Tag Archives: Millwall

Leeds United Have Always Loved Millwall Really. Good Luck at Sheffield Utd! – by Rob Atkinson

Millwall

Come… oooon….Millwaaaaaall!

Ah, Millwall. Those loveable, cuddly Lions, late of Cold Blow Lane and now is their own custom-built, state of the art Meccano stadium in leafy Bermondsey, where even the rottweilers go around in pairs for mutual protection against the feral locals. But I love ’em really. Any Leeds fan does, deep down. Or, at least, that’s how we’ll all feel come late Saturday afternoon, if the ‘Wall have managed to get a positive result against the Blunts at Bramall Lane.

Not that Millwall will fancy doing Leeds United any favours, not after the recent tetchy game at Elland Road when a Pablo-powered United came from behind twice to take three points late on. But it won’t be for the love of Leeds that Millwall will be battling against the Blunts, they have their own interests to look after in terms of retaining Championship status. And if it were to turn out that Millwall FC are still a second tier club next season, due in some measure to three points gained at Bramall Lane, then I and many others of an Elland Road affiliation will be saying “the best of British to Millwall and congratulations on your Championship survival”.

It’s in the dog-eat-dog nature of League football that bizarre situations like Leeds fans cheering on Millwall can arise. Whatever the result at Bramall Lane tomorrow, you can take it to the bank that Blunts fans will be cheering on their own despised local rivals, Sheffield Wednesday, as they face Leeds at Elland Road later in the afternoon. What a surreal day it will be. Leeds roaring on the Lions, then Blunts hollering for the Wendies, those reviled “Piggies” – each home side aching for normally hated rivals to have the best of days. You couldn’t make it up.

Whatever happens in two tension-torn corners of West and South Yorkshire this weekend, you can bet it won’t be decisive – there will be more twists and turns to come, that’s for certain. In the meantime, all I can say with any degree of certainty is: Come on Millwall!!

Marching On Together. 

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EFL Team of the Year Clowns Have Done Leeds a Favour With Pablo Omission – by Rob Atkinson

Hernandez: simply the best, whatever the EFL thinks

Let’s get this straight, once and for all. Pablo Hernandez has been the stand-out performer in the Championship League this season, quite simply and straightforwardly the best player outside the Premier League. And, it’s well worth adding, better than quite a few within that elite competition. This much is simple fact, as any Leeds fan, any clued-up football fan, will tell you.

Of course, there are those who can’t, or won’t, see what’s right before their eyes. There are those who have elevated the ability to miss what’s absolutely under their nose to an art form. Whoever decided the players that make up the Championship’s team of the season have excelled themselves in terms of a failure to see the blindingly obvious. They have managed to deny the undeniable and think the unthinkable. To leave Pablo out of the EFL Team of the Season would be right up there with leaving John Lennon out of your top four Beatles list.

Doubtless these buffoons had their reasons – and anyway, so I thought to myself when I heard the laughable news that Pablo had been omitted, this is a victimless crime. It’s hardly going to hurt a leathery old pro like Hernandez, so who cares? Let the EFL suits wallow in their own stupidity.

In point of fact, though, it maybe that the EFL’s snub has had an unlooked-for effect, in that it might just have galvanised our Spanish wizard into raising his levels beyond even his normal stellar standard. At Elland Road, against a predictably fired-up Millwall, Pablo dragged Leeds United almost singlehandedly from likely defeat, having trailed the visitors twice, to the unlikeliest of victories against opponents who are always tough to beat. It was the kind of performance you might expect from a man who, knowing he’s a class apart from the rest, and slightly nettled at the failure of those clueless administrators to see and acknowledge this, has rolled up his sleeves and set about proving his superiority.

In a way, it’s a bit like your next opponents opening their mouths in the press in the run up to a game, and doing a motivational job for you. Millwall were slightly guilty of this in advance of their trip to Elland Road; things were said, challenges were, perhaps unwisely, laid down. It’s known as giving the team talk for the opposition, and it’s generally reckoned as less than clever. In the end, it doesn’t matter who wins the war of words, as long as the battle on the pitch goes the right way – and it did, as a Pablo-inspired Leeds hit back from behind twice, to secure a precious three points.

