Tag Archives: Manchester United F.C.

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.

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Cantona Kung Fu Anniversary Evokes Memories of Eric’s English Bow – by Rob Atkinson

Look back in anger: Eric enters the fray

Look back in anger: Eric enters the fray

One notable landmark this weekend was the 20th anniversary, yesterday, of Eric Cantona’s infamous kung-fu kick at Selhurst Park – the original and definitive case, it has been said, of the shit hitting the fan. It took me straight back, not to that martial arts debacle, but over two years earlier to February 8th, 1992 and a Leeds United match I’d attended in the hopes of seeing us make another stride towards becoming champions of England. The venue was Boundary Park, Oldham and the occasion was the day that enfant terrible Cantona made his bow in Football League, Division One. 

It was a day of significance for Leeds United and, in a broader sense, for English football as a whole.  Cantona would shine briefly and fitfully at Leeds, winning an authentic League Championship medal with United before going on to collect several pale imitations on the wrong side of the Pennines.  But on that day of his début, all of the triumphs and controversies of his English career lay unsuspected in the future.  Despite the clamorous press attention – and the spectacle of the excited French hacks and cameramen clustering around the United bench was highly unusual, to say the least – this was an inauspicious start for the mercurial Frenchman. Leeds lost 2-0 to a goal in each half from an Oldham side that usually gave us problems. We witnessed proceedings glumly from the open end behind the goal and Cantona’s introduction as a second-half sub for Steve Hodge did not greatly influence the scrappy nature of the game.

Eric the Champ

Eric the Champ

It says a lot that one of my clearest memories from that game is not of Eric’s bow, but of a lethally noisome fart released by somebody in the tightly-packed mass of Leeds fans. It was a minor masterpiece, rank and ripe – it made you think of condemned cheese stacked in a neglected pig-pen, and it also had you sincerely worrying for the perpetrator’s health. “Christ, fetch the medics!” a plaintive voice was heard to demand, drawing nods of sympathy from fellow sufferers whose eyes were watering as their nostrils tried to run away. To cause that kind of stench on an open terrace in blustery Lancastrian conditions was a notable feat. No slouch in that field of endeavour myself, I could only shake my head in awe and wonderment. I would have been rightly proud of that one.

That Cantona’s entry into English football should be marked by the memory of a fart seems somehow appropriate now. Mention his name to any Leeds fan, and their nose will wrinkle with involuntary disgust; it’s as if the ghost of that legendary flatulent outburst is still summoned by the memory of Eric’s bitter-sweet time with Leeds.

Eric was not, after all, a taste instantly acquired. Thinking back, the English press were not initially that impressed at all. They would refer to him as “Contonaah”, emphasising his relative obscurity outside of France, and I remember one radio summariser reporting on his contribution in a 1-1 draw at Everton: “He doesn’t seem to jump his height or pull his weight,” he mused, blissfully ignorant that he was referring to a man who was but one cut-price transfer away from becoming a press hack’s icon, compulsorily revered. But he was well on his way already to cult status at Elland Road – when he abruptly departed in the most horrific circumstances imaginable.

That infamous transfer has been done to death as various hacks linger lovingly over alleged details of phone calls between Elland Road and the Theatre of Hollow Myths. My own take on it is that Eric and the Pride of Devon were made for each other, but not in a particularly good way.  They naturally set about “imagifying” him as is always their wont, intent on marketing him to their credulous and glory-hungry fans as “moody and magnifique“. So we got the trademark stubble and the turned-up collar – but Eric’s behaviour also changed, markedly for the worse, accumulating a flurry of red and yellow cards in stark contrast to his time with Leeds – and culminating in that notorious “kung-fu” incident.  But even that wasn’t the worst of it, not from a Leeds United point of view.

Whilst I acknowledge the Man U truism that club and player had matching conceit and arrogance such that they belonged together, I still feel that Leeds let Eric go far too cheaply – a huge and unforgivable mistake.  Man U were desperate for a striker at the time and had done their best to prise David Hirst from Sheffield Wednesday. They’d been prepared to go to £5m for him, and it’s to Wednesday’s credit that they told Taggart where to stick his money. But really, that offer should have set the benchmark; Leeds United should have opened negotiations at £5 million and seen what happened from there. They’d have paid up, or gone elsewhere. Either would have been preferable to what actually happened, for in letting Cantona go to Man U on the cheap, Leeds provided a catalyst for the sickening era of Devonian dominance that followed. That’s a terrible, terrible thing for any club to have on its conscience.

Twenty-three years on, that dominance seems finally to be at an end.  Cantona actually lasted only four years or so in England, departing the scene with some proper silver and plenty of fools’ gold. He has since made a career of sorts in films and adverts, having considerably less impact than United’s other footballer-turned-movie star, Vinnie Jones. It all seems such a terribly long time ago now, and for far too much of the period in between the game was in thrall to a choleric Glaswegian who bullied his way, aided initially by his talismanic Eric le Dieu, to far too much success for the liking of any real football fan. Strange to think, it all started on that blustery and smelly afternoon in Oldham, when we were all innocently wondering if this new foreign star could salvage a point for us, and maybe even help us win the last proper League Championship. At least, in the final analysis of that last pre-Murdoch season, it all came right in the end.

