Tag Archives: Sheffield United

DIARY OF A CHAMPIONSHIP FAN – PART TWO: WHEN LEXIT MEANS LEXIT – by Patrick Hogan

Families, communities, a whole nation divided over LEXIT

It’s April 2019 and it’s been going on too long now. The people have spoken and yet have had to suffer interminable setbacks; delays, long drawn out negotiations, broken promises, missed deadlines, and things are still not resolved. In your darkest moments you imagine it going on forever. The issue has divided the nation. And yet still you’re living in this impasse. 

It’s time for Leeds to leave the EFL! LEXIT IS LONG OVERDUE!

There was the time you’d outlined in bitter tones to your bitter other half that though LUFC were big other lesser teams had been acquired and funded by billionaires who virtually bought them entrance to the hallowed portals of the Premiership. Look at Wolves in the 2017-18 season you’d said. Loans to buy of top international players through the workings of an agent on the board! And then the skewed distribution of TV money. Relegated teams coming down with huge parachute payments. An outrage that unlevelled the playing field in all sorts of ways. 

‘Well other teams seem to manage to get promotion,’ she’d come back with. 

And for the reasons you’d outlined you’d answered. And what had been her rejoinder? ‘There is no magic money tree! You reap what you sow!’ 

‘And we’d sown Bates had we?’ you’d replied.

‘Who? You live according to your means,’ she’d added. 

You‘d been feeling quite proud of that little snippet of repartee about Bates that hadn’t earned you any points till only later in the pub in your retelling of the spat to friends. The clarity of the scene lived in your mind. It wasn’t when you’d told her that she’d sounded like Theresa May but when you’d added with deliberate vitriol that she was starting to look like her that your missus had packed her bags and left again.

You’ve been a fan of Championship football for years although not through choice. And you’ve praised its qualities of honesty, speed, intensity, and so on that you’d outlined to disinterested pseudo Arsenal, Spurs (add a team) fans who’d never been to any of the grounds of the teams they purported to follow whilst they’ve waxed lyrically about their ‘support’ at work or at the pub watching Sky Sports. The Championship was beneath them. Unless of course they’d picked one of the ‘wrong’ teams like West Ham, WBA, (insert suitable name again) and were then doomed to explore the delights of ‘yo-yo-ness’; until they realised their mistake quickly and bought a Liverpool shirt, etc. backing it up with a flaky reason for their sudden change of allegiance.

But it isn’t as easy as that for you. You loyalties lie in whatever sphere your club happens to find itself. This brings you to another sad memory about the currently departed missus. You’d told her often enough that Leeds would get out of that division – and then it had happened. But not how you wanted. It had been almost unthinkable but only one year on from a play-off final Leeds were in League One! And a brief glance at a map showed you that Swansea and Yeovil were a long way away. And oh she had laughed. And without a word you’d walked out and not come back for three days while you licked your wounds and studied a road atlas looking for places like Cheltenham only to find she’d gone. 

Well she’s not laughing now. Or she might be but not at home. Your bet is she’ll come back contrite when your forecasted Lexit proves to be right. And when she does she’ll find you looking at next season’s fixture list and wondering how much places like Old Trafford, Goodison, and Anfield have changed since you were last there. And also Highbury – scrub that. Arsenal were now at a ground you’d never been to. Add to that list White Hart Lane. And no longer would you have to trek to the old Boleyn ground, a loss you’re prepared to bear stoically if Lexit finally happens.

The truth is though you’ve extolled the virtues of the Championship for years; how it’s more exciting, and harder for overpaid non-performers dropping from the Premiership who just want the bright lights of places like London, and the TV coverage you’re tired of being a Championship fan. Or rather you’re tired of Leeds being a Championship team. And if Leeds are now geared up to be a Premiership team again, you, who has served his penance for past owners’ misdemeanours, feel you’re more than ready to be a Premiership fan again. Admittedly Bournemouth, Brighton and Southampton are further than the likes of Reading, Stoke and Derby but you’ll take that. And in leaving wish all Championship fans luck in the future – obviously not those in places like Bermondsey and Sheffield.

