Tag Archives: Manchester United

Despite the Furore, Marcelo Bielsa Remains Odds-On to be Leeds’ new Boss – by Rob Atkinson

Bielsa Bruce

Bielsa, or Bruce, or A.N.Other? Nobody knows, but the bookies have an idea

There’s a feeding frenzy of speculation surrounding Leeds United right now, with various internet sources pouncing on the fans’ anxiety to fuel debate as to whether the Whites will end up with a former Argentinian coach, or a former Man U centre half. Those two possibilities represent just about as polarised a choice of footballing philosophies as you could imagine, with Marcelo Bielsa favouring a high pressing game with a fluid attacking formation, whilst Steve Bruce would probably just let the players get on with it as, keenly aware of his popularity level at Elland Road, he sits in the dugout with a tin hat on.

It’s all speculation, simply because there is very, very little hard information out there. The sensible fan will resign him or herself to sitting back and waiting for something solid to transpire – but they might also take a passing glance at those bookies’ odds, which still have Bielsa as a strong odds-on favourite, despite talk of “drastic changes” in those odds. Odds-on in a field of several is powerful medicine; it does not indicate to the thinking fan that anything at all drastic has taken place. What is doubtless going on will be a lot of hard and urgent talking and, for the moment at least, that talking is most likely between United and Bielsa. Rumours that he is analysing videos of Leeds games from last season might incline us to send the poor chap some Paracetamol, but they do not, of themselves, make any particular outcome more likely.

All that’s actually happened in the betting market is that Bruce’s odds are shortened from 20-1 to 5-1, whilst Bielsa has seen his heavy odds-on price of 1-5 go out slightly to 4-9. That’s significant movement, particularly on the Bruce side – but then again, markets react to speculation, and his name has been bruited about a lot this past 24 hours. Overall, though, Bielsa remains a hot favourite – which is the most definite thing anyone can currently say.

For the record, my preference would be for Bielsa, based simply on the brand of football we might see. I’d also be extremely open to the possibility (if it exists) of Claudio Ranieri, who still rides fairly high in the odds.

It’s been a frustrating few days, and that might carry on a while yet. But all the indications remain positive that we’re still in for a very exciting summer.

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Even Sheffield Wednesday Fans Must 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

Leading up to the Yorkshire derby at Elland Road this weekend, there is one issue that needs to be put to bed once and for all, for the sake of all right-minded Leeds United fans, deluded Sheffield Wednesday fans – 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 – 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.

AC Torino and Superga: Football’s Forgotten Air Disaster – by Rob Atkinson

Today, February 6th, is the 60th anniversary of theMunich Air Disaster, a seminal event in English football history – in more ways than one. The shockwaves were felt worldwide as the heart was ripped out of a Manchester United team of massive potential, one that had already achieved much, and promised to go on and dominate at home – and possibly abroad, too. The casualty list is well-known, and especially fondly-remembered isDuncan Edwards, a young colossus of immense presence and ability with a glittering future ahead of him. He hung on to life for almost a fortnight after the accident, before succumbing to his injuries on February 19th 1958. The team’s manager, Matt Busby, was also left fighting for his life, and twice received the Last Rites, but thankfully he pulled through and went on to build another great team.

This is the story that everyone is familiar with. The name of Manchester United is synonymous in the minds of football fans everywhere with Munich, and the disaster which decimated the Busby Babes.  The event has such iconic status that it has helped garner the club a worldwide fan base, and certainly in the period preceding the last twenty years of their dominance, Man Utd were often regarded as everyone’s second-favourite team, based largely on the legacy of Munich.

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Superga Air Disaster, May 4th 1949

It may surprise a lot of people then, to hear that Munich was not the only, nor yet the worst disaster of this nature to strike a major football club. On Wednesday 4th May 1949, the Torino football team were returning home from a friendly match in Lisbon, when their aeroplane crashed into the hill of Superga near Turin, killing all 31 people on board including 18 players. The Torino football team, popularly known as Il Grande Torino, were a legendary outfit. They won the last Italian league title before World War II, and when the competition resumed after the hostilities, they won four consecutive post-war titles too. At the time of the crash, Torino was leading the title race with four games to go. They fielded a youth team in each of those games, and as a mark ofrespect, their opponents did the same. The youth team, Primavera, won those four games to claim theScudetto.

