Tag Archives: Sky Sports

Media and Rivals Even More Desperate Now to Prise “World Class” Raphinha from Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Raphinha – he’s world class and he’s Leeds

Brace yourselves, fellow Whites. United now have a proven world class talent on their hands in the shape of Raphinha, bought at the bargain price of only £17m from Rennes just over a year ago – and now, some are saying that the bidding for Raph’s services would have to start at over five times that amount.

Look at the evidence. Yes, it’s been just two sub appearances so far in the famous Brazilian shirt for the Leeds star – but in those two cameos, Raphinha has made a stunning impression. There were rumours that Colombia’s left back required treatment for twisted blood after the chastening experience of being given the Raph Runaround last night, and many fans of the many times World Champions are demanding his inclusion as a starter, having observed the electrifying effect of the United man on the Verde-Amarela performances these past couple of games.

The fact is, you don’t get anywhere near the Brazilian squad if you’re some mug (unless your name is Fred) – and Raphinha now seems set to become a legend even in that exalted company. So, it seems certain that speculation will be rife over the next couple of transfer windows, with the avowed intent of various media outlets and pundits being quite clear: get Raphinha out of Leeds as soon as possible. Because, let’s face it, they just can’t abide us having nice things.

Even some Leeds fans on Twitter and other such social media platforms are openly conceding that we’re not going to be able to enjoy the spectacle of Raphinha in a White shirt for too much longer. That may even be borne out by events over the next year or so (though this blog considers it treason to say so). It’s a situation we’ve come up against in the past, and it was exacerbated then as it is now by the fact that the media and the usual suspects in the dingy ranks of washed-up ex-player punditry do not like Leeds United to have their very own world stars. They don’t like it one little bit, and so, whenever we do end up with a star in our squad, the campaign begins, urgently to talk up his move to one of the media darling clubs.

Sadly (and illegally, but don’t expect any justice to be meted out) these media campaigns are usually accompanied by what is known as “tapping up” – indirect, illicit and informal overtures made by covetous clubs, or by members of said club’s playing staff, towards the player being targeted. It happened with Rio Ferdinand during the 2002 World Cup, when members of the England squad attached to a certain club west of the Pennines which draws its support largely from Devon, did their level best to turn young Rio’s head. It worked, too – though the parlous financial predicament then afflicting Leeds United also played its part.

Yorkshire’s premier club is on a rather more even fiscal keel nowadays, but the Pride of Devon does not like to take no for an answer, and will expect its mates in the media to spin a possible transfer for all its worth. Apparently, they can also rely on their current player Bruno Fernandes to exploit his friendship with Raphinha in an attempt to soften up Brazil’s latest star. “I miss Raphinha,”sobbed Ole’s protégé the other day, taking out an onion. As we well know, the denizens of Old Toilet are not above this sort of skullduggery, in very much the same way that the sea is not above the clouds.

Annoyingly, once the media has decided that such-and-such a player is too good for Leeds (and we currently have at least two in this category with Kalvin Phillips also on the hit list), then we can expect a constant drip, drip of rumour, fabrication and propaganda, all aimed at achieving the outcome of winkling another diamond away from us. It’s an increasingly prevalent factor in modern football, though as I’ve said, it’s hardly a novelty for us Leeds fans. And, of course, as fans, there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it (other than share this and other like-minded blogs, naturally).

It’s the way of the world, sadly, and we just have to count ourselves lucky that we don’t follow an arrogant, complacent, entitled plutocrat European Super League wannabe club like some I could mention. We can also hold out a bit more hope these days, given the nature of the people currently in charge at Elland Road, that maybe we won’t simply roll over and give in when the media campaign ramps up, and the moneybags clubs start to agitate for the jewels in our crown. There does seem to be a defiance about Leeds these days, an authentic identity and a sense that we’re going places ourselves, instead of providing the means whereby others succeed. We must hope so, not only in the interests of Leeds United, but for other similar clubs – the likes of Villa, West Ham and Everton – who never know whether they stand to be abandoned, exploited, or both by the nefarious and untrustworthy ESL mob.

Good luck to Raphinha, and to our Kalvin. May they prosper and find success – hopefully with Leeds United. But, if their destiny does lay elsewhere, then let it not be elsewhere in the Premier League – and may the realisation of that destiny be sold for an eye-wateringly high price by our newly savvy club. One way, or the other, we simply have to prioritise our own interests, instead of assisting rivals as they twist the knife in our back. These days, I’m more confident that this is how it shall be.

