Tag Archives: Schadenfreude

Leeds Legend Lee Bowyer Sinks Sunderland at Wembley – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds Legend Lee Crushes Mackems

A last minute winner for Lee Bowyer’s Charlton Athletic condemned Sunderland to at least one more season in League One, and ensured that the first two playoff finals, at least, panned out as per my personal requirements.

It had been good to see Newport depart on the return journey to Wales with tears in their eyes and tails between their legs. Quite apart from having had a soft spot for Tranmere since their Cup exploits under John Aldridge, I’ve not yet forgiven Newport for our FA Cup humiliation a year or so back. Call me bitter and twisted, but that’s just the way it is.

How much more riddled with spite and vicious nastiness am I then with regard to Sunderland, who have been living off their fluke FA Cup success against Super Leeds ever since 1973? Much, MUCH more, that’s how much. The fact that one of my Whites heroes of the past few decades, Lee Bowyer, was a direct beneficiary of the Mackems’ inadequacy simply made a sweet occasion all the sweeter. I’ve frankly hated Sunderland for all the time I’ve been a Leeds fan, despised Bob Stokoe, and celebrated every time we’ve beaten the Wearsiders, as we usually do. They keep going back to Wembley, and they keep failing. They’ve done it twice this season, and I’ve loved every minute.

Now all I need is for Aston Villa to beat Derby tomorrow – with a few Fwankie tears thrown in, if at all possible. Really – is that too much to ask?

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


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”.

Karma Bites the Snake as Monk Gets the Chop at Boro – by Rob Atkinson


Where now for Garry “Snake” Monk?

It’s difficult for a Leeds United fan to feel any sympathy for Garry Monk. No, let me rephrase that. It’s impossible for any Leeds fan to feel sympathy for Garry Monk. Our feelings will range from mild amusement to deep satisfaction, as the ex-Whites manager who earned the soubriquet of “snake” found himself rattled, bitten and discarded.

Monk is another, seemingly, from the O’Leary School of Ego and Self-aggrandisement. The recipient of a good press for the job he was doing at Swansea City, Monk’s tender treatment from the media survived even his decision to take the Leeds job – something that would normally make a pariah out of any Fleet Street blue-eyed boy. When he upped sticks and left Elland Road, just as United seemed set for a bright new start, you could feel the hacks aching for him to do well in Smogland. Sadly – well, comically actually – it wasn’t to be. And now the Myth of Monk appears to have exploded. Really, you’d have to be made of stone not to laugh uproariously.

You’ll have to forgive my high spirits. This is news I’ve looked forward to laughing at since summertime, and it’s come just as Leeds have eked out another home win, while Man U have hilariously thrown away two points at Leicester, to follow up their capitulation at Bristol City (where Leeds won 3-0). Is it any wonder I’m a bit giddy??

Whatever comes next for Monk – and we all know we cordially wish him the worst – tonight’s news has been music to our United-loving ears. So, we’ll relish it a bit, along with the discomfiture of the Pride of Devon, and then look ahead to Burton on Boxing Day.

After all, it doesn’t do to dwell on the misfortunes of others, much less to glory in them…

Ah, Schadenfreude – like revenge, you’re a dish best served very, very cold.

Six Years Ago Today: “Cup Minnows” Jibe Returns to Haunt Man U – by Rob Atkinson


Jermaine scores at the Beckford End

As a result of the famous encounter between Man U and Leeds United in the FA Cup 3rd round of 2010, the Pride of Devon famously won yet another honour when a national newspaper awarded their incautious webmaster the “BIGGEST HOISTING BY YOUR OWN PETARD” accolade. When Man U drew Leeds or Kettering in the FA Cup third round, their official website’s headline was: ‘United To Face Cup Minnows’ – a banner that could just possibly have referred to Kettering, who still faced a second round replay at Elland Road. The sly intent of a dig at Leeds United escaped nobody though and, unlikely as it seemed that the United of Elland Road could pull off a shock at the Theatre of Hollow Myths, there must have been one or two wiser heads who were groaning at the sight of such crass bumptiousness – and wondering how anyone could possibly wish to tempt fate so. As we all know, the events of that day resulted in an almighty shock, joy for the fans of the Damned United and the renaming of one end of the Man U ground as “The Beckford End”.


