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Man Utd Fans – a Scientific Study From a Leeds United Perspective – by Rob Atkinson

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From Amphibian to Armchair

Statement:

Having previously published an article which sought to convey certain very pertinent truths to the Football community at large, I have noticed a backlash of distress and resentment from some lower forms of life who can broadly be classified as “ManU fans“. These creatures are not normally capable of communication as civilised people understand it, but since the Why Liverpool are Still the Greatest Champions article saw light of day, various undercurrents of discomfort have been perceived, as if a species lacking in any sentient capabilities has been attempting, en masse, some form of primitive self-expression. In order to understand what is being conveyed, we should perhaps seek a greater understanding of the species as it exists in the wild.

The most common breed of “Man U fan” is Scummus Australis Gloria-venator (southern scum glory-hunter), to give the full name of the genus in its most prolific form. This is a manifestation whereby parasitic colonies are to be found almost everywhere outside of the Mancunian conurbation. The more hardy rival species Urbis Rex Urbus (City, King of the City) tends to keep down the Scummus numbers in this one isolated location, but elsewhere they are prolific and they thrive particularly in the south, with unusually nasty infestations in Devon, Cornwall, the Home Counties and Milton Keynes – not to mention Singapore where their steadily growing numbers appear to correlate directly to an increase in reported cases of Dhobi Itch.

The genus is vaguely humanoid in form, even in this most lowly class, and some authorities believe it may actually be a sub-classification of Homo sapiens itself, being the result of selective in-breeding between males of the long-extinct “Newton Heath Man” and lower human females of a less discriminating nature. This theory has gained some currency after isolated and hotly disputed “demonstrations” of a reported ability in certain Man U fans to count up to twenty; to recall events from as long ago as 1993 (but in most cases no further) and, in some cases, even to grunt simple sentences.

Whether they are really capable of original thought has been the subject of hot debate, but there appears to be very little empirical evidence to support the arguments of those who say that this is indeed so. (Citations needed)  Examples have certainly been given of individuals being able to make grunting noises approximating to actual speech, and some observers have claimed to detect genuine phrases such as “Biggest in the world”, “Liverpool granny-stabbers” and, most notably of all, “We all hate Leeds scum“.

It has even been suggested in certain circles that this latter manifestation may give a hint as to the existence of a rudimentary sense of irony, but this has been dismissed as fanciful by most competent authorities, who tend towards the opinion that any noises recorded when a pack of ManU fans gathers are mainly for mutual reassurance, low-level male bonding and to attract the attention of higher species in Leeds, Liverpool and North & West London.

Another area of dispute has been the way in which evolution is working where this species is concerned and, indeed, in which direction? It’s well-known and universally accepted that nearly all species, particularly the higher primates, follow a linear evolution whereby the organism tends to advance in both body and mind over an extended period. There is, however, evidence to suggest that some strains of the ManU fan have actually been formed by a process of degradation as illustrated at the head of this article; a higher species has in effect decayed to form an inferior strain; fish has become armchair.

This runs contrary to the vast body of accepted knowledge in the anthropological sphere, but there is some hard evidence that some individuals of the ManU fan species have superior, albeit decayed, genetic material in their recent ancestry. It is not known how such a relatively swift and drastic deterioration may have taken place, though some theories postulate that the injection of a malign bacterium from the Govan area of Scotland may have corrupted some previously sound stock around the late 1980’s resulting in mutations in gene pools wherever this highly volatile and destructive bacterium was detected.

What seems certain is that, despite an almost complete lack of intelligence or conscious thought on an individual level, this species is able to communicate certain simple emotions when acting together, much as is the acknowledged case with lower creatures such as ants or even bees. The possibility of a “colony intelligence” should not lightly be dismissed and it may well be that ManU fans are able to co-operate in this manner, and that one day – maybe not for a long time – they may succeed in achieving some sort of primitive interaction, perhaps as a result of some species-wide distress or sense of grievance.  For the moment, it is true, the effect is merely that of incoherent noise in a very basic and simple pattern, repeated ad nauseam without any apparent higher motive and utterly unworthy of publication or retention. The possibility of some limited increase in coherence and content cannot, however, be dismissed out of hand.

This being the case, I have undertaken to publish, on an experimental basis, more material investigating the hierarchy that operates within Football, and the extent to which this has been perverted by the advent of the “Murdoch Syndrome” in 1992. Such material will be scrupulously researched and the findings presented in such a manner as to render them scientifically impeccable, as has ever been my intention. But, given the feedback received after the Liverpool piece – diffuse and muted though it was for lack of clarity and intellectual content – efforts will also be made to monitor any increase in activity among lower orders generally and the sub-species “ManU fan” in particular. Naturally, I intend to remain accountable at every stage of this process, so I will as ever welcome comments and constructive contributions via the usual channels, though manifestations of incoherent noise and repetitive gibberish will continue to be deleted, except insofar as they may provide useful data in the context of these investigations.

Statement ends.

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Sunderland v Newcastle Rivalry Not in Same League as Leeds Against Man U – by Rob Atkinson

Hate Man Utd - We Only Hate Man Utd

Hate Man Utd – We Only Hate Man Utd

Football rivalry – the antipathy between fans of rival clubs with a keen edge of hatred in extreme cases – has been going on for as long as two teams of eleven players have gathered together to dispute possession of an inflated bladder over a green sward. And I will proudly say here and now: Leeds United is an extreme case. We are top four material when it comes to despising our foes. But we like to think we’re quite picky about it. None of this “regional rivalry” nonsense for us.

