Tag Archives: promotion

Why Leeds United Should Already be Planning for the Premier League – by Rob Atkinson

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Leeds fans – fervent hopes and great expectations

A combination of Leeds United’s positive start to the Championship campaign, along with the fact of some rivals’ struggles when promoted to the Premier League, might give rise to doubts among our number as to how United would cope with our own longed-for elevation to the elite – should it finally happen. It’s a fair question, even at this early stage of the season – counting no chickens and not wanting to sound too arrogant, it still is very definitely something we’ve every right to ponder. After all, we’ve built up such momentum as a club this past year or so, with Elland Road packed every home game and thousands following the lads all over the country. There’s no denying it’s been a blast, we even surpassed some of the expectations and odds provided by the best pundits of the Sports betting and news sites, even given last season’s ultimate disappointment. Do we really relish the idea of trading all of that for the negativity of a long, grim relegation struggle in the Premier League next year? But that train of thought, logical and realistic though it might be, flies in the face of Leeds United’s urgent need for a return to where it truly belongs.

In considering our chances of survival if this season did see us making a successful promotion challenge, we’d do well to take with a pinch of salt the current club response to rumours of a possible takeover somewhere down the line. The Leeds owner’s position is given as being willing to consider more inward investment, while refusing to contemplate an actual sale of the club. But many fans, as well as many seasoned football pundits, feel that Leeds would have to change hands if they were to have a chance of competing towards the higher echelons of the Premier League. Even then, there’d be the strictures of Financial Fair Play to be negotiated; some of the club’s biggest challenges in a higher sphere would, it appears, be off the field of play. But the likes of Wolves have shown it’s possible to operate to a model that permits more than just a struggle to survive, and this is the type of example that United must follow, should they finally escape the clutches of the Football League.

Huddersfield struggled feebly for two seasons and then meekly surrendered. Hull City did well for a while, but now they’re back down. It will be interesting to see how Sheffield United fare in the top flight, after their steady start. But surely Leeds United, given the right type of ownership and structure, should be able to envisage a more secure foothold at a higher level than any of these Yorkshire rivals were able to achieve.

Clearly, we have to focus on promotion first and foremost, but it’s as well to have plans in place a long way in advance of any realisation of our current ambitions. So now really is the time to be wondering how we’d cope – and I firmly believe that those questions are already echoing around the corridors of power inside Elland Road. What the answers will be, who can say? But Leeds fans, who will remember how United set about the top flight on our previous two promotions in 1964 and 1990, are unlikely to settle for a weak approach next time. They will want to see us challenging as of old – and I believe it’s in this club’s DNA to do just that.

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Leeds Fans Must Now be United Behind Club and Team – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds Fans United

Every Leeds United fan knows that following the Whites automatically includes you as part of the most fanatical and vociferous band of supporters anywhere. In short, the greatest fans around. This is an article of faith with United fans, not even a matter for debate. So mote it be. 

How very odd, then, to find yourself shaking your head in baffled disbelief at some of the social media output from the massed keyboards of this elite cadre of support. Clearly, with an online presence that probably runs into the millions worldwide, not everybody is going to agree all the time, for instance, on the vexed subject of United’s transfer policy. Still, the why-oh-why stance of a small but loud minority of the virtual support is hard to stomach for those of us who were brought up on the credo of “my club, right or wrong”.

It’s not only a transfer window thing, either. In fact, compared to the negative attitude of some “supporters” towards players struggling for form and confidence, Victor Orta and his transfer team are being afforded a relatively easy ride. Even so, the amount of uninformed criticism surrounding United’s recruitment efforts, during this and other transfer windows, tends to make Twitter an area of the Internet it’s wiser to avoid, especially for those who prefer their blood pressure to remain at a good safe level. Needless to say, that’s not a luxury in which I can indulge, being of the blogger/columnist persuasion, and my hypertension suffers accordingly.

