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Leeds Kop Critics Can’t Complain at Chris Wood Reaction   –   by Rob Atkinson


Considering that last night’s draw against Fulham was settled so very late and so very spectacularly too, with a Chris Wood bicycle kick at the Kop End earning a point for Leeds United, some of the reaction today has been rather bizarre, to say the least. 

With many clubs, such a picture goal at the last gasp would be greeted with a relief bordering on ecstasy. Leeds fans, of course,  have to be a bit different. Their heroes were less than a minute from opening this season with three consecutive defeats, a shameful start unheard of for the last eighty years. Doom and gloom was on the menu, with nary a crumb of comfort. 

Then, the nominated scapegoat of the evening, a player in Chris Wood struggling for form and confidence, who had been taking some vicious stick throughout the ninety minutes, finally came good – and Leeds mercifully had their first point of the season. And yet today, the focus has not been exclusively on the brilliance and timeliness of Wood’s finish, but largely on his so-called cheek in letting the crowd know he’d not appreciated their particular brand of “support”.

This tendency to barrack players is not exclusively a Leeds United phenomenon, of course. But it’s long been a particular problem with the Leeds faithful, especially at Elland Road, where generation after generation of United players, as far back as Terry Yorath in my experience, have gone in fear and trembling of the abuse they will receive should they have an “off day”. Or, indeed, an off night, as Wood had undoubtedly experienced up until the third minute of stoppage time yesterday evening.

It’s a brand of “support” that has many an away fan visiting LS11 scratching their heads in bemusement. People beg leave to wonder how such wholesale and sustained carping and criticism is meant to encourage and motivate a player. But that’s just one side of the problem.

The other side comes when the player on the receiving end of the abuse actually manages to come through it all and, in the time-honoured style of a Roy of the Rovers, save his team at the eleventh hour. Should this player then presume to gesture to the crowd, as if to say “There you go – now shut it”, the shock and hurt of the fans, who had previously been venting their spleen, is something to behold. It’s as if they feel they have unfettered licence to hurl abuse, but should be completely immune from any response from their target. Weird. 

Chris Wood did react last night, relatively mildly in the circumstances, and it’s difficult for any rational onlooker to criticise him for it. Yes, he’d had a poor game. Yes, he’d missed chances. And certainly his work rate and willingness to chase and harry defenders compared poorly to that of his strike partner Marcus Antonsson. But the level of stick Wood took throughout the piece, in unison from a self-appointed jury of thousands, was unwarranted and arguably counter-productive. It would have taken a saint to have restrained himself from showing some kind of reaction in his moment of triumph. And, let’s face it, you don’t get saints in Leeds United shirts. 

That cupping of the ear towards the Kop, plainly intended to convey “You were saying…?” to the massed moaners and whingers behind the goal, has reaped a petulant reaction from many of those who’d been blithely handing out the stick. How dare he, was an abridged consensus. Surely players are there to take abuse without a flicker of emotion or reaction. But even footballers are only human. And it’s happened before, in a less restrained manner too. 

I can well remember, many moons ago, a certain Mark Aizlewood taking appalling stick throughout one game, which he then won with a late goal at that same Kop End. Aizlewood did not content himself with a mild cupped ear. He faced the Gelderd hordes eyeball to eyeball and coldly fired a V-sign at his tormentors. Now that is probably going too far, and Aizlewood never played for United again. But you can understand the frustration of a pro, outnumbered and vilified by thousands of amateurs who feel that the admission money they’ve paid affords them the right to scream anything they like at their representatives on the park. 

Next to Aizlewood’s two-fingered revolt, Wood’s gesture last night was mild indeed. But the reaction, in these days of social media, has been even more hysterical than when Aizlewood flicked his V-sign so long ago. And it’s a shame because, after all, it was a very special and spectacular goal, one that saved us from another defeat, the type of goal too that could well lead to the boost in confidence a player like Wood so sorely needs. And what contribution to such a return of confidence would the Gelderd End Abuse Society have made? I’ll tell you. None at all. 

Supporters are there to support, but it’s ok to express displeasure and disapproval too, of course it is. Match tickets are expensive, and the poor form of your favourites is galling to behold. But there’s a line, and Leeds fans do tend to cross it distressingly often. It’s frequently said that a crowd like Leeds getting behind their team is worth a goal start, and I’ve seen this proved often enough. But, in the opposite mood, that same crowd can destroy a player and chase them through the Elland Road exit door. I’ve see that, too – and it’s not what I’d call support.

