Tag Archives: Manchester United

No Apologies, but This Latest Leeds Utd Failure Might Be MY Fault – by Rob Atkinson

MayBoJo

Get the Tories OUT

A quarter of a century ago, a general election loomed as Leeds United‘s league campaign headed towards an exciting, nail-biting climax. The exact same set of circumstances applies today and, now as then, United’s fate will be sealed a week early.

Although the situation today is identical, the outcome for Leeds at least is the polar opposite. Back in 1992, I told myself long before the end of the football season that I’d take a Tory election victory (it didn’t look likely at the time), if Leeds could only hold out and pip the scum to the last League Championship Title, frustrating the rest of football and the assembled media into the bargain. Some might say it was a bargain I made myself, with the devil himself. In truth, my joy at seeing Leeds become champions was only slightly tempered by John Major’s beating of the useless Neil Kinnock – but I was quite young and my priorities were perhaps not what they should have been.

I must admit, I had the same chat with myself just a couple of weeks back, when Theresa May showed exactly how trustworthy she is by calling a snap election – after having repeatedly sworn that she wouldn’t call a snap election. And now, the stakes are higher, for everybody, because now we have a government that is not only set on out-Thatchering Thatcher, it’s also committed to an austerity programme that hits only the poor and vulnerable, and has demonstrably failed to tackle the national debt (which has actually doubled since 2010). And it seems likely also that this incompetent and evil government was elected fraudulently in the first place. 

So the bargain I struck with myself when I heard there’d be an election after all, on June 8th, was a different one to that I agreed with whatever higher power in 1992. Now, my priorities are shaped by the bitter experience of what devastating damage can be wreaked by a Party without any conscience or compassion, driven by greed and an ideological hatred of socialist institutions like the welfare state and NHS. Nothing is so important as to matter more than getting rid of this shower, if at all possible, and despite the apparently gloomy (Tory-commissioned) opinion polls. I had no hesitation in telling my inner United fanatic that I would happily see Leeds condemned to at least another season of second tier football, if we could only have the truly socialist government that this country so desperately needs.

Whereas I unconsciously traded an unlikely John Major election success for The Last Champions triumph in ’92, now I’m begging for providence, fate, call it what you will, to allow a good and decent man in Jeremy Corbyn to replace May’s Ministry of fools, charlatans and liars as the ruling force in this country. Football is nothing beside that, and I’ll be happy to see Leeds United bottle it to fulfill my side of the bargain – just as long as the right result comes about on June the 8th.

I don’t know how superstitious you all are out there, though I’m uncomfortably aware that a sizeable proportion of Leeds fans are far and away to the right of me – so this confession is hardly likely to prove popular. I’m willing to engage in reasoned debate but, as ever, I’ll bin the mindless abuse. Still, on this occasion, unlike many of the times I’ve taken a stand on football matters, I’m stone cold certain that I’m correct.

Hopefully, Leeds United bottling this season’s chance at promotion will reap a reward in the shape of a brighter future for the whole country under Corbyn. If not, I have only the fates to blame – unless I choose to rail at people for being daft and crass enough to vote for a party hell-bent on destroying the NHS and killing thousands more hapless sick and disabled people through neglect and starvation. You see what I mean about high stakes.

I love Leeds United; I have done for well over forty years. But I will gladly see them fail if there’s anything in this mirror-image outcome as compared with 1992. It’s that important. For Leeds, there will be other years. For so many whose very existence is threatened by a continuation of this evil government, there can be no such guarantees – unless the polls are wrong, as they were a quarter of a century ago.

Leeds have done their bit, by failing, in their own inimitable style – despite a second-half rally against Norwich. As ever, it was too little, too late. Great, I didn’t really see them succeeding under Massimo Cellino – another liar and fraud – anyway. Now, all we need to square the circle, paying back the debt of conscience I owe from 1992, is a Labour victory in a few weeks time. I hope the more enlightened among you will join me in hoping for that, and in accepting it’s far more important than any dicey and probably heart-breaking football play-off place. Fight for what’s right and vote Labour. And let’s all have a fresh start from now onward.

