Tag Archives: UEFA

Euro Goners Real Madrid Admit They Didn’t Live Up to Famous Leeds All White Strip – by Rob Atkinson

Real Madrid – making a mockery of Leeds United’s iconic all-white strip

Real Madrid were left ruefully reflecting upon their shock Champions League exit tonight, and were forced to admit: their performance fell way short of the standards expected of any team seeking to emulate football legends Leeds United.

It’s well-known in football circles that the Madrid kit is modelled on the famous and dazzling all-white of Don Revie’s all-conquering Leeds United side who dominated the world game in the sixties and seventies. Leeds followed up on establishing themselves as the finest club side some fine judges had ever seen, by becoming the last ever Football League Champions in 1992. Their 27 year unbroken record as English champions is unlikely ever to be equalled, never mind broken.

Naturally, the Leeds record has attracted envious attention abroad as well as at home, with the result that plucky little Real Madrid adopted the legendary LUFC all-White in an attempt to emerge from the shadow of Catalan masters Barcelona. The move appeared to have paid off to some extent, with Real managing to win several trophies down the years, prompting some over-enthusiastic pundits to mention them in the same breath as Revie’s or even Howard Wilkinson’s immortal Whites. Madrid even adopted a similar nickname – los Blancos translates as “the Whites” in Spanish, and some have interpreted this as a cheeky assertion by Madrid that they are somehow comparable to the Elland Road virtuosos.

However, all of that bravado came crashing down tonight, with Madrid falling at home to Dutch outfit Ajax of Amsterdam. Real had actually led 2-1 after the first leg in Holland, but a 4-1 reverse tonight at the Bernabeu put paid to this season’s hopes of matching Mighty Leeds. A Madrid spokesman said afterwards, “It’s bad enough losing so heavily at home, and the late red card too. But losing while wearing the all-white which is the symbol of Leeds has just made us look silly. We may possibly wear pink in future, it’s something we have to think about”.

Meanwhile, in Leeds, former Real keeper Kiko Casilla admitted that his old club had scored a PR own-goal. “Yes, it was embarrassing”, said the ex-Madrid man. “It did look as if Real were playing with ideas above their station, it was all a bit presumptuous. It’s made me glad that I seized my chance when the opportunity arose to better myself by moving to Elland Road”.

The triumph of Ajax is being hailed in Holland as a sign that they themselves might one day emulate Leeds. “Ajax were superb”, crowed one fan. “We played with vim and vigour. Who says we can’t be a second Leeds? But we wouldn’t turn out in the famous LUFC all-white. That’s just bloody rude”.

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Clear Proof That Leeds Were Robbed in the 1975 European Cup Final Against Bayern – by Rob Atkinson

1975

Billy Bremner, clearly not interfering with play as Lorimer lashes the ball past Sepp Maier

We’ve all known it for nigh on 44 years, but here, for anyone who might have had even a shadow of doubt, is the ultimate proof that Leeds United were robbed of their rightful European Cup triumph in Paris way back in 1975. A glance at the photograph above, which captures the moment that the ball flew off the right boot of Peter Lorimer (arrowed), past German international keeper Sepp Maier and into the Bayern Munich net, clearly shows that Billy Bremner, who had been pushed into a marginally offside position, was way out of the line of sight between Maier and Lorimer. So it was impossible that Bremner was interfering with play and, by any interpretation of the laws then or now, the goal should have stood.

The goal was disallowed, of course, only after the insistent intervention of Bayern captain Franz Beckenbauer, a player noted for his habit of pressurising and influencing match officials. Beckenbauer had also been involved in a first half penalty claim for Leeds, scissor tackling Allan Clarke in the Munich area. It was the clearest penalty you could possibly wish to see, the type that even one of today’s Football League referees would have been hard pressed to deny Leeds. There was another penalty claim in that first half too, Beckenbauer involved again when he seemed to handle the ball on the ground inside his own area, but referee Michel Kitabdjian, may his name be cursed for all eternity, blithely waved both appeals away.

Leeds United fans on the night expressed their displeasure and sense of injustice in the most violent manner, resulting in a subsequent European ban for the club. It was a night, to quote a distinguished American president on the occasion of Pearl Harbor “that will live in infamy” – and, believe me, in a football context, given the scale of the injustice and the prestige of the trophy at stake, that oblique comparison does not seem invalid.

Subsequent interviews and retrospectives have been interesting in that there has not been much evidence of the Bayern players in that final disputing the injustice that took place. If anything, they tend to hold their hands up and acknowledge that their triumph was a mixture of luck and larceny – Leeds were robbed, not only of that big, beautiful trophy, but also of European Cup qualification the following season. Uli Hoeness, the great Bayern forward, was once interviewed and asked about 1975. In his own words, he said that the result was a travesty. The better team lost and they lost for no other reason than the performance of the referee. That’s cold comfort four decades on, but it counts for a lot in any debate about the fairness or otherwise of the outcome that night.

