Tag Archives: promotion

Radrizzani Honours Promise in Dramatic Break With Recent Leeds Utd Tradition – by Rob Atkinson

Elland-Road

Leeds: United and finally homeowners once more

New Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani has shown precious little respect for recent club traditions, blatantly keeping a promise to repurchase the Elland Road stadium despite recent precedents whereby owners have talked plenty about this issue – but have done, quite frankly, the square root of sod-all to make it reality.

In contrast to a certain lately-departed yachtsman, Radrizzani has said little, preferring to let his actions speak for themselves. Thus, we have today seen our spiritual home return to club ownership, relieving an annual rent burden and restoring the pride of thousands of Leeds United fans who had felt the shame of being long-term tenants at an historic venue synonymous with the club for almost a century.

This represents a stark contrast to the modus operandi of Radrizzani’s immediate predecessor, who talked of paying a visit to the nearest ATM and withdrawing the money needed to buy back the ground on Day One. A subsequent failure to honour that vow did not disturb the blind faith of a section of United’s support – but the shallowness of Il Loco‘s sincerity has been put into sharp focus by the decisive actions and intuitive feeling for what United’s fans really wanted, displayed in the short period of his sole ownership so far by Andrea Radrizzani. For this, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything salutes him – and at the same time acknowledges that the new owner’s intentions appear straightforward and highly laudable.

A week or so ago, I wrote a rather pessimistic piece, bemoaning what sounded like the same old line about wanting players who desired a Leeds United future rather than concentrating on money. I was horrified that so many agreed with the sentiments behind the article, having hoped that I’d be reassured by positive disagreement. And, to be fair, the “let’s look for players who want to be here” thing was a line we’d heard too often before – but in the days since, the attitude of the club towards recruitment has belied that old complacency and caution. Now, there is a real buzz about the place, with credible reports of ambition and investment. In just over a week, the atmosphere around Elland Road has regained its positivity.

So now we are owners of our own home turf and maybe even masters of our own destiny. There is real hope in the air, and some thrillingly eager anticipation of the approaching season. Leeds United, dare we suggest, might just be back.

I ended that last article expressing the earnest hope that I was wrong to be so pessimistic. Now, it seems that I may well have been, and nothing would give me greater pleasure. Keep up the good work, Mr Radrizzani. Keep the faith, meet our expectations, and we’ll back you all the way. That modern-day Leeds United tradition of flattering to deceive; promising much and doing nowt to bring those promises to fruition – well, it’s one we’d all be delighted to see cast out of the nearest window. In breaking that tradition, our new owner will lift the hearts of the Leeds legions around the globe.

And it might well be the start of a revival of that much older Leeds United tradition – Marching on Together towards glory and success. Surely, that’s something we can ALL unite behind – now that the club appears at long last to be in safe hands.

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Ranieri Should Be Top Target for Leeds United After Monk Shock   –   by Rob Atkinson

Claudio Ranieri – is the Tinkerman next through the Elland Road revolving door?

In the light of Garry Monk‘s shock departure from Leeds, an intriguing name has cropped up as a possible candidate for the hotseat at Leeds United, and I make no apology for rehashing what was only a speculative article four weeks ago. 

The possibility of Claudio Ranieri fancying a crack at the Elland Road job was raised by a contributor to a recent article on this blog. NickB, 50 years a Leeds fan, ended a long and entertaining comment by asking “When does Ranieri’s gardening leave come to an end ?!” Another regular contributor, Leeds Mick, agreed with Nick, stating that Ranieri “would be a damn good appointment”. But what do other Leeds fans think?

Leaving aside the vexed question of whether Ranieri would touch us with the proverbial barge pole, the prospect of the Tinkerman would indeed be fascinating. With a recent Premier League title on his CV, Claudio is a very likeable man who seems to have a magic managerial touch in the right situation. It’s no exaggeration to say that what he pulled off at Leicester City qualifies as the biggest football miracle of all time, bar none. So, could Leeds United benefit from a touch of diddly-ding, diddly-dong?

