Tag Archives: relegation

Leeds United Bids a Fond Farewell to Doomed Millwall   –   by Rob Atkinson

 

Millwall’s “Leeds away” supporters’ bus will be in use full-time next season

When you bid a fond farewell to someone, it normally means you regret they’re going; that you’ll miss them and eagerly await their return. Leeds United fans have made that kind of farewell often enough – various Elland Road heroes have left us over the years, with varying degrees of regret or relief on both sides.

The fond farewell we’re bidding to Millwall FC, however, is a horse of a different colour. This farewell is one we’re glad to be making. It’s a case of “off you go, chaps, and don’t hurry back”. The Lions probably will be back at some point; we shall have to hope that by that time we’ve moved onwards and upwards ourselves, so avoiding the need to sully our boots in competition with such a very horrible club.

For Millwall, let’s face it, have been a blight on the Championship ever since they dragged themselves up to this level. They have conducted themselves in a less than admirable fashion, certainly off the field and in the stands, where they continue to be followed by a rag-tag bunch of racists and knuckleheaded thugs, who disgrace themselves at every possible opportunity. We at Leeds are familiar with the sickening glee that has accompanied their Turkish favours, so blatantly – even proudly – displayed, every time Leeds have been visitors to their Meccano ground.

This eager desire to make fun of murder and loss is what has distinguished Millwall fans from almost every other set of supporters in the country – Man U being one possible and unsurprising exception. Maybe it’s a southern thing, then – but you don’t get that sort of stuff from many other southern sets of fans – not even Spurs.

Millwall’s visits to Leeds haven’t been anything like as troublesome, mainly as they’ve largely bottled that particular trip North, turning up in dribs and drabs that make an embarrassing mockery of their much-vaunted F-troop reputation. The excuse always offered is that those fixtures have been “bubble matches” events heavily policed with fan travel controlled and tickets issued in return for vouchers. It’s the kind of arrangement that makes away support more difficult, certainly – but not impossible by any means.

Leeds have been affected by such measures – but it hasn’t stopped us taking the usual large numbers to places like Cardiff. Millwall’s recent average at Leeds has been in the order of a couple of dozen who sit shivering, high up in the stand – a sad indictment of a supposedly scary away support. The flip side of this coin is the effect on a game’s atmosphere; on the other hand, it’s preferable to having buses smashed up and your stadium befouled by some fairly uncivilised visitors.

Twitter last night was aglow with supporters of other clubs, jubilant at Millwall’s fall from grace. That says a lot about the way their particular brand of “support” is distasteful to other fans. It was somehow appropriate that it should be Rotherham United who hammered home the final nail in the Millwall coffin by beating Reading and ensuring their own safety – despite a three point deduction that has made Millwall’s failure look narrower than it really is. But Rotherham will take keen pleasure in administering the fatal blow to a club whose fans reverted to type when, shortly after a tiny band of them witnessed defeat at Leeds, a rather larger mob rioted as their favourites lost at Rotherham’s New York Stadium.

Millwall’s relegation is entirely deserved on merit; they’ve clearly been one of the three worst teams in the league, and their demotion is probably a week or so overdue. Their fans also do not deserve to be mixing it with some of the elite clubs in the game; their proper level is where they’re now returning to, and the likes of Barnsley, Burton Albion and Shrewsbury must be wished the very best of luck in dealing with the invading reprobates.

Millwall will not be missed by Leeds United, nor, I believe, by most other clubs in the Championship. May their stay at a lower level be long and unrewarding – and may their supporters reflect that, in the misery and hurt of relegation, they are reaping now what they have been sowing for far too long. 

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Sacked Millwall Boss Holloway’s Decline and Fall Summed Up by Two Cup Finals Against Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Where did I go wrong?

Where did I go wrong?

Ian Holloway‘s sacking by Millwall Football Club did not come as a great surprise to anyone who has witnessed – albeit from afar – the manager’s gradual disintegration as the season has worn on. Sad though this might also look at first sight, the parting of ways may well ultimately have a happy ending, with the man heading upwards into a more acceptable appointment – and the club plummeting downwards to nearer their natural level.

