Tag Archives: Man Utd

Leeds Suffering From Terrible Penalty Calls, Even When They’re Not Involved – by Rob Atkinson

A brief and testy update tonight, having sat through West Brom against Nottingham Forest, where the result to suit our particular requirements as Leeds United fans would have been a Forest victory.

It looked as though that was how it was going, too – and then referee Lee Mason took control, with two late and palpably awful penalty decisions, both going against Forest and, by extension, Leeds.

With the West Brom trailing 2-1, exactly as per our ideal scenario, the Baggies’ Dwight Gayle found a Forest limb to dive over just inside the area, and Mason obliged with the whistle for a spot kick. It was a blatant dive, and if there’s any justice (which we know there isn’t) – Gayle will get a retrospective ban IF the Football League ever emerge from their Spygate enclave and examine the incident.

So, it’s 2-2, which isn’t that bad. But Forest should still have won, when their attacker Lolley had his shirt almost pulled off as he made his way into the Albion penalty area. Lee Mason, though, failed to see the blindingly obvious, and Leeds missed out on the ideal result of a West Brom defeat.

Call me paranoid – of course I am, I’ve been a Leeds fan for 44 years – but it does seem to me that these incidents, even in games between third parties, hardly ever favour Leeds. And really, we could do with the odd penalty decision in other games going our way – because it’s now one penalty awarded to Leeds in around 70 games, which is pretty meagre fare.

Ho hum. Onwards and hopefully upwards. And at least the Pride of Devon lost, which is always, always nice.

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Media Moving on from Spygate for Concerted Effort to Sell Leeds Star Jack Clarke – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United’s Jack Clarke – the poise of the matador

The UK sports media don’t like Leeds United to have nice things. The recent embarrassing emphasis on so-called “Spygate” – the sensational exposé of a man in a tracksuit on a public highway by a wire fence, failing to avert his eyes from the spectacle of some footballers training in plain sight – was of course intended to derail the United promotion bandwagon, but Leeds have still won eight of the last eleven and are clear at the the top. All the hacks have accomplished really is to emphasise their own essential silliness. So – what to do?

Well, it’s transfer window time and, for your average grubby hack with a Leeds-hating readership to satisfy, what better opportunity for the talking up of the latest United wonderkid in the hope of provoking an auction? Such seems to be the mindset of the gutter end of the media right now, not excluding our good friends at Sky, who are positively schizo over Leeds United, simultaneously hating and capitalising on Yorkshire’s number one football club. The current focus is on United’s Jack Clarke, a young wing wizard with that touch of genius about him. The hacks have seen this divine spark, have noted it well – and are determined to bring about his departure from Elland Road at the earliest opportunity.

The stories have cropped up thick and fast – mostly the former, it has to be said – over the past few days. One mischievous rag, conscious of Leeds fans’ lack of regard for Devon’s Finest, have even linked him with Manchester’s second biggest club. Perhaps they feel young Jack would prosper under what they’re selling as the Norwegian reincarnation of Matt Busby, clearly a better mentor than some Argie who sits on a bucket.

Sky were in on the act today as well, playing tempting clips of young Clarke bamboozling full-backs and sticking the ball in the net. It’s all designed to whip up interest from one or other of their favoured clubs because, alas, so far the only enquiries seem to have been  joke ones, from the likes of Crystal Palace and Southampton – hardly the stuff of a young winger’s dreams. Meanwhile, Jack is thriving at Leeds, in and around the first team, contributing solidly to the promotion push, and with the alluring prospect of a fat new contract and maybe a Championship winner’s medal in the offing. For those who wish Leeds ill, namely just about everyone who doesn’t bleed yellow blue and white, these are not good feelings.