Something else frequently said is that it takes a certain strength of character to play for a club and a crowd like Leeds United. Some very good players have failed to make it at Elland Road, and there’s been this suspicion that they’ve lacked the necessary “bottle”. There’s probably something in that, and maybe the club’s woes in the last decade or so are grounded in the bottler/fighter ratio being skewed unfortunately away from the fighter type. In other words, we’ve had too many talented players who have just lacked the character to succeed at a club like Leeds with the kind of truculent, impatient crowd we have.

Chris Wood had had a nightmare last night, he could hardly put a foot or a head right all evening long. But he came through, ignored the abuse manfully, kept trying and getting in there where it hurts – and he ended up getting his just reward. That, to my mind, is the type of character we need – and maybe the crowd will come around at length to that point of view. In the meantime, Wood’s gesture to the Kop last night said that he is not weak enough to be destroyed by the abuse from the stands, that the respect of his fellow pros will see him through. It was a reaction I applaud every bit as much as I applauded his goal, and I think it speaks volumes for the guts and character of our number nine.

It’s the kind of attitude, let’s face it, that we’re going to need plenty of in the coming months. So perhaps the Kop critics will manage to be a bit less precious and indeed a lot less hypocritical from now on, should they chance to have some of their constant, destructive abuse thrown back in their faces every now and then as a tough season progresses. Or perhaps they’ll even decide to see the light, and offer a bit more encouragement and support instead. 

Yes, perhaps indeed. But, knowing that vociferous section of our support as I do, I won’t be holding my breath. 

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Sheffield Wednesday’s Forestieri Can’t Shut Up About Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

Forestieri: I blame Leeds United for this Wendies mistake...

Forestieri: I blame Leeds United for this Wendies mistake…

Sheffield Wendies‘ new signing from Watford, Fernando Forestieri, is already showing he is ideally qualified for life at Hillsborough. Either that, or it’s dawning on the lad with ever-increasing horror that he’s made a terrible mistake. Whatever the reason, Forestieri just can’t stop talking about the club he simply lacked the cojones to join: Leeds United.

He’s a rum one, is Fernando. Wherever you’ve looked this week, there he’s been, telling anyone who will listen that it’s not his fault he didn’t sign for Leeds. Seemingly unaware that the Whites have identified and snapped up a more than adequate alternative target in Jordan “The Wizard” Botaka, Forestieri seems to be labouring under the delusion that United fans are bothered, or even interested any more. But the fact is that the proliferation of News Now links and piteous tweets emanating from the Watford reject have elicited little more than bored yawns from the Elland Road faithful. Leeds fans tend to lose interest in anyone who isn’t visibly salivating at the prospect of joining Leeds, and quite rightly so, too.

Forestieri, with legend status there for the taking, lost the hearts and minds of the Whites with his initial display of apathy. His subsequent bizarre stance of preferring somewhere in the south – and then comically signing for the Wendies – has raised no more than a tickled titter among the United masses. But Fernando seems to think it’s all still frightfully angsty up here in the frozen northern wastes of LS11. He feels, unaccountably, that we still care.

Perhaps now is the time, after days of fruitless and tedious attention-seeking, for Signor Forestieri to concentrate on the situation he’s resigned himself to, rather than harping on about what might have been and hurling brickbats of blame. It’s quite likely that he’ll make the first team at the Wendies, after all – which would not have been so certain a prospect at Leeds. So he really should focus on his game, forget all the doubts and bitterness – and try bravely to make the best of a bad job. 

It’s gone, Fernando. You blew it. Yorkshire’s top club was willing to give you a chance to move upwards after Watford – but you cravenly chose to sink even lower. That’s something to think about when you run out at Hillsborough and see all those thousands of mute Wendies cunningly disguised as blue plastic seats.

But please – keep those thoughts to yourself. All this whinging about who’s to blame for you missing the boat – it really is getting rather boring, you know… 

Russell Crowe’s Needless White Noise Drowns Out Leeds Utd Transfer Talk   –   by Rob Atkinson

Time for Crowe to leave the arena.

