Tag Archives: Premier League

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.’

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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

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.

Stumbling Blocks Hardly Unknown on Leeds United’s Historic Success Trail – by Rob Atkinson

All White Champions

Champions 1973/74 – despite a late blip

There can be no denying that Leeds United were more than a little unfortunate to emerge from Saturday’s Yorkshire derby clash with Sheffield United empty-handed. Given ordinary luck, with just a break or two going the way of the Whites, it could have been a very different story; even a draw would have seen Leeds two points clear of third place. But little went right on the day and that, sadly, is a feeling that every Leeds fan down the years knows all too well. 

As it is, we had to take an undeserved defeat on the chin, with the woodwork, injuries and just about every factor you could name ranged against us. United are now a point off the automatic promotion places, when they could have been five points clear of third. Loud and woeful has been the wailing, rending of garments and gnashing of teeth among the United faithful, as the fates seem determined to conspire against Yorkshire’s Number One club.

But wait just a minute. Calm yourselves, fellow Leeds devotees, and be of good cheer. It’s all happened before, you see, at about this time of year too – and it’s rarely been fatal to our chances of success. When you look at our most recent landmark seasons, right back to when I was nobbut a lad, you’ll see that a late stumble or two, with United there or thereabouts and the tension mounting, is much more the rule than the exception.

Going as far back as 1974, when Don Revie‘s Super Leeds were stumbling somewhat along the title path, having at one stage been nine points clear, Burnley visited Elland Road and departed with two points from a 4-1 victory. It was hailed as nearest challengers Liverpool‘s great chance to overhaul United, but Leeds ended up as Champions and by a decisive margin.

Then, in 1990, Barnsley were the visitors on a night when nothing went right for Leeds. Centre back Chris Fairclough was absent for 13 first half minutes having seven stitches in a head wound. He rejoined the fray in time to plant a brave and bloody header into the Barnsley net, giving Leeds a well-deserved interval lead, to the massive relief of a huge Elland Road crowd. Surely, nothing could go wrong now?

In truth, we battered Barnsley throughout the ninety minutes but, in a sickening second half turnaround, two subs for the Tykes scored in quick succession, gifting the Reds an extremely unlikely win. Again, doom and gloom stalked the streets of Leeds – but United still went up as champions.

And then, two years on, Leeds were engaged in an almighty battle with Them from There for the last ever Football League Championship. The media were all agog for the Devonians to win the league – how fitting it would be, they purred. When Leeds lost heavily away, twice in a short space of time, it looked as though the script was written, with Leeds cast as fall guys. A 1-4 defeat at QPR had been followed in short order by a 0-4 reverse at Manchester City, and the Leeds-hating nation celebrated. But it was the Whites who held their nerve and mustered their resources to clinch the title of Last Champions by four points, while Manchester’s second club amusingly choked on the dry ashes of defeat.

So nil desperandum, all you devoted Whites out there. We’ve tripped up, recovered and gone on to win many a time before, in accordance with this great club’s motto of “Keep Fighting” – and there’s no reason we can’t do it again. Have faith in Marcelo Bielsa‘s boys, who really do have that fighting spirit that typified Super Leeds of old, and simply trust that all will come right in the end. Believe.

Marching On Together

LUTV: High Time Leeds United Reached For the Sky – by Rob Atkinson

LUTV, the Whites’ very own dedicated online TV channel has massive potential to be a worldwide success, given the club’s rapidly growing and endlessly fanatical global support. It would be difficult to overstate this potential even as things stand but, with a more ambitious approach, the Sky would literally be the limit.

As we stand, the service is sometimes ok, sometimes so-so – but, all too often, it goes down completely or suffers from annoying buffering problems. It’s not the sort of thing which is good for customer relations; people for whom the chance of seeing their heroes play “live” are paying good money, and they are all too often being left frustrated and disappointed as their screens freeze while their blood boils.

The answer, surely, is to emulate some of the other clubs with followers all around the globe, in seeking a superior technology as a platform for broadcasts. I’m not au fait with the commercial issues surrounding the broadcasting of a club channel as part of a Sky TV package, but it does seem to me that there is a vast and growing market out there made up of far-flung fans desperate to see anything to do with Leeds United.

It must work for the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea, or they wouldn’t be there on the Sky Sports menu. If it can be a success for them, so it could be for Leeds – especially when you consider our owner is a TV mogul in his own right.

So come on, Andrea Radrizzani, let’s get our act together like the big club we are, and fly Sky high. You know it makes sense – certainly better sense than the current hit and miss service we’re all having to make do with. I’d be a willing subscriber, and I’m certain thousands around the world would be queuing up to hand over their hard-earned cash for a decent product that doesn’t leave you gnashing your teeth and tearing your hair out.

I’ll watch this space with interest.

Looks Like Samu Sáiz WILL Return to Leeds. Good Thing or Bad? – by Rob Atkinson

Sáiz – stick or twist?

Few players in recent history have divided opinion among the Leeds United support quite like Samuel Sáiz, the mercurial Spanish playmaker with the ability to thrill and frustrate in equal measure. Sáiz had his moments in the United line-up this season but, by common consent, he hasn’t been quite the player he was before his ban last season for a spitting incident. And then we discovered a possible reason why.

