Tag Archives: Life

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.

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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!

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.

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.

Mini-rant #2 – Why “Execution-style Killings” Are Anything But

“Execution-style Killing”. It’s one of those chilling news-story phrases that are fairly frequently-used, lazily, thoughtlessly and as a knee-jerk response it would seem, by habit-driven journos or unmotivated sub-editors. But this one is deeply, deeply inappropriate, offensive and misleading.

The fact is that the killings thus referred to are almost invariably visited upon one or more unfortunate individuals who have transgressed the code of some or other criminal organisation. These common gangs evidently consider that they have the right to make their own rules and enforce their own penalties, without regard for law. justice or the sanctity of life, and devil take the hindmost.

That “sanctity of life” thing is important. Law is a creation of Humankind, as to a lesser extent are the concepts of justice and ethics. But life being sacred, that’s just a fact, an absolute given, arising out of the sheer rarity of sentient existence. We’re all brief sparks of being in the awful immensity of time and space. For all we know, each of us has waited billions of years for our one chance at life, and when our infinitesimal span is done, then there’ll be innumerable further billions of years during which we shall not exist. Life is an unbelievably rare and precious gift, and to take it from someone – anyone – is the ultimate crime.

For me, this crime of killing encompasses all taking of human life, even what the various authorities down the centuries have been pleased to call “judicial killing”, or execution; the death penalty. That’s a subject for another day, but you catch my drift – I’m not in favour. The best that can be said of judicial execution is that, however flawed and misguided – even barbaric – the legal process might be, it is at least there, in some shape or form.

ImageThis cannot be said of the criminal act of summary murder, and it is grievously deceptive to use quasi-legal terms in referring to it. “Execution” in the judicial context refers not to the miscreant at the end of the rope, but to the legal warrant issued in consequence of their conviction for some awful crime. So the fact that someone has been tied up and shot in the back of the head, or beheaded live on some middle-eastern TV channel, or however they might be dispatched, does not lend itself to the description “execution-style”. No legal process is involved, no judicial warrant is issued and there is no conformity to the ideals of justice as developed over thousands of years. What we have instead is a tawdry, common murder.

This is not just an exercise in semantics. The common practice of referring to common killing in this way involves a danger of lending a spurious air of legitimacy to what is just a sordid crime. A lot of these self-styled armies, movements and groups desire nothing more than the appearance of justification for their actions. To aid and abet this desire, in any way at all, is inimical to justice, civilisation and the interests of those who are in danger of winding up victims of murder, dressed up in whatever disguise of necessity or expediency.

Murder is murder. Killing is killing. Let’s call them exactly what they are, and dispense with any false trappings of acceptability. If we are to lend the killers, the common, criminal killers, any vestige of respectability then we must, at least in some measure, share in the blame for the atrocities that – thus encouraged – they will continue to perpetrate.

Aside

1. I have played Daddy Warbucks on stage twice, and shaved my head both times 2. I love Gilbert & Sullivan with a deep and abiding passion 3. I’ve been married to Tracy for the thick end of a quarter … Continue reading