Tag Archives: Wembley

FA Has Strategy to Keep Leeds’ Pontus Jansson OUT of Play-Offs?   –   by Rob Atkinson

 

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Pontus Jansson – a marked man?

Speculation is rife ahead of Leeds United‘s home clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers that – as well as the obvious necessity to take 3 points from the game – United have prioritised the disciplinary dilemma over their inspirational defender Pontus Jansson

Jansson will face a 3 match ban with his next caution, and the feeling around Elland Road is that it might be no bad thing if that caution happened today. This would rule Jansson out of the last three games of the regular season, but he’d be back for the play offs – should United qualify. 

With Liam Cooper only part-way through a long suspension for a similar offence to the one the Pride of Devon’s Marcos Rojo got clean away with, United’s defensive resources would be stretched thin if Jansson were to be suspended. But there are good back-up options at full-back, and Luke Ayling can play central defence if needed. So, for Pontus to get a ban after the Wolves game would be risky – but it’d be a calculated risk. Or, so some are saying. But are they reckoning without the beady eye of the football authorities? 

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything has managed to get the point of view of an anonymous FA official – we shall refer to him as Mr. Lee D. Shater (because that’s the git’s name). Mr. Shater was intrigued at the idea of “getting the suspension out of the way”. He laughed, mirthlessly, adjusted his Sheffield Wendies club tie, toyed with his Huddersfield Town kennel-club membership card, and remarked, “You people need to be aware that we’re on the lookout for this kind of thing. If Jansson serves a ban, and is back for the play-offs, our people will be after him from the first whistle. If he so much as raises an eyebrow at an opponent, he’ll be off – and it’ll be goodbye Wembley and Sayonara Premier League, you Yorkshire suckers”. 

When asked if this rather blatant admission did not in fact constitute undue prejudice against Leeds United, Mr. Shater replied, “No more than usual. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. You want Jansson available, we’d rather he wasn’t. Stop whinging and suck it up, you grimy Leeds oiks”. 

Watch this space. 

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Reading Join Huddersfield in Leeds United’s Little Black Book – by Rob Atkinson

Big Jack

Big Jack of Leeds United – neither forgot nor forgave

A few decades back, a couple of rival footballers were daft enough to upset Leeds United‘s beanpole, World Cup-winning centre-half Jack Charlton. Perhaps they over-estimated the man’s capacity for forgiveness, but that would have been a terrible mistake. Although somebody once rightly said of the Charlton brothers, that Bobby was twice the player but Jack was ten times the bloke, our legendary number five knew how to nurse a grudge, alright. He had this to say of those unwise enough to rile him:

“I have a little black book with two players in it, and if I get a chance to do them, I will. I will make them suffer before I pack this game in. If I can kick them four yards over the touch line, I will.”

Chilling stuff, you might agree and, really, very Leeds United at that time. This was a team that bore grudges and looked after themselves and each other – famously, the attitude was “If you cut one of us, we all bleed”. With the subtext to that being “…and we’ll all be lining up to pay you back, so watch it”. But Jack rarely needed back-up.

Some might say that, although the great United team is a far-off memory now, and although Big Jack himself has long since retired into a mellow north country affability, the cold, hard core of steel persists around Elland Road. As a club, and reflected also in their redoubtable fans, Leeds United excels still in bearing a grudge; it neither forgives nor forgets. Big Jack’s little black book is still a thing in LS11, and there have been a couple of new entries made this season.

Given the nature of football, such accounts frequently have to remain unsettled for a considerable period of time, what with rival teams usually meeting but twice a year. But these days, it’s a little bit different and – intriguingly for those who keep an eye on slow-burning feuds – the two clubs who have most offended White sensibilities this season are both likely play-off opponents in the near future.

It’s fairly well-documented that Huddersfield Town, those perennial Yorkshire bridesmaids, have got themselves a little over-excited at times in this campaign. It’s perhaps understandable – after all, they’ve contrived two narrow victories against the club that, more than any other, is responsible for their long-standing inferiority complex. What’s more, they’re looking well-placed to finish higher in the league than those hated rivals, for the first time since 1961.