Not what she’d been led to expect of “minnows”

Such unwise overconfidence had been seen before in the name of Britain’s least modest and unassuming club. Back in 1992, one of the many commercial outlets which swarm around the Salford-based franchise like flies around steaming ordure, were guilty of a comparably embarrassing cock up. Tasteful sets of lovingly crafted Man U candles, unsuitably inscribed with the legend “Football League Champions 1992″ were offered for sale at an enticing price with the confident slogan “To commemorate our forthcoming title success”. Sadly for the manufacturers, demand turned out to be low for these attractive souvenirs, due to the fact that Leeds United had the poor taste to win the league by four clear points. There is a warehouse somewhere in a dingy area of a dingy city that houses these unwanted reminders of failure, along with “Champions” t-shirts, flags, banners and other associated Man U tat that was at least twelve months ahead of its time. The overweening desire to win the last proper League Championship was evidently far too strong for mere considerations of caution, humility and wisdom to stand much of a chance, and so it was that Man U chalked up yet another example of chickens being counted before the formality of hatching was complete.

A picture also exists of a humble functionary hastily dismantling a Man U “Champions 2012” banner, which had become abruptly redundant when Sergio Aguero scored in the dying moments of Man City v QPR to clinch the title for City and leave the Devon and Home Counties half of Manchester crying into their prawn butties.  The tendency towards the assumption of success before it’s actually been earned appears to be a recurrent problem at The Greatest Football Club In The World™ (Copyright © Most of the Gutter Press Including BSkyB). Most football fans would find this sort of thing humiliating enough to make their teeth curl up and die, but the Man U bunch are curiously insensitive to such feelings, buffered as they are by relentless “Biggest and Best” propaganda to perpetuate their comfy if mythical self-image. The odd cold dash of reality is never quite enough to quell this methane-fuelled flame of hype and self-aggrandisement so, apart from the odd uncomfortable wriggle in armchairs all over the south of England, Man U fans continue quite happily in their own little pink fog of Freudian delusion.

The flip side of this excruciating coin, though, is the fierce, intense joy and satisfaction of a pompous bubble satisfyingly burst for the fans of whichever club is on the other half of the equation. In the examples quoted above, Leeds (twice) and Man City have found the joy of achievement considerably enhanced by the fact that the complacent hordes of glory-hunters had clearly expected victory to come about as of right. This is an exquisite refinement of Schadenfreude – the pleasure of achievement by virtue of bursting a despised rival’s over-inflated balloon is sweet indeed.  The fact is as well, it’s not just the fans of this ridiculous club just outside Manchester who assume success will be theirs – the moguls of the media are right in there as well, wanting and expecting. The shattered expressions of Elton Welsby and Denis Law, after Leeds won that title in 1992, told their own story. The cameras lingered mournfully on the shocked faces of Phil Jones and S’ralex Ferguson at the Stadium of Light in 2012. There was a distinct lack of the enthusiasm you might expect of news-hungry hacks, in the wake of the defeat of the champions by a third division club in the FA Cup in 2010. The media have their markets to think of; replica shirts, newspapers and satellite dishes must be sold in Devon and Cornwall, Milton Keynes and Kent.n These not-so-impartial hacks really want Man U to win, and their confusion and misery in the event of a shock is just bloody wonderful to behold.

To be the agents who have brought about misery of this order – for such wholly unattractive and unadmirable institutions – is to know a defiant and glorious joy of virtuous achievement. In the long run, largely due to off-field pressures, Man U will win trophies and the assembled lapdogs in the press will yap their hymns of praise and ram the whole charade down the throats of the rest of us. But every now and then, it all goes wrong for the anointed favourites – and then there are good times for all right-thinking people, the ones who want to see a more level playing field and some even-handed competition as we used to have it. Leeds United drew that era to a close by becoming the Last Real Champions, but there have been the occasional reminders of it even during the Murdoch Man U dynasty, when the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, City and – yes, Leeds United too, have stood up to be counted and have given the establishment club a bloody nose. It’s times like those that keep the old spirit of the great old game feebly flickering away, that stop it sputtering out altogether. Long may these rays of light continue to shine through the boring gloom and procession of the modern game.

