Tag Archives: referees

Can Leeds United be the First Club Promoted Without Being Awarded a Single Penalty? – by Rob Atkinson

Lash Lorimer

Peter Lorimer demonstrates his penalty technique – from the days when we used to get them

Assuming Leeds United are not awarded a penalty at the DW Stadium during their televised meeting with Wigan Athletic on Sunday (and it’s a fair assumption, as we have seen this season, when some pretty good claims have been ignored) then the Whites will have clocked up 54 league matches without getting a single spot kick. In that time, many an obvious penalty has been refused United and, of the nine awarded against them, there have been some right stinkers, such as the ones given to Stoke and Brentford since the start of the current campaign.

This has now become quite a story in various media, and it makes you wonder what effect it might have on the referees and other officials in charge of United’s games going forward. My guess is that it will simply steel their resolve; no self-respecting, God-fearing, righteously Leeds-hating referee wants to be seen as bowing to external pressure, after all. So it could be a while yet before Leeds get a penalty, and when they do, Pablo Hernandez will probably miss it (as he did our last one, sometime around the Napoleonic Wars).

So – assuming that the record continues – could we actually go a whole league season without one single penalty kick? That’s not unknown, actually, at least in the Premier League, which is the only division for which I’ve seen these statistics. It’s still quite rare, though, and I honestly do wonder whether, in the Championship, with its higher incidence of what we may term “agricultural defending”, it’s really feasible that a club can actually draw a blank for the whole campaign. But I stand to be corrected and, as ever, I welcome any informed input.

Even if any team has previously played a second tier campaign without even one penalty, I’d have serious doubts over whether that team would have managed to be promoted. Any club looked on so unfavourably by match officials must surely feel as though its card is well and truly marked, especially if they keep on getting dodgy penalties awarded against them. That’s been the Leeds United experience so far this term – and yet, despite the additional problem of injuries to key personnel, the Whites ride high in the table, and will look forward to kicking on when (if) the treatment room gets a little less busy.

Leeds have shown every sign so far that, at their best, they don’t need refereeing generosity (or even common sense) in order to win Championship matches. They’ve managed to stay right up there, even in spite of some appalling decisions against them. So – assuming I’m correct to say that no team has ever been promoted without at least one penalty being given to them – could Leeds United be the first to achieve such a difficult challenge?

I actually think that United really could see their penalty drought extend to cover the whole season, despite the fact that we have tricky players who can only be stopped by chopping them down – and yet I remain optimistic of success, hopefully via the automatic route. Because, as well as the “no penalties for you, Leeds” rule, there’s also the well-established law that United just don’t do play-offs. So it’s top two or bust for us, penalties notwithstanding.

I’d really like to know if this would be a first, and I might even check the odds and have a moderate punt on it. But, if any friendly Statto out there knows better, and can prove that I’m barking up the wrong tree, and that it’s all been done before – then, please, let me know. Ideally before I part with any of my brass to Big Bad Bert the Bent Bookie. Thank you.

Advertisements

Notts Forest Fans Rail at Leeds ‘Cheats’, But Strangely Quiet on Their Own ‘Evil Genius’ – by Rob Atkinson

The City Ground Nottingham – home of hypocrites

Football, as befits this country’s national sport, used to have standards. Now, it seems, the Beautiful Game is more about double standards. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the city of Nottingham, where hypocrisy and sanctimony walk hand in hand wherever Notts Forest fans gather, with an overarching sense of holier-than-thou in every nook and cranny.

This past week, Notts Forest fans have been throwing their hands up in disgusted horror and emitting shrill squeaks of protest at the nature of Leeds striker Kemar Roofe‘s late equaliser against them at Elland Road last Saturday. Roofe seemed to hold his hand up and admit the goal may not have been strictly legit, but that has failed to pacify the outraged “Tricky Trees”, who had plainly never before witnessed such infamy and unfair play.

Or so you’d have thought, given the depth of their apparent disgust. A few of the City Ground bright boys even logged into a live stream of a Leeds United U-23s game from Thorp Arch earlier this week, simply so that they could be seen in the live comments, in full-on j’accuse mode, howling “cheats!” at bemused United fans watching the game online. That’s going out of your way to make a point, actually logging in to a second string game. It borders on obsession. Surely, they must feel they have a solid grievance and a steep elevation of moral high ground.

