Tag Archives: rivalry

Germany the Authors of Their own World Cup Misfortune, but Leeds Hero Pontus is Smiling – by Rob Atkinson

sweden-bench-angry

The Germans have a word for it, as they usually do. And, since the reigning champions were toppled out of the World Cup on Thursday, it’s a word that has gained a great deal of currency in the UK and pretty much everywhere else, really. Schadenfreude – the concept of pleasure and gratification arising out of somebody else’s misfortune – neatly sums up the national mood since South Korea applied the coup de grace to Germany’s limp 2018 World Cup campaign. To say that the nation rejoiced in the wake of this sensational result is not to understate the case. Even sober journalists and media types joined in the euphoric jollity. Everybody was queuing up to poke fun at the demise of the German national football team.

It’s tempting to suggest that there is some historical element in this tendency of ours to wish misfortune on the Germans. Two world wars during the twentieth century might lend some credence to this point of view; especially where our most senior citizens are concerned. But for people of more tender years, the motivation is less martial, more sporting. Put simply, most of us are just sick of Germany’s traditional efficiency in amassing trophies on fields of sporting conflict, especially as compared to the meagre hauls of the home countries. We are sick of losing to them on penalties, sick of them going on to beat the teams we might otherwise have beaten, lifting the trophies we might otherwise have lifted. And, much as we would love to see our own teams strut around a lap of honour, we’re sick of seeing them do that, too. As Manchester United would confirm, nobody loves a perennial winner. It’s just boring for the rest of us.

So, the German exit from Russia 2018 had its novelty value, but it gave us all a laugh too, with the comical nature of their defeat to South Korea. For once, their goalkeeper was not batting away our penalty shots to win yet another shootout for the Fatherland – instead, he was making an idiot of himself on the left wing as his team-mates desperately chased late goals; then he had to watch helpless as the Koreans streaked downfield to pop the ball into an empty net to seal Germany’s doom. Oh, how we laughed. It was as comical as it was richly satisfactory, with the commentators in tucks and everybody taking the mick. Days like this come around all too rarely; we have to make the most of them. And, oh boy, did we ever.

The thing is as well, for those feeling any slight twinge of sympathy for a beaten and ridiculed German team, they really have asked for this. If you cast your mind back to the game that Germany actually won, beating Sweden at the very last gasp, they proved themselves to be most ungracious in victory, taunting the Swedish bench and provoking an angry reaction. Our own Pontus Jansson was involved, leading the charge and looking as if he wanted to take on the whole of the German backroom staff by himself. At that point, it looked as though Sweden had suffered a fatal blow in terms of their World Cup chances; surely, Germany would now steamroller its way into the knockout phase. But a few days on, Germany are bottom of their group and have gone home, while Sweden finished top to progress. Germany’s display of arrogant triumphalism had earned them the bitter fruits of karma, and it seemed the rest of the world felt a deep sense of justice served.

Pontus is happy too. On his Instagram account, he observed after the German exit “Warm up done. Now let’s start World Cup!” The German view, though, is terse and chilling – “Yes, we deserved to go out. We are not good enough. Enjoy this while you can”.

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Leeds Should Pull Out All Stops to Sign Haaland Jr. Ahead of Man Utd – by Rob Atkinson

Erling Braut Haaland, the 17 year old son of former Elland Road favourite Alf-Inge Haaland, is shaping up as quite the boy wonder in Norway’s top flight. His latest exploit is to score four goals for Molde in the opening 21 minutes of an away fixture at league leaders Brann. Interestingly, young Erling is a fanatical fan of Leeds United, whose declared dream is to play for the Whites in the Champions League.

Worryingly, though, it might just be that Haaland Junior’s European fantasy could be played out via a short cut with that lesser United from over the hills. Manchester’s second club had scouts at the Brann – Molde game, and the whisper is that covetous eyes are watching from the Theatre of Hollow Myths, with Alfi’s son having impressed the talent spotters at the Pride of Devon.

We must hope that our old favourite Alf-Inge would not allow anything so unsavoury as his son signing for Them to happen. Alfi will surely have vivid memories of being assaulted by faux hard-man Royston Keane at Old Toilet, and of the career threatening injury he sustained in that cowardly assault. This alone should persuade Haaland senior to advise his lad to steer well clear of Salford.

And, on the positive side, the young star’s development would definitely be assisted by a spell with Marcelo Bielsa, the man Pep Guardiola hails as the best coach in the world. That’s the kind of upbringing any boy wonder should be looking for – naturally, though, there would first have to be some interest from Leeds United.

But why would there not be interest? Already, Erling is being spoken of as “better than his dad”, who, we will recall, was no mean player himself. What we have here is a situation begging for the only natural outcome, which would be the boy Haaland signing for his dad’s old club Leeds. Especially as Erling is such a fan. It’s the perfect match.

Come on, Mr Radrizzani – let’s get the lad signed and snatch him from the dark forces gathering around him. You know it makes sense.

Leeds United’s Paudie O’Connor Could do a Great Loan Job for Barnsley – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United’s Irish defender Paudie O’Connor is set to sign a new contract at Elland Road – but, according to reports, manager Marcelo Bielsa feels that O’Connor would benefit from a season out on loan to gain competitive experience.

O’Connor broke into the Leeds first team towards the end of the last campaign, when defensive injuries reduced United’s senior options. For the coming season, though, it’s likely that at least one major defensive signing will be made, so a loan out for O’Connor makes sense.