Let’s face it, hating another team and its supporters for mere reasons of geographical proximity is pretty silly. I can understand it to a certain extent where two clubs share a very small area, like a town or adjacent districts of a city. There’s a territorial thing going on there that recalls the days when a team’s support was derived largely from its immediate locality, though that’s not really the case any more now with the mega clubs who have fans all over the world. After all, why would a Man U glory-hunter in Singapore or Seattle really care if Man City are based only a few miles away from “his” club? He’s more bothered as to whether or not his favourites can buy more trophies than anyone else, City, Chelsea, Arsenal, anyone.

At Leeds, hatred tends to be reserved for those who have earned it, and who are – by independently verifiable standards – intrinsically despicable. Man U pass both tests with flying colours, and it’s certainly woven into my DNA to detest them. Call me a blinkered bigot (guilty, m’Lud) but I can never really understand why Sunderland and Newcastle, who meet in derby-day combat this afternoon, share such mutual loathing when quite frankly both would be better off directing their energies towards hating someone who deserves it.

Many at Leeds have the time and energy to revile other clubs, Chelsea prominent among them. The Ken Bates era at Leeds was an uncomfortable time for these types in particular – they hated Bates for his Chelsea connections (I hate him too, but mainly for his own not-so-sweet self.) Bates never seemed keen on Leeds either, not since – during his reign at Stamford Bridge – a group of freelance demolition contractors from Yorkshire travelled down to SW6 and saw off his scoreboard. But for me, Chelsea (and Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and the rest) are only relevant insofar as they have teams that can beat Man U for much of the time, and as long as they do that, they’re just fine and dandy as far as I’m concerned.

In Yorkshire the situation may best be summed-up as follows. All other Yorkshire clubs hate Leeds United, and Leeds United regard all other Yorkshire clubs as beneath our notice – except on those annoying occasions when temporarily reduced league status means we have to soil our boots by playing them. This attitude does nothing, of course, to endear Leeds to the likes of Bratfud, Barnsleh, Uddersfailed and the Sheffield dee-dahs – but really, who cares?

I have more respect for fans of clubs like Birmingham or Everton or – yes, even Man U, who hate Leeds for reasons other than just sharing a county with us. That fits better with my world view. Ask a Newcastle fan why he hates the Mackems, and he might blither incomprehensibly for a while (well, they just talk like that up there) – but no rational reply will emerge. I could talk your ears off about why I hate the scum, and I know many Man U fans who can do the same when invited to say why they hate Leeds, which is more than many other Leeds haters can say.

The fact is – whatever the pious purists and holier-than-thou types might say – there’s nothing wrong with football hatred, properly expressed and stopping comfortably this side of actual violence – as I’ve previously written here. It adds some passion to a crowd and to a football occasion, and football would die a lingering death in the sort of sterile atmosphere some of these self-righteous hypocrites seem to want. All I’d say is: if you must hate, then hate for a good reason.

Read my other articles, and you’ll find my reasons for hating Man U – the reasons why I firmly believe anyone might reasonably hate them – are a regular feature in the occasional rants to which I’m prone. They’re nothing to do with why Southampton hate Pompey, or why Forest hate Derby (although I CAN see the Clough factor in the latter case.) Pure regional tribalism is at work there, and I suppose there’s a place for it. But that sort of thing is slightly irrational to me, while hatred based on facts and history is not. Hatred is a genuine human emotion, and the football variety is a safety valve which is useful in diffusing a lot of the negative emotions in society at large. It’s a therapy of sorts. So chew on that, you pious, pseudo-intellectual gits who preach at rabid football fans and utterly fail to understand what’s going on.

I’m happy to admit that I have a healthy hatred for the scum, and I’m equally happy that it’s so lustily reciprocated – with any luck the depth of these feelings will see the game of football, still so dependent on the atmosphere generated by its match-going followers, survive for a good long time to come.

Top Ten Reasons People Hate Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

  1. My dad told me to. 
  2. It’s totally cool to hate Leeds scum. 
  3. Everyone else in my school year hates them. 
  4. My grandad told me to. 
  5. The Daily Mirror told me to. 
  6. That ginger Peterborough fan told me to. 
  7. Erm…
  8.   
  9.    
  10. That’s it, with regard to this one.

Leeds Utd Could Lose a Treasured Rival in Millwall FC – by Rob Atkinson

What do you call a Millwall fan in a suit? The accused...

What do you call a Millwall fan in a suit? The accused…

Crisis club Leeds – I say “crisis club” because that’s how the Daily Mail and the Mirror and other such quality news outlets refer to us, so it must be true – may be about to suffer yet another shattering blow. A sporting rivalry treasured on both sides of an apparently vast divide could unthinkably be terminated by what would be a tragic relegation for those lovable chirpy cockney barrow-boys and girls of Bermondsey, Sarf Landan – Millwall FC.

How sad it would be to see this wonderful, heart-warming, community club disappear into the obscurity of the lower leagues. Community is such an important word when discussing the Lions of the New Den.  It is at the heart of everything they do. Older fans may remember the days when community singing was a vital element of every Wembley Cup Final occasion – and it’s sad that those days seem to have gone amid a welter of fireworks and other pyrotechnics.  How grateful we are then to Millwall, for their innovation of “community fighting” at a Wembley semi-final, battling among themselves, tearing into each other like playful and blood-crazed sharks as their team stumbled to defeat, heedless of the terror and confusion of those children present. It was a signature spectacle, bringing back in a manner peculiar to Millwall memories of those days when crowd participation was inextricably linked with the occasion itself. This was a few years back now – fortunately, perhaps, Millwall haven’t threatened to get near a semi-final since.

