Ex-Villa forward and current professional motormouth Gobby Agbonlahor appears to have had a moment of self-awareness today, as the Friday night showdown between the Villans and Leeds United approaches. The former striker has tweeted an admission that, unless his side beat United, then his own Twitter presence would be unbearable to the point where he’d feel compelled to deactivate his account. The implication is, of course, that if Aston Villa do win, then there’ll be a lot more crowing and trolling to come from one of trash radio station TalkSport’s shining lights (my apologies for the gratuitous rhyming slang).
Having delivered Leeds United‘s Friday evening teamtalk for them with his previous online rants, Agbonlahor seems to have potentially painted himself into a corner from which it would be difficult to escape, should Leeds manage to take anything from Friday’s fixture. Several Villa fans have responded to Gobby’s rash tweets with anger at the incentive he has provided for the Whites to ram his words back down his virtual throat.
Now, Agbonlahor has gone further in the incentivisation stakes, with the prospect of seeing him disappear from the Twittersphere surely something that will spur Leeds on (always assuming that Gobby isn’t just emulating his fellow “gob on a stick” Katie Hopkins, who threatened many times to leave Twitter, but eventually had to be kicked off).
It promises to be a spicy old affair at Villa Park on Friday and, despite his over-use of the laugh emoticons, you get the feeling that Agbonlahor knows full well he has committed the cardinal sin of winding up an imminent opponent while wiser heads are keeping their powder dry. Really, it’s a shame that Leeds appear beset by injuries ahead of a match where they will need to be as strong as possible. The absence of skipper Liam Cooper, and more especially that of England’s Kalvin Phillips, does not bode well for United’s ability to cope with a Villa side on the crest of a wave after their 100% start to the season. Leeds, of course, will doubtless back themselves to deal with such problems – and they certainly aren’t lacking for either incentive or motivation. Credit to Gobby for that, at least.
Sometimes, in sport as in life, a helping hand can come from the most unexpected source. In the sporting arena, that helpful gesture might occasionally even emanate from within the opposition camp, giving an unexpected boost ahead of a difficult task. You’ll have doubtless heard of the phenomenon whereby some Rentagob ex-player for this or that Rovers, City or United will unwisely open their piehole and give major and unintended motivation to the next opponents of that ex-player’s former employers.
One such instance of this occurred last night in the wake of Leeds United’s slightly unfortunate home defeat to Wolves. Former Aston Villa player Gabriel “Gobby” Agbonlahor, the proud owner of two losers’ medals as the fruits of his less than glittering career, seemingly couldn’t resist the opportunity to mock Leeds United, heedless of the fact that, for the Villans, providing an extra incentive for Leeds United ahead of Friday night’s Villa Park summit was possibly the very last thing Dean Smith’s charges would have wanted. But good old Gobby, showing the kind of intellect needed to work at TalkSport, went ahead anyway – and, should Villa lose their impressive 100% record at the hands of United, it could be that Mr. Agbonlahor will find the blame fairly and squarely laid upon himself.
It’s a strange situation just now with Leeds and Villa, with the Villa fans in particular seeming to wish to generate an unnatural rivalry between their own club and the Whites, who habitually look west to Trafford or south to Chelsea for their own bêtes noires. With United still acclimatising themselves to the Premier League, and with Villa putting last season’s narrow and distinctly dodgy escape from relegation behind them with four wins in four games this time around, you might suppose the fans of Agbonlahor’s former club would be looking elsewhere themselves for rivalry fodder. But there it is, and we can probably trace this odd situation back to Villa’s rather fortunate promotion season, when Leeds missed out on doing the double over them only because of Marcelo Bielsa’s FIFA Fair Play Award-winning gesture of allowing the Villans to walk the ball in for an equaliser at Elland Road.
The reverse fixture at Villa Park had ended up with Leeds triumphant, having come back from two down – but in truth, United were the better team throughout, something that had Smith grinding his teeth on the touchline before muttering ungraciously about the Whites celebrating as though they’d won the title itself. Whatever the roots of the situation, Villa fans – who may well have something of a chip on their collective shoulder about the media adulation of Bielsa – have lost no opportunity to gloat over the contrasting fortunes of the two clubs this season, with warnings of premature exultation falling on deaf ears. But that’s fans for you.