It would also make sense for a club like Barnsley, trying to put together a competitive League One squad after relegation, and themselves under a new coach, to look at what a young and promising defender could bring to the Oakwell table. Bringing in quality on loan is a well-trodden path to third tier success, and O’Connor – if he is to go out on loan – is an option the Tykes should be considering.

The best loan deals benefit all parties, and O’Connor to Barnsley, a good club in a hard and open league, would certainly fall into that category.

Huddersfield Release Rob Green, Plotting Raid for Leeds Keeper Wiedwald? – by Rob Atkinson

Felix Wiedwald – is “The Cat” heading for the kennels?

Just when Leeds United fans were thinking that humiliations inflicted on them in recent years just can’t get any worse – could near neighbours and Premier League superstars Huddersfield Town now be setting their sights on United’s German goalkeeping sensation Felix “the Cat” Wiedwald? Surely the board wouldn’t be daft enough to allow such a mistake to be made – and yet stranger things have happened, with the Elland Road club having lost jewels from their crown on previous occasions when local rivals have come a-hunting.

Cast your minds back over the past few seasons, and you’ll see that Barnsley were at it, somehow persuading United to sell Alex Mowatt for a paltry £500,000. Mowatt went on to shine in the ranks of Oxford United as a loan star – what a clanger Leeds dropped there.

And it was Barnsley again, some years earlier, paying a significant sum for prolific front man John Pearson. Really, we’ve been shown up far too often, and to lose a genius like Wiedwald now to the Terriers would be a bitter blow indeed. But with Rob Green moving onto pastures new and less obviously canine, there may well be room for “The Cat” in the Huddersfield kennels, as they gird their loins for another gloriously grim battle against relegation.

Town fans just love to put one over on Big Brother from up the road, so you can be sure they’ll be clamouring for their club to make this deal happen. And, with their Premier League trillions burning a hole in those Premier League pockets, Huddersfield are unlikely to be put off, even by an asking price of £10 million, if Leeds were to hold out for something approaching Bundesliga veteran Wiedwald’s true value.

We’ll just have to sit tight, rely on our illustrious neighbours to cut us a break – and hope like hell that this one doesn’t happen.

Millwall Fan’s Employers Distance Themselves from Hurtful Leeds Jibes – by Rob Atkinson

Millwall “fan” Jamie Brinkley has had to make a humiliating and grovelling apology after

Brinkley

Brinkley: heartfelt grovel

a September 2017 tweet in which he mocked the tragic murders of Leeds supporters Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight, who were killed in Istanbul almost 18 years ago. Foolishly, Brinkley omitted to hide his personal details, including the identity of his employers, Excel Currencies – an oversight that appears to have got the self-confessed “young immature man” into some hot water at work.

Recently, the apology reproduced on the right here appeared in social media, making it abundantly clear that young Brinkley had been hauled over the coals by his horrified bosses at Excel Currencies. Understandably, the company do not wish to be associated with the kind of online sickness perpetrated by their employee, and it is almost certain that the climbdown was at Excel’s behest, with some observers suggesting that the text of the apology was provided by the company.

Whether or not Brinkley’s grovel will be enough to save his job must remain, for now at least, a matter of conjecture. They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but this sort of thing shows that to be a complete fallacy; it is blindingly obvious that Excel Currencies wish to distance themselves as far as they possibly can from the bad taste of their hapless and clueless hireling.

The pity of it is that this episode could be seen to detract from a very positive aspect of the recent league game at Elland Road between Leeds United and Millwall. There had been some controversy over the ticket prices charged for away fans and, in the days after the fixture, it was revealed that Millwall would issue a partial refund to their fans who had travelled to see the Lions’ 4-3 victory – this was because Leeds had been found to be in breach of League regulations. Fair enough – but some of the Millwall fans then took the extraordinary and heartwarming step of donating their refunded ticket money to the Toby Nye neuroblastoma treatment appeal, to help the five year old Leeds fan in his fight against the rare cancer.

As football stories go, it just doesn’t get much better than that, and it’s very welcome positive news coming out of what has been one of football’s more strained and fraught relationships as Leeds and Millwall have maintained a mutual enmity over the years. Fair play to the Millwall fans who have made such a handsome gesture, and who have simultaneously shown that there are positives as well as negatives emerging out of even the bitterest rivalry. I won’t remember the two Millwall defeats this season with any fondness, but – of the two examples of fan behaviour cited here – I know that most Leeds fans will dismiss Jamie Brinkley as one sick and humiliated individual, whilst applauding the generosity of the over-charged Millwall faithful who decided to help a brave little boy instead of getting their money back.

Well done to all who have contributed towards young Toby’s medical care and treatment. Perhaps Mr. Brinkley himself might care to make a donation. After all, talk is cheap – especially a forced apology. Maybe if he put his money where his mouth is, people, including his disgusted employers, might think differently of him. The same applies to Danny Baker, who has managed to make and then inexplicably repeat a very tasteless tweet since the Leeds game, with no apology from him or his BBC employers. He’s not short of a bob or two surely – so, why not follow the good example of those travelling Lions, Danny? Anyone wanting to tweet Mr. Baker some encouragement to do just that will be able to reach him on @prodnose – let’s get him shelling out.

skysports-toby-nye-leeds-united_4208374

Young cancer patient Toby Nye with Leeds skipper Liam Cooper

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

Image

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.

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?