Marching On Together

Phillips and Raphinha Struggle in Leeds’ First Win; “Not Good Enough for Big Six” – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United’s biggest stars – trust me, not worth a punt

What did we learn from Leeds United’s overdue first victory of this 2021-22 Premier League season? Not much, to be honest, that we didn’t already know. United made hard work of carving out a narrow win against a truly appalling Watford side who you’d have to say would have great difficulty scoring in the proverbial red light establishment. On this evidence, Watford are a good bet for relegation, whereas Leeds can thank their lucky stars that there are probably two or three clubs of around the same standard as the hopeless Hornets, which should see the relegation places spoken for, with United surviving for at least another season.

Anyone seeking an explanation of Leeds United’s mediocrity need look no further than the departure of legends Pablo Hernandez and Ezgjan Alioski. These two were the creative force behind the Whites’ successful Championship campaign of 2019/20, as well as their unexpectedly comfortable first season back at elite level. With their departures Leeds have lost two major talents who have not been successfully replaced. This regrettable fact also gives the lie to those who have hyped up the debatable talents of KP and Raphinha, who may now both safely be described as flash in the pan-types who should not be the subject of the recent fevered transfer speculation. The truth is, neither of these players would distinguish himself at a top six club, and the movers and shakers at Anfield, Old Trafford etc should get real and look elsewhere.

Far be it from me to second-guess the experts in the media, but it seems to me that, in talking up the “Phillips for Devon” stories, they are threatening to encourage Manchester’s second club towards yet another in a long series of disastrous purchases going back as far as Gary Birtles, and culminating in them having had their pants pulled down when Jadon Sancho was foisted upon them for a ridiculous amount of money. Neither am I in the habit of helping them avoid self inflicted misery, but it’d be cruelty to dumb animals not to warn them off the hapless Kalvin Phillips. So they should perhaps consider themselves warned, for their own good – with a similar cautionary note heading to Anfield, regarding the Brazilian in nationality only misfiring performer that is Raphinha.

I’m trying to be helpful here, to two Lancastrian clubs who clearly need some common sense advice. So pay heed, and steer well clear – you know it makes sense.

Marching On Together

Ticket Lottery Probe after Chelsea Crowd v Leeds Found to Consist Entirely of Schoolgirls – by Rob Atkinson

Chelsea’s crowd for the Leeds game yesterday

In a change from the usual controversy over VAR, a probe is to be announced into possible abuses of Chelsea‘s match ticket allocation protocols, after it was revealed that their COVID-restricted 2000 strong crowd for the fixture against Leeds United consisted entirely of excitable young girls. Questions are being asked as to the fairness or otherwise of a system that favours one gender and age group so exclusively, to the detriment of Chelsea’s traditional following which normally leans more towards male Neanderthals across all age groups. It has even been suggested that the teenage female demographic had been selected exclusively by the Stamford Bridge club, the object being to disrupt the Leeds United team with a constant, shrill and piercing scream effect. The question of whether this would not affect both teams equally was dismissed when it was pointed out that the Chelsea players were quite used to that kind of annoying noise after a year or so of Frank Lampard‘s team talks.

An FA Premier League spokesman commented “It seems appropriate to look into these claims, as it appears unlikely that a properly-conducted lottery would come up with such a weighted result. Most of the girls in the crowd admitted when questioned afterwards that they had been briefed to squeal in an irritatingly shrill manner whenever former Blues player Patrick Bamford had the ball, but that they had mistaken debutant United defender Diego Llorente for the striker. A few of the other girls had no idea they were attending a football match, believing it to be a concert featuring BTS (Bangtan Boys).

“Whatever the outcome of our enquiry, it certainly makes a pleasant change from looking into VAR controversies,” added our FA contact. “We’re pleased to note that, on this occasion, VAR worked exactly as we have always intended, as evidenced by its utter refusal to review an incident in which United winger Ian Poveda was fouled in the Chelsea penalty area and an obvious penalty was not given. So, yes, we’re obviously very satisfied with that”.

Frank Lampard (42) is deliriously happy.

Villa’s Gobby Agbonlahor “To Deactivate Twitter Account” if They Don’t Beat Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Gobby fears Whites Twitter reaction to a Leeds win

Ex-Villa forward and current professional motormouth Gobby Agbonlahor appears to have had a moment of self-awareness today, as the Friday night showdown between the Villans and Leeds United approaches. The former striker has tweeted an admission that, unless his side beat United, then his own Twitter presence would be unbearable to the point where he’d feel compelled to deactivate his account. The implication is, of course, that if Aston Villa do win, then there’ll be a lot more crowing and trolling to come from one of trash radio station TalkSport’s shining lights (my apologies for the gratuitous rhyming slang).

