Tag Archives: Ireland

Paudie O’Connor Has Found His Level Two Leagues Below Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

O’Connor – Bradford’s gain is no loss to Leeds

I was never convinced, despite assurances from fellow Leeds fans, that Paudie O’Connor had what it takes to succeed at Leeds. This is based not on rare glimpses of him in a first team shirt, but on his more frequent U-23 appearances in general, and one petulant episode after an away defeat to Barnsley’s second string in particular. I thought then, and it’s now been confirmed, that O’Connor’s future would play itself out away from Elland Road. I’m not unhappy to be proved right.

The incident in question surrounded my attempt to have a quick word with U-23 debutant Sam Dalby. O’Connor was having none of it and led Dalby away, hurling a string of four letter abuse over his retreating shoulder. I put it down to post-defeat temper and refrained from pressing the issue, as you do. But the unpleasantness and unprofessionalism of a young man who had, and still has, done little in the game, made me doubt his ability to stay the course at a club like Leeds. Now he’s gone, and many are expressing surprise at his descent to the Football League basement. I beg to differ. O’Connor not only has to work at his game, he’s got a fair bit of growing up to do too, and needs to learn to rein in his emotions, trying where possible to avoid tantrums. League Two will be a hard school but, right now, it’s just what he needs and a fair reflection of his current level of ability.

I would have kept my powder dry for as long as Paudie was registered as a Leeds United player. But he’s gone now, and I feel he’s no real loss in the grand scheme of things. It takes a certain sort of character to succeed at Leeds, and my instant impression after his hotheaded outburst was that O’Connor wasn’t the right material. Time alone will tell about that. Good luck to the lad at Bradford City.

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The Ego Has Landed: David O’Leary Back at Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

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O’Leary, and the book that earned him the sack

Amid the muck and bullets of an attritional battle between Leeds United and Norwich City last weekend, word was received that the club was being visited by the Ghost of Seasons Past. Former Whites manager David O’Leary was back at Elland Road, holding court in the Legends Lounge – some unintentional irony there – and dispensing his own particular brand of faux humility to anyone who would listen.

That’s what always got me about O’Leary, even at the height of his success in the post-George Graham period – this tendency of his to peddle a “Love me, I’m just a novice manager doing the best I can” line. Backed by good results from a young and thrilling team, it was an engaging enough act for a while anyway – but any such act, whether it be the blarney of Erin, or just plain old self-serving bullshit, wears thin eventually. In O’Leary’s case, that process of disillusionment was accelerated by his own actions as financial crisis and the Bowyer/Woodgate court case hit the club hard. When the solids hit the air-conditioning, poor David was liberally splattered by the noxious fallout, his strained relationship with local press figures meaning there was precious little sympathy or protection for him there.

O’Leary was quite literally the author of his own misfortune. “United on Trial”, his controversial book in the wake of the long, drawn-out court case, was an ill-judged attempt to dissociate himself from any blame for the storm clouds gathering over Elland Road. Players from a squad he’d previously dubbed his “babies” were callously thrown to the wolves, who had scented blood in LS11, and were voraciously snapping away at the heels of a wounded and foundering giant. It had all looked so good for Leeds in the campaign leading up to the Champions League last four, but the fall from those rarefied heights was precipitous; weak leadership in the boardroom had given O’Leary too free a hand in the transfer market, with results that have become notorious in the history of a club that tried to live the dream but entered instead into a ten year nightmare. So unprecedented was this fall from grace that a new phrase, describing the suicidal self-immolation of any football club, entered the language: “Doing a Leeds”.

O’Leary got the Leeds job at a particularly propitious time; able to build on the foundations laid by the cautious and meticulous approach of George Graham, he also benefited from a crop of youthful talent coming through, the like of which had not been seen at Leeds since the early sixties. It was a recipe for success, requiring only a steady hand at the tiller and a fair share of good luck. Sadly for United, after a bright start to the Irishman’s tenure, neither of these requirements were fulfilled, and the club embarked on a downhill slide that a greased pig would have found hard to emulate.

Despite all of this, some United fans have fond memories of O’Leary – which, when you consider some of the football played and some of the results achieved, is reasonably understandable. But the idyll was deceptive; some of the players grew disillusioned, to say the least, with a manager whose genial demeanour masked what at times was a chilling ruthlessness, allied to a preoccupation with being seen always in the most favourable light. His popularity with certain squad members declined to the point where at least one refused to sign a book for a fan, simply because the manager’s picture featured on the cover. And his attitude towards respected local press members – summed up briefly as “I don’t really need you” was seen as so wilfully arrogant that those press members felt under no obligation to pull their punches when things tuned sour.

Even now, O’Leary will use his characteristic self-effacing delivery to mask what amounts to relentless self-promotion; he’s always after the printing of the legend, untainted by inconvenient facts. In and around his Elland Road appearance last weekend, the former United manager revealed the question he’s most often been asked by Leeds fans since his departure. Predictably, it redounds to his credit – what O’Leary soundbite does not? “It’s ‘When are you coming back to Leeds’“, he revealed, adding that he found such a question “embarrassing really. I’m so privileged that they still remember me”.

