Tag Archives: winger

Happy Birthday to Leeds Utd Legend Eddie “The Last Waltz” Gray – by Rob Atkinson

A dapper Eddie pictured in front of a dapper, all-standing Kop

A dapper Eddie pictured in front of a dapper, all-standing Kop

It’s “Legends Birthday Time” again, and today we almost belatedly celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the birth of Sir Edwin “The Last Waltz” Gray, genius winger, loyal Leeds man through and through and thoroughly bloody nice bloke, as Tim Nice-But-Dim might say – only this time, he’d be spot on.  It was Don Revie who once said of Eddie “If that lad hadn’t pulled a muscle, nobody would ever have heard of George Best”. That’s certainly fulsome praise and a hell of a tribute to a lavishly talented player, surely one of the very best ever to pull on a Leeds United shirt.

The memories of Eddie are many, mainly as that gifted player who would torture full-backs with a genial smile on his face, but also as a manager at Leeds, in charge of a precociously gifted set of youngsters who could have gone far with just that little bit of extra investment – sound familiar? Eddie has also served his time as a pundit, commenting on the latter-day performances of his beloved Leeds United, always straining so hard for impartiality and endeavouring to avoid accusations of bias – indeed, some out here sometimes feel he tried a little too hard in this respect.  But I’ve had the honour of meeting the man a few times, and one of these was on the commentary gantry at Elland Road – when he was preoccupied by the need to find me a chair to sit on, much to my bemused delight – so I’m well aware of Eddie’s professionalism as a broadcaster, just as was the case in his days as a player, manager and of course as the coach in those promising early David O’Leary days.

It is as a player that Eddie will best be remembered and revered by Leeds United fans of all ages.  Those who weren’t lucky enough to see him play in person may well have thrilled to video footage of his bravura performance in the 1970 FA Cup Final when, on an absolute pig of a pitch chopped-up by the Horse of the Year Show, he put in one of his greatest and most tantalising displays of sorcery out wide, reducing David Webb to a gibbering shadow of his normally efficient self.  Legend has it that Webb eventually had to be taken off with severe vapours and twisted blood – sadly he was to have his revenge in a replay gifted to Chelsea by the inevitable Sprake big-match cock-up.

Another vivid memory is of Eddie’s bewitching dance through the Burnley defence in a league match at Elland Road, when he took on and beat opponents just as he pleased before drilling a sublime near-post finish past a bewildered Peter Mellor in the Dingles goal.  It is this match that brings out Mr Gray’s slight perverse streak; he scored two that day and he always insists that it’s the other goal – a superbly-judged 35 yard lob at the Gelderd End – which he remembers as his best.  But nobody who has seen the way he destroyed a top class defence with that mazy run, will ever forget it.  It was a bit like the famous Ricky Villa goal for Spurs at Wembley – except much better.

More generally, it’s the characteristic hunched shape of Eddie Gray that you remember – never totally reliant on speed, he would beat his man with pure skill, manifesting itself in a variety of tricks, shuffles, stepovers and other sundry pieces of magic. His long-term thigh injury, sustained as a mere youngster, led him to rely far more on technique than pace and mobility, although he was no laggard either. But such were his sublime skills that he stands as possibly the last great example of the old-fashioned tricky winger, a man who could play an entire top-flight defence as a toreador plays a bull, a player of prodigious style, skill and élan.

Mere words cannot, of course, do justice to Eddie Gray the player or Eddie Gray the man. Leeds United have been privileged by the service and unstinting support of both, and they have not always played fair by him in his various roles at the club.  But Eddie Gray’s place in the Elland Road Hall of Fame is as secure as that of any other Legend in the whole history of the club; he is synonymous with Leeds, which is after all the place he has lived and worked for most of his life since the age of 15 – not that anyone could guess this whilst trying to understand his impenetrably Scottish accent.

