Tag Archives: Vile Animals

Keys & Gray: Just the Tip of the Iceberg of Institutional Hatred for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

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Two smug idiots: merely a symptom rather than the disease itself

There’s been a bit of a storm over the picture above, which I have reluctantly reproduced for the dubious benefit of those who may not have seen it so far.  It’s understandable that people should be angry and upset over what is, even allowing for the dribbling idiocy of the two has-beens concerned, such a blatant example of ignorance and disrespect.  Let’s face it, Keys and Gray are not the sharpest tools in the box.  Sky viewers were unwilling witnesses to their developing bromance over far too many years as lynchpins of the Sports Channels’ football coverage.  This came to an abrupt end when the gruesome twosome allowed the baser end of their base personalities to show itself in all its shameful horror with a short series of hatefully sexist outbursts in 2011.  Sky dropped them immediately, and they have been relegated to marginal interest media ever since – though still hopelessly devoted to each other and to their “grinning schoolboy” manner of presentation.  So clearly, we can expect moronic, insensitive behaviour from insensitive morons – that is their stock in trade.  But the important thing is – what about the people who advise them?  What sort of thought process leads up to the disgraceful picture above?

For the benefit of those who may be unaware, two Leeds United fans were brutally murdered in 2000 by followers of Galatasaray, an Istanbul club which glories in the slogan so proudly displayed by the leering Gray and Keys.  That being the case, you’d have thought that some caution might be exhibited by two formerly mainstream broadcasters, or at least by whoever bears the responsibility of doing their thinking for them.  The fact that no such caution was even thought of is down to the involvement of the media’s favourite hate figure, Leeds United  I can state this with total certainty: if the fans so tragically killed all those years ago had been followers of Man U, or Liverpool, or any other club with the scandalous exception of Leeds United, then the above picture would not have seen the light of day.  I am absolutely 100% clear about that.  And therein resides the problem for all who love Leeds United.  The level of hatred and disrespect for our club in the media, and in the football world and the country more broadly, is absolutely unprecedented.  It is institutional in its nature, all-pervading in its extent and eagerly subscribed to in just about any organisation you might care to name.  It goes back a long, long way and has affected the club in its dealings with not just the media, but the games authorities both on and off the field.  I have written in the past about how this has manifested itself, both among referees (abroad as well as at home) – and in the broadcast and print media.

Ask yourself – and try to be honest.  Yes, I’m talking here especially to those who disagree with this blog automatically, as if on principle.  Go on – ask yourself.  If the two murdered fans had been Man U supporters – would Keys and Gray have been allowed to perpetrate this moronic picture stunt?  Would they even have shown any desire or agreement to do it?  No, of course not.  But because it’s Leeds, it doesn’t matter.  Because it’s Leeds, the question isn’t even considered as to how appropriate or otherwise this might be, how insensitive, how callously, needlessly hurtful and insulting to those who were bereaved, and to the wider Leeds United community.  If it had been two Man U lads murdered, hands would have been thrown up in horror at the very idea.  No, no, guys – they’d have said – you just can’t do this.  You all know this is true, and you all know the distinction being drawn in shallow, dishonest minds between Leeds United – the Damned United – and all the other clubs.  It goes on everywhere, and it’s symptomatic of a national sickness where Leeds are concerned, manifesting itself in various degrees of shocking disrespect, overt, ugly hatred and a contemptuous dismissal of any protests from those of us who love the club.  And then they have the brass nerve to call us “Dirty” and “Damned”.

We can look after ourselves and our own, of course.  That’s what “being Leeds” is all about.  Those who strike against us as a club, or as a global community of fans, tend to reap the whirlwind – especially in these days of social media.  Keys is finding out about this right now.  But still it goes on, time after time, year after year – so we always have to be poised and ready to defend ourselves against attack from the outside.  Whether it’s a paranoid failure calling us all “vile animals”, or a complacent Match of the Day presenter waggling his ears in his eagerness to include every single managerial legend except the Don in a montage of Great Bosses, or even these two relative nobodies above, posing with smirks on their faces and those shameful shirts proclaiming their ignorance and contempt – it all comes down to the same thing.  It’s the ultimate siege complex, Leeds United against Everybody Else.  But we’re on our way back now, and they’re going to have to live with that.  Keys and Gray in isolation are nothing – two annoying bugs to be swatted away.  It’s what they symbolise in that embarrassing image that we have to be aware of – that’s what we have to be ready to deal with and oppose, especially when we are unwelcome top-flight members once again, back at the top table with the rest of them trying to pretend it hasn’t happened.

