain winner, but a nasty-looking injury to Town’s Tommy Smith delayed the end of the game as Leeds held out through an interminable period of added time. The final whistle eventually signalled United’s third successive victory over their humble neighbours and, with better news of the stricken Smith coming later on, the day had ended well for Leeds at least.

So, despite all that desperate doggy desire, despite those troublesome chips on Town shoulders where Leeds are concerned, it’s been business as usual today, with Leeds taking the spoils – and so, the poor dogs had none. These are bleak times for Town fans, for whom each season is all about whether they can possibly snatch a rare victory over Leeds. That’s gone for another year – so what now for the Huddersfield breed? Can they bounce back? Will their manager survive yet another Cup Final defeat? Will any of them watch the highlights on the BBC?

Never mind any of that. Leeds won. Again. So who really gives a toss?

Can Darko’s Leeds Cope with the “Cup Final” Mentality of Local Rivals Rotherham? – by Rob Atkinson

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Huddersfield’s low-key celebrations after edging out Leeds

In the wake of Leeds United’s recent failures on the road against inferior local opposition, it’s well past time to take stock of the problem behind this unwelcome phenomenon, which is set fair to drag us down and keep us away from the top level –  if it continues as it has in past campaigns. It’s to be hoped that, in the new Darko Milanic era, things might be different. There were some promising signs against the Wendies the other week, but away from home against pumped-up (yet lower-class) opposition, some fight is what’s sorely needed.

Firstly, let’s put to bed any foolish suggestion that the local opposition aren’t inferior. They are – by definition.  Leeds do not and never have in living memory played local derbies where they are the underdog in terms of club size and history.  We’ve been the biggest club in Yorkshire – by far the biggest, and the only one with a global profile – for the last fifty years plus. Whatever the relative squad merits – and for 90% of the time, Leeds have possessed demonstrably more accomplished players too – any meeting between Leeds and a smaller Yorkshire club has seen the Elland Road outfit cast as Goliath to some horrible, backstreet David. The real question is – does such superiority of status confer any advantage at all?  The answer to that would appear to be a resounding No, and a reminder that, horrible and provincial though David might have been, he still gave Goliath one in the eye.

The extent of the problem may be brought into focus simply by comparing two different sets of results over the past few years.  If you look at league games against other Yorkshire teams, together with a selection of upstarts around the country who have a similar chip on the shoulder, as compared with our reasonably regular Cup meetings with Premier League clubs over the past three or four years, the contrast is startling – and it says a lot about what it has taken to motivate our white-shirted heroes.

Taking league games first, and looking at the locals – the likes of Barnsley, the Sheffield clubs, Huddersfield and Hull, together with self-appointed rivals like Millwall – the results have been unacceptably bad.  Barnsley in particular have visited embarrassment upon us in match after match, often by a significant margin, whilst keeling over to most other clubs and usually only escaping relegation by the skin of their teeth, prior to their welcome demise last year.  Our relatively close West Yorkshire neighbours Huddersfield are nearly as bad for our health. The other season, these two clubs met on the last day, and over the course of ninety minutes, first one and then the other seemed doomed to the drop.  In the end, both escaped because of events elsewhere – and what did both sets of fans do to celebrate their shared reprieve?  Why, they joined together in a rousing chorus of “We all hate Leeds scum” of course.  This tells you all you need to know about what motivates such dire and blinkered clubs – but at least the motivation is there.