Let June be the end of May.

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The Silver Jubilee of Leeds United’s “Last Champions”   –   by Rob Atkinson

Jon Newsome whose goal was so crucial

Twenty-five years ago today, Leeds United became The Last Champions. They became the ultimate winners of the old-style Football League, which was superseded but never surpassed by Sky’s glitzy soccer revolution. There’s even a film about it now, the newly-released Do You Want To Win? Well they certainly did want to win, and I was there that day to see the passing of the old era, and the immortalisation of Wilko’s Warriors.

Parked up in the scruffy environs of Bramall Lane, Sheffield, just about the first thing my mate Dave did as we walked to the ground was to drag me back out of the path of a van as I stepped out to cross a road, oblivious of traffic, lost in thought. We grinned at my narrow escape and agreed: good omen. And then we were high up in the seats of the upper tier behind the goal at the away end of Sheffield United’s quaintly ill-designed stadium. The day was gusty, and so the football would prove to be. It was a match of ebb and flow, the Sheffield United faithful eager to deny Leeds their chance of clinching the title, Leeds fans loud, proud and defiant with self-belief. If we won, and Man U lost at Liverpool later, we were Champions.

You’ll probably have seen the goals from that game hundreds of times. It plays through now, all these years later, in the Football Highlights studio of my mind; joy for the home side as Alan Cork, bald of pate, pokes the ball home to give Sheffield the lead. Then, midfield tussles in the swirling wind, as the Whites try valiantly to come back. A late first-half free kick, which Gordon Strachan races to take before the home defence is ready, finding Rod Wallace who tips the ball past the home keeper’s attempt to save. Defenders scramble to clear, only to hit the late, great Gary Speed who bounces the ball back to ricochet off Wallace – into the net. Cue pandemonium in the away end. Level at half time, we’re breathless with drama and the hurly-burly of it all, raucous with United anthems, nervous of what’s yet to come.  

In the second half, though we don’t know it, human tragedy unfolds: Sheffield ‘keeper Mel Rees, injured in the mêlée leading to Leeds’ leveller, thigh heavily strapped, can hardly move and is hampered for the second Leeds goal as Jon Newsome stoops to head in at the far post. Rees was due a Welsh international call-up the next day, but has to pull out because of his injury. He would never play football again because he was to develop cancer and die a year later, tragically young at 26.

RIP, Mel Rees.

The crazy game continues crazily. A ball across the Leeds box is retrieved by home defender John Pemberton, who turns it back towards the goal-line where Lee Chapman sticks out a leg for an own-goal greeted with horror by the Leeds contingent. We’re level again. But enfant terrible Eric Cantona enters the fray, and within a few minutes he’s chasing a loose ball into the Sheffield half, Wallace scampering alongside and home defender Brian Gayle lumbering back in a desperate attempt to clear the danger. And it’s Gayle, former Man City man, who finally slays Man United. From my vantage point at the opposite end, I see him head the ball, and the action is suddenly slow motion. Poor Mel Rees is stranded far out of goal; the ball is sailing over his head in a slow loop, bouncing tantalisingly towards the empty net…

Then I’m watching at full speed again, as Cantona and Wallace raise their arms in triumph, wheeling away in delight, and even as I wonder what they’re up to, I realise that the ball is nestling in the Sheffield United goal. An ironically red mist descends; I am utterly beside myself in delirious joy, leaping around feverishly, roaring like a demented bull, face congested, eyes bulging, hyperventilating. I grab a helpless wee St John’s Ambulance man by his lapels and scream into his terrified face “Get me some oxygen!!!” The mad moment passes, I drop the ashen medic and some measure of sanity returns, but we’re still cavorting and diving all over each other, a seething, sweating mass of Leeds, because we know it’s over, we know that Sheffield are beaten, and we know that Man U don’t have an earthly at Anfield, not a prayer. We were Champions; on that windiest and gustiest of days, a Gayle from Manchester City has blown Man U away and decided in an instant the fate of all three Uniteds from Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds.

