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1000 Not Out for the Leeds United Blog With Attitude – by Rob Atkinson

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Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything – 1000 not out

In December of 2012, I wrote an article about the lack of passion and commitment in the England football team, to launch the blog I’d called Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything. Leeds United were in one of their too-frequent glory-free periods, becalmed in the Championship. Corruption seeped its way through the corridors of power, whether you looked at the rulers of our national game or indeed the nation itself. Millions gazed dead-eyed and compliant at the telly box in the corner, placated by reality TV and the glitz of the Premier League. Six years on, as I clock up article number 1000, it’s self-evident that not much has changed – so there’s been plenty to write about, and ample justification for the odd body-swerve away from our heroes in white.

For the blog itself, though, Life – if not Leeds United and the Universe, never mind Everything – has been quite good. Halfway into its first full year, NewsNow syndication was granted, and my little creation went global – thanks mainly to the happy fact that there are Leeds United fans, in big numbers, simply everywhere throughout the world. Since that time, blog hits have averaged thousands instead of the initial readership of dozens – and now, with this piece, the first “millennium” has been clocked up. Other writing commitments have meant that the frequency of posting is not what it was in the early days, but still, in those thousand articles over six years, almost three million hits have been registered from a shade under two million visitors. Those are numbers I couldn’t have dreamed of as I wrote that first piece, and I’m duly grateful to everyone who’s ever clicked on the blog, made a comment, shared an article, made a donation, or whatever. You’ve all contributed to what I would modestly describe as a fairly successful project. And happily, the blog has led to other things for your humble correspondent – columns in two local newspapers, invitations with hospitality to cover various sporting events – and even admission within the hallowed portal of the Leeds United press box. Despite the occasional grumblings of the mob, perhaps I am actually doing something right.

Still, not everyone has always been happy, needless to say, about everything I’ve written here. As Abraham Lincoln said – and as he had violently confirmed to him by actor-turned-assassin John Wilkes Booth – you cannot please all of the people, all of the time. And, to be fair, I’ve never set out solely to win friends or admirers; I’ve always wanted to be opinionated and partial, being a Leeds fan is a passionate, partisan thing – and you have to speak your mind. I’ve frequently disagreed with fellow supporters and writing colleagues, and with the club itself, as well as with the more obvious groups like rival sets of fans. I’ve made myself deeply unpopular with certain of these groups, and I’ve attracted the usual inarticulate abuse, death threats and more or less sinister promises of harm to my family – mostly anonymous, as you’d expect. But it’s all been worthwhile in terms of getting deeply-held points of view off my chest, and it’s on all fours with my need as a writer of opinion pieces to be more than just a mere cypher, toeing a line drawn by external bodies. I’ve always tried to draw my own line, and this has frequently upset people – but those are the breaks. You have to stand by your own ideals.

So that’s been the rationale behind the first thousand posts on this blog. Apart from the very occasional guest post, it’s all been my own work, and I’d imagine that this will hold true for the next thousand too, however long that might take. I’m happier paddling my own canoe and sticking to my own guns – though I am looking for a site sponsor, so I’m happy to talk to interested parties about that! But the blog, as I hope and trust, will continue to go from strength to strength, particularly as and when Leeds United gets its act together and ascends to the Promised Land of the Premier League. Then, it will be a whole new ball game, both for me and for the club I’ve loved (though not uncritically) for the best part of half a century. Roll on, that glorious day.

In the meantime, thanks to everyone, friend or foe, who has ever given up a few minutes to read this blog. Your time and patience is much appreciated. Thanks also to my little group of trolls, who have afforded me so much amusement without ever seeing the light of day on the comments page. I’m thinking here of people like “Clive”, who imagines he’s had me banned on a few occasions from NewsNow, and is always surprised to see that I’m still there. Thanks go to Clive, and the others too. You need a bit of a laugh sometimes when you’re writing and thinking about the soap opera down at Elland Road, and my trolls, as much as any other group, have been as devoted and amusing as I could possibly wish.

So, it’s onward and upwards from here. Expect post number 1001 whenever there’s anything that needs saying about our beloved Leeds United – or maybe about Life, the Universe, Everything. Please keep reading and commentating and – to those kind, blessed few – donating. It’s a sobering thought that, if every single one of the views over this thousand posts had realised just 20 pence, I’d now be over half a million quid better off. Life’s not like that sadly, but my kind donors still keep the blog going and I’m immensely grateful to them for their generosity. Here we go with Leeds United – Marching On Together.

