Tag Archives: January transfer window

Too Many Leeds United “Fans” Forget That Saiz Matters – by Rob Atkinson


Saiz leaves early after zero dribbles and one spit

Characteristically, Leeds United has contrived to make a drama out of a crisis, compounding the humiliation of an FA Cup Third Round exit at minnows Newport by adding the embarrassment of an on-pitch spitting scandal, as well as the six-match loss of star player Samu Sáiz. To make matters even worse, the intellectually-challenged end of the Whites’ support then took to Twitter with the express intention, so it seemed, of unleashing their long-repressed bigotry and incipient racism by attacking Sáiz in the worst kind of Daily Mail-reading Colonel Blimp-inspired terms. It made for very unedifying reading, even for Twitter after one of Leeds’ frequent bad days at the office.

There’s no getting around the fact that spitting at a sporting opponent is a disgusting matter, deserving of punishment and not to be tolerated – or even mitigated, if it comes to that. It initially seemed an odd affair to me, with some confusion and delay surrounding the red card in the immediate aftermath of Newport’s late winner. But Sáiz appears now to have admitted, acknowledged and apologised for his transgression, so that’s that. He’s bang to rights and indefensible, he’ll have to do his time, repent at leisure and make sure he sticks to his vow that this will never happen again.

Incidentally, and particularly for those who think I’m an uncritical Sáiz apologist, his conduct has worried me before, and I’ve gone into print hoping he’d see the error of his ways. This was over an early season tendency to wave imaginary cards when fouled, something that risked attracting the ref’s attention negatively, and a habit I’ve always hated. So I don’t see Samu as any sort of paragon of virtue; even so, some of the stick and abuse he’s received from alleged Leeds fans since the Case of the Newport Spit has been sickening in the extreme – decorum prohibits the reproduction of many of the remarks here. Suffice to say that there’s been a nasty, racist overtone in the murkier regions of the Leeds Twitter hashtag, many of the boneheads who like to comment there seeming to have forgotten what the little Spanish wizard has contributed to our faltering season so far.

It’s not big and it’s not clever, but then again, that just about sums up some of our Twitter knuckle-draggers. Sadly, the temptation to jump aboard a Brexiteer anti-“foreign signing” bandwagon appears to have been just too much to resist for many of these hard-of-thinking opportunists, with some of them engaged for hours on end in trying to outdo their IQ-minus cronies in a competition to see who could be the most offensively tasteless in their treatment of United’s best player this season.

The subtext emerging was of a groundswell of opposition, again mainly at the thicker end of United’s online adherents, to the idea of signing non-British players in the first place. Some Leeds fans, apparently, will not be happy until United’s first team consists of blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan stereotypes, goose-stepping their way towards the lower leagues with the Sieg Heils echoing from the stands – a harking back to the early and mid-eighties. But those days are gone; the continental and global lads are here to stay, they will continue to provide the best hopes of success – and the Twitter and other social media morons are welcome to crawl back under the stones from which they should never, in these more enlightened times, emerge.

It’s to be hoped that this will be a storm in a teacup, that United will safely negotiate the enforced and unfortunate absence of Sáiz – and that, when he returns, he will be given the warm welcome that his value to the team deserves. And that will probably be the case, because Leeds will surely move to cover for the lad’s loss, while the bulk of the United support are a silent yet match-day raucous majority, who will always be behind the men in the shirts, whether they hail from Selby or Spain.

Samu’s been a silly lad, but many, many young footballers are guilty of that; he’s not the first, he’ll not be the last, and it’s got absolutely bugger-all to do with his nationality. So, enough of all that nonsense. What we need now is to get stuck in as a United Leeds for the rest of the season, that’s boardroom, management, players and fans – and put this sorry incident behind us. The rest of the transfer window promises to be interesting or maybe even exciting, and meanwhile there’s a formidable array of opposition waiting to tackle a Samu-less Leeds. Let’s stick together, ignore the ten-a-penny haters – and show them all what we’re really capable of.

One Squad Addition Leeds United Simply MUST Make in January – by Rob Atkinson

Smith 17

The much-missed Number 17

It’s been, by common consent, a fantastic summer transfer window for Leeds United, with bundles of quality signed to make the club a real force in the Championship this season. The proof of the pudding is, as they rightly say, in the eating – and the fact that many of the players signed since last season were not exactly household names pales into insignificance at the side of their stellar performances over the new campaign so far. Unknowns or not, the new lads have delivered, and United sit proudly atop The Championship. ‘Nuff said.

It might seem a little premature, then, to be looking ahead to the January window and, truth be told, it’s difficult right now to see where the squad could usefully be strengthened. However, circumstances alter cases, and there’s a lot of football to be played before the new year rolls around. It’s tolerably certain that some squad tweaks will be necessary, and this blogger is more than happy to leave such matters to Messrs. Orta and Christiansen, under the benignly watchful eye of club owner Andrea Radrizzani.