Leeds United, the undisputed cream of the crop. It all seems so long ago now. Happy silver anniversary, to the heroes – and also to the massive supporting cast of jubilant fans.

League Says Play Off Final To Be At Old Trafford If Leeds Are Involved – by Rob Atkinson

Old Toilet

Artist’s impression of Old Toilet should Leeds lose in the play-off final

Readers please note: this April Fools spoof article has now expired.

Any Leeds United fans hoping for an end of season trip to Wembley for the Championship play-off final are likely to be disappointed – even if the Yorkshire giants do progress past the semi-final stage. Following a sensational ruling from the Football League, it is now clear that any final involving Leeds would be played instead at Manchester United’s once-famous Old Trafford stadium. The League have decided that, due to the tense and frantic nature of such a fixture, as well as the legendary volatility of a section of the Leeds support, it would be too much of a risk to have the match played at a still quite nice, shiny, new Wembley Stadium. It is thought, however, that the relatively shabby and delapidated Old Trafford would actually be improved if the Leeds fans did go on the rampage and level the place.

A League spokesperson said, “Nobody should imagine that we are picking on Leeds United here. It’s just a matter of being aware of reputations and acting prudently. We have a similar plan in place for the League One play-offs, should Millwall reach the final. In that event, the match would be played on Hackney Marshes.” Asked whether this policy might affect any domestic final that Leeds reach over the next few years, the spokesperson, Ms. Avril Primero, would only confirm that the situation would be reviewed in the light of circumstances pertaining at the time. “It is possible, however,” added Ms. Primero, “that Leeds United could find themselves playing an FA Cup Final at their own stadium, just like Sheffield United did in that film with Sean Bean.”

Nobody at Leeds was available to comment, although an ex-player who identified himself cryptically as “Batts” stated that he’d “rather not go up at all than play a final at that poxy hole”. 

A further statement clarifying the matter is expected from the Football League tomorrow, April 2nd.

Jansson to Leeds for £3.5m is, Quoting Mr. Revie, “Robbery With Violence”   –   by Rob Atkinson

Pontus Jansson, Superstar

It’s difficult to overplay the impact this season of Pontus Jansson on Leeds United. Since a relatively low-key debut at Luton in the EFL Cup, the big Swedish defender has barely put a foot wrong, becoming a talisman for the Whites. He’s been almost equally effective at either end of the field, and his headed clearances have formed the basis of a highly effective central defensive partnership with Kyle Bartley. Those clearances are paid ample tribute in Jansson’s very own song, the United support having waxed creative in a witty ditty featuring magic hats and hurled bricks. It’s a hymn of praise that could hardly be better deserved.

When legendary United manager Don Revie signed John Giles from a smallish club near Manchester in 1963, for a paltry £33,000, he was exultant enough to describe the deal as “robbery with violence”. The selling manager, one Matthew Busby, later described the sale of Giles, who went on to fashion an unparalleled midfield partnership with Billy Bremner, as his “greatest mistake”. This coup of capturing Jansson for maybe 25% of his actual value, puts you in mind of that earlier robbery. I don’t know who mans the central defence for Torino – but they must be bloody good players. 

As long as Jansson doesn’t now go all Lubo Michalik on us, Leeds have pulled of one hell of a capture here. We currently have a defence that looks rock solid, and that sort of thing has proved the foundation for many a promotion charge. And both Bartley and Jansson offer so much more than defensive excellence. Organising and cajoling the back line, motivating and inspiring all over the park and still finding time to create havoc in attacking set pieces, they both influence the game positively more or less the full 95 minutes. That’s invaluable for any team with pretensions to success. 

Robbery with violence sums it up nicely. May we also mug Swansea with a similar deal for Bartley. Both players have what it takes to be United legends for several seasons to come. 

Welcome to the ranks of the greatest club in the world, Pontus, and all the very best as you go on to confirm legend status by helping us back to the top. 

Ready to Meet Up Again With Leeds United Legend Gordon Strachan – by Rob Atkinson

StrachanLeicester

That Strachan goal against Leicester City

I go back a fair way with Gordon Strachan, as it happens. Not that he’ll remember a thing about it, naturally. That’s the way it goes with star footballers and star-struck fans; it’s a strictly one-way relationship, which is quite right and proper.

