Tag Archives: WACCOE

Can Wonderkid Jack Clarke Make Miraculous History for Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

…league games since United got a penalty kick

Leeds United’s teenage wonder and rumoured Manchester City target Jack Clarke is already making a considerable name for himself, on the back of a string of cameo performances that have seen him lend a new dimension to the Whites’ attacking play. No less a football authority than Clarke’s Elland Road manager, Marcelo Bielsa, has acknowledged the youngster’s potential to be a game changer, and it may even be that Clarke is destined to write himself into the history of Yorkshire’s No. 1 club by winning for them – whisper it in hushed tones – a penalty kick.

Some, of course, will dismiss this as fanciful in the extreme. There’s some justification for such cynical pessimism too – teams don’t go 58 games without a penalty (and having ten awarded against them over the same period) without some pretty determined referees being prepared to turn a blind eye and cock a deaf ear to all appeals, however much merit they may have. So why should a fleet-footed wide man, with consummate control and more tricks up his sleeve than you could shake a stick at, make any real difference?

The reason for guarded optimism lies in young Jack’s engaging ability to receive the ball in space out wide, in an onside position (unlike Alioski) and then jink and trick his way past his full back before making inroads into the opposition area (unlike Alioski). Keep doing this, and you’ll get chopped down in the box, sure as eggs are eggs. And keep getting chopped down in the box – well, surely you’re bound to get a decision sooner or later, even if you’ve got a Leeds United badge on your shirt.

And when that momentous penalty kick is awarded, maybe even this season, we might even manage to convert it, unless we’ve actually forgotten how it’s done. In which case, I do hope that the squad occasionally watch the video of last season’s shootout at Burnley in the Carabao Cup, when we made taking penalties look as easy as shelling peas. With that encouragement, anything is possible – but maybe I should just stop wishing for penalties, and enjoy how our heroes seem to be managing perfectly well without any.

Still – it would be nice. So make those runs, young Jack, commit those defenders and just hope that, when the referee does blow his whistle, it’s not just to book you for “diving”.

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Sky To Make All Leeds Games Start After 9pm Due to Pre-Watershed Sweariness? – by Rob Atkinson

Sky needs Leeds, but not the naughty language

Regular viewers of the various Sky Sports channels may have noticed a certain primness creeping into the satellite broadcaster’s football coverage of late. They’re coming across a bit like a stern Victorian maiden aunt, the type who, on hearing any form of profanity, will purse her lips and call upon high heaven to hurl a lightning bolt or two at the profaner.

Time was when sound effects microphones would pick up all sorts of four-letter naughtiness, and hardly even twitch by way of reaction. Not an eyelid would be batted in the commentary box, there would be no blushes mantling the cheeks of the presenters, no placatory words of apology for a TV audience possibly rendered rigid with shock at such audibly blue language.

Truth be told, those viewers at home didn’t give a toss anyway. They would sit there unbothered by any amount of effing and jeffing from the terraces, intent on watching the game and enjoying the atmosphere that was, let’s face it, generated in no small measure by the ripe and ribald chanting of the deeply partisan sets of opposing supporters. It’s how football is meant to be, and this nanny-like tendency to worry out loud that viewers may be offended is as annoying as it is deeply unnecessary.

But, it does seem to be the way that Sky’s football coverage is going. Time without number, just lately, I’ve heard the commentator intoning “We apologise if you were offended by any bad language you may have heard”, and I for one find it embarrassingly paternalistic and patronising.

As for their approach to Leeds United games, regular readers may well have guessed, correctly, that the headline to this piece is tongue-in-cheek. But any satire has its roots in things that could conceivably happen without any great tide of shock or surprise ensuing and, already, Sky’s attitude towards the vocal contributions of the massed Leeds support has been one of summary censorship, as we witnessed after a mere 10 seconds of United’s last TV fixture at Wigan last weekend.

At the first hint of “language likely to offend” – and particularly because it was, from Sky’s point of view, damagingly anti-corporate in its intent, the sound engineers pounced, the audio dampers were applied, and the United chants were largely muffled. With them went most of the atmosphere, but that’s seemingly a trade Sky are willing to make, rather than allowing any neat and raucous summary of their coverage and underlying philosophy to be heard by thousands of customers.

