Tag Archives: Wolves

Thanks, Gobby Agbonlahor, for Motivating Leeds Ahead of Villa Away – by Rob Atkinson

Bielsa – over-rated according to Gobby Agbonlahor

Sometimes, in sport as in life, a helping hand can come from the most unexpected source. In the sporting arena, that helpful gesture might occasionally even emanate from within the opposition camp, giving an unexpected boost ahead of a difficult task. You’ll have doubtless heard of the phenomenon whereby some Rentagob ex-player for this or that Rovers, City or United will unwisely open their piehole and give major and unintended motivation to the next opponents of that ex-player’s former employers.

One such instance of this occurred last night in the wake of Leeds United’s slightly unfortunate home defeat to Wolves. Former Aston Villa player Gabriel “Gobby” Agbonlahor, the proud owner of two losers’ medals as the fruits of his less than glittering career, seemingly couldn’t resist the opportunity to mock Leeds United, heedless of the fact that, for the Villans, providing an extra incentive for Leeds United ahead of Friday night’s Villa Park summit was possibly the very last thing Dean Smith’s charges would have wanted. But good old Gobby, showing the kind of intellect needed to work at TalkSport, went ahead anyway – and, should Villa lose their impressive 100% record at the hands of United, it could be that Mr. Agbonlahor will find the blame fairly and squarely laid upon himself.

It’s a strange situation just now with Leeds and Villa, with the Villa fans in particular seeming to wish to generate an unnatural rivalry between their own club and the Whites, who habitually look west to Trafford or south to Chelsea for their own bêtes noires. With United still acclimatising themselves to the Premier League, and with Villa putting last season’s narrow and distinctly dodgy escape from relegation behind them with four wins in four games this time around, you might suppose the fans of Agbonlahor’s former club would be looking elsewhere themselves for rivalry fodder. But there it is, and we can probably trace this odd situation back to Villa’s rather fortunate promotion season, when Leeds missed out on doing the double over them only because of Marcelo Bielsa’s FIFA Fair Play Award-winning gesture of allowing the Villans to walk the ball in for an equaliser at Elland Road.

The reverse fixture at Villa Park had ended up with Leeds triumphant, having come back from two down – but in truth, United were the better team throughout, something that had Smith grinding his teeth on the touchline before muttering ungraciously about the Whites celebrating as though they’d won the title itself. Whatever the roots of the situation, Villa fans – who may well have something of a chip on their collective shoulder about the media adulation of Bielsa – have lost no opportunity to gloat over the contrasting fortunes of the two clubs this season, with warnings of premature exultation falling on deaf ears. But that’s fans for you.

It’s different when ex-players join in. The comments circulate more widely, and with much more chance of being noted inside the dressing room of the club targeted for such unwise trolling. You can safely bet your mortgage on the fact that Liam Cooper & Co will be well aware of Gobby’s online ramblings, including the assertions that Leeds United are more myth than legend, as well as his notion that Bielsa gets too much credit, which should more properly be laid at the feet of Dean Smith. As I said, you can forgive blinkered fans for spouting that kind of rubbish – but when an ex-player of your next opponent does it, then it can make the troops thus slighted imitate the actions of the tiger. It’s certainly not the kind of thing Agbonlahor’s former employers would have wished him to do, as they will be uncomfortably aware that Friday night’s challenge may just have become even more difficult.

Obviously, as a United fan, I hope so. I hope that Leeds will hand Villa a right pasting to ruin their 100% start, and I hope that Gobby’s words will be rammed well and truly back down the orifice whence they originated, to emerge a day later, via a natural excretory process, in the form of a TalkSport match summary. Villa are a good team, so this desirable outcome is by no means guaranteed. But if it did happen, then this blogger would be well chuffed – along with, I suspect, those well-motivated men from Elland Road.

Marching On Together

Blades Blunted by Wolves, Confirming Leeds as Top Yorkshire Club – by Rob Atkinson

At various times over the past few years, since Leeds United’s well-documented “fall from grace”, there have been those in the media who have been all too eager to drone on about how the Whites are no longer Yorkshire’s top club. At one point, some local TV hack – it may or may not have been Harry Gration, I simply can’t recall – almost salivated over his autocue in his eagerness to get out the obviously pre-prepared line “Yorkshire’s top club Hull City”, showing no outward trace of the embarrassment he must surely have felt. It was all so cringeworthy, as if any temporary arrangement of league placements could ever alter the immutable fact that Leeds United are Yorkshire’s number one, as they have been for well over half a century.

