Tag Archives: Italy

FA in “Go Quietly” Deal With Leeds Owner Cellino? – by Rob Atkinson

CellinoLiar

Massimo Cellino – too quiet

It’s long been a case around Elland Road of “All quiet on the Cellino front”. And not just every now and then quiet, while il Loco recharges his batteries for more damaging nuttiness. It’s been just too quiet for anything like our insane normality. It’s just not like Leeds United‘s maverick owner to keep this schtum for this long. It’s been that eerily quiet that the team have even started to do quite well. Extraordinary. Something is going on. But what?

A significant factor may be the outcome of the “third party” transfer agent charges that were hanging over both club and Massimo Cellino himself for so long. It would seem that a verdict was arrived at some time ago, but nothing has been forthcoming from the Football Association, who have described the issue as “sensitive”. And then there is the vexed question of a takeover – yes, TOMA time again. But there really does appear to be something in it on this occasion. The club has confined itself to a terse “no comment” position, but Twitter is alight with rumours of a peculiarly consistent nature. On both the FA charges front, and in the area of TOMA, something’s most definitely afoot.

For what it’s worth (and if I were a braver betting man, I’d have picked up £12 million this week, from a £5 acca on Leicester City, Brexit and Trump) I believe the signals are pointing firmly towards some agreement between Cellino, the inward investors/new owners (whoever they are) and the FA, to sort out the Leeds ownership and third party charges situation quietly, with as little fuss as possible and with everybody concerned keeping it buttoned until matters are concluded. If that appears to make an unusual amount of sense given the craziness of all parties involved, then I can only agree it’s so. But sometimes, even nutters will conduct themselves with a certain amount of sanity and decorum, if that’s the best way of getting the job done and limiting damage in “sensitive areas”.

This blog is of the firm opinion, having sniffed the wind, tested the water and cast the runes, that the current silence is of the kind that might be characterised by a paddling duck: all calm and serenity on the surface, while there is frantic activity just beneath. Leeds United is saying nowt in public. The FA is maintaining a grim silence. Prospective investors/buyers are clinging steadfastly to their incognito bona fides. Nobody is saying a dicky bird to us, the fans.

But you can take it to the bank that they’re all talking to each other, and out of this a conclusion will shortly emerge; hopefully one to satisfy all parties. That’s my educated guess. Before too long, Leeds will be under new stewardship, the FA will be rid of a thorn in their side – and Cellino will have a new toy to play with, probably from Serie B.

As Del Boy might have said: “You know it makes sense“.

 

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January Could Be A Very Exciting Month for Leeds Utd Fans – by Rob Atkinson

Elland Road

Elland Road awaits a brighter future

It’s never wise to pay too much attention to rumour mills, as they do tend to churn out conflicting stories – just in the interests of keeping those speculative wheels grinding away and earning revenue. Sometimes, though, there’s that enticing morsel of consistency in what you’re hearing – and that’s when you start to take some notice, because there’s a general and possibly meaningful trend in the tone and content of what you might normally dismiss as mere flim-flam and tabloid fodder.

Such is the case right now with Leeds United. And it’s not just the relative consistency of the rumours, it’s also a new feeling about the way things are going at Elland Road; one that might just herald the end of the old order, ushering in something new and – if we can dare for a moment perchance to dream – positive. Until a few weeks ago, that word positive would have seemed rather incongruous as applied to our beloved club – but, recently, there’s been little alternative other than to resort to such an unlikely description of the feeling and atmosphere in and around Yorkshire‘s Number One club. Results, performances, things the players have been saying, the way the management team have been quietly and serenely getting on with their jobs – all have justified repeated use of the P-word. It’s a little odd and unfamiliar but, oh brother, does it feel good.

Taking the concrete facts first, we have in the relatively recent past seen a novel solidity in our defence, courtesy of Messrs. Bartley and Jansson above all, that has spread confidence further forward in the team, leading to all-round better displays. We’ve seen some highly competent performances in matches we’d certainly have struggled with in previous seasons, and we’ve put together a run of form that puts us in the top three teams in the division over the past ten games. Furthermore, we’ve progressed to a domestic cup quarter-final, where we’ll renew hostilities with that old friend and foe from Anfield, Liverpool. That’s such an iconic fixture for English football, and its one-off reappearance will whet the appetites of many for a return of Leeds United to the top flight. We have a sell-out home clash with Newcastle to look forward to, as well as a double header with another formerly big club in Aston Villa. Things are, in brief, looking up.

The rumour side of things is, as ever, more problematic. But, as mentioned earlier, there is a certain unanimity in the whispers emanating from various sources, with more and more reliable journalists, as well as some Sun “writers”, agreeing that a deal to sell a stake in the club to Italian sports rights mogul Andrea Radrizzani is more or less imminent. This takes place against a background of the FA having apparently made a decision over current owner Massimo Cellino‘s latest alleged flouting of the rules, although there is some delay in announcing that decision. The man himself, meanwhile, has been as quiet as a severed horse’s head on a pillow, which does not conform to his usual manner at all. It must all add up to something – but what?

It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that quite a few people out there are in the know, but subject to some sort of embargo in which the FA may well be instrumental. The whole Leeds situation, particularly in connection with this third-party agent case, is described as “sensitive”. You get the feeling that, behind the wall of silence, there is plenty of loud stuff going on. Meanwhile, the football end of the club has been able to function perfectly well, thank you – almost as if it had not a care in the world. Do they know something good that we don’t, these football people? Time will tell.

If Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything might be permitted to don its Nostradamus hat for a moment, then I think it’s fair to say that all of the above factors, when taken all round, add up to the inescapable conclusion that something big has been brewing for a while now – and that it might just be about to come to a boil. While the playing and coaching staff get on with preparing for the undoubtedly stern challenges that lie in wait in the pre-Christmas period, we might just be able to look a little further ahead, post Festive celebrations, into the New Year – and, if those of us nursing optimistic hopes and dreams are right, it could be a very exciting mid-season transfer window for us all.