Time for Russell Crowe to leave the arena

Just when things were hotting up and getting really interesting down LS11 way, with a frenzy of delicious speculation about attractive transfer targets for our club, along comes Russell Crowe with the worst-timed, least relevant tweet in recent history – telling us all what we already know and no longer very much care about.

Crowe’s declaration that he will not, after all, be buying Leeds United (I understand that was the gist of it) might possibly have caused some hair to be torn and some clothing to be rent asunder among Whites fans – if it had come a few months back, when new ownership fever was in the air, and Massimo Cellino was embattled after yet more maverick craziness. But things have changed since then, and in a good way for once. Adam Pearson has brought some sanity to the Elland Road asylum, we’ve gone literally weeks without sacking a head coach – and there are welcome signs that seven-figure investment in the first team squad is actually here to stay. 

In these circumstances, with a slightly sedated captain on the bridge and a capable first officer with his hands on the wheel, the good ship Leeds United appears to be navigating tolerably well some still choppy waters. Give or take the results themselves, this season has a fresh and breezy feel about it. And, if we are still scanning the horizon anxiously for signs of that first win, then at least there have been no defeats so far to darken the sky. Even though we took a torpedo at Doncaster, still, it was technically a draw – and with ten men for much of that engagement too. Leeds staggered, but they have sailed on, more or less serenely. 

In the wake of our latest draw, against Yorkshire’s most successful club of last century’s inter-war period in Sheffield Wendies, glad tidings of positive transfer market activity have filled the ether. Not one, but two tricky wide attackers, a possible England U-21 central defender, and the Lord knows what-all. Bids of serious money made and accepted, players said to be “distracted” or to have “had their heads turned” at the prospect of interest from Leeds – it’s been heady, dizzying, unfamiliar stuff. And if we are still tending to founder on the jagged rocks of personal terms and other such spiky hazards, then at least a positive broadside of ambitious intent has been let loose. And that, to Leeds fans, is the sweetest sound we have heard in many a blue moon.

So, in among all this rampant positivity comes the almost forgotten figure of yesterday’s gladiator, Maximus Publicitius himself, doubtless with new films to plug and a social media profile in need of some attention, flooding the Twittersphere with irrelevancy. Crowe was all over Twitter not so long back, making a noise like a prospective Leeds owner. But when he went quiet, the United support forgot about him and got on with supporting the team or arguing with each other, as fans are meant to do. Personalities come and go, after all – but Leeds United is forever, and things do seem better now that we have a business-suited gladiator in Pearson fighting for us. For Crowe to pipe up again right now is bizarre, it’s distracting and it’s not particularly welcome. 

As one Facebook cynic put it: “For Crowe to say he’s no longer interested in buying Leeds, is like me saying I’m not going to bother sleeping with Beyonce“. Just so. It’s an irrelevant statement, seeking to opt out of something that was never really an option in the first place. For better or worse, Leeds United does not appear to be for sale – and the more pragmatic of us are moving on, still with some reservations, but more than a little mollified by the undoubted changes for the better that have taken place.

Memo to Russell Crowe from Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything: now is not a good time to be rocking the boat. There was a period when our ship perhaps needed steadying, but all that we got from you then was sound and fury, signifying nothing. More of that now is just taking away the focus from more important stuff. Please, Russell – put away the sword and the shield like a good chap, and lapse back into the silence from which you should not lately have emerged. Try to retain some credibility, against some future day when you, or someone like you, might well be needed. With Leeds United, you just never know.

But for the moment – let us get on with our transfer speculation, and the quest for that first win, in peace and optimism. Thanks, Maximus.

Leeds “Fans” Tweet Horrific Silvestri Family Death Threats   –   by Rob Atkinson

United 'keeper Marco Silvestri - targeted by cowards

United ‘keeper Marco Silvestri – targeted by moronic cowards

Football is about the players and it’s also about the supporters; a lot of the appeal of the game is based on the on-field battle between two teams of players – as well as the off-field rivalry, often raucous and profane, between two rabidly opposed sets of fans. 

But there’s also that vexatious relationship between the players of any particular team and the supporters of the club those players turn out for. That’s always been an interesting dynamic to say the least – you often hear players say that their fans’ support is worth an extra man, or a goal start. This has often been the case at Leeds United in particular, where the fervour and volume of support, the sheer intensity of the fans, has traditionally been of legendary proportions.

