Tag Archives: Life

Leeds United’s New Striker, Upstaged by a Baby Girl – by Rob Atkinson

July 7th, 1993 was a very, very special day in my life. On that never-to-be-forgotten Wednesday morning, after a lifetime of waiting and to my immense delight … I heard that Leeds United had signed Brian Deane.

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Kathleen Abigail

No, no, no. Strike that. Just my little joke. The 7th of July 1993 was, of course, actually memorable for an infinitely better reason. Two weeks later than advertised (she never was that punctual, my wife) I became a Dad for the first and, to the best of my knowledge, the only time.

It’s exactly twenty-three years ago now, and whenever I see the beautiful young lady currently making a life for herself with her partner Liam in York, it amazes me how time has flown by since she made her first entrance. And I was there, as modern convention permits – indeed, demands. There were times during that long (especially for poor Tracy) period of labour when, believe me, the craven coward never far below the surface in me envied those yesteryear Dads-to-be. They were complacently uninvolved, able blithely to pace the carpet on the comfortable, clean outside, instead of sharing the hot and foetid atmosphere of a frenetic delivery room.

Kate was a planned baby, a wanted baby, a loved baby. But she probably has no idea, even today, of how she owes her very existence to my lack of precognition. If I’d been able to look ahead, when we decided it was time to present the old folks at home with a grandchild, things may have worked out differently. If I’d been granted a preview of some of the scenes that unfolded in that torture chamber of a birthing suite, I doubt very much whether Kate would ever have been considered, never mind conceived.

Thankfully though, the future is a closed book, and the human race was not to be denied a spectacular addition. So, we made our plans, happily envisaging the crib at home, the cot in the back room, the muddy football boots in the lobby cupboard and the toy goal net in the back garden. Oh, yes – I forgot to mention. Kate was supposed to be David. David Michael Kenneth, in fact; we generously honoured both Grandads in second and third place as well as settling on our favourite boy’s name as the winner. Because we knew, beyond reasonable doubt, that we’d have a boy.

The fact is that the Atkinsons had had a bit of a thin time of it on the distaff side over the previous fifty years. The last girl in the male line had been my Aunt Sheila in the 40’s; after that it had been boys all the way. My Dad sired three of us, despite always aching for a daughter (whom he’d have spoiled silly). My brother collaborated in the production of two more, and the received wisdom was that the Atkinsons could only churn out boys. I secretly wanted a daughter – having grown up as a truculent male teenager myself, I didn’t fancy handling the other side of that situation. But we both happily subscribed to the popular (and sensible) “doesn’t matter what we get as long as it’s healthy” line.

Once the supposedly tricky business of “dropping on” was accomplished – we struck lucky almost immediately, and one of my more irreverent friends dubbed me “one shot, one coconut” – our fever of speculation over what gender we might end up with grew apace. We actually resorted to an old superstition of dangling a wedding ring over the expectant tummy, and seeing which way it rotated, as this was supposed to be a sure-fire indicator one way or the other. We took care to eliminate any draughts which might set our experiment off to a false start, and Tracy lay down while I held the thread with the magic wedding ring attached. I swear on my soul that, with no outside influence at play, the damned thing suddenly jerked and started to rotate slowly clockwise – a sure sign that we were expecting a girl. So that was that particular old wives’ tale exposed as mumbo jumbo…

For the most part, Tracy’s pregnancy proceeded uneventfully. There was that one time when she felt some slight sickness, and fainted prettily on the upper landing, causing me to charge upstairs, snorting with alarm. And she seemed to exist almost entirely on milk and chocolate digestives, which transformed an ethereally-slim and insubstantial girl into a solid mass of obdurate flesh. On previous occasions when we’d collided in our tiny kitchen, I’d always ended up in fits of laughter as little Trace spun away through the door and glowered resentfully at mighty me. Now, it was my turn to bounce off and ricochet against the wall. And I was always getting edged out of bed by this brooding, broody lump of double humanity. It was a strange time.

In the end, Tracy was late delivering the goods – nearly two weeks overdue and showing no real signs of getting on with it. So, the decision was taken to get her into hospital, and “induce” her. This involved bed rest, a cocktail of hormone-based drugs, and subsistence on soup and ice cream. I spent a lot of this time visiting, and trying not to mention my own more interesting diet, for fear of provoking a hungry woman’s rage. When the time finally arrived, we realised that it was going to tick over on to the same day as my Dad’s 66th birthday and we still clung to hopes of presenting him with a grand-daughter – a gift that could never be topped.

