Tag Archives: UK Football

Lasogga and Ekuban Would Give Leeds New Attacking Dimension – by Rob Atkinson

Ekuban Lasogga

Caleb Ekuban – ideal strike partner for Pierre-Michel Lasogga?

If I can be a little upbeat, without offending the Leonard Cohen drones and clones that infest the LUFC Twitter hashtag, I have to say I saw more positives in one slightly unlucky defeat at Sheffield United than I have in perhaps half a dozen victories we’ve eked out this turbulent season. There just seemed to be that little bit extra about some of the players, a bit of desire and composure, especially in the second half, that has been lacking since the earliest part of this Championship campaign. It wasn’t enough, after a disastrous start at Bramall Lane, to get any tangible reward from the clash of the two Uniteds – but, in the final analysis, Leeds were maybe a couple of highly debatable decisions away from getting Paul Heckingbottom‘s tenure as Head Coach off to the best possible start.

Still, that’s history now, and we’re left seeking to take what encouragement we can from an improved display, albeit in defeat, from Leeds United. One noticeable element fairly late on was the introduction of Caleb Ekuban, who was lively and threatening up front as he worked away, making his runs and contesting every ball. One thing this blogger would love to see over the rest of the season is a good run of games where Leeds play with a front two. It would take a better tactician than me to suggest the ideal formation behind a twin strike-force, but I do feel that Pierre-Michel Lasogga, despite his fairly impressive goal-scoring record, has not been used to the team’s best advantage when asked to fulfil a lone striker role. It doesn’t seem to me that this solitary workhorse thing  is his forte, and yet, on the occasions when he’s had some support in attack – usually in a crisis, such as 0-2 down to Millwall at Elland Road – Lasogga has suddenly looked full of menace. Ekuban, such a willing worker, appears to be the ideal foil for the big German, probably more so than the misfiring Kemar Roofe – and it’s surely only a matter of time before he, too, chips in with the goals. It would be well deserved; Ekuban’s current drought is not for the want of effort in his rare appearances between injuries so far.

Any input from the team shape experts out there would be genuinely welcome. 3-5-2? A diamond in midfield with Samu Saiz (when available) at the front of it, operating just behind Pierre and Caleb? It was a very wise man who once said that attack is the best form of defence, and I’m sure I’m not alone in my desire to see United go fully onto the offensive, making opponents too busy trying to stem our attacking tide, even to consider mounting a threat of their own. Yep, that would be nice.

So, what do others think? Do we have the personnel to play two up front? What’s the best balance for the team in that situation? Let’s have a heated debate. The play-offs pressure is largely off, now – unless the team suddenly gets its act together and moves up towards the top six. And, I’d venture to suggest, if that were to happen, it’d most likely be as a result of just such an attacking change of policy as I’ve suggested here.

Am I simply deluded? Do let me know.

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New Leeds United Badge, a Considered Response – by Rob Atkinson

No, no, no. For the sake of our pride and sanity, please God – NOOOOOOOOOO!!!

A thousand times no. Bring back the Smiley, give us a football in a Yorkshire rose. But not this. This is the worst idea ever.

No.

“Completely Lacking Spirit and Passion”: Leeds Owner Radrizzani Issues Stern Rebuke – by Rob Atkinson

In a complete departure from his usual urbanely diplomatic stance, Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani has taken to Twitter and bemoaned the “lowest moment for me since I joined” in what are, for him, harshly critical terms.

Normally, Radrizzani confines himself to what amounts to a supportive and broadly positive stance, preferring to exhort the fans to greater heights of support rather than issue any direct criticism. This tweet, though, utterly abandons any such diplomacy, and instead hits hard – striking right to the heart of any football professional‘s self-image. In accusing the players of lacking spirit and passion, he is levelling about the most serious charge imaginable. Let nobody doubt the anger and frustration behind such frank and revealing words.

It may be that Andrea has been rattled by the spitting storm that threatens to engulf the club, depriving Leeds of their best attacking player Samu Saíz for maybe up to six games – if the charge is proven. That would be enough to unsettle the most sanguine of club owners but, even so, Radrizzani’s words are pointed in the extreme. Tweeted to the entire Leeds United Universe, the criticism is scathing, devastating. Anybody on the Leeds United payroll will disregard this at their extreme peril.

It looks as though the owner is a long way short of happy. To an extent, the remedy is in Radrizzani’s own hands, with most of the January transfer window remaining available to him. It’s fair to surmise that, as the owner has seen fit to be so very publicly critical, and about areas of the game that form the basis of professional pride too, then much harsher words will be spoken in private behind the scenes at Elland Road. And what might come of that – well, it’s anyone’s guess. But the gloves are off now, the owner has broken cover and the game’s afoot.

