Tag Archives: pre-season

Merciless Leeds Make Mincemeat of Mismatched Minstermen – by Rob Atkinson

York away

York City (0) 0, Leeds United (4) 5

I’ve seen enough of Leeds United‘s pre-season friendlies over the past several campaigns to know that I need to adjust my expectations to the context of a glorified training exercise, with about as much bite and passion as an elderly and feeble slug. Usually, this streak of realism (not to say cynicism) allows me to watch such games without actually ending up chewing my office carpet. But an enjoyable experience it is invariably not. Until last night, that is.

Last night, Leeds United bypassed the the usual bland, disinterested and frankly boring or humiliating prepupal chrysalis stage of their habitual pre-season development, and emerged as a shimmeringly gorgeous, fully formed aristocratic butterfly, glorious in its multi-hued splendour, dancing with the delight of effortless superiority before our dazzled and incredulous eyes and putting on an irresistibly skillful show to bamboozle the lumpen proletarians of York City.

This time last year, at the same venue, the earliest incarnation of Bielsa’s United were more like moths than butterflies, fluttering hopelessly around a candle flame, somewhat fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw. Twelve months on, and the difference is remarkable – despite a complete change of outfield personnel around the hour mark, United’s dominance continued unabated, and the youngsters were rather unlucky not to add to the five goal tally of their senior colleagues.

5-0, in the end, flattered York rather than Leeds and, although allowances must be made for the humble station of the opposition, nevertheless, United’s utter control and mastery of proceedings was deeply impressive. Helder Costa was nowhere to be seen, nor yet was there a sign of Jack Clarke, Luke Ayling or (whisper it) Kalvin Phillips – although we are told that the latter will feature in tonight’s fixture at Guiseley, amid confident whispers that he’ll be staying at Elland Road. In the absence of these luminaries, we had instead the Jack Harrison show, ably supported by the likes of Bamford, Hernandez and Roofe, with young Alfie McCalmont prominent and proficient also.

Harrison rattled in a couple of goals, the second a sumptuous finish from outside the box, and we were also treated to a sublime Pablo strike and one of Roofe’s fox in the box contributions – all before half time. After the interval, a resurgent Adam Forshaw dinkily wrapped up the scoring before the youngsters took over, with the style of football remaining the same despite the lack of further goals. The undoubted star of the show was Jack Harrison, a stronger and more effective version of last season’s flatterer to deceive, evidently determined to build upon his improved showing at the back end of our abortive promotion bid. It would seem on last night’s evidence that we can expect great things of Harrison this time around. Amen to that.

All in all, the first match of United’s pre-season has to be counted a thorough success, a performance replete with both style and substance which is hopefully a sign of even better things to come. It will be interesting, to say the least, seeing how the rest of the squad, supplemented by more hugely promising U-23s no doubt, perform later on at Guiseley. Many United fans will be eager, after last night’s extravaganza, to tune into another LUTV free live stream – and see for themselves.

Marching On Together

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Diary of a Championship Fan Part Three; SUMMERTIME BLUES, 2019 – by Patrick Hogan

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England v Cameroon: Ladies! The brutality!!

I’m a gonna make a fuss, I’m a gonna make a holler,
‘Cause I ain’t got no team for the summer I can a’foller…’

It might be sunny. It might not be. Whatever, it’s raining in your heart. You’re in that dead zone. You know. The one where the Championship season has finished – and in disappointment – again. The play-offs are over. The annual date ends in an odd number so there’s no World Cup or European Championships to feed your addiction.

So what are you going to do? Other than scour the internet daily while the agents are busy and rumours abound about your players. You of course have your own ideas about which Leeds players should be ditched and which positions need strengthening. But you know that you’ll have to wait until the big boys have done their transfer business and maybe settled on their twenty-five men squads before the trickle down will happen and your team can scrap for the pickings, or maybe land some promising young players on loan.

Meanwhile there will always be rumours of a takeover if you’re a Leeds fan. The press just love inciting and milking them, and then glorying in the daily confusion thus engendered. But you are hardened to this. You’ve endured enough TOMAs in the past. It’s what’s happening with the team that concerns you most. And frustratingly you have to put that curiosity on hold.

