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Huddersfield Town AFC to Close Down Next May?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Huddersfield dogs

A solemn meeting of Town fans, yesterday

In a sensational development for Yorkshire football, a Huddersfield Town insider has claimed that the 2016/17 season could be the last for Huddersfield Town as a Football Club – a status which many consider moot anyway – but nevertheless, rumours of the cessation of trading for the Terriers are shocking, to say the least – especially with the fan base having decided as early as August that Town were going up as champions.

The reasoning behind the closure rumours will go deep into the heart of many a Terriers fan. Our contact behind the scenes at Huddersfield, Mr. Terry Orr, confided to us, “For a long time now, the main priority at this club has been to finish a league season above Leeds United. This hasn’t happened for many a long year – not since the 1961-62 season, I believe. In essence, this dream has become the club’s entire raison d’être, not to mention its whole reason for existing”. Terry paused at this point as emotion appeared momentarily to get the better of him. “The fact of the matter is”, he continued, moist-eyed but smiling bravely, “that this season could be the one when we finally do it. And if we do – well, how could we possibly top that? We’ve had meetings, and we don’t think it’s really feasible. There’d quite literally be no point in going on, nothing left that we could realistically achieve. We’d just have to move on to other projects, especially with us promotion prospects already on t’way down t’bog.”

It’s a sentiment echoed in other parts of Yorkshire’s most dogged club. Supporters’ representative Mr. Gray Hound nodded wearily when we put to him what seems on the face of it an outrageous possibility. “Yes”, Gray nodded, thoughtfully, “I’ve heard whispers of this closure thing. I can understand it. From a supporters’ point of view, if we ever did finish above “them”, it’d be like the Holy Grail, Christmas and Crufts all rolled into one. I can’t really think there’d be much appetite for carrying on after an achievement like that. I mean – where do you go from there? Personally, I can barely bring myself to believe it might happen but, looking at the table, you have to say there’s some sort of a chance. And if we really did do it? I don’t know. We’d probably all retire to a nice big field and chase sticks and sniff each others’ bottoms. It’d be like following Huddersfield Giants in a way…  Then again, with us getting hammered 5-0 at Fulham and with you-know-who winning today as well, it still might never come to pass. In’t life grand?”

Leeds United refused to comment beyond a terse assertion that such a circumstance is unlikely to come about. An anonymous source stated “Is not going to ‘appen, my friend. An’ if it did – wellll, per’aps a few of us not aroun’ to see it”. 

Huddersfield Town‘s inferiority complex is 55.

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Pontus the Impassable Can Be the Leeds United Season Saviour – by Rob Atkinson

Football - EFL Cup - 2nd Round - Luton Town v Leeds United

Pontus Jansson – new United hero

Pontus Sven Gustav Jansson has made the kind of start to his Leeds United career that has you taking out and polishing a few superlatives, safe in the knowledge they’ll be well-used over the course of this season – if the giant Swedish international can maintain the form he’s shown so far. Jansson has brought a hitherto unknown solidity to the United back line these past couple of games, helped in no small part, it must be said, by the efforts of Kyle Bartley alongside him. But today, at Cardiff City, Jansson was the stand-out performer by a country mile, with headed clearances, last-ditch tackles, interceptions – you name it, Pontus accomplished it with consummate skill, utter commitment and precious little regard for his own safety.

A presence such as Jansson’s in defence will gradually spread confidence throughout the whole team, that growing assurance of any ball heading towards our area being summarily dealt with. It’s the sort of security that can and will reap its rewards further forward – a tighter defence will, ultimately, give the midfield less to worry about behind them, enabling a more positive influence in attack. Pontus Jansson, in a very real sense, is the foundation upon which the rest of Leeds United’s play can be built.

Cardiff started out in resolute fashion after a dismal midweek defeat at Preston. Early on, they looked determined to exorcise that ghost, at the expense of a Leeds side fresh from a narrow victory over lowly Blackburn. But, as the game wore on, and despite various alarms arising out of the odd goalmouth scramble with Rob Green still looking less than settled, it became clear that, wherever Cardiff put the ball in and around Leeds’ defensive third, there would be Jansson to clear it. When he wasn’t clearing it, he was nipping in to steal possession, or sliding in to cut out possible half-chances. He was like a magnet for the ball – and you could see the Cardiff players wondering what they’d have to do to carve out anything approaching a clear cut chance, with this colossus marshaling things for the Whites.