There has, as yet, been no dreaded “vote of confidence”, for which small mercy Thomas Christiansen, our likeable Head Coach, may perhaps breathe a small sigh of relief. But a warning shot has definitely been fired across the bows of the Leeds staff, both playing and coaching. Once the top man identifies a deficiency in the Spirit and Passion Department, then something most definitely has to be done. The only one of the Holy Trinity of pro qualities not identified was “commitment” and, based on the Cup showing at Newport, that was most probably an oversight on Andrea’s part.

One way or another, the mood around the club has just been amply clarified in resoundingly emphatic terms; following momentous words like that, some sort of decisive action can usually be anticipated. It should be an interesting next few weeks down LS11 way.

Cardiff Revisited for Leeds as Whites Crash Out of Cup at Newport – by Rob Atkinson

South Wales

South Wales: Leeds United’s 21st Century FA Cup graveyard

An early lead in the FA Cup Third Round for Leeds United in an away tie in South Wales, live on TV. A sending off for our talismanic blond striker, then a late winner for opponents many places below us in the league ladder. A classic Cup shock, to the delight of the media and the nation as a whole. Yes – that was the fate of Leeds United 16 years and one day ago at Cardiff City. And today at Newport County, the same grisly circumstances played themselves out all over again as history eerily repeated itself to leave United stunned and “free to concentrate on the League”. For Alan Smith, read Samu Saíz. For Ninian Park, read Rodney Parade. The joyous celebrations in the media and around the nation remain identical.

On that previous occasion, United’s League position could not have been better – top of the Premier League pile with the Title in their sights. Today, the situation is of comparative poverty, with Leeds in and around the Championship play-off places after an inconsistent first half of the League campaign. Exiting the FA Cup is no tragedy, it’s happened once a year for the past 46 seasons. What we must hope is that the League slump, which followed United’s virtually identical Cup defeat 16 years ago, is not now replicated by Thomas Christiansen‘s troops. In that regard, it will clearly be seen that the sending-off of late and needless sub Saíz is far more potentially damaging to Leeds than an almost predictable Cup cock-up.

The really worrying thing was that, yet again, so many of the fringe players were found wanting when asked to step up and take their chances. We all know there’s a certain pressure that goes with the territory of playing for a club like Leeds, where expectations are always higher than attainments and the weight of history can be a heavy burden on young shoulders. But this fact has to inform player recruitment; it has to be a factor when targets are identified. Quality is essential, and will become ever more so as and when Leeds move upwards. But character and guts, with the ability to handle the goldfish-bowl environment and the glare of publicity – these are vital too, and it would seem that, in too many current squad members, those characteristics – epitomised today by lone warrior and scorer Gaetano Berardi – are sadly lacking.

Despite the uncanny similarity of the two South Wales FA Cup exits, 16 years apart, there’s no hiding the fact that the squad defeated at Cardiff was light years ahead of the current bunch in skill, character, attitude, desire – all the components of a successful football unit. That’s the gulf we have somehow to bridge over the next few years, if we’re to usher in our second century in a state befitting the history and global fame of this great club. On the evidence of the entire campaign so far – and in particular, based on the unpalatable offering we had to digest against Newport on Sunday lunchtime – there are light years still to travel, and this at a time when the clubs at the top of the game are streaking further away from the also-rans at an increasing speed.

By common consent, this squad – as a whole – is simply not good enough, and it will take more than boardroom platitudes to deal with that fact. The defeat at Cardiff was the start of a long and slippery slope for United. The best we can wish here and now is that the defeat at Newport might yet be part of the process whereby, slowly and painfully though it may be, Leeds United somehow contrive a return to something like their previous illustrious heights.

Grayson Haunted by Ghost of Wasted Leeds Transfer Windows Past – by Rob Atkinson

Grayson

Simon says: get the chequebook out if you want more promotion fizz

Simon Grayson is a man and a manager who knows a thing or two about getting clubs promoted from difficult leagues. As a lifelong Leeds fan and ex-United boss, he knows quite a bit about the Whites, too. One of the promotions on his CV came during his tenure as Leeds manager, and he was well-placed to achieve a second successive elevation after guiding his United team to second in the Championship halfway through that first season back up to that level. His verdict on that season is that investment needed to maintain a promotion challenge was not forthcoming, and thus Leeds fell away.

