Leeds United are officially the filthiest team in Premier League history. That’s a matter of record – we’re the first EPL club to record a century of combined yellow and red cards over a season, with still two games to go. However, it’s a statistic that may well surprise some observers of the game – well, at any rate, those who aren’t inclined to parrot “dirty Leeds, dirty Leeds” at every opportunity. After all, for most of this season, Leeds have had Marcelo Bielsa, of blessed memory, in charge – and he’s hardly an advocate of clogging. Something stinks here – and it’s not the away dressing room floor, as Derby County are no longer on our radar.
The other day, still reeling from the loss of my latest and probably last Leeds United hero, Marcelo Bielsa, I was indulging in some gastronomic therapy in a cafe in Horbury, as I waited for Mrs. Rob to have her hair appropriately marcelled at the local salon. As I tucked into my sausage butties, I noticed a copy of Rupert Murdoch’s withered and flaccid organ on the next table, saw that it had a story about new United manager Jesse Marsch, and thought I’d have a quick and free read – as, obviously, nobody actually buys this degraded gutter rag.
I really should have known better, shouldn’t I. The piece was written (scrawled in crayon) by a hack with the unlikely name of Oscar Paul, clearly a graduate of the scumbag school of “journalism”. Swiftly bored with the task of covering the Marsch story, and aware that United’s army of fans were already hurting over the traumatic loss of Marcelo Bielsa, ‘Orrible Oscar was clearly looking for a chance to smear a Leeds legend, preferably one who had passed away and couldn’t hit back. That’s the way of things at the Super Soaraway S*n after all – find and exploit a hapless victim for the pursuit of its own disgusting agenda. Murdoch’s base bogroll has form for this going way back, as those who remember its disgraceful lies in the wake of Hillsborough will be all too well aware.
In the article I was idly perusing, the calumny was of a lesser order than the Hillsborough lies, but nonetheless gratuitously offensive and untimely for that. Stretching for a legend’s memory to daub with his masters’ own particularly noisome brand of excrement, this moronic S*n hack decided that a random reference to Leeds icon Don Revie was just what he needed, and wielded his crayon accordingly: “such is the influence Ralph Rangnick has had on (Marsch), do not expect a team of brawlers like Don Revie’s”. There. Job done, and Oscar must have been hugging himself with glee, having brown-nosed the current boss at the Pride of Devon, while simultaneously if ungrammatically dancing on Revie’s grave. It doesn’t get any better than that for an ambitious if illiterate Murdoch scribbler, surely promotion into the front ranks would follow.
Let’s consider the team that Oscar was scribbling his rubbish about – the likes of Eddie Gray and Paul Madeley having their illustrious names blackened, despite their singular lack of any inclination to “brawl”. A team of brawlers? This is lazy and glib even by the standards of the dregs of Wapping. The Revie boys could look after themselves and they stood together, as a top team should. Super Leeds operated in a brutal era, but they were not solely or even mainly about brutality. Those lads, all of them, could play, brilliantly. On their day, and there were many of them, they were peerless, incomparable. For them now to be invoked whenever some talentless purveyor of Murdoch malice is at a loss for his next sentence is harsh and unjustified in the extreme.
Let’s not forget some of the other big beasts on the prowl in that era. Arsenal with Peter Storey. Chelsea with “Chopper” Harris. Liverpool, Tommy Smith and Emlyn Hughes. Even Devon, with Stiles and Crerand. All thugs and brawlers on their day, and none of them could hold a candle to Hunter, Bremner or Giles. But none of that found a place in Oscar’s empty head, he was far too eager to perpetuate the myth of Dirty Leeds (now an ironic badge of honour among United fans weary of the 60 year old lie).
Rant over. I’ve had my say, and we all know what the Oscars of this world are all about. And what lesson can we take from this? Well, the obvious one is “Don’t buy the S*n”. But we all already knew that, too.
The silly season is a year-round event these days, so it seems. That doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, with so much competition for online news hits that writers and editors have taken to publishing any old rubbishy speculation as news, feasibility apparently no longer featuring as a desirable attribute for some of these desperate punts.
