Tag Archives: penalties

Paying the Same Old Penalty of Being Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

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Pablo missed United’s last penalty almost a year ago

Apparently, Leeds United has played 49 league games, over a full season’s worth, without being awarded a penalty kick. And, apparently, the man who awarded that long-ago penalty kick (one Jeremy Simpson) is in charge of tomorrow’s meeting with Brentford at Elland Road – so maybe the odds on United completing an unwanted half-century of league games without being awarded a spot kick are not quite as hefty as we would otherwise suppose. But if Mr. Simpson DOES repeat the trick, pointing to the spot, don’t get too excited about the prospect of history repeating itself. When he awarded that last one, nearly a year ago, Pablo Hernandez missed it.

During this past year, however, the referees for our fixtures have not been entirely unemployed in terms of penalty awards. Despite their obvious reluctance to give our lads anything in response to opposition penalty area transgressions, it’s been a different story when it comes to our own 18 yard box. There, the “strictly impartial” officials have been comparatively eager to emit a shrill peep of their Acme Thunderer whistles, followed by the fickle finger of fate indicating that Leeds had conceded yet another penalty. It’s happened, so I’m given to understand, eight times since the last time we got a penalty. That’s eight for the opposition, and none for us. Call me biased, but it seems to me that the cause of fair play is not particularly well served by that record. And this is before we even get into the legitimacy of some of the decisions against United.

Take for example the penalty awarded to Stoke City in the opening league game of this season. I’ve been scratching my head over that one ever since. Having played the incident over and over, to the point where I’ve almost worn out my hard drive, I’m still clueless as to why it was given. Even the TV commentators seemed a little short of the enthusiasm with which they normally greet decisions against Leeds. They seemed bemused, and it’s my guess that they could see no more justification for the decision than I could. The relative lack of protest from United players was also curious, though this was possibly due to disciplinary guidelines laid down by new manager Marcello Bielsa. Still, having seen the clip literally hundreds of times, at normal speed and in slow motion, forwards and backwards and every which way except upside down and inside out, I’m no nearer to spotting the remotest justification for that penalty award.

Of course, that’s history now, just as with the other seven spot kicks conceded since Leeds last got the benefit of the referee’s whistle. If you’re not sure why it should still bother me so much – consider how the two sides of this penalty conundrum are so blatantly loaded against our beloved Whites. It really is difficult to escape a feeling that we’re on the wrong end of far too many dodgy calls. Apologists for the men in the middle will argue that – warning, here comes a cliché – “these things even themselves out over the course of a season”. But they patently don’t, and there are ample statistics to prove that they don’t. As someone who sat in tears of frustration and rage when Leeds were denied two stonewall penalties in the 1975 European Cup Final, of course I’m still bothered by such injustice.

I won’t get my hopes up for a Leeds penalty tomorrow, especially as we’d probably miss it anyway. I fully expect the 50th game to go by without an award, and we may well continue on and on, unrewarded and unawarded, heading towards the century mark. Already, the penalty-less run has reached ridiculous proportions, I’m confident that no other club in the Football League has to look back anything like as far into history for their last spot kick. But that’s simply how life is for Leeds, and has been for much longer than I can remember. Luckily, we seem to be doing alright at the moment, even without getting the breaks, which in its own way is the sweetest path to success and making all our dreams come true. Perhaps, after all, we should collectively grit our teeth and just be grateful for small mercies.

 

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Man United Cup Penalty Sheds Light on Leeds Failed Spot Kick Claims – by Rob Atkinson

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Last night’s Deepdale judges panel, deeply impressed by a flawless Rooney dive

The Man U victory over Preston North End in the FA Cup 5th Round (Jubilate Deo – FL) has not only disappointed all right-thinking Leeds fans, who had hoped for a slice of history to be served up once again, reheated yet still as delicious – it has also highlighted the technical deficiencies of the recent spate of failed Leeds United penalty claims.