It seems that Samu was under pressure to get a move away from Elland Road due to domestic circumstances, with both the player and his pregnant partner wanting to quit English football in favour of a return home to Spain. The situation was reminiscent of Tony Currie’s dilemma 40 years ago when, in order to fall in with his wife’s wishes, he was forced to accept a move back to his native London and signed for QPR.

Currie subsequently admitted that he had regrets over the move and it would seem that Sáiz is not finding his loan switch to Getafe a completely happy affair. The Spanish club, according to reports, may now opt against making the move permanent, against a background of Sáiz failing to become an automatic selection, or even a regular starter. If the permanent move does not materialise, then Sáiz will return to Elland Road, and we’d have to see what happened next.

On the plus side, Leeds could be welcoming back a potential match winner, but the other side of that coin is the odd rumour that Samu may have been thought of behind the scenes at United as a disruptive influence, on and off the field. In a squad where team spirit is so vital, as so clearly evidenced during the 4-0 thrashing of West Bromwich Albion, the introduction or even reintroduction of a fact that could destabilise things may not be a risk worth taking.

There’s also the question of whether the initial problems leading to Samu’s loan departure still hold true. If so, United might have an unhappy player on their hands, clearly another situation best avoided.

So, what do we think? Would Sáiz be welcomed back with open arms, or would it be a case of “thanks, Samu, but no thanks”? For what it’s worth, this blogger leans narrowly towards the opinion that Sáiz is a risky and probably unwilling option and, as such, is probably best left alone to find the best move away he can secure. But I’m well aware that some would sharply disagree. It does rather look as though, however unwillingly, Sáiz may well be returning to Leeds, at least for a while, so the question of what to do with him is a pertinent one.

As ever, your opinions are most welcome. The question is: the return of Samu Sáiz: Yea, or Nay? What’s your answer – and why? Over to you.

Outgoing EFL Chief Shaun Harvey To Pursue his Leeds Vendetta – by Rob Atkinson

The somewhat less than charismatic and competent Shaun Harvey

They used to say about the Canadian Mounties that “they always get their man”. Their remorseless pursuit of the ne’er-do-wells seeking to evade the long arm of the law was the stuff of legend, and many a fugitive wrongdoer must have despaired of their receding chances to outrun justice.

It would appear that Shaun Harvey who, being bald, chubby and a bit weird looking does not exactly bring to mind a tall, lean, flint-eyed lawman of implacable determination, nevertheless wishes to establish a comparable reputation for not letting his prey escape him. He’s been after Leeds United for a while now, first doing his best to ruin the club from the inside, more latterly sticking to a consistently anti-Leeds agenda as Football League Chief. Now Shaun is stepping down from that role, and Leeds look to have a decent chance of escaping the clutches of a famously corrupt and venal organisation. But it now seems that these facts do not signal an end to Harvey’s “Get Leeds” campaign.

Amazingly, it is possible that the notoriously incompetent and prejudiced Harvey may be under consideration for the top job at the Football Association, under whose benign leadership the English Premier League lives, moves and has its being. It seems rather surprising, really, that such a well-known klutz as Harvey could possibly ascend to the top of the FA. Surely there must be more competent candidates – Tory laughing-stock Chris “Failing” Grayling, for instance, or maybe whoever is responsible for Sky’s red button cameramanship. Almost anybody would be preferable to Shaun of the Dead Braincells but, incredibly, it appears that Harvey may actually be in the running.

Of course, one of the key qualities looked for in any senior football administrator in this country, would be a healthy dislike for Leeds United, coupled with an unswerving ambition to deal body blows to the Whites on a regular basis. Quite possibly, it is Harvey’s well-known obsession with shooting down United that is making him an attractive proposition for the old duffers on the board of the FA.

Whether such a move would actually come to fruition, of course, remains to be seen. It would depend on Leeds actually securing promotion, by no means guaranteed, as to whether or not Harvey would get the chance to continue his Mountie-like determination to get his prey. And, of course, the FA would have to be prepared to overlook Shaun’s abysmal record, not easy to do.

The bottom line is that, just when Leeds United thought they were leaving Shaun Harvey behind and ascending beyond his loathsome reach, it now seems just possible that the Elland Road club may be forced to think again.

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.

Leeds’ Gjanni Alioski: Just Like Robbie Savage, Only With Skill – by Rob Atkinson

Ezgjan Alioski – brilliantly annoying

In football, the effective player may be summed up as follows: skill, plus boundless energy; dedication to the common cause and – last, but definitely not least – that priceless knack of being able to wind up and annoy the hell out of the opposition, so that they’re simply psyched out and don’t know how to cope.

Some players have one or two of these attributes, there’s not many that have the lot. When you find one that does possess the full house, what you then need is a coach able to get the most out of such a valuable individual. Here, Leeds United with their very own genius mentor Marcelo Bielsa, can be described as very well blessed.

