Tag Archives: Queens Park Rangers

England International Defender Seeks Fresh Start, Leeds Would be Ideal – by Rob Atkinson

Steven-Caulker-England

Steven Caulker, England cap

What do you do if you’re an ambitious Championship club with a thrifty approach to recruitment – and an English international central defender aged just 26 suddenly becomes available, and for nowt? Why, you snap him up, of course, if you’ve not been trampled flat in the rush. Players of this quality normally command 8 figure fees, but here we have a lad in Steven Caulker who is looking for a fresh start after facing up to issues with his mental health, allied to gambling and alcohol problems. His most recent employers, Queens Park Rangers, have just released him, so he is currently without a club. Caulker is currently occupying what the professionals term, with some feeling, last chance saloon. He needs someone to show some faith in him, and he needs the best possible care and rehabilitation. For the club willing to take a calculated risk, a diamond of a player is waiting to be rescued.

For several reasons, not all of them football-related, I’d love to see my club Leeds United be the one to make this move and show this faith. It would be a dreadful shame for football and for the lad himself, if such a promising career were to be allowed to fizzle out. You’d worry for Caulker, in the long and barren future ahead, and you’d wonder if the game itself was perhaps derelict in its duty to look out for a young man battling with personal demons that have ruined so many young men before.

At Elland Road, there’d be a unique challenge waiting for Steven Caulker – if the club wish to offer him the chance, and if he’s prepared to get in, get his head down, and resurrect his career and his chances of life-affirming success. It’s not too late for Caulker; he just needs that chance. I’d like to think that Leeds United are progressive enough to reach out and provide the support and faith needed.

It’s common knowledge that Leeds could do with some strengthening of the defensive ranks; Kyle Bartley is still much missed and, despite the sterling performances of Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper, a player of Caulker’s quality would represent an improvement in United’s rearguard. The lad was on loan at Liverpool not so long back, and was brought up at Tottenham; his pedigree is indisputable. Coming to the end of the road at QPR does not mean he’s a busted flush; some club is likely to benefit from the renaissance of a major talent, should the requisite support and understanding be available.

Let that club be Leeds United. In doing some real good for a troubled player, they may well do themselves a power of good too. And all for nothing more than wages. 

That’s got to represent a good deal, even up here in Yorkshire. And a chance surely well worth taking. 

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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.

#9 Dream and Mind Games for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

The number nine shirt is an iconic one in the game of football – that has remained the case throughout all the changes in fashion, custom and positional theory over the years. As a former centre-forward myself, back in the days when such a term was still current, it’s rankled with me that there has been no Leeds United number nine this season. Not, at least, until today.

The arrival of Connor Wickham, on loan from Sunderland, has at last filled that vacancy. That the lad is enough of a natural centre-forward to demand the number nine shirt was borne out by some of his play on his debut in the 1-1 draw at QPR. Powerful in the air and adept on the ground, Wickham looks to be a formidable, if temporary, addition to United’s striking resources.

It was clear throughout the game that a fresh dimension was present in Leeds’ forward play. Flick-ons were won, accurately finding fellow United players. There was the promise of great things to come in the embryonic partnership with Ross McCormack. The odd give-and-go, the eagerness of each in possession to find the other in space. All of this bodes well for the short-term future.

Of course, Wickham’s signing is only a loan, as with keeper Jack Butland and the earlier acquisitions of Stewart and Kebe. These latter two are yet to live up to their reputations – to the extent that manager McDermott’s almost paternal belief in his former Reading charge Kebe is puzzling to many – but the quality of Wickham and Butland cannot be denied. A further loan addition is expected, and we can but hope that the standard of the last fortnight’s recruitment drive is maintained.

Meanwhile, on today’s evidence, much might be expected of the Wickham and McCormack axis as their partnership develops, with a nice little run of home games in prospect to get things simmering. To say that those winnable Elland Road fixtures will be make or break for United’s play-off prospects is no more or less than the truth.

But the more significant result remains the as yet unknown outcome of the off-field saga, as the Football League continue to scratch around for any reason to deny United their Italian prospective saviour, Massimo Cellino. It’s as if they’re messing with our heads, playing mind games with something that matters deeply to thousands of loyal and fanatical supporters around the globe.

The enhancements to the team under Cellino’s growing influence have necessarily been mere loans – but it’s the pedigree and quality of the last couple of captures which looks so significant. Whether or not either Butland, or Wickham, or both can be retained beyond the end of the season is a moot point. But it’s becoming clear that, as Cellino’s grip on Leeds becomes ever more hands-on, we are now shopping on Quality Street instead of looking to pick up discarded dross on Skid Row. Which makes it all the more bitterly frustrating that this “fit and proper” business drags ominously on. When you see the positive impact of Cellino, it begs the question: who in United’s recent history has shown more support or ambition – backed up by cold, hard cash – than the Italian has, in such a short time, and with such a long shadow over his ownership?

The more that Cellino invests, loans, contributes to the ongoing cost of keeping Leeds United going, the more his ownership begins to look like a fait accompli. If the League were to reject him now, the consequences for the club could be grave. Would that be an appropriate act for “fit and proper” rulers of the game? I beg leave to doubt their motives, and I have fifty years of murky history between Leeds and the League to back up those doubts.

If the Football League are in any real doubt that, for the future of Leeds United, Cellino is the only game in town, then they should look at his positive impact over the past few weeks, at his swift and decisive support of the manager’s desire to make his squad competitive. Look at that number 9 shirt, neglected all season up to this week. Perhaps, instead of bending over backwards to find reasons to dump United neck-deep in the brown stuff, they should simply do their job and apply the rubber stamp. It’s the decent thing to do, and it’s remarkably simple. Up, down, bang. Job done.

Even the suits at the League should be able to manage that.