Tag Archives: Marching On Together

Death of a Leeds United Fan – by Rob Atkinson

Reblogging this only because I initially omitted to include an Alzheimer’s Society link – and if just a few quid can be raised in the fight against this insidious robber of life and happiness, then it’ll be worthwhile.

Thanks for all the earlier comments – you can have no idea how much it’s helped. MOT

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything

Kenneth Atkinson 7.7.1927 - 27.2.2015 Taken on my parents' wedding  dayKenneth Atkinson 7th July 1927 – 27th February 2015
Taken on my parents’ wedding day, 1959

My Dad died in the early hours of this morning. He’d been afflicted with Alzheimer’s for the very last part of his life, and there’s that inescapable feeling that this loss is just final confirmation of what has been a gradual departure over the last few years. It’s still a shock, though – and, blogs being blogs, this is where I have to say how I feel – and make my last farewell.

Dad was a ridiculously handsome man who failed utterly to pass those fortunate genes on to me, bequeathing instead a fanatical love for Leeds United Football Club. He was Mr. LUFC to me, John Charles’ greatest fan and a dedicated match-goer through the Don Revie glory years – when I was just a small child with no interest in the game…

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Happy New Year to All Leeds Fans; the Best Fans in the World – by Rob Atkinson

Spontaneous reaction from an awestruck Derby fan

Spontaneous reaction from an awestruck Derby fan

Amid the doom and gloom of 2014, let’s all remember that we still have one massive asset – the incredible support that Leeds United is struggling vainly to deserve. The support is the lifeblood of any club, and we have simply the best around. This is not just the biased ravings of a Leeds lunatic with white-tinted spectacles on. It’s the view of other fans too, even some of those who hate us the most. The picture accompanying this paragraph is of an awestruck reaction from a Derby County fan after last night’s debacle (I don’t endorse ALL the text of this, by the way). And below, I reproduce without embellishment the views of a Cardiff fan who attended a United away game at Blackburn, which make for edifying reading, to say the very least. It’s quite long, not totally approving of ALL the antics of United’s travelling army – and many of you will have seen it before anyway. But it’s useful to remind ourselves of the high esteem in which this club’s support is held in certain parts of what might be deemed enemy territory:

I used to hate Leeds United.

I’d gleefully join in with ‘We all hate Leeds scum’ chants and sing about how they weren’t famous anymore. If there was no derby game that season it would be the first fixture I looked for and would anticipate it like a cup game.

Then I grew up a bit. I went to Leeds University for three years and saw how passionate the city is about their local team. In most cities without a team in the top flight you are just as likely to see people in Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea shirts than whoever the local team may be, but it couldn’t be further from the truth in Leeds. If you’re from Leeds, you support Leeds United – end of story. I can’t imagine what the punishment is for someone from Leeds supporting Manchester United, but I imagine it involves some kind of public stoning before being beheaded by Lucas Radebe.

As I developed a more reasoned outlook on football I began to wonder why just so many teams hate Leeds United with such a passion. Their location means they have a higher number of geographical rivals than most, but this doesn’t explain why football grounds around the UK reverberate to the tune of ‘We all hate Leeds scum’ from supporters of clubs that Leeds couldn’t care less about. From what I understand from my experience of Leeds fans (and feel free to correct me in the comments if I’m wrong), they hate Manchester United, Galatasaray and Chelsea, dislike Sheffield Wednesday and couldn’t really care less about anybody else. So why do they anger the footballing public so much?

The answer for the older generation is presumably the fact they used to be good. Really good. During the 60’s and 70’s they won several domestic trophies and deserved to win the European Cup, denied only by some ‘interesting’ referee decisions in favour of Bayern Munich. However, the last time Leeds won a trophy was 1992 and they were relegated from the Premier League in 2004, even dropping as low as the third tier for a short time. So if jealousy isn’t the reason for the widespread Leeds hatred, what is? I joined 7000 or so Leeds fans at Blackburn Rovers to see if they deserved the title of ‘Dirty Leeds’.

As soon as I arrived in Blackburn you could tell that this was more than an away day, this was more like an invasion. The streets of Blackburn were absolutely filled with Leeds fans, with a large section of them heading to the Postal Order pub. This was the place to be for the next hour, as the visitors from Yorkshire produced a fantastic atmosphere inside the local Wetherspoons, better than most teams can create inside a stadium. The only people inside the pub not having a great time were the overworked bar staff and the couple who had chosen spectacularly poorly when picking a venue for their first date. Safe to say they didn’t stay very long, and date number two doesn’t seem particularly likely.

Two large tables turned into a stage, with the Leeds fans taking it in turns to play the part of conductor. “On the table for the lads” would be chanted at the individual of choice, who would then climb up onto the table and start a song, or be booed mercilessly if they refused. One particular visitor whose size would probably most politely be described as ‘Extra Extra Large’ was encouraged onto the table a number of times, refusing each time until he was bought two pints. After downing them both in one go, he took a run up, sped towards the table with determination, leapt through the air like a salmon and…made it about six inches off the ground, crashing into the table and falling on the floor. They didn’t ask him again after that.