I still feel that Monk has acted precipitately. And I do also feel that chairman Andrea Radrizzani deserves the faith and belief of Leeds United fans in his hunt for a new man. 

Still – Ranieri. Likeable, credible, available Ranieri. It is interesting – isn’t it? Would it be feasible, a welcome sign of ambition – or aiming too high? Your thoughts, as ever, would be appreciated. 

Now Leeds United MUST Start Acting Like the Big Club They Are   –   by Rob Atkinson

Leeds Fans

Leeds fans expect…

Leeds United‘s season is over, many will feel prematurely. The chance that was there was untaken, the nettle ungrasped. United have sadly, in colloquial parlance, bottled it. 

The reasons for this will be gone into often and deeply enough over the next few weeks or so. The nature of the game, and of football pundits and supporters, demands a post mortem to follow such deep disappointment. Heads will be scratched, brows will be furrowed. Arguments will run hot and cold. So mote it be. This is the aftermath of failure, and it’s a necessary though painful ritual.

At the end of all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, though, the reasons for failure will be seen as stark and simple. Leeds seized defeat from the jaws of victory, plummeting from a handy position with a disastrous late run of poor displays and awful results. The seeds of failure were sown in January, when manager Garry Monk‘s prescription for consolidation of a play-off berth (with an outside chance of gate-crashing the automatic promotion party) was bizarrely rejected by men in suits who thought they knew better. What a bitter harvest we reaped from that insensate folly. 

It must not happen again. The manager must be listened to and heeded – if he’s going to have to accept that the buck ultimately stops with him, then he deserves the tools to do the job. Monk asked for reinforcements and was betrayed, there’s really no other word for it. That harsh lesson must be learned, because it’s going to be even harder to get out of this league next time around. 

Leeds United is a huge football club, a true institution of the game. Yet they have been taught the ABC of ‘Acting like a Big Club’ by comparative minnows in the shape of Reading, Huddersfield and Fulham. Even by the moderately sizeable Sheffield Wednesday. That’s nowhere near good enough, and it’s vital that Leeds should be the ones laying a marker down this summer. Anything else, and smaller but hungrier clubs will eclipse us again. 

I expect next season to be intense. Aston Villa will be strong, having laid solid foundations. It’s likely that we’ll face many Yorkshire derbies, depending on the outcome of the play-offs. Middlesbrough, bolstered by parachute payments and battle-hardened by recent Championship experience, will be thereabouts. Add in Sunderland, Derby, and all the teams for whom beating Leeds is where it’s at – and you can see that it’s impossible to understate just how strong and well-prepared we must be. It’s going to take every ounce of effort, character, guts and determination – and a significant financial outlay. 

This summer will decide Leeds United’s prospects for next season. It’s vital now that we step up, and win promotion soon. It would be a tragedy – nothing less – if this great club were to celebrate its centenary in two years time, below the elite level of English football. We simply have to stake our claim to enter a second century as one of the country’s select band of top clubs. 

It’s time now for Leeds United to think big again, to act once more like the big club they undeniably are. Time for Leeds to prove that they’re a big club. An almighty struggle awaits and we just have to be ready. 

Marching On Together, back to the top. It’s there for Leeds, if they want it badly enough. And that’s the big test now for everyone connected with Elland Road. Can we do it? Of course we can. But will we? Will we be bold, brave and brazenly assertive enough? Will we stump up the price of promotion and earn our golden ticket to the Promised Land?

That, fellow fans, is the £25 million (minimum net squad investment) question. 

Huddersfield to Add Fourth Star to Badge After Leeds Miracle   –   by Rob Atkinson


Huddersfield Town fans suddenly have more to look forward to than Championship play-off defeat. In the wake of what their educated fans – a select band of three genetic abnormalities from Slaithwaite – are referring to as the club’s annus mirabilis, the Terriers are to add a fourth star to the club badge, in recognition of Town’s greatest achievement of the last ninety years.