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Here’s to the next thousand #LLUUE

 

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Many Thanks and MOT – From the Leeds Utd Blog With Attitude – by Rob Atkinson

The Leeds United blog with Attitude

The Leeds United blog with Attitude

I really have to say a big “thank you” to all of those many readers of this blog who have helped it along, and for all of the many ways you’ve supported my efforts to get some provocative and hopefully entertaining articles out there on an almost daily basis.  The support I’ve received has actually been phenomenal-  in line with the hits on the blog (which will shortly pass the one million mark.)

In the first place, people have actually troubled to read the pieces I’ve written – I can now usually rely on at least 500 reads of any article, and more often the views run into thousands. I’m grateful too for the respondents – those who take the time and trouble to write replies to the articles and indeed to reply to other respondents; this has frequently resulted in some rewarding debate, which makes the blog feel like a livelier place.  I can’t say how much I appreciate the kind comments that I get as well – at least they offset the other sort!  But it’s impossible to describe just what it means to me when I read positive and constructive feedback – suffice to say that, as much as anything else, this keeps me going.  There are also those who have been kind enough to share articles via Twitter or Facebook etc – and sometimes even by re-blogging them.  That all helps immensely to build a regular readership – which, I’m happy to say, we’re well on the way to having.

Last, but clearly not least, my grateful thanks to all who have contributed financially to Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything – this has made possible much faster progress on the Leeds United book I’m working on – I’m even getting some way towards deciding upon a title!  There have been big contributions and smaller ones, but each is equally valued and appreciated.  It really is the thought that counts where this form of support is concerned, as much as any other.

Some people have indicated that they would like to contribute, but have found that the site’s PayPal button is not working for them. I’ve no idea why that might be, I’m afraid – but if it’s been a problem for anyone who does wish to donate – and if you’re set up to pay by PayPal – then simply use the email RobofLeeds07@aol.com – and all should work properly.  I will, as I’ve previously made clear, be distributing free copies of the book when it comes out, to all donors who have contributed £10.00 or more. Sadly, there has to be this minimum level, otherwise the entire print run would  be gone before I sold one book!

Thanks again – huge thanks – for everything.  Please keep reading, commenting, arguing and sharing.  It’s what makes the blogging world go ’round.

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That Was The Leeds United 2013 That Was – by Rob Atkinson

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A look back before we look forward…

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  January 2013 at Elland Road saw Leeds United in the throes of transition from the misery of life under Bates to a newly-budding optimism surrounding what was still technically, for the time being, life under Bates.  The long-awaited takeover had finally happened, but many were unable to see beyond the strings which were clearly attached.  After daring to dream, it seemed as though the old nightmare still had its final act to play out.  We were stuck with Ken Bates until the end of the season as Chairman – and then for three years beyond that as President, threatening to sully an office previously held with honour by the late Earl of Harewood.  Still, it was better than Bates owning the club.  So, modified rapture.

January was a mixture of indifferent league form relieved by significant Cup success.  Neil Warnock’s charges had ended the old year with a thorough drubbing at Hull; though the final score was only 2-0, the Whites had been taught a sobering lesson in how the game should be played at this level, and the score-line distinctly flattered them.   Sadly, another 2-0 defeat at Barnsley on January 12 showed that the lesson had not been learned.  How a team so humbled in two league fixtures could possibly knock out the mighty and Bale-inspired Spurs from the FA Cup was puzzling to say the least.  But that’s what happened – Spurs went the way of Birmingham whom United had beaten after a replay in Round Three, and we were through to face the daunting task of playing Champions Man City away in Round Five.

Leeds took an uninspiring single point from the opening three league games of February and then bowed out of the FA Cup at the Etihad, the 4-0 spanking again not really reflecting the lopsided balance of play in City’s favour.  Able to, as they say, “concentrate on the league”, Leeds beat Blackpool 2-0 and played out a goal-less draw at Blackburn to enter March, which turned out to be the last full month under Neil “Colin” Warnock.