Still, there should be a limit. One spectacularly dim Leeds-centric web source has seen a bookmaker’s price for Marcelo Bielsa’s successor in the hot seat at Elland Road, and has got all excited, publishing an extended burble that is as far removed from reality as it’s possible to get. “Lampard favourite to succeed Bielsa” screams their headline, totally forgetting that, with no prospect of the Argentinian being sacked or electing to leave, all candidates to succeed him will be equally and extremely unlikely. In short, it’s like betting on candidates for UK President when the Monarchy falls – the opposite of printing money.
The intoxicated over-excitement of leeds-live.co.uk (for that is their name) does not end there. In another article, they feature the musings of ex-Villa mediocrity turned pisspoor pundit Gobby Agbonlahor, who has been getting his jockstrap in a knot over the vociferous support given to United during the terminal phase of Saturday’s home defeat to Arsenal. Poor Gobby is indignantly upset by this defiant, phenomenal support, he admits he just doesn’t understand it, bless him and seems to resent the Leeds fans for their passion and commitment. I suppose a career spent struggling at a usually apathetic Villa Park would make manifestations of fabulous support seem a bit strange, but Agbonlahor should perhaps chill a bit and reflect on the fact that the atmosphere in football hotbeds can differ radically from that of more insipid midlands locations. Still, if hard-of-thinking outlets like leeds-live are going to give Gobby’s thoughts publicity they don’t merit, then maybe you can’t blame him for basking in some undeserved reflected glory. But it’s an unedifying spectacle to see such dross passed off as news, or even as anything approaching an informed opinion.
I blame the outlets, personally. Bookies are always compiling speculative odds lists, for better or worse, it’s just what they do and sometimes good for a laugh. And Gobby is always spouting bovine ordure – that’s what he does. The sensible thing to do would be to move on, having indulged in a wry smile and maybe a slight roll of the eyeballs. There’s no need to go spreading this crap about, as if it might ever mean anything in the real world.
When you hit these depths of profound stupidity, though, there’s often a perverse determination among the clueless perpetrators to keep on digging and see just how deeply daft they can get. So what can we expect next week? How, after all, do you top “Lampard for Leeds”? Old purple nose S’ralex himself would be a likelier shout than Fwank, who would be driven screaming clear round Leeds ring road pursued by a baying mob, and tracked by Orta’s famous binoculars, should he ever dare to pitch up in LS11. It’s honestly hard to imagine a less likely candidate – hang on, though. Could the next story be “Gobby for Next Leeds Boss”? If you’ve ever struggled through a leeds-live.co.uk “scoop”, you probably shouldn’t put it past them…
Football has-been Jamie O’Hara, best known for being sacked by non-league Billericay Town, is now employed by a down-market radio station that survives by trying to provoke fans to call in by making “controversial” statements. O’Hara now appears to have outdone himself in the irony alert stakes, with his latest desperate attempt to entice Leeds fans to call in to his lame show and have a go at Marcelo Bielsa, a world class coach he coveted for Tottenham Hotspur only last season.
35 year old O’Hara’s amateurish attempts at being controversial are cringeworthy enough, given a failed non-league appointment being the main item on his CV, but it’s even more ridiculous that he applies the word embarrassing to a Premier League club widely praised by genuine football experts, when he himself was found guilty of punching a 14 year old boy in 2017. The then 31 year old football failure lashed out after what the boy later described as a “handshake prank” – presumably O’Hara was nettled by his team’s defeat, although losing is hardly a novelty for him over the course of a less than sparkling career.
You have to admit that O’Hara has a pretty thick skin, and virtually zero self-awareness – that’s the only conclusion you can reasonably draw when a failed footballer and confirmed child-beater presumes to criticise a major football club and an international legend like Bielsa. Now that is embarrassing. Or maybe he’s simply stupid? You decide.
In this so far troubled season, it was always likely that Leeds would become a target for pundits, who are usually ex-pros who have never made any secret of their dislike for Yorkshire’s finest. So O’Hara’s brainless drivel is hardly a surprise – but the least that Leeds, and Bielsa, deserve is a better class of troll.
Nobody should find themselves under attack by a nonentity like Jamie O’Hara, least of all a club of global fame like Leeds United. That’s like a rat attacking a lion, and a past-it and toothless rat at that.