The season could hardly have started on a more positive note for Holloway or Millwall. The club had one of its two seasonal Cup Finals to look forward to as an opening fixture, with a chance to break out the Turkish flags and some really disgusting football shirts in order to mock the dead, as Leeds United – crisis torn and makeshift – rolled into town. The outcome was predictable on the field; less so off it. Millwall cruised to a routine 2-0 win over a Leeds team that hardly knew each other and played accordingly – and, as naturally happens in this neck of the woods, sections of the home crowd lost no opportunity to have endless fun over the murder of two Leeds fans 14 years previously.

After the game, and after giving due credit to his victorious troops, Ian Holloway was the very epitome of sportsmanship, making no attempt to gloss over the reprehensible behaviour of some Millwall fans and expressing his disgust at the nature of the chants and songs he had heard. It was a surprising but heart-warming departure from the normal “my club right or wrong” managerial line, and Holloway’s stock rose accordingly within the precincts of God’s Own County, as respect was duly accorded.

Wind forward a few months and now we’re heading towards the sharp end of the season. Millwall have declined steadily from their exhilarating start, and they’re in big trouble – and facing another Cup Final, this time at Elland Road. Leeds United have mounted a recovery of sorts, despite a mangled season of coaching staff upheaval and crises further up in the club as owner Massimo Cellino was hunted mercilessly by a pack of slavering Football League hounds.

After ending the August fixture at Millwall three points behind the Lions, United are now five points ahead, and the home game for Leeds is a genuine six-pointer. As ever with these fixtures, it’s what the fans call a “bubble match“. Away fan travel is strictly regulated under this tactic; the Millwall fans have to collect match tickets, exchanging pre-purchased vouchers for them at a service station in Yorkshire – the better for them to be kept an eye on in the hope that maybe they will not wreck any buses this time. For the past few seasons, this measure has kept the size of the ‘Wall away following down to tiny and inoffensive proportions – and so it would be today, something that would end up as an irritant thorn in manager Holloway’s tender hide.

This time, crucially, the honours went to Leeds, creating an eight point gulf between the two side that has grown steadily ever since. Leeds should, by the end of the season, be comfortably clear of the relegation zone – the gap is currently a luxurious 16 points – but it was this result that really started to relieve those nightmarish worries. Had Millwall won, Leeds would have been a scant two points ahead and the nerves would have been seriously twanging as squeaky bum time drew on. In the event, the Lions have signally failed to recover from that Elland Road defeat, currently sitting mired in the drop zone, a full eight points from safety. All quite satisfactory, and certainly a welcome change from the season opener – but how would Ian Holloway’s post-match performance compare to the heights he hit back then in sunny August?

The answer, as we all know is – not well. Not well at all. Depressingly, Holloway seized on the paucity of the Millwall away support, claiming that such restrictions made for an unfair atmosphere and that this had been a major factor in his side’s defeat. He didn’t appear to consider that no away ban was in place – that the Millwall fans had been at liberty to attend – if they could be bothered using the voucher and collect scheme. He didn’t reflect either that Leeds fans face similar sanctions at certain grounds, which doesn’t prevent them from being followed by thousands of fanatics everywhere they go. None of this penetrated Holloway’s head; he was looking for a scapegoat and he had the West Yorkshire Police in his sights, just ahead of pretty much everyone else.

Disastrously – a short while after Holloway had insisted that Millwall fans could be trusted and shouldn’t be subjected to “special measures”, so to speak – they showed their true colours with a typically disgraceful display of bad behaviour at Rotherham, in considerably greater numbers than they had mustered at Leeds. How Holloway must have wished he’d simply kept his mouth shut after the Elland Road defeat.

With the benefit of hindsight, the two games between Leeds and Millwall this season were each a barometer of the now former Lions manager’s standing at the time. As the season started, he had overseen a fairly miraculous escape from relegation the campaign before – and memories were still fresh of his impact on the Premier League as Blackpool manager a season or two earlier. He was eloquent in his post-match press call; there was a lot to admire in what he said – as I wrote at the time.

But as the Elland Road return rolled around, a different picture had emerged. Now Holloway was looking snatched and hunted; his team were embroiled in another relegation battle and, although they had snatched two unlikely wins in the previous two away games, their awful home form threatened to drag them down. Holloway arrived at the home of Leeds United desperately in need of another away win. He got nothing, and was unable to restrain his bitterness and frustration afterwards. His lack of class in seeking to blame matters on a body of men and women charged with keeping the peace in the presence of a notorious away crew did him no credit. The contrast between the Holloway defeated at Elland Road and the one so magnanimous in victory back in August was stark. This was now a man heading rapidly for the buffers, the brakes having failed.