Continuing this apparently diffident self-homage, O’Leary gushed “It’s just so nice and I always knew that I had their support, and I appreciate their support even more now. Twenty years and they still remember me – I can’t believe that!”

It’s not that difficult to believe, though. United fans, especially those who don’t habitually sport the rose-tinted glasses of fond recollection, will be unlikely to forget the man who inherited a dressing room of such vast potential and then proceeded to lose it through his own crass and self-serving actions. The answer to the question of “When are you coming back, David?” must surely be “Next time Leeds United needs the spirit of the club shattered almost beyond repair – next time we wish to plunge into a new dark age and threaten our very existence”. It really was as bad as that.

So David, you can quote your admirers all you like – we’re never going to hear the other side of that coin from your self-aggrandising lips. But remember, some of us see you for what you are – and we’re glad and relieved that you’re history now as far as Leeds United is concerned.

Leeds United Unearth Some Diamonds On the Emerald Isle – by Rob Atkinson

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Leeds United completed a satisfactory Irish section of their pre-season programme yesterday, with a comfortable 3-0 win at Shamrock Rovers to follow Wednesday evening’s 2-1 victory over Shelbourne. The 100% success rate is gratifying enough, but more significant is the fact that United seem to have added appreciably to their options going forward.

Last season, progress for Leeds was hindered by a lack of goals. The summer’s big signing, Chris Wood, struggled through injury and a lack of service, though he still went on to be top scorer. The lack of firepower alongside Wood, as well as poor service from out wide, conspired to limit both chances and goals for a United side that never really threatened to challenge towards the top.

There are early signs, though, that the coming season might be different. In the two victories this week, three new recruits have shown they might just have what it takes to increase the Leeds forward threat. Swedish striker Marcus Antonsson notched a brace in Saturday’s stroll at the Tallaght Stadium, his two goals sandwiching a Wood penalty. This alone seems to promise a productive partnership, but it was Antonsson’s hard work and movement that really caught the eye as he presented many a problem for the Shamrock defence. Add to this the pace and trickery of fellow big-money signing Kemar Roofe, along with loanee Hadi Sacko and the youthful promise of the exotically-named Ronaldo Vieira, and things might just be looking up for the Yorkshire giants as an attacking force.

Compared to the hard times of last season, it’s already looking like an embarrassment of riches up front for Leeds and, with the sure touch of new coach and former Swansea defender Garry Monk at the tiller, a significant improvement in the defensive third would be no real surprise. Further recruitment is expected, perhaps another winger coming in – NEC Nijmegen’s Anthony Limbombe is hotly-tipped to sign – and some strengthening in midfield where United have lost a potential star in young Lewis Cook, to Bournemouth. With another centre-back also on the agenda, it could well be a busy time at Elland Road as the countdown to the big kick-off proceeds.

Exciting times for Leeds perhaps – and yet nobody who knows the club will be getting too excited just yet. The wins in Ireland are encouraging, but the potential of the group Monk is putting together will face sterner tests before the season starts in earnest. A glamour friendly at Elland Road will see Serie A aristocrats Atalanta provide a real challenge on July 30th. By then, there may be new faces in the United team, with the recruits we’ve seen so far further bedded in. Garry Monk, though, will be focusing all his preparations on the Championship opener at Queens Park Rangers on August 7th, when live TV will give millions the chance to pass judgement on this new Leeds United.

For the time being, it’s looking promising for new coach Monk and his new team. Perhaps Leeds United might be about to launch a serious bid for promotion, something their long-suffering fans will confirm would be long overdue.

Leeds Must Back Brian When the Going Gets Tough – by Rob Atkinson

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Now that Brian McDermott has nailed his colours to the mast in acting swiftly to quash mounting speculation that his immediate future might lie in the Republic of Ireland hot-seat – it’s time to reappraise our manager once again.  Rumours were running hot earlier today, with petrol being poured on the fire by the unscrupulous likes of the Mirror, who took a few random quotes from over the years to the effect that McDermott was keen on the Ireland job, and added two and two to make unlucky 13 – but that’s the Mirror for you.  If Brian McDermott had been in any sort of a quandary over this situation, it could well have run and run, destabilising not only the preparation for this weekend’s game at Bolton, but also the whole platform being built for the season ahead.  That would have been highly unfortunate to say the least, in a massively competitive league where the finest of margins will separate success from failure.

That McDermott has come out at the earliest feasible opportunity and – whilst acknowledging that he does have international ambitions with Ireland – scotched the immediate prospect of this happening by declaring his 100% commitment to Leeds United, reflects massive credit upon him.  The terms in which he has outlined his determination to achieve success with Leeds, speaking of the warmth of his relationship with the fans as well as of the club in general and how it deserves success, will endear him even to any remaining doubters.  If commitment and passion for the job in hand count for anything, then Brian McDermott is surely destined to be a brilliant success at Elland Road.