Visitor’s to the environs of Millwall’s homely little ground (local motto “Say it with half a brick”) will also have carried away with them memories of the warm – frequently hot – welcome they were usually afforded.  Nothing was ever too much trouble for the natives, who were regularly available for cultural exchanges on a twelve-to-one basis, with demolition and amateur dental and glazing clearance work frequently offered at no extra cost, together with a complimentary visit to the local A&E department. Back in the day, the very name of the Lions’ former home, The Den, was enough to make any prospective Daniel all too aware of exactly where he was venturing. The address of the old ground, Cold Blow Lane, added its own especial piquancy to the air of goodwill and bonhomie that traditionally surrounded an away fixture at Millwall.

The thought that all of this could be lost to the fans of Leeds United and the other Championship clubs is a sobering one.  And yet the threat is very real; after a series of defeats in December and the first half of January, Millwall were firmly in the danger zone.  That inept run of results has been interrupted by a draw against Reading and an unlikely win at Forest – but the ragged cockernees are still firmly in the mire.

It would be such a shame if even these fairly flea-bitten and toothless Lions ended up plummeting through the relegation trapdoor.   I’m happy to say that a cordial relationship has long existed between this blog and the close-bred supporters of the Bermondsey outfit.  There has even been a bit of banter here and there – it may surprise some erudite Leeds-supporting readers of these pages that the odd instance of respectable IQ occurs even among the ‘Wall fans every now and then. Yes, even from such a limited gene-pool as that in which those chirpy, loveable cockney brick-slingers exist, there are one or two who can string enough four-letter words together to form a simple, declarative sentence.  With their extraordinarily close “family ties” counting – so you might imagine – against any hybrid intellectual vigour such as we in the North enjoy, this seems remarkable.  But, nevertheless, it does appear to be so.

The dialogue between this blog and those in the vanguard of the Bermondsey intelligentsia has usually been  testy on the surface – that’s what rivalry is all about, even between two clubs so far apart on the evolutionary scale – but I’ve always been confident that warmth and humanity have underpinned all of our dealings.  Why, those passionate and committed – or at least certifiable – fans have even taken the trouble to enquire after my family’s health and life insurance, taking great pains to find out all they can about where we live and what security arrangements we have.

When Leeds had their “Black Friday” almost exactly a year back, there were those Millwall scamps, tweeting away in numbers, playfully rubbing my nose in it. But the following day, as Leeds murdered Huddersfield 5-1 and Millwall surrendered 0-3 to Reading, it all went quiet on their side – still, at least they’d made the effort the previous night.  It’s mainly been good, clean knockabout fun with only comparatively few threats of death and disfigurement coming my way – the defining characteristic of these salt-of-the-earth Lions fans. How I would miss all that if their beloved club’s relegation were to be confirmed – as seems sadly* likely. Then again, some welcome consolation would be found in the fact that Millwall’s demise will almost certainly mean the Championship survival of Leeds United after our most difficult season for a good few years.

Perhaps, if they do go down, they’ll be back sooner rather than later.  If not,  then beyond the fixture at Elland Road this coming Valentines Day, which Millwall will be under pressure to win, it’s unlikely that our paths will cross again in the foreseeable future. And, as Millwall normally bring only a few dozen fans to LS11, belying their obviously spurious reputation for being fighting troops (other than among themselves) it appears there will be little prospect of cultural exchanges of banter, or whatever on the February 14th matchday. Which again is a pity – but if North to Elland Road is too tough a trip for the majority of Lions fans, there’s little to be done about that.

It does rather look as though a whole era of friendly competition, mutual badinage and a couple of Cup Final outings in the limelight each year for little Millwall might just be coming to a tragic end. And it’s a pity. But United will find they have bigger fish to fry, the Millwall fans will be able to chalk one scary trip “Nawf” off their calendar, and each club will be able to get used to life in very different circles, with Leeds mixing it with huge clubs like Tuna billionaires Sheffield Wendies and Millwall – or in the local argot, Miwwwaww – bestowing their unique charm on the likes of Barnsley and so on.

So, let us not mourn over what might soon be past.  Let us, rather, be grateful it happened at all.  It was fun pretending we were on the same footing for a while, but all such fun has a natural end, and this may just be it.  Let us, then, shed just one silent, wistful tear – and move on.

* Not really.

What IS the Point of Tottenham Hotspur? – by Rob Atkinson

Arsenal, London's PrideArsenal, London’s Pride

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is celebrating the FA Cup exit, at the hands of Leicester City, of Tottenham Hotspur FC – by reprinting this highly popular anti-Spuds article.

Thank you.

As a Leeds fan, I’m quite familiar with the whole big club/small club debate – who qualifies as “big”, what are the qualifying criteria? If you currently have a crap team, does that mean you’re suddenly a crap club? And so on and so forth, ad nauseam. It’s not really a question that preoccupies me too much – certainly not to the extent of the Freudian fixation with size that afflicts the plastic followers of a certain Salford-based franchise fallen upon hard times – but it can be annoying if you follow a club like Leeds United, with all the rich tradition of the Revie era and even allowing for the fact that our history before those great days was a bit of a void. But what I’d normally argue is that, look – we’ve been Champions three times in my lifetime, we have a global fanbase and a worldwide notoriety (I won’t call it adoration), a massive web presence which show how many people count the Whites as a big part of their lives – and absolutely no significant local rivals at all. Ergo, we are big. End of.

