Tag Archives: play-offs

As Leeds Fanatics, Let’s Get Right Behind Aston Villa on Monday – by Rob Atkinson

Good luck Monday, Dean Smith, you horrible git

As the Bank Holiday fiesta of sudden death football that is the playoff finals finally begins, the thoughts of every Leeds United fan must surely be: it could have been us in that Championship playoff decider. Should have been. But, once you get past that, and also past the essential silliness of a system that will promote one of two clubs that have been proven as inferior to United, both in the regular season and in our meetings on the field, you have to decide which of these two you want to see take the Premier League place that should have been ours. There’s no point in turning a blind eye, or whinging about what’s happened. We all knew the rules, daft though they may be.

So, who do we want to see go up? And, by extension, with whom do we wish to renew hostilities next time around? Both Aston Villa and Derby County have done their darnedest this season to capitalise on incidents surrounding our league meetings; both have cynically attempted to make mountains out of molehills, eagerly assisted by a complaisant and Leeds-hating media. But, for all that I can’t abide Villa manager Dean Smith, and even though I’d cheerfully swing for that annoying little toad Grealish, there can be no real comparison to the serial whingers of Derby County, with all of the Spygate nonsense, that loathsome hypocrite Lampard and all. And it is in a spirit of Frank and honest bitterness and resentment that I wish them despair and heartache at Wembley on Monday – I hope with all my heart that we can meet again next season, just to rub it in again exactly why we’re better than them, in every way, any day of the week. And I hope that Middlesbrough prove to be of some use for a change, and successfully sue Direby’s backside off over the shady Pride Park operation.

So it’s “Up The Villa” for me on Monday. I’d be most interested to hear other views as ever, both agreeing and disagreeing. But please keep it polite, and give your reasons.

Marching On Together

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Here’s to Promotion for United (Next Time)

In the end, it was not to be. Leeds United finally bowed out of the Championship playoffs in the most Leeds United way possible, losing at home to a team they’d played and beaten handsomely three times this season, blowing a one goal lead from the first leg, which had been extended to two goals as half time at Elland Road approached. And, again so typically for Leeds, it was a self-inflicted wound in the dying moments of the first half on Wednesday that changed the tone and tempo of what had always been a frantic game of football.

If they had the chance to play that fatal moment again, both Liam Cooper and United’s keeper Kiko Casilla would wish to have made better decisions. But for me, our former Real Madrid man was the more culpable of the two, failing to provide a safe option for the pass back, and then impeding Cooper as he tried desperately to clear the ball away. The ball fell kindly for Derby’s sub Jack Marriott, who had only been on the field for half a minute, and he tucked away a chance that should never have materialised. And so began the painful process whereby the life blood drained out of Leeds United and what had at one time looked like a promotion season.

Immediately after the interval, the tie was level, and the tide had well and truly turned. Then a clear penalty edged Derby ahead before Stuart Dallas scored his second goal of the night to restore parity – but only temporarily. The denouement of this crazy night of dog eat dog football saw Derby regain their lead over two legs, before Gaetano Berardi perpetrated the kind of tackle he’s too often guilty of, to leave the contest courtesy of a second yellow card.

There was still time for Derby to be reduced to ten men, but the damage had been done by that point and Leeds were doomed to become the current longest-serving member of the Championship, much to the delight of just about everybody who doesn’t hold the Elland Road outfit dear.

So there we are and, quite honestly, things could be worse. If we can look forward to another season of Bielsaball, albeit not in the top flight, then that’s an enticing prospect. Because, let’s be honest, this has been a fabulous season, despite its gut-wrenching climax. The pity of it is that Leeds United will not be a Premier League club come its hundredth birthday in October. But there’s still the challenge of celebrating that centenary by mounting an assault on the Championship league title next time around.

To achieve that, some squad improvements will be required, and doubtless there has already been some contingency planning for the eventuality of failing to secure the promotion that had looked so likely for so long. It is also essential to retain the services of Marcelo Bielsa and his staff, so that they can set about building on the massive improvement we have seen in this remarkable season.

