Yes, it’s only Twitter – but our esteemed and reliable fanzine folk at The Square Ball might just have themselves a little scoop here. It’s a YES 🤞 from Rodrigo de Paul, and our top flight status could well be about to get a lot more secure.
Some unlikely candidates have put themselves forward as “rivals” to Leeds United over the last decade and a half, as Yorkshire’s finest have languished in the middle two tiers of English football’s four division structure. Some, such as Barnsley and Huddersfield, have had few pretensions to be compared size or history wise with United, but feel a tribal enmity based on geographical proximity, which is understandable enough. The same might be said of the two Sheffield clubs, or even Bradford City.
All these local clubs, together with the likes of Reading, Millwall, Derby etc etc have sought to exploit the reduced circumstances of Leeds for as long as their top flight exile lasted, to suggest that genuine two-way rivalries were in place. That bubble of delusion popped with United’s overdue elevation to the Premier League, and the realisation that the traditional enmities would now be cordially resumed. In the hearts and minds of Leeds fans, it was always about the likes of man utd and Chelski, with those clubs reciprocating the extreme dislike, even during our long absence from actual competitive involvement.
But, even in the Premier League, there are lesser clubs who clearly yearn to carry the mantle of “Leeds United’s rivals”, however ridiculous such a claim seems in the absence of any reciprocal antipathy, or indeed any real interest on the part of the Leeds fan base. Still, that hasn’t stopped certain clubs from fondly imagining there’s a rivalry there, and one in particular is extremely reluctant to give up on even such an outlandish notion.
For Brighton and Hove Albion – not so much the club itself, more their fans and adherent local press – the time since the end of last season seems to have been a prolonged and unaccustomed spell in the spotlight, due entirely to Leeds United’s pursuit of Ben White, who spent a gloriously successful Championship campaign on loan at Elland Road and was now wanted by United on a permanent basis. The move never happened, despite repeated efforts on the part of Leeds, and despite the player himself being widely regarded as wanting a return to West Yorkshire. In the end, Brighton stood firm, and Leeds, after making three offers and having them all turned down, reluctantly looked elsewhere and signed a German international for around half what they’d been willing to pay for White, who lacks any experience at all of top flight football, let alone the international arena. So Brighton kept their player, Leeds got a more than adequate replacement in Robin Koch, and Ben himself, at long last, got a contract acceptable to him, given the value placed upon him by his parent club. Case closed, so you’d have thought.
But no. The Brighton support and the local press for the region were not willing to give up so much delicious attention, and set about trying to force an unlikely rivalry with a club and support base hundreds of miles to the north, both of which habitually looked west to the red quarter of Manchester for its chief object of dislike and derision.
For Brighton, the Ben White tranfer saga evidently represented their biggest day in the sun since a Cup Final appearance (coinciding with relegation) 37 years ago. Looking further back, their only other real mark on history was a Charity Shield triumph sometime prior to the Great War of 1914-18, so it’s reasonably understandable that their fans should wish to prolong any spell in the public eye. But the ridiculousness of their efforts to talk up a “rivalry” is to be found in the fact that such efforts persisted even after Leeds ended their interest in Ben White, with the local press tagging Leeds in any tweets relating to his eventual new contract, and the Brighton fans on Twitter eagerly attempting to troll bemused Leeds United fans, who remained preoccupied with more traditional rivals and only thought of Brighton when Quadrophenia was on the telly.
It was all most unedifying, and it’s a stark warning that we can’t expect much more by way of dignity and restraint in the Premier League than we ever found at lower levels. I got drawn into the slanging match myself at various points before it became clear that, despite his wishes in the matter (confirmed today by his agent), Ben White would not be sold to Leeds at any price. At that point, I stopped taking the mick about Bielsaball versus Potterball, and moved onto more pressing matters – such as how the EFL would survive without Leeds United. But the Brighton fans persisted, becoming more evidently needy and utterly ridiculous with each passing day. Abandoning any sense of irony or perspective, they’re vying with each other to label United a small club, heading straight back down, which is insolence if you like, and pretty foolhardy stuff to boot. But the relentless tagging of LUFC by the Brighton tweeters and the Sussex Bugle, or whatever it’s called, continues unabated. This is a club unused to such attention, and clearly its supporters are desperate to prolong the experience as far and as long as possible.