While the away support did have plenty of humour, there was also a touching side to a number of their chants, paying tribute to Richard Ismail, known as ‘Moody’ to Leeds fans. Moody was a lifelong Leeds fan who recently passed away after spending over a year in hospital following an assault in Sheffield. “We’re all Moody aren’t we” was chanted throughout the afternoon, with the same phrase written on a flag displayed proudly at Ewood Park.

As the visitors got drunker and drunker, the chanting got wilder and wilder. Starting at “Number one is Michael Brown”, they made it all the way to “and 100, is Michael Brown” before insisting that they all dreamed of a team of Michael Browns. I’ve seen him play, and one Michael Brown is bad enough, never mind an army of them. It was at this point that things got a little out of hand, as the Leeds fans chanted “Let’s pretend we scored a goal”, counted down from ten and then went absolutely mental. Beer flew through the air, tables were overturned and pint glasses were smashed. The pub decided that it was probably time to close and the bell for time at the bar was rung at about 1:45pm. As fans filed out towards the ground or a different bar, it looked like a bomb had gone off. In fairness, many Leeds fans apologised for the damage and helped to turn the tables back over before they left.

Normally in my reports I would spend a great deal of time writing about the game itself, but honestly, it was just awful. Not so long ago Leeds and Blackburn had wonderful sides which would have made this fixture a joy to watch, but these days have gone due to the curse of the modern-day football club owner. The Venky’s have run Blackburn into the ground, while a combination of Peter Ridsdale and Ken Bates have done their best to kill off Leeds United.

Leeds had one chance of note, a beautiful flick from Ross McCormack setting up Danny Pugh who looked certain to score – only denied by a wonderful save by Blackburn’s Kean (not that one). Blackburn had a few more opportunities, forcing Paddy Kenny into making some good saves, but in all honesty it was a game worthy of being 0 – 0, and that would have been generous. The winner came just before half time, Tommy Spurr sweeping the ball into the net from a corner after some lacklustre defending.

The real story of the day was the Leeds fans. More than a third of those in attendance were from the away side, and they were also responsible for 95% of the noise. A small pocket of Blackburn fans to the right of the away end did their best to create an atmosphere, but attempting to take on 7000 Leeds supporters in an atmosphere contest is like attempting to storm a US military base with a plastic spoon, you’re not going to get anywhere. There were effectively four away ends, with the Yorkshire side bringing so many fans that they had taken up the entire stand, usually segregated to contain both home and away fans.

They sung and supported the team for 90 minutes, and didn’t do anything worthy of the ‘Dirty Leeds’ label as far as I could see. I was starting to realise that the reason so many people hate Leeds is because they aren’t Leeds. Leeds United are a reminder of how good English football used to be and the atmosphere which made the country the envy of Europe. These days are long gone, surpassed by Germany, Poland, the Balkans and many more, but the passion of Leeds United remains. When you watch a Leeds game, you don’t feel as though you are in the stale and sanitised world of English football. It almost feels as though a Leeds United away end belongs in a museum, a reminder to fans within England that watching football is something to be enjoyed, rather than endured.

Now, these Leeds fan are by no means perfect, the destruction of the pub was uncalled for and some of the chants about Sheffield Wednesday manager Dave Jones were tasteless at best, but arguably no worse than the kind of thing you’d hear at countless other grounds around the country on a Saturday afternoon.

I think far too many people fall into the trap of hating Leeds because that is what they are told they should do. Leeds fans have continued to show fantastic loyalty to their club, despite the fact they have suffered an even more spectacular fall from grace than Miley Cyrus. I have no doubts that the Leeds team of the past was well worthy of hatred, and in the old days of hooliganism being rife across England the damage done by their fans to various cities and towns is well-known. However these days are long gone, and hating Leeds United is now a fashion statement for most, rather than anything tangible.

One incident long after the game had finished demonstrated the commendable attitude that Leeds fans have to supporting their team, despite the fact that they are, more often than not, terrible at the actual football side of things. I was amongst 300 or so Leeds fans waiting at Mill Hill station, waiting for a connection back to Blackburn Central to head home. First of all a train arrived on the opposite side of the station, heading towards Preston. Several of the more drunk Leeds fans got on this service anyway, despite the fact it was heading in completely the wrong direction. Those who remained on the platform began doing the conga up and down the outside of the train, singing “do do do, you’re getting on the wrong train!” This was followed by a reworking of their earlier chant, as they bellowed “Let’s pretend our trains arrived”, counting down from ten and leaping around the platform like they’d just won the European Cup.

The author then challenges his Cardiff-supporting fellow fans to state why they hate Leeds, if not for the spurious reasons he’s cited in his piece. Again, I don’t agree with every last syllable – but to me, it’s remarkable how a fan of another team so completely “gets” what supporting Leeds United is all about. Take that quote from midway through: “I was starting to realise that the reason so many people hate Leeds is because they aren’t Leeds. Leeds United are a reminder of how good English football used to be and the atmosphere which made the country the envy of Europe.” Doesn’t that sum up perfectly the Leeds effect on the game as a whole? Could it be better put? I couldn’t do it.

