Tag Archives: Reading FC

What do Leeds United need to do to turn around this run of form?

Divine duo

Christiansen and Radrizzani – keeping the faith

Until this weekend just gone, Leeds had lost four of the last five matches in all competitions, a seriously bad run for a team aspiring to promotion. The fact that three of those were league games serves to highlight the sharp contrast between our form up until just three weeks ago when we were top of the league and the present – when we now sit in fourth place only thanks to Saturday’s three point, three goal haul at Bristol City.

As we said in our post mortem of the Reading game last week, and even given the victory at Bristol – as one swallow does not a summer make –  the situation is dire at the moment. So what do the Whites have to do to turn it around? Let’s assess the options…

Is the manager the problem?

Absolutely not – I’m not even going to pussyfoot around with this one. Part of the problem at the club in recent years is the revolving door they seem to have installed in the manager’s office. We’ve had six managers in the last three years and none of them have had enough time to make their mark. What we need now is stability, not someone else coming in to rock the boat.

Leeds were unbeaten until mid-September when we lost 1-0 to Millwall and the team were a real joy to watch. Our emphatic 5-0 win over Burton Albion was a masterclass in tactics and showed the quality in the squad. Just a few weeks ago, the Whites were second favourites for promotion at 2/1 (mid-September). Now the odds our higher at 4/1, it may be worthwhile taking advantage of those bonuses and free football tips at Bethut.

After the Burton game, Nigel Clough held his hands up to concede Leeds’ sheer quality. None of the five goals we scored against Clough’s side were his goalkeeper’s fault – our movement and finishing made us unstoppable.

Despite the drop in our fortunes of late, the Leeds United board are clearly confident Christiansen can turn things around. After starting the season with all guns blazing, time is the very least the new manager deserves. Let’s face it – three wins won’t get us into the Premier League and three defeats don’t mean our campaign is over either.

Do we just need to regain confidence?

As the Secret Footballer says in an article in the guardian from 2012, there’s a strong correlation between lack of confidence and loss of form. Footballers are only human, after all. It stands to reason that confidence can waver when a run of four defeats in five games follows such glorious form.

Some players’ heads had started to drop – this was clear to anyone who watched the nervous way in which Pablo Hernandez took that late penalty against Reading. When we were flying high at the start of the season, Christiansen told us to expect ‘bad moments’ – and he was bang on. So instead of panicking, what we really need to do is get behind our team!

Post-Bristol update

And, as if to confirm the wisdom of that philosophy – what a difference a week has made! Saturday’s comprehensive win over a Bristol City with only one previous league defeat all season has completely changed perspectives. It’s amazing how one good win can do that. We’re still going strong in the playoffs and, apart from Beradi (anyone know what went on there – the footage was hardly conclusive), there was much to be pleased about – although we must not now rest on our laurels.

As many fans commented during the match, the Viera – Kalvin Phillips – O’Kane trio in midfield worked wonders and looks like the way forward, with far more energy and bite in that midfield area..

Top marks to TC and the lads too for dedicating the match to Stuart Dallas after his mother’s tragic passing last week – we also extend our condolences to Stuart and his family. MOT always.

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Reading FC Expose Leeds’ Loss of Mojo & Jansson’s Missing Magic Hat – by Rob Atkinson

 

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Super League Champions Leeds Rhinos on their Elland Road lap of honour

Without wishing to seem wise after the event (I like to think that my wisdom is pretty much a permanent fixture) I just knew that Leeds United’s last-gasp penalty would not go in. There would be no salvaging of a late point for the home side at Elland Road; Reading FC would depart with the three points yesterday’s script demanded. And so it came to pass as I looked on with a jaundiced eye. I just bloody knew it.

It was not a good Saturday. Leeds were sluggish and out of sorts, the referee was fussily horrible – at one point he allowed Reading to take a free kick for offside ten yards inside the Leeds half – and there was a general feeling of malaise. To say this was a bad day at the office for Leeds seems hopelessly inadequate – David Brent himself had a better day, that time he was sacked by Wernham Hogg. The only bright spot (and not even this applied to everybody in the 33,900 attendance) was the sight of the victorious Leeds Rhinos players parading the Super League champions trophy around the pitch at half time. It was good to see United saluting the achievements of another Leeds sporting institution.