Brace yourselves, fellow Whites. United now have a proven world class talent on their hands in the shape of Raphinha, bought at the bargain price of only £17m from Rennes just over a year ago – and now, some are saying that the bidding for Raph’s services would have to start at over five times that amount.
Look at the evidence. Yes, it’s been just two sub appearances so far in the famous Brazilian shirt for the Leeds star – but in those two cameos, Raphinha has made a stunning impression. There were rumours that Colombia’s left back required treatment for twisted blood after the chastening experience of being given the Raph Runaround last night, and many fans of the many times World Champions are demanding his inclusion as a starter, having observed the electrifying effect of the United man on the Verde-Amarela performances these past couple of games.
The fact is, you don’t get anywhere near the Brazilian squad if you’re some mug (unless your name is Fred) – and Raphinha now seems set to become a legend even in that exalted company. So, it seems certain that speculation will be rife over the next couple of transfer windows, with the avowed intent of various media outlets and pundits being quite clear: get Raphinha out of Leeds as soon as possible. Because, let’s face it, they just can’t abide us having nice things.
Even some Leeds fans on Twitter and other such social media platforms are openly conceding that we’re not going to be able to enjoy the spectacle of Raphinha in a White shirt for too much longer. That may even be borne out by events over the next year or so (though this blog considers it treason to say so). It’s a situation we’ve come up against in the past, and it was exacerbated then as it is now by the fact that the media and the usual suspects in the dingy ranks of washed-up ex-player punditry do not like Leeds United to have their very own world stars. They don’t like it one little bit, and so, whenever we do end up with a star in our squad, the campaign begins, urgently to talk up his move to one of the media darling clubs.
Sadly (and illegally, but don’t expect any justice to be meted out) these media campaigns are usually accompanied by what is known as “tapping up” – indirect, illicit and informal overtures made by covetous clubs, or by members of said club’s playing staff, towards the player being targeted. It happened with Rio Ferdinand during the 2002 World Cup, when members of the England squad attached to a certain club west of the Pennines which draws its support largely from Devon, did their level best to turn young Rio’s head. It worked, too – though the parlous financial predicament then afflicting Leeds United also played its part.
Yorkshire’s premier club is on a rather more even fiscal keel nowadays, but the Pride of Devon does not like to take no for an answer, and will expect its mates in the media to spin a possible transfer for all its worth. Apparently, they can also rely on their current player Bruno Fernandes to exploit his friendship with Raphinha in an attempt to soften up Brazil’s latest star. “I miss Raphinha,”sobbed Ole’s protégé the other day, taking out an onion. As we well know, the denizens of Old Toilet are not above this sort of skullduggery, in very much the same way that the sea is not above the clouds.
Annoyingly, once the media has decided that such-and-such a player is too good for Leeds (and we currently have at least two in this category with Kalvin Phillips also on the hit list), then we can expect a constant drip, drip of rumour, fabrication and propaganda, all aimed at achieving the outcome of winkling another diamond away from us. It’s an increasingly prevalent factor in modern football, though as I’ve said, it’s hardly a novelty for us Leeds fans. And, of course, as fans, there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it (other than share this and other like-minded blogs, naturally).
It’s the way of the world, sadly, and we just have to count ourselves lucky that we don’t follow an arrogant, complacent, entitled plutocrat European Super League wannabe club like some I could mention. We can also hold out a bit more hope these days, given the nature of the people currently in charge at Elland Road, that maybe we won’t simply roll over and give in when the media campaign ramps up, and the moneybags clubs start to agitate for the jewels in our crown. There does seem to be a defiance about Leeds these days, an authentic identity and a sense that we’re going places ourselves, instead of providing the means whereby others succeed. We must hope so, not only in the interests of Leeds United, but for other similar clubs – the likes of Villa, West Ham and Everton – who never know whether they stand to be abandoned, exploited, or both by the nefarious and untrustworthy ESL mob.
Good luck to Raphinha, and to our Kalvin. May they prosper and find success – hopefully with Leeds United. But, if their destiny does lay elsewhere, then let it not be elsewhere in the Premier League – and may the realisation of that destiny be sold for an eye-wateringly high price by our newly savvy club. One way, or the other, we simply have to prioritise our own interests, instead of assisting rivals as they twist the knife in our back. These days, I’m more confident that this is how it shall be.