These two snippets of enemy intelligence are, if you think about it, independent verification of what we all know to be true, deep down. We are United and we are the best. And it’s us, the fans, who truly are United. We’re the lifeblood of the club, the essence of Yorkshire’s Number One. That’s something to be genuinely proud of, when so much about the club is shamefully inadequate.

So – a very Happy New Year to the best supporters in the world. Maybe 2015 will after all bring us a little closer to what we all desire with every fibre of our being: better times for our beloved club. Whatever happens, we’ll still be here, we’ll still be the best. We always knew that – but it’s good to know that others know it too.

Keep it loud and proud in 2015 and beyond. Keep singing and shouting and being The Best.

We Are Leeds.

Dave Hockaday is Our Man, Let’s Give Him 100% Backing – by Rob Atkinson

It's the Massimo & Dave show

It’s the Massimo & Dave show

“We go out and we sweat blood, we’re hard-working, we are hungry and we are honest. That’s what the Leeds fans want – that goes for any league you’re in.

“So we will go out there and give everything and more for the cause and people will applaud that and they’ll be happy with that because we’re going to give them everything we’ve got.”

Dave Hockaday

At last, a giant stride forward towards preparing for the new season at Elland Road. Leeds United have a new management structure and the pivotal role of Head Coach within that structure will be filled by the experienced Dave Hockaday. That is official. Now, let’s get right behind Dave and do our job of supporting Leeds United.

It’s far too easy to sit back and carp, criticise and generally whinge about the fact that our new Head Coach is not the biggest name in football. This blog will not choose that lazy option, I will not be climbing aboard any convenient bandwagons. Mr. Hockaday has the job; he will now have to set about proving that he can do it. His first interview showed the necessary appetite and determination; he spoke of wanting to see the desire for success in players’ eyes. Now that’s a sentiment that should strike a chord with Leeds fans – as a crowd, we’ve always prized guts, desire, effort. Whether Dave Hockaday can instil these qualities in his troops is for him to demonstrate; in the meantime, the very least he deserves is the respect of us all for stepping up to the plate – and also our full support as he gets stuck into his remit.

The internet is abuzz with why-oh-why merchants each peddling their own brand of negativity or look-how-cool-I-am cynicism. What, precisely, will any of that gain for Leeds United? Even if they turn out to be right, all it gets for them is a chance to say I told you so. (And if they’re wrong, they’ll just subside into silence). We simply don’t know yet how this will turn out. But there are several good reasons why we shouldn’t slavishly join in this premature brandishing of egos. And those are equally adequate reasons why the people currently indulging themselves in an orgy of pessimism (and thoroughly enjoying it from the sound of it) might just be utterly wrong.

Consider; where did Jose Mourinho spring from into his sudden sunburst of glory and fame? He was Bobby Robson’s interpreter; not exactly a ready-made and world-class candidate for the title of “Special One”. Who did Leeds United turn to in March 1961, after the likes of Raich Carter and Frank Buckley had failed to lift the club above humdrum mediocrity? A veteran player on their own books, that’s who – a man on the point of applying to Bournemouth for his first managerial job. Bloke by the name of Don Revie. I’ll bet there were gloom and doom merchants then, shaking their heads and calling on the board to look elsewhere, look to proven experience. Good job they stuck to their guns then – isn’t it?

People say that Hockaday has failed at non-league level. Those same people might be aware that he did OK at Watford, especially in a certain play-off final at the Millennium Stadium in 2006, when the Hornets stung the Peacocks 3-0. But they ignore that, and emphasise the downside, his record at Forest Green. I’ve just been reading Harry Redknapp’s book – he did some time in non-league – and didn’t pull up too many trees. He was at Bournemouth when they fell out of the second tier in 1990 as well. But he’s done alright apart from that, ‘Arry – hasn’t he?

We just don’t know how the Hockaday appointment will pan out. What we do know is that he’d better succeed, or – according to the Cellino script – he’ll be out of the door. Cellino’s track record is a matter of public notoriety, but Hockaday is evidently up for the challenge; he has his player targets which he’s already discussed with il Duce – and he wants to hang on to McCormack. He looks clear-eyed and realistic to me, and he deserves the chance he’s been given; moreover, he deserves the backing and support to take that chance, as he intends, with both hands.

It’s time for the negativity and moaning to stop; indeed, it’s embarrassing that it’s even started before the guy’s had the chance to so much as find his desk. People are citing fans of other clubs, taking the mick. Come on – surely we’re better than that?? Surely we’re bigger and stronger than to be bothered about what fans of lesser clubs think? We Are Leeds, after all – that still means something. Let’s not lose sight of it.

It’s time to March On Together now. We have our man, for better or worse – and we can’t yet know which it will be. Give him a chance, get behind him, support the club and its staff on and off the pitch in the way Leeds fans are famous for – loud and proud. Let’s make Elland Road a fortress again, an intimidating cauldron of noise and passion. Forget fans of other clubs, forget bandwagon jumpers and joylessly negative bloggers. It’s time to stand up and be counted.

We Are Leeds. Now let’s all get stuck into making next season as good as it possibly can be.

