Tag Archives: referees

Steady Away as Leeds United’s Home Season Gets Off to a Stuttering Start – by Rob Atkinson

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Best view in the house – West Stand gantry

It was a close and steamy morning at Elland Road last Saturday as I arrived at the ground in good time to see the atmosphere build towards the start of another Leeds United home season. The wind was up in more ways than one as I sat in blustery conditions outside what used to be Sheila’s Cafe, opposite the West Stand car park gates. In the past, you would often see United stars in there, gathered around one of Sheila’s tables, winding down after a Fullerton Park training session. Now, the cafe was chock-a-block with nervous fans, trying to control those butterflies in the stomach with fry-ups and copious draughts of hot tea, and relegating me to that outside table.

The nerves were understandable; every Leeds fan was keenly aware of the need for a win to build on a great start to the season down at Bristol City. The prospect of Nottingham Forest, always awkward opponents for United, made the pre-match atmosphere crackle with tension, even at 9:30 before a half past twelve kick-off. From here on in, that tension would build and build. 

A welcome end to the summer hiatus was marked by the sight of match-going friends being reunited with a hug and a slap on the back. “Happy New Year”, they greeted each other, only half in jest, acknowledging that we football fanatics observe a different, seasonal calendar. After the hellos and the hugs, the talk was all of the squad changes over summer: how much would we miss Pontus and Roofe? Would this Arsenal kid (Eddie Nketiah) be able to fill Kemar’s talented boots? Could Patrick Bamford finally hit form and rip up the Championship? It was a buzz of excited talk, reflecting the hope and optimism of a season hardly started, with three precious points already in the bank.

Inside the ground, fresh from a welcome sausage butty outside that packed cafe, I find that the press lounge matchday fare is… a sausage butty. Still, beggars can’t be choosers. So I chew away happily, read the programme, try to put some names to new faces and collect a bottle of water to take aloft to the West Stand gantry and gape anew at the best view in the house. From here, the ground looks like a perfect bowl, the asymmetrical East Stand upper tier hidden by the West Stand fascia, with the scoreboard and gap at the south-west corner almost invisible somewhere to my right. In the first half, I position myself towards the south end of the gantry, next to the BBC Radio Nottingham commentators who are busy with their match preview piece. Looking straight down, I’m almost directly above the tunnel from which the gladiators are emerging in dribs and drabs, to go through the pre-match warm up. In the second half, I’ll move north, towards the Revie Stand, the Kop. Meanwhile, the Forest fans below are trading insults with the South Stand, and the atmosphere ramps up another notch.

Now it’s nearly kick-off, and the teams run out for real to a clamour of rival welcomes. Below me, the Forest substitutes pick their way through the Leeds technical area, being politely careful not to kick Bielsa’s bucket. All is ready, it’s now time for the hostilities to commence.

United, as expected, dominate throughout, but their superior possession yields only one goal and, near the end, they are punished by the classic sucker punch. But they’ve played well, and have legitimate complaints about the standard of refereeing. That’s an all too frequent lament, something that Leeds, yet again, will simply have to overcome. All the signs are that this squad has the potential and the ability to do just that. In the end, I’m left regretting not only the undeserved loss of two home points, but also my unforgivable failure immediately to recognise the guy sitting next to me in the second half as United legend Andy Hughes, a stalwart in the League One promotion team of 2010. Sorry, Andy. I’m clearly not worthy. 

So, another season has started at Elland Road. And who can really know what’s in store for us in the next nine or so months? Maybe tonight’s League Cup tie at newly-arrived Salford City will provide some clues, as a few signings and some fringe players seek to stake their claims. But all we have right now are fervent hopes and the optimism that somehow still infects those who have been let down so sorely and so often. Come on, Leeds, let’s really make it happen this time around…

Marching On Together.

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Lampard Referred for Urgent Memory Tests After Forgetting Leeds Penalty Overrule – by Rob Atkinson

Lampard: memory issues?

