Tag Archives: QPR

Tyler Roberts a Revelation as Four-midable Leeds United Blitz West Brom – by Rob Atkinson

Tyler Roberts, Man of the Match Against former club West Brom

There were so many highlights from Leeds United‘s sparkling demolition of West Bromwich Albion, that it’s really difficult to pick out any notably outstanding element of what was the classic “statement victory”. There were a couple of coolly-taken goals from Iceman striker Patrick Bamford, there was another defensive juggernaut performance from skipper Liam Cooper, and of course we had Pablo Hernandez, our own Spanish wizard, back to his best with a sublime, world-class strike and so much more as he twinkled brightly all over the pitch.

But the abiding memory I will take away from a highly memorable evening is that of young Tyler Roberts, late of the Sandwell parish but now very definitely Leeds, striding forward from an unaccustomed deeper position to cause havoc in the defensive ranks of his hapless former club.

Tyler was a revelation on the night. Surging through midfield and beating baffled Baggies with sinuous, snake-hipped ease, he was a continual threat to West Brom and helped himself to a couple of juicy assists for the Iceman’s brace of goals. The first of these reminded me of Kemar Roofe‘s round the corner pass to Gjanni Alioski to score at Norwich early in the season. Roberts’ ball through to Bamford was part of a beautifully-worked goal that began with an intelligent ball into the area from Mateusz Klich, and was finished beautifully by our number 9 as he held off a challenge from behind to finish clinically.

On this form, Tyler Roberts should have a major part to play in the run-in to the end of the season. His work rate and decision-making on Friday were different class and, on a night when every man in a white shirt did himself immense credit, Tyler emerged as the clear Man of the Match.

Honourable mention too for Alioski, who combines tireless running with that annoying nuisance value which is so handy in demoralising the opposition. The Macedonian Marvel deserved his last-gasp clincher, put on a plate for him by sub Jamie Shackleton after more good work from Pablo and Klich.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of all about last night’s performance was its inherent topsy-turvydom, with the Whites murdering a WBA side that had won nine of its previous ten away games, just days after falling to defeat against a QPR team that had lost seven on the spin. Go figure. But the upshot was that all is forgiven from Tuesday night, in the sheer joy of seeing the real Leeds turn up to send a promotion contender packing.

The sixty-four thousand dollar question now must be: with a tough game at Bristol City coming up next weekend, can United replicate this level and standard of performance? If they’re to do that, it may well be because Tyler Roberts has now found both his niche in the team and the secret of his maximum effectiveness in this new, deeper role.

In which case, Leeds United might just have discovered the golden key to the Premier League‘s Promised Land.

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You Can Be Angry, You Can Be Critical, and Yet STILL Be a Loyal Leeds Fan – by Rob Atkinson

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Leeds fans United behind team and club


In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s irritating (not disastrous) defeat at QPR, I wrote in anger about what I thought of Leeds United‘s performance – saying that, although we didn’t get the breaks, we also lacked bottle and class. I’d still stand by that, but possibly with the slight amendment that we seemed to lack bottle and class because we failed to show bottle and class. It’s a small but important difference.

In my heart of hearts, I know that this Leeds United squad is not short of courage or quality – they’ve demonstrated on many occasions this season, though not so much lately, that they possess both attributes. The comeback win at Aston Villa, hunting down a lone Wigan attacker like a pack of hungry wolves, late levellers in adverse circumstances as at Middlesbrough. Many such moments. I know all this and I’m proud of it. But I’m sure that no group of professional footballers would expect the fans to take this as read. It’s their job to go out and prove that they have the guts and the skill, game after game, over and over again, all season long. That determination to prove they’ve got the bottle and the class was missing at QPR. And it was right, even in post-defeat anger and hurt, to point that out.

I say this, because there are different schools of thought among Leeds fans, both in physical groups, in the pub post-game, perhaps, and online. Some feel they have a right to say what they like, however harsh, having paid their money – even to the extent of dismissing this or that player as “useless” or “should never wear the shirt again”. You see those tweets collected to make articles that purport to be the feelings of the fans as a whole but, in reality, it’s more representative of an extreme group of hypercritical malcontents.