Cellino Needs to Understand the Meaning of “We Are Leeds” – by Rob Atkinson

We Are Leeds

We Are Leeds

Massimo Cellino continues to divide opinion among fans of Leeds United as he goes about assessing the nature and extent of the undoubted mess behind the scenes at Elland Road.  He appears to be a decisive sort of bloke, to say the least.  Draconian, even – just how severe and ruthless he can be we will probably see in the not too distant future.

Right now, his work has hardly begun.  But, early days though these are, it’s proper and relevant to wonder about Cellino’s long-term aims.  Part of this longer-term view has to involve the question of whether or not the King of Corn knows exactly what he’s bought into.  What would constitute success for Leeds United?  After all, the club has been out of the spotlight for well over a decade.  Surely, expectations are on a whole different level from the days when the club was at the forefront of the game?

One school of thought is that for any owner to buy into a limited view of the potential of Leeds would be a big mistake.  After all, Cellino hasn’t acquired a Leicester City here, nor even a Newcastle United a West Ham or a Sheffield Wednesday. These are all clubs whose fans will happily accept membership of the Premier League, albeit two-thirds of the way or so down the modern pecking-order.  At Elland Road, the club anthem is “Marching On Together” – but a shorter, more tribally-assertive chant is heard with even greater regularity. “We Are Leeds”, it states – quite simply and without qualification.  In those three short words, the fans sum up the identity of a club that knows it’s out on a limb – and of those fans themselves, who expect such a massively loaded chant to be taken as confirmation, were any needed, that this is not just any club.

On the last two occasions that Leeds United has motored into the top flight, it has had a brief look around, settled in – and then taken over at the top.  It actually took longer for Revie’s troops to do this than it did for Wilko’s Warriors – but the Revie dynasty compensated by lasting longer.  In both cases though, there was a distinct lack of respect and trepidation as the Whites moved on up. There was no suggestion of timid apprehension. They came, they saw and, in due course, they conquered.

The top flight is, it almost goes without saying, a very different place these days – and not necessarily in a good way.  But the tradition of supporter expectation goes back a lot further at Leeds than it does at most other clubs. Some ostensibly big clubs have given up on the idea of ever being champions, and one allegedly massive outfit in the north-east has even acknowledged that winning trophies appears nowhere near the top of its agenda.  For that one-time giant, the balance sheet and the income that goes along with Premier League status is first, last and everything.  But what sort of message does that send out to the fans?  And could you see such a state of affairs being accepted at Leeds?

Whatever the contrast between the top-level environment now, as opposed to when Leeds United last breathed that rarefied air, the assumptions of the support upon attaining that level will be that the club will then set about finding the best and most effective way to the top.  It’s in the DNA of Leeds United fans to want to compete at the summit of things – and a dim view would be taken of any lowering of standards, any reduction of objectives. That begs the question of what is possible – and what kind of player will we be looking to attract?

At the top end of the Premier League, there now seems to be an acceptance that the player is King – and that those demanding egos will settle for nothing less than ever-increasing pampering and worship from clubs and fans alike. The ridiculous Yaya Touré “birthday” story is ample confirmation of that. Is that the kind of thing that Leeds United fans really want to see happening in the name of their club?  So the supplementary question to the main one of “What do we expect once promotion is achieved?” might well be: “Hang on – do we really want promotion at all??” Of course we bloody do!! – I hear you say, indignantly. And yet it would seem quite possible that, once promoted, our legacy of extravagant expectations could well be at odds with our characteristic, cynical suspicion of the kind of “flash” behaviour exhibited by Mr Touré – as well as by sundry other pampered, overpaid, out-of-touch egomaniacs in the self-proclaimed “Best League in the World”.

As you might have gathered, this blog finds itself in somewhat of a dilemma. The question of whether Cellino is sufficiently aware of the historical expectation levels associated with this club is one that has troubled me for a while.  It is quite possible that he might be looking at turning us into Premier League survivors-and-little-more, such as Newcastle.  That would be bad enough, at least on the face of it.  But what if he did then want to go the extra mile and get us up there into that top four?  It’s an almost impossible dream anyway; the competition would be hot and ludicrously expensive. But if we did make it – how would we, as fans, relate to the kind of players and egos that would inevitably then populate our first team squad?  Would we feel any connection with them at all?  Or would we long for the days of Jermaine Beckford (for the younger ones) or Gordon Strachan, or Billy Bremner (for the lucky and really lucky ones)?

Football is a competitive sport and, over time, you have to be aspirational; you have to be aiming higher.  In the case of Leeds United – whether Massimo Cellino is aware of this or not – you have to be aiming for the very top.  But now there is that baffling conundrum: in aiming for and reaching that summit -would we be mortgaging the very soul of the club?    Look at Manchester City – how on earth can the City fans, many of whom were visiting third tier outposts of the game not so long back, possibly relate to the fact that their best midfielder appears to have the mental processes of a four-year old?