Although it takes a team effort to overcome a stern challenge as provided by Millwall, Hernandez was definitely the star of the show. And it may well be that, after a two week international break where one of the main news stories was an EFL Team of the Season without any sign of Pablo in it, that oversight, that insult, whether calculated or not, is what inspired United’s brilliant playmaker to produce one of his most memorable performances, crowned by two smartly-taken goals.

If so, then let me say, here and now, something I thought I’d never say: Thank you, Football League. Thank you for your base idiocy, your spectacular lack of judgement, your unbelievable inability to spot a class footballer when his class is the stuff of universal acceptance and admiration. Thank you, thank you. You might just have done us the most massive favour.

Leeds Looking for a Favour when Old Friends Millwall meet Norwich – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United roared back to the top of the Championship last night, with a spectacular 4-0 thumping of awayday specialists West Bromwich Albion – and the Whites will be hoping that the Lions’ roar will be heard in London today, with a flock of Canaries the victims.

Millwall play Norwich City at the New Den, always a formidable destination. Leeds will remember securing a last gasp draw there in the autumn, courtesy of a late Jack Harrison strike. Norwich, with the prolific Teemu Pukki always a good bet for a goal or two, will hope to go one better, but many a team expected to do well has come a cropper in this part of London.

While we’re asking for favours from old friends, it’d be nice if Sheffield Wednesday could do the honours as they host the Steel City derby on Monday evening. Hillsborough is another venue that limited Leeds to a solitary point this season, but the Owls will possibly find the Blades too sharp for them – we can but hope, for purely selfish reasons, that things work out well for Steve Bruce & Co on the night.

Next weekend sees Leeds United heading for a stiff examination away at Bristol City, with Norwich and Sheffield United at home, to Swansea and Rotherham respectively. There’s plenty of scope there for United to be pegged back – so we really could do with a couple of good turns this weekend from Millwall and Wednesday.

So, come on guys – you know we’ve always wanted the best for you…

Football League Too Busy Investigating Leeds to Look Into Millwall Knife Crime – by Rob Atkinson

A number of incidents thrown up by yesterday’s Millwall v Everton FA Cup tie would seem worthy of investigation by the relevant football authorities, but it would seem likely that the Football League are preoccupied with other matters. Notable among these is the question of whether a man in a tracksuit on public land failing to avert his eyes from the sight of footballers training in plain view should constitute an offence worthy of a points deduction for their biggest member club.

The Football League Should be Apologising to Leeds Utd, Not Investigating Them – by Rob Atkinson

abendmahl_clowns

Football League board – time to say “sorry” to Leeds United

Any balanced view of this season’s Championship competition will naturally focus on its most prominent, most talked about, most successful and most controversial club and coach – namely Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa. And that view, if it really is sufficiently balanced, will be that both club and coach are by far more sinned against than sinning. The Football League, instead of announcing yet another investigation into their biggest attraction, following the latest ridiculously overhyped storm in a teacup, should instead be issuing a grovelling apology to the players, staff and fans of Leeds United – because the Whites have ascended to and maintained their position at the top of the table with what is effectively a millstone around their collective neck.

Consider the evidence. Against a background of a disastrous injury list which has blighted most of the season so far, the League has consistently acted, via their supposedly neutral on-field arbiters, to make life far more difficult than that heavy casualty count alone would have achieved. As if it’s not enough for United to be labouring under the burden of the loss of so many key players, they have also been denied stonewall penalty after stonewall penalty, on an almost game-by-game basis, while some of the softest awards you can imaging have been given at the other end. The Leeds penalty award count now stands at one in around seventy league matches, a quite ridiculous proportion for a team that regularly has a high number of touches in the opposition area.

And it’s not just penalties. Pontus Jansson, victim of a stupidly soft second yellow card at the weekend, has already served a ban this season for comments about the match referee, made in the immediate aftermath of a hotly contested game. Identical incidents elsewhere resulted in no charge and no further action, but Pontus was banned – seemingly for the offence of committing his indiscretion while wearing a Leeds United shirt. Now Jansson will be banned again for the away game at Rotherham, having been sent off ultimately at Stoke for falling over in pursuit of a Stoke attacker whose progress was not impeded in any way.