The early hours of that July 7th were a riot of readings, tubes, examinations and just about every medical intervention you could imagine. Tracy was in a lot of pain, and I felt a miserable mixture of guilt and helplessness. Every five minutes, so it seemed to me, some new person would stride into the room, stick another wire, tube or implement somewhere about my poor, spread-eagled wife’s person, and bustle out again. Tracy gulped at gas and air in between times, and demanded either an epidural or a section, in increasingly strident tones. The epidural was granted at last, but took two tries to work, amid instructions for me to hold my wife VERY steady, as she’d surely be paralysed if the needle missed its mark. Thanks, Doc.

Then, all of a sudden, it was action stations in earnest. I was hastily retrieved from a waiting-room where I’d tried to catch ten minutes sleep on two pulled-together chairs, and peremptorily ordered to grab a leg, and keep out of the way. I surveyed the scene at the business end, and immediately knew that I was going to do that awful, clichéd thing, and faint. This filled me with horror – I’d be the deserving object of scorn in that overwhelmingly female environment, with my wife stoically suffering away. I’d never live it down. Mumbling an excuse, I dived for the adjacent bathroom, and splashed ice-cold water on my face, gulping massive breaths of air and feeling the muzzy sensation and the hissing and rushing in my ears fade away. I tottered back out into the delivery room, and resumed my station at Tracy’s left ankle, by which time the baby’s head was crowning. I stared again, fascinated now. We two were mere moments away from becoming three, and yet still we didn’t know the single most important fact about our child: boy or girl?

All those doubts seemed to vanish as matters accelerated towards a conclusion. With a courageous, fantastic effort, Trace had managed to deliver herself of a head, and was well on the way to producing a couple of shoulders. I gazed at my child’s mop of raven hair, and then marveled as a muscular upper torso began to emerge. I’d seen that thick black mane before, and those lithe and sinewy shoulders and limbs, oiled with unspeakable secretions and glistening in the harsh light. I’d seen them in Westerns galore, they were unmistakable. We were having an Apache.

The head and shoulders, unsurprisingly, are the hard part. The rest of my offspring fairly hurtled out, and with an exclamation of delight I squeaked at my wife in the high pitch of emotional release, “We’ve got a girl, Trace! And she’s bloody gorgeous!!” (Sensation, and sustained applause)

Now, another new-fangled tradition played itself out, as I was given some scissors and ordered to cut the cord. I ballsed it up, of course, getting three quarters of the way through, the scissors out of control in my shaking hand. But I somehow managed to saw my way past the last bit, and then I had my daughter in my arms for her first ever cuddle. 4:38 am. Welcome to the world, Kathleen Abigail. Happy birthday.

I don’t remember too much after that. The rest of the day was a confused blur of phone calls; my Dad being fooled into thinking it was a boy before we told him he had his grand-daughter, a lift home with my delighted parents while Trace was ushered off to a bath and a well-deserved sleep, and then celebratory bacon sandwiches at our house, courtesy of Mum.  We stopped for a pint of milk and the scum fan who kept the sandwich shop down the road saw me and was taking the mick over Brian Deane.  I told him I’d got a far bigger story, and so it came to pass that one of my earliest congratulations on new fatherhood came from a scummer, forsooth.  He was a good lad though, as it goes.

I do remember later, my Dad saying during the first visit how he was so pleased to have a grand-daughter for his birthday, and Tracy snarling that she “hadn’t done it for him”, as my Mum laughed in the background. And cameras were popping all over the place, everyone but my poor, tired wife lapping up the star treatment. Kate-who-was-supposed-to-be-David slept beautifully through all this, giving an entirely misleading impression of how she would comport herself during her noisy first three months. And then it was back home for us non-combatants, leaving Tracy to feeding lessons, and more blessed, welcome sleep. Kate Atkinson had arrived, and things would never be quite the same again.

And Brian Deane? Well, he had his moments at centre-forward, and even got Leeds into Europe one year with a virtuoso goal at Spurs. Beyond that though, his main claim to fame is that he arrived in my life on the same day that my only child did; but there, the comparison ends. Kate is now twenty-three, this very day –  and continues to confound, amaze and delight us as she lights up our lives. She doesn’t share her birthday any more, her grandad having passed away early last year. But the stories of her childhood are many and memorable; they’re the treasures we still hold now that she’s making her way in the world.