Leeds players, management, staff and fans – everybody, in fact, right down to Mrs Miggins in the players’ canteen – have been unanimous in their outrage and disbelief, as well as outraged disbelief and disbelieving outrage, over a series of penalty box incidents in which Leeds players have been either hacked down, sent flying, half-murdered, knouted, burned at the stake, keelhauled, kneecapped, scalped, napalmed, beaten about the head, given the Chinese burn or flayed alive – and yet no penalties have been given. It’s been nigh on unbelievable, said a Whites official disbelievingly. There’s been a couple of blatant handballs in there too, as well as an attempted coup by a well-known former chairman and something well dodgy involving hedge funds, traceable to the same source. Not once has the whistle sounded for a spot kick, despite the local casualty ward being overrun by near fatally injured Leeds players, all assaulted in the box, or something similarly embarrassing and painful.

But now new and highly convenient information has come to light regarding a little-known but currently preferred method of assessing penalty claim validity. The new guidelines are amply illustrated by the penalty awarded to Man U at Deepdale in last night’s cup tie. A top football administrator was kind enough to explain: “Firstly, as we can see on the TV replay, no contact whatsoever was made by the defender with the diving player, Sir Wayne Rooney of England and St George. This is a vital point – we can’t risk injury to England’s top diver. Secondly, the player not fouled was wearing a Manchester United shirt – again, this is absolutely pivotal to the success of these claims. And thirdly, we were drawing a ga… Ahem. I mean Mighty Man U were drawing a game we – they – needed to win. A combination of these factors will always mean a nailed-on penalty award, especially if Sir Wayne feels that he wants to score a goal. In cases of doubt, an independent panel can rule in favour of Sir Wayne using our extraordinary, super-special “TCP” – Tantrum Containment Protocol  – (see picture above)”

“Clearly, the recent claims by Leeds United for penalties have fallen down when assessed by any and all of these three scrupulously fair indices. Furthermore, an examination of the penalties awarded against Leeds will reveal that no contact has been made in the majority of those cases, constituting an obvious prima facie case for penalty awards under the “It’s OK Cos It’s Against The Damned United” Provisions, 2007 (and ibid.) In most of those cases where Leeds were correctly penalised, these were technical matters where the ref simply had to award a penalty, or he may have had to caution the diving player – and risk handing an advantage to Leeds in contravention of prevailing League policy. You see? This was the clinching factor in Sir Wayne’s beautiful dive and claim at Preston – we were well aware of the strong desire among Leeds fans for Preston to win, and thus revive memories of that tragic occasion on January 3rd 2010. It was just Hobson’s choice, as you can’t fail to appreciate.”

Having got the nagging penalty mystery cleared up, it is still hoped, in some quarters at Elland Road, that an explanation may yet be forthcoming over apparent “fit and proper” anomalies. These are seemingly straightforward instances of perverse judgement whereby rapists, grand larcenists, porn barons and jailed money launderers are somehow deemed “squeaky clean”, technically speaking, instead of – as one might expect – “a right nasty, evil bunch of bent bastards who should be doing hard labour on bread and water at Devil’s Island Penitentiary, without the option” – to use another esoteric legal term. Our Football Administration source declined to comment on this point, explaining that he had an appointment for new glasses and his head polishing.

Shaun Harvey is bald and half blind.

Man U’s “Olympic Diving Trio” Fail to Deny Spurs – by Rob Atkinson

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That Moyes half-time team talk in full

It seemed as though the selection of referee for today’s Man U v Spurs match at the Theatre of Hollow Myths was spot on and just right for the job in hand.  Howard Webb is a man who has proved time and time again that he’s one referee who knows exactly how to deal with the acknowledged divers of the best Man U tradition. Howard does not shirk his responsibility, Howard acts decisively. Howard doesn’t even hesitate; he gets the whistle to the lips and blows shrilly for the statutory penalty.  We’ve seen it repeatedly down the years.  The man is Mr Consistent, and his collection of Premier League title winners medals have been due reward for this.