The whole thing reflects pretty poorly on the Brighton support, certainly of the online variety, which has been encouraged in its collective acts of self-ridicule by a local press clearly cottoning onto the fact that tagging Leeds in any published piece will increase the number of hits exponentially. Again, I’ll exclude the club itself from those remarks, due to their determination in resisting offers from a bigger club, which you have to applaud. They also showcased Ben White in a video allowing him to express his appreciation of his time at Leeds, and to thank the fans for the support and adulation he received here. That was classy stuff, and there was no real need for Brighton to do it, so fair play.
Perhaps – just perhaps – Brighton & Hove Albion still remember that Leeds United helped save them financially when they were enduring hard times, by signing goalkeeper Mark Beeney for a significant sum, which went a long way towards alleviating a threatening situation at the time. That’s a factor that the local press down there, and the eager-beaver online fans might do well to take into account before bringing down even more ridicule upon themselves. However recent Leeds United’s elevation to the top level, it’s an undeniable fact that the Elland Road outfit is by far and away a bigger club than Brighton could ever dream of being, with a far more illustrious history, a fan base that spans the globe and (let’s face it) a much better coach and the makings of a squad that will compare well even with such an – ahem – established Premier League force as Brighton.
The moral of this tale is probably: choose your rivals well, and don’t punch above your weight – something the over-enthusiastic Brighton fans have flouted, thereby making themselves look several shades of daft. There’s a perfectly good south coast rival in Southampton, not an incongruously bigger beast as Leeds are, and therefore much less likely to reflect poorly on and embarrass the Brighton club. From here on in, it’s to be hoped that the Seagulls, fans and hacks alike, will conduct themselves in a more seemly and less cringeworthy manner – but I suppose we’d better not hold our breath.
Superstar Lionel Messi is on record as declaring that he’d love to play for Marcelo Bielsa. In this blogger’s humble opinion, his recent plea for El Loco to join him on the Nou Camp stage at Barcelona was the wrong way to go about fulfilling that desire to experience the guidance of the man they call the best coach in the world. Messi should be looking at the reverse proposition, and consider the prospect of doing for Leeds United what Diego Maradona did for Napoli many years ago.
It’s always tempting in these cases to add together two and two, ending up with 1919 or so. When the signs align as they appear to do in this case, it’s hard not to clutch at a passing straw and reach a highly desirable conclusion. But there is that precedent involving Diego Maradona, a man who coincidentally figured in an even more outrageously unlikely rumour back in the dark days of pre-Wilko United’s second division tenture in the eighties. Then, affable MD Bill Fotherby was telling everyone who would listen that this deal could be done, and you began to understand how this plausible man had succeeded in life. It didn’t happen, of course, but Maradona did eventually make a move from his storied career at the Nou Camp to a Napoli outfit that had seen no Serie A success in far too long. The rest is history, Maradona proved to be the magic ingredient in the revival of the Naples club. He was also destined to feature briefly for Newell’s Old Boys later in his career, a club of significance to any student of Bielsaball.
So, could history repeat itself? It’s unlikely, but it’s also, tantalisingly, well short of impossible. The received wisdom is that Lionel Messi would love to play for Bielsa, and there is also the rumour that the new Adidas deal provides for the possibility of a marquee signing, the kind of player who would raise even the profile of a global giant such as Adidas a notch or two. As for the player himself, could he perhaps be tempted at this stage of his career to help complete the return to the global stage of a former player in Leeds United, just as Gordon Strachan did thirty years ago, and just as Maradona did at Napoli?
As rumours go, it’s not a bad one. And at least we’re not speculating about the likes of Wayne Rooney, who found the task of revitalising Derby County a step too far. At a time when Messi’s Barcelona adventure is showing signs of turning a bit sour, maybe – just maybe – he might be looking for an inspirational challenge elsewhere – and under his favourite coach, too.