The verdict of history on the Cantona move from Leeds, to what is now seen as his spiritual home, has to be that it was the ultimate betrayal of supporters by their club. Leeds United and the men behind the deal were derelict in their duty towards passionately involved fans, both for sanctioning the move in the first place and for failing to extort a far higher price from a club desperately searching for some devil up front. It was a crass piece of business that showed a want of empathy with fans, a lack of the vision that separates devotees from mere functionaries and businessmen.

A few years later, United refused to sell Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to a rival English club and held out for a six-fold profit in Spanish doubloons into the bargain. That was more like it, surely. Had Leeds United chosen to up the ante when Man U came a-calling at the Champions’ door, it’s doubtful that the path of history would have been altered much, if at all. But at least we might have salvaged some precious self-respect from the whole sorry situation – and we’d have been better-placed to laugh at the beginning of the end that night when Eric sailed studs-first into the crowd. Just imagine – if he’d done that whilst at Leeds…

We Hate Man United, We Hate Tottenham Too – by Rob Atkinson

Unrivalled support

Stand up, if you hate the scum….

I’ve taken a bit of stick lately, through the “Comments” facility of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, for appearing to nurse a degree of hatred towards certain other football clubs – and their supporters.  It’s a serious accusation, so I should make my position clear straight away.

I’m guilty as charged.  Guilty as hell.  Guilty as a weasel in the hen-house.  I do indeed hate, among others, Man U (the scum), Tottenham Hotspur and Galatasaray (Galascum).  It should be emphasised that this is not an exhaustive list.

My reasons are varied, according to the club involved – but those reasons are entirely valid, as far as I’m concerned.  They’re also entirely personal to me.  I don’t invite anyone to correct me over this and I wouldn’t dream of infringing on anyone else’s hatred territory. And, most importantly of all, though I have entered above a plea of guilty, I don’t feel guilty.  Not a bit of it.

Before I go on, let me state this as a guiding principle: there is a place in football for hate

Now, that might seem a rather provocative, not to say controversial statement, in these happy-clappy days when going to the match is supposed to be all about families, and fun.  When oompah bands high up in the stands, are strategically placed so that the newly-gentrified population in the 36 quid seats should not have to hear anything raucous or profane. 

But it’s true, nevertheless.  Football is tribal, football is cathartic, football is where you get to let off some steam after gritting your teeth all week. 

And, for all of that, you need someone to hate.

Hate is a much misunderstood, wrongly demonised word nowadays.  It’s not really to be found in the lexicon of the politically correct.  It sends out the wrong message, don’t you know, and speaks of the extreme edges of emotion and feeling, where those of pallid personalities do not wish to be seen. 

But hate is a real human emotion, and you can’t simply wish, or indeed legislate it away.  Properly expressed, it’s just about the best catalyst for atmosphere at a good old traditional sporting fixture.

The professionals should stay out of it, and get on with the game – it’s not really within their remit to get caught up in the atmosphere a bit of hate generates (although it’s frequently more entertaining than the football when teams DO let the passion affect them).  However, the real arena is in the stands, or on the terraces, as we used to say in happier times. 

Here is where the mutual dislike, felt in extreme measure in some cases, can safely be vented.  Two sets of supporters, bound by a common loathing, hurl insults of glorious vulgarity back and forth, each seeking to outdo the other in a contest outside of the on-field engagement.  The feeling is atavistic, and there’s no actual need for it to spill over into physical confrontation for honour to be satisfied.  The occasion as a whole is enhanced by these pieces of human theatre.

The modern tendency towards crowd interaction being drowned out by super-powerful P.A. systems, pumping out crap music, has detracted from this phenomenon, as have the silly drums and trumpets they call “bands”.  My own beloved Leeds United made an ill-advised decision, quite a few years back now, to promote a “band” – but the masses behind the goal did not approve.  The occasional toot and drumbeat were heard, only to be swiftly squashed by a throaty “Stand uuuup, if you hate the band”, and the experiment died an early and unlamented death.  Rightly so, too.  Bands at football stadia prosper only where the indigenous support lacks the moral fibre to resist such contrived attempts at a “nice” atmosphere.  Sheffield Wednesday is the obvious example.

Sadly, it appears that the good old days of free expression, where a cadre of like-minded fanatics could express their hatred of “that lot from ovver t’hill”, are soon to be behind us for good.  Yet there are still football clubs and fixtures which can conjure up some of the old atmosphere, so deeply do feelings run. 

I’m glad to say that dear old Leeds United is one such club, so pathologically hated by so many other sets of fans, and so willingly disposed to return that sentiment with interest, that our matches against a select group of old enemies roll back the years, and set the blood pumping with an almost-forgotten vigour.  Long may that remain the case – these are the real football clubs, with the real fans, and it’s this unreconstructed minority which is striving to hold back the tide of plastic, family-orientated, artificial bonhomie that so threatens to dull the palate as the 21st century progresses.

It’s not politically correct. It’s frowned upon by the self-appointed guardians of “The Good Of The Game”.  And admittedly, it too often spills over into taboo references, or actual violence, which is never something to be condoned.  But come the day when they finally kill the last wisp of hate-fuelled atmosphere, at the last old dinosaur of a non-modern non-Meccano stadium, they’ll be well on the way to finally reading the last rites over the corpse of the game as we used to know it.

And then – why, I’ll throw in the towel, say my goodbyes to Elland Road, and sulk off to watch Frickley Athletic play those twats from FC Scum of Manchester – confident that there will be enough curmudgeonly old reprobates on both sides who will be happy to spit venom at each other for 90 minutes – just for old times’ sake.