Let’s be honest, Jack Clarke at 18 looks to be the real deal. He has that matador’s poise, the ability to play a bewildered defender into hopeless confusion and ultimate defeat. Only the other day, he destroyed the opposing Derby County full-back, who was promptly dispatched to Aberdeen with twisted blood, there to reflect and convalesce, having been replaced at Derby by a pensioner. Clarke has the nascent promise of a youthful Stan Matthews – there’s no deep, dark secret as to how he beats his man. He dances for a moment, in possession of the ball – will the defender sell himself, or just back off, quivering? Then – a drop of the shoulder, a change of pace, and Jack is gone, leaving his man in a crumpled heap, arrowing a deadly ball into the box, and Roofe is there to snap up the chance. Or maybe Clarke swerves back on his path into the box, and curls the ball inside the far post. You just don’t know, although that initial beating of the full back, that’s an open secret. You know how he’ll do that. But, as with Stan Matthews, stopping it is another matter entirely. The media knows all this, and they’re agreed: Clarke must go from Leeds.

But anyone who knows the game will know that Jack Clarke is in the best place he could be, especially at this time of his fledgling career. Quite apart from the material and competitive career rewards dangling in front of him, he’s working with the best coach in Marcelo Bielsa that he could possibly wish for, and in a team that might have been set up specifically to showcase his devastating talent. At eighteen, Clarke needs to be protected from the predatory and kept close to the nurturing influence from which he’s currently benefiting. Jack has the role models right now, in the coaching set up and alongside him in the team, that will give his genius the best chance of emerging in full bloom. To dump him into a so-called “elite” development squad would be to risk seeing that potential stifled, instead of being honed, as it is now, under Bielsa and alongside the likes of Pablo Hernandez.

Leeds United themselves, thankfully, seem to have become a lot more selective in terms of both squad augmentation and pruning. The development squad is being enhanced with a succession of quality additions, and the progression from there to first team level is a clear path. United also recognise and reward the diamonds yielded by this rich seam, polishing some for display on a grand stage, profiting from others judiciously, with the dividend being ploughed back. It’s a policy designed to reap ever richer harvests in the near future – showing that this is a club at long last on the right track. We can safely assume that United will no longer accept derisory offers from smaller clubs for a short term profit that denies them progress and a longer term bounty.

If I’m correct about all that, then – all media hue, cry and desperation notwithstanding – young Jack Clarke will remain exactly he is, shining and dazzling on either wing, tormenting opposing defences with his prodigious, precocious talent, in the colours of Leeds United, settled and happy on the brink of a sensational career. Which is exactly what we would all of us wish and hope for.

Sky Sports et al not included.

Would VAR Get Man United Relegated and Leeds United Promoted? – by Rob Atkinson

LUFC red card

Referees just love Leeds United

I’ve never really been in favour of the intrusion of modern technology into professional football. I was generally supportive of the view that the game needs its bits of controversy, things to talk about and argue over in the pub or, as years went on, via social media. And that, ideally, the game at its elite level should stay as close as possible in its essential character to the thud and blunder affairs fought out on parks pitches every Sunday morning.

But the old maxim of “the referee’s decision is final” has started to wear a bit thin, as with that other cliche “these things tend to even themselves out”. We were always asked to believe that, yes, referees made mistakes alright, but that they were honest mistakes, human errors. We were told that, over time, all clubs would get roughly the same amount of good and bad decisions, and that, ultimately, ability and fitness would be the decisive factors. And for a long time, many of us would believe these fables, we’d even repeat them to each other, wanting our beloved game to be straight.

The worm of doubt for Leeds United fans crawled out of the bad apples among the refereeing fraternity as far back as the sixties. I’ve written an article on this blog about the very worst decisions my club has been on the wrong end of – even limiting myself to the truly appalling travesties of justice, it it could have been a much longer list, space permitting. Leeds fans started giving wry smiles when referees were defended as honest Joes who were bound to make the odd mistake. We knew better, out of bitter experience. We knew exactly who would get the breaks and the dodgy calls, and we knew just as well that it wouldn’t be us.

The situation has never really improved for Leeds as far as getting a fair go from referees and the game in general is concerned. As I write, it’s 58 games since we last got a penalty kick awarded, during which time ten have been given against us, including some proper howlers. You get used to it, you come to expect it, but naturally, you never really accept it as your lot. I well remember Thomas Christiansen‘s ashen face after one match early last season; he was unable to credit what he’d seen with his own eyes, and I just thought, welcome to Leeds, mate – welcome to our world.