But the harsh realities of the club’s current, less-than-certain financial situation will dictate the practical extent of his ability to influence matters on and off the field.  For the best coach in the world, results will be a function of resources – you cannot, as they say, polish a turd.  The holes in United’s first team squad, apparent to anyone with any awareness of the demands of league football over 46 gruelling games, threaten to hemorrhage a lot of the possibilities from Leeds’ nascent campaign. However steady and solid the start has been, there is clearly the potential for a bad run which would leave the club playing catch-up on a steamroller as the sleek speedsters of the Championship elite pull away into the distance.  Should this arise – according to normal form at Leeds United – Brian McDermott might well find himself trying to do a difficult job with a tin hat on, dodging brick-bats from know-alls in the stands and on social media too.

That we as a body of support are capable of this type of behaviour is simply a matter of fact; you just have to look at the twitterati campaign of scorn and abuse against Noel Hunt to realise that. McDermott is evidently aware of it too, and he has made a point of defending Hunt, which again is to his credit.  This is a manager who has made all the right noises ever since he’s been at Leeds, and now he’s deferred what is evidently his ultimate professional ambition: to manage the country he feels most closely attached to.  To say that he deserves our unstinting support is a masterpiece of understatement.

So, it may well be that this season might get tougher as it unfolds.  There may well be trouble ahead.  If that happens, then it is devoutly to be hoped that those of the tendency to dive on a keyboard, or chelp from the stands before their grey matter has been warmed up will pause, and reflect a while.  Maybe they will cast their minds back to this week before venting their frustrations on a man who is trying to do what is right for our club, maybe they will have second and better thoughts and actually give loud expression to their support and backing for this man who has so completely devoted himself and his talents to taking Leeds United back where they belong.

Will Brian be given the time and space, the peace from the loud-mouth tendency that other managers have craved and not been afforded?  We can only hope so.  Our manager is inviting us to March On Together, and that should mean something special to any Leeds fan – so let’s do that, even if times get tough.  That way, when United return to the top, perhaps we’ll ALL be able to say “We deserve it.”

Brian McDermott in Frame For Irish Republic Job? – by Rob Atkinson

With the departure of Giovanni Trapattoni from the managerial hot-seat after the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifying defeat to Austria this week, the gentlemen of the Press are busy compiling an initial list of names for an early guesswork list of candidates to replace the Italian. One name that has cropped up in this immediate bout of speculation is that of Leeds United’s still fairly new manager Brian McDermott.

The inclusion of the Leeds boss among the likely lads to succeed Trapattoni will not be welcome news at Elland Road and will revive unhappy memories for United fans of longer duration. Back in 1978, Leeds had dispensed with the services of Jimmy Armfield who had provided some stability after the 44 day maelstrom of Brian Clough. Armfield was replaced by a true legend of the game in Jock Stein, European Cup-winning giant of Glasgow Celtic and seen at the time as a suitably big name to revive United’s fortunes 4 years down the line from the glittering Revie era. But Stein too lasted only 44 days, departing to take over the reins of the Scotland international team after Ally McLeod’s turbulent reign ended in the wake of that summer’s World Cup disaster in Argentina. The loss of Stein hurt Leeds badly – he had started well at Elland Road but there were rumours that his wife failed to settle south of the border.

For Leeds, after Jock Stein, it was a downward spiral, through the tenure of Jimmy Adamson and then Revie old-boy Allan Clarke, to relegation from the top flight in 1982. Who knows what Jock Stein might have achieved with Leeds? He was an institution of the game, right up there with Shankly, Busby and Revie himself. He did well for Scotland right up to his sudden and untimely death at a World Cup qualifier in Wales.

Any attempt by the FAI to seduce McDermott from his burgeoning project at Leeds is likely to be stoutly resisted by United, though it would almost certainly come down to the personal preference of the man himself. Nobody can usefully hang on to an unhappy boss whose heart lies elsewhere, but there has been no suggestion of unhappiness in the Life of Brian since moving to LS11. On the contrary, he appears extremely happy to be in charge at Elland Road, being reported to have thanked Reading FC for sacking him and affording him the chance to take on such a massive club, about whom he has said all the right things since moving into Neil Warnock’s old office. The fans have taken to Brian as he seems to have taken to them – not many managers have stumped up their last 50 Euros on a pre-season tour to buy the lads on the terraces a drink. McDermott seems to relish the task he’s taken on at Leeds United.

It’s to be hoped then that the mention of Brian’s name is based on nothing more than lazy journalism, a concept not entirely unfamiliar where Leeds United reportage is concerned. Truly is it said that the grass is not always greener and despite the possible lure of international football, this applies as much to the Emerald Isle as it might to anywhere else.

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