Tag Archives: Wembley

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.

Derby Back at Elland Road Next Season After QPR Sucker Punch – by Rob Atkinson

Derby 0, QPR 1    HA!!!

Derby 0, QPR 1 HA!!!

When it happened, it was as unexpected as it was funny.  Unexpected, because Derby had utterly dominated the play-off final at Wembley – even before QPR had Gary O’Neil sent off for a professional foul.  And funny, because – well, because it was Derby, one of those daft little Midlands teams that gets all excited and wets itself every time it has a result against our beloved Whites.  Derby had been on a long run of success against Leeds, and their fans grew cockier and more annoying with each one.  Now, they were sat in their devastated rows at Wembley as Bobby Zamora pounced in the last minute to snatch their dream away.  Some were open-mouthed with horror, some were angry, some were crying.  One kid was actually having a tantrum directly into his mother’s bosom.  It was richly comic and I enjoyed it very much.

So much for Derby – we’ll see them again next season when we’ll have two more chances to break a barren spell that’s gone on far too long against what used to be the ultimate rabbit team for Leeds United.  For QPR, today’s somewhat fortunate result might just have saved their profligate skins, as dire fiscal consequences were threatened over their breaching of FFP limits.  Even in the Premier League with all those Murdoch millions being flung in their direction, it may well be that the suits will be after them – with a view to clipping their financial wings to such an extent as to see them return quickly whence they came.  We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

For Leeds United though, this play-off result means more than mere malicious amusement.  It signifies that next season’s League line-up is almost complete; only one Championship spot remains to be filled.  We’ve now said goodbye to Leicester, Burnley, QPR, Barnsley (arf), Doncaster (arf) and Yeovil.  We will be hosting Cardiff (snigger), Norwich (snigger), Fulham, Wolves, Brentford and one of either Rotherham or Leyton Orient. Personally, I hope it’s Rotherham to complete the picture – for all I’ve had to say about smaller Yorkshire teams and their Cup Final chips on the shoulder.  Having said good riddance to two such daft little clubs, it’d be churlish not to welcome one, just to redress the balance a little.

Some may feel that parts of this article are unfeeling and a little callous – taking pleasure in the discomfiture of others.  And they’d be right – but I will temper the effect a little by saying I hold no ill-will against any professionals who tried, failed and are now suffering at Wembley Stadium, or on their miserable way home.  I respect their efforts – and I felt for Keogh of Derby who was unlucky enough to have made the error that led to Zamora’s excellently-taken goal.  Still – that’s football, but it’s not for a fan to glory in the pain of professionals (unless they play for or manage Man U).

My satisfaction is in the woe of rival fans who have, in their turn, taken immense satisfaction from the suffering of Leeds fans in our various crises. It’s the nature of football support, tit for tat.  I make no apology for delighting in the sorrow of fans of Derby, Norwich, Doncaster, Cardiff – or any other clubs’ fans where they have had the cause and opportunity to crow at the troubles of my beloved Leeds United.  As I’ve said before, it’s OK to hate rival fans. Positively healthy, in fact. You reap what you sow and – tragic though it all might appear to the more soft-hearted among us – tough.

Roll on next season then, when it all starts all over again – and this time next year we’ll either be celebrating or gritting our teeth – and doubtless we’ll be laughing at the fate of a few old rivals.  It’s such a great game, football.

Come On, Arsenal; Win it for This Leeds Fan – by Rob Atkinson

Gooners' last Cup win, 2005

Gooners’ last Cup win, 2005

Cup Final day and I’m relaxing by the balmy waters of the North Sea in beautiful, tropical Filey. Home cares and family worries are far away. The fridge is stocked with the chilled best of grain and grape and every other comfort and convenience (ensuite) is close by. Life is good.

