Tag Archives: Marcelo Bielsa

Why Leeds United Should Already be Planning for the Premier League – by Rob Atkinson

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Leeds fans – fervent hopes and great expectations

A combination of Leeds United’s positive start to the Championship campaign, along with the fact of some rivals’ struggles when promoted to the Premier League, might give rise to doubts among our number as to how United would cope with our own longed-for elevation to the elite – should it finally happen. It’s a fair question, even at this early stage of the season – counting no chickens and not wanting to sound too arrogant, it still is very definitely something we’ve every right to ponder. After all, we’ve built up such momentum as a club this past year or so, with Elland Road packed every home game and thousands following the lads all over the country. There’s no denying it’s been a blast, we even surpassed some of the expectations and odds provided by the best pundits of the Sports betting and news sites, even given last season’s ultimate disappointment. Do we really relish the idea of trading all of that for the negativity of a long, grim relegation struggle in the Premier League next year? But that train of thought, logical and realistic though it might be, flies in the face of Leeds United’s urgent need for a return to where it truly belongs.

In considering our chances of survival if this season did see us making a successful promotion challenge, we’d do well to take with a pinch of salt the current club response to rumours of a possible takeover somewhere down the line. The Leeds owner’s position is given as being willing to consider more inward investment, while refusing to contemplate an actual sale of the club. But many fans, as well as many seasoned football pundits, feel that Leeds would have to change hands if they were to have a chance of competing towards the higher echelons of the Premier League. Even then, there’d be the strictures of Financial Fair Play to be negotiated; some of the club’s biggest challenges in a higher sphere would, it appears, be off the field of play. But the likes of Wolves have shown it’s possible to operate to a model that permits more than just a struggle to survive, and this is the type of example that United must follow, should they finally escape the clutches of the Football League.

Huddersfield struggled feebly for two seasons and then meekly surrendered. Hull City did well for a while, but now they’re back down. It will be interesting to see how Sheffield United fare in the top flight, after their steady start. But surely Leeds United, given the right type of ownership and structure, should be able to envisage a more secure foothold at a higher level than any of these Yorkshire rivals were able to achieve.

Clearly, we have to focus on promotion first and foremost, but it’s as well to have plans in place a long way in advance of any realisation of our current ambitions. So now really is the time to be wondering how we’d cope – and I firmly believe that those questions are already echoing around the corridors of power inside Elland Road. What the answers will be, who can say? But Leeds fans, who will remember how United set about the top flight on our previous two promotions in 1964 and 1990, are unlikely to settle for a weak approach next time. They will want to see us challenging as of old – and I believe it’s in this club’s DNA to do just that.

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Back to School for the “Class of ‘92” as Bielsa’s Leeds Master Salford – by Rob Atkinson

The Last Champions – Masters of 1992

As anyone who has watched the entertaining Class of 92 TV series will attest, Salford City have come a long, long way in a short, short time, gaining multiple promotions from what was their virtual grass roots status, and picking up a spiffy new stadium along the way. All very admirable, even if some insist on pointing out that this progress has been courtesy of many more millions in funding than you commonly see so far down the football pyramid. It would seem that Financial Fair Play has a different meaning at this thud and blunder stratum of the game, though you’ll likely be accused of poor taste by those behind the Salford/media love-fest if you’re presumptuous enough to point this out.

Still, the TV programmes have been entertainment gold for all of us who like to be flies on walls in tantrum-riven half time dressing rooms, or even post-defeat boardrooms, when things are going awry. It’s a vicious as well as vicarious sort of amusement but, for the past few days leading up to our own Leeds United heroes’ Cup tie appointment with Salford, it’s helped fill the void that opened up in the wake of being scurvily robbed of victory against Nottingham Forest. There was drama aplenty and some unwitting comedy too, particularly in the moment of fulfilment as Salford gained promotion to the Football League at Wembley, with co-owner Gary Neville’s high-pitched Mancunian squeaks of celebration disappearing off the audible scale and becoming something only dogs or Huddersfield fans could hear.