What we can’t afford to do – as either a football club or a fan base – is to waste time in mutual recriminations or excessive licking of wounds. Thursday was the first day of planning for next season, and it’s in that positive spirit that we must now move forward. Leeds United is a Premier League club which happens to be marooned in the league below, and all efforts should now be concentrated on resolving that contradictory situation.

In a spirit of positivity, let’s look forward to renewing hostilities with Huddersfield and Barnsley next season. And, just to show there’s no petty bitterness in this blog – good luck to Aston Villa at Wembley.

Lampard Referred for Urgent Memory Tests After Forgetting Leeds Penalty Overrule – by Rob Atkinson

Lampard: memory issues?

Derby County manager Frank Lampard has become the focus of fears within professional football about what stress can do to the memory and mental faculties of even a relatively young man. The latest example of what are suspected to be short-term memory problems in Lampard arises from the overturned penalty in Derby’s first leg semi final play off tie against Leeds United at Pride Park. The ref awarded Derby a penalty, but the award was rescinded after the assistant referee pointed out that Leeds’ Jack Harrison had played the ball instead of fouling the Derby player Bogle.

Lampard was outraged afterwards, claiming that he’d never seen a linesman overrule a referee’s decision, and insisting that, even if it was technically no foul, the award should have stood. Worryingly, Lampard appears to have forgotten the game at Elland Road between Leeds and Derby in January, when Leeds were awarded an early penalty which was subsequently (and wrongly, as it turned out) overturned on assistant referee advice. The fact that Lampard has obviously forgotten this incident completely is a clear sign of memory loss in at least the shorter term, and justifies a level of concern about his mental fitness for a demanding job.

But the problem may not just be affecting poor Frank’s short term memory. Earlier this season, during the “Spygate” furore, Lampard stated unequivocally that he’d never known or been involved with such practices. He had clearly forgotten that, during his time at Chelsea, senior management figures had circumvented an FA ban by being in attendance, concealed in a laundry hamper. Lampard will have been fully aware of this at the time, but again, worryingly, has lost all memory of it.

The gravity of the situation now for Derby is that they must win at Elland Road against an injury-depleted Leeds in Wedneday’s second leg, so County fans must hope that, at the very least, Lampard can still remember his way there.

The memory problems cited must be genuine and therefore a cause for grave concern. The only other explanation would be that Lampard has been lying through his teeth in his protests about Leeds United, in the full awareness that he’s been a party to similar incidents in his favour – and that he is therefore a humbug and a double-dyed hypocrite.

And that surely can’t be true of media darling Frankie Lampard…. can it??

Norwich & Sheffield United Miss Out on Wembley; Leeds Still in the Mix – by Rob Atkinson

This heavily disguised lament is brought to you from deep within the tortured soul of Glass Half Full Productions Inc. Apologies for the late hour. I’ve been speechless with disappointment.

Congratulations though to all Canaries and Blades out there; your teams both did it when it mattered.

Keep the Faith, you mighty White Army – I know it’s not easy.

Marching on Together.

Is There Still One More Twist in Leeds United’s Auto Promotion Bid? – by Rob Atkinson

Jesus

Don’t forget – Jesus once wore the shirt

David Prutton, now a Sky Sports pundit but nicknamed “Jesus” by Leeds fans once upon a time, due to his startling resemblance to the alleged Son of God, might therefore be wryly amused by the fact that United’s automatic promotion hopes appeared to die on Good Friday. As yet, and with a barren Easter Monday visit to Brentford answering no prayers originating in and around LS11, there seems to be nary a sign of any resurrection for what was probably a misplaced optimism that we might find a straightforward path out of the EFL wilderness. Barring a miracle on a par with the loaves and fishes gig, it’s likely that Leeds United will, after all, have to settle for a play-offs lottery that has served them so ill on so many occasions in the past.