So it should be too. The latest Leeds United season from hell is thankfully behind us and, internal strife notwithstanding, we can relax in the knowledge that our heroes’ turgid and tedious brand of football is in mothballs for a few weeks. Meanwhile we have the World Cup to look forward to, with the cream of English talent – as well as Wayne Rooney – poncing about ineffectually in Brazil and hoping to make it as far as another penalty shoot-out defeat to bleedin’ Germany.

But today is Cup Final day, and the eyes of the civilised world – and Humberside – are on Wembley, to see whether the Arse can beat Dull City and end their epoch-long trophy drought. I find myself not a neutral, for several reasons. Firstly, I’ve never been all that keen on Hull. They’re an upstart club with one of those horrible new breed of owners in Assem Allam – a man who wants to rebrand City as the Tigers. It’s a silly idea, the fans are against it – and yet Allam remains stubbornly convinced he knows best – like Vincent Tan at Cardiff, who suffered relegation for his presumption. The least I wish Hull is a Cup Final defeat – there’d be the bonus of the look on Steve Bruce’s face, too. Don’t get me started on him.

There are more positive, less vindictive reasons. I like Arsenal. They exude class as a club, from top to bottom. They play beautiful football, and they help me dislike Spurs. Manager Arsène Wenger is a class act too – the game would be the poorer for his loss, much as it is the richer for the passing of Alex “Taggart”Ferguson. It would be good to see the Gooners on the trophy trail again. My late father in law supported them, as does my daughter’s Significant Other.

Last but not least – I have a tenner riding on the outcome. I’m not a betting man, but when the semi finals came down to Arsenal and three nothing clubs, I thought even I couldn’t jinx them. I so nearly caught a cold against Wigan – so surely the Arse will now see me home happy and ten quid richer??

Come on you Gooners. Do it for yourselves and for lovers of the beautiful game. But most of all – with some brass at stake – do it for this admiring Leeds fan.

Clarke … One-Nil!! Leeds United Win the Cup 42 Years Ago Today – by Rob Atkinson

Clarke ... One-Nil!

Clarke … One-Nil!

Leeds United usually seem to be around when some epochal achievement is recorded – or at least, they used to be. They won the last ever old-style Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1971, beating Juventus on the away goals rule. They won the last ever old-style Football League Championship in 1992, leaving Fergie’s hapless Man U team gasping four points in their wake. They were also perched proudly at the summit of English football as the millennium clicked over its four digits from 1999 to 2000 – a historical landmark that all of the tabloids had been eagerly talking up for the Pride of Devon.  And, forty-two years ago today, on the 6th May 1972, Leeds United won the Centenary FA Cup Final at Wembley, beating Arsenal 1-0 with a classic diving header from Allan “Sniffer” Clarke.

It was a triumph that pre-dated my active support for Leeds United by two or three years, so it’s one I’ve only been able to savour in retrospect.  But the images of that day are as clear to me as if I’d actually been there – a sneaky Leeds arm reaching around the back of a defensive wall to tug at Charlie George’s long hair, Paul Reaney stalwart on the line to block a fizzing shot from Alan Ball, the Leeds attack swarming around the Arsenal goal as they sought the vital breakthrough. And, of course, Mick Jones, hurdling McNab’s attempted challenge to get to the byline, pulling back a quality ball which dipped down around the penalty spot – and Clarke, stooping to conquer, arrowing his legendary header past ‘keeper Geoff Barnett, into the corner of the Arsenal net.

Leeds had known only heartbreak in FA Cup finals before this day – and they would know more the following year.  In addition, they were shamefully to be compelled by unsympathetic authorities to play a League Title decider at Wolverhampton only 48 hours after this Wembley battle against Bertie Mee’s uncompromising Arsenal troops.  Imagine that happening today. It was a task too much for Revie’s shattered warriors, bereft of the injured Mick Jones. Blatant penalties denied them, they slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Wolves and, instead of celebrating their sole FA Cup triumph, the whole club tasted the bitter fruits of disappointment – yet again.