So you come home from work tired and with an urge to throw a microwave meal down your neck and get out to the pub early so it’ll be quiet in there; and you can be in peace to work out your Championship odds and predictions for the new season. You need to nail a definitive top six teams for your accumulator. It doesn’t matter that you’ve never been successful before – the studied interest, intense scrutiny, and the possible anticipation of being right for once are the thing. Of course Leeds are always in the list despite the fact that you suspect such bias might have been a cause of your undoing in previous seasons. They just couldn’t not be. And now a recent third place finish has strengthened your optimism despite your complete denial of the frustration and disappointment at the end of the 2018-19 season tempered only slightly by Derby’s apposite demise in the final. You refuse to enter into debate with fellow sufferers, and instead only want to look forward.

‘Sit down,’ she says. ‘Your tea’s nearly ready. It’s shepherd’s pie. You’ll find a beer and an iced glass in the living room, and we’ll eat on our knees so we can watch the TV.’

Flummoxed you think, beer = tick; home made meal of shepherd’s pie = check, but TV? Not bloody soaps again surely? So you wander in to the living room and sit down consoled slightly by the cold bottle of lager on the coffee table followed by herself who says, ‘We’re going to be a proper couple and watch something together.’ She sees your downcast look and the possibility that you’re going to say, ‘But I was off out to the…’ and she adds, ‘It’s football.’

Your eyes light up. Has she dug out a re-run from The Glory Years? Or is there an international tournament on you didn’t know about?

‘Women’s football,’ she adds. ‘World Cup no less.’

Your heart sinks. Women can’t play football. It’s not sexist: just a fact. They’re bound to sprain their ankles if they run too fast like they do in the films, or worse, cry if they got a ball blasted into their faces. And what if their make-up gets smudged if it rains? Mind you that could equally apply to a few Premier League prima donnas. Oh well, you sigh inwardly with resignation, at least it’s football. And it’ll probably only be thirty minutes for each half. Women won’t be fit enough to do the full ninety so there’ll still be time for the pub.

So you watch dutifully. And gradually have to admit that there’s some skill there, so much so that at times you want to forget yourself and get involved, even though it’s women playing, and yet you do.

‘What do you think?’ she asks at half-time.

‘All right,’ you reply condescendingly. ‘They certainly know the rules and how to pass and that,’ you trail off, and with fresh inspiration, add, ‘but there’s no real contact happening.’

She nods noncommittally as you continue to watch. But curiously you’re ready for more on another night. And your words come back to haunt you when you witness the England Lionesses, who you now support, face Cameroon! The brutality!  My God, the opposition was cynical. Not many Premiership players would’ve fancied facing that. And where was a strong referee when you needed one? But the girls took it all in their stride.

Not long after you’re already in front of the TV of an evening with the pause button active and urging your missus to get a move on and schlep her arse in sharpish to watch the action. When she looks pleased at this you realise that it could be a great result: not the game, but her finally taking an interest in football.

And then the heartbreak of England going out to the USA having been denied a goal for a contentious offside and then having failed to convert a late penalty. ‘Just like the bloody men’s team!’ you moan with genuine disappointment. You’ve said the right thing. Though she’s slightly down, not almost hysterical like you after the offside decision, she gives you a warm kiss.

But there can always be a bright dawn even after the most challenging disappointments. Pre-season is underway and Bielsa’s staying. Time to turn your attention to loftier matters and the LUFC transfer comings and goings and speculations and to get your accumulator on after all that deliberation. And to admit that inside, the Women’s World Cup filled a great sporting hole. They may be women but it is football after all. And the great thing was – they were fit! In all senses! And you could ogle them while your missus looked on appreciatively, and if she caught you looking too closely or doing too many replays with the remote you could claim it was to check out the incident, or appreciate that bit of skill etc. And some of the players did have long eyelashes, or wore make-up, or had their hair tied back in interesting ways – not, you noticed, too dissimilar from some Premiership players you’d seen recently. And Gareth Bale’s topknot? Well at least it hadn’t caught on with the women yet.

Anyway you couldn’t hold the women’s appearances against them could you? That would be sexist. You were interested in the game not their looks. Something you tended to point out at length to the missus when she questioned how many close up replays you needed to watch.