And deal with it we will.  We Are Leeds, we’re Marching On Together.  Stuff the lot of them.  All we as Leeds fans need is to know our enemy.  And that means accepting that the enemy are everywhere and that we only have each other to rely upon as we gate-crash that Premier League party.  Let them hate us, let them show themselves up in these utterly disgusting and shameful betrayals of any class or dignity.  Hate away and see where it gets you.  You won’t be able to ignore us.  We Are Leeds – and we’re on the way back.

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Sack for Wednesday’s Jones Spares Him Date With Leeds’ “Vile Animals” – by Rob Atkinson

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Oh Father – why hast thou forsaken me?

In the light of recent developments, what might not have been the most comfortable of occasions for a beleaguered David Jones, the now former manager of Sheffield Wednesday, will perhaps mercifully be avoided.  Due in January to “welcome” back to Hillsborough Yorkshire’s top club Leeds United and the magnificent supporters he unwisely chose to dub “vile animals”, Jones has instead been issued with a pre-Christmas P45.  There can be little doubt that he has earned it, having presided over the Wendies’ worst start to a campaign for 122 years as well as being prone to the occasional emotional outburst amid sloughs of deep and sulky gloom.  If there are any wise Wendy fans out there – and we’re talking a seriously rare species here – they will concede that their beloved club are, perhaps, better off without the Jones Boy. Whoever takes over can hardly do worse.

It may, of course, not be such good news for Leeds United.  Now they will be faced in January not just by the traditional chip-on-the-shoulder performance of inspired effort typical of all the smaller Yorkshire clubs facing the Elland Road giants – there will also be the new manager factor to contend with.  They might even get another draw.

It’s difficult to feel any sympathy for Jones, but he can be relied upon to supply all he needs of that himself.  Self-pity and self-justification are very much the strong suit of a man who seems to regard the world outside of his own little bubble of misery with a balefully jaundiced air of injured indignation.  After the latest defeat for his former employers on saturday, he was holding forth on the undesirability of replacing him with someone better.  ‘This club has had 12 or 13 managers in recent years but sacking managers isn’t the way forward,’ he said, hopefully.  But Wendies owner Milan Mandaric had evidently seen and suffered enough, and the loss at Blackpool turned out to be the last straw.  The search will now commence for someone who might be able to preserve the Howls’ Championship status and regruntle the apparently disgruntled Wendy fans – no easy task.

Whoever takes over the reins at Hillsborough will have his work cut out.  They need somebody strong, an organiser, someone who will take no nonsense in the dressing room.  Ideally the successful candidate’s CV should include at the very least a strong dislike for Leeds United.

Neil Warnock, perhaps….?

Could Careless Talk Have Counted Tragically Towards the Loss of a Life? – by Rob Atkinson

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It was a very mixed weekend for Leeds United fans.  On the Saturday, the team beat Middlesbrough 2-1 to enter the play-off zone and maintain their recent good run.  But on Sunday, we awoke to news that one of our number, in a coma for over a year since being attacked on a night out in Sheffield on the 11th November 2012, had sadly died without ever regaining consciousness.  And at that point I have to say “Rest In Peace” to Richard Ismail, 45 years old, known to his friends as “Moody”.  The thoughts of so many are with his family at this awful time.  All of those who will be looking for justice to be done will be relieved to hear that, since a change of law in 1996, there is no longer a year-and-a-day cut off point for a charge of murder to be brought.  There will therefore now be a murder investigation even though Mr Ismail’s death occurred over the old time limit after the attack.  It’s understood that three individuals, widely believed to be fans of Sheffield Wednesday FC, are currently out on bail pending further possible action.