But what of certain other clubs who are routinely referred to as “big” – not to say massive or even as a “mega-club”? Tottenham Hotspur are a bit of a peculiar animal in this respect. From some points of view, they are certainly a club of significant size.  They have a decent stadium in a major city. They deal towards the top end of the transfer market and they’ve been a steady member of the top-flight since the mid-seventies, picking up the odd trinket here and there. But Spurs have two major problems: the first is that they haven’t been Champions since 1961 – a major flaw for a club with any pretensions to size and a place in the forefront of the game. The second problem may be succinctly summed-up as “Arsenal FC”, their fierce local rivals and the team that undeniably thwarts them at every turn.

Arsenal have been stomping all over poor old Spurs for a good while now – and of course, they’ve been and gone and done it time and time again in terms of Champions League qualification, edging the hapless Spuds out repeatedly over the past few seasons. The presence of Arsenal as Tottenham’s neighbours, rivals and perennial bêtes-noires is a major obstacle to their chances of ever being regarded as a mega-club, a status that Arsenal wear casually, as of right.  Arsenal, after all, have generally been top dogs in North London, certainly over the past fifty years. They’ve had stability in the managerial chair since the mid-nineties and not that long before Wenger it was George Graham importing large quantities of silverware into the stadium graced by the famous marble halls.

Even the Gooners’ recent potless run, terminated by last May’s FA Cup success, has not detracted from Arsenal’s ability to regard Tottenham from a lofty position of pre-eminence. In the fallow period, the Gooners nevertheless played football of a sumptuous beauty and brilliance, and just as importantly they managed the transition from a famous old home to a spectacular and world-class new one. The financial burden that went with this is steadily being seen off – and yet it’s a process that Spurs have yet to embark upon. Will they negotiate it as well as the Arse have? Highly doubtful.

The sad fact as far as Tottenham are concerned is that this continued subordination to a comparatively humble status will always be a glass ceiling that they will find impossible to break through, certainly if Arsenal now blossom into one of their title-winning incarnations, capable of dominating the domestic scene for years at a stretch. And Spurs need to be up there with the big boys if they are to come anywhere near the kind of status their fans expect and desire.

The youngest of those fans who can remember the last Spurs team to be champions will be coming up for retirement any time now. It was the year that I was born. That’s a hell of an indictment for a so-called “big club” – not really elite form at all. Consider all the other clubs who have any real pretensions to this elevated status in the game. They’ve all been Champions at some point in the last 40 years – even Man U, who couldn’t win the real thing after 1967, have gorged on the post-Murdoch pale imitation. Spurs can’t realistically claim to belong in this exclusive company of Champions – they’re really just a slightly inflated West Ham.

Perennial Champions League qualification is a great advantage for Arsenal, but being on the wrong end of that equation is proving to be a major disaster for Spurs. They lost the jewel in their crown to Real Madrid, and however many millions Gareth Bale brought in, it’s difficult to see where Tottenham, despite their own transfer spree, have a replacement on their books of anything like the same quality, young Master Kane notwithstanding (and he’s not as good as Lewis Cook…) All the best players get routinely gobbled up by the Champions League cartel and Tottenham are in very real danger of becoming the richest club to have their noses pressed up against the window of the House of Quality, yearning to be inside but kept out of the spotlight by their more illustrious neighbours.

That has to be a scary prospect for the proud fans of White Hart Lane, but it’s entirely realistic. Spurs may, with their serial Champions League exclusion and the still-painful loss of their talisman Bale (however ineffective he was against Sam Byram in that FA Cup tie at Elland Road), have blown their chances of ever again being thought of as a genuinely BIG club.

And if that’s the case – then, really… what IS the point of Tottenham Hotspur?

We Hate Man United, We Hate Tottenham Too – by Rob Atkinson

Unrivalled support

Stand up, if you hate the scum….

I’ve taken a bit of stick lately, through the “Comments” facility of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, for appearing to nurse a degree of hatred towards certain other football clubs – and their supporters.  It’s a serious accusation, so I should make my position clear straight away.

I’m guilty as charged.  Guilty as hell.  Guilty as a weasel in the hen-house.  I do indeed hate, among others, Man U (the scum), Tottenham Hotspur and Galatasaray (Galascum).  It should be emphasised that this is not an exhaustive list.

My reasons are varied, according to the club involved – but those reasons are entirely valid, as far as I’m concerned.  They’re also entirely personal to me.  I don’t invite anyone to correct me over this and I wouldn’t dream of infringing on anyone else’s hatred territory. And, most importantly of all, though I have entered above a plea of guilty, I don’t feel guilty.  Not a bit of it.

Before I go on, let me state this as a guiding principle: there is a place in football for hate

Now, that might seem a rather provocative, not to say controversial statement, in these happy-clappy days when going to the match is supposed to be all about families, and fun.  When oompah bands high up in the stands, are strategically placed so that the newly-gentrified population in the 36 quid seats should not have to hear anything raucous or profane. 

But it’s true, nevertheless.  Football is tribal, football is cathartic, football is where you get to let off some steam after gritting your teeth all week. 

And, for all of that, you need someone to hate.

Hate is a much misunderstood, wrongly demonised word nowadays.  It’s not really to be found in the lexicon of the politically correct.  It sends out the wrong message, don’t you know, and speaks of the extreme edges of emotion and feeling, where those of pallid personalities do not wish to be seen. 

But hate is a real human emotion, and you can’t simply wish, or indeed legislate it away.  Properly expressed, it’s just about the best catalyst for atmosphere at a good old traditional sporting fixture.

The professionals should stay out of it, and get on with the game – it’s not really within their remit to get caught up in the atmosphere a bit of hate generates (although it’s frequently more entertaining than the football when teams DO let the passion affect them).  However, the real arena is in the stands, or on the terraces, as we used to say in happier times. 