Where Leeds United are right now – stuck in the league below the top one and about to embark, we must hope, on a rebuilding of the club – is a good place and the right time to be considering what we actually want for our club in the longer term.  It’s the right time and place, because what we demand now, in this comparatively normal and down-to-earth league, might just have an effect on where we end up in the next few years, depending upon the readiness of Cellino to listen.  And what this comes down to is that old saw “Be careful what you wish for – you might get it”.

Does Cellino really know what “We Are Leeds” means, and the pride and ambition behind that raucously-assertive statement?  If he does – is he game for trying to get the club eventually back up to that old, accustomed place near the top of the game?  And if he actually manages that – in these new days of footballers with world-class talent, massive egos and wage packets, but tiny brains – would we end up thanking him for it?  Or might we instead damn him?

Just what do we want?  I feel that the answer might eventually lie in a radical restructuring of the game in this country, possibly on the German model of fan-owned clubs and a more affordable product for all – and almost certainly a FIFA-ratified wage cap that escapes the beady eye of the European pay commissars. That could take years and would certainly meet with stiff opposition from the current interested parties.  But that sounds to me much more like the kind of environment I’d like to see Leeds United promoted into. The current set-up invites along those ambitious enough to want merely to be cannon-fodder for the “big” clubs – the likes of Southampton and Leicester. Try as I might – I can’t see Leeds United, the club or the fans, wanting to settle for that as a way of life.

It’s a conundrum alright – ambition versus dissatisfaction with what we’re shooting for. I’d love to know what Massimo thinks, and what his understanding really is of the Leeds United mentality.  And I’d love to know what you think – so your views are, as ever, most appreciated.

What Leeds Fans Should be Demanding for NEXT Season – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United - top flight in all but name

Leeds United – top flight in all but name

While all the wrangling over “fit and proper” tests is going on, while we’re all earnestly debating the future in-post of the current Leeds United manager (be it long or short) – while we’re all tearing our hair and rending our clothes at the media pantomime our club has become, enabling even Sun readers to essay a disdainful look down the nose at us – what should we really, actually be thinking about?  What burning issue deserves our closest attention?  What crucial conundrum should we be looking to resolve for ourselves which, once settled and decided, will colour our approach to all of the other, allied issues??

The answer, surely has to be (and the title of this article has probably already given you a clue to this) – what do we actually want for next season?  Where do we want to be, how do we want our campaign to go?  Assuming that by then the club is on an even keel – and I know that’s a fair old dangerous assumption – what would be the best way of celebrating this, of marking our return to sanity and being a football club again, instead of a three-ring circus?  I have a theory.

To me, there are two main possibilities.  For both of them, let’s assume that the Cellino takeover is complete, that Elland Road is Leeds United property again, and that there is some financial & managerial stability at the club with clear signs of a competitive transfer and wages budget.  I know that’s all a bit of a difficult proposition to swallow, but bear with me here.  Right then – one real possibility is that this current season has fizzled out into a mid-table anti-climax, as has been our usual recent experience.  It’s summer and we have the World Cup to suffer through, with some Test Cricket as a subsidiary diversion, and holidays and other lovely things that come with slightly warmer weather.  One of those lovely things could be a close-season of heavy recruitment involving quality players at Championship level, preparing our squad for a serious assault on this division next time around.  Nice.

The other feasible possibility is that, aided perhaps by some Cellino-financed muscle in the loan window, we’ve put together a run in the remainder of this season, and blagged ourselves a late play-off spot.  Riding the crest of a wave, we cruise into the Wembley final and a 4-0 thrashing of – ooh, let’s say Nottingham Forest, just for the karmic pay-back from 2008 – to finally make it back to the Premier League after all these years.  Also nice.

Incidentally, there is the faint third possibility, i.e. that we completely implode after a Football League refusal to sanction our Shady Italian. In this scenario, Shaun Harvey wakes up with a horse’s head next to him, Brian McDermott resigns and Michael Brown takes over as head coach, leading us to ten consecutive defeats and relegation to League One with the fire-sale of any remaining half-decent players we have.  Not nice at all, and hopefully not all that likely either.  Let’s just ignore that one, then.

So of the two scenarios that could play out – failure again this season but an all-out assault on the Championship Title next year, or struggling to glory via the lottery of the play-offs – which would we actually prefer?  Many will be seduced by the vision of being back in the big-time as early as next August.  Those people might also be hoping for an unlikely England World Cup victory, possibly with Jamie Milner scoring the decisive winner against Germany in the Final.  Optimism is an attractive trait – but the pay-off can be cruel.

Promotion this year would most likely see a season of grim struggle next time around, unless we were prepared and able to invest much more heavily than would be wise, or even legal under Financial Fair Play.  A season-long relegation battle might be the stuff of dreams for some clubs – but Leeds United aren’t a Norwich or a Cardiff.  Last time we went up to the top-flight, twenty-four years ago, we swaggered in for a year-long look around, during which we battered a fair percentage of the established opposition, before winning the bloody thing second year up.  The sheer cheek of it took everyone’s breath away. Now that’s the way to do it, if you’re a Leeds United.  But it’s so unlikely as to be next to impossible, that we could go up and stomp around like that next season.  Quite frankly, if all the effort of securing promotion is going to see us in a dog-eat-dog relegation fight with the dregs of the Premier League, I’d just as soon not bother, thanks.