Others hold the view that any criticism is A Bad Thing, and that we should all be totally positive as a condition of support, unwilling to hear or tolerate a bad word about anything to do with Leeds. Again, this is quite extreme, though in the opposite way – and it’s probably almost as unhelpful as the rabid critics referred to above. For me, there has to be the possibility of feeding back to the club when you honestly feel that standards are dropping. Some fans are knowledgeable, some are not – and some appear to feel they know better than the pros, be they on the playing staff or responsible for coaching and team selection.

But I firmly believe that the vast majority of fans know and love the game well enough, and have enough of a passion for their club, to be able to steer a useful middle path between the extremes, and vociferously support their club, defending them against attacks from outside, while reserving judgement when on-field performance dips.

I’m confident enough in my own regard for “my” club that I feel able to launch into them occasionally, without being thought of as negative or hostile. I wouldn’t be writing about Leeds United in the first place if I didn’t feel the highs and lows with as much pleasure and pain even as the players who trot out to the crowd’s applause. Like thousands of others, I was supporting United many years before any of those lads in the yellow shirts at QPR were born. So I wouldn’t like to think that anyone – players, staff, fellow fans or anybody else – would read what I wrote just after the final whistle last night, and think that I’m not a true fan, or that I’m disloyal or habitually negative. I’m not – anyone who knows me will know that I’m virtually defined by my abiding love for Leeds United.

It’s always a difficult situation after a disappointing defeat, especially in these circumstances, with the carrot dangling of going back top, and taking on a tired team who’d just reeled off seven straight defeats. But that’s no reason to hold back, so I said what I thought needed saying – and yes, I said it feeling bitterly angry. But that’s not to say I’m not a loyal and committed supporter – I went into print precisely because I am loyal and committed and because, loving the club and believing in the players and management, I have great expectations.

For what it’s worth, I believe that the players will be angrier and more disappointed in themselves than even the most gutted fan, and I think they will use that to bounce back at Elland Road on Friday against West Brom. I hope and believe that will happen.

But, if it doesn’t, and if we all have another bitter pill to swallow – then please don’t doubt my loyalty and commitment when, choking on that pill, I write another angry and critical piece. Because I really would be doing it for what I honestly see as the very best of reasons – to show that I care deeply. As we all do.

MOT

Lacked the Breaks, Lacked the Bottle, Lacked the Class; Simply Dreadful, Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

“Poundland Messi” Luke Freeman settles the match at QPR

As regular readers will know, I had some qualms about the match at QPR. Leeds United needed the win to go back top, Rangers had lost seven on the spin. For students of Sod’s Law, it was a disaster waiting to happen. I even wrote a pessimistic piece, observing that many a team on a poor run then go full-on Barça when they face Leeds; well, it wasn’t quite like that at Loftus Road, although Rangers matchwinner Luke Freeman did a pretty good impersonation of a Poundland Messi.

In truth, the writing was on the wall early on, when the referee missed what looked like a clear handball by Rangers inside their area. “Play on, lads”, chirruped the ref, as the advertising hoarding behind the goal displayed “Rebuilding lives after lost sight”. Even so, Leeds carried more threat than QPR before the break, with Patrick Bamford just failing at the far post to convert a low cross from Pablo Hernandez. After the break though, the rot set in with a vengeance.

United possibly lacked the breaks all night, but the longer the match went on, the clearer it was that there were deficiencies also in the bottle and class departments. Rangers, meanwhile, toiled away manfully. And they got their attacking break when Tyler Roberts carelessly lost possession on United’s left flank. The ball moved forward, a cross went into the Leeds box, and the ball was past Kiko Casilla into the net. 1-0, and you just knew it was going to be one of those nights.

Leeds had perhaps one genuinely classy move, a flowing progress upfield which deserved to be crowned with an equaliser. But Rangers cleared the ball at the last ditch, as they managed to do whenever required, all night long.

On a truly awful night for Leeds, Izzy Brown‘s long-awaited debut as a sub was probably destined to be a shocking anti-climax, and so it proved. Brown’s first contribution to proceedings was to block a likely-looking shot from one of his own team-mates – and then shortly afterwards, he picked up a deserved yellow. And Brown probably should have seen yellow again just minutes later – but by that time, the ref possibly felt rather sorry for us.

