Tag Archives: Man Utd

Happy Birthday Johnny Giles, the Greatest Manager Leeds Never Had – by Rob Atkinson

Johnny Giles - the Brains

Johnny Giles – the Brains

Another day, another birthday celebration for a United legend. This time it’s Johnny Giles, 75 today and famously one half of the best central midfield partnership of the last century. If Billy Bremner was the heart of Don Revie’s peerless team of stars, then surely John Giles was the brains and the vision, dictating and switching play, spraying passes all over the park with laser-guided accuracy and combining with Bremner in a way that many described as “telepathic”.

Johnny Giles was recruited by the wily Don Revie from under the nose of the great Matt Busby at Man U. He had shown his quality there, despite never really being played in the position where he could best influence matters on the field. Even at Leeds, his transformation from good winger to great schemer came about almost by accident, injury to the existing midfield general Bobby Collins influencing Revie’s thinking. Man U’s loss though was most definitely Leeds United’s gain over more than a decade as they rose to the top. Don Revie referred to his capture of Giles from Man U for a mere £33,000 as “robbery with violence”. Busby called it simply “my greatest mistake”.

Giles brought so much to Leeds United that it’s difficult to find the space to describe his impact. Put in on-field control of the play, he pulled strings and evolved strategy as each game progressed. His range of passing was legendary – TV commentators used to admire his latest pinpoint delivery by comparing it to the appropriate golf shot (that was the six iron). His ability on the ball, whether passing or shooting, was well-known and much admired; Gilesy was the acknowledged master.

What was often overlooked by the uninitiated was his steely efficiency in looking after himself in the warlike atmosphere of combat at home and abroad. Peter Lorimer tells the story of how Giles inflicted summary justice on a Turkish player who had persistently fouled him in the away leg of a European tie, and was then daft enough to crow in his face at the final whistle. John was miffed, and advised the Turk that he would see him in a fortnight at Elland Road. This was no idle threat.

Two weeks later, Giles asked Norman Hunter to drop the game’s first pass a couple of yards short – what is known as the “suicide ball” in football circles. Norman did as he was asked, the Turk eagerly jumped in to dispute possession – and Giles pounced, leaving his foot in to reduce his tormentor of the previous game to a grievously-injured heap, swiftly off on an urgent journey to the nearest hospital.

After the game, there was some puzzlement over how promptly the ambulance had arrived to assist Giles’ victim. The Elland Road switchboard operative swore blind that Giles had booked it for him before kick-off, something Johnny always denies. But the message was stark: mess with Giles or any other Leeds player at your peril. They looked after themselves and each other, and the bond thus forged endures to this day.

When Don Revie left for the England job, it was an open secret that he had nominated John Giles as his successor. The board were set fair to act on this recommendation, before backing down for fear, it is said, of upsetting Billy Bremner. It was an appointment that clearly should have been made, to ensure the kind of continuity Liverpool enjoyed after Bill Shankly stepped down. Who knows what the subsequent history of the club might have been? Giles had already had managerial experience with the Republic of Ireland and he went on to great success with the revival of West Bromwich Albion. In the event, he played on at Leeds for one more season under Brian Clough and then Jimmy Armfield. His last game for United should have crowned a glorious career with the top honour in club football. Sadly, thanks to the atrociously crooked display of referee Michel Kitabdjian for the 1975 European Cup Final in Paris, this was not to be.

Johnny Giles went on to enjoy a successful career after Leeds United, both as a manager and later in the media, where his eloquence and vast knowledge of the game served him well and earned him enormous respect in his native Ireland and further afield. He has gone down in Leeds United history as one of the true legends of the club – a great among greats. In terms of value transfers for Leeds, he has to be the top capture, despite the rival claims of Bobby Collins, Lucas Radebe and Gordon Strachan. It was a thief’s bargain, possibly the buy of the century.

Thanks for the memories, Johnny Giles, and a very happy birthday indeed.

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Sunderland v Newcastle Rivalry Not in Same League as Leeds Against Man U – by Rob Atkinson

Hate Man Utd - We Only Hate Man Utd

Hate Man Utd – We Only Hate Man Utd

Football rivalry – the antipathy between fans of rival clubs with a keen edge of hatred in extreme cases – has been going on for as long as two teams of eleven players have gathered together to dispute possession of an inflated bladder over a green sward. And I will proudly say here and now: Leeds United is an extreme case. We are top four material when it comes to despising our foes. But we like to think we’re quite picky about it. None of this “regional rivalry” nonsense for us.

Let’s face it, hating another team and its supporters for mere reasons of geographical proximity is pretty silly. I can understand it to a certain extent where two clubs share a very small area, like a town or adjacent districts of a city. There’s a territorial thing going on there that recalls the days when a team’s support was derived largely from its immediate locality, though that’s not really the case any more now with the mega clubs who have fans all over the world. After all, why would a Man U glory-hunter in Singapore or Seattle really care if Man City are based only a few miles away from “his” club? He’s more bothered as to whether or not his favourites can buy more trophies than anyone else, City, Chelsea, Arsenal, anyone.