Derby County manager Frank Lampard has become the focus of fears within professional football about what stress can do to the memory and mental faculties of even a relatively young man. The latest example of what are suspected to be short-term memory problems in Lampard arises from the overturned penalty in Derby’s first leg semi final play off tie against Leeds United at Pride Park. The ref awarded Derby a penalty, but the award was rescinded after the assistant referee pointed out that Leeds’ Jack Harrison had played the ball instead of fouling the Derby player Bogle.

Lampard was outraged afterwards, claiming that he’d never seen a linesman overrule a referee’s decision, and insisting that, even if it was technically no foul, the award should have stood. Worryingly, Lampard appears to have forgotten the game at Elland Road between Leeds and Derby in January, when Leeds were awarded an early penalty which was subsequently (and wrongly, as it turned out) overturned on assistant referee advice. The fact that Lampard has obviously forgotten this incident completely is a clear sign of memory loss in at least the shorter term, and justifies a level of concern about his mental fitness for a demanding job.

But the problem may not just be affecting poor Frank’s short term memory. Earlier this season, during the “Spygate” furore, Lampard stated unequivocally that he’d never known or been involved with such practices. He had clearly forgotten that, during his time at Chelsea, senior management figures had circumvented an FA ban by being in attendance, concealed in a laundry hamper. Lampard will have been fully aware of this at the time, but again, worryingly, has lost all memory of it.

The gravity of the situation now for Derby is that they must win at Elland Road against an injury-depleted Leeds in Wedneday’s second leg, so County fans must hope that, at the very least, Lampard can still remember his way there.

The memory problems cited must be genuine and therefore a cause for grave concern. The only other explanation would be that Lampard has been lying through his teeth in his protests about Leeds United, in the full awareness that he’s been a party to similar incidents in his favour – and that he is therefore a humbug and a double-dyed hypocrite.

And that surely can’t be true of media darling Frankie Lampard…. can it??

Is There Still One More Twist in Leeds United’s Auto Promotion Bid? – by Rob Atkinson

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Don’t forget – Jesus once wore the shirt

David Prutton, now a Sky Sports pundit but nicknamed “Jesus” by Leeds fans once upon a time, due to his startling resemblance to the alleged Son of God, might therefore be wryly amused by the fact that United’s automatic promotion hopes appeared to die on Good Friday. As yet, and with a barren Easter Monday visit to Brentford answering no prayers originating in and around LS11, there seems to be nary a sign of any resurrection for what was probably a misplaced optimism that we might find a straightforward path out of the EFL wilderness. Barring a miracle on a par with the loaves and fishes gig, it’s likely that Leeds United will, after all, have to settle for a play-offs lottery that has served them so ill on so many occasions in the past.

But, soft. Perhaps the time for despair is not yet nigh. Any neutral observer looking at the twists and turns taken by this season’s Championship promotion race will note that it’s been a consistently inconsistent affair, predictable only in its inscrutable unpredictability. You couldn’t have made it up, such observers would say, possibly gasping and throwing their hands in the air to signify outraged disbelief. If you were writing a script, they might add, you wouldn’t have dared include so many plot twists, for fear of being dismissed as some lunatic sensationalist with a bevy of bats in the belfry. Why, then, should we assume that all is done and dusted with two games yet to be played for each interested party? Why on earth would we now presume to predict an outcome that has from day one been so capriciously impossible to foresee?

Out of such perverse logic might appear the odd straw for fans of Leeds United eagerly to clutch with a fierce defiance born of pure desperation. Could Ipswich get a point at Bramall Lane while a depleted Leeds triumph over the division’s form team Aston Villa, leaving things on a last day knife-edge? Of course not. But then again, you might have argued as dismissively about ten man Wigan’s chances of overcoming a one goal deficit to beat the Championship’s best home ground team in Leeds. And you’d surely have bet against a QPR side that had lost seven on the bounce somehow defying the match stats to see our heroes off 1-0 the other week. All of which proves the truth of the old saw about not counting chickens before they’ve hatched.

