Tag Archives: superstition

One Squad Addition Leeds United Simply MUST Make in January – by Rob Atkinson

Smith 17

The much-missed Number 17

It’s been, by common consent, a fantastic summer transfer window for Leeds United, with bundles of quality signed to make the club a real force in the Championship this season. The proof of the pudding is, as they rightly say, in the eating – and the fact that many of the players signed since last season were not exactly household names pales into insignificance at the side of their stellar performances over the new campaign so far. Unknowns or not, the new lads have delivered, and United sit proudly atop The Championship. ‘Nuff said.

It might seem a little premature, then, to be looking ahead to the January window and, truth be told, it’s difficult right now to see where the squad could usefully be strengthened. However, circumstances alter cases, and there’s a lot of football to be played before the new year rolls around. It’s tolerably certain that some squad tweaks will be necessary, and this blogger is more than happy to leave such matters to Messrs. Orta and Christiansen, under the benignly watchful eye of club owner Andrea Radrizzani.

The only suggestion I would make – and I make it in the strongest possible terms – is that we must have a squad number 17. It’s absolutely necessary, in order to eradicate the last traces of Massimo Cellino from this great club, and move on into a bright future free of the Corn King’s grubby baggage. Cellino saw to it that Leeds United “retired” the number 17 three years ago, due to his silly superstition about that inoffensive number. I’m not particularly bothered about who wears number 17, but it’s imperative that the shirt be brought out of retirement and back into currency. Only then can we consider ourselves to be well and truly embarked upon the post-Cellino era.

So let’s get it done – it’d be great if somebody of true quality could be signed to fill the newly reinstated 17 shirt – perhaps a big surprise from Asia? But, whoever the new man might be, let him wear 17 with pride – and perhaps then (just to annoy Cellino and his fans a little more) hit a purple patch that will see Leeds United win this league and finally return to the top, where we all know that we belong.


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Scotland Coach Strachan In Sly Dig at Leeds Owner Cellino?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Two things we know well about one past and one present Elland Road personality: firstly that erstwhile Leeds United hero and current Scotland coach Gordon Strachan has a dry sense of humour that spares few, especially those who stick unqualified noses into professional football matters. And secondly, that current owner and self-styled captain of the United ship Massimo Cellino is a mess of superstitions and old wives’ tales, allowing his personal and business life to be dictated by a random mix of crazy fears and whimsical beliefs.

It’s difficult not to have a wry smile, then, at the player number allocated for the first Scotland squad featuring Leeds defender Liam Cooper. Coops was handed the 17 shirt, a number that has Cellino climbing the walls to end up in the belfry with like-minded bats. That figure 17 is anathema to il Duce, along with the colour purple and various other perceived supernatural threats. It would be so in character for Strachan, that ultimate professional and put-down merchant, to use the chance to stick a metaphorical needle into Cellino’s quivering hide.

Cellino is not the first superstitious character in Leeds United‘s history of course – though it goes without saying that he bears no comparison with gypsy curse-fearing and lucky blue suit-clad United legend Don Revie. But Don’s beliefs were of a gentler sort; he didn’t press them into the very fabric of the club, inviting derision from within and without. Cellino’s Leeds published a matchday programme for the visit of 17th home league opponent Notts Forest – it was numbered 16b. Beside that, Don’s worn-out blue suit, and his regular pre-match walk down to the corner near the team hotel, seem positively lovable.

Gordon Strachan occupies his own special,  permanent niche in Leeds history. He’s moved on, as heroes do, but I have good reason to believe he retains a love of the club. I met him briefly at a function at Headingley in 1995, and he was quite clear then that he could see a return to Elland Road as United manager one day. It’s not something you can envision happening, however, under Cellino’s loco stewardship.

The thing is, despite the schism that Cellino has caused in the ranks of Leeds fans – some obstinately supporting the Italian in the face of opposition from the majority – there is hardly a good word to be heard for the current United owner among professional football people. People who really know their stuff, such as John Giles, have attacked Cellino’s regime bitterly. The more deluded fans in the street aside, il Presidente doesn’t enjoy much informed support – unsurprisingly, given his track record. 