And, if I live to be a hundred, I’ll never ever forget the day I first met my daughter.  Happy birthday, Kate.  And all our love, as ever.

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Roy Keane “No Longer Softest in Man Utd History” as Rooney Hits the Deck – by Rob Atkinson

Wazza in his final sentient moments before the lights went out

Wazza in his final sentient moments before the “lights went out”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything can exclusively reveal that Roy Keane, he of the trademark glower and scowl, optimistically intended to give the misleading impression that he is hard, has been stripped of his long-standing title of “Softest Git in Man United History” after Wayne Rooney‘s virtuoso exhibition of glass-jaw softness in his own kitchen the other day. The incident in question was described as “a friendly sparring match between old mates whilst Colleen was safely away on a foreign break with her two other children.” Unfortunately, Wazza was unable to take the pace, or anything like a decent punch – and ended up “swooning on the floor like a big fat girl”.

Rooney’s conqueror was former team-mate Phil Bardsley, who managed to lay out the until-recently bald English talisman with a classic short left jab, sending the Scouse lightweight to the floor in a non-too-graceful manner not unlike that of an overbalancing sack of manure. Bardsley was reported to have said afterwards “It was only a love tap, I was shocked when he went down like a bag of sh*t*. I’d clipped him just before, so maybe he was a bit confused and thought he should hit the deck for a penalty, like at Preston North End.”

The abrupt and seemingly painful way in which Wazza the Dazzler hit the floor initially caused some alarm at Man U, a spokesman for whom remarked that they pay their striker £350k a week to stay fit and score goals, not “ponce about with the toy gloves on and look stupid”. The club’s concern increased when it became clear that Rooney may have struck his head on a chair on the way down. “We were a bit concerned about possible brain damage,” said a member of the Pride of Devon medical staff, “but we realised that his hair implant would have absorbed a minimum 90% of the impact. Anyway, he hit his head, not his backside, so any cerebral or neural damage is most unlikely,” chortled the un-named medic.

Fighting Phil Bardsley, the one-punch marvel who dropped Wazza in a heap in his own kitchen, later expressed concern that, as a result of the incident, Rooney was now being heralded as the softest git in club history. “That’s rubbish,” insisted Bardsley. “It’s still Keano who’s the softest, soppiest git for me, easy. Look at how he backed down before Mick McCarthy in Japan, and ran halfway round the world to hide at home. Scuttling up from behind and elbowing harmless little Jase McAteer, that was about Roy’s mark. Even Shearer had him cacking himself. And he couldn’t take a punch, no way. Listen, Bryan Robson or Cloughie could lay that fairy out simply by breathing on him after a decent boozing session. Keane is all front – you can’t say that about Wazza. He’s mostly arse.”

The incident was caught on video and can (at the time of publication, anyway) be viewed from a link within this BBC article. Viewers should exercise caution due to the clip’s extreme levels of dangerous comedy humiliation, which could cause some sensitive readers literally to laugh themselves sick.

Louis van Gaal, the man in charge at the Theatre of Hollow Myths, was not impressed by the story, telling Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything: “I’m schimply not impressed by this schtory. Boxing is not conschistent with a footballer’s lifeschtyle. This must schtop … schtraight away.”

Rooney, who scored against Spurs on Sunday while still only semi-conscious, was unavailable for comment. It is reported that he will not be giving any interviews until the results of a custom-designed “below-the-waist” brain scan are available. Roy Keane, reported to be on a short, bromantic break with Adrian Chiles in Brighton, was also keeping a tight-lipped silence in the face of requests for a quote. He is believed to be furious at accusations of softness, but – being too frightened dignified to face Bardsley up and settle the matter like men – is settling for a few glowers instead.

Colleen Rooney is still a broad on holiday. 

Man Utd Stars “to Receive Counselling” After Unbiased Refereeing Display – by Rob Atkinson

Michael Oliver ignores Rooney's plea for sanity and dismisses di Maria anyway

Michael Oliver ignores Rooney‘s plea for sanity and dismisses di Maria anyway

It’s an enlightened football club that looks after its players after some major trauma or shock; attending to their emotional well-being instead of merely training them, like sporting automatons, to go out there and just perform, match after match. So we here at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything are particularly impressed to hear that Man United, long recognised by themselves and the population of Devon and Cornwall as The Greatest Club in the World™, are to arrange counselling for their deeply traumatised players in the wake of Michael Oliver‘s shockingly honest performance during Monday’s FA Cup 6th round home defeat to Arsenal.