Of course, in public, I’m maintaining a front of stoical resignation and predicting yet more play-off disappointment for my beloved Whites. My perceived sanity and any remaining shreds of credibility probably depend upon this outward display of common sense. But this little blog is my private fantasy land – and here, all things are possible until the actual point at which it can be shown they haven’t actually happened. So, just between you and me, gentle reader, I will cling on to my faint but still flickering hopes that a miracle could yet occur, and that we might yet see our favourites ascend to the Promised Land as of right, instead of having to trust to that fickle and Leeds-hating jade Lady Luck. You never know, it could still just happen.

Hell fire, friends – we might yet even win the Championship. The kind of roller-coaster script this year’s League has apparently followed might actually demand a properly daft denouement like that. Keep the faith.

Marching On Together 

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.

Leeds Suffering From Terrible Penalty Calls, Even When They’re Not Involved – by Rob Atkinson

A brief and testy update tonight, having sat through West Brom against Nottingham Forest, where the result to suit our particular requirements as Leeds United fans would have been a Forest victory.

It looked as though that was how it was going, too – and then referee Lee Mason took control, with two late and palpably awful penalty decisions, both going against Forest and, by extension, Leeds.

With the West Brom trailing 2-1, exactly as per our ideal scenario, the Baggies’ Dwight Gayle found a Forest limb to dive over just inside the area, and Mason obliged with the whistle for a spot kick. It was a blatant dive, and if there’s any justice (which we know there isn’t) – Gayle will get a retrospective ban IF the Football League ever emerge from their Spygate enclave and examine the incident.

So, it’s 2-2, which isn’t that bad. But Forest should still have won, when their attacker Lolley had his shirt almost pulled off as he made his way into the Albion penalty area. Lee Mason, though, failed to see the blindingly obvious, and Leeds missed out on the ideal result of a West Brom defeat.

Call me paranoid – of course I am, I’ve been a Leeds fan for 44 years – but it does seem to me that these incidents, even in games between third parties, hardly ever favour Leeds. And really, we could do with the odd penalty decision in other games going our way – because it’s now one penalty awarded to Leeds in around 70 games, which is pretty meagre fare.

Ho hum. Onwards and hopefully upwards. And at least the Pride of Devon lost, which is always, always nice.

‘Justice Delayed is Justice Denied’ But Football League Keep Leeds on the Rack – by Rob Atkinson

The Football League’s Spygate deliberations continue

The Football League’s nonsensical approach to the administration of the game of football below Premier League level is making a laughing stock of them – but they don’t appear to care a bit. And so Leeds United go into yet another vitally important Championship match, at promotion rivals Middlesbrough, with the Sword of Damocles dangling precariously over their heads. And all because a bunch of buffoons see fit to make an Everest style mountain out of the most innocuous of molehills.

The fact is that it’s long been acknowledged no rules have been broken by any employee or representative of Leeds United. The police were singularly unimpressed and unbothered by the incident and, after the briefest of considerations, sent our man on his way. Which is hardly surprising, as standing on a public highway and looking through a transparent wire fence is not exactly the crime of the century.

And yet the League stumble doggedly onwards, needing more and more time to try to find an offence where there is none. Even their desperate references to “acting in good faith” have been trumped by subsequent events, notably Swansea City’s abandonment of any professional standards during transfer deadline eve, depriving their player Daniel James of his desired (and agreed) move to, yes you’ve guessed it, Leeds United.

The Football League must surely be aware of the old legal maxim “Justice delayed is Justice denied”. It cautions against over-lengthy proceedings which fail to produce timely verdicts, to the disadvantage of all concerned. In a case where the complaint clearly has no legal base to it, relying instead on some undefined principle of broad ethics, the fact that this is still dragging on exposes those who are doing the dragging as incompetent fools. It’s remarkable, too, that we would seem to be waiting for some sanctimonious sermon on good faith, when we had the spectacle of Liverpool clearing one penalty area of snow during a League game, while leaving the other as a snowscape, in an effort to secure a marginal advantage. Is that acting in good faith? But little or nothing has been said – because, of course, it’s not Leeds.