It’s different when ex-players join in. The comments circulate more widely, and with much more chance of being noted inside the dressing room of the club targeted for such unwise trolling. You can safely bet your mortgage on the fact that Liam Cooper & Co will be well aware of Gobby’s online ramblings, including the assertions that Leeds United are more myth than legend, as well as his notion that Bielsa gets too much credit, which should more properly be laid at the feet of Dean Smith. As I said, you can forgive blinkered fans for spouting that kind of rubbish – but when an ex-player of your next opponent does it, then it can make the troops thus slighted imitate the actions of the tiger. It’s certainly not the kind of thing Agbonlahor’s former employers would have wished him to do, as they will be uncomfortably aware that Friday night’s challenge may just have become even more difficult.
Obviously, as a United fan, I hope so. I hope that Leeds will hand Villa a right pasting to ruin their 100% start, and I hope that Gobby’s words will be rammed well and truly back down the orifice whence they originated, to emerge a day later, via a natural excretory process, in the form of a TalkSport match summary. Villa are a good team, so this desirable outcome is by no means guaranteed. But if it did happen, then this blogger would be well chuffed – along with, I suspect, those well-motivated men from Elland Road.
Straight after his release by West Ham, former Arsenal star Jack Wilshere – still only 28 – has taken to social media to stress that he’s been fit and ready to play top level football for months. All he’s been lacking, according to his statement tonight, is the chance to prove his worth. So it’s quite obvious that what Wilshere is looking for is a club at the top level who will give him that chance. Could the club be Leeds United?
Naturally, there are doubts. We don’t know what the issue has been at West Ham, if there’s no chronic injury or lack of fitness or desire. Hammers fan Jack’s not saying. But maybe, in his particular circumstances, he’d be willing to accept a pay per play deal, as the chance he’s been craving to prove that he’s still able to do a job at the top.
This blogger thinks it’s worth a punt. A fit and firing Wilshere would be a quality addition to any EPL squad. I’m sure some enterprising outfit will give him a go and, barring any other CAM option presenting itself, I’d like Leeds to show a bit of faith, which Wilshere could then perhaps repay.
Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything thinks that this would be a chance we’ll worth taking. Your (polite) thoughts?
Manchester United, reeling from their 1-6 home defeat to Spurs on Sunday, and frustrated by Dortmund’s refusal to budge on top target Jadon Sancho’s £100m+ price, have admitted that their move to sign 33 year old free agent Edinson Cavani was prompted by the threat of losing a fan in the wake of their stuttering start to the season.
The once mighty Pride of Devon have been out of sorts so far in this new campaign. The season opened with a 1-3 home reverse to Crystal Palace, with neutral observers claiming that Palace could have had six. Then, the ailing media favourites had to rely on a penalty given after the final whistle to beat Brighton in their first away fixture, with neutral observers claiming that the Seagulls could have had eight. Most recently, it was back to the Theatre of Hollow Myths, where a first minute penalty was not enough to stop Tottenham Hotspur rattling in six, with neutral observers claiming that Spurs could have had ten.
In the wake of that second home defeat, Steve, a Leeds-based plastic armchair man u fan of forty years, shocked the football world by claiming that he’d had enough and was no longer a glory-hunting disciple of the ironically-dubbed “biggest club in the world”. Steve pulled no punches in his withering assessment of Manchester’s second club, ranting as follows:
“I’ve been a Man U fan for over 40 years and I’m afraid I’m looking for a new club to support after today’s shambles. I’m done with them. They are not a big club anymore, they’re an absolute shambles and it starts from the top. Until Woodward and the board go, they’ll have no success. I live in Leeds so I’ll probably support Leeds United. They’ve got one of the best managers in the business, their players are hungry for it, and they play great football.”
Sadly for Steve, the reaction among proper Leeds fans has not been particularly positive, with several commenting that they “would rather chew wasps” than accept a renegade Devonian as one of their number. It appears, then, that there is no welcome for Steve at Elland Road, and so hopes will burn bright from Milton Keynes to Singapore that he will keep the faith and maintain his front room devotion to Ole’s boys, however dire and dismal they are under the hapless Norwegian “demon pixie”.