Top 10 Embarrassing Celebrity Manchester United Fans – by Rob Atkinson

As Leeds United fans, we will all know at least one Man U “supporter” who – let’s face it – is a bit of a knob.  You know the sort – they never go to the game, but they drone on and on about “Nitid” to anyone who’s unlucky enough to be trapped in conversation with them.  Most of them can name David Beckham and Eric Cantona, but they’re not too sure about more recent names.  They’ve ALL swallowed the “Biggest Club in the World” myth, all of them.  Hook, line and sinker. They’re pretty dismal individuals. Now, fame and money don’t normally improve a person – so how much worse are the Pride of Devon’s celebrity fans?  I mean, loathe them or hate them, you can’t deny there’s some things their fans are good at, and being utterly dislikeable is right up there. Take a look at these prize specimens, presented here in time-honoured descending order of detestability…

10. Mick Hucknall

There’s a website entitled 1000 People More Annoying Than Mick Hucknall. A whole thousand. That’s not bad, really – out of a world population of seven billion or so – and it shoots him straight to the bottom of this list of horrors.  In truth, Hucknall only just edges in here in 10th place, as he actually has a couple of redeeming features. He’s absolutely from Manchester for a start, which for a Nitid fan means he should probably be stuffed and put on display.  He’s also a Labour Party supporter, which is the next-best thing to being a socialist.  With Mick, it’s probably mainly his support for Man U itself that makes him annoying – apart from those ginger dreadlocks and the silly “slept with 1000 women” nonsense. As a human being, Hucknall is faintly ridiculous – as a Man U fan, he’s just about the best.

9. Steve McFadden

Born in Maida Vale in London, McFadden therefore exemplifies the standard Man U fan demographic. His acting career has been mainly characterised by pretending to be hard, an echo of the qualification condition for membership of the so-called Red Army, a group of 1970’s Man U fans who roved around the country from their southern base, looking for stragglers and scarfers to attack in numbers. When his stint pretending to be hard in Eastenders came to a temporary halt in 2005, McFadden turned to documentaries, mainly surrounding violence, in which he pretended to be hard.  He later returned to Eastenders, and resumed his accustomed role of pretending to be hard.

8. Michael le Vell

Another rare and exotic beast – a Man U fan from the local area, Newton Heath – which was the original name of the Salford club. Michael le Vell has had to endure a tough and humiliating period of his life a while back when, during a court case he was outed as a fan of the Theatre of Hollow Myths outfit. “I have to admit,” said le Vell, “I did find that a lickle bit embarrassing.”  A former winner of “Most Ridiculous Moustache in Soaps” award, le Vell (real name Michael Robert Turner) started his acting career at the Oldham Theatre Workshop. During the 1980’s, he gained a following as a gay icon due to his daft ‘tache and also the skintight jeans which he wore mainly to ensure the high-pitched voice of Mancunian indignation which he used for the majority of his Coronation Street lines.

7. Brian Blessed

Born in Mexborough, South Yorkshire, Blessed is one of that sorry Legion of the Damned, the Man U fan from the God’s Own County, or the Tyke Scummer, as they are sometimes known.

Blessed has made a very successful career in theatre and TV, managing to circumvent the normal requirement for some talent by building upon his childhood discovery that he could shout.  Since then, Blessed has managed to shout his way, aided by an immensely passionate love affair with himself, to public recognition as a loud-mouthed huge person capable of dominating even modern 50″ TV screens simply by filling them.

Blessed lists his chief preoccupations as “Shouting, climbing mountains, shouting, growing a ridiculous beard and voice projection (shouting)”.

6. Zoë Ball

As with many a child before her, Zoë followed the football team her Dad supported as is quite right and proper – most of the time.  In her case, Dad was Kids’ TV guru Johnny Ball, and the team was Liverpool FC. So far, so good.  But as the years went by, and Liverpool’s star fell somewhat – alongside the fact that Man U were in the ascendant –  Zoë realised that being blonde, passably pretty and having a famous Dad wasn’t going to be enough to bring her the media success she craved.  How, then, to enhance her public profile?

And behold, a new Man U fan was born.  Zoë tumbled to the fact that the Pride of Devon were BIG in media circles and she noticed that lifelong Nitid fans were crawling out of the woodwork everywhere.  Joining that degraded crew, she decided, could be good for her career. So it came to pass. Whenever she needed a new job, or to impress some vacuous hack or TV exec, she now had the choice of referring to her famous Dad or to her newly life-long support of Man U. Enough of them were pleased enough with what they heard to give her a leg-up, so to speak, and her career blossomed out of all proportion to her mediocre talents.  It just goes to show – if you want to succeed, Opportunism Knocks.

Dad Johnny remains a Liverpool FC fan.  Whoever hears of him these days??

5. Roger Moore

We’re heading rapidly for the more despicable end of the list now.  Roger Moore is not only notorious as the Worst James Bond Ever, he’s also a prominent supporter of David Cameron’s Conservative Party, a well-known brown-noser of foreign royalty, universally acclaimed as the only man ever to have been comprehensively out-acted by Tony Curtis (in TV’s  The Persuaders!) and worst of all – whisper it softly – a Man U fan.

