Tag Archives: Sky TV

Cellino: “I Speak For The Fans”… But Then Betrays Them?   –   by Rob Atkinson

…and stop lying to us, my friend

An exclusive report in yesterday’s Yorkshire Post, under the byline of Richard Sutcliffe, claims that Leeds United was offered – and decided to refuse – the option of playing Monday night’s rearranged Sky TV fixture against Middlesbrough on Saturday lunchtime. The game would still have been televised, with a kick off of 12:30 as opposed to the original 3:00pm, but it seems very likely that far less disruption would have been caused to travelling fans long-standing transport and accommodation arrangements.

Many fans were put to inconvenience and financial loss by the short-notice announcement of the game’s move to Monday night. The Football League has claimed that an announcement could have been made much earlier, but for United’s behind the scenes attempts to leave the fixture as originally scheduled. Now it appears that a compromise offer of a Saturday lunchtime kick-off, which would have saved the plans of many long-distance supporters due to arrive in Leeds on Saturday, was rejected by the club. 

This will be somewhat galling to say the least for Leeds United fans in general – and those who suffered inconvenience at short notice in particular. United owner Massimo Cellino has done his best to heap all of the blame on the Football League and/or Sky TV. This blog has no track record for defending those bodies, but it does appear from Sutcliffe’s Yorkshire Post article that Cellino will have pointed questions to answer about the treatment of fans in this instance.

Cellino, after all, has presented himself as the defender of fans’ interests in this affair. The club owner, writing in the match day programme for last night’s Boro game, said: “We are aware of many supporters, not only from England but across the world, who made plans to attend this game at the originally scheduled date of Saturday at 3pm. Those fans feel the effect financially and emotionally, but it is difficult for their voices to be heard. It is with their interests in mind that we continue to push for change.”

It would be somewhat bizarre of Cellino to bemoan the financial and emotional effects on fans in one breath, if with another he is rejecting a compromise offer that would have negated virtually all of those undesirable effects. If this report is true, it would seem that our owner, no stranger to the art of manipulating the truth, has once again strayed from the path of strict veracity. Indeed, this would be more than just another casual untruth. Some might say that it’s rank hypocrisy for Cellino to pose as the defender of the fans against those nasty League barons and TV moguls – whilst simultaneously acting behind all of our backs so as to ensure that those fans will suffer the “financial and emotional” effects that it now seems could easily have been avoided. 

There’s no apparent reason to disbelieve the Yorkshire Post claims. Which leaves Leeds United, in the person of Massimo Cellino to answer these questions:

  1. Is this claim by the Yorkshire Post of a compromise offer – allegedly made as early as December 15th – true?
  2. If it is true, then why was it rejected – when acceptance would have minimised disruption to travelling supporters, including many coming from abroad?
  3. How can Cellino claim to be looking out for fans’ interests in these circumstances?
  4. If it can be shown that supporters have incurred financial loss and inconvenience due to actions and positions taken by the club, then what plans does the club have to compensate those fans for that avoidable loss and inconvenience?
  5. When is Leeds United going to return to a more transparent approach in its dealings with supporters?

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything believes that answers to these questions are the very least that fans deserve. 

Over to you, Mr. Cellino… 

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Ref Anthony Taylor Reaps Rewards of Incompetent Leeds TV Display   –   by Rob Atkinson

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Anthony Taylor, TV Star

Since a performance of appalling ineptitude in the televised Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds United clash last month in the Championship, referee Anthony Taylor has become a bit of a TV star. The fact that Taylor’s most embarrassing mess-up at Hillsborough was to the detriment of the Whites may not be totally unrelated to his subsequent prolonged spell in the limelight.

United manager Steve Evans was understandably incandescent with rage after Taylor contrived to allow a set piece to proceed while Wednesday’s Fernando Forestieri was making his snail-paced way off the pitch, having been substituted. Leeds, two down at the time, scored a perfectly good goal which was initially awarded and then sheepishly chalked off by Taylor. Evans described the bumbling official as fit only for an Under-9s league and it was easy to understand his frustration. It was a case of extremely inept match management that arguably denied Leeds a deserved route back into a fixture they were actually dominating – albeit from a losing position. 

Since then, it seems that Taylor has been on our screens more often than the ubiquitous and even more annoying Katie Hopkins. And this after the kind of cock-up that might have been expected to see him relegated to League Two fixtures on the  rainiest, bleakest midweek evenings. Could it be that such discomfiture heaped on Leeds United, never exactly the establishment’s favourite club, caused more chortling than concern in the corridors of power? Might it perhaps have amused certain Leeds-hating gentlemen in grey suits and influential positions, to the point where they felt it appropriate to rub some salt into an open wound?