Looking back, few would argue with that assessment. So, when Sky Sports pundit Grayson stated, immediately after Leeds United‘s disappointing goalless draw with Nottingham Forest, that United are “a few players short” of kicking on, you really have to listen to such hard-won wisdom. It would seem he’s worried that history will repeat itself, that the failure to strengthen which eventually cost him the Leeds job may yet imperil current boss Thomas Christiansen.

Christiansen himself, when asked in the aftermath of defeat at Birmingham about team strengthening in the window just opened, merely stated “That is not a question for me”. It wasn’t the most ringing endorsement of January window boardroom caution (or complacency), and you suspect that, given his own way, Thomas would happily go shopping. His refusal to commit even to an opinion raises suspicions that the Elland Road chequebook may not see much of the light of day in the month to come.

Grayson, though, is under no obligation to keep his thoughts to himself, and he speaks from a position of expertise when he identifies deficiencies in the Leeds squad, up front most especially. To make up for that lack of cutting edge would cost serious money, but the old saw about speculating to accumulate rings as true at Leeds as it does anywhere else. The other side of that coin is that a failure to invest represents false economy, if the outcome is to miss out – yet again – on the crock of gold at the end of the promotion rainbow. That, in a nutshell, is the lesson of 2011.

Leeds are solvent enough to have their chances of the play-offs at least in their own hands. The money is there, beyond reasonable doubt, from the sales of Wood and Taylor to Burnley. Ironically, it’s a reliable striker and a specialist left-back we’re particularly short of right now, so there might even be a moral obligation, as well as a fiscal case, for investment to invigorate the squad for the rest of the season.

In my opinion, Christiansen’s refusal to comment on incoming transfers, beyond remarking that he will be talking to the board, speaks volumes. And what it might be saying is: give me the tools, and I’ll finish the job. His performance so far this season, given those two high-profile departures to Turf Moor, has been respectable to say the least – and he has unearthed a couple of diamonds in his summertime recruitment, aided, no doubt, by Victor Orta. Now, the opportunity is there to build on that fairly successful summer , as well as to make up for unavoidable losses in the outgoings market.

Watch this space. Leeds fans will be watching too, with a very close eye on what the club will or won’t do this month, and a characteristic readiness to draw conclusions about just how ambitious and hungry for promotion Leeds United really are.

Happy New Year 2018 & MOT to Leeds Fans Around the World – from Rob Atkinson

Happy New Year!

2017 has seen our great club move out of the darkness and back towards the light that has been at the end of a long tunnel for many years. It’s been a year of progress off the field, with new ownership and the re-acquisition of Elland Road. There has been consolidation on the pitch, with the signing of some exciting talent, and signs that we have a squad with the potential to be competitive at the top end of the Championship. All in all, on the whole, taken all round – it’s been a good year.

2018 is the first full year for this new Leeds United. It can be the year when the modern Whites era really takes off. If the trend continues of progress on the field and increasing crowd numbers in the stands, we can have high hopes of real success. Who knows if 2018 will see Leeds return to the top? But we’re having a go, and – even if this is not our year, we can construct a solid platform to get back where we belong in 2019, the Centenary Year for Yorkshire’s Premier club.

A very Happy New Year to all readers of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything the world over – and indeed to all Leeds United fans and lovers of this great game, wherever you may be. Let’s hope 2018 brings us all everything we would wish for ourselves and our loved ones – including a certain football club in Leeds 11!

Could Leeds Have a World Star on Debut at Leicester Tonight?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Kun Temenuzhkov

Kun Temenuzhkov appearing in the colours of Barcelona

Tonight’s Carabao Cup Tie at recent champions Leicester City could just see the first involvement in a senior Leeds United line up of a young international star who already enjoys global acclaim. 

Named as one of The Guardian’s top 60 young talents in the world, teenage sensation Kun Temenuzhkov has made several appearances for United’s under-23s this season after signing for the Whites in summer from Barcelona. It may be that the club see the Carabao Cup as the ideal situation to provide experience at first team level for such a hot prospect. Temenuzhkov’s absence from yesterday’s second-string match at Huddersfield has had fans speculating that his first team squad chance might be imminent. 

Whether the youngster would actually appear in the team, enabling Leeds to rest a regular striker for Friday’s summit meeting with Sheffield Utd has to be open to some doubt. But even travelling with the squad would be a sign of progress for the Bulgarian youth cap, and a mark of the esteem in which such a young player is held. 

