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Leeds Utd Players Take Note: April 5th is NOT Just Any Day – By Rob Atkinson

Leeds Fans

We Are Leeds, We Neither Forgive Nor Forget

There have been many famous rallying speeches over the whole history of combat, whether it be in the theatre of war or merely a matter of winning a game of football. We can all name the famous motivators in each sphere: Elizabeth I or Henry V, Admiral Lord Nelson or Winston Churchill, each of whom fired up their troops to give their all in battle for England. Sir Alf Ramsey did the same for the Three Lions heroes of 1966 and of course our own Don Revie was unrivalled as he created a team who would run through walls for him, inspired by the steely cry of “Keep Fighting”.

But sometimes, tub-thumping speeches should not be necessary – the occasion speaks for itself and demands pride, passion and commitment more than any mere words could possibly do. The Leeds United players who take the field against QPR tonight, 5th April, should be fully aware that today is a date when nothing less than every last drop of blood, sweat and tears will suffice. The United army will demand that – and more – as will those glued to their radios at home. And rightly so.

Chris and Kev - RIP

Chris and Kev – RIP

For April the 5th is a date carved painfully into the hearts of Leeds fans everywhere. On that fateful day 16 years ago, we lost two of our own as Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight were cruelly, foully murdered by savage, uncivilised scum in Taksim Square, Istanbul. This evening’s match is therefore not about League points or position, it’s not even about the farcical running of the club or the inept administration of an incompetent and bumbling Football League. It’s about pride, passion, respect and commemoration – and those four qualities need to burn white-hot within the very being of each man wearing that big Leeds badge over his heart at Elland Road.

If there are any Leeds players unaware of the significance of this occasion – well, shame on them.  And shame on the staff at the club who should be making sure that their charges are at least on nodding acquaintance with a reality beyond their own pay packets.  It’s not been easy to admire many of the Leeds players lately; with a few notable exceptions, they’ve played in a distracted fashion and displayed a distinctly chicken-hearted attitude to the business of playing for the shirt and getting results.  They should be left in no doubt at all that such frailties will not be tolerated tonight – not on April the 5th.  For this match, they should imitate the action of a tiger, as Henry the Fifth put it.  They should stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood – and get stuck in, just as if they really did have the hearts of lions.

Nothing less will do, it’s the very least they owe the Leeds supporters everywhere.  If they don’t know this, then it should be made abundantly clear to them prior to kick off.  They should run out there onto that pitch with no thoughts of money or other distractions: they should emerge onto the field of combat ready and willing to give their all for the Leeds United fans, and especially for the memory of those two lads who never came home.  This should be an occasion for the restoration of pride, for remembering that they have the honour to represent the greatest club in the world, in front of the greatest fans in the Universe.  Defeat is permissible; a defeatist attitude and a failure to step up to the mark is not. Not on April the 5th.

Perhaps the match against Rangers can be a starting point for the Leeds United team, the first steps on the long climb back to respectability.   It really needs to be – there is simply no more appropriate date for the launching of a fight-back, even though this season is now meaningless – apart from the still lingering threat of relegation.  If the Leeds lads can get out there and fight tonight – show that they care, battle for the cause, demonstrate some respect for the fans and those we’ve lost – then maybe they can start to recoup some of the respect they’ve undoubtedly squandered over the past few months.  It’s to be hoped so, because you get nowhere in any professional sport without earning respect.

The April 5th anniversary of the shocking events in Istanbul really means something to the Leeds support.  More than any other date, it’s when we remember and pay our respects – and the players should participate fully in this.  It’s part of deserving to wear the shirt and the badge.  Fans of other clubs love to show their disrespect, they love to wear the shirt of that awful Turkish club whilst grinning and gloating.  Millwall fans, Man U fans – scum like that.  April the 5th is when we rise above it all, in dignity and pride.  The players need to join in with that, too.