Howard Wilkinson, Sergio Aguero, Jermaine Beckford, Arsene Wenger, Simon Grayson – and all the other heroes – we salute you.


Sergeant Wilko – last English Champion, Last Real Champion

Swansea Beat Man United to Crown A Weekend Mirabilis for Leeds   –   by Rob Atkinson

Chris Wood milks the adulation of the fans

Truly it is said that, for a sports fan’s very best of times, it’s not quite enough that your favourites should win. It’s necessary also for a team you despise to lose, preferably after taking the lead and crowing prematurely. It adds the aromatic spice of Schadenfreude to the jubilant celebration feast of success. When everything falls into place like this, pleasure and triumph for the good guys, pain and suffering for the baddies, it arrives like Manna from Heaven or soft, gentle rain in a parched drought. Those joyous moments don’t come along often enough, sadly – but this last two day’s melange of high points is one to remember for a long time.

By any reckoning, such a very rewarding weekend is like a great big, gaudy parcel crammed with delectable goodies, wrapped in paper of pure gold and tied with ribbons of yellow, white and blue. What a transcendentally wonderful 48 hours it has been, first and foremost in football, with Leeds United beating our former tormentors Derby County in their own backyard. The victory was thoroughly well-deserved and sealed by a truly tonking strike from Chris Wood, who is looking more and more like the real deal. United seem set to follow up their breakthrough win with some quality additions to a talented young squad. The future finally looks bright for the Whites – at least for the moment. 

Wood's wonderstrike

Wood’s wonder strike

That victory at Derby was a significant result and something in which to take significant pride and pleasure. But in the grand scheme of this weekend, especially for a fan of both football and rugby league, United’s success was in the nature of a curtain-raiser to the top of the bill, an appetiser before the main course. Leeds Rhinos, indisputably the class act of Super League, had reached Wembley to defend the Challenge Cup they won last year against Castleford Tigers. The opposition this year would come from Hull Kingston Rovers, and the outcome was to be of history-making proportions.

Hull KR undeniably froze on their big day, while Leeds Rhinos were at their imperious best. The game was men against boys; Rovers barely threatened the Rhinos try-line, with Leeds surging through their ranks at will as the Final wore on, racking up 50 points without reply. Tom Briscoe scored a record five tries, including one superb 90 yard finish, in a man of the match display. Leeds Rhinos were supreme and irresistible; Hull KR utterly obliterated. 

By this time, your Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything correspondent was feeling pretty good about his sporting Saturday. There was even the merest hint of that Schadenfreude piquancy, with card-carrying Leeds-haters like BarnsleyHuddersfield and Sheffield Wendies all comically tasting the dry ashes of defeat. The only way the day could have been improved would have been a defeat from a winning position for man u, my much-despised, Pride of Devon, favourite targets. But man u didn’t play till Sunday…

And, lo and behold, it came to pass. Sunday provided the warm afterglow to follow Saturday’s twin climaxes of joy and celebration. It was like Boxing Day used to be when I was a kid; a buffer against the downer that sometimes follows an emotional high – one more fiesta day, parties, further celebrations, even more lovely presents.

The Panther celebrates his winner against man u

My very favourite Pride of Devon defeats are the ones where they’ve ridden their luck and then taken an undeserved lead. You can see the arrogance set in; they start to swagger and believe the media fairy stories about how wonderful they are. And then, every now and again, the opposition bites back and smites the Over-rated Ones hip and thigh. Defeat is snatched by the media darlings from the very jaws of victory. So it happened today, to utterly overflow my cup of pleasure.

With a deadly one-two any champion boxer would be proud of, Swansea City recovered from the blow of going behind and promptly smashed man u left and right, to leave them bleeding and bewildered on the canvas. And then, as always happens with this shabby lot, the arrogance was replaced by truculence; the Pride of Devon starting to moan even more at the ref. They snarled and they kicked, they looked for dodgy penalties, they brought on a beanpole forward and abandoned any pretence at beautiful football. And they lost. Joy unconfined, they lost!