And the delicious irony is that the EFL will have to struggle along without its prize asset and cash cow once Leeds have left despite their best efforts to keep you in their league. At this moment you feel there’s light at the end of a long tunnel even if that glorious light is slightly overshadowed by the spectre of Shaun Harvey following you to the Premiership and getting a top job. You will not let him be the black dog Cerberus chasing you in your dreams. And surely after Lexit there’ll be better referees and kick-off times, less biased commentary and punditry, and the ability to attract top talent – in short, all the things that Lexiteers have promised you.

But back to the mythical magic money tree for a moment. The one you’d yearned for so long and that other teams had seemed to conjure up to get promotion. The amazing thing was that so far the missing missus had been proved right. Fifteen players loaned out; and the few incoming loans and couple of money signings not having played a major part in the process this season. If Lexit is achieved it will be by organisation, dedication, planning and commitment. All the qualities you’ve brought to bear in your support. 

And the club will have played its part too of course.

So there you are. Still waiting and praying for Lexit but this time with genuine hope of an early deliverance. You long to say to the EFL (and Shaun Harvey in particular) ‘In the name of God go!’

Yes, the LUFC fraternity (and of course sisterhood) have spoken with one voice and their combined wish is this: ‘Lexit means Lexit! And it has to happen soon!’

And with that thought constantly in mind you retire to the pub with fellow minded fans to feel the consolation and solidarity of their emotions as they empathise with what you’re going through. And for a short while you can relax as one of them retells your favourite Man U joke. You may know it word for word but there is a comfort in repetition and usually a new pair of ears to take in its poignancy – 

‘The wife decided to wear a Manchester United top for a week to see the public reaction. On The 1st morning she was spat on, swore at, punched in the face twice, kicked up the arse and received 3 death threats……..Don’t know how she’ll get on when she leaves the house.’

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Leeds United Have Always Loved Millwall Really. Good Luck at Sheffield Utd! – by Rob Atkinson

Millwall

Come… oooon….Millwaaaaaall!

Ah, Millwall. Those loveable, cuddly Lions, late of Cold Blow Lane and now is their own custom-built, state of the art Meccano stadium in leafy Bermondsey, where even the rottweilers go around in pairs for mutual protection against the feral locals. But I love ’em really. Any Leeds fan does, deep down. Or, at least, that’s how we’ll all feel come late Saturday afternoon, if the ‘Wall have managed to get a positive result against the Blunts at Bramall Lane.

Not that Millwall will fancy doing Leeds United any favours, not after the recent tetchy game at Elland Road when a Pablo-powered United came from behind twice to take three points late on. But it won’t be for the love of Leeds that Millwall will be battling against the Blunts, they have their own interests to look after in terms of retaining Championship status. And if it were to turn out that Millwall FC are still a second tier club next season, due in some measure to three points gained at Bramall Lane, then I and many others of an Elland Road affiliation will be saying “the best of British to Millwall and congratulations on your Championship survival”.

It’s in the dog-eat-dog nature of League football that bizarre situations like Leeds fans cheering on Millwall can arise. Whatever the result at Bramall Lane tomorrow, you can take it to the bank that Blunts fans will be cheering on their own despised local rivals, Sheffield Wednesday, as they face Leeds at Elland Road later in the afternoon. What a surreal day it will be. Leeds roaring on the Lions, then Blunts hollering for the Wendies, those reviled “Piggies” – each home side aching for normally hated rivals to have the best of days. You couldn’t make it up.

Whatever happens in two tension-torn corners of West and South Yorkshire this weekend, you can bet it won’t be decisive – there will be more twists and turns to come, that’s for certain. In the meantime, all I can say with any degree of certainty is: Come on Millwall!!

Marching On Together. 

The Ear-cupping Sign from Leeds’ Patrick Bamford that Spoke Volumes – by Rob Atkinson

Patrick Bamford: what about that then, guys?

As the clock ticked past 61 minutes at Deepdale on Tuesday night, with Leeds hammering away against a 10 man but stubborn Preston side, United’s number 9 Patrick Bamford strode on to a rebound off the wedding tackle of Pablo Hernandez, and absolutely lashed the ball past helpless North End keeper Declan Rudd, to the delight of the massed Whites behind the home goal.