With a bit of luck and a lot of very hard work, Leeds United could well be in a challenging position by the turn of the year. If we are – and if the current crop of promising signs bear fruit – then the time and circumstances could be ripe for a bit of a splash in the transfer market to set us up for the run-in and endgame. This blog has a distinct feeling that this is what may come to pass.

Watch this space, fellow MOT-ers. We could be in for a thrill-a-minute ride from January onwards!

Could Cannavaro be the Answer for Leeds?

Cannavaro

Fabio Cannavaro” (CC BY 2.0) by  Doha Stadium Plus 

The future of Leeds United is yet again uncertain under the ownership of Massimo Cellino.

Reports have suggested that the club are to part company with manager Steve Evans at the end of the season and just seven months into his reign at Elland Road.

Leeds are 13th in the Championship, sitting comfortably in mid-table and 10 points clear of the relegation zone. However, they are well out of contention for the playoffs.

The Italian has overseen six managers since his arrival at the club, with no man lasting a full season in charge.

Leeds are in dire need of stability on and off the pitch in a tumultuous campaign which has seen supporters revolt against Cellino’s ownership of the club.

The Whites are 12 years removed from their last season in the Premier League and seem a long way from even challenging to earn promotion back to the top flight.

Due to the club’s position in the Championship, Cellino has time to consider his options and allow Evans to see out the campaign before making a decision on the future of the team.

Controversial Italian, Cellino, has reportedly set his sights on replacing the 53-year-old Evans with World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro to improve the club’s fortunes.

Cannavaro was one of the finest defenders in the history of the game, with a distinguished career at clubs including Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Juventus. He earned greater plaudits for his performances at international level, making 136 appearances for the Azzurri in a 13-year career.

The 42-year-old’s finest hour came in the 2006 World Cup when he led his side to glory in Germany, starring in the heart of the defence which earned him the Silver Ball.

Cannavaro’s leadership was crucial in the tournament as he and his teammates held their nerve to stave off the host nation and then France in the final to clinch Italy’s fourth crown.

The defender captained Italy 79 times during his career and his side appeared to miss a reassuring presence on the pitch at Euro 2012 when they were beaten heavily by Spain.

The Azzurri have struggled to impose themselves in the tournaments since Cannavaro’s retirement, which is why they have odds of 16/1 in the Euro 2016 football betting as a rank outsider.

With manager Antonio Conte heavily linked with the Chelsea job, Cannavaro may consider re-entering the managerial world to enhance his credentials to manage the Azzurri in the future.

At the end of his playing career Cannavaro assumed a coaching role with Al-Ahli as the club won both the UAE Pro League and League Cup.

The success led him to taking the manager’s position with Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande, although his tenure there last just 23 games, yielding 11 victories before he was replaced by Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Cannavaro returned to the dugout last year with Saudi side Al-Nassr but again failed to make a lasting impact before he opted to leave the club.

The Italian is in an interesting position in his career after his two failures. Looking at his accomplishments in the game he should have all the attributes needed to succeed as a manager with his knowledge and inspirational leadership.

A move to the Championship would present a major challenge, although Cellino has never been afraid to make daring decisions.

Cannavaro’s passion and nous, along with the gravitas he would bring to the club, would make him an intriguing option and he could be the man to return Leeds to the Premier League.

Cellino’s Leeds Utd Is Not A Fair Test For ANY Manager – by Rob Atkinson

cellino-and-steve-evans

A clown… and a patsy?

You can’t blame these football men – one after another of them – for giving it a go at Massimo Cellino‘s Leeds United. They’re not blind and they’re not daft; they can see the awful mortality rate as manager after manager (I’ve given up on that head coach rubbish) falls victim to Cellino’s ongoing conviction that, however bad it gets, it’s always someone else’s fault. Each new Leeds United manager must come into the job with eyes wide open, knowing all too well that the odds are stacked heavily against them.

But still – it is Leeds United, a name known everywhere, a club of massive history and tradition. These football men are confident and simply crammed with self-belief, and they all want to be the game-changer. They’d be in a different caper if that were not so. Each of them earnestly believes he can be the one to turn around the fortunes of a moribund football club. That’s the dangling carrot – that tantalising chance of earning fame and immortality in the eyes of football’s most loyal, most fanatical and yet most demanding fans. Because, whoever does restore Leeds to something like its former glory will become a legend throughout the Whites-supporting universe. It’s a chance, so it seems, to make an indelible mark on football history. No – you really can’t blame these men for trying.

But the problem is that they reckon without the self-defeating craziness of Cellino, the kind of maverick unpredictability that will ensure no rational approach can be guaranteed to work. And, so it seems to many of us, they reckon without the effect of this rotten Cellino regime on the players themselves and their confidence – as well as their morale and motivation, their hopes for stability and continuity. The last few weeks have been like a snapshot of this whole problem – the Cellino roller-coaster in  microcosm. Things are bad initially, and Cellino says he’s off, he’s had enough. Results then pick up, the mood about the place improves as talk escalates of Cellino selling the club to fans, to Steve Parkin, to anybody. But then Cellino reneges, and we really shouldn’t be surprised; it’s what he does. He’s not going to sell to the fans, he decides. And then, predictably for the cynics among us, he’s not selling at all, not in the short term at any rate. Apparently, there’s “no serious interest”. Yeah, right.

And, lo and behold, there is a depression once more over Elland Road. From two successive victories and two clean sheets when il Duce said he was off, we now have two successive defeats and two failures to score a goal since he changed his mind, or stopped lying, or however you interpret his screwball narrative. Is it too simplistic to make a connection between the turnaround in fortunes, and Cellino’s wildly-varying statements of intent? Those who still find themselves able to defend Cellinocchio might very well say so.

