Tag Archives: Samu Saiz

Too Many Leeds United “Fans” Forget That Saiz Matters – by Rob Atkinson

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Saiz leaves early after zero dribbles and one spit

Characteristically, Leeds United has contrived to make a drama out of a crisis, compounding the humiliation of an FA Cup Third Round exit at minnows Newport by adding the embarrassment of an on-pitch spitting scandal, as well as the six-match loss of star player Samu Sáiz. To make matters even worse, the intellectually-challenged end of the Whites’ support then took to Twitter with the express intention, so it seemed, of unleashing their long-repressed bigotry and incipient racism by attacking Sáiz in the worst kind of Daily Mail-reading Colonel Blimp-inspired terms. It made for very unedifying reading, even for Twitter after one of Leeds’ frequent bad days at the office.

There’s no getting around the fact that spitting at a sporting opponent is a disgusting matter, deserving of punishment and not to be tolerated – or even mitigated, if it comes to that. It initially seemed an odd affair to me, with some confusion and delay surrounding the red card in the immediate aftermath of Newport’s late winner. But Sáiz appears now to have admitted, acknowledged and apologised for his transgression, so that’s that. He’s bang to rights and indefensible, he’ll have to do his time, repent at leisure and make sure he sticks to his vow that this will never happen again.

Incidentally, and particularly for those who think I’m an uncritical Sáiz apologist, his conduct has worried me before, and I’ve gone into print hoping he’d see the error of his ways. This was over an early season tendency to wave imaginary cards when fouled, something that risked attracting the ref’s attention negatively, and a habit I’ve always hated. So I don’t see Samu as any sort of paragon of virtue; even so, some of the stick and abuse he’s received from alleged Leeds fans since the Case of the Newport Spit has been sickening in the extreme – decorum prohibits the reproduction of many of the remarks here. Suffice to say that there’s been a nasty, racist overtone in the murkier regions of the Leeds Twitter hashtag, many of the boneheads who like to comment there seeming to have forgotten what the little Spanish wizard has contributed to our faltering season so far.

It’s not big and it’s not clever, but then again, that just about sums up some of our Twitter knuckle-draggers. Sadly, the temptation to jump aboard a Brexiteer anti-“foreign signing” bandwagon appears to have been just too much to resist for many of these hard-of-thinking opportunists, with some of them engaged for hours on end in trying to outdo their IQ-minus cronies in a competition to see who could be the most offensively tasteless in their treatment of United’s best player this season.

The subtext emerging was of a groundswell of opposition, again mainly at the thicker end of United’s online adherents, to the idea of signing non-British players in the first place. Some Leeds fans, apparently, will not be happy until United’s first team consists of blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan stereotypes, goose-stepping their way towards the lower leagues with the Sieg Heils echoing from the stands – a harking back to the early and mid-eighties. But those days are gone; the continental and global lads are here to stay, they will continue to provide the best hopes of success – and the Twitter and other social media morons are welcome to crawl back under the stones from which they should never, in these more enlightened times, emerge.

It’s to be hoped that this will be a storm in a teacup, that United will safely negotiate the enforced and unfortunate absence of Sáiz – and that, when he returns, he will be given the warm welcome that his value to the team deserves. And that will probably be the case, because Leeds will surely move to cover for the lad’s loss, while the bulk of the United support are a silent yet match-day raucous majority, who will always be behind the men in the shirts, whether they hail from Selby or Spain.

Samu’s been a silly lad, but many, many young footballers are guilty of that; he’s not the first, he’ll not be the last, and it’s got absolutely bugger-all to do with his nationality. So, enough of all that nonsense. What we need now is to get stuck in as a United Leeds for the rest of the season, that’s boardroom, management, players and fans – and put this sorry incident behind us. The rest of the transfer window promises to be interesting or maybe even exciting, and meanwhile there’s a formidable array of opposition waiting to tackle a Samu-less Leeds. Let’s stick together, ignore the ten-a-penny haters – and show them all what we’re really capable of.

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Hull Well and Truly Pablo’d as Leeds Grind Out Three More Points – by Rob Atkinson

Genius: Pablo Hernandez

For the third home game in succession, Leeds United managed just a solitary goal at Elland Road – and for the second time on the trot, it was enough to take the three points on offer. Although Aston Villa salvaged a draw after falling behind, the last two visitors to Elland Road, the Cities of Norwich and Hull, have departed without troubling the scorers – despite making the Whites weather some heavy pressure. It’s been a less than convincing run of home games for Leeds, but the ends have justified the means, with only the United fans’ bitten down nails telling the story of how nervy the performances have, by and large, been. But Leeds are starting to rise to the challenge of exploiting Elland Road’s cauldron-like atmosphere, something they’ve too often failed to do in the past.

