Tag Archives: London

Little Hammer FOUND!! But Where WAS HammersFan aka HF?? – by Rob Atkinson

The Bitch is back...

The Bitch is back…

Some of us in the blogging world have been concerned for the safety of this HF lad, despite the fact that he was always an irritating and yet consistent pain in the arse for fans of the clubs he obsessed over.  Leeds United (of course) was the jewel in his blogging crown; not content with his alleged West Ham blog “The Game’s Gone Crazy”, he operated a supplementary effort called – wait for it – “The Game’s Gone Crazier”, where he made weak jokes at the expense of football clubs that he, as a Hammers fan, felt threatened or diminished by.

But there’d been no word from him since February.  Not a peep.  Had he got a job, or a girlfriend – or was it something more sinister than that? What had happened to him?  Had he simply grown up?

But now he’s back, and as drearily predictable as ever.  Still – I’m glad no misfortune had overtaken him.  You’d have thought that, as with banging your head against a brick wall, it’d be nice when it stops. But that long, echoing silence was perturbing.  There was this sneaking worry that, against all parental advice, he’d gone along with a dodgy geezer from Plaistow to see some puppies, and had had his innocence cruelly snatched from him.

He’s actually a bit vague as to where he’s really been all this time; there’s just a couple of weak and unconvincing excuses relating to his alleged first love West ‘Am and also to his undoubted obsession Leeds United (inevitably the subject of his comeback piece).  So: does anybody have any idea what really happened? Was it something to do with juvenile court, or has he been busy knocking doors for the UKIP Youth?  Had he, perhaps, been abducted by illegal aliens and incarcerated somewhere near the New Den?  Or had he just been cheeky to a teacher or a constable – and had his dongle taken off him for the duration?

I’ll be going back to ignoring his drivel now I know he’s still alive and dicking. But curiosity compels me to try and clear up this mystery of what caused his long silence.  Can any ‘Appy ‘Ammer shed some light?

Happy Monday? It’s a Pivotal Day in Leeds United’s History – by Rob Atkinson

 

"Historic and Iconic" - Leeds United AFC

“Historic and Iconic” – Leeds United AFC

Forget March 2nd 1968, the day Leeds United won its first ever silverware, beating Arsenal at Wembley to lift the League Cup. Forget May 6th 1972 when, at the same venue, against the same opponents and by the same 1-0 score, United won their sole FA Cup. Forget, even, those three incredible days which saw the Whites hailed as the best in the land as our three Football League Championships were confirmed in 1969, 1974 and 1992.  All of those dates pale in comparison with the epochal significance of the legal fixture being played out in London tomorrow, March 31st 2014.  For tomorrow, it’s likely to be decided which of two well-defined paths Leeds United will be treading into the future.

On the one hand we have a signpost pointing upwards which says: possible fame and success, with a minted owner to put us on a par with those we should be emulating. On the other, there’s the signpost pointing downhill, with the equally unmistakable message: more of the same at best, with a distinct possibility of crisis and dissolution in the near future.  It’s not a choice Leeds United or their amazingly loyal and long-suffering fans are able to make for themselves.  We are all in the hands of the legal eagles as they fight it out over the technicality of whether or not the Football League were correct in saying that Massimo Cellino’s peccadilloes rule him out of fitness and propriety under their own test. Upon this technicality hangs the immediate, or short term – or even the whole future of a famous old club that has never been far from the headlines, for good reasons and bad.

A match-day commentator at Elland Road yesterday summed it up in one well-chosen phrase prior to kick-off against Doncaster Rovers.  Leeds, he said, should be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Man U and Chelsea.  And so, of course, we should.  None of these clubs has more of a right than Leeds – and its magnificent support – to be fighting it out at the top table for the big prizes.  It’s ironic that such telling words should be spoken ahead of a league fixture – and a defeat – against little Donny Rovers.  That sums up the dire straits Leeds have been consigned to by bad leadership, self-interested owners and relentless ill-fortune.  Whatever may have been done wrong, whatever rules may have been broken in the name of Leeds United – it’s no fault of the fans.  And yet, time and again, it’s been the fans who have suffered – whilst the principals in the ongoing pantomime of LS11 have generally waxed fat and walked away happy when their particular final curtain has fallen.  A prime example of this is, of course, Shaun Harvey, CEO of the Football League and a man with a face in each camp, so to speak.  I wonder how he sleeps at night? Blissfully, I expect.

There are two constants in any football club, which transcend players, directors, administrators, League officials and even solicitors, barristers and judges.  One is the entity of the club itself, which in our case is now just five years shy of her 100th birthday.  Where will she be, what state of health will she be in, when that Centenary rolls around in 2019?

The other constant is, needless to say, the supporters.  Come rain, come hail, come snow, the supporters are always there. They were there to cheer on the Greatest Footballer in the World when John Charles plied his mighty trade at Elland Road.  They were there to support Don Revie’s nonpareil team of the sixties and seventies as they witnessed some of the finest football ever seen on the planet. They were there too when Wilko’s Warriors rose, like a Phoenix from the ashes, to swagger back into the big time as if they owned the place and end up, once again, on top of the pile.  And they’re here now, today, watching the dross currently being served up by a team weighed down with larger worries that what happens on the pitch – a team who, with a very few apparent exceptions, are preoccupied with where the next wage packet is coming from, and just how heavy or light will it be?

