Tag Archives: Pride of Devon

Man Utd Fans Show Why Everybody Laughs at Them With Leeds’ Phillips Transfer Demand – by Rob Atkinson

They used to say that the only two things you can rely on in life are death and taxes. Those were more innocent times though, and the list has perhaps grown a little since – you can add Tory lies and elite greed, for instance, to life’s acknowledged certainties. And one more that I will advance with no fear of contradiction is the comical and deluded sense of entitlement exhibited by just about any and every fan of Manchester’s second club – the one that used to be half-decent when they had a manager everybody was scared of. Despite the fact that Fergie is long gone, with the current incumbent of the manager’s office best known for his failure at Cardiff City, these innocents – encouraged, it must be said, by a complaisant media – still believe they follow the biggest and best club in the world, and they do not hesitate to allow this delusion to lead them into flights of fantasy that are guaranteed to make proper football fans dissolve into helpless fits of laughter.

They’ve been at it again today, all over Twitter in the wake of Kalvin Phillips’ midfield masterclass throughout England’s victory over Croatia in their opening game of Euro 2020. Phillips was at his imperious best, supporting Declan Rice in the protection of England’s defence, but also surging forward to add bite and purpose to the Three Lions’ attacking endeavours. In the first half, Kalvin was the only player to complete every attempted pass, and he also had England’s only shot on target. And in the second period, the Yorkshire Pirlo provided the assist for the game’s only goal, with a deliciously weighted through ball for Raheem Sterling to score.

All of this was far too much for the supporters of the club I still – despite the rival claims of Chelsea, Spurs, Galatasaray and Bayern – despise the most. I hate them, not for any geographical rivalry, nor even from any misplaced envy. I detest them because they’re inherently detestable, and their legions of armchair supporters around the globe, frantically tapping away at keyboards in their eagerness to perpetuate their most fondly-held delusions, continually demonstrate the truth of this. Within an hour of Kalvin Phillips’ triumphant Wembley display, these tragic devotees of football’s funniest club were reminding us all of just why, despite all they’ve won over the years since Sky bought the game for them, they are routinely mocked and laughed at. “Sign Phillips!”, they were tweeting in their hundreds and thousands. And, the thing is, they truly believe that all they have to do is wish a thing, and Lo, it shall come to be. It seems to have passed them by that the game’s moved on, and that they’re no longer the Fergie-fuelled power of years gone by. They sit in their Devon armchairs and weave their fantasies, certain in their long-outdated belief that the club they worship from afar can still have anything they want.

Money talks, of course, and Leeds United – in the past – have too often listened to its siren song. But ask yourself – would you willingly swap the tutelage of Marcelo Bielsa for the year or two before the Glazers sack Solskjaer? I doubt that Kalvin, a lad with his feet firmly on the ground, would commit such an act of folly, even if Leeds were tempted to countenance what would be a disastrous PR decision. Phillips will be only too well aware of exactly who has realised his potential and guided him towards his current state of midfield mastery. I feel that there’s a fair way to go yet on that journey, and any club with realistic ambitions of recruiting the Yorkshire Pirlo will have to have deep, deep pockets.

Meanwhile, let’s all give thanks for those hilariously deluded Pride of Devon Twitteratti – it’d be a duller game without ’em. And now that Leeds United are seemingly embracing a new reality of competence and ambition – well, we need something to laugh at – don’t we?

Marching On Together

21 Years Ago Today: Leeds United Crush Man U on Christmas Eve – by Rob Atkinson

fergie-nightmare

1995-96 was the last full season of Sergeant Wilko’s eventful reign at Elland Road. His influence over Leeds United was crumbling amid rumours of money problems, takeovers and dressing-room discontent, a tale that would doubtless strike a chord with Messrs. Grayson, Warnock and even Evans of more recent vintage. This was a season that had started off with a flurry of Tony Yeboah thunderbolts and some impressive results and performances which appeared to promise much. Sadly though, it petered out in a shocking late-season run following a League Cup Final humiliation at Wembley, courtesy of Aston Villa. Howard Wilkinson was a dead man walking from that time on.

This Christmas Eve match against the Pride of Devon found Leeds some way short of their peak form. Worrying signs of defensive frailty and general ineptitude had been all too obvious just the previous week at Hillsborough. United had succumbed spinelessly to a 6-2 defeat at the hands of an unremarkable Sheffield Wednesday side and – all bravado aside – there wasn’t much optimism in the hearts of the faithful as this fixture against the arch-enemy loomed.