As bad days at the office go, this was akin to the whole company going into liquidation and then burning down. The best we can hope is that we’ve just witnessed the season bottoming out; that from here on in, the only way is up. But with West Brom lying in wait on Friday, even that has to be open to doubt.

Maybe the United players will take a little anger and frustration away from this game alongside, yes, a chunk of shame and regret. It’s to be hoped anyone in a Leeds shirt tonight is angry, particularly with themselves. Anger is possibly the only thing about the display against Rangers that can be taken forward and used on Friday night against West Brom.

Elland Road will be packed and bouncing then, with the crowd roaring their heroes on. And the players must respond and they must deliver. Because it’s still all to play for – and those Leeds United players owe all of their fans a massively improved performance and a much better result. Big time.

Football League Considering Treason Charge for Ref Who Gave Leeds a Penalty – by Rob Atkinson

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Peter Bankes – professional suicide?

Peter Bankes, the referee who has defied the Football League party line to award Leeds a controversial first penalty kick in well over a year, leading to their 2-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers, could now face being sent to Coventry for his sins (they play Luton Town at the Ricoh Arena next Saturday).

Games without a penalty for Leeds United now…

Worse, it is being suggested in some quarters that the errant official could be charged by the ruling body with high treason, an offence that carries a maximum punishment of “a fate worse than death”. When asked what that fate might be, a Football League spokesman would only grimace and shake his head in a deeply ominous fashion whilst mouthing the dread word “Millwall”.

Mr Bankes was not available for comment after the game, it being understood that he was closeted with QPR manager Schteve McClaren and being grilled about what Schteve was sarcastically calling his “X-ray vision”. A Leeds source told us that the referee’s room was closed and locked for an hour after the final whistle, with Mr Bankes eventually being spirited away to Football League headquarters where he is expected to face brutal interrogation over the next 72 hours.

A Leeds source told Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything “Our only regret is that we were hoping to have a joint celebration of our centenary in 2019 with maybe a timely penalty late in the season – today’s totally unexpected award has clearly scuppered that. But we’ll take it gracefully and move on. We’d been a bit worried about the actual penalty conversion, there was a bit of chat on the pitch because nobody could remember how it’s done. Every time Marcelo has suggested practising penalties in training, the lads have just fell about laughing. Luckily, Kemar stepped up and sent the lad the wrong way, but he admitted afterwards that he’d been a bit tempted to head it”.

Rumours that United are planning to place a Tourist Information sign on the penalty spot at the Kop End, denoting a site of major historical interest, cannot, as yet, be confirmed.

Historical

Leeds United penalty – historically remarkable

Leeds United End of Term Report: Disappointing, Must do Better – by Rob Atkinson

Wheels fell off at Millwall away

Millwall away – where United’s wheels fell off

Watching Leeds United struggle vainly to perform as you’d expect a big club to do, challenging for honours, winning promotions and all that sort of thing, may quite aptly be compared to banging your head against a brick wall. There’s no sense to it, there’s plenty of pain involved for no gain, and it’s really quite pleasant when it stops. We’re at that stage of blissful hiatus now, with the final whistle having blown on United’s season last Sunday, the main reaction from another bumper crowd at Elland Road being sighs of relief rather than triumphal acclaim.

Fellow under-achievers Queens Park Rangers had rolled up for this last-day clash of mediocrities; as it turned out though, the Londoners didn’t really fancy the prospect of a battle in the heat. So, it was a routine win for United against desultory opposition and, other than some typically promising performances from Leeds’ younger guns, none of us were left any the wiser. But at least the tiresome league programme was over for a couple of months; now for the interesting part of the football calendar, with the World Cup and a transfer window in the offing. There’s also the daft post-season business in Myanmar, but that may usefully be ignored.

The trouble is that transfer window time of year is fast becoming nearly as disappointing for long-suffering Leeds fans as the actual football spectacle, such as it may be. And the reason is that United are competing in an inflated transfer market, against smaller but arguably more ambitious clubs – and they’re denying themselves the chance of being truly competitive at the top end by what is increasingly being exposed as a short-sighted and self-defeating wages policy.