“I love M.U,” said Moore in one TV interview, using his Spitting Image parody voice and creaking one eyebrow upwards. “I nearly went to a game once.” Spitting Image figured large in media piss-takes of Moore.  The satirical latex puppet show featured a Bond movie spoof, “The Man with the Wooden Delivery”, with Moore’s rubber character receiving orders from Margaret Thatcher to kill Mikhail Gorbachev. Many other comedy shows at that time ridiculed Moore’s acting, Rory Bremner once claiming to have had a death threat from an irate fan of Moore’s, following one such routine.  Some people have simply no sense of humour.

4. Geoffrey Boycott

Into the top four most embarrassing now, and the standard of these pieces of human flotsam continues to decline steadily.  What can we say about “Sir” Geoffrey, folk hero to the dafter kind of Yorkshireman, professional Tyke and shameless exploiter of anything to do with the White Rose county, particularly in a “creekkit” context.

Geoff’s lop-sided grimace and tortured accent have become familiar annoyances to anyone who follows the sound of willow on leather, and the unashamed forthrightness of his views is far more famous than any worthwhile content or relevance that might occasionally be detectable. Boycott used to be a Nottingham Forest fan, due to his admiration for fellow gobshite Brian Clough; after Cloughie’s ignominious exit from the City Ground following relegation in 1993, “Boyks” jumped ship with the alacrity of a trained-up rat, settling on the Evil Empire for his devotion from that time on, blithely ignoring his supposed Broad Acres affiliation.

Together with fellow “Pro Yorkshireman”, Michael Parkinson, Boycott continues to capitalise financially on his home county whilst lending his dubious support to Man U. Parkinson possibly deserves a category of his own, due to his self-promotion as a fan of lovable little Barnsley; his early defection to Man U to worship and write about future dissolute waster George Best is less well-known.  It’s only right that two such examples of base treachery should share one item though.  May they be happy together in their wretched infidelity.

3. Usain Bolt

Some Man U fans, blissfully unaware of the irony of what they’re spouting, will often drone on about “not choosing your team, but your team choosing you”. We’re meant to nod, acknowledging that yes, of course, Man U are the biggest and the best – and that’s why they’re a natural to be supported by such a damn fine chap as whoever the plastic gloryhunter might be that’s coming out with such self-aggrandising crap. Dear me.

Man U fans for the overwhelmingly most part are sensitive little souls, slightly inadequate and socially inept, desperately insecure and in need of a morale boost and some reassurance – natural victims who need in their own minds to be identified by what they see as size (let’s not get too Freudian here) and success. Supporting Man U gives them a vicarious feeling of good times and well-being – or at least it used to – and they hope others will see them in this light too.

Tragically, as they walk down whatever southern high street in whichever of the current half-dozen Man U shirts they’re wearing, people are just looking at them, sighing, shaking their heads sadly and thinking “Tosser”.  But we need to recognise these character defects for what they are and not be misled by any outward display of bumptiousness or arrogance.  It’s almost never what it seems – except in some very isolated cases.

Usain Bolt, undisputed fastest man in the world and self-proclaimed living legend, is one of the genuine articles.  So utterly self-obsessed and convinced of his own wonderfulness that the world actually has a guilty feeling it should be turning around him, Usain is a case study in arrogance. He is not above a little bragging in much the same way that the sea is not above the clouds.  He follows Man U, we might surmise, not to make himself feel better, but to do Man U a favour; Usain’s support might, he must reason, make Man U look good.

He feels that, when he retires from running, he might decide to play for Man U. This is a deeply, deeply self-involved person – not a typical Man U fan at all. Just the living embodiment of the arrogance the lesser Man U mortals so dearly would love to radiate. And yet for all this natural talent and detestability – he’s still only the 3rd most repellent Man U fan.  Oh dear, Usain. Fail.

2. Terry Christian

Terry, for his sins, takes the most mangled, nasal, godawful accent anywhere in the British Isles – and performs the almost impossible feat of making it sound ten times worse after the Christian treatment. Add to that grievous assault on your ear-drums the hooded eyes, the arrogant “bollocks to you” Salford lad smile and – oh, just bloody everything else about the man, and you have a person who could make your very soul bleed at 500 paces.

Nothing is needed here about his career, or his piss-poor book, or anything except just the persona of the man, his carriage, his attitude.  There’s a phrase some Man U fans use to describe, by their own lights, a desirable and cool human being.  “A clued-up, clobbered-up Manc”, they say in tones of awe and deep, abiding love. Obviously the rest of us can’t imagine anything more nightmarish – but this is the image Christian projects. Just too, too horrible for words.

Christian chooses to define himself by his support of Man U, so I’m afraid it’s a case of “live by the sword, die by the sword”. It’s important to point this out, otherwise it might seem harsh to rip a man for supporting what is his local club. But Terry is just so offensively Man U, he embodies so absolutely everything that people love to hate about the most intrinsically disgusting club in the Universe, that it’s difficult to imagine just what there might be about him that anyone, anywhere, could possibly love.  Apart from other Man U fans, obviously.  And, equally obviously, they don’t count.

1. Eamonn “Feckin'” Holmes

This is The One.  He out-scums Christian, he out-oils even Moore. He’s a rabid Man U fan who comes from Northern Ireland and lives in London. He pronounces “Fiona” as “Fye-owner”, for Christ’s sake.  He makes feeble links and uncomfortable connections in the course of his daily work to give him some reason – any reason – to drone on in his annoying voice, with a smug, annoying smile on his smug, annoying face about Man U, the source of his violently unhealthy obsession.