The counselling will take the form of gentle reassurance for those who are having doubts about their ability to dive convincingly, whilst Angel di Maria will receive special one-to-one therapy designed to restore his confidence that he can push the referee if he sees fit and do pretty much as he likes, as per his rights as a Man U player and the long-standing traditions of the club.

Some of the younger players are haunted by doubts about their ability to emulate former stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Mark Hughes, both of whom are legendary for spending a large percentage of their playing hours for the Pride of Devon on their respective arses, having performed a perfect swallow dive and double roll, ending up in a position of abject supplication, arms outspread in entreaty, mouth agape, outraged eyes fixed firmly on the referee.

This remains the officially approved method, according to a Theatre of Hollow Myths spokesman, although there is still scope for the “drop dead” method by way of variety, also known as “the sniper in the stand“. But, our contact informed us, the younger ones are feeling rather less comfortable with this approach in the wake of Oliver’s bizarrely unbiased showing on Monday.

“They’re prey to conflicting emotions,” said the Devon official. “Don’t get me wrong, they want to dive – it’s what they’ve been trained for, after all. But some of them are worried that their technique isn’t up there with legends like Ronaldo, Hughes and even current practitioner Ashley Young. Some of these young lads are harbouring thoughts of trying to beat a man and get a shot in, instead of letting their dramatic training do its job and going down like a good’un. Michael Oliver has done a lot of damage here, and all we can do is provide whatever support and reassurance is needed.”

Worse still is the fact that even senior player appear to be having the same doubts and insecurities, something that is reflected in the fact that The Most Fantastic Club in the Entire Universe™ are struggling even to qualify via the Champions League back door. Ashley Young is a case in point. “Yes,” our man admitted, “Youngy is having a really bad time lately. He’s just not playing his natural game. Twice in recent matches, he’s worked himself space inside the area – and then he’s gone and had a shot, bless him, when all his natural instincts as well as his training tell him to hit the turf and scream for a penno. So, instead of helping the team, he’s inevitably scuffing one wide, which looks really poor and, trust me, the boy’s as sick as a parrot. But we’re hoping to help Ashley too, with this restorative therapy programme. It’s what this great club is all about.”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything was unable to get a reaction from Michael Oliver himself. When we asked his refereeing mentor for a quote, we were told that Michael is currently incommunicado “until the fuss has died down”. It is understood that the “far too honest for his own good” referee will be spending the interim period relaxing in a place where he is unlikely to encounter too many irate Pride of Devon fans, at least until such time as that self-righteous and petulant anger has dissipated. He will therefore be sojourning “somewhere on the Pacific Ocean sea-bed” for the next five years.

Man United themselves have not commented at length on the Michael Oliver controversy, beyond a brief statement to the effect that “This is what happens when we have a ref who wants to make some sort of “fairness” name for himself. We’ll be demanding a Manc ref in the future, it worked up at Newcastle as you all saw, and it’s really for the best all round.”

Adnan Januzaj, 14, who now has as many yellow cards for diving as he does goals in his Man U career, is thought to be the 45th “next George Best”.

 

Happy Silver Celebration for a Leeds United Widow – by Rob Atkinson

June 3rd, 1989

Bear with me this once, gentle reader, as I thank my partner in life for twenty-five years of wedded more-or-less bliss – and for the patient tolerance with which she’s borne her status as a Leeds United widow all this time. It’s self-indulgent – but this blog feels the need to pay tribute.

You know you’re fortunate in the ladies that adorn your life, when they share in the joy and sorrow that visit you from time to time as a result of your preoccupation with what is a daft game in general – and one daft club in particular. So it is for me, and that’s why I’m so grateful to have the wife and daughter I have, lasses who will celebrate and commiserate with me as appropriate when really they’re both far more interested in The Great British Bake-Off.