Just as the season recently expired was getting underway, back in August of last year, I wrote an article here entitled The Reason Leeds United Can’t Have Nice Things? Wage Structure. I argued that this ‘hands tied behind the back’ policy of severely capped wages was stopping us from recruiting as we should do, and also from hanging on to the few diamonds we’d managed to polish up. This was just as Chris Wood, the scorer of thirty-odd goals the year before, was being sold to Premier League Burnley, a smaller club that could at least triple Wood’s earnings. I predicted doom and gloom but, for a time at least, it looked as though I was going to be delightfully wrong.

Despite the departure of Wood, who duly followed Charlie Taylor to Dingle-Land, United started the season like a runaway train, barrelling to the top of the league with a flurry of victories, including notable two goal successes at Sunderland and Nottingham Forest. This left me feeling a strange combination of unusually happy and rather daft, due to my seemingly unwarranted pessimism. But then the wheels fell off, at Millwall of all places, and the Whites were never quite the same again. The rest of the season was, quite frankly, a disaster interspersed with the odd calamity, as Leeds at first flattered to deceive, but ended up deceiving nobody. A managerial change and a better than expected January transfer window failed to bring about the necessary transformation, and United’s campaign drifted to a deeply unsatisfactory conclusion.

So, can we now expect a more enlightened wage structure, as befitting one of the game’s true giants? The jury is out, but it’s not counting its chickens as it ponders that vexed question. Leeds, however, must surely know that they can’t expect the extraordinary loyalty of their fans to be maintained without some encouragement in the shape of ambition in the transfer market. To average over 30,000 paying premium prices in such a let-down of a season is truly extraordinary – but will they all be back next season?

Champions Wolves have shown the way: speculate to accumulate. United – it’s over to you.

Leeds Boss Christiansen Delighted to See Man Utd Lose to City – by Rob Atkinson

TC

TC: they say I’m a WHAT??

I despair at the world of Twitter sometimes, particularly as it relates to Leeds United. Lately, after every game, or so it seems, win lose or draw, there’s some Twitter-generated “news” article based on the random tweets of various Leeds fans. These are small pearls of unwisdom, giving opinions of varying degrees of cluelessness about the performance of this or that player. Invariably, the articles will be headlined by quotes such as “He’s not good enough for the shirt” or “the worst I’ve ever seen”, the aim being to inveigle the unwary into reading a bunch of uninformed and barely coherent opinions that make about as much sense as a post-match interview with Jose Mourinho. Often, it’s clear that there’s a deliberate attempt to whip up controversy, simply to generate hits. It’s unedifying stuff, a storm of white noise that tends to obliterate any real news or sensible opinion.

The latest such storm in a teacup concerned Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen, who – according to some of the more hard-of-thinking Leeds Twitterati anyway – committed a cardinal sin in being pictured at Old Trafford after the Manchester derby. Some mischievous Pride of Devon fan, seeking to assuage the pain of a defeat by Manchester’s number one club, captioned a picture with a hint that Thomas was an aficionado of the Dark Side and, true to form, the dimmer Leeds fans on Twitter fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

The responses from these dullards were amusingly over the top, and what was clearly the mother of all non-stories seemed likely to gain undeserved notoriety. Until, that is, Christiansen himself, backed up by United owner Andrea Radrizzani, set the record straight, pointing out that his sympathies in the derby match were with the blue side of Manchester and that he’d been delighted by the result. Finishing off an explanation that he should never have had to make, Thomas stated “I used to play at Barça with Pep and we very much enjoyed the result! However, I’m Leeds!” and the hashtag for All Leeds Aren’t We.

Christiansen has since revealed that he was surprised his trip to the biggest game of the day should have aroused such controversy – which is the bemusement a professional feels when confronted with the mass hysteria and lack of any joined-up thinking that characterises so much of the Twitter output of any major club, especially – or so it would seem – Leeds United. A typically brainless comment from one Leeds fan, who sent a picture of Christiansen outside Old Trafford to both the owner and the manager, was “This is an absolute disgrace! TC has crossed a line you should never cross. We won’t forgive him for this ever. Absolute s**t house!” I leave you, gentle reader, to judge the level of idiocy inherent in that particular tweet.