It’s easy if not exactly appetising to imagine the violent shade of puce which must disfigure Steve Evans’ face every time he sees Taylor on his TV set. As manager of Leeds United, though, he can expect to have his blood pressure raised by instances of callous disregard and blatant micky-taking by the game’s rulers. It goes with the territory. 

Still, it’s odd in the extreme that Taylor should have become quite such a small-screen idol after such a very humiliating faux pas. In other circumstances, he would surely have experienced the wrath of his superiors. But, it was Leeds – did that make the difference?

Taylor’s latest centre-stage appearance was in yesterday’s Tale of Two Cities clash between Manchester‘s finest and surprise package Leicester at the Etihad. A plum fixture, to be sure – one that any referee would covet, let alone a man so recently exposed as a bumbling incompetent. During proceedings, we were told by the commentators that Taylor had taken a brief break from his busy TV schedule to attend a UEFA course. It seems that our favourite ref will be seeing much more action in Champions League matches next season. The mind boggles. Let’s hope he’s learned the rudiments of match control by then. 

Call me paranoid if you wish. But remember – there’s nothing like people getting at you, or your favourite team, for 50 years or so, to engender a feeling that the world’s against you. Anthony Taylor’s unlikely late season stint in the spotlight is persuasive evidence that, for Leeds United, this is still very much the case. 

Sky & FL Confirm Today’s Leeds v Bristol City Match Switched to Monday   –   by Rob Atkinson

The Football League Panel, yesterday

The Football League and Sky TV board members – definitely not muppets

The Leeds United home game against Bristol City has been put back to Monday evening for live coverage, a joint statement by Sky TV and the Football League has confirmed. Both bodies have expressed regret at the inconvenience to supporters of the two clubs, and have undertaken to provide at least 24 hours notice in future, except when their own interests dictate otherwise. 

Leeds United FC has reacted angrily to the news, threatening to refuse entry to the Sky personnel on Monday, as well as pursuing compensation for 20,000 heated pies that will now have to go to landfill. “Is not good enough,” stated a senior Elland Road figure, adding somewhat confusingly, “League and Sky, they try to take the peace.”

Bristol City are thought to be considering a formal protest on behalf of their travelling fans, whose char-a-banc had reached the industrial wastelands of South Yorkshire before hearing of the postponement. Sky and the League have remained tight-lipped in the face of resistance to their scheduling plans. “The match will take place on Monday as arranged a full two hours ago,” said a spokesman through tight lips, “We simply can’t have peripheral bodies like clubs and fans dictating to us on fixture matters.”

Newly engaged Rupert Murdoch is 153. 

Leeds Fans Petition Sky TV Over Short Notice Fixture Changes   –   by Rob Atkinson

SkyBet FL

In the wake of yet another Leeds United match being selected for live coverage by Sky Sports, Whites fan Scott Jones of Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, has organised a petition calling on Sky TV to stop causing fixture changes at short notice.

The reasoning behind the petition, hosted by Change.org, is that many fans of Leeds United (and other clubs) live far from the stadium, some even abroad, and they must necessarily arrange tickets, travel and accommodation quite some time in advance. The subsequent rearrangement of fixtures will inevitably cause financial loss and great inconvenience to these fans, who are left feeling that their concerns are of no importance to the big companies concerned.

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything feels strongly that these fans, whichever club they support, have a solid argument to the effect that a minimum notice period should be observed, without which games should not be rearranged. An alternative course would be adequate compensation for fans thus affected, as a matter of course and with no quibbles.

There are, of course, two sides to every coin. Live TV coverage is of great value to those who, for whatever reason, cannot get along to games in person. And some games will suddenly assume greater significance, with a consequent justification (Sky might argue) for selecting such games at short notice. But match-going supporters remain the lifeblood of football, and their understandable worries and concerns should not lightly be dismissed, nor indeed ridden over roughshod – as it appears all too frequently is happening. At the very least, the issue is worthy of consideration by the relevant bodies, and some attention should be paid as to how supporters’ concerns might be addressed.