And yet… and yet… check out this YouTube clip of Darius Henderson‘s late equaliser against Middlesbrough a few years back. Surely that can’t be handball? It really can’t be – because, if it were, those highly self-righteous Notts Forest fans would remember it, and then possibly forbear from casting “cheat” aspersions on others, lest they might appear to be hypocritical humbugs

Certainly though, the Darius Henderson equaliser does appear to be a far better example of a blatant handball than Roofe’s, which was more of a clumsy lopsided tumble compared to Henderson’s classical punch. And some Forest fans certainly do seem aware of this less than glorious episode in their history – indeed, Henderson is referred to tongue-in-cheek as an “evil genius” in some quarters of the “Tricky Trees” online world. Why then be so up in arms about Roofe’s more innocuous effort – unless you are indeed the most blinkered variety of hypocrite? It’s a puzzler, right enough.

Incidentally, talking of punches, try Googling “Dawson on Jansson” – for a damning tweet which may show another incident in the Leeds v Notts Forest game where the away side appears less than wholly innocent. This little cameo should be considered alongside any claims that Pontus Jansson actually raised his hands to Michael Dawson (who, let’s face it, deserves punching as often as possible).

Going back to that Henderson handball goal against Boro, though, certainly the opposition manager on that occasion was in no doubt that his team had been cheated out of victory. “I didn’t need to see the replay, for me it was enough to see the reaction of my players,” he said. “I’m sure it was handball because my players told me it was through their reaction on the pitch.“ The Middlesbrough manager that day, so incensed at Notts Forest’s dishonesty and cheating, was one Aitor Karanka. I wonder – whatever became of him?

Perhaps the Notts Forest fans bleating online, as well as former Leeds and Forest skipper Kenny Burns, of whom I wrote yesterday, should take some time to reflect on both of the incidents highlighted here, and possibly agree that only he who is without sin should cast the first stone. Or, to be less piously biblical about it: stop lobbing stones when you’re living in a bloody great greenhouse, you utter hypocrites.

I’m sorry to speak intemperately. But it’s as clear as clear can be that Notts Forest fans are bang to rights here for cant, humbug and hypocrisy – and there’s good reason to suppose that even their manager, when he thinks back to being cheated by Forest in his Boro days, might just agree with me there.

Former Whites Skipper In Blistering Attack on Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Kenny Burns praying for justice for Notts Forest

Former Leeds United captain Kenny Burns has added his voice to the chorus of disapproval over Kemar Roofe‘s late equaliser against Notts Forest at the weekend. Leeds had been trailing for most of the game, despite dominating play, when Roofe struck with time running out to secure United the point which was the least they had deserved. But Burns was unhappy, and has been quoted as saying that Forest were “robbed”. I use the term “has been” advisedly.

Burns, of course, served Forest with some distinction in the late seventies, before sealing a move to Elland Road in a £400,000 deal in 1981. His main claim to fame in the white shirt is helping get Leeds relegated in 1982, and it would seem that he’d rather forget his time at United, preferring to adopt the “whinging ex-pro” role for the Nottingham local rag. In this capacity, he has apparently set himself up as judge and jury with a Notts Forest bias, bleating at length about what he clearly sees as cheating.

The man at the centre of the row, Roofe himself, remains unrepentant, pointing out that it’s the referee’s job to spot any infringements and rule accordingly. It does seem rather ironic that those of a “Tricky Trees” persuasion, including it would appear Sky TV, should be squealing about robbery, when their team almost blagged three points from a game in which they’d been totally outplayed.

But there you go. As anyone would confirm who saw Burns play, he may not be the best judge of fairness on a football pitch. Chalk up another professional Leeds United hater who’s just had to suck it up since last Saturday. The very best of hard cheese, too.