It seemed to many of the Leeds persuasion, and to some impartial observers too, that Pablo Hernandez had been fouled in the build-up to Reading’s winning goal, scored with poetic injustice by last season’s United loanee failure Modou Barrow. Post-match opinions were polarised: Reading manager Jaap Stam felt it hadn’t been a foul (and also that there was no foul for the Leeds penalty); Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen disagreed, but noted that “foreign coaches should not complain”. Even so, he’d made his views clear from pitch-side at the time – afterwards though, he simply shrugged and remarked “Well, you saw it”.

For United, it was a day to forget as swiftly as possible and move sharply on. Reading, arrayed in a day-glo orange and looking like a set of highlighter pens, came to do a job; they did it, however irritatingly, and now it’s history. Leeds will have to concentrate on regaining their mislaid mojo over the next few fixtures; they’re still handily-placed, even after three successive defeats, courtesy of that scorching start to the season. But losing can become a nasty habit, and it’s something that Christiansen and his troops need to nip in the bud before an annoying blip becomes a genuine crisis.

The Leeds boss was philosophical after this latest setback, whilst hinting that a change of system is not out of the question if he judges that’s what is necessary to turn things around. One notable factor in Reading’s success was their tactic of pressing high to stop United playing out from the back as has been the preferred approach all season. On the day, the home side simply weren’t good or confident enough to deal with the way Stam’s men set out their stall to contain, frustrate and hit on the break. It was a bad, bad day; as simple as that.

And it could even have been worse, but therein lies the one positive aspect of yesterday. At long last there was a change of ‘keeper for a league game, with Andy Lonergan taking his chance to impress. Lonners pulled off a few really good saves and generally looked less error-prone than Felix Wiedwald has done on many of his appearances this term. Afterwards, when asked about the change, Christiansen said that it was something he’d been thinking about. Lonergan did his future prospects no harm at all, and we must hope that his relatively unflappable air of security might spread to a United back four that has looked shaky of late. Pontus Jansson in particular looked tentative and even clumsy at times in the Reading game; part of United’s reduced effectiveness is probably down to Jansson’s magic hat being worn slightly askew as compared to last season. 

It’s still early days, and the situation as it stands is far from dire. But Leeds must do more than hope for better days ahead; they must be proactive, and take steps to ensure that a sharp improvement comes about – sooner rather than later.

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.

FA Has Strategy to Keep Leeds’ Pontus Jansson OUT of Play-Offs?   –   by Rob Atkinson

 

jansson-and-co

Pontus Jansson – a marked man?

Speculation is rife ahead of Leeds United‘s home clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers that – as well as the obvious necessity to take 3 points from the game – United have prioritised the disciplinary dilemma over their inspirational defender Pontus Jansson

Jansson will face a 3 match ban with his next caution, and the feeling around Elland Road is that it might be no bad thing if that caution happened today. This would rule Jansson out of the last three games of the regular season, but he’d be back for the play offs – should United qualify. 

With Liam Cooper only part-way through a long suspension for a similar offence to the one the Pride of Devon’s Marcos Rojo got clean away with, United’s defensive resources would be stretched thin if Jansson were to be suspended. But there are good back-up options at full-back, and Luke Ayling can play central defence if needed. So, for Pontus to get a ban after the Wolves game would be risky – but it’d be a calculated risk. Or, so some are saying. But are they reckoning without the beady eye of the football authorities? 

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything has managed to get the point of view of an anonymous FA official – we shall refer to him as Mr. Lee D. Shater (because that’s the git’s name). Mr. Shater was intrigued at the idea of “getting the suspension out of the way”. He laughed, mirthlessly, adjusted his Sheffield Wendies club tie, toyed with his Huddersfield Town kennel-club membership card, and remarked, “You people need to be aware that we’re on the lookout for this kind of thing. If Jansson serves a ban, and is back for the play-offs, our people will be after him from the first whistle. If he so much as raises an eyebrow at an opponent, he’ll be off – and it’ll be goodbye Wembley and Sayonara Premier League, you Yorkshire suckers”. 