And of course, there’s Spygate – something the League clearly sees as a golden chance to throw a spanner in the works of what is, so far, a remarkably successful season for a squad which is basically last season’s also-rans plus a scattering of talented kids. From the outside looking in, the mountain of a formal investigation being made out of the molehill of a bloke on a public highway looking through a wire fence at Derby players training in plain sight is truly laughable. The League do not seem to shy away from the prospect of making the,selves look very silly over this, prompted by a select group of rival Championship clubs who clearly see no alternative way of pegging Leeds back. It’s almost as if the League don’t want to see Leeds United leaving their jurisdiction, for some (possibly financial) reason – but surely, that can’t be the case. Can it?

If Leeds United succeeds in attaining promotion this season, as they still appear on course to do, it will be little short of a miracle. With few high profile additions, and those with serious injury problems, the team performance has been transformed out of all recognition as compared to last season. That is the genius of Marcelo Bielsa, and credit to the squad for buying into his methods and philosophy. But that this group of players, supplemented where necessary by callow youth, should be dominating each game and the whole campaign with such obstacles laid so regularly in their way, is truly remarkable. Leeds and Bielsa deserve a vast amount of credit for their revolutionary approach to bring about such radical improvement, and surely all true Leeds fans will happily pay tribute to exactly that.

But Leeds and Bielsa also deserve perhaps even greater credit for rising above the needless and frivolous forces working against them, whether those forces may be incompetent refereeing as is demonstrably the case in so many fixtures, or indeed the pettifogging attitude of the ruling body, so ready to pounce on a virtual non-issue and magnify it into something that has the anti-Leeds media frothing over with malicious excitement.

This daft investigation should be concluded speedily, with any necessary clarification of rules, or any new rules, made clear forthwith. Leeds must be acknowledged as having broken no existing rules; instead they have merely acted, through the experience and long-standing methodology of Bielsa, as many have acted in the past, including such a luminary as Jose Mourinho (by his own admission and despite limp denials from Frank Lampard). That should all happen at the earliest possible juncture.

And then the League, in recognition of the myriad ways they have failed their biggest club this season, should hold up their hands, eat a large slice of humble pie – and say “sorry” to Leeds United.

Mighty Millwall Somehow Hold Leeds Reserves to a Draw – by Rob Atkinson

Pupil Harris meets Master “el Loco” Bielsa

The odd thing about Millwall fans is that it’s such a point of honour with them to be hated and not to be bovvered about it – their main anthem is “No one likes us, we don’t care” – and yet, whenever anyone is slightly critical of their notorious Lions, they turn all petulant and start to bleat piteously. This behaviour probably displays a deep-seated need to be loved – but, let’s be honest, that’s never going to happen.

The fallout from today’s hard-fought 1-1 draw between United and their chip on the shoulder rivals from darkest Bermondsey will probably centre around the touchline spat between Marcelo Bielsa and Millwall manager Neil Harris. The latter showed some balls, in defiance of his medical history, to face up to el Loco, and Harris will probably be glad, on reflection, that Bielsa left his grenade back home in Yorkshire. Shortly after this isolated flashpoint, justice was served as young Jack Harrison opened his Leeds United account with a sweetly-struck equaliser for Leeds, ensuring that Yorkshire’s top club would have something to show for their dominance of possession and all-round classier play.

Millwall, as ever, had put everything into a game that pitted them against their most bitterly-hated opponents. This blogger sees an opportunity for QPR on Wednesday, as Millwall invested two matches’ worth of blood, sweat and tears in an effort to beat United. That they came so close and yet failed will rankle with them, and I’d possibly venture a moderate wager on them not being able to reproduce their gutsy performance in Shepherd’s Bush.

Leeds will take much from this game, both the deserved point and the nature of the performance against hyped-up, frenziedly motivated opponents. The same fixture last season was where the rot set in; psychologically, then, the fact that they came back and got the point by which they now lead the division will be money in the bank in terms of morale and self-belief.

So now it’s on to two consecutive home games that provide the chance for Leeds, even shorn as they are of a group of major players, to consolidate their position as Championship favourites. Neither Preston nor Birmingham will roll over, but even this undeniably weakened United side has the defensive solidity and attacking verve to deal with the challenges from Lancashire and the Midlands.