At Leeds, hatred tends to be reserved for those who have earned it, and who are – by independently verifiable standards – intrinsically despicable. Man U pass both tests with flying colours, and it’s certainly woven into my DNA to detest them. Call me a blinkered bigot (guilty, m’Lud) but I can never really understand why Sunderland and Newcastle, who meet in derby-day combat this afternoon, share such mutual loathing when quite frankly both would be better off directing their energies towards hating someone who deserves it.

Many at Leeds have the time and energy to revile other clubs, Chelsea prominent among them. The Ken Bates era at Leeds was an uncomfortable time for these types in particular – they hated Bates for his Chelsea connections (I hate him too, but mainly for his own not-so-sweet self.) Bates never seemed keen on Leeds either, not since – during his reign at Stamford Bridge – a group of freelance demolition contractors from Yorkshire travelled down to SW6 and saw off his scoreboard. But for me, Chelsea (and Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and the rest) are only relevant insofar as they have teams that can beat Man U for much of the time, and as long as they do that, they’re just fine and dandy as far as I’m concerned.

In Yorkshire the situation may best be summed-up as follows. All other Yorkshire clubs hate Leeds United, and Leeds United regard all other Yorkshire clubs as beneath our notice – except on those annoying occasions when temporarily reduced league status means we have to soil our boots by playing them. This attitude does nothing, of course, to endear Leeds to the likes of Bratfud, Barnsleh, Uddersfailed and the Sheffield dee-dahs – but really, who cares?

I have more respect for fans of clubs like Birmingham or Everton or – yes, even Man U, who hate Leeds for reasons other than just sharing a county with us. That fits better with my world view. Ask a Newcastle fan why he hates the Mackems, and he might blither incomprehensibly for a while (well, they just talk like that up there) – but no rational reply will emerge. I could talk your ears off about why I hate the scum, and I know many Man U fans who can do the same when invited to say why they hate Leeds, which is more than many other Leeds haters can say.

The fact is – whatever the pious purists and holier-than-thou types might say – there’s nothing wrong with football hatred, properly expressed and stopping comfortably this side of actual violence – as I’ve previously written here. It adds some passion to a crowd and to a football occasion, and football would die a lingering death in the sort of sterile atmosphere some of these self-righteous hypocrites seem to want. All I’d say is: if you must hate, then hate for a good reason.

Read my other articles, and you’ll find my reasons for hating Man U – the reasons why I firmly believe anyone might reasonably hate them – are a regular feature in the occasional rants to which I’m prone. They’re nothing to do with why Southampton hate Pompey, or why Forest hate Derby (although I CAN see the Clough factor in the latter case.) Pure regional tribalism is at work there, and I suppose there’s a place for it. But that sort of thing is slightly irrational to me, while hatred based on facts and history is not. Hatred is a genuine human emotion, and the football variety is a safety valve which is useful in diffusing a lot of the negative emotions in society at large. It’s a therapy of sorts. So chew on that, you pious, pseudo-intellectual gits who preach at rabid football fans and utterly fail to understand what’s going on.

I’m happy to admit that I have a healthy hatred for the scum, and I’m equally happy that it’s so lustily reciprocated – with any luck the depth of these feelings will see the game of football, still so dependent on the atmosphere generated by its match-going followers, survive for a good long time to come.

From Leeds United: In Memoriam of When Rooney Was Half-Decent – by Rob Atkinson

Image

When it comes to goals he knows his stuff
A gift like his is aye enough
Yet scruples not to spend his sweat
Never a poor example set
Equal to times both smooth and rough

Rarely though even for such as he
On such occasions would hope to see
O‘er field of combat, strife and toil
Ne’er respect for enemy soil
Exquisite contact, poised mid-air
Yes!  A goal, and struck so fair!

In momentary hush then caught
Suspended time, a frozen thought

And then – a clamour fills our ears!!

Frenzy, joy, a blast of noise
And all rejoice his name
Thousands; women, men and boys

Blessing the day their hero came
And praising his talent rare
Lifting their souls, such artistry
Drama for all to share

Goal! The throng with mighty roar
Rejoice with heart and soul and more
And fill the air with songs of glee
Now it is real, now all can see
Never to fade from our memory’s eye
Years though they pass, time though it fly

Some feats are not forgotten, for
Hearts and minds will keep their store
Away from the daily grind of life
Golden moments, a cure for strife
Guiltily, yet with secret joy
In all men’s hearts there lives a boy
Now and again he’ll know anew
Great are the memories – great but few

Time lends a lustre to our past
When sometimes life goes by too fast
And yet some vivid moments shine
This goal will keep – as finest wine

Taken From Us 25 Years Ago Today: Revie, The Don of Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

The Don - the Greatest

The Don – the Greatest

They say that great players don’t always make great managers, and Bobby Charlton is a stand-out example of that essential truth.  His brother Jack, by common consent not anything like the player Bobby was, but ten times the bloke, was by far the more successful manager.  Then again – he learned from the best.