This happy fact is illustrated by a few incidents over the years. When Man City won the Title a couple of seasons back, I was rescued from utter misery as it had looked as though the Pride of Devon were going to nick it in a typically undeserving fashion. So my daughter Kate (not pictured above, for obvious reasons) hurtled downstairs to celebrate with me when that last-gasp Aguero goal went in, knowing exactly how I felt, ready to rejoice in the tragedy that had befallen the scum. My ladies know that the love of Leeds United is closely enmeshed with an absolute hatred of everything concerned with the Theatre of Hollow Myths, and they are prepared to join with me in this, despite a female inability to understand or completely relate to it.

So also, twenty-two years ago, Mrs Rob was “over the moon” for me, as we football types say, when the Real United became the Last Champions. She came out with me to celebrate, dragging through to Leeds City Centre with me on a Sunday morning in those pre-car days when we had to hop a train to get anywhere. She shared the celebration of City Square and the Headrow as the team waved the Championship trophy at us and Eric Cantona told us deceitfully how he loved us.

It was so fitting that she should be there for that moment of achievement, despite her preference for matters less frivolous than football. She’d been the first woman I’d ever taken to Elland Road who hadn’t jinxed the occasion. After a series of relationship-ending defeats in the company of lesser ladies, I took my newish fiancée along for her Leeds debut with some trepidation. What if she let me down as so many others had? I’d shelled out for a ring and everything, after all. But, where several others had failed before her, the future Mrs Rob came through faultlessly. We beat Sheffield United 5-0 and John Pearson even scored a hat-trick. I knew then that she was confirmed beyond doubt as The One.

Much later, on holiday in the South of France, with a seven year old child in tow, Mrs Rob positively insisted that I should abandon them both on their camp-site to take a train to Barcelona and see us hammered 4-0 in the opening match of the Champions League proper, the year we went all the way to the semis. I ended up in 5 star luxury before and after the match, whilst she held the fort – well, the tent. I thought then, that was above and beyond the call of duty.

It was twenty-five years ago today that we tied the knot at St Peters church in Horbury on one of those “four seasons” days when we had a bit of everything weather-wise, but when the sun obediently appeared when the photographer demanded it. Some gave us linen, some gave us crockery, some gave us the traditional kitchen appliances. And some gave us six months. But here we are, a quarter of a century on, ready for another twenty-five years or so of life’s and football’s battles, tragedies and triumphs. Who knows what the future will bring?

That first year of marriage brought a house-move, a change of jobs for us both – and promotion to the top flight for Leeds United. That last thing would do for me this time around, the other two being fortunately off the agenda.

Happy Anniversary, love – and thanks for everything.

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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Leeds Fanatic? Get Involved With the Life in the Leeds United Universe – by Rob Atkinson

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This blog has been going over a year now, but only since last September has it benefited from the wider exposure that the NewsNow aggregator affords. This has seen reading figures go through the roof, and the blog has also gained an inspiring following of committed Leeds fans who are ready, willing and able to contribute their own views on the full range of topics inspired by our club, as well as various other aspects of the game.  It’s a thriving blog, I’m glad to say – and I hope it will continue to grow.  What is needed is continuing and increased involvement from the people who read it.  From you – and for a very good reason.

There are a variety of ways in which a variety of people can get involved and help this site.  The reason I’m putting this out there now is that I need more time to devote to a book I’m writing about the seventeen years between my first match as a Leeds fan in April 1975, and the last old-style Football League game I saw at Elland Road in 1992, just prior to the inception of the Premier League and the start of Murdoch’s domination of English football.  So Leeds were reigning champions in that first game I saw, as they were again when Norwich visited Elland Road to bring down the curtain on the Football League Championship competition as we’d always known it in the last game of 1991-92.  In between were years of decline, stagnation and, eventually, recovery – to take us back to the top.

This period encompassed the second division years of 1982 – 1990, a largely neglected period that I wish to chronicle – because I believe there are thousands of fans out there who fondly remember that time, and some of the characters who passed before our eyes as we travelled the country from Plymouth to Carlisle by way of Shrewsbury, Millwall (Old Den) and sundry other delightful spots.  I think it’s a book that will evoke great memories of the time between two Champion teams and I’m enjoying working on it – when I can.