When asked if this rather blatant admission did not in fact constitute undue prejudice against Leeds United, Mr. Shater replied, “No more than usual. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. You want Jansson available, we’d rather he wasn’t. Stop whinging and suck it up, you grimy Leeds oiks”. 

Watch this space. 

Leeds United’s Chris Wood Escapes FA Ban for Vicious Headbutt   –   by Rob Atkinson


The FA, having announced a six match ban for Liam Cooper of Leeds United for a stamping incident, has also disclosed that it had considered a similar sanction against United’s Chris Wood, for the offence of “head-butting Tyler Blackett‘s elbow”. The governing body in its wisdom and mercy has, however, deemed that a severe warning will suffice on this occasion.

Leeds have questioned the severity of Cooper’s ban, for an offence identical to that which saw manchester united’s Marcos Rojo get off scot-free recently. However, the FA’s response to United’s protest was “Yah boo sucks, we don’t care. Watch it, you Yorkshire scum, or we’ll have 15 points off you.”

Reading manager Jaap Stam has confirmed his satisfaction with the official outcome, remarking that he never did anything like that when he was a player and that, if he did, he always got away with it.

Former FA Secretary Alan Hardaker would have been 104, if he hadn’t been dead 37 years. 

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.

Leeds CAN Secure Automatic Promotion as Rivals Falter – by Rob Atkinson

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Garry Monk – the man with the plan

We’ve had false dawns aplenty before at Elland Road. Many a time, a false dawn has appeared to be the only possible light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. But this time, things do feel different. There’s a momentum steadily gathering, a feeling that Leeds United are developing slowly into an unstoppable force. History tells us that, often in the past, the leaders of the chasing pack benefit from a sudden uncertainty and crumbling of long-time front-runners. That scenario is developing right now at the head of the Championship – and Leeds United, to our delighted surprise, is the form horse.

One of the characteristics of a successful team is that it can grind out a result when playing badly. Leeds demonstrated that strength against Blackburn Rovers last night at Ewood Park, in a game that could easily have slipped away, but which was decided by a late and thumping header from the talismanic Pontus Jansson.

Another sign of a team going places is the quality of being able to bounce back from the occasional lapse. That’s something that this Leeds United team has been able to do on several occasions this season, going on to compile unbeaten runs after reverses that would have sapped morale in other years under other managers.

Garry Monk has had his less than brilliant moments since taking charge of United, but overall has seemed determined, self-assured and unflappable. He survived early difficulties, avoiding the ever-poised axe in the hands of maverick owner Massimo Cellino. Indeed, one of the main achievements of his first season in the Leeds hot-seat has been to marginalise Cellino, quieting talk in the media of the owner picking the team and generally remaining his own man. Other factors may have helped push Cellino into the shadows, but it’s still the mark of a strong man to succeed at Leeds where so many others have failed.

On the whole, and despite the odd, inevitable blip, Leeds United are very well placed now for the last, crucial stage of the League campaign. Free of cup commitments, with the squad enhanced by quality additions and vital players returning from injury, the platform is there for a decisive surge between now and May. Much will depend on the durability or otherwise of the teams ahead – Brighton, Newcastle and, to a lesser extent, Reading. Huddersfield and the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Derby and even Barnsley, present a threat from behind. But Leeds have the resolve and the personnel to emerge from the pack and take advantage of any crack-ups from the top two. And there are definite signs of such frailty and vulnerability in both Brighton and Newcastle.

The top two seem concerned about each other, when they should perhaps be looking fearfully over their shoulders at the play-off pack. Usually, somebody comes with a late run, exploiting a loss of bottle above them to reach the tape ahead of the pace-setters. It’s a situation that could well work in favour of Leeds United.