Macedonian international Ezgjan “Gjanni” Alioski has been a stand-out player in a very impressive Leeds United side for some time now, particularly since he moved into an attacking left back role to cover for the injury absence of Barry Douglas. Because of his capacity to run all day and through the night-time too, Alioski has been able to start from very deep and still offer a threat up front. This is more than an overlapping full-back – this is a scourge of the opposition, all the way up and down their right flank, niggling, passing, running, tackling, shooting and heading. A proper pest.

Alioski’s energy and running power is a given; to this, add his ability to create and score, as well as covering the left back patrol. At the very end of a typically busy performance against West Brom, there he was, this ersatz full-back, all the way upfield on the opposition goal line to tap home a low cross from sub Jamie Shackleton. This is not a man you find on his haunches, wheezing with exhaustion as the clock runs down. Alioski puts in the miles, and his level of performance lately has been a joy to behold.

The other thing about Gjanni is that he’s annoying. He’s the kind of player you love to hate in the opposing team, someone who will pester and hassle his opponent, taking the mick, getting in his man’s face, trying all he knows to ruffle and unsettle his opponent. He’s got an annoying face, annoying hair, an annoying attitude and an annoying smile, with the ability to get right under the skin of the other team’s more volatile characters. You hate this sort of opponent, but they can be your heroes when they wear your own team’s shirt. Just as long as they can play, too.

Because it’s not enough to be annoying, you need the other things too. Robbie Savage was the classic example of a player who nicked a living on the basis of his irritant factor plus not a lot else. He had the kind of face and hair that made you want to own a baseball bat and a pair of shears. But he couldn’t really play, though – as I well recall from a 6-0 Leeds victory in the League Cup away at Leicester – he wasn’t the type to hide. If Robbie Savage had had more ability to add to his dislikability, he would have been something approaching the player Alioski is. Even now, in his role as a radio gob on a stick, Savage continues to show more irritant value than talent.

Gjanni Alioski though is much more of a complete product, and he’d be a good bet to score a few goals as well as wind up a few victims, for any team prepared to utilise his strengths. Leeds, under Marcelo Bielsa, are uniquely placed to get the best out of a player who, in less ideal circumstances, may have struggled to fulfil his potential.

As it is, though, Alioski looks set to make a significant contribution to what, for United, could well be a landmark season.

Frank Lampard Now Sure the Leeds United Spies are Out to Get Him and Derby County – by Rob Atkinson

Lampard: I sense spies, spies, spies. Where are they??

Shortly after Derby County‘s latest thumping, by four goals to nil at Aston Villa, Rams manager Frank Lampard cut a huddled and morose figure as he contemplated the way in which the nefarious agents of Leeds United were conspiring to deprive him of the success he considers his birthright. When asked if his side were still affected by the aftermath of “Spygate“, a wild-eyed Lampard snapped “I don’t want to discuss that. But yes, definitely. They’re out to get me, I’m looking over my shoulder all the time”.

When asked the precise nature of this alleged ongoing effect on his stuttering team, Lampard rapped “I don’t want to discuss that. But there are spies in every bush, and they’ve all got Leeds United badges on and they’re heavily armed with bolt cutters. They’re equipped with special patent spies’ glasses too, that can see right through even B&Q green plastic mesh. It’s a conspiracy, I tell you”.

Somewhat bemused, our (undercover) Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything correspondent asked Mr. Lampard exactly what would be the point of this alleged ongoing Leeds United spying, given that Leeds had already outplayed and thrashed Derby twice in their two Championship meetings this season. Lampard snarled “I don’t want to discuss that. But you must understand, these Leeds spies are determined to ruin Derby’s whole season, so they’re still after me, getting at me, haunting my very dreams, determined to thwart me, passing on vital information to our enemies. It’s a vendetta, I tell you, a vendetta!!”

As Mr. Lampard finished his impassioned statement, his voice had risen to a peculiar thin shriek, and his face had turned blotchy and purple, with his eyes bugging out and the beginnings of a nosebleed. Concerned, our man asked if he was OK. Lampard whimpered “I don’t want to discuss that. But you tell me, would you be OK with the most evil football club in the whole world against you, following your every move, listening at doors, peeping through windows, bugging your phone lines and hacking into your special Rams iPad?? Would you? Would you??? No, you bloody wouldn’t. And now we lose 4-0 to Villa after getting beat off Forest and Millwall doing us at Shame Park. And the fans are blaming me, can you believe that? It’s Leeds United, I tell you, Leeds! Leeds, Leeds, Leeeeeeds!!!

At this point, Mr. Lampard was led away, gently restrained in the very straitjacket County used to calm Frannie Lee down after Norman Hunter bust his lip, and then, with a faint, protesting cry of “Wibble” that would bring tears to a glass eye, put firmly on the team bus back to Derby. A club spokesman stated that “Frankie just needs a rest. A nice long rest. Just leave him be for now. As regards the current situation, Frankie’s frankly in no fit state to discuss that”.

Leeds United, fresh from their 4-0 dismissal of West Bromwich Albion, confined themselves to a brief official statement: “We at Elland Road wish Frank Lampard well, and look forward to news of his complete recovery and rehabilitation”.

Shaun Harvey of the Football League is a complete arse.