Under a month before the attack on Moody, Sheffield Wednesday had met Leeds United in a Championship fixture at Hillsborough Stadium.  It was not an edifying spectacle. There were scenes of violence on the field as Wednesday’s scrum-capped central defender Miguel Llera charged around, putting in tackles that resembled various degrees of common assault.  Leeds defenders, as is their wont, gave as good as their team-mates got. In the second half, just after United’s equalising goal, a lone Leeds fan ran onto the pitch and pushed a startled Wednesday keeper Chris Kirkland in the face causing him to fall and remain, shocked, on the ground.  The moron responsible went back into the crowd, but was subsequently identified and prosecuted.  Throughout the evening, both sets of fans breached the boundaries of good taste, Leeds fans taunting Wednesday manager David Jones over charges relating to alleged child abuse, of which he had been cleared years earlier.  Wednesday fans for their part gleefully mocked the Leeds support over the deaths of two Leeds fans in Istanbul in the year 2000.  It was a bad and disgusting day at the office and, sadly, it didn’t end at the final whistle.

After the match, the highly emotional Wednesday manager Jones, plainly trembling with anger and resentment, was asked about the condition of his goalkeeper Kirkland. Somewhat surprisingly, Jones paid little heed to this enquiry beyond acknowledging that the boy was shaken and claiming it had hindered his team from seeking a winning goal. He seemed far more concerned by the verbal abuse he had suffered, than by the physical attack on his goalkeeper.  In an unrestrained on-camera performance, he castigated the Leeds fans, comparing their behaviour to “racism”, taking Leeds manager Neil Warnock to task for praising the fans’ support of the United team and ending by saying that the Leeds fans were “vile animals.  All of them.”  Warnock seemed bemused by such an outburst, shrugging it off, doubtless aware from experience that immediately after a match is not an ideal time for rational thought and reflection.  Jones was quite specific, not to say selective in his attentions; he did not refer to the taunting of the Leeds fans by the Sheffield crowd over the Istanbul murders.

Because of the short time lapse between these shoddy events and the subsequent attack in Sheffield on Mr Ismail, the question has to arise: how much of what was said may have been in the minds of the protagonists on that fateful and ultimately tragic night?  It is understood that Richard Ismail was out for the evening with his partner, and that his clothing identified him as a Leeds United fan.  Or, let us not forget, as a “vile animal” in the minds of any Sheffield Wednesday fans daft enough, bone-headedly crazy enough, to have taken seriously what their club’s manager had said only a matter of weeks before.

Did those intemperate words still ring in the attackers’ heads?  Were they, in their own warped minds, taking action against a “vile animal”?  Did they, just possibly, feel that they were meting out some summary rough justice to a person identifiable with the fans who had taunted their own Mr Jones just the previous month?  Who knows what goes through a thug’s head as he swings into action with like-minded accomplices, encouraged at outnumbering a lone target who is on a night out with his partner?  But the question has to arise: if Mr Jones had been more circumspect in his remarks – or if, perhaps, a more decent interval had been allowed to elapse before any interview, to allow emotions to subside a little – might things not, just possibly, have turned out differently? Might this tragic episode possibly have been avoided?

It is, of course, impossible to say.  But the factors are all there for anyone looking for any kind of cause and effect scenario – just as the lesson is there to be learned about thinking before you speak, and refraining at all costs from going on camera, to an audience of millions, and saying things that are unwise; things that are far too inclusive; not, in short, the kind of things a level-headed professional really wants to be caught on the spot saying.  I remember being taken aback and more than a little shocked at the emotional vehemence of Jones’ performance in the post-match interview.  It just seemed so disproportionate, so incongruous in someone who had been a professional in football and in the sphere of social care for many years; fair enough, he’d taken dog’s abuse over a matter that should have had a line drawn under it years before. But sadly, these things happen – whenever crowds gather and alcohol has been consumed.  Sets of fans will go all out to bait each other, and they will raise the stakes in retaliation.  It’s not nice, but it’s far from unknown – and it’s part of the cross a football manager, or indeed many other professionals in different areas of public life, just have to bear.  That’s part of the reason they’re lavishly paid, part of the reason that it’s the tougher personalities that take these kind of jobs.  And really – wasn’t there some sort of support for Jones, from within the Sheffield Wednesday club?  He looked in need of it.