This weekend is the first of many pivotal League rounds to come. Huddersfield and Brighton meet tonight, in a game where any result will have some advantage for Leeds. And United have that extra twenty-four hours recovery time before having to travel to Huddersfield on Sunday. It will be very interesting to see how the Championship top six looks on Sunday evening.

But whatever happens over the next few days, there are golden opportunities for Leeds to assert themselves over the remainder of the season – and both Newcastle and Brighton will be feeling the heat. That’s a situation a canny manager like Monk can and should exploit; this blog believes that he is willing and able to do just that.

Leeds United for automatic promotion this season? You’d better believe it.

Leeds Away Clean Sheet and Balotelli Goal: Fraud Squad Alerted – by Rob Atkinson

Reading 0, Leeds United 2

In a sensational evening’s football, Leeds United have risen to the dizzy heights of 17th in the Championship, with the former TwitterWhites Luke Murphy Hate Squad suddenly unanimous in their passionate desire to bear his babies.

On a night when Mario Balotelli actually scored a goal, QPR actually won away and – miracle of miracles – Leeds United absolutely kept a clean sheet away from home, the bookies have confirmed that they escaped bankruptcy only on account of one man’s acca falling at the last hurdle. The un-named punter, from Pontefract in West Yorkshire, was on course for an eight-figure payout – but lost out ultimately, when a huge meteor failed to strike and demolish Old Trafford.

Given the unlikely events that did happen, it is thought that the Serious Fraud Office were on full alert. A spokesman confirmed “If Steve Morison had scored – the only event quoted at longer odds than the meteor thing – we’d definitely have had some questions. As it is, we’ll just put it down to the biggest shock since Giggs won a Sports Personality award – without actually having one.”

The Leeds win, sealed by a late header from Sam Byram, along with another spawny away victory for Millwall, nicely sets up Saturday’s Elland Road encounter between the two sides. That game is already arousing the usual high level of anticipation, particularly on the Millwall side – where the fixture against the Yorkshire giants is acknowledged as the lovable cockneys’ Cup Final. Interest is such that the away team are expected to be backed by up to a dozen loyal followers, who are expected to show unstinting support by quivering in a corner of the West Stand and keeping really quiet.

Other results on Tuesday evening went Leeds’ way, with Charlton, Rotherham and Fulham all losing, allowing the Whites to overhaul them. United now find themselves in nosebleed territory, with the chance to consolidate a gap between themselves and the bottom three, if they can take the three points on offer against Miwwwaww at Elland Road. It’s a challenge that our heroes dare not shirk, with far more difficult fixtures to come afterwards.

For now, though, Leeds fans everywhere can relax slightly, having seen a job well done at Reading. Two goals and that precious defensive shut-out, have left everything in the garden looking, if not exactly rosy, then a blooming sight healthier than it did in the aftermath of Brentford and Mr Salisbury’s disgraceful refereeing performance.

It’s been a good day for your Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything correspondent, with Leeds winning and the lesser Yorkshire clubs comically losing – and a few days break in a fashionable West Coast resort now beckons. Then, it’ll be business as usual on Friday, ahead of Saturday and that notoriously nawty bunch of Lahndan scamps.

Bring it on.

Cellino Totally Justified in Angry Outburst at Limp Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Cellino - anger

Cellino – anger

So Massimo Cellino has broken cover in the wake of the spineless United display against a deeply ordinary Bolton Wanderers side at the weekend. He’s raged, primarily at the players, calling them “chickens”.  They didn’t fight, he said.  They are guilty and without pride; they should be ashamed of themselves.  Can any of us honestly argue with the wisdom and accuracy of that little lot?  Wouldn’t we all be queuing up to kick a few arses, as Signor Cellino has expressed the earnest desire to do, if only we had the chance? And why, pray, do we feel this way?  It’s because we’ve invested hard-earned cash in supporting our team, that’s why – only to see overpaid non-triers throw that loyalty and commitment back in our bitterly-disappointed faces.  Imagine, then, how Cellino feels, several million down already, hauling the club out of deep and rank ordure – and being messed about by a dilatory governing body into the bargain.  No wonder he’s a little miffed.