And they will twist the argument around to show that average players can make great managers. We’re usually invited by a brainwashed and indoctrinated media to take Alex Ferguson as an example of this; my own choice would be Arsene Wenger, a deeply average player but a highly superior coach, tactician and innovator who made a significant dent in the Man U monopoly of the Premier League – despite the vast off-field advantages of the Salford club. Remember Wenger’s “Invincibles”?  There is also, of course, Jose Mourinho – and many others who pulled up no trees as players, but blossomed into legendary managers.

But there are a select few examples of truly great players who went on to be truly great managers – the likes of Busby and Dalglish, for instance – and I will argue passionately to my last breath that the best of the best was Donald George Revie, who died of Motor Neurone Disease 25 years ago today.

Don Revie was an innovative, thinking footballer, the pivot of the famous “Revie Plan” at Manchester City when he was the first to exploit deep-lying centre-forward play to great effect as City hit the heights in the mid to late fifties. He was instrumental in the Wembley defeat of Birmingham City in the FA Cup Final of 1956, and also helped restore English pride after two batterings by Hungary – the Magnificent Magyars having trounced England 6-3 at Wembley and 7-1 in Budapest. Revie’s adapted attacking role helped the National team annihilate Scotland 7-2 and his reputation was made as a selfless team player who was adept at making the ball do the work while team-mates found space as he dropped deep, baffling the defences of the time.

Revie was clearly a thinker, and developed very definite ideas about the game during his playing career, ideas he would later put into practice to devastating effect as a club manager. It is undeniable that, during his thirteen years in charge at Leeds, he elevated them from simply nowhere in the game to its very pinnacle, preaching togetherness and the team ethic above all else. Respected judges within the game have described the football played by Leeds at their peak as unmatched, before or since. In the eyes of many, that Leeds United team were the finest English side ever, a unit of grisly efficiency and teak-hardness yet capable of football which was outstandingly, breathtakingly beautiful, intricate in its conception and build-up, devastating in its effect.

Here is the scale of Revie’s achievement: in an era before the advent of lavish sponsorship and advanced commercial operations, he built a club from the ground upwards – a club with an apathetic support, which had hardly two ha’pennies to rub together, and whose prime asset was a group of raw but promising youngsters. The way that Revie nurtured those youngsters, moulding them into a team of supreme talent and majestic ability, is the stuff of legend. In some cases, he had to ward off the threats of homesickness: a young Billy Bremner was determined to go home to his native Scotland and Revie arranged for his girlfriend to move to Leeds, helping the lad settle down. Sometimes he had to adapt a player from one position to another – Terry Cooper was an indifferent winger who was made into a world-class overlapping full-back. Examples of his inspirational and man-management skills are many; he wrote the modern managerial manual from scratch.

Revie raised almost an entire squad from the junior ranks through to full international status, but he also had an unerring eye for a transfer market bargain. He took Bobby Collins from Everton, and saw the diminutive veteran midfielder produce the best form of his career. He lured a disaffected John Giles from Old Trafford where he was an under-rated performer. Giles swore that he would “haunt” Matt Busby, the manager who let him go, and Revie enabled this vow to be realised, converting Giles to a more central role after the end of Collins’ first team career. Giles and Bremner would form an almost telepathic central midfield partnership for Leeds, carrying all before them over the muddy battlefields of Division One. Revie later described his recruitment of Giles from Man U as “robbery with violence”.

As the sixties wore on, the Don would add Mick Jones and Allan Clarke to his formidable squad while it grew up together in a family atmosphere at Elland Road. Rarely if ever before or since can a manager have been so involved in his team’s welfare and well-being, no mere tracksuit manager this. There would be flowers and chocolates when a girlfriend or wife celebrated a birthday, a listening ear and helping hand whenever problems threatened to affect a player’s form. Revie was a father figure to his players for over a decade, forming a bond of mutual loyalty and respect that still sets the standard for enlightened management today.

Don Revie has been described in scornful terms by the ignorant, as a dossier-obsessed and over-superstitious manager by some people of insight and judgement, and as simply the best by his players who still survive from that amazing period of Leeds United’s dominance at home and abroad. He was perhaps too reliant on lucky suits and the lifting of gypsy curses, and other such supernatural preoccupations. He could maybe have let his team “off the leash” a little earlier than he did – when given full rein, they were next door to unstoppable. But it’s hard to hold the caution and superstition of the man against him; this was a time unlike today when livelihoods depended on a bounce of the ball, when results mattered in a bread and butter way. There were no cossetted millionaires then, no examples of young men who could pack it all in tomorrow and live in luxury for the rest of their lives. It all meant so much more in those days and the word “pressure” had real resonance.

The modern coaches have greats among their number, there’s no doubt about that. It would be invidious to single out names; after all, the media in a misguided fit of uncritical and commercially-motivated hero-worship have been busily engaged for most of the last three decades in dubbing “S’ralex” as the greatest ever. But the legend that is Don Revie can sit comfortably on his laurels, the man who – more than any other – took a sow’s ear of a football club and made of it a purse of the very finest silk which yet concealed a core of Yorkshire steel.

Donald George Revie (1927 – 1989) – Simply The Best.