Nowadays, though, there’s an extra dimension to that fan/player interaction. It used to be about massed chants and acres of swaying scarves on the Kop. The nearest a fan got to any one-to-one repartee was perhaps a supporters’ club function. All that changed with the advent of social media. Now, fans can make their views known to a wide audience via blogs and the ubiquitous Internet forum. Or they can get up close and personal, by tweeting their views directly to their heroes @Twitter. Often, this can be productive and useful, or at least funny and entertaining.

But unfortunately, there’s always the odd one or two that go way too far and cross the line. And that’s happened this week, in the wake of Leeds United’s late surrender of two points at Bristol City

There are those who feel that United ‘keeper Marco Silvestri was not entirely free of blame in at least one of City’s two last-gasp goals. Fair enough, it’s a point of view that I can relate to. And the opportunity is clearly there, in these instant communication times, to get your frustration and annoyance out there. The replacement of Silvestri by Ross Turnbull was strongly mooted. Nothing wrong with that, we all have our opinions. 

But – actual death threats, aimed at Silvestri and his family? Tweeting that you hope the Leeds ‘keeper crashes his car and dies? Really?? What on earth motivates people – even assuming that they’re clueless, attention-seeking kids – what could possibly move any human being deliberately to visit such chilling and malicious filth on another human being – all because something went awry in a game of football? Note the Twitter handles well: @billylufc_ and @akawhatadave – let’s hope they can be shamed as well as named.

Two sick products of two warped minds

Two sick products of two warped minds

And there I shall stop speculating on whatever mental process led up to the publication of such tawdry, irresponsible rubbish. It simply beats me that anyone could even imagine doing such a thing. To try and figure out the motivations behind this perversion is surely a hopeless task. We’re talking about diseased minds here, and profoundly inadequate personalities

The main point, surely, is that the player or players targeted by such evil rubbish should be protected from it in the future. This is not a case of “sticks and stones“. Direct threats in particular have to be taken seriously, lest someone should fall tragically foul of that one in ten thousand case where the sicko actually means it, and acts accordingly. And when players’ families are involved, it’s all the more important to take a very stern line where at all possible. 

Idiots on Twitter have felt the weight of the law in the past, and this should definitely be the aim in the cases highlighted here as well as any similar cases. Leeds United have a responsibility to report the matter, fans’ groups should be seeking to assist in this, and the police should investigate and act without delay. It’s not beyond the wit of man to hold these nasty little people to account, and to leave them in no doubt that they’ve made a serious error of judgement; that such unsavoury behaviour will not be tolerated. 

Sadly, at least one prominent Leeds fans’ publication, The Square Ball, seem very reticent about requests that they should condemn these vicious tweets and assist in the ostracism of those responsible. This blog is at a loss to understand what appears to be a head-in-the-sand stance from such a respected publication. Perhaps they will have second and better thoughts. Please. 

In the meantime, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything calls upon Leeds United AFC, the Football authorities and the police to act with all speed and vigour, in order to ensure there is no repetition of such extreme unpleasantness. All decent fans of Leeds, and indeed of Football and sport in general, will surely wish to condemn the offenders and see them pulled up short. 

It’s not a pleasant subject to write or to read about. But there is no place for squeamishness here, nor for faint hearts, nor elastic principles. The players and their families must be sheltered from the kind of evil inherent in the examples you see above.

That, surely, is something we can all agree on. 

Wes Sneijder and His Galatasaray Knives; Vicious, Malicious or Just Stupid?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Wesley Sneijder on the Taksim Square anniversary weekend - stupid or evil?

Wesley Sneijder on the Taksim Square anniversary weekend – stupid or evil?

Another of those mind-boggled moments this morning, when I saw the picture above. Is this for real? Can anyone really be so stupid, vicious or just plain wicked as to pose that tweet on this weekend, above all others? It would be crassly insensitive at any time – on the 15th anniversary weekend of the murder of Chris and Kev, it simply defies belief.

It’s not automatic simply to assume that Wesley Sneidjer – a player who, as far as I’m aware, has no particular grudge against Leeds United – is having some sort of warped go at the club or the fans. He may well simply be exhibiting a Kewell-esque level of dim stupidity, or lack of thought and understanding. In common with so many footballers, Sneijder may not be exactly overburdened with brains. Even so, this is a low and horrible thing to become involved with, at this particular time, as we prepare to pay our 15th anniversary tributes to our murdered brothers.