So it’s been another highly enjoyable day to complete a miraculous weekend that’s had just about everything. In the mix, a first win for the Whites, a brilliant clinching goal, yet more silverware for the Rhinos as they continue to carry all before them, a bracing start to Sunday at Whitley Bridge car boot sale and, of course, that sadistic pleasure at the discomfiture and defeat of the hated rabble from the Theatre of Hollow Myths. Still to come: a celebratory Chinese takeaway with wine and a good movie in the very best company I could wish for. And, Lordy Lord, it’s a bank holiday tomorrow. 

I’m a very happy man right now, as you’ve possibly gathered – but, naturally, this too shall pass. For the moment I shall just enjoy it, and look forward to Deadline Day – and then the peace and opportunity for calm reflection that comes with an international break. 

See you at the next turn of the cards. This has been a better one than most!


Norwich Live to Die Another Day – by Rob Atkinson

Recovery is unlikely

Recovery is unlikely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home of the ailing Canaries

Home of the ailing Canaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Back – the Last Time Leeds United Won at Barnsley – by Rob Atkinson


Classic 97-98 away shirt – the “Barnsley Special”

In the early part of season 1997/98, Leeds United under the guidance of George Graham became known for a brief but glorious three-match spell as “The Comeback Kings”.  It was a title hard-earned with victories against three fellow Premiership members after going behind – from one down against West Ham, for whom a young Frank Lampard had scored and then reprised his Dad’s 1980 semi-final jig around the corner flag at the south-east corner – and from three down at home to Derby County, a match I’ve already described elsewhere.

The third game in this sequence was away to Barnsley, destined to be one-season wonders in the Premiership, but always to be relied upon to raise their game against the hated Big Brother from up the road, Leeds United. Many was the time I had made the short journey to Oakwell during our second division spell in the eighties, only to see us perform scratchily, as if influenced by the humble surroundings, dragged down and ultimately defeated.  We had the odd success there, but overall it was a dire place to visit, both for itself and for the ashen taste of defeat that often accompanied the cobbled-street and pit-stack atmosphere.  This was in my mind as I contemplated the Premiership away game, in an Oakwell tarted up and much improved since the decade before.  But, in truth, the match turned out to be one of my most satisfying away trips ever.

Indeed, this article nearly copped for the title “My Greatest Awayday” before I decided it wasn’t quite that good.  But honestly – it was right up there with the best of them for sheer excitement and the joy of being able to throw a friend’s kindness back in his face as I crowed over a remarkable victory.  Let me set the scene.  A mate from the luvvie world, as we theatrical types like to call it, had won a local competition for which the prize was a ticket in the main stand to see Barnsley v Leeds.  This lad – let’s call him Martin, because that’s his name – is a rabid Barnsley fan who already had a season ticket, so he had no personal use for his prize.  He could have sold it, but out of the kindness of his heart, he passed it on to me.  It would be too, too cynical of me to speculate that he was hoping to rub my nose in another win for his Reds over my Whites – but in the event, how he was to regret that noble gesture.

The 29th November 1997 – coming up for seventeen years ago now (how that time has flown by) was not merely a damp and dismal affair.  It was not merely wet.  It absolutely teemed it down, threatening to dissolve proud civic buildings of centuries standing, promising to wash Barnsley away completely and return South Yorkshire to the marsh from which it should never have emerged.  It was a flood of biblical proportions, promising extinction on a scale that would have terrified Noah.  It really was a bitch of a nasty day.  And therein lies some of the satisfaction I derived from my spot of luck.  Redeveloped though Oakwell was relative to the dark days of Football League, Division Two – it was still a fairly spartan affair when compared to a proper football stadium.  The away end, especially, offered all the facilities of an open field without any of the rustic charm.  It was roofless, open to the elements – and that was a mighty elemental day.  If I had taken my place on that open terrace, I would surely have drowned.  As it was, I had the cosily malicious pleasure of watching my Leeds-supporting comrades drown, and looking forward to regaling those that survived with the comfy tale of my own toasty, warm and dry experience.  The keenly-anticipated pleasure of Schadenfreude is a dish best served cold – as I’m sure you’re always reminding yourselves.

So there I was, tucked up nice and warm in Barnsley’s version of a Main Stand, sat among the very poshest of the local yokels, thrilled to bits that I wasn’t out there in the open, dissolving away.  I had my complimentary programme and my hot Bovril plus obligatory pie – all free, an experience to warm any Yorkshireman’s cockles.  I was well happy.

