Tag Archives: la Liga

Leeds Hand Out Karmic Retribution to Notts Forest’s Former Real Madrid Man Karanka – by Rob Atkinson

Smith and Karanka 2001

Alan Smith of Leeds United disputes possession with Aitor Karanka of Real Madrid

Regarding the drama arising out of last weekend’s Leeds United versus Notts Forest encounter, it continues to become more intriguing as the days have passed; the plot thickens and the web grows ever more tangled. The Case of Kemar Roofe’s Nefarious Handball Equaliser waxes curiouser and curiouser, with one common thread reaching back to the beginning of the century, through various historical events of uncanny similarity. 

On Tuesday of this week, I wrote a mildly defensive piece here, trying to justify what really seemed barely justifiable, as I explained that Roofe’s transgression was actually a long overdue rub of the green for a Leeds United side more sinned against than sinning. I wasn’t all that convinced I was right – but you have to stick up for your team. 

On Wednesday, having found that the holier-than-thou Notts Forest had themselves benefited from a comparably dodgy equaliser a few years back, I went more on the offensive, accusing the City Ground faithful, the Nottingham Post and particularly Messrs. Kenny Burns and Garry Birtles of faux outrage if not actual hypocrisy. I now had an unarguable point, I felt, particularly as the current Forest manager Aitor Karanka had been the Boro manager diddled by a Nottingham handball in that earlier incident. You couldn’t call it karma – not quite yet – but it was a neat little coincidence. 

And then I discovered to my delight that Roofe’s errant hand had indeed brought long overdue karmic retribution to Mr. Karanka – and that this was the classic dish of revenge best served cold.

Cast your minds back, if you will, to 2001 and Leeds United’s Champions League visit to Real Madrid. Both sides had already qualified for the knockout stages, with massive clubs such as Barcelona having already gone out. And man u had gone out too. So, although the meeting in Madrid was technically a dead rubber, the pride of two great clubs was at stake. 

Alan Smith had given Leeds an early lead, to the delight of their travelling fan army, of which I was one. But then came our familiar companion injustice to kick us in the jacksy yet again, as Madrid star Raúl equalised with – yes, you’ve guessed it – a blatant handball. In fact this was an outrageously obvious punch into the United net, but it stood, and Leeds were on their way to what was to be an honourable 2-3 defeat.

And the link with the two handball incidents previously mentioned? None other than our old friend Aitor Karanka, then a defender in the Madrid team, and one of those Real players happily celebrating a Raúl goal that should never have been allowed.

So please understand if I’m short of sympathy for Mr. Karanka, Forest manager when Leeds got a handball equaliser, and coach of Middlesbrough when Forest did it to them. He’s suffered twice, yet it really is cumulative payback for that night in the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu – so for me, he can just grin and bear it. There’s this slithery progression of hypocrisy backwards in time, in that the Forest fans were outraged with Leeds United last Saturday over something they’d celebrated against Middlesbrough four years back – and, in turn, Mr Karanka was outraged with what is now his current club, four years back, about something he’d celebrated in the colours of Real Madrid against Leeds in 2001. It’s gone full circle, which is all very symmetrical, fitting and ultimately satisfactory, I hope you’ll agree.

It’s taken over 17 years and a convoluted path to see some sort of football justice, but it was well worth the wait for me. Every time I see a replay of Kemar Roofe’s handball goal from now on, it will be with keen pleasure, and no guilt at all. And that qualifies as what, for Leeds United, is a rare and delicious happy ending.

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Madrid Prospect Kanes Arsenal as Spurs Record Rare Derby Win – by Rob Atkinson

Plucky Spuds Kick Arse

Plucky Spuds Kick Arse

Young Harry Kane, the latest product to roll off the Real Madrid talent production line in London N17, is certainly making a case for being able to join Gareth Bale at Tottenham’s mother club sooner, rather than later.

Two opportunist second-half strikes were enough to sink a below-par Arsenal, the Kings of London never quite managing to get into their usual regal stride. Kane’s first goal was an object lesson in instinctive movement and being in the right place at the right time, as the ball zipped across Arsenal’s goal line. Kane found himself in space beyond the far post and finished adroitly. The winner was simply wonderful, a back-pedalling Kane somehow managing to rise to a steepling cross and punch the ball squarely with his forehead to drop into the Gunners’ net.