Nevertheless, I can mark out the last 28 years of my Leeds United love affair in some golden Strachan moments, including one meeting (with another hopefully imminent), some landmark performances and goals from the wee maestro and, latterly, many a laugh as I’ve watched him perplexing post-match interviewers with a rapier-like wit to match his dazzling displays as a player.

I remember being aware of Strachan as a young star at Aberdeen under the guidance of a grumpy Glaswegian manager called Ferguson (whatever happened to him?) who was out to upset the Old Firm monopoly in Scotland. I had a senior lecturer at Hull University at that time, who shared Gordon’s surname, but when I used it on him, as it were, he frostily informed me that it was pronounced “Strawn”. Well, that was all he knew. The name Strachan, pronounced as both Gordon and I know it should be, was to earn worldwide fame over the next decade and a half.

I looked on with jaundiced eye as the clear heir to Billy Bremner‘s throne made the wrong move south from Scotland, winding up in a title vacuum at Old Trafford. He was followed thence by his old manager at Aberdeen (that’s where he got to) and, for Strachan, the writing was on the Old Trafford wall, as the great Alex concluded that Gordon’s days as a top-flight performer were numbered. These were the early days of Sergeant Wilko‘s reign at Leeds, and I yearned for Strachan to become our King Billy reincarnate, as he was unmistakably fitted to be. But it looked as though he was destined to be a Ron Atkinson capture at Sheffield Wednesday, rather than a Rob Atkinson hero at Elland Road.

As we know, things worked out incredibly well; an ambitious Leeds trumped the Wendies’ offer and Strachan settled for being the driving force behind the Wilko revolution. I was working in Leeds the day the deal was done, and I saw it announced on a Yorkshire Evening Post billboard. Happy and delighted doesn’t do it justice, I walked home on air that day. Strachan was not only a marquee signing in himself, he was the statement of intent required to pave the way for other quality recruits at Elland Road. For Leeds, the only way was up – and up we duly went.

Near the climax of that promotion season was Strachan’s memorable rocket-shot winner against Leicester at Elland Road, possibly the most vital goal Leeds had scored on their home turf since Allan Clarke’s winner against Barcelona in the European Cup semi-final of 1975. That Leicester goal, securing a crucial win after a goal from one Gary MacAllister had threatened to poop our promotion party, was met with one of the loudest and most frantic celebrations I can remember. Gordon Strachan attained Leeds Legend status in that moment – and he would go on to confirm it many times over.

In the next couple of years, Leeds impressively consolidated their First Division status and then took the crown of Champions of England from under the noses of Strachan’s former club, Man United. As sweet as that was for all of us, the man himself still regards the Second Division title of 1990 as his greatest Leeds achievement – but his record at Elland Road cannot be classed as anything other than an outstanding success, with Strachan himself in the role of on-field Messiah.

My support for Leeds was punctuated by his goals and his masterly midfield displays. That pea-roller winner at Bramall Lane early in United’s top-flight comeback, with the mighty atom celebration sitting on an advertising hoarding behind the goal. His winner at Man City, in a live TV game that had me transfixed. So many goals, so much quality. Perhaps the culmination was in the vital game at Sheffield United as the 1992 League Title battle came to a final boil. One down and in trouble near the end of the first half, Leeds were awarded a free kick and Gordon, thinking faster than anyone else, took it quickly to cause chaos in the Blades’ box. Leeds equalised, and went on to win in the second half, breaking Man U hearts and setting up that Last Champions triumph.

I first met Strachan in 1995, at an event at Headingley, the same night Leeds lost at PSV in the UEFA Cup. He’d moved on from Leeds by then, but he was personable and entertaining, showing a love for the club that endured still, and giving very positive answers to questions about the possibility he might one day return to Elland Road. I got a picture with the wee man that evening and, twenty-one years on, I’m hoping to repeat the experience on Friday at Elland Road.