It’s unlikely that Liam Cooper will have raised as much as a peep of protest at his dark blue No. 17 shirt. Rookie international players know which side their bread is buttered, and the Scotland dressing room will be well aware of the Boss’s waspish tongue. Once, when asked in the tunnel in the wake of a heavy defeat, “In what areas were your players inferior to the opposition?”, Strachan looked the TV man straight in the eye and replied “Mainly that big green one out there”. Wee Gordon yields to no man in the bandying of words, there’s a book to be filled with his famous and devastating put-downs. 

All of this leads me to believe that the issuing of that number 17 to Liam Cooper was no coincidence; that Strachan, with the pro’s resentment of the mess Cellino is making of a great club he loves, has casually aimed a barbed arrow in the Italian’s direction. 

I do hope it’s true, and I hope that barb has hit home to fester. The more the game can show its rejection of chancers like Cellino, the better we will all be – including the flat-earth tendency obstinately talking him up. 

Good on you, Gordon, let’s have more. It’s believed, however, that rumours the Scotland shirt is to change its colour to purple… are wide of the mark. 

Cellino Content to Delay Leeds Promotion Charge Until 2016b – by Rob Atkinson


Leeds owner Cellino, racking his brains

Leeds United owner and all-round-the-bend football nutter Massimo Cellino has confirmed he is content to put back his original target of Premier League football by at least one year, predicting that – despite the evident failure to meet his original target of 2016 – promotion can be achieved by 2016b.

The Italian – so famous for being “one topping short of a pizza” that it’s rumoured he has settled on Barking as his London residence of choice – is a controversial figure for United fans, and has sharply divided opinion among a support whose fanaticism and loyalty are legendary in the game. His crazy insistence on his superstitious whims being given free rein throughout the football club – the programme for our 17th home league game against Nottingham Forest later today will be numbered 16b – is just one manifestation of an owner who puts his own ego first and foremost. It’s stupid and it’s embarrassing but, because Massimo wants it that way, that’s the way it shall be – while the rest of football looks on and laughs at us.

The schism between pro-Cellino supporters and those who want rid of the so-called King of Corn appears to be based broadly upon intellect, or the lack thereof. The more gullible, hard-of-thinking and easily-deluded tend towards a fierce but irrational devotion to Cellino, whereas those fans capable of thinking for themselves (or indeed at all) are largely anti. The Cellino supporters habitually use phrases such as “I would never of thought Evans would be a good manger but to all intensive purposes he’s defiantly doing a job”, whereas those opposed to the Italian are generally able to use their own native language to better effect.

Faced with this bafflingly obdurate (and frequently hostile/aggressive) ignorance, the more rational and thoughtful Leeds fan will doubtless wonder gloomily how Galileo Galilei must have felt when persecuted by those who still believed, against all scientific evidence, that the Earth was the centre of creation. Sadly, we are currently stuck with an owner who seems to hold much the same view about himself – and he’s supported by an uncritical minority who simply can’t seem to see or understand how ridiculous the situation has become.

This grey matter divide in the Whites support is clearly discernible in various Facebook groups, where feelings run high when the less capable “Cellino in” brigade feel themselves out-thought and out-manoeuvred – then resorting to profanity and censorship as their most effective means of coping. In the interests of clarity and transparency, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything frankly acknowledges that it was initially a vocal supporter of Cellino, but thankfully reason and common-sense prevailed. This blog believes that any rational Leeds United fan will weigh-up the evidence, as we have done, and conclude that the Italian is an overwhelmingly negative factor in the club’s quest even to regain a measure of credibility, let alone return to the top-flight. In this, we are supported by the forthright views of ex-United star and erudite football legend Johnny Giles, who believes Leeds will never prosper under such maverick and irrational control.

We’re right with our former midfield maestro – the best manager United never had, let it be remembered – in maintaining that Leeds must be rid of Cellino if we are to have any real chance of once again becoming a proper football club. If the current situation persists, it’ll be closer to 2116b than 2016b before we once again witness top-level football at Elland Road, which is an almost laughably tragic state of affairs.

Those who persist in their ill-conceived support for a man in Cellino, who has made a laughing stock of a once-great club, are now merely part of the problem. It is down to those of us who can see how bad things really are to leave il Duce in no doubt that he’s not required around LS11 any more. Not by anyone with a proper brain in their head, anyway.