Well, I don’t think it is too simplistic; in fact, I think the nail has been hit on the head by anyone who makes that connection. Matters at the top of the club filter down to the players and the staff – that’s the case anywhere. The prospect of a less obviously loco form of ownership can be expected to perk things up on the field; equally, the dashing of those hopes, along with the realisation that it’s going to be crazy business as usual, will inevitably have its effect in terms of matters taking a downturn. That’s how it seems to have gone, lately.

So, where is the manager in all of this? Caught like a hapless nut in the jaws of a nutcracker, that’s where. Whatever his motivational abilities, however innovative and inspiring he might be on the training ground, it all counts for very little when the very fabric of the football club is rotting away due to the corrosive influence of a man who should never be allowed anywhere near any professional club – much less one of the stature of Leeds United. Whether the manager’s name is Steve Evans, Uwe Rösler, Neil Redfearn – or even Jose Mourinho, Pepe Guardiola or the sainted and incomparable Don Revie himself – the end will remain the same when you have an unfit person autocratically running things on a whim at the summit of the whole shebang. The wheels will inevitably fall off, the fans – being fans and emotionally involved – will vent at least part of their spleen on the visible target in the dugout, the manager thus targeted will feel himself to be a dead man walking, and the downward spiral will continue – with that malign presence in the boardroom seemingly fire-proof (unless the Football League do finally cook his goose for him).

Leeds United as it currently exists is not a fair test of a manager’s ability. In fact he can have all the ability in the world, but he might as well be King Canute trying to hold back the tide, for all the good that will do him – he’ll either have to walk or get washed away eventually. Sooner or later, as surely as night follows day, Cellino will get impatient, or bored, or simply even madder than he already is – and the whole grisly process will start again, with the credibility of a great club taking yet another fearful hit on its way down.

It’s not good enough, and we all know it. The rest of football can see it too, but, with it being Leeds, they’ll just be having a sly little snigger up their collective sleeve. If we are to get through these depressing, frustrating times, it’s unlikely to be with much real help from outside. It will be a matter of those with the best interests of Leeds United at heart – the fans and those positive elements within the club itself – sticking together and exerting such pressure as we are able, in order to bring about positive change. And again, fans being fans, that will be dreadfully hard to bring about. In the wake of today’s defeat at QPR, I’ve seen at least two moans or groans about Steve Evans, Chris Wood – even new loanee Liam Bridcutt – for every one murmur of complaint about the real culprit here, Cellino himself. And that’s really worrying – as the Italian bides his time before stating he’s going to hang around (FL permitting) after all.

If we’re ever going to be united enough to apply the necessary pressure that could bring about change, then we have to act united in the first instance – and a vital part of that is knowing your enemy. So, who is Leeds United’s enemy? It’s not Steve Evans, coming to terms with the impossibility of his job under the pressure of eking out results with a disconsolate squad. It’s not even the players who, after all, just want to perform and achieve for a proper football club that is going places. We all know, those of us who can see the blindingly obvious, who our enemy is. It’s that serial liar, that crazy, maverick, mercurial clown in the boardroom. It’s Massimo Cellino, quite plainly and clearly. So let’s not become distracted and start heaping needless pressure on innocent bystanders.

I look forward to the next Leeds United manager who will be allowed to do the job he’s been engaged to do. It seems unlikely at this juncture that his name will be Steve Evans, for whom the vultures are already gathering, more’s the pity. But we should all be clear on one thing – whoever might occupy the manager’s seat at Elland Road, he’s going to be on a loser as long as that nutter owns the club. Until Cellino goes, all we have to look forward to is more of the same – whoever’s notionally picking the team. Which is a tragic thought and, believe me, I’d love to be proved wrong. I’ve been wrong many times before, not least when I championed Cellino at the start of his reign. It goes with the territory of commenting on this bizarre club we all love so much.

But even given that flawed track record of mine – I gravely doubt, to my infinite regret, that I’m wrong about this.

Could Spurs Flop Andros Townsend Benefit From Another Spell at Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

Andros, doing it for the (England) shirt

The boy Andros, doing it for the (England) shirt

Andros Townsend, former loan flop at Leeds and current first-team pariah and occasional sub at Tottenham Hotspur, scored a fine goal for England last night in Italy, bringing him bobbing briefly to the surface of the public consciousness from which he sank out of view some time back. Showing a characteristically warped sense of priorities, one of Townsend’s first moves after he emerged from the England shower/bath/jacuzzi/pampered poodle parlour – was to engage in a bit of social media one-upmanship, tweeting former England star and fellow fickoe Paul Merson to say “Not bad for a player that should be ‘nowhere near the squad’ ay?” Stinging repartee and worldie bantz, we would probably concede.

The thing is, young Mr Townsend really needs to concentrate on establishing himself in a first team somewhere, rather than making occasional cameo appearances in the Three Lions shirt, scoring the odd blinder and then promptly disappearing again. There’s a disagreeable odour about Andros, the oddly pungent stench of “attitude problem”. Talent he surely has in abundance; his approach to establishing himself as an indispensable part of a team is more open to doubt. The talent will serve to get him the odd spectacular goal in an international friendly; it is not on its own enough to make him a vital cog in a league machine. The conclusion we might reluctantly be forced to draw is that Merse – for once in a very long while – might actually have a point.

Perhaps a change of scene might benefit the boy Townsend. He’s been to Elland Road before and failed – would he have the character to try again? Could he bury that treacherous pride, buckle down and try to earn a berth for himself at a lower level, but somewhere subject to notoriously harsh pressures? Townsend wasted his time at Elland Road, seeming a dilettante type of player; one who flatters to deceive and lacks the bottle to cut it when the chips are down. When the going got tough, Andros shipped out, to the less demanding environment of Birmingham City, there to sulk and send petulant tweets to scornful Whites fans.