In the first half, Özil had given the Arse an early lead somewhat against the run of play. Arsenal had other chances, but lacked bite and cohesion. The result, in the end, was a fair one and Spurs now stand a point ahead of their hated rivals – something to look fondly back on at the end of the season when they have been eclipsed yet again by the Emirates men.

Spurs’ umpteenth failure to qualify for the Champions League may not – quite yet – cost them the services of Harry Kane. But the writing is already on the wall; Tottenham are simply not big enough for such a talent and Kane’s imminent international preferment will only make that more blindingly obvious.

For Arsenal, this was just a bad day at the office. They can and will recover; a glance at their remaining fixtures as compared to those of Spurs will make it clear that the Gunners are destined to finish as North London top dogs yet again. But that alone will not heal the wounds inflicted at the Lane today.

The Arse will be able to comfort themselves by winning the war despite losing this battle – and by the fact that they will not have to face local derby opposition that includes Harry Kane, the latest potential Wunderkind headed inevitably for the Bernebeu and the higher-class environment of la Liga.

How Did Leeds United Miss Out on Talented Sevilla Prospect and Local Lad Reuben Smith? by Rob Atkinson

Leeds Fan Reuben Smith - On The Books at Sevilla

Leeds Fan Reuben Smith – On The Books at Sevilla

At the tender age of eight, Reuben Smith was offered terms by Sheffield United FC – a massive step forward for any young lad who wants a career in professional football.  But Reuben – who had dazzled anyone who’d ever watched him play football, almost as soon as he could walk – had other ideas.  He’d been going along to Elland Road with his dad since he was a toddler and his heart was set on wearing the famous white shirt of Leeds United. That such a desirable link-up – for Reuben and perhaps for Leeds – never happened raises worrying concerns about the scouting system that can let a diamond slip away right from under the nose of – supposedly – one of the finest youth set-ups anywhere.

What actually happened was a phone call out of the blue from Portuguese giants Benfica, who had obviously heard good things about the lad from Featherstone near Pontefract, just a few miles from Leeds.  Benfica’s interest alerted top Spanish club Sevilla and, after completing his GCSE’s at St Wilfrid’s High School (my daughter’s school, so she is partly to blame) Reuben took a plane flight alone to Malaga, made the cross-country coach trip to Sevilla and is now a part of their youth academy.  He is being guided by Jesus Rodriguez de Moya Conde, a man who had been instrumental in uncovering the talents of Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid, Antonio Reyes late of Arsenal and recent Man City capture Jesus Navas.

Any young footballer who can earn himself a place in such a talent factory must have quite a lot going for him.  His dad talks about the boy having a sense of space, time and rhythm from an early age.  It’s no coincidence that he shows talent in other areas too; when he plays the drums it’s apparently “like watching a jazzman from the ’50s”.  “Our Reuben has a rhythm that needs to be played out somewhere,” says proud dad Dean, “and he’s playing to a different beat, his boundaries are not limited by where he’s from, just where he’s going.” This sounds like just the sort of combination of gifts and instinctive ability that could flourish in the artistic tempo of la Liga – but it is undeniably frustrating to think that the boy’s real desire was to wow the Gelderd End at Elland Road.

It’s to be hoped that such local promise does not too frequently go un-noticed by the region’s premier professional Football Club.  Leeds have shown themselves to be no slouches when it comes to nurturing young talent from raw potential right through to the first team.  Sam Byram and Alex Mowatt are testament enough to that.  But there’s no such thing as too many talented young players – and particularly those of whom it could truly be said that Leeds United blood courses through their veins.  To see a young prospect like Reuben Smith benefiting from top quality coaching in the the best league anywhere makes you pleased for the lad – but also disappointed for Leeds that the Yorkshire giants appear to have missed out on such a chance to polish another diamond of their very own. It could turn out to be an expensive oversight.

Good luck, Reuben Smith, wherever your career takes you – within reason.  And don’t anyone be surprised if, in a few years time, their Premier League status firmly re-established and operating once again alongside the country’s top clubs, Leeds United find themselves shelling out a good few million quid on a stellar talent that they could have had for nowt.