It gets worse.  He’s friends with S’ralex, which is enough to exclude him from polite society everywhere.  Your typical Man U fans hate him, but feel they can’t admit it for fear of being disloyal to such a rabid, gloryhunting obsessive.  So they give themselves hernias trying to find something nice to say about the loathsome Holmes, ending up with something feeble along the lines of “Well, he’s certainly Man U frew and frew, innit – and he’s S’ralex’s mate you know, squire.  Cor, blimey, stone the bladdy crows an’ lavvadack.”

There is no excuse for Eamonn Holmes.  No shadow of any justification for the look he gets in his eyes when he thinks he has something clever to say, no allowances to be made for that annoying little smacking of his lips he does prior to delivering another laboriously-prepared ponderous one-liner to be dutifully laughed at by his long-suffering colleagues.  And I know it’s wrong, but I hate the way his features stay the same size as his face expands.  It’s nauseating, as is everything else about him.

More than anyone else on this list, I would say of Holmes – he deserves to be a Man U fan.  There. You just can’t be more offensively downright cruel than that. I feel spiritually cleansed.

-o0o-

These are the ten worst I could think of.  There are many who could have qualified as “dishonourable mentions”, people who would deserve the utmost denigration if associated with any other clubs.  In the soul-less, dismal ranks of Man U fans, they are merely ordinary and unremarkable. Michael Parkinson, who actually got a dishonourable mention in there. Michael Atherton.  That blonde wench on Countdown who can’t add up quite as well as la Vorderman (also a Scummer of Convenience, a Career Scummette).  Bill bloody Clinton.  The Neville chimps.  There are many. But these ten, I honestly believe are the worst of the worst, and they each merit inclusion for their own particular, despicable reason. I would be interested, though, to hear of any other nominations.

Doncaster and Barnsley Chop Means Four Fewer Cup Finals for Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Donny down

Donny down

As Leeds United’s season came to a brighter than expected end, with a battling draw against play-off hopefuls Derby, events lower down the table in the tawdry scrap of the relegation dogfight may well have already had an effect on the Whites’ prospects for next time around.

Leeds did undeniably well in what was a dead rubber against Derby.  After going behind early and suffering a couple of further scares, United pressed their higher-placed opponents hard for the bulk of the remaining time in the game and the season; they had a couple of penalty claims turned down, Ross McCormack was slightly unfortunate to see a vicious free-kick punched out by County keeper Grant – and Michael Brown put in an all-action, give-me-another-year’s-contract performance that included a Cruyff turn which had you thinking suspiciously about the origins of those mushrooms you had for breakfast.

The equaliser, when it came after 50 minutes, was another high point in the productive season of Matt Smith, one of the few real bright spots of a blighted campaign.  Leeds could well have won the game, but the level of performance was encouraging in itself.  It is likely, though, to be a case of “too little, too late” for many of the squad, as plans will already be afoot for a hiring and firing summer as Cellino’s Italian Job gets under way.

Next season, when it comes, will see a marked reduction in one of those irritating factors which have impeded Leeds United’s progress far too often and for far too long.  I refer of course to “Cup Final Syndrome”, whereby a number of smaller clubs try their little hearts out when facing the Whites – and often end up thrashing us.  It’s a phenomenon particularly noticeable in local derbies yet, thanks to the ineptitude of our fellow Yorkshire clubs, not only have we ended up as top dogs in the county yet again, but we have also contrived to see the back of two of those annoying and inconvenient pests in the shape of Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers.

Barnsley bit the dust last week with a 1-3 defeat at Middlesbrough – helped along the way, I like to think, by the rare dropped points (five of them) in their games against Leeds, points they would normally have nicked in previous seasons.  So, we did our bit to see off the Tykes and, even though Donny won at Elland Road recently, our 3-0 win at their council ice-rink early in the season has helped to dispatch them.  Which is nice.

Doncaster’s relegation was, if anything, a lot funnier than even Barnsley’s, coming as it did right at the death of the season when they were on the very brink of being safe.  They were happily settling for a narrow defeat at Champions Leicester in the secure knowledge that Birmingham were two down at Bolton and surely doomed.

But then Lady Luck did one of those graceful pirouettes for which she is rightly notorious, and Brum battled back – scoring through Zigic and then laying siege to the Wanderers goal.  Three minutes into stoppage time, and they pulled that last rabbit out of the hat to equalise and achieve an unlikely late escape, simultaneously sealing Donny’s fate – much to the horror of the Rovers fans and much to the amusement of anyone in Leeds colours who harbours unpleasant memories of Wembley, that day when the concourse was lop-sided with United fans, but when the minnows perversely triumphed.

There are a few reasons for hoping that next season will be better for Leeds – prominent among them of course being our understanding that we are no longer operating on Skid Row, having moved across town to Easy Street. Whether that works out, and to what extent we might now be competing at the plusher end of the transfer market, remains to be seen.  But the lessening of the intensity of competition in local derby terms can do nothing but good, as Leeds have generally speaking made really hard work of these matches, to the detriment of the overall league picture.

Even though we have ended up on top of the Yorkshire standings, our results against Huddersfield and the Wendies have left much to be desired this season as in many before.  At least there will be a little less of this unseemly parochial skirmishing next season – even given that we will have Cardiff City to add to the unsavoury attractions of Millwall.