The disaster had hit Torino, and indeed Italian football, very hard indeed. Only three of the Champions’ squad were left, each having missed the fatal flight for one reason or another. The national team was also seriously weakened, as the players who died made up the bulk of the Italian squad. The Torino club itself failed to win another national title until 1976, fully 27 years after Superga. The crash was arguably the worst of its kind, in terms of the number of fatalities, the lack of survivors, and the impact on club and national football. Yet there have been other calamities, some much more recent than either Munich or Superga. In 1993, almost the entire national squad of Zambia died in an air crash. Virtually the whole of the Russian ice hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl perished in similar disaster in 2011. There are at least four more comparable incidents.

Why, then, are we so familiar with the story of Munich, but not – for instance – with the terrible loss suffered by Torino AC in 1949? We may think it’s because Manchester United are an English football club, and maybe there is some parochialism going on here. But the fame and infamy of Munich is a worldwide phenomenon, and the modern Manchester United owes much of its current global fan base to the legend that arose around theBusby Babes. Perhaps it’s because news media had progressed in the nine years between the two events, but as we have seen, much more recent tragedies remain relatively obscure.

Munich Memorial with AIG logo highlighted

Munich Memorial with AIG logo highlighted – tacky

The club itself, it must be said, have not been shy about keeping the memory of the disaster very much to the forefront of the public mind, whilst being curiously reticent and some would say callous in their treatment of some of the bereaved and of the survivors. Many felt that the decision toincorporate a sponsor’s logo into the Munich memorial outside Old Trafford was somewhat tacky. And “tacky” is a term that could easily be applied to the treatment of Munich survivor Jackie Blanchflower, for instance, who was severely injured in the crash, yet was removed from his club house shortly afterwards, with virtually no compensation.

Jeff Connor, in his sensitively-written and excellent bookThe Lost Babes, draws an illuminating contrast between the club welcoming publicity about Munich, whilst seeming somewhat uncaring about the consequences for the families left bereaved, and living a reduced existence. The bitterness felt by many people close to the Munich victims does not form a part of the legend as perpetuated by Manchester United FC. It has also frequently been claimed in popular culture that the Manchester United club owes a lot of its current and recent standing to the events of 60 years ago – a famousclip fromJimmy McGovern’s “The Street” features a rant delivered by actor Jim Broadbent, his character in the BBC drama voicing just this sentiment.

Torino AC, the club so devastated by the Superga Disaster all those years ago, did not place the same emphasis on the continual commemoration and reminiscing employed by Manchester United and its fans worldwide. Perhaps this is why they struggled for so long to regain any sort of pre-eminence, whereas it was only ten years after Munich that Matt Busby was knighted in the wake of his club’s European Cup triumph. What seems certain is that the mystique surrounding Munich, which seems to suggest that the 1958 disaster stands pre-eminent in the pantheon of sporting tragedy, does not hold up to closer examination, and should instead perhaps be marked to the credit, for want of a more appropriate word, of those who have worked so feverishly over the years to promote Man Utd as the world’s premier football club.

It is right and proper that the dead of any disaster should be remembered with respect and reverence, for their achievements in life, and to mourn their loss and the sadness of potential unfulfilled. But that should apply to all such tragedies and there has been undue emphasis on the tragedy and themarketability of Munich for far too long now.

If you offer up a thought for the Lost Babes today – I’m right there with you. But come the 4th of May – let’s also light a candle, on the 69th anniversary of that disaster, for the dead of Superga.

Leeds United Aims Sarcastic Parting Shot at Man Utd Failure CBJ – by Rob Atkinson

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Borthwick Jackson: Pick up a runner? Me?? Can’t be arsed, mate

When a young player arrives on loan at a club in the next league down, with much to prove and a new army of fans to impress, you expect a lot. When that player is moving to Leeds United, from their hated rivals over the Pennines in Salford, then those expectations are spiced with a feeling of, well, he’d better knuckle down and work his socks off, or he’ll get short shrift here.