For the Leeds United v Middlesbrough fixture just selected for coverage and therefore put back to the Monday evening, I have heard of a large party flying in from Norway, of a group who have paid four figures for an executive box, and sundry other groups and individuals whose long-established plans have been thrown into disarray, just on Mr. Murdoch‘s airy whim. This is simply not good enough. It’s high time Sky stopped messing loyal fans about, fans who have spent time and money making travel arrangements long in advance of the original fixture, from far afield. They lose out big time and Sky doesn’t seem to care one jot.

The Change.org petition started by Scott Jones can be signed here. It’s worthy of support, so please take a little time – out of consideration for your fellow fans – to do just that.

Plans For Statue of Leeds Legend Mowatt at Elland Road   –   by Rob Atkinson

History-maker Alex Mowatt: to be immortalised outside Elland Road?

Leeds United 1 (Mowatt), Cardiff City 0

After eight barren months without a win at Elland Road, and 32 years since a win over this pesky South Wales outfit on home soil, Tuesday night’s 1-0 victory over Cardiff City came as a welcome relief to everyone with Leeds United carved painfully into their hearts.

It was a win that provoked reactions across the full gamut of human emotional response, from a devastatingly gutted Don Goodman, Sky TV’s Leeds match mickey-taker of choice, right through to the joyful elation of young Alex Mowatt himself, the scorer of a goal fit to win any game of football. Picking the ball up halfway inside Cardiff territory, almost midway through the second half, Mowatt shimmied away from a distant challenge with one sinuous matador’s flourish of his hips, looked up briefly and then back down at the ball – which he caught with an absolute purler of a left foot strike to hammer it into the top right-hand side of the Gelderd End goal.

Cue the mayhem of relief and hysteria as the hardy Leeds fans behind that malnourished goal exploded into cavorting celebration. Mowatt took the rapturous applause with a clutch of delighted – or astounded – teammates dancing dervish-like around him. Meanwhile, poor Goodman, with a face like the smell of gas, sadly relayed news of the goal to a mainly disappointed nation.

It was the undoubted high point of a low-key match between two sides currently locked together in second-tier mediocrity. But that goal will long be remembered, and not just for its sumptuous quality. It was a goal, note well, that brought to an end those two dismal runs of failure. No home wins since March was a shameful record for a club whose home was once regarded by many good judges and Alex Ferguson, as the most hostile and intimidating arena in football. And 32 years is far too long to let a club as deserving of regular sound thrashings as Cardiff are, go unchastised.

So, two monkeys were dislodged from our collective back on Tuesday night, two unwelcome ghosts were laid to rest. It’s fanciful of course – even edging close to bitter sarcasm – to suggest raising a statue to our youthful midfielder on the strength of one sublime strike. But though intended as a bittersweet jest, the jocular notion in this article’s headline sums up the relief generated by one fairly unremarkable but sorely needed victory.

In a week when Massimo Cellino bid farewell to Elland Road – as a matchday spectator, at least, and subject to any late changes of his mercurial mind – and when it also became a distinct possibility that a fans’ consortium might replace the Italian, possibly with a Gladiator on board, it was vital, crucial, utterly necessary to mark this possible fork in the road with a win. And that we did – for which Don be praised.

Onwards and upwards now? Well, perhaps. Despite the shenanigans at boardroom level, it appears that new manager (let’s call him a manager now) Steve Evans is expecting to strengthen his patchy squad significantly before the end of the loan window. And that’s with a view merely to staunching the flow of our life-blood, with the prospect of further major surgery in January. From this small beginning, great changes could come about. Maybe. 

We start anew then, with a home win under our belts, with some cocky old foes subdued for once and with a whole new era quite possibly about to begin. Will things get better now? Is the only way up? We shall see. Don’t forget – next weekend is Cup Final weekend. 

Well – it is for Huddersfield Town and their motley crew of dog-botherers, anyway…

Live TV Incentive for Huddersfield Town’s Cup Final – by Rob Atkinson

Huddersfield fans - a different breed

Huddersfield fans – a different breed

Excitement levels were rising today in the avenues, alleyways, streets and kennels of Huddersfield, with the news that their seasonal Cup Final against the club they’re utterly obsessed with, big brother from down the road, Leeds United, will be televised live by the Sky cameras.

Local boy Jack Russell was almost beside himself with gleeful anticipation as he gave his reaction to the momentous news. “It’s momentous news, this,” he yapped eagerly. “We have a bone to pick with Leeds after their two lucky wins against us last season. And it’s a bone that I’m off to dig up right now,” he added, before scampering off to cock his leg against the gas-lit street-lamp outside his owner’s ramshackle two-up, two-down.