Now, one game into United’s first top flight season since 2004, even those who thrive on bare, soulless statistics are left without an argument, as Leeds’ only fellow Premier League Yorkshire club fell to a routine home defeat at the hands of Wolves. This left Leeds, despite their thrillingly gallant defeat by the odd goal in seven at Anfield, as the highest placed Yorkshire club, further reinforcing their historically predominant status in God’s Own County.

For Sheffield United, it may well be that “second season syndrome” will blight their campaign which, judging by their Blunt attack, could well develop into a struggle for survival. It’s early days, obviously, but there could hardly have been more of a contrast in the first game performances of the two Yorkshire clubs. It’ll be interesting indeed to see how their respective fortunes progress from here on in – but, for now, it’s good to see the league table confirming what we all know was always the case; Leeds United are Yorkshire’s Number One.

Marching On Together

Parachute Payments – Are They Really All That?

Saunders - Not Good Enough

Saunders – Not Good Enough

Every year, you hear the same thing about next season’s Championship division: “God, it’ll be tough to go up, look at the clubs coming down, all that money from Parachute Payments.”  Yeah, well.  Look at last year’s lot, Wolves, Blackburn and Bolton.  All dropped out of the top-flight and landed in the Championship with an almighty thump, weighed down by all that fools’ gold in their pockets.

In Wolves’ case, the fall was so heavy they’ve still not stopped, crashing through the floor of the Championship into the dank and unpleasant dungeon of League One.  This has been aided, it’s true, by spectacularly incompetent management right from the top.  The decision to get rid of Big Mick McCarthy – as a knee-jerk reaction to a derby-day thrashing by West Brom – is still haunting the Wanderers.  Terry Connor floundered in the deep end and sank without trace.  Dean Saunders has appeared to be clueless, his attempts at bluster unconvincing, even his saner moments lacking in any content or coherence.  McCarthy, meanwhile, prospers at Ipswich – a deeply impressive man and a highly competent manager at this level.

Blackburn, with management troubles and boardroom incompetence of their own, have been only a little better, but at least escaped a second successive relegation which appeared likely at one point.  Early in the season they spent £8 million on Jordan Rhodes, but then started messing about with the management structure and suffered accordingly.  Their failure has been at a price way beyond what the likes of Leeds could afford, and they will be looking ahead with some nervousness as Rhodes wonders whether his move was a wise one for a fledgling Scottish international.

Bolton too have flattered to deceive, failing to capitalise on a reasonable start, and pulling up no trees in a division with hardly a truly outstanding team, despite the seeming ease of Cardiff’s promotion.  The Trotters were still in with a chance of making the play-offs on the final day, but blew it by only drawing at home to Blackpool and thus letting in Crystal Palace at the last gasp – and the Bolton Premier League exile will last at least another year.

So what should we have to fear from next year’s lot?  QPR will need a radical overhaul after failing to recover from the cack-handed management of Mark Hughes, a man with one big fan he can see any time he likes in any handy mirror.  Reading could be a force, but they suffer from ownership who seem to feel that they have some football knowledge; usually a fatal ingredient.  There are rumours that some of Brian McDermott’s promotion-winning Class of ’12 would not be averse to a reunion with their old boss at Elland Road.

It remains to be seen who joins these two in the death-spiral downwards; the most likely is Wigan, who really do baffle me.  They are capable of wonderful football and will grace a Cup Final against Manchester City whatever the outcome of that occasion.  If the Latics could hang on to Roberto Martinez, they’d have to be regarded as challengers at the top end of next year’s Championship – assuming they do end up coming down.  Newcastle, Sunderland and Norwich will be nervously waiting to see if Wigan can pull off yet another last-ditch escape, as seems to be their perennial habit.

Obviously any relegated club will have the much-vaunted splodge of parachute wonga to cushion their fall, but they’d do well to look at the fate of last year’s Premier League jettison, and not assume that the ill-gotten gains will automatically ease their path back. Relegation can be habit-forming.  Just ask Wolves about that.