Such was the situation facing Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, a left back of some promise a while back, as he arrived at Elland Road from Old Trafford via a less than impressive stint at Wolves last season where, so the story goes, he pulled up no trees. Still, all bigotry and hatred aside, his provenance suggested a certain amount of pedigree – surely, he’d provide a bit of quality on the left flank and maybe ruffle some feathers at the Pride of Devon by doing it for the Whites? No such luck, as it turned out. Perhaps we should have known, from other recent experiences of signing players from Them.

Borthwick-Jackson ended up making half a dozen appearances for Leeds, putting in barely an ounce of effort the whole while and looking supremely uninterested in soiling his Premier League sensibilities with anything so grubby as hard work and commitment. Now he’s returned ignominiously to his parent club, so he’s – nominally at least – a Premier League player again. Not that he’s got any real chance of getting anywhere near a first team appearance. On what he showed at Leeds, his prospects at Man U are about as promising as mine would be, should I ever wish to set foot inside the repulsive place. Here we have a young man whose body language suggests a languid assumption that the football world owes him a living. Unless he reappraises his attitude, and pronto, he’ll be heading for the butt end of League Two before long, and ruing the day.

On the face of it, Leeds bade CBJ a polite farewell, but it’s not difficult to detect the acid beneath the surface of the usual platitudes. Let’s not forget, this boy failed not because of a lack of ability, or injury, or any other misfortune – it was because of his rank bad attitude and lack of application, hideously unforgivable at any level of the professional game. So for Leeds United to wave him off with  “Borthwick-Jackson joined Leeds back in August and went on to make six appearances for the Whites. We would like to thank Cameron for his efforts during his time at the club” is, to say the least, slightly tongue in cheek. By that reckoning, I should be thanked for my efforts every time I pop the seal on a can of lager. The boy never tried a leg, and Leeds are surely making a barbed reference to that fact in citing his “efforts”. Then again, he’s probably arrogant and thick-skinned enough to take the words at face value. There’s just something rotten in the state of that club over the hills.

So, a short and nasty episode is over, and our playing staff is lighter by one waste of space. Presumably, the wage bill is that much lighter too, with some potential wages being freed up for a proper player or two. We can but dream. This transfer window has been more than a little frustrating so far, and it’s fair to say that one of its high points has been the shedding of this unworthy excuse for a professional footballer. Which puts our recruitment efforts into unfortunate context. We really must do better and, with two weeks of the window still to go, perhaps we yet will.

Meanwhile, it’s goodbye to Cameron. And good riddance, too. 

Isn’t it Time TV Stopped Pandering to the “We All Hate Leeds” Brigade? – by Rob Atkinson

Bafc LUFC

Burton Albion & Sky Sports v Leeds United

Watching Leeds United on the telly has health implications for your standard Whites fanatic, the kind with the iconic LUFC running through them like a stick of rock. Football devotees in general, and Leeds fans in particular, are hardly known for their Zen-like state of calmness, and it frequently seems to me that the telly people are doing their utmost to wind me up with their continual sniping at Yorkshire’s Number One football club. Because, whenever I’m stuck with TV coverage as opposed to being there, I always end up feeling as though my blood pressure has spiked, and I’m left foaming at the mouth, longing to give some smug pundit the baseball bat treatment.

The Burton Albion game on Boxing Day was a case in point. The Championship minnows had enjoyed two victories on the trot, and Sky Sports were all a-flutter to see them make that three against Big Bad Leeds. When the Brewers took the lead with a narrowly offside goal, the commentators glossed over it – Ronaldo Vieira shouldn’t have stepped out, their logic ran, so it was bad defending. If Vieira had stayed put, the lad would have been onside – but the pundits weren’t in any mood to let facts interfere with their “Chuffed that Leeds are losing” position. For the time being, they were as happy as a scum fan with a new easy chair (though that had changed by the time Ronnie, living up to both his names, put Kemar Roofe in for the winner).

Right at the end of the first half, Leeds defender Gaetano Berardi sailed into a challenge on Burton man Sean Scanell, and what followed was highly instructive. It was the kind of tackle that, when perpetrated by some media darling in a Man U shirt, elicits a roguish chuckle from the commentators, with the remark “That would have earned you a new contract back in the day, but now it’s a wee bit naughty”. The fact is that Berardi won the ball – with both feet, admittedly. But only the ball suffered, no blood was shed and no bones were broken. Still, the pundits were all pursed lips and sanctimony; their outraged verdict was that our man could and should have seen red.