The LUFC Prophet on “Why Moyes Never Stood a Chance at Man U” – by Rob Atkinson

Ta Ta, Taggart

Ta Ta, Taggart

As a Leeds United fan, I don’t get many chances to say “I told you so”.  I’ve made two football bets recently, and I’ve paid out twice – a fiver to a Newcastle fan who told me to my disbelief they’d lose at home to some Premier League no-hopers (and they did), and a bar of Dairy Milk chocolate to my Barnsley-supporting postman who bet me we’d beat them at Oakwell. I didn’t mind paying out on that one.  My only chance of coming out ahead now rests on a tenner I have with a mate which says Arsenal will win the Cup.  Fingers crossed…

But in matters Man U, I was a prophet of peerless foresight as long ago as July last year – when I forecast that David Moyes was doomed to failure at the Theatre of Hollow Myths.  I reasoned that the brooding presence of eminence grise (avec le nez pourpre) Alex Ferguson would do Moyes no good as he sought to make his own influence the guiding light at the Pride of Devon.  I figured that he would be hampered by the proximity of the ex-boss – just as happened before, 40-odd years ago, when Busby stepped down but refused to go away.

Well, I did tell you so – and lo, it has come to pass.  Whatever now happens to the fallen champions-turned-also-rans, it should be noted that some of us out here saw months ago that there’d be tears before bedtime round Salford way. I might be accused (accurately) of wishful thinking – but the logic behind my prediction has, I feel, been shown to be impeccable.  Below is what I wrote on July 7th, 2013 as Moyes was setting out his stall as Man U manager.  I will not gloat over his downfall – but the fact that he has brought the club I detest down with him is extremely amusing and satisfactory.

-o0o-

There are worrying signs already for the inheritor of the poisoned chalice that is the Old Trafford hot-seat.  David Moyes has been gathering his own people about him as he sets forth to put his own stamp on the Man U machine – but Moyes will be grimly aware that The Ghost of Alex Ferguson Past is the least of his worries.  The man himself will be there all too often, all too real and large as life, in the flesh and walking the corridors of power down Trafford way.  It’s the presence of the former boss that is likely to make an already difficult task that bit less easy for the 50 year old heir to the throne.  If you know your history, you’ll be aware that Wilf McGuinness, the successor to Matt Busby, had to go about his work with the Busby factor still about the place, the old man still visible backstage, the players saying “Morning, Wilf” to McGuinness – but “Morning, Boss” to Busby.  He didn’t last long before the sainted Matt was back to try and steady a sinking ship. His successor, Frank O’Farrell, didn’t do much better.

You might hope, for Moyes’ sake, that Ferguson will have the forbearance to stay away from the training ground and the stadium when the day-to-day business of running the club and the team is going on.  Perhaps he will, but media pressure is already a clear and present danger for Fergie’s successor. The press don’t want to let Fergie go; he’s been a rich source of copy for them for so many years that many hacks who have covered all matters Man U can hardly remember a time when he wasn’t there – and they want to stay snug in their Fergie comfort zone, with their cosy old stand-bys of the hair-dryer and the stop-watch.

The signs were there even at Wimbledon this past week.  Fergie took his place in the Centre Court dignitaries’ enclosure to support his compatriot Murray, and the commentary box fizzed in a fever of ecstasy as that familiar purple face gazed o’er the scene.  The cameras lingered lovingly on those craggy, ravaged features and many were the cutaway shots of Fergie’s reactions as Murray laboured to his victory.  Afterwards, the desperation to lever S’ralex into the post-match interview was as cringingly embarrassing for the viewer as it was perplexing for Murray, who perhaps naively expected tennis questions.

The message was resoundingly clear: Fergie is still The Man as far as the press are concerned.  Reports of Moyes’ early press conference at Old Trafford leaned heavily upon comments such as “Fergie would have approved of Moyes’ flash of temper”, “Moyes displayed a Fergie-like tenacity” and so on and so forth.  There are clear indications that every word Moyes utters, every decision he takes, will be viewed in the light of “what S’ralex would have said/done” – and clearly, this is bad news for anyone wanting to to make the job his own and do it his own way.

It might even be interesting to speculate on whether Moyes would perhaps quite like to be portrayed in a different light to that which has shone on the Man U manager this past 27 years.  Moyes seems a sensible and modest chap after all, any similarity to his predecessor appearing limited to the accent and the obsession with the game.  A departure from the arrogance and overbearing nature that has characterised the club during Fergie’s reign might be welcome to such a relatively pleasant bloke, but it appears unlikely to be allowed judging by the tone of some of the press quotes from this preparatory phase of the season.

We are given to understand, for instance, that late last season Moyes was honoured with a personal visit to his home from The Fergie Himself.  “I thought he’d come to tell me he was taking one of my players”, said the ex-Goodison boss, to an unheard and incredulous chorus of “What the hell…?” from Evertonians everywhere.  So this is how the Old Trafford club have been used to operating in the transfer market?  Hmmmm.  But instead of airily notifying a “lesser club” of an impending transfer swoop, Fergie was there to tell Moyes he was the next Man U boss.  Not ask, tell.  Moyes’ eager compliance was taken as read.  The Man U brand of arrogance, it seems, will take more than a change of manager to eradicate.