Colin had looked ever less capable of fulfilling the United dream of promotion, and March was the month that broke the back of that ambition.  A scratchy win over Millwall was followed by three draws and then two defeats and, as April rolled around, Colin’s tenure ended after two further losses – at home to Derby and then at the Valley against Charlton Athletic.  And then, it all changed – though too little and too late.  By this time, the hopeful peering upwards at the playoff zone had been replaced by anxious glances over our shoulders at the relegation tussle.  When Brian McDermott was appointed, he immediately said all the right things as new managers tend to do – except he managed to imbue his words with a sincerity and meaning that marked him as somebody we might actually want at the helm.

Brian’s first match was a 2-1 defeat of Sheffield Wednesday, a badly-needed and richly satisfying victory after the previous chelpings of then Wednesday manager David Jones.  A win over Burnley followed, hoisting Leeds to mid-table security before two successive defeats re-awakened those nagging worries.  But all was well by the last day of the season as we travelled to Watford and won 2-1, successfully pooping their intended promotion party and sending Hull up instead.  Ah, well.

So that was it for the season.  During the summer, big changes were afoot at boardroom level, including the welcome early termination of Bates’ connections with the club, a £1 million-ish signing for the first time in absolutely yonks, and generally increased optimism and morale.

The story of this season so far has been “steady as she goes” with new players bedding in, plenty of our familiar flaws still in evidence, but overall a much brighter and happier atmosphere about the whole place under Brian McDermott, who has continued to forge a great relationship with the fans as he displays a quiet determination to succeed in this job, regardless of distractions elsewhere – the Ireland job, for instance.  McDermott is known to have ambitions in this direction, but he swiftly distanced himself from speculation, stating firmly that he had a job to do at Elland Road.  In fact, McDermott’s hand on the tiller has resulted in an identical position at the turn of the year as compared with previous seasons.  Leeds have fallen away in the past – can they now build on what looks certain to be yet another fresh start under the Haigh-led consortium?

2014 looks as richly promising as any year in recent memory.  Our arguably top performer over recent games, with due deference to the prolific Rossco, has been Marius Zaliukas, signed initially on a short-term deal.  That deal has now been improved and extended to the end of the 2014/15 season – surely a cause for celebration.

More signings are promised in this window following the expected ratification of the takeover by the Football League.  There is the possibility of a winger, maybe another striker too to take some of the burden of McCormack.  These could at last be exciting times.  2013 was a year in which we have moved from one takeover watershed to another, with no great change in league position but with a massive improvement in the whole atmosphere of the club since Bates was shown the door.  What we have now is a solid foundation to build upon, with a club that seems likely to be relatively well-funded, ahead of Financial Fair Play regulation, and able to exert some buying power in the transfer market to supplement the good players we already have at the club – including promising youngsters such as Byram and Mowatt as the Academy production line continues to flourish.  It’s impossible of course to speculate about what an article penned next New Year’s Eve would say – will it reflect on solid achievement, steady progress or dashed hopes?  All are possibilities.  That story will unfold in the next twelve months.

Meanwhile, let’s raise a glass to 2014 and all it might bring to fans of Leeds United AFC in terms of progress, excitement, maybe even glory.  Happy New Year to #LLUUE readers everywhere, to all Leeds United fans and to everybody else.  Let’s see where it takes us!

A Year On the Blog With Leeds United: Happy Birthday! – by Rob Atkinson

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The early version blog header

One year ago today, looking to diversify in my writing life, I started a blog.  It was one of those things I thought I might devote the odd hour or so to, every other day, while plugging away at the bread and butter stuff.  It’d be a change as good as a rest, it seemed to me – a chance to write for my own pleasure about a variety of things which exercised me on a regular basis, chief among them Leeds United AFC.  I’d stick in a few of my lefty political rants too, I mused, stuff that hadn’t found its target elsewhere, but stuff I still wanted to say – and have people read if possible.  And I figured that, as I was just doing it for fun, I could quietly drop it if the going got tough, or if it got in the way of anything important.  I truly didn’t realise how it would grow through this first year, and now I think I’m stuck with it.  It’s still a labour of love, but it shows all the signs of becoming far more than that; for the time being, I’m content to go wherever it leads me.

I thought I’d nick a title from one of my heroes, the late, great genius Douglas Adams, and his legendary, superb trilogy of five, “The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy“.  So I nabbed a title, inserted Leeds United to make it mine, and there I was.  For the first few months I wrote away happily but fairly occasionally, not paying too much attention to readership, or viewing figures.  It toddled along quite nicely, my infant blog, entertaining me if not many others.  Then it got picked up by the “NewsNow” news aggregator – and the numbers went through the roof.