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything called upon Ian Holloway to apologise, after the Millwall disgrace at Rotherham, for the unwise things he’d said at Leeds about what have been shown to be sensible precautions over away travel for certain sets of fans. But there’s no pleasure in seeing a genuine character brought low – and I both hope and expect that Holloway will be back, in a better situation and also a better frame of mind. It seems likely as I write that interim Millwall manager Neil Harris has a bit too much on his hands to rescue the toothless Lions this time around. And, as any regular reader will know, this blog will shed no tears as and when they drop to League One. But nobody – no club – is all good or all bad, and to the decent Millwall fans, some of whom have contacted me with reasoned comments before now, I wish you well in what will probably be a season of League One consolidation next season. And I’m sure that Millwall, too, will be back.

It’s just that I hope, by then, Leeds are mixing it in the big league against appropriately big clubs. Nothing personal, chaps.

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.

New Leeds Striker, But Cani Manage Without a New Winger or Two? – by Rob Atkinson

Cani - raring to go, but where's the supply coming from?

Cani – raring to go, but where’s the supply coming from?

Leeds United’s month-long pursuit has paid off with the capture of Cani, the striker that most of us probably wanted the least – against the rival attractions of the somewhat more exotic Leonardo Pavoletti, who opted to stay in Italy despite the temptations of a West Yorkshire winter. So it’s Cani for Leeds, a 6’4″ beanpole of a striker who, it is said, will suit the Redders style of play. He appears to be the non-prolific, target man type of striker – so we can anticipate that he will rival Steve Morison for a place in the starting line-up. The question is: will Cani help to improve the supply to the real goalscorers in the squad? That supply needs to come at least in part from out wide as demonstrated in the win at Huddersfield when Antenucci put over the sort of cross he’d love to be on the end of himself, for the hungry Billy Sharp to gobble up.

As I write, there yet remain six long hours of this transfer window – time enough for one or two wide boys to be recruited. Michael Tonge has had his inoculations and has headed off to Millwall; one theory was that this move might pave the way for Castleford-born, scum-supporting ‘Wall winger Martyn Woolford to link up with Leeds. No sign of that as yet – and really, he’s not exactly Maxi Gradel, is he?

Sharp’s emphatic finish at the Puppy Farm at the weekend emphasised the fact that, if you give a finisher some quality supply, he will deliver the goods. If Leeds are to capitalise fully on the potential of Sharp, then we must pay attention to our options in those wide areas. Byram and some of the other junior talents available will not do, not just yet or for the longer term. A winger, either in the last few hours of this window or in the emergency loan market to follow, is a real necessity. Two wingers would be even better.

The next few hours could go a long way towards defining our goals potential for the rest of the season, and the escape bid that lies ahead. The new man has the desire and potential to help – but he “Cani” do it on his own.

Norwich Live to Die Another Day – by Rob Atkinson

Recovery is unlikely

Recovery is unlikely

So, it didn’t quite happen yesterday. The outcome so many Leeds United fans have been craving, after so many annoyingly chirpy Canaries have taken so much mick over the past few seasons, failed – for the moment – to transpire.

Norwich City, though, remain doomed to the drop, and our two clubs will meet again in the Championship next season. All that remains to be confirmed is the arithmetic of it. Norwich produced a fine, stubborn defensive display at Stamford Bridge to deny Chelsea and achieve a stalemate which is of little use to either side.

Norwich showed almost no attacking ambition at all – curiously slapdash going forward for a team desperately in need of the full three points. Their hard-won but ultimately pointless point will serve only to delay the death notices. For make no mistake – this Premier League Canary is no more. It has ceased to be. This is an ex-Premier League Canary.

Norwich now find themselves in the hopeless position of wishing and trusting that Sunderland will gain not one single point more in their remaining two fixtures. This, let us not forget, is a reinvigorated Mackem force, inspired of late by former Leeds “winger” Connor Wickham – a player that Sunderland inexplicably insist on deploying in his natural position. Go figure.