In conclusion you decide that the experiment was a win-win situation. She was starting to appreciate your love of football, and trying to join in with you in the enjoyment of watching it. She’d finally ‘got it’. That is, you and your obsession, and you could now be obsessed together. So with a slightly suppressed smile and inner warmth you think why not? Hang the expense. It’s time to push the boat out and feed your other half’s new interest.

And with that in mind you get your debit card out and prepare to pay for… hold it…two tickets for you and her to witness your beloved Leeds take on the might of Guiseley FC at Nethermoor. She’ll be over the moon. Live football and the two of you there to soak in the atmosphere, with an added bonus: it’ll a lot easier and quicker to get pies there at half time.

Many thanks to talented wordsmith PATRICK HOGAN for yet another quality contribution to Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything. MOT

Leeds United Fans Savouring the Unfamiliar Taste of Optimism – by Rob Atkinson

Andrea

After the owner from Hell – is Andrea Radrizzani Heaven-sent?

The usual pre-season mood around Leeds United over the past few years has been an unlovely mixture of frustration and pessimism, both usually to be justified by subsequent events. Squad investment, the close-season preoccupation of the serious promotion contenders, was noticeable only by its relative absence down at Elland Road. Pre-season programmes were put together hurriedly if at all, the club more often than not being engaged in the search for another doomed occupant of the United managerial hot-seat. The fans looked on aghast, as the recipe for mediocrity was written anew each season before their horrified eyes. It was depressing, it was annoying – it was getting properly boring.

How things have changed since the recent shift of power at the helm of this famous old football club. The new owner, Andrea Radrizzani, seems able and determined to engage with the supporters, impishly keeping us in the loop as he sets about a recruitment spree the like of which we’ve not seen since the second millennium was brand new. All of a sudden, after the thin gruel of recent years, we’re being fed a solid diet of proper signings, players for whom a fee has been demanded, players we’ve had to compete for against other clubs of equal or even higher rank, players of pedigree who should be able to handle the pressure that comes with the famous white United shirt. It’s all most novel and unaccustomed but, by gum, it makes a very welcome change.

Now, Twitter is abuzz with incredulous Leeds fans rapidly running out of fingers to tally up the roster of new additions. The mood is bordering upon happy hysteria all over the vast world of Leeds United social media, fans are getting ecstatically greedy, wanting more presents from Santa Andrea before they’ve even unwrapped the latest quality playmaker with a distant but enthralling Real Madrid connection. It’s heady stuff. Not all United fans are easily pleased, of course. Many, having watched on breathless as the attacking options have multiplied, are urging Radrizzani to make the case for the defence. But you sense that the Italian has it in hand; his responses are urbanely tantalising, but the intent and ambition behind those responses are palpable.

Here is a guy who has no intention of pulling the wool over our eyes, nor yet of leading us up the garden path. His promises have been terse, almost – but then swiftly fulfilled. To say that it’s been refreshing is hopelessly inadequate; single-handedly, Radrizzani has galvanised a massive body of support, with the effect of a powerful stimulant running through the veins of a formerly moribund subject. The followers of sleeping giant Leeds United have been administered a welcome shot in the arm; eyes are sparkling and sinews are stiffened for the challenge ahead. The general mood after so many seasons of “meh” is a decidedly positive “bring it on”.

Stern tests await in the remainder of the pre-season programme and, of course, in the campaign itself. More recruitment is necessary in the defensive third, especially in the likely and regrettable absence of Kyle Bartley, sadly confined to barracks in Swansea. Matthew Pennington‘s season-long loan arrival from Everton won’t be the end of that process, as at least one more experienced head will be required. But you have the feeling in any case that all areas of the club are relishing those tests, ready for the challenge, welcoming the task ahead. The attitude and morale of the whole place is radically different from the gloominess of other pre-seasons, and the old Leeds United fighting spirit seems to be reasserting itself. And not before time, with a historic moment fast approaching.

In two years time, Leeds United FC celebrates its centenary, a watershed in the existence of any football club. Where will we be in the game, when those three numerals tick over? I know what I wish for this great club, and I’m sure thousands upon thousands feel the same way. Let’s celebrate that centenary where we belong, marching on together in the top flight. That fervent hope might just have become a lot nearer being realised.