So much for Salford’s mundane but latterly meteoric history prior to last night. For the Leeds United home tie was where their new era truly began, after one victory and one defeat at League Two level, with the visit of the biggest club in the entire Football League. Anticipation was quite naturally at fever pitch and the new stadium, whose corporate name I entirely forget, was packed to its Meccano rafters. All was ready – and the scene was set, so Sky Sports clearly and fervently hoped, for a juicy giant-killing, with S’rAlex and his erstwhile footballing sons, together with the legendary Lawman, clustered eagerly in the main stand to witness the deeply desired humbling of Leeds United.

Alas, these things so often fail to work out as planned, something any random sample of mice and men will confirm. Before kick-off, over-excited Salford fans were issuing predictions of a 3-1 victory, and even the normally pragmatic Gary Neville so far forgot himself as to join in with such ill-advised optimism. Gary is prone to the odd mental aberration where Leeds United are concerned, somehow contriving to have entirely forgotten, despite pictorial evidence of him looking dismayed in the background while Jermaine celebrated his goal at the Beckford End, United’s 1-0 FA Cup victory at the Theatre of Hollow Myths in 2010. Gary had thought that Leeds were back in his life for the first time since 2004 – but he is getting on a bit, bless him, and these lapses are understandable.

The match started with both sides in wary, probing mode, and with Salford managing to prevent Leeds getting behind them whilst launching a few raids of their own on the counter-attack. This was enough, despite United’s domination of possession, for the Sky commentary team, featuring ever-reliable Leeds-hater Don Goodman, to proclaim that the home team had been the better side – and the coverage featured numerous cutaway shots of the strangely named “Class of 92” looking resolutely happy whenever Salford did anything remotely competent. But reality bit ravenously at Lancastrian jugulars just before the interval, with Helder Costa making a quicksilver dart for the byline to be found by a beautiful Jamie Shackleton pass inside the full-back. Costa laid a devastating ball across the six yard box to find fellow debutant Eddie Nketiah emerging between two bamboozled centre-backs to finish decisively into an empty net. Salford had been cut asunder by a moment of class from a higher sphere, and all of a sudden, those lovingly lingering shots of the ersatz Class of 92 were a thing of the past. Don Goodman talked hopefully about Nketiah being offside and of how Salford could now capitalise on their good play after the interval, but his hope and his enthusiasm were waning. And, happily, worse was to come.

In the second half, Leeds piled on that lovely agony with a near post flick from Berardi and a sumptuous finish from Klich which topped off a sweeping, length of the pitch break from a Salford corner. It was “job done”, and the disgruntled Sky guys knew it, opting now to talk instead of United’s draw at home against Forest in a vain attempt to rekindle the Leeds crisis atmosphere they’d worked so hard to generate pre-match. For the rest, there were a couple of elbows to Leeds heads, dismissed by Goodman as unintentional, and the standard stonewall penalty not given when Shacks was hauled back in the box. 3-0 and finis, a tricky tie safely negotiated.

A look around other results last night will show you that Sky’s hopes for a Salford victory had been not all that unrealistic. This stage of this competition has upsets as the norm, not the exception. Among the more amusing outcomes were Barnsley’s 0-3 capitulation to Carlisle, with ex-United man Aapo Halme having a ‘mare, and Huddersfield losing at home to a single goal by Lincoln City to cries from literally dozens of dog-botherers for their new manager to get him hence. So the processional nature of United’s progress would have been a matter of bitter regret to Goodman and Co, who surely must have reflected that they should have looked elsewhere for their longed-for upset.