In the second half, it was yours truly seeing red, as Albion’s goalscorer Tom Naylor, delivered the classic over-the-top leg-breaker on Vieira, studs into Ronnie’s standing leg, an absolutely atrocious challenge. From the Sky gantry, there was only the most sheepish of reactions – “Ooh, that’s another bad one” etc. There was none of the red card bloodlust, none of the hysteria that Berardi’s comparatively innocuous challenge had prompted. On the day, both incidents resulted in yellow cards – harsh in Berardi’s case, and a gross under-reaction to the Naylor assault on Vieira. But it was the Sky reaction that was the most disgusting aspect of the whole matter; they even edited the Naylor foul out of their highlights package, focusing the disciplinary spotlight firmly on the Berardi challenge. Sky TV do seem to have a heavy hand in editing Leeds highlights – the other week, they even edited Gjanni Alioski’s sumptuous winning goal right out of their Barnsley v United clip, which is a tad harsh, even by their anti-Leeds standards.

The thing is, these are not isolated examples. It happens time and again, most weeks in fact. There’s usually some dedicated Leeds-hating has-been in the co-commentary seat, and always an anti-United spin on the description of pivotal events. It’s no mystery as to what’s behind it – hating the Elland Road boys is still a national preoccupation, a good four decades after the Super Leeds era that got them all in such a resentful froth. So it’s in broadcast media’s commercial interests to hype up the hate, just as it is for them to view Man U through sentimentally rose-tinted glasses, catering to their tragic legions of armchair TV subscribers. Both attitudes are commercially sensible – but it doesn’t make them right.

Let’s face it, Leeds United are big box office for Sky’s Championship coverage, and it’s about time a little bit more respect was shown, if not outright gratitude. That’s only right and just, not that these are words figuring prominently in any broadcaster’s lexicon. But, for the sake of my blood pressure if nothing else, and to prevent me hurling something at my costly flat-screen technology – it’s time for the TV companies to wise up, grow up, and lay off my beloved Leeds.

Karma Bites the Snake as Monk Gets the Chop at Boro – by Rob Atkinson

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Where now for Garry “Snake” Monk?

It’s difficult for a Leeds United fan to feel any sympathy for Garry Monk. No, let me rephrase that. It’s impossible for any Leeds fan to feel sympathy for Garry Monk. Our feelings will range from mild amusement to deep satisfaction, as the ex-Whites manager who earned the soubriquet of “snake” found himself rattled, bitten and discarded.

Monk is another, seemingly, from the O’Leary School of Ego and Self-aggrandisement. The recipient of a good press for the job he was doing at Swansea City, Monk’s tender treatment from the media survived even his decision to take the Leeds job – something that would normally make a pariah out of any Fleet Street blue-eyed boy. When he upped sticks and left Elland Road, just as United seemed set for a bright new start, you could feel the hacks aching for him to do well in Smogland. Sadly – well, comically actually – it wasn’t to be. And now the Myth of Monk appears to have exploded. Really, you’d have to be made of stone not to laugh uproariously.

You’ll have to forgive my high spirits. This is news I’ve looked forward to laughing at since summertime, and it’s come just as Leeds have eked out another home win, while Man U have hilariously thrown away two points at Leicester, to follow up their capitulation at Bristol City (where Leeds won 3-0). Is it any wonder I’m a bit giddy??

Whatever comes next for Monk – and we all know we cordially wish him the worst – tonight’s news has been music to our United-loving ears. So, we’ll relish it a bit, along with the discomfiture of the Pride of Devon, and then look ahead to Burton on Boxing Day.

After all, it doesn’t do to dwell on the misfortunes of others, much less to glory in them…

Ah, Schadenfreude – like revenge, you’re a dish best served very, very cold.

When Wilko’s Leeds Ruined Christmas For Fergie and Man United – by Rob Atkinson

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Masterblaster Tony Yeboah gets the second for Leeds to ruin the Man U Christmas

As Yuletide approaches, it seems fitting to strike a seasonal note and invoke the Spirit of Christmas Past for a nostalgic revisiting of one particular December 24th many moons ago. All the ingredients for happiness came together that day: we ate, drank and were merry; we were uplifted and raised our voices in chorus amid a mighty throng; and we experienced and passed on goodwill to all men – except for a select few in the red shirts of Manchester United.