And the thing is – someone involved is well aware of the implications and the back story here. Footballers don’t do anything on their own beyond, in some more advanced cases, tying their own shoelaces. There’s an army of marketing people, advisers, agents, scum like that. Somebody knows all too well the effect of that tweet on the Leeds United world. They’ll also be well aware of the amusement it will afford to fans of certain clubs who view this kind of thing with sick and moronic relish. Marketing and publicity are arts without a soul or a conscience. If they can sell their product by appealing to the very worst in the malign minority, then they’ll do it – and they’ll do it knowingly – and to hell with the feelings and hurt of those directly or indirectly affected. That’s a kind of evil in itself.

All of that might make us a little more tolerant and understanding of the comparatively harmless phenomenon of mere stupidity, as exhibited that time by Chuckle Brothers Keys and Gray – or indeed by our one-time hero turned traitor and hate figure Harry Kewell. It’s just odd, don’t you feel, that this particular sort of “stupidity” generally manifests itself to the detriment and insult of Leeds United. You don’t get similar “errors of judgement” being made where Man U or Liverpool are concerned – or do you? You tell me.

And please – if anyone is of a mind to justify any of this crap by saying “Well, you lot sing about Munich” – spare me. I’ve heard it all before. It’s not even true, these days – and even if it were, that’d be no reason to heap misery on the heads of people who will be mourning this weekend, remembering loved ones who went to see a football match and never came home. You don’t visit the sins of the idiot minority upon innocent heads – not if you’ve a brain in your skull or any human compassion in your heart, you don’t. So leave it out, if you’re of a “mind” to send such rubbish in. It’ll only get binned anyway.

...turns out he didn't know.

…turns out he didn’t know

Wesley Sneidjer, unknowingly it seems from the above, has provided the ammunition for a lot of evil morons out there to make what was always going to be a hard weekend for many into something much more hurtful and upsetting yet. I hope he really is suitably contrite. An apologetic tweet was the least he could do, and the removal of the offending item is a real bonus. But the fact remains that there was full awareness somewhere behind this; people seeking to capitalise on hatred and murder. And for those all-too-well-aware smart guys behind it – well, let’s just hope that they eventually find out there’s something in Karma after all.

RIP lads. 15 years on - never forget, never forgive.

RIP lads. 15 years on – never forget, never forgive.

Crocodile Tears from Lineker and Stelling Won’t Fool Leeds Fans – by Rob Atkinson

Gary "Wingnut" Lineker

Gary “Wingnut” Lineker

What have Gary Lineker and Jeff Stelling got in common? Well, they’re both engaging chaps who front popular football programmes on the telly; they have both developed a “style” – for want of a better word – designed to endear them to the less demanding fans out there – and, most recently, they have both taken out an onion and wept tears of breathtaking falseness over what they sincerely hope is the impending demise of Leeds United.

Lineker is the latest incarnation of Match of the Day man, presiding over the ongoing popularity of a football highlights programme with fifty years of variable quality behind it. It was under his stewardship that one of the programme’s less glorious deeds was perpetrated when, in the wake of S’ralex’s long-overdue retirement from the Theatre of Hollow Myths, the programme put together a montage of managerial greats, with the Purple-Nosed One at the head of the parade, natch. This item was notable to real students of the game for its studied failure to even mention the name of the greatest club manager of all, Sir Don Revie. It was a tawdry attempt to reinvent history and appeal in the most insidious and deceitful fashion to the vast army of the programme’s viewers out there who “all hate Leeds” – but couldn’t tell you why, beyond a mumbled “….well, me Dad hated ’em, like…” Complaints to the BBC elicited nothing more than that cowardly corporation’s usual bland, patronising stonewall response – and Lineker did nothing other than essay his well-practised boyish grin, which apparently has middle-aged women the nation over suddenly needing a change of undies.

Now Lineker’s Twitter account states that he “genuinely feels for Leeds fans”. He clearly feels the need to qualify his sincerity by use of that word “genuinely” – that’s a sign of someone talking about someone or something on which they’d normally waste no finer feelings. But Gary feels “the heart has been torn out of the club”, hence his crocodile tears. Well, we’ll wait until the next time Match of the Day needs to revisit the managerial greats issue, thanks, and see if you’ve actually learned anything – no breath will be held.