Then the match started, and – at first – it was a depressing process of that happiness steadily waning and draining away.  Leeds were playing against the tide in the first half, and struggling to make much of it, despite vastly superior personnel.  Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink – later to be rechristened Judas Floyd Piggybank after his money-motivated departure to pastures Spanish – had briefly lifted my hopes by striking the Barnsley woodwork on five minutes.  I knew that this was a bogey ground (Leeds have a few of these) – but that early strike had given me some encouragement – soon, alas, to be brutally dashed away.

After eight minutes, Barnsley – playing with a 140 mph gale at their backs – pressed into the Leeds half and scored.  One of their frankly half-decent players, Andy Liddell, had tested Nigel Martyn with a stinging shot that the Leeds keeper could only parry out. Following up, Liddell was able to make his second effort count, and Leeds were behind. At Oakwell.  Again.  Bloody hell.

As Barnsley warmed to their task and Leeds found it increasingly difficult to repel the home attacks while playing into the teeth of a gale, the Reds had chances to double that lead.  First Liddell and then Joso Bosancic tested Martyn, but failed to beat him. Barnsley were not to be denied their second goal though, and on 28 minutes it was again a matter of our Nige in the Leeds goal being unable to do much about an initial shot in those horrible conditions.  As with the first goal, the rebound was snapped up – this time by Martin Bullock – and there we were, 2-0 down and looking likely to ship more goals as our defence became ever leakier.  It should be remembered that I had just witnessed two Leeds comebacks, and maybe this should have filled me with optimism – but it was poxy bloody Barnsley, it was a horrible day and I felt my luck – and the team’s – had run out.  I expected no third miracle.

It was with an involuntary shout of delight then, that I saw us peg back the arrears ten minutes short of half-time.  It was Hasselbaink again, blasting a fierce shot towards the Barnsley goal, only to see their keeper Lars Leese turn the ball around the post.  From the resulting corner though, Alf-Inge Haaland rose to power home a header at the home fans’ “Ponte End”. Pessimistic as I had been moments before, now renewed hope gripped me. My triumphant bellow had revealed me to the Main Stand as The Enemy, and hundreds of eyes swivelled to regard me balefully – but these were posh Barnsley folk, some of whom would actually have indoor plumbing and electricity in their hovels.  I was in no danger from these relatively civilised specimens.  United saw out the remainder of the first half, and I sat nice and warm through the break, reading my programme, sneaking occasional glances at the Leeds hordes bobbing about in the deep end and fighting over the few available lifebelts – but mostly looking forward to seeing what United could do playing with the current.

In the event, the first thing we did in the second half was go perilously close to conceding a third goal that would probably have finished us off.  Liddell, that thorn in our side, went far too close for comfort and then had a shot cleared off the line by the usually useless David Robertson.  As the half wore on, it was looking more and more as though Leeds were once again going to have to slink away from Oakwell pointless.  They pressed when possible, but Barnsley were defending better in the second half than we had in the first. A mere eleven minutes from time, though, a long clearance from Big Nige found nippy Rod Wallace in space on the right.  Hot Rod had a run on goal, and once clear, he was nigh-on impossible to catch, even though he was having to wade rather than sprinting as normal. Rodney finished competently, and we were back from the dead at 2-2 – to my loud relief. More hostile stares from the indignant aboriginals.

The stage was now set for a dénouement – and it was Leeds United who struck the decisive blow to complete yet another fine turnaround.  Wallace was involved again, his run down the right culminating in a tasty cross into the Tykes’ penalty area – and there was Derek Lilley for his one and only moment of glory in a Leeds shirt a mere five minutes after entering the fray from the bench.  Fastening onto Rod’s quality wide delivery, Lilley set his sights and delivered the perfect finish to put Leeds 3-2 up, much to the delight of the thousands of drowned rats behind Lars Leese’s goal.  My own joy was flavoured with an illuminating thought: how appropriate it was, I mused while cavorting around in celebration, that – on such a very wet and sodden day, with Barnsley’s quaint little ground virtually under water – it had taken a sub to settle the matter.