It was that vital breakthrough goal we knew we just had to score. Preston were down to ten men, Norwich and Sheffield Utd would play the following day. Leeds needed to get the three points to put the pressure back on their rivals. Bamford’s lethal finish was spectacular, but it was also a sign of his bravery and self-belief. Some shots hit from that position fly into row Z, some fizz narrowly wide, strike the woodwork or draw a brilliant save from the keeper. Relatively few arrow into the corner, threatening to break the net. Bamford had the confidence to try, and was richly rewarded.

That confidence and bravery brought us the much-needed moment of joy and relief. Bamford’s immediate reaction was telling; he ran to the away support, cupping his ear as if to say “Now what do you think?” It was the action of a man who had had to take some pretty ridiculous criticism and half-baked judgement after missing a few chances during a mini-drought recently. Whatever happened, we may ask, to the old saying about “you have to get there in order to miss ’em”. Half of any good striker’s work is getting into scoring positions. But that clearly means nothing to the armchair experts that make up too big a proportion of United’s support (for want of a more appropriate word). Bamford cupped his ear to the travelling faithful, but the gesture was indirectly aimed at the clueless section of social media Whites.

Clearly, Bamford is a great pro and a decent striker. In his limited contribution to this season, he’s scored some vital goals and, if the season is to be crowned with success, he’ll have done his bit. He also knows the score, and he’s fully aware that the people he can rely on to support and encourage him are inside the club, at Thorp Arch, or lining up beside him on the pitch. For the fans to enter that circle of trust, we would need to eliminate the carping criticism, the petulant knee-jerk reactions and the clueless assumption that the terrace denizens know best. As fans, we have to earn the trust and confidence of the players, in which case we’d all be better placed to succeed.

Will that ever happen? Is it too much to ask? The last few games of an epic season might just give us some sort of an answer to those deeply vexed questions.

Marching On Together

Stumbling Blocks Hardly Unknown on Leeds United’s Historic Success Trail – by Rob Atkinson

All White Champions

Champions 1973/74 – despite a late blip

There can be no denying that Leeds United were more than a little unfortunate to emerge from Saturday’s Yorkshire derby clash with Sheffield United empty-handed. Given ordinary luck, with just a break or two going the way of the Whites, it could have been a very different story; even a draw would have seen Leeds two points clear of third place. But little went right on the day and that, sadly, is a feeling that every Leeds fan down the years knows all too well. 

As it is, we had to take an undeserved defeat on the chin, with the woodwork, injuries and just about every factor you could name ranged against us. United are now a point off the automatic promotion places, when they could have been five points clear of third. Loud and woeful has been the wailing, rending of garments and gnashing of teeth among the United faithful, as the fates seem determined to conspire against Yorkshire’s Number One club.

But wait just a minute. Calm yourselves, fellow Leeds devotees, and be of good cheer. It’s all happened before, you see, at about this time of year too – and it’s rarely been fatal to our chances of success. When you look at our most recent landmark seasons, right back to when I was nobbut a lad, you’ll see that a late stumble or two, with United there or thereabouts and the tension mounting, is much more the rule than the exception.

Going as far back as 1974, when Don Revie‘s Super Leeds were stumbling somewhat along the title path, having at one stage been nine points clear, Burnley visited Elland Road and departed with two points from a 4-1 victory. It was hailed as nearest challengers Liverpool‘s great chance to overhaul United, but Leeds ended up as Champions and by a decisive margin.

Then, in 1990, Barnsley were the visitors on a night when nothing went right for Leeds. Centre back Chris Fairclough was absent for 13 first half minutes having seven stitches in a head wound. He rejoined the fray in time to plant a brave and bloody header into the Barnsley net, giving Leeds a well-deserved interval lead, to the massive relief of a huge Elland Road crowd. Surely, nothing could go wrong now?

In truth, we battered Barnsley throughout the ninety minutes but, in a sickening second half turnaround, two subs for the Tykes scored in quick succession, gifting the Reds an extremely unlikely win. Again, doom and gloom stalked the streets of Leeds – but United still went up as champions.

And then, two years on, Leeds were engaged in an almighty battle with Them from There for the last ever Football League Championship. The media were all agog for the Devonians to win the league – how fitting it would be, they purred. When Leeds lost heavily away, twice in a short space of time, it looked as though the script was written, with Leeds cast as fall guys. A 1-4 defeat at QPR had been followed in short order by a 0-4 reverse at Manchester City, and the Leeds-hating nation celebrated. But it was the Whites who held their nerve and mustered their resources to clinch the title of Last Champions by four points, while Manchester’s second club amusingly choked on the dry ashes of defeat.