I remember the Final well, it was a shattering experience for a 13 year old kid who was dreaming of seeing former manager Don Revie‘s great team put the seal on their immortality. And it was just as devastating for the White Army who followed United to Paris – they deserved better than a tawdry con trick, especially after they’d witnessed their heroes being robbed of another European trophy two years earlier in Salonika – take a bow Christos Michas, another spectacularly bent UEFA referee. It makes you wonder – has any other club been blagged quite as often and quite as lavishly as Leeds United?

We all know the answer to that. But all this time later, we still hold our heads up high, knowing that the proof is out there and that, morally at least, we have two more European trophies than the record shows. Some of us will be campaigning to our last breath for UEFA to recognise this, retrospectively award us our trophies, and set that official record straight.

All together now: “We are the Champions, Champions of Europe…” 

Would VAR Get Man United Relegated and Leeds United Promoted? – by Rob Atkinson

LUFC red card

Referees just love Leeds United

I’ve never really been in favour of the intrusion of modern technology into professional football. I was generally supportive of the view that the game needs its bits of controversy, things to talk about and argue over in the pub or, as years went on, via social media. And that, ideally, the game at its elite level should stay as close as possible in its essential character to the thud and blunder affairs fought out on parks pitches every Sunday morning.

But the old maxim of “the referee’s decision is final” has started to wear a bit thin, as with that other cliche “these things tend to even themselves out”. We were always asked to believe that, yes, referees made mistakes alright, but that they were honest mistakes, human errors. We were told that, over time, all clubs would get roughly the same amount of good and bad decisions, and that, ultimately, ability and fitness would be the decisive factors. And for a long time, many of us would believe these fables, we’d even repeat them to each other, wanting our beloved game to be straight.

The worm of doubt for Leeds United fans crawled out of the bad apples among the refereeing fraternity as far back as the sixties. I’ve written an article on this blog about the very worst decisions my club has been on the wrong end of – even limiting myself to the truly appalling travesties of justice, it it could have been a much longer list, space permitting. Leeds fans started giving wry smiles when referees were defended as honest Joes who were bound to make the odd mistake. We knew better, out of bitter experience. We knew exactly who would get the breaks and the dodgy calls, and we knew just as well that it wouldn’t be us.

The situation has never really improved for Leeds as far as getting a fair go from referees and the game in general is concerned. As I write, it’s 58 games since we last got a penalty kick awarded, during which time ten have been given against us, including some proper howlers. You get used to it, you come to expect it, but naturally, you never really accept it as your lot. I well remember Thomas Christiansen‘s ashen face after one match early last season; he was unable to credit what he’d seen with his own eyes, and I just thought, welcome to Leeds, mate – welcome to our world.

Things are different for other teams, of course, and it goes without saying that life at the non-crappy end of the stick is best exemplified by Manchester United, or the Pride of Devon, as I fondly refer to them. Their long penalty runs are matches without conceding one; it’s frequently said that nothing short of the cynical murder of an opposition player in their own penalty box will lead to a spot kick being awarded against them. One referee from the nineties, Graham Poll, frankly admitted that the best a ref could hope for when taking a Man U game during the tyrannic reign of Alex Ferguson, was to get the thing over, with as little controversy as possible, and ideally with Man U having won. That’s a mindset which must have yielded many victories in a game of fine margins; Man U were the beneficiaries of intimidated referees who wanted to avoid the Fergie treatment in the press, with a subsequent blacklisting from big matches.

This was a situation that applied throughout the Ferguson reign at Old Trafford, a period in which there was really no excuse for Man U failing to win the league in any one year. With everything in their failure, and the media vicariously lapping up the glory, Man U went from strength to strength. The learning curve their players were on under Ferguson was more than simply curved – it was totally bent.

But now, Fergie is long gone, and the major silverware eludes Manchester’s second-best football club. And yet still the “controversial” decisions accrue in their favour. Last night’s home game against Arsenal demonstrated both manifestations of the modern game; the old fashioned “lino’s call” for offside which resulted in Man U’s first goal, and the beginnings of modern technology ensuring that a goal stood which you would never see given against Man U in the days when eyesight alone judged whether the ball was over the line. Goal line technology, for a side that have seen so many narrow decisions go in their favour, is bad news for Man U. How much worse for them will it get when the video assistant referee (VAR) comes in for the Premier League next season, presumably taking away from the hapless Red Devils the marginal decisions they invariably get now?

It’ll be interesting to see what actually happens. My theory is that a club which has always suffered under the naked eye method of making decisions will be bound to do better when such a fallible system is superseded by state of the art cameras. And, equally, clubs that have always tended to get the rub of the green under “human error” will find themselves suffering disproportionately as those errors start to vanish from the game.