I didn’t see poor old Martin after the game – I was caught up in the crowd heading back to the railway station where – just to complete a Yorkshireman’s perfect day – the throng was such that I was never asked to pay my fare and got a free ride home on top of all the other freebies I’d enjoyed that day.   I was contentedly counting my blessings; Leeds were in the top four, Barnsley had taken a decisive step towards their eventual relegation (helped along by another defeat to Leeds in the return at Elland Road) – and I’d had the immense pleasure of seeing all this, of being a part of it all – and all for nowt.  Perfect. The rain had even thoughtfully abated during my walk back to the station.  I was the only dry man on the train as the away fans sat in their puddles, soaked and steaming, but giddily happy at the events of the afternoon.

Three comeback wins on the trot – and people recall George Graham’s reign as one of austerity.  It was anything but, especially in this 97/98 season, and I have a few more happy memories from that time, so I still think quite fondly of George.  It was a shame he deserted us for Spurs though, the treacherous Scottish git.  But that was in the future, and I had a victory to celebrate – and a rehearsal to look forward to the next day when I would be able to repay Barnsley fan Martin’s kindness by taking the mick and making of his life a complete misery.

It’s a sweet and wonderful thing to be a Leeds fan sometimes, which will be something to remind ourselves of whichever way this coming weekend’s match against the Tykes ends up going.  It’s about time we had another win there, but frankly I’m not holding my breath, despite Ross McCormack’s tweeted battle-cry.  But you never know – and if we did snatch the three points, that might well seal another relegation for plucky Barnsley, a “Cup Final complex” outfit we could well do without meeting next season.  Fingers crossed.

If Leeds United Don’t Go Up, Let’s Hope Norwich City Go Down – by Rob Atkinson


Hughton – that sinking feeling

Over the last few seasons of Leeds United frustration and mediocrity, one thing at least has become clear.  The quality of the scavengers circling to take advantage of our misery has declined since the start of our fall in 2003.  A decade ago, it was the likes of Tottenham queuing up to take stars and starlets off our hands at a price cut to reflect the desperation of our position.  Latterly though, it’s been little Norwich, a club that shared a common lift-off platform with us as we ascended out of the League One murk.

Norwich started that season with a sobering 7-1 home defeat to Colchester United. They promptly sacked the clueless Bryan Gunn, nicked Colchester’s managerial prodigy Paul Lambert and never looked back.  In the reverse fixture, Norwich won at a canter, went on to win the league and, accompanied by second-placed Leeds, prepared for Championship football.

There, the paths of Leeds and Norwich diverged.  Leeds went the austerity route under not-so-cuddly chairman Ken Bates, failing to invest in the squad and selling off their crown jewels to confirm their status as perennial under-achievers since 2010.  Norwich, on the other hand, seized the second tier by its short and curlies and breezed their way to a second successive promotion, gaining the promised land and munificent riches of the Premier League, unknown to them since the time of Delia’s tired and emotional exhortation to their fans for some sort of atmosphere.  And soon, the plundering of LS11 would start.

After a reasonably comfortable passage in their first season back at top level, Norwich set about planning a consolidation of their elevated status. Strangely, to some eyes, they appeared eager to accomplish this by recruiting – over time – the League One midfield of the club that finished runners-up to them at that level in 2010, Leeds United.  The first import was Bradley Johnson in July of 2011.  This created few ripples at Elland Road, but the next two similar transfers out were bombshells of seismic effect.  First home-grown hero Johnny Howson made the trip to East Anglia, in January 2012.  Howson’s local boy credentials, his untiring efforts in midfield and  his knack of popping up with a vital goal – notably at Carlisle in a play-off semi-final and at home to Bristol Rovers when his equaliser restarted the promotion express – were warmly appreciated by the Elland Road crowd.  Howson was Leeds through and through, and his loss was keenly felt.

Then, in July it got worse still.  Robert Snodgrass was no local boy – but he was the latest in a traditional line of Scottish talent to make a name at Elland Road, following in the illustrious footsteps of Bremner, the Grays, Lorimer, Jordan, Strachan and, erm, George McCluskey.  Snoddy was a real talent – he even left us with fond memories of a League Cup defeat to Liverpool when his treatment of a hapless Reds defender was so disrespectfully contemptuous that the lad had to be taken off with twisted blood.  His goals were regular and spectacular – Snoddy was a 24-carat Leeds hero.