What else can be taken away from this tie, what lessons are there to be learned? One is that the myth of Leeds’ shallow squad is just that; with the likes of Shackleton, Davis and young Alfie McCalmont looking ready to supplement the established stars, we seem comfortably well-off for squad depth to this blogger’s eye. Also, the myth of The Class of 92 can now finally be scotched. The Last Champions were the real Class of 92 and, if you’re looking for winners in the clash of emerging talents, let’s not forget that the Nevilles, the Scholes the Beckhams et al, while victorious in the Youth Cup of 92, comprehensively bit the dust in the Final of 93, beaten in both legs by the boys from Elland Road.

All in all, then, a most satisfactory evening, with United enjoying the fruits of victory and Fergie, along with his protégés, choking on some well-earned humble pie. Which really is exactly as it should be.

Marching On Together

Leeds Fans Must Now be United Behind Club and Team – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds Fans United

Every Leeds United fan knows that following the Whites automatically includes you as part of the most fanatical and vociferous band of supporters anywhere. In short, the greatest fans around. This is an article of faith with United fans, not even a matter for debate. So mote it be. 

How very odd, then, to find yourself shaking your head in baffled disbelief at some of the social media output from the massed keyboards of this elite cadre of support. Clearly, with an online presence that probably runs into the millions worldwide, not everybody is going to agree all the time, for instance, on the vexed subject of United’s transfer policy. Still, the why-oh-why stance of a small but loud minority of the virtual support is hard to stomach for those of us who were brought up on the credo of “my club, right or wrong”.

It’s not only a transfer window thing, either. In fact, compared to the negative attitude of some “supporters” towards players struggling for form and confidence, Victor Orta and his transfer team are being afforded a relatively easy ride. Even so, the amount of uninformed criticism surrounding United’s recruitment efforts, during this and other transfer windows, tends to make Twitter an area of the Internet it’s wiser to avoid, especially for those who prefer their blood pressure to remain at a good safe level. Needless to say, that’s not a luxury in which I can indulge, being of the blogger/columnist persuasion, and my hypertension suffers accordingly.

Transfers are complex matters, due to all manner of factors: finances, agents, rival clubs, media and so on. I don’t envy the United officials trying to negotiate such choppy waters while being assailed and vilified on all sides by a section of online fans not overly burdened with any knowledge of what they’re talking about, and even less so by any tact, restraint or decorum. It can’t make the job any easier and, every now and again, you do see a faintly exasperated comment from the club along the lines of “we’re doing our best, we all want good outcomes, please be patient”. Sadly, such assurances usually fall on deaf ears; there are those out there, it seems, who wallow in negativity and relish any chance to have a moan or offer their unqualified opinions. 

It’s the carping criticism of certain players, though, that really offends and annoys. Take Patrick Bamford, for instance. Now, some of the criticism he receives has been fairly gentle and possibly even merited, though his record at United is good, taking into account last season’s injury woes. His milder critics peddle a ruefully humorous line, referring to Patrick as “Lord Bamford of Beeston” and wondering, tongue in cheek, if he shouldn’t delegate his goal-scoring duties to his butler. That’s the kind of thing that, reaching a player’s ears, might make him smile and redouble his determination to succeed. It’s harmless fun and, if the line is drawn there, nobody could really complain. 

But the more serious and malicious abuse is blatantly counter-productive, a classic case of a pistol levelled directly at our own collective foot. Players, and strikers in particular, thrive on confidence and encouragement. It makes little sense to hurl abuse and ill-founded criticism at a player such as Bamford, who will not be assisted by suggestions that he couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo, or that he’s worth less than a written-off, wheel-less banger rusting in a ditch. All that and worse has been flung at Bamford.

Fortunately and thankfully, the lad has a resilient character and a cold determination to succeed. His goal at Bristol City, the movement and the finish from that aristocratic forehead, testify to that. Long may his ability to rise above the howling of the mob continue.

Now, the window is closed until January, and it’s been a far better one than the usual suspects referred to above would wish you to believe. The squad has been purged of certain disruptive elements as identified by Marcelo Bielsa himself and, despite FFP strictures, the overall quality is arguably higher. In any event, we go with what we’ve got; if the performance at Ashton Gate can be maintained or even improved upon, it’ll take a fabulous opposing performance to stop us in any given match.