The game itself was typical of a meeting between the two sides who had dominated the start of the Seventies.  The year before, Arsenal had won the “Double” – becoming champions with a win at Spurs despite having lost an epic encounter at Elland Road shortly beforehand.  So it was the reigning Title and Cup holders Leeds were up against at Wembley that day, but in a less than classic Final, there was really no doubt as to which was the better team.

The fact that this 1972 triumph remains Leeds United’s solitary FA Cup success is somehow symptomatic of where they fell short in those trophy-hunting decades of the Sixties and Seventies.  The best team normally wins the League – that was the case anyway in those level playing field years before it became a case of who had the most money.  But to win a Cup requires that bit of luck, a few breaks here and there.  Leeds have only won one League Cup too, though even then it was a landmark one – the first at Wembley.  We were indisputably the best team around for many years in that Revie reign – but we were never the luckiest nor were we all that fairly treated and, even in the league, we were denied on a few occasions by teams we should have been looking down on from the top.

Still, the fact is that, today, the two domestic Cups offer themselves as the best chance for re-emergent clubs to break into the honours-winning clutch of successful teams.  Titles these days are the preserve of the mega-rich – those who argue that Leeds United are the last genuine Champions do rather have a point, as we were the last club to taste success on a reasonable budget as compared to the bulk of our rivals.  If Leeds were to get back into the big-time sooner rather than later, then a realistic aim would be to consolidate top-flight membership, and look for silverware to the League Cup or – preferably – the FA Cup.  That has been the path followed by Swansea City, an excellent example of a club climbing from the lower reaches of the league ladder, brilliantly managed to tangible success.  And, of course,  Hull City will shortly appear in their first FA Cup Final. Now if they can do it… 

I have been lucky enough to see my beloved Whites win the Football League Championship, and that’s something I’ll never forget – but realistically, I don’t think it’s a thing I’ll see again in my lifetime.  But I’m grateful for having witnessed it, it’s something I can add to the legacy and history of what was a magical Revie-fashioned squad, Super Leeds.  That era is the heritage of all of us, something we can all be massively proud of.  But it’s nice to see the odd honour added to the club’s record with your own eyes – so the ’92 title and even the Charity Shield that followed both mean a hell of a lot to me.

Maybe I will yet see the heroes in the white shirts add further to the list of honours won by my club.  It’s wonderful to think I might – and a repeat of the Wembley triumph of that day forty-two years ago at any point over the next few years would do very nicely indeed.  McCormack or Smith with a diving header to nick the Cup 1-0 for Leeds again?  You never know.


Clarke……One Nil! Hear the Late, Great David Coleman as Leeds Utd Win the Cup

David Coleman died today, and with him went another piece of our youth for all those of my generation who grew up listening to him describe Cup Finals, historical athletics achievements and so much more, all in that distinctive, much imitated voice – the voice of the seventies, surely.

This video shows highlights of the Centenary FA Cup Final at Wembley on 6th May 1972, a game whose only goal will forever be remembered in terms of Coleman’s memorably laconic description. As the ball winged in from the right, crossed by Mick Jones, Coleman simply intoned: “Clarke ……… one-nil!” There was the implication that a goal followed such a chance for Sniffer as surely as night follows day – and so it most usually did. But this was a special, historic day, the only time to date that Leeds have ever won the FA Cup, and so the commentary has a special resonance, much as Kenneth Wolstenholme‘s did for the World Cup Final of 1966. As Coleman recapped the Clarke goal at Wembley that day, he added that it was “an example of the Leeds one-two”. He usually had the right words for any occasion, and his unique voice always enhanced whatever game he was describing.

A marvellous commentator and a giant of sports coverage over many years, he even saw a new term introduced into the language courtesy of Private Eye magazine. “Colemanballs” was an affectionate reference to his occasional lapse – and it’s as much a tribute to him as anything else that will be said on this sad day of his death at the venerable age of 87.

David Coleman, 1926 – 2013 RIP  A sad loss who will be much missed – thanks for the memories.