Norwich City fans were catching on by this time to the regular humiliations their club were visiting upon once-mighty Leeds – and they were revelling in it, weren’t they just? Now, any given transfer window brought a barrage of tweets from Canaries fans, with the hashtag LUFC and a mickey-taking 140 characters wondering who the next import from Elland Road would be.  They were making hay while the sun shone and loving it.  Little Norwich in a position to humble former European giants!  It was unprecedented, the stuff of bumpkin wet dreams.  Norwich had hit on a rich seam of transfer success as they picked over the twitching corpse of each successive failed Leeds campaign.  They had become carrion Canaries, feeders off a bigger but seemingly moribund football club.

By last season, things appeared to have reached the stage where Norwich would take a player from Leeds, not because they needed him, but just because they could.  They swooped again in the January window for the disaffected Luciano Becchio, our top scorer, fobbing us off with the ineffectual Steve Morison and an insultingly small cash adjustment. Becchio went on to sink almost without trace at Carrow Road, Morison was a disappointment at Leeds and the whole deal was a failure, of benefit to neither party.  But the Norwich fans crowed anew.

Now we have the crazy and repellent situation where, every time a promising lad emerges at Elland Road, the gallows humorists dive out of the woodwork with increasingly weak jokes about him being destined for Norwich City, or more likely Norwich City reserves. These jokes are feeble and unwelcome – but they have the additional barb of that worrying potential to become “bad taste jokes” – by turning out to be true.  How Leeds fans have wished for a turning of the tables, to get rid of this monkey on our backs.  How we would love, even more, the chance to meet Norwich on equal terms again, our own problems sorted out, and to be able to bring these irritating yokel upstarts to account.

Yesterday, Norwich City – shorn of the injured Snoddy of blessed memory – went to Manchester City, and the Canaries got well and truly stuffed without so much as a tweet of resistance.  7-0 they lost.  It was the kind of score the vidi-printer used to choke on and then confirm in capital letters rather than numbers, for fear its accuracy might otherwise be doubted.  SEVEN NIL.  Some wantonly malicious blogs might even emphasise it in bold. SEVEN NIL.  The Norwich defending would have shamed a primary school eleven, they were hopeless in midfield and utterly punchless up front.  Could there have been a Leeds fan anywhere who saw that result and didn’t experience a frisson of delighted satisfaction?  Not this Leeds fan, that’s for certain.  This Leeds fan and this blog were cock a hoop with mean-spirited glee.

The Germans have a word for it – and as usual it’s a long and clunky one. Schadenfreude. It means delighting in the suffering of others and it’s not something, gentle reader, to which I’m usually prone – you’ll be relieved to hear.  But football is the modern take on the gladiatorial arena, in which you are able to see those you despise suffer, and can relish the fact of it without losing your essential humanity.  Or so I tell myself.  The unvarnished truth is that I want to see Norwich City have a shocking season, culminating in relegation.  I’d love to see us displace them in the top flight, but at a push, meeting them again in the Championship would do – ideally with Snods and maybe Johnny Howson back in white shirts as is only right and decent.  If what goes around really does come around, maybe that might happen.  On yesterday’s evidence of their slaughter at the Etihad, it’s not impossible.

How sweet, how very sweet, that would be.

Altered Priorities Ahead of Leeds’ Cup Date at Newcastle – by Rob Atkinson


Sometimes, I appear to be bang to rights on a charge frequently leveled at me by friend and foe alike: namely that I hate Man U more than I love Leeds United.  This evening’s Capital One Cup fixtures would be a case in point; an occasion when I would have to hold my hands up and say: Yes – my priorities are altered tonight.  Given a choice between Leeds progressing and the Pride of Devon getting stuffed by the Scousers at the Theatre of Hollow Myths, then I’d have to go for the latter.  I know that is base treachery and quite the opposite of the way in which I should behave – but I’m too long in the tooth and perhaps too cynical to look at things through those old, stardusty, yellow white and blue-tinted specs I used to wear.  So fine – tie me up and burn me for a heretic – but I’ll be watching Man U v Liverpool tonight, and screeching for a Reds victory (the real Reds, not the plastic variety).  I may even forget there’s a game going on at St James Park, Newcastle.