On the other hand, if we are in a position to rebuild this summer for a Blitzkrieg approach to the second tier in 2014-15, then that could well lead to us blasting our way through the division and hurtling into the Premier League rather than scraping our way there by the fingernails.  Promotion achieved thus carries its own momentum – you’re building for the top flight on more solid foundations, as compared to our current footings of sand.  And the fun! Imagine a season next year to compare to the promotion campaign of 1989-90.  Those old enough to have witnessed it will know exactly what I mean.  After a slow start, we conducted ourselves like a Panzer tank for much of the league programme, the skill, commitment and aggression of our football blowing most opposition into tiny smithereens.  We had a rough patch, and it was a bit close for comfort in the end – but, still.  What a season that was.  Something along those lines, possibly an improvement in some aspects – that would do me, and I suspect many others too.  It’s certainly preferable to a Premier League season of grim, defensive, survival football.  So, tempting as the notion is of play-offs this season, with the incentive of rubbing somebody else’s nose in it as we’ve had our noses rubbed in it on showpiece occasions past – it really won’t do.  We’re useless at play-offs anyway, so if we made it, there’d probably only be misery for us.

So my conclusion is: let’s not waste our time with fast-fading hopes of promotion this year.  Let’s abandon such thoughts, unless the team suddenly gels, goes on a run and absolutely forces us to contemplate success.  On current form, let’s be realistic – that’s unlikely to happen.  Let’s instead wait this season out, hope and pray that the various suits in the club and at the League sort themselves out and get their act together, and let’s hope that this summer sees an exciting reconstruction programme ahead of an all-out attack on the summit of the Championship next time around.  Because, to me, when Leeds United arrive back in the top-flight, they should do so as Champions – not as winners of some tagged-on mini-tournament.  Let’s do it in style, as we did in 1964 and in 1990, taking such power and momentum along with us that we immediately became competitive in the higher sphere.  Let’s have our rivals wary of us. I remember a fanzine article in the summer of ’90, a Liverpool fanzine I think it was.  The title was “Bloody hell – they’re back!”, and it was all about Leeds United and how we’d probably seize the top-flight by the nuts and shake it up good and proper.  And we really did.

That’s what I really want for Leeds United.  I want us to do it in proper Leeds style, I want us to burst into that elite group like a torpedo, creating chaos everywhere.  I want them all to hate and fear us again – I definitely don’t want to read fans of other clubs saying, “Ah – look at once-mighty Leeds – finally managed to get back up and now see how they struggle”.  No, thank you.  Let’s do it the right way, the Leeds way.  Let’s make Vinnie and Howard and wee Gordon and Batts and the rest of them proud.  Let’s see Big Jack and Eddie Gray smiling at a revival of the Revie spirit, with “Keep Fighting” on the dressing-room wall and with our departed heroes approving, from wherever they are now.  Let’s March On Together – not limp apologetically into an exclusive club that doesn’t really want us.  Let’s get in there, and fuck ’em up.  To me, another year is a time well worth waiting – to make sure that we get where we want to be – by doing things the way we want to do them.

The Leeds United Way

The Leeds United Way

Cellino and Leeds Fans: Leap of Faith Required from Both Sides – by Rob Atkinson

Cellino - can he "get" what it is to be Leeds?

Cellino – can he “get” what it is to be Leeds?

With the clock ticking down towards Saturday and another of those meaningless irrelevances that crop up now and again in the Leeds United calendar – yes, folks, I’m talking about a football match – some vital issues are becoming ever clearer as some of the murk disperses from the Elland Road neighbourhood.

The first and most significant of these is that Massimo Cellino is most likely going to be our new owner – and maybe sooner rather than later.  That story has moved on from a state of siege last Friday night, when the Italian was barricaded inside the stadium, his getaway cars chased over the horizon by vexed United supporters, to something which is developing from resigned acceptance into something approaching guarded optimism.  It will be important for us all, going forward, that this process should continue and that some mutual trust should manifest itself.

The second important factor which is becoming ever clearer is the parlous state of Leeds United as it has been trundling along over the past year or so since GFH ousted Bates.  It looks more and more as though the club has been haemorrhaging money at a rate that would prove fatal in the relatively near future.  Against the alarming nature of this unwelcome truth, little matters like winding up petitions and managerial insecurity rather pale into the background.  Leeds United need an urgent and massive transfusion of cold, hard cash – and they need it now, if not sooner.

All of this should lead us towards regarding the various parties to the current messy situation in a new and more realistic light.  GFH have been talking about working towards a sustainable future with solid investment designed to restore the club to its natural place towards the top of the English game.  It’s quite clear now that – without a major windfall – such talk was simply moonshine, a deceptive smokescreen designed to manage fans’ expectations and lull us through a succession of disappointing transfer windows.  So much for GFH.