Whether you’re a matchgoing, raucous fanatic, or confined to long distance support, the message from here is the same. Get behind the team, get behind the club. We’re all on the same journey. Marching On Together.

Leeds to Get £190k EFL Fine Rebate by Claiming Spygate was Actually Racism? – by Rob Atkinson

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Dirty nasty foreign spies Leeds United – and lovely cuddly adorable racist granny Millwall

Leeds United may well have found a loophole, courtesy of the Football League, in the flimsy legal basis for the £200,000 fine levelled against them last season over the so-called “Spygate” furore. It now turns out that, compared to the heinous matter of viewing a rival team training, from a public footpath, through a wire fence, in contravention of absolutely no current rules whatsoever, out-and-out racism is viewed by the Football League as twenty times less serious. This is made clear by the amount Millwall FC have been fined for the racist chanting of some of their fans, a comparatively measley £10,000.

The logic behind United’s next step is now inescapable. If the Elland Road outfit were simply to hold their hands up and reveal that the man on the public footpath was not merely an innocent observer of a training event being held in plain sight, but was actually hurling racist abuse and invective towards certain of the Derby players, then it will be seen that the fine of £200,000 was wrongly set too high by a factor of 2000%. The Football League, by virtue of the precedent they themselves have set, would be forced to refund 95% of United’s fine, in order to demonstrate their commitment to even-handedness and egalitarianism.

In point of fact, the Leeds fine was paid personally by manager Marcelo Bielsa, who assumed full responsibility for the whole situation as far as Leeds United’s involvement was concerned. It is thought that United would not wish to detract from this admirable gesture on their manager’s part, and so will add the refunded amount of £190,000 to club coffers in case they wish to pay up the contracts of any unwanted players they’ve not been able to flog so far.

The Football League is happy to confirm that Millwall Football Club are chirpy, cheery, charming (if a little racist but let’s not hammer them for it) cockneys, which isn’t nearly as bad as nasty horrible Leeds spying on Fwank.

Pontus Jansson is the Big Loser in the Latest Leeds United Transfer Shocker – by Rob Atkinson

Pontus Brentford

Pontus Jansson – a sheepish grin

“It started off so well”, sang Freddie Mercury at the beginning of the Queen classic Save Me. “They said we made a perfect pair”. In the early stages of Pontus Jansson’s Leeds United career, it really did seem as though player and club belonged together. Pontus epitomised the United spirit on the field, he was hailed for forging a link between team and supporters, in a passionate and empathetic manner that hadn’t been seen at Elland Road, maybe since the days of the legendary and iconic Vinnie Jones, whose recent tragic bereavement reminds us all that he remains very close to our collective heart. Pontus “got” Leeds, so we thought – he understood the character of the club and the viscerally emotional nature of the fans’ connection to their heroes on the field. Surely, here was a swashbuckling hero of a never-say-die defender, who could lead us back to the promised land, repelling all challengers, wearing his magic hat with pride.

And then, not quite out of the blue, but in a manner both shocking and unexpected, it was all over. Pontus was gone, suddenly he was no longer Leeds; he had departed for the unlikeliest of destinations in Griffin Park, Brentford. Behold an object lesson, as if Leeds fans really needed one, in the fleeting and deceptive nature of fan/player relationships. It’s all happened before, of course – so many of our United icons have been there one day, sporting an opposition shirt and a sheepish grin the next. Cantona, Batty, Snodgrass, Howson, Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all. It’s like a roll call of grief and loss so, in many ways, Jansson’s departure should be no real surprise, simply because it confirms this distressing trend.

