Tag Archives: Manchester City

Leeds United Boosted by Hat-Trick of Victories and a New Hero   –   by Rob Atkinson

Chris Wood, much-maligned goal machine


The phenomenon of three wins on the bounce for Leeds United is not simply a welcome change for long-suffering Whites fans – it’s more like something approaching a state of nirvana. Free from the worries and stresses accompanying defeat after defeat, the average Elland Road regular can relax for once, spared the jibes of a hostile media and annoyingly gloating fans of lesser clubs. Three straight wins – it’s as near to bliss as we’re likely to get right now.

Of course, it can’t be denied that this minor miracle has been achieved without the pulling-up of too many trees. Our victory at Cardiff dumped the Bluebirds unceremoniously at the foot of the table, and the other two victories – one in the league, one in the EFL Cup, were narrow affairs against another club struggling in the Championship’s basement, Blackburn Rovers. So it might not be much to write home about, although I’m clearly intending to get a blog out of it. Still – three wins is three wins, and it might just turn out to be a platform for better things to come. A victory against Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Tractor Boys on Saturday, and we really would be on a roll.

The most notable factor in the trio of triumphs over the past week or so may well be the emergence of Swedish international centre back Pontus Jansson as the next Whites folk hero. Jansson’s performance at Cardiff was simply sublime; I’ve not seen a better defensive debut in many a moon. He’s the sort of colossus who you feel would head away anything fired at him, up to and including an intercontinental ballistic missile. And when he wasn’t wielding that impressive head, he was sliding into last ditch tackles or nipping in to make handy interceptions from frustrated Cardiff attackers. Wherever the ball entered our danger zone, there was Pontus to deal with it. The man was a revelation, a magnet for the ball, a man among men and one to hang on to if at all possible. Whoever the resident defenders are at Torino, his parent club, they must be a bit good to allow for the release of Jansson on a season’s loan. The Italians’ loss will, hopefully, be Leeds United’s gain.

Among other high points from the last few games was that Pablo Hernandez “worldy” strike to clinch the points at Cardiff. If he can start to put in more of a full shift, the ex-Swansea playmaker should be a real asset for United as the season goes on. And it’s good, also, to see Chris Wood scoring regularly. His winner against Blackburn in the EFL Cup was not a thing of beauty but, like Wood himself, it got the job done. And the boy takes a good, decisive penalty, putting them away hard and true with admirable cool as he did to open the scoring against our former nemesis Cardiff. Wood may have his detractors, but he’s undeniably effective.

Last, but not least, it’s lovely to see United make progress in a Cup. Norwich City are next up in a game at Elland Road that could see Leeds make a rare Quarter Final, and then – who knows? Maybe a big fish at home, like Manchester City, if they can overcome their own local minnows.

Now, that WOULD be bliss!

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Leeds, Liverpool Fans: Demand New Contract for Man Utd Hero van Gaal   –   by Rob Atkinson

 
Times are hard for Man United and their beleaguered Dutch genius of a manager Louis van Gaal. Following their latest defeat, at old rivals Liverpool, rumours persist that the axe is poised to terminate the former Holland coach’s tenure at Old Trafford. This would be a tragic turn of events for fans of some of England’s premier clubs, who are united in their conviction that Louis van Gaal is doing a fantastic job at Manchester United.

Fans of some of the country’s foremost clubs, as well as Newcastle United, West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur, have been invited to sign and share a petition calling upon Malcolm Glazer, the Man U CEO, to recognise the folly of a managerial change at this point, and immediately award van Gaal a new and improved five year contract, during in which he would hopefully be able to see through the job he’s started so promisingly to a conclusion that most football fans would wholeheartedly welcome. 

Fans of Liverpool, Manchester City, Leeds United and Arsenal, among others, are invited to sign and share the Change.org petition in support of van Gaal’s retention with the Premier League also-rans.

We at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything are so impressed with the job van Gaal is doing, that we have no hesitation in endorsing this petition. We would urge our readers to sign it at once and share it as widely as possible. 

For the good of the game and the contentment of millions of people outside of Devon, Cornwall and the Home Counties, the success of this campaign is vital. 

Louis van Gaal must stay at Man U!