Then there was a brief golden period at Spurs, some sort of momentary redemption epoch when everything came easy to him – a situation you suspect Andros prefers, to actually having to graft and battle. And then he was suddenly in the England fold, and the sky was, it seemed, the limit. But his star fell as swiftly as it had risen; he has been superseded at Spurs by talents at least equal to his own and attitudes far superior – take a bow, Harry Kane. He’s still somehow in the Three Lions arena, but his hold on that status must be tenuous at best.

Could Townsend actually still cut it at Leeds – where wingers are required for the run-in, players to bring out the best of the youthful talent that is blossoming at Elland Road? Leeds United is, after all, a club of comparatively recent Champion pedigree, something that Spurs have to look back 54 years to recall. So, self-regarding Andros wouldn’t exactly be slumming it – and at the moment, he’d have a fighting chance of actually forcing his way into a developing United team.

It’s an intriguing thought. Well, I think it is. Perhaps I just want to see the lad humiliated again, after his unforgivably casual attitude when he had the chance and that iconic United shirt before. But, from Townsend’s point of view – if he really wanted to shove Paul Merson’s opinion back down his throat – then a stint somewhere like Leeds and a bit of consistency would do a lot more to that end than one sweetly-struck shot against what was a second-string Italian team.

As the Merse himself might say – “Fink abaht it, Andros – fink abaht it.”

Leeds United to Quit England?? Cellino in Shock “Serie A” Pledge – by Rob Atkinson

Cellino: bring on Juve and Milan

Cellino: bring on Juve and Milan

More sensational developments are unfolding in the ever more confusing story about the year-long struggle at Elland Road, over the ownership, management and league membership of Leeds United. Documents have become available in the last 24 hours that prove the extraordinary determination of controversial banned owner and convicted yachtsman Massimo Cellino, to hang on to the club he’s had to negotiate so hard to own.

The newly declassified information is from last year’s Football League “Fit & Proper” appeal hearing in London, and it indicates the lengths Massimo Cellino was prepared to go to, in order to overturn the Football League’s rejection of him as a “fit and proper person” to own the club. Sensationally, Cellino undertook to achieve promotion within a defined time span for the fallen Yorkshire giants, not to the FA Premier League – but to the Italian top flight, Serie A.

A spokesperson for Cellino, Avril Primero, was tight-lipped when she was quizzed, on April the 1st, about what would certainly be a controversial move. “What a load of bologna,” she said, through tight lips. “Where did you get hold of this rubbish? Un tale carico di merda!

The story, though, refused to go away. The religious affairs correspondent of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything was able to speak personally late the next night, via ship-to-shore phone from the blog’s duty-free yacht “Nélie”, to the Pope in the Vatican. When pressed on the Serie A story, the Pontiff – a keen cricket fan – was willing to confirm that Leeds’ participation in the Italian top league was “nailed on” for the start of 2016/17 – if things went as planned with the Football League. “The Italian league is open to this, my son,” the Argie Pontiff confided. “There had previously been a suggestion of Glasgow Rangers,” added the leader of the world’s Catholics, “but as you might guess, I ruled THAT one right out of court. Then someone called Harvey mentioned Sheffield Wendies, but I simply laughed. Really, who are these people… Leeds though? ¡Excelente!

The Football League itself was reluctant to comment at that stage of proceedings, with matters poised so delicately. “We have no comment at this stage”, commented a League official, reluctantly, “Matters are so delicately poised.” The FA Premier League indicated that this was not a matter for them presently, but that such a move might well attract some support. “We certainly don’t want Leeds United in our nice clean league”, ejaculated the FA Officer in charge of bungs and bribes.

The then United owners GFH were less forthcoming yet. When asked if competing against the likes of Juventus, Milan, Napoli and Serie A giants Cagliari formed part of their strategic vision for the Whites, they stated simply “We couldn’t give a camel’s left knacker. We just want our money, cash on the nail, coppish? Then we can send Davey Haigh to Dubai, we’ve got big plans for him…”

Massimo Cellino, seemingly unruffled by these revelations from last year, is nevertheless unlikely to be present at the Brentford game on Saturday, preferring to remain in Miami where he is stocking his new refrigerator with beer in preparation for “a major interview” later today. When asked if, despite the Football League ban, he’d have any input into the contents of the team sheet, Mr. Cellino appeared to misunderstand. “Yes, you’re right, team issa sheet, so I stay here, drink beer, buy bitch, talk random Leeds fans onna phone”, he confirmed. “Is better that way, my friend.”

Shaun Harvey is 107.

New Leeds Striker, But Cani Manage Without a New Winger or Two? – by Rob Atkinson

Cani - raring to go, but where's the supply coming from?

Cani – raring to go, but where’s the supply coming from?

Leeds United’s month-long pursuit has paid off with the capture of Cani, the striker that most of us probably wanted the least – against the rival attractions of the somewhat more exotic Leonardo Pavoletti, who opted to stay in Italy despite the temptations of a West Yorkshire winter. So it’s Cani for Leeds, a 6’4″ beanpole of a striker who, it is said, will suit the Redders style of play. He appears to be the non-prolific, target man type of striker – so we can anticipate that he will rival Steve Morison for a place in the starting line-up. The question is: will Cani help to improve the supply to the real goalscorers in the squad? That supply needs to come at least in part from out wide as demonstrated in the win at Huddersfield when Antenucci put over the sort of cross he’d love to be on the end of himself, for the hungry Billy Sharp to gobble up.

As I write, there yet remain six long hours of this transfer window – time enough for one or two wide boys to be recruited. Michael Tonge has had his inoculations and has headed off to Millwall; one theory was that this move might pave the way for Castleford-born, scum-supporting ‘Wall winger Martyn Woolford to link up with Leeds. No sign of that as yet – and really, he’s not exactly Maxi Gradel, is he?

Sharp’s emphatic finish at the Puppy Farm at the weekend emphasised the fact that, if you give a finisher some quality supply, he will deliver the goods. If Leeds are to capitalise fully on the potential of Sharp, then we must pay attention to our options in those wide areas. Byram and some of the other junior talents available will not do, not just yet or for the longer term. A winger, either in the last few hours of this window or in the emergency loan market to follow, is a real necessity. Two wingers would be even better.