Leeds are now the only remaining unbeaten side in the Championship, and it goes without saying that this proud record is down to Marcelo Bielsa and his staff. The next few games, without the likes of Roofe, Hernandez and Berardi, will be further tests of the Bielsa Effect, of the Argentinian’s ability to get the most out of depleted resources. If he proves able to guide Leeds through these choppy waters, then the words “In Bielsa we trust” will become even more resonant.

Marching On Together.

Leeds United End of Term Report: Disappointing, Must do Better – by Rob Atkinson

Wheels fell off at Millwall away

Millwall away – where United’s wheels fell off

Watching Leeds United struggle vainly to perform as you’d expect a big club to do, challenging for honours, winning promotions and all that sort of thing, may quite aptly be compared to banging your head against a brick wall. There’s no sense to it, there’s plenty of pain involved for no gain, and it’s really quite pleasant when it stops. We’re at that stage of blissful hiatus now, with the final whistle having blown on United’s season last Sunday, the main reaction from another bumper crowd at Elland Road being sighs of relief rather than triumphal acclaim.

Fellow under-achievers Queens Park Rangers had rolled up for this last-day clash of mediocrities; as it turned out though, the Londoners didn’t really fancy the prospect of a battle in the heat. So, it was a routine win for United against desultory opposition and, other than some typically promising performances from Leeds’ younger guns, none of us were left any the wiser. But at least the tiresome league programme was over for a couple of months; now for the interesting part of the football calendar, with the World Cup and a transfer window in the offing. There’s also the daft post-season business in Myanmar, but that may usefully be ignored.

The trouble is that transfer window time of year is fast becoming nearly as disappointing for long-suffering Leeds fans as the actual football spectacle, such as it may be. And the reason is that United are competing in an inflated transfer market, against smaller but arguably more ambitious clubs – and they’re denying themselves the chance of being truly competitive at the top end by what is increasingly being exposed as a short-sighted and self-defeating wages policy.

Just as the season recently expired was getting underway, back in August of last year, I wrote an article here entitled The Reason Leeds United Can’t Have Nice Things? Wage Structure. I argued that this ‘hands tied behind the back’ policy of severely capped wages was stopping us from recruiting as we should do, and also from hanging on to the few diamonds we’d managed to polish up. This was just as Chris Wood, the scorer of thirty-odd goals the year before, was being sold to Premier League Burnley, a smaller club that could at least triple Wood’s earnings. I predicted doom and gloom but, for a time at least, it looked as though I was going to be delightfully wrong.

Despite the departure of Wood, who duly followed Charlie Taylor to Dingle-Land, United started the season like a runaway train, barrelling to the top of the league with a flurry of victories, including notable two goal successes at Sunderland and Nottingham Forest. This left me feeling a strange combination of unusually happy and rather daft, due to my seemingly unwarranted pessimism. But then the wheels fell off, at Millwall of all places, and the Whites were never quite the same again. The rest of the season was, quite frankly, a disaster interspersed with the odd calamity, as Leeds at first flattered to deceive, but ended up deceiving nobody. A managerial change and a better than expected January transfer window failed to bring about the necessary transformation, and United’s campaign drifted to a deeply unsatisfactory conclusion.

So, can we now expect a more enlightened wage structure, as befitting one of the game’s true giants? The jury is out, but it’s not counting its chickens as it ponders that vexed question. Leeds, however, must surely know that they can’t expect the extraordinary loyalty of their fans to be maintained without some encouragement in the shape of ambition in the transfer market. To average over 30,000 paying premium prices in such a let-down of a season is truly extraordinary – but will they all be back next season?

Champions Wolves have shown the way: speculate to accumulate. United – it’s over to you.

Leeds United and the Strange Case of the Migrating Millwall Injury – by Rob Atkinson

There are many who will say that the match between Leeds United and Millwall at Elland Road on Saturday was a strange affair – bordering on the bizarre. How right they would be, for the game’s pivotal incident saw a phenomenon surely unprecedented in the history of sports injuries and physiotherapy.

Injured

Ref! I think he’s broken my left leg!!

With Leeds a goal behind and playing poorly, there was some frustration building for the home side, so when United skipper Liam Cooper sailed into a fearsome-looking tackle on George Saville in midfield – and with the Whites’ recent record of red cards – you feared the worst. Sure enough, the Millwall player collapsed in a stricken heap, clutching his left leg in evident agony. To the momentary relief of the crowd, the referee reached for his yellow card as he walked over – and this is when things took a turn for the surreal.