But, soft. Perhaps the time for despair is not yet nigh. Any neutral observer looking at the twists and turns taken by this season’s Championship promotion race will note that it’s been a consistently inconsistent affair, predictable only in its inscrutable unpredictability. You couldn’t have made it up, such observers would say, possibly gasping and throwing their hands in the air to signify outraged disbelief. If you were writing a script, they might add, you wouldn’t have dared include so many plot twists, for fear of being dismissed as some lunatic sensationalist with a bevy of bats in the belfry. Why, then, should we assume that all is done and dusted with two games yet to be played for each interested party? Why on earth would we now presume to predict an outcome that has from day one been so capriciously impossible to foresee?

Out of such perverse logic might appear the odd straw for fans of Leeds United eagerly to clutch with a fierce defiance born of pure desperation. Could Ipswich get a point at Bramall Lane while a depleted Leeds triumph over the division’s form team Aston Villa, leaving things on a last day knife-edge? Of course not. But then again, you might have argued as dismissively about ten man Wigan’s chances of overcoming a one goal deficit to beat the Championship’s best home ground team in Leeds. And you’d surely have bet against a QPR side that had lost seven on the bounce somehow defying the match stats to see our heroes off 1-0 the other week. All of which proves the truth of the old saw about not counting chickens before they’ve hatched.

Of course, in public, I’m maintaining a front of stoical resignation and predicting yet more play-off disappointment for my beloved Whites. My perceived sanity and any remaining shreds of credibility probably depend upon this outward display of common sense. But this little blog is my private fantasy land – and here, all things are possible until the actual point at which it can be shown they haven’t actually happened. So, just between you and me, gentle reader, I will cling on to my faint but still flickering hopes that a miracle could yet occur, and that we might yet see our favourites ascend to the Promised Land as of right, instead of having to trust to that fickle and Leeds-hating jade Lady Luck. You never know, it could still just happen.

Hell fire, friends – we might yet even win the Championship. The kind of roller-coaster script this year’s League has apparently followed might actually demand a properly daft denouement like that. Keep the faith.

Marching On Together 

DIARY OF A CHAMPIONSHIP FAN – PART TWO: WHEN LEXIT MEANS LEXIT – by Patrick Hogan

Families, communities, a whole nation divided over LEXIT

It’s April 2019 and it’s been going on too long now. The people have spoken and yet have had to suffer interminable setbacks; delays, long drawn out negotiations, broken promises, missed deadlines, and things are still not resolved. In your darkest moments you imagine it going on forever. The issue has divided the nation. And yet still you’re living in this impasse. 

It’s time for Leeds to leave the EFL! LEXIT IS LONG OVERDUE!

There was the time you’d outlined in bitter tones to your bitter other half that though LUFC were big other lesser teams had been acquired and funded by billionaires who virtually bought them entrance to the hallowed portals of the Premiership. Look at Wolves in the 2017-18 season you’d said. Loans to buy of top international players through the workings of an agent on the board! And then the skewed distribution of TV money. Relegated teams coming down with huge parachute payments. An outrage that unlevelled the playing field in all sorts of ways. 

‘Well other teams seem to manage to get promotion,’ she’d come back with. 

And for the reasons you’d outlined you’d answered. And what had been her rejoinder? ‘There is no magic money tree! You reap what you sow!’ 

‘And we’d sown Bates had we?’ you’d replied.

‘Who? You live according to your means,’ she’d added. 

You‘d been feeling quite proud of that little snippet of repartee about Bates that hadn’t earned you any points till only later in the pub in your retelling of the spat to friends. The clarity of the scene lived in your mind. It wasn’t when you’d told her that she’d sounded like Theresa May but when you’d added with deliberate vitriol that she was starting to look like her that your missus had packed her bags and left again.

You’ve been a fan of Championship football for years although not through choice. And you’ve praised its qualities of honesty, speed, intensity, and so on that you’d outlined to disinterested pseudo Arsenal, Spurs (add a team) fans who’d never been to any of the grounds of the teams they purported to follow whilst they’ve waxed lyrically about their ‘support’ at work or at the pub watching Sky Sports. The Championship was beneath them. Unless of course they’d picked one of the ‘wrong’ teams like West Ham, WBA, (insert suitable name again) and were then doomed to explore the delights of ‘yo-yo-ness’; until they realised their mistake quickly and bought a Liverpool shirt, etc. backing it up with a flaky reason for their sudden change of allegiance.