The three existing stars refer to a hat-trick of League Title triumphs in the 1920s, which had represented the high water mark of Town’s achievements up until this year – when they surpassed all previous attainments by actually managing to finish higher in the league than Leeds United, something that hadn’t happened for 56 years, before anyone outside of Beeston or Turin had actually heard of Leeds.

It had been thought that, should the Terriers ever actually climb the mountain and finally manage such a frankly unlikely feat, the club would disband for lack of any realistic targets beyond this, their Holy Grail. But it seems that, after all, the club will keep going – with play-off defeat practically certain to mean a renewal of their Elland Road-based obsession next season.

Terriers supporters chief, Mr. Cyril D. Ogbotherer, was emphatic in his praise of Town’s historic achievement: “It’s grand, just grand,” he declared, misty eyed and glossy of coat. “It’ll perk up this place like a dose of Bob Martins, this will. By! Finishin’ aboove Leeds! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh, bah GOOM!!”

An open-top tram ride is planned, and Pathé Newsreels have agreed to add highlights of this campaign to their Magic Lantern special, commemorating Huddersfield’s champions of between the wars. The addition of the fourth star to the badge is proving slightly problematic, as supporters feel it should be a lot bigger than the other three, to reflect the relative scale of the achievement. The issue is to be decided either by a show of paws, the loudest bark – or by using a special “Wag-o-Meter”, at the next full board meeting.

Herr David Wagner, 46, ist einer schrecklicher Kartoffelkopf.

Monk Wanted Investment in January, Cellino Said NO. Failure, the Leeds Utd Way – by Rob Atkinson

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Monk: he told us what was needed – Cellino ignored it

I’m pretty sure I’ll still be hearing some of the more deluded Whites fans telling me how Massimo Cellino has saved Leeds United. Yorkshire folk can be pretty stubborn, but sticking by Cellino after the collapse of United’s play-off challenge – seemingly nailed on only a week or so ago – that takes more than mere stubbornness.

The fact of the matter is, and despite any recent conciliatory words designed to disguise that fact, our manager Garry Monk knew in January that investment was needed to cement the promotion challenge. His statements in the press at the time were loaded and significant – words to the effect of “The club knows what is needed, and I’m sure they will act accordingly”. But former sole owner Cellino had different ideas. Despite the arrival of Andrea Radrizzani, a co-owner in equal partnership, el Loco‘s advice was not to invest money at this vital time. So the manager was casually undermined, and Leeds were sticking by the old tried and tested – but unsuccessful – formula.

That formula may be summed up as follows, to paraphrase a pissed-off but insightful LUFC tweeter as United struggled at Burton: Inadequate investment in the summer followed by a lot of ambitious talk and then a failure to invest in January, with an over-reliance on loans. Rinse and repeat.

It’s not been a recipe for success for Leeds for the last several seasons since the club first bottled a chance to go back to the top level in their first Championship season of 2010/11. It’s highly unlikely now to prove a recipe for success this season either. And for the unaccountable decision to stick to this same hopeless, hapless policy, we have only Mr. Cellino to thank. Things must change at Elland Road, or we’re going to become permanent second-tier plodders at best.

The first thing to change must be the removal of any Cellino influence at the club. This is a must – though, as I said earlier, some will fail to see it, much as Lord Nelson failed to see enemy ships through his blind eye. Secondly, there must be investment in the summer on a par with the big hitters in next season’s Championship, where I’m afraid we will still be plying our trade. Defeat at Burton pretty much confirms that. And the failure to make the play-offs may be a blessing in disguise. That mini competition is likely to turn into a “Who ends up getting thrashed by a rampant Fulham” affair.

There will be those again who will insist on hailing this ‘nearly but not quite’ season as a relative success, following years of unabashed mediocrity under various useless owners. Again, I disagree, and I turn to another despondent tweeter in Adam Turnbull, who sums up why the campaign is a failure in a few well-chosen and famous words, first uttered, after a fashion, by John Cleese in Clockwise: “It’s not the despair, I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand. MOT”

MOT indeed. But to what? Next season has to provide the right answer to such a vexed question – and that will require decisive change at the top – and for Leeds United to start acting like a big club again. In a week that marks the silver jubilee of the last United team to ascend to the top of the game – the Last Champions, no less – our allegedly big club has confirmed its failure to compete adequately at the top end of its league, and for the umpteenth time. That’s as pitiful as it’s shameful.