What did we learn from Leeds United’s overdue first victory of this 2021-22 Premier League season? Not much, to be honest, that we didn’t already know. United made hard work of carving out a narrow win against a truly appalling Watford side who you’d have to say would have great difficulty scoring in the proverbial red light establishment. On this evidence, Watford are a good bet for relegation, whereas Leeds can thank their lucky stars that there are probably two or three clubs of around the same standard as the hopeless Hornets, which should see the relegation places spoken for, with United surviving for at least another season.
Anyone seeking an explanation of Leeds United’s mediocrity need look no further than the departure of legends Pablo Hernandez and Ezgjan Alioski. These two were the creative force behind the Whites’ successful Championship campaign of 2019/20, as well as their unexpectedly comfortable first season back at elite level. With their departures Leeds have lost two major talents who have not been successfully replaced. This regrettable fact also gives the lie to those who have hyped up the debatable talents of KP and Raphinha, who may now both safely be described as flash in the pan-types who should not be the subject of the recent fevered transfer speculation. The truth is, neither of these players would distinguish himself at a top six club, and the movers and shakers at Anfield, Old Trafford etc should get real and look elsewhere.
Far be it from me to second-guess the experts in the media, but it seems to me that, in talking up the “Phillips for Devon” stories, they are threatening to encourage Manchester’s second club towards yet another in a long series of disastrous purchases going back as far as Gary Birtles, and culminating in them having had their pants pulled down when Jadon Sancho was foisted upon them for a ridiculous amount of money. Neither am I in the habit of helping them avoid self inflicted misery, but it’d be cruelty to dumb animals not to warn them off the hapless Kalvin Phillips. So they should perhaps consider themselves warned, for their own good – with a similar cautionary note heading to Anfield, regarding the Brazilian in nationality only misfiring performer that is Raphinha.
I’m trying to be helpful here, to two Lancastrian clubs who clearly need some common sense advice. So pay heed, and steer well clear – you know it makes sense.
The tabloids are in their usual froth of eagerness to talk up the sale to a “Top 6 Club” of, well, any Leeds United player of any pedigree, to be honest. The papers know they have to keep the fans of the erstwhile €$£ clubs happy, so they will always do their best to indulge them and encourage the wishful thinking that these entitled armchair fans tend to indulge in.
Equally, the gutter rags know well that any football fan who doesn’t love Leeds United tends to hate them (although most couldn’t say why). It’s just fashionable to hate Leeds; that’s as true today as it was 60 years ago when Don Revie rocked the football world by founding a dynasty and propelling Leeds to superclub status. There’s hardly any in between with our club – we love them with a passion, everybody else settles for a blind hatred they couldn’t begin to explain. The papers know this, and their output is tailored to promote adulation of the plastic billionaire big six, as well as encouraging the ongoing demonisation of the unique phenomenon that is Leeds.
So, it’s natural – especially after his Euro 20 England heroics – that said gutter rags should decide that Elland Road is no place for the nation’s favourite swashbuckling midfielder. Engineering his transfer away from Leeds has become an urgent priority, and envious Wapping eyes are looking at Raphinha too. The Brazilian magician is being touted for Liverpool, but the tabloids, nursing happy memories of successful campaigns to move Ferdinand and Smith westwards along the M62, have decided that our own KP should join the salty nuts scattered liberally around the Pride of Devon. As if to emphasise their malicious intent, they have set the price at a measly £60m, which would probably buy Kalvin’s right boot and possibly his shin pads.
Well, I have news for the likes of the Sun, the Star and the other not so heavenly organs of the British trash press. Kalvin will be at United next season, and hopefully for a good few seasons after that. He’ll be at the only United that means anything to him and his family and many friends. A new contract is in the offing, one that will more accurately reflect Kalvin’s value to the club. And, while such a player will inevitably move on one day, I’m tolerably certain it won’t be to the sham United on the wrong side of the hills. He’s just too Leeds for that, and the extenuating circumstances that permitted Smith’s transition to the dark side don’t apply today. Have faith in the truth of that, and indulge in a wry smile when you see armchair plastics getting excited about the prospects of signing a £60m Yorkshire hero. It ain’t gonna happen.
No, Kalvin Phillips will be at United next season and for a good while yet. And if anyone reading this initially misunderstood the blog headline – well, what on Earth are you doing here anyway?? Get back to the Daily Star, and never darken my site again.