Here is where the mutual dislike, felt in extreme measure in some cases, can safely be vented.  Two sets of supporters, bound by a common loathing, hurl insults of glorious vulgarity back and forth, each seeking to outdo the other in a contest outside of the on-field engagement.  The feeling is atavistic, and there’s no actual need for it to spill over into physical confrontation for honour to be satisfied.  The occasion as a whole is enhanced by these pieces of human theatre.

The modern tendency towards crowd interaction being drowned out by super-powerful P.A. systems, pumping out crap music, has detracted from this phenomenon, as have the silly drums and trumpets they call “bands”.  My own beloved Leeds United made an ill-advised decision, quite a few years back now, to promote a “band” – but the masses behind the goal did not approve.  The occasional toot and drumbeat were heard, only to be swiftly squashed by a throaty “Stand uuuup, if you hate the band”, and the experiment died an early and unlamented death.  Rightly so, too.  Bands at football stadia prosper only where the indigenous support lacks the moral fibre to resist such contrived attempts at a “nice” atmosphere.  Sheffield Wednesday is the obvious example.

Sadly, it appears that the good old days of free expression, where a cadre of like-minded fanatics could express their hatred of “that lot from ovver t’hill”, are soon to be behind us for good.  Yet there are still football clubs and fixtures which can conjure up some of the old atmosphere, so deeply do feelings run. 

I’m glad to say that dear old Leeds United is one such club, so pathologically hated by so many other sets of fans, and so willingly disposed to return that sentiment with interest, that our matches against a select group of old enemies roll back the years, and set the blood pumping with an almost-forgotten vigour.  Long may that remain the case – these are the real football clubs, with the real fans, and it’s this unreconstructed minority which is striving to hold back the tide of plastic, family-orientated, artificial bonhomie that so threatens to dull the palate as the 21st century progresses.

It’s not politically correct. It’s frowned upon by the self-appointed guardians of “The Good Of The Game”.  And admittedly, it too often spills over into taboo references, or actual violence, which is never something to be condoned.  But come the day when they finally kill the last wisp of hate-fuelled atmosphere, at the last old dinosaur of a non-modern non-Meccano stadium, they’ll be well on the way to finally reading the last rites over the corpse of the game as we used to know it.

And then – why, I’ll throw in the towel, say my goodbyes to Elland Road, and sulk off to watch Frickley Athletic play those twats from FC Scum of Manchester – confident that there will be enough curmudgeonly old reprobates on both sides who will be happy to spit venom at each other for 90 minutes – just for old times’ sake.

Millwall’s Danny Baker: Redemption of a Leeds-Hater – by Rob Atkinson

Baker: Machiavellian Machinations

Baker: Machiavellian Machinations

Last August I was forced to publish the shameful revelation that Danny Baker – word-smith extraordinary and the planet’s only intelligent Millwall fan – was guilty of the heinous crime of match-fixing, blatantly fixing his show’s legendary “Sausage Sandwich Game” such that the hapless Leeds United fan got beat by the evil, sneering, plastic Man U armchair supporter he was up against.

Today, though, another Leeds fan was on the show and, glory be, he won through to the whitewashing extent of 3-0.  Not against a glory-hunter this time, but a humble Cambridge United fan.  Still, even though it was through gritted teeth, Mr Baker ended up congratulating Leeds on a clean-sweep victory. On this occasion of Danny’s redemption, then, I publish again my account of last year’s tawdry and shameful event, together with my appreciation of a Millwall fan who has somehow managed to climb out of that gutter and give us an irreverent and entertaining view of football and the world in general that elevates him above the common herd.  Read on now, as Baker was bang to rights as a Leeds-hating match fixer – for shame, Danny!

(Article below originally published 31 August, 2013)

This week’s Danny Baker show on BBC Radio Five Live thankfully lacks the sinister Machiavellian overtones of last week’s offering.  This week, all is sweetness and light, fun and games with the characteristic chirpy wit of Britain’s favourite Millwall fan. It’s Baker’s Banter that makes his show such required listening every Saturday morning and which makes the task of the boys from Fighting Talk, the unfortunate forced comedy offering which follows DB, so very difficult and thankless.  Fighting Talk lacks the effortless knockabout originality of Baker, so it has to settle for a gang of moderately famous, moderately funny desperadoes, sound effects so that the listening audience knows when to smile wanly, and of course some mutually supportive, falsely raucous studio laughter as they congratulate each other in those special “comedy voices” that so make the teeth curl. It’s pretty unedifying stuff, particularly straight after the unique offerings of Danny and his cohorts. So Baker rules the Saturday morning airwaves – and rightly so.

But last week, a serpent entered this light entertainment Eden.  The iconic and pivotal “Sausage Sandwich Game” (SSG) has been the comedy mainstay of Danny’s show for many a moon now.  Last Saturday, though, as the competing fans in the SSG metaphorically donned the rival colours of Leeds United and Man U – a horrible reality dawned on the minds of those attuned to examples of media prejudice where Leeds United are concerned.  At first, it was just too distasteful to contemplate, or to allow to grow into a fully-formed conclusion.  But ultimately, there was no escaping the dismal truth.  The Sausage Sandwich Game – humorous cornerstone of the whole Danny Baker legend – was FIXED.  (Sensation, gasps of horror).

I forget all the grisly details.  It may well be that my mind has blotted out the finer points of the dastardly deed.  That’s quite understandable, as my innocent appreciation of a regular Saturday morning humour-fix was being corrupted into something foul and repellent.  Suspicion turned to certainty and my paranoia circuit glowed into activity.  The Leeds lad hadn’t a chance – the game was bent against him, warped so that there was no possibility that the Man U contestant – smug, complacent article that he was – might have to walk away empty-handed.  And so it panned out; Man U won 2-1 in last week’s thoroughly rotten-to-the-core SSG, and my child-like belief in Danny Baker and all his ways collapsed into a pile of rubble, ruined beyond hope of reconstruction.