Still, Mr Jones didn’t appear inclined to withdraw his remarks even days later, although he did qualify them somewhat.  But by then, any possible damage had already been done. The internet was buzzing, you heard about “vile animals” everywhere. Some Leeds fans took it as a perverse badge of honour, others were more than a little annoyed and offended.  This latter group would post pictures of their cherubically cute 7 year old boy or girl in a mini Leeds shirt, asking “is this a vile animal, Mr Jones?”  Feelings ran very high for quite some time afterwards, and I can’t get out of my head the possibility that they might still have been running high enough, a few short weeks later, to have been a factor in turning what should have been a family night out into an ordeal of over a year, ending in the untimely death of a man who had done nothing wrong.

I don’t know if Mr Jones’ thoughts have run along these lines, or – if they have – whether he’s admitted to himself that he could have applied a little more self-control, been a little less all-embracingly condemnatory of ALL Leeds United fans – every one of them. Because, in saying something like that, you just never know what notion you might plant in the pea-brain of some self-righteous moron who wants then to take revenge. And from there, it’s impossible to say what might happen.  All we know is what did happen, and we know what was said – so publicly – just a short time before.  Whether there was a relationship between the one and the other will be impossible to prove – but the sad fact is that there could have been.  And if that doesn’t make the case for a bit more thought about the timing and content of these emotional post-match interviews, then I don’t know what does.   It is now being speculated that the forthcoming meeting of the two clubs at Hillsborough in January – a game that will also be live on Sky TV – will be played out in an atmosphere even uglier than last year’s malevolent brew – if such a thing were possible.  Given Jones’ currently-precarious position at Sheffield Wednesday, it’s difficult to say with any degree of certainty whether he will still be in his job by then. Perhaps it really would be for the best if he’s gone.

What seems clear enough to me is that, when considering what led up to Mr Ismail’s tragic fate, it’s not possible to view David Jones’ heat-of-the-moment remarks purely in isolation.  You throw a stone, and out spread the ripples, inevitably, unstoppably. If you speak on camera to thousands or millions, it behoves you to keep a check on what you say, and to bear in mind that your words will be interpreted in a variety of different ways, by a variety of different people, some more literal-minded than others.  And, given that – when there’s a rabble out there eager to be roused – it’s just not worth the risk to let off steam to that extent.  An event like Moody’s death puts starkly into context issues such as name-calling and the temporary catharsis offered by a hasty rant on camera.  Maybe, in time, Mr Jones and others can reflect on the implications of what was said and what was done in Sheffield just over a year ago.

Richard Ismail “Moody” 1968-2013    RIP  MOT

Leeds United – Does the Fightback Start With This Sweetest of Wins?

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Leeds United Manager Brian McDermott

Welcome to Leeds, Brian McDermott.  Whatever else happens during your reign at Elland Road, you could hardly have had a better start, and there were signs aplenty of much-needed change in application, atmosphere and attitude in the team, the crowd, the whole club.  And who better to win against in your first game?  Sweet as a nut.  Thank you so much.

Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday was actually beyond sweet, for several reasons. Probably the most important of these was the fact that, after months of saying “we must win today to squeeze into the play-offs”, we’d finally woken up to the brutal reality that a run of poor results had brought us juddering down to; so now it was “we must win today because, oh sweet Jesus, we could get bloody relegated.”  That pressure has at least eased off slightly in the wake of a somewhat nervous but rapturously welcomed win.  We’re not out of the woods yet, but we may at least be out-distancing the wolf and leaving poor Grandma to face a bottom three finish on her own.

The other reasons for relishing Leeds United’s win at the expense of the Wendies, as we fondly think of them, date back to the return fixture at Hillsborough earlier in the season. For those who have forgotten, Leeds played awfully, went behind and looked well on the way to defeat.  Then Michael Tonge’s stunning equaliser was followed immediately by a yob invading the pitch from among the Leeds fans who’d turned up merely to watch the game, and proceeding to land the third-best punch of the evening on the unsuspecting face of Wendies ‘keeper Chris Kirkland.  The two best punches had been landed earlier in the piece by thuggish home defender Miguel Llera on two different Leeds players, and were ignored by the ref, in the normal FA-approved manner.  Llera, a lanky dork in a head-guard, might normally have been subject to some scrutiny after the game for his free interpretation of the rules regarding lamping your opponents in the jaw, but on this occasion the focus was almost entirely upon the actions of the miscreant who’d emerged from the away support.  Questions were asked in the House, resolutions were passed by the United Nations, the NATO alert status was upgraded to Amber and the Galactic Federation issued an ultimatum demanding that Leeds United be relocated to dwarf planet Pluto.  Or that’s how it felt.