Stelling: Countdown to hypocrisy

Stelling: Countdown to hypocrisy

Jeff Stelling is a sort of semi-comic front man for Sky’s Soccer Saturday programme, where one of his chief delights is to let a few seconds of tension build up for Leeds fans out there in TV land, before delivering a hammer blow with news of another goal against us – all with that trademark smug smirk on his gob. Now he, too, has chosen to sob publicly about his anguish over the Leeds situation. Jeff clearly thinks no small beans of himself – part of his counterfeit yet tear-stained lament includes the telling phrase “On the field, it is a total shambles with unknown player after unknown player coming into the club – I defy Leeds fans to say they have heard of them because I certainly haven’t – and it looks like it is going to be a terrible, terrible season”. Overlooking for a moment the fierce hope detectable in those last few words, it’s amusing to see that Stelling is so sure that, if he’s never heard of a player, then no Leeds fan can possibly have heard of him either. That’s some ego, for a Hartlepool fan. Unbelievable, Jeff! If he were to cast his mind back, Stelling might possibly reflect on who, exactly, had heard of Patrick Vieira before he signed for Arsenal – or Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Leeds), Eric Cantona (Sheffield Wendies on trial), and so on and so forth. Mr Stelling should, perhaps, wind his neck in a little and admit the possibility that he is not the fount of all football wisdom – except, maybe, when compared to Paul “I fink he’s only got free goals all season, Jeff” Merson. The Sky front-man’s expert opinion is that Leeds are doomed to relegation this season. Wishful thinking, Jeff?

When times are hard and you’re not all that popular to begin with, then you should expect wolves in sheep’s clothing, people who will smile and smile and be villains, well-meaning types who will sidle around behind as if to pat you on the back, before slipping a knife between your ribs. Leeds United and Leeds fans should be familiar from past experience with all of these unsavoury types, and their crocodile tears and weasel words should not fool us now. Just wait for better times to roll around, and the soft sawder and treacly syrup of ersatz sympathy will disappear like a ghost at cock-crow – it’ll be all open nastiness and overt bitching again. And do you know? I actually prefer it that way, so please bring it on.

We’re Leeds United, we hate to be pitied and we love to be hated. Your hate is what makes us stronger, after all – so please forget all the bovine ordure Gary and Jeff – let’s get back to normal eh? As soon as you like, there’s good chaps.

Tragic Night for Twitter’s Leeds ‘Fans’ as United Win at Swindon – by Rob Atkinson

Rudy Austin seals United's victory

Rudy Austin seals United’s victory

It was the worst night imaginable for the legion of Leeds United Twitterati, who look forward with such glee to every defeat, lip-smackingly relish every setback and dream feverishly of humiliation and disaster – all for the chance these calamities afford them to seek some attention in 140 illiterately-utilised characters. Yes, Leeds United have actually triumphed in a pre-season game, against good footballing opposition too – and with several new signings shaping up well. It’s a set of circumstances liable to give the gloom merchants a serious migraine; all they can do now is wait, and hope, for another defeat on which to lavish their negative attention.

For the real fans, of course, the 2-1 win at Swindon is a cause for renewed optimism. These long-suffering types who follow their team everywhere, providing peerless vocal support and exuding loyalty, commitment and passion, were rewarded for their devotion by a much better display from United. There appears to be reason to believe that, at last, things might be taking a turn for the better. The latest news is that Milan youngster Zan Benedicic will complete a loan deal shortly, while the up-and-down, on-and-off transfer of Federico Viviani of Roma appears once again to be a strong possibility for completion, mere days after United owner Massimo Cellino appeared to nix the deal.

All of which will leave the Leeds cadre of joyless pessimists on Twitter, and elsewhere in the ether, very glum indeed. What, no chance to criticise recruitment plans? No opportunity to indulge in witty manglings of the Head Coach’s name?? Where will these attention-deprived types be, if they can’t sally forth to seek approval from like-minded idiots with derisive references to Whackaday, Hockalot and other blindingly-witty puns worthy of the finest of playground humour? What’s a boy to do, when there is no gloom and doom material to facilitate the urgent quest for more and more attention? It’s a conundrum, alright. Trust Leeds to go and spoil the fun for their growing army of doom-mongers, just when this was promising to be the kind of season they could truly drool over.