And so, another season ends, bleak and disappointing from a Leeds United perspective, but with distinct compensations elsewhere in the form of the enjoyable suffering of others.  As I write, Man U have just slipped to their umpteenth home defeat this season – even under the peerless guidance of Sir Ryan Giggs – and Cardiff’s brief flirtation with the top flight is over. There may well be a bonus in the form of relegation for Norwich Bleedin’ City later this weekend.

Wolves and Fulham will be with us next season – always attractive fixtures – and the games against Cardiff and Norwich should be spicy, too.  We must hope that the Leeds squad can be reshaped and re-motivated, to such a pitch that we will be truly competitive next time around.  Allowing for all the distractions and side issues, we weren’t that far short this time – but it all went wrong when events off the field took over.  Next season should be slightly more peaceful – or is that hopelessly naive?  And, if all else fails – well, we might still have Old Man Browneh, weaving his elderly magic and pulling off Cruyff turns aplenty to bedazzle the opposition.

It certainly is a funny old game.

Irresponsible Man U & Rooney Highlight Need for Salary Cap – by Rob Atkinson

Wazza's Wages

Wazza’s wages, Wazza’s life

At a time when Leeds United are sweating upon the dilatory machinations of the Football League as we all wait for a verdict on Massimo Cellino’s proposed takeover of the club, it is chillingly instructive to look at what’s currently happening with the recently-deposed leaders of English football. Leeds are aiming to leave behind them more than a decade on the breadline, an era when every penny has been counted and investment has been shockingly inadequate to support the ambitions of an ostensibly upward-looking football club.  Man U, meanwhile are operating at the other extreme of the financial and moral spectra, being seemingly eager to throw obscene amounts of money at their own unwelcome dilemma – that of being abruptly overtaken by a pack of rivals who are suddenly displaying far more in terms of pedigree and potential.

The most recent symptom of this new high-water mark of the sickness consuming the game is Mr Wayne Rooney’s newly-inflated wage packet.  A click on that link will take you to a real time clock of exactly how much the past-his-best scouser is earning – for want of a more descriptive word – after his latest reprise of the “holding a gun to your employer’s head” ploy.  Usefully, it’s a per-second measurement – but watch those figures blur round as the synthetically-hirsute one racks up his wealth at an astounding £30 per minute.  Even more usefully, there’s a direct comparison between Wazza’s Wages and the more modest earnings of a real-life hero such as a trained nurse.  Now watch those figures climb for the poor nurse, sooooo sluggishly that it’s pitiful.  You can even compare what Man U are shelling out in salary for the formerly good England striker with what it costs us all (in salary alone, not the disastrous wider economic costs) to have Mr David Camoron as unelected Prime Minister. Basically, by the time our hard-working nurse has clocked up her first 50p, the eejit at the head of the coalition has blagged an undeserved three quid, which just goes to show beyond reasonable doubt that the whole of creation has got things severely arse-about-face.

Wazza's Wages - a scientific comparison

Wazza’s Wages – a scientific comparison

But for an exercise in the truly surreal, just look at Shrek’s Salary by the time Nursey has her opening ten bob.  In that brief period, he’s trousered a jaw-dropping £300.25.  He can probably afford three tenderly conjugal sessions with a high-class Granny-for-rent with that kind of dosh. Meanwhile, our poor Florence Nightingale will not yet be able to get herself so much as a vending-machine coffee – and even everyone’s least-favourite Old Etonian would need to fiddle his expenses extensively in order to get a decent meal at the Kensington branch of McDonald’s.  No change there, then. Many thanks, by the way, to @ampp3d for the graphic illustration.

Now, the foregoing surely provides anyone’s definitive answer to “Name something so gut-wrenchingly obscene it makes your eyes and ears bleed”. But really – is Rooney himself to blame?  Well, yes – he is, a bit, isn’t he?  Certainly from a moral standpoint, anyway.  At a time when so many are being driven to food-banks in order to keep body and soul together, it’s fair to ask how the grasping Rooney can sleep of a night – surely to goodness the thought of all those hungry people out there must trouble him a little, when he thinks of his £15 million-plus a year, merely for kicking a ball around.  You might even think it’d put him off his game and make him a mere shadow of his youthful self. Well, something certainly has.

But there’s a case also for saying: if somebody’s daft enough – if they have the slack-jawed idiocy to lash out those enormous sums to a mere footballer – then it serves them right for being so dribblingly moronic, and who can blame Rooney for accepting their ill-advised largesse.  Discount all the press reports of Rooney saying in the press how glad he was to commit his future to Man U (until the next time he fancies a fifty-grand a week pay rise, that is) – discount those reports, because they might make you sick.  You would also feel quite distinctly naused when, after the first five minutes of Wazza’s first match following his little hike in salary, some fluffy TV reporter assures us all that “he’s clearly utterly committed to the cause”, or some such specious, fawning bollocks designed to make the mugs in Man U favours think they’re getting value for money.  Pay no attention to all that flim-flam – because, at the end of the day, this disgusting, evil new contract for Rooney is to be laid at nobody’s door but that of the Man U Money Men, those pallid, grey little chaps whose job it is somehow to propel a moribund leviathan back to the top of the game – sans Ferguson, the diabolical genius on whom – with his coarse bullying streak, his taste for intimidation on an industrial scale and his deeply dubious “mind game” methods – their entire two decades’ worth of tarnished glory was founded. And if you don’t believe that – just ask Graham Poll, one of the men who helped create and maintain the Evil Empire, and has recently admitted as much.