Six Years Ago Today: “Cup Minnows” Jibe Returns to Haunt Man U – by Rob Atkinson

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Jermaine scores at the Beckford End

As a result of the famous encounter between Man U and Leeds United in the FA Cup 3rd round of 2010, the Pride of Devon famously won yet another honour when a national newspaper awarded their incautious webmaster the “BIGGEST HOISTING BY YOUR OWN PETARD” accolade. When Man U drew Leeds or Kettering in the FA Cup third round, their official website’s headline was: ‘United To Face Cup Minnows’ – a banner that could just possibly have referred to Kettering, who still faced a second round replay at Elland Road. The sly intent of a dig at Leeds United escaped nobody though and, unlikely as it seemed that the United of Elland Road could pull off a shock at the Theatre of Hollow Myths, there must have been one or two wiser heads who were groaning at the sight of such crass bumptiousness – and wondering how anyone could possibly wish to tempt fate so. As we all know, the events of that day resulted in an almighty shock, joy for the fans of the Damned United and the renaming of one end of the Man U ground as “The Beckford End”.

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Not what she’d been led to expect of “minnows”

Such unwise overconfidence had been seen before in the name of Britain’s least modest and unassuming club. Back in 1992, one of the many commercial outlets which swarm around the Salford-based franchise like flies around steaming ordure, were guilty of a comparably embarrassing cock up. Tasteful sets of lovingly crafted Man U candles, unsuitably inscribed with the legend “Football League Champions 1992″ were offered for sale at an enticing price with the confident slogan “To commemorate our forthcoming title success”. Sadly for the manufacturers, demand turned out to be low for these attractive souvenirs, due to the fact that Leeds United had the poor taste to win the league by four clear points. There is a warehouse somewhere in a dingy area of a dingy city that houses these unwanted reminders of failure, along with “Champions” t-shirts, flags, banners and other associated Man U tat that was at least twelve months ahead of its time. The overweening desire to win the last proper League Championship was evidently far too strong for mere considerations of caution, humility and wisdom to stand much of a chance, and so it was that Man U chalked up yet another example of chickens being counted before the formality of hatching was complete.

A picture also exists of a humble functionary hastily dismantling a Man U “Champions 2012” banner, which had become abruptly redundant when Sergio Aguero scored in the dying moments of Man City v QPR to clinch the title for City and leave the Devon and Home Counties half of Manchester crying into their prawn butties.  The tendency towards the assumption of success before it’s actually been earned appears to be a recurrent problem at The Greatest Football Club In The World™ (Copyright © Most of the Gutter Press Including BSkyB). Most football fans would find this sort of thing humiliating enough to make their teeth curl up and die, but the Man U bunch are curiously insensitive to such feelings, buffered as they are by relentless “Biggest and Best” propaganda to perpetuate their comfy if mythical self-image. The odd cold dash of reality is never quite enough to quell this methane-fuelled flame of hype and self-aggrandisement so, apart from the odd uncomfortable wriggle in armchairs all over the south of England, Man U fans continue quite happily in their own little pink fog of Freudian delusion.

The flip side of this excruciating coin, though, is the fierce, intense joy and satisfaction of a pompous bubble satisfyingly burst for the fans of whichever club is on the other half of the equation. In the examples quoted above, Leeds (twice) and Man City have found the joy of achievement considerably enhanced by the fact that the complacent hordes of glory-hunters had clearly expected victory to come about as of right. This is an exquisite refinement of Schadenfreude – the pleasure of achievement by virtue of bursting a despised rival’s over-inflated balloon is sweet indeed.  The fact is as well, it’s not just the fans of this ridiculous club just outside Manchester who assume success will be theirs – the moguls of the media are right in there as well, wanting and expecting. The shattered expressions of Elton Welsby and Denis Law, after Leeds won that title in 1992, told their own story. The cameras lingered mournfully on the shocked faces of Phil Jones and S’ralex Ferguson at the Stadium of Light in 2012. There was a distinct lack of the enthusiasm you might expect of news-hungry hacks, in the wake of the defeat of the champions by a third division club in the FA Cup in 2010. The media have their markets to think of; replica shirts, newspapers and satellite dishes must be sold in Devon and Cornwall, Milton Keynes and Kent.n These not-so-impartial hacks really want Man U to win, and their confusion and misery in the event of a shock is just bloody wonderful to behold.