Leeds being Leeds, of course, there may well be further opportunities to spread a little misery in the near future – so the negative tendency need not despair just yet. Still, what with a win in probably the toughest pre-season game yet, and the cranking-up of the intensity of player recruitment with new targets mooted every day – these are alarming times for the Dismal Daniels and Gloomy Grahams out there. And long may they remain so.

For the rest of us – the devoted and uncomplaining majority – it’s onwards and upwards towards the serious business of League football in a couple of weeks’ time. For the time being, at least, we will be able to follow our favourites in relative peace and quiet – but always aware that we’re only one bad result away from the next joyous chorus of pessimism and fatalistic self-indulgence from the Hock-haters and nay-sayers. Let’s just enjoy it while they’re quiet and leave them to the misery that a Leeds United win will always bring them.

On, on, on.

Twitter in “Happy Ending for Leeds” Rumours: Cellino IN?? – by Rob Atkinson

Shaun Harvey: rumoured to be bearer of glad tidings

Shaun Harvey: rumoured to be bearer of glad tidings

When you’re drowning, you clutch at straws.  So when a Facebook friend mentioned that she’d seen a hopeful-looking tweet from someone who is (apparently) a neighbour of Shaun Harvey and claims to have received his reassurance that all will be well for the takeover – well, I had to see more.

What I saw could be the usual Twitter rubbish, but it could (just) be true as well.  Harvey is reputed to have stated that the Football League has no interest in seeing Leeds United go into administration, and that Cellino’s takeover was always going to be approved as the best way forward for the club.  The Italian court case seems to have muddied the waters rather, and it was felt that a straightforward approval would detract from the credibility of the League’s Owners & Directors test.  So – the rumour runs – the League felt it advisable not simply to approve Cellino, but to wait for the appeal stage in the knowledge that approval would be forthcoming then.

Obviously, the question arises: what is Shaun Harvey doing shooting his mouth off to a neighbour, when the whole matter is effectively sub judice? That’s a good point, and I tend to agree with it.  However, this morsel of rumour seems to me to have enough going for it for me to at least pass on to the Leeds fans out there – who are doubtless chewing their nails down to the elbows worrying over what’s going to happen to our club. Any hint of good news is something I’d certainly want to hear – so I’m going out on a limb to do my bit to share it.

Don’t shoot the messenger, eh?

Is Jason Puncheon Above His Weight in Attacking Ex-Leeds Boss Colin? – by Rob Atkinson

Warnock: denial

Warnock: denial

Oh, dear.  Here’s a spat that could have far-reaching consequences.  Firstly Neil Warnock, fondly known as “Colin” by his legions of ex-fans, was heard on pisspoor radio station TalkSPORT to be making jovial remarks about his former player Jason Puncheon – after the latter missed a penalty against Spurs at the weekend.  Colin opined that Puncheon lacked the “cool” to be selected as spot-kick man at a place like White Hart Lane.  Jason was understandably not a happy bunny over this and he launched a series of irate tweets, many of which were swiftly deleted – and at least some of which appeared to make allegations possibly concerning the probity of Warnock in matters not unrelated to the appearance bonuses of players under his managership.  Hell, it seems, hath no fury like a footballer dissed on the wireless and determined to bite back via Twitter.

Jason Puncheon

Jason Puncheon

Warnock has since confirmed that the matters apparently raised in the ether are being “addressed on his behalf” directly to Puncheon.  One senses the impending involvement of Messrs Sue, Grabbitt & Runn.  It’s foreseeable from this point that a welter of denials and counter-accusations may well follow, and that at some point, the FA could wish to become involved.

Whether this gathering storm has any rain to shed upon Leeds United remains to be seen.  There are those who are wondering away, in various social media, as to whether any light may be cast on the contractual situation and selection records of various un-named individuals who somehow managed to earn a living at Elland Road during the Colin era, despite a puzzling lack of form or fitness for a playing role with a major professional football club.  Such are the whisperings that are always likely to go back and forth in the aftermath of hasty and precipitate tweets, especially tweets that appeared to allege various practices upon which the game’s governing bodies would be likely to look with grim disapproval – to say the very least.

Of course these matters, once put out there into the public domain, even if only for the briefest period – will have to be looked into.  It’s possible to read a certain amount into the fact that the two men have worked together at the same club, QPR, and that – therefore – anything said in public might be expected to have some grain of truth in it, failing which it might be deemed extremely unwise and possibly costly, once the legal eagles (with apologies to Puncheon’s current employers Crystal Palace FC) get their talons into it.