Sunderland play West Brom in midweek, and a draw would put both clubs beyond poor Norwich City’s reach. I wonder if that might be just what happens? Only a West Brom win would gain the doomed Canaries a further mathematical reprieve – and even then they’d have to beat Arsenal and hope that Sunderland lose again on the final day. It’s an unlikely set of circumstances and, basically, it ain’t gonna happen.

So we Leeds fans will eventually get our vindictive wish – just not today. But we will see Norwich dragged down again, within our vengeful reach, after three years of cockiness from these Johnny-come-lately types from the back of beyond. Three years of transfer plunder, seemingly in an effort to prove that the midfield which hauled Leeds out of the third tier could actually prosper at the highest level. Would they, could they?? Erm, no – it would seem not.

The Norwich fans must expect little sympathy from their counterparts at Elland Road. They have lived by the sword of banter, snickering unmercifully at their club’s transfer depredations, growing happier and more unbearably bumptious bumpkins with each successive raid on LS11. Now they must be prepared to die by that same Schadenfreude sword, as their delusions of belonging in the Premier League come crashing down around their ears. It’s sweet – I have to admit it.

See you next season, Norwich. It’ll be a tasty atmosphere at Elland Road, I imagine. I wonder if any of our former heroes will remain in the Canaries shirt as you venture back to Leeds? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, it’ll be a pleasure to meet, greet and – hopefully – beat you.

Doncaster and Barnsley Chop Means Four Fewer Cup Finals for Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Donny down

Donny down

As Leeds United’s season came to a brighter than expected end, with a battling draw against play-off hopefuls Derby, events lower down the table in the tawdry scrap of the relegation dogfight may well have already had an effect on the Whites’ prospects for next time around.

Leeds did undeniably well in what was a dead rubber against Derby.  After going behind early and suffering a couple of further scares, United pressed their higher-placed opponents hard for the bulk of the remaining time in the game and the season; they had a couple of penalty claims turned down, Ross McCormack was slightly unfortunate to see a vicious free-kick punched out by County keeper Grant – and Michael Brown put in an all-action, give-me-another-year’s-contract performance that included a Cruyff turn which had you thinking suspiciously about the origins of those mushrooms you had for breakfast.

The equaliser, when it came after 50 minutes, was another high point in the productive season of Matt Smith, one of the few real bright spots of a blighted campaign.  Leeds could well have won the game, but the level of performance was encouraging in itself.  It is likely, though, to be a case of “too little, too late” for many of the squad, as plans will already be afoot for a hiring and firing summer as Cellino’s Italian Job gets under way.

Next season, when it comes, will see a marked reduction in one of those irritating factors which have impeded Leeds United’s progress far too often and for far too long.  I refer of course to “Cup Final Syndrome”, whereby a number of smaller clubs try their little hearts out when facing the Whites – and often end up thrashing us.  It’s a phenomenon particularly noticeable in local derbies yet, thanks to the ineptitude of our fellow Yorkshire clubs, not only have we ended up as top dogs in the county yet again, but we have also contrived to see the back of two of those annoying and inconvenient pests in the shape of Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers.

Barnsley bit the dust last week with a 1-3 defeat at Middlesbrough – helped along the way, I like to think, by the rare dropped points (five of them) in their games against Leeds, points they would normally have nicked in previous seasons.  So, we did our bit to see off the Tykes and, even though Donny won at Elland Road recently, our 3-0 win at their council ice-rink early in the season has helped to dispatch them.  Which is nice.

Doncaster’s relegation was, if anything, a lot funnier than even Barnsley’s, coming as it did right at the death of the season when they were on the very brink of being safe.  They were happily settling for a narrow defeat at Champions Leicester in the secure knowledge that Birmingham were two down at Bolton and surely doomed.

But then Lady Luck did one of those graceful pirouettes for which she is rightly notorious, and Brum battled back – scoring through Zigic and then laying siege to the Wanderers goal.  Three minutes into stoppage time, and they pulled that last rabbit out of the hat to equalise and achieve an unlikely late escape, simultaneously sealing Donny’s fate – much to the horror of the Rovers fans and much to the amusement of anyone in Leeds colours who harbours unpleasant memories of Wembley, that day when the concourse was lop-sided with United fans, but when the minnows perversely triumphed.