Elsewhere, anticipation reached fever pitch amid a positive orgy of excited yelping and bottom-sniffing. The dark, satanic charity shops of West Yorkshire‘s most 19th Century spot were being stocked with Big Match merchandise: Town v Leeds collars, baskets and feeding bowls were flying out of the door as trade became brisk a few short hours after the news broke that the locals’ Cup Final would indeed be screened before the whole nation.

Huddersfield fans have mixed feelings about the comparatively long wait for their season’s high-point; the match does not take place until November 7th, with a lunchtime kick-off. But the feeling among the majority is that the league games leading up to the Final will enable Town to prepare adequately for a challenge they failed to meet twice last season. “It’s not abart results in t’other games afore t’Coop Final,” insisted local character Al Sation. “It’s all abart t’proper preparation, like, cos t’most impooortant thing is to beat Leeds, or at least gerra draw, or at t’very least keep it darn under three this time.”

Meanwhile, large areas of Huddersfield are expected to subscribe to mains electricity for the first time, in order to be able to use their new Sky TV subscriptions for The Big Day. Others have stated that they don’t hold with such new-fangled nonsense, and will attempt instead to run reconditioned Sky HD boxes off the gas supply or perhaps by steam. “If we gerrall this leccy nonsense tekkin’ a foot’old in t’Tarn, it’ll be t’beginning o’ t’end,” barked octogenarian rat-catcher Fred Bassett. “T’place’d go to t’dogs. Not that that’s a bad thing, tha knos…”

Leeds fans groups declined to comment specifically on the Huddersfield game, merely expressing mild surprise that the local derby against Sheffield Wendies had not been selected for live coverage. “We’re that used to being on the box,” said one world-weary Whites fan. “It’s getting to the point that we’re always on – but I suppose it is nice for the smaller clubs to have their time in the spotlight. Even Huddersfield!”, he added, chortling merrily.

The Leeds game will, in fact, be Huddersfield’s second live TV date of the season, in addition to Wolves away in October. But the John Smith’s Stadium outfit have admitted that the trip to Wanderers will now be treated as just another warm-up game in preparation for the real thing. Talk of fixtures against Leeds being treated as Cup Finals has long been a bone of contention among Terriers fans – but it certainly remains the case that this is the fixture that means more to them than any other. The televised Leeds game is set to gain the highest viewing figures of any TV event among Huddersfield viewers – with the possible exception of Crufts.

How Premier League CEO Scudamore Blew the Gaff on Man Utd Bias – by Rob Atkinson

Pet lip:  Premier League CEO Scudamore misses those Man U days of success

Pet lip: Premier League CEO Scudamore misses those Man U days of success

As a Leeds United fanatic, a card-carrying cynic and someone with no faith in the football authorities these days to run a fair and disinterested league competition, I have written many times on this blog about my belief that the Man U domination of the game in this country after 1993 (the FA Premier League début season) was deeply suspicious. The last season or so’s steep decline, with a squad not at first markedly different to the one that romped home in Taggart’s final season, begs the question: what’s really different? It has appeared ever since The Demented One left that the change of stewardship is behind this relative failure. But was Alex Ferguson the sole factor in the unprecedented success enjoyed by the Pride of Devon over the last two decades?

These days, following a series of revealing comments over the past year or so from people who should know whereof they speak, it appears that at least a couple of other factors have been at play throughout that twenty year period. I have said over and over again in Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, that the Fergie years have been trophy-laden for three well-defined reasons, none of them all that adjacent to the quality of their playing squad. They may be summed up as: Ferguson, match officials and the rulers of the game itself. These three influences conspired over two decades to exaggerate the success of Man U out of all proportion to the abilities of their playing and coaching staff in that period, many of whom have gone on to enjoy sustained mediocrity elsewhere. Add into the mix the drip, drip, drip effect of blind, unquestioning media adulation, spearheaded by Murdoch’s Sky empire and endorsed by lapdog attitudes from the terrestrial broadcasters who know which side the commercial bread is buttered, and you have what is technically known as a “Scum-friendly environment”.

This may to the unwary sound like just another conspiracy theory.  But you only have to look at the unprecedented before and after picture of Man U’s record pre-Murdoch as compared to their success under Uncle Rupert. After all, we’re talking an almost total domination of the Premier League era here, by a club that – for the 26 years immediately preceding the league reorganisation – couldn’t buy a title. Seven times Champions in their whole history prior to 1993, and then thirteen Premier League titles in the first twenty years after Rupert Murdoch bought the game.