The only suggestion I would make – and I make it in the strongest possible terms – is that we must have a squad number 17. It’s absolutely necessary, in order to eradicate the last traces of Massimo Cellino from this great club, and move on into a bright future free of the Corn King’s grubby baggage. Cellino saw to it that Leeds United “retired” the number 17 three years ago, due to his silly superstition about that inoffensive number. I’m not particularly bothered about who wears number 17, but it’s imperative that the shirt be brought out of retirement and back into currency. Only then can we consider ourselves to be well and truly embarked upon the post-Cellino era.

So let’s get it done – it’d be great if somebody of true quality could be signed to fill the newly reinstated 17 shirt – perhaps a big surprise from Asia? But, whoever the new man might be, let him wear 17 with pride – and perhaps then (just to annoy Cellino and his fans a little more) hit a purple patch that will see Leeds United win this league and finally return to the top, where we all know that we belong.


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Divide and Rule: Cellino Deliberately Pits Leeds Fans Against Sam Byram   –   by Rob Atkinson

Cellino - it's my way or the highway...

Cellino – it’s my way or the highway…

So, Massimo Cellino is all over the media, bemoaning a player’s ungrateful refusal of a new contract. We’ve heard it all before, haven’t we – though, thanks to a certain Adam Pearson, not so much lately. But now, with Pearson gone, the shackles seem to be off il Duce – and he’s giving vent to a familiar refrain as yet another quality wearer of the white shirt is eased (not-so-gently) through the Elland Road exit door.

It seems certain now that Sam Byram – coveted by clubs of far higher current status than our own beloved Leeds – will be taking himself off to one of those clubs before too many more moons have waxed and waned. On the wane beyond dispute has been Sam’s form this season. A footballer’s effectiveness is a fine-tuned thing, as highly-strung as a skittish thoroughbred, and something has certainly affected Byram this term. Whatever that might be – interest from the top flight, a benevolent offer from Cellino of a pay cut for a new contract, or perhaps a combination of the two – the situation will hardly be smoothed over by the owner’s unfortunate habit of tossing controversial comments, like live hand grenades, broadcast into the media scrum.

The difficulty for Leeds United is that, between Cellino’s ego and Byram’s youthful obduracy, the scope for further negotiation now seems narrow to non-existent. This being the case, we appear certain to see what will ultimately be a multi-million pound talent leaving United for what will amount to a song. There’s pride and principles on both sides, no doubt – but the economics of that outcome are just pure madness from an Elland Road point of view. 

Leeds are clearly preparing for a Sam-less future. At one point, the received wisdom was that a new winger or two would see Byram move back to a right-flank defensive role in which he previously excelled, all but snuffing out the potent threat of Gareth Bale one famous FA Cup afternoon at Elland Road, as Spurs were sent packing. But this past few days, it’s become more difficult to see a first team berth for a jaded Sam, with three quality wide attackers on the staff and in-favour full-back Gaetano Berardi signed up for another two years. The writing is clearly on the wall – but that bitter pill might be sweetened by some mega-club owner’s signature on a nice, fat cheque. Alas, it seems unlikely to happen thus – and the finger of blame for that really must point directly at Massimo Cellino.

It’s been a welcome change, until quite recently, to hear the golden sound of silence coming from the direction of erstwhile Motormouth Massimo. There’s been less angst and less anxiety with that sensible Mr. Pearson doing the talking. But, now that he’s run, or been pushed, off to the Far East and Hull FC’s inscrutable problems, it’s as if someone’s de-muzzled Massimo, and the familiar fusillade of soundbites has resumed, to no true Leeds fan’s delight or delectation. This past few days, we’ve heard the Italian’s views on Byram, Matt Child, Uwe Rösler and God knows what-all. It’s been the opposite situation to the relief you feel when you stop banging your head against the wall. Regrettably, it appears that the head-banging has resumed at Leeds – and we’re now shorn of that calming, restraining influence that made for a placid summer and early season. If Rösler’s ample forehead has acquired a few new worry lines, is it really any wonder?

Of course, it’s Cellino’s club and he’s a right to his say. But is it really too much to ask that such a gift for self-expression might be tempered by a bit of judgement and consideration here and there? Mouthing off in the media about Byram’s contract-renewal negotiations is hardly constructive. At best, it’s a breach of confidence. At worst, it’s a blatant attempt to set the club’s more gullible fans against one young man, who has a finite career to think of – and who might quite reasonably be casting a jaundiced eye on offers that may or may not amount to a pay cut. And this could so easily destabilise the whole club (after all, what player likes to see his team-mate’s contract linen being washed in public?) – just because of one man’s ego and the current lack of any third party restraint. 