So nil desperandum, all you devoted Whites out there. We’ve tripped up, recovered and gone on to win many a time before, in accordance with this great club’s motto of “Keep Fighting” – and there’s no reason we can’t do it again. Have faith in Marcelo Bielsa‘s boys, who really do have that fighting spirit that typified Super Leeds of old, and simply trust that all will come right in the end. Believe.

Marching On Together

Pressure All on Sheffield United Ahead of Elland Road Clash With Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Blunts1990

Brilliantly succinct: Sgt. Wilko’s call to arms in 1990

It’s a titanic head-to-head of the Yorkshire Uniteds at Elland Road on Saturday, just a half hour after High Noon. Some are building it up as a promotion decider, others are being more circumspect. I want us to win, and I think it’s the biggest game since that decisive match against Bristol Rovers almost nine years ago – but I believe all the pressure is on the Sheffield side this time around.

The fact is that, if Leeds United win, they’ll be five points clear of third with eight games to go, and that’s a significant gap. Even a draw would leave Sheffield United two points off second place. Only a win for the Blades will see them edge ahead of Leeds United, by just a solitary point. Both teams need the win, but for Sheffield United, beaten once by the Whites already this season, it’s vital.

Little more needs to be said. Leeds United and Sheffield United both know what they have to do, both will be wary of the hype – and both will carry the confidence of a good recent run into this Yorkshire summit meeting.

As United boss Howard Wilkinson said in brilliantly brief and succinct programme notes when these two teams met at Elland Road towards the end of both clubs’ 1990 promotion season: “What can I say about today’s game that has not already been said or appeared in print? Including this afternoon’s encounter, we have five matches to go in what can turn out to be Leeds United’s most important season for a decade. So let’s get on with it.

The rest is history. Leeds beat the Blades that long ago afternoon by 4-0, going on to clinch the divisional Championship. Both teams went up, but Sheffield United had not been able to withstand the pressure or Leeds United’s own mental readiness and competitive spirit on the day.

May it turn out the same this weekend.

Sheffield Wednesday Play Their Hearts Out for Leeds United and a Derby Day Draw – by Rob Atkinson

Wendies hold Blunts to keep Leeds in second place

It was the third Steel City Derby scoreless draw on the trot, much to the deflated disappointment of the Sky TV commentators who required a Blunts win to see Leeds United drop out of the Championship top two.

Instead, they saw a gritty if punchless performance from the Wendies, who managed to blunt Sharp’s cutting edge whilst stifling the threat from elsewhere in the away team’s attack. The whole game was more perspiration than inspiration and, in the end, a draw seemed a fair result.

For Leeds fans, this was highly satisfactory, putting a two point cushion between themselves and the play off pack. Once again, the Whites’ fate is in their own hands, and their challenge must now be to reproduce the Premier class performance that saw West Bromwich Albion sent packing last Friday evening.

There was some amusement, too, in listening to the morose men behind the mics as they strove to take some comfort from what was a disappointing night for them. All in all, as goalless draws go, this one put the cherry on the icing of one of Leeds United’s better weekends.

Leeds Looking for a Favour when Old Friends Millwall meet Norwich – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United roared back to the top of the Championship last night, with a spectacular 4-0 thumping of awayday specialists West Bromwich Albion – and the Whites will be hoping that the Lions’ roar will be heard in London today, with a flock of Canaries the victims.

Millwall play Norwich City at the New Den, always a formidable destination. Leeds will remember securing a last gasp draw there in the autumn, courtesy of a late Jack Harrison strike. Norwich, with the prolific Teemu Pukki always a good bet for a goal or two, will hope to go one better, but many a team expected to do well has come a cropper in this part of London.

While we’re asking for favours from old friends, it’d be nice if Sheffield Wednesday could do the honours as they host the Steel City derby on Monday evening. Hillsborough is another venue that limited Leeds to a solitary point this season, but the Owls will possibly find the Blades too sharp for them – we can but hope, for purely selfish reasons, that things work out well for Steve Bruce & Co on the night.

Next weekend sees Leeds United heading for a stiff examination away at Bristol City, with Norwich and Sheffield United at home, to Swansea and Rotherham respectively. There’s plenty of scope there for United to be pegged back – so we really could do with a couple of good turns this weekend from Millwall and Wednesday.