What I really need are contributions of various sorts – so if there’s any of the following ways that you can help, then please do so if it’s not too much trouble.  Basically, I need memories, commissions and cash.  That cash thing is obviously a sticking point when times are hard and friends are few; but if a good many people donate very little – even a quid – then it all goes towards affording me the time to work on this and other projects.  So if you’ve ever enjoyed reading an article on this blog, perhaps you would be kind enough to click the PayPal button and contribute – just a little will help.  Those who can afford to be a bit more generous – a fiver or more – will be remembered when complimentary copies of the book are distributed, whether they are e-books or the genuine paper type that grows on trees.  As those of you who have already donated know, I always email to say thank-you – and those who have given five pounds or more in the past are already – for what it’s worth – firmly on that complimentary copy list.

Any financial contribution will help me devote more time to the book, but commissions of various sorts would also help me work from home for a greater proportion of my time, and therefore enable me to spend more time on researching and writing my Leeds United project.  So, if you’re involved with any concern which needs a freelance writer who can write to a specification – then please consider me, perhaps drop me a line via the Contact page of this blog.  If you’ve read my stuff, you know what I can and can’t do – I’m happy to be judged on that basis.

Equally, for the executives and company owners out there – if you would consider advertising on this blog, I’d be very happy to hear from you.  I average in excess of 100,000 views per month and it’s growing all the time. Any way in which I can attract some investment in the blog will spare me more time  to continue with the groundwork and writing of this book. Incidentally, you may have noticed that I consistently fail to refer to the book by a title – for the very good reason that it hasn’t got one yet.  Any suggestions??  The idea I have is of a long fallow period between two peaks of success, so anything on those lines could be considered, or if you want to be more imaginative – go ahead.  Again, the person who comes up with the best suggestion will be remembered and will benefit – if they consider a free copy beneficial.

For those who read this and feel that I’m selling my soul for personal gain – it’s really not like that at all.  I have this project gnawing away at me and it’s got to come out.  Don’t forget, any help is to be given entirely of your own free will – anyone who is offended by the very idea of an appeal for help should simply turn away from it.  On the other hand, anybody of massive wealth who is inclined to be extremely generous should feel absolutely entitled to do just that.  I’m not going to be an inverted snob about this, and if there’s a benefactor out there, he or she is enormously welcome!

Fans’ own input is also going to be invaluable.  There must be so many fantastic memories out there that just pass to and fro across the bar-room table – it would be wonderful to have some of those to supplement the material I already have to hand.  My own time supporting Leeds is something I can draw on, but I’d be immensely grateful for the memories of those who wish to contribute their own anecdotes.  Anything between the start of the 1974-75 season and the end of 1991-92 (including the following season’s Charity Shield match) would be great.  I’m especially interested in the thinly-documented years of the second division eighties – the Eddie Gray/Billy Bremner era.  But equally, the brief near-glory of the Armfield/Adamson years, with that Jock Stein 44 days in between, are times I would love to cover in more detail, with illustrative anecdotes – there was even that short spell in the UEFA Cup that hardly anyone remembers these days.  So please – cudgel your grey cells, and get those reminiscences sent in.  Credit will be given as appropriate.

Please help, if you can – whether it’s a monetary contribution, an offer of work, an advertising or sponsorship proposal or – last but not least – your recollections of following Leeds between 1974 and 1992.  I know there are a lot of fanatics out there, real Leeds United nutters, people who love our club every bit as much as I do, and more.  We’ve all known the pain and joy of being Leeds fans, we’re all part of a common experience.  I want to reflect that in every word I write as part of what will, I trust, be a work that makes it clear what it is to be a fan of the greatest club in the world.  I know there are thousands out there who share that belief, that knowledge. Many will be going through hard times, and all I will ask of you is your good wishes, and perhaps a story or two.  And equally I know that some of you have a fair bit of clout in one direction or another – so if you’re minded to, and able – please consider helping with this undertaking in any way that you possibly can.  After all – we’re all Leeds, aren’t we?

Thank you – and MOT.

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!

Adorable newborn twins hold each other while receiving first bath – video

If any one image ever sent out out a message that some things are more important than football, politics, economics, anything at all, then this one is IT. Just watch and wonder and feel the warmth and love. These are two new human beings, two blank slates that life is yet to write on. But they well know how important they are to each other, and it shows – just click on the “read more” link, look and marvel at it. Fantastic.

Metro

The bond between twins is said be like nothing else and this video shows how strong it can be from the very start.

The YouTube clip of two baby siblings cuddling has melted hearts across the internet and has already been viewed more than 5million times since being uploaded on November 8.