The next few hours could go a long way towards defining our goals potential for the rest of the season, and the escape bid that lies ahead. The new man has the desire and potential to help – but he “Cani” do it on his own.

Leeds Fans Need to Seriously Consider 4 Month Away Games Boycott – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United's massive away support

Leeds United’s massive away support

This article was originally published on April 8 this year, at a time when Life, Leeds United the Universe & Everything, in common with all other fans and bloggers with the interests of Leeds United at heart, could clearly see that the FL, smarting from defeat in the High Court, remained determined to “get” Massimo Cellino eventually. This was true then and it’s been proven true on Monday, with the League decision once again to disqualify the Italian under its Owners and Directors Rules, the so-called “Fit & Proper Test”.

It remains the case, clearly, that the League see a dubious conviction on some relatively petty import duty transgression as being far more serious and worthy of action than, say, a conviction for rape (Oyston at Blackpool FC), money laundering (Yeung at Birmingham City) or chronic and serial mismanagement of its biggest and most celebrated member club (Ken Bates, Sean Harvey and GFH Capital at Leeds United over the past decade). This incredibly perverse set of priorities serves to characterise an organisation that has unfailingly demonstrated its naked hostility to Leeds United (its premier member club, let’s not forget) and has utterly failed to abide by its implied duty of care to this club and its fans.

The original article, reproduced below, called on various bodies and all fans to consider an away games boycott, effectively hitting other Football League clubs in the pocket and striking at the central financial interests of the League itself. This remains, in my opinion, the best way forward. The idea received a mixed reception at the time and may well do so again; the idea of giving up those beloved away trips is not easy to stomach for some of our hardier fanatics.

But consider: the League has today acted to bar Massimo Cellino, yet this sanction has to be finite, lasting only until March, when the conviction it’s based on will be spent. So now my call is not for an open-ended boycott, but rather a refusal to buy tickets for away games for the duration of this Football League sanction. I believe that this would be feasible and a high-profile way of making a point by a set of fans who normally turn up in their thousands, lining the pockets of the very people who are against us.

The Football League, having lost an appeal against its disqualification of Massimo Cellino in front of an independent QC, are now showing their true colours in the wake of that humiliating defeat.  Rather than personifying dignity and acceptance of the outcome of a judicial process, they hastened to point out that they were “disappointed” and stated they would be considering the judgement. There is no humility, only arrogance.  There is no recognition of the duty of care they have towards their largest member club and its thousands of long-suffering fans – only naked malice and an avowed intent to plunge that club back into the crisis from which it appears to be on the point of emerging.  It amounts to a vendetta.  Two facts above all have emerged from this over-long saga.

  1. The Football League do not have the interests of Leeds United at heart.
  2. Leeds United are too big for the Football League.

Item 1 above is the mildest way of putting what is increasingly obvious – that the League regard the Leeds takeover situation, not as a chance for a famous old club – exercising its own judgement and right to secure a stable future – to get back onto an even keel, but as an opportunity to hammer that club further into the mire. How else to explain the zest with which its lawyers conducted their side of the appeal argument before Tim Kerr QC?  They resorted to trying to discredit the independent Italian legal expert because of a harmless if misguided comment on a social media platform.  Yet, in the same breath, they were relying on the portions of that witness’s evidence which aided their case.  Kerr rightly threw such selective pleading out of the window – but the underlying message was of a determination to deny Leeds United their rich new owner that amounted to vindictiveness and malice.

The background to this attitude is odd, to say the least.  One of the League’s member clubs has as a majority shareholder a convicted rapist.  The son of that unsavoury character sat on the panel which originally decided that Massimo Cellino was not a fit and proper person to act as a football club owner or director.  The irony is immediately apparent, as is the stench of arrogant hypocrisy.  Really, you couldn’t make it up – if you did, it would be dismissed as fanciful.

Any fan of Leeds United, if of long enough standing, will have witnessed examples of the Football League going through back-breaking contortions to make life as difficult as possible for the Whites of Elland Road.  It’s a tradition that dates back to Alan Hardaker and his rabid hatred of Don Revie.  Hardaker is dead now – but the ugly attitude towards Leeds lives on, through the unctuous reptile that is Brian Mawhinney, as he did his worst in 2007, to the present day with Shaun Harvey in charge – the same Harvey who, in cahoots with Ken Bates, did his level best whilst employed at Elland Road to fulfil his master’s 1984 vow to see Leeds and its fans banished, destroyed, erased from existence. Lest we forget: “I shall not rest until Leeds United are kicked out of the football league. Their fans are the scum of the earth, absolute animals and a disgrace. I will do everything in my power to make sure this happens.” So said Ken Bates, and he came pretty close to success – aided by then Leeds CEO and current FL CEO, Shaun Harvey.

A salute to the League

A salute to the League

The fact of the matter is that Leeds United are simply too big and too historically important for an antiquated and inept organisation like the League.  This is, after all,  a body that embraces failure and the presence of also-rans as core values.  The members of the League are, by definition, clubs who have either failed to stay in the Premier League, or who have never been good enough to get there.  It’s a has-been or never-was League for bit-part players, chorus members.  The stars, the principals in the pantheon of English football, ply their trade outside of the jurisdiction of the FL. At the moment, Leeds United form part of the Football League’s brigade of failures.  The events of the past few months have shown us clearly how vital it is for United to shake the dust of this two-bit organisation from their feet, and move on up.