I’m not particularly worried about the prospect of Man U being less successful in the next few years, and of some of their legions of fans being seduced to supporting clubs closer to home, such as Torquay or Spurs or Nagoya Grampus Eight.  I’d be quite happy with that; I have no love of the Trafford-based franchise or the way it operates.  But I am slightly concerned for Moyes himself, who seems a decent cove, and who I can see going the same way as McGuinness went; a proper football man crushed by the weight of recent history and cowed by the long shadow of his immediate predecessor.  For Moyes’ sake, I hope that doesn’t come about, but all the signs are already there that it might.  Only Fergie himself can decide to remain in the background, the media are far too much in love with the myth they have created to let him go easily.

Perhaps, though, Fergie will actually do the decent thing?  I somehow doubt it.

Leeds United Fans – Why do Some Appear to Revel in Negativity? – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds, Leeds, Leeds!

Leeds, Leeds, Leeds!

I’ve read a couple of articles lately, both decently-written and making some good points – but both leaving me despairing over the massively negative attitude current among a certain section of Leeds “support”.  The tendency, in fact is not only massively negative, it’s eagerly, loudly, brassily negative.  It embraces negativity and holds it close like it never wants to let it go.  It’s the very antithesis of what support should be all about. It’s defeatism in its most depressing and demoralising form; if these articles had been written in wartime, they may very well have been taken out and shot.

The common theme of course, hammered home with relish and supportive statistics, is that We Are Not A Big Club Anymore.  The people saying this say it passionately and with conviction.  Not only do they wish to believe that Leeds aren’t a big club, the very idea that some fans may not believe this – may, in fact be holding dear the belief that United are still big – clearly upsets and offends them.  They crop up everywhere, these pallid little people, spreading their message of gloom and churning out invidious comparisons by the bucketload.  They’re becoming an effective voice wherever fans gather together to discuss matters Leeds.  In fact there’s only one real problem with their whole campaign. It’s utter, unmitigated bollocks.

The fact of the matter is, no club is bigger or smaller than its fanbase, its potential for support.  A very reliable gauge of this is freely available in these tech-savvy days we live in. It’s what is nattily called “online presence”.  Give your mouse some exercise and find out for yourself – if you don’t already know.  In cyberworld, second division, under-achieving, out-spent and unregarded Leeds United are absolutely HUGE.  This is the best barometer you could wish for of the measure of passion out there, the incredible hunger and thirst for any morsel of news, any topic of debate about the Mighty Whites of LS11. They’re out there, right now, all over the globe.  They’re clicking away at their computer terminals reading and digesting, or they’re writing in dozens of languages about Leeds past, present and future.  Our great days on the field are an increasingly distant memory, and a large proportion of the match-day support of a decade ago are marginalised and still priced out of actual engagement with the match-going experience, despite a return to relative sanity in the pricing structure.  But around the globe, in the ether, over the airwaves and most importantly inside the heads of millions of fanatics, Leeds United are top four, a phenomenon.

So, why this overweening eagerness to paint us as a small club?  Is it the tiresome need of social writers to dress themselves up as that bit different?  You know – slightly windswept and interesting, with that world-weary air of cynicism etching attractive lines into their fashionably-troubled yet intellectual brows.  It’s odd.  Any real pretensions to “cool” tend to be dissipated by the unseemly scramble to out-do each other in the negativity stakes, and they’re usually followed by eager-beaver starry-eyed acolytes who wish to attach themselves to any view that doesn’t qualify as mainstream.  Perhaps that’s the answer – are we dealing with an online football-flavoured brand of snob obscurantism?

I’m not advocating the other pole of this issue, by the way.  That worryingly Freudian habit of a certain Franchise’s fans to shout from the virtual rooftops about how they’re the biggest, the best and totally huge and wonderful throughout the world and all four dimensions of spacetime. I’ll mention no names here, but the initials are man u.  I’d be even more concerned if our collective attitude was as deluded as that, not least because – in the case of our acquaintances from over the hills – their Devon and Cornwall-based support have made of themselves a laughing-stock with such wishful thinking.  Certainly in Barcelona and Madrid, and in various other centres of realism too, not excluding Beeston.

No, all I want is for certain people to remember the basic meaning of the word “support”. It does not include the peddling of negative thinking, nor does it encompass unhelpful and misleading assertions regarding comparisons with such giants as Norwich and Dull City.  All of this is willful and groundless cant, calculated to spread misery and crush hope.

Support is about identifying yourself with the club you love, and spreading the word to those less fortunate who have not seen the light.  It’s about getting the shoulder behind the momentum of recent promising form – and being prepared to back it all the way, in the face of the withering carpings of naysayers as and when necessary.  Support is an overwhelmingly positive thing, and it needs to espouse and reflect positivity in everything it does.