Well – not really.  It’s still Sir Dan for me, Millwall fan that he is and his frantic game-fixing activities notwithstanding.  Seldom can there have appeared such a thoroughly original wit from the ranks of genuine old-school football fans, and long may he continue to thrive.  A cancer survivor and irreverent observer of the game of football’s many quirks and blots, he has my admiration and esteem on both counts. It’s a shame he has to be devoted to that particular Bermondsey club, and therefore has to be counted among its not-so-pleasant (on the whole) supporters – but we’re none of us perfect, and each of us has our idiosyncrasies. Overall, Danny Baker adorns the airwaves in a way that most other BBC “comedy” personalities signally fail to do.  He’s a breath of fresh air to start our Saturdays, before all the self-important nonsense of the Premier League gets underway again.  He hasn’t always been the BBC’s favourite son, but they must know, down the Corporation, that he’s by far the best they have when it comes to raising the giggles and snorts that pay the Light Entertainment rent.

Danny Baker – cockney wide-boy, cheeky and chirpy as any jellied eel-reared costermonger cliche, you are gold-dust on our wireless sets.  Do keep it up – but take it easy next time a Leeds fan is up against one of them lot from Devon that supports the Forces of Darkness from the Theatre of Hollow Myths.  We Leeds fans have a sense of humour – honest – but we take that kind of thing very seriously.

Even Fans of “Crisis Club Leeds” are Laughing at Man U – by Rob Atkinson

Two typical "buzzin', mad for it" Man U fans

Two typical “buzzin’, mad for it” Man U fans

As a Leeds United fan, my sole motivation for watching any Man U game on TV is to see them lose, as heavily as possible.  The enlightenment provided for me by being a fan of the One True United from Elland Road enables me to see things as they are.  Thus I know for certain that Man U – the club, the hype, the glory-hunting “fans” – embody all that is worst about the game of football.  It is right and proper that they should be despised.  I’ve written before about the futility of hating a club because of mere geographical proximity – Newcastle and Sunderland fans waste such a lot of passion in this way.  Hatred should be reserved for those who earn it on merit.  Man U are intrinsically detestable, by any empirical standards – always have been, always will be.  So, although there are other clubs I’m not keen on, I only really hate Man U – and even there the hatred is tempered by the fact that I find them such a kitsch club, so utterly ridiculous.

Some find this rather odd.  With all of the goings-on at Elland Road – our decade of decline, the farcical situation surrounding successive takeovers – my beloved Leeds are, after all, not in much of a position to point the finger and laugh at an undeniably bigger and more successful club – are they?  Well, yes, they are.  WE are.  I’ll explain.

Dr Freud on the psyche of the Man U fan

Dr Freud on the psyche of the Man U fan

The thing about Man U, you see, is that despite the extensive honours list, the huge stadium, the supporters clubs on far-flung planets orbiting distant suns – they are simply a joke of a football club.  They are actually just as funny as they are detestable – especially now, when the evil influence of the Dark One from Govan is fading into the past.  Before, the determination to win at all costs, eschewing the innate class of clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal – this was easy both to hate and laugh at.  The comical desperation to be “biggest and best”, the feverish preoccupation with being Number One – it all smacked dismally of the psychiatrist’s couch and the inner yearnings of tragically inadequate and unfulfilled people.  Herr Doktor Sigmund Freud would have had such a lot to say about this motley collection of hang-ups and insecurities.  But, enough of the fans.

Now, in the post-Ferguson era, the reactions of those on the moral high-ground – i.e. myself and every other football fan who despises Man U – are somewhat different as compared to those Taggart days.  Then, when they let in a goal or slumped to the odd defeat, I and others like me would clench the fist in vicarious triumph, relishing the temporary discomfiture of the media’s champions.  Now, on the other hand, when poor David “Gollum” Moyes’ harrowed and failure-ravaged features grow more haggard with every passing defeat, when his helpless eyes grow ever more prominently buggy in that haunted, hunted face, the skin stretched as tight as his nerves, the lines of worry and insecurity etched ever deeper – it’s not quite as easy to feel triumphant glee.  Now, the reaction tends to be one of amusement, though sometimes tinged with an uncomfortably unfamiliar pity.  It’s stopped being a matter of fierce satisfaction when Man U fail.  It’s simply become funny, in an ever-so-slightly pitiful way.

My own reaction to two recent goals against them has brought this sharply home to me.  When Sunderland scored late on in the Capital One Cup semi at the Theatre of Hollow Myths – I simply collapsed laughing.  There were tears rolling down my face, my sides ached with mirth.  Alright, the nature of the goal was risible, de Gea flapping on his line like some nervous chorus girl – but then the same thing happened when Fulham got their late equaliser the other night.  I just could not stop laughing – it took the appearance of the twitching, suffering Moyes to tone down my riotous good humour into something more approaching sympathy for a man so clearly on the edge.

So what is it about the Pride of Devon that – despite everything they’ve won, and all of the damage they’ve inflicted on their rivals, by fair means and foul – they are still such an object of ridicule and derision?  And let’s not forget, this goes back even over their last couple of decades of success.  Their fans have grown wary even of admitting who they support, fearful of betraying themselves with wurzelly or cockney accents, scared of being laughed at as “glory-hunters” or plastic, armchair types from Devon or Kent.  All those trophies, all that gutter press adulation – and yet so little real pride.  That’s tragic.  But what’s really behind it?