But clearly, something went badly wrong today.  A goal down at half time, and needing their main man on form in the second half, Man U increased their divers complement, using all three specialists at the club with Ashley Young joining Welbeck and the promising young triple-salko expert Januzaj.  Between them, these three gave Webb every opportunity to award penalties, with brilliant build-up play leading to immaculate finishes, landing on the face in the box in the approved fashion. Webb, though, appeared to have forgotten his lines completely, refusing to give even one penalty and actually booking the latest “New George Best”! His performance was disgraceful, and he is expected to be carpeted at Carrington later this week. On this performance, Webb’s place in Moyes’ matchday squad must be in doubt.

Looking at the displays of the three-man dive squad against Spurs, any and all of them could have had success on the day were it not for the official deciding to come over all impartial, in blatant breach of the standard contract.  Let’s take Danny Welbeck first:

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Welbeck’s matchday scorecard

Danny tried hard, but possibly a little too hard.  One of the tabloids, the Metro, has chosen to be a little treacherous and highlight one of the lad’s less subtle dives – and oh dear, it does look bad (see here). Overall, not one of Danny’s better displays. But, at the risk of straying into irrelevant areas, at least he scored.

Moving on, let’s check out the promising young Adnan Januzaj’s form:

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The Januzaj scores.

Young Adnan again is a trier and he shows real potential.  The fact is though that he’s been booked at least twice now, for “simulation” as they prefer to call it these days (cheating is such a nasty word). This may indicate that he’s perhaps not yet a true Man U class diver.  It’s a part of his game he’ll obviously be encouraged to work on – Moyes is on record as saying he’ll be having a chat with the lad, and there are good, solid examples of effective diving already at the club, from whom he can learn a great deal.  But for the moment, he’s flattering to deceive, and there are even suggestions that the blatant nature of some of his “precipitate descents to ground level” are threatening to blow the gaff on the very fabric of the club’s entire diving policy. This is something that should put all concerned on notice; the quality of diving needs to be addressed just as much as does the inexplicable form of the normally-reliable Webb.

Last, but by no means least, we have Man U’s main diver, usually benched until his particular gifts are needed – the one and only Ashley “Nautilus” Young:

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Ashley’s impeccable style and artistic interpretation

If there is one man who should shoulder no blame whatsoever for today’s defeat, it’s that man Young.  Always available to come on when required, his single-minded approach warms the hearts of every fan from Torquay to Milton Keynes and back again.  Such dedication deserves some reward; on days like this, Ashley could be forgiven for thinking he might as well go back to playing football.  But such a devoted practitioner of his art will not long be cast down.  You can guarantee that Ashley will be back, arms and legs akimbo, nose ploughing a furrow inside the eighteen yard box and that lovely, fluid motion as the dive turns seamlessly into a loudly-squealed appeal to the normally willing ref.  Looking at today’s match, Moyes was livid that one dive of utter quality didn’t result in a penalty. Unlucky, Ashley – don’t give up.

As for the rest of the match – Spurs even had the cheek to claim a penalty of their own.  But goals either side of half-time, both inexplicably allowed, were enough in the end to see them take the three points.  Sadly, it will have been an uncomfortable journey back south for the bulk of the Man U support, having to share trains with gloating Spurs fans.  It’s at times like these that the mettle of such faithful and dedicated gloryhunters is truly put to the test.

These are worrying times though for Man U.  Spurs have been nothing special this term, and the fact that they have been able to face Man U’s triple threat and not concede even ONE penalty is a matter of grave concern.  Some MPs in Home Counties constituencies are being asked to table questions in the House.  It’s that serious.  The problem, clearly, is with Webb – and you’d almost wonder on today’s performance if someone’s got at him? The Premier League Referee’s Panel, perhaps – though they’re normally very good at keeping their nose out of Man U’s private affairs.  Whatever has happened, something has to be sorted out, and soon – or it will be hard to see how personnel changes are to be avoided.  Several younger refs have put in promising performances for Man U lately, one even pulling a muscle in his eagerness to point to the spot.  It may even be time to think the unthinkable and act to replace Howard – even though there’s little doubt that he will go down as one of the true greats in the club’s history.

It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall when Webb is summoned to meet an irate David Moyes in the next few days. He’s likely to have to do some hard, fast talking to have any hope of retaining his squad number, and even then it’s likely that beady eyes will be watching him from the stand.  Yes, even his old mentor S’ralex is rumoured to be bitterly disappointed with Webb’s lamentable display today.  Things are getting serious – for sound marketing reasons, Man U simply must finish in the top four at the very, very least.  So could we really be about to see the end of a glorious Man U career?  The next few days way well decide that.