At the moment, and for as long as Sky’s suppression of audible protest continues, this is an upsettingly lop-sided commercial relationship. Sky’s Championship coverage needs Leeds United far more than United needs Sky, with the viewing figures for Whites games far outstripping the rest of the field. And yet the most televised club in this league receives a sum which is but a fraction of what the bottom-placed Premier League club trousers – now, that’s not a good deal, that’s blatant exploitation. Add to that the continuing smattering of snide remarks and unflattering reportage, and you wonder why we bother – except that, for many fans, live TV is their best and only chance of seeing their chosen team in action.

So, don’t expect to see Leeds United games kicking off exclusively at post-watershed times of the day – not just yet, anyway. But there are rumblings of discontent about Sky’s attitude in several aspects of their coverage, both from within the club and without, among the massive broader support at home and overseas.

Let’s not forget that United owner Andrea Radrizzani is a TV mogul in his own right, and has publicly expressed strong views not wholly supportive of the status quo. It may well be – fingers crossed – that Leeds will ascend to the top flight sooner rather than later, and feast on the financial bounty now denied them. But that doesn’t make the existing situation fair or right, especially for the clubs left outside in the cold, noses pressed to the window, drooling at the banquet within. That kind of inequality sows the seeds of revolution, which is something the fat cats in the Sky boardrooms would do well to reflect upon.

Notts Forest Fans Rail at Leeds ‘Cheats’, But Strangely Quiet on Their Own ‘Evil Genius’ – by Rob Atkinson

The City Ground Nottingham – home of hypocrites

Football, as befits this country’s national sport, used to have standards. Now, it seems, the Beautiful Game is more about double standards. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the city of Nottingham, where hypocrisy and sanctimony walk hand in hand wherever Notts Forest fans gather, with an overarching sense of holier-than-thou in every nook and cranny.

This past week, Notts Forest fans have been throwing their hands up in disgusted horror and emitting shrill squeaks of protest at the nature of Leeds striker Kemar Roofe‘s late equaliser against them at Elland Road last Saturday. Roofe seemed to hold his hand up and admit the goal may not have been strictly legit, but that has failed to pacify the outraged “Tricky Trees”, who had plainly never before witnessed such infamy and unfair play.

Or so you’d have thought, given the depth of their apparent disgust. A few of the City Ground bright boys even logged into a live stream of a Leeds United U-23s game from Thorp Arch earlier this week, simply so that they could be seen in the live comments, in full-on j’accuse mode, howling “cheats!” at bemused United fans watching the game online. That’s going out of your way to make a point, actually logging in to a second string game. It borders on obsession. Surely, they must feel they have a solid grievance and a steep elevation of moral high ground.

And yet… and yet… check out this YouTube clip of Darius Henderson‘s late equaliser against Middlesbrough a few years back. Surely that can’t be handball? It really can’t be – because, if it were, those highly self-righteous Notts Forest fans would remember it, and then possibly forbear from casting “cheat” aspersions on others, lest they might appear to be hypocritical humbugs

Certainly though, the Darius Henderson equaliser does appear to be a far better example of a blatant handball than Roofe’s, which was more of a clumsy lopsided tumble compared to Henderson’s classical punch. And some Forest fans certainly do seem aware of this less than glorious episode in their history – indeed, Henderson is referred to tongue-in-cheek as an “evil genius” in some quarters of the “Tricky Trees” online world. Why then be so up in arms about Roofe’s more innocuous effort – unless you are indeed the most blinkered variety of hypocrite? It’s a puzzler, right enough.

Incidentally, talking of punches, try Googling “Dawson on Jansson” – for a damning tweet which may show another incident in the Leeds v Notts Forest game where the away side appears less than wholly innocent. This little cameo should be considered alongside any claims that Pontus Jansson actually raised his hands to Michael Dawson (who, let’s face it, deserves punching as often as possible).