That’s such a sharp delineation between failure and success – it’s not coincidental that the demarcation line is the inception of the Premier League, the changing of football in this country from a sport to a brand – and the new understanding that the game was now about markets and money to a much greater extent than it had ever been before. Man U were the new brand leader, and they had better succeed – or the Premier League product might not fulfil its immense potential for dominating the world in terms of TV audiences, syndication and merchandising. And that would never do. So the game leant the way of the Man U scum – as we at Leeds United fondly refer to them – and the pressure applied by Ferguson to match officials was allowed to take effect. Professional sport is a matter of extremely fine margins; a slight bias over a long period will skew outcomes to a massive degree – and that’s exactly what has happened.

Naturally, none of this has ever been acknowledged. It’s been of paramount importance, after all, that the Premier League should at least retain the appearance of being a fair competition, on the proverbial level playing field. But now – Ferguson has gone, Man U are failing, the referees are not by any means as intimidated, opposing teams are not scared any more; not, as they used to be, beaten before they took the field. And now people are speaking out, very revealingly – and in some cases that is clearly intentional, in other cases less so. Ex-referee Graham Poll is one who has made his views known quite deliberately; he has spoken out about the feelings of a ref in the Fergie years, how the priority was to get off the field without having made any close calls against Man U – and, ideally, with them having won the game. What is the cumulative effect of that kind of insidious pressure over twenty years? Self-evidently, it’s significant; look at the trophy records, the penalty for and against statistics, the time added on if Man U weren’t winning – and so on and so forth.

Poll has also written about the unprecedented scenes when three penalties were given against Man U in a home game against old rivals Liverpool. Even though things have changed in terms of the favourable decisions enjoyed by Man U, these were the first penalties awarded against Man U as the home team since December 2011 – well over two years without conceding a home league penalty. Poll’s observations on that make for interesting reading for anyone who, as I do, strongly suspects that Man U had it easy from match officials in the Fergie years.

And then, to put the tin lid on it, we had Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore sounding off, in earnestly worried tones, about how the Premier League “brand” is being adversely affected by the difficulties Man U were having last season (happily, it’s carried on in pretty much the same vein this time around). It’s difficult to believe that he was quite aware of the import of what he was saying – this was a tacit admission, after all, that the supposedly disinterested rulers of the game actually have a vested interest – as I’ve been saying long and loud – in the regular success of Man U. “It’s a double-edged sword,” said Scudamore, at the time. “When your most popular club isn’t doing as well, that costs you interest and audience in some places.” The hapless Peter doesn’t identify the other edge of that sword, but he’s clearly perturbed by the prospect of a future with Man U as the also-rans they’ve been this last two campaigns.

Speaking in greater depth about the ethos of the Premier League, as well as its duty to fans around the world, Scudamore went on: “There are lots of fans around the world who wish Manchester United were winning it again. But you have to balance that off against, generally, we’re in the business of putting on a competition and competition means people can compete.” The wistful tone of that last sentence was massively telling. Other clubs will insist on competing, particularly now that Ferguson is history. How very inconvenient and bad for business. What a deuced bore.

The FA Premier League mandarins at a high level clearly see even competition, where any old Tom, Dick or Manuel (or even Jose) can win the League, as their cross to bear, something that will inhibit their ability to market their “brand” around a global audience in thrall to Man U. But they have made a rod for their own back in allowing the creation of that trophy-winning monster, under the inimical sway of a tyrant from Govan, to become so all-consuming in the first place. Now they’re reaping what they have sown – in pumping up the bubble of unrealistic success for one favoured club, they have left themselves without a Plan B for when that bubble bursts – as bubbles inevitably will.

For real football people – the fans out here, the people who have always gone along to the match, with little if any thought of global markets and syndication deals – this new reality of genuine competition has come as a breath of fresh air. There’s a new top four out there, of varied make-up which usually excludes Man U, and they’ve all played wonderful football and succeeded on their own merits.

We’ve also seen less of the media-beloved “mind games” which are so tiresome to the fan in the street. We’ve not missed that old curmudgeon, railing at authority whenever he gets any less than his own way and intimidating anybody who gets in his way. Football seems fresh and new again; Man U were seventh last time – which is probably about where they should have finished the season before. The first twenty years of the Premier League can be seen as a statistical blip, the product of a tyrant dominating and bullying the people charged with the responsibility to see that the game is run fairly. The evidence is there; listen to Poll, listen to what Scudamore is actually saying. Look at the results and standings this season and last.