Cellino was initially regarded with something rather worse than suspicion and cynicism.  He’s a crook, people fulminated.  He’s the worst thing that could happen to our club.  He will destroy us; we don’t want his dirty money.  But as things have started to become clearer, it’s becoming steadily more obvious that the one thing we cannot do without is Cellino’s lucre, filthy or otherwise.  And this is regardless of whether or not he intends to splash as much cash on players as the FFP rules will allow.  Leeds United is skint, and needs to be fully-capitalised; we need that security of money to buffer us against whatever the future might bring.  So, since last Friday, Cellino is being seen more as a source of salvation than our arch-Nemesis.  That’s progress for you.

The fact of the matter is that this is probably going to happen.  From that factual foundation, new attitudes have to form and all parties still engaged in and dedicated to the welfare of Leeds United AFC have to bend their efforts to that end.  This is no time to embrace negativity – there are agencies aplenty out there who are more than eager to do that without us jumping on board.  What is required here is a leap of faith – but it has to come from both sides so that we meet somewhere in the middle and find a way of taking matters forward.

From the fans’ point of view, this surely means an initial acceptance that Cellino is coming into Leeds United with the intention of succeeding.  On the face of it, it’s sensible to ask: “why would we suspect otherwise?”  Against the background of media uproar, with every anti-Leeds hack predicting dire outcomes, doom and gloom – where is the logic behind any assumption that Massimo Cellino is here to do us harm?  Even if his first move as confirmed owner were to sack Brian McDermott – something I do not want to see – then it would hardly be an unusual move on the part of a new owner.  It would not, of itself, be a malevolent or a diabolical act – as some would seem eager to portray it.  Initially, at least, we have to assume that the man – who has almost sold his first love, Cagliari, to concentrate on Leeds United – is here to succeed.

Our Brian

Our Brian

But the fact is that there is a leap of faith required from Cellino as well.  Looking at the Brian McDermott situation again – what is the major element in his appeal to the Leeds United fans?  Is it the results, the tactics, the transfer market record?  Not really – in all three areas, the record has been nothing special – mediocre at best.  Then again, Brian has been working with one hand tied behind his back, lacking any real financial support.  But the real appeal of McDermott is easy to identify: he “gets” Leeds United, and he “gets” the fans.  That has been the golden thread running through the slightly threadbare fabric of his tenure at Elland Road.  Just about everything he has said since moving into the managerial hot seat has struck exactly the right note with the club’s support.  I cannot think of a manager in the recent past – with the possible exception of Simon Grayson – who has been so demonstrably on the fans’ wavelength, so clearly in tune with the fans’ concerns.  Brian McDermott listens to our problems, feels our pain and talks our language.  For God’s sake, he even stands us drinks with his last fifty Euros. That is why, for the most part, Brian is loved.

Now Cellino is most probably coming in, and he comes in as a foreigner, an alien, steeped in a culture which could hardly be more different from that in which exists English football.  He must know that he will have to learn, and learn fast.  It may even be that such a learning process is already under way.  That Friday night barricaded inside Elland Road, while the whirlwind of the fans’ rage rattled the window-panes, must surely have had some impact.  Whatever Cellino is, we can safely assume that he is no fool.  It’s unlikely that he will have expected such a very demonstrative display from such a very vocal group of Leeds supporters.  But it’s equally unlikely that he’ll have been daft enough to dismiss it as irrelevant.

What we need and want is an owner who is not just “minted” – and fired with an ambition to restore our club to the top of the game.  What we need and want is an owner who “gets” Leeds United, and its fans, in a manner similar to that which has enabled Brian McDermott – who as a southerner is hardly that much less of a foreigner or alien himself in the People’s Republic of West Yorkshire – to build up such a rapport with such a notoriously truculent and suspicious group of fans.

Cellino has already said a few words to indicate that he appreciates the Leeds fans are no ordinary bunch of tifosi – that he recognises that we are a militant and fanatical group of committed loyalists who will try to move mountains in the interests of their beloved club.  He will not have been fazed by the demonstration of last Friday night; indeed he actually appears to have the cool poise to have been more impressed and moved, rather than rattled or shaken.  That itself bodes well for the future, and boy do we need some good omens right now.

The bottom line is that things could not have proceeded much longer the way they were.  Add to that the apparent lack of any other feasible alternative, and it’s not rocket science to predict that Cellino – subject always to the Football League getting off their collective arse and ratifying the deal – is by far the most likely way out of the immediate hole in which – thanks to the ineptitude of our last several owners and guardians – we now find ourselves.  So it looks like an Italian Job, and it’s up to all parties to try to make the best of it and move forward as harmoniously as possible.

A leap of faith.  It’s what you do when the future is uncertain but you’re faced with Hobson’s Choice.  It’s a situation which renders mistrust and cynicism more than ordinarily counter-productive.  It’s the very kernel of what Marching On Together should be all about.  So – if and when it’s confirmed – let’s do just that.  Let’s give it a chance and see what happens.

After all – “Siamo tutti Leeds – non siamo?”