Going back to that Henderson handball goal against Boro, though, certainly the opposition manager on that occasion was in no doubt that his team had been cheated out of victory. “I didn’t need to see the replay, for me it was enough to see the reaction of my players,” he said. “I’m sure it was handball because my players told me it was through their reaction on the pitch.“ The Middlesbrough manager that day, so incensed at Notts Forest’s dishonesty and cheating, was one Aitor Karanka. I wonder – whatever became of him?

Perhaps the Notts Forest fans bleating online, as well as former Leeds and Forest skipper Kenny Burns, of whom I wrote yesterday, should take some time to reflect on both of the incidents highlighted here, and possibly agree that only he who is without sin should cast the first stone. Or, to be less piously biblical about it: stop lobbing stones when you’re living in a bloody great greenhouse, you utter hypocrites.

I’m sorry to speak intemperately. But it’s as clear as clear can be that Notts Forest fans are bang to rights here for cant, humbug and hypocrisy – and there’s good reason to suppose that even their manager, when he thinks back to being cheated by Forest in his Boro days, might just agree with me there.

Roofe Caves In On Notts Forest as Leeds United Nick Handy Point – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds score – and even the Forest players celebrate…

Let me say first of all that Kemar Roofe‘s late equaliser for Leeds United against Notts Forest – apparently, if you call Notts Forest by the name Notts Forest, it upsets Notts Forest fans. Who knew? – was definitely handball. Quite blatant, probably deliberate, 100% handball. It should have been disallowed, and the officials have made a right rickett, bless ’em. Naughty Kemar, slapped wrist.

Let me say second of all that I couldn’t give a tuppenny toss about this awful injustice. In fact, I find it hilarious and deeply satisfying. If Notts Forest (there I go again) had received their just deserts, they’d have been waltzing merrily away from Elland Road with three points, like a proper happy little band of Tricky Trees. And that would have been technically quite fair – but in the real world of professional football, where unfair stuff happens all the time, and usually to Leeds – well, let’s just say that some sort of justice was served, for once. The boot’s been on the other foot often enough, and we’ve had to bite our collective lip and get on with it.

Forest fans, of course, will squeal long and piteously about being diddled out of two points, and the very best of hard cheese to them. It’s quite pleasant to witness their outrage and the way they’re over-analysing what was just a break that went against them. But they’re like that down there. They do like to pick away at a scab, even after they’ve been told not to picket.

The Notts Forest (somebody stop me!) game was one I was anticipating with some pessimism – and yet, as with most of our less impressive results, there were positives to take – dominance of possession, restricting the opposition, and so on. Marcelo Bielsa seemed quite content as well, so he must feel we’re still on the right track. Looking back, it would have felt as though fate had dealt us a scurvy trick, had we lost – so maybe we shouldn’t feel the least bit guilty about the manner in which a point was salvaged. I know I don’t.

All hail King Kemar then, who reacted honestly after the match and didn’t try to deny the undeniable. Strangely, Sky TV did not – to the best of my recollection – stick a microphone under the nose of any of the stressed and indignant Forest players immediately after the final whistle. I wonder why?

We take the point, and we move on, still ensconced in the automatic promotion places. Despite the fact that we didn’t win, and despite the related fact that, for the 53rd league game in a row, we didn’t get a penalty, although there was another decent shout for one – it wasn’t a bad old late afternoon spectacle at Elland Road. For once, we got the rub of the green. And didn’t it feel nice? That rare experience of a home draw tasting more like a win than a loss. Knowing our luck, though, we’d better not get too used to it – because, undoubtedly, normal service will soon be resumed.

…league games without a penalty kick for Leeds United. And counting.

The Football League Loves Leeds Utd and They Don’t Want to Let Us Go – by Rob Atkinson

All this talk of how everybody hates Leeds United, of how we’re the pariahs of the football world. What utter nonsense. If you look at the evidence, at a set of statistics that quite frankly beggar belief, you’re forced to conclude that what’s going on here is anything but hate. It’s got to be love, an unrequited adoration on the part of the Football League for its most famous member.

