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This Leeds Crest Ticks ALL the Right Boxes, Please Get It Done, Mr. Radrizzani – by Rob Atkinson

 


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Add a 1919 somewhere, and this crest has it all

Whether by accident or design, this week’s “New Club Crest” furore has almost chased transfer window considerations clear off the front and back pages of the Leeds United news sources, temporarily at least. That will change as the days and hours tick down, with our striking options still not reinforced – but, for the time being, “Crestgate”, as at least one national radio station calls it, remains a burning topic. It’s also one that, for once, unites much of the Leeds support. The response to the club’s proudly announced “Leeds salute” design was an almost unanimous one of horrified disapproval. On the positive side, the powers that be appear to have listened and, somewhat chastened, are urgently reconsidering.

One of the side effects of the club crest cock-up is that various sources on Twitter and other social media have favoured us all with their own designs for a new badge. It’s been a case of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, as you might expect but, encouragingly, the good has been very good indeed, putting the United Graphic Design Department to shame. It’s all very subjective, of course – but, for me at least, any new badge (if we actually need one) should combine some iconic symbol from the past with a hint of local or regional identity, and it should be very distinctly Leeds with, if possible, a nod to our forthcoming centenary.

The badge pictured above (NOT my own design) does it for me – it’d be absolutely perfect with a bit of subscript, as you get with Cup Final crests, reading 100 years of Football 1919 – 2019. There’s the smiley badge prominently featured, an image from the past rightly hailed as “brilliant” by the ever-excellent Moscowhite of Square Ball fame. And there’s the Yorkshire Rose too, and the LUFC footballs from the 1990 promotion badge. And yet it’s not too cluttered, which is a pleasant relief from certain well-meaning suggestions that have seen the light of Twitter this week.

I’d certainly like to see something like this, should a change actually have to happen. Another option, obviously, would be to retain the current shield, which has become iconic in its own right – again, probably with that subscript acknowledging the Centenary. What do people think? I’d be grateful for any views or alternative suggestions – even from the 10,000 who are taking the rap for the Leeds salute effort – not that I know a single man Jack or girl Jill of them.

Here’s hoping that, on more considered reflection, the club gets it right next time.

 

 

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From Milk Crate to Press Box, 42 Years at Leeds United’s Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

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Sitting where Frannie Lee wouldn’t dare – within right-hook range of Big Norm

My Elland Road history is one of a gradual progression that has seen me following the varied fortunes of Leeds United from many different vantage points within that famous old stadium. I started out in the much-lamented Lowfields Road stand, its venerable roof famously braced by cross wires to stop it being blown away by anything above a stiff breeze. My spectating debut was in the funny little “shelf” area that ran the length of the stand between the terraces below and the seats above. I attended a good few games there, with our Gray and, solemnly in charge, my Dad – who saw that our match-day equipment included milk crates for us kids to stand upon, thus enjoying some sort of view.

When I first started going to Elland Road independently, I stood on the Lowfields terraces, but found the passion and buffeting of that experience a little too much – softie that I was. So the next move was to the Boys’ Pen, in the North-East corner of the ground. I stayed there until a ticket mix-up meant that I faced a choice between missing a League Cup tie against Everton, and braving the rigours of the Kop. I screwed up my courage to make my debut on that mighty and cacophonous hill – and never looked back. From that time on, I was a dedicated Gelderd-Ender and the Kop years represent my golden era of United support.

When the Kop went all-seater in the wake of Hillsborough and the Taylor Report, it never felt quite the same to me, and I sympathise with those who never experienced the thrill and surge of a packed Gelderd. One moment I’ll always remember is when Dave Batty scored against Man City early in our League Title season of 1991/92. As Batty himself later admitted, he was never much of a goal-scorer “but, against City, I were prolific”. Over a hundred games after his previous goal, at City in the late 80s, Batts hit the back of the net against the same opponents in ’91 – and at the Gelderd End, too. The whole stadium erupted in joy unconfined; I believe injuries were sustained on the Kop that day but, trust me, nobody felt any pain. It was a magical moment, the stuff from which legends are woven.