The fact is, of course that – without the departed S’ralex – it’s going to be nigh-on impossible for Man U to regain their former undeservedly-attained heights, no matter how much money they chuck at the problem.  The top four we have now – Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester’s finest, City, are just too good for the fading Pride of Devon to be able to compete – certainly under their current, cack-handed management.  The big boys are simply superior – better run, better coached and with far better squads. The damage being done by Man U’s willingness to to lash out zillions on wages and – presumably, if they’re able to attract anyone half-decent – on transfer fees, is visited upon the game as a whole, not really on the super-clubs they laughingly call “rivals”.  Because, let’s face it – Man U’s rivals now are Everton and Tottenham, who seem likely to fight it out with the ailing ex-champions for that prized Europa League spot. How are the mighty fallen, eh?  And think of the damage to their so-called prestige. What – the “Biggest Club in the World™ ” – now stop that giggling in Madrid, Milan, London and Barcelona, it’s in very poor taste – scrambling to finish fifth? The club that prides itself on its amazing youth policy, doing what it’s always bitched about City and Chelsea doing, trying to buy their way to another title??  Surely not.  How utterly, degradingly, humiliatingly shameful. But – arf, arf – how funny, too.

The thing is though, once the laughing stops, I have to turn back to my beloved Leeds United and painfully wonder – just how the hell are we ever to fight our way back to the top, where every single true Whites fan knows in his heart of hearts we belong – when the idiots currently competing with today’s elite are allowed to practice such abysmal fiscal lunacy?  £300,000 a week for a faded old relic of a Rooney?  If Leeds could have that as a wages budget for their entire squad, that’d be 20 players commanding an average 15 grand a week.  Properly managed, that’d see us soar to promotion.  But what kind of future would face us then?

As I wrote just the other day, unless we could somehow afford to lavish an extremely unwise amount of cash on a gamble for success – “living the dream”, I seem to recall it’s known as – then we’d have to settle for mediocrity as the absolute upper limit of our potential.  That’s what this mega stretching-out of wage structures is coming to mean for the majority of clubs.  It’s sickening for the supporters who have to struggle along on one fifteenth per year of what Rooney rakes in per week.  It’s in danger of alienating even Man U’s own fans, who surely can’t be plastic suckers right down to the last Cornwall-based, Sky-addicted armchair.  And it’s destroying the possibility of fair competition, upon which is predicated the whole theory of League Football – the increasingly-mythical “level playing field”.

Make no mistake about it, the bulk of “competing” clubs haven’t a hope in hell of getting anywhere near the cartel at the top, and they know it.  And, ironically, this will apply almost equally to the club who, more than most, is bringing about such an unhappy situation by sanctioning such ridiculous amounts in wages to the avaricious young men who kick a football in their name.  Man U are contributing, in large measure, to their own demise as a major force – through sheer, desperate lunacy.

So it comes to pass that, just as Leeds United appear to be on the brink of ceasing to be paupers and becoming what we would until quite recently have thought of as seriously rich – it turns out that we’re not going to be really rich after all.  Not as compared to the top four cartel.  Not even when you put them alongside the rich-but-not-good-enough likes of Man U and Spurs.  For a club like Leeds, with such a proud history, with such loyal, fanatical and long-suffering fans, the prospect of being thwarted by what is, in effect, a glass ceiling is almost too much to bear.

But it’s a dilemma too.  What do we actually want, if our dearest wishes were to be granted?  Do we ask for mega-bucks to be spent on ensuring we win the title, as Man City and Chelski have done?  Do we invest more wisely, improve our infrastructure and act patient, on the Arsenal model? God forbid that we’d just assume we have a divine right to be the biggest and the best, like that scummy lot from the Theatre of Hollow Myths, and start paying over-rated has-beens like Rooney a king’s ransom every week. Surely, anything but that.

This stupid deal, offering a stupid boy a stupid contract, on stupid money, has to act as a shrill alarm-bell for the football authorities in this country and further afield.  Elementary physics will tell you that you can inflate anything by only so much – be it a bubble, a balloon or even an ego – before it bursts and becomes just a futile waste of air.  The time is now ripe to think seriously about a salary cap.  Nothing drastic.  Nothing that will make an obscenely rich group of spoiled young athletes feel any sort of a pinch. Just a measure to ensure more equal competition between participating clubs, and thus retain the possibility that success can perhaps be achieved on merit instead of simply by those with the wherewithal to buy it. Because, ultimately, that is what the game is all about.

Nobody will listen.  Nobody will pay any heed to what is staring them malevolently in the face.  They’re all far too busy riding the gravy train, or at least clinging on tightly to the coat-tails of those in first-class.  Perhaps they think – these pallid little grey men, with their clammy hands and glistening, moist, avaricious lips – that time is still on their side.  That, by the time the gravy train derails – as it surely will – they’ll have made their pile, and it’ll be someone else’s problem.  That’s not any sort of a strategy though – it’s the road to ruin, no error.  Under such benighted, short-sighted leadership, our beautiful game will end up plummeting downhill like a greased pig.