How else do you explain the fact that Leeds United has now gone 50 (FIFTY) league games in almost exactly one calendar year, without being awarded a penalty? And the closely related fact that, in the same span of time, NINE penalties have been awarded against us, culminating in the one against Brentford which resulted from a dive of which Tom Daley would have been justly proud. It must be love – because, evidently, the Football League just can’t bear to see us go. Not in an upwards direction, anyway.

Some cynics will say that money is at the root of this heartfelt longing to keep United where they are. Certainly, various clubs’ coffers would ring dolefully hollow without the annual visit of the White Army. Apparently, 8,000 of our number will travel for a rare untelevised trip to Blackburn after the international break. Let’s face it, that’ll keep them in hotpots for years.

Whatever the cause or motivation, the League policy of “no penalties for you, Leeds” is starting to provoke comment. Yesterday’s referee, Jeremy Simpson, was actually the last official to award Leeds a spot kick, against Reading early last season. The fact that we missed that penalty and lost the game clearly cut no ice with an outraged Football League. No penalties have been awarded to us since, and Mr. Simpson was required to atone for his sin and thereby make a fool of himself at the Brentford match, by awarding a penalty to the Bees which could charitably have been described as farcical.

The League might regard yesterday’s shenanigans as in some way making up for the penalty we got twelve or so moons ago, but, in adding a laughably one-sided refereeing display to the joke penalty, with a dubious injury-time red card thrown in for good luck, they really are letting their motives show. Perhaps a rethink is needed?

At the end of the day, if this Leeds squad under Bielsa performs to the levels of which it’s capable, it will be beyond the powers of the League and its whistle-happy henchmen to keep us down, unless they’re prepared to get really silly about this Leeds love-sickness of theirs. Perhaps sanctions will be applied in the wake of that Pontus outburst of honesty just after the final whistle? Who knows.

However much the League adores us and hotly desires to keep us within their slimy embrace, it seems likely that we will be leaving, moving onwards and upwards. It’s probably not going to be an amicable separation. These unrequited love things usually end in acrimony and bitterness. But the League will just have to suck it up and look for a new love. They’ll probably have Newcastle back next year, if that helps.

Not that I care how they feel. This was always a one-sided love. After 15 years, I’ll be happy to say goodbye and move on without a backward glance. Sorry, FL, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles. Ultimately, you’ll find, we’re simply out of your league.

Mighty Millwall Somehow Hold Leeds Reserves to a Draw – by Rob Atkinson

Pupil Harris meets Master “el Loco” Bielsa

The odd thing about Millwall fans is that it’s such a point of honour with them to be hated and not to be bovvered about it – their main anthem is “No one likes us, we don’t care” – and yet, whenever anyone is slightly critical of their notorious Lions, they turn all petulant and start to bleat piteously. This behaviour probably displays a deep-seated need to be loved – but, let’s be honest, that’s never going to happen.

The fallout from today’s hard-fought 1-1 draw between United and their chip on the shoulder rivals from darkest Bermondsey will probably centre around the touchline spat between Marcelo Bielsa and Millwall manager Neil Harris. The latter showed some balls, in defiance of his medical history, to face up to el Loco, and Harris will probably be glad, on reflection, that Bielsa left his grenade back home in Yorkshire. Shortly after this isolated flashpoint, justice was served as young Jack Harrison opened his Leeds United account with a sweetly-struck equaliser for Leeds, ensuring that Yorkshire’s top club would have something to show for their dominance of possession and all-round classier play.

Millwall, as ever, had put everything into a game that pitted them against their most bitterly-hated opponents. This blogger sees an opportunity for QPR on Wednesday, as Millwall invested two matches’ worth of blood, sweat and tears in an effort to beat United. That they came so close and yet failed will rankle with them, and I’d possibly venture a moderate wager on them not being able to reproduce their gutsy performance in Shepherd’s Bush.

Leeds will take much from this game, both the deserved point and the nature of the performance against hyped-up, frenziedly motivated opponents. The same fixture last season was where the rot set in; psychologically, then, the fact that they came back and got the point by which they now lead the division will be money in the bank in terms of morale and self-belief.