Still, understandable or not, Huddersfield have transgressed the unwritten law about not pissing Leeds United off. So they’re in the modern day little black book – and they’ve been joined over the past week or so by fellow tiny upstarts Reading FC, who have had so much to say for themselves in the run-up to Saturday’s match at the Madejski Stadium. The phenomenon of small clubs gobbing off in the press about bigger outfits fallen upon hard times is one that has gained some currency in recent years. As the ultimate sleeping giant, Leeds United has had to suffer slings and arrows from some fairly surprising directions, given the large size and glittering status of our more accustomed rivals. But lately we cop it in the neck from the likes of Bradford, Barnsley, Millwall and so on. And now Reading. Saucy little gits of clubs, all, that revel in the golden chance to show disrespect to their betters. It’s distasteful, but we’ve just had to grimace and bear it. And yet that doesn’t mean that we forget, nor indeed should we forgive. And, by God, we don’t; we bear a grudge and vow to have our own back. That’s what little black books are for.

Call it motivation, psyching-up, or the naked desire for revenge – the outcome is likely to be the same. If, as expected, Leeds United figures in the end-of-season lottery we know as the play-offs, then our beloved club could well be playing with the dice loaded marginally in our favour. At home, Elland Road will be a wall of sound, an arena of passion and hostility fit to blow away those used to a more placid atmosphere. Away, the travelling army will invade and conquer; enemy territory will ring to the noise of locals being out-shouted and sung into silence. At Wembley, if such is our destiny, the stadium will look like a rhapsody in white, yellow and blue, with a massive majority of raucous Yorkshire voices demanding victory and a return to our rightful level. On the park, the shirts will be occupied by snarling warriors, snapping into tackles, giving no quarter, harrying the enemy to exhaustion. Such will be the case, whoever we happen to meet.

But, if and when we meet Huddersfield, and/or Reading – as we almost inevitably will – then that extra-keen edge may well be evident in the attitude of both team and fans. United in all senses of the word, the boys on the park and the fans in the stands will remember past offences and will be eager for payback. Promotion via the play-offs is its own incentive; many say there is no better way to go up, and no worse way to stay down. But that little extra few percent in performance and support, added into the mix by foes ill-advised enough to find their way into Leeds’ little black book – that extra few percent might just make all the difference.

Huddersfield, Reading – it’ll be good to see you again. We’ll be waiting, with long memories, but short on patience and the milk of human kindness. We’ll go about it hard but fair, just like Big Jack – but with an intensity and passion you might find hard to deal with. You’ve had your moments this season, at our expense too, and you’ve earned your places in the book. Beware, payback time approaches. It’s time to settle up.

Leeds Fans Knew the Script as Barnsley Outclass Millwall at Wembley – by Rob Atkinson

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Millwall thugs break security to attack jubilant Barnsley supporters

Today’s League One Playoff Final was a script already written; certainly many a Leeds United fan, knowing what we know of the protagonists, could accurately have predicted how events would unfold. 

Predictably, Barnsley would beat Millwall comfortably at Wembley, to secure promotion to the Championship. Predictably, Millwall’s vicious minority would have a mass tantrum afterwards, charging at celebrating Yorkshire fans to spoil yet another occasion involving football’s sickest club, the shame of London. And, predictably, self-righteous Millwall fans would argue that it’s OK for them to do that and that we have no right to criticise, “because Leeds fans have been violent and have sung nasty songs“. It was all massively predictable, well in advance.

And so it came to pass, certainly in the first two particulars. Barnsley swept into a second-minute lead and never really looked back. Even being pegged back to 2-1, after Hamill‘s classy second, presented the Tykes with no real alarms or jitters. Millwall huffed and puffed, but were hopelessly outclassed. Barnsley’s promotion-clinching third after the interval flattered them not one iota. It could so easily have been more.