Meantime, we are necessarily subject to the rules and attitudes of an outfit that has shown itself beyond reasonable doubt as “not fit for purpose”.  Until Leeds can drag themselves out of the Football League quicksand, they will have to fight their own corner as best they can.  As things stand, Massimo Cellino is in – he is the new owner of the club.  He has the wherewithal and the experience and determination to bring success in a higher sphere to Elland Road, whilst at the same time restoring that famous old ground to club ownership and bringing it up to 21st century standards – the same applies to the training complex at Thorp Arch.  These are good and necessary steps for Leeds – and they are initiatives that the League would prefer to see nipped in the bud, as they remain openly determined to oust Cellino if at all possible.

The fans are in a unique position here to have their say and to vote with their feet.  Those fans are rightly famous throughout the country as providing a travelling army of away support which brings atmosphere and vast income to every ground they visit over the course of a season.  Home clubs keep all of their gate receipts these days, so that away support – so vital to our competing clubs – benefits Leeds United only in terms of vocal encouragement.  The clubs in the Championship – and, by extension, the Football League – benefit financially to a great degree, from the loyalty and commitment of the Leeds United away fans.  Now those fans should put club interests before their own, and be prepared to make a significant sacrifice in order to make an unanswerable point to the Football League – who they have propped up with their hard-earned cash since 2004.

For, surely, it is now time to consider a boycott of ALL away games by ALL fans of Leeds United FC.  The only way of influencing such blind, uncaring officialdom as we are up against, is to hit it hard, in the pocket, where it really hurts.  I would now like to join those voices calling for the Leeds United support to do just that – by withdrawing attendance at away games and letting the other clubs and the League bear the brunt of greatly reduced income as a result of such a boycott.  I should like to see Leeds United Football Club, if possible, refusing to take allocations of away tickets for the duration of any such action.  If the Football League wish to act against the best interests of Leeds United – and its fans – then let fire be fought with fire.  It wouldn’t take long for impoverished Championship clubs to start squealing and complaining to Shaun Harvey and his corrupt crew, as they see their income plunge without that Leeds United pay-day.

Supporters groups such as LUST could be instrumental in backing and organising an initiative such as this.  It seems drastic, and there will be many who would baulk at the removal of one of their lives’ major preoccupations, even if only temporarily.  But those people should ask themselves: why do we have to settle for such unremittingly harsh and malicious treatment from the Football League and its member clubs – think back to the self-interested clubs vote that confirmed the 15 point deduction before the start of 2007/08 – and yet continue to line the pockets of those club and the tin pot League to which they belong?  Why should Leeds United tolerate this situation any longer?  Drastic situation call for drastic measures.  It’s time to fight back.

I should like to see, initially, at least some wider debate about the merits and demerits of an away games boycott.  I’m sure it’s an argument that would rage hot and heavy.  But I believe, at this stage, that such a boycott is our one good chance of having our say and of the powers that be simply having to listen.  The alternative is that they will smile smugly at any peeps of protest, and carry on regardless in their business of keeping Leeds in crisis – to the approval of their rapist and embezzling cronies in Championship boardrooms who continue to be regarded as fit and proper against all justice and logic.

I’d like to call upon LUST, and the MPs of Leeds constituencies, to take up cudgels against the treatment being meted out to Leeds United by the incompetents at the League.  They should be putting the question – why should a football club, alienated and ostracised by the League of its current membership, continue to contribute so massively to the financial well-being of that League?  I believe it’s time to call a halt.  The gloves are off now; if the League want to batter us, then let’s batter them right back.

That’s my say.  What do the Leeds United fans out there think? 

Leeds United Owners Need to Start Playing Straight With the Fans – by Rob Atkinson

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The fans: the BEST asset of Leeds United

Whoever is currently in charge at Leeds United – and the answer to that question is quite frankly anyone’s guess – they do appear to have a dim awareness that the mood out here in fan-land is not entirely sunny and bright.  They seem a little hurt, not to say bewildered, about this.  Plaintive tweets have been seen, assuring us that hard work is going on and that the West Ham bid for our club captain of seven days standing has been turned down.  That nice prospective Tory MP Mr Haigh would like to remind us all that “we made our intentions clear in the summer” – when of course a succession of bids for Rossco from Smogland were turned down, before a new four-year contract secured the services of our lethal marksman – or so we thought.

All in all, the view from the Elland Road boardroom of the various dissident elements out here appears to be that of a rueful parent bemoaning the ungratefulness of spoiled children.  We’ve done all this for them, they seem to be crying woefully, and see how they repay us!

So are we being ungrateful?  Are GFH/Sporting Capital/Signor Cellino/A.N.Other right in thinking that their sterling efforts are being thrown back in their faces by an unappreciative rabble?  Let’s look at a couple of the main issues.

Firstly, the burning issue on everyone’s mind for some time now.  The takeover.  Now we’ve been told various things about this.  It was all done and dusted, waiting only for Football League approval, and things would be in place in time for the transfer window.  We were told this in December; then the forecast changed slightly, and word was that things might just drag over into the start of January – but that Brian’s transfer plans were not affected, and there was a list of targets for board consideration.  Things dragged on.  Now we were told that it was still on track, just i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed.  Brian was looking at four players.  Then we heard that the Football League had asked for more information, that the club was co-operating fully, oh and here’s two loan wingers to shut you lot up.  By this point we’d gone out of the Cup at lowly Rochdale, and we were about to be subjected (with the aid of our two game-changing pacy wide men) to a history-busting defeat at Sheffield Wendies.  Now, here we are in the last week of January, the takeover appears no nearer, the best news we’ve had for ages is a narrow defeat at home to Leicester, there’s been talk of a dodgy Italian convicted fraudster, we’ve had promises of good news for the week just gone (must have missed that) and transfer talk is starting to turn, with a weary inevitability, to the summer window.  Pie in the sky, by and by.