And the motivation is there for Leeds United, too – just not, seemingly, on those bread-and-butter league occasions when we need it.  What seems to turn your average Leeds United player on over the past few years, is the glamour of the Cup – either domestic cup will do, apparently.  Results and performances in these games have left bewildered fans scratching their heads and wondering how such high achievers can then go on to perform so miserably against the envious pariahs from down the road in Cleckhuddersfax.  Look at the results – going back to League One days.  A narrow home defeat to Liverpool in the League Cup when by common consent we should have won and Snoddy ripped them up from wide areas.  The famous win at Man U when we went to the Theatre of Hollow Myths and showed neither fear nor respect in dumping the Pride of Devon out of the FA Cup.  Draws at Spurs and Arsenal, beating Spurs, Gareth Bale and all, at Elland Road.  Beating other Premier League sides such as Everton and Southampton in games that had you wondering which was the higher status club.  Great occasions – but of course we haven’t the squad to go through and win a cup, so these achievements ultimately gain us little but pride. And, naturally, when we draw a Yorkshire “rival” away in a Cup, we contrive to lose embarrassingly as per Bratfud earlier this season. It’s just not good enough.

Often we will sing to daft smaller clubs’ fans about the Leeds fixtures being their Cup Finals, but this is becoming a joke very much against us.  The teams concerned seem to take the Cup Final thing literally, they get highly motivated, roll their metaphorical sleeves up, the veins in their temples start to throb and the battle cry is sounded.  Their fans, normally present in miserable numbers, are out in force – and they are demanding superhuman endeavour.  Faced with this, too many Leeds teams over the past few years have simply failed to find a comparable level of commitment and effort.  There’s no excuse for that – it has meant we’re almost starting off a goal down – even when we swiftly go a goal up.

The sheer number of local derbies will count against a team which allows itself to suffer this disadvantage, this moral weakness.  For Leeds, since we came back to the second tier, there has usually been one Sheffield or another, usually Barnsley or Huddersfield or Hull, Middlesbrough perhaps – even the just-over-the-border outfits like Oldham and Burnley feel the same ambition and desire to slay the Mighty Leeds.  It amounts to a sizeable chunk of a season’s fixtures – if you fail to perform in these, then you’re struggling.  The pressure is then on to get results against the better teams at the top end of the table, and we don’t fare too well there either.

It’s easy to say that it’s a matter of getting better players.  Largely that’s true.  But we’ve usually had better players than these annoying little Davids, and yet the slingshot has still flown accurately right into Goliath’s eye and knocked us over. Professional football is a game of attitude, motivation, mental readiness to match the opposition and earn the right to make your higher quality tell.  This, over a number of years, is what Leeds United have signally failed to do.

Can it change?  Well, so far this season we’ve played Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield at home  – plus Millwall, who qualify as a southern member of the chip on the shoulder brigade, away.  We’ve four points out of nine to show from that little lot, which is the difference between our current position and sixth – in the play-off zone.  Even three of those lost five points would see us just a point off the top six places.  And the thing is, ALL of those games were distinctly winnable, so it’s no pipe-dream to look at where we might have been.  The difference is down to attitude; our opponents have had it and – with the notable exception of the Huddersfield performance – we simply haven’t.

It’s a sobering message at this stage of the season, with only three such games played – and plenty more to come.  But it’s a message that should be heeded, or the effect on our season will become more profound as it goes on.  The potential is there for us to take advantage of games against inferior but highly-motivated opposition, to match the attitude of these teams and to reap our rewards.  The failure to do this will see us endure yet another season of under-achievement. We have to overcome the “Cup Final Mentality” of certain other clubs, mainly those in Yorkshire but elsewhere too.

The Rotherham game next Friday night is an ideal opportunity for this new, tougher mental attitude to kick in. Again, we have small local rivals who nurse a fierce and unrequited hatred of Leeds United – and they have the odd old boy in their ranks as well as a wily manager who has been busily bigging us up. Our heroes will include a number of quite new foreign signings, who may still be a little wide-eyed and naive on occasions like this. So the ingredients are all there for the relative big boys of Leeds to turn up, find the environment not to their liking – and roll over once again in abject surrender. Please, let it not be so.

Leeds United –  you just need to get psyched-up and go out to win some of these pesky and troublesome “Cup Finals”.  Darko can inculcate his principles and make a pretty pattern of play – but when blood and guts are needed, some fight and some grit – then it really is up to you lads who wear the shirt we’d all of us out here be willing to walk on hot coals for.