Against Hull yesterday, a pre-match hammer-blow turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The absence of talisman Samu Saiz caused a collective groan among the 35,000 faithful who had congregated to worship United’s brightest star. It was a groan that rippled throughout social media, sending a frisson of apprehension through the virtual Leeds universe, all we of little faith wondering if we’d have the creativity to deal with our rivals from Humberside. But the enforced rest for Samu (tight calf, didn’t feel right, should be back for Burton away) meant a start for United’s Pablo Hernandez, and it was the little Latin genius who provided the decisive moment almost half an hour into a first half that Hull had threatened to dominate.

After the visitors had put Leeds on the back foot for the most part, creating presentable chances while the hosts huffed and puffed to no great effect, Hernandez seized upon a shockingly poor clearance from City’s previously untroubled keeper Allan McGregor; swiftly sizing up the situation, Pablo snapped up possession, moved forward and produced an outrageous dinked chip over the advancing McGregor, the ball dropping sweetly under the bar and into the net to give United an advantage that, after the Norwich game the previous week, you thought they might well hold onto.

In truth, Hull were less of a threat after the goal than before, just as their fans were largely silent once behind, having exhausted their repertoire of songs about dead perverts and cities of culture – an ironic enough playlist while it lasted. Afterwards, Hull manager Nigel Adkins bemoaned the lack of reward for his team’s industry, estimating a 3:1 ratio in his team’s favour on chances created. Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen was disarmingly honest: “We were lucky to take the three points,” he acknowledged.

One big reason behind that win was much-maligned Leeds keeper Felix Wiedwald, who produced a string of fine saves before United took the lead, one great example being a full-stretch tip around the post in the very first minute. Felix looked solid throughout, and it was reassuring to see him looking so confident and self-assured, without those occasional Sprake-esque howlers.

It was Hernandez who made the crucial difference, though, with Leeds creating little else of note other than a good effort from Gjanni Alioski as the interval approached. At the end of this derby, Leeds could reflect upon another gritty home performance and three points to see them back in the playoff zone. As for Hull, they had positives to take from their early domination, but departed for their City of Culture disappointed, chastened – well and truly Pablo’d.

Saiz Matters for Leeds as United Give Port Vale a Proper Seeing To – by Rob Atkinson

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Leeds United 4, Port Vale 1 (Carabao Cup 1st Round)

Elland Road on Wednesday night had that air of a football stadium being dragged at long last into the 21st century – not kicking and screaming, but purring with a deeply fulfilled sense of gratified satisfaction. The old stadium had that slick, modern look about it, with the state-of-the-art electronic advertising hoardings proclaiming that a new era is underway in LS11. But it was the vibrant, fluid attacking play of Leeds United, resplendent in their all-white strip with its gold trim, which really announced that things are different now – even though the team showed nine changes from that impressive opening day win at Bolton.

From the start, the Thomas Christiansen style of play was again in evidence, with the players looking to pass it around efficiently, finding space and supporting possession, and with a creditable amount of sheer hard work going into harrying the opposition when they had the ball. If Leeds can build on this approach, then we could be in for a highly enjoyable season. The work ethic and the obvious comfort on the ball of the Leeds players both bode well for United’s prospects, and the 15,000 plus crowd had many a chance to express their approval.

Samu Sáiz was the obvious star of the show, with a very well-taken hat-trick – and his immediate priority must now be to keep his feet on the ground, continue to work hard, and maintain the standard he has set for himself. The only small nits to pick were a slight tendency to wave imaginary yellow cards, together with a suggestion that he may have been involved in a spitting incident towards the end of the first half. But otherwise, the impression Sáiz made on his competitive debut could hardly have been greater; by scoring a hat-trick on his first team bow, he has potentially catapulted himself into the Carl Shutt class of United legends. Praise indeed.

Let’s not overlook other impressive performances though. After the distressing concession of a penalty at Bolton, when he appeared to be attempting to swap shirts with his opponent about half an hour early, Conor Shaughnessy looked classy and composed in the sometimes intimidating Elland Road arena. It seems important to make that point, as there is a tendency among United fans to dismiss young players as “not good enough” after errors like the one at Bolton. But Shaughnessy showed character and application, hardly putting a foot wrong all night. Decidedly, he looks to have every chance of being good enough.

Overall, it was an extremely satisfactory night for Leeds, with that buzz of new beginnings around a stadium that is looking better every day – emphasising that home is once again truly our home. At this early stage of the season, we already have a lot to be thankful for and, seemingly, plenty more to look forward to. Not to overplay a First Round League Cup win over fourth-tier Port Vale – but you can only beat what’s put in front of you, and the fact is that Leeds despatched their opponents with considerable style.

Quite apart from the Sáiz hat-trick, there was also a debut goal for Caleb Ekuban, who finished decisively after a step-over by that man Samu. By this time, the first half leveller scored by Vale’s ex-United man Tongeh was but a distant memory. Leeds had won at a canter, and they’d put on a better show than for many a long month past in so doing. The three terrific strikes from the right boot of Sáiz will be remembered for a long time to come – although Leeds fans, being Leeds fans, will be hungry for more.

On the sparkling evidence of Wednesday night, those fans are unlikely to be disappointed.