Tag Archives: referee

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

 

Rhinos

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.

Advertisements

Racial Abuse Row to Hit Bradford City?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Garath McCleary complains to a match official about abuse from the Bradford support

Garath McCleary complains to a match official about abuse from the Bradford support

As a fan of Leeds United, I always get an incredulous reaction if I highlight racist behaviour or racial abuse from other quarters. Leeds fans simply have that name – and mud that sticky just sticks like hell.

But, in common with a surprisingly vast majority of United fans, I’m a non-racist football supporter who is always looking to root out examples of such ignorance and uncivilised behaviour. And there might just be a scandalous example coming out of the Reading v Bradford City FA Cup replay, covered live by BBC1.

One of the incidents captured by the Beeb’s cameras towards the end of the first half was a fan in the Bradford end apparently directing some less than complimentary remarks loudly in the direction of young Garath McCleary, Reading’s second goal-scorer tonight. McCleary reacted with such anger and distress that there has to be a suspicion of racial abuse – given that an irate football fan and a black footballer were involved in what was clearly a flashpoint. McCleary seemed to be urged by the assistant ref to report the matter to officials in the tunnel area. That advice appeared to be reinforced as the teams went off at the interval, with McCleary still obviously upset.

As this is written, Bradford have just gone 0-3 down and appear to be facing the end of their Cup adventure – particularly as they have also had a player dismissed. But that may yet turn out to be the least of the Bantams’ worries on an evening when disgrace threatens to engulf them.

There may well be more to be heard and said about this in the next few hours and days. It emerged today that a fan was arrested and ejected from the ground at half time.

Man Utd Stars “to Receive Counselling” After Unbiased Refereeing Display – by Rob Atkinson

Michael Oliver ignores Rooney's plea for sanity and dismisses di Maria anyway

Michael Oliver ignores Rooney‘s plea for sanity and dismisses di Maria anyway

It’s an enlightened football club that looks after its players after some major trauma or shock; attending to their emotional well-being instead of merely training them, like sporting automatons, to go out there and just perform, match after match. So we here at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything are particularly impressed to hear that Man United, long recognised by themselves and the population of Devon and Cornwall as The Greatest Club in the World™, are to arrange counselling for their deeply traumatised players in the wake of Michael Oliver‘s shockingly honest performance during Monday’s FA Cup 6th round home defeat to Arsenal.

The counselling will take the form of gentle reassurance for those who are having doubts about their ability to dive convincingly, whilst Angel di Maria will receive special one-to-one therapy designed to restore his confidence that he can push the referee if he sees fit and do pretty much as he likes, as per his rights as a Man U player and the long-standing traditions of the club.

Some of the younger players are haunted by doubts about their ability to emulate former stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Mark Hughes, both of whom are legendary for spending a large percentage of their playing hours for the Pride of Devon on their respective arses, having performed a perfect swallow dive and double roll, ending up in a position of abject supplication, arms outspread in entreaty, mouth agape, outraged eyes fixed firmly on the referee.

This remains the officially approved method, according to a Theatre of Hollow Myths spokesman, although there is still scope for the “drop dead” method by way of variety, also known as “the sniper in the stand“. But, our contact informed us, the younger ones are feeling rather less comfortable with this approach in the wake of Oliver’s bizarrely unbiased showing on Monday.

“They’re prey to conflicting emotions,” said the Devon official. “Don’t get me wrong, they want to dive – it’s what they’ve been trained for, after all. But some of them are worried that their technique isn’t up there with legends like Ronaldo, Hughes and even current practitioner Ashley Young. Some of these young lads are harbouring thoughts of trying to beat a man and get a shot in, instead of letting their dramatic training do its job and going down like a good’un. Michael Oliver has done a lot of damage here, and all we can do is provide whatever support and reassurance is needed.”

Worse still is the fact that even senior player appear to be having the same doubts and insecurities, something that is reflected in the fact that The Most Fantastic Club in the Entire Universe™ are struggling even to qualify via the Champions League back door. Ashley Young is a case in point. “Yes,” our man admitted, “Youngy is having a really bad time lately. He’s just not playing his natural game. Twice in recent matches, he’s worked himself space inside the area – and then he’s gone and had a shot, bless him, when all his natural instincts as well as his training tell him to hit the turf and scream for a penno. So, instead of helping the team, he’s inevitably scuffing one wide, which looks really poor and, trust me, the boy’s as sick as a parrot. But we’re hoping to help Ashley too, with this restorative therapy programme. It’s what this great club is all about.”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything was unable to get a reaction from Michael Oliver himself. When we asked his refereeing mentor for a quote, we were told that Michael is currently incommunicado “until the fuss has died down”. It is understood that the “far too honest for his own good” referee will be spending the interim period relaxing in a place where he is unlikely to encounter too many irate Pride of Devon fans, at least until such time as that self-righteous and petulant anger has dissipated. He will therefore be sojourning “somewhere on the Pacific Ocean sea-bed” for the next five years.