Leeds United Unearth Some Diamonds On the Emerald Isle – by Rob Atkinson

shamrock-rovers-xi-v-leeds-united

Leeds United completed a satisfactory Irish section of their pre-season programme yesterday, with a comfortable 3-0 win at Shamrock Rovers to follow Wednesday evening’s 2-1 victory over Shelbourne. The 100% success rate is gratifying enough, but more significant is the fact that United seem to have added appreciably to their options going forward.

Last season, progress for Leeds was hindered by a lack of goals. The summer’s big signing, Chris Wood, struggled through injury and a lack of service, though he still went on to be top scorer. The lack of firepower alongside Wood, as well as poor service from out wide, conspired to limit both chances and goals for a United side that never really threatened to challenge towards the top.

There are early signs, though, that the coming season might be different. In the two victories this week, three new recruits have shown they might just have what it takes to increase the Leeds forward threat. Swedish striker Marcus Antonsson notched a brace in Saturday’s stroll at the Tallaght Stadium, his two goals sandwiching a Wood penalty. This alone seems to promise a productive partnership, but it was Antonsson’s hard work and movement that really caught the eye as he presented many a problem for the Shamrock defence. Add to this the pace and trickery of fellow big-money signing Kemar Roofe, along with loanee Hadi Sacko and the youthful promise of the exotically-named Ronaldo Vieira, and things might just be looking up for the Yorkshire giants as an attacking force.

Compared to the hard times of last season, it’s already looking like an embarrassment of riches up front for Leeds and, with the sure touch of new coach and former Swansea defender Garry Monk at the tiller, a significant improvement in the defensive third would be no real surprise. Further recruitment is expected, perhaps another winger coming in – NEC Nijmegen’s Anthony Limbombe is hotly-tipped to sign – and some strengthening in midfield where United have lost a potential star in young Lewis Cook, to Bournemouth. With another centre-back also on the agenda, it could well be a busy time at Elland Road as the countdown to the big kick-off proceeds.

Exciting times for Leeds perhaps – and yet nobody who knows the club will be getting too excited just yet. The wins in Ireland are encouraging, but the potential of the group Monk is putting together will face sterner tests before the season starts in earnest. A glamour friendly at Elland Road will see Serie A aristocrats Atalanta provide a real challenge on July 30th. By then, there may be new faces in the United team, with the recruits we’ve seen so far further bedded in. Garry Monk, though, will be focusing all his preparations on the Championship opener at Queens Park Rangers on August 7th, when live TV will give millions the chance to pass judgement on this new Leeds United.

For the time being, it’s looking promising for new coach Monk and his new team. Perhaps Leeds United might be about to launch a serious bid for promotion, something their long-suffering fans will confirm would be long overdue.

Tragic Night for Twitter’s Leeds ‘Fans’ as United Win at Swindon – by Rob Atkinson

Rudy Austin seals United's victory

Rudy Austin seals United’s victory

It was the worst night imaginable for the legion of Leeds United Twitterati, who look forward with such glee to every defeat, lip-smackingly relish every setback and dream feverishly of humiliation and disaster – all for the chance these calamities afford them to seek some attention in 140 illiterately-utilised characters. Yes, Leeds United have actually triumphed in a pre-season game, against good footballing opposition too – and with several new signings shaping up well. It’s a set of circumstances liable to give the gloom merchants a serious migraine; all they can do now is wait, and hope, for another defeat on which to lavish their negative attention.

For the real fans, of course, the 2-1 win at Swindon is a cause for renewed optimism. These long-suffering types who follow their team everywhere, providing peerless vocal support and exuding loyalty, commitment and passion, were rewarded for their devotion by a much better display from United. There appears to be reason to believe that, at last, things might be taking a turn for the better. The latest news is that Milan youngster Zan Benedicic will complete a loan deal shortly, while the up-and-down, on-and-off transfer of Federico Viviani of Roma appears once again to be a strong possibility for completion, mere days after United owner Massimo Cellino appeared to nix the deal.