For now, our play-off chances are gone for a Burton – and we need to focus on a brighter future.

Cellino’s Guilt: The Reason for Leeds’ Late Stumble Can Be Found in the Accounts – by Rob Atkinson

cellino no

Cellino – we still need him gone

The basic reason that Leeds United, from a position of apparent strength within the play-off zone, tonight find themselves outside those play-offs, can be summed up in six simple words. The squad is not good enough. Elements of a successful force can be found within that squad. Certain players would be a shoe-in for just about any other side in the Championship. That’s as far as it goes on the positive side. 

But the whole is lacking; there are massive gaps in the first eleven picture and the shadow squad lacks any real strength in depth. There is little by way of a creative, guileful alternative to Pablo Hernandez, little by way of attacking support for the reliably prolific Chris Wood, little consistency out wide despite forays into the loan market – and the centre-half berths may yet be our undoing, in or out of the play-offs. That our major shining star other than Wood lately has been over-worked keeper Rob Green, tells its own depressing tale. Set against various other squads in the league, including those of clubs currently below us, our “group” is just not adequate. It’s not fit for purpose, if that purpose really was promotion. It can’t be. Other clubs have invested as proper clubs at this level ought. We haven’t.

And it’s no mere assertion that the squad is not good enough; it is simply a glaring fact. If we do scrape into the play-offs, there is not one potential opponent I’d be confident of us seeing off over two legs. It would perhaps be best if we stayed outside – do we really need more end of season knockout heartbreak? The fact is that we’ve tried to fulfill the former outright owner’s foolhardy pledge to make the play-offs on the cheap – and it’s beginning to look very much as though we’re doomed to fail.

You don’t have to look too far into the finances, and you don’t have to be an accountant, to see the reasons behind the inadequacy of the squad and the pending failure of our season-long quest for the play-offs. Ironically, the most telling fact to be gleaned from the recently released financial information is that Leeds United has devoted the lowest amount, as a proportion of turnover, on player-related expenditure – in the whole league. That was hailed in certain quarters as a model of prudence and good business; another point of view might well include the words “you have to speculate to accumulate”. 

While money has been frittered away on ego projects and the expensive pursuit of satisfaction in the courts, not enough has been invested, for a club of Leeds United’s size, to propel it to a higher level via achievements on the field. Clubs with smaller budgets, smaller crowds but seemingly bigger ambitions have out-played us on the field and out-performed us over the season. The abilities of Garry Monk and his staff, together with the few diamonds we do possess on the playing strength, have enabled the squad as a whole to over-achieve notably through much of the campaign. But you can’t fool all the people all the time, and United are now getting found out. 

One man is to blame for the way this season is likely to collapse, and that man is Massimo Cellino. It is devoutly to be hoped that this summer will see the end of his Elland Road tenure, with a fresh start possible and ambitions to match the fantastic support. At this particular juncture, following the brittle euphoria of nicking a point at Newcastle after being soundly thrashed for the majority of that game, and in the immediate aftermath of an appalling and depressing defeat at home to Wolves, this blogger would take a guarantee of a new beginning, under new 100% ownership, in next season’s Championship.

Personally, I don’t need the play-offs. They’ve been nothing but heartache in the past, and the kind of luck and breaks you need to go up via that route just doesn’t visit LS11. I’d be all for re-grouping, getting rid of the deadwood at the top of the tree, and having a real go at winning this league next season. Let’s get back to the Promised Land in a fit state to stay there, and in time for this great club’s Centenary. By that time, Cellino should be nothing more than a distant, unpleasant memory. We have the leader we need in the dugout, we just need him to be backed properly now. That will not happen while Cellino hangs around.

Those are the facts, as I see them. I’d be very surprised to be proved wrong about the prospects for the remainder of this season and, sadly, I don’t think I will be.