Having delivered Leeds United‘s Friday evening teamtalk for them with his previous online rants, Agbonlahor seems to have potentially painted himself into a corner from which it would be difficult to escape, should Leeds manage to take anything from Friday’s fixture. Several Villa fans have responded to Gobby’s rash tweets with anger at the incentive he has provided for the Whites to ram his words back down his virtual throat.

Now, Agbonlahor has gone further in the incentivisation stakes, with the prospect of seeing him disappear from the Twittersphere surely something that will spur Leeds on (always assuming that Gobby isn’t just emulating his fellow “gob on a stick” Katie Hopkins, who threatened many times to leave Twitter, but eventually had to be kicked off).

It promises to be a spicy old affair at Villa Park on Friday and, despite his over-use of the laugh emoticons, you get the feeling that Agbonlahor knows full well he has committed the cardinal sin of winding up an imminent opponent while wiser heads are keeping their powder dry. Really, it’s a shame that Leeds appear beset by injuries ahead of a match where they will need to be as strong as possible. The absence of skipper Liam Cooper, and more especially that of England’s Kalvin Phillips, does not bode well for United’s ability to cope with a Villa side on the crest of a wave after their 100% start to the season. Leeds, of course, will doubtless back themselves to deal with such problems – and they certainly aren’t lacking for either incentive or motivation. Credit to Gobby for that, at least.

Marching On Together

Cheek! BBC Tell Leeds Legend Noel Whelan to Tone Down Goal Celebrations – by Rob Atkinson

Noel Whelan – told by BBC to tone it down

A prominent feature of the radio coverage Leeds United have enjoyed over the past several years has been the joyously raucous goal celebrations of former United player Noel Whelan, as he greeted each goal the Whites have scored with what has become his signature – GET IIIIINNNNNNN!!! – coming at us over the airwaves courtesy of BBC Radio Leeds.

But now, alas, it seems that Whelan is being forced to tone down his celebrations for fear of upsetting other radio stations, some of whom have complained about the noise and passion of Noel’s on-air outbursts. This po-faced attitude seems to be getting more and more common among the various broadcasters that cover our national game – they seem to picture us all sitting at home, covering our ears for fear of hearing a naughty word or an over-exuberant ejaculation, if I may use that hijacked word in its original sense. I’ve had cause myself to rant at Sky TV for frequent apologies during their otherwise half-decent coverage. “Sorry if you heard any bad language there” a seemingly shocked commentator will intone during some passionate encounter, while over on Channel 4, other passionate encounters will be accompanied by wall-to-wall effing and jeffing, without so much as a “by your leave”. It’s odd, and a bit annoying – and now it appears to threaten the natural partisanship of one of our own.

Noel, with whom I’ve had the privilege of the odd chat now and then, seems to be taking his admonition philosophically, and has confirmed he’ll be winding down the volume and the passion “from this Saturday”, though whether there’ll be much cause for any such celebrations against City has to be doubtful. On the other hand, if there was to be a Patrick Hat-trick to make our Bam Bam Bamford the first Leeds player to score in four consecutive Premier League games, it’s difficult to see how Mr Whelan could restrain himself. These things are spontaneous and visceral, after all; perhaps Popey will be standing by with a gag, or maybe a Leeds branded non-medical face mask, just to avoid giving offence to the delicate sensibilities of those “other radio stations”.

It really is such a daft situation, and those within the media and indeed the game itself should be wary of draining away what passion and enthusiasm remains in our football during these months of crowdless competition. It appears they’d rather rely upon canned cheering, some of which starts and then abruptly cuts off if there’s a near miss, depending on the skill of the person on the button. Surely that bizarre phenomenon can’t really be preferable to a bit of honest, gutsy over-celebration from a guy who bleeds white, yellow and blue? (Or maybe even plum or wine, given our new third kit).

It’s a funny old game, alright. But I’m not sure I’m laughing too much right now. Far be it from me to proffer advice to so august an institution as the BBC – but, if I could make just one small suggestion: why don’t they belt up and mind their own business?