So, Did Leeds United Ever REALLY Sort That Gypsy Curse?? – by Rob Atkinson


I worship the memory of Don Revie.  He’s probably my all-time hero; he took over a nothing club with a nothing history, famous only as a stepping-stone for the World’s Greatest Footballer on his way to success with Juventus as Italian football’s finest-ever import (yes, step aside, Platini, Maradona, Law, Greaves et al – John Charles is still the King for the tifosi).  Don took over at Elland Road, instituted a scouting system second to none and – let’s cut to the chase here – gave us the finest club side these islands had ever seen.  But in one respect, Don’s effectiveness is open to doubt.  A notoriously superstitious man, he became convinced that Elland Road was under a malign curse – so he recruited a gypsy from Scarborough (I can personally confirm that the place is crawling with them) in order to exorcise the spell and ensure success.

The fact that Revie and his team achieved far, far less than they should have has been put down to various factors over the years, but the possibility that the lady from Scarborough was off-form the day she went about her curse-lifting cannot be excluded.  It would, perhaps, be the most likely cause of United’s managing to finish runners-up so often with easily the best team around.  Always the bridesmaids, never the brides, it was often and cruelly levelled at the peerless Whites – and while some trophies found their way to LS11, that legendary team – dominant during a viciously competitive decade – never won its proper dues.  And when the talent drained away from Leeds in the wake of Don’s departure – well, then the curse really bit.

From the perspective of a half-century on, it’s possible to argue the theory that Don failed in his efforts to rid Leeds United and Elland Road of supernatural barriers to success.  It’s even arguable that, since those halcyon times, the strength of whatever evil influence pervades LS11 has actually increased.  How else to explain the fact that so many players over the years have done well in elevated company, but arrive at Leeds United and are immediately transformed into bumbling failures?  Or, indeed, the number of players who have served a spell with the Whites, looked hopelessly out of their depth – and have then gone on to do distinctly OK elsewhere?

As a club, we do seem cursed in some vital particulars.  Look at the effect we have on centre-halves, for instance.  They come in, they look good, they earn a permanent deal – and then they start playing like Frank Spencer in the 1970’s sitcom “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em“.  Likewise with managers.  Our last two were notable for the ease with which they have attained promotion from this league into the FA Barclays Promised Land.  But they come to Leeds, shine briefly before the Gypsy’s Curse gets under their skin – and they then start floundering horribly, unable to make a single coherent decision, at a loss to pick a winning team or choose effective tactics.  They end up at after match interviews or press conferences, looking like rabbits caught in the headlights.  It’s pitiful.

Never has this line of reasoning seemed so obvious to me as right now.  We’ve just had two home games against distinctly un-scary opposition – and we’ve contrived to lose both, heavily, with only late goals putting a rather flattering patina on the ugly landscape of abject failure.  We have an intimidating stadium, players who have been successful elsewhere – and who will doubtless be successful elsewhere in the future – we have the best fans in the world, we’ve had managers with proven track records.  And yet we’re still irretrievably, inexplicably crap.  What to do?

Maybe the Italian guy is the answer in more ways than just the obvious financial sense.  He’s quite a superstitious cove himself, is our Massimo.  Perhaps he will sense the malevolent ambience around the place and take steps of his own to get rid of any other-worldly nasties that Don’s Scarborough exorcist failed to blitz.  Maybe the key to Cellino’s revolution lies in his ability to follow his own superstitions, make whatever supernatural changes are necessary and see Elland Road emerge from under the cloud of an ancient curse and into a bright new future where we get a bit of bloody luck every now and then.  At least we can rest assured we won’t be sporting a purple strip, and we can hope against hope that Cellino’s lucky colour is all-white.

It’s got to be worth a try.  Let’s face it, we’ve tried just about everything else – and still the Gods have rarely smiled upon us.  Then again, they’re usually too busy sorting out a spawny late winner for Man U, damn them.  We’ll just have to hope it’s not too late to get rid of whatever shreds of curse are still left after Don Revie’s failed attempt to get us blessed back in the sixties.  And I still won’t have a word said against the Greatest Manager There Ever Was.  He may not have known how to pick an effective gypsy, but he sure as hell could build up a club from nothing.  How we could do with the Don of Elland Road now.