Reading Join Huddersfield in Leeds United’s Little Black Book – by Rob Atkinson

Big Jack

Big Jack of Leeds United – neither forgot nor forgave

A few decades back, a couple of rival footballers were daft enough to upset Leeds United‘s beanpole, World Cup-winning centre-half Jack Charlton. Perhaps they over-estimated the man’s capacity for forgiveness, but that would have been a terrible mistake. Although somebody once rightly said of the Charlton brothers, that Bobby was twice the player but Jack was ten times the bloke, our legendary number five knew how to nurse a grudge, alright. He had this to say of those unwise enough to rile him:

“I have a little black book with two players in it, and if I get a chance to do them, I will. I will make them suffer before I pack this game in. If I can kick them four yards over the touch line, I will.”

Chilling stuff, you might agree and, really, very Leeds United at that time. This was a team that bore grudges and looked after themselves and each other – famously, the attitude was “If you cut one of us, we all bleed”. With the subtext to that being “…and we’ll all be lining up to pay you back, so watch it”. But Jack rarely needed back-up.

Some might say that, although the great United team is a far-off memory now, and although Big Jack himself has long since retired into a mellow north country affability, the cold, hard core of steel persists around Elland Road. As a club, and reflected also in their redoubtable fans, Leeds United excels still in bearing a grudge; it neither forgives nor forgets. Big Jack’s little black book is still a thing in LS11, and there have been a couple of new entries made this season.

Given the nature of football, such accounts frequently have to remain unsettled for a considerable period of time, what with rival teams usually meeting but twice a year. But these days, it’s a little bit different and – intriguingly for those who keep an eye on slow-burning feuds – the two clubs who have most offended White sensibilities this season are both likely play-off opponents in the near future.

It’s fairly well-documented that Huddersfield Town, those perennial Yorkshire bridesmaids, have got themselves a little over-excited at times in this campaign. It’s perhaps understandable – after all, they’ve contrived two narrow victories against the club that, more than any other, is responsible for their long-standing inferiority complex. What’s more, they’re looking well-placed to finish higher in the league than those hated rivals, for the first time since 1961.

Still, understandable or not, Huddersfield have transgressed the unwritten law about not pissing Leeds United off. So they’re in the modern day little black book – and they’ve been joined over the past week or so by fellow tiny upstarts Reading FC, who have had so much to say for themselves in the run-up to Saturday’s match at the Madejski Stadium. The phenomenon of small clubs gobbing off in the press about bigger outfits fallen upon hard times is one that has gained some currency in recent years. As the ultimate sleeping giant, Leeds United has had to suffer slings and arrows from some fairly surprising directions, given the large size and glittering status of our more accustomed rivals. But lately we cop it in the neck from the likes of Bradford, Barnsley, Millwall and so on. And now Reading. Saucy little gits of clubs, all, that revel in the golden chance to show disrespect to their betters. It’s distasteful, but we’ve just had to grimace and bear it. And yet that doesn’t mean that we forget, nor indeed should we forgive. And, by God, we don’t; we bear a grudge and vow to have our own back. That’s what little black books are for.

Call it motivation, psyching-up, or the naked desire for revenge – the outcome is likely to be the same. If, as expected, Leeds United figures in the end-of-season lottery we know as the play-offs, then our beloved club could well be playing with the dice loaded marginally in our favour. At home, Elland Road will be a wall of sound, an arena of passion and hostility fit to blow away those used to a more placid atmosphere. Away, the travelling army will invade and conquer; enemy territory will ring to the noise of locals being out-shouted and sung into silence. At Wembley, if such is our destiny, the stadium will look like a rhapsody in white, yellow and blue, with a massive majority of raucous Yorkshire voices demanding victory and a return to our rightful level. On the park, the shirts will be occupied by snarling warriors, snapping into tackles, giving no quarter, harrying the enemy to exhaustion. Such will be the case, whoever we happen to meet.