Part of the answer might be the pathological need that the whole shebang still has, despite a current status of also-rans, to promote and parade itself as God’s gift to sport and the last word in hugeness and greatness.  It applies to the club from the very top, this immense self-delusion, right down to those troubled people who are drawn to “support” them.  The most recent example of the lengths they will go to in order to give the outer appearance of confidence and attitude, is pictured below.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is (allegedly) the song sheet for the “Man U Singing Section“.

The Man U "Mutual Reassurance" songsheet

The Man U “Mutual Reassurance” songsheet

As you will see, it is full of earnest advice on how best for their well-drilled singers to comport themselves, with finger-wagging dos and don’ts and even a schedule minute-by-minute of exactly when each distinct song should be sung.  No advice is given as to what should happen if some event on the pitch should threaten to grab fans’ attention; perhaps this is deemed unlikely.  There are stern admonitions about the singing of undesirable, “offensive” songs – don’t do it, chaps, it’s not nice.  The songs and timings cited “must be adhered to”.  Have a look at it.  Some will ask whether it’s genuine – and part of even me hopes that it’s a wind-up.  For football fans to be shackled so, their spontaneous reactions crushed beneath a list of rules and regulations, with a script to rule them?  It’s got to be a sick joke, surely.  But judge for yourselves.  Fake or not, it is funny.  Let’s not kid ourselves either – there’s no smoke without fire.  This sort of thing, if it is a fake, needs a bit of reality to be hung on to; for a club that reckons itself to be the “biggest and best”, with fans to match, even the perceived need for a singing section is rank humiliation.  Do the bulk of the Man U fans really need this sort of sugar-coated reassurance, this spoon-fed “Don’t look at the League Table, guys, we’re still the best”?

At Leeds, the only thing that ever came even close to the ridiculous idea of a singing section was an ill-fated move to introduce a “band” shortly after that laughable notion had flourished into bizarre reality at Sheffield Wendies.  The idea was to get a bit of atmosphere going – which at Leeds was like pouring petrol on a blazing fire.  There may well have been a wistful undertone that the Board wished the Elland Road crowd was as “nice” as those simple Wendy souls at Hillsborough – the rank folly of that!  The Leeds fans wouldn’t have it, of course.  A few peeps were heard, immediately drowned out by a raucous “Stand up if you hate the band”, and the experiment died an early and unlamented death.

Now, if anyone had the sheer brass cojones to try the introduction of an actual singing section at Elland Road, one suspects they would be led firmly away by the throat – for those cojones to be removed with a blunt and rusty knife, braised lightly over a grill and fed to them morsel by morsel as they dangled helpless from the East Stand superstructure.  And quite right too.  There’s just something deeply inadequate and plain wrong about any club which needs such artificial backing – you can understand it happening at the Wendies.  But at Man U?  There used to be some grudging respect there, back in the day, but can any vestige of that survive such a laughable, pitiful initiative as this?

So, yes – Leeds may be a crisis club, we may just have gone through a month which makes a pantomime look like profoundly cerebral entertainment – but we can be tolerably certain that we’d never sink this low.  Whatever else may happen, we’ll still have our spontaneity, our pride.  These things tend to flourish in adversity – and we have plenty of that.  And I do even feel a bit sorry for the genuine Man U fans – there’s a hard core of them out there, somewhere, after all – though it’s much more fun, and better for my health too, that I can now simply laugh at them instead of resenting and hating them.  And of course I still do hate them, just in a different and mercifully less rabid way.  I still keenly want them to lose – but now that this happens with such metronomic frequency, the intensity of the actual hate is diluted to some degree.

And do you know what?  I really don’t miss that intensity.  I actually enjoy my football more now that I’m not feeling all anxious; now that I can usually rely upon them to fail.  And the continuing self-delusion of the whole lot of them – the club, the fans, their media lapdogs – makes it all the more sweetly satisfying every time those blessed defeats happen.

Let’s face it – pity and empathy notwithstanding – it’s still a hell of a lot of fun to laugh at Man U.

Barnsley Pay the Price Against Bolton for Leeds “Cup Final” Exertions – by Rob Atkinson

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Barnsley’s biggest star

Both Huddersfield Town and Millwall have enjoyed league victories over the Mighty Leeds United this season – classic David and Goliath tales of tiny, grubby backwoods clubs enjoying their moment in the limelight as they contrive to overcome a world-famous footballing superpower.

Now, little Barnsley have got in on the “David” act, making their annual pilgrimage to Elland Road and managing to escape with a point clutched gratefully in their hot, sweaty little hands. The fallout was similar to that in the earlier two cases – joy unconfined, celebration and jubilation in excelsis, dancing and cavorting in the cobbled streets and who knows what other forms of primitive festivity.  It’s anticipated that there will be a sharp spike in the birth-rate nine months hence – though sadly the limited gene pool means it’s unlikely we’ll see any such augmentation of the average IQ figure.

All of this is quite understandable, given the chip on the collective shoulders of each respective band of David fans, where this Leeds United “Goliath” is concerned.  It’s probably most acute in Huddersfield, whose fans have had to live their lives in the long shadow of Big Brother from Elland Road on the one side, and of the Pennines on the other, their only protection from the barbaric hordes of Lancashire.