To be the agents who have brought about misery of this order – for such wholly unattractive and unadmirable institutions – is to know a defiant and glorious joy of virtuous achievement. In the long run, largely due to off-field pressures, Man U will win trophies and the assembled lapdogs in the press will yap their hymns of praise and ram the whole charade down the throats of the rest of us. But every now and then, it all goes wrong for the anointed favourites – and then there are good times for all right-thinking people, the ones who want to see a more level playing field and some even-handed competition as we used to have it. Leeds United drew that era to a close by becoming the Last Real Champions, but there have been the occasional reminders of it even during the Murdoch Man U dynasty, when the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, City and – yes, Leeds United too, have stood up to be counted and have given the establishment club a bloody nose. It’s times like those that keep the old spirit of the great old game feebly flickering away, that stop it sputtering out altogether. Long may these rays of light continue to shine through the boring gloom and procession of the modern game.

Howard Wilkinson, Sergio Aguero, Jermaine Beckford, Arsene Wenger, Simon Grayson – and all the other heroes – we salute you.

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Sergeant Wilko – last English Champion, Last Real Champion

Sam Byram Presented With Bewildering Choice of Relegation Battles – by Rob Atkinson

Byram - spoilt for choice?

Byram – spoilt for choice?

For a young man still learning his trade after graduating from one of football’s finest academy setups at Leeds United, hot prospect Sam Byram now looks to have a tempting choice in front of him; he could be fighting relegation with either Sunderland or West Ham United this coming season.

Of course it might also be that Byram will prefer to continue his development at Elland Road, where great changes are afoot with a new head coach promising fast, aggressive, attacking football. This is surely just the kind of menu to have a pacy young wing-back, effective all the way up and down the right flank, licking his lips and champing at the bit – if I may be permitted to mix my metaphors. But the lure of the Premier League has seen United shorn of many a promising young talent before; our Sam would be in illustrious company if he decided his future would be best spent elsewhere.

This blog’s opinion, for what it is worth, is that any deal for Byram should be sanctioned only if the benefits to the club are absolutely irresistible. From that point of view, the rumours suggesting that Sunderland might be prepared to offer their richly-talented forward Connor Wickham and a cash adjustment not unadjacent to £6 million would have any discerning Leeds fan urging the club to snatch the Mackems’ hands off. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything has given its opinion on a couple of previous occasions that a nominal right-back (albeit with attacking ability) as sumptuously talented as Byram is a distinct luxury in the Championship. A player like Wickham and a cool six mill besides would provide a wealth of options in terms of building a team that could challenge at the top end of this league. If Sunderland are that keen to capture Byram, then it’d be extremely tempting to roll out the welcome carpet when they come a-calling – and make sure they get the worse of any bargain. This is something that Massimo Cellino notably has form for, with last season’s brutal mugging of Fulham over Ross McCormack being the obvious example of seeing coming a club with more cash than sense.

From Byram’s point of view, though, it’s hard to accept that he couldn’t do better than clubs likely to be scrapping away at the foot of the Premier League. Names of much greater pedigree than Sunderland or the Hammers have also been whispered as possible destinations – Liverpool, maybe, or even Manchester City. Again, Cellino would be expected to drive a hard bargain, if Byram were to be winkled out of our clutches – and at least we’d have the admittedly dubious satisfaction of seeing yet another Leeds old boy strutting his stuff at the top end of the top league.

It’s always difficult, contemplating the loss of a home-grown star – thankfully, there is no sign of the supply drying up, and this is likely to have to provide one of our club’s main income streams until that glorious time rolls around when we, too, dine at the top table in the swanky restaurant that is the Premier League. Things will be different then – or so we must hope. Leeds would be looking to storm the top flight for the third successive time, following promotion in the early sixties and late eighties and the subsequent swaggering domination of the game enjoyed by those two great sides.

Whether it’s feasible to expect a hat-trick of such achievements must be open to the gravest doubt, given the radically different landscape of football now as opposed to then. But it’s in the nature of Leeds to gatecrash cosy, elitist parties and make their presence felt. Those previous two promotion outfits have surely written that into the club’s DNA – and now, as then, we have the same promising knack of producing our own, sparkling talent.

Perhaps Sam Byram will be leaving this summer – or perhaps he will pen a new deal and stay. Either way, whatever happens has to be for the good of the club, and in the longer term at that – no short-sighted squinting at the immediate future should get in the way of a focus on lofty ambitions beyond the next season or two. This blog hopes that the lad will stay, but is philosophically accepting of the possibility that he might well be seduced away.