But, if and when we meet Huddersfield, and/or Reading – as we almost inevitably will – then that extra-keen edge may well be evident in the attitude of both team and fans. United in all senses of the word, the boys on the park and the fans in the stands will remember past offences and will be eager for payback. Promotion via the play-offs is its own incentive; many say there is no better way to go up, and no worse way to stay down. But that little extra few percent in performance and support, added into the mix by foes ill-advised enough to find their way into Leeds’ little black book – that extra few percent might just make all the difference.

Huddersfield, Reading – it’ll be good to see you again. We’ll be waiting, with long memories, but short on patience and the milk of human kindness. We’ll go about it hard but fair, just like Big Jack – but with an intensity and passion you might find hard to deal with. You’ve had your moments this season, at our expense too, and you’ve earned your places in the book. Beware, payback time approaches. It’s time to settle up.

Reading Hoping to Repeat Their Dominant Defeat at Leeds Utd? – by Rob Atkinson

Monk laugh

Garry Monk, reacting with good humour to the suggestion that Reading and Leeds are “rivals”

Reading FC seem intent on showing that they talk a good game ahead of Saturday evening’s return clash against Leeds United at the Madejski Stadium. Royals manager Jaap Stam as well as striker Yann Kermorgant have both had their say in the run up to this fixture, and the general message from the Berks. area is that they’re none too impressed with what many are saying is the finest Leeds team for at least a decade.

It’s always interesting to hear what opposition players have to say about your team as they’re preparing for 90 minutes combat, but Kermorgant’s view is especially intriguing – given that his experience at Elland Road, during the Royals’ 0-2 defeat in December, consisted largely of an hour sat on the Reading bench, during which time he watched his team-mates dominate possession by playing a side-to-side passing game mainly inside their own defensive third. Leeds, a goal to the good after 19 minutes courtesy of Chris Wood, then faced a final twenty minutes when their opponents finally discovered a route across the halfway line, but – despite Kermorgant’s introduction after 62 minutes, they failed to pierce the United defence. Souleymane Doukara then settled matters with an injury time penalty, as if to emphasise that Leeds do have other goalscorers apart from the prolific Wood.

Reading’s tactics that night were more than a little baffling, though manager Stam was well pleased with his side’s display. Perhaps he and the Reading team, together with their fans, would be happy with a similar showing on Saturday. I know I would, and I suspect United manager Garry Monk might be fairly content as well. If both the display and the result are replicated, Reading can crow about two masterclass displays of possession football, with consummate lateral passing and all the offensive threat of a sickly lamb – and Leeds can retire back to their northern fortress, tight-lipped and grim of face, with six points and a seasonal double in the bag.

I’m not qualified to talk about the psychology of pre-match posturing, but I do feel that perhaps Mijnheer Stam, aided and abetted by the boy Kermorgant, has contributed a great deal towards Mr. Monk’s motivational team-talk. Let us hope so, and let us hope and trust that our boys will be heading out onto the park determined to shove certain words down certain throats. It may be, of course, that Reading will get an actual result this time, instead of just boring everybody half-way to sleep and letting the opposition do the business of scoring goals. If so, all credit due to them – you have to be grown-up about these things. Still, given this daft little war of words, sparked off by the losers of that Elland Road match in December – I can’t help hoping that we stuff them again, big time.

The subtext to all of this is an apparent desire on the part of Stam’s players, fans, the Reading FC club itself, to be perceived as having some sort of peer rivalry with our own favourite Yorkshire giants. And, really, that’s almost too ridiculous for words. Are we honestly expected to accept that Dirty Leeds, that northern powerhouse, should be viewed in terms of an actual rivalry with – I don’t know, what’s an appropriate prefix for Reading? Plucky? Upstarts? Little? Plucky little upstarts just about sums it up. However you describe them, it’s a laughable idea, as our Garry demonstrates above. 

Still, it’s got the Twitterati section of their fan-base all a-froth with excitement, and they’ll be hoping and praying for a home win, prior to bigging it up on social media. Those are the kind of aspirations you have, I guess, when you’re a Reading fan. We all know that the idea of a “rivalry” between our respective clubs is marginally more ridiculous than one between Sheffield Wednesday and, say, Barcelona. And we’ll just have to bear that in mind, whatever the result on Saturday, and whatever the provocation on Twitter and elsewhere.