Marching On Together

Leeds United “Spygate”: Let’s Not Pretend It Hasn’t Happened Before – by Rob Atkinson

A timely tweet (above) from journalist Amitai Winehouse has exposed the nauseating media hypocrisy gathering like a cloud of effluvium around “Spygate” – the ridiculously over-hyped episode of Derby County players being observed training in plain sight. There’s nothing illegal about it, and it’s clearly happened before (also reported in the Daily Telegraph) and with zero fuss. So why this eagerly overemphasised storm in a teacup? Why the dark threats of FA investigations, why the demands by media no-marks for sanctions? Could it just possibly be due to the fact that Leeds United are involved, and all these hysterical attention-seekers have spied a bandwagon ripe for the jumping on?

Some will say that United manager Marcelo Bielsa emerges from this with little credit. I say he is left in splendid isolation as the only honest man involved, while various hacks, opponents and other such hypocrites – yes, that word again – trip over each other in their desperation to make some capital out of a non-event and perhaps somehow upset a Leeds United apple cart that is threatening to become an unstoppable juggernaut.

Reviewing the Sky Sports coverage of last night’s match against a cluelessly inferior Derby County is not an edifying experience. The assembled pundits and presenters took ages to drag themselves around to addressing the actual football business of the evening – instead, they were positively salivating at “this sensational breaking story” as they termed it. The “story” was Bielsa being frank, honest and anything but contrite about what he clearly sees as a variation on scouting – but the assembled po-faced hypocrites were determined to paint it as a betrayal of trust and decency only one small step down from Judas Iscariot‘s behaviour in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Exactly how the said hypocrites feel this is justified, given the evidence in the image above, is difficult to imagine. But it’s Leeds, so they’ll do their best. At some point though, there will have to be some acknowledgement that, yes, it’s happened before and, no, the whole of the football world didn’t have a cow and demand anyone’s head on a plate. The delicious irony is that the instance above was during Jose Mourinho‘s time at Chelsea, and who was on the playing staff at the time? None other than last night’s whinger-in-chief, the initially scandalised and ultimately demoralised Frank Lampard. So does Frank know that this sort of thing has happened before? Of course he bloody does.

I took the further step earlier today of tweeting the image above to Keith Andrews, the most vocal of last night’s pundits, to ask him if he’d be commenting about Mourinho in similar vein to his over the top attack on Bielsa. Or, I asked, is he content to be receipted and filed as just another hypocrite. How that word keeps cropping up when you’re writing about Leeds United’s legions of critics. I won’t be holding my breath for a reply.

Another bandwagon-jumper was former footballer, current Midlands apologist and of course historical woman beater Stan Collymore. He called for last night’s match to be replayed, and for Bielsa to be beheaded on Tower Hill, or something. Women beaters tend to find it difficult to ascend the moral high ground, so I possibly didn’t pay too much attention to Stan’s bletherings.

At the end of the day, it was still about the football, however much Sky wished and tried to make it otherwise. And, on the football pitch, Leeds United beautifully and ruthlessly dismembered Derby County in a performance of passion, skill and control. Young Jack Clarke, starting for the first time, showed some more of his blossoming genius and was at times unplayable. He reminded me of what they used to say about the late, great Stanley Matthews: “You knew how Stan was going to beat you, you knew exactly what he was going to do. But stopping him was another matter entirely”. In the end, I felt sorry for the Derby left back, who stood in need of being taken off with twisted blood. Clarke destroyed his opponent and was heavily involved in both goals. What a prospect United have here.

But the whole team performed well, and it was as complete a performance as we’ve seen for a while. Denied an early penalty by a daft offside call, Leeds simply went about their business and never gave Derby a sniff. It was wonderful to behold, as was that smacked puppy look on Lampard’s face at the end – the same expression he wore after our 4-1 battering of his outclassed team at Pride Park in August. This time, he paused after the final whistle for only a cursory handshake before flouncing off down the tunnel, doubtless pondering on how to field further questions about Spygate without sounding like he was making lame excuses.

And so a very satisfactory day ended, and now we wait to see what, if anything, our corrupt football authorities try to do about the storm the media have so assiduously whipped up. And that’s when we need to shove the evidence of prior occurrences right in their smug faces – so please, anybody who reads this, find Amitai Winehouse’s tweet and share, share, share. You know it makes sense.

Leeds Fans Ask Sky Pundit “Who Are You, and What Have You Done With Don Goodman?” – by Rob Atkinson

Goodman

Ouch – Don Goodman reacts as that alien probe slides on in there 

Among the many talking points emerging from Leeds United‘s victory at Wigan Athletic on Sunday – ranging from the inspiring sight of eight Whites players chasing a lone Wigan attacker in the manner of a pack of lions running down a terrified wildebeest, to Kemar Roofe openly laughing after he converted a chance presented to him by the bumbling home defence – the one that stands out for many United fans is the apparent kidnapping of Sky pundit Don Goodman and his replacement by a lookey-likey with a deep and abiding love for the Elland Road outfit.