And, whatever his destination, surely Leeds fans will wish him all the best – especially if any deal done helps United lay the foundation for a brighter future. That, much more than the future of any individual player, is what matters above all to anyone with the interests of Leeds United at heart. 

Sticks and Stones? Leeds Fans Pay Dearly for Salerno’s Hurt Feelings – by Rob Atkinson

Nicola Salerno - a delicate little flower

Nicola Salerno – a delicate little flower

Without wanting to get over-simplistic about this, the facts are as follows. Steve Thompson, the assistant coach that boss Neil Redfearn so wanted at Leeds, a man he head-hunted from Huddersfield Town, was suspended and told his contract would not be renewed – sacked, in effect – apparently for being heard using a derogatory word or two about United’s then Sporting Director Nicola Salerno. Since then, Leeds – who had been doing reasonably well – have lost four games on the trot, with morale seemingly having plummeted across the whole spectrum of fans, players and staff. Right up to that lonely, newly-isolated, probably doomed figure at the top of the football part of the club, the man who carries the can for mistakes made above even his head, Redders himself.

The main question over Redders’ future now would appear to be: will he jump, or wait to be pushed? To say that there are mixed messages coming out of the United hierarchy, higher up than humble Head Coach level, would be a masterpiece of understatement. Massimo Cellino was going to stay away, then we hear he’s coming back. Salerno, having suspended Thompson for hurting his poor, delicate feelings, seems to have ended his association with Leeds since. Thompson remains suspended, Redfearn remains frustrated, isolated, powerless – so it seems – to do the job he desperately wants to do.

You might say it’s a mess – but, again, you’d be accused of putting an unrealistic gloss on the situation. It’s much worse than a mess. It’s a farce, a pantomime, a badly-written black comedy. Doomed Blackpool, with their rapist part-owner and their long-inevitable relegation, might almost look at Leeds and say to themselves – well, we weren’t the only chaotic club in this league, were we? Cellino now faces further court dates over the immediate future – a time when any proper owner might be looking at his club and wondering how such an abysmally disappointing season could be improved upon next time around.

Cellino has to accept responsibility, even in absentia, for the way the club is being – for want of a more descriptive word – run. The men making the decisions on the ground are presumably there because Cellino wanted them there. Events are not bearing out the wisdom of many of those decisions, and the Thompson fiasco is a case in point. As one glum social media user tweeted, we were rubbish, then Thompson came and we did OK – then he’s sacked and we’re rubbish again. It’s not rocket science.

Leeds United and its fans deserve far better than this. Alright, no-one should be unsackable, and insubordination is not a matter to be taken lightly. But there are degrees of appropriate response – and if a vital member of the back-room staff has been removed simply because one incautious remark caused some offence in one over-sensitive director – then the fallout from that decision is utterly disproportionate to the seriousness of such a relatively innocuous situation. Four games since then, little fight, chaotic organisation on the pitch and off, no points, decimated morale – all because of one man’s hurt feelings. If that’s the way to run a football club, then I’m a bloody Tory.

The sooner this bunch of clowns do the right thing and sell their interest in our club to someone better able to run the place – i.e. almost anyone – the better for everybody, maybe even the clowns themselves, not that I care a slice of pizza for them. There is far too much of a feeling that certain individuals think themselves bigger than the club – and that can never be true. If Salerno has gone, then we have one less of those individuals and that’s a step in the right direction – but then, why not get Thompson back? If he’d be willing to come back, that is.

Now, the rest of them, the rest of those clueless idiots in the boardroom, should get out. Because Leeds United fans – even those of us who were prepared to give this regime a chance at the outset – have had enough. Much more than enough. Yet again, it’s time for change; this time we have to get it right. Leeds United is a global name; when you look at what has been achieved at relatively small and unknown (with all due respect) clubs such as Southampton and Swansea City – surely, then, the potential at Leeds is huge and realisable.

Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany feels that the so-called Financial Fair Play rules will mitigate against the likes of Leeds and Forest ever being successful again. I’m not so sure about that. David Batty on the other hand speaks optimistically, stating that we’ll be back towards the top soon. I’m not too sure about that either. But somewhere in between is a level we can still hit – and yet, the way things are now, we’re a million miles away even from that.