Managerial maestro Graham Potter has revealed that Leeds United target Ben White is an essential component of his masterplan for Brighton to achieve global domination by the end of the coming season, using their inimitable brand of attacking football, now rightly revered as “Potterball”, to crush all opposition.
A Brighton insider enlarged on the Seagulls’ plans to conquer football: “We are aiming to win the league and then the Champions League over the next two years, or sooner if possible. Ben White is vital to these plans, so much so that he might even get the odd game. His value to us is summed up by a price tag well into the billions, certainly more than a small club, a really really tiny, insignificant club by the way, such as Leeds could afford. And to show our commitment to Ben, we’re willing to pay him double what he was getting on our Youth Opportunities Scheme before we farmed him out to Newport”.
Asked if perhaps Brighton as a club have something of a chip on their shoulder where Leeds United and particularly Marcelo Bielsa are concerned, our man would only say “Well, you know how it is with Seagulls and chips”.
Meanwhile, the concept of “Potterball” is gaining momentum among the club’s dozens-strong supporter base. “These are exciting times”, said one drooling resident of Hove. “Potterball is where it’s at, and Ben White knows this. That’s why he’d prefer to stay and compete with seventeen other centre-backs, rather than return for another season under some Argentinian nobody. The world is at the lad’s feet – he’s incredibly lucky to have the greatest coach in the universe and £150 a week into the bargain. Read it and weep, Leeds!”
I make no apology to Sky Sports for nicking their “Leeds Promoted” image above. They owe us, I feel, for their snide and needless overlay of “Leeds Are Falling Apart Again” during their live lockdown coverage of a recent home game. Ultimately, Sky were wrong about the falling apart thing, as United clinched automatic promotion and the Championship Title, with two games to spare. A more apt motif for this season would be Angus Kinnear’s remark to the effect that we wouldn’t be dicking about with playoffs this season, and so we didn’t. Other teams have that nightmare before them, and they’re welcome to it.
Thanks go to Huddersfield and Stoke, both of which clubs I love very much, for making this weekend a riot of celebration and alcohol-based dissolution. You’ve been as wonderful for my spiritual well-being as you’ve been disastrous for my short term health; on balance, I’m deeply grateful.
All I need to do now is to add “As Championship Champions” to the above image, by dint of some PhotoShop type wizardry which is currently beyond me due to the effects of grain and grape. But I can do all that when I sober up, maybe sometime toward mid-August. In the meantime, I love all of you too, you’re my best mates, honest you are, salt of the earth to the very last Jack & Jill of you. Hic!!
Yesterday was just one of those bad days at the office, that curious and frustrating Leeds United mixture of dominance and fallibility that so often gifts three points to inferior yet hard and determined opponents. That’s nine defeats this season now and, as one of the commentators remarked during the match at Cardiff, United have arguably been the better side in all nine. Whatever is behind this phenomenon, it’s the kind of thing to induce the collywobbles in even the most unflappable Whites fan, along with the predictable epilogue of clueless moaners having a field day on Twatter and Farcebook. All in all, it was a day to forget, but that’s easier said than done.
And yet, after reading one particular tweet, I was inspired to take my own steps with the aim of either staving off disaster on a cosmic level, or of assuring myself a little fiscal compensation if the worst should come to the worst. In short, I had a punt at 12/1 against on Leeds United failing to go up. I’d set aside £50 so that I could be treated to a new LUFC top in sparkling Adidas for my birthday – but instead, I lumped it all on the worst case scenario, and that breaks a lifetime non-gambling record, as I’d never previously had so much as a flutter on the National.
I have to say, it’s immediately made feel better, having been in a foul mood straight after the final whistle in Wales. I had expected to be able to take defeat philosophically, thanks to the efforts of Brentford and Birmingham at Fulham and West Brom respectively. But I was gutted, given the dominant nature of our performance, to see Leeds sustain two self-inflicted and fatal wounds. It was just such a poxy way to lose, and such a poxy team and club to lose against. Anyway, whatever the pros and cons, or swings and roundabouts, I was down in the dumps until this tweet inspired me to lump on Leeds missing promotion. As I’m a perennial loser in games of chance, I’m pretty sure I’ve just made United’s elevation to the Promised Land a stone cold certainty. As a stereotypical Yorkshireman, I could never normally have imagined being so eager to lose £50, with that slight dread of winning £600. But I do feel I’ve got the bases covered now, and I’ll be happy to miss out on a new LUFC shirt, if it means being back where we belong.