On the touchline, there was outrage from the Millwall contingent, who clearly expected Cooper to be dismissed – a stance reinforced on the field by former United flop Steve Morison. As the pressure mounted on the referee, the Millwall physio worked urgently to save the life of Saville – evidently a hero to the Millwall fans who sang this name throughout – and the medical situation started to appear grave, with the injury mysteriously migrating from the left leg caught by Cooper’s challenge, to the right leg now being treated intensively by the physio. Left leg or right, the player was clearly mortally wounded, something that may have influenced the ref almost as much as Morison screaming at him.

Treated

Never mind which bloody leg, keep howling with pain son – or it might only be a yellow… 

Fortunately for the expiring Saville, salvation was at hand. From being on the point of passing away, brave George was hauled back from the brink by the sight of the red card being brandished at the Leeds skipper, and promptly hopped back up onto his feet, fully restored to health and vigour. It is understood that the novel technique of healing a fatal left leg injury by treating the right leg may now be adopted as standard practice, due to the spectacular results effected by the expertise of the Millwall medical staff.

All better now

Well done, lad – the ref’s sent him off. Up you get, now

The spontaneous recovery must have come as a deep relief to the travelling Millwall faithful who, judging by their continual songs about Turks and knives, had clearly anticipated the possibility that Saville would require surgery from an Eastern European doctor. Such a miraculous restoration to health for their brave lad was due reward for these fine supporters of Football’s Family Club of the Year 2017 – an accolade surely just as well deserved as Man U’s “Greatest Club in the World”.

How we shall all look forward to next season, and a continuation of this friendly rivalry – if Millwall stay up, that is…

 

 

Leeds United Looking to Bounce Back After Millwall Loss – by Rob Atkinson

Klich

                    Hadi Sacko and Mateusz Klich 

NB: This article also appears in Saturday’s edition of the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Leeds United’s first loss of the season, viewed in the context of what is shaping up to be a momentous campaign, was less painful than might have been expected. The defeat was narrow and yet decisive; United were blown away by the sheer desire and commitment of a Millwall side whose performances against Leeds rarely seem to lack those qualities. In the event, the home side deserved their success, having had an early strike ruled out for a debatable offside call. Even then, there was a hint of offside about the eventual winner, but justice was probably done on the day.

Fortunately for those United fans who felt themselves to have returned to Earth with a bump, there was a chance for redemption at Burnley in the midweek Carabao Cup tie. Sure enough, Leeds dusted themselves down and revealed their gritty side to match higher league opposition, despite nine changes from last weekend. There was a grim satisfaction in ejecting the Clarets from the competition, especially as United were up against two erstwhile heroes in Chris Wood and Charlie Taylor, both of whom saw a brighter, or at any rate, more lucrative future across the Pennines at Turf Moor. Any lingering resentment over those deals was largely dissipated when Stuart Dallas’s decisive shoot-out penalty hit the back of the Burnley net and, with hindsight, the cup tie turned out to be more about current Leeds heroes than it was about Messrs. Wood and Taylor.

The biggest revelation of Tuesday night, for me, was Mateusz Klich, a Polish midfielder who had not been pulling up many trees this season so far – but he certainly seized his chance at Burnley. Klich seemed to be everywhere, closing down, making interceptions, putting in the hard yards with driving forward runs and generally giving as complete a midfield performance as we’ve seen so far this season. On that form, Klich will have given head coach Thomas Christiansen another welcome selection headache going forward; Leeds are particularly well-served in the middle of the park, but it will be difficult to overlook the case for Klich if he maintains the level of performance he showed against the Clarets. The ice-cool and languid penalty he dispatched during the shoot-out topped off his night’s work perfectly; it looks as if United can expect much more from Mateusz.

The other particularly bright spark on Tuesday was Hadi Sacko, who had up until this match been a mercurial and frustrating, hit-and-miss performer – but again, you could see the work going on at Thorp Arch beginning to pay off in terms of the Christiansen ethos sinking in all the way through this squad. Sacko it was who made the initial breakthrough for Leeds, finishing well after bursting onto a Pablo Hernandez pass that found him in space vacated by a badly-positioned Charlie Taylor. A very sweet moment, that. Sacko showed menace every time Leeds got forward after his introduction as substitute and, again, if he can keep that up, there’s another useful iron in United’s attacking fire.