So now it’s on to two consecutive home games that provide the chance for Leeds, even shorn as they are of a group of major players, to consolidate their position as Championship favourites. Neither Preston nor Birmingham will roll over, but even this undeniably weakened United side has the defensive solidity and attacking verve to deal with the challenges from Lancashire and the Midlands.

Leeds are now the only remaining unbeaten side in the Championship, and it goes without saying that this proud record is down to Marcelo Bielsa and his staff. The next few games, without the likes of Roofe, Hernandez and Berardi, will be further tests of the Bielsa Effect, of the Argentinian’s ability to get the most out of depleted resources. If he proves able to guide Leeds through these choppy waters, then the words “In Bielsa we trust” will become even more resonant.

Marching On Together.

Leeds v Middlesbrough Match Officials Warned “Watch Out for Ayala” – by Rob Atkinson

Boro’s Ayala – a box of dirty tricks

As if tonight’s top of the table Championship summit clash between Leeds United and Middlesbrough wasn’t sufficiently loaded with potential flashpoints, one above all others had the potential to affect both the result and the disciplinary responsibilities of the match officials at Elland Road.

With a full house expected and the electronic eyes of the Sky TV cameras ever on the lookout for controversy as well as action, the atmosphere will be edgy and intense right from the start. Both clubs have playing staff previously on the books of their opponents, and there is a long-standing rivalry between the Kings of Yorkshire and the club best known for being Yorkshire rejects.

One potential source of strife and controversy stands out above most others though, with the likely presence in the Boro side of Daniel Ayala, a man with recent form in this fixture. Last season, with Leeds two goals to the good, Mr. Ayala blatantly wrestled Luke Ayling to the floor in the United box, an action somehow missed by match officials. Understandably outraged, Ayling sprang up to remonstrate, and in the subsequent kerfuffle, Ayala, with a look of saucer-eyed innocence on his face, contrived to have his team awarded an unlikely penalty.

Not all match officials, of course, are as visually challenged as the assistant referee on that occasion appeared to be. We must give him the benefit of the doubt, after all, and assume that it was his eyesight to blame, and not the presence of the Middlesbrough away support just behind him. But Ayala’s initial assault on Ayling was crude and obvious, and it’s reasonable to say that the incident was not one in which justice was served. Fortunately, Leeds hung on deservedly to win the game 2-1.

Mr. Ayala is still up to his nasty little tricks though, and still managing somehow to be blatant about it, and yet escape the notice of the men with the whistle and the flags. The recent Boro v West Brom game was a case in point, with Ayala clearly offending and completely getting away with it. How he does this is a mystery; we can only hope that forewarned is forearmed, and that – if Ayala does play this evening – the nastier parts of his game are spotted by the officials.

Here’s hoping for a good game and a fair outcome. MOT.

Could Yaya Toure REALLY Sign for Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

We’re very nearly at the point now when we can knock all of the transfer talk on the head, at least until January. It all comes to a halt on Friday, and the word is that Leeds will be bringing at least one new face in, many tipping Chelsea’s Izzy Brown to arrive on loan.

But there exists another interesting (to say the least) possibility, with the news that free agent Yaya Touré, late of champions Manchester City and still a stellar talent, has passed a medical in London, prior to a move to a mystery club.

Yaya has let it be known that he’s not concerned with earning megabucks, and is more interested in a challenging project. It’s well-known that anybody who goes to Leeds, and is instrumental in the awakening of that sleeping giant, will be accorded lifelong “Legend” status. So, from that point of view, the move is not only possible, it would undeniably fit the bill for both parties.

Yaya would be immense for Leeds United – if he joined up, you might as well deliver him to Elland Road as a bargain bundle to include the League Championship trophy. Whether or not English football’s new Godfather, Marcelo Bielsa, would see him as a good addition to his squad has to be another matter – and, as we know, Marcelo knows best.

But Yaya Touré is still world class, he’s cheap (ish) and he’d be an amazing coup even for a major club like Leeds. It’d be a capture in the same class as that of Gordon Strachan thirty years ago. I’d like to think that this is one of those unlikely rumours that actually has legs.