It was Christmas Eve 1995, and I awoke unusually early for a home match because Leeds United were due to face that other United from across the Pennines in a late morning kick-off at Elland Road. I’d stayed at a mate’s house, the plan being to gather at a local hostelry and wait for the supporters’ bus, fortified by a breakfast of bacon butties and bottled beer, whilst perusing the morning papers, unanimously predicting some away-day Christmas cheer for Fergie and his not-altogether-likeable Manchester United team. Those journalists’ anticipation of my team’s likely demise left me feeling queasy, a sensation not lessened by the pre-breakfast intake of alcohol. By the time we left for the stadium, I was feeling fairly poorly, with an uncomfortable sense that I was not going to enjoy my day. And, although Man U were recovering from a poor result at Liverpool, the boys and girls at Betulator would probably have endorsed my pessimism; it felt like very long odds against a home win to gladden the hearts of the faithful.

How wrong could I have been? Leeds were coming off the back of a humiliating thrashing at Hillsborough, and the feeling among our partially inebriated band of United faithful was that we’d either be getting more of the same, to cast a pall over Christmas itself – or that we’d mount a spectacular recovery and return to form, sending the enemy back to Lancashire beaten and subdued. And lo, it came to pass. Our heroes in White rose to the holiday occasion and rewarded the Elland Road congregation by granting their dearest wish, outclassing the invading Mancunians and recording a 3-1 victory that guaranteed we’d be opening our gifts and engulfing our turkey dinners the following day in the very highest of spirits.

There was even a Christmas miracle as, against the normal rules of these occasions, Leeds were awarded and dispatched an early penalty, much to the disgust of apoplectic Red Devils captain Steve Bruce, clearly not used to that sort of treatment. We had a brief scare as Andrew Cole notched a leveller against the run of play, but then Tony Yeboah provided a majestic finish before Brian Deane sealed the win late on with a precise header from a Tomas Brolin cross. At the end, the home fans celebrated raucously, revelling in the Yuletide spirit and the discomfiture of the away fans, that gloomy and huddled bunch, as they departed on their long and dispirited trek back to Devon.

If it sounds as though I can remember all this in vivid detail across the intervening years, well – that would be somewhat deceptive; it’s just that I’ve watched and re-watched the highlights so many times since. My main memories are of the spectacular hangover I experienced in the remainder of that Yuletide Eve; the feeling that, nevertheless, all was right with the world and that Christmas would be merry indeed – and the look of relief on the faces of my wife and infant daughter, who had feared I’d be grumpy in defeat and not inclined to carouse. It’s ridiculous of course that a mere game of football should so influence my mood at such a time of year, but that’s the way it was – and I suspect it still would be.

Perhaps that’s why they don’t tend to have football on December the 24th any more, such intense rivalry being out of keeping with festive good cheer. I can quite see that – but believe me, when you beat your biggest rivals the day before Christmas, there’s no better way to ensure the happiest of holidays.

Have a great Christmas, one and all.

Don Revie and Leeds Could Have Saved the Life of Man United’s Tragic George Best – by Rob Atkinson

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The late, not so great George Best

In George Best, the football world lost a massive talent if not a truly great player, when the maverick Irishman died prematurely at only 59 in 2005. In the twelve years since his tragic death, the debate has continued over his place in football, his ranking among the legends of the game. Best was a genius technically, blessed with the skills to enable him to do pretty much whatever he wanted on the football field. But he was also a flawed and addictive personality, less able than most professionals to deal with the pressures of professional football, more likely to be swayed from the straight and narrow by the temptations that would face any rich and over-hyped young man.