We’re so very sorry, Mr Scudamore, if your product and your brand are suffering from the failure of “your most popular club”. Perhaps you should take the view that popularity is there to be earned by whichever club can succeed on merit? That it’s not something to be inculcated by the favourable treatment of one chosen club, amounting to institutional bias over twenty long years. Perhaps you can learn that – and then all we will have to regret is the two decades when, aided by Ferguson and a terrified cadre of referees and officials, you – blatantly and with malice aforethought – sold the game down the river.

Newcastle Team “Scared Because Stoke Looked Like Sunderland” Claim – by Rob Atkinson

Toon v Sunderland today. Er, we mean Toon v Stoke.

Toon v Sunderland today. Erm, we mean Toon v Stoke

A novel excuse has been advanced by an un-named Newcastle United player after the Toon’s disappointing home draw with Stoke. The Geordies had been leading near the end through a goal from Mackem youth product Jack Colback (74′) – but in the end, they were pegged back when Peter Crouch planted a firm header past Tim Krul as the match moved into added time.

One anonymous Newcastle player, immediately after the game, has apparently blamed Stoke’s red and white striped jerseys for the way City were allowed to snatch a point. “They looked canny like Sunderland, like, and it fair scared the clarts oot of us, bonny lad. Why AYE – it’s no excuse like, though but,” the player – believed to be from Newcastle’s English contingent – stated as he came off the pitch. Asked to enlarge on his controversial viewpoint, the Toon star would only add “Them buggas have made a turtle habit of beating us hollurr, every time we meet up, like. It’s enough to put a gadgie off his Broon, man. Sur when the likes of Sturk City torn up, the spittin’ image of them Sunnerlan’ buggas, it was just toomuchforruslike. Wuz’re like, y’knaa, psycholgically disTORBED, like! Pass us an orange, Thelma pet.”

A long-standing Newcastle fan, Sidney Aloysius Smutt, when asked outside the ground after the match for his views, would only observe “Haddaway an’ shite, ya bastads. Wuz’re not frit o’ that loosy Mackem lot. Or Sturk. Gan yem, man, before yiz gets a purk in the eye, like. I’m the cock o’ the waaaalk, man, me like.”

Mike Ashley (94) is uncomfortably close to Rangers.

Be the Judge: the Top Ten Leeds United Goals? – by Rob Atkinson

Now, this is not my personal selection of the top ten Leeds United goals – I suspect that I’m older than the compiler of this excellent video, so I’d have had some of my favourites from further back in there – then again, you could easily end up with a Top 20 or 30 that way. Fifty or a hundred, even – there’s a rich seam to be mined if your memory’s long enough. Off the top of my head, I’d go for David Batty‘s goal drought-ending effort against Man City – for the crowd reaction as much as anything else. And I’d have Tony Currie‘s famous “banana shot” for sheer quality. Both goals scored in games I saw from the Kop, at that end of the ground – which perhaps explains my bias.

I’m sure there are many, many more goals that could or should merit inclusion in a top ten that goes back further than this one – I’d love to hear your nominations too – but I reckon that this guy has done a pretty fair job all round. I agree with the order of his top two, for a start – I’ve always thought that Yeboah’s thunderbolt at Wimbledon was better than his goal of the season effort at home to Liverpool.

In the course of this video, Liverpool come in for a fair bit of punishment, actually. All four of Viduka’s famous quartet are there – even the offside winner, which seems a little harsh. And of course Yeboah picked on the Scousers too, with that wondrous dipping volley.

Speaking of “Goals of the Season, there’s one in there that should have been a winner – but it wasn’t, due to the clueless ineptitude of Andy Gray. Long before he got sacked for his sexist pig double-act with his hirsute mate Richard Keyes, Gray used to apply his “expertise” to the Sky version of MoTD‘s annual beauty contest for goals. He passed over little Rodders’ effort against Spurs, saying that the Spurs defence had basically stood aside and politely waved Wallace through. Andy – yooouu PLONKER. And, to add insult to injury, he actually chose a bog-standard far-post header by Alan Shearer against Leeds. Clueless Scottish git.

Anyway, see what you think if you have a few spare minutes. It’s a video well worth watching – and you can decide for yourselves about the goals left out, and what order these ten should have been in according to your own preferred favourite.  But most of all, just enjoy these mainly fabulous goals all over again. 