Secondly, there’s this Ross McCormack thing.  Just because we resisted the Smoggies’ overtures in summer, we apparently need our wrists smacked for daring to get all het up when a bid is received from some no-hope East End outfit for our skipper and top-scorer.  Leeds United appear to be wondering: what all the fuss is about?  Why are these people complaining and getting up in arms?  After all, it’s not as if we have a history of selling vital players for a song to Premier League strugglers in January – is it?  Oh, hang on…

West Ham will probably be back – there’s still a week to go and they may just share that annoying habit, common to clubs with some shred of ambition, of being persistent in trying to sign quality players and improve their squad.  You see this kind of thing everywhere these days: clubs splashing the cash, if you’ll pardon the vulgarity, and buying players all over the shop.  It’s enough to give a prudent outfit like Leeds United a bad name.  And you only have to look back over the past few transfer windows to notice that Leeds don’t indulge in all of this “new signings” shenanigans.  No, sir.  They just promise to, that’s all.  And promises are made to be broken.

That’s the nub of it, really.  If the powers that be at Elland Road really want to know why some of us out here are less than happy with the way things are being run, they really need to look to themselves – and try and avoid a few less-than-helpful practices.  For instance – and this is especially important for people who have set their stall out with “transparency and fan engagement” as buzzwords – could we have a bit more straightforwardness, and a few less tantalising tweets, coy hints, teasing smileys and irrelevant bollocks about coffee mornings with random billionaires?  That would be nice.  And again – if you’re going to make promises about transfer targets and takeover completions – why not keep a few of them?  That would possibly go towards filling the credibility vacuum that you currently inhabit.

What the fans really want, in the extremely short term, is to be treated like adults rather than as unruly and demanding children whose expectations have to be carefully managed, lest they become recalcitrant and ill-behaved.  All of this drip, drip of promising but ultimately false rumours will not get us anywhere.  No more Red Bull jokes, please.  Likewise, less of the details about coffee-based pre-prandial engagements – unless there’s something likely to come of it by way of solid investment and the funding of some ambitious plans.  Contrary to what you might think, you suits in the boardroom, we’re all grown-ups out here, and we want to be dealt with fairly and squarely, rather than fed a diet of condescending rubbish designed to obscure what’s really going on.

If Ross McCormack is still a Leeds United player by the end of January, I’ll be happy, if a little worried about his future in the summer and beyond.  But don’t expect me to be all ecstatic just because one preliminary bid has been turned down – recent history has taught me, and others out here, not to be quite so gullible.  It’s taught us to expect the worst of Leeds United, for then we won’t be quite so disappointed when the worst happens – as it has over the recent past, with unfailing regularity.  And don’t expect us to be grateful when promises are made and broken, when expectations are raised and then sent crashing down.  There’s no use pouting away in the boardroom about how unappreciative we all are.  Treat us as adults, tell us straight, stop peddling crap – and then see how the attitude changes.  It’s worth a try, gentlemen, surely?

Just at the moment, all the McCormack talk dominates other matters, and we’re being invited to be happy that a bid has been turned down.  Meanwhile, the last few days of this window slip by, and while we all wait and see if the Hammers come back with an improved bid, we’re not nagging you about takeover completions and inward bound signings – are we?  Well some of us are, and we’ll continue to do so, whatever smokescreens may be put up to deflect us.

There’s an old saying from across the Atlantic: “The wind blew, and the crap flew, and for days the vision was bad.”  Count on it, Mr Haigh & Co – most of the fans of Leeds United are a lot more clear-sighted than you might wish to believe.

San Siro Dom the Perfect LUFC Ambassador

Memory Match No. 9: AC Milan 1, Leeds United 1   8.11.2000

Dom Matteo - Scored a Flippin' Great Goal - In The San Siro....

Dom Matteo – Scored a Flippin’ Great Goal – In The San Siro….

This week’s appointment of United legend Dom Matteo as a club ambassador inevitably brings back fond memories of a November night in Milan in the year 2000 when the defender wrote himself indelibly into Leeds folklore with one emphatic near-post finish.

However much pedants may argue about when the third millennium started – January 1, 2000, or a year later – this season 2000-01 was the first proper 21st Century season, and it was also my annus mirabilis European campaign; having never seen my beloved Leeds play abroad up to this point, I witnessed them competing at the highest level in three true cathedrals of continental football.  Incidentally, I’ve always favoured the Jan 1, 2000 date as the start of the millennium – that’s when the most spectacular fireworks kicked off, that’s when the magical sight of four numerals clicking over was seen – and most importantly that’s when Leeds United were heading the Premiership table, marking what will probably be football’s only thousand year threshold by sitting proudly at the top of the game – a position that the media had been frantically speculating might have been held by the lesser United from the wrong side of the Pennines.

More about other parts of this memorable season elsewhere, but my European experience started in a “sports bar” on Westgate in Wakefield, watching nervously on a big screen as Leeds negotiated the second leg of a tricky Champions League qualifying tie against 1860 Munich.  We were ahead 2-1 from the first leg in Leeds, and such a narrow lead was never that secure.  In the end though, Alan Smith scored the only goal in Munich to close out the tie 3-1 on aggregate.  The subsequent draw saw United pitted against giants Barcelona and Milan as well as Turkish side Besiktas in an incredibly tough first qualifying group.  I was on holiday with my wife and young daughter on a campsite in the South of France when the first game was played, in Spain.  Callously abandoning my ladies to their fate, I impulsively jumped on a train from St Raphael to Barcelona, installed myself in a hotel with a swimming pool on the roof, bought a ticket from a tout, and watched from the midst of the fanatical home support – the Boixos Nois (Crazy Boys) – as Leeds, fielding a side decimated by injuries, slid to a 4-0 defeat.

If you’d told me then that we were destined for the last four, I’d have laughed long and bitterly, but I did enjoy every moment of my first European away-day in the palatial surroundings of the Camp Nou.  I still have two souvenirs – a plastic seat cushion and a big St Georges flag with LUFC Oxford Whites printed on it, which a group of Barca fans had captured and were waving in triumph at the end.  Stupidly, I approached them, feeling that a 0-4 defeat was humiliation enough, and demanded it back (quite politely).  I was getting snarls and throat-slitting gestures, and I remember mumbling something along the lines of “Barcelona no es Galatasaray”, which they seemed to take to heart.  Some of the lads’ girlfriends were regarding me pityingly, obviously wondering if I was drunk, or mad, or both and they urged their men to show restraint.  Luckily for me, they seemed to listen – they handed the flag over, anyway – but if they’d known we were destined to eliminate them from the competition, I doubt they’d have been so conciliatory.