Could such a revolution actually result in the previously favoured club losing their exalted status, while the erstwhile pariahs come to the fore? Well, that’s probably just my over-active tendency towards wishful thinking. Still, it would be vastly entertaining and deeply satisfactory, if it ever came to pass. But the whole culture of the game and its supporting media is ranged against anything so unthinkable. During the Man U v Arsenal game last night, BT Sport‘s resident ex-referee “expert” Phil Dowd acknowledged that Man U’s first goal was narrowly offside. “But it was so close,” he demurred, “it would have been very harsh to give it. So, good goal.” That type of Man U-centric thinking still takes my breath away, even after decades of hearing stuff just like it. And it makes me think that, technology notwithstanding, the Old Trafford team will probably still be getting that annoying rub of the green for some time to come.

That’s not really any of my concern, though I’d like to think it vexes a few of you out there just as it does me. But my priority is Leeds United, and – eventually – we’re going to be playing our games under the electronic eye of VAR. And maybe then, if not before, we might actually get the odd penalty, or at least not have so many utterly crap ones given against us. And, if that proves to be the case, then I’ll happily declare myself a convert to this new technological approach. After all – who can afford to go down to the pub for an argument these days?

Leeds Hero Pontus Jansson to be Punished for Telling the Truth? – by Rob Atkinson

Pontus, giving Sky the unvarnished truth

They say that the first casualty of war is truth, and history tells us that there’s a lot of merit in those telling words. Certainly, in the war that the football authorities appear to have been waging against Leeds United for well over half a century now, the truth seems to be rather less than welcome as far as the aggressors are concerned.

This is most recently evidenced by the fact that the Football League and the good old sweet FA have not reacted well to a spontaneous outburst of truth from United colossus Pontus Jansson straight after the Brentford game. In a match full of incidents that arguably merited further examination and possible punishment, the guardians of the game have made what might be termed an odd choice in order to assert their own powers of judgement.

Many who watched the Brentford match – and this includes myriad fans of other clubs who were at pains to point out that they normally had no time for the Whites – were up in arms about what was an appalling display of rank bad refereeing. Quite what the Sky interviewer, who collared Pontus straight after the final whistle, expected to hear from him must be open to question. What he got was the man’s sincere gut reaction, delivered in Anglo-Saxon idiom; a blunt expression of what so many were thinking, namely that the ref had had a ‘mare and that Leeds had been robbed blind.

The most surprising thing to me about the post-match interview was Jansson’s rigid self-control. To be buttonholed directly after a game, with the frustration of losing two points still raw and the adrenaline still pumping, must be a difficult experience to say the least. When the Sky guy patronisingly warned Pontus to watch his language, like some pettifogging lackey to Mary Whitehouse, I honestly feared for his safety. I thought perhaps the forehead of Jansson, well renowned for its ability to head bricks away, might make a sudden and calamitous impact upon the interviewer’s nose. After all, the afternoon’s other example of the art of the nut was destined to go unpunished. But no. Pontus kept his cool and confined himself to a withering criticism of an awful referee who deserved no better. It was a masterpiece of self-restraint.

Leeds United fans are wise in the ways of the football mandarins’ dealings with their beloved club. Despite the fact that the Pontus incident would normally pale into insignificance beside the butting of Alioski or the swallow dive that “earned” Brentford their penalty, Whites devotees were soon expressing their opinions that the Brentford sinners would get off scot free, while Pontus would have the book chucked at him, with a warning not to head it back. And so, seemingly, it has now come to pass, with the FA announcing today that Jansson is to be charged.

In the administration of a game where a club, with tricky forwards who have plenty of touches in the opposition box, somehow fails to be awarded a penalty kick in FIFTY consecutive matches, something is far wrong. When that same club concedes NINE penalties over the same period, with some really dodgy ones in there like the joke decisions against Stoke and Brentford, something clearly stinks. And when the only disciplinary action taken, after a game including a head-butt and a laughable dive, is to level a charge at a man who merely told the truth in the heat of the moment, then you’re suddenly all too aware of what that stink actually is. It’s the stench of corruption, of a governing body rotten to the core who have made no secret over fifty-plus years that they absolutely hate, loathe and detest Leeds United.

People are suggesting that Pontus might cop for a fine. I saw a particularly attractive idea on Twitter; that Leeds fans should subscribe to a fund to pay the fine, and that United owner Andrea Radrizzani, on behalf of the club, should match the amount raised and donate it to the treatment fund for young Toby Nye. Pressure could then be applied to the FA to donate Jansson’s fine to the same worthy cause. I think this would be extremely fitting.