Who knows what the League’s over-lengthy deliberations will ultimately produce by way of a verdict, or what punishment they will see fit to impose. But they appear to have painted themselves into a corner, with the pressure on them to placate those hardly disinterested parties who wish to see Leeds United’s promotion bid disrupted.

It’s a most unedifying tale, and it’s far too late to caution the League against making plonkers of themselves; that has already happened, with the continuing delay merely emphasising their status as being guilty of Rodney-esque plonkerism of the first magnitude. Whether that proceeds into culpable incompetence, with the infliction of some ridiculous punishment for breaking no rules, remains to be seen.

It’s to be hoped that this silly story does not descend into gutter farce. And Leeds United themselves will be hoping that they can yet escape the clutches of this ridiculous organisation, with the expectation that the Premier League would not be quite so laughably, pitifully pathetic.

The Football League Should be Apologising to Leeds Utd, Not Investigating Them – by Rob Atkinson

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Football League board – time to say “sorry” to Leeds United

Any balanced view of this season’s Championship competition will naturally focus on its most prominent, most talked about, most successful and most controversial club and coach – namely Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa. And that view, if it really is sufficiently balanced, will be that both club and coach are by far more sinned against than sinning. The Football League, instead of announcing yet another investigation into their biggest attraction, following the latest ridiculously overhyped storm in a teacup, should instead be issuing a grovelling apology to the players, staff and fans of Leeds United – because the Whites have ascended to and maintained their position at the top of the table with what is effectively a millstone around their collective neck.

Consider the evidence. Against a background of a disastrous injury list which has blighted most of the season so far, the League has consistently acted, via their supposedly neutral on-field arbiters, to make life far more difficult than that heavy casualty count alone would have achieved. As if it’s not enough for United to be labouring under the burden of the loss of so many key players, they have also been denied stonewall penalty after stonewall penalty, on an almost game-by-game basis, while some of the softest awards you can imaging have been given at the other end. The Leeds penalty award count now stands at one in around seventy league matches, a quite ridiculous proportion for a team that regularly has a high number of touches in the opposition area.

And it’s not just penalties. Pontus Jansson, victim of a stupidly soft second yellow card at the weekend, has already served a ban this season for comments about the match referee, made in the immediate aftermath of a hotly contested game. Identical incidents elsewhere resulted in no charge and no further action, but Pontus was banned – seemingly for the offence of committing his indiscretion while wearing a Leeds United shirt. Now Jansson will be banned again for the away game at Rotherham, having been sent off ultimately at Stoke for falling over in pursuit of a Stoke attacker whose progress was not impeded in any way.

And of course, there’s Spygate – something the League clearly sees as a golden chance to throw a spanner in the works of what is, so far, a remarkably successful season for a squad which is basically last season’s also-rans plus a scattering of talented kids. From the outside looking in, the mountain of a formal investigation being made out of the molehill of a bloke on a public highway looking through a wire fence at Derby players training in plain sight is truly laughable. The League do not seem to shy away from the prospect of making the,selves look very silly over this, prompted by a select group of rival Championship clubs who clearly see no alternative way of pegging Leeds back. It’s almost as if the League don’t want to see Leeds United leaving their jurisdiction, for some (possibly financial) reason – but surely, that can’t be the case. Can it?

If Leeds United succeeds in attaining promotion this season, as they still appear on course to do, it will be little short of a miracle. With few high profile additions, and those with serious injury problems, the team performance has been transformed out of all recognition as compared to last season. That is the genius of Marcelo Bielsa, and credit to the squad for buying into his methods and philosophy. But that this group of players, supplemented where necessary by callow youth, should be dominating each game and the whole campaign with such obstacles laid so regularly in their way, is truly remarkable. Leeds and Bielsa deserve a vast amount of credit for their revolutionary approach to bring about such radical improvement, and surely all true Leeds fans will happily pay tribute to exactly that.