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Quiet, Jones

Strangely, the only person even slightly to distract the full attention of the Fourth Estate from this heinous act of a drunken thug, was Wendies manager Dave Jones, who seemed confused as to who the real victim was in the whole sorry episode.  Interviewed directly after the match, an over-emotional and highly-strung Jones was asked about his take on events, the interviewer clearly expecting a confirmation that his ‘keeper had been assaulted, that it was disgusting and that it was all Leeds United’s fault.  What Jones came up with though was a protracted whinge about the chants directed at him by Leeds fans, that he’d had this for years, that it was disgusting and that it was all Leeds United’s fault.  He rounded off his tirade of barely-suppressed sobs by stating that the Leeds fans were “vile animals”.  All of them.  No exceptions.

In the next few days, once the laughing over Jones’ histrionics had died down somewhat, many Leeds fans took to posting pictures on social media of their sweet little eight or nine-year old lad or lass, clad in Leeds United regalia, clearly incapable of melting butter in their innocent little mouths, to point out that said little lass or lad had been tarred by the obnoxious and unwisely gobby Jones as a “Vile Animal”.  It was an apt demonstration of how silly it is to open your trap without first engaging your brain, but there was no real climb-down from the defiant Wendies boss, and – the rantings of the gutter press aside – it was generally agreed that he hadn’t come out of it too well, and had indeed made something of a prat of himself.  Apart from seeming entirely focused on his own perceived (non-physical) injuries, to the exclusion it appeared of his poor goalkeeper who had actually copped for a fourpenny one, Jones had also managed to cock a deaf ‘un to the vile – if I may borrow his word of choice – chants from the Wendies faithful about the two Leeds fans murdered in Istanbul.  Jones’ lexicon of sick insults  would seem to be a highly selective publication.  If only he could have foreseen how the “Vile Animals” tag would be taken up by the Leeds faithful, almost as an inverted badge of honour, maybe wiser counsel would have prevailed.  But it’s probably fair to say that Jones doesn’t have a wiser counsel.

Annoyingly after all this, Mr David Jones, Sheffield Wednesday’s current manager, was not apparent on the touchline at Elland Road on Saturday.  We’d all been looking forward to renewing the acquaintance, to seeing Jones trying to avoid the scornful gaze of twenty thousand people, to watching him squirm as the hated Whites (hopefully) trod his on-form Wendies into the turf.  The victory came to pass, as we know; but Jones had managed to incur a highly convenient and opportune touchline ban, so was mercifully spared running the gauntlet of vile animals and copping for another load of earthy West Yorkshire humour.  Some would say that Jones had engineered this situation by deliberately making intemperate comments after a draw at Bristol City which he knew would see him wriggle out of an Elland Road ordeal, and that it was the act of a coward and a hypocrite.  And I’d be among their number.  Dave Jones is a ridiculous and embittered little man, and I can hardly think of a more fitting victim for what was – I sincerely hope – only the first of many McDermott-inspired victories for Leeds United.

So this victory was the ideal start, but the Strife of Brian may yet be lurking ahead.  Even if Leeds do finally pull well clear of the drop-zone in the remainder of this season, the new Gaffer certainly has his work cut out to rebuild the morale of a club that has lurched through a long drawn-out crisis of a season which has brought massive disappointment in the league, only partly assuaged by two decent Cup runs and the slaying of several Premier League “giants” at Elland Road – just to remind us what being Leeds used to be all about.  Can Brian restore these heady times and glory days?  It all depends, not least on the support he can winkle out of whoever owns the club by the time summer finally comes.  Next season will be a success if the playing style can be found to suit the personnel available, and if the team actually compete like they mean it, instead of strolling through the motions like case-studies for chronic apathy.  Promotion would be nice, but it’s not mandatory, not in a manager’s first season.  Let’s just battle, show some application and skill, and let’s get that old Leeds United spirit back, so that we can be not just loud, but proud again.

Oh – and if Mr Jones has somehow clung on to his Hillsborough hot-seat – six points off the Wendies would be just lovely too.  Thanks again.