Perhaps the Financial Fair Play rules will mitigate this disaster that’s approaching so remorselessly.  But, sadly, rich, stupid yet sly people, focused on the short term and immense personal gain, tend to pay poorer, cleverer even slyer people to sort out for them inconvenient little problems like FFP. Loopholes will be found when needed, rules will be bent as necessary, palms will be greased with lavish abandon.  The train will continue its headlong flight, until the final calamity occurs.  Rooney won’t be bothered – he’ll have his £100 million or so and all the grannies and artificial follicles his mercenary heart could desire.  It’s us, the fans, who will suffer – along with the littler people in the game, those who will be left trying to pick up the pieces after meltdown.  All of this is so gloomy, I know. But who can put their hand on their heart and tell me that it’s not true?? Please, step forward – I could use the reassurance.

I’m afraid disaster is approaching – the kind of disaster that inevitably occurs when you put incompetent and unscrupulous people in charge of vast oceans of money, and fail to incorporate any fail-safe device.  That, by the evidence of Rooney’s latest wages coup, is exactly what’s happening, exactly what will continue to happen, unless there’s some unforeseeable wising-up at the top, and a wage cap is implemented as a matter of urgency.  Perhaps the football chiefs should have a word with their counterparts at the Rugby Football League?  Do it, chaps – and take a notebook and pencil.  But you know it ain’t gonna happen, so we’re doomed.  And let’s not hark back to Leeds’ own relatively innocent financial peccadilloes at the start of this century.  That was tropical fish feed to what’s occurring now.  Honestly – three hundred grand a week??? No, let’s not cloud the issue here.  I blame Man U, because Man U are to blame.

If I can have just one wish in the face of the dark age that is sooner or later to come – then it’s simply this.  God, in your infinite mercy: please let my cherished and much-loved Leeds United – providers of England’s Last Real Champions before the start of the Murdoch Money Epoch – please let us win at least one more trophy – before it finally all goes tits-up.

The Last Champions

The Last Champions

Darren Fletcher of Man Utd a Positive Role Model for the Chronically Ill – by Rob Atkinson

For a Leeds United fan, yesterday’s news that Man U had won 3-0 at their perennial rabbit team Aston Villa was hardly welcome or, in itself, inspiring. The two Uniteds from either side of the Pennines share a mutual loathing that has become legendary and transcends geographical proximity or considerations of direct rivalry, the normal prerequisites for a healthy hate-hate relationship. The fact that Leeds and the club I fondly refer to as the Pride of Devon are miles apart both in location and in status has not affected the poisonous depths of the antipathy between the two.  We sing about them in terms of extreme dislike, they reciprocate in tones of mixed cockney and that characteristic West country burr. Neither set of fans would cross the road to save one of the enemy, by means of micturition, from a death by conflagration.  It’s been like that for years.

However, some things are more important than football’s strife and conflict, on or off the field.  The other news to emerge from Villa’s capitulation was without doubt positive, welcome and a thing to be celebrated by anyone who loves football – indeed by anyone at all. It is the story of a young athlete with a glittering career before him who was struck down by a chronic and debilitating medical condition, yet who has overcome that awful setback to regain a place among his team-mates playing a highly demanding game at the top level.

Image

Fletcher – back from the brink

Darren Fletcher made his senior bow for Man U in 2002 and performed with versatility and industry in midfield and defensive roles, depending on the requirements of his club, up until 2011 when he was finally struck down by the bowel condition ulcerative colitis, something he had been coping with whilst playing on – but which now necessitated rest and treatment.  It was announced that Fletcher would take an extended break from football to address his problems and, obviously, there were fears in some quarters about whether he would be able to return to such a demanding way of making his living.  Yet return he did, in September 2012, only to be then ruled out for the remainder of last season after undergoing an operation to lessen the effects of a condition which can have life-altering consequences depending on its severity and treatment. Last Saturday at Villa was Fletcher’s second comeback – but this time it seems that the problem may have been overcome for the longer term.

Fletcher himself certainly believes that he is back to stay, having beaten his health problems.  “This is it, I’m back for good,” he told MUTV, the club’s in house TV channel. “This (the Villa game) is hopefully the game which means I’m back now.

“I seem to have come through the setbacks and health issues and I’m thankful for that. It’s onwards and upwards now.  I always believed I would come back, I kept that mind-set. I think other people around me were trying to make me think otherwise, but I stayed strong and believed I would get back.”

All football fans should be wishing Fletcher the best and hoping earnestly that he is right to be optimistic about the future.  At 29, he still has a good part of his career ahead of him and, having shown the character and courage to overcome such a potentially demoralising and energy-sapping condition, he surely has much to give for club and also his country.  As the captain of Scotland, his will be an example of determination and courage in adversity that many will look up to, especially those stricken with this or similar conditions at an early age as Fletcher was – and many who are suffering at much younger ages.

Fletcher appears to have fought his fight and won – something that will give hope to many thousands of people who might otherwise be tempted to succumb to a belief that their health problems will stop them from achieving their life goals. Darren Fletcher looks set fair to achieve much more in his career, adding to what is already a glittering trophy and medal haul.  That he can do this despite such a serious setback is greatly to be admired.  The positive example he might set to others is difficult to over-state, and to call him a role-model is no exaggeration. Good luck to him as he regains full fitness and resumes a career that must at one point have been in doubt.  That is something which Darren Fletcher – to his eternal credit –  has clearly never accepted.