This blog will be keeping a close eye on future words of wisdom from Kenny Burns – particularly in the wake of any situation where Notts Forest benefit from a debatable ref call, like this one, for instance. But – being all too familiar with the blinkered hypocrisy of the Burns type of pundit – we won’t be holding our breath…

Roofe Caves In On Notts Forest as Leeds United Nick Handy Point – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds score – and even the Forest players celebrate…

Let me say first of all that Kemar Roofe‘s late equaliser for Leeds United against Notts Forest – apparently, if you call Notts Forest by the name Notts Forest, it upsets Notts Forest fans. Who knew? – was definitely handball. Quite blatant, probably deliberate, 100% handball. It should have been disallowed, and the officials have made a right rickett, bless ’em. Naughty Kemar, slapped wrist.

Let me say second of all that I couldn’t give a tuppenny toss about this awful injustice. In fact, I find it hilarious and deeply satisfying. If Notts Forest (there I go again) had received their just deserts, they’d have been waltzing merrily away from Elland Road with three points, like a proper happy little band of Tricky Trees. And that would have been technically quite fair – but in the real world of professional football, where unfair stuff happens all the time, and usually to Leeds – well, let’s just say that some sort of justice was served, for once. The boot’s been on the other foot often enough, and we’ve had to bite our collective lip and get on with it.

Forest fans, of course, will squeal long and piteously about being diddled out of two points, and the very best of hard cheese to them. It’s quite pleasant to witness their outrage and the way they’re over-analysing what was just a break that went against them. But they’re like that down there. They do like to pick away at a scab, even after they’ve been told not to picket.

The Notts Forest (somebody stop me!) game was one I was anticipating with some pessimism – and yet, as with most of our less impressive results, there were positives to take – dominance of possession, restricting the opposition, and so on. Marcelo Bielsa seemed quite content as well, so he must feel we’re still on the right track. Looking back, it would have felt as though fate had dealt us a scurvy trick, had we lost – so maybe we shouldn’t feel the least bit guilty about the manner in which a point was salvaged. I know I don’t.

All hail King Kemar then, who reacted honestly after the match and didn’t try to deny the undeniable. Strangely, Sky TV did not – to the best of my recollection – stick a microphone under the nose of any of the stressed and indignant Forest players immediately after the final whistle. I wonder why?

We take the point, and we move on, still ensconced in the automatic promotion places. Despite the fact that we didn’t win, and despite the related fact that, for the 53rd league game in a row, we didn’t get a penalty, although there was another decent shout for one – it wasn’t a bad old late afternoon spectacle at Elland Road. For once, we got the rub of the green. And didn’t it feel nice? That rare experience of a home draw tasting more like a win than a loss. Knowing our luck, though, we’d better not get too used to it – because, undoubtedly, normal service will soon be resumed.

…league games without a penalty kick for Leeds United. And counting.

Leeds United Clearly Now See the Football Authorities As Corrupt – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United to the FA: “J’accuse”

It is with weary resignation rather than any real sense of surprise that we have all learned today of the FA’s decision to hand Pontus Jansson a one match ban. The defender will miss tomorrow’s home fixture against Ipswich Town, due to his emotional but honest response to the question of a Sky Sports interviewer immediately after the last home game against Brentford.

Nobody who has followed the fortunes of Leeds United for any length of time will be greatly surprised at this latest sanction, even arising as it does out of a game in which an opposing player was caught on camera aiming a head butt at Gjanni Alioski – and got off completely unpunished. As Leeds fans, we’re sadly used to this, it’s become tiresome but par for the course. We sigh, we have a whinge via club blogs, we move on – most likely to the next injustice. We’re Leeds, the Damned United, pariahs, the ones they love to hate, 51 games without a penalty and counting. It’s scandalous, but after so many years of this kind of treatment, it’s unsurprising.

The official club reaction, though, is clearly and distinctly barbed. “Leeds United accept the one match ban issued to Pontus Jansson following our game with Brentford“, says the statement from Elland Road, “purely due to the fact that the club see no value in making an appeal“. This is not the club conceding that Jansson is bang to rights and suitably punished. Anything but. Rather, it is Leeds United pointing an accusing finger at the FA, as well as their partners in crime at the Football League, and saying “We know we’re not going to get a fair deal from you, so we’ll just get on with it”. It’s tantamount to the declaration of a righteous war against a corrupt and decadent ruling body.