Criticism is part of this, we are not simply a massive band of yes-men.  But criticism can be couched in positive terms too – this will not do for Leeds United, we said of Bates, and behold, he is gone.  The same applies to ticket prices, or transfer policy, or anything else we’ve been unhappy with from time to time.  We say “this will not do because We Are Leeds, and we demand better”.  So we can be critical – and that can be effective – but it’s still our overriding duty to be biased, and to talk the club up – because we’re supporters. Criticism that amounts to a wholesale belittling of the club relative to other clubs who may be enjoying some temporary success – that’s just ridiculous, and so counter-productive as to be a sin. Spreading alarm and despondency is not needed, not helpful, not to be embraced.  There are idiots enough in the media eager as all hell to do that, without people who are supposedly fans getting in on the act.

So please, those who peddle pessimism or deal in negativity, think again.  Think not only of whatever you’re getting out of venting these frustrations of yours, but also of your obligations towards the club you’re supposed to be supporting.  Let’s not give our enemies, among rival clubs’ support and within the media, such a cheap advantage.  If you’re a fan, then act and speak as one.  Support your club as a supporter should.  After all – We Are Leeds United, and we are the best.

United Flashback: Wembley 1992 as Leeds Put Four Past Liverpool – by Rob Atkinson

leeds_united_win_the_charity_shield_in_1992_5861482

Leeds United – Wembley Winners

For all the rival claims of the FA Cup and (don’t laugh) the variously-sponsored League Cup, there’s little doubt about the Wembley occasion it’s hardest to reach, the honour it’s toughest to compete for.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the FA Community Shield, or the Charity Shield as it used to be known in less politically-correct times.  This is not an event you get to be part of merely by winning a few games at home against the likes of Orient and Norwich, with maybe a semi-final against Aston Villa to spice it up.  It’s not a trophy you can win simply by the luck of the draw.  This is an event for winners, although League runners-up sometimes get a look-in if one club has been greedy enough to win the “Double”.  The Charity Shield is billed as the clash between reigning Champions and FA Cup-holders and as such it has the stardust of success and glory sprinkled all over it.

The Battle of Wembley '74

The Battle of Wembley ’74

Some will demur, saying it’s just a pre-season friendly.  Well, it does take place pre-season – but a friendly?  Before we look at this 1992 meeting of old foes Leeds and Liverpool, let’s cast our minds back to 1974 when the two sides met in the very first Wembley Charity Shield.  Kevin Keegan and Billy Bremner sent off, Giles displaying the art of the left hook on the ref’s blind side to dislodge Keegan’s perm – and all manner of malicious goings-on besides as Cup-holders Liverpool edged out Champions Leeds on penalties after a 1-1 draw for which “combative” is a hopelessly inadequate description.  Ray Clemence conning David Harvey over the ‘keepers taking the last two penalties, then grinning broadly as he reneged on the deal.  The violence and then the discarded shirts of the guilty as they walked off, dismissed by the schoolmasterly Bob Matthewson, a ref who towered over the pocket battleships in the opposing midfields.  The fuss and bother afterward as the FA decided examples should be made, long bans handed out.  A “friendly” it most definitely was not.

This 1992 match though was played out in a much lighter and more entertaining vein.  There was an air of conspiratorial glee around the old ground; Liverpool had administered the fatal blow to Man U’s title challenge at the end of the previous season with a 2-0 victory, the faithful of the Anfield Kop taunting their misery-stricken rivals with chants of “Leeds, Leeds, Leeds” as the last hopes of Man U and media alike drained away.  The real Reds then went on to Wembley and routinely won the Cup against Leeds’ old Nemesis Sunderland, so that this “Traditional Curtain Raiser to the Season” had about it a faintly gloating atmosphere – mutual congratulation was in the breeze as we all celebrated the discomfiture of the Mancunian and Mackem scum.

The game itself was a crazy mixture of potent attacking and Keystone Kops defending which foreshadowed the season both clubs were to experience, but which was avidly lapped up by both Kops at either end of Wembley.  Leeds opened the scoring when Rodney Wallace scampered into acres of space on the left before squaring for one Eric Cantona to finish confidently past Grobbelaar in the Liverpool goal.  That was on 25 minutes, but only ten more were to elapse before Liverpool were level.  A deep cross from Ronnie Rosenthal found Ian Rush with enough far-post space to plant a header past John Lukic.  This was at the Leeds fans’ end, and I remember at the time thinking that Liverpool would now go on to win, but what a cracking day we were having anyway.  But shortly before half-time, Leeds were ahead again, Tony Dorigo sending a deflected free kick beyond Brucie into the left hand corner of the net.

The second half saw the game continuing to see-saw as both sides went for it.  Liverpool contrived a second equaliser when Dean Saunders fastened on to a loose ball and powered it past Lukic in the blink of an eye.  Again that feeling of slight resignation and again Leeds blew it away, regaining the lead after 75 minutes when Cantona headed a cross ball down for Wallace to tap back to him.  Cantona looked up and calmly directed the ball wide of Grobbelaar for 3-2.  The joy among the Leeds fans at this cherry on the icing of last year’s title triumph raised itself to a still higher level when the match seemed to have been decided 4 minutes from the end.  Wallace chased a ball out wide which, instead of trickling out of play, bounced off the corner flag and gave the live-wire Rodney an ideal chance to put in a telling cross.  And there was Cantona again, lurking at the far post as Grobbelaar flapped ineffectively for the ball, watching it all the way and planting a header into the empty net.  4-2 up against Liverpool at Wembley!  Eleven months before the birth of my daughter, this was probably just about up there with the Title decider at Bramall Lane for the most joyous events of my life to that point, and for a few delirious moments I didn’t rightly know where or who I was.