Things are different for other teams, of course, and it goes without saying that life at the non-crappy end of the stick is best exemplified by Manchester United, or the Pride of Devon, as I fondly refer to them. Their long penalty runs are matches without conceding one; it’s frequently said that nothing short of the cynical murder of an opposition player in their own penalty box will lead to a spot kick being awarded against them. One referee from the nineties, Graham Poll, frankly admitted that the best a ref could hope for when taking a Man U game during the tyrannic reign of Alex Ferguson, was to get the thing over, with as little controversy as possible, and ideally with Man U having won. That’s a mindset which must have yielded many victories in a game of fine margins; Man U were the beneficiaries of intimidated referees who wanted to avoid the Fergie treatment in the press, with a subsequent blacklisting from big matches.

This was a situation that applied throughout the Ferguson reign at Old Trafford, a period in which there was really no excuse for Man U failing to win the league in any one year. With everything in their failure, and the media vicariously lapping up the glory, Man U went from strength to strength. The learning curve their players were on under Ferguson was more than simply curved – it was totally bent.

But now, Fergie is long gone, and the major silverware eludes Manchester’s second-best football club. And yet still the “controversial” decisions accrue in their favour. Last night’s home game against Arsenal demonstrated both manifestations of the modern game; the old fashioned “lino’s call” for offside which resulted in Man U’s first goal, and the beginnings of modern technology ensuring that a goal stood which you would never see given against Man U in the days when eyesight alone judged whether the ball was over the line. Goal line technology, for a side that have seen so many narrow decisions go in their favour, is bad news for Man U. How much worse for them will it get when the video assistant referee (VAR) comes in for the Premier League next season, presumably taking away from the hapless Red Devils the marginal decisions they invariably get now?

It’ll be interesting to see what actually happens. My theory is that a club which has always suffered under the naked eye method of making decisions will be bound to do better when such a fallible system is superseded by state of the art cameras. And, equally, clubs that have always tended to get the rub of the green under “human error” will find themselves suffering disproportionately as those errors start to vanish from the game.

Could such a revolution actually result in the previously favoured club losing their exalted status, while the erstwhile pariahs come to the fore? Well, that’s probably just my over-active tendency towards wishful thinking. Still, it would be vastly entertaining and deeply satisfactory, if it ever came to pass. But the whole culture of the game and its supporting media is ranged against anything so unthinkable. During the Man U v Arsenal game last night, BT Sport‘s resident ex-referee “expert” Phil Dowd acknowledged that Man U’s first goal was narrowly offside. “But it was so close,” he demurred, “it would have been very harsh to give it. So, good goal.” That type of Man U-centric thinking still takes my breath away, even after decades of hearing stuff just like it. And it makes me think that, technology notwithstanding, the Old Trafford team will probably still be getting that annoying rub of the green for some time to come.

That’s not really any of my concern, though I’d like to think it vexes a few of you out there just as it does me. But my priority is Leeds United, and – eventually – we’re going to be playing our games under the electronic eye of VAR. And maybe then, if not before, we might actually get the odd penalty, or at least not have so many utterly crap ones given against us. And, if that proves to be the case, then I’ll happily declare myself a convert to this new technological approach. After all – who can afford to go down to the pub for an argument these days?

Leeds are the Damned United, but Man U Takes Award for Sickest Fans – by Rob Atkinson

In the wake of the tragic helicopter crash at Leicester’s King Power Stadium last night, and with the sad likelihood that we shall shortly hear confirmation of lives lost, there has been much talk of the phenomenon of the “Football Family”, as fans of many clubs have rallied around to support Leicester City Football Club and its supporters at a very dark time.

All that is as it should be, and a respectful, reverent reaction has been almost universal. I say “almost”, because there are generally a few degraded exceptions, and those exceptions are almost always to be found among the usual suspects representing football’s least lovable “fans”. It will surprise few who are aware of their history that, on this occasion, it’s an identifiable group of Manchester United fans, the producers of a toilet roll of a fanzine known as Red Issue, who have plumbed the depths of poor taste as only they can.