Then the Millwall fans showed their true colours after the game was done, trying to get at the red-shirted, jubilant Barnsley fans and generally making fools of themselves, as is their wont. One Tweet told of a disabled Barnsley supporter being tipped out of a wheelchair and kicked down some steps. Reportedly also, two Barnsley fans received stab wounds. Who knows if all of that is gospel true? But the point is, you can easily believe it of the degraded bunch of savages that forms part of Millwall’s less than massive support. Now, all that remains is for the Millwall fans who read this, and other accounts, to bleat their standard excuse: don’t point the finger at us! You do it too! And so we have, in the past, as have other sets of idiot fans. Not these days, though, never as often and not as brutally. Let’s face it, we’re not perfect, but we’re not Millwall. Thank heavens.

And surely, the Football League must now address the problem of Millwall and its classless, cowardly, disgraceful followers. This is a club with form for its fans fighting among themselves at Wembley in the past. The same thugs showed themselves up in the semi-final second leg of this play-off competition, with late pitch invasions to end Bradford‘s hopes of mounting a last-gasp comeback. It happens time and time again in a disgusting Millwall history that goes back in a similar vein for decades. It will keep on happening unless this nuisance club are cracked down on – and cracked down on hard. Whatever the problems that may, from time to time, have assailed other clubs – my beloved Leeds prominent among them – Millwall FC stands alone for the frequency and severity of their transgressions. It’s time for swift and decisive action to be taken. 

It probably won’t happen, though. Millwall are a Football League blind spot, just as Galatasaray are for UEFA. Truly is it said that there’s none so blind as those who won’t see, and the football authorities seem determined to look at Millwall’s transgressions through the darkest of blackout spectacles. The media are no better; they seem to have adopted the Beasts of Bermondsey as their token small club ripe for patronising. Meanwhile, opposition fans continue to live in fear of cowardly, mob-handed attacks. Except at Elland Road, of course, where the Millwall tough lads, no angels they, fear to tread. They usually bring about a dozen, who sit in a terrified silence, meekly accept defeat, and slink off home like the craven curs they are.

Congratulations to Barnsley, who – having been bottom of League One before Christmas, will now adorn the Championship with their classy brand of football. They have also obligingly ensured that happy division will stay relatively clean and civilised by condemning the scabby and feral Lions to prowl around at a suitably lower level. The second tier picture is complete now, and it looks an enticing prospect. On today’s evidence, Barnsley FC will not look out of place.

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Barnsley celebrate a well-deserved promotion

Leeds Still Yorkshire’s No. 1 as Hull Outclass Sheffield Wednesday   –   by Rob Atkinson

That Sheffield Wednesday Wembley feeling

In the end, it was a 1-0 landslide at Wembley as Humberside’s finest totally eclipsed a bedraggled set of Owls in the first of this season’s playoff showpieces. But for the admirable Westwood in the Sheffield Wednesday goal, the scoreline could have been an embarrassing rout. Hull City would not have been flattered by a 5-0 scoreline, utterly out-playing the South Yorkshire pretenders. 

The Sky commentators made much of the travelling throng of Wendies who packed out their end of Wembley and made themselves heard until all hope was gone. But how well do we at Leeds United know that promotions are won on the turf at the national stadium, not in the stands. The crowd contest when we played Donny in that League One playoff was even more lopsidedly unequal, with Whites fans massively dominating the spectacle. But it was Rovers who got the goal – and a similar scenario played itself out today.

So it’s well done to Hull City and Rob Snodgrass, and the very best of hard cheese to the Wendies, who also had their very own ex-White in the team. Tom Lees was the man who gave the ball away to give Hull the decisive goal, and what a strike it was. Congratulations, Agent Lees. You made it look like an accident. 

Leeds United, then, even in their current chaotic incarnation, remain top dogs in Yorkshire. Local derby hostilities will resume next time around, despite all the confident rhetoric from certain big mouths down Sheffield way. Those mouths can munch away on some humble pie while Yorkshire’s finest at Elland Road try to get their act together.

See you next season, Wendies. So glad you’re still with us. 

Same Old Story For Thug Club Millwall and Its Thug Fans   –   by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United fans above those of most other clubs can give you chapter and verse on the less than savoury nature of Millwall Football Club and some of its Neanderthal adherents. Whites supporters have had to sit there in that prefab, Meccano style stadium, watching as large parts of a crowd, swollen beyond its traditional paltry numbers by the presence of Leeds, have taken the opportunity to revel in murders in foreign parts many years ago. It’s something Millwall fans just won’t let go of, and that tells you all you need to know about the worst and least human fans in football. 