Disgusting, the average, bone-headed, blinkered fanatic will bellow at me.  Leeds first, last and foremost.  Well, I can see that point of view, but you have to be a little bit pragmatic too.  Sure, it would be nice to progress in this Cup.  I have a very good friend who supports the Toon, and I just know he’ll give me hell if they beat us.  Despite his protestations that he’s not bothered about the result and indeed that he’s jaded with all things Newcastle right now, I can tell he’s nervous about this tie.  He knows he’ll have the bragging rights if the Toon prevail, even though that’s the way it really should pan out, given the relative strengths of the two squads.  Equally he knows that I’ll make his life a misery if Leeds happen to win.  And that would be nice.  But I won’t despair if we lose – we have bigger fish to fry, after all.

Look at last season in the League Cup. Joy unconfined when we beat two Premier League clubs at Elland Road.  The bunting hung out and street parties as we celebrated a home tie against old foes Chelsea.  Ecstasy as we led 1-0 at half time – and then the sky fell in and we got murdered 5-1.  When you’re at the current level of Leeds, the happiest of Cup runs ends in tears. Bradford City know that harsh lesson even better than we do.

With Cup competitions, the best attitude is to expect the worst and welcome any better than that with open arms – but there’s no point getting too upset about it, whatever happens.  Since I’ve been a Leeds fan, I’ve seen us lose in every cup competition we’ve entered, every season, for 38 years.  You get used to the incessant disappointment, and the pain becomes more of a numbness.  Every now and then though, you reach a semi-final and the pain of defeat is more acute.  Twice we even reached a final; they were the unkindest cuts of all.

The Germans have a word for the way I feel about nights like tonight.  Schadenfreude. For those who don’t know, it means taking delight in the misfortunes of others.  Every now and then, Man U serve me up a big, tasty dollop of Schadenfreude and I’m a happy man – quite as happy as I am with the occasional victories of Leeds United.  The lads from Salford were kind enough to oblige me in this way on Sunday as they meekly got murdered by their more illustrious neighbours City from over the boundary in Manchester itself.  Joy abounded in our house; we didn’t kill the fatted calf, but we did lash out on a celebratory takeaway. On January 3rd 2010 I got both sides of the bargain – humiliating defeat for Man U as well as an unlikely win for little old third-tier Leeds as the latter visited the former and won 1-0, dispatching the favourites from the FA Cup.  A whole herd of fatted calves wouldn’t have done justice to that occasion.

My career as a football fan hasn’t had too many positive highlights – that’s just the way the cookie crumbles; if you’re going to follow your local team instead of glory-hunting like those sad, inadequate Man U fans with their deeply compensatory behaviour recalling the teachings of Sigmund Freud – then you’re going to spend most of your time dealing with disappointment.  It’s the nature of the beast.  How much better then, to have a fall-back position, psychologically speaking. That’s what I have.  Every time Leeds let me down, I have a second chance of happiness that weekend or midweek.  Often, of course, I am let down again.  I happen to despise the most undeservedly successful team of the era, so disappointment is often my portion there too – I am usually denied my helping of Schadenfreude.  But when it comes around – oh boy, do I relish it. Through the thin and thinner of being a Leeds fan, it’s been those delightful occasions of Man U misery and despair that, frequently have kept me happy and ready for more.  Otherwise I suspect I’d have given up on football long ago, much as other aging former enthusiasts have.  There is a limit, after all.

So tonight, I have two shots at happiness and satisfaction – and due to the preferences of the TV companies in these matters I shall be concentrating on the negative side of things, hoping for more Man U misery, cheering on Liverpool as they aim to knock the Gloryhunters out.  If it happens, I will be happy, whatever has happened up in Newcastle. And if Leeds happen to have pulled off a surprise against the Mighty Barcodes I shall of course be happier still.  But you have to take your satisfaction where you can, and if Man U lose tonight, they’re OUT.  If Leeds win, we’ll simply postpone our own demise in the competition, but it’ll surely come sooner or later.  So good luck to both my teams tonight, but if I have to pin my colours onto one particular champion, it’ll be the Reds of Liverpool as the enter the lists looking to cheer us all up by ending the Capital Cup involvement of Man U.