Sanity had barely returned when, way down at the other end, Gordon Strachan scored what must be the comedy own-goal of all time, executing a singularly ungraceful backward stagger as he tried to clear from the goal-line but succeeded only in trickling the ball over it.  Some cheered, some laughed; nobody was downcast except perhaps wee Gordon himself who looked distinctly pissed-off.  Leeds had won though, the occasion had lived up to and beyond expectations for me and my happy band and we waited joyously to watch the lifting of silverware at Wembley.

Before that happened, another display of respect and gratitude as the defeated Liverpool players trooped off into the tunnel at the United end of the ground.  The jubilant Leeds fans as a body stood to applaud their old enemies, the chants of “Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpool” drawing reciprocal if shattered applause from the bemused players in red, honour satisfied, tributes paid.  Then the Leeds players going up the thirty-nine steps to hoist the Shield high, and cheers echoing anew from our throat-sore and ecstatic hordes.  Leeds United: Champions of England – the Last Champions – Charity Shield winners and the only team ever to score four against Liverpool in all of the Anfield giants’ numerous Wembley appearances.  Vivid memories of a truly wonderful day.

Premier League Set to Make Life Easier for Man U and Moyes – by Rob Atkinson

Man U line up reluctantly before having to play Man City

Man U line up reluctantly before having to play Man City

After a lengthy period of consideration following the remarks of Man U boss David Moyes on the eve of the season, the FA Premier League are set to act in recognition that the Biggest Club in the Universe have, after all, been unfairly treated.

Moyes had been annoyed that the Greater Manchester club, often fondly known by enemies and foes alike as the “Pride of Devon”, had been “dealt with as if we were just any club.” His complaint concerned the opening five games of the season, with Man U facing three clubs that they were scared of in the first five fixtures. “It was plainly unfair,” said the irate Scum boss. “Historically, this club deserve better than the treatment just any old club gets. Don’t listen to me, ask the gentlemen that edit the Mirror, Sun and Mail. Ask Sky TV. They’re all horrified at how we’ve just been lumped in with all the rest, let me tell you.”

Now the FA are set to take decisive action in the face of what are being seen as compelling arguments. “Mr Moyes has a point,” an ashen spokesperson said, yesterday. “We’ve perhaps taken our eye off the ball here, and maybe we’ve forgotten just who we’re dealing with.”

Unfortunately, it has been thought “too controversial” to expunge the results of the games concerned – Man U lost to Liverpool and Man City and could only just scrape a draw at home to Chelsea. “Unsatisfactory though it may be,” the FA announced, “these results will have to stand. However, we have ruled that it wouldn’t be fair to ask Man U to play these clubs again this season. We have decided therefore that we – ahem, they – will play Bury at home instead of City, Tranmere at home instead of Liverpool and Barnet away instead of Chelsea. The two scheduled Arsenal games will feature Arsenal Ladies, and instead of playing Spurs home and away, Man U will face a Showbiz XI captained by Mick Hucknall.”

David Moyes has cautiously welcomed what some may see as quite a generous gesture on the part of the game’s ruling body. “I can’t really agree it’s generous,” he snapped. “We dropped 8 points in those three games, and it seems we’re not getting them back. That’s nothing short of scandalous. We’ll just get on with it though as we always do at this club. At least it’s given us some scope to redress the balance a bit. We might have only got a point or two from that unfair run of fixtures if something hadn’t been done – now I’m confident we’ll get three or four. We at Man U will just hope the game’s authorities get it right first time in the future. All we ask is for our own way in everything.”

In a joint expression of regret and apology, BSkyB and the FA have asked Man U for their forgiveness in this sorry episode. “We are fully aware of the commercial implications of Man U failing to do well,” says the statement, in part. “We’ve seen the sales projections for Man U tat and Sky dishes in hotbeds like Cornwall and Kent and how business drops off if our heroes lose. Believe us, we’ll be extending the hand of friendship and help to Man U at every opportunity. As part of this, we can give assurances that the latest “New George Best”, Adnan Januzaj will not face any disciplinary action for his future dives to win penalties. Yesterday’s incident was an unfortunate misunderstanding, and the officials concerned have been disciplined.”

In a further gesture of support, the FA have agreed to expunge all Title records prior to 1993, send their referees on refresher courses at Man U’s Carrington Training Complex and deduct 15 league points from Leeds United with immediate effect.