Tonight, Millwall fans were at it again, in the second leg of their playoff semi against Bradford. With minutes remaining, and Bradford pushing forward in dire need of two quick goals, proceedings were disrupted by two small-scale incursions into the field of play. Needless to say, this had a drastic effect upon Bradford’s ability to exert the necessary pressure. At one point, with the ball on the way out for a City throw, one of the local bright boys ran on to the pitch and booted it towards Bradford’s goal. So play had to start with a drop-ball instead of the swift throw Bradford needed.

As the ball was played back to the City keeper, the ref ran close by and clearly advised the Bradford man that the game was up, and to prepare for a quick getaway. The Millwall fans were preparing for a mass invasion, and the ref was chiefly preoccupied with the need to herd the players as near to the tunnel as possible before blowing the last whistle and unleashing an uncivilised horde from the touchlines.

Such has often been the case at Millwall, Old Den or New. It seemed clear in this instance that any late hopes Bradford had of making a last-gasp comeback, together with any hopes the ref had of playing the allotted span without interference, were dashed by the threat the crowd posed to order and safety. It’s not good enough, but it’s situation normal down Bermondsey way. Similar disorder has happened time and time again, while the craven suits at the Football League do nothing. This blog hopes and trusts that Bradford City will complain – not that it’s likely to do them any good. 

So, the upshot is that Millwall and its IQ-minus minority have intimidated their way to the brink of a return to the Championship. Unless Barnsley can intervene at Wembley – where Millwall’s unpleasant mob tends to fight amongst itself rather than facing equal numbers of opposition fans – it looks like we can expect to see them at Elland Road sometime next season. Not that many, though. Timid travellers, they tend to muster only a couple of dozen for the trip to LS11. 

Good luck to Barnsley at Wembley. On a football basis, they should blow Millwall away. We can but hope that they are sent back to their dingy borough, chastened and well-beaten. If not – well, it looks as if we’ll just have to put up with them for one more season.

Crystal Palace Shouldn’t Have to Face Man Utd’s ‘Spanish Archer’ at Wembley   –   by Rob Atkinson

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Fellaini – dangerous and premeditated

Louis van Gaal, the current manager of Manchester United, is a confusing figure. Frequently disarming and able to display a self-deprecating humour, he’s occasionally also abrasive and blinkered. Sometimes, he’s just downright weird, a facet of his personality that came to the fore after the most recent act of thuggery from one of his least admirable players, a certain Monsieur Fellaini.

The occasion was the potential title-decider when Champions-elect Leicester City came to Old Trafford needing three points to clinch a miraculous Premier League crown. It was a compelling game, with Leicester going behind early and then showing their character to claw their way back and claim a valuable point towards eventual success. But all was not sweetness and light, as might almost be expected in such a tense tussle. One of the penalty area challenges between Leicester’s Robert Huth and Marouane Fellaini of Man Utd turned decidedly nasty and could easily have seen the dismissal of both, if the referee had only seen it. There was grappling, there was pushing and shoving, there was even the seizing and pulling of part of Fellaini’s impressive coiffure. And, sad to say, there was yet another example of the old “Spanish Archer” (el Bow) from serial offender Fellaini. It’s all there in not-so-glorious slow motion: a malicious, premeditated extension of Fellaini’s left arm in front of him, for it to be drawn back viciously into the head/neck area of the opponent behind him.

This is where van Gaal becomes rather difficult to defend. In interviews afterwards, he leant back further and more perilously than a limbo dancer in futile efforts to justify his player’s reprehensible action. It should have been a penalty for Huth’s silly hair-pulling, he said (No, it shouldn’t). Fellaini’s actions were justifiable on the grounds of provocation, he said (No, they weren’t). Hair-pulling was, he claimed, the sort of kinky perversion that belongs in “sex masochism” (Speechless). Louis van Gaal even playfully tugged at a reporter’s hair and asked him how he liked it. That the reporter then refrained from elbowing van Gaal in the throat rather detracted from the Manchester United manager’s attempt to justify, on the grounds of reasonableness and inevitability, Fellaini’s assault on Huth.