This blog is on record as saying that Sam Byram is dispensable – albeit with regret – but only if the price is right and if that money is reinvested in the squad. It seems likely that the squad will continue to be improved, but that such improvement will probably not be funded by a healthy return on the talents of an outgoing Sam Byram. And that’s not just a great pity – it’s undeniable evidence of mismanagement – ego before economics – at the very top of the club.

The best outcome now would appear to be persuading young Sam that joining Sunderland in January would be a good move, in the hope of landing winger Will Buckley on a permanent – together with maybe Liam Bridcutt, who could definitely do an “older head” defensive midfield job – with a few million pounds and a healthy sell-on clause into the bargain. At least, that way, honour might just be satisfied. The tricky bit would be getting Byram to clamber aboard a visibly sinking ship, and hoping that the Mackems conveniently forget they could have the lad for relatively little next summer – if they avoid the drop.

It’s all a bit of a mess, quite frankly, and unhappily reminiscent of previous periods when Cellino has rampaged around Elland Road, mouthing off at (and about) all and sundry, with nobody to say him nay. For the good of Leeds United, Uwe Rösler – and all of us – it’s fervently to be hoped that those difficult days have not returned for good. 

West Ham “McCormack Bid” is the Acid Test for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson


Please….. no more bloody straws…

When a tantalising Sky Sports News tweet appeared today, promising a “major Leeds United transfer development” after 4pm, you somehow knew it wouldn’t be good news – despite David Haigh’s promise of just that for long-suffering Leeds fans sometime this week.  But good news and the January transfer window don’t really go together like fish and chips for Leeds United.  The January transfer window is more of a misery time for us, or at best one of bleak disappointment, leading to dull and resentful apathy.  That’s the way it has been and – despite the usual promises – it’s looked for some time now as though this one will be no different.

So when this Sky Sports story finally broke, telling the world that West Ham United have made a “surprise bid” for our Captain of one week, Ross McCormack, the natural reaction was to laugh bitterly – and the first thought that went through a cynical head was, “Yeah, that’d be about right – why not really rub it in?”  After all, this is the club that sold top-scorer Luciano Becchio just when we needed him most, this time last season.  This is the club that sold our brightest talent and the nearest we’ve had to a Leeds United icon lately, in Robert Snodgrass.  Those were to Norwich, of course, a small club who seemed to delight in being able to pick on a moribund giant.  West Ham could easily be placed into that category too.

A hybrid of two riddles here: what do West Ham and Leeds United have in common – but also what’s the difference between them?  Answer: both are joke clubs – but West Ham are a joke club with some money.  And money talks, as we can all deduce from the deafening silence (apart from those few isolated tweets of promise) emanating from our club this past few weeks – weeks that were supposed to be about making signings and ratifying a takeover, for those who believed all the blarney we were fed in December.

It’s hard to write that riddle thing, even to make a point.  But, with everything that’s gone on at Leeds United lately, it’s difficult to reach any other conclusion but that we are a joke club.  A sick joke, an unfunny joke.  A joke club run by joke people who believe they can get away with feeding the fans crap for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and then expect them to beg for more crap for supper.  And the sickest joke of all is that they probably can get away with it.  The only possible source of resistance is from the fans, and our fans are as divided as any, with some factions for GFH, some wanting the Sport Capital group, even a maverick few still harking back to Bates – and all of them willing indeed eager to have a barney with any of the rest, whilst pouring ridicule on the few real attempts out there at organising support.  Read any Leeds United internet forum, and you’ll see it’s true.  We might all be Leeds, but United we most definitely are not – and that’s tantamount to a licence for the suits in the boardroom to do as they think best – a scary thought for anyone who wants Leeds United once again to occupy a prominent place in English football.

There’s the story of the straw that broke the camel’s back (this is not a middle-eastern consortium reference).  The moral is, of course, that if you go on piling up the burden on the poor old camel, it will eventually collapse at the addition of even one more straw.  In the same way, the faith and patience of the fans – those of us who can smell the stench of what we’re being fed – is surely at breaking point.  What will it take for that faith to finally collapse?  And what happens then?

The only way to register a protest in today’s world is to try and hit people in the pocket, because of that aforementioned fact that money talks.  It’s not the club’s fault that West Ham have seen fit to bid for McCormack.  But it IS the club’s fault – presumably – that this is the only item of news we currently have to chew on, we who are so hungry, so starving for some positive tidings, a ray or two of hope that maybe we have a brighter future.  That positive news, despite many coy hints, smileys and tweets from the usual suspects, has failed to materialise.  Our expectations have been managed; two loans apart, the club has almost managed to negotiate yet another window with no investment anywhere near the scale of the serious players at the top of the league.  That’s taking the mick, and dress it up how you like, it’s not good enough for a club like Leeds United with fans like the fanatical yet deeply put-upon Leeds fans.