This purulent rag has form going back years for the penning and publication of articles and “jokes” that take the breath away with their sheer, savage detestability. Emboldened by that curiously puzzling Manc sense of entitlement and by unjustified self-righteousness, they have disgraced themselves many a time, heaping shame and derision upon a club rarely short of that commodity. I well recall a photograph they published while Eric Cantona was at Leeds, of the Frenchman in the bath with his young daughter, accompanying the image with a caption designed to encourage their leering readers to conclude that Cantona was a paedophile. There was also a chant sung at Man U matches expressly accusing Arsène Wenger of the self same thing. In brief, these are awful, awful people with no redeeming qualities.

But they’ve outdone themselves this time, as can be seen from the disgusting tweets reproduced above, in the immediate aftermath of a football tragedy that has shocked the whole sporting world. It takes a person with his soul deeply rooted in the foulest slime at the bottom of the sewer to even think of such a thing, let alone share it with the world. But that’s Red Issue for you – the lowest of the low, even in the context of Man U fans.

But of course, it’s Leeds who are dubbed the Damned United, which is a sad indictment of people’s judgement for you. Luckily, although Leeds fans do not find halos sitting easily atop their heads, we’re in a different category entirely from the kind of filth they attract in Salford. Even Millwall fans have more to recommend them, having contributed generously to a fighting fund for young cancer sufferer Toby Nye. There is no such softer side to the arrogant, entitled and thoroughly disgusting fans of Manchester’s second club.

If I sound angry, it’s because I am. I’m sick of the media fawning that surrounds a club which embodies everything bad about the game. I’m sick of the way everyone panders to them because of their commercial clout, ignoring the many foul and detestable aspects of a club and set of supporters who feel they can do and say what they like. The media seeks to protect its own interests and preserve lucrative markets, which means they will always go easy on Man U.

As I write, they lead Everton courtesy of yet another blatantly unfair penalty award, reminding me that my own United have now gone 53 league games without even obvious penalties being given. That sums up the disparity of treatment, and maybe it’s an insight into why Man U fans such as the sickos behind Red Issue feel that they have the right to continue outraging any sense of decency.

This year, as every other year, Man U fans will collectively take out an onion to wallow in commercially advantageous grief over the Munich air crash sixty years ago. They will demand respect and empathy, despite the fact that – as you can see above – they have none for anybody else. But they think they’re a special case, and that they should be treated as such. Most of them will never have heard of AC Torino‘s even more tragic and devastating Superga crash, about which I’ve written before. Add “blinkered” to “disgusting”, then.

Man U fans feel that they are a breed apart. And they really are. Just not in the way they would like to think.

Leeds Should Pull Out All Stops to Sign Haaland Jr. Ahead of Man Utd – by Rob Atkinson

Erling Braut Haaland, the 17 year old son of former Elland Road favourite Alf-Inge Haaland, is shaping up as quite the boy wonder in Norway’s top flight. His latest exploit is to score four goals for Molde in the opening 21 minutes of an away fixture at league leaders Brann. Interestingly, young Erling is a fanatical fan of Leeds United, whose declared dream is to play for the Whites in the Champions League.

Worryingly, though, it might just be that Haaland Junior’s European fantasy could be played out via a short cut with that lesser United from over the hills. Manchester’s second club had scouts at the Brann – Molde game, and the whisper is that covetous eyes are watching from the Theatre of Hollow Myths, with Alfi’s son having impressed the talent spotters at the Pride of Devon.

We must hope that our old favourite Alf-Inge would not allow anything so unsavoury as his son signing for Them to happen. Alfi will surely have vivid memories of being assaulted by faux hard-man Royston Keane at Old Toilet, and of the career threatening injury he sustained in that cowardly assault. This alone should persuade Haaland senior to advise his lad to steer well clear of Salford.

And, on the positive side, the young star’s development would definitely be assisted by a spell with Marcelo Bielsa, the man Pep Guardiola hails as the best coach in the world. That’s the kind of upbringing any boy wonder should be looking for – naturally, though, there would first have to be some interest from Leeds United.

But why would there not be interest? Already, Erling is being spoken of as “better than his dad”, who, we will recall, was no mean player himself. What we have here is a situation begging for the only natural outcome, which would be the boy Haaland signing for his dad’s old club Leeds. Especially as Erling is such a fan. It’s the perfect match.

Come on, Mr Radrizzani – let’s get the lad signed and snatch him from the dark forces gathering around him. You know it makes sense.

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.

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.