That being the case, Best could hardly have suffered a worse fate than to be taken onto the books of Manchester United as a callow youth, there to develop as a skillful footballer, but also to be lost in the maelstrom of hype and self-aggrandisement that has dogged the Old Trafford club since the start of the Matt Busby era and, particularly, since the Munich Air Disaster in 1958. For Best, it was the wrong club at the wrong time; he needed a different approach and a less relentlessly goldfish bowl existence. Stronger, less easily-led personalities than George Best prospered at Old Trafford, but the combination of George’s skill, personal attractiveness and extreme marketability made him ripe to be chewed up and spat out by the Man Utd/media publicity machine. Therein, the seeds of his eventual destruction were sown; Best was doomed by the unfortunate circumstance of becoming a Man United prodigy, his downhill path plotted even while he was enjoying such spectacular, early success.

It could all have been so different for George Best. What he needed was a better and more professional environment, somewhere his stellar talent could have been harnessed for the benefit of a crack team of inseparable brothers. Somewhere with a “Side before self, every time” mentality, with a manager who treated his players like sons and their wives and girlfriends like daughters-in-law, a place and a club where press flattery did not venture, but where instead a siege complex was fostered that strengthened the squad from within. George Best, had he but known it, needed Don Revie and Leeds United; if history had worked out differently, and Best had grown up alongside the likes of Billy Bremner, Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer and ex-Man Utd star John Giles, then I would venture to suggest that his development and indeed his whole existence would have been along such radically different lines, he may well have been still alive today.

George was let down by his football club, its management and the surrounding hype and worldwide acclaim. He was considered by many to be the greatest of all time, a view he would publicly endorse on his own behalf on many occasions. And that says a lot about George, about his inadequate standards and lack of humility. It’s something that would have been ironed out of him swiftly and early at Elland Road. Such conceit was frowned upon in the ultra-professional environment at Leeds, where individual skill was fostered and encouraged mainly within the pattern and demands of team requirements. Those were of paramount importance in Revie’s blueprint, so you had world-class talents like Gray, Bremner and Giles willing, nay, eager to devote their own brand of genius to securing the optimum team results. They’d have kept young George’s feet on the ground alright, and the Leeds backroom staff would have been there every step of the way, nurturing Best’s talent, inculcating the team ethic, bringing him down when that was needed, boosting him when necessary. The fact that Eddie Gray succeeded at Leeds was proof that a properly motivated and disciplined Best could have succeeded as well – and he’d have a had a long career, a longer life, if only that could have been the case.

It’s such a shame about George. The Manchester scene was all wrong for him, as would most probably have been that of London. Moreover, the club where he landed, at such a tender age, was in the business of producing legends, media stars to feed the delusions of their fans and meet the post-Munich hype and voracious desire to be the biggest, the best, the most glamorous. It takes a hardy seedling to prosper and grow in a hothouse like that and, despite early promise and a devastating few years of gaudy brilliance, George was doomed to wither and fade far too soon. The scars of that traumatic fall – he won his last club honour at only 22 – affected him for the rest of his life, leaving him easy prey for unscrupulous advantage takers, and for the buzz and temporary relief provided by alcohol. Who can deny that the more focused atmosphere and environment of Leeds United would have kept Best on the right path, providing him with a stage on which his technical genius could flourish, giving him the tangible rewards his prime deserved and yet never received?

In the public consciousness, Best was the Best – because we’ve been relentlessly told that’s the case, which has a lot to do obviously with the media circus and public adulation surrounding such an over-hyped football club. But sober analysis identifies Best as a genius footballer who was not a team player, not a very professional player and certainly not, over the span of his career, a world-class performer. Best, for all his talents, was not in the top twenty of all-time greats – but he should have been. He could perhaps have been right up there, among the best of the best. That he wasn’t and isn’t is something revisionists will deny, but a look at the facts and stats tells its own damning story.

George Best could gave been a much greater footballer, and he could still have been with us today. If only he’d been lucky enough to have started out, under Don Revie, at Leeds United, just as the Super Leeds legend was being born in the early sixties. What a different and infinitely happier story his might then have been.

Leeds Loanee Turned Down Ajax to Add Some Vim to Whites Defence   –   by Rob Atkinson

CBJ

Leeds United‘s newest recruit is a young left-back or central defender by the name of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. The 20 year old is on a season-long loan from a shady Salford-based franchise, and comes to Elland Road with something to prove after failing to make much of an impression at Wolverhampton Wanderers last season.