Mind you, it’ll probably be a ban, because those be-suited buffoons rarely miss a chance to deal a blow to Leeds United. What we really need right now is the fostering of a siege complex, so that the players know it’s us against the world, and react accordingly. We are all well aware that, whoever was the identifiable villain of the piece in the United v Brentford game, it was not Pontus Jansson. But this will cut no ice with the FL or the FA, so we’ll just have to get on with it – in the growing hope that our final position at season’s end can deliver an emphatic middle finger salute to those enemies of the truth who now seek to hang our Pontus out to dry.

Leeds Fan Requests a Bremner Square Tile for Istanbul Victims Chris and Kev – by Rob Atkinson

Anthony Hawkridge’s inspired tweet

Browsing through the LUFC Twitter feed just now, I happened across something wonderful, something inspiring, something that couldn’t possibly be more fitting.

It was a heartfelt call on Twitter (see above) from a Leeds fan, Tony Hawkridge, which was promptly liked and retweeted by other Leeds fans, for Leeds United to include in their wonderful Bremner Square initiative a tile dedicated to the memory of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight, brutally murdered in Istanbul 18 years ago as they followed their beloved Whites to a UEFA Cup semi-final.

Of course Chris and Kev are already honoured by the plaque on an Elland Road wall nearby. But Billy Bremner‘s statue has been a focal point for United fans ever since it was raised in 1999, two years after Billy’s untimely death. You often hear fans say, I’ll meet you at Billy’s statue. It’s iconic, a symbol of the club’s greatest captain, and of the pride which runs through Elland Road right down to its last rivet.

The Bremner Square refurbishment of the statue area is a fantastic idea, and has been carried into reality in an equally fantastic manner. Phase one is complete, with the names of many die-hard United fans etched forever into the fabric of the club. What better way after all to pay tribute to, and be recognised by, the greatest club in the world?

There is more to come though, another phase of development, with yet more names to be added to those already honoured by inclusion in Bremner Square. I’ve thought of getting one for myself, or of arranging one for my late Dad, who bequeathed me my love of Leeds. But a greater opportunity presents itself, with this idea of the inclusion of two names that symbolise the most tragic and needless episode to befall our club and its massive family of fans.

I’m sure that the club will see the compelling case for including a Chris & Kev tile in phase two. I’m equally sure that, if a cost is involved, then any appeal for the meeting of that cost would be over-subscribed many times by Leeds fans, myself most heartily included, eager and willing to chip in.

There are no obstacles to the realisation of this excellent idea. It’s the right thing to do. I’d appeal to anyone who reads this to contact the club and press the case, in the certain knowledge that the club would listen and empathise. We can make sure that the horror of Taksim Square is addressed and superseded by the pride and honour of Bremner Square.

Leeds United – it’s over to you. Let’s get this done.

Chris and Kev

Rest in Peace

Charlie Taylor to Follow the Judas Kewell Path to Galatasaray? – by Rob Atkinson

Kewell

Don’t be a charlie like Harry, Charlie

Rumour has it that, having ungratefully bitten the hand that’s fed him for so long, left-back turned militant striker Charlie Taylor is now rubbing salt into freshly-opened wounds by considering overtures from Galatasaray – a club which makes our old friends and foes the Pride of Devon seem positively adorable.

The Istanbul club are rightly held in contempt and derision by Leeds United fans, for their attitude and actions at the time of the murders by their fans of Kevin Speight and Chris Loftus the night before a UEFA Cup semi-final in 2000. No respect was shown, the home side wore no black armbands, and the Galatasaray club sought cynically to manipulate the tragedy to their own advantage by demanding the return leg be played elsewhere than at Elland Road

When Harry Kewell joined the Turkish club some years later, it was literally hard for United fans to believe that a man who played for Leeds in that semi-final, and experienced the hatred of the savage and uncivilised Galatasaray fans, could ever consider wearing their colours. It was a sick, horrible nightmare, surely, rather than some bizarre reality. But Kewell really did make the move, with some weasel words about wanting to build bridges (nowt to do with money, of course) – and he’s been despised by Leeds fans ever since.

Now, Fotospora Turkish news source, have suggested that Taylor is a possibility for the Galatasaray squad next season, though they acknowledge that the hostility between the two clubs could be a stumbling block. But, as ever with these matters, it’d likely be down to the player himself if there is a genuine interest from Turkey.

Memo to Charlie Taylor: don’t be a silly boy. Get yourself to that Premier League subs bench you’ll be occupying next season and stay there, counting your money. There’s no need to court hatred having already earned contempt. Look at your history books and do the right thing.

One ex-Leeds player at that awful club was bad enough. Two making the same ridiculous and selfish decision would look a bit too much like taking the piss.