Transfers are complex matters, due to all manner of factors: finances, agents, rival clubs, media and so on. I don’t envy the United officials trying to negotiate such choppy waters while being assailed and vilified on all sides by a section of online fans not overly burdened with any knowledge of what they’re talking about, and even less so by any tact, restraint or decorum. It can’t make the job any easier and, every now and again, you do see a faintly exasperated comment from the club along the lines of “we’re doing our best, we all want good outcomes, please be patient”. Sadly, such assurances usually fall on deaf ears; there are those out there, it seems, who wallow in negativity and relish any chance to have a moan or offer their unqualified opinions. 

It’s the carping criticism of certain players, though, that really offends and annoys. Take Patrick Bamford, for instance. Now, some of the criticism he receives has been fairly gentle and possibly even merited, though his record at United is good, taking into account last season’s injury woes. His milder critics peddle a ruefully humorous line, referring to Patrick as “Lord Bamford of Beeston” and wondering, tongue in cheek, if he shouldn’t delegate his goal-scoring duties to his butler. That’s the kind of thing that, reaching a player’s ears, might make him smile and redouble his determination to succeed. It’s harmless fun and, if the line is drawn there, nobody could really complain. 

But the more serious and malicious abuse is blatantly counter-productive, a classic case of a pistol levelled directly at our own collective foot. Players, and strikers in particular, thrive on confidence and encouragement. It makes little sense to hurl abuse and ill-founded criticism at a player such as Bamford, who will not be assisted by suggestions that he couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo, or that he’s worth less than a written-off, wheel-less banger rusting in a ditch. All that and worse has been flung at Bamford.

Fortunately and thankfully, the lad has a resilient character and a cold determination to succeed. His goal at Bristol City, the movement and the finish from that aristocratic forehead, testify to that. Long may his ability to rise above the howling of the mob continue.

Now, the window is closed until January, and it’s been a far better one than the usual suspects referred to above would wish you to believe. The squad has been purged of certain disruptive elements as identified by Marcelo Bielsa himself and, despite FFP strictures, the overall quality is arguably higher. In any event, we go with what we’ve got; if the performance at Ashton Gate can be maintained or even improved upon, it’ll take a fabulous opposing performance to stop us in any given match.

Whether you’re a matchgoing, raucous fanatic, or confined to long distance support, the message from here is the same. Get behind the team, get behind the club. We’re all on the same journey. Marching On Together.

My Bremner Square Tribute to my late, Leeds-supporting Dad – by Rob Atkinson

Dad and me – part of the fabric of Elland Road

Just over 44 years ago, my dad ensured that I’d be saddled with a hopeless devotion to Leeds United for the rest of my life. He did this by the simple expedient of purchasing tickets for “the two biggest games of the season”. There they were, these seemingly innocuous but actually life-changing pieces of paper, artlessly displayed on the dining room table – my initiation to the Elland Road experience. Liverpool first, on Saturday April the 5th 1975 and then, the following Wednesday, I’d see Leeds United take on the mighty Barcelona, Cruyff, Neeskens and all, in the European Cup semi final.

 

As I’d never even shown the remotest interest in attending a football match, it’s fair to say that my dad was taking a bit of a punt on me enjoying myself. For all he knew, I could have sulked through both matches; certainly he could never have foreseen the extent to which this sudden treat would alter my outlook and priorities.

 

Strangely, just as Dad was introducing me to a lifetime of United fanaticism, his own passion for the club was about to decline. It’s almost as if he was preparing to hand over the responsibility for supporting the club he’d loved since he was a teenager, even though my first few years of being a proper Leeds fan were spent in his company. Dad didn’t seem to handle the waning of the club’s fortunes too well – after all, he’d seen the flowering of John Charles’ genius in the fifties, then he’d gone all the way through the Revie era of Super Leeds as United carried all before them, winning everything to become football legends.

 

Those were pretty tough acts to follow, and my dad became perhaps a little impatient with the lesser breed of players who were my new heroes. Eventually, I started to go to Elland Road on my own, and I’d come back waxing lyrical about Tony Currie, Arthur Graham, Brian Flynn or Ray Hankin. For me, it was all still bold and new, and I savoured the unique atmosphere as I graduated from Lowfields with my dad, via the Boys’ Pen to the Gelderd End Kop. I’d inherited the mantle of the family’s United fanatic, and Dad seemed almost eager to trade terrace for armchair and take a more passive role.