This is when Strachan will return to LS11 for an evening of entertainment and reminiscence. Although it’s the night before Bonfire Night, we can expect some fireworks, as the Scot is notoriously almost as entertaining behind a microphone as he was with a ball at his feet. Organisers Events in the City could also be said to have selected the right man as the centrepiece for a Mischief Night event; Strachan’s play was usually replete with that particular commodity – and he’s never been afraid to speak his mind as a manager either.

So, on Friday, I’ll hope to meet one of my two greatest United heroes for the second time, and maybe get another picture to add to the many memories he’s provided over the years. It’s a close thing for me, between Strachan and Bremner, the obvious similarities nicely balanced out by their few important contrasts. I only met King Billy once, and I was utterly tongue-tied in the presence of greatness. If I do get the chance to talk to wee Gordon on Friday, I shall hope to do a lot better. Watch this space. 

Leeds United Legend Gordon Strachan in Elland Road Return – by Rob Atkinson

StrachanLeicester

Wee Gordon’s iconic strike against Leicester City in 1990

The word “legend” is bandied about all too freely in matters showbiz and sporting, but there are a handful of performers in both spheres who truly merit the accolade. One such, in the context of Leeds United Football Club at least, is current Scotland manager and former United captain and hero Gordon Strachan.

It’s twenty-five years now since the red-headed Scottish dynamo lifted the last old-style Football League Championship for the Elland Road outfit, completing a miraculous revival in the space of four years from the bottom of the old Division Two to the very pinnacle of the game. Such on-field leadership and achievement had not been seen in Leeds since the time of that other red-headed firebrand from north of the border, Billy Bremner. It is a massive tribute to Strachan that his name can justifiably be mentioned in the same breath as that of the late, great King Billy. In a world of so many sham legends, both stand proud as the genuine article.

To help mark the silver jubilee of that memorable last Championship, Strachan is due to return to Elland Road on Friday 4th of November for an evening of reminiscence at a dinner event organised by Events in the City. It’s fair to say that the Scot will be revisiting the scene of his greatest triumph, although Strachan’s own take on that might surprise a few people. As far as Gordon is concerned, the greatest achievement of his time at Elland Road was not that “Last Champions” success, but rather the Second Division Championship of two seasons earlier.

When Strachan was signed for Leeds by Howard Wilkinson in 1988, his brief was to be the on-field inspiration behind United’s longed-for return to the top flight. It was the fulfillment of that ambition, so keenly felt in the club itself and more widely in the city of Leeds and beyond, that really fired the former Manchester United man with pride. The fact that he went on to deny his ex-manager at Old Trafford, Alex Ferguson, a first English Title in 1992 ranks modestly second, for Strachan if not for the massed Leeds fans, to that initial achievement. But it must surely have added a piquant tang to the flavour of success that he savoured throughout his Leeds career.

Anybody who followed Gordon Strachan’s career will be aware of this diminutive man’s towering presence on the football field. Feisty, committed and skillful, he embodied all of the qualities that had been lacking in the Leeds midfield since the departure of Bremner over a decade before. The similarities between the two are obvious; but, if anything, Strachan was perhaps slightly more restrained on the field and somewhat more waspish off it. His performances in post-match interviews as a manager have become the stuff of legends in themselves, much admired and retold. After one defeat during his spell as Southampton manager, Strachan was collared in the players’ tunnel and asked by a reporter in what areas his team had been inferior. “Mainly that big green one out there,” was the laconic response. Gordon Strachan was still providing value and entertainment long after his playing career was done, and he continues to do as much to this day.

So it should be a memorable evening at Elland Road on November the 4th. Strachan will be assured of a warm reception in a place where he is rightly revered and, if he operates according to form, he should be well worth listening to. As the event takes place just a week before his Scotland team are due to take on the “Auld Enemy” England, in a World Cup Qualifier, there is also the prospect of some heartfelt cross-border banter to enhance and add an edge to the entertainment.