When my time on the Kop came to an end, my attendance at Elland Road growing less frequent, I became something of a nomad, taking in the view from the South, West and East of the stadium.  I was getting older and more curmudgeonly, less able and willing to tolerate the stresses of a packed crowd, or of bored kids making me get up and sit down all the time as they passed to and fro. I was becoming my grumpy Dad and, frankly, it had ceased to be fun. I was even considering a flirtation with Ponte Collieries, though my heart and soul belong to Leeds and always will. I just couldn’t hack it any more; I’d never got over the loss of the terraces, not that I’d last five minutes there, these days.

But now I’m back, a habitué of the press area courtesy of semi-regular Leeds United newspaper columns and, though I say it myself as shouldn’t, what has become a pan-global blog. Finally, I’m finding myself somewhat cossetted in experiencing an environment a bit kinder to middle-aged sensibilities. Last Saturday, I watched the Ipswich Town match beside one of my heroes, Norman Hunter, a legend of the Don Revie era at Leeds. I was utterly star-struck, but Big Norm was chatty and amiable – until the game started. Then he was kicking every ball, totally absorbed in the action, grievously upset at every United mistake (and there seemed to be a lot). It was an education for me in terms of what an old pro expects of the current crop, with the desk in front of us taking some punishment as Norm fulminated away. On my other side was erstwhile press-box doyen Don Warters, former Leeds United correspondent for the Yorkshire Evening Post. As Norman stumped off just before full-time, on his way to do his corporate bit in one of the lounges, I remarked that he didn’t seem too happy. Don grinned and replied, “He never is”.

I guess such hyper-involvement and the severely critical outlook goes with the territory for those guys who’ve been there and done it, especially at the level Norman, Billy and the rest played. But still, looking on the bright side – we did win on the day to stay top and, despite a couple of awayday blips recently, we’re still doing quite well overall. The football has been genuinely exciting so far this campaign, a real pleasure to watch and even to write about. What’s more, it’s a great view among all the scribes, the club kindly provides sandwiches, coffee and other such civilised comforts – and the company is amazing. All in all, just when I thought I was coming to the end of my Leeds United journey, it’s really wonderful to be back at Elland Road.

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Lowfields Road

Lowfields Road stand, towards the end of its life – but with the “Shelf” easily identifiable

“Travel Man” in Barcelona: Channel 4 Sacrifices a Great Idea on the Altar of Cheap Laughs

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Ayoade and his self-adoring comedy face


Barcelona
is a city I love and have visited frequently, my passion for the place surviving even my witnessing of a 4-0 massacre suffered by my beloved Leeds United. This explains the enthusiasm I felt for this Travel Man series opener – and also my deep sense of frustration and annoyance, having endured an hour of irritating ego-tripping and hopefully-funny silliness masquerading as an informative travel programme. Never have I started to watch a TV offering with a greater sense of anticipatory relish – only to end up feeling I’d have been better employed and more fulfilled eating a plateful of dried locusts.

The two presenters – Richard Ayoade and Kathy Burke – promised much initially, but fell woefully short of their supposed brief. This was, ostensibly, to sum up the attractions of a vibrant and wonderful city and maybe have a few laughs along the way. Ayoade, best-known (though not by me) as a presenter of a gadget show called The IT Crowd, was culprit in chief for what I count as this show’s failure. The premise in Travel Man is that “Richard hates travel and holidays – so what will he make of 48 hours away from home?” Sadly, all else was subordinate to this contrived central message, which Adoyade proceeded relentlessly to hammer home in the most unsubtle way imaginable. It was my first taste of his – for want of a better word – style; I shall not be putting myself out to repeat the experience.

From early in the piece, it was clear that Travel Man was to be the vehicle whereby Ayoade might reach a wider audience and give them the benefit of what he fondly imagines is his laconic and laid-back presentational personality. The dreaded “comedy voice” was a frequent intruder into his narrative; that annoying way of introducing ironic quotation marks by vocal inflection, so that the listener will (hopefully) be inescapably aware that here is a windswept and interesting cynic with an edgy and alternative view on pretty much everything he sees. Some people can carry this off and even make some decent entertainment out of it; Ayoade, on this depressing evidence, patently can’t.