Nevertheless, shock and surprise have been among the most common reactions on social media, as the virtual Leeds United presence attempts to come to terms with this latest wrench. A lot of the most heartfelt reactions appear to stem from frank disbelief that it could happen to us yet again. Supporter incredulity, though, always seems to be rooted in a basic misunderstanding of exactly what motivates professional football players. For all that we’d sing to Pontus about his magic hat whenever he went to the crowd after a hard-earned victory, for all the fervour and the feeling of mutual love and a common cause, deep down we should really be aware that this passion and apparent rapport is actually a one-way street. Players, at the end of the day, will have their minds on their careers and the bottom line. And clubs, including Leeds United, will be totally lacking in sentimentality when it comes to decisions on the continuing usefulness of a player to the squad and the team. Once we accept this, the shock of parting – even with yet another terrace hero – should be less.

Clearly, United manager Marcelo Bielsa had come to the conclusion that the net effect of Pontus at Leeds was negative, for all his occasional heroics on the field. Incidents like the one at the end of the QPR league game towards the end of the season, and Jansson’s reaction to the unopposed Villa goal at Elland Road, seem to have made up Bielsa’s dispassionate mind. Pontus was now seen as a negative influence on the squad as a whole. Much the same had been said about Samu Saiz, with the identical result. Those who aren’t on board end up overboard; the team is the thing. If we put our faith in Bielsa, as we really must do, then we simply have to accept this – and move on.

In Save Me, Freddie went on to lament “The years of care and loyalty were nothing but a sham it seems…” Perhaps that’s going too far. But it’s Pontus who is the biggest loser here – not Leeds United.

My Bremner Square Tribute to my late, Leeds-supporting Dad – by Rob Atkinson

Dad and me – part of the fabric of Elland Road

Just over 44 years ago, my dad ensured that I’d be saddled with a hopeless devotion to Leeds United for the rest of my life. He did this by the simple expedient of purchasing tickets for “the two biggest games of the season”. There they were, these seemingly innocuous but actually life-changing pieces of paper, artlessly displayed on the dining room table – my initiation to the Elland Road experience. Liverpool first, on Saturday April the 5th 1975 and then, the following Wednesday, I’d see Leeds United take on the mighty Barcelona, Cruyff, Neeskens and all, in the European Cup semi final.

 

As I’d never even shown the remotest interest in attending a football match, it’s fair to say that my dad was taking a bit of a punt on me enjoying myself. For all he knew, I could have sulked through both matches; certainly he could never have foreseen the extent to which this sudden treat would alter my outlook and priorities.

 

Strangely, just as Dad was introducing me to a lifetime of United fanaticism, his own passion for the club was about to decline. It’s almost as if he was preparing to hand over the responsibility for supporting the club he’d loved since he was a teenager, even though my first few years of being a proper Leeds fan were spent in his company. Dad didn’t seem to handle the waning of the club’s fortunes too well – after all, he’d seen the flowering of John Charles’ genius in the fifties, then he’d gone all the way through the Revie era of Super Leeds as United carried all before them, winning everything to become football legends.

 

Those were pretty tough acts to follow, and my dad became perhaps a little impatient with the lesser breed of players who were my new heroes. Eventually, I started to go to Elland Road on my own, and I’d come back waxing lyrical about Tony Currie, Arthur Graham, Brian Flynn or Ray Hankin. For me, it was all still bold and new, and I savoured the unique atmosphere as I graduated from Lowfields with my dad, via the Boys’ Pen to the Gelderd End Kop. I’d inherited the mantle of the family’s United fanatic, and Dad seemed almost eager to trade terrace for armchair and take a more passive role.