Of course, it harks back to the faux outrage, designed to draw attention to the tweeter and show what a great fan they are (if ever so slightly demented), that we got in the wake of the Alan Smith transfer from us to them. It’s attention-seeking stuff, and you have to hope that the people responsible are actually able to think more clearly than they tweet. But that’s the problem with Twitter – it allows people who should really go through life with large socks in their mouths to announce their flawed opinions to the world via the LUFC hashtag.

Twitter is what it is, I suppose. It serves a purpose, but it’s open to abuse – and certain “news sources” should really know better than to quote it so often, given the appalling lack of thought that goes into the majority of tweets. A lot of it is knee-jerk stuff and a lot more is from the “look at me, aren’t I controversial” brigade. Neither faction adds much if anything to the Leeds United debate, yet both are given undue prominence by media outlets desperate for clicks. It’s so depressing.

What we should do, of course, is celebrate results like the QPR one and accentuate the positives – instead of looking for random rubbish to be seen to be outraged about or to use as a stick for battering the manager. But that’s probably asking too much from the more useless tweeters themselves, and even from supposedly sober journalists who choose to use such virtual detritus as the basis for yet another pointless article.

Well done to Thomas Christiansen, who maintained a half-amused, half-incredulous dignity in rubbishing the claims of a few half-baked idiots who fell for a Man Utd jape. The sad thing is, he’ll most likely have to take time out to do this all over again, the next time some wally fancies having a pop just to try to make a name for himself. Perhaps though – just perhaps – Thomas could just be left in peace to get on with his job?

Fat chance.

Mixed Start to the Season for Leeds as Defensive Woes Cost Dear – by Rob Atkinson

Antonsson

Whichever way you look at it – and there are a few differing options – Leeds United‘s season has started rather worryingly. A lack of truly meaningful match practice pre-season, combined with the loss of midfield starlet Lewis Cook, saw the Whites starting the campaign with huge question marks looming over their prospects for success.

True, some real promise has been recruited, in particular the exciting potential of former Oxford hotshot Kemar Roofe. But the sale of Cook to AFC Bournemouth leaves a gap that has not yet been filled. In defence, too, things look less than settled. Kyle Bartley has been recruited from manager Garry Monk’s old club Swansea, but Sol Bamba remains club captain despite some deeply ordinary form. And another young star in left-back Charlie Taylor has apparently expressed a desire to leave. It’s really difficult to describe the net effect of Leeds’ transfer business (so far) as positive.

And then, when the talking had to stop and the football began for real, came a performance at QPR in the season opener that was by turns pallid and chaotic. Comical defending cost United a goal after just four minutes, and it was largely downhill from there. By the time Tjaronn Chery cracked home the Rangers clincher from an acute angle in the closing stages, Leeds were a very well-beaten team.

On the optimistic side, all three of the Championship’s supposed big guns lost away from home on that opening day. Newcastle and Aston Villa joined Leeds in defeat, and likewise failed to trouble the scorers. But the Toon and the Villans were both edged out only 0-1; a rather better showing than United’s 0-3 tonking at Loftus Road.

Still, as things stand, we’ve only lost once all season and we’re just three points off the top. In spite of what the readers of this blog might think from some of the stuff I write, it is important to take a glass half-full view as a Leeds fan, knowing as we do that only relentless optimism is likely to save us from despair. And, still looking on that bright side, even after losing first time up – perhaps we could now make early progress in the EFL Cup on Wednesday at Fleetwood, and banish the memories of the thrashing QPR had handed out. That would be quite sweet, actually, particularly as ALL of Yorkshire’s other sides had surrendered meekly the night before, going out of the Cup along with several high-profile Championship casualties.