The club had, after all, submitted a statement of mitigating circumstances to the authorities, opining that a warning and/or a fine would be sufficient unto the day. Leeds United undoubtedly take a very dim view of this latest crass action on the part of the FA, and are now likely to review club policy regarding post-match interviews, insofar as this is contractually possible. Various strategies have been mooted, including players being told to make themselves available for interviews, but to confine their responses to “No comment”. It would be a football take on “pleading the Fifth” and could possibly raise the stakes in what might turn into a veritable Cold War between United and the game’s ruling mandarins.

What seems certain is that the person least affected by today’s decision will be Jansson himself. As a brand new father of a brand new daughter – and many congratulations from Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything to Pontus and Mrs Pontus – he rightly has far more important things on his mind than Ipswich Town, and the £1000 fine that goes with the one match ban is hardly going to break his heart – or even his bank account. The important reaction here is that of Leeds United Football Club, who appear to have sent a very clear message to the FA along the lines of “We know what you’re up to. Watch it”.

Leeds should be able to cope without Jansson against the rock bottom Tractor Boys tomorrow – although, of course, that remains to be seen. The practical effect of what most United fans – as well as the club, quite clearly – will see as an outrageously bent decision, should be negligible. But the broader implications, now that Leeds United has decided, rightly in my view, to call out the FA for what they are – well, those implications could be more serious and far-reaching than anybody could have predicted when Pontus saw a red mist descend after feeling robbed on the final whistle against Brentford, and told the truth.

Watch this space, folks. Leeds United finally have the war paint on after half a century of persecution; the ride could get quite bumpy from here on in.

Leeds Hero Pontus Jansson to be Punished for Telling the Truth? – by Rob Atkinson

Pontus, giving Sky the unvarnished truth

They say that the first casualty of war is truth, and history tells us that there’s a lot of merit in those telling words. Certainly, in the war that the football authorities appear to have been waging against Leeds United for well over half a century now, the truth seems to be rather less than welcome as far as the aggressors are concerned.

This is most recently evidenced by the fact that the Football League and the good old sweet FA have not reacted well to a spontaneous outburst of truth from United colossus Pontus Jansson straight after the Brentford game. In a match full of incidents that arguably merited further examination and possible punishment, the guardians of the game have made what might be termed an odd choice in order to assert their own powers of judgement.

Many who watched the Brentford match – and this includes myriad fans of other clubs who were at pains to point out that they normally had no time for the Whites – were up in arms about what was an appalling display of rank bad refereeing. Quite what the Sky interviewer, who collared Pontus straight after the final whistle, expected to hear from him must be open to question. What he got was the man’s sincere gut reaction, delivered in Anglo-Saxon idiom; a blunt expression of what so many were thinking, namely that the ref had had a ‘mare and that Leeds had been robbed blind.

The most surprising thing to me about the post-match interview was Jansson’s rigid self-control. To be buttonholed directly after a game, with the frustration of losing two points still raw and the adrenaline still pumping, must be a difficult experience to say the least. When the Sky guy patronisingly warned Pontus to watch his language, like some pettifogging lackey to Mary Whitehouse, I honestly feared for his safety. I thought perhaps the forehead of Jansson, well renowned for its ability to head bricks away, might make a sudden and calamitous impact upon the interviewer’s nose. After all, the afternoon’s other example of the art of the nut was destined to go unpunished. But no. Pontus kept his cool and confined himself to a withering criticism of an awful referee who deserved no better. It was a masterpiece of self-restraint.

Leeds United fans are wise in the ways of the football mandarins’ dealings with their beloved club. Despite the fact that the Pontus incident would normally pale into insignificance beside the butting of Alioski or the swallow dive that “earned” Brentford their penalty, Whites devotees were soon expressing their opinions that the Brentford sinners would get off scot free, while Pontus would have the book chucked at him, with a warning not to head it back. And so, seemingly, it has now come to pass, with the FA announcing today that Jansson is to be charged.

In the administration of a game where a club, with tricky forwards who have plenty of touches in the opposition box, somehow fails to be awarded a penalty kick in FIFTY consecutive matches, something is far wrong. When that same club concedes NINE penalties over the same period, with some really dodgy ones in there like the joke decisions against Stoke and Brentford, something clearly stinks. And when the only disciplinary action taken, after a game including a head-butt and a laughable dive, is to level a charge at a man who merely told the truth in the heat of the moment, then you’re suddenly all too aware of what that stink actually is. It’s the stench of corruption, of a governing body rotten to the core who have made no secret over fifty-plus years that they absolutely hate, loathe and detest Leeds United.