Do it tonight, lads – get out there and fight, give everything.  Do it for Chris and Kev, do it for all the rest of us who remember them sixteen years on.  Do it for the shirt, do it for the badge.  Make us proud of you again, on this day above all others.  Then, perhaps, we can go Marching On Together towards a better future, whatever the next few days, weeks and months might bring.  All it takes to start fighting back is that pride, passion and respect. That’s how we commemorate those who died, and that’s how we’ll forge the togetherness we need to restore this great club to where it belongs.  Let’s start that process of fighting back and climbing upwards, on this sad and solemn anniversary, at Elland Road this evening – let’s show them what we’re made of.  If we have enough tigers and lionhearts on the park, Queens Park Rangers will at least know they’ve been in a game – which is the very minimum requirement for any true warriors of Elland Road.

After all: “We’re Leeds – and we’re proud of it”.

RIP Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight, taken far too soon. April 5th, 2000

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Why Joey Barton Should Be Begging Leeds United to Sign Him – by Rob Atkinson

Barton doing what Barton does

Joey Barton doing what Joey Barton does

Mixed messages have been emerging from Elland Road over the past few days, leading up to and since the capture of Brentford winger Stuart Dallas. We’ve been told that Dallas is likely to be the end of any significant incoming business for Leeds United; but we’ve also heard from Adam Pearson that il Duce Massimo Cellino is prepared to sanction one, or possibly two more signings. This has naturally set tongues wagging and keyboards rattling as the Whites cognoscenti speculate on who else might yet arrive down LS11 way.

One name that refuses to go away is that of perennial bad boy Joey Barton, formally of QPR, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Olympique de Marseille and, for all we know, Borstal FC. Barton has had what might charitably be termed a troubled past. He’s proved himself on many an occasion not to be above a little thuggery, in much the same way that the sea is not above the clouds. Without doubt, he’s courted controversy and a certain measure of revulsion in those who believe that the beautiful game should be played beautifully or not at all. But there’s more to Barton than mindless violence and, undeniably, he’s a class above the vast majority of Championship midfielders in terms of pure football ability.

The pros and cons of Joey Barton are sharply delineated – he’s almost all black and white with very few shades of grey. On the negative side is the lack of discipline that has seen him on a porridge diet in his time, with several occasions on which he’s been bang to rights when put to trial by TV. Then again, Duncan Ferguson never let a spell in Barlinnie prevent him from becoming a legend in the game – something that, for all his notoriety, Barton has thus far signally failed to accomplish.

Still on the negative side, there’s Barton’s accustomed wage level. His habitual demands would see him fit into the Leeds United wage structure much as a quart fits into a pint pot. So, on the face of it, both his “attitude problem” (for want of a better phrase), and his affordability would seem to mitigate against him as a likely target for Yorkshire’s top club. But neither of these factors should necessarily prevent Barton from turning out in a Leeds United shirt.

The thing is, Joey is 32 now, with a senior career and earnings history going back 13 years. He will not be short of a bob or two – neither, surely, is he completely incapable of learning by experience when it comes to curbing that nasty temper. And on the plus side – the lad can play, far better than most of the opposition he’d meet in this league.

Looking for similar examples of players who might normally be expected to be both too expensive and too risky discipline-wise, the name of El Hadji Diouf springs irresistibly to mind. Diouf was the least likely of Elland Road recruits, having been a top-earner and a serial practitioner of some of football’s nastier tricks. But he duly came to Leeds, accepted relative peanuts in remuneration, cleaned up his act enough for his manager Warnock publicly to regret having compared him unfavourably to a sewer rat – and he made a moderate success of things in a team consisting mainly of players several classes of ability below him. Whether that’s enough of a precedent for us to be optimistic of seeing Barton in a Leeds United shirt is open to some doubt. But there’s one man who should be moving heaven and earth to make this happen – and that man is Joey Barton himself.

The fact of the matter is that Barton has possibly one shot left at writing himself indelibly into the pages of football history. He may or may not care about doing this – but any footballer worth his salt wants, ideally, to be regarded as a legend. And that, even today, is the opportunity afforded to the right calibre of player by Leeds United FC. After well over a decade in the shadows, and having plumbed hitherto unheard-of depths by sinking as low as the third tier, Leeds remains a giant of the game. The Elland Road club is, in fact, the last giant ever born – clubs have come to the fore since United did in the sixties, but not to such devastating effect and not for so long; certainly not to attain the rank of a footballing behemoth, as Leeds did from nowhere under the legendary, incomparable Don Revie.