So, as the story continued of Cardiff pressure being rebuffed by determined United resistance, the tide slowly turned. When Leeds were denied a penalty for holding in the area, manager Garry Monk was outraged – but, within a minute, a similar offence was punished with a spot-kick, calmly converted by Chris Wood. And then the pattern resumed of Cardiff banging their collective head hopelessly against the brick wall that is Pontus Jansson. The more they hammered it forward, the more he headed it away, and his proclamation as the latest Leeds legend is surely only a matter of time. Cardiff City, for sure, will be sick of the sight of him. It was difficult to argue with the impression that the Bluebirds could have pecked away at Leeds until the White Cliffs of Dover crumbled into the sea – and still, they wouldn’t have scored. When Pablo Hernandez, once more somewhat peripheral to the action, applied a truly world-class coup de grâce, bending a fine shot in off the far post, it was no more than a merciful release for the home side, put out of their misery at last.

It was that kind of day for Leeds United, one that could have gone against them had they not found a reliable hero to repel all attacks. Pontus Jansson was that man and he was just in that kind of mood where he wasn’t going to be beaten. It was an attitude that, in due course, inspired the whole team to raise their performance levels. Long may that continue, and may our Pontus have many, many more such days in the famous white shirt. He really does seem to be the real deal, with an attitude redolent of Elland Road‘s great days. He also seems to be an engaging sort of guy who “gets” what Leeds United is all about. A swift perusal of his post-match tweets is ample confirmation of that.

A Leeds United hero? It does seem quite possible. We’ll just have to hope that, if and when he pens a permanent deal, it isn’t the ruination of him as it has been for various of his predecessors. But that’s to be needlessly pessimistic. A 2-0 win at Cardiff, giving us back-to-back victories, should be cause for looking on the bright side. And with that in mind, this blog is ready to hail Pontus Jansson as the latest entry in the Leeds United pantheon of legends.  Well played, son – now, keep it up.

Cellino Supporters: Big Improvement On Last Season’s Leeds 1, Huddersfield 4 – by Rob Atkinson

Cellino sunshine

Cellino – 0-1 better than 1-4, yes?

Supporters of embattled Leeds United supremo Massimo Cellino were jubilant this evening as they celebrated a “massive improvement” over last season’s performance at Elland Road against Huddersfield Town. A mere one goal defeat has left United mired in the relegation zone, but fans of Cellino point out that, in the equivalent fixture last year, Leeds were zonked out of sight by a score of 4-1. Furthermore, as one grinning Cellinophile exulted, this defeat was against the table-topping team unbeaten all season. “Really, when you fink about it, it’s an ace result and we should all be proud. We wouldn’t of got a result like this without Massimo”, our man burbled happily.

Evidence for the unique nature of Cellino’s tenure at Leeds continues to mount. Having let a manager go in Steve Evans, who exceeded his brief last season, released one of the more prolific of last term’s strikers in Mirco Antenucci, released the club captain Sol Bamba the day after the transfer window shut without signing a replacement central defender, Cellino also failed to sign another striker and has left Leeds with three senior central defenders, two of whom are loanees. It’s probably fair to say that it’s a performance unparalleled elsewhere in professional football.

Whether Cellino will be in control much longer, so as to make us all marvel anew at his incredible grasp of how to run a football club, has to be open to question. Rumour is rife that a deal is all but done to sell a majority stake in the club to a group of Far East investors. For Cellino fans, drunk on the achievement of holding Huddersfield to a mere one goal victory, this will probably come as a tragedy. But, to those Leeds United fans not suffering from cataclysmic delusions and a stubborn determination to ignore reality, a change of ownership could hardly be more welcome.

Meanwhile, the Cellinophiles will tenaciously be frolicking away as the club takes another step towards plummeting through the League One trapdoor. At the end of the day, it’s the simple things in life that appeal most to the simpler people in life. They say that ignorance is bliss. So at least, unlike most Leeds United fans, the supporters of Massimo Cellino will remain blissfully happy – until and unless their hero is replaced by someone who has a clue what he’s about.