There are a few reasons for hoping that next season will be better for Leeds – prominent among them of course being our understanding that we are no longer operating on Skid Row, having moved across town to Easy Street. Whether that works out, and to what extent we might now be competing at the plusher end of the transfer market, remains to be seen.  But the lessening of the intensity of competition in local derby terms can do nothing but good, as Leeds have generally speaking made really hard work of these matches, to the detriment of the overall league picture.

Even though we have ended up on top of the Yorkshire standings, our results against Huddersfield and the Wendies have left much to be desired this season as in many before.  At least there will be a little less of this unseemly parochial skirmishing next season – even given that we will have Cardiff City to add to the unsavoury attractions of Millwall.

And so, another season ends, bleak and disappointing from a Leeds United perspective, but with distinct compensations elsewhere in the form of the enjoyable suffering of others.  As I write, Man U have just slipped to their umpteenth home defeat this season – even under the peerless guidance of Sir Ryan Giggs – and Cardiff’s brief flirtation with the top flight is over. There may well be a bonus in the form of relegation for Norwich Bleedin’ City later this weekend.

Wolves and Fulham will be with us next season – always attractive fixtures – and the games against Cardiff and Norwich should be spicy, too.  We must hope that the Leeds squad can be reshaped and re-motivated, to such a pitch that we will be truly competitive next time around.  Allowing for all the distractions and side issues, we weren’t that far short this time – but it all went wrong when events off the field took over.  Next season should be slightly more peaceful – or is that hopelessly naive?  And, if all else fails – well, we might still have Old Man Browneh, weaving his elderly magic and pulling off Cruyff turns aplenty to bedazzle the opposition.

It certainly is a funny old game.

A Leeds View of Barnsley’s Demise: Karma’s a Bitch – by Rob Atkinson

The traditional relegation image, Barnsley variety

It’s true, then. What goes around really does come around – and Barnsley FC, whose primitive fans were so gleefully happy at the plight of Leeds United just a few weeks back, have now dropped into the lower league abyss which is their natural environment.  They can expect neither sympathy nor comfort from LS11 – the home of Leeds United who, just a few short weeks ago, had problems of their own that threatened to cast them ignominiously into administration and League One.  At that point, the internet rang with glee from the usual suspects, prominent among them the fans of that small club from the back streets of a former pit town in the Republic of South Yorkshire.

The Barnsley fans of my acquaintance were highly active on Facebook and the like, nudging each other in a virtual sense and snickering like excited schoolboys.  “Leeds are going into admin!” chortled one.  “Really?” spluttered his little friend. “Is that for definite?”  And so they went on, speculating about the level of the points deduction (15 at least, I reckon. Ooh no, I hope it’s 20.)  It was unedifying stuff, but sadly it’s exactly what you might have expected from a bunch of fans with such a large chip on their collective shoulder.  They “hate Leeds scum”, you see.  They couldn’t tell you why, though they might possibly remember something their dad once said about Billy Bremner or Norman Hunter.  Anyway, they were chuffed to bits at the thought of our misery and the crisis we were in, and they cavorted accordingly.

It was similar at the end of last season.  Back then, Barnsley were in relegation trouble again, come the last day of the season.  So were Huddersfield; and the two played each other, knowing that the loser would go down.  It ended up as a draw and results elsewhere saved both lesser Yorkshire clubs.  You might have expected celebration, maybe even mutual congratulation and some clog dancing in the cobbled streets with, perhaps, a spike in the troglodyte birth-rate nine months later.  But no – the sole thought in these yonners’ tiny minds was to join in with a combined chorus of Huddersfield and Barnsley as they regaled us with loud and tuneless anti-Leeds United songs.  They were bang to rights on a charge of hating us more than they loved their own dismal little clubs, even at the moment of their greatest triumph – because for Huddersfield and Barnsley, avoiding relegation from a sphere higher than their natural comfort zone is as good as it ever gets.

But now, a mere few weeks on from Leeds United’s nadir of crisis and despair, when those Toby Tykes were so happy and optimistic, things have changed and the pit boot is on the other foot.  Leeds United are safe – and apparently minted, with the potential to rebuild and ascend once more into the Promised Land. Meanwhile, Barnsley have gone, back into obscurity where they undeniably belong.  No more Cup Finals against Leeds United – they will have to settle for playing second fiddle to Sheffield’s junior club. They will face a new and bleaker financial reality as their already tiny crowds (except when Leeds came to town) dwindle even further.  Some gloomy and pessimistic “Tarn” fans are already predicting that it’ll take years to come back.  Let’s hope so.  Sentimental hypocrites aside, Barnsley will not be missed.