Happy Birthday to Leeds Utd & Arsenal Legend Lukic – by Rob Atkinson


Cheer up, John, it’s your birthday!

A slightly belated “Happy Birthday” to newly-53 year old John Lukic, the only goalkeeper to win the League Title with two different clubs and a man who is frequently (and wrongly) cited as a survivor of the Munich Air Disaster whilst still in his mother’s womb.

To clear up that particular urban myth first, the story goes that John’s mum was a passenger on the ill-fated plane that crashed on take-off at Munich Airport, killing several of the legendary Busby Babes.  It’s a simple story to dismiss, as the date of the crash was 6th February 1958, almost three years before the birth of our erstwhile custodian.  Even if Mrs Lukic had been an elephant, the dates wouldn’t add up – as their gestation period is two years, and they’re not allowed in a passenger compartment anyway.

So John’s earliest possible claim to fame turns out to be so much hot air – but he did manage to create a few notable records in a long and successful career, consisting of two separate spells at both Leeds United and Arsenal. Lukic made his debut for Leeds in 1979 and played on until the age of almost 40, making his last appearance in his second spell at Arsenal on 11 November 2000 against Derby – he kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw.  This also makes Lukic one of only a very few players to have appeared in the top flight of English football in four consecutive decades.  In between 1979 and 2000, he won two league title medals, and also a winner’s gong in the Football League Cup of 1987, when Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 (becoming the first side to defeat Liverpool when Ian Rush had scored).

As with any goalkeeper, the odd mistake got a lot more coverage than the consistently good performances over many years – and the mistakes tend to be better remembered, too.  So it is that some Leeds fans can’t forget or forgive instances like the “blinded by the floodlights” goal at Ibrox in 1992, when playing for Leeds against Rangers in the European Cup.  But Leeds owed Lukic much over the years, for the games he saved and the points he earned.  A high point was his performance at Anfield in the latter stages of the 1991-92 season, when a series of fabulous saves preserved a vital point for United on the run-in to the league title.  Lukic had, of course, also figured in the last match of the season at Anfield when Arsenal triumphed by the required score of 2-0 to take the Championship Crown by the narrowest possible margin.

John must go down as one of United’s great goalkeepers, if only for the fact that he was the last line of defence in a team of Champions.  He had the dubious honour of being replaced at Arsenal by David Seaman, who had been his understudy at Leeds before being almost given away to Peterborough for a paltry £5,000.  When Seaman arrived at Arsenal for a seven figure fee, Lukic returned to Leeds for almost as much; rarely can one man have shuttled so often between only two clubs and still had such success.

Happy birthday then, to John Lukic, revered at two great clubs and unlucky to have been around when England were blessed with such quality in the goalkeeping department.  Some say he was the best never to play for England, which is an accolade of sorts.  Others cruelly dubbed him “Blind John” in the wake of a high-profile error.  But he served his clubs and his fans well and is assured of a place in the history of both Arsenal and Leeds United.  And that’s not a bad bottom line to any football career.

United Flashback: Wembley 1992 as Leeds Put Four Past Liverpool – by Rob Atkinson


Leeds United – Wembley Winners

For all the rival claims of the FA Cup and (don’t laugh) the variously-sponsored League Cup, there’s little doubt about the Wembley occasion it’s hardest to reach, the honour it’s toughest to compete for.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the FA Community Shield, or the Charity Shield as it used to be known in less politically-correct times.  This is not an event you get to be part of merely by winning a few games at home against the likes of Orient and Norwich, with maybe a semi-final against Aston Villa to spice it up.  It’s not a trophy you can win simply by the luck of the draw.  This is an event for winners, although League runners-up sometimes get a look-in if one club has been greedy enough to win the “Double”.  The Charity Shield is billed as the clash between reigning Champions and FA Cup-holders and as such it has the stardust of success and glory sprinkled all over it.