It’s difficult to come up with an alternative explanation for the Leedsophilic nature of the co-commentary from the DW Stadium. Whoever the voice behind the mic belonged to, it certainly wasn’t the Goodman that Leeds fans know and despise. This guy, contrary to the Don Goodman modus operandi, had so much positive to say about the Whites, drooling over the skills of Pablo Hernandez, praising the organisation and desire that typify Bielsaball, generally singing a hymn of praise to our United heroes throughout the game.

The real Don Goodman, as we know from past experience, would have been bemoaning the nature of Leeds’ winner “Life is sometimes so unfair”, to quote his doleful exclamation after a United goal at Huddersfield a few years back. He’d have been vocal in his frustration that Wigan created so little. He’d have shed tears at the ruthless pooping of Wigan chairman Dave Whelan‘s farewell party. He’d have lapsed into a monumentally sulky silence as Liam Cooper & Co clinched the three points, erased Wigan’s unbeaten home record and returned to the Championship summit. All this type of thing we have heard from Goodman’s bitter repertoire on too many previous occasions, but there was none of it on Sunday.

So, the only logical deduction is that poor Don has been kidnapped, possibly by aliens, and replaced pro tem by a Leeds-supporting and highly authentic (looks and voice wise) clone or robot. Clearly, a glitch in the programming meant the tell-tale absence of any bitching about Leeds – and that’s what has given the game away. Rumours that the artificial Goodman is being touted as a replacement for Noel “Get Iiiiiinnnnn” Whelan, due to the former’s audibly greater enthusiasm for the Whites, cannot be confirmed. Whatever the future holds for the clone, who is presumably even now being dissected by evil Sky TV technicians, our thoughts and prayers must be with the original Don Goodman, wherever he may be. If his fate is to be experimented on by eager and avid aliens with anal probes and other invasive nasties in their armoury, then we must hope that the experience is neither too humiliating nor at all painful. Well, not very painful. Or, maybe just a reasonable amount of moderately excruciating pain. You get my drift – there is some payback due here.

No doubt those aliens, or representatives of the Leeds United fan-base, or whoever is responsible for Goodman’s abduction, will be effecting his return to Sky Sports and normal duties before this deception becomes common knowledge. Perhaps he will even have learned a little from his experience and, as he wriggles uncomfortably in his chair, he’ll possibly recall the nature of the probing he’s undergone, and maybe soften his attitude towards United from now on. Anything’s possible, after all.

But if Goodman’s best Leeds-hating days are behind him (fnarr) and he’s therefore of no further use to the Evil Empire, then there are surely plenty of available bitter ex-pros who can’t abide United and are willing to demonstrate this at every opportunity. Tony Gale, a former Hammer who has never forgiven Leeds for that Vinnie Jones-inspired 1-0 win at Upton Park in 1989, and has been blowing bubbles of anti-Leeds vitriol ever since, would be an obvious possibility. It’d make a change, anyway – and to be honest, I’m not quite sure I’d want to sit through another punditry performance like that given by Don’s clone on Sunday. It was rather uncomfortable, a bit like an unpopular and vaguely creepy uncle handing out the toffees and half crown coins to the youngsters at some benighted family gathering; it’s just rather too nightmarish.

The thing is, with Leeds, you know there’ll always be another live Sky game coming up soon. So perhaps we’ll see a different performance from former Wolves player and sworn enemy of the Baggies Don Goodman, when we appear before the cameras (and, occasionally, the crowd noise mics) at West Bromwich Albion this coming weekend.

Watch this space…

Isn’t it Time TV Stopped Pandering to the “We All Hate Leeds” Brigade? – by Rob Atkinson

Bafc LUFC

Burton Albion & Sky Sports v Leeds United

Watching Leeds United on the telly has health implications for your standard Whites fanatic, the kind with the iconic LUFC running through them like a stick of rock. Football devotees in general, and Leeds fans in particular, are hardly known for their Zen-like state of calmness, and it frequently seems to me that the telly people are doing their utmost to wind me up with their continual sniping at Yorkshire’s Number One football club. Because, whenever I’m stuck with TV coverage as opposed to being there, I always end up feeling as though my blood pressure has spiked, and I’m left foaming at the mouth, longing to give some smug pundit the baseball bat treatment.