But it isn’t as easy as that for you. You loyalties lie in whatever sphere your club happens to find itself. This brings you to another sad memory about the currently departed missus. You’d told her often enough that Leeds would get out of that division – and then it had happened. But not how you wanted. It had been almost unthinkable but only one year on from a play-off final Leeds were in League One! And a brief glance at a map showed you that Swansea and Yeovil were a long way away. And oh she had laughed. And without a word you’d walked out and not come back for three days while you licked your wounds and studied a road atlas looking for places like Cheltenham only to find she’d gone. 

Well she’s not laughing now. Or she might be but not at home. Your bet is she’ll come back contrite when your forecasted Lexit proves to be right. And when she does she’ll find you looking at next season’s fixture list and wondering how much places like Old Trafford, Goodison, and Anfield have changed since you were last there. And also Highbury – scrub that. Arsenal were now at a ground you’d never been to. Add to that list White Hart Lane. And no longer would you have to trek to the old Boleyn ground, a loss you’re prepared to bear stoically if Lexit finally happens.

The truth is though you’ve extolled the virtues of the Championship for years; how it’s more exciting, and harder for overpaid non-performers dropping from the Premiership who just want the bright lights of places like London, and the TV coverage you’re tired of being a Championship fan. Or rather you’re tired of Leeds being a Championship team. And if Leeds are now geared up to be a Premiership team again, you, who has served his penance for past owners’ misdemeanours, feel you’re more than ready to be a Premiership fan again. Admittedly Bournemouth, Brighton and Southampton are further than the likes of Reading, Stoke and Derby but you’ll take that. And in leaving wish all Championship fans luck in the future – obviously not those in places like Bermondsey and Sheffield.

And the delicious irony is that the EFL will have to struggle along without its prize asset and cash cow once Leeds have left despite their best efforts to keep you in their league. At this moment you feel there’s light at the end of a long tunnel even if that glorious light is slightly overshadowed by the spectre of Shaun Harvey following you to the Premiership and getting a top job. You will not let him be the black dog Cerberus chasing you in your dreams. And surely after Lexit there’ll be better referees and kick-off times, less biased commentary and punditry, and the ability to attract top talent – in short, all the things that Lexiteers have promised you.

But back to the mythical magic money tree for a moment. The one you’d yearned for so long and that other teams had seemed to conjure up to get promotion. The amazing thing was that so far the missing missus had been proved right. Fifteen players loaned out; and the few incoming loans and couple of money signings not having played a major part in the process this season. If Lexit is achieved it will be by organisation, dedication, planning and commitment. All the qualities you’ve brought to bear in your support. 

And the club will have played its part too of course.

So there you are. Still waiting and praying for Lexit but this time with genuine hope of an early deliverance. You long to say to the EFL (and Shaun Harvey in particular) ‘In the name of God go!’

Yes, the LUFC fraternity (and of course sisterhood) have spoken with one voice and their combined wish is this: ‘Lexit means Lexit! And it has to happen soon!’

And with that thought constantly in mind you retire to the pub with fellow minded fans to feel the consolation and solidarity of their emotions as they empathise with what you’re going through. And for a short while you can relax as one of them retells your favourite Man U joke. You may know it word for word but there is a comfort in repetition and usually a new pair of ears to take in its poignancy – 

‘The wife decided to wear a Manchester United top for a week to see the public reaction. On The 1st morning she was spat on, swore at, punched in the face twice, kicked up the arse and received 3 death threats……..Don’t know how she’ll get on when she leaves the house.’

The Ear-cupping Sign from Leeds’ Patrick Bamford that Spoke Volumes – by Rob Atkinson

Patrick Bamford: what about that then, guys?

As the clock ticked past 61 minutes at Deepdale on Tuesday night, with Leeds hammering away against a 10 man but stubborn Preston side, United’s number 9 Patrick Bamford strode on to a rebound off the wedding tackle of Pablo Hernandez, and absolutely lashed the ball past helpless North End keeper Declan Rudd, to the delight of the massed Whites behind the home goal.