The supporters will be here in the future as well, whatever happens tomorrow. That is beyond doubt, save only for that nagging worry over the club’s very existence. Only the numbers of that indomitable band will remain open to any variation, depending upon which path we tread.  Any Leeds United fan will tell you what the club deserves – and it’s not more of the same grinding, morale-sapping poverty that we’ve been putting up with now for twelve long and dreary years. Leeds United and their supporters – especially their supporters – deserve some time in the sun.

It’s not United – club or fans – on trial tomorrow.  If anything is on trial, it’s the duty of care owed by the Football League to all of its member clubs – even Leeds. The questions before the appeal panel must include that consideration in the scope of its examination of this whole issue.  The Football League have sat by and they’ve shown every willingness to let their biggest club, their most tangible asset, wither and possibly die for want of sufficient funding to operate on a big club level and compete with their true peers.  And this is the kernel of the matter.

Because, with rapists, con men and porn barons among the current and recent number of their owners and directors, the League has elected to make a stand over an obscure tax question surrounding a yacht.  One little boat, which might be American, and in respect of which some duty allegedly had to be paid in Italy, but was not.  The League have chosen to accept that Cellino, a man of staggering wealth, would court trouble over a matter of what is, to him, small change.  They have leant over backwards to interpret the law and their own regulations such that United are to be denied a saviour and their fans are to continue suffering.  Where is the duty of care amid all of that?

Tomorrow will, in all probability, be the start of a new era at Leeds United. Whether it is an era of further degradation, more doubt, more humiliation, remains to be seen.  There has to be a possibility that things might – for once in a very long while – go in Leeds United’s favour.  And then what? Would we know quite what to do with ourselves in the absence of this millstone of penury and reduced status?  Poverty is not just a matter of not being able to meet the bills, or afford a tank of tropical fish to brighten the place up.  Poverty is much more than that.  It seeps into the very fabric of a place and it poisons the soul.  If we were suddenly to become “Dirty Leeds, Filthy Rich” – how would we cope?

I can tell you this much, especially you lot who occupy the anti-Cellino bandwagon.  I’m heartily sick to death of a penniless existence.  So if the “Filthy Rich” option is there, ripe for the sampling – let me at it.  I’d simply love to try it out.  We lived the dream in the nineties – but there was always that worm of doubt; where’s it all coming from?  With Cellino –  well, it looks as though we’d at last have a man of immense material wealth who is keen to invest it in reviving a fallen giant.  Fingers crossed that he finally gets that chance.

Sherwood an Aptly Mediocre Appointment for Fading Spurs – by Rob Atkinson

Image

Hmm, I’ve got the job, then. Now what?

The news of Tim Sherwood‘s appointment as Tottenham manager, some say until the end of next season, will come as a surprise to many, a shock to some and confirmation of Spurs’ continuing decline to the knowledgeable few.  To say that the response of the White Hart Lane faithful is unenthusiastic is to be extremely charitable.  The Spurs fans are trying to put a brave face on the whole matter, trying to understand what is going on behind Daniel Levy‘s petulantly dissatisfied expression – but you can tell that deep down inside, they’re glumly watching the big clubs disappearing over a distant horizon which, not so long ago, represented the tantalisingly attainable Promised Land for North London’s second club.

As I’ve previously written, the failure of Spurs to pip Arsenal to Champions League qualification was the death-knell to their immediate ambitions of being a truly big club themselves.  It wasn’t an easy opportunity to miss; Spurs had been in a great position – seemingly almost home and dry.  And yet, against the odds, they managed to achieve failure from out of the very jaws of success.  They contrived somehow to squander their best chance of dining at the top table, and thereby put the tin lid on any chance of Gareth Bale (or “Spurs” as he was widely known last season) wasting any more of his meteoric career yearning for a team to suit his talent.  So it’s likely to be a diet of crumbs for Spurs from now on, especially if they manage to miss out on Europe altogether next season – a distinct possibility for the envious mid-table outfit.  It’s this kind of losing habit that has seen an allegedly major club fail to win a League Title for over half a century.

There is, it appears, a subtext behind the appointment of Sherwood, and the gist of what’s to be read between the lines is: “Louis van Gaal (nod, wink) … after the World Cup, of course … keep it under your hat, old fellow.”  Quite why a coach with the reputation of van Gaal would want to move from a post with one of Europe’s better national sides, to take up the reins of a London club in the perpetual shadow of giants Arsenal, is not explained.  The additional niggle that Spurs will probably be Champions League onlookers again, with all the top players studiously avoiding eye contact when a move to N17 is mooted, is hardly likely to help turn fanciful ambition into blessed reality.  World-class coaches are hard to recruit for urchin clubs who have their noses permanently pressed up against the sweet-shop window, whilst the rich kids gorge inside.