Cellino OUT. Let it be.

 

GFH Exit Sees Cellino Move Into Leeds United Departure Lounge   –   by Rob Atkinson

Cellino sunshine

Cellino – beginning of the end of the road?

Leeds United versus Huddersfield Town doesn’t kick off until 3:00 pm on Saturday – but already, many Leeds United fans are proclaiming the most significant victory of the season. It’s a result that owes nothing to last-ditch defending, brilliant midfield play or clinical finishing. This vital win has been fashioned, not on the hallowed turf of Elland Road, but in the more subdued atmosphere of a boardroom or lawyer’s office. Because at last, or so it certainly seems, Leeds United is back under 100% ownership, instead of being shared, argued about and fought over by unequal partners. Minority holders GFH, it appears, have relinquished their stake in United, leaving Massimo Cellino as sole owner of the whole shooting match.

The reason this is so significant has more to do with future possibilities than current ownership. Some Leeds fans will be glad to see Cellino in outright control – others would prefer to see him 100% uninvolved, with a new Sheriff in town. But the fact remains that, with the minority partners off the scene, everything now looks a lot more neat and tidy as interested parties consider bids for the football club. Up to now, the continuing presence of GFH has been a complicating factor that has made any successful takeover bid – or even majority investment – much less likely actually to succeed. For this reason alone, farewell and good riddance, GFH.

So the eventual impact of Cellino’s total ownership of Leeds might be to see in new owners, rather than simply cementing the controversial Italian’s position as Leeds United supremo. And many, particularly among certain hard-bitten ex-pros who actually wore the famous white shirt, would see that as a good thing – if it could bring to an end the dizzying turnover of coaches at Leeds, as well as securing some actual net investment.

The fact that current manager Garry Monk is widely seen as being “under pressure to save his job” just a few games into his United tenure is symptomatic of the less than stable situation at Elland Road. Yet another transfer window without spending more than player sales brought in is one more sign that squad development is not an upward trend. Leeds sold Lewis Cook to Bournemouth for £6m plus add-ons – and replaced him with a man in Eunan O’Kane ousted by Cook from the Bournemouth first team. And for the usual “undisclosed fee”, too. The critics would tell you that this does not represent investment in the team, and it’s a point of view hard to dispute.

The case for a new regime at Elland Road, with a much-needed injection of capital, has long seemed quite convincing. Now, with the departure of GFH meaning a much less complex scenario for would-be buyers, it may be that things really will start to happen – off the field, at least. Which is why so many United fans are singing victory songs well in advance of a ball being kicked this coming weekend.

Now, all we have to do is beat unlikely League leaders Huddersfield Town on Saturday, to confirm the natural West Yorkshire pecking order and get this second chunk of the season off to the ideal start. And then, with three derby-day points under our belts, we’d be savouring the taste of home victory for the first time this campaign as we try to re-establish Fortress Elland Road. Could things really be brightening up for Leeds, at long last?

Leeds United In Double Swoop on Free Agent Market – by Rob Atkinson

Trab

Essaid Belkalem – bargain?

Now that the option of emergency loans after the transfer window closure is no longer available, Leeds United will have to look elsewhere to make up for their shortcomings in the regular market. The squad as it stands is neither strong nor deep enough to inspire confidence in the club’s ability to be competitive towards the top end of the Championship between now and the January transfer window – so, without the option of loaning contracted players, United will be forced to scrape the very bottom of the barrel: those players that, up until now, have been unable for whatever reason to secure a professional playing contract for this season.

Leeds have been accused often enough in the past of shopping at Lidl instead of Waitrose, looking to spend as little as possible whilst capitalising on their own home-produced young talent. It’s an accusation that stands up quite well to an examination of the evidence; of all the current Championship clubs, the Whites have been the most niggardly net spenders over the greater part of this century. But it seems that things are getting worse; having failed to secure even a bargain buy in areas where the team needs strengthening (I submit attack AND defence, m’Lud), United somehow contrived to release their club captain Sol Bamba the day after the transfer market closed down. Bamba had been in appalling form, and personal reasons were cited; still, it seems rather careless when you consider that our senior central defensive section now comprises Liam Cooper and two loanees.