 

Still, he stuck with it for the first few seasons of my Leeds United worship. This was pretty considerate of him, as I brought Leeds United no luck at all. In that first game, we lost at home to Liverpool 2-0 and, although I saw us beat Barcelona on that memorable Elland Road night, with Billy Bremner scoring my first ever “live” Leeds United goal, my record in the league was dismal over the next couple of seasons. Dad must have thought of me as a Jonah – I never even saw United score another goal, let alone avoid defeat, until I started going to the match on my own in August 1976. In the meantime, we lost to the likes of Liverpool (again), Norwich and Sheffield United, all of which defeats I assumed to be my fault, and I think Dad agreed. But I was not discouraged; I was hooked and that was it. When I eventually saw us win in the league, 2-0 against Derby with goals from Eddie Gray and Trevor Cherry, I was delirious with joy and, to this day, every detail of that game is sharp and clear in my memory.

 

I know that Dad often regretted making a Leeds fan out of me, he was even on about it on my wedding day. He thought I could have spent my time more productively, maybe in playing him in the fiercely competitive Scrabble sessions which he adored – and, on the odd occasion, I’ve found myself agreeing. But overall, it’s been wonderful and, having journeyed from a milk crate vantage point in the middle “shelf” of Lowfields to my present perch on the West Stand Press gantry, I can’t imagine a life without United.

 

Now, over four years since Dad passed away, I’ve finally managed to make him a permanent part of Elland Road with a “Father and Son” stone in Bremner Square, as pictured above. It’s taken me a while, but at last I think I’ve found the most fitting and enduring way to say “thanks, Dad”. MOT, wherever you may be.

No Need for Leeds to Worry About Spygate-Obsessed Lampard at Chelsea – by Rob Atkinson

Fwankie and Marcelo, student and master

It’s the silly season, and the media’s favourite target, Leeds United, is – as usual – the subject of ever more ridiculous attempts at sensationalism designed to sell gutter rags or attract clicks on gutter websites. Among the more laughable lately have been the suggestions that United are after various superannuated Italian football pensioners, along with the perennial line that always comes out when a club with a Leeds chip on its shoulder signs a player. Yes, you know, the angle where said club has “beaten Leeds United to the signature” of whoever. Invariably, it’s one of the rare players we’ve not been linked with, have never heard of, and wouldn’t touch with the proverbial bargepole.

That mention of pensioners brings me on to the subject of Chelsea, who are hotly tipped to snatch media darling Fwankie Lampard from the clammy grasp of Derby County. The media line being peddled here is that Lampard’s move to Stamford Bridge would result in him having a Spygate-provoked tantrum at the merest suggestion that Dirty Leeds might have a Chelsea player under the covetous gaze of their transfer market binoculars. Fwankie just would not allow this, screech the media, because, you know, Spygate. And Bielsa. So it won’t happen and Leeds are doomed, these desperate hacks smugly conclude, before settling down to lick Fwankie’s boots and judiciously selected parts of his anatomy.

All very petty, all very predictable. And all, as usual, completely untrue. The fact of the matter is that any Chelsea player good enough to excite the interest of Bielsa would simply not be available. The reason for this is that Chelsea are subject to a two window transfer ban that will see them having to rely, to an extent, on youngsters they’d normally have farmed out on loan to assist in their development. But now these kids will be needed by Chelsea, so there’s little chance of anyone worthwhile being made available, QED. The only remotely plausible bit of this media fantasy – that Fwankie would be spoilt and petulant enough to block a transfer to Leeds because he’s basically a bitter child – need not concern us. Anyway, the Tearful One is going to have bigger problems on his plate, happily enough, through being hopelessly out of his depth in the top flight.

Roll on August, when the silly season makes way for the actual football season. Not that this will stop the media hating and sniping at Leeds – but at least we’ll have the odd game or two to distract us.

Marching On Together

Leeds Now Linked With Totti, So Can They Finally Get Maradona? – by Rob Atkinson

Maradona – will he finally realise his Leeds United dream?

According to certain media sources, Leeds United are planning to tempt 42 year old Francesco Totti out of retirement to fire them to promotion. The speculation follows hard on the heels of suggestions that fellow World Cup winner Gianluigi Buffon could be in line to replace Kiko Casilla in goal, as Leeds seemingly look to experience for next season’s Championship campaign.