For the sake of clarity and in the interests of avoiding any possible murkiness surrounding what is likely to be a developing story, a screenshot from the Twitter feed concerned is reproduced below.  The blue touch paper appears to have been lit – it may swiftly become clearer as to the explosive potential of the detonation which could now result.

Those tweets, captured before disappearing

Those tweets, captured before disappearing

Donny Fans Clutch at Straws as Leeds Cruise to Easy Win – by Rob Atkinson

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Three-sy does it for The Beast

One of the perennial bonuses of a nice solid away win at one of Yorkshire’s lesser clubs is the comical, toxic fallout via Twitter and other social media – as the fans of whichever pit-village team it is we’ve put to the sword go into a bitter meltdown of tears, tantrums and recriminations, spiced with protestations of how they’d been the better team and were – wait for it – “unlucky”.  Doncaster yesterday was a typical example of this as their deluded supporters drank deep of the bitter whine produced by the sourest of grapes.

These were the kind of balanced observations you get from having a chip on both shoulders.  The more you read – and it really was worth a good old peruse of the Twittersphere in the wake of yesterday’s routine 3-0 stroll – the funnier it got.  If you gave it an hour, you could actually feel the health benefits kicking in.  The scientific basis of the theories surrounding the endorphins produced by hearty laughter must be beyond all doubt.  After sixty minutes or so trawling those dank corners of the internet where Donny fans could be found chewing away at the virtual carpet, I felt positively wonderful.  They really do build themselves up for these meetings with Big Brother from up the road – but then if it all goes wrong, they simply can’t handle it – and it’s just so funny to see the teddy bears come flying out of those paltry few thousand cots.  Laughter really is the best medicine.

A few gems:  “We played by far the better football”.  “The goal was miles onside and if it had counted things would of (sic) been different”.  “We dominated the match but they had a goalscorer.”  And much, much more in this bottomless pit of comedy gold.  All of them did their little bit to prove the one central truth in the relationship between Leeds United and those lost souls who support other clubs in Yorkshire: namely that they hate us with a passion, while we can hardly be bothered to notice them – unless we have to soil our studs with the indignity of actually playing them.

This is a deeply painful fact of life for your average envious pariah in Bratfud, Donny, Cleckhuddersfax or in that city of warring pigs, Sheffield.  Barnsley, too – they will roll up at Elland Road next weekend suffering from an appalling run that sees them rooted to the bottom of the league – but if they can eke out a win (as they usually do in their Cup Final), it’ll be banquets and open-top bus parades agogo, with souvenir clogs, whippets and flat caps on sale and doing a roaring trade.

Barnsley aside, the intense need to do well against Leeds has often worked against us in the past; our record in Yorkshire derbies is hardly the best.  But it’s not too healthy for the tiny but defiant likes of Huddersfield either – they tend to psyche themselves up for the Golden Occasion, all passion and hard, unstinting effort, roared on by their desperate fans – and if they win, they then embark on a miserable run, knackered by the superhuman effort it took to beat the Damned United.  Look at Huddersfield’s results since that 3-2 win over Leeds.  Classic case of “after the Lord Mayor’s Show”.

I’ve often said that, if United can overcome this frailty against inferior but massively determined opposition, they will prosper.  Yesterday’s win at Donny, apart from reducing their hopeful home crowd to bitter tears and tantrums at the scale of the defeat, went a long way to confirming this.  On the back of generally improved form lately, United produced a classic away “derby” performance against motivated opposition, taking the lead, weathering the inevitable storm without undue alarm and then smoothly going through the gears after the introduction of a midfield enforcer in Brown.  The two late goals emphasised the effectiveness of the approach rather than flattering Leeds; they simply had too much all-round for a committed but out-classed Doncaster side.

If a similar display can be produced against a fired-up Barnsley side next weekend – and this is a game which may well take place on the back of some long-overdue good news for the club – then surely three more points can be expected to send everybody with yellow white and blue blood coursing through their veins into Christmas in a state of good humour bordering on exultation.  We’ve said it before – we’ve dared to dream before – but the rest of this season might just be the best time to be a Leeds United fan for a generation.

MOT