As a wise man once said, a journey of a million miles starts with a single step, but all our steps right now appear to be backward ones – it’s very tempting to talk here about the proverbial Italian tank with no forward and fifteen reverse gears. And yet, really, it would be misleading to talk about cowardice – it’s not even as forgiveable as that. It’s incompetence we’re seeing, indulgence of ego against the interests of the greater good. That’s what’s so hard to forgive.

It hasn’t worked, this Italian experiment. With the League dead set against Cellino, it’s highly unlikely it can ever work. Let’s all just acknowledge that, all of us – the owners too. Cut your losses, sell up, bugger off.

We’re Leeds United – and we’ve got a future to carve for ourselves, somewhere a lot higher up the game than the humiliating rut you’ve got us stuck in right now. Just go. In the name of God – GO.

 

How Premier League CEO Scudamore Blew the Gaff on Man Utd Bias – by Rob Atkinson

Pet lip:  Premier League CEO Scudamore misses those Man U days of success

Pet lip: Premier League CEO Scudamore misses those Man U days of success

As a Leeds United fanatic, a card-carrying cynic and someone with no faith in the football authorities these days to run a fair and disinterested league competition, I have written many times on this blog about my belief that the Man U domination of the game in this country after 1993 (the FA Premier League début season) was deeply suspicious. The last season or so’s steep decline, with a squad not at first markedly different to the one that romped home in Taggart’s final season, begs the question: what’s really different? It has appeared ever since The Demented One left that the change of stewardship is behind this relative failure. But was Alex Ferguson the sole factor in the unprecedented success enjoyed by the Pride of Devon over the last two decades?

These days, following a series of revealing comments over the past year or so from people who should know whereof they speak, it appears that at least a couple of other factors have been at play throughout that twenty year period. I have said over and over again in Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, that the Fergie years have been trophy-laden for three well-defined reasons, none of them all that adjacent to the quality of their playing squad. They may be summed up as: Ferguson, match officials and the rulers of the game itself. These three influences conspired over two decades to exaggerate the success of Man U out of all proportion to the abilities of their playing and coaching staff in that period, many of whom have gone on to enjoy sustained mediocrity elsewhere. Add into the mix the drip, drip, drip effect of blind, unquestioning media adulation, spearheaded by Murdoch’s Sky empire and endorsed by lapdog attitudes from the terrestrial broadcasters who know which side the commercial bread is buttered, and you have what is technically known as a “Scum-friendly environment”.

This may to the unwary sound like just another conspiracy theory.  But you only have to look at the unprecedented before and after picture of Man U’s record pre-Murdoch as compared to their success under Uncle Rupert. After all, we’re talking an almost total domination of the Premier League era here, by a club that – for the 26 years immediately preceding the league reorganisation – couldn’t buy a title. Seven times Champions in their whole history prior to 1993, and then thirteen Premier League titles in the first twenty years after Rupert Murdoch bought the game.

That’s such a sharp delineation between failure and success – it’s not coincidental that the demarcation line is the inception of the Premier League, the changing of football in this country from a sport to a brand – and the new understanding that the game was now about markets and money to a much greater extent than it had ever been before. Man U were the new brand leader, and they had better succeed – or the Premier League product might not fulfil its immense potential for dominating the world in terms of TV audiences, syndication and merchandising. And that would never do. So the game leant the way of the Man U scum – as we at Leeds United fondly refer to them – and the pressure applied by Ferguson to match officials was allowed to take effect. Professional sport is a matter of extremely fine margins; a slight bias over a long period will skew outcomes to a massive degree – and that’s exactly what has happened.

Naturally, none of this has ever been acknowledged. It’s been of paramount importance, after all, that the Premier League should at least retain the appearance of being a fair competition, on the proverbial level playing field. But now – Ferguson has gone, Man U are failing, the referees are not by any means as intimidated, opposing teams are not scared any more; not, as they used to be, beaten before they took the field. And now people are speaking out, very revealingly – and in some cases that is clearly intentional, in other cases less so. Ex-referee Graham Poll is one who has made his views known quite deliberately; he has spoken out about the feelings of a ref in the Fergie years, how the priority was to get off the field without having made any close calls against Man U – and, ideally, with them having won the game. What is the cumulative effect of that kind of insidious pressure over twenty years? Self-evidently, it’s significant; look at the trophy records, the penalty for and against statistics, the time added on if Man U weren’t winning – and so on and so forth.