 

Still, he stuck with it for the first few seasons of my Leeds United worship. This was pretty considerate of him, as I brought Leeds United no luck at all. In that first game, we lost at home to Liverpool 2-0 and, although I saw us beat Barcelona on that memorable Elland Road night, with Billy Bremner scoring my first ever “live” Leeds United goal, my record in the league was dismal over the next couple of seasons. Dad must have thought of me as a Jonah – I never even saw United score another goal, let alone avoid defeat, until I started going to the match on my own in August 1976. In the meantime, we lost to the likes of Liverpool (again), Norwich and Sheffield United, all of which defeats I assumed to be my fault, and I think Dad agreed. But I was not discouraged; I was hooked and that was it. When I eventually saw us win in the league, 2-0 against Derby with goals from Eddie Gray and Trevor Cherry, I was delirious with joy and, to this day, every detail of that game is sharp and clear in my memory.

 

I know that Dad often regretted making a Leeds fan out of me, he was even on about it on my wedding day. He thought I could have spent my time more productively, maybe in playing him in the fiercely competitive Scrabble sessions which he adored – and, on the odd occasion, I’ve found myself agreeing. But overall, it’s been wonderful and, having journeyed from a milk crate vantage point in the middle “shelf” of Lowfields to my present perch on the West Stand Press gantry, I can’t imagine a life without United.

 

Now, over four years since Dad passed away, I’ve finally managed to make him a permanent part of Elland Road with a “Father and Son” stone in Bremner Square, as pictured above. It’s taken me a while, but at last I think I’ve found the most fitting and enduring way to say “thanks, Dad”. MOT, wherever you may be.

No Need for Leeds to Worry About Spygate-Obsessed Lampard at Chelsea – by Rob Atkinson

Fwankie and Marcelo, student and master

It’s the silly season, and the media’s favourite target, Leeds United, is – as usual – the subject of ever more ridiculous attempts at sensationalism designed to sell gutter rags or attract clicks on gutter websites. Among the more laughable lately have been the suggestions that United are after various superannuated Italian football pensioners, along with the perennial line that always comes out when a club with a Leeds chip on its shoulder signs a player. Yes, you know, the angle where said club has “beaten Leeds United to the signature” of whoever. Invariably, it’s one of the rare players we’ve not been linked with, have never heard of, and wouldn’t touch with the proverbial bargepole.

That mention of pensioners brings me on to the subject of Chelsea, who are hotly tipped to snatch media darling Fwankie Lampard from the clammy grasp of Derby County. The media line being peddled here is that Lampard’s move to Stamford Bridge would result in him having a Spygate-provoked tantrum at the merest suggestion that Dirty Leeds might have a Chelsea player under the covetous gaze of their transfer market binoculars. Fwankie just would not allow this, screech the media, because, you know, Spygate. And Bielsa. So it won’t happen and Leeds are doomed, these desperate hacks smugly conclude, before settling down to lick Fwankie’s boots and judiciously selected parts of his anatomy.

All very petty, all very predictable. And all, as usual, completely untrue. The fact of the matter is that any Chelsea player good enough to excite the interest of Bielsa would simply not be available. The reason for this is that Chelsea are subject to a two window transfer ban that will see them having to rely, to an extent, on youngsters they’d normally have farmed out on loan to assist in their development. But now these kids will be needed by Chelsea, so there’s little chance of anyone worthwhile being made available, QED. The only remotely plausible bit of this media fantasy – that Fwankie would be spoilt and petulant enough to block a transfer to Leeds because he’s basically a bitter child – need not concern us. Anyway, the Tearful One is going to have bigger problems on his plate, happily enough, through being hopelessly out of his depth in the top flight.

Roll on August, when the silly season makes way for the actual football season. Not that this will stop the media hating and sniping at Leeds – but at least we’ll have the odd game or two to distract us.