The Trafford based club have reiterated their determination to retain fans like Steve, by making any signings necessary, regardless of the benefit or lack thereof to the team itself. “We mean business”, stated one man u insider, “and we’ll show our intent by the end of this window. If Cavani doesn’t do the trick, we’ll be approaching Derby for their star forward Rooney. Don’t rule us out yet, we’re going to do great things.”
Terry Christian, well-known Salford scally and professional man u fan, was unavailable for comment, as he’s hiding behind his sofa until Woodward and the Glasers are gone.
Nobody does weird like Leeds United, that’s understood. However, with the news that the seemingly 99.99% complete transfer of Michael Cuisance may well have fallen through, it seems possible that the Whites may have out-weirded even themselves.
So strange does this apparent conclusion seem, after “done deal” was flagged up across the various social media platforms over the past twenty-four hours, that we at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything decided to dispatch our intrepid investigative reporter Rob Schreibermann to Munich, and find out what’s really going on.
Armed only with his passport, bus pass and a vacuum-wrapped Schnitzengruben in case he felt peckish, our man set forth, determined to find out the truth. And, already, we can report that the stumbling block seems to be a long-standing feud between Leeds and Bayern dating back 45 years to 1975.
Astounding as it may seem, it was Leeds United’s insistence that Bayern finally hand over the European Cup, of which they have always maintained they were robbed in the 1975 Final at the Parc des Princes in Paris, that finally killed the deal, as Bayern steadfastly refuse to make a gesture that would expose them as cheats. Although this explanation verges on the very outer limits of credibility, it must be said that it’s many times more likely than the bizarre Daniel James from Swansea fiasco repeating itself quite so soon.
Whatever the background to this development, the Cuisance deal seems to be dead, and Leeds are now faced with having to find a suitable alternative target. Unless, that is, cash-strapped Udinese have decided their bluff has been called, and have made a phone call along the lines of “Let’s talk de Paul for £25m, Victor”? Stranger things have happened, after all.
A prominent feature of the radio coverage Leeds United have enjoyed over the past several years has been the joyously raucous goal celebrations of former United player Noel Whelan, as he greeted each goal the Whites have scored with what has become his signature – GET IIIIINNNNNNN!!! – coming at us over the airwaves courtesy of BBC Radio Leeds.
But now, alas, it seems that Whelan is being forced to tone down his celebrations for fear of upsetting other radio stations, some of whom have complained about the noise and passion of Noel’s on-air outbursts. This po-faced attitude seems to be getting more and more common among the various broadcasters that cover our national game – they seem to picture us all sitting at home, covering our ears for fear of hearing a naughty word or an over-exuberant ejaculation, if I may use that hijacked word in its original sense. I’ve had cause myself to rant at Sky TV for frequent apologies during their otherwise half-decent coverage. “Sorry if you heard any bad language there” a seemingly shocked commentator will intone during some passionate encounter, while over on Channel 4, other passionate encounters will be accompanied by wall-to-wall effing and jeffing, without so much as a “by your leave”. It’s odd, and a bit annoying – and now it appears to threaten the natural partisanship of one of our own.
Noel, with whom I’ve had the privilege of the odd chat now and then, seems to be taking his admonition philosophically, and has confirmed he’ll be winding down the volume and the passion “from this Saturday”, though whether there’ll be much cause for any such celebrations against City has to be doubtful. On the other hand, if there was to be a Patrick Hat-trick to make our Bam Bam Bamford the first Leeds player to score in four consecutive Premier League games, it’s difficult to see how Mr Whelan could restrain himself. These things are spontaneous and visceral, after all; perhaps Popey will be standing by with a gag, or maybe a Leeds branded non-medical face mask, just to avoid giving offence to the delicate sensibilities of those “other radio stations”.
It really is such a daft situation, and those within the media and indeed the game itself should be wary of draining away what passion and enthusiasm remains in our football during these months of crowdless competition. It appears they’d rather rely upon canned cheering, some of which starts and then abruptly cuts off if there’s a near miss, depending on the skill of the person on the button. Surely that bizarre phenomenon can’t really be preferable to a bit of honest, gutsy over-celebration from a guy who bleeds white, yellow and blue? (Or maybe even plum or wine, given our new third kit).