All their fans can do now is to prepare themselves for existence at a lower level, with fixtures against the likes of Rochdale, Scunny and perhaps York City. Those fans will still “hate Leeds scum”, but they will miss the brief taste of the big time that our visits provided, and they will yearn for the day that they might play us again.  From a Leeds United point of view, one less Cup Final Complex opponent will do us no harm next season – and it’s probable that we’ll have moved on up, long before Barnsley can hope to slither out of the lower league mire.  It’s all very satisfactory and enjoyable – and if that sounds cruel, then just cast your minds back to the fun the Tykes were having, quite recently, at our expense.

What goes around, comes around – and karma is indeed a bitch.  Suck it up, Barnsley fans.  You deserve it.

As Leeds’ Season Peters Out, Let’s Get Right Behind Man U! – by Rob Atkinson

Home of the ailing Canaries

Home of the ailing Canaries

Leeds United play Birmingham City away this weekend. So what? It’s been another shocking season, a fair number of the players who have donned the shirt this campaign weren’t remotely fit and proper to do so and will probably be gone by July. Quite possibly the manager and sundry staff will follow them. Leeds have been dire yet again this season; opponents Birmingham have been if anything even worse – they face the clear and present danger of relegation under their morose Geordie manager Lee Clark. It’s a meeting of busted flushes this weekend at St Andrews with the imperilled fighting the irrelevant. Move on – there’s nothing much to see here.

There’s an almost parallel situation in the Premier League this weekend as mid-table also-rans face a side urgently in need of points to avoid the drop. But there is much more potential for a bit of malicious entertainment here – IF as a Leeds United fan you can bring yourself to support our traditional bêtes rouges for once in a very long while.  Yes, folks – Man U play Norwich City on Saturday tea-time, live on Sky – and it’s time to ditch those treasured prejudices and get behind the boys in red and their dodgy interim manager.

Don’t get me wrong.  I hate Man U as much as – in fact certainly much more than – the next slavering, Leeds-mad, bile-ridden, anti-scum bigot out there. Some regular readers may already be aware of this, as I’ve dropped subtle hints from time to time.  Normally, the only time I could bring myself to wish for the Pride of Devon to succeed is against a club I hate infinitely more – the degraded dross from Istanbul, G*l*t*s*r*y.  The fact that I can now bring myself to watch TV on Saturday and wish for Man U to win is down to two factors.

Firstly, Man U are peripheral, nay, irrelevant to this season – Agent Moyes has seen to that. So it’s been neither quite so annoying when they win, nor quite so sweet when they lose (although I still enjoy this very much). Secondly – they’re playing Norwich, a nasty, jumped up little yokel of a club that I dearly wish to see take a fall and come crashing down to a status which more accurately reflects their standing in the game.  I badly want Norwich City relegated, and I will put up with even a Man U win if it helps to bring about that desirable outcome.

The fact of the matter is, this unfashionable and remote little club, under the frequently tired and emotional leadership of TV cook and wine-taster Delia Smith, have comported themselves like some latter-day Tottenham Hotspur over recent years, raiding our beloved Leeds for the few jewels in our crown much as North London’s junior club did at the beginning of our long slide down to oblivion.  It’s not big and it’s not clever – but the Spuds enjoyed themselves at our expense in the early Noughties – and it’s been those annoyingly bloody chirpy Canaries doing the same, ever since they went up to where they’ve no business being.

Over the past few seasons, Leeds fans have had to grit their teeth, grin and bear it as little Norwich – an anonymous club from the back of beyond – have used the fact of their temporarily higher league status to pluck such gems as Snodgrass, Howson, Becchio and, erm, Bradley Johnson from the Elland Road payroll.  In truth, only the first two of those four departures were all that painful – the odd twinge caused by Luciano’s departure has been relieved by his zero contribution to Naaaarritch since he joined them – but that hasn’t stopped those loveable Ciddy fans from gloating and grinning and taking the mick. Every time another transfer “coup” has been completed, there they’ve been, savouring the novelty of lording it over Mighty Leeds, crowing about us being their “feeder club” (no marks for originality there, lads) and generally cavorting all over the internet like the small-time wurzels they are.