I’m not trying to induce anyone to start gambling here. It’ll be a cold day in hell, or at least a dry day in Manchester, before I repeat the exercise. I’m just glad I’ve done it this once, as it’s lifted my mood considerably. And I have high expectations of an outcome worth a lot more than 600 lousy quid.
Incidentally, I should mention at this point that I’ve not felt moved to write here since my brother and fellow lifelong United fan Graham died suddenly and unexpectedly in April. I’m really not quite sure why that is; maybe beside our Gray’s death and this whole lockdown thing, football suddenly seemed pretty small beer. But it’s back now, and so am I – and this is my first chance to say thank you for all the kind and sympathetic messages I received after I wrote my brotherly tribute two months back. They were all much appreciated and greatly helpful.
Huddersfield Town – self-proclaimed “best of breed”
Leeds United have been dealt a potentially devastating blow to their promotion hopes, in the event of the current, COVID-19 affected season proving impossible to complete, as officials at the English Football League (EFL) appear set to accept the opinion of a rival club that they have better players, man for man, than the Elland Road club.
The controversial claim comes from Huddersfield Town chairman Phil Hodgkinson – pictured here 🤡 – who stated recently that the Terriers squad is superior to United’s on a man for man basis. Now, the EFL look likely to accept this as fact, given that Hodgkinson is a born and bred Town fan, being a member of the Young Terriers when he was but a pup, and that one of his companies is called PURE Legal Limited. EFL spokesperson Avril Primero, who admits to being a registered whippet fancier, was enthusiastic about the League’s likely endorsement of Hodgkinson’s opinion. “How can you doubt a man with those credentials?” gushed Ms Primero, waving a blue and white scarf above her head. “Phil is one of the good guys, certainly compared to certain shady foreigners we could name, operating as they do at a club without Huddersfield’s glorious record of success in the 1920s”.
Leeds continue to maintain that their only wish is to see the season completed, so that they can prove on the field of play which Championship team is the best over 46 games. Our reporter ventured to ask if the Elland Road stance would be informed by the fact that Leeds have murdered Huddersfield in both league games this season, but that query was met only with a polite reply to the effect that promotion and the league title would be decided over the full league programme, not by results against a so-called rival, and certainly not by recourse to any half-baked and embarrassing opinions offered when the person concerned was evidently high on Bob Martins Vitamin Pills.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – tempted by Elland Road but forced to settle for the San Siro
News has emerged that Leeds United held “concrete” talks with Zlatan Ibrahimovic during the January transfer window, with a view to bringing the prolific Swede to Elland Road for the run-in to a possible Premier League promotion. In the end, Zlatan settled for a less challenging option, moving to ply his trade in Serie A with AC Milan, but the important aspect of this remarkable story is what it reveals about the ambition being displayed by Leeds under the ownership of Andrea Radrizzani.
The January window was reasonably fruitful for United in the end, with the loan signing of Jean-Kevin Augustin, whose potential is beyond dispute. But still, the neghative end of the Leeds online support was as vocal as ever, accusing the club of dragging its feet and lacking ambition. It is now quite clear, with the audacious bid for Ibrahimovic – and with interest also apparently having been registered in the PSG sensation Edinson Cavani – that United are prepared to aim high in their efforts to enhance the squad. That kind of resolve, backed up by Premier League status and a vastly richer transfer war chest if promotion should be achieved this season, bodes very well for the Leeds squad development plans and prospects in a higher sphere.
If Leeds were prepared to think this big whilst still in the Championship, who knows what their targets might be as a top flight force? It’s a mouth watering prospect, however long the delay might now be until those ambitions can be realised.
Surely though, it’s now a matter of when, not merely if Leeds go up – and the ultimately unsuccessful enquiries for two major stars in January could well be a precursor to some extremely ambitious squad building in the run up to United’s first top level season in sixteen years.