The new ownership and management structure at Leeds United should be credited with some solid good judgement, based on their recruitment record so far, and hopes will be high that young Cameron, who has apparently chosen Leeds over Dutch giants Ajax of Amsterdam, can be a further vindication of United’s recent transfer market acquisitions. A few notable markers have been laid down for the progress of CBJ (let’s call him that, to save pulling a tongue muscle). On the evidence of Sunday’s season opener at Bolton, Leeds have purchased well and wisely. 

We haven’t yet seen all of the signings in serious action, but Pennington, on loan from Everton, looks replete with class and composure. Anita, too – a free transfer from promoted Newcastle – looked neat and tidy once called on from the bench. He seems to offer an ability to read the game from a defensive berth, and an endearing willingness to stride forward and have a good dig at the opposition goal. 

Add to that the home-grown potential of Kalvin Phillips, the commitment and passion of the wrongly-maligned Cooper, and the wealth of possibilities in central and wide midfield, and it can be seen that Leeds are but an additional central defender and a support striker away from being a force in this league. Possibly an irresistible force. 

If the judgement displayed so far in the recruitment of the above-mentioned signings, to say nothing of Alioski, Saiz and Klich, is borne out by young CBJ also proving himself, then we’ll  have an embarrassment of riches in the squad, with quality backed up by quality all over the park. The talk now is of a young Premer League striker of pedigree coming in on loan to take some of the pressure off the broad shoulders of Chris Wood. All of a sudden, we are cooking with gas at Elland Road. 

Last but not least in the instant gratification stakes, the loan signing of CBJ has prompted a petulant meltdown on the mufc Twitter feed. Which is nice for its own sake, but encouraging too. Even the Prima Donna types who “support” man u from their Devon hovels wouldn’t have tantrums over the loan of a non-talent. Hopefully, CBJ will be more of a Strachan than a Wootton when judged against arrivals to Leeds from the wrong side of the Pennines. 

In the meantime, the future is bright – the future is White. Let’s buckle up and enjoy the ride. 

Leeds, Spurs, Everyone: Give Arsenal’s Main Man a Chance   –   by Rob Atkinson


The Tories think you are STUPID. That’s why they talk at you in three word, alliterative sentences, which they repeat over and over. 
Strong and stable. Brexit means Brexit. Magic money tree. Enough is enough. Coalition of Chaos. 

It’s the crudest and most obvious form of brainwashing you could imagine, but the Tories think – because you didn’t go to Eton, Harrow and then the Varsity – that you will be easily-led enough to vote FOR fox-hunting, the end of our NHS, tax rises for everyone except the rich, cuts in police and education, the Dementia Tax – and all the other nasties that the Nasty Party wants to foist on the many, so that the few can continue to ride their beloved gravy train.

They think you’ll be daft and masochistic enough to vote AGAINST free education, a decent living wage, investment in housing and social care and 10,000 extra police to make our streets safer. They think you’re THAT stupid. Well, are you?
I have a three word sentence for you. VOTE THEM OUT. And a four word sentence. BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. 
Because, in one respect, the Tories are right. Enough IS enough. Seven years of Tory rule have dangerously weakened our front-line defences, driven teachers to despair, piled more pressure onto overworked and underpaid nurses and junior doctors. They’ve made a mess of the economy and a laughing-stock of the nation.

Now Trump is supporting the woman who failed as Home Secretary, who is failing as Prime Minister and who wants YOU to back her vague and uncosted manifesto – in effect, sign a blank cheque – for another five grim years, so that she can continue to run down vital services and sell off infrastructure. When Trump supports something, you know it can’t be good.
The last seven years of ideological austerity, which have seen national debt double to almost £2 trillion, are ample proof that the Tories are hopelessly malign and clueless. Enough really IS enough. And this election will be your last chance to make a fresh start before the Tories rig the democracy game to make sure they stay in power forever. Don’t be stupid. Don’t let them do it. The stakes are high, have your say on Thursday, and get rid of the Tories. 
Give Mr. Corbyn your trust and your faith. Give him a chance to put things right for the many, not just the few. It’s probably the chance of a lifetime to escape the yoke of neoliberalism. 

America missed the opportunity afforded them by Bernie Sanders. Look where they are now. We must not make the same mistake. 

#VoteLabour #JC4PM #ToriesOut