Spurs may after all find themselves having to grant Tim Sherwood his desired longer-term contract, something that is currently causing Daniel Levy to wear an expression even more pained and long-suffering than usual.  Levy’s desire for a cheap stop-gap appointment, prior to a high-profile swoop after the summer’s shenanigans in Brazil, may well be thwarted by circumstances beyond even his control.  How ironic it would be if it turned out that AVB had been made to walk the plank, only for it to transpire that the newly-promoted 3rd mate can’t even navigate, causing the ship to founder for want of an experienced presence on the bridge.  3rd Mate Sherwood’s total lack of impressive top-level qualifications, or indeed any real experience, is worrying more than a few with the club’s best interests at heart – and I find it rather puzzling, too.

What seems certain is that Sherwood, for all his fighting talk of wanting to be at the helm for ten years, is in Levy’s confused mind very much of a short-term, dodgy quality option for the here and now – with the indistinct future more a subject for wishful thinking.  After all, a slightly scratchy win at Southampton seems an odd basis for what is a crucial appointment; there is an air of the knee-jerk about it, a feeling of sticking plasters being applied to an arterial gusher that threatens to bleed Tottenham’s season dry.  Arsenal’s current minor stumble is but cold comfort to any Spurs fan with clear vision and a nose for stormy weather approaching.   The Gunners still seem set fair for a continuation of their top four habit at the very least, whilst there is no sign of any significant improvement in Spurs’ own more modest possibilities.  Sherwood as boss is no more and no less than a chilling confirmation of those uncomfortable, unpalatable facts.  It’s not going to be a very Happy New Year for the fans of North London’s also-rans.

Unity, Not Division – The Lessons Of The London Olympics.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…

Charles Dickens’ summing up of one particular period in history could serve very well as an epitaph for many years in this century, or any other – but few more so, surely, than 2012 – a time of unity, yet a time of division.

This was a year of high peaks and deep troughs. From a United Kingdom perspective, we can look back with pride on a triumphant staging of the Olympic Games and the Paralympics in London last summer. Rarely can a sporting spectacle have so united people; many who would normally fail to show a flicker of interest in sport were swept along on the wave of enthusiasm generated by the performances and achievements of our gallant competitors.

Sport in a wider sense came to the fore as a catalyst for optimism and togetherness. Andy Murray had his best Wimbledon ever, won over cynical hearts with his tears after narrowly losing in the Final, and then swept to Olympic gold and – at last – won a Grand Slam event, the U.S. Open. The Ryder Cup golf team, having dug themselves into a frightful hole, emerged gloriously as winners in the end, a comeback as miraculous as any other in that competition’s history. Even the Test Cricket team, having started the year poorly, ended it victoriously, winning in India for the first time since 1984.

As we are always being told, though, sport isn’t everything. In a wider sense, the news has not been so good. Austerity continues to cast a shadow over all of us – though that shadow appears to be significantly longer for some than for others. The mantra chanted by our rulers is “we’re all in it together”. But the question of just what we’re in, and to what depth, is left open.

What seems undeniable is that there are unsettling signs of division being created in society as a matter of policy. Divide and rule, as the old saw has it. The arithmetic of recovery seems to dictate that the way forward is belt-tightening all round. But some sections of the population are in danger of ending up so emaciated, that however much tighter they might fasten their belts, they’re still liable to be caught with their pants down when the bills fall due.

People claiming benefits – even the majority who claim in-work benefits – are being cast as the villains of the piece when culprits are sought for the mess we’re in. The marginal effect of cuts to income at this end of the scale is far greater than could be perceived by – to pluck an example out of thin air – a City banker. But such cuts are proving to be a popular measure, and this is due largely to the rhetoric directed against those whose circumstances force their reliance on state benefits. And let’s not forget that many of these citizens are just as industrious as anybody else, but are forced by low pay to seek financial assistance from the benefits system. Then of course there are the genuinely disabled. Who’s the real villain here?

Benjamin Franklin, prior to signing the U.S. Declaration of Independence, memorably stated “Gentlemen, we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately”. The message that no group of people can succeed and prosper who are divided against themselves, applies equally to society at large. We must beware the toxicity of creating schisms among our populace, however pragmatic an approach this might appear in Whitehall or Fleet Street when harsh measures need to be justified.

The feel-good factor of 2012 was all about unity and pride in the nation and its achievements; anybody who witnessed the Olympics, or Wimbledon, or indeed the traditional Last Night of the Proms could bear witness to that. The contrast with this current process of division is stark, and telling. Any policy that promotes whispering campaigns, suspicion and dislike of any group of people, merely to popularise draconian financial sanctions, is negative and unjust in the extreme. We must surely look to the good of last year, to unity and positivity, as embodied when the nation as a whole got behind our athletes and parathletes. This is the ethos that should drive any programme of recovery, not a selective demonising of a whole, hapless section of society.

If we really are all in it together, then we have to stick together, and succeed together. Surely that is the best lesson 2012 has for this New Year.