Whatever the outcome of the clash between the two oldest footballing rival nations, it’s guaranteed that Gordon Strachan will always be welcomed anywhere in England, where he gave sterling service to the Uniteds of Leeds and Manchester, plus Coventry City, as a player – as well as managing both Coventry and Middlesbrough. And the warmest welcome of all, in a city fiercely proud of its legends, will always await him at Elland Road, home of Leeds United FC.

Leeds Legend Gordon Strachan Prepares for Elland Road Return   –   by Rob Atkinson

That’s Champion: Leeds Legend Strachan Returns to Elland Road


LEEDS UNITED fans will have a unique opportunity to relive the glory days when club legend Gordon Strachan returns to Elland Road for a glittering dinner that will mark the 25th anniversary of the team winning the title during the 1991-92 season.

Both individual tickets and tables are already selling fast for the event, which will be held in The Centenary Pavilion at Elland Road on Friday 4th November 2016, just a week before the current Scotland manager prepares to take on England in a World Cup qualifying match. 

During the event, Gordon will talk about the special times he enjoyed captaining Leeds United to the league title and what it felt like to deny the team’s arch-rivals Manchester United, as well as his former boss Alex Ferguson, who finished as runners-up. 

There will also be a three course dinner served, followed by entertainment by a renowned comedian.

A spokesperson from event organiser Events in the City, said: “It’s hard to believe 25 years have passed since Leeds United last lifted a trophy and this will be a great opportunity for Leeds fans to relive lots of the memorable moments with Gordon from that amazing season. 

“The fact it takes place a week before the England vs Scotland game will also make it a special occasion and I’m sure the Leeds fans will have plenty to say about that as well!”

The event starts at 7pm, with dinner served at 8pm. The remaining tickets are £55 per person or £500 for a table of 10. Anyone wanting to reserve places should call 07585 002386 or email office@eventsinthecity.co.uk.

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!

Leeds United In Double Swoop on Free Agent Market – by Rob Atkinson

Trab

Essaid Belkalem – bargain?

Now that the option of emergency loans after the transfer window closure is no longer available, Leeds United will have to look elsewhere to make up for their shortcomings in the regular market. The squad as it stands is neither strong nor deep enough to inspire confidence in the club’s ability to be competitive towards the top end of the Championship between now and the January transfer window – so, without the option of loaning contracted players, United will be forced to scrape the very bottom of the barrel: those players that, up until now, have been unable for whatever reason to secure a professional playing contract for this season.

Leeds have been accused often enough in the past of shopping at Lidl instead of Waitrose, looking to spend as little as possible whilst capitalising on their own home-produced young talent. It’s an accusation that stands up quite well to an examination of the evidence; of all the current Championship clubs, the Whites have been the most niggardly net spenders over the greater part of this century. But it seems that things are getting worse; having failed to secure even a bargain buy in areas where the team needs strengthening (I submit attack AND defence, m’Lud), United somehow contrived to release their club captain Sol Bamba the day after the transfer market closed down. Bamba had been in appalling form, and personal reasons were cited; still, it seems rather careless when you consider that our senior central defensive section now comprises Liam Cooper and two loanees.

Obviously, we did sign one player on deadline day – Eunan O’Kane from Bournemouth was welcomed to the club, where he becomes our 17th or 18th central midfielder – frankly, I’ve lost count. The club also failed to offload any deadwood in that engine room part of the squad – you might say that we now possess an embarrassment of poverty there.

So now, we’re reduced to looking among the players nobody else wants. From shopping at Harrods around the turn of the century, we’ve lowered our sights continually, down through Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, the basic own-brand of Asda, the bargain aisles of Aldi, right down to the dubious delights of Lidl. And now – well, it has to be the rubbish bins behind B&M and Home Bargains, doesn’t it? How very depressing.

Then again, it’s quite surprising what you might find when rummaging about in this professional footballer detritus. The name of Kieran Richardson has cropped up, released at the end of last season by Aston Villa, and with some half-decent clubs on his CV, as well as manchester united. I’ve put the case myself for giving Luciano Becchio a crack at being striker cover in case Marcus Antonsson gets injured or Chris Wood grinds to a complete halt. And the wild card among current rumours has to be Essaid Belkalem, late of Trabzonspor in the Turkish league among others. Belkalem is an Algerian international who was on Watford‘s books last season, and he’s said to be looking for regular football to push his claims for further representative honours.