But Barnsley nurse their own local-envy grudge against Leeds, seeming to feel that they must succeed in this game at any cost.  A red card is deemed a fair price to pay as evidenced by the clogging of Marius Zaliukas

Whatever motivates these quaint if rustic people to nurse such savage hatred in their bosoms – and really, who could ever tell what goes on inside those misshapen heads? – there is certainly a galvanising effect on the team they support.  Those guys can be relied upon to play well above their usual form and give even superior Leeds sides a terrible time.  The motivational aspect is undeniable and, sadly, it costs an unwary United points that should be there for the taking.  This happens time and time again – every time a Leeds fixture is in the offing, the drums start to beat, the blood stirs and an atavistic glitter is to be seen in the eyes of otherwise placid and useless players.  We Leeds fans refer to it ruefully as “Cup Final Syndrome” – much to the annoyance of the unwashed hordes in opposition camps.   The Barnsley lot, for instance, would have you believe that Leeds is “just another game”.  But this is demonstrably not so.

Quite apart from the annoying regularity with which these dingy little clubs raise their performance levels against Leeds, another noticeable factor is the slump in performance immediately afterwards.  It’s as if the players, egged on by their desperate fans, have given every last drop of blood, sweat and tears and then gone on to draw on hidden reserves to complete the job, leaving them shattered and drained.  What inevitably happens next time out is that a team of pale wraiths take the field, wave and smile wanly at the applause due to them for the Leeds display, and then capitulate to whoever they are playing, simply too shagged-out from post Cup Final Syndrome to offer any resistance. After the Leeds v Barnsley game, I predicted that it would be defeat next time around for an exhausted set of Cup Final heroes.  “It’s quite probable now that Barnsley will go on to collapse to defeat against their next opponents,” I wrote.  Naturally, I was right – the Tykes slumped to a 1-0 home reverse against Bolton Wanderers yesterday, thus further proving the point I’ve been making – which is basically that Leeds have to show equal desire against these fired-up teams.  Their superior ability will do the rest.

The truth of the matter is, of course, that this “Cup Final Syndrome” is a real factor, one that can distort results and affect the whole season.  As I’ve previously written, Leeds suffer more than most from the phenomenon – not that this is any reason for sympathy.  It’s something Leeds have to sort out and overcome, if they are to achieve anything in the foreseeable future.  It’s just the loud and indignant denials you get – from the clubs who experience Cup Final Syndrome – that amaze me. They’re prepared to swear blind that there’s no such factor at play, and yet the figures speak for themselves – as you can plainly see if you look at the results for Huddersfield and Millwall in the wake of their hard-won victories over Leeds.

The managers of those clubs concerned might see things in a different light; they might argue that if their team can reach such heights and expend such effort when they play Leeds, then they could and should do it all the time.  But that’s the point – they can’t. They almost literally do give that hackneyed 110% against Leeds.  It is their cup final. They try and they try – and they come off the field, maybe victorious, but shattered and run down, their batteries as flat as the top of Wayne Rooney’s head.  They’ve nothing left to give, with predictable consequences next time out as they succumb, knackered.  It’s all there, in those results.

Maybe the Millwall and Huddersfield fans, Barnsley supporters too, would rather have a more consistent level of performance – and in that case, maybe they’d tolerate a less superhuman level of effort against the arch-enemy Leeds United.  But do you know, I somehow doubt it?  I have this sneaking suspicion that they’d rather continue to settle, grumpily maybe, but settle nonetheless, for mediocrity and runs of defeats for most of the season – just as long as they can have those wins against Mighty Leeds.  That, for them, is what it’s all about.  It’s not as if they’re going to go up anyway – so they need those Cup Final victories, they’re a validation of sorts.  It’s a defining characteristic of the type of club they are, with the type of fans they have.

So, you small-time, small club, small-minded envious pariahs – next time you hear Leeds United fans singing to you about “your Cup Final”, and feel moved to utter an offended bleat of protest – just bite your lips, and pause a second or two.  Think on.  You might just realise that what we’re singing to you is almost literally true.

Alan Smith: Saint or Sinner? The Smudger Debate – by Rob Atkinson

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Smudger – one of our own?

It’s over nine years now since Alan Smith, the Rothwell lad with Leeds United in his DNA (although there are rumours that he was a Liverpool fan as a cherubic little boy), broke with an on-the-record vow and signed for Them.  From THERE.  It was impossible to believe, but it was true.  Smudger had sold his soul to the Devil.  Our Alan was a scummer.

Ever since then, the debate has raged off and on.  Is Smithy more sinned against than sinning?  What were his choices back in 2004?  Is he still our golden boy, famous for scoring with his first touch in front of the Anfield Kop, for putting Anderlecht’s formidable home record to the sword, for that Cruyff turn when he scored against Southampton at home?  Or is he the living embodiment of Judas Iscariot, selling himself and prostituting his talent for a few (million) pieces of silver?

There is evidence on both sides of the argument, and plenty of ill-informed, scurrilous comment as well.   No less an impeccable source than Peter Lorimer tells us that Smudge had little choice in the matter; that Man U was the only offer on the table that suited our dire financial predicament; that the lad even waived a rather large payment so that the Club could gain maximum advantage from the deal.  My own crib at the time was a TV interview immediately after relegation when Smith confirmed he’d be leaving as he was “not a first division player”.  Well excuse me, son – I brooded – but you are.  You’ve just earned that status by being part of a team that got relegated.  But it was all a long time ago.

So I thought I’d ask people to vote for how they see our former striker (38 goals in 172 appearances).  Is he a goodie or a baddie?  Saint or Sinner?  Is he Leeds, or is he not? Please give your view below.  We might as well do this now; the lad is way past his best and let’s face it – after all the years of rumours and sightings – he’s not coming back.  So let’s nail this one now.

Comments are equally welcome.  If you MUST insist on a democratic right to vote, even if you’re a Man U fan – then at least have the decency to admit it.  I could of course protect the integrity of the process by filtering out I.P. addresses in Devon – but what the hell.