In the event, Leeds did manage to progress as Yorkshire’s sole representatives. It has to be said, though, they were more than a little fortunate against a Fleetwood side that was a goal to the good early on, and held that advantage until the last minute of normal time. But then new signing Marcus Antonsson, a Swedish striker of whom much is expected, produced a brilliant turn and shot to level for Leeds at the last gasp. And it was substitute Antonsson who was then fouled in the box early in extra time to give the hitherto ineffective Chris Wood the chance to make it 2-1 from the spot. It remained only for Leeds to chuck away their hard-won advantage in typical fashion, allowing time and room for Fleetwood to fashion an equaliser – and we were facing the dreaded penalty shoot-out.

So it came to pass that veteran ‘keeper Rob Green, at fault for the first goal against QPR the previous weekend, went from zero to become the campaign’s first Leeds hero. After United had scored all of their penalties, Green produced a smart save off Fleetwood’s fifth and final spot kick – and Leeds were narrowly, edgily, through to the second round. Pride of Yorkshire? Most definitely!

Now we will meet Luton Town of League Two, 3-1 conquerors of once-mighty Aston Villa, at Kenilworth Road in Round Two. It’s a tie that will quite likely be televised and a very definite potential banana skin for Yorkshire’s most famous club. But if Leeds can negotiate that hurdle, and perhaps pick up a bit over the next few Championship matches, it may well be that we’ll look back on that Rob Green penalty shoot-out save and realise it was an early-season turning point.

Things can only get better, so they say. It’s a dangerous line to take where Leeds are concerned; they always seem to find new depths to plumb. But you never know. Maybe, after a slow start, and with a few more quality signings, we can pick up and embark on a successful season of real achievement. Maybe, even, we’ll beat the Blues tomorrow. Stranger things have happened, after all. Just ask Leicester City…

5 Facts About Sky’s Leeds Utd Hater Don Goodman Ahead of QPR Away   –   by Rob Atkinson

Saint Don Goodman the Blinkered

Saint Don Goodman the Blinkered

After a couple of hundred times since last season watching the highlights of Sky’s Huddersfield Town versus Leeds United coverage, mainly to enjoy the Whites’ 3-0 victory over and over again, but also in the spirit of earnest research, this blogger is now able to reveal five hitherto unknown facts about co-commentator Don Goodman, who is also, incidentally, due to provide his pearls of non-wisdom for today’s United fixture at QPR

  1. Don Goodman never made a cynical challenge in his life. We can clearly tell this from the contemptuous and disgusted tone of his voice in proclaiming the cynicism of Scott Wootton‘s challenge on Huddersfield’s Harry Bunn. Clearly, Mr. Goodman would never contemplate such a base action, preferring to stand aside politely applauding when beaten by an opponent.
  2. Similarly, Don Goodman has never ever complained about a bang to rights refereeing decision against him in the whole of his football career. This must be so, because he clearly stated “I really don’t know why players complain about receiving yellow cards when it’s that blatant.” Any other case would leave Goodman open to a charge of being a rank hypocrite.
  3. Goodman never, ever formed part of a group of players clustering around a referee in order to try and influence his decision. As he virtuously points out, “the referee doesn’t need that, he needs to decide for himself.” With such strongly-held convictions as these about the sanctity of match officials’ decision-making, it is blindingly obvious, save for the hypocrisy provision mentioned above, that Goodman could never have transgressed in such an unhelpful manner.
  4. The best way to shut Don Goodman up is undoubtedly for Leeds United to score a goal. From the time of Wootton’s unpunished second foul at Huddersfield, right up until Mirco Antenucci scored United’s opener, Goodman had been bemoaning the lack of a second yellow card and subsequent dismissal for United’s defender. When the ball hit the back of the net, though, Goodman lapsed into a stunned silence lasting a full 18.25 seconds, before glumly observing: “Football isn’t fair sometimes – life isn’t fair sometimes,” adding that “Huddersfield will feel absolutely fuming”.
  5. Don Goodman in the course of his playing career always, but always, took in good part any studs over the ball challenges against him, that he now tends to describe as bearing “no malice” – as well as any sly kicks to the back of the legs late in the game, which can, apparently, be put down to “frustration”. It would have been incongruous for him to have complained about such challenges on himself, given his airy dismissal of the fouls perpetrated on Leeds players by their Huddersfield opponents.