Any Leeds fans with nightmare memories of the number of occasions last season, when Leeds United had ridiculously tight VAR calls go against them, might have gone into today’s game against the Pride of Devon hoping for better, or at least fairer, things. It’s fair to say those hopes were dashed, and thrice dashed, making an opening day defeat at the Theatre of Hollow Myths an even bitterer than usual pill to swallow.
Let’s start with an admission – Leeds deserved nothing better than defeat on the day. It’s the scale and manner of that defeat I’m taking issue with, and although I’m probably going to be accused of blinkered bias, I’ll say here and now that two of Devon’s goals were as dodgy as a seven pound note – AND we should have had a penalty near the end. As ever, I’ll welcome comments that disagree or agree with my not entirely objective view – but I’d be grateful to see reasons, pro or con.
The first goal came directly from our young keeper’s less than habitually accurate kick out, gifting possession to the Devonians and allowing Bruno Fernandez to score. No quibbles here. In the second half, Ayling’s howitzer of an equaliser was a thing of beauty and a joy for a few minutes, until Greenwood managed to get by Pascal and score. 2-1 to the European Super League wannabes – and that’s where the game started to go bent. For the third home goal, I remain unconvinced that the whole of the ball crossed the line. Where was the computer graphic of last season, showing clearly the position of the ball relative to the line? All I saw was an unconvincing and blurry freeze frame, and my dander was well and truly up from that point onwards.
The fourth goal looked offside to me in real time, and again I was unconvinced by replays – the lines so often drawn last season seemed to be on leave of absence, and it felt as though justice was not seen to be done. I’d heard the lines were supposed to be thicker, not AWOL. As I said earlier, I’d welcome other views on both of these “goals”, perhaps I’ve missed something while tearing my hair and gnashing my teeth.
The fifth goal was down to lax and demoralised defending, too much room in our box, ‘nuff said. But then we should have had a penalty (yes, I know that’s unrealistic at Old Toilet, but this was a stonewall penalty). Contact was demonstrably made with Tyler Roberts’ trailing leg, and a commentator mouthed something along the lines of “not enough to make him go down”. But Roberts was moving at speed, and any contact was going to be enough to put him on the deck. I guarantee that, if the incident was in the other area, with a Franchise player measuring his length on the turf, the ref would have whistled long and hard.
So, there we have it. No complaints about the result, but there was some devil in the detail, and those injustices were salt rubbed into a raw and painful wound. At least I’ve got this off my chest, so now maybe I can look ahead to other battles where perhaps we’ll acquit ourselves rather better. It’s just that, after one game, admittedly against opponents who notoriously always get the benefit of any doubt, I have this feeling that Leeds United will not benefit from this supposedly fairer application of VAR. I guess we’ll see over the next 37 games.
At the start of the Premier League campaign so recently completed, one of the big issues for discussion and debate was: how will Leeds United, 16 years exiled from the elite, fare on their long-delayed return? The battle lines were drawn, with Leeds haters, wishful thinkers, embittered ex-pros and various other pond life on one side – and Those Who Matter on the other.
The views were starkly polarised. For the various factions who, for one reason or another, wished Yorkshire’s only giant club nothing but misery, there was a fairly unanimous feeling that United’s tenure in the top flight would last for three seasons: autumn, winter and spring. The predicted final tables from back then make for amusing reading now, with Leeds appearing in many forecast bottom threes and with the likes of the previous season’s miracle club Sheffield Utd going from strength to strength.
My own forays into social media at this time were seen as baselessly optimistic, bordering on drug-fuelled delusion. One Arsenal fan of tender years, and even tenderer grey matter, could not believe that I refused to accept United’s inevitable fate with meek submissiveness. The poor lad got quite hot under the collar at my refusal to acquiesce, and eventually blocked me in a fit of outraged pique, promising to re-establish contact around Easter, when our fate was sealed. Still waiting on that one.
Then there was the Brighton fan who was so sure that we’d zero chance of survival without Ben White, condescendingly explaining as if to a child that sadly no deal was possible as we’d be direct rivals in the struggle against the drop. Haven’t heard from him lately, either.