Something clearly has to be done, though, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a couple of deals being sealed in the not too distant future, with Richardson and Belkalem the likely names on the contracts. That would shore up the defence somewhat – but we’d still be short, in this blog’s opinion, of sufficient strength in depth up front. Then again – you can’t have everything.

Particularly not when you’re rooting through the refuse bins at the bargain end of the market.

High Time Sheffield Wednesday Fans Accept Leeds United as Yorkshire’s Top Club – by Rob Atkinson

The Wednesday victorious in the century before last

The Wednesday, victorious in the century before last

After the Yorkshire derby at Hillsborough this weekend – and in the light of Leeds United‘s comfortable 2-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday – there is one issue that needs to be put to bed once and for all, for the sake of all right-minded Leeds fans, deluded Wendies – and Yorkshire people everywhere.

If you hang around long enough as a football fan, it can’t escape your notice that self-delusion is extremely high on the list of characteristics defining your average club supporter. It’s quite probably a defence mechanism of sorts, helping hapless fanatics deal with the many disappointments their heroes will visit upon them as they faithfully follow their club’s fortunes through thin and, most likely, thinner.

Whatever the cause, this tendency to delude oneself is powerful indeed, and rare is the football fan who hasn’t, at some time or another, managed to fool themselves completely. Bobble hats and scarves have become slightly passé as part of the fan’s wardrobe essentials – but it seems that, for most, a massive pair of blinkers is still de rigueur, whoever you support.

Two of the very biggest pairs of blinkers undoubtedly belong to the supporters of a couple of clubs in the north of England, one on the wrong side of the Pennines, and one on the wrong side of the West/South Yorkshire civilisation threshold. Man U have long been famous for the eagerness with which their notoriously insecure and needy body of support will lap up obvious myths like “Biggest Club in the World” and so on. Even to this day, new signings must chant the mantra upon entering in the portals at the Theatre of Hollow Myths – “I’ve signed for the Biggest Club in the World” they intone, dutifully, and the Man U faithful smile happily in their Devon armchairs, whilst the denizens of Madrid and Barcelona, not to mention Milan and Munich, howl helplessly with laughter. Nobody is fooled and this, more than any other, is the reason why Man U fans, despite their club’s impressive honours roll, are routinely laughed at and dismissed as clueless glory-hunters.

Back in the rightly famed Broad Acres, there exists a lesser but still highly risible Band of the Deluded, bringing me to the real point of this article. These people live, move and have their being in Sheffield, an industrial graveyard of ruined splendour and very little current appeal. They wear blue and white, they have local rivals who wear red and white – and yet they measure their every success or failure in terms of the history and achievements of Leeds United, a club 35 miles to the north, which is known around the world as the Pride of Yorkshire. But the fans of Sheffield Wednesday, known semi-affectionately as “Wendies” to amused Leeds fans, will hotly deny accusations of obsession. That, in itself, is funny – given the Leeds-centric nature of the online output from virtual Owls. But more hilarious yet is the earnest and curiously innocent belief of the average Wendy in the street that he or she follows “Yorkshire’s Most Successful Club“.

The rationale, if such it can be called, behind such a bizarre belief is based upon a crude count-up of trophies won since the dawn of time. Sheffield Wednesday is among the oldest clubs in the professional game – Leeds United, at just under a hundred years old, is a comparatively youthful spring chicken. That being the case, it will be of no surprise that the Wednesday honours list goes back rather further than the Leeds one. And it is the sheer, epochal size of that time difference that really matters here.

Leeds United had endured a depressingly uneventful existence until the arrival and masterly stewardship of a certain Don Revie. Since that time, coinciding uncannily with my own date of birth, Leeds have been the club in Yorkshire, beyond any dispute or fanciful wishful thinking from the south of that county. From a position of never having won so much as an egg cup beyond one solitary second division title in the twenties, Leeds suddenly started to dominate the English game, accruing honours in the modern era to a degree and after a fashion hitherto unknown elsewhere.