Leeds Fans United in Sympathy as Watford Sack Kewell – by Rob Atkinson

stupid harrykewell-

Harry Kewell, heading for the dole queue

Watford FC have sacked former Leeds United and Liverpool star Harry Kewell from his post as youth team coach at Vicarage Road, following a poor run of form – and the Leeds supporters have reacted on Twitter with varying degrees of not entirely sincere regret.

The background to United supporters’ wrath is fairly well known. Firstly, Kewell engineered a move to Liverpool at a time when Leeds were suffering a financial meltdown, and reportedly moved heaven and earth to maximise the benefit of the £5m fee to himself and his agent, leaving the club that gave him his big break grievously out of pocket.

Then, after an injury-hit spell on Merseyside, Kewell unaccountably chose to ply his trade in Turkey, at the one club no former Leeds player should ever touch with the longest bargepole. Kewell was in the Leeds team that stepped out to play Galatasaray in the 2000 UEFA Cup semi-final first leg in Istanbul, the night after two Leeds United fans had been brutally murdered in the city. UEFA showed neither sympathy nor understanding, insisting that the game should be played. The home side failed to show the most basic respect, not even wearing black armbands, and the Leeds United away support reacted with massive and laudable dignity, turning their backs en masse to the field of play before the match kicked off.

The atmosphere was evil, the players were still deeply affected, the whole occasion was a tragic farce. Any suggestion that night that any member of the Leeds United team, who faced such a sick and disgusting display of hostility and hatred, could one day wear the colours of the home team, would have been dismissed as a tasteless joke. And yet it came to pass that Harry Kewell sold his soul and made that move, earning himself the sobriquet of “Judas” for ever more. Little wonder that he remains a figure of hatred and contempt among the Elland Road faithful, to this day.

And now he’s out of a job, he can expect nothing but scorn and a grim satisfaction from United fans. The LUFC Twitter feed in the aftermath of his dismissal by Watford FC shows that that is exactly what he’s got.

Well played, you Hornets – and on your bike, Judas.

Leeds Utd Players Take Note: April 5th is NOT Just Any Day – By Rob Atkinson

Leeds Fans

We Are Leeds, We Neither Forgive Nor Forget

There have been many famous rallying speeches over the whole history of combat, whether it be in the theatre of war or merely a matter of winning a game of football. We can all name the famous motivators in each sphere: Elizabeth I or Henry V, Admiral Lord Nelson or Winston Churchill, each of whom fired up their troops to give their all in battle for England. Sir Alf Ramsey did the same for the Three Lions heroes of 1966 and of course our own Don Revie was unrivalled as he created a team who would run through walls for him, inspired by the steely cry of “Keep Fighting”.

But sometimes, tub-thumping speeches should not be necessary – the occasion speaks for itself and demands pride, passion and commitment more than any mere words could possibly do. The Leeds United players who take the field against QPR tonight, 5th April, should be fully aware that today is a date when nothing less than every last drop of blood, sweat and tears will suffice. The United army will demand that – and more – as will those glued to their radios at home. And rightly so.

Chris and Kev - RIP

Chris and Kev – RIP

For April the 5th is a date carved painfully into the hearts of Leeds fans everywhere. On that fateful day 16 years ago, we lost two of our own as Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight were cruelly, foully murdered by savage, uncivilised scum in Taksim Square, Istanbul. This evening’s match is therefore not about League points or position, it’s not even about the farcical running of the club or the inept administration of an incompetent and bumbling Football League. It’s about pride, passion, respect and commemoration – and those four qualities need to burn white-hot within the very being of each man wearing that big Leeds badge over his heart at Elland Road.

If there are any Leeds players unaware of the significance of this occasion – well, shame on them.  And shame on the staff at the club who should be making sure that their charges are at least on nodding acquaintance with a reality beyond their own pay packets.  It’s not been easy to admire many of the Leeds players lately; with a few notable exceptions, they’ve played in a distracted fashion and displayed a distinctly chicken-hearted attitude to the business of playing for the shirt and getting results.  They should be left in no doubt at all that such frailties will not be tolerated tonight – not on April the 5th.  For this match, they should imitate the action of a tiger, as Henry the Fifth put it.  They should stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood – and get stuck in, just as if they really did have the hearts of lions.

Nothing less will do, it’s the very least they owe the Leeds supporters everywhere.  If they don’t know this, then it should be made abundantly clear to them prior to kick off.  They should run out there onto that pitch with no thoughts of money or other distractions: they should emerge onto the field of combat ready and willing to give their all for the Leeds United fans, and especially for the memory of those two lads who never came home.  This should be an occasion for the restoration of pride, for remembering that they have the honour to represent the greatest club in the world, in front of the greatest fans in the Universe.  Defeat is permissible; a defeatist attitude and a failure to step up to the mark is not. Not on April the 5th.