The Battle of Wembley '74

The Battle of Wembley ’74

Some will demur, saying it’s just a pre-season friendly.  Well, it does take place pre-season – but a friendly?  Before we look at this 1992 meeting of old foes Leeds and Liverpool, let’s cast our minds back to 1974 when the two sides met in the very first Wembley Charity Shield.  Kevin Keegan and Billy Bremner sent off, Giles displaying the art of the left hook on the ref’s blind side to dislodge Keegan’s perm – and all manner of malicious goings-on besides as Cup-holders Liverpool edged out Champions Leeds on penalties after a 1-1 draw for which “combative” is a hopelessly inadequate description.  Ray Clemence conning David Harvey over the ‘keepers taking the last two penalties, then grinning broadly as he reneged on the deal.  The violence and then the discarded shirts of the guilty as they walked off, dismissed by the schoolmasterly Bob Matthewson, a ref who towered over the pocket battleships in the opposing midfields.  The fuss and bother afterward as the FA decided examples should be made, long bans handed out.  A “friendly” it most definitely was not.

This 1992 match though was played out in a much lighter and more entertaining vein.  There was an air of conspiratorial glee around the old ground; Liverpool had administered the fatal blow to Man U’s title challenge at the end of the previous season with a 2-0 victory, the faithful of the Anfield Kop taunting their misery-stricken rivals with chants of “Leeds, Leeds, Leeds” as the last hopes of Man U and media alike drained away.  The real Reds then went on to Wembley and routinely won the Cup against Leeds’ old Nemesis Sunderland, so that this “Traditional Curtain Raiser to the Season” had about it a faintly gloating atmosphere – mutual congratulation was in the breeze as we all celebrated the discomfiture of the Mancunian and Mackem scum.

The game itself was a crazy mixture of potent attacking and Keystone Kops defending which foreshadowed the season both clubs were to experience, but which was avidly lapped up by both Kops at either end of Wembley.  Leeds opened the scoring when Rodney Wallace scampered into acres of space on the left before squaring for one Eric Cantona to finish confidently past Grobbelaar in the Liverpool goal.  That was on 25 minutes, but only ten more were to elapse before Liverpool were level.  A deep cross from Ronnie Rosenthal found Ian Rush with enough far-post space to plant a header past John Lukic.  This was at the Leeds fans’ end, and I remember at the time thinking that Liverpool would now go on to win, but what a cracking day we were having anyway.  But shortly before half-time, Leeds were ahead again, Tony Dorigo sending a deflected free kick beyond Brucie into the left hand corner of the net.

The second half saw the game continuing to see-saw as both sides went for it.  Liverpool contrived a second equaliser when Dean Saunders fastened on to a loose ball and powered it past Lukic in the blink of an eye.  Again that feeling of slight resignation and again Leeds blew it away, regaining the lead after 75 minutes when Cantona headed a cross ball down for Wallace to tap back to him.  Cantona looked up and calmly directed the ball wide of Grobbelaar for 3-2.  The joy among the Leeds fans at this cherry on the icing of last year’s title triumph raised itself to a still higher level when the match seemed to have been decided 4 minutes from the end.  Wallace chased a ball out wide which, instead of trickling out of play, bounced off the corner flag and gave the live-wire Rodney an ideal chance to put in a telling cross.  And there was Cantona again, lurking at the far post as Grobbelaar flapped ineffectively for the ball, watching it all the way and planting a header into the empty net.  4-2 up against Liverpool at Wembley!  Eleven months before the birth of my daughter, this was probably just about up there with the Title decider at Bramall Lane for the most joyous events of my life to that point, and for a few delirious moments I didn’t rightly know where or who I was.

Sanity had barely returned when, way down at the other end, Gordon Strachan scored what must be the comedy own-goal of all time, executing a singularly ungraceful backward stagger as he tried to clear from the goal-line but succeeded only in trickling the ball over it.  Some cheered, some laughed; nobody was downcast except perhaps wee Gordon himself who looked distinctly pissed-off.  Leeds had won though, the occasion had lived up to and beyond expectations for me and my happy band and we waited joyously to watch the lifting of silverware at Wembley.