A careful study of the incident – something the F.A. must certainly have done, many times and painstakingly – reveals a couple of interesting points. Firstly, Fellaini’s elbowing action had started well before Huth made contact with the Man Utd player’s hairdo. The arm was extended forward and was well on its premeditated way back to catch Huth under his jawbone – before hand touched hair. That disposes of the penalty clause; Fellaini was the first offender. Secondly, Fellaini swiped backwards not once, but twice. The second was a weakish slap, catching Huth somewhere around the temple. That was the response to the hair-pulling. But the first elbowing action stood alone, and it was a dangerous act with a clear intent to cause damage, simply because an opponent had the temerity to challenge him closely, that could easily have been serious. For that alone, Fellaini deserves the most serious of punishment.

Having dealt with van Gaal’s attempts to defend his player, we should move on to consider Fellaini’s previous. And there’s plenty of it; you only have to listen to some of the Belgian’s old opponents and even his former teammates. Fellaini, we hear, does this sort of thing most games. Several examples have been caught by TV cameras, most notably at Anfield in a Europa League cup tie against Liverpool. Fellaini was bang to rights there, just as he was against Leicester – but he got away with the Anfield elbow. This time, he’s got a three game league ban – but is it enough?

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit that it is not. The F.A. in another case, this one arising out of the Chelsea v Spurs match on Monday, have made it clear that some cases deserve more severe punishment. It seems likely that Tottenham’s Mousa Dembele will face a six game ban for his blatant eye-gouging offence. Now that’s nasty stuff – but is it really that much more serious than a back-flung elbow that could easily crush an opponent’s tracheal cartilage and leave him literally breathless as a result? The two cases are comparable, the two punishments should, therefore, be appropriately similar.

Crystal Palace will face Manchester United – including Fellaini, in all likelihood – in what is still a showpiece occasion, the F.A. Cup Final at Wembley on the 21st May. Palace should not have to face this serial offender, this reckless distributor of flying elbows, this accident waiting to happen. If Dembele can be taken out of action for six matches due to the disgusting nature of his offence, then so should Fellaini, for an assault no less culpable, no less disgusting, no less dangerous. And Fellaini has demonstrated that, left unchecked, he will simply continue this casual close-contact variety of GBH. He has shown no sign of reforming his ways and, while the F.A. treat him with kid gloves and his manager bleats in his defence, he will simply carry on carrying on – alarmingly.

If this season’s F.A. Cup Final spectacle is besmirched by the spectacle of some hapless player left sprawling with a crushed adam’s apple, a broken jaw, a smashed nose – or worse – then it is fair odds that one M. Fellaini will be the name on the charge sheet. But he will not be alone in the dock – for if the worst does come to the worst at Wembley, then the faint hearts and soft-sawder merchants at the F.A. will be just as guilty as a Belgian who can neither keep his temper nor control his aggression.

For all of those reasons, as well as consideration for the Crystal Palace players – whose big Cup Final day should not be sullied by common assault – Marouane Fellaini should face a good long ban that will see him out of action until the early part of the next League campaign. Most assuredly, he should not be playing at Wembley – neither in the F.A Cup Final nor, should the case arise, in the Community Shield. If he does, it sends out a wrong and dangerous message, to teammates, to opponents, to others who might be disposed to act thuggishly and – not least – to the errant and foolish Fellaini himself.

Swansea Beat Man United to Crown A Weekend Mirabilis for Leeds   –   by Rob Atkinson

Chris Wood milks the adulation of the fans

Truly it is said that, for a sports fan’s very best of times, it’s not quite enough that your favourites should win. It’s necessary also for a team you despise to lose, preferably after taking the lead and crowing prematurely. It adds the aromatic spice of Schadenfreude to the jubilant celebration feast of success. When everything falls into place like this, pleasure and triumph for the good guys, pain and suffering for the baddies, it arrives like Manna from Heaven or soft, gentle rain in a parched drought. Those joyous moments don’t come along often enough, sadly – but this last two day’s melange of high points is one to remember for a long time.