Perhaps the match against Rangers can be a starting point for the Leeds United team, the first steps on the long climb back to respectability.   It really needs to be – there is simply no more appropriate date for the launching of a fight-back, even though this season is now meaningless – apart from the still lingering threat of relegation.  If the Leeds lads can get out there and fight tonight – show that they care, battle for the cause, demonstrate some respect for the fans and those we’ve lost – then maybe they can start to recoup some of the respect they’ve undoubtedly squandered over the past few months.  It’s to be hoped so, because you get nowhere in any professional sport without earning respect.

The April 5th anniversary of the shocking events in Istanbul really means something to the Leeds support.  More than any other date, it’s when we remember and pay our respects – and the players should participate fully in this.  It’s part of deserving to wear the shirt and the badge.  Fans of other clubs love to show their disrespect, they love to wear the shirt of that awful Turkish club whilst grinning and gloating.  Millwall fans, Man U fans – scum like that.  April the 5th is when we rise above it all, in dignity and pride.  The players need to join in with that, too.

Do it tonight, lads – get out there and fight, give everything.  Do it for Chris and Kev, do it for all the rest of us who remember them sixteen years on.  Do it for the shirt, do it for the badge.  Make us proud of you again, on this day above all others.  Then, perhaps, we can go Marching On Together towards a better future, whatever the next few days, weeks and months might bring.  All it takes to start fighting back is that pride, passion and respect. That’s how we commemorate those who died, and that’s how we’ll forge the togetherness we need to restore this great club to where it belongs.  Let’s start that process of fighting back and climbing upwards, on this sad and solemn anniversary, at Elland Road this evening – let’s show them what we’re made of.  If we have enough tigers and lionhearts on the park, Queens Park Rangers will at least know they’ve been in a game – which is the very minimum requirement for any true warriors of Elland Road.

After all: “We’re Leeds – and we’re proud of it”.

RIP Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight, taken far too soon. April 5th, 2000

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

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Anthony Taylor, TV Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Top, TOP Leeds United Away Trips – by Rob Atkinson

We all have our favourite LUFC memories, and many will relate to games away from LS11.  Here, in reverse order, are my three favourite road trips following The Whites.

3. Sheffield Wednesday 1, Leeds United 6 12.1.1992

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Sergeant Wilko

This was Sergeant Wilko’s first return to Wednesday since he had quit Hillsborough to become Leeds boss in 1988.  It would also be Lee Chapman’s last game before his season-threatening FA Cup injury, which resulted in the drafting in of one Eric Cantona – with all the long term consequences that would entail.  But Chappy was destined to be sidelined only temporarily, and he went out in the most emphatic style.

There was a crowd of 32228 at Hillsborough, the usual vociferous contingent of travelling Leeds fans rivalling the home crowd for noise from the outset, and completely drowning them as the game went on.  Leeds United were weakened, so it seemed, by the absence of the injured Gordon Strachan and suspended David Batty, half of their legendary midfield Fantastic Four.  Any side, surely, would miss performers of such calibre.  Leeds, though, seemed determined to make light of the problem, and tore into their hosts from the start.  Full-back Tony Dorigo made an early darting run, cutting in from the left and making good progress down the centre of the pitch, before unleashing a right-foot thunderbolt that Wednesday ‘keeper Chris Woods had to tip over.  From the resulting Gary MacAllister corner, Chris Fairclough rose to head downwards, and found Chapman in splendid isolation four yards out; his finish swift and deadly for 1-0.

For a local derby, the contest had been decidedly one-way traffic – Chapman was to send two towering headers just wide before Carl Shutt had a scuffed shot smothered by Woods in the home goal.  Then, a true champagne moment as Mel Sterland fed the ball to Chapman on the right.  In a completely untypical burst of pace and control, Chappy surged between two hapless Wednesday defenders, raced into the area, and unleashed a shot that beat Woods completely, just clipping the frame of the goal to rapturous applause from the Leeds fans at the Leppings Lane End.  I remember thinking at the time that anything was possible now, if Lee Chapman could do something so utterly out of character.  And so it proved as, from a free kick awarded just right of centre some ten yards outside the box, Dorigo stepped up to absolutely hammer a left foot drive past the helpless Woods.  Cue mayhem and cavortings as the Leeds hordes behind the goal, celebrated as clean a strike as you could ever wish to see, the ball a blur as it arrowed into the far corner with deadly precision and power.