Man City Hotshot Set For Leeds United Move – by Rob Atkinson

Despite interest from other prominent Championship clubs, it appears that Pep Guardiola’s deep respect for Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa will see another of Manchester City’s young tearaways link up with the Whites for a season at Elland Road.

Lukas Nmecha is a strong, powerful speed machine with an eye for goal. Coveted by many, he should prove to be a real asset to whichever club can lure him away from the Etihad for the duration of this campaign. Leeds appear to be in the mix for young Nmecha, 19, and the links between Bielsa and Guardiola could see United clinch a deal.

It would appear also that Nmecha may not be the only late-window arrival at Elland Road, with a hectic and exciting few days in prospect next week.

But first… Stoke City on Sunday. Watch out for a match reaction and talking points here on Monday.

Leeds United, Club and Fans, Could Have Done Better Over Jay-Roy Grot – by Rob Atkinson

The Don – fostered family atmosphere at Leeds

In a week hardly short of news stories about Leeds United, one in particular stands out for any fan of the Elland Road club who remembers how the first faltering steps to greatness were taken under Don Revie in the sixties; how, in short, football’s greatest family club was built. So, while I could have written this week about the arrivals at Elland Road of quality recruits for the campaign ahead, I will resist that temptation.

Instead, let’s look at Joe Urquhart’s recent Yorkshire Evening Post revelations about the struggles in his Leeds career so far of a young man called Jay-Roy Grot who, at the tender age of 20, is going for a year on loan at Dutch side VVV-Venlo. Grot, a young colossus of a man at 6’4”, arrived at United last summer from NEC of Nijmegen, snatched from under the noses of Italian giants Fiorentina. Sadly, the lad’s first year at Leeds did not go well, and his confidence has suffered. The loan away from United is designed to remedy that, in the hope of seeing him return stronger in the future.

All well and good, but a look at the role of club and supporters in this less than creditable tale might be instructive. The Elland Road support has been notorious since well before Revie’s time as “a hard crowd to play for”. They’re a crowd of extremes. They can get right behind their team, lifting them to peaks of effort and attainment. But, for the individual who is struggling to put a foot right, it can feel much less encouraging, with the terrace critics sometimes launching in even before a ball has been kicked. Young players of great potential can nevertheless find themselves dismissed as “crap”, and persecuted accordingly, should they fail to hit the ground running. Such was the shattering experience of Jay-Roy Grot.

Back in Revie’s day, before the term “pastoral care” had gained much currency, it was nevertheless a big part of the foundations of the Super Leeds side that grew up as a band of brothers to carry all before them. Revie saw to it that off-field problems would not get in the way of his team’s success on the park; his charges were looked after and nurtured. When the boo-boys got to a young and cherubic Billy Bremner, Revie supported and shielded him. If a player’s wife had a baby, there would be flowers from the Don, or a box of chocolates to celebrate a girlfriend’s birthday. No detail was too small, no problem too trivial. Revie looked after his lads and their families, and they repaid him by becoming legends.

Now, with the constant recent managerial changes at Elland Road, there seems to be no such continuity of care. The sad loss of Lucy Ward from her health and welfare role a few years back created a gap in the Leeds United system that remains arguably unfilled. These heartbreaking words from young Grot make for uneasy reading: “I am not someone who makes friends easily. And that also broke me up in England. Cooking, I had no problems with that. But coming home every day to an empty house, I had a hard time. I did nothing, nobody knew. I also had little contact with the other boys in the beginning”. The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that both fans and club could and should have done better in the case of Jay-Roy Grot and, going forward, they need to take this on board.

We must aim for less of the destructive booing from fans, less ignorant haranguing on Twitter, with more awareness and support coming from the club. This is not rocket science, and it’s simply not acceptable for a young player to feel as isolated as Grot evidently did. Maybe Leeds United should just ring Lucy Ward and beg her to come back? In the sad absence of the late, great Don Revie, Lucy is probably the best option.