So, come on guys – you know we’ve always wanted the best for you…

One Great Three Point Performance at QPR, and Leeds are Back on Track – by Rob Atkinson

Cometh the hour, cometh the lads

If Leeds United can just see Tuesday’s fixture at Queens Park Rangers as an opportunity to be seized, rather than an obstacle to be wary of, then they could and should go into next weekend on top of the pile and conscious of having their fate in their own hands.

Even a draw would see Leeds leapfrog Sheffield United into the automatic promotion places, a mere point behind Norwich City. Both the Blades and the Canaries have put together fine, consistent runs and their exalted league positions are no fluke. On the other hand, just as Leeds are surely due to click into gear and give somebody a proper leathering, so must it be high time for a wheel or two to come off at Carrow Road and/or Bramall Lane.

As I wrote earlier, Leeds will need to be on their mettle against a bit of a wounded beast in Rangers. The Hoops have lost seven on the trot, and a lot will depend on how the game starts as to whether QPR are encouraged or demoralised. If Leeds can start fast and dominate possession from the off, as they’re quite capable of doing, then Rangers heads might drop – although that sounds like wishful thinking and probably is.

The fact remains that Leeds United have a clear run at top spot tomorrow, a chance to lay down a marker as the season gets to its business end. It will be Rangers’ third game in eight days, whereas Leeds had ten days off prior to Saturday’s defeat of Bolton at Elland Road. These are all good, positive vibes and normally they’d reduce me to a quivering mass of pessimism – but there’s nothing normal about this Championship League

Besides, after my earlier article pointing out that Leeds will need to avoid complacency despite Rangers’ bad run, some of the responses have lifted my mood towards cautious optimism. There’s some wise old heads among the readers of this blog, and many of them seem quite upbeat about United’s West London appointment – so who am I to pour cold water on such positivity?

A win is needed. A big win would be nice, but any win will do. In the spirit of optimism and possibility, I take Leeds to prevail by one or two goals. Now please, just for once, let me be right.

Major Boost for Leeds as Villa Blunt Sheffield United Victory Bid – by Rob Atkinson

Sharp

The most gutted “hat trick hero” you could ever wish to see

Sometimes, you feel that things just aren’t going your way, and that you’d be better off curtailing the evening’s TV sport and slinking off upstairs with a good book. That was pretty much my frame of mind as I alternated between Sky Sports channels to see Leeds Rhinos getting turned over at Wigan on the one hand, and Sheffield United building a three goal lead at Aston Villa on the other, seemingly to turf Leeds United out of the automatic Championship promotion places.

Still, while there’s life there’s hope, and now I’m really glad that, having given up on the Rhinos (that ended up 34-16 to the Pies), I instead concentrated on the slim chance of a Villa comeback to frustrate the Blunts, whose fans were crowing about being top of the league as that three goal chasm opened up.

It was annoying, really, as Sheff Utd seemed to be getting all the rub of the green there was going. Billy Sharp, a striker who Leeds fans will remember as being unable to hack it at a big club, had put the Blunts a goal up at half time. In the second half, things took a turn for the worse with a ridiculously invalid second Blunts goal (offside, then Sharp kicking the ball out of the Villa keeper’s hands) unaccountably being allowed. Shortly after, it was 3-0 and, you’d have thought, the end of the matter after just 62 minutes.

But then, football reminded us all that it really is never over until that fat lady has sung her last, expiring note. After 82 minutes, Tyrone Mings soared to head home a corner. A still confident Sheffield United management then subbed “hat trick hero” Billy Sharp on 86 minutes, only to find their lead cut to one goal within seconds when Tammy Abrahams slammed home a rebound from nervous Blunts keeper Dean Henderson.

Then, for those of us keen not to see Sheffield United at the top of the League, there was the frustration of Villa being denied at least one clear penalty as the clock ticked down to five minutes stoppage time. Thankfully though, all was not lost. In the last minute of the extra five, Andre Green popped up at the far post to head home John McGinn‘s cross to secure Villa an unlikely draw, much to the joy of not only their own fans, but also those of Norwich and Leeds United.