The group then ebbed and flowed – but most results after that first defeat went our way.  We beat Milan at home, came so, so close to beating Barca at Elland Road, denied only at the very death after a world-class display from our rookie ‘keeper Paul Robinson, and we thrashed Besiktas 6-0.  By the last round of group games, the equation was simple – if we could avoid defeat at the San Siro, we would be through to the next stage, whatever Barcelona did to Besiktas.

And so I found myself on an early-morning flight from Leeds Bradford Airport to Milan Malpensa, along with thousands of other Leeds fans intoxicated at the prospect of a famous evening in a truly magnificent stadium.  We would arrive in Milan with plenty of time to look around the place before meeting up with coaches to the stadium, and it proved an eventful day.  There had been violence the previous night, a Leeds fan had been attacked and wounded in an incident which evoked horrific memories of the awful scenes in Istanbul just a few months before.  The city of Milan had been declared “dry” for the day, so it was extremely difficult to find a bar which would serve an obvious Leeds fan.  I was contended enough though, just wandering around the amazing Cathedral Square where I met legend and Leeds fan Ralph Ineson, of “Harry Potter” movie fame, and also memorably “Finchy” in the BBC’s “The Office”.  He was happy to have a chat and a photo, and then I ambled off to have a peek at the world famous La Scala Opera House, where my wife’s great-grandfather had been a violinist, so that was my passing nod to family history.  Finally, with the afternoon stretching before me, I bumped into an old mate from home – we both exclaimed stupidly “What are you doing here?” – and we managed to find a bar that was open, and spent a couple of hours relaxing and happily anticipating the match ahead.  The bar owner was friendly – so much so that he felt able to pop out on some errand, leaving us in charge.  The fearsome reputation of some Leeds fans had evidently failed to penetrate this far into the bar culture of Milano.

The match itself is so famous that I barely need to recount the action kick by kick.  The Leeds fans at one end of the stadium were in fully, throaty voice for most of the proceedings, drawing incredulous glances from the attendant Carabinieri who were in full-on riot gear but friendly enough, muttering to each other about lunatic English tifosi (hooligans.)  The first half was a decent contest – Milan were through already, but not disposed to give Leeds an easy ride – especially after paranoid noises emanating from Barcelona, who – nervous about their own prospects – had done their best to warn Milan off taking it easy against Leeds.  So Milan pressed in front of a crowd of 52289, and their winger Serginho was causing Gary Kelly plenty of problems.  In the 26th minute, a slightly soft penalty was awarded to Milan at our end of the stadium, and 6000 Leeds fans held their collective breath as Andriy Shevchenko took careful aim only to rap Robinson’s right-hand post, the ball bouncing away to safety as the masses behind our goal celebrated as if we’d actually scored.  And then, miraculously, as the first half ebbed away, we did score.  A Lee Bowyer corner from the right found Matteo rising majestically at the near post to meet the ball with a punchy header which soared high into the net.  Cue utter pandemonium at the Leeds end as all the tension, passion and belief exploded in one almighty roar which almost lifted the hi-tec roof off the famous stadium.

The party went on throughout half-time and into the second half, drawing more bemused glances from the Italian police; there was only a brief hiatus in the 67th minute when the superb Serginho deservedly equalised, but then it was mounting fan fever again all the way to the final whistle and beyond as Leeds held out to qualify for an equally difficult second phase of the competition.  The scenes after the game are at least as famous as the events of the ninety minutes; the team coming back out onto the pitch in response to the demands of the faithful who were held back in the interests of crowd safety.  What followed was described by respected football commentators (as well as Alan Green) as the best example of team/fan bonding they’d ever seen.  Fans and players – even a certain Chairman – swapped chants and songs in a spontaneous celebration of a joyous night.  Even the uncertain musical efforts of Lee Bowyer were greeted by a blast of friendly derision.  It was a unique experience, and the Latin cops were clearly by now utterly convinced that these English people were absolutely barking mad.  As football nights go, you’d have to travel a long way to find one more worthy of memory – only a trophy could have improved it, but the spectacle of the game and its aftermath is one I have seen imitated but never repeated.

Dom Matteo was simply a likeable and committed defender before that night, clearly delighted to be Leeds; the kind of player the Kop takes to its heart.  But after that night, he was elevated to demigod status, a true Leeds legend with his own song and a place on a pedestal in the United Hall of Fame.  The choice of Dom as a club ambassador seems obvious but is actually inspired, especially in light of the fact that Ken Bates’ malign shadow will remain for up to three years yet.  Just as Ken sends out all the wrong messages, so Dom – beloved ex-player and respected press commentator, dispensing common sense when all about him has been hysteria, sends out only the most positive of vibes.  He is the sort of person we need to see closely associated with the club, and his involvement in any capacity is a move to be applauded.  Just get Lucas “The Chief” Radebe back on board now, and we’ll be cooking with gas.

Thanks, Dom.  Thanks for being a voice of sanity in the press, thanks for coming back to reassert your love of the club.  And thanks most of all for that memorable night in Milan.

Next:  Memory Match No. 10: Leeds United 2, Leicester City 1.  The last home game of the 1989-90 Promotion season, and things were on a knife edge.  Relive that tense and unforgettable afternoon at Elland Road, as a future United hero came close to derailing our return to the big time – and our archetypal diminutive red-haired midfield powerhouse, in the best traditions of King Billy Bremner, stepped up to the plate to provide the decisive moment, cementing his own status as a Leeds Legend.