The Burton Albion game on Boxing Day was a case in point. The Championship minnows had enjoyed two victories on the trot, and Sky Sports were all a-flutter to see them make that three against Big Bad Leeds. When the Brewers took the lead with a narrowly offside goal, the commentators glossed over it – Ronaldo Vieira shouldn’t have stepped out, their logic ran, so it was bad defending. If Vieira had stayed put, the lad would have been onside – but the pundits weren’t in any mood to let facts interfere with their “Chuffed that Leeds are losing” position. For the time being, they were as happy as a scum fan with a new easy chair (though that had changed by the time Ronnie, living up to both his names, put Kemar Roofe in for the winner).

Right at the end of the first half, Leeds defender Gaetano Berardi sailed into a challenge on Burton man Sean Scanell, and what followed was highly instructive. It was the kind of tackle that, when perpetrated by some media darling in a Man U shirt, elicits a roguish chuckle from the commentators, with the remark “That would have earned you a new contract back in the day, but now it’s a wee bit naughty”. The fact is that Berardi won the ball – with both feet, admittedly. But only the ball suffered, no blood was shed and no bones were broken. Still, the pundits were all pursed lips and sanctimony; their outraged verdict was that our man could and should have seen red.

In the second half, it was yours truly seeing red, as Albion’s goalscorer Tom Naylor, delivered the classic over-the-top leg-breaker on Vieira, studs into Ronnie’s standing leg, an absolutely atrocious challenge. From the Sky gantry, there was only the most sheepish of reactions – “Ooh, that’s another bad one” etc. There was none of the red card bloodlust, none of the hysteria that Berardi’s comparatively innocuous challenge had prompted. On the day, both incidents resulted in yellow cards – harsh in Berardi’s case, and a gross under-reaction to the Naylor assault on Vieira. But it was the Sky reaction that was the most disgusting aspect of the whole matter; they even edited the Naylor foul out of their highlights package, focusing the disciplinary spotlight firmly on the Berardi challenge. Sky TV do seem to have a heavy hand in editing Leeds highlights – the other week, they even edited Gjanni Alioski’s sumptuous winning goal right out of their Barnsley v United clip, which is a tad harsh, even by their anti-Leeds standards.

The thing is, these are not isolated examples. It happens time and again, most weeks in fact. There’s usually some dedicated Leeds-hating has-been in the co-commentary seat, and always an anti-United spin on the description of pivotal events. It’s no mystery as to what’s behind it – hating the Elland Road boys is still a national preoccupation, a good four decades after the Super Leeds era that got them all in such a resentful froth. So it’s in broadcast media’s commercial interests to hype up the hate, just as it is for them to view Man U through sentimentally rose-tinted glasses, catering to their tragic legions of armchair TV subscribers. Both attitudes are commercially sensible – but it doesn’t make them right.

Let’s face it, Leeds United are big box office for Sky’s Championship coverage, and it’s about time a little bit more respect was shown, if not outright gratitude. That’s only right and just, not that these are words figuring prominently in any broadcaster’s lexicon. But, for the sake of my blood pressure if nothing else, and to prevent me hurling something at my costly flat-screen technology – it’s time for the TV companies to wise up, grow up, and lay off my beloved Leeds.

Agony for Leeds but Ecstasy for Sky’s Jeff Stelling as Fulham Snatch Late Draw – by Rob Atkinson

Stelling celebrates

“And there’s bad news for Leeds United, ring out the bells, rejoice!!”

We all know that Leeds United aren’t exactly the pin-up golden boys for various shallow media types and embittered ex-footballers turned pundits. It comes as no surprise, therefore, when every now and then some be-suited eejit just can’t help himself, and goes into an ecstasy of raucous celebration when some misfortune befalls the mighty Whites. It happened again, last night on Sky TV’s soccer special – Fulham scored a last-gasp equaliser against a dogged but tiring Leeds, and the world’s most famous monkey-hanger, Jeff Stelling, almost literally exploded with joy.

It was actually quite worrying on an empathetic level, once you got past the bleak realisation that two points were drifting away from Leeds at the very last minute. Poor Jeff looked to be on the point of apoplexy, his face swelling almost to bursting point and veins throbbing in his temples. His eyes were those of a man on the edge of Hartlepudlian hysteria – you’d have feared for the life of any simian in the vicinity had Mr. Stelling a convenient length of noosed hempen rope handy. From his demeanour, you might have thought that Hartlepool United had just clinched the Champions League by battering Bayern Munich – and all of this because Leeds conceding a late leveller completely robbed a so-called professional of any poise and impartiality. It’s a rum old world.