What a Weekend! The Thrashing of Huddersfield from the Leeds United SkyBet Box – by Rob Atkinson

View from the Top

View from the Top

Now that the dust has settled on my “Weekend Mirabilis” of a few days back – now that the successive hangovers have lifted and the blood pressure has reverted to its former levels of merely mildly unhealthy – now, at last, I can take the time to reflect on what was 48 hours of almost unadulterated pleasure and exultation, something very rare in the life of any Leeds United fan.

The bare bones of this orgy of enjoyment are that Leeds United thrashed Huddersfield Town 3-0 on the Saturday and then, having departed on a well-earned seaside break after returning from Elland Road, I was able to watch the once-mighty man u, the Pride of Devon themselves, comically throw away a two-goal lead not once but twice, as they salvaged a 3-5 defeat from the jaws of victory at Leicester.  Not at all a bad weekend, you’d have to agree. But that, gentle reader, is not even the half of it.

A few days prior to Huddersfield’s Humbling, with my mind on matters no higher than nettle clearance in the lower field at Atkinson Towers, I received an email out of the blue from a gentleman named Ross Watson, representing SkyBet, who were running a promotion of their Transfer Fund at Elland Road for the United v Town match. The Transfer Fund offers the chance for registered Leeds fans to win £5,000 for themselves as well as a transfer jackpot of £250,000 for Leeds United, with every £1 bet earning a token which then goes into a draw. It’s one of those “you’ve got to be in it to win it” things; the more bets made by a fan of any Football League club, the more chance there is of that club – and some lucky fan – benefiting as above. It’s easy to register, and there is the dual attraction of a flutter on your team, together with the additional chance of winning big and helping your club – even, potentially, with a losing bet.

As if that’s not enough to recommend SkyBet, they’ve also had the immense good taste to read and enjoy this blog; hence the email from Ross who was very kindly inviting me along to the Leeds v Huddersfield game to watch the match from a corporate box in the East Stand (less than fondly known as the “Delph Shelf” by Leeds fans, all too well aware of where the money came from to fit it out in such resplendent style). Furthermore, there was a three-course meal and complimentary bar, the genial company of Sky’s “Mr Deadline Day”, Jim White, the enticing possibility of meeting fellow bloggers and various celebs – and I could bring a guest.  So Mrs Rob got a day out, too.

My experience is that, when a thing appears too good to be true, it’s normally because it’s not true. My first reaction, then, was a slightly less than gracious “what’s the catch” – but I am here to record for posterity that there was no catch and that the occasion delivered beyond my wildest dreams.

Considering that I’ve always had an innate suspicion of the corporate box experience – blame my proletarian roots for that – and that I’ve always been instinctively hostile to the kind of people I imagined I’d meet in such bastions of privilege, the day was a revelation from the start. It hasn’t cured me of yearning for the return of the terraces, but it has introduced me to a more comfortable way of watching football, one more appropriate to my age, perhaps, if not my wallet. Not having to spend a bean all day certainly did appeal to the parsimonious Yorkshireman in me – and let’s face it, the result didn’t exactly harm my prospects of enjoying the experience.

But all that aside, my afternoon in East Stand Box 34 blew me away at least as much because of the sheer kindness of everybody, the smooth efficiency of the match-day staff, the absence of any snobbery (which I’d at least half-expected) and the novel feeling of being well looked-after – at a football match! For someone with a good few decades as a supporter behind him, and vivid memories of bricks at Millwall, police horses at Bradford and needing an oxygen tent at Sheffield – it was an eye-opener, alright.

From the very beginning, as we entered somewhat diffidently through the imposing East Stand portal, people simply couldn’t have been kinder or more friendly and considerate. A svelte blonde lady noted our names, issued our tickets and saw that we were conducted to level 4 by lift and then delivered to our plushly-appointed box. We were among the first to arrive, but gradually the room, dominated by a promising-looking dining table, filled up. I met Keith Ingham, frequent contributor to We All Love Leeds and his son Ryan, who has an article/parable in the current issue of The Square Ball; there was a heady mix of competition winners and dedicated bloggers present as the drinks kept on coming, sparking off a warm and friendly atmosphere while we anticipated what was to come.