It was my pleasure and privilege to watch Eddie Gray weave his magic for Leeds United many times between 1975 and the end of his playing days, by which time he had become a cultured full-back who also managed the team.  His long and illustrious career gives the lie to Brian Clough‘s infamous remark that, had he been a racehorse, he’d have been shot – a jibe at that long-standing injury.  This was surely the most oafish remark that even Clough – a quite legendary oaf – ever made.  Gray, that most mild-mannered of men, took exception – reminding Clough, who was his manager at the time, that his own career was ended by injury and that he should, therefore, know better than to say anything so crass.  I’d have given plenty to see Old Big’ead‘s face when that shot went home.

Eddie Gray – genius, magician, legend – and not least of these attributes, the nicest guy you could wish to meet.  A slightly overdue, just in time Happy Birthday, Eddie, and many, many happy returns.

What a Day

Thoughts of a Brentford fan on recent events, including the impending loss of their winger Dallas to Leeds United.

The BFC Bees Blog

Yesterday, I started by writing about how we were set to lose not only Andre Gray but Moses Odubajo to Hull City. As the day developed the news turned even more sour with reports of Stuart Dallas being set to complete a move to Leeds Utd. Cue Twitter meltdown from bees fans, myself included.

I received quite a few a few messages from Leeds fans both asking about Stuart Dallas and plenty of commiserations about selling off your top talent. First things first though, nothing is complete and no one has gone anywhere so perhaps the outrage that we all expressed yesterday is a bit preemptory. Certainly though, the Dallas deal appears all but done. It’s a huge surprise to me that we’ve agreed to this sale, not least because of the seemingly low fee involved. Is this another transfer clause that we didn’t know about?

Leeds fans perhaps mistake…

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Leeds United “Reach Agreement” With Sunderland for Winger Buckley   –   by Rob Atkinson

Sources close to both clubs are indicating that Leeds United and Sunderland have agreed a deal for the transfer of former Brighton winger Will Buckley to Elland Road. If true, the signing would represent success for United Head Coach Uwe Rosler, who has made no secret of the fact that he has considered his squad short of vital width. 

The talk is that this transfer is at an advanced stage, with the deal being agreed between the clubs, leaving it down to United to sort out personal terms with Buckley. 

There may well be an update on this story in the next couple of days and possibly as early as tomorrow. 

“Uninvolved” Cellino Vetoed Winger Signing, London Press Claim – by Rob Atkinson

Woolford? I don't think so, my friend.

Woolford? I don’t think so, my friend.

It is being claimed by elements of the south London press that Neil Redfearn’s wish to add Millwall winger Martyn Woolford to his squad has been denied by Massimo Cellino, currently barred from “significant involvement” at the club under the terms of his Football League temporary ban.

If true, this development raises serious questions, not only about who calls the transfer shots at Leeds (that has long been a thorny issue) – but also about the extent to which Cellino is still influencing policy at Leeds, despite the measures the League has taken against him.

It is common ground among the bulk of the United support that the squad is lacking in quality options in wide attacking areas. If the Woolford rumours are true – and Millwall manager Ian Holloway certainly appeared to think a move was likely, as recently as the weekend – then it is clear that Redders agrees with the fans, at least to the extent that he would prefer to recruit a winger for the rest of this season. The question now remains – if Leeds have to go through what remains of the campaign, and conducting a relegation fight at that, then who would carry the can if the unthinkable were to happen, and the Whites sank once more into League One? Answers on a postcard…

Nevertheless, I don’t think that a disastrous relegation is actually all that likely to happen – and, of course, there’s always the emergency loan window to plug any serious gaps in the squad, as we keep hearing year after year. But the reports from London allude to Cellino not wanting Woolford because he “didn’t know enough about him”.  Redders clearly feels that he does know enough to back the signing of the lad – so we may still be in the situation of a stand-off between an owner who wants to remain “hands on” (whatever the League might say or do) and a football pro who understandably wants to exercise his own judgement in football matters.

This could well be yet another unwelcome can of worms, freshly opened at Elland Road.