Of course, Sky Sports as an entity has form for this kind of thing. Seasoned watchers of their rolling scoreline programme on a Saturday afternoon or weekday evening will be aware of familiar signs allowing them some prior awareness of what’s going on in Leeds United games. It works like this: once you know who is watching the Whites in action, you listen for that voice. An exultant yelp in the background while Jeff is waffling on about Man U means the Whites have conceded; a despairing punctured gasp of dismay signals a Leeds goal. I’ve seen it happen any number of times.

Getting past my possibly paranoid take on Stelling & Co, it also has to be said that Leeds United were at least partially the authors of their own misfortune last night. Once again, as in times past, they allowed a situation to develop that bore more than a passing resemblance to the siege of the Alamo, in attempting to defend a one goal lead for nigh on ninety minutes. The occasional chance to put the game to bed was spurned, for the rest it was all about facing a huge majority of possession for Fulham, while retreating deeper and deeper into defence. As the finish line came into sight, Leeds were down to ten men after a fairly soft sending-off for Kalvin Phillips, who then took an inordinate amount of time to leave the field of play. And, naturally, it was in the extra minutes added on for that sluggish exit from the arena, when Fulham at last beat Rob Green with one of the worldy strikes we seem to concede far too often.

At the end of the day, Brian, it was a good point gained at a difficult venue against worthy opponents – though it did rather feel more like two dropped. But these things happen, and not just to Leeds. We all suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune from time to time, after all. It’s just that – when it does happen to Leeds – I’d rather not have my nose rubbed in it by some joke of a TV presenter who can’t maintain his thin veneer of professionalism due to an all-too-typical hatred of Leeds United. That really does grind my gears.

Even Stelling himself appeared to realise he might have gone too far, once the red mist cleared and his face reduced to a more normal size. “The Leeds fans won’t thank me for that,” he quavered accurately. Well, you got that right, didn’t you. Shriek with joy as a battling team sees two vital promotion points disappear, to the frustration of their legions of supporters everywhere? It’s more than just a little unprofessional, that – it’s unbelievable, Jeff.

For Evans Sake, Leeds Utd Have the Right Man. Now Stick With Him – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United Manager Steve Evans

Leeds United Manager Steve Evans

The unseen benefit of the scattergun, hire ’em and fire ’em recruitment approach adopted by Leeds United since the takeover of il Duce Cellino, is that at some point, unwittingly, you’re probably going to stumble haphazardly upon the right man for the job. And one of the obvious drawbacks of such an amateurish policy is that you’re all too likely then to dismiss him, either in a fit of Latin pique, or because you’ve been replaced by new owners who want their own man.

The evidence of the first few weeks of the Steve Evans era at Elland Road would seem to suggest that United have, for once in a very long while, got a square peg for their square hole. Having been lucky enough to do that, Leeds must not now, under whatever ownership, retreat back into their accustomed suicidal self-destruct mode – and dispense with a man and manager who might just be the best fit our maverick club could possibly wish or hope for.

The Steve Evans track record speaks for itself in both the best and worst of times. His human fallibility is evident from a brush with the law earlier in his career – but lessons learned from negative episodes in life can be instructive in the making of a highly effective professional. And it is this image that emerges from the Evans record of achievement at his previous clubs. It is an enviable record of unprecedented success at those clubs, by virtue of what the man himself succinctly refers to as “winning football”. He has no need or desire to elaborate on that two-word summary. He simply promises the fans just that – winning football. He knows and we know that everything good will flow from that.

The complexity and effect of the man is emerging little by little as a picture Leeds United fans have been wanting to behold for many, many years. There are echoes of the early Sergeant Wilko in the way Evans has breezed into the club with no fear on his own account, and the clear intention of doing things his way. Though not afraid himself, he appears to rule partly through fear – and partly by employing the encouraging “arm around the shoulder” approach. We hear that he can hand out rollickings to those who need it, as well as boosting those in need of a boost. It’s not rocket science – just horses-for-courses man-management, the type of thing that has produced results for the enlightened since time immemorial. The proof of the pudding, though, will be in the eating – but early indications are that certain Leeds United players, who had been under-performing, are now walking about with a new spring in their step. Long may that continue.

The danger now apparent is of yet another change; this one unwanted, unnecessary and foolish, with talk in various sections of the media that any possible new owner – a prospect widely perceived among Leeds fans as A Good Thing – could bring with him a change of manager, with Pride of Devon flop David Moyes touted as a likely contender for a job that really should be flagged up as unavailable. It may of course be that this is largely the not exactly Leeds-loving media being their usual mischievous and unhelpful selves. We can but hope.