Some have said that Cellino has overstepped the mark in being quite so vocal, not yet being the confirmed owner and all.  For a couple of reasons, I strongly disagree with that viewpoint.  Firstly – as referred to above – the man has paid – paid handsomely – for his right to express a vehement point of view. He who pays the piper calls the tune or, in this case, kicks the arse, if that’s his reaction of choice.  Nobody, surely, can deny the man who has funded this club over the last few weeks when, due to inept management and a craven refusal to dig deep on the part of GFH et al, we might otherwise have been well on the way to the wall by now.

Cellino will know just how much he’s stumped up in wages, with absolutely no guarantee that his purchase of the club will end up being sanctioned. He will know exactly how much X has “earned” and how much Y is being paid for his headless chicken act.  It must drive him mad to have actually seen those players fannying about on a professional football field and succumbing without so much as a peep of protest to a team they should be taking to the cleaners – especially at home.  The money the Italian has shelled out gives him an absolute right, in my view, to express himself as strongly as he sees fit.  Good on him for condemning the guilty parties in strong and unequivocal terms.  It’s not before time.

Which brings me on to reason number two that Cellino was right to act as he did, confirmed owner or not.  A bit of anger and invective has been needed from within the club for far too long now.  It’s all been much too friendly and cosy as far as we can tell from the regular soundbites, and there are people on the payroll taking blatant advantage of that easy-going atmosphere.  They will have been aware, perhaps, of some discontent out here in the real world, but they appear to be living and working in a little pink bubble where all is sweetness and light and, oh so polite – so why should they care if a storm is raging outside of that bubble?  Somebody needs to shake the place up a bit. I think we all know who that somebody should be – but if that’s not happening, then – by all means Massimo, old son, you stand up for all of us out here. Vent your spleen, rattle a few cages, have a go.  Maybe if they see the guy holding the purse-strings getting slightly aerated, they might sit up and take notice – due to a footballer’s well-known respect and concern for the bottom line.

There have been far too many humiliating results lately, far too many score-lines that speak all too clearly of extremely well-paid young men who simply don’t care – not anywhere near as much as they should, given the honour that is theirs to wear that white shirt.  That’s the ultimate in not good enough, and it’s high time someone let loose a few slings and arrows at those guilty parties and read the riot act here and there.  For all of these reasons, I’m glad to hear that Cellino has climbed down off the fence where most of the rest of the Leeds United personnel appear to be roosting, and has made his acerbic views known, in no uncertain terms.

We’re likely to be able to gauge what kind of effect this Latin bollocking has had when Leeds meet McDermott’s old club, Reading, on Tuesday.  I hope the players feel upset, angry and humiliated to have been spoken of in such very frank and derisive terms.  No professional likes having his or her professionalism called into question.  In the macho world of football, nobody will relish being called a chicken, or having shame called down upon their heads.  The players should be hurt, they should be annoyed; above all they should be possessed by a bloody-minded determination to show exactly what they’re made of.  They should be ready to go out and sweat blood in a do or die attempt to prove Cellino wrong and to put in an effort to prove they do have the bottle to play for, as McDermott puts it, a “big badge”.  And, lest we forget, a demanding crowd.

Ironically, such an effort would only go to confirm that the Italian was actually 100% right to say what he said about the abject and spineless display the players gave in the Bolton game.  It would draw comparison with the second half against Huddersfield when, as one of them put it, “we did it for Brian”. Well, chaps – you’ve done bugger-all for him since.  But take three points off Reading on Tuesday, and a lot would be forgiven, if not forgotten.  Such is the way of football and human nature.

What Cellino has achieved with his outburst – beyond any reasonable doubt – is to focus the most intense scrutiny on how the players in those Leeds United shirts acquit themselves on Tuesday evening in the Reading game. Under those eleven “big badges” – are there eleven big enough hearts to take on board the Massimo Cellino message and to come up with the right response? We shall see soon enough.