But Leeds and Bielsa also deserve perhaps even greater credit for rising above the needless and frivolous forces working against them, whether those forces may be incompetent refereeing as is demonstrably the case in so many fixtures, or indeed the pettifogging attitude of the ruling body, so ready to pounce on a virtual non-issue and magnify it into something that has the anti-Leeds media frothing over with malicious excitement.

This daft investigation should be concluded speedily, with any necessary clarification of rules, or any new rules, made clear forthwith. Leeds must be acknowledged as having broken no existing rules; instead they have merely acted, through the experience and long-standing methodology of Bielsa, as many have acted in the past, including such a luminary as Jose Mourinho (by his own admission and despite limp denials from Frank Lampard). That should all happen at the earliest possible juncture.

And then the League, in recognition of the myriad ways they have failed their biggest club this season, should hold up their hands, eat a large slice of humble pie – and say “sorry” to Leeds United.

Football League Investigates Leeds but Finds Itself Corrupt by Mistake – by Rob Atkinson

In an amazing twist, the Football League’s probe into the Leeds United “Spygate” allegation has led to a finding that the League itself is corrupt and not fit for purpose. A red-faced FL spokesman admitted that the findings themselves are real enough, but that the direction of the investigation was misconceived. “We didn’t mean to probe ourselves,” the man from the FL confirmed, “That was just an embarrassing mistake that stemmed from noticing Shaun Harvey’s eyes are too close together. But, because the error happened, we now find that we’re utterly corrupt, useless and totally bent out of shape – so I suppose we’ll have to do something about that, like ban ourselves or whatever. It’s all a bit bemusing, all we wanted to do was rattle Leeds United a bit. Deary me”.

What happens next is unclear. The League could appeal against its own findings, but we understand that it’s struggling to find grounds. “We appear to be bang to rights on being as corrupt as you could imagine”, said our man, gloomily. One possibility is that the League might disband itself and turn control of the FL72 over to some less obviously useless organisation, such as the BBC or the Tory Party. The next few days should be very interesting.

Meanwhile, Leeds United are free to continue with preparations for their match at Stoke on Saturday, and a furtive gentleman dressed inconspicuously outside the Potters’ training ground put down his binoculars long enough to confirm that the pre-match build up was “going as well as can be expected”.

Football League See Opportunity to Keep Leeds United Within Their Clammy Grasp – by Rob Atkinson

As many of us at least half expected, the football authorities in this country are refusing to see the Derby County “Spygate” storm in a teacup for what it is. Instead, they are assuming their grave and serious faces, and preparing to set the wheels in motion to hammer Leeds United yet again.

It’s no secret that the Football League in particular, driven by the hateful legacy of the late, unlamented Alan Hardaker, have a schizophrenic attitude towards Leeds comprised of love and hate in roughly equal measure. The hatred is a stand alone thing; like the silly kid down your street with a scum shirt on, they despise Leeds but can’t really say why, beyond a vague feeling that their dead dad would approve. The love bit is commercially-motivated: the FL simply do not wish to lose the jewel in their crown to the Premier League.

So, this ridiculous whinge from Lampard and Derby is embarrassingly being given some credence, against all sense and logic, simply because it might just open the door to a chance of clipping Leeds United’s wings. That’s the reality, that’s the measure of the League’s determination to hang onto us if they can. Against a background of one penalty award in almost 70 games, the mood in the Preston HQ is clear enough.

We now have to wait and see what the Leeds United response will be to the ominous “request for comments” on an incident which is demonstrably not without precedent. I hope that the club is prepared to set out its stall and indicate its determination not to be intimidated or cowed down by this, together with its absolute resolve to resist vigorously any attempt to apply sanctions that would threaten a highly promising situation as regards promotion.

As for the fans, we should be prepared to lobby the League in our thousands. Something like this was always likely to happen, especially with Leeds four points clear and set fair to move up and away. The League’s determination to throw a spanner in the Leeds United works must not be tolerated. If they want a fight, let’s give them a bloody good one.

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