By any reckoning, such a very rewarding weekend is like a great big, gaudy parcel crammed with delectable goodies, wrapped in paper of pure gold and tied with ribbons of yellow, white and blue. What a transcendentally wonderful 48 hours it has been, first and foremost in football, with Leeds United beating our former tormentors Derby County in their own backyard. The victory was thoroughly well-deserved and sealed by a truly tonking strike from Chris Wood, who is looking more and more like the real deal. United seem set to follow up their breakthrough win with some quality additions to a talented young squad. The future finally looks bright for the Whites – at least for the moment. 

Wood's wonderstrike

Wood’s wonder strike

That victory at Derby was a significant result and something in which to take significant pride and pleasure. But in the grand scheme of this weekend, especially for a fan of both football and rugby league, United’s success was in the nature of a curtain-raiser to the top of the bill, an appetiser before the main course. Leeds Rhinos, indisputably the class act of Super League, had reached Wembley to defend the Challenge Cup they won last year against Castleford Tigers. The opposition this year would come from Hull Kingston Rovers, and the outcome was to be of history-making proportions.

Hull KR undeniably froze on their big day, while Leeds Rhinos were at their imperious best. The game was men against boys; Rovers barely threatened the Rhinos try-line, with Leeds surging through their ranks at will as the Final wore on, racking up 50 points without reply. Tom Briscoe scored a record five tries, including one superb 90 yard finish, in a man of the match display. Leeds Rhinos were supreme and irresistible; Hull KR utterly obliterated. 

By this time, your Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything correspondent was feeling pretty good about his sporting Saturday. There was even the merest hint of that Schadenfreude piquancy, with card-carrying Leeds-haters like BarnsleyHuddersfield and Sheffield Wendies all comically tasting the dry ashes of defeat. The only way the day could have been improved would have been a defeat from a winning position for man u, my much-despised, Pride of Devon, favourite targets. But man u didn’t play till Sunday…

And, lo and behold, it came to pass. Sunday provided the warm afterglow to follow Saturday’s twin climaxes of joy and celebration. It was like Boxing Day used to be when I was a kid; a buffer against the downer that sometimes follows an emotional high – one more fiesta day, parties, further celebrations, even more lovely presents.

The Panther celebrates his winner against man u

My very favourite Pride of Devon defeats are the ones where they’ve ridden their luck and then taken an undeserved lead. You can see the arrogance set in; they start to swagger and believe the media fairy stories about how wonderful they are. And then, every now and again, the opposition bites back and smites the Over-rated Ones hip and thigh. Defeat is snatched by the media darlings from the very jaws of victory. So it happened today, to utterly overflow my cup of pleasure.

With a deadly one-two any champion boxer would be proud of, Swansea City recovered from the blow of going behind and promptly smashed man u left and right, to leave them bleeding and bewildered on the canvas. And then, as always happens with this shabby lot, the arrogance was replaced by truculence; the Pride of Devon starting to moan even more at the ref. They snarled and they kicked, they looked for dodgy penalties, they brought on a beanpole forward and abandoned any pretence at beautiful football. And they lost. Joy unconfined, they lost!

So it’s been another highly enjoyable day to complete a miraculous weekend that’s had just about everything. In the mix, a first win for the Whites, a brilliant clinching goal, yet more silverware for the Rhinos as they continue to carry all before them, a bracing start to Sunday at Whitley Bridge car boot sale and, of course, that sadistic pleasure at the discomfiture and defeat of the hated rabble from the Theatre of Hollow Myths. Still to come: a celebratory Chinese takeaway with wine and a good movie in the very best company I could wish for. And, Lordy Lord, it’s a bank holiday tomorrow. 

I’m a very happy man right now, as you’ve possibly gathered – but, naturally, this too shall pass. For the moment I shall just enjoy it, and look forward to Deadline Day – and then the peace and opportunity for calm reflection that comes with an international break. 

See you at the next turn of the cards. This has been a better one than most!

MOT. 