Man United themselves have not commented at length on the Michael Oliver controversy, beyond a brief statement to the effect that “This is what happens when we have a ref who wants to make some sort of “fairness” name for himself. We’ll be demanding a Manc ref in the future, it worked up at Newcastle as you all saw, and it’s really for the best all round.”

Adnan Januzaj, 14, who now has as many yellow cards for diving as he does goals in his Man U career, is thought to be the 45th “next George Best”.

 

Man Utd to Sue Arsenal’s Welbeck for “Mental Cruelty” of Goal Celebration   –   by Rob Atkinson

Hands off, van Gaal

Hands off, van Gaal

In the wake of Man U’s tragicomic FA Cup exit – sorry, that should read simply “comic” – it has emerged that Manchester’s second club are prepared to go to law over hurt feelings, following former Theatre of Hollow Myths hero Danny Welbeck having the brass neck to actually celebrate his winning goal. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything has learned that swift court action is likely, and that hopes are high throughout the West Country and the Home Counties that their favourites will still be stepping out for Wembley‘s showpiece occasion, the F.A. Cup Final.

The Pride of Devon’s tame legal firm – Messrs. Sue, Grabbitt & Runne – has issued a brief statement in the immediate aftermath of this calamitous upsetting funny defeat. “Mr Welbeck will be hearing from us.” it read. “His unwarranted celebrations were a knife to the heart of every true football fan, the grand traditions of the game and any real prospect of world peace itself. This evil must be stopped. Danny Welbeck must die moderate his behaviour henceforth.”

Attention has also fallen upon the unprecedented display of referee Michael Oliver, who remained scrupulously honest throughout, penalising foul play from both sides and, in particular, making a point of whistling for and punishing the earnest efforts of Man U players to dive for penalties. Mr. Oliver even sent Devon’s Angel di Maria off the field of play for diving and then pushing the ref during the tantrum that followed the refusal of a penalty.

A Man U spokesman admitted “We acknowledge as a club that this behaviour is simply unacceptable. We shall never be seen to tolerate that sort of thing at this fantastic club, officially the greatest club in the Universe and all four dimensions of space-time. We have that reputation to uphold and we are keenly aware of our responsibilities. The referee’s frankly obscene levels of honesty and consistency have left us all simply horrified and deeply petulant. Michael Oliver must die moderate his behaviour henceforth…. no, as you were – die.”

Welbeck bravely hides his utter grief

Arsenal’s reluctant hero Danny Welbeck bravely hides his utter grief

Questioned afterwards about his winning goal and the turbulent maelstrom of conflicting emotions that must surely be raging in a careening torrent through his tormented psyche and devastated mind, Welbeck merely commented, “‘S’all good, man, chill. I’ve never liked Man U all that much anyway. Did you clock them tekkers after nipping in ahead of de Gay? Quality that, man.”

Louis van Gaal, 83, has denied in the past few minutes that he is to take over as manager of the England cricket team.  Wayne Rooney, 19 stone, is fat.

Classless Bees Boss Warburton Adds Insult to Reffing Injury – by Rob Atkinson

Salibury - Befehl ist Befehl (I voss only followink orders)

Salisbury – Befehl ist Befehl (I voss only followink orders)

A vendetta is a lot like a dog turd – if it looks like one and smells like one (and especially if there’s some cur in the vicinity with a guilty expression on his chops) then it probably is one. The evidence is mounting that one of the factors blighting this Leeds United season is – how can I put this? – the reluctance of officialdom and the authorities to grant the Whites a level playing field.

The last few games have been reasonable for United results-wise, but this has been in spite of some less than competent – some might allege less than completely impartial – refereeing. On Saturday at Elland Road, Leeds faced a high-flying, hard-working and effective Brentford side who have made a real impact on the Championship this season. That the wheels fell off for Leeds was partly down to these opposition qualities, partly down to the old failings that returned to haunt the Whites – but significantly also it was down to a simply appalling performance by referee Graham Salisbury.

Elland Road is no stranger to shoddy refereeing. Any club will have its tales to tell of dodgy match officials on their travels – the phenomenon of the “homer” referee is well-documented and has a solid factual base. But while classically-educated Leeds fans (i.e. most of us) will be familiar with the Homer of Greek rhapsodic poetry fame, so rightly celebrated for his Iliad and Odyssey, they will scratch their heads and look blank when asked about the concept of a home-biased ref at United’s ground. It’s a bit of a sick joke for long-suffering Whites supporters. A book could easily be filled with tales of how we have suffered at the hands and whistle of these arrogant, officious little men.