All of which will leave the Leeds cadre of joyless pessimists on Twitter, and elsewhere in the ether, very glum indeed. What, no chance to criticise recruitment plans? No opportunity to indulge in witty manglings of the Head Coach’s name?? Where will these attention-deprived types be, if they can’t sally forth to seek approval from like-minded idiots with derisive references to Whackaday, Hockalot and other blindingly-witty puns worthy of the finest of playground humour? What’s a boy to do, when there is no gloom and doom material to facilitate the urgent quest for more and more attention? It’s a conundrum, alright. Trust Leeds to go and spoil the fun for their growing army of doom-mongers, just when this was promising to be the kind of season they could truly drool over.

Leeds being Leeds, of course, there may well be further opportunities to spread a little misery in the near future – so the negative tendency need not despair just yet. Still, what with a win in probably the toughest pre-season game yet, and the cranking-up of the intensity of player recruitment with new targets mooted every day – these are alarming times for the Dismal Daniels and Gloomy Grahams out there. And long may they remain so.

For the rest of us – the devoted and uncomplaining majority – it’s onwards and upwards towards the serious business of League football in a couple of weeks’ time. For the time being, at least, we will be able to follow our favourites in relative peace and quiet – but always aware that we’re only one bad result away from the next joyous chorus of pessimism and fatalistic self-indulgence from the Hock-haters and nay-sayers. Let’s just enjoy it while they’re quiet and leave them to the misery that a Leeds United win will always bring them.

On, on, on.

By Goom, Sum Leeds Fans are Proper ‘Ard to Please, Sithee!! – by Rob Atkinson

What's the point of winning 16-0??

What’s the point of winning 16-0?? Waaaahhh!!

On July 10th in Italy, Leeds United stepped up their pre-season preparations by moving on to an actual game against opposition from outside the club – as opposed to doing the hard yards in training and playing practice matches within the squad.  It’s a natural progression – it makes sense to start with a gentle work-out against a team that, perhaps, won’t provide the stiffest test. The game went well, two distinct United teams getting a 45-minute run-out apiece – and Leeds won by the unlikely score of 16-0, beating their previous best pre-season success by one.  The players seemed to fight shy of scoring that 17th goal which might have caused the superstitious side of the owner’s nature to twitch spasmodically. It’s best to keep on the right side of Big Mass, my friend. But you have to say that this type of game is a worthwhile exercise at this stage of pre-season. As a means of getting into a match situation and preparing for sterner opposition later on, it’s ideal. Isn’t it?

Well, you wouldn’t think so, from some of the social media reaction. To read some of the comments from certain alleged Leeds fans, you’d think that Leeds United had broken into their homes and beaten up their apple-cheeked, silver-haired old Grandma, rather than comfortably winning a football match. There was an air of offended outrage very much in evidence.  Some people, it would seem, feel distinctly happier when we’re losing – as, for instance we did at Harrogate Town last pre-season, or famously at Histon in the FA Cup a few years back.  A 16-0 defeat would presumably have had these characters smiling happily – but a victory by that score opened up the floodgates for a tide of whinging and bitching from the kind of fans who would, quite frankly, feel more at home over the wrong side o’ t’hills, at the Theatre of Hollow Myths.

So what is it about certain Leeds United fans, that makes them react in this unhelpful and frankly irritating way? Is it a need to affect a certain world-weary, windswept and interesting, ostentatiously cynical attitude, in the hope that people will think they’re more complex and profound than they actually are? Do they perhaps feel compelled to act in a certain way in order to impress others? Certainly this type of reaction is typical of the sort of person, generally young, a bit stupid and desperate for attention, who feels the need to inflict their callow opinions on Facebook, Twitter et al. Some of the dafter Leeds United internet boards are likewise infested with these yappy types, falling over themselves to outdo the previous poster for “wit” or what they might see as a “cool” determination to approve of nothing, to criticise and carp on about everything. The abysmal WACCOE and the absurd Service Crew Forum are good examples of the type of “Go on, try to impress me” churl of a supporter, who hasn’t the first idea of what support actually means. It’s always a sad day for this type when there is some undeniably good news. After all, it’s so uncool to be happy and positive – isn’t it?