It’s Cup Final Day for Derby County AND Leeds This Saturday – by Rob Atkinson

A typically calm moment from Derby v Leeds back in the day

A typically calm moment from Derby v Leeds back in the day

Norman stops Frannie’s lip by putting a hole in it

There’s never been a shortage of feeling in matches between Derby County and Leeds United – not since the days when it was Clough versus Revie, anyway. In the years that the two Middlesbrough lads locked horns at either Elland Road or the quagmire that was the Baseball Ground, those feelings tended to run deep, and often spilled over into epic violence, with both sets of players going at it with relish. The pictures above are fairly typical of a Rams v United clash in those far-off, halcyon days – certainly the players of each club felt a deep and mutual rivalry, and to say that the matches were keenly contested is to show a talent for understatement.

Off the field, the situation was somewhat less mutual. Derby County hated Leeds, alright – no doubt about that. But Leeds fans of that era were well aware of their beloved team’s pre-eminence over most if not all others – so the attitude towards lesser clubs (i.e. just about everybody) tended to be one of lordly indifference. The few exceptions to this rule included manchester united and, to a lesser but still vitriolic degree, Chelsea. These two were accepted as deserving of hatred, despite their obvious inferiority on the field. But the rest, busy Leeds-haters though they might be, tended to get ignored. Naturally, this did not make the Whites any more popular around the country. Spurned haters are just as hotly resentful as spurned lovers, if not more so.

Derby were a case in point back in the 70s, and it’s a situation that persists to this day. They do have a neighbourly loathing for Nottingham Forest, made the more bitter because the comically-nicknamed Tricky Trees got second and better use out of County’s discarded Clough/Taylor axis. Geographical proximity and the Cloughie factor make this mutual antipathy as real as most. But Derby hate Leeds with an almost equal passion – and, frustratingly beyond measure for their fans, it’s entirely unrequited – which really does get under the skin of your average Ram.

The history between the two clubs over the past couple of decades has been a tale of two long periods of dominance, one for each side.  First Leeds had a spell when they found they could toy with Derby as a cat does a half-dead mouse, exacting the maximum in malicious pleasure by torturing them, before dispatching them mercilessly. This was a period of acute suffering for a Leeds-hating County fan. One season, we knocked them out of both cups on their own ground, with the FA Cup win being from two goals down. On another occasion, we gave them a three goal start at Elland Road, before storming back to win 4-3 with Lee Bowyer notching a last-gasp winner before an ecstatic Kop. Later that season, we went to the incongruously named Pride Park and leathered the home side 5-0. It was not a good time to be a Derby County fan.

Then, things turned round for Derby; in a period that coincided with United’s dramatic fall from grace after “living the dream”, Leeds simply could not buy a win against the Rams. Defeat followed defeat – though at a time when most teams were beating us with monotonous regularity, the sting of each loss was not noticeably worse than those against most other teams. For Derby, though, it was like a renaissance – they were beating Leeds, for the first time in years – and they did not particularly care that this was not a Leeds of any special vintage or calibre.

The fallow period against the Rams, though, appears to be coming to an end. Firstly, we managed to avoid defeat in a late-season encounter at Elland Road. Then, last season, each team enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 win at home; honours even. Tomorrow’s first Derby-Leeds clash this season will, as usual, be Cup Final day for every Ram. They will be aching to beat us, yearning for the three points as a child yearns for Christmas. It will be very much business as usual for Derby fans, and Leeds United will have to be wary of the intense desire and expectations of the home fans, factors that can certainly inspire a side.

But tomorrow is also Cup Final day for Leeds – and not in any ersatz or theoretical sense as experienced by County followers. Leeds, being a centre of sport unrivaled anywhere else in the country, boasts widely-renowned teams in three sports, with Yorkshire CCC at the summit of the County Championship in cricket, Leeds United showing signs of revival as their glorious history positively demands – and in Rugby League, Leeds Rhinos has long been the team to beat. Tomorrow, they take the field at Wembley in the Challenge Cup Final, with the unfancied Hull Kingston Rovers in opposition. This is not a sentiment that every Leeds United fan will share, but – this being my blog to do with as I wish – I will be hoping and praying that my beloved Rhinos can confirm what the form guide suggests will happen, and bring the Challenge Cup home to Headingley.