The period after Revie has been comparatively barren – and yet the Whites have still been far more successful in those forty years than any Yorkshire “rival”. The fact of the matter is that, in the post-war period from 1946 onwards, and allowing for a 15 year wait for Revie to turn up, it’s been Leeds first and the rest nowhere, all the way, barring one solitary League Cup success for the Wendies – the goal sweetly scored against man u, almost inevitably, by a Leeds United product in John Sheridan.

For Sheffield Wednesday’s tangible rewards, apart from that single League Cup, you have to go way, way back. Not since 1935 has the FA Cup come to Sheffield. The two triumphs before that were in the pre-Wembley era, when the likes of Bury were winning FA Cups (and when Leeds United didn’t even exist). In those days, Sheffield Wednesday were simply “The Wednesday“, and they were a power back in the 20th century’s “Noughties”. They won two league titles, and added two more at the end of the 1920s. Their last honour before the ’91 League Cup was that mid-thirties FA Cup win against West Bromwich Albion. And then – nothing, until Shez popped up with the winner at modern-day Wembley against man u – the year before Leeds United became the Football League’s Last Champions.

Comparisons between eras are rarely helpful and often invidious – they’re mainly useful for disproving old-wives’ tales or, come to that, young Wendies’ tales. There can be no doubt at all that, in the years and decades since the bulk of the Sheffield honours were won, Football as a whole moved on massively; it became far more competitive and professional, broadened its scope to include European competition as standard and widened its appeal as the number one sport in the entire world. It goes without saying that Sheffield Wednesday have never won a European honour – but, significantly they’ve won only one trophy since the advent of colour TV, and their next most recent success came when George the Fifth was on the throne and a certain Herr Hitler was flexing his muscles for his own forthcoming European campaigns. Leeds prospered and dominated in a ruthless era that would see the strolling performers of the early 20th century melt like wax figures in a furnace.

For the question of who the world regards as Yorkshire’s number one – well, that isn’t even a question, really. In the eyes of the world, Yorkshire football is Leeds United first and foremost, plus sundry other outfits who tend to blur anonymously into each other. It’s certainly true to say that Wednesday would be the only even halfway meaningful rivals – Huddersfield Town have done nothing outside of the 1920s, and the rest are an embarrassment, a motley collection of failure and woe.

But even Wednesday, with their comparatively honour-laden (if ancient) history, cannot possibly hold a candle to Leeds United. Wendies rail angrily against this self-evident fact; they will produce any old trophy they can dig up in support of their hopeless position – The Late Victorian Garland for Services to Hacking and Scrimmaging, perhaps – or the Pathé News Cockerel Award for Monochrome Achievements of the Thirties. But the modern supremacy of Leeds United eclipses any or all of that, together with anything more genuine, with effortless ease.

The brutal fact of the matter is that anyone who can now remember Wednesday as Champions is currently looking down the barrel of their 100th birthday and a telegram from the Queen. The Owls have simply not been successful enough in the modern era to be compared favourably with a club in Leeds who have not only won the lot, but won it within the lifetime of one of its foremost fans (that’s me, folks). Wednesday have a proud history, and their fans rightly take pride in the very venerability of that history. But more recent arid failure denies them the right to be held as successful, or even that big. Big clubs win League Titles, and the Wendies haven’t done that since Ena Sharples was a lass.

Delusions aren’t necessarily bad things. They can comfort the insecure and bolster those who need to be bolstered. But they’re there to be shot down too, especially when the deluded are crowing that bit too busily over their false pretensions to size, success and status in England’s finest county. Those honours rightfully belong to Leeds United, as is widely and correctly acknowledged around the world – and this piece is simply here to set that record straight.

So, as emphasised by the final score at Hillsborough on Saturday, there is no doubt at all that Leeds United rule Yorkshire football still, as they have done now for well over half a century. It’s a bitter and unwelcome truth for the Wendies – but they really do need to suck it up.