It was that vital breakthrough goal we knew we just had to score. Preston were down to ten men, Norwich and Sheffield Utd would play the following day. Leeds needed to get the three points to put the pressure back on their rivals. Bamford’s lethal finish was spectacular, but it was also a sign of his bravery and self-belief. Some shots hit from that position fly into row Z, some fizz narrowly wide, strike the woodwork or draw a brilliant save from the keeper. Relatively few arrow into the corner, threatening to break the net. Bamford had the confidence to try, and was richly rewarded.

That confidence and bravery brought us the much-needed moment of joy and relief. Bamford’s immediate reaction was telling; he ran to the away support, cupping his ear as if to say “Now what do you think?” It was the action of a man who had had to take some pretty ridiculous criticism and half-baked judgement after missing a few chances during a mini-drought recently. Whatever happened, we may ask, to the old saying about “you have to get there in order to miss ’em”. Half of any good striker’s work is getting into scoring positions. But that clearly means nothing to the armchair experts that make up too big a proportion of United’s support (for want of a more appropriate word). Bamford cupped his ear to the travelling faithful, but the gesture was indirectly aimed at the clueless section of social media Whites.

Clearly, Bamford is a great pro and a decent striker. In his limited contribution to this season, he’s scored some vital goals and, if the season is to be crowned with success, he’ll have done his bit. He also knows the score, and he’s fully aware that the people he can rely on to support and encourage him are inside the club, at Thorp Arch, or lining up beside him on the pitch. For the fans to enter that circle of trust, we would need to eliminate the carping criticism, the petulant knee-jerk reactions and the clueless assumption that the terrace denizens know best. As fans, we have to earn the trust and confidence of the players, in which case we’d all be better placed to succeed.

Will that ever happen? Is it too much to ask? The last few games of an epic season might just give us some sort of an answer to those deeply vexed questions.

Marching On Together

Sheffield Wednesday Play Their Hearts Out for Leeds United and a Derby Day Draw – by Rob Atkinson

Wendies hold Blunts to keep Leeds in second place

It was the third Steel City Derby scoreless draw on the trot, much to the deflated disappointment of the Sky TV commentators who required a Blunts win to see Leeds United drop out of the Championship top two.

Instead, they saw a gritty if punchless performance from the Wendies, who managed to blunt Sharp’s cutting edge whilst stifling the threat from elsewhere in the away team’s attack. The whole game was more perspiration than inspiration and, in the end, a draw seemed a fair result.

For Leeds fans, this was highly satisfactory, putting a two point cushion between themselves and the play off pack. Once again, the Whites’ fate is in their own hands, and their challenge must now be to reproduce the Premier class performance that saw West Bromwich Albion sent packing last Friday evening.

There was some amusement, too, in listening to the morose men behind the mics as they strove to take some comfort from what was a disappointing night for them. All in all, as goalless draws go, this one put the cherry on the icing of one of Leeds United’s better weekends.

Lacked the Breaks, Lacked the Bottle, Lacked the Class; Simply Dreadful, Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

“Poundland Messi” Luke Freeman settles the match at QPR

As regular readers will know, I had some qualms about the match at QPR. Leeds United needed the win to go back top, Rangers had lost seven on the spin. For students of Sod’s Law, it was a disaster waiting to happen. I even wrote a pessimistic piece, observing that many a team on a poor run then go full-on Barça when they face Leeds; well, it wasn’t quite like that at Loftus Road, although Rangers matchwinner Luke Freeman did a pretty good impersonation of a Poundland Messi.

In truth, the writing was on the wall early on, when the referee missed what looked like a clear handball by Rangers inside their area. “Play on, lads”, chirruped the ref, as the advertising hoarding behind the goal displayed “Rebuilding lives after lost sight”. Even so, Leeds carried more threat than QPR before the break, with Patrick Bamford just failing at the far post to convert a low cross from Pablo Hernandez. After the break though, the rot set in with a vengeance.