At 2-0 down, the home side were making increasingly desperate attempts to gain some sort of foothold in the match.  This desperation was adequately demonstrated when, from a harmless-looking ball into the Leeds area, Wednesday striker Gordon Watson ran in front of Chris Whyte, continued on for another step or two, and then hurled himself into the air, landing in agonised paroxysms of simulation between a bemused Whyte and Leeds ‘keeper John Lukic.  Such obvious fraud and villainy could have only one outcome, and the stadium held its collective breath for sentence to be passed on the miscreant.  Instead – amazingly – referee Philip Don pointed to the spot.  Whether none of the officials had seen the extent of Watson’s ham-acting, or whether they were moved by sympathy for the mauling Wednesday were taking from a rampant Leeds, it’s impossible to tell.  The outcome was the same either way.  Ex-Leeds hero John Sheridan stepped up, saw his penalty brilliantly saved as Lukic tipped it against his right-hand post, and then gleefully belted home the rebound to give Wednesday a massively unmerited lifeline.

This act of base and scurvy treachery required nothing less than a riposte of the utmost nobility and beauty, so we said to ourselves, though probably in more Anglo-Saxon terms.  And, happily, that’s just what came to pass.  Only six minutes after the home side’s ridiculous blagging of a comically unfair route back into the game, Leeds took effortless control again with a goal sublime in both its conception and execution.  Lukic bowled the ball out to Dorigo on the left flank; he sent it first time down the line to Gary Speed, who took one steadying touch before sending a beautiful flighted cross into the Wednesday area.  And there, inevitably, was Chapman, horizontal in mid-air, neck cocked to hammer the ball unanswerably past Woods, the perfect counterpunch to Watson’s knavish low blow.  It was a gorgeous goal, sweeping the length of the left side, taking the entire home team right out of the game, and re-establishing the two goal margin which was the least Leeds United deserved at half-time.

The second half that ensued was simply a story of how a blood-and-thunder Yorkshire derby turned into a stroll in the park for Leeds United.  It seemed as if all the life had been sucked out of the home team – a Wednesday side who, let’s not forget, were unbeaten at home since the opening day of the season, and who would go on to finish third in the table.  So they were no mugs, but Leeds United were absolutely irresistible on the day, and would have hammered far better teams than the hapless, bewildered Owls.

It’s possible that Wednesday were simply embarrassed about that cringe-worthy penalty, possibly they were dog-tired, having been run ragged since the start.  Whatever the case, their heads dropped steadily further and further as the game progressed, and they offered little resistance as Leeds proceeded to throttle the life out of them.  Chapman completed his hat-trick five minutes after the hour, heading in after Speed had struck the bar from a corner.  Poor Speedo was looking the other way, bemoaning his bad luck when the ball hit the back of the net after all, turning his frustration to joy.  Then, perennial bit-part player Mike Whitlow ventured forward, just because he could, and rose unchallenged to meet Rod Wallace’s right-wing cross and head easily over a stranded Woods.  It was left to little Wallace to administer the coup de grâce, striding clear after a shimmering exchange of passes in midfield to dink the ball over the advancing ‘keeper, and put the suffering home side finally out of their misery.  A highly satisfactory awayday slaughter of the Wendies.

2. AC Milan 1, Leeds United 1 8.11.2000

Dom Matteo....Scored A Very Good Goal....In The San Siro...

Dom Matteo….Scored A Very Good Goal….In The San Siro…

This match is so famous that I barely need to recount the action kick by kick.  The Leeds fans at one end of the San Siro were in fully, throaty voice for most of the proceedings, drawing incredulous glances from the attendant Carabinieri who were in full-on riot gear but friendly enough, muttering to each other about lunatic English tifosi (hooligans.)  The first half was a decent contest – Milan were through already, but not disposed to give Leeds an easy ride – especially after paranoid noises emanating from Barcelona, who – nervous about their own prospects – had done their best to warn Milan off taking it easy against Leeds.  So Milan pressed in front of a crowd of 52289, and their winger Serginho was causing Gary Kelly plenty of problems.  In the 26th minute, a slightly soft penalty was awarded to Milan at our end of the stadium, and 6000 Leeds fans held their collective breath as Andriy Shevchenko took careful aim only to rap Robinson’s right-hand post, the ball bouncing away to safety as the masses behind our goal celebrated as if we’d actually scored.  And then, miraculously, as the first half ebbed away, we did score.  A Lee Bowyer corner from the right found Matteo rising majestically at the near post to meet the ball with a punchy header which soared high into the net.  Cue utter pandemonium at the Leeds end as all the tension, passion and belief exploded in one almighty roar which almost lifted the hi-tec roof off the famous stadium.

The party went on throughout half-time and into the second half, drawing more bemused glances from the Italian police; there was only a brief hiatus in the 67th minute when the superb Serginho deservedly equalised, but then it was mounting fan fever again all the way to the final whistle and beyond as Leeds held out to qualify for an equally difficult second phase of the competition.  The scenes after the game are at least as famous as the events of the ninety minutes; the team coming back out onto the pitch in response to the demands of the faithful who were held back in the interests of crowd safety.  What followed was described by respected football commentators (as well as Alan Green) as the best example of team/fan bonding they’d ever seen.  Fans and players – even a certain Chairman – swapped chants and songs in a spontaneous celebration of a joyous night.  Even the uncertain musical efforts of Lee Bowyer were greeted by a blast of friendly derision.  It was a unique experience, and the Latin cops were clearly by now utterly convinced that these English people were absolutely barking mad.  As football nights go, you’d have to travel a long way to find one more worthy of memory – only a trophy could have improved it, but the spectacle of the game and its aftermath is one I have seen imitated but never repeated.