Obviously, we did sign one player on deadline day – Eunan O’Kane from Bournemouth was welcomed to the club, where he becomes our 17th or 18th central midfielder – frankly, I’ve lost count. The club also failed to offload any deadwood in that engine room part of the squad – you might say that we now possess an embarrassment of poverty there.

So now, we’re reduced to looking among the players nobody else wants. From shopping at Harrods around the turn of the century, we’ve lowered our sights continually, down through Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, the basic own-brand of Asda, the bargain aisles of Aldi, right down to the dubious delights of Lidl. And now – well, it has to be the rubbish bins behind B&M and Home Bargains, doesn’t it? How very depressing.

Then again, it’s quite surprising what you might find when rummaging about in this professional footballer detritus. The name of Kieran Richardson has cropped up, released at the end of last season by Aston Villa, and with some half-decent clubs on his CV, as well as manchester united. I’ve put the case myself for giving Luciano Becchio a crack at being striker cover in case Marcus Antonsson gets injured or Chris Wood grinds to a complete halt. And the wild card among current rumours has to be Essaid Belkalem, late of Trabzonspor in the Turkish league among others. Belkalem is an Algerian international who was on Watford‘s books last season, and he’s said to be looking for regular football to push his claims for further representative honours.

Something clearly has to be done, though, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a couple of deals being sealed in the not too distant future, with Richardson and Belkalem the likely names on the contracts. That would shore up the defence somewhat – but we’d still be short, in this blog’s opinion, of sufficient strength in depth up front. Then again – you can’t have everything.

Particularly not when you’re rooting through the refuse bins at the bargain end of the market.

Bony to Stoke City Equals Peter Crouch to Leeds United?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Peter-Crouch-and-Abbey-Clancy-wedding

Leeds United, Abbey Clancy and Peter Crouch – a threesome made in heaven

It would seem that, after the signing of Bournemouth midfielder Eunan O’Kane, efforts are still being made behind the scenes at Elland Road to add another striker – probably a loan deal – to the Leeds United squad.

In the light of Stoke City‘s loan acquisition of Manchester City’s under-employed forward Wilfred Bony, it does seem that gangly veteran Peter Crouch has been pushed even further down the Potters pecking order. But here is a striker, admittedly no longer in the first flush of youth, who is still very much able to do it. Obviously a threat in the air, Crouch is also surprisingly effective with the ball nearer to Mother Earth. He also scored a hat-trick recently in a rare first team outing for Stoke, in an EFL Cup victory – could this have been his last contribution for City, at least for this season?

A loan move to Leeds for Crouch would, on the face of it, suit all parties. Stoke, with Bony on board, are unlikely to be able to give ex-England striker Crouch much, if any, playing time. At this veteran stage of his career, first team football is a must for a striker who still has a lot to offer. And Leeds, with their striking options depleted compared to last year, despite the addition of Marcus Antonsson, badly need a proven performer up front. Peter Crouch would fit the bill admirably.

Will it happen? It’s probably a thing too good to be true. But it’s something those men in suits at Elland Road certainly should be trying their level best to make happen. As a rest-of-the-season striking solution, it’s a complete no-brainer. 

And it would also add the delectable Abbey Clancy to the current list of LS11 attractions. Really – who could possibly argue that that would not be A Very Good Thing?

Only Believable At Leeds: Fan PAID to Support Cellino??   –   by Rob Atkinson

MASSIMO-CELLINO

Cellino: paying for the love after all?

In the latest twist to Massimo Cellino‘s Machiavellian tenure at Leeds United, Whites fan Scott Gutteridge has claimed that he was paid an average of £500 per month to talk up il Duce on social media. Specifically, the Facebook group Cellino In, later renamed In Massimo We Trust was a vehicle for pro-Cellino propaganda, bought and paid for by Leeds United, alleges Mr. Gutteridge. It’s a story that goes back to February, but it’s resurfacing now, with a vengeance. Names are being named and the whole thing begins to smell like a giant Italian rat.