United possibly lacked the breaks all night, but the longer the match went on, the clearer it was that there were deficiencies also in the bottle and class departments. Rangers, meanwhile, toiled away manfully. And they got their attacking break when Tyler Roberts carelessly lost possession on United’s left flank. The ball moved forward, a cross went into the Leeds box, and the ball was past Kiko Casilla into the net. 1-0, and you just knew it was going to be one of those nights.

Leeds had perhaps one genuinely classy move, a flowing progress upfield which deserved to be crowned with an equaliser. But Rangers cleared the ball at the last ditch, as they managed to do whenever required, all night long.

On a truly awful night for Leeds, Izzy Brown‘s long-awaited debut as a sub was probably destined to be a shocking anti-climax, and so it proved. Brown’s first contribution to proceedings was to block a likely-looking shot from one of his own team-mates – and then shortly afterwards, he picked up a deserved yellow. And Brown probably should have seen yellow again just minutes later – but by that time, the ref possibly felt rather sorry for us.

As bad days at the office go, this was akin to the whole company going into liquidation and then burning down. The best we can hope is that we’ve just witnessed the season bottoming out; that from here on in, the only way is up. But with West Brom lying in wait on Friday, even that has to be open to doubt.

Maybe the United players will take a little anger and frustration away from this game alongside, yes, a chunk of shame and regret. It’s to be hoped anyone in a Leeds shirt tonight is angry, particularly with themselves. Anger is possibly the only thing about the display against Rangers that can be taken forward and used on Friday night against West Brom.

Elland Road will be packed and bouncing then, with the crowd roaring their heroes on. And the players must respond and they must deliver. Because it’s still all to play for – and those Leeds United players owe all of their fans a massively improved performance and a much better result. Big time.

Leeds United Contribute £200,000 to Shaun Harvey’s FL Leaving Do – by Rob Atkinson

Shaun Harvey – disappointed and calling it a day

At long last, the Football League investigation into the so-called Spygate affair has been concluded, and it can now be revealed that the delay in considering and pronouncing upon a relatively simple matter was caused by an almighty internal wrangle within the Football League.

It turns out that the matter was pretty much done and dusted some time ago, with the League reluctantly concluding that, as no specific rules had been broken, it was not possible to impose a points deduction. Instead, the League had to settle for dressing up the matter of a man standing on a public highway and looking through a wire fence as “a breach of good faith”, enabling action under regulation 3.4 – but even this has proved problematic.

A League spokesperson confirmed that the League was struggling to make even the “good faith” provisions stick due, he said, to a number of far more serious breaches during the time that Spygate had been current. “We’ve had blatant diving, clubs clearing one penalty area of snow but not the other, clubs reneging on transfer deals at the last minute, all sorts of stuff going on. But we had to do this to Leeds, because it was the only way we could get them. And that was a very cruel blow to Shaun Harvey, who had been determined to deal a fatal blow to that club’s promotion chances”.

It appears that Mr. Harvey has indeed taken the outcome of Spygate very hard indeed, as he had hoped it would be instrumental in keeping Leeds United down in the Championship. So depressed is he by the thwarting of his dearly held hopes, that he has now announced he’ll be stepping down at the end of the season. “Shaun is a broken man”, confirmed our source. “He feels that he just can’t go on, so he’s going to retire to a smallholding in Little Sodbury. We at the League feel that the least we can do is to give him a good send off, so we’re fining Leeds enough to send him off in style”.

When it was pointed out that two hundred grand was quite steep for a leaving do, we were told “We’re pulling out all the stops here, because Shaun really needs cheering up. So we’ve booked his favourite acts, Kylie, Jason and we’ve even arranged a personal appearance by Shaun’s hero Frank “Fwankie” Lampard. I imagine they’ll be commiserating together”.

Leeds United’s only comment was “We’ve fully cooperated with this whole fiasco from start to finish, and all we can say is that we’re satisfied with the outcome. It’s well worth a couple of hundred grand to get rid of that oily little sod Harvey.

Frank Lampard is a bitter, thwarted little man.