1. Sheffield United 2, Leeds United 3 – 26.4.1992

Jon Newsome, Superstar

Jon Newsome, Superstar

If you’re a Leeds supporter, you’ll have seen the goals from this game hundreds, thousands of time.  It plays through now, all these years later, in the Football Highlights studio of my mind; joy for the home side as Alan Cork, gleaming of bald pate, pokes the ball home to give Sheffield the lead.  Then, a midfield tussle in the swirling wind, as Leeds try valiantly to come back.  A late first-half free kick, which Gordon Strachan races to take before the home defence can set themselves, he finds Rod Wallace in the area who tips the ball past home keeper Mel Rees’s attempt to save, defenders scramble to clear, only to hit Gary Speed who bounces the ball back to ricochet off Wallace – into the net.  Pandemonium in the away end.   Level at half time, we’re breathless with drama and the hurly-burly of it all, raucous with United anthems, nervous of what’s yet to come.

The crazy game continues crazily.  A dangerous ball across the Leeds box is retrieved by home defender and future Leeds man John Pemberton, who turns it back towards the goal-line where Lee Chapman sticks out a leg for an own-goal greeted with horrified stupefaction by the Leeds fans behind the goal and we’re level again.  Then enfant terrible Eric Cantona enters the fray, and within a few minutes he is chasing a loose ball into the Sheffield half, with Rod Wallace scampering alongside and home defender Brian Gayle lumbering back in a desperate attempt to clear the danger.  And it’s Gayle, former Man City man, who finally slays Man United.  From my vantage point at the opposite end of the ground I see him get his head to the ball, and the action is suddenly slow motion.  Gayle has headed the ball, poor Mel Rees is stranded far out of his goal, the ball goes over his head in a slow, slow loop, and bounces tantalisingly towards the unguarded net…

Then I’m watching at full speed from the far end as Cantona and Wallace raise their arms in triumph, wheeling away in delight, and even as I wonder what they’re up to I realise that the ball has nestled in the Sheffield United net.  A red mist descends, and I am utterly outside of my skull and beside myself in delirious joy and fevered madness, looking around me, roaring like a demented bull, face congested with blood, eyes bulging; I grab a helpless wee St John’s Ambulance man by his lapels and scream beer and spittle into his terrified face “Get me some oxygeeeennnn!!!  I’m going to have a heart attaaaack!!!”  The mad moment passes, I drop the ashen medic and some measure of sanity returns, but we’re still cavorting and diving all over each other, a seething, sweating mass of Leeds, because we know it’s over, we know that Sheffield are beaten, and we know that Man U don’t have an earthly at Anfield, not a prayer.  We were going to be Champions; on that windiest and gustiest of days, a Gayle from Manchester City has blown the Scum away and decided in an instant the fate of all three Uniteds from Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds.

And so, of course, it panned out.  Later I watched mesmerised on TV as Liverpool beat a demoralised Man U, Denis Law and Ian St John trying to put a brave face on it, Elton Welsby’s foot bobbing away in thwarted anger as the script turned out just as none of them wanted.  Ian Rush scored his first ever goal against Them, and it was settled late on as Man U concede a second.  “And now the title goes to Leeds without any doubt at all” intoned Brian Moore in the ITV commentary as I sat there with tears of joy streaming down my unashamed face.  Gary Lineker had called into the studio earlier to complain that Rod Wallace’s goal had been offside (it was).  St John and Moore bemoaned that Man U had had no luck at all, and Welsby ground his teeth in the studio as the Man U fans outside hurled abuse at him, heedless of the fact that he shared their bitter disappointment.  All was frustration in the media and the rest of football and Leeds fans everywhere utterly failed to give a toss.  My finest hour as a Leeds fan, and my greatest ever awayday.

-oO0Oo-

Two from the same season, and one abroad that was “only” a draw – but each had a special appeal for me among the many away games I’ve seen.  I could have chosen so many others, going right back to my first ever away game, a 3-1 League Cup win at Bolton in 1977.  Still in the League Cup, there was that 6-0 win over Leicester City at Filbert Street, on a night when Robbie Savage never gave up, but proved that he was even worse than we thought.  How could we have known that he’d be worse yet as a pundit?

The golden memories are so many, I could possibly have managed a top ten quite easily.  I’d love to hear which away games others rank as their best memories.