So, for someone to stand out in that context, he has to be extraordinary indeed. For Leeds fans, brought up on cautionary tales of Tinkler, Michas, Kitabdjian and Elleray, to be so unanimously vehement in their post-match rage and fury, something seismic must have happened. Ecce homo, ecce arbitro: Graham Salisbury. This man outdid the most ravenous of starved rats for taking the biscuit.

Let us not go into the gory details again. In the short time since Salisbury blew the final whistle and relaxed into the warm afterglow of job satisfaction, the internet has been aglow with indignant accounts of the Leeds penalty claims bizarrely turned down; of the dodgy build-up to Brentford’s goal. There’s no smoke without fire, they say. Here we have a stratospheric pall that bids fair to choke the whole of the ether and betrays a proper conflagration. The details of the game are damning enough – of possibly even greater significance is the fact that this same Mr Salisbury was hauled over the coals just a few months back, after the Watford v Brentford game, by the Bees’ rentaquote manager, Mark Warburton.

Now a proper referee, a man of integrity, moral courage and steadfast determination to Do The Right Thing, would not be affected by a mere managerial rant. But, as we saw so clearly at Elland Road on Saturday, Graham Salisbury is none of these things. Salisbury appears instead to be the sort of match official who, in his eagerness to show he’s not to be intimidated by a vociferous crowd, will lean so far the other way as to absolutely persecute the side this crowd is rooting for. I’ve seen it many, many times before at Leeds, though not to this extent. The more the crowd hollers and gets on his back, the more the ref thinks “I shall NOT be intimidated. How good am I??” You can see it in his expression, in his demeanour, in his very body language. Gestures accompanying decisions become exaggerated and defiant. He plays the crowd like the matador he imagines himself to be might play an enraged bull. He walks off afterwards, feeling wonderful, cleansed, virtuous – expecting praise for his incredible, superhuman resilience, heedless and uncaring of the crowd baying for his blood.

On Saturday, Mr Salisbury got the praise he coveted – and not just from the Football League, whom – in common with other officials at recent Leeds games – he might well have expected to be more than satisfied with him. But yet more praise was heaped on his head by the man who had quite recently torn into him – Brentford’s mercurial Mark Warburton. Not so happy, obviously, was the Leeds coach Neil Redfearn, who condemned Salisbury’s abject failure to award obvious penalties. But then again, Mr Salisbury will rationalise in his self-satisfied way, he would say that, wouldn’t he? Besides, Warburton was quite possibly only following orders. Befehl ist befehl – as they used to say in the Wehrmacht or at the Nuremberg hearings.

Warburton, in stark contrast to his anti-Salisbury hatchet-job of September, waxed lyrical this time about the same ref – especially the way he “refused to be intimidated by the crowd” for the penalty claims. If you review the incidents with the sound off, apparently, they’re not penalties. Is that so, Mr Warburton? Perhaps if you reviewed them once more, this time with your Brentford-tinted specs off, they might look different again? There’s a good few thousand present yesterday who might very well think so. But – we would say that, wouldn’t we? The BBC might have been able to shed some light – if they had included the incidents in their brief Football League Show highlights. True to form, as well as the party line, they didn’t. So I’m told.

Warburton: lack of class

Warburton: lack of class

The tiresome thing about some of the more anonymous managers these days – the ones who perhaps feel they’re not as famous as they should be – is that they tend to play what the media, wistfully remembering those glorious Sir Alex Taggart days, just love to call “mind games”. Warburton will be a happy man today. He’ll think he’s handled the hapless Salisbury just right – soften him up with a post Watford rant, continue that process by expressing, in the run-up to the Leeds game, the hope that he’ll not succumb to that notorious crowd pressure  – and then fulsomely praise him afterwards when he’s got his result.

And, make no mistake, Warburton and Brentford have got a result – a right result, to compare with any in their spectacular season so far. League placings notwithstanding, for Brentford to win at Leeds is historic, earth-shattering. It’s another one up for David over Goliath. Memorable just isn’t the word. And it doesn’t matter that it was a blagged result, a smash and grab where everything went for the away side. What do the history books care for that? In years to come, Warburton will still be the Brentford boss who went to Leeds and won. They can never take that away from him.

In a way, the sheer classlessness of Warburton’s post-match comments betrays the erstwhile lower-league parvenu in him. Many managers would have emerged from a triumphant away dressing room, conscious that they’ve had the breaks, ridden their luck, got away with it. There’s a sort of nobility in acknowledging that, grinning wryly, being pleased but realistic – showing a bit of class.