It was certainly a different Christmas Eve for me. I hadn’t exactly led a sheltered life up to that point, but this was the first time – and the last, to date – I’d ever risen the day before Christmas to bacon sandwiches at 6 am, closely followed by numerous Budweisers with the Sunday papers in a fan-friendly pub, as we waited for our “Scum Match Special” mini-bus. The queasy feeling before any match against “Them” was therefore multiplied by unaccustomed early-morning grease and alcohol, and I was feeling several shades of not-too-good as we set off for Elland Road. It was an 11:30 kick-off, live on Sky, and it promised either to make or break the whole of Christmas for us fans, as well as for our hopeful families.

scum-programmeThe situation between the Uniteds of Leeds and Devon is one of a legendary mutual animosity, even at the best of times. Let’s not mince words here, the two sets of fans hate, loathe and detest each other – and open warfare is the norm. Revisionist football pundits would have us believe that this is strictly a one-way affair, but you only have to tune into one of Sky TV’s glitzy live love-ins for a Man U match, and whoever they are playing, our Home-Counties friends are in full voice with their “We all hate Leeds scum”. Even Alex Ferguson, back then the Media Darlings’ not-altogether-likable manager, makes no bones about it; some of his more coherent sound bites feature his opinion that Elland Road “is the most intimidating arena in Europe”. He’s also stated that going to Liverpool is nowhere near as bad as going to Leeds; clearly, he’s never been for a late-night pint in Dodge City.

So, Yuletide or not, the usual poisonous atmosphere was in evidence as the two teams walked out before a 39,801 crowd that overcast morning twenty-one years ago today. Just as Leeds were smarting from their Hillsborough debacle, so Man U were struggling to emerge from a poor run, winless for a month and dispatched by Liverpool the previous week. This seasonal fixture was a chance of redemption for both sides.

By kick-off time, I was starting to feel properly ill, and in dire need of a pick-me-up. This arrived in a most unlikely form after a mere five minutes, when a Leeds corner swung over from the right. Richard Jobson rose on the edge of the area to head towards goal, where David Wetherall, lethal against Man U in the past, was challenging for a decisive touch. But that touch came instead from the upraised, red-sleeved arm of Nicky Butt – and referee Dermot Gallagher’s whistle sounded for a penalty.

Peering from the Kop at the other end of the ground, through an alcoholic fug, I could hardly believe my eyes. Leeds just didn’t get penalties against “Them”. It would happen the other way around alright, way too often, and even from three yards outside the area but this was unprecedented, since our Title-winning year anyway. Steve Bruce evidently thought it was just too much to bear, and screamed his violent protests into Gallagher’s face, having to be restrained by Gary MacAllister, who appeared to be trying to explain the rules to the furious defender. The guilty look on Butt’s face, though, spoke volumes. MacAllister placed the ball on the spot, and sent it sweetly into the top right corner to make it 1-0, giving Peter Schmeichel not even the ghost of a chance. The celebrations were raucous and deafening as the Elland Road cauldron exploded with joy – and inside my skull, the trip-hammer of a beer-fueled headache pounded away anew, utterly failing though to banish my smile of delight.

Leeds had the bit between their teeth now, and Brian Deane was suddenly clear for an instant outside the right corner of the Man U penalty area, played in by a cute pass from Carlton Palmer. Schmeichel was out swiftly to smother the chance, but Deane managed to dink the ball over him, only for it to clip the crossbar and bounce away to safety. A two-goal lead at that stage would have felt unlikely yet deserved, as Leeds United had been on the front foot right from the off. Soon, though, a lesson was to be delivered about what happens when you miss chances against this lot.

The unlikely culprit as Leeds were pegged back was Gary Speed. Receiving the ball in the left-back position, he tried to beat Butt instead of clearing long, and was robbed of possession. Butt looked up, and placed a neat pass inside to Andy Cole, whose efficient first-time finish leveled the match. Suddenly, my headache was even worse, and I was starting to wonder about the fate of my breakfast too, as it threatened to make an untimely reappearance. Time for another reviving injection of optimism as Leeds surged forward, and Speed so nearly made up for his defensive error, playing a one-two with Tomas Brolin which gave him space to put in a right-foot shot that went narrowly wide.

The game had settled down by this time, and both sides were showing enough ambition to feel that they were in with a chance of victory. Leeds though had thrown off their Sheffield blues, and attacked with verve and purpose. Now, a defensive position was coolly handled by Gary Kelly, finding the time and space to launch a long clearance forward, where Brolin headed on. The ball was loose, and surely meat and drink for Man U’s international defender Paul Parker – but he inexplicably let it bounce over his foot. Tony Yeboah pounced on it like a hound on a rat, and he was away, surging towards goal with ex-Leeds defender Denis Irwin backing off. Yeboah in this mood was usually irresistible, and sure enough none of Irwin’s careful jockeying could prevent him from finding that vital half-yard of space. The gap appeared, Schmeichel came out to block, and Yeboah clipped the ball sumptuously just out of the Danish ‘keeper’s reach, up and over to nestle in the far corner of the South Stand net.