The footage of the newborns gripping each other while receiving their first bath was released by a French midwife to promote her ‘baby spa’ and, judging by the response, it has certainly struck a chord.

Snigdha Nautiyal wrote: ‘Melted my heart a thousand times over!’

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Life, Leeds United and Universal Armageddon – by Rob Atkinson

One year on from Armageddon and the GFH Takeover

It seems daft now but, one year ago come the 21st December, we were all going to be abruptly vaporised.  Or at least, we were going to wake up with mild hangovers, and fail to enjoy the rest of the day.  The Mayan Calendar, source of these distressing rumours that so preoccupied us twelve short months ago, was a little lax on detail.

If the worst had come to the worst, and it’d been Armageddon time, then just think of all that Christmas shopping gone to waste, in a time of austerity too.  And all we’d had on TV to cheer us up was Big Brother and The X-Factor.  It would have been so easy to get depressed, even though as Leeds fans we’d had the enticing possibility of Middle-eastern Knights riding in on white camels, to save us from a fate worse than the mere end of civilisation as we knew it.  GFH Capital, had we but been aware of it, were the means by which we would eventually be rid of Kenneth William Bates Esquire.  Little wonder that we were a little distracted from the possible End of Days.

It was a perilously uncertain time, therefore, from two sharply differing points of view. In the mundane real world, ancient rumours were disturbingly current that everything was about to end in a most summary fashion, and people rightly or wrongly got into quite a tizz about this. On Planet Leeds United, however, such airy-fairy considerations were as water unto wine against the appalling possibility that Uncle Ken might continue to have us clutched firmly by the unmentionables in his cold and merciless talons.  It was a real worry at that time – just a year ago – and along with that nagging background concern about the planet suddenly vanishing into the awful void of space, it caused a few nails to be bitten even among normally phlegmatic Leeds fans.  Yet consider.  Let’s, as they say, look at the big picture.  Life could seem awfully bleak – until you consider the alternative.  And really, it was and is worthwhile stopping a moment to draw breath and ponder just how unimaginably fortunate we are simply to be here at all.   So – bear with me here – let’s wax philosophical a while – and see if that affects our world view, or even our appreciation of the New Order that eventually did take over, after all that stress and worry, at Elland Road.

Leave aside for the moment then the incredible miracle of having a habitable planet to live on – which as far as we know exists nowhere else in the whole of creation (as I write, and subject to any revelations NASA may be about to make from their current Mars Rover, or about the increasing number of newly-discovered but vastly distant exoplanets).  It’s long odds against us even having a suitable rock to live on – but given that we do, that’s hardly even the start of the battle.

The thing is, even given our temperate and nurturing planet Earth, it’s still vanishingly improbable that you should be alive today and able to read this.  Anyone who knows enough about the birds and the bees will be aware of the myriad possible ways genes can combine to create a living organism, from the simplest virus or amoeba right up to the most complex and beautiful form of life we know, i.e. Ross McCormack.  And if that earliest amoeba hadn’t, in the face of awesome odds, somehow come into being on a hot, wet rock somewhere, then ultimately – no Rossco.

Each of us, then, has to be thankful for his or her own unique existence; in the first place that their parents met when they did, and that they then followed a course of actions leading up to just the right place, time, and romantic ambience for our life’s journey to begin.  This is how we all came about, after all – even Mr Bates – and any departure from that chain of events would have seen us never existing.

Further, behind those parents, on both sides and stretching back generations without number, the same miraculous combination of fortuitous circumstances had to occur, and it had to keep on occurring.  Any stumble off that chance-studded path of destiny, at any time over thousands, millions of years, and we just wouldn’t be around, any of us.  No you, no me, no David Haigh, no Salah Nooruddin.  It’s that serious, this business of genetic chance.

So this is the massive lottery we have all won – in fact if you calculated the odds of a lottery win next Saturday, with one to follow it the Wednesday after, going right up to, say, Easter of the year 2084 and maybe a pools win and a tax rebate each week after that till Leeds United buy back Thorp Arch – you’d still be way, way short of the odds you’ve had to beat, just to be alive right now.  It’s true.

And not only are you here, you lucky sod – you’re a human being instead of, say, a fruit fly (I exclude our Norfolk-based readers from this statement).  What are the odds against that?  Have you any idea of the factor by which insects out-number humans?  You could so easily have been a wasp, or even Ken the Anti-Christ himself.  It’s difficult to say which is the less desirable.