Poll has also written about the unprecedented scenes when three penalties were given against Man U in a home game against old rivals Liverpool. Even though things have changed in terms of the favourable decisions enjoyed by Man U, these were the first penalties awarded against Man U as the home team since December 2011 – well over two years without conceding a home league penalty. Poll’s observations on that make for interesting reading for anyone who, as I do, strongly suspects that Man U had it easy from match officials in the Fergie years.

And then, to put the tin lid on it, we had Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore sounding off, in earnestly worried tones, about how the Premier League “brand” is being adversely affected by the difficulties Man U were having last season (happily, it’s carried on in pretty much the same vein this time around). It’s difficult to believe that he was quite aware of the import of what he was saying – this was a tacit admission, after all, that the supposedly disinterested rulers of the game actually have a vested interest – as I’ve been saying long and loud – in the regular success of Man U. “It’s a double-edged sword,” said Scudamore, at the time. “When your most popular club isn’t doing as well, that costs you interest and audience in some places.” The hapless Peter doesn’t identify the other edge of that sword, but he’s clearly perturbed by the prospect of a future with Man U as the also-rans they’ve been this last two campaigns.

Speaking in greater depth about the ethos of the Premier League, as well as its duty to fans around the world, Scudamore went on: “There are lots of fans around the world who wish Manchester United were winning it again. But you have to balance that off against, generally, we’re in the business of putting on a competition and competition means people can compete.” The wistful tone of that last sentence was massively telling. Other clubs will insist on competing, particularly now that Ferguson is history. How very inconvenient and bad for business. What a deuced bore.

The FA Premier League mandarins at a high level clearly see even competition, where any old Tom, Dick or Manuel (or even Jose) can win the League, as their cross to bear, something that will inhibit their ability to market their “brand” around a global audience in thrall to Man U. But they have made a rod for their own back in allowing the creation of that trophy-winning monster, under the inimical sway of a tyrant from Govan, to become so all-consuming in the first place. Now they’re reaping what they have sown – in pumping up the bubble of unrealistic success for one favoured club, they have left themselves without a Plan B for when that bubble bursts – as bubbles inevitably will.

For real football people – the fans out here, the people who have always gone along to the match, with little if any thought of global markets and syndication deals – this new reality of genuine competition has come as a breath of fresh air. There’s a new top four out there, of varied make-up which usually excludes Man U, and they’ve all played wonderful football and succeeded on their own merits.

We’ve also seen less of the media-beloved “mind games” which are so tiresome to the fan in the street. We’ve not missed that old curmudgeon, railing at authority whenever he gets any less than his own way and intimidating anybody who gets in his way. Football seems fresh and new again; Man U were seventh last time – which is probably about where they should have finished the season before. The first twenty years of the Premier League can be seen as a statistical blip, the product of a tyrant dominating and bullying the people charged with the responsibility to see that the game is run fairly. The evidence is there; listen to Poll, listen to what Scudamore is actually saying. Look at the results and standings this season and last.

We’re so very sorry, Mr Scudamore, if your product and your brand are suffering from the failure of “your most popular club”. Perhaps you should take the view that popularity is there to be earned by whichever club can succeed on merit? That it’s not something to be inculcated by the favourable treatment of one chosen club, amounting to institutional bias over twenty long years. Perhaps you can learn that – and then all we will have to regret is the two decades when, aided by Ferguson and a terrified cadre of referees and officials, you – blatantly and with malice aforethought – sold the game down the river.

Gary Neville asks Manchester City fan Noel Gallagher to sign guitar, ends up defaced

Gary Neville got sort of what he asked for – but really more than he bargained for – when he asked City fan Noel Gallagher to sign his guitar. Wherever your sympathies might lie – it was rather a dumb thing to ask for, wasn’t it??

As a Leeds fan and self-confessed Neville-hater, I confess to a juvenile level of snortling amusement.

Metro

G Nev and Gallagher Gary Neville (left) had his guitar defaced by Noel Gallagher (right) (Pictures: Getty/GC Images)

Gary Neville may well be regretting his decision to ask Manchester City fan Noel Gallagher to sign his guitar – after he ended up defacing the Manchester United legend’s musical instrument.

Neville uploaded photos of his guitar to his Twitter account on Sunday to show just how the former Oasis lead guitarist had left his mark on the instrument.

Gallagher had not only written ‘M.C.F.C’ across one side of the guitar, but he had also left a note on the other side in which he claimed that Neville never deserved to win any caps for England during his career.

Ouch!