Before that happened, another display of respect and gratitude as the defeated Liverpool players trooped off into the tunnel at the United end of the ground.  The jubilant Leeds fans as a body stood to applaud their old enemies, the chants of “Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpool” drawing reciprocal if shattered applause from the bemused players in red, honour satisfied, tributes paid.  Then the Leeds players going up the thirty-nine steps to hoist the Shield high, and cheers echoing anew from our throat-sore and ecstatic hordes.  Leeds United: Champions of England – the Last Champions – Charity Shield winners and the only team ever to score four against Liverpool in all of the Anfield giants’ numerous Wembley appearances.  Vivid memories of a truly wonderful day.

England Cruise to Routine Win Over Moldova

FA Boss Greg Dyke may on reflection feel like claiming his dismissive remarks over England’s chances of success in next year’s World Cup were actually by way of reverse psychology motivation. That would certainly sit better with the current group of English Lions whose pride may well have been stung by suggestions that the nation’s next realistic chance of glory is 9 long years away in the searing heat of Qatar 2022. None of the stars of today can expect to be involved then; most will be football pensioners, studio pundits or embittered lower-league coaches.

If Dyke does claim in retrospect that his words were intended as a spur to greater effort and attainment, the performance against a clearly-outclassed Moldova will have him preening himself for the effectiveness of his barbed remarks. England tore into the red shirts from the off and could have scored on more then one occasion before Steve Gerrard fastened on to the juiciest of lay-backs from Frank Lampard – his 99th cap tonight – and sent an arrow of a shot in off the base of a Moldovan post. 1-0 after 12 minutes and the pressure on a creaking defence, hardly reassured by the evident nervousness of their keeper Namasco, was not about to let up.

Namasco it was, with a weak flap at a Theo Walcott snap shot, who set up Rickie Lambert with the easiest of headers, point-blank into an empty net for the second England goal on 26 minutes. Easy, easy, so it seemed – but only England had scored more than 2 against this outfit in the group so far with a 5 goal demolition in the away fixture.

When the third goal arrived on the stroke of half-time, it was Danny Welbeck’s hero act following hard on the heels of his hapless villain. First he earned a stupid if slightly unfortunate yellow card, firing in a shot after play had been halted for an offside call. That will cost England his services, at a time they are stretched for attacking resources, for the crunch game against Ukraine on Tuesday. Welbeck immediately made some amends by controlling a forward ball to round the keeper as he surged clear of the defence to finish routinely.

The second half began quietly, the previously-booked Ashley Cole having been replaced by Leighton Baines as Manager Roy Hodgson looked to protect his troops from further disciplinary action. But within 5 minutes of the restart England had four, Welbeck finishing well from a sublime through ball slid in by the impressive Lambert whose performance was making nonsense of his mostly humble pedigree.

England were building pressure well on the Moldovan penalty area, finding the time to pick their passes deep in opposition territory. As the second half wore on though, thoughts of Tuesday night’s date in Kiev evidently dominated more and more. The terrific Lambert was replaced by Jamie Milner with over twenty minutes to go, his forthcoming contribution against the Ukraine assuming greater significance in the enforced absence of Welbeck. England were still threatening and Everton’s Ross Barkley, on for Jack Wilshere, fizzed a shot just wide with quarter of an hour to go. A few more minutes and Frank Lampard’s vicious drive brought a scrambling save from the beleaguered Moldovan keeper.

The result was long since decided though and the game was established into a pattern of relentless attack against packed defence, England able to find space seemingly at will. As injury time ticked its sparse two minutes away, there was just time for Milner to balloon the ball wildly over the bar when he had the time and space to do much better.