Marching On Together

Leeds Now Linked With Totti, So Can They Finally Get Maradona? – by Rob Atkinson

Maradona – will he finally realise his Leeds United dream?

According to certain media sources, Leeds United are planning to tempt 42 year old Francesco Totti out of retirement to fire them to promotion. The speculation follows hard on the heels of suggestions that fellow World Cup winner Gianluigi Buffon could be in line to replace Kiko Casilla in goal, as Leeds seemingly look to experience for next season’s Championship campaign.

Given this apparent non-ageist policy, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is now asking the $64,000 question: is it finally time to make good on the ambition, dating back to the mid-eighties, of bringing Diego Maradona to Elland Road?

They say that any winning team needs a strong spine and, with Buffon in goal and the attacking partnership of Totti and Maradona, we’d only need a legendary centre-back and maybe a holding midfielder of the same ilk, and we’d be cooking with gas. Franz Beckenbauer owes Leeds United a favour or two after his pivotal role in the 1975 European Cup Final, so maybe he could slot in alongside Liam Cooper, allowing our shrewd transfer team to capitalise on the market value of Pontus Jansson. And Beckenbauer, a sprightly 73, could also act as a defensive mid, although surely our own David Batty could do a job there despite his relative inexperience at only 50 years old.

These are exciting times for Leeds United as they seek to exploit the potential of geriatric footballers the world over. Could Diego Maradona really be the jewel in our promotion crown at the age of 58?

Only time, and possibly TalkSport Radio, will tell.

Leeds Utd Have Goalie Plan B if Gianluigi Buffon Deal Falls Through – by Rob Atkinson

Promising youngster Peter Shilton

The internet is currently abuzz with rumours that Leeds United are looking to secure the services of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, the 41 year old Italian World Cup Winner who has just been released by Paris Saint-Germain. The deal for Buffon has been regarded as unlikely, given United’s second tier status, but now some bookmakers are quoting odds as narrow as 5-2 against the legendary keeper signing on the dotted line for Leeds.

However, should the sensational swoop fail to transpire, it is believed that United are looking at alternative targets in the geriatric goalkeeper market, with the name of Peter Shilton being bruited about. Shilton, at 69, would be at the top end of the age range even for a keeper – but armchair experts are rating him a possibility and “certainly better than that clown Kiko”. The signing of older players is becoming more common since Derby County took a punt on 74 year old former England left back Ashley Cole (after being turned down by Kenny Sansom).

When approached by Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything for a comment on the likelihood of him joining United’s promotion push, Shilton confined himself to a cryptic “I don’t think Tina would be too happy”.

Former Sheffield United keeper William “Fatty” Foulke is 145.

Leeds Legend Lee Bowyer Sinks Sunderland at Wembley – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds Legend Lee Crushes Mackems

A last minute winner for Lee Bowyer’s Charlton Athletic condemned Sunderland to at least one more season in League One, and ensured that the first two playoff finals, at least, panned out as per my personal requirements.

It had been good to see Newport depart on the return journey to Wales with tears in their eyes and tails between their legs. Quite apart from having had a soft spot for Tranmere since their Cup exploits under John Aldridge, I’ve not yet forgiven Newport for our FA Cup humiliation a year or so back. Call me bitter and twisted, but that’s just the way it is.

How much more riddled with spite and vicious nastiness am I then with regard to Sunderland, who have been living off their fluke FA Cup success against Super Leeds ever since 1973? Much, MUCH more, that’s how much. The fact that one of my Whites heroes of the past few decades, Lee Bowyer, was a direct beneficiary of the Mackems’ inadequacy simply made a sweet occasion all the sweeter. I’ve frankly hated Sunderland for all the time I’ve been a Leeds fan, despised Bob Stokoe, and celebrated every time we’ve beaten the Wearsiders, as we usually do. They keep going back to Wembley, and they keep failing. They’ve done it twice this season, and I’ve loved every minute.

Now all I need is for Aston Villa to beat Derby tomorrow – with a few Fwankie tears thrown in, if at all possible. Really – is that too much to ask?