But to choose, as Warburton did, to praise a refereeing performance of such grotesque ineptitude, as utterly farcical as Salisbury’s was in its ridiculous one-sidedness – that’s so lacking in class and composure as to reflect ill on a man who really should know better. Perhaps he genuinely wants to inherit the mantle of “mind-games man”, now that The “Auld Bugger” is no more. Who knows? But Mark Warburton emerges somewhat besmirched and grubby from this, certainly with less credit than he could and should have done, after such an unprecedented result.

As for Leeds, they must strive to take what positives they can. There are not many. It was a nearly-but-not-quite performance, a game Leeds might well have lost even without the Salisbury factor so bizarrely skewing matters. Redfearn’s post-match reaction was nowhere near as undignified and opportunistic as his Brentford counterpart’s – but it hardly inspired confidence either. “We can’t play well every week, mate” he said to Eddie Gray as the listening, glum, homeward-bound supporters cringed. But – the other relegation battlers lost too; our fate remains in our own hands and – surely – we won’t get a ref as calamitously bad/bent as Salisbury again. Will we??

Wearily, then, we look forward again. Not to a distantly golden future where we get a fair crack of the whip and the game’s masters leave us alone to get on with playing football – but to the next week or so when we play Reading and Millwall with six vital points at stake. This nightmare reffing Brentford débâcle means we need the whole half-dozen and then we must kick on from there. Horrifically, the Millwall game will be almost as much our Cup Final as it always is theirs.

Come on, Leeds.

FL to Induct “Heroic” Ref Salisbury Into the Ray Tinkler Hall of Fame – by Rob Atkinson

IMG_7914

A statement released today by Football League CEO Shaun Harvey reads: “Following the outstanding performance of our highly-valued match official Graham Salisbury in the Leeds United versus Brentford Championship fixture, the Football League is delighted to announce that Mr. Salisbury is to be awarded honorary admission, forthwith and with immediate effect, into the “Ray Tinkler Hall of Fame“.

This is a move almost unprecedented in the history of the game; such an elevation into the ranks of match officials most highly regarded by the League normally takes place only in recognition of achievements over a whole career – as with Howard Webb, Mike Riley and Mike Dean of Man Utd. Previous exceptional cases have included two accolades awarded to foreign referees, both for outstanding conduct in European Finals involving Leeds. Christos Michas (1973, ECWC Final, Salonika, Greece) and Michel Kitabdjian (1975, European Cup Final, Parc des Princes, Paris, France) were given honorary membership of the Tinkler Hall of Fame after going above and beyond the call of duty in each case to ensure defeat for The Damned United. Both men sacrificed their careers to stop Leeds winning the trophies concerned. The requirements for The Ray Tinkler Hall of Fame are simply that exacting.

League spokesman Ivor Whytes-Grudge was happy to elaborate on the Salisbury accolade. “Yes, we know that this is unusual, to say the least,” admitted an excited Ivor, “but Mr. Salisbury really exceeded all our expectations today. Greater love hath no man than this: that he should lay down his very reputation and integrity for a cause we all hold dear,” he added, solemnly.

So, what has the newly-honoured Salisbury actually done to deserve such a signal honour? “Are you actually kidding??” ejaculated an increasingly emotional Whytes-Grudge. “Did you see what Graham did to that beastly club today? Why, he pretty much single-handedly ensured their defeat to Brentford. You got the feeling that he wouldn’t stoop to giving Leeds a penalty even if one of their attackers had been cynically murdered inside the box. Now that’s what we call good refereeing – and how!”

Mr Salisbury himself was typically modest after the match, insisting on sharing the credit with his officials. “Yes, I was brilliant,” he quipped, his eyes twinkling. “I sorted Leeds out good and proper, didn’t I?? But think on – if my assistants had flagged for a penalty – as they would have to have done, for any other team – well, I’d have been in a very awkward position. But my colleagues were superb, they backed me to the hilt – and we’ve pulled off a famous victory. And the thought of even being mentioned in the same breath as “Sir” Ray Tinkler – the referee all of we modern officials look up to and revere – well, there’s just no greater honour. What’s integrity and honesty, compared to that?? You can stick ’em, quite frankly.”

The League have confirmed that they hope to appoint this official for other Leeds games this season. “He’s the man for the job, isn’t he?” purred an admiring Ivor Whytes-Grudge. “Shaun simply adores him.”

Meanwhile, our Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything matchday correspondent, “Mutton” Jeff, reported from Elland Road that the Leeds reaction to today’s referee was surprisingly favourable. “A prominent member of the United management team told me he thought Mr Salisbury conducted himself like “a real Count” and that he was just what they’d been expecting”, said our man on the spot, who has a slight cold. So that’s ok then… Unbelievable, Jeff.

Graham Salisbury is grossly, irretrievably, bent.