As an epic game ended, the Blunts has to settle for a draw wrestled from the jaws of victory, with some Sheffield defenders indulging in some accusatory finger-pointing at their butterfingers keeper Henderson. That had some satisfying comedy value, as did the outburst of grief and rage on the sufc Twitter hashtag, where not long before had been gloating and smugness agogo. Deeply enjoyable, that.

For Leeds, this was a major boost. Whatever happens now this weekend, they will remain a minimum 2 points clear of third place, and in a much better situation than had seemed likely after 62 minutes at Villa Park. For once, I’ll say thanks to Villa, who had looked hopeless for much of the game, but who showed character to come back.

And, for the time being at least, we can all enjoy a good laugh at the expense of the Blunts.

Heroic Leeds Overcome Sheffield United, the League AND a Disgraceful Referee – by Rob Atkinson

Pablo celebrates after scoring United’s winner at Bramall Lane

There’s no such thing as a bad win away in a Yorkshire derby, but this 1-0 success for Leeds United at Bramall Lane was particularly sweet, and for reasons that transcended three very welcome points.

I might even go so far as to say that today’s win was every bit as satisfying as our last victory at this stadium, way back on 26th April 1992. Victory over the Blunts on that far-off Sunday proved sufficient for United to clinch the title of Last Champions, eventually finishing 4 points clear of what is now Manchester’s junior club. That was a great day – today’s result, fashioned out of adversity and good old-fashioned Football League corruption, had a savour all of its own.

As delighted as I was on the final whistle, I’d been snarling and raging at a lot of what had unfolded before me during the game, particularly a first half notable for the most abysmally atrocious refereeing performance you’ll see outside of United’s last two European finals. Referee Oliver Langford was so bad, you thought it had to be a joke or some surreal and paranoid dream. He looked on as McGoldrick of the Blunts stamped down on Mateusz Klich‘s shin in a classic over the ball challenge normally earning the perpetrator an early bath. Langford waved neither yellow nor red, he didn’t even blow for a foul. Whatever his agenda, such dereliction of duty exposed him as, at best, an incompetent fool; far more likely, given United’s treatment so far this season, he was simply as bent as any other corrupt official of this corrupt Football League, a body that seems to view its Last Champions not with veneration, but with cold hatred.

Langford wasn’t finished with Leeds in this comically bad first half display of persecution. Having booked Sheffield’s Enda Stevens after 25 minutes, he then contented himself with a mere warning for another blatantly bookable challenge; by this time I was chewing the carpet with frustration. The home side should have been reduced to 9 men by the interval, and could easily have been behind as a very decent penalty shout was ignored when Kemar Roofe was pushed and pulled out of the way in the Blunts box. And, just to add insult to injury, Kemar himself received a yellow for the heinous crime of turning his back to avoid a head to head collision. It was a Tinkleresque performance by the laughably bent Langford, and fans of a certain age will know exactly what I mean by that.

By half time, it seemed clear that I was going to get nothing out of watching this game apart from a headache, dangerously raised blood pressure and rear molars ground to powder. It’s fair to say I wasn’t looking forward to the second half.

And yet, it all came right in the end. Having endured yet more injury woe when losing skipper Liam Cooper after 21 minutes, to add to the various injustices listed above, United thoroughly deserved the two pieces of good fortune that eventually came their way. First, on 82 minutes, an overhit backpass had Blunts keeper Dean Henderson scrambling to stop the ball going out for a corner. All he managed to do was present sub Jack Clarke with an opportunity to put an open goal on a plate for Pablo Hernandez, a chance the Spanish wizard snapped up with relish, to the delight of the massed Whites in the stand behind.

And, as time ran out, Dame Fortune, that fickle jade, smiled on Leeds a second time, as a Conor Washington overhead effort beat United keeper Peacock-Farrell all ends up, but crashed against the crossbar instead of pegging Leeds back. So, we got the three points that one of the worst refs I’ve ever seen had tried so hard to deny us, and the very best of hard cheese to him, to Sheffield United and to the corrupt clowns of the Football League.

As for Leeds – the heartiest of congratulations on a win that showed character and guts in the measure needed by any team that knows it will have to battle against the odds to get anywhere. Based on today’s gritty and committed display, this Leeds United team might be about to sample a bit more of that title-winning glory that followed, with a little help from Liverpool, our previous success at Bramall Lane. Let it be.