Let’s just look forward to Saturday’s result possibly shutting up a few virtual loudmouths, good and proper. Wishing good luck and a fair ref to Garry and the lads; the White Army expects – now, do your duty.

Why Leeds United Should Rescue Arsene Wenger from Ungrateful Arsenal – by Rob Atkinson

Arsene

If Arsenal turn their backs on Arsène – should Leeds pounce?

Let me say straight away that I hold Arsenal in the very highest esteem; after my beloved Whites, this is the club whose results I look for first. And, before I go on to extol the virtues of a Leeds United move to employ Arsène Wenger if his relationship with the Gunners does break down irretrievably, let me confirm that I feel we already have the right man for the job of United manager. Garry Monk is the man, he’s the right age, the right type, he’s proved his worth, and his position at Elland Road should be unassailable.

But still, Arsène Wenger would be a magnificent capture for Leeds. It would be, in transatlantic parlance, a no-brainer. If The Professor became available, he’d be just the man for a club like Leeds. And Wenger, at this stage of the game, might find that a project such as Leeds United would the very thing to bring down the curtain upon a glittering career. Because the role I see for Wenger at Leeds would be one that taps into his immense knowledge of the global game and of uncut diamonds in youth teams everywhere. It would be to work as a resource for a young manager developing in Wenger’s own image, a man who wants to play football the right way, someone that the old master Arsène could help develop into a world class coach and man manager.

I would consider that, after Arsenal, Wenger might be looking for something other than a front-line position as he seeks to remain involved in football. He’s been in North London, shaping and developing the capital’s premier football club, for two decades, encompassing some glorious success and producing football at times of breathtaking beauty. The challenge at Leeds would, initially at least, be different – and yet the aims would be comparable. It would be an ideal project for Wenger, something whereby he could wield his influence over the whole culture of a football club, without having to be involved in the nitty-gritty of day to day first team matters. Sure, he might expect to have an input, and Garry Monk is far too wise a man not to avail himself of such knowledge and experience. But there can be only one boss, and Monk is the right man for a long time to come. Still, some of the best of managers have benefited from that elder statesman, that éminence grise behind the scenes. Malcolm Allison had his Joe Mercer, Brian Clough his Peter Taylor. Neither of those two legends were quite so effective as a solo act, both needed that wise presence behind them to find true success.  After Arsenal, that kind of role would be a respectable and dignified option for Arsène at Elland Road – and he could just be the difference for Garry Monk between being a very good manager – and a great one.

And what, we have to ask ourselves, of Arsenal FC? Do they ideally want to keep Wenger, or are they considering a further year’s contract for their greatest ever boss merely as an obvious stop-gap until the real target becomes available? The truth is that the relationship between Wenger and many of the Arsenal fans is verging on the toxic. It’s a distressing situation for a great football man who genuinely loves his club; it’s a shoddy way to be winding down a stellar career. So, perhaps, for the sake of all concerned, a clean break between Arsenal and Arsène would be for the best. And, in that case – though I doubt it would actually happen – an opportunistic Leeds United should pounce. They should do whatever it takes to import the wisdom and status of one of the world’s foremost football people, someone who would have the class to respect boundaries and exercise his influence from a more detached position.

Leeds United’s gain would most definitely be Arsenal’s loss – but perhaps the situation for Wenger at the Emirates, with the Spurs-loving media pack slavering for blood, is already beyond recall. So Arsenal might appear ungrateful in dispensing with Arsène, if that’s what ends up happening – but it may just be their best option, even if results and performances were to dip in the short term.

But that’s not Leeds United’s concern – they, for their part, should be looking at what Wenger could bring to the Elland Road table, without unduly rocking the boat, if I might be permitted a mix of metaphors. The answer to that question is: plenty. Wenger has presided over a revolution at Arsenal, and in the wider English game as a whole. His ideas about diet, nutrition, the maintenance of the human machine, were revolutionary but demonstrably sound. He’s the kind of influence any forward-thinking club could do with, quietly influencing the whole setup with improvement and the maximisation of potential in mind. As somebody to stand behind Garry Monk, outside of the immediate first-team picture but always available as a consultant, his value to a club on the way up, a true giant of the game like Leeds, looking to re-establish itself as a major force, could be immeasurable.