Sod off and listen to the Smiths, or Leonard Cohen – or go and support the Pride of Devon, why don’t you. At least those of us who are open to the possibility of a new era at Leeds United would be spared your formulaic whinging and clueless rants.  And, next time Leeds United manage to win a game 16-0, could we perhaps expect a bit more in the way of originality from you?  You know – a little less of the “Oh, were we playing the blind school??  Haw, haw, haw”.  At times like this, Twitter seems to be exclusively about daft little prats recycling weak humour with a genuine belief that they’ll somehow get some credit for it.

I blame the parents.  No, on reflection, I don’t – not entirely.  I really blame the proliferation of social media, providing as it does an easy option, for dumb, idle, yap-mouthed kids with too much time on their hands, to create a sort of wall of white noise, preventing the rest of us from being able to have anything like a meaningful conversation or productive discussion. Yes, that’s what I blame. AND the bloody parents.

Roll on the next game and, with all due respect to Big Mass and his weird beliefs, I hope we win this one 17-0.  We won’t, of course – because we’ll be playing a much better team, one that doesn’t need to borrow our goalie near the end just to keep the score down. But I do hope we keep the hammer down and win well.  Because there’s nothing that upsets the kind of Leeds fan I’m railing against, more than a good, solid Leeds United win. The sort of win that used to be the whole point of being a fan – remember that?

 

Leeds Fans Pinning Hopes on Luke Varney – Are Things That Bad?

Super Luke Varney

Super Luke Varney

Leeds United’s pre-season programme hit a real low point at Walsall, the 1-0 defeat seemingly the least of the problems on a night when the team’s performance levels were a world away from what will be needed in the nitty-gritty of the Championship marathon to be run over the next nine months. It was the pallid nature of the Leeds side’s display which had the supporters tearing out their hair by the roots. As this is an option denied to our smooth-domed manager, the disappointed and frustrated Brian McDermott settled instead for dubbing the match his “worst day as Leeds manager”.

Happily, in the next outing at Stevenage, both performance and result were immeasurably better. A 3-0 stroll away from home is always a decent result, whatever the opposition. Stevenage may not be the stiffest possible test, but at home they have slain many a higher-grade opponent as Newcastle could testify. The stand-out role on the night was filled byLuke Varney, last season’s pariah-in-chief, a man who has been described as having all the popularity and appeal of a fart in a spacesuit. It could take a miracle to redeem a reputation like that, and a nine-minute second-half hat trick might just qualify considering Varney’s utter failure to pull up trees in a Leeds shirt last season, the odd flash of promise notwithstanding. Such was the vitriol aimed at the ex-Pompey hitman last time around that you might wonder if even such a lethally-effective performance might help his cause. But wonder of wonders, the Leeds fans appear to have taken note, and appear disposed to look much more favourably upon Mr Varney.

On the face of it, this is a little strange. Leeds fans are not noted for their tendency to re-appraise players once they have initially passed judgement. Dating back to the hapless Terry Yorath, it’s usually been clear that once this crowd takes against you, you need to start thinking about moving on, even if it’s to Coventry. That the fans now seem willing to give Varney the benefit of the doubt might say more about the increasing sense of pessimism out there, as the transfer window drags on with no further quality signings, than it does about any new-found tolerance on the part of the Leeds support. In short, if they’re bigging Varney up, then things must be bad – doubtless an impression confirmed in some measure by McDermott’s recent gloomy demeanour.

Perhaps, though, a new investor may be found shortly – to give us wingers? Perhaps the hangdog expression on Brian’s face is just a front as he toils behind the scenes to bring us some late but great additions to our humdrum squad? Who knows? But it seems clear enough that pinning our hopes on last year’s flop is not exactly a statement of optimism for how things might go this time around. It could just be that – if things do pick up on the transfer front, and if early results are favourable with Mr Varney confined to the bench – the vociferous United support will go back to having a go at the poor lad, and urging him to ply his trade elsewhere. It’s not a happy thought for our hat-trick hero, and it’s also possible of course that he might show himself to be true Leeds United material and bang in 15 goals before Christmas. It’s to be hoped he does. But just for the moment, this new adulation says more about the general pessimism of the fans than it does about Super Luke Varney.