Now, it seems, their long-awaited and richly-deserved comeuppance may well be nigh.  Hovering perilously just above the Premier League relegation zone, they look ahead to their last few fixtures of the season – and they must wonder where another point is coming from, as they anticipate difficult matches against the Devon scum as well as Chelsea and Arsenal.  You might well think they’d be lucky to get the traditional Eurovision nil points, keine punkte from that little lot. Meanwhile, the likes of Cardiff and Sunderland are beginning to shake off their season-long uselessness and threaten to accrue the couple more points which might be all it takes to elevate them over the ailing Canaries.

A relegated Norwich would, of course, have to cut their suit according to their cloth – some of their stars might well be moving on.  As a new-era Leeds with some cash jingling in our pockets, would it be too much to hope for that a couple of our much-missed stars might possibly find their way back to a reinvigorated Elland Road next season – wearing a white shirt as Massimo’s United push for long overdue glory?

Most probably it is too much – but football is about dreams and sometimes dreams come true.  But first, we need to see if those not-so-lovable country bumpkins can complete their fall from grace, starting with defeat at the Theatre of Hollow Myths this weekend coming.  Then, perhaps, we can start to hope that the mickey-taking little club will come tumbling down where we can get at them.  If I’m actually going to sit there this Saturday, hoping for a Man U win – something that might very well cause me to be lavishly, spectacularly ill – then a bit of malicious pleasure at the expense of Norwich City FC is the very least I will deserve.

Why Vincent Tan’s Crystal Palace ‘spying’ outburst stinks of desperation at Cardiff City

An honest Cardiff fan’s clear-eyed view of owner Vincent Tan’s latest desperate tactic to help avoid a relegation he will have brought upon the club himself.

Nervous Leeds Struggle to Beat No-Hopers Millwall – by Rob Atkinson

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. Dozy Old Lions

Leeds United 2, Millwall 1

Leeds achieved two unlikely outcomes in this scrappy match at Elland Road. Firstly, they actually contrived to win a game of football. Secondly, in doing so, they still managed to make a team as poor as Millwall look half-decent. The win is a fact, it’s in the record books. Millwall’s appearance of being any better than awful is surely deceptive.

The Londoners, cheered on by literally dozens of loyal followers, started fast and looked to live up to their manager’s claim that they’d be seeking victory in their Cup Final. Leeds, habitually nervous amid the great expectations of the home support, were harried into frantic defence and seemed set to concede yet another defeat to an undeniably inferior side.

Yet it was the Whites who took the lead after 18 minutes, Matt Smith looping a header over and beyond Lions keeper Dunne from a long throw. The goal settled United somewhat and they coped rather better with the pallid threat of the visitors for the remainder of the half – and with only four minutes left to the interval, they pounced on the toothless Lions to score again. This time it was McCormack’s finish from a tight angle which gave the half-time score a slightly flattering look at 2-0.

In the second half, Leeds were back to their bad old ways of making mediocre opposition look much better than they should. The fact that Millwall managed only one goal in a 45 minutes of forgettable football said more about the paucity of their finishing than it did about Leeds’ defending, adequate though it was. A better team – and there are many better teams than Millwall – could easily have taken United to the cleaners today. As it was, Millwall boasted the best moment of a desultory game with sublime volleyed finish after minutes.

Leeds have interrupted a desperately poor run of form and Millwall confirmed their position as likely candidates for relegation – and that about sums up this dismal spectacle. For Leeds, the three points were far more important than the performance, which is fortunate for them. For Millwall, it’s time to look out the League One road maps as they seem destined to wreak their mayhem at a more accustomed, lowly level next year. If they can muster a few more away fans, that is…

Leeds United: Butland, Byram (Wootton 90), Lees, Pearce, Pugh, Mowatt (Tonge 84), Austin, Murphy, Wickham (Hunt 86), McCormack, Smith. Subs (not used): Cairns, Warnock, Stewart, Poleon.

Millwall: Dunne, Robinson, Beevers, Lowry, Upson (Campbell 57), Garvan, Onyedinma (Jackson 59), McDonald, Woolford, Marquis (Maierhofer 57). Subs (not used): Bywater, Fredericks, Abdou, Powell.