In contrast to my zero prior knowledge of Ayoade, Kathy Burke is a performer I’ve always liked and rated – but here, she was drawn into a teeth-curling attempt to create an unlikely comic double-act. Everything of substance was sacrificed in the effort to get as much ironic comedy as possible – frankly, not a lot – out of this incongruous pairing. Whatever the lure of Barcelona’s many and varied points of interest, it all had to be about Richard Ayoade and his reactions to whatever he saw; a self-indulgent and subjective take on each too-hurried item with the twitchily uncomfortable Ms Burke doing her best to play up to her colleague’s self-adoration.

Thus, in the interests of establishing the desired laugh-a-minute feel to the thing, there was an awkward “Ooh, we have to share a hotel suite” moment with Ms Burke seeming to fear some unlikely molestation from her clearly aloof partner in crime; then there was some cringe-worthy banter at the Nou Camp football stadium, magnificent home of CF Barcelona – where Ayoade was at some pains to demonstrate his effete apathy towards the Beautiful Game – and next some frankly repulsive emetic slapstick in a restaurant, to the bemusement of the admirably patient, polite and professional staff. Burke is a highly capable performer, but she was rather dragged down to the level of her colleague, who was clearly preoccupied with projecting his individual personality over the whole undertaking.

So, instead of being treated to Barcelona’s panoply of vivid beauty and unique art, we got a series of laboriously ponderous set-ups culminating in yet another of Ayoade’s hopefully-cutting one-liners – drawled and mannered punchlines that invariably failed to be even a fraction as devastating as they were clearly intended to be. It was bitterly disappointing fare, and Burke did well to hide the embarrassment she must surely have felt. Perhaps she will reflect that, as an accomplished comedienne, she should not be wasting her time playing stooge to a partner who should have stayed at home surrounded by his gadgets – rather than stepping so far out of that comfort zone into the pitiless and unforgiving arena of comedy.

The victim in all of this squalid waste of time and opportunity – apart from the hapless viewer, sat seething with all hopes dashed – is of course the city of Barcelona itself. A feature-length programme could hardly do justice to its many attractions: the beauty and individuality of its Gaudi-dominated architecture; the culture that shines dazzlingly out of every sunlit surface; the cuisine, the sport, the history. It’s all there in one precious jewel of a city, just waiting to be described and marvelled over. But, disgracefully, we got none of that – in fact it is sadly fair to say that by far the most informative aspects of the whole production were the occasional graphics which flashed up, telling us the price of this or that and highlighting one or other sight worth seeing. Meanwhile, Ayoade and Burke were tenaciously flogging away at the dead horse of their joint comedic potential; it was grisly, unrewarding viewing.

What we did learn is that Richard Ayoade loves Richard Ayoade, and is keen to share that passion with a broader interest group than his usual audience of geeks – but that he is guilty of the cardinal sin of any wannabe comedian: that of forgetting to be funny. And we also learned that Kathy Burke, when handed lemons, will do her solid best to make lemonade, bless her. On this occasion, though, she should have thrown those lemons at her partner’s smug countenance – and hopped straight back on the train home. If she had – then maybe I and doubtless thousands of others might have been spared the empty disappointment felt after a production, that could have achieved so much, ended up delivering nothing but resentment. The knowledge that there went an hour of my life I’m never going to get back left me wondering what the effortlessly authoritative Michael Portillo might have done with such a nugget of a travel show idea. He could not, let’s face it, have been worse – and you just know that he’d have been far, far better – by an order of several hundred magnitudes.

This series will tragically continue with what we might dolefully expect to be a similar treatment of Istanbul, but it won’t have me for company. My advice is to stay at home instead of being tempted to go along for the ride and, with all due deference to Richard Ayoade’s forcefully-professed and overtly squeamish dislike of muddied oafs – see if there’s any football on.