So when I say “Wenger for Leeds”, I’m not joking, I’m deadly serious. As ever, I’d be interested in the views of others – but don’t be too quick, please, to leap into a dismissive posture. Consider. The question is – if a man like Wenger were to appear on the market and prepared to accept a different role – could we really afford to overlook him?

Agony for Leeds but Ecstasy for Sky’s Jeff Stelling as Fulham Snatch Late Draw – by Rob Atkinson

Stelling celebrates

“And there’s bad news for Leeds United, ring out the bells, rejoice!!”

We all know that Leeds United aren’t exactly the pin-up golden boys for various shallow media types and embittered ex-footballers turned pundits. It comes as no surprise, therefore, when every now and then some be-suited eejit just can’t help himself, and goes into an ecstasy of raucous celebration when some misfortune befalls the mighty Whites. It happened again, last night on Sky TV’s soccer special – Fulham scored a last-gasp equaliser against a dogged but tiring Leeds, and the world’s most famous monkey-hanger, Jeff Stelling, almost literally exploded with joy.

It was actually quite worrying on an empathetic level, once you got past the bleak realisation that two points were drifting away from Leeds at the very last minute. Poor Jeff looked to be on the point of apoplexy, his face swelling almost to bursting point and veins throbbing in his temples. His eyes were those of a man on the edge of Hartlepudlian hysteria – you’d have feared for the life of any simian in the vicinity had Mr. Stelling a convenient length of noosed hempen rope handy. From his demeanour, you might have thought that Hartlepool United had just clinched the Champions League by battering Bayern Munich – and all of this because Leeds conceding a late leveller completely robbed a so-called professional of any poise and impartiality. It’s a rum old world.

Of course, Sky Sports as an entity has form for this kind of thing. Seasoned watchers of their rolling scoreline programme on a Saturday afternoon or weekday evening will be aware of familiar signs allowing them some prior awareness of what’s going on in Leeds United games. It works like this: once you know who is watching the Whites in action, you listen for that voice. An exultant yelp in the background while Jeff is waffling on about Man U means the Whites have conceded; a despairing punctured gasp of dismay signals a Leeds goal. I’ve seen it happen any number of times.

Getting past my possibly paranoid take on Stelling & Co, it also has to be said that Leeds United were at least partially the authors of their own misfortune last night. Once again, as in times past, they allowed a situation to develop that bore more than a passing resemblance to the siege of the Alamo, in attempting to defend a one goal lead for nigh on ninety minutes. The occasional chance to put the game to bed was spurned, for the rest it was all about facing a huge majority of possession for Fulham, while retreating deeper and deeper into defence. As the finish line came into sight, Leeds were down to ten men after a fairly soft sending-off for Kalvin Phillips, who then took an inordinate amount of time to leave the field of play. And, naturally, it was in the extra minutes added on for that sluggish exit from the arena, when Fulham at last beat Rob Green with one of the worldy strikes we seem to concede far too often.

At the end of the day, Brian, it was a good point gained at a difficult venue against worthy opponents – though it did rather feel more like two dropped. But these things happen, and not just to Leeds. We all suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune from time to time, after all. It’s just that – when it does happen to Leeds – I’d rather not have my nose rubbed in it by some joke of a TV presenter who can’t maintain his thin veneer of professionalism due to an all-too-typical hatred of Leeds United. That really does grind my gears.

Even Stelling himself appeared to realise he might have gone too far, once the red mist cleared and his face reduced to a more normal size. “The Leeds fans won’t thank me for that,” he quavered accurately. Well, you got that right, didn’t you. Shriek with joy as a battling team sees two vital promotion points disappear, to the frustration of their legions of supporters everywhere? It’s more than just a little unprofessional, that – it’s unbelievable, Jeff.