It’s a funny old game, alright. But I’m not sure I’m laughing too much right now. Far be it from me to proffer advice to so august an institution as the BBC – but, if I could make just one small suggestion: why don’t they belt up and mind their own business?
Yes, it’s only Twitter – but our esteemed and reliable fanzine folk at The Square Ball might just have themselves a little scoop here. It’s a YES 🤞 from Rodrigo de Paul, and our top flight status could well be about to get a lot more secure.
At various times over the past few years, since Leeds United’s well-documented “fall from grace”, there have been those in the media who have been all too eager to drone on about how the Whites are no longer Yorkshire’s top club. At one point, some local TV hack – it may or may not have been Harry Gration, I simply can’t recall – almost salivated over his autocue in his eagerness to get out the obviously pre-prepared line “Yorkshire’s top club Hull City”, showing no outward trace of the embarrassment he must surely have felt. It was all so cringeworthy, as if any temporary arrangement of league placements could ever alter the immutable fact that Leeds United are Yorkshire’s number one, as they have been for well over half a century.
Now, one game into United’s first top flight season since 2004, even those who thrive on bare, soulless statistics are left without an argument, as Leeds’ only fellow Premier League Yorkshire club fell to a routine home defeat at the hands of Wolves. This left Leeds, despite their thrillingly gallant defeat by the odd goal in seven at Anfield, as the highest placed Yorkshire club, further reinforcing their historically predominant status in God’s Own County.
For Sheffield United, it may well be that “second season syndrome” will blight their campaign which, judging by their Blunt attack, could well develop into a struggle for survival. It’s early days, obviously, but there could hardly have been more of a contrast in the first game performances of the two Yorkshire clubs. It’ll be interesting indeed to see how their respective fortunes progress from here on in – but, for now, it’s good to see the league table confirming what we all know was always the case; Leeds United are Yorkshire’s Number One.
The FA, after a short session of head-scratching, have responded to accusations that Liverpool’s first penalty award against Leeds United at Anfield yesterday was in direct contravention of the latest guidance on handball via deflection. The relevant passage, shown below, appears to state unequivocally that, when the ball touches a player’s arm or hand directly from another part of their body, a penalty will not be given.
In the Liverpool v Leeds United game on Saturday, however, when the ball deflected upwards from Robin Koch’s leg onto his arm, referee Michael Oliver almost spat his whistle out in his eagerness to blow for a spot kick after only four minutes. From that moment onwards, United were on the back foot, eventually losing by the odd goal in seven, despite coming back from behind three times.
Even Liverpool stalwart turned Sky pundit Jamie Carragher bemoaned the rank unfairness of that early penalty, making particular reference to the fact that VAR failed to overturn the decision, despite the obvious deflection before the ball struck Koch’s arm. Given the clear and undeniable nature of the injustice, surely the FA would not be able to defend the decision making process from the referee and VAR perspectives?
After a brief but agonised period of reflection, during which the “Official FA Manual on Defending the Indefensible” was intensively consulted, the following statement was issued.
“The FA wish to point out that the guidance referred to specifically mentions “Premier League players” and therefore its effect is limited to that group. In the instance of Liverpool versus Leeds United on the 12th September, the penalty was awarded only four minutes into the first game of the season, which was also Leeds United’s first Premier League game since 2004. In these circumstances, the referee and the VAR officials decided that no Leeds United player could, at the time of the incident in question, yet be regarded as a Premier League player. We would also point out that referee’s decisions, subject to VAR ratification, are final – so really, it’s a bit cheeky of you to question this point.”
It is further understood that the FA, concerned that this explanation might not be acceptable to all, made a specific request to the BBC Match of the Day programme, to the effect that any discussion of the first penalty award should be omitted, with Alan Shearer nominated to make a brief remark to the effect that it was the right decision before going on to heap platitudinous praise on the plucky performance of the Premier League newcomers. The FA are confident that this further measure will effectively put the issue to bed.