What we have here is not yet a recovery, nor yet even a definite upward swing in the fortunes of our beloved Leeds United. The general stability of the club is far too fragile to make extravagant claims like that. But what we do seem to have are tentative green shoots emerging from what has too long been an arid desert of hopelessness. Little buds of confidence are emerging that just might flourish and bloom into full-on optimism – given the chance. Everywhere I’ve looked in the virtual world of Leeds United lately, I’ve seen surprised, almost bemused comments along the lines of “this bloke is really growing on me!” about our new manager. And one of the most noticeable things about Steve Evans is that he openly lays claim to that title. Leeds United manager – there’s a ring to it which the half-baked “head coach” thing lacks. It’s as if Evans knows he has ventured into shark-infested waters, and that he’ll have to be brave, bold and confident if he’s to succeed. He’s certainly making all the right noises, so far.

In Steve Evans – a man who swiftly acknowledged that he wouldn’t have been the first choice among Leeds fans (adding that he doubted he’d have been in the top ten) – we may just have the ideal candidate for the next holder of the Mr. Leeds United accolade. Steve Evans genuinely could be Mr. Leeds United, in a manner akin to earlier greats like Wilko, or even the as yet incomparable Don Revie. He reflects the club as those legends did – unprepossessing to outsiders, with a tendency to inspire fear and dislike among enemies. But there’s a steely determination there also, an unshakeable belief in his own ability that is likewise redolent of Leeds at its very best. That extra spring in the step of some of the young stars, those early results as they start to pick up – they’re down to that brash, ebullient presence rocking around the corridors of Elland Road and Thorp Arch. There seems little doubt of that.

I had my doubts too, at the start, though I was mainly preoccupied with being dismayed at yet another abrupt change of management. I heard of Steve Evans discussing his appointment to take over with no great enthusiasm. But first impressions are rarely all that reliable,  and I’ve never been so thrilled to have it demonstrated to me that, like thousands of others with the colours of this club running through their veins, I have good cause to believe team affairs are at last in safe hands. And, having accepted that – by hook or by crook and more by luck than good judgement – a bona fide appointment has at long last been made, I’m now in the same position as so many other fans, of being desperately concerned that – this time – we should stick with our man and see it through. See what kind of Leeds United Steve Evans can build. Hope that he will be given the time and the tools to finish the job, as he’s so successfully done elsewhere.

If, in a few weeks or months time, I’m writing another blog in bitter frustration and helpless anger, bemoaning yet more self-harming short-termism on the part of this crazy club – if, in short, Leeds United have lost their nerve yet again, and prematurely sacked yet another manager – then it’ll be with a sense of baffled despair about our club’s chances of ever making it back to the level of the game where they assuredly belong. It’s for Leeds now to stick with their man, back him through whatever high-level changes may be in the offing and try to ensure that, on the playing side of things at least, there is some stability and confidence. Those two advantages will come only with the security of a man in charge being given ample opportunity to do his job and earn success. For all our sakes, let this come to pass.

And if not – why then, the fans of this club will know for sure that they are the only stable and worthwhile thing about the place. They’ll know that the club can’t be trusted or relied upon to do anything but periodically make of itself a laughing stock before lesser clubs and lesser fans. It would be the only conclusion we could possibly draw – who could really blame us? The powers that be at Leeds United (whoever they might be on any given day) had better take warning; our faith in the direction of the club can only take so many hits before it crumbles into pieces. So don’t screw this up, guys.

Steve Evans has made it clear that he regards himself as privileged to be the Leeds United manager. He’s made it clear that he regards the fans as an asset unmatched elsewhere (If we played a five-a-side in Asia at three in the morning, they’d be there). Evans “gets” Leeds. He can see what the club – and the fans – are all about. You have the impression that he can sense a kinship – that he feels at home and wants beyond anything else to restore Leeds United to greater days. This blogger could listen to him talk about Leeds all day long – it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

You just can’t put a price on that feeling, and – for the first time in such a long time – I and many others believe we might just have a real Leeds United manager on our hands. Someone who appeared as a match summariser on Sky Sports Saturday earlier today, and made a point of giving the Leeds salute when on camera. I could barely believe my eyes. Now, that’s a real candidate for the next Mr. Leeds United.

So, for Evans’ sake – and for the sake of all of us and our turbulent love affair with football’s craziest club – let’s please see it through this time and go marching on together, back towards the top, behind a man who – given an even chance – just might make it all happen for us once again.