Mbappe and Neymar for Leeds in PSG Link Up? – by Rob Atkinson

Mbappe – could he win a regular starting place at Leeds?

The likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are not the most likely participants in next season’s Championship, but other current PSG might be beating a path to the Elland Road players’ entrance if there’s anything in the Twitterstorm surrounding possible investment by Qatar Sports Institute in Leeds United.

For the time being, it’s all smoke and mirrors. But I’ve been dreaming of linking Mbappe to Leeds for ages now – so ‘ave it.

More to follow, without a doubt.

As Leeds Fanatics, Let’s Get Right Behind Aston Villa on Monday – by Rob Atkinson

Good luck Monday, Dean Smith, you horrible git

As the Bank Holiday fiesta of sudden death football that is the playoff finals finally begins, the thoughts of every Leeds United fan must surely be: it could have been us in that Championship playoff decider. Should have been. But, once you get past that, and also past the essential silliness of a system that will promote one of two clubs that have been proven as inferior to United, both in the regular season and in our meetings on the field, you have to decide which of these two you want to see take the Premier League place that should have been ours. There’s no point in turning a blind eye, or whinging about what’s happened. We all knew the rules, daft though they may be.

So, who do we want to see go up? And, by extension, with whom do we wish to renew hostilities next time around? Both Aston Villa and Derby County have done their darnedest this season to capitalise on incidents surrounding our league meetings; both have cynically attempted to make mountains out of molehills, eagerly assisted by a complaisant and Leeds-hating media. But, for all that I can’t abide Villa manager Dean Smith, and even though I’d cheerfully swing for that annoying little toad Grealish, there can be no real comparison to the serial whingers of Derby County, with all of the Spygate nonsense, that loathsome hypocrite Lampard and all. And it is in a spirit of Frank and honest bitterness and resentment that I wish them despair and heartache at Wembley on Monday – I hope with all my heart that we can meet again next season, just to rub it in again exactly why we’re better than them, in every way, any day of the week. And I hope that Middlesbrough prove to be of some use for a change, and successfully sue Direby’s backside off over the shady Pride Park operation.

So it’s “Up The Villa” for me on Monday. I’d be most interested to hear other views as ever, both agreeing and disagreeing. But please keep it polite, and give your reasons.

Marching On Together

Bielsa and Lasogga Need Each Other, and Leeds United Would be the Big Winners – by Rob Atkinson

Lasogga

Lasogga – the very man for Leeds United?

Sometimes, two problems can be solved simply by bringing them together in a mutually beneficial solution that leaves everybody happy. That situation might just be cropping up right now, with former Leeds United loan star Pierre-Michel Lasogga in need of a career boost having been released by Hamburg SV, and Whites coach Marcelo Bielsa looking for a class finisher who wouldn’t break the bank, to capitalise on all that possession and all those chances that went to waste in the season just tragically ended.

Whatever the doom and gloom merchants might say, Leeds under Bielsa were not very far at all from the finished article in this last campaign before the club marks its centenary. A few tweaks are needed, together with a bit more luck regarding injuries and a bit more common sense in the discipline and suspensions area. Some players clearly need shipping out too – but, if we can somehow avoid losing the crown jewels, the basis of an extremely good Championship squad is there already.

With the way Leeds play under Bielsa (forgive me for assuming he’ll still be in charge) what the team has been crying out for is a hitman capable of putting the finishing touches to what we all know has been a dramatically improved creative aspect of United’s performance. Lasogga, even with a Bielsa pre-season behind him, would never be a run all day type of striker, but he comes alive in the opposition box, as witness several finishes the season before last, the like of which we had not seen for many a moon. With someone alongside or slightly behind him to do the hard yards, the name of Kemar Roofe springing irresistibly to mind here, Lasogga is capable of providing the goals so sorely needed to turn should-have-won games into the victories we needed to make the difference. I’d challenge anyone to dispute that – it’s simply common sense.

The free transfer signing of Lasogga, together with the freeing up of wages from outgoing players, could give our squad not only a leaner and meaner look, but a decidedly more lethal potential too. This blog would like to see it happen – so, what say you all?

Marching On Together