In the late eighties and early nineties, Leeds United conferred legend status on characters as diametrically different from each other as Vinnie Jones and Gordon Strachan. That’s what being instrumental in revival and success for Leeds does for a player. And that’s what it could do, even at this late stage, for Joey Barton. As his career draws to a close, as he contemplates life after football and his descent into obscurity, that’s something that Mr. Barton should be thinking about extremely seriously. You’re a long time retired, after all.

It may well be that very nearly all of the Leeds transfer business is complete, after all. And if we do recruit more bodies, they’d more than likely be cover out wide and in central defence. But the need is still there for some versatile, commanding presence in midfield, too. And, sadly, the Vinnies and the Strachans are precious thin on the ground these days.

If Joey Barton had the sense he was born with – another conundrum not easily answered – he’d be prepared to walk barefoot over broken glass to Elland Road, there humbly to seek audience of Messrs. Cellino and Pearson (and maybe the physio team too, after miles barefoot over broken glass). He should be literally begging for the chance to play for Leeds, for his last shot at legend status. He should be promising to clean up his act and to become a role model for the youngsters and a hero to the fans. He should do all of this for the return of a reasonable pay-to-play deal, as befits an extremely wealthy man who has naught to lose, much to make up for – and a lasting reputation in football to gain.

Joey Barton – do you want to be a legend? Come to Leeds United, then… and, if you play your cards right, we might just arrange it for you.

Oldham Board Member on Talent Coming Through Prison System – by Rob Atkinson

Evans - desperate enough to sign for Oldum

Evans – desperate enough to sign for Oldum

Oldham Athletic director Barry Owen, a former Greater Manchester Police superintendent, has welcomed news that there is an “80% likelihood” of convicted rapist Ched Evans signing for the League One club. Mr Owen, who was also instrumental in Oldham’s decision to sign ex-con Lee Hughes after he had served time for causing death by dangerous driving, was however scathing about the modern prison service and its patchy record of providing cheap players for the Boundary Park outfit.

“Her Majesty’s Prison Service can do better than this”, said the erstwhile top cop. “A club like ours is always looking for value on the field of play, and those who have done their porridge are the kind of likely lads the Athletic should always be looking for, in my view. We’ve now had two good lads coming through the HMP production line, and we’ll be on the lookout for more, if the Home Office can just get their bloody finger out. These guys are cheap as chips – and that’s the bottom line, after all.”

When it was put to Mr Owen that the Evans signing was likely to be even less popular among fans than that of Lee Hughes, he raised an eyebrow. “I don’t really see where you’re coming from, lad. Evans wants to play football, so we’re going to accommodate him, aren’t we? Makes sense. A few faint hearts were all for refusing him a contract – but after all, the lad was unlikely to take no for an answer…”

We put it to the former police officer that any decision to sign Evans might have severe implications for club sponsorship. “Storm in a teacup,” he scoffed. “These things blow over. Look at Bowyer and Woodgate at Leeds United. Proper fuss and bother, but that soon went away. Well, it did when they were transferred away from Leeds, anyway. We’re Oldham, lad. If we were Leeds, I wouldn’t dream of this sort of thing, the League would burn the ground down. Look at the kerfuffle over a bit of duty on a boat. But that’s Leeds, in’t it? We won’t have same sort of fuss here, mark my words.”

So are there no misgivings, no twinges of conscience? “Look lad, don’t be daft. That’s a £3 million striker there, and we could ‘ave him for as little as £400 a week. As long as he’s not actually in a cell, he’ll do for us at that price.”

A Latics Supporters Club spokesman, when asked for his take on the matter, would only reply with a glum but defiantly brief rendition of the club’s one and only song “Come on, Old-um“, before trailing away into the Lancastrian murk.

Barry Owen is 83, though his IQ is a youthful 60.