Saturday is about two Cup Finals and two Leeds teams. My fingers are crossed that Derby’s prayers go unanswered and that they are left thwarted again, as in the good old days. But, should United stumble to a first defeat of the season, I’ll still manage to keep a smile on my face – as long as Sir Kev‘s warriors do the business at Wembley and achieve the first part of a Rhinos treble.

All Leeds, aren’t we?

Leeds Priced Out of Beckford Move After Manc Woman Steals Him to Advertise Online   –   by Rob Atkinson

 

Young Uwe helpless to prevent Manc female S.Lapper from stealing his Beckford

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything can confirm that Leeds United had been in advanced talks to sign former hero Jermaine Beckford – until the 32 year old striker was ruthlessly stolen from under the nose of the United representative, who was helpless to prevent gorgeous, pouting Stretford beauty Ms. S. Lapper from walking off with Preston North End‘s Wembley hero. 

Sources close to the ex-Leeds, Everton, Leicester and Bolton forward quote him as saying “It all happened so fast. One minute I was celebrating a Wembley hat-trick, the next I’m up on Gumtree.com for fifteen hundred quid. It’s well bewildering, man.” Ms. Lapper, meanwhile, was keen to dismiss the whole thing as a misunderstanding, despite photographic evidence of her snatching Beckford from the grasp of the Leeds man, tentatively identified as Master Uwe Rösler (8).

The evidence against Ms. Lapper also included an online advert for the sale of Beckford, originating in Stretford, near Manchester. The advert has since been removed, and the situation regarding Beckford remains unclear. Ms. Lapper is remaining uncharacteristically tight-lipped and was a lot less available than usual last night. For the Rösler family, young Uwe’s grandad is promising to seek retribution on the un-named Stretford culprit who allegedly put Beckford up for sale. “I haf done my share off damage zere before,” nodded the former Luftwaffe man meaningfully. “If necessary, I shall be making one more flight over zis so-called Old Trafford, und showing zem vot I can still do. Let us just simply say – it vill be ein bombshell I am dropping.”

Leeds United confirmed to us that Beckford had been a target, but that they would be looking elsewhere now. “Fifteen hundred is a little steep, my friend,” confided an anonymous source. “I’ve had a tip-off that Billy Paynter is ours for half that price, on eBay, with free postage…”

Ms S. Lapper is 38DD. 

Orient’s Dream Goes West as Rotherham Head for Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

Championship's newest stadium

The Championship’s newest stadium

What a cruel, almost barbaric way to have your season ended by shattering failure.  For, whichever way you dress it up, failure is what it most surely is, once you’ve come all this way, through 46 gruelling league games and two bitterly competitive play-off semi-finals – only to fall at the very last hurdle, thwarted by the lottery of a penalty shoot-out.  Commiserations then to Leyton Orient, who have seen their Holy Grail snatched pitilessly from their grasp.

Meanwhile, it’s a case of “To the victors, the spoils” – and, as the TV commentator instinctively identified, Rotherham will be happily anticipating their trip to Elland Road next season above all their other fixtures.  We should welcome them to the Championship too, even though it means that our burden of chip-on-the-shoulder smaller Yorkshire rivals has been cut by only one, instead of two – as had seemed likely when Barnsley and Donny took the big fall. It’s up to the “new” Leeds United to cope with such inconveniences, as the team of the past few seasons has signally failed to do; basically, if we can’t take points from the likes of Rotherham (and the Wendies, and the Udders) – then we won’t deserve to do well.

All that is for next season, however.  Meanwhile it’s appropriate to congratulate Rotherham United – and their likeable manager – on a great display at Wembley and, of course, one of THE great Wembley goals of all time.  The Millers’ old Millmoor has been consigned to history, and I for one won’t miss that away end or the perilous alley behind it.  Their new stadium looks a fantastic place and, doubtless, the away end there will be packed out when it’s time for the Leeds United travelling army to visit the New York.

Well done Rotherham – see you next season.  Unlucky, Orient – and the best of good fortune in getting it right next time around.