On the other side of the coin, the optimism and positivity that characterised the online output from Premier League betting sites and many prolific Leeds writers must have seemed mere bravado to the uninitiated. But we’d just witnessed two miraculous seasons in the Championship during which we’d proved we were the best outside the game’s elite. In the first season, we suffered a late attack of stage fright, and failed to get over the line – but in the second, we walked the league by ten points, to a background of wailing, gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair from the anti-Leeds fraternity who were witnessing their worst nightmare come true. They’d forecast another late season blow up and the departure of Marcelo Bielsa back to the Argentine, tail between legs. But we knew better – we knew that Bielsa is God incarnate, brought to God’s own county to return the chosen people to the Promised Land. So mote it be.
And thus it has come to pass, with yet more amusement in store for us as the haters refused to let the evidence of their own eyes divert them from their predictions of misery falling upon Elland Road. Karen Carney brought the undeserved ridicule of unreconstructed misogynists down upon the heads of female football pundits, with her silly theory that Leeds’s promotion was down to the COVID break. But this was never about gender – male pundits game out with theories just as daft if not dafter, proclaiming that Bielsa was a myth (Gabby “Gobby” Agbonlahor) and other exercises in mental frailty and lack of perspicacity from the likes of Andy Hinchliffe, Kris Boyd et al.
Overall, opinion has remained polarised. There was early encouragement for the nay-sayers when results were poor during a spell where Leeds were deprived by injury of the international defenders they’d signed in lieu of poor Ben White. That chorus of “we told you so” turned sulkily quiet with the emergence of Pascal Strujik and the recovery of Diego Llorente. Since those two were deployed in harness, United’s defensive performance has improved markedly, with Sky’s beloved graphic highlighting Leeds’s weakness from set pieces becoming more redundant with every passing week.
In the last ten games of the season (over a quarter of the campaign, let’s not forget), Leeds were second only to a resurgent not to say desperate Liverpool in the form table, and came within a short head of challenging for some form of European qualification – a “failure” which may well turn out to be a blessing in disguise. But that late season charge, unaided by any COVID break (sorry, Karen) has surely dispelled another myth beloved of Leeds-haters, the oft-mooted “Bielsa Burnout”. Sorry, lads (and lasses), but – like so many of your pet theories – the burnout was just so much pie in the sky, meaning you’ve had to gorge on the humble variety instead.
So, what of the future? Inevitably, there will be departures, and we’ve already bid a tearful farewell to two of our favourite sons in the Lion and the Magician. Thank you, thank you to Gaetano and Pablo, your legend status is secure and you’ll never be forgotten. Success elsewhere, lads, but you’ll always be welcome home anytime. There will inevitably be additions over the summer, and we’ve learned to trust the judgement and acumen of Victor Orta. He won’t let us down – and of course Marcelo Bielsa, or “God” as he’s fondly known hereabouts, will continue the biggest and best project of his incredible life.
I foresee more progress, a clear path ahead to establishment as a giant amongst the elites as Marcelo continues to build his legacy, and not least of all, more bitter disappointment for those whose happiness is entirely dependent on Leeds failing and falling. Let it be.
Let’s face it, it’ll be a bit of a shock if there isn’t a penalty awarded against Leeds United today. The media darlings of man u seem to be able to rack up the spot kicks if any opposing player so much as glances at Rashford & Co in the box, and with today’s ref being a mancunian from a family of Old Trafford season ticket holders, it would hardly be a surprise to see at least one awarded today.
Leeds, we understand, are going to venture into the swamp playing their normal game, which tends to give knowledgeable Whites fans the collywobbles, thinking of all that space for St Marcus to sprint into, prior to doing the half pike with double twist once in our area. The concentration from Leeds today will have to be exemplary if we’re to avoid that scenario, along with the adjacent one of having somebody vital red carded early doors. Both of these doom-laden outcomes have come about in my recent nightmares, and they could so easily translate into reality against the Pride of Devon later this afternoon.
Whatever happens, we will doubtless carry on as per the instructions of our deity incarnate, Marcelo Bielsa. And that’s just as it should be, as he’s long ago earned the right to our unquestioning trust and confidence. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that we can acquit ourselves well against the fourteen men of Manchester, and that our eleven lads will walk out there with heads held high and do battle as we’d all wish them to.