What’s more, not only are you a human being, you also live in a time of relative peace and prosperity and one, moreover, in which Leeds have been Champions three times in living memory, and remain the Last Real Champions.  How many of the hundred billion people who have ever existed wouldn’t give their eye-teeth to swap places with us, with our mains water and services, our electric light and labour-saving devices, our Billy’s Bar and our information super-highway?  Or, alternatively, how many Newcastle fans, who would have to be in their mid-nineties now to remember a Title-winning Toon Army, would opt instead to be Leeds, with all our glorious memories?

We might, instead of our fortunate and cossetted existences, have emerged in the 12th century, digging privies for the feudal Lord, or for a brief and consumptive existence in the typhoid slums of 19th century London.  Or we could have been born at a time when Leeds United were a mere appendix to a footnote in football history, meriting hardly a passing mention anywhere the game was discussed. Are you cheering up yet?

On the whole, we don’t have it so bad, and as we’ve seen, there is good cause for all of us to be extremely grateful we’re here at all.  And that makes even Big Brother seem a little easier to live with, though naturally we’d draw the line at the former Chelsea owner Papa Smurf still being in charge down Beeston way.  A little philosophical rumination along these lines might have been therapeutic for traumatised Leeds fans a year back, unsure as we were whether to be more worried about TOMA or the End of the World.

And just think – if those ancient predictions had been right and we’d all been plunged into oblivion two shopping days short of last Christmas, well then – at least we’d have been spared the January sales and the heart-wrenching loss of Luciano Becchio.  Every cloud…..

Ingenious Suggestions Invited

ImageSo, I’m writing this book.

It’s going to be about my team, Leeds United, and how the club have accompanied me on the highs and lows of my life, giving me misery when I’ve been at my happiest, and more misery when I’ve been down. It’s been done before, but every fan’s story stands alone and is unique in its way. Football affects us all differently, and we all react in an individual way to the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune that the game visits upon us. I started relatively late watching Leeds, and it was all my dad’s fault when I finally got round to it. Thanks, Dad. I think.

Really, I wasted the first 13 years of my life farting about watching old films and reading Biggles and Billy Bunter books, when I could have been watching Revie’s heroes stomping all the opposition into submission, and winning the occasional pot along the way. Instead of seeing us win our solitary FA Cup, I was reading a poem out loud at a Music Festival in Ponte, finishing runner-up in true Leeds United style. Instead of watching us take two league titles, I was being a bookworm and dreaming of a career as an astronaut. Talk about a misspent youth.

I finally started watching Leeds in April 1975. Revie had gone to his ill-fated stint as England boss. Big Jack had gone. The great days had gone too, although that wasn’t apparent at the time. Leeds were on their way to the European Cup Final, and my first game was a 0-2 defeat to Liverpool four days before I saw us beat Barcelona 2-1 in the European Cup Semi, First Leg, Cruyff, Neeskens and all. So, fittingly it was Billy Bremner who gave me my first Leeds goal, rocketing a shot into the top left corner in front of the South Stand as I watched stood precariously on my milk crate in that weird shelfy bit halfway up the Lowfields Stand. I still have the commentary of that goal as a ringtone on my iPhone. Fantastic.

And the rest is history; my history and the downs and ups of Leeds United FC over the subsequent 38 years to date. I hope you’ll buy the book, when it appears, and read more of my memories, interspersed with various rants here and there about how the game was, is and (I’m afraid) will be.

The thing is – I really need a title. I’m a bit stuck there, call it sub-editors’ block. The actual book is coming along nicely, and I think a lot of Leeds fans will empathise with what’s contained between the dust-covers – but I’m damned if I can think of a title for the front. Hang on – “The Damned United”?? Hmmmm, ideal – but I have the feeling it’s been done.

I would really appreciate some suggestions. If I end up using one of them, I will happily credit the owner of the idea on the inside front cover, as you do with proper books. And I’ll furnish a complimentary copy also, so you don’t have to wait for it to appear in the bargain bins for 99p. Can’t say fairer than that.

Honestly, I’m fresh out of original, snappy titles. Please help. As Brian McDermott says, we need to sing Marching On Together, and really mean it, suiting actions to words – so your support and inspired suggestions would be right in line with that Leeds United MOT spirit.

I look forward to some brilliant ideas, thanks in advance.