[metro-link url=”http://metro.co.uk/2014/11/09/yaya-toure-phones-up-five-year-old-girl-to-say-sorry-for-hitting-her-with-wayward-ball-during-qpr-draw-4941052/” title=”Yaya Toure phones up five-year-old girl to say sorry for hitting her with wayward ball during QPR draw”]

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EXCLUSIVE: New Toure Contract as City Say “Sorry, Yaya” – by Rob Atkinson

Touré in an incredible sulk

Touré in an incredible sulk

Desperate to deflect attention from talk of a sensational move for Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Touré from Manchester City to Leeds United, the English champions have taken the unprecedented step of revealing proposed contract details to Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything”.

In a move calculated to appease their traumatised star, Manchester City have drawn up a new contract for Yaya Touré. The midfield powerhouse had been “hurt” by the club’s failure to say “Happy Birthday” as he celebrated that milestone 31st year. Touré, it is said, was grievously offended by the lack of respect, cake and a bouncy castle to mark such an important anniversary.

Anxious to placate their iconic superstar the Champions have moved fast to put together a new package which should keep Touré at the Etihad until he grows up. Despite hints from the player’s agent, Dimitri “Meerkat” Seluk, that his client might pout, cry and storm out of City, slamming the door, the club itself is guardedly optimistic that the new deal will be a tantrum-breaker.

The details of the proposed 4 year agreement are as follows:

  • £350,000 a week basic salary plus bonuses and a sweets allowance
  • Staff and players to line up before training and applaud Yaya every morning as he dons his personal training bib
  • Yaya to be wished a very happy birthday by all club employees by 8am on the morning of next and subsequent birthdays for term of contract – cake to be agreed year on year
  • Jelly and ice cream to be provided by club on Yaya’s birthday.  And balloons
  • Special Christmas “Santa” Clause:  Christmas will be marked by a special, gift-packed Christmas Stocking, to be left on the foot of his bed while he’s asleep by the manager dressed in a blue Father Xmas outfit. Christmas presents to be left under Yaya’s personal Christmas Tree at the Etihad, and staff will gather to watch him open them.  Christmas dinner will be turkey dinosaurs
  • Yaya will train as and when he sees fit, for which consideration he agrees not to have a tantrum or flounce out.  Training can be missed on any given morning upon receipt of a note from his mum

The new contract will remain on the table for the time being, as Yaya is off out to play with his mates in Brazil.  In the period before the contract is signed, all parties accept that Yaya will continue his present sulk, and that he will be pampered and cajoled as required until he is ready to be a good boy and sign on the dotted line.

Yaya Touré is 31 years and one week old.

 

Leeds Title Retrospective: Villa & Hammers Could Still Make Liverpool Champions – by Rob Atkinson

The Last Champions

The Last Champions

The more years that pass since Leeds United’s 1992 title success, making them the Last Champions – it’s 22 years now – the more the myth is perpetuated by the Man U-friendly media that it was the collapse under pressure of the Pride of Devon that year which denied them the ultimate accolade.  In short – and as echoed in Alex Ferguson’s bile-ridden summary of the season – Leeds United didn’t win the League – Man U lost it.

There had been a lot of talk throughout that last season of pre-Murdoch football about how “fitting” it would be for Man U to at last end up as top dogs after 25 years of hurt (or amusement, depending on your point of view).  There was nauseating speculation about the date that the title would finally “come home to OT”.  Somewhere in Greater Manchester, there is, in all likelihood, a warehouse which still contains souvenir candles, t-shirts and sundry other tawdry tat, prematurely commemorating the 1992 Championship success that never happened for Ferguson’s nearly men. There was a fair degree of confidence in the air, as you can see.

In the end, it wasn’t fitting – because Man U weren’t good enough and Leeds claimed a deserved honour.  The Whites finished top by four clear points, having won most games and lost fewest.  They scored the second-highest number of goals and conceded the second fewest to end up with the best goal difference overall.  Any way you care to look at it, Leeds were worthy champions – but that doesn’t stop the media and others from pushing the “unlucky Man U” myth. And the fact is, as well – the winning margin for the Champions could – and should – have been far greater.