The tragic part of the accusation is that, with many clubs, you’d laugh it off as nothing more than ludicrous fabrication. Even at Leeds, a club Gutteridge now describes as “rotten to the core”, it stretches the limits of credibility somewhat. But, in the end, if you’ve any more than a passing acquaintance with what’s gone on at Elland Road over the past few years, then yes. You can believe it. In fact, looking at the way our club has been mismanaged, with lack of proper investment and a ridiculous turnover of management staff, not to mention money wasted in various humiliating court cases – the notion that a club owner would actually pay for good press seems horribly likely. 

The irony for me personally is that, in Cellino’s early days at Leeds, I was an enthusiastic supporter. I even had a selfie with him, for God’s sake. Many were the thousands of words I penned in his cause, and against what I saw as the persecution of our saviour by the Football League. And I did it all for free. Laugh? I almost feel like putting in for back pay.

The scales fell from my eyes in due course, and I’ve made myself deeply unpopular with many Cellino acolytes by relentlessly attacking their hero for his dragging down of the football club I love. To me, he’s an inept, dishonest, egomaniac who shouldn’t be allowed near a club like Leeds United, the focus of adoration for thousands of fans worldwide. I’ve long been convinced that United will only prosper once more when Cellino is nothing more than a particularly unpleasant memory. 

Many will still support him. Leeds fans, after all, are stubborn folk. And I’ll get more stick for this and subsequent articles. But I care not a jot. Cellino is receipted and filed as a crook and a charlatan – and if he doesn’t like that, let him sue me. The classical libel defence of “the truth” would see me through.

Is it really possible that even a Music Hall act like Cellino would actually pay a fan to say nice things about him – and then get caught out doing so? This man who once famously and drunkenly said “You can buy a bitch for a night – but you can’t buy the love, my friend”. Could he really be hoist so royally with his own petard?

Knowing the man’s character as I’m confident I do, with the testimony of many wise people, who know him better than I do, ringing in my ears – I have to say, it’s not only possible, it’s more than probable, it’s entirely bloody likely. 

Yes, I believe it. And it’s just one more reason why any Leeds United fan with his or her head screwed on should be saying long, loud and often:

Time to go, Massimo. Cellino must go!

Leeds Utd Should Succeed Where Villa Failed at Luton Town   –   by Rob Atkinson

The Giant-killing field of Kenilworth Road

One swallow does not a summer make – but Leeds United‘s opening victory of the season at Sheffield Wednesday has brought with it real hope of brighter times to come. Tuesday night’s tricky looking EFL Cup tie at Luton Town, conquerors in the previous round of Aston Villa, could go a long way towards validating that hope.

A win at Luton and secure progress to the next stage of this competition would increase the burgeoning feelgood factor in and around the United squad. Comments during the Sheffield Wednesday encounter from the Sky Sports News channel repeatedly picked up on the “togetherness” of the Leeds players, even before the Whites took the lead and then sealed a derby-day win. That word togetherness speaks volumes for the mentally-attuned state of a team, and it was a novel and welcome thing to hear about a group of players wearing that famous white shirt. 

Success at Luton, followed if possible by something from Nottingham Forest away, and we’d head into the international break in fine fettle. On the other hand, defeat tonight would be no disaster – but the pressure would then be on to make amends at the City Ground next weekend.

It won’t be easy at Luton, famed cup fighters who made comparatively short work of Aston Villa. It never has been easy down there, many a nominally more illustrious team having been slain on that tight little ground with the row of conservatories along one side of the pitch. But, if United can retain and build on that precious togetherness, and with the threat they undoubtedly carry going forward, then they can and should prevail.

So much will depend on gaffer Garry Monk‘s team selection, but there is now a semblance of strength in depth about United’s squad. Monk will have his priorities straight, yet he’s expressed a desire to “go far” in this competition, and he’ll want to avoid the fright that Fleetwood gave his men – so a relatively powerful team is likely to take the field against the Hatters. 

On balance, therefore, and with a post-Wendies sense of optimism, I shall go for a 3-1 United win, hopefully in regulation time. And then? – well, it’s a case of “bring on the Big Boys”. Maybe even someone at the very top.

Hull City, anybody…?

Bridcutt Signing Confidently Expected in Time for Leeds 2019 Centenary Season – by Rob Atkinson

Bridcutt

Bridcutt – it could just be a matter of years now

Leeds United and Sunderland are now so close in their negotiations over midfielder Liam Bridcutt, that discussions over personal terms could begin as soon as the Christmas after next. If all goes well, that should pave the way for the combative former United loanee to join his new team-mates for at least part of the Elland Road club’s Centenary season, 2018/19.