People are suggesting that Pontus might cop for a fine. I saw a particularly attractive idea on Twitter; that Leeds fans should subscribe to a fund to pay the fine, and that United owner Andrea Radrizzani, on behalf of the club, should match the amount raised and donate it to the treatment fund for young Toby Nye. Pressure could then be applied to the FA to donate Jansson’s fine to the same worthy cause. I think this would be extremely fitting.

Mind you, it’ll probably be a ban, because those be-suited buffoons rarely miss a chance to deal a blow to Leeds United. What we really need right now is the fostering of a siege complex, so that the players know it’s us against the world, and react accordingly. We are all well aware that, whoever was the identifiable villain of the piece in the United v Brentford game, it was not Pontus Jansson. But this will cut no ice with the FL or the FA, so we’ll just have to get on with it – in the growing hope that our final position at season’s end can deliver an emphatic middle finger salute to those enemies of the truth who now seek to hang our Pontus out to dry.

Paying the Same Old Penalty of Being Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Pablo-Hernandez-Leeds-867189

Pablo missed United’s last penalty almost a year ago

Apparently, Leeds United has played 49 league games, over a full season’s worth, without being awarded a penalty kick. And, apparently, the man who awarded that long-ago penalty kick (one Jeremy Simpson) is in charge of tomorrow’s meeting with Brentford at Elland Road – so maybe the odds on United completing an unwanted half-century of league games without being awarded a spot kick are not quite as hefty as we would otherwise suppose. But if Mr. Simpson DOES repeat the trick, pointing to the spot, don’t get too excited about the prospect of history repeating itself. When he awarded that last one, nearly a year ago, Pablo Hernandez missed it.

During this past year, however, the referees for our fixtures have not been entirely unemployed in terms of penalty awards. Despite their obvious reluctance to give our lads anything in response to opposition penalty area transgressions, it’s been a different story when it comes to our own 18 yard box. There, the “strictly impartial” officials have been comparatively eager to emit a shrill peep of their Acme Thunderer whistles, followed by the fickle finger of fate indicating that Leeds had conceded yet another penalty. It’s happened, so I’m given to understand, eight times since the last time we got a penalty. That’s eight for the opposition, and none for us. Call me biased, but it seems to me that the cause of fair play is not particularly well served by that record. And this is before we even get into the legitimacy of some of the decisions against United.

Take for example the penalty awarded to Stoke City in the opening league game of this season. I’ve been scratching my head over that one ever since. Having played the incident over and over, to the point where I’ve almost worn out my hard drive, I’m still clueless as to why it was given. Even the TV commentators seemed a little short of the enthusiasm with which they normally greet decisions against Leeds. They seemed bemused, and it’s my guess that they could see no more justification for the decision than I could. The relative lack of protest from United players was also curious, though this was possibly due to disciplinary guidelines laid down by new manager Marcello Bielsa. Still, having seen the clip literally hundreds of times, at normal speed and in slow motion, forwards and backwards and every which way except upside down and inside out, I’m no nearer to spotting the remotest justification for that penalty award.

Of course, that’s history now, just as with the other seven spot kicks conceded since Leeds last got the benefit of the referee’s whistle. If you’re not sure why it should still bother me so much – consider how the two sides of this penalty conundrum are so blatantly loaded against our beloved Whites. It really is difficult to escape a feeling that we’re on the wrong end of far too many dodgy calls. Apologists for the men in the middle will argue that – warning, here comes a cliché – “these things even themselves out over the course of a season”. But they patently don’t, and there are ample statistics to prove that they don’t. As someone who sat in tears of frustration and rage when Leeds were denied two stonewall penalties in the 1975 European Cup Final, of course I’m still bothered by such injustice.