Leeds United declined to comment on the matter, beyond a terse statement to the effect that, at this rate, they expect to concede 76 penalties this season. Match Referee Michael Oliver was unavailable for comment, having been advised by the Professional Game Match Officials Limited(PGMOL) not to make himself look any dafter.
Each of Leeds United’s three old-style Football League Championship titles was clinched at Anfield, home of Liverpool FC and, appropriately enough, United’s destination on Saturday as they make their long overdue return to the top flight. In 1992, the Reds were good enough to beat a demoralised Man U 2-0 which, added to Leeds’ earlier triumph at Bramall Lane, saw the Whites as Champions by 4 points in the last ever pre-Premier League competition – which, after Man U had been such solid favourites only a week or so earlier, would have qualified any first time Leeds pundit for a well deserved best bet365 welcome bonus.
In 1974, Liverpool obliged at Anfield again, losing at home to Arsenal to ensure that they couldn’t overhaul Leeds at the top. I remember a TV programme going to an ad break and then an information board coming up which read “Football result: Liverpool 0, Arsenal 1 – LEEDS UNITED ARE THE CHAMPIONS”That simple memory still sends a tingle down my spine, even forty-six years on.
And of course – probably best of all – Leeds United’s first ever title success at the top level of the game came after a showdown between the two deadly but mutually respectful rivals on April 28 1969. Leeds had come to Anfield knowing that a point would clinch the league, and they set out their stall as only they could to obtain that point, in the toughest place possible. They would go on to beat Nottingham Forest in the last game of that season to reach a record 67 points – a mark that wasn’t beaten until Liverpool themselves recorded 68 points, ironically with a 3-0 win at Elland Road, in their fabulous 1978/79 Championship year.
That legendary Leeds United squad of the sixties and seventies hung on Don Revie’s every word, they would follow him into the pit of Hell itself and they trusted him implicitly. This was the cornerstone of the relationship between team and boss; the unit thus formed was formidable indeed and, on their day, there was no-one to touch them. It was often said of that Leeds side that if you cut one, they all bled – and then you’d better watch out, because they’d be after you as one man to seek retribution. They would do anything for each other and anything for the legendary Don – but on that historic night at Anfield over half a century ago, they must have come as near as they ever came to saying “You what, gaffer? Are you sure??”
On the final whistle, as the Leeds players cavorted with joy in front of their delirious fans at this first delightful taste of being The Best – and as the weary Liverpool troops, having given their all in vain, sportingly congratulated the new Champions – Revie came over to Billy Bremner and confirmed to him that he was to lead his team over to the Kop. This, remember, was at a time when crowd violence was becoming very fashionable. A similar gesture at a certain stadium down Trafford way, and sundry other less-than-welcoming grounds around the country, might very well have got you a crack on the head with a pool ball. It did rather seem to be pushing things a bit – but Revie was insistent, and he was very definitely The Boss.
So it was that Billy Bremner, captain of champions Leeds United, gathered his players together and led them on a long, slow walk to the legendary Anfield Kop. When it was realised what was happening, a hush fell on the ground. In near-silence, the heroes in white walked on, nearer and nearer to the most iconic terrace of them all.
As the triumphant yet apprehensive Leeds warriors finally neared the Kop, the long silence was finally broken as the first cry of “Champions!” went up, swiftly echoed by others on the still-packed terrace – until finally the whole 27,000 population of that mighty hill were acclaiming the title-winners with the same shout, over and over again: “Champions! Champions! Champions!!”
Later, in the dressing room, Leeds celebrated anew with champagne provided by Bill Shankly, whose quote was short and to the point: ‘Leeds United are worthy champions,’ he said. ‘They are a great side.’ Revie responded by praising Liverpool, the club, the fans and their fine team. ‘The reception given us by the sporting Liverpool crowd was truly magnificent,’ he acknowledged, ‘and so, for that matter, was our defence tonight. They were superb in everything.’ It was a night of triumph and disaster, as these decisive nights tend to be, depending on whether you were White or Red; but it was also, let us not forget, a night of dignity, respect and utter, unalloyed class – not least from those 27,000 Liverpool fans on the Anfield Kop.