Again, that explosion of noise and joy, again my fragile system was assailed by the rough-and-tumble of riotous celebration. 2-1 up against the team we loved to hate; the cockneys at the far end were suddenly silent and morose. “You’re not singing anymore!” we blasted at them, and indeed, little would be heard from the away fans for the rest of the game.

The second half was another tale of give and take, both sides able to cause trouble up front, but both seemingly capable of dealing with all that was thrown at them. The onus was on Man U to retrieve a losing situation, but Leeds were rarely in great trouble, and as the game entered its final quarter there was unprecedented optimism that we could close this one out, and enter Christmas on a real high. Leeds weren’t simply sitting back and absorbing pressure – and the maxim of attack being the best form of defence was to serve them well. On 73 minutes, Jobson made a foray down the left, and was fouled by Cole chasing back. The resulting free-kick was played to MacAllister in space in the middle of the park, and he swiftly moved it out to the right wing. Brolin picked up possession and slipped the ball to the overlapping Palmer, who surged into the box and then turned past Irwin to set up Brolin again on the edge of the area. The much-maligned Swede, making the contribution I best remember him for, chipped the ball sweetly first-time, standing it up just around the penalty spot, where Brian Deane’s exemplary movement had won him the space to rise and plant a firm header past a helpless Schmeichel into the net. 3-1 and finis.

After the game, and before the seasonal celebrations could begin in earnest, other traditions had to be observed. Ferguson, naturally, had to moan about the penalty. “It was a very surprising decision, given in circumstances that were beyond me.” whinged the Purple-nosed One, in evident ignorance of the deliberate handball provisions – but perhaps aiming to justify Bruce’s undignified and almost psychotic protest at the time. And the massed ranks of the Kop Choir had to regale the departing Man U fans with victory taunts as they sulked away, silent and crestfallen, headed for all points south.

I can’t remember the journey home, nor even how spectacularly ill I was when I got there, although I’m told I was the picture of ecstatic yet grossly hung-over ebullience. I just know it was my happiest Christmas Eve ever, ensuring a deliriously festive spirit for the whole holiday, much to the delight of my long-suffering wife and two-year-old daughter.

Merry Christmas, everybody! And God bless us, every one. Except Them, from There.

Brave Leeds United Fan Makes Ultimate Sacrifice for Charity – by Rob Atkinson

Brave Darren Forsyth suffers in the name of charity

Brave Darren Forsyth suffers courageously in the name of charity

The remarkable bravery and noble self-sacrifice of a lifelong Leeds United fan drew plaudits over the Christmas holiday, when a deal was agreed which will benefit Wakefield Hospice to the tune of an additional £400 on top of cash already raised. The extra money will be welcomed by the charity – but it will be very hard-earned indeed. For Darren Forsyth, 38, landlord of the Hammer & Stithy in Ossett, West Yorkshire, has had to agree to wear a Man U baseball cap for this coming Sunday evening’s five hour bar shift. Coincidentally, this weekend also marks the fifth anniversary of Leeds’ famous victory at the Theatre of Hollow Myths – when as a third-tier team, they knocked the then-champions out of the FA Cup.

The bizarre charity deal was struck after a Boxing Day raffle in Mr Forsyth’s pub raised £400 for the Hospice. Big-hearted Darren has notable form for fundraising, having helped raise over £10,000 for several charities over the past couple of years, since he has been in charge at the Hammer & Stithy. After the success of the Boxing Day raffle, Darren’s friend – scum fan Phil Hemingway – offered to double the £400 total if Mr. Forsyth would agree to wear a Pride of Devon shirt. Darren was not prepared to sell his pride that cheaply though, and remarked that wearing such a despicable shirt would cost his friend £1,000. An agreement was reached that five hours under the scum cap would be worth £400. Mr. Forsyth is pictured above, with Mr. Hemingway, as donations are handed to Samantha Wood of Wakefield Hospice.

The mind rather boggles at such an outstanding display of self-sacrifice and nobility. Mr Forsyth knows that his ordeal on Sunday will earn him some ribbing from the regulars – but he’s quite prepared to put up with this in such a good cause. “If wearing the hat raises more money for charity, then I’m not bothered,” he said, courageously. ““Me and (Man U fan) Phil always have a bit of rival football banter!”

Rumours that Mr. Forsyth will spend Monday having his head completely shaved and thoroughly disinfected are not be confirmed, but clearly cannot be discounted. It has also been claimed that an additional sum of money might have been raised by the Man U fan Mr Hemingway’s agreement to wear a Leeds United shirt for the duration of Darren’s cap ordeal. Sadly, however, the shirt in question allegedly rotted away the instant it touched the gloryhunter’s skin, so that deal had to be called off.

Those who admire and appreciate Darren Forsyth’s singular act of courage and sacrifice can support his efforts by making a donation to the Wakefield Hospice here.