By the end of August, I’d had a total of 13,000 views in eight and a half months. Now it’s a gnat’s whisker under 400,000.  Just yesterday I wrote an article which, by itself, has attracted over 30,000 readers in 24 hours.  To say the blog has grown is hopelessly to understate the case.  It’s surpassed my expectations many times over. In this, I’m lucky to be writing primarily about Leeds United, a club that has always generated enormous interest and always will.  My sidelines of taking swipes at traditional enemies have extended my readership among fans of other clubs.  It’s been, in short, a very encouraging first year – particularly the time since late August when I was fortunate enough to see the reach of the thing extend to the entire globe.

The upside of all this has been considerable, for me personally and by implication for my other work – books I have in progress and articles I write elsewhere.  There have also been downsides.  From the shallow depths of my one year’s experience, I would certainly tell any would-be blogger – go for it, but you’ll need a thick skin and an even temper.  The vast majority of the people out there will judge a site on its merits; they have the choice of reading or ignoring it, after all.  But you get the odd few who read every word you write and insist on hating every single syllable.  They then write in and tell you how useless it is, how you can’t write: “I could of done better than that rubishy nonesense if I could of been arsed” was one of the more literate attempts at scathing critique, selected at random from my Black Museum of rejected feedback.

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The home of the blog

The best thing, I have found, is to ignore all of this sort of stuff, on the basis that a heckler denied the oxygen of attention will soon burn himself or herself out – still, they can be very persistent, and occasionally I’ve not been able to resist having a bite back. Sometimes I’ll resort to editing a negative comment of particular filth and violence, so that it reads more acceptably and thereby annoys the perpetrator.  Whenever I’ve done this, I’ve added the response “It’s good to be King”, just to distinguish the contributions I’ve tampered with.  Only today this so enraged some petulant herbert that he threatened to “slash me with a nife (sic)” if he ever saw me around LS11 – and of course he may well see me – if he ever goes to games.  I mention that merely to illustrate the phenomenon of the tantrum-prone troll – it’s not really much of a problem, more a mild irritation and, as I’ve said – best ignored.  The one thing that these types have in common beyond appalling literacy skills is their essential cowardice – they strike from behind the shield of anonymity and will not emerge into the daylight of honesty and accountability.  It takes all sorts, I suppose – but what a futile existence.

I’m confident now that this blog will continue to grow, and to assist and support my other endeavours.  It’s provided a platform of sorts, for which I’m very grateful – and by far the greater part of the feedback has been positive, constructive, thought provoking and intensely rewarding.  It’s emphasised for me as well just how incredibly passionate the fans of Leeds United are; how much anything to do with our great club is seized upon eagerly by voracious readers with an endless appetite for all things Leeds.  I can certainly relate to that, so it’s extremely fulfilling for me to be able to contribute, in some small measure, to the massive body of work out there surrounding the ups and downs of the Mighty Whites of Elland Road.  It will continue to be my pleasure and privilege to do this, and I hope to see this site continue to thrive, to grow and to spread the Leeds United word even further and even wider.

To all of those who have read anything I’ve written this past year – thank you.  I hope you’ll keep reading.  I’d be grateful if those readers could spread the word, follow the blog, share it among their Leeds fanatic friends.  If you want to buy the blog half a bitter for its birthday, you can even do that – there’s a donations link over to the left.  Seriously, every little helps, whether it’s a quid or a buck or a share or follow –  and there’ll be much more to come from Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything as the next year rolls by – hopefully a year of great progress for our club as all the signs are that we may be on the verge of an exciting new era and headed unstoppably for the big time again.  It’s been far too long, but you can’t keep a good club down, never mind a great one like Leeds.  I’ll look forward to charting our progress, being supportive, showing incredible bias of a totally non-journalistic flavour and perhaps criticising when it seems appropriate.

Every time anyone clicks on an article in this blog, it means such a lot to me, just as every time Leeds United take a step forward it means such a massive amount to every one of us fanatics out here.  The next year should be one of continued growth and improvement here on this humble blog and much more importantly there at Elland Road where the stars and heroes do their best to make the dreams we dare to dream come true.  Marching On Together, we can all look forward confidently to better times ahead.