So we move on to Ipswich Town at a sold-out Elland Road today, where Christiansen’s troops will be up against no-nonsense Barnsley lad (and boyhood Leeds fan) Mick McCarthy as Town boss, assisted by former United striker Terry Connor. These two will put aside their Leeds affiliations for the day and their team will provide stern and well-organised opposition. Still, Elland Road will be rocking again and this Leeds squad provides so many options and permutations that you have to fancy United to find a way of dealing with the Tractor Boys. With some difficult games ahead, three points today would be very welcome, consolidating United’s heady occupation of Championship top spot.

These are interesting and exciting times for United fans, who will now be optimistic about seeing the Whites put that Millwall slip-up firmly behind them.

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Millwall Curse Strikes Again as Leeds are Edged Out at the New Den – by Rob Atkinson

ColdBlowLane10

Cold Blow Lane back in the day

My first experience of Millwall was in the mid-eighties at their old ground, the Den, which was a sort of damp and dank above-ground dungeon, only slightly less hospitable. It was also known by its postal address of Cold Blow Lane, as if to emphasise that this was not a place of entertainment; it was a place to get to, take care of business if possible, and then get away from as quickly as possible. On my only visit, the coach got its windows put through by means of a hail of half-bricks in lieu of welcoming ticker-tape and a brass band, and we put up an abject show, losing 3-1. It was a typical Leeds United day out in Bermondsey, a tradition of hostility and defeat that we have, by and large, maintained ever since.

That old name, though, Cold Blow Lane. How apt it was, and still seems now. Today, Leeds found the chill wind of Championship reality gusting around nether regions quivering under black shorts that, combined with white shirts and white socks, gave us a slight but deceptive resemblance to Germany’s national team. Perhaps they were trying to make Herr Lasogga feel at home – but nobody remotely civilised could ever feel cosily welcome in these parts, not even at the relatively shiny New Den.

The pattern of the match was set from the start. I will predict here and now that Millwall will lose their next game, through a combination of fatigue and a feeling of “after the Lord Mayor’s show”. They’ll simply be knackered.  The home team could not have been more hyped-up and super-charged if they’d been playing in, well, a Cup Final. Taking to heart the rabid desire of the home crowd, they tore into Leeds at the first whistle, and they never let up. They could have been ahead early on, but a dodgy-looking offside decision saved Leeds and denied our former striker Steve Morison – yet Millwall were not discouraged. Every time a Leeds player got the ball in any kind of space, two or three Lions pounced hungrily, and a dispossessed United were under pressure again, every minute, all over the field. Getting to half-time on level terms was a notable achievement; getting a 0-0 draw was an expectation too far.

When the goal came, it felt strange – the sight of the ball in our net for a legitimate strike after so long a time since the opening day of the season. It was like the return of a half-forgotten childhood nightmare, and you had the feeling that, on the day, there was no way back. In the end, United tried manfully, having been swimming against a riptide of home pressure for the whole piece, but it was all effort and little penetration. We finished with ten on the park, all three subs having been used when Pontus had to limp out of the fray. It will be interesting (or maybe distressing) to see how many, if any, fit central defenders we have for Burnley in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday, and for Ipswich in the Championship at Elland Road next weekend.

But let us not be downhearted. We’re still top of the League, by virtue of our healthy goal difference – and I’d bet the tax due on Cellino’s yacht that we’d all have taken an impressive P8 W5 D2 L1 record after four home and four away games, if we’d been asked the question at the start of the season. A reminder that we are, after all, but mortal is not a bad thing at such an early stage of the season. There’s plenty of time and scope for us to pick up our heads again, and press on. This was the second “bogey ground” this season, so with the three points gained at Forest, we’re ahead of the game. And we’ll be ready for Millwall when they come to Leeds, with their dozen or so away followers.

Lessons will have been learned; the effect of application and effort on a hard but inferior team will have been noted. Hopefully, Leeds United will not be caught napping again for some little time – because that’s certainly what happened down Bermondsey way today.