Setting aside the well-remembered banana skins that Leeds contrived to skid wildly on away from home as the season got to its final act – those thrashings at Man City and QPR and a pallid defeat at Oldham – Leeds also managed to let slip four seemingly-vital points at fortress Elland Road, to mar an otherwise unstoppable progress in their home campaign.  In the last eight home games, Leeds won six and drew two.  The only teams to escape from LS11 with anything at all were Aston Villa and West Ham – coincidentally the two clubs Liverpool are now relying upon to upset the Manchester City apple-cart, and deliver a long-overdue title to Anfield.

Those two 0-0 draws at Elland Road served, at the time, to increase the conviction that we were destined to fall short at the end of the season. They were games of missed opportunities, including a rare missed penalty by the normally infallible Gordon Strachan – and those four dropped home points could well have been fatal in the final reckoning.  But as things turned out, the two agonising draws served only to limit the final margin of success, proving that then, as now, it was impossible to call correctly the twists and turns of a title head-to-head.

In the end, it was Man U that bottled it – as Liverpool appear to have done at home to Chelsea and at Crystal Palace – and it was Leeds United who finally held their nerve to close the season out with a series of coldly nerveless performances, culminating in that crazy, decisive match at Sheffield United.

Now, in the moment of Liverpool’s blackest despair, it is those two claret-and-blue clubs which hold the key to the Reds’ remaining shreds of hope. Manchester City have to face the challenge of obtaining four points from the two home games left to them, and thereby clinch a title that was Liverpool’s to lose until these last couple of weeks.

City may well be without their talisman Aguero, but of course they have a squad packed with quality even without the quicksilver Argentinian.  But in his absence, City always seem that bit more more ponderous in attack, that few percentage points less lethal than when he is in there and performing at his best.

Neither Villa nor West Ham have anything to play for other than pride; nor indeed do they have anything to fear.  They may well set out to frustrate the home team in these two Etihad encounters – and in both games, the longer it remains goalless, the more Manchester City would become nervous and doubtful.  The fans would sit there, getting edgy – thinking “typical City”. It’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible.

Liverpool, ultimately, will have only themselves to blame if they do end up missing out on what was a golden chance to be Champions again – after so long a time without that once perennial accolade.  The defence has not been good enough and there has been, at times, an unforgivable naivety of approach made worse by shattering individual errors.  A draw was good enough at home to Chelsea, but it was thrown away.  A 3-0 win at Palace would have put the pressure on Man City – but a gung-ho quest for even more goals opened the back door, and the Pulis-inspired Palace nipped in three times to deny the Reds that victory.

It would take a heart of stone not to feel regret and sympathy for the sobbing, devastated double Player of the Year Suarez; he deserves far better from what has been a magical season for him.  And Gerrard, too, deserves more than he looks likely to get.  The list of mediocre players with Premier League medals is a long one, the list of greats who lack one is somewhat shorter.  The injustice of that will not be lost on Gerrard, a player whose fierce desire to be the best has been etched in every line of his being lately; but who is likely, in a vicious twist of fate, to be the man who carries the can for Liverpool pulling up short of the line.

All these players and their team-mates can do now, is wait – and hope.  If Aston Villa – notorious for blowing hot and cold this season – can turn it on at City and claim a highly unlikely win, then the Reds’ fate would be back in their own hands come Sunday.  They would be one home victory over Newcastle from recapturing the Holy Grail; given that vastly improbable last chance, you sense they would not squander it at any price.

Now that Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has played his last card in the game of raising the pressure stakes, by publicly conceding the title, City will be as well aware as anyone that a banana skin awaits them on Wednesday, with another beyond that on Sunday.  They’re the same two home-ground banana skins that Leeds United so nearly slipped up on all those years ago in 1992. Can Villa and the Hammers throw a spanner in the works for real this time?  

Will Everton Make a Title Gift to Liverpool? – by Rob Atkinson

Chelsea’s immaculate win at Anfield sees them hang on in the Premier League title race but, in truth, it’s of more real use to Manchester City than it is to themselves – despite another touchline scamper of triumph from The Poorly One, Jose Mourinho.

Though City won at Palace today, they will still need to get a result at Everton, who are themselves clinging on to receding hopes of Champions League qualification. This is assuming, of course, that Liverpool can now win their last two matches of the season.

It may very well be that, if Everton can deny City at Goodison, they will have gift-wrapped a 19th top division title for their deadly local rivals. How that would go down in the Blue half of Merseyside is anyone’s guess.

I’d still back Liverpool – and I’m sure that if they do need a massive favour from the Blues – then the Reds will be suitably grateful.