It will be interesting to see what tonight’s team news reveals, with Leeds quite possibly looking to prioritise the sharing out of first team involvement. With a lad like Kun on the books, so highly regarded on the world stage in his age group, it might make sense to take a chance on broadening his experience. 

Two games in a few days will always test the club’s playing resources, and cup ties are increasingly seen as testing grounds for untried talent. An away clash at last season’s Champions League quarter-finalists would be a case of “in at the deep end” for Temenzhukov but, as the old saying goes, if they’re good enough, they’re old enough. 

Tonight might just be the first opportunity for Leeds fans to judge whether the latest wonderkid could actually have what it takes to succeed at Elland Road

Shock for Leeds United Fans: We’re Not Top, We’re THIRD   –   by Rob Atkinson


Yesterday appeared to be a day of triumph for the Whites, as they beat Ipswich Town before a packed and rapt Elland Road to maintain their lofty position atop the Championship. Leeds United, leading the way, a promotion charge gathering momentum, the lads are in form and all’s right with the world. What could be better?

Except, it ain’t necessarily so. You see, those sporting geniuses at Paddy Power have decided, in their wisdom (and not for any sordid commercial reasons or wanting to weasel out of a bet, nosirreebob) that Leeds United didn’t win on Saturday. So we’re not top of the league, we’re only third. Because – and mark this well – own goals don’t count. As the hapless Ipswich goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski was officially credited with Leeds’ third and ultimately decisive goal, Paddy Power have airily ruled it out; Leeds didn’t win after all, the match was drawn. 

How utterly stupid, I hear you say – and you’re right. But it’s not only stupid, it’s bent, perverse, grubby and laughably self-serving. For a bookie to throw an attitude like that, simply to avoid paying out on a bet won fair and square, is utter lunacy. What credibility do they have left in the wake of such a crass decision? None; not a shred. 

As things stand, punters who bet on Leeds to win and Lasogga to score anytime are out of pocket in a totally inexcusable and scandalous manner. Lasogga undeniably scored. No arguments there. And Leeds undeniably won – yet Paddy Power denies it, for their own tawdry reasons. 

I hope that sanity prevails and that those frustrated and outraged punters get their winnings after all. But I also hope that Paddy Power’s business takes a massive hit over this – who in their right mind will place a bet with such a very unscrupulous firm? Not me, for one. And I bet all sensible punters feel the same.

Let us not forget, this is the firm that offered odds on the assassination of Barack Obama, amongst other tasteless actions. They even took bets on Ugo Ehiogu becoming manager of Birmingham City, after the former Leeds defender’s tragic death. I feel safe in saying that this is not a reputable firm.

Yesterday’s shameful decision not to honour bets on a Leeds victory disgracefully confirms that verdict. Paddy Power: pay up, shut up – and then get lost.

Oh – and we did win. And we’re still top. In the real world that is – not the murky and crooked view of a dodgy bookie. 

Leeds, Spurs, Everyone: Give Arsenal’s Main Man a Chance   –   by Rob Atkinson


The Tories think you are STUPID. That’s why they talk at you in three word, alliterative sentences, which they repeat over and over. 
Strong and stable. Brexit means Brexit. Magic money tree. Enough is enough. Coalition of Chaos. 

It’s the crudest and most obvious form of brainwashing you could imagine, but the Tories think – because you didn’t go to Eton, Harrow and then the Varsity – that you will be easily-led enough to vote FOR fox-hunting, the end of our NHS, tax rises for everyone except the rich, cuts in police and education, the Dementia Tax – and all the other nasties that the Nasty Party wants to foist on the many, so that the few can continue to ride their beloved gravy train.

They think you’ll be daft and masochistic enough to vote AGAINST free education, a decent living wage, investment in housing and social care and 10,000 extra police to make our streets safer. They think you’re THAT stupid. Well, are you?
I have a three word sentence for you. VOTE THEM OUT. And a four word sentence. BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. 
Because, in one respect, the Tories are right. Enough IS enough. Seven years of Tory rule have dangerously weakened our front-line defences, driven teachers to despair, piled more pressure onto overworked and underpaid nurses and junior doctors. They’ve made a mess of the economy and a laughing-stock of the nation.