Spurs Pay the Usual Penalty for Failing to Finish Off Man U – by Rob Atkinson

Look ref - here's what you do...

Look ref – here’s what you do…

Yesterday’s entertaining draw at White Hart Lane featured a Spurs team trying to recover from their six-goal hiding at Man City last time out, and a Man U team which featured Wayne Rooney, who should have been absent suspended after his wild kick at Cardiff last week, the type of foul for which only a Man U shirt will exempt the offender from a richly-deserved red card.  Rooney, let us not forget, scored twice at Cardiff when he should by rights have been wallowing in self-pity and an early bath.  And he scored twice again at Spurs, one of them a traditionally dodgy penalty as Welbeck somehow managed to hit the arm of keeper Lloris with his trailing leg and collapse like a house of cards – as per the kind of training drills they’ve provided at Carrington and the Cliff for years now.

The four goals Rooney has scored, when he shouldn’t have been on the pitch at all, have garnered the Pride of Devon 2 points that might well otherwise have been none.  David Moyes therefore has the nervousness of referees to thank for there not being a great deal more pressure on him this morning.  It was a factor that had often come to the aid of his curmudgeonly predecessor.  Plus ça change…

Spurs had taken the lead twice, firstly from a zippy Kyle Walker free-kick blasted along the ground under the defensive wall.  The Man U defenders had jumped in anticipation of something quite different, ending up politely letting Walker’s effort through to beat an unsighted de Gea.  The second Tottenham goal was a real beauty, Sandro looking up and striking a violent shot which soared into the net under the angle of post and crossbar, leaving the keeper rooted to the spot.

In between the two Tottenham strikes, Walker had gone from hero to zero when a cross ball into the Spurs area hit him too briskly for him to control it and bounced fortuitously into the path of Rooney (who shouldn’t have been playing).  Sandro’s goal was worthy of deciding any match, any time, anywhere. It was so good that Man U should really have put their hands up and said, ok – fair enough.  Instead, spoilsports that they are, they waited only three minutes before playing their penalty joker.  As Welbeck hit the ground, referee Dean had already sprung eagerly into life, risking muscle injury in his haste to sprint towards the penalty spot where he stood, quivering with virtue and resolution as he pointed for the award that was a foregone conclusion.  And Rooney – who should have been back home in Manchester – blasted his penalty down the middle to deny Spurs the win they probably deserved.

After the match, AVB – a man who has been under the cosh all week – was a mixture of defiant and philosophical.  He dismissed the rantings of the gutter rags with admirable contempt, not being drawn into any discussion of the scorn heaped upon his head since the disaster at the Etihad.  As for the Man U penalty, he simply shrugged and pointed out that he’s seen their players hang a leg out to win penalties before.  He knows, as we all do, that these are the penalties refs will always give at the end Man U are attacking, just as the ones they give in the area they’re defending are as common as hens’ teeth.  It’s the way of the world – and you could empathise with the Spurs manager’s wearily resigned acceptance of it. But rival managers must surely be heartily sick of this ridiculous quirk of the game by now. It’s been over twenty years, and the wonder is that, even with such a helpful wind at their backs, Man U have somehow contrived not to be champions on several occasions. That’s like tossing a double-headed coin and calling “tails”.

For all that it could have been worse for Man U, had Rooney been dismissed last week as he should have been, and had Welbeck been booked for deliberately tripping over the keeper’s hapless arm yesterday, as he should have been – still, two points from two away games is not vintage stuff.  But it’s two more than they should have had, and those nicked points might just count at the end of the season – even if it’s only to get Man U into the Europa League ahead of the likes of Newcastle.

Managers come and go, but some things never change, it seems – and so the fading champions are “only” nine points behind Arsenal, who looked irresistible at Cardiff.  There’s a long way to go yet – and surely there won’t be a defender’s gift and a soft penalty for Man U every week?  Watch this space.