These five new and telling facts about Don Goodman might, perhaps, shed some light on what might otherwise be described as inconsistencies in his co-commentary performance. Whether anyone with Leeds United sympathies, or indeed anyone with a more general ability to distinguish the relative locations of arse and elbow, will be mollified by such revelations, has to be a moot point. 

It may in fact be that Leeds fans as well as other people of intellect and discernment would tend to dismiss the “facts” enumerated above, in favour of a more general principle, as follows:

Don Goodman, from Leeds but never good enough to play for United, is an embittered has-been who is all too happy to accept BSkyB’s coin along with the privilege of jumping on their rabidly anti-Leeds United bandwagon. 

On the whole, that really does seem rather more likely. And doubtless, we can expect more of Mr. Goodman’s unprofessional rubbish live and exclusive from Loftus Road in an hour or so.

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.

Derby Back at Elland Road Next Season After QPR Sucker Punch – by Rob Atkinson

Derby 0, QPR 1    HA!!!

Derby 0, QPR 1 HA!!!

When it happened, it was as unexpected as it was funny.  Unexpected, because Derby had utterly dominated the play-off final at Wembley – even before QPR had Gary O’Neil sent off for a professional foul.  And funny, because – well, because it was Derby, one of those daft little Midlands teams that gets all excited and wets itself every time it has a result against our beloved Whites.  Derby had been on a long run of success against Leeds, and their fans grew cockier and more annoying with each one.  Now, they were sat in their devastated rows at Wembley as Bobby Zamora pounced in the last minute to snatch their dream away.  Some were open-mouthed with horror, some were angry, some were crying.  One kid was actually having a tantrum directly into his mother’s bosom.  It was richly comic and I enjoyed it very much.

So much for Derby – we’ll see them again next season when we’ll have two more chances to break a barren spell that’s gone on far too long against what used to be the ultimate rabbit team for Leeds United.  For QPR, today’s somewhat fortunate result might just have saved their profligate skins, as dire fiscal consequences were threatened over their breaching of FFP limits.  Even in the Premier League with all those Murdoch millions being flung in their direction, it may well be that the suits will be after them – with a view to clipping their financial wings to such an extent as to see them return quickly whence they came.  We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

For Leeds United though, this play-off result means more than mere malicious amusement.  It signifies that next season’s League line-up is almost complete; only one Championship spot remains to be filled.  We’ve now said goodbye to Leicester, Burnley, QPR, Barnsley (arf), Doncaster (arf) and Yeovil.  We will be hosting Cardiff (snigger), Norwich (snigger), Fulham, Wolves, Brentford and one of either Rotherham or Leyton Orient. Personally, I hope it’s Rotherham to complete the picture – for all I’ve had to say about smaller Yorkshire teams and their Cup Final chips on the shoulder.  Having said good riddance to two such daft little clubs, it’d be churlish not to welcome one, just to redress the balance a little.

Some may feel that parts of this article are unfeeling and a little callous – taking pleasure in the discomfiture of others.  And they’d be right – but I will temper the effect a little by saying I hold no ill-will against any professionals who tried, failed and are now suffering at Wembley Stadium, or on their miserable way home.  I respect their efforts – and I felt for Keogh of Derby who was unlucky enough to have made the error that led to Zamora’s excellently-taken goal.  Still – that’s football, but it’s not for a fan to glory in the pain of professionals (unless they play for or manage Man U).

My satisfaction is in the woe of rival fans who have, in their turn, taken immense satisfaction from the suffering of Leeds fans in our various crises. It’s the nature of football support, tit for tat.  I make no apology for delighting in the sorrow of fans of Derby, Norwich, Doncaster, Cardiff – or any other clubs’ fans where they have had the cause and opportunity to crow at the troubles of my beloved Leeds United.  As I’ve said before, it’s OK to hate rival fans. Positively healthy, in fact. You reap what you sow and – tragic though it all might appear to the more soft-hearted among us – tough.

Roll on next season then, when it all starts all over again – and this time next year we’ll either be celebrating or gritting our teeth – and doubtless we’ll be laughing at the fate of a few old rivals.  It’s such a great game, football.