Somma Time Some Way Off for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson


As rumours of an impending “high profile loan signing” continue to waft around Elland Road, there is also news of the possible return of an old favourite, a star that shone so bright and yet so briefly, a man who stood out as an instinctive finisher one moment and then collapsed as a serial treatment-room habitué the next. Davide Somma, powerhouse striker and ruptured cruciate victim extraordinaire, is on the brink of another comeback. Could these two rumours somehow be related? As “Private Eye” would agree, I think we should be told.

Somma appeared to have earned himself such a bright future with his gamble on the price of a transatlantic air ticket to seek his footballing fortune. A successful trial, a contract and a flurry of goals – some bearing the unmistakable hallmark of class and composure – and the world was the likeable hitman’s lobster, or so it seemed. Then, injury, rehabilitation, setbacks, the cycle of despair. His hopes shattered, his prospects doomed, Somma fell out of contract in June. And yet he’s now back at United, seeking to prove his fitness – and who knows? The dreaded cruciate injury is not the football career’s death-knell it once was. A nifty bit of key-holing and a man can be fit for purpose again. Look at Gazza. Well, maybe that’s not the best example of redemption – but he came back from a wrecked knee to play for England again, didn’t he? Of course he did.

The thing about Somma is – good though it would be to see him back at his best and bunging in the goals for Leeds United – it’s all about context. In the club’s current straits, there really is an injection of top-class ability needed, both in a supply-line of chances and a taker of them too.

The cropping-up of Somma’s name just now has to be purely incidental to more urgent requirements. It couldn’t really be that our high-profile loan will come from the physio department of the local orthopaedic hospital. We need more of a Sharp than a Somma right now to salvage the hopes of this season. And despite the seeming prevalence of them in and around Leeds United, we could do with a Burke too. Birmingham’s tricky winger looks ever more a snip at £600k, but that boat has probably sailed.

The news that Davide Somma may yet be on the verge of a return to fitness, with the potential to function as a professional footballer is good and welcome. If such a comeback from apparently career-ending injury is ultimately to the benefit of Leeds, then so much the better. But the fact that social media outlets are currently all a-Twitter with hopes that Somma might be the saviour we need right now – that surely must be a rumour too far.

The very best of luck to the lad in his latest attempt to regain fitness – and thousands will be hoping he can fulfil his early, rich promise in a Leeds United shirt. But our immediate salvation must surely lie elsewhere.

Leeds Chasing Top Gun – But Who Will Supply the Ammo? – by Rob Atkinson


Striker Who??

It’s now an open secret that Leeds United have listened to manager Brian McDermott’s warnings about the lack of a prolific striker at Elland Road, and that they have heeded his words of wisdom. Now, they are prepared – so we understand – to go out and secure a goal-scorer. Such exotic beasts do not come cheap.

Speculation is rife as to who the target might be. Old-boy Becchio gets a mention, as does Leeds fan Shane Long, out in the cold at West Brom. Reading appear to covet another reputed Leeds target in Billy Sharp – could this pave the way for Adam le Fondre, known to his fans as “Alf”, to breeze into LS11?

Whoever gets the nod might be expected to make significant inroads into Leeds’ manifestly limited wages budget – unless the loaning club are willing to do the decent thing and subsidise whatever fat contract their surplus striker is on. Paying a hefty amount of wages would pose a problem for Leeds – namely, how are we going to afford a winger, if we put all our eggs in the goal-poacher basket?

Because, make no mistake, a winger – or preferably two – should be as much a priority as any striker. Our existing strikers have starved for supply for most of the season so far. Ironically, the defeat to Burnley was notable for the amount of chances created and squandered, but this has not been the story of our campaign to date. With better supply, Hunt, Varney, McCormack and even Smith might well have weighed in with more goals. Getting another striker and neglecting to address the problem of supply from wide areas would be like purchasing a lethally-efficient gun – yet economising on bullets.

If GFH have been listening to Brian’s gloomy warnings, as we keep hearing in the Twittersphere – then let’s hope we’ve heard only half the story. Let’s hope that digging deep means really deep, and that the shopping list has “two decent wingers” scrawled at the bottom of it. Otherwise, in trying to solve our goal-shortage problems, we might just be adding to them.