Now Trump is supporting the woman who failed as Home Secretary, who is failing as Prime Minister and who wants YOU to back her vague and uncosted manifesto – in effect, sign a blank cheque – for another five grim years, so that she can continue to run down vital services and sell off infrastructure. When Trump supports something, you know it can’t be good.
The last seven years of ideological austerity, which have seen national debt double to almost £2 trillion, are ample proof that the Tories are hopelessly malign and clueless. Enough really IS enough. And this election will be your last chance to make a fresh start before the Tories rig the democracy game to make sure they stay in power forever. Don’t be stupid. Don’t let them do it. The stakes are high, have your say on Thursday, and get rid of the Tories. 
Give Mr. Corbyn your trust and your faith. Give him a chance to put things right for the many, not just the few. It’s probably the chance of a lifetime to escape the yoke of neoliberalism. 

America missed the opportunity afforded them by Bernie Sanders. Look where they are now. We must not make the same mistake. 

#VoteLabour #JC4PM #ToriesOut

January Could Be A Very Exciting Month for Leeds Utd Fans – by Rob Atkinson

Elland Road

Elland Road awaits a brighter future

It’s never wise to pay too much attention to rumour mills, as they do tend to churn out conflicting stories – just in the interests of keeping those speculative wheels grinding away and earning revenue. Sometimes, though, there’s that enticing morsel of consistency in what you’re hearing – and that’s when you start to take some notice, because there’s a general and possibly meaningful trend in the tone and content of what you might normally dismiss as mere flim-flam and tabloid fodder.

Such is the case right now with Leeds United. And it’s not just the relative consistency of the rumours, it’s also a new feeling about the way things are going at Elland Road; one that might just herald the end of the old order, ushering in something new and – if we can dare for a moment perchance to dream – positive. Until a few weeks ago, that word positive would have seemed rather incongruous as applied to our beloved club – but, recently, there’s been little alternative other than to resort to such an unlikely description of the feeling and atmosphere in and around Yorkshire‘s Number One club. Results, performances, things the players have been saying, the way the management team have been quietly and serenely getting on with their jobs – all have justified repeated use of the P-word. It’s a little odd and unfamiliar but, oh brother, does it feel good.

Taking the concrete facts first, we have in the relatively recent past seen a novel solidity in our defence, courtesy of Messrs. Bartley and Jansson above all, that has spread confidence further forward in the team, leading to all-round better displays. We’ve seen some highly competent performances in matches we’d certainly have struggled with in previous seasons, and we’ve put together a run of form that puts us in the top three teams in the division over the past ten games. Furthermore, we’ve progressed to a domestic cup quarter-final, where we’ll renew hostilities with that old friend and foe from Anfield, Liverpool. That’s such an iconic fixture for English football, and its one-off reappearance will whet the appetites of many for a return of Leeds United to the top flight. We have a sell-out home clash with Newcastle to look forward to, as well as a double header with another formerly big club in Aston Villa. Things are, in brief, looking up.

The rumour side of things is, as ever, more problematic. But, as mentioned earlier, there is a certain unanimity in the whispers emanating from various sources, with more and more reliable journalists, as well as some Sun “writers”, agreeing that a deal to sell a stake in the club to Italian sports rights mogul Andrea Radrizzani is more or less imminent. This takes place against a background of the FA having apparently made a decision over current owner Massimo Cellino‘s latest alleged flouting of the rules, although there is some delay in announcing that decision. The man himself, meanwhile, has been as quiet as a severed horse’s head on a pillow, which does not conform to his usual manner at all. It must all add up to something – but what?

It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that quite a few people out there are in the know, but subject to some sort of embargo in which the FA may well be instrumental. The whole Leeds situation, particularly in connection with this third-party agent case, is described as “sensitive”. You get the feeling that, behind the wall of silence, there is plenty of loud stuff going on. Meanwhile, the football end of the club has been able to function perfectly well, thank you – almost as if it had not a care in the world. Do they know something good that we don’t, these football people? Time will tell.

If Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything might be permitted to don its Nostradamus hat for a moment, then I think it’s fair to say that all of the above factors, when taken all round, add up to the inescapable conclusion that something big has been brewing for a while now – and that it might just be about to come to a boil. While the playing and coaching staff get on with preparing for the undoubtedly stern challenges that lie in wait in the pre-Christmas period, we might just be able to look a little further ahead, post Festive celebrations, into the New Year – and, if those of us nursing optimistic hopes and dreams are right, it could be a very exciting mid-season transfer window for us all.

With a bit of luck and a lot of very hard work, Leeds United could well be in a challenging position by the turn of the year. If we are – and if the current crop of promising signs bear fruit – then the time and circumstances could be ripe for a bit of a splash in the transfer market to set us up for the run-in and endgame. This blog has a distinct feeling that this is what may come to pass.

Watch this space, fellow MOT-ers. We could be in for a thrill-a-minute ride from January onwards!