I won’t get my hopes up for a Leeds penalty tomorrow, especially as we’d probably miss it anyway. I fully expect the 50th game to go by without an award, and we may well continue on and on, unrewarded and unawarded, heading towards the century mark. Already, the penalty-less run has reached ridiculous proportions, I’m confident that no other club in the Football League has to look back anything like as far into history for their last spot kick. But that’s simply how life is for Leeds, and has been for much longer than I can remember. Luckily, we seem to be doing alright at the moment, even without getting the breaks, which in its own way is the sweetest path to success and making all our dreams come true. Perhaps, after all, we should collectively grit our teeth and just be grateful for small mercies.

 

Leeds v Middlesbrough Match Officials Warned “Watch Out for Ayala” – by Rob Atkinson

Boro’s Ayala – a box of dirty tricks

As if tonight’s top of the table Championship summit clash between Leeds United and Middlesbrough wasn’t sufficiently loaded with potential flashpoints, one above all others had the potential to affect both the result and the disciplinary responsibilities of the match officials at Elland Road.

With a full house expected and the electronic eyes of the Sky TV cameras ever on the lookout for controversy as well as action, the atmosphere will be edgy and intense right from the start. Both clubs have playing staff previously on the books of their opponents, and there is a long-standing rivalry between the Kings of Yorkshire and the club best known for being Yorkshire rejects.

One potential source of strife and controversy stands out above most others though, with the likely presence in the Boro side of Daniel Ayala, a man with recent form in this fixture. Last season, with Leeds two goals to the good, Mr. Ayala blatantly wrestled Luke Ayling to the floor in the United box, an action somehow missed by match officials. Understandably outraged, Ayling sprang up to remonstrate, and in the subsequent kerfuffle, Ayala, with a look of saucer-eyed innocence on his face, contrived to have his team awarded an unlikely penalty.

Not all match officials, of course, are as visually challenged as the assistant referee on that occasion appeared to be. We must give him the benefit of the doubt, after all, and assume that it was his eyesight to blame, and not the presence of the Middlesbrough away support just behind him. But Ayala’s initial assault on Ayling was crude and obvious, and it’s reasonable to say that the incident was not one in which justice was served. Fortunately, Leeds hung on deservedly to win the game 2-1.

Mr. Ayala is still up to his nasty little tricks though, and still managing somehow to be blatant about it, and yet escape the notice of the men with the whistle and the flags. The recent Boro v West Brom game was a case in point, with Ayala clearly offending and completely getting away with it. How he does this is a mystery; we can only hope that forewarned is forearmed, and that – if Ayala does play this evening – the nastier parts of his game are spotted by the officials.

Here’s hoping for a good game and a fair outcome. MOT.

Liam Cooper Emerges from Leeds Undergrowth to Earn Win Over Brentford – by Rob Atkinson

Paul-Heckingbottom-Leeds-Press-Conference_1518100957

Hecky settling in nicely at Elland Road

Dean Smith, Brentford’s Head Coach, was not a happy man after his side’s defeat to Paul Heckingbottom’s increasingly resolute Leeds United at Elland Road yesterday. Careless of “sour grapes” accusations, he complained on several fronts: the grass was too long, the goal was offside and the referee and assistants were in thrall to the Elland Road crowd. In truth, criticism of the officials was justified, but you’d have needed to stagger past Specsavers and into a lamppost to be dazed enough for a claim that they favoured Leeds. It was that kind of press conference though. Fortunately, Mr. Grumpy was followed by Mr. Happy.

Paul Heckingbottom breezed into the room as you’d expect with a man basking in the afterglow of his first win in the job. The fact that he’d also got his first clean sheet – something that had looked highly improbable during most of the first half – served to put an even broader smile on the face of a coach who appears to be settling in nicely and feeling at home. He dealt briskly and good-humouredly with the gripes of his Brentford counterpart: the grass was too long? It played better than on Sunday against Bristol, it were too short after t’rugby. Offside for the goal? I’ve only seen it on the small monitor, we’ll take it apart and look at it later. But (twinkly grin) I don’t care. And the referee? Another grin – and Paul states that he doesn’t talk about referees – “After a few weeks, you’ll probably stop asking me about them”.