Huddersfield Suffer Cup Final Thrashing at Hands of Crisis Club Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

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Jimmy Kebe celebrates scoring for Leeds United

It was the worst of times – and then, suddenly it was the best of times.  The Friday night had been pain and humiliation for every Leeds United fan, in the pitiless glare of the Murdoch media before the eyes of a hostile world.  And yet, just a few hours later, everything had changed, unrecognisably for the better. The team started against Huddersfield looking understandably a little sorry for themselves.  But they rode their luck, applied themselves when they went behind – and emerged 5-1 winners.  And then we heard the manager was reinstated – in fact, contrary to the previous night’s version of reality, he was never sacked in the first place.  On a personal note, I’d sustained a Twitter barrage from jubilant Millwall fans on transfer deadline night, they’d been gleefully delighted to see their least favourite Leeds fan reeling under the sheer weight of bad news.  And yet on the Saturday they lost 0-3 to Reading and remain in and around the gutter of the relegation zone, where such vermin belong. Schadenfreude rarely felt so good – right, Ms Kate Murray, stroppy Miwwwaww tweeter?  I am using the word correctly, I hope…  And to put a tin lid on it, Man U got beaten at Stoke, despite a comical SEVEN minutes of stoppage time.  Where are those penalties from the S’ralex days, eh?

Talk about Friday Night and Saturday Morning – Sillitoe never wrote such a dystopian/utopian contrast.  It’s been said that a week is a long time in politics – clearly a day is the difference between epochs in the crazy world of football. These were not so much two different and contrasting days as two parallel universes.   The speed with which things have turned around has been enough to leave anyone dizzy. For Leeds fans, the afterglow of the Derby Day slaughter is an oasis of happiness, paid for in full with Friday night’s pain and wretched suffering. And, in a particularly sweet twist, the club on the receiving end of this almighty volte-face was Huddersfield Town, bearers of the biggest anti-Leeds United chip on the shoulder you’re ever likely to see outside of Barnsley. Early on, they’d bossed it at Elland Road, but they were profligate; to some extent the authors of their own downfall. Nevertheless, they’d forged ahead, and then our captain McCormack missed a half-chance for Leeds. The glee in the away end was unconfined – “Ross McCormack, he don’t wanna play” they sang, innocently unaware of the tidal wave of Ross that was to engulf them, leaving them very sad and silent little Terriers by the end of the game.

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Ross!!

For McCormack, it was a performance you just couldn’t have made up.  A hat-trick, the day after the Sky Sports hacks had been doing their best to flog him to Premier League relegation candidates Cardiff.  A tough game against determined derby opposition, for which the preparation had been as far away from ideal as it is possible to imagine, a fragmented miscellany of disasters large and small.  A match day that had started with bleak pessimism seeping throughout the club, some of the staff turning up for work in tears, McCormack’s mentor apparently sacked.  Seriously, who writes this talisman’s scripts?  One hat-trick later, and Ross was on the radio, re-emphasising his commitment to Leeds United.  Our captain and the top scorer in the league had stepped up to the plate and delivered, big time.  We couldn’t possibly have asked for more.

And then, best of all, we heard those glad tidings that Brian McDermott is still our man.  It’s true that there are still a lot of explanations needed for what has gone on in and around LS11 in that nightmare day or so – but for the time being, the warm fuzz of happiness is just too darned comfortable and I don’t want to shake it off. Leeds win, thrashing Huddersfield in what is always their Cup Final. Millwall gloated for a night and were then comically, karmically, abjectly beaten at home the next day.  Man U lost at Stoke with their ineffectual manager bleating about deflections and worldies.  My smile still feels as though it may require surgical removal.  It’s all so different from the Friday night, and from Friday night’s nightmares.  I woke up the next morning hoping I had just dreamed it all, only to realise despairingly that it was true.  Never had I anticipated a home game with less appetite or enthusiasm. My get up and go had got up and gone.

And now – well, that Friday night reality, which got match day off to such a glum start, is simply not true any more.  The team fought like lions (sorry, Millwall) for the badge, the shirts, the manager and the fans. Young Mowatt played beautifully and broke his goal-scoring duck. Stewart was tricky and creative out wide. Even fellow winger Jimmy Kebe played well and scored – these two are at last looking fit and sharp and promise to lend a whole new dimension to our play.  The embattled team took an early, shattering blow, but then lashed back in a startling fashion, savaging the cocky Terriers in what turned out to be an epic mauling.  So life is good, however temporarily.  Whether it’s now a case of Marching On Together, or Forza Leeds – or maybe both – we can at least be content for the minute.

Friday was just plain horrible.  But Saturday, matchday?  It’s been bloody wonderful.

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Vote Now for Leeds Utd’s “Marching On Together” as Top Football Anthem

Radio station TalkSPORT want to know what is the top football anthem of them all.

We know the answer – it’s obviously our very own “Marching On Together”. Now we have to make sure the world knows, too.

So VOTE on the link below. Ask your Leeds-supporting friends to vote, too. Get them to ask their friends. Keep it going and let’s show everyone else what’s what. The link is below:

http://talksport.com/football/what-greatest-anthem-sport-vote-now-12120670866

“Marching On Together” is an anthem that gets you right there. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Let’s make sure it’s rightly recognised as Number One.

PLEASE – vote, share and get your fellow Whites to do likewise!!

Thank you. MOT