Given this apparent non-ageist policy, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is now asking the $64,000 question: is it finally time to make good on the ambition, dating back to the mid-eighties, of bringing Diego Maradona to Elland Road?

They say that any winning team needs a strong spine and, with Buffon in goal and the attacking partnership of Totti and Maradona, we’d only need a legendary centre-back and maybe a holding midfielder of the same ilk, and we’d be cooking with gas. Franz Beckenbauer owes Leeds United a favour or two after his pivotal role in the 1975 European Cup Final, so maybe he could slot in alongside Liam Cooper, allowing our shrewd transfer team to capitalise on the market value of Pontus Jansson. And Beckenbauer, a sprightly 73, could also act as a defensive mid, although surely our own David Batty could do a job there despite his relative inexperience at only 50 years old.

These are exciting times for Leeds United as they seek to exploit the potential of geriatric footballers the world over. Could Diego Maradona really be the jewel in our promotion crown at the age of 58?

Only time, and possibly TalkSport Radio, will tell.

Leeds Utd Have Goalie Plan B if Gianluigi Buffon Deal Falls Through – by Rob Atkinson

Promising youngster Peter Shilton

The internet is currently abuzz with rumours that Leeds United are looking to secure the services of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, the 41 year old Italian World Cup Winner who has just been released by Paris Saint-Germain. The deal for Buffon has been regarded as unlikely, given United’s second tier status, but now some bookmakers are quoting odds as narrow as 5-2 against the legendary keeper signing on the dotted line for Leeds.

However, should the sensational swoop fail to transpire, it is believed that United are looking at alternative targets in the geriatric goalkeeper market, with the name of Peter Shilton being bruited about. Shilton, at 69, would be at the top end of the age range even for a keeper – but armchair experts are rating him a possibility and “certainly better than that clown Kiko”. The signing of older players is becoming more common since Derby County took a punt on 74 year old former England left back Ashley Cole (after being turned down by Kenny Sansom).

When approached by Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything for a comment on the likelihood of him joining United’s promotion push, Shilton confined himself to a cryptic “I don’t think Tina would be too happy”.

Former Sheffield United keeper William “Fatty” Foulke is 145.

Gary Neville Has Successfully Forgotten 2010, Leeds and the Beckford End – by Rob Atkinson

Gary Neville, part owner of League newcomers Salford City FC, has reacted instantly to his team’s Carabao Cup first round home draw against Leeds United. Neville, third in his own family in the coaching stakes, tweeted “Welcome back into my life Leeds United, it’s been 15 years”. Clearly, the stress of club part ownership – or maybe his regular spats with fellow Sky pundit Jamie Carragher – has taken its toll on poor Gary’s grey matter and memory, as it was a mere nine years ago that third tier Leeds went to Old Trafford to face Champions Man U in the FA Cup third round. United made history by beating their old rivals 1-0 that day, with the home team including one G. Neville who could only look on as our Jermaine slotted home the winner in front of the Beckford End. Perhaps Gary has just been trying to forget…

It’s not the first gaffe that has come back to haunt Neville. He is on record as saying that no decent manager should ever lose 7-0. Naturally, he then proceeded to lose by precisely that score as rookie manager of Valencia, something that must have been hard to swallow even for one with as big a cakehole as our old friend Gary. Apparently, he was too speechless with shock to protest his subsequent, ignominious sacking.

Still, we’ll take his welcome back tweet as cordially intended if not factually accurate. The tables will be turned from that famous January 3rd cup shock in 2010, in that Leeds will be two leagues above their opponents, rather than two leagues below. It should be quite an occasion, anyway – maybe yet another live TV appearance for Leeds, and certainly an early highlight in the League career of Salford. Let’s hope that Gary Neville enjoys this one just as much as that other cup tie which he seems to have forgotten all about.

Welcome back into our lives, Mr. Neville. It’s been NINE years…