More on this fast-developing story sometime in 2017, or after the finalisation of Brexit, whichever is the sooner.

Mixed Start to the Season for Leeds as Defensive Woes Cost Dear – by Rob Atkinson

Antonsson

Whichever way you look at it – and there are a few differing options – Leeds United‘s season has started rather worryingly. A lack of truly meaningful match practice pre-season, combined with the loss of midfield starlet Lewis Cook, saw the Whites starting the campaign with huge question marks looming over their prospects for success.

True, some real promise has been recruited, in particular the exciting potential of former Oxford hotshot Kemar Roofe. But the sale of Cook to AFC Bournemouth leaves a gap that has not yet been filled. In defence, too, things look less than settled. Kyle Bartley has been recruited from manager Garry Monk’s old club Swansea, but Sol Bamba remains club captain despite some deeply ordinary form. And another young star in left-back Charlie Taylor has apparently expressed a desire to leave. It’s really difficult to describe the net effect of Leeds’ transfer business (so far) as positive.

And then, when the talking had to stop and the football began for real, came a performance at QPR in the season opener that was by turns pallid and chaotic. Comical defending cost United a goal after just four minutes, and it was largely downhill from there. By the time Tjaronn Chery cracked home the Rangers clincher from an acute angle in the closing stages, Leeds were a very well-beaten team.

On the optimistic side, all three of the Championship’s supposed big guns lost away from home on that opening day. Newcastle and Aston Villa joined Leeds in defeat, and likewise failed to trouble the scorers. But the Toon and the Villans were both edged out only 0-1; a rather better showing than United’s 0-3 tonking at Loftus Road.

Still, as things stand, we’ve only lost once all season and we’re just three points off the top. In spite of what the readers of this blog might think from some of the stuff I write, it is important to take a glass half-full view as a Leeds fan, knowing as we do that only relentless optimism is likely to save us from despair. And, still looking on that bright side, even after losing first time up – perhaps we could now make early progress in the EFL Cup on Wednesday at Fleetwood, and banish the memories of the thrashing QPR had handed out. That would be quite sweet, actually, particularly as ALL of Yorkshire’s other sides had surrendered meekly the night before, going out of the Cup along with several high-profile Championship casualties.

In the event, Leeds did manage to progress as Yorkshire’s sole representatives. It has to be said, though, they were more than a little fortunate against a Fleetwood side that was a goal to the good early on, and held that advantage until the last minute of normal time. But then new signing Marcus Antonsson, a Swedish striker of whom much is expected, produced a brilliant turn and shot to level for Leeds at the last gasp. And it was substitute Antonsson who was then fouled in the box early in extra time to give the hitherto ineffective Chris Wood the chance to make it 2-1 from the spot. It remained only for Leeds to chuck away their hard-won advantage in typical fashion, allowing time and room for Fleetwood to fashion an equaliser – and we were facing the dreaded penalty shoot-out.

So it came to pass that veteran ‘keeper Rob Green, at fault for the first goal against QPR the previous weekend, went from zero to become the campaign’s first Leeds hero. After United had scored all of their penalties, Green produced a smart save off Fleetwood’s fifth and final spot kick – and Leeds were narrowly, edgily, through to the second round. Pride of Yorkshire? Most definitely!

Now we will meet Luton Town of League Two, 3-1 conquerors of once-mighty Aston Villa, at Kenilworth Road in Round Two. It’s a tie that will quite likely be televised and a very definite potential banana skin for Yorkshire’s most famous club. But if Leeds can negotiate that hurdle, and perhaps pick up a bit over the next few Championship matches, it may well be that we’ll look back on that Rob Green penalty shoot-out save and realise it was an early-season turning point.

Things can only get better, so they say. It’s a dangerous line to take where Leeds are concerned; they always seem to find new depths to plumb. But you never know. Maybe, after a slow start, and with a few more quality signings, we can pick up and embark on a successful season of real achievement. Maybe, even, we’ll beat the Blues tomorrow. Stranger things have happened, after all. Just ask Leicester City…