Leeds United Such a Massive Pull in the Blogosphere: Just Ask West Ham

Dr. Weevil Of West Ham - Obsessed With LUFC

Dr. Weevil Of West Ham – Obsessed With LUFC

“We’re not famous any more” sing the Leeds fans, showing a neat grasp of irony in a medium too often dominated by the literal and the just plain crass.  The point is, of course, that we still are famous.  Hugely so.  Our fans scattered all over the globe mean that wherever you go, you’re likely to see a visiting Leeds United shirt to provide a welcome relief from all the tedious Man U rags sported by the clueless locals.  Listen to any Sky Live broadcast from the Theatre of Hollow Myths, and you’ll hear those wurzelly Devon accents mixing in with the nasal cockney whine as the Man U faithful describe how they “all ‘ate Leeds scam, innit”.

And the evidence is there in the ether too, as the web buzzes with references to our beloved Whites, ensuring that even the most facile and puerile of blogs can guarantee itself hits aplenty merely by mentioning those magic words “Leeds United”.  Some have taken it to such lengths that their Leeds-related output has shoved the more mundane stuff about their own desperately anonymous favourites way into the background, which is peculiar, but hey – you have to provide your readers with what they want to read, apparently – and if possible you have to try to attract some of football’s most fanatical fans by being “controversial” – or as we might more accurately describe it: by talking bollocks.

The leading contender for “biggest culprit” in these dubious and unprofessional tactics is a poorly-constructed and ill-written blog, ostensibly concerned with minor London club West Ham United, and entitled “The Game’s Gone Crazy”, which has a specially-created page to allow it to burble on about matters which are, frankly, none of its concern.  The Leeds United content of this page is out of all proportion to the interest you might expect the ‘Appy ‘Ammers to take in our beloved club, and of course it tends to paint the goings-on down at LS11 in the most negative light possible.  He’s been at it again today, capitalising on the 24th anniversary of Don Revie’s death to write another “controversial” article which – naturally – consists of second-hand lies and rumours recycled from various down-market tabloids, some successfully sued by former Leeds United personalities in the past.

Now, it must be said that a cursory examination of the contents of this upstart site (I’d caution you, gentle reader, not to waste too many of your valuable minutes on it) will reveal that the site-owner’s tactics are a hell of a lot sounder than his less-than-impressive literary ability.  He manages to attract a lot of comment and abuse from outraged fans of other clubs, with Leeds obviously prominent among their number.  The simple process of writing about Leeds, writing often and writing groundless rubbish, generates a lot of traffic for this site, traffic that its ‘Ammers stuff could not possibly hope to generate.  So, from that point of view, the author is running a successful operation, but one which owes little to the merits of his creation – which are appallingly few.  The sly Bubble-blower has fastened onto the global appeal of Leeds United to his advantage, and we should perhaps praise his acumen; it certainly far outstrips his ability to string enough sentences together for a decent piece of writing.

As you might expect, a number of his West Ham-oriented readership are a bit embarrassed about this craven behaviour – but their criticism falls on deaf ears by and large.  It’s quite obvious that “Dr. Evil”, as he is referred to by himself (and we presume he fondly hopes that others so refer to him as well), is preoccupied by getting as many reads as possible for his site and – only too well aware that his meagre talent is not going to get him far down that road – has opted instead for setting up as an irritant that will attract opprobrium and attention in equal measures.

It’s a back-handed compliment of course – the world knows that Leeds United is still big news out there, and any LUFC tag will pretty much guarantee a readership made up of Leeds fanatics (many thousands of us) and those who detest the very mention of our great club’s name (positively millions in the Devon/Cornwall hotbed of Man U support alone.)  So we should perhaps be flattered by the attention – it’s better than the dreadful and depressing anonymity suffered by West Ham and other such small fry.  And viewing it like that – not taking it too seriously and dismissing it as the unsubtle attempt to drag in readers that it undoubtedly is – we can smile ruefully and reflect on how much quieter a place the internet would be if Leeds United didn’t exist.  What would they all talk about then?  And where would the hapless and not-terribly-good Dr. Weevil find his victims… ahem… readers??