It looks as though, when that glorious day dawns and Leeds are back in the big time, they might just be going for it in an appropriately big way – and this blogger, for one, can hardly wait.
Even in the triumphant moments following his winner against Millwall in midweek, you could tell that Patrick Bamford has been got at by the relentless negativity and sheer destructiveness of a section of Leeds United’s “support” (for want of a more appropriate and descriptive word). Bamford had stuck away a diving header to complete the comeback from two down against one of our real bogey sides. His celebration was pointed – a strained, unsmiling face, ears covered in a defensive signal, not cupped in mockery. Despite his two goals, this was not a happy man. The famous Leeds United boo boys – mostly Twitter or other social media trolls, but there is a matchday gang too – might just be on the point of chasing yet another demoralised striker out of the club.
That would be a hell of a shame, but no real surprise, we’ve seen this sort of thing before. In Bamford’s case, I’ve been doing my best to blame online trolls, of which Leeds United have an ample sufficiency. But a picture of some vile graffiti aimed at our No. 9, daubed inside the South Stand by some witless moron, confirms that supporter stupidity is not confined to the Internet in all its various manifestations. Those critical of Bamford’s gesture might be described as “disingenuous at best”. Personally, I think that description has altogether too many letters.
Against Wigan this weekend, things didn’t go that well for anyone and, predictably, the self-appointed football experts were all over social media again, seemingly happy with the opportunity an unlucky defeat to a jammy goal affords them, and taking sideswipes at players and management alike, presumably in the name of constructive support. Such clowns don’t allow the fact that their knowledge of the game amounts to zero, to prevent them from having their vapid say and, once again, Bamford was the favourite target. Clearly, these bright boys and girls will not be happy until he’s relegated to the U-23s, at which time they can turn their fire on some other hapless individual.
Despite the fact that Patrick Bamford is a tireless worker, a goal scorer who never stops trying even when singled out for ritual abuse, someone without whom the side has usually struggled and who is clearly beloved of his team mates – despite all that, perhaps it’s time to take the spotlight off him for a bit. New signing Jean-Kévin Augustin is waiting in the wings, and – after a bit of indoctrination into the complexities of Bielsaball – he should be ready for his first team bow sooner rather than later. He also seems to be anything but lacking in confidence. Big Kev, as he’s known by some (and now by himself too, if you glance at his Twitter bio) could be the very man to allow Patrick Bamford some much needed “me time” during which he can get his head straight and rid himself of all the negativity and downright hostility some so-called Leeds fans seem to think it’s so cool to project. Lone man up front for Leeds is a big ask, and it may be that Paddy needs a bit of a break.
Not that I would presume to second-guess Marcelo Bielsa, it’s just that I hate to see a lad putting his body on the line match after match, only to be shredded by a few simpering idiots from the safety and non-accountability of their keyboards. It seems to me, from what I’ve been able to glean of Big Kev, that he may be a little more durable in the face of unqualified and clueless criticism. At the very least, he’d have a honeymoon period to allow him to settle in. Or so you’d hope.
I guess though that the famously steadfast Bielsa, who is actually starting to be questioned by some of these hard-of-thinking nonentities, will stick firmly to his own favoured approach – and he will know better than anyone else just how much or how little Bamford is being affected by the online chorus of disapproval. So far, Paddy’s reaction has been defiance, with a post-match comment about having a lot he could but won’t say, and maybe that should reassure those of us with the lad’s (and the team’s) interests at heart that he’ll be able to come through the slings and arrows being flung at him by the online Neanderthals. Let’s hope it stays that way, and that Bamford carries on with his job of shooting us to promotion.
But – if things do become intolerable – there is at least now an alternative. And I’d hope that Big Kev’s endearingly cocksure confidence, together with his evident desire to be at Elland Road and helping achieve Leeds United’s goals, will stand him in good stead if Mr. Bamford does eventually, temporarily, need to be taken out of the dumb clucks’ firing line.