Leeds United Football Club need to consider very, very carefully now as to just how much more their loyal body of fans will put up with.  Nobody likes to be made a fool of, especially not in front of a gaping, jeering world of rival fans, workmates and just anybody who feels inclined to rub salt into wounds, ie almost everybody.  The time is approaching when the final straw will be added to that onerous burden, and then some sort of collapse of support is possible.  People will vote with their feet, people will find better things to do with the hard-earned money in their pockets.  Why shouldn’t they?  The club will always preach about loyalty and support – but that’s a two-way street and at the moment the traffic is strictly one-way.  So why should people continue to pay still-exorbitant prices to watch football at a club which seems to have forgotten entirely what it’s supposed to be about?

It may well be that joke club West Ham are kidding themselves if they think they can tempt McCormack to join a team that has just sustained a 0-9 defeat in a semi-final and who are very probably headed for relegation.  But if Leeds United have any say in the matter – and after all, they do – then they need to consider very carefully what’s best for the club and the fans before taking that usual step of buckling and grabbing the cash.  That camel’s legs are trembling, and who can tell how many more straws it will take to complete the job of flattening it along with all of our hopes, our faith, our belief?

This bid for Ross McCormack may well be the acid test.  Can Leeds United pass it?

No More Dexter Blackstock for Leeds; Who Next? – by Rob Atkinson


Dexter makes his mark for Leeds

Dexter Blackstock has apparently been ruled out for the season by a knee injury, which is particularly hard luck on the lad himself, but also obviously for Leeds United.  Dex wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea in the white shirt, but as was said in commentary for the Watford game, he did bring something to the team that we hadn’t got before, in terms of work off the ball and his movement, opening up options for others to profit rather than necessarily being a taker of chances himself – although I’m sure that would have come.

But hey-ho, he’s gone back to Forest and there’s no use crying over spilt milk.  The one thing we know for sure about poor old Blackstock is that he’s not an option for the rest of this season – so he therefore disappears from our radar altogether, and we must look forward – and it appears that we may do so whilst jingling a few shekels in our pocket.

The most likely addition to our forward line in January remains, in my opinion, one Señor Becchio.  He’s been here and done it before, and at this level too.  He’d be absolutely champing at the bit and determined to make an impact – I’m sure he’d be effective for Leeds United as the campaign enters its decisive phase.  I emphasise my own opinion here as it seems certain Leeds fans would see Bates ensconced in his old office at Elland Road before they’d accept Luciano back.  This absolutely baffles me – Becchio is a known quantity, he’s familiar with the club and the demands of playing in front of a demanding and somewhat truculent crowd – why on earth wouldn’t we give him a shot, if it really was an option?

Still, what do Brian McDermott OR I know?  I’m just glad that we appear to be of the same opinion, even if we’re wrong.  But what do others think?  I wrote an article a while back saying that the acquisition of Becchio and Gradel in January would guarantee us promotion; I still feel that’s most probably right, too.  But it’s not as if I’d be averse to Ince from Blackpool plus Doyle from Wolves, either – as long as the budget is there, post TOMA III.  What options would anyone else advance or deeply desire?  I’m seeking your views, ladies and gentlemen – please chip in with them below.

Radebe Backs New Consortium Leeds Bid? – by Rob Atkinson

As rumours go, it’s got a lot going for it. Highly attractive, incredibly exciting and with that soupçon of believability about it. Could Lucas Radebe, the beloved Chief of Elland Road really be heading back to the club as part of a UK group with takeover ambitions?

It’s difficult to imagine anyone who could be more welcome back at the centre of things at Leeds United than Lucas Radebe. He’d be a natural target for any serious consortium looking for a fan-friendly figurehead whose whole-hearted acceptance by supporters would be guaranteed. The rumour runs that this consortium have already had talks with fans group LUST, that they see a pivotal role at the club for Radebe, that they aim to guide United back into Europe – even that (and this is where the timescale seems unfeasibly short) they intend to back Brian McDermott’s recruitment plans in January. Surely things can’t move as fast as that? Or could this be the major investment, described as “close” by Salah Nooruddin last month?

McDermott apparently is seen as integral to the group’s plans, and they’re making the kind of ambitious noises that will have any Leeds fan sitting up, panting eagerly and begging. Lucas might be their ace in the hole, but it would have to follow that there are also substantial resources behind any such bid.

Of course at the moment it’s just a rumour – it’s not even been officially denied yet, and hasn’t stirred more than a ripple on Twitter. But it is a particularly attractive rumour, entirely because of the link with that man Radebe who so many that love the club would give their eye teeth to see return home in glory.

Could it happen? Given the timescale being talked about, we’d be liable to hear more pretty soon if this really is a goer. Watch this space – and fingers crossed.