Tag Archives: Sunderland

Leeds United End of Term Report: Disappointing, Must do Better – by Rob Atkinson

Wheels fell off at Millwall away

Millwall away – where United’s wheels fell off

Watching Leeds United struggle vainly to perform as you’d expect a big club to do, challenging for honours, winning promotions and all that sort of thing, may quite aptly be compared to banging your head against a brick wall. There’s no sense to it, there’s plenty of pain involved for no gain, and it’s really quite pleasant when it stops. We’re at that stage of blissful hiatus now, with the final whistle having blown on United’s season last Sunday, the main reaction from another bumper crowd at Elland Road being sighs of relief rather than triumphal acclaim.

Fellow under-achievers Queens Park Rangers had rolled up for this last-day clash of mediocrities; as it turned out though, the Londoners didn’t really fancy the prospect of a battle in the heat. So, it was a routine win for United against desultory opposition and, other than some typically promising performances from Leeds’ younger guns, none of us were left any the wiser. But at least the tiresome league programme was over for a couple of months; now for the interesting part of the football calendar, with the World Cup and a transfer window in the offing. There’s also the daft post-season business in Myanmar, but that may usefully be ignored.

The trouble is that transfer window time of year is fast becoming nearly as disappointing for long-suffering Leeds fans as the actual football spectacle, such as it may be. And the reason is that United are competing in an inflated transfer market, against smaller but arguably more ambitious clubs – and they’re denying themselves the chance of being truly competitive at the top end by what is increasingly being exposed as a short-sighted and self-defeating wages policy.

Just as the season recently expired was getting underway, back in August of last year, I wrote an article here entitled The Reason Leeds United Can’t Have Nice Things? Wage Structure. I argued that this ‘hands tied behind the back’ policy of severely capped wages was stopping us from recruiting as we should do, and also from hanging on to the few diamonds we’d managed to polish up. This was just as Chris Wood, the scorer of thirty-odd goals the year before, was being sold to Premier League Burnley, a smaller club that could at least triple Wood’s earnings. I predicted doom and gloom but, for a time at least, it looked as though I was going to be delightfully wrong.

Despite the departure of Wood, who duly followed Charlie Taylor to Dingle-Land, United started the season like a runaway train, barrelling to the top of the league with a flurry of victories, including notable two goal successes at Sunderland and Nottingham Forest. This left me feeling a strange combination of unusually happy and rather daft, due to my seemingly unwarranted pessimism. But then the wheels fell off, at Millwall of all places, and the Whites were never quite the same again. The rest of the season was, quite frankly, a disaster interspersed with the odd calamity, as Leeds at first flattered to deceive, but ended up deceiving nobody. A managerial change and a better than expected January transfer window failed to bring about the necessary transformation, and United’s campaign drifted to a deeply unsatisfactory conclusion.

So, can we now expect a more enlightened wage structure, as befitting one of the game’s true giants? The jury is out, but it’s not counting its chickens as it ponders that vexed question. Leeds, however, must surely know that they can’t expect the extraordinary loyalty of their fans to be maintained without some encouragement in the shape of ambition in the transfer market. To average over 30,000 paying premium prices in such a let-down of a season is truly extraordinary – but will they all be back next season?

Champions Wolves have shown the way: speculate to accumulate. United – it’s over to you.

Advertisements

Norwich Live to Die Another Day – by Rob Atkinson

Recovery is unlikely

Recovery is unlikely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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