The dumb end of the Leeds Twitter feed, in pictures
We’ve probably all had to cope with the tantrums of spoilt kids at one time or another, sometimes in particularly testing circumstances when you just need to get somewhere or accomplish something – and it has to be managed against this irritating background of immature whinging and tantrums. The car scenario is especially annoying, with the petulant classic “Are we there yet??” starting as you turn out of your street and continuing for pretty much the whole journey, as you grit your teeth and turn the radio up. Now, what could be more representative than this tiresome phenomenon, of my current major bugbear, the #LUFC hashtag on Twitter? Especially at this time of the year, when the dreaded January transfer window has these bleating inadequates giving full rein to their endless spoilt brattishness. The resemblance between a car full of screeching spoilt children and the Leeds Twitter feed in January is well nigh inescapable.
It’s embarrassing, too, for those of us who are more inclined to let those who know what they’re doing get on with their jobs. Not for us the tendency to clamour for attention from the likes of Phil Hay or Andrea Radrizzani, addressing them as “mate” or “boss” and demanding to know why United haven’t yet signed this, that or the other multi-million pound striker. There’s plenty who do, though, and – bandwagon jumping being in the nature of the dimmer end of the online Leeds support – more seem to appear with each passing day.
It must surely try the patience of the professionals concerned, just like that harassed Mum trying to drive safely as her infants squall in the back of the car. And yet there seems to be an expectation on the part of each and every clueless tweeter that their particular plea for attention and information will bear fruit – maybe in the form of “Hi, Shane of Beeston, we hadn’t thought of buying Edinson Cavani until you contacted us, but you’ll be glad to know that – because of your message – we’re right on it now. We’ll show PSG your tweet and I’m sure they’ll cave in. Marcelo says thanks.” A greater triumph of hopeless expectation over common sense you could not wish to see, and yet these eager dweebs are queuing up to make themselves look approximately that daft. Well meaning, but dim, just about sums it up.
The other sort are even worse. They don’t bother making suggestions, constructive or otherwise – they move straight on to the conspiracy theories, whereby the Financial Fair Play regulations are just a cunning cover story, so that all of the money invested by fans can go straight into the back pockets of Angus Kinnear, Victor Orta et al, prior to their abrupt disappearance in the direction of Rio de Janeiro. The problem shared by most of the Twatteratti is the apparently certain belief that they know what is going on, better than anybody else. Naturally, they feel the urge to share this superior knowledge with everybody else, repeatedly ad nauseam, until Twitter threatens to make your eyes bleed. It is not an edifying experience.
As I write, we’ve signed a new young goalkeeper, one for the future, and a promising winger from Man City who was courted by Torino of Serie A, and whose prospects of first team involvement may well be more imminent. The reaction of the Twatteratti has been predictably less than positive. The goalkeeper signing was greeted with “Oh, so we need a striker and we sign a keeper, suppose we’ll be playing him up front against Millwall, haw, haw, aren’t I droll”. There is this urgent need among these malcontents to be loved by their similarly-challenged fellow spoilt kids – the desire for lols, likes and retweets supersedes any fleeting thought of keeping their powder dry and seeing what happens.
For those of us with little choice but to trawl through all the Twitter dross in the hope of unearthing the occasional nugget of actual news, or even a Grade A believable rumour, the output of this Legion of the Thick is dispiriting indeed. I guess other clubs suffer from similarly clueless sections among their online support, but that’s quite frankly cold comfort. I’m pretty sure that, if it’s a question of degree, our petulant tendency out-numbers that of most other teams. I suppose that, in a sort of backhanded way, it’s an indicator of the mass appeal of this club. Still, it’s no wonder some call us The Damned United.
As of now, we still need that new striker to provide the competition for Patrick Bamford that any front man needs in order to keep honed the cutting edge of his game. And I’m sure it will happen, sometime in the next few days, barring some other “aren’t we clever” club doing a Swansea on us. But, even if that were to happen, I’m convinced that Leeds United will have done its best during a traditionally difficult window. For what it’s worth, there are some respected voices putting a similar opinion out there, the likes of Hay, Popey etc. So we should perhaps keep the faith, and keep on telling those spoilt kids to pipe down.
Meanwhile, though, it’s really very difficult not to think “Roll on February”…