A much sterner test lies in wait in Kiev next Tuesday. Ukraine warmed up for England with a 9-0 demolition of San Marino and they will be a real obstacle to the progress of the Three Lions. But it’s so far, so good for Hodgson’s troops and they will be in good heart after ramming at least some of Greg Dyke’s words back down his throat. Whether they can maintain that laudable defiance in such a crucial tie as next week’s remains to be seen, but for the moment England’s eyes are set however optimistically on glory much sooner than their ultimate boss predicts.

Dortmund Über Alles


The Germans are marching on Wembley with the aim of conquering Europe. It’s going to be Totally Teutonic, an island of internecine rivalry in North London. Some of the Little Englander persuasion, always ready to laugh when Germany lose in the World Cup (having recovered from England’s own earlier exit) or even when they get “keine Punkte” in the Eurovision song contest, will declare they have no interest in the result beyond a wistful longing to see them both lose. Others will aver that it’s really none of our business, and we should just play the genial hosts to a world-class event and stand ready to clap the winners on the back, whoever they might be, and say “Jolly well done, chaps”. Wrong, wrong, wrong. This result matters – well it does if you’re a Leeds United fan.

Firstly, let’s not forget that the city of Dortmund is actually twinned with Leeds, so we have those ready-made links which can be dressed up as brotherhood should the occasion require. This occasion does so require. We Leeds fans should stand four-square behind our European partners and wish them all success against Bayern Munich on Saturday evening. It’s only right and proper – after all, what are twinned cities expected to do other than support each other? But there’s another, far more compelling reason for wishing Bayern misery at Wembley. In fact, there are two.

Rewind firstly to 1999 and the culmination of the jammiest season an English club has ever had. Everything went right for Man U that year, and they walked off with a highly fortunate treble, after a series of unlikely comebacks and distinctly fluky wins in various competitions. At the death, they were one down in the Champions League final in Barcelona, having been outplayed by a massively superior Bayern side who had been thwarted by the woodwork on at least two occasions. Then – as we know – they scored twice late on, the usual jammy bounces and ricochets, and we’ve all had to live with the memory of Ferguson’s smug “Football, eh? Bloody hell” quote ever since. Bayern let us down that night, and they should not be forgiven.

And further back even than that – all the way back to 1975 and the night Leeds United became Champions of Europe in all but name, a moral status we have defiantly hailed loud and proud ever since. That we don’t have the trophy on our sideboard is an open sore that festers still and will never heal – as great an injustice as that perpetrated in Salonika two years previously. Penalty claims, really clear-cut, but turned down flat. Beckenbauer, der Kaiser, the guilty man. Bayern totally out-played by a Leeds side pursuing their last hurrah, committed heart and soul to winning it for The Don who was watching on from the commentary box in the Parc des Princes. A goal for Leeds, struck powerfully and true by Lorimer on the volley, Maier beaten all ends up, the very least our superiority deserved. Then, der Kaiser persuades the referee – damn him for all eternity – to speak to his linesman and see if there wasn’t maybe some way this inconvenient goal could be disallowed. And of course that is what happened. Thrown, deflated, outraged, the Leeds United side were hit by two late sucker punches, and Bayern were the most undeserving Champions of Europe ever – even more so than those spawny gits of ’99.

Those two Finals – the win for Bayern and the loss for Bayern – are a thorn in the side of every Leeds fan who can bear a grudge as a Leeds fan should. If the two results had been reversed – if they’d lost (as they should have) in 1975, and won (as they should have) in 1999, then we might well now be abandoning our civic links with the good Burghers of Dortmund, and saying a sentimental prayer for Munich. We’d probably have shouted for them last year against those fancy dans from Stamford Bridge. But justice prevailed on neither occasion, and Bayern Munich is a name inscribed forever on the Leeds United wall of hate.

So come on Dortmund. Get into them and make ’em have it. Let’s hope it’s another atonement and – as with last year at the hands of Chelsea – Bayern end up with nowt to show for their showpiece appearance and crying into their beer. Fingers crossed.