All in all, it was a post-match conference of two halves, but Smith had lost and Hecky had won, so perhaps that’s understandable. What did come across, as it increasingly does with every passing game into the Leeds job, is Heckingbottom’s self-assurance and confidence, together with a no-nonsense yet engaging style of explaining his take on matters relating to the task he’s taken on. He seems very comfortable in his own skin, and you get the feeling that this is an air that will instil confidence into players who had, perhaps, begun to lack that valuable commodity. And that could be half the battle; so much of the professional game, with its fine margins between success and failure, is about confidence.

Asked about the prospects of the play-offs, Hecky said he was taking the remainder of the season one game at a time, and see where that gets us. But he added that he’d be happy if people were still asking him that question for a good while – it’d mean we were still in with a shout, just maybe. And you can see that’s the case. Courtesy of Cardiff‘s late win over Bristol City, we’re just five points off. Win at Boro on Friday night, at a venue that Leeds have found quite amenable over the years, and things could be getting quite interesting.

Either way, Hecky will most likely be content with his lot, happy to take anything that might come along this season, but equally prepared to play a longer game and put his stamp on the club in time for next time around. I’ve had Barnsley-supporting mates tell me that we’ve bought ourselves a pup, but, from what I’ve seen so far, I can’t help being impressed with the new guy. There’s just an air of “I’ve got this” about him. He clearly sees Leeds United as a massive opportunity, one he’s determined to make the most of. Daft considerations like who he supported and who he hated as a kid don’t come into it, as all of us should be grown-up enough to figure out for ourselves. Paul Heckingbottom is Leeds now, and he’ll be just as set on restoring the club to its rightful place as any Leeds-fan-since-birth you could name.

Can he, will he succeed at Elland Road, where so many others have failed before him? By Heck, it feels like a risky thing to say, but you know what? He just might. 

 

Leeds Taste Derby Day Defeat at Rampant Barnsley – by Rob Atkinson

mike-dean-arbitro-premier-league-169-1

Mike Dean – doubly incompetent

In football, as in life, timing is everything. And it was the timing of two rather poor Mike Dean penalty decisions during Leeds United‘s tumultuous defeat at Oakwell this evening that may well have been the factor upon which the outcome of the game ultimately depended. Had Leeds gone in at half-time 2-0 up, with a penalty to add to Chris Wood’s bundled opener after Kyle Bartley got a Barnsley hand in his face at a corner, there could have been few complaints from a home side that looked to be under the cosh at the time. But, in the final analysis, the fragility of a 1-0 lead was exposed by a late first half smash and grab goal from the hosts – and you sensed then that the tide had turned decisively.

In the second half, Barnsley came out like a pack of ravenous hounds and punctured United’s rearguard twice in quick time in a dominant spell. Two great finishes left Leeds with what, in the end, proved to be too much to do. This always looked to be the case, even after Dean’s second shoddy call of the match, awarding Leeds a penalty from a good forty yards behind play, for a handball offence that was clearly miles outside the box. Chris Wood duly converted but, even with their hopes so fortunately boosted, United never really escaped the stranglehold Barnsley had put on them from the time of the equaliser. In the end, the injustices evened themselves out, allowing the better side over 95 minutes to enjoy a deserved victory. 

What might have transpired had the hapless Dean got his calls the right way around is anybody’s guess – though it’s tempting to suppose a Leeds side two goals to the good would have taken some pegging back. As things were, there can be few complaints, and both sets of fans will be in agreement that Mr. Dean should go back to Premier League football and practice his dubious skills there.

For Leeds, defeat might just be a timely wake-up call and a reminder that the squad still needs a bit more strength in depth. It’s to be hoped that this will be addressed in the coming days, along with the pressing need to get back to winning ways on Wednesday against a Nottingham Forest side that should be ripe for the beating. United manager Garry Monk will be focusing already on that game, and the Whites should see it as a chance to start off on another positive run. 

Lastly, it has to be said that Barnsley’s grit and attitude were as commendable as the quality of the goals they scored. Everyone knows how much beating Leeds means to the Tykes, and those victory celebrations will be sweet indeed. With Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday also flying high in the Championship, it’s turning out to be a good season for Yorkshire clubs. None of which is any comfort in defeat – but Leeds know there is stiff competition out there and it’s up to our heroes to step up to the plate now and reassert their authority. 

That process can and must start on Wednesday. After a great run since December, we now expect nothing less.