Moyes to Continue his Impersonation of “Sir” Fergie – But is he REALLY Nasty Enough? – by Rob Atkinson

Fergie Teaching Moyes How To Be A Complete Bastard

Fergie Teaching Moyes How To Be A Complete Bastard

It still looks as though rookie Man U manager David Moyes is determined to continue with his attempts to appear as a “Fergie Lite”, a watered-down version of his tyrannical predecessor.  There may well be those who will speculate that Moyes is receiving the benefit of some tips in “How To Lose Friends And Intimidate People” from past master “Sir” Alex Ferguson.  Lesson One was evidently “How to whinge”, and resulted in an ill-advised bleat about facing Liverpool, City and Chelsea in the first five Man U league games.  This was swiftly followed by “Arrogance for Beginners”, manifesting itself in a nasty little dig at former club Everton for “holding back the careers” of their players Leighton Baines and  Maroune Fellaini.  In this context, “holding back careers” evidently meant refusing to let Man U buy them at a cut price.  Moyes claimed that, if he were still the boss at Everton, he would of course not stand in the players’ way, letting them follow their hearts’ desire which is naturally to play for Man U.  Everton fans are, understandably, less than impressed by this bold assertion and have been busily engaged in slaughtering Moyes in the Twittersphere.  Fellaini eventually made the move to The Dark Side for a less than bargain £27 million or so.

The suggestion that Moyes as Everton manager had a less than robust attitude to protecting his own club’s interests in the transfer market was hinted at previously when Moyes was telling of how he was approached to take over at the Evil Empire.  It would seem that he received a call from The Great Man himself, the one and only Alex Taggart, large as life and twice as purple.  Moyes confesses that he had no idea it was about the Man U job, and assumed that Fergie was calling him to “let me know he was taking one of my players”.  Again, this is a soundbite calculated to enrage any proud Toffeeman, and it doesn’t go down too well with fans of other clubs outside the Theatre of Hollow Myths either, the clear inference being that all Man U have to do to sign the player of their choice is to casually let that player’s current club know that a deal will be done.  If that really was the extent of the Trafford-based club’s influence over the game as a whole, then frankly they have grossly under-achieved in not winning every cup, every year, ever since Uncle Rupert bought the game for them.

Whatever the case, Moyes now finds himself on the business end of this power gradient, and he clearly seems determined to make hay while the sun shines.  If this means re-inventing himself as a sort of less puce Alex, then – seemingly – so be it.  Those of us who have spent a productive lifetime hating Man U and everything connected to them, may just have had some worries about a “nice guy” like Moyes making our task of despising them that bit harder.  It would seem that, after all, we had nothing to be concerned about, and that Man U under Moyes appear likely to continue to be as intrinsically despicable, arrogant and annoying to proper football fans as they have ever been.

This will naturally please those lost souls in Devon, Milton Keynes and Singapore who still count themselves as hardcore Man U fans (since 1993), but for the rest of us who had hoped that football would be a nicer and more wholesome place without Sir Taggart, the sad truth is that it’s probably going to be business as usual – though hopefully without all that ill-gained silverware.  Because Moyes may talk the talk, but he’s done nothing as yet to suggest that he’ll be able to walk the walk.

Can Liverpool’s Suarez “Do a Cantona” on Comeback Against Man U? – by Rob Atkinson

Sic 'em, Suarez!

Sic ’em, Suarez!

There was a feeling of inevitability all those years ago when Eric Cantona, enfant terrible and martial arts amateur extraordinaire, returned from his lengthy FA-imposed ban for being the true incarnation of “The Shit Who Hit The Fan”, to face the old enemies of Man U.  Liverpool were the visitors, before an expectant crowd of Devon day-trippers at the Theatre of Hollow Myths.  The script was written, and although the scousers aimed to poop Eric’s party by taking the lead, the man from Marseilles had the last laugh, ensuring a draw for his side with – you’ve guessed it – a penalty.

All of that was a long, long time ago – but these old rivals have memories like elephants (and backsides to match, for many of them).  So Cantona’s ban, comeback and celebratory strike will not have been forgotten by fans of either side.  Even though the personnel will be almost entirely different, give or take a superannuated Ryan Giggs, there will be many who might wonder if that old script might not be taken out and dusted off.  Man U host Liverpool in the League Cup next week.  Suarez is available for the first time since being banned for biting without due care and attention.  He’d love to take a chunk out of Man U’s season – wouldn’t he just. Could it really, actually happen?

Think of it: Suarez is the man that the Man U faithful love to hate after his run-in with their own less-than-likable Patrice Evra – and the subsequent Handshakegate Scandal. All very petty and handbags of course, as matters relating to bruised Man U egos tend to be.  But these things matter when you have a close rivalry based on mutual antipathy between Merseyside and, erm, most of the South of England.  Can Suarez, like Cantona so many years before, make his long-awaited comeback from durance vile, in the media glare – and, again like Cantona, stuff it up a hated enemy?

There would be such a neat reciprocity about it, if it actually came to pass.  How funny, how satisfactory it would be.  Cantona made his mark at the Liverpool fans’ end of the Theatre of Hollow Myths – could Suarez possibly end up laughing in the faces of the Stretford End?

I have a great respect for football omens and fate in general.  It’s tempting to look up the odds against Liverpool to win 2-1, Suarez to score at any time.  Anything above 10-1 might just tempt me to have a punt on that.  Come on, Liverpool!!