All the way through the afternoon, I was struck by the lack of any awkwardness, the relaxed and convivial atmosphere, where I had thought there might be a certain stuffed-shirt flavour to proceedings. Nothing of the sort – just smiley happy people everywhere as liquid hospitality was absorbed along with the gathering atmosphere of a crowd approaching 30,000. We weren’t insulated from that inspiring sound either, the crowd noise was a welcome accompaniment to the friendly chat in the box. And then dinner was served; sorry Mr Keane, not a prawn sandwich in sight. It was Yorkshire Pud to start for me, as befits. A “Duo of Chicken” was the #LLUUE main course of choice and then a welcome slab of trifle. A few bottles of wine rounded things off along with coffee and mints. It was what Lord Snooty in the Beano used to call a toothsome tuck-in, and as far from anything I’d ever experienced at Elland Road before as it is possible to get. All we needed now was for the match to go well for our heroes in White…

Well, the rest, as you know, is history. The three peaks of the actual football part of the afternoon left me reassured as to exactly how the other half support. Again, I’d wondered if the atmosphere would be diluted, if the joy of seeing the ball hit the back of the opposition’s net would, in some way, be lessened by such rarefied surroundings. Not a bit of it. The seats were ridiculously comfortable; all the easier to jump out of them as first Austin, then Antenucci and finally Doukara hit the heights for Leeds. Once the action was under way, we felt as much a part of the crowd as I’d ever known; alright, there was no swaying and rib-crushing as with those dear old seventies Kop days and evenings, but equally there was no sense of detachment, no feeling of being divorced from the action. It was as enjoyable a match-watching experience as I can remember, aided of course by the decisive margin of victory and the fact that the away fans were hating every minute of it. But there was so much more to the whole afternoon than just the match.

At half time, I went into the main concourse – and immediately met Terry Yorath, one of the Revie glory boys and as approachable and friendly as you could wish. And, as if to confirm the other-wordliness of it all, there too was Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise, sporting a Huddersfield Town badge on this occasion, in place of his more usual Starfleet one. For once, he was the alien in this situation. I wandered by, shields up, phaser on stun. Huddersfield were being assimilated; resistance was futile.

After the match, there was no hurry to leave. I had the chat I’d promised myself with Jim White, gently upbraiding him on his efforts to stir up interest in Ross McContract on the last deadline day but one, the night that Big Mass got barricaded inside Elland Road. It all seems so long ago now, with Ross44 gone and unlamented – and Mr White was all polished affability, flashing a smile that matched his hair for megawatt brilliance. “Aye, 11 million you got for him in the end? Extraordinary!” Indeed.

After the free bar, the good company, the sumptuous meal, the fantastic Leeds United performance and the chance to mingle and chat with some of the great and the good – the best was still to come. We were all gathered in a happy knot in the box, finishing off drinks, chatting and celebrating – when one of our number pointed out that Massimo Cellino himself was just a few boxes down from us, holding court for the Sky reporters. Emboldened by the occasion (and by the red wine), a few of us negotiated the metal barriers between boxes – and there we were, shaking hands with il Presidente, asking for and being granted selfies with the Sheriff, smiling and laughing with the one and only driver of the Leeds United bus. For a Leeds fan who has suffered along with thousands of others for the greater part of this century as well as a goodly chunk of the last one, it was like a dream – something I could scarcely have envisaged when I was digging up nettles just a few short days before.

Regrets? I have a few. Well, just one really. It was a shame that my good friend Andy Gregory, owner of the excellent We All Love Leeds blog, couldn’t make it along, due to holiday commitments. I know he’d have loved every minute of it, too. Characteristically, he made sure that his loss was someone else’s gain and Keith and Ryan, both contributors to the great body of Leeds United reportage, deservedly reaped the benefit. By Saturday evening, heading for the Mysterious East (Filey), I honestly thought that the weekend had given me all it possibly could – I was just looking forward to a few days’ relaxation to treasure my memories and “chillax”, as the young people say. But then came Leicester City to make my Sunday a cause for celebration too, and precipitate a second consecutive hangover. Corporate box or no corporate box, it’s tough at the top.

Thanks, in no particular order, to Leeds United, Leicester City, Huddersfield Town, man u, SkyBet, Massimo Cellino, Jim White and his lovely partner Katie, Ross Watson, the guy called Dave whose surname I didn’t catch, Keith & Ryan Ingham and the rest of the Box 34 fraternity, my wife who got me the Cellino signed programme and the SkyBet Football League pin badge, Terry Yorath and the kind and hard-working catering staff in the Elland Road East Stand.  You’ve all made an old fan very happy – and that makes a very refreshing change.