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Football League Considering Treason Charge for Ref Who Gave Leeds a Penalty – by Rob Atkinson

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Peter Bankes – professional suicide?

Peter Bankes, the referee who has defied the Football League party line to award Leeds a controversial first penalty kick in well over a year, leading to their 2-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers, could now face being sent to Coventry for his sins (they play Luton Town at the Ricoh Arena next Saturday).

Games without a penalty for Leeds United now…

Worse, it is being suggested in some quarters that the errant official could be charged by the ruling body with high treason, an offence that carries a maximum punishment of “a fate worse than death”. When asked what that fate might be, a Football League spokesman would only grimace and shake his head in a deeply ominous fashion whilst mouthing the dread word “Millwall”.

Mr Bankes was not available for comment after the game, it being understood that he was closeted with QPR manager Schteve McClaren and being grilled about what Schteve was sarcastically calling his “X-ray vision”. A Leeds source told us that the referee’s room was closed and locked for an hour after the final whistle, with Mr Bankes eventually being spirited away to Football League headquarters where he is expected to face brutal interrogation over the next 72 hours.

A Leeds source told Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything “Our only regret is that we were hoping to have a joint celebration of our centenary in 2019 with maybe a timely penalty late in the season – today’s totally unexpected award has clearly scuppered that. But we’ll take it gracefully and move on. We’d been a bit worried about the actual penalty conversion, there was a bit of chat on the pitch because nobody could remember how it’s done. Every time Marcelo has suggested practising penalties in training, the lads have just fell about laughing. Luckily, Kemar stepped up and sent the lad the wrong way, but he admitted afterwards that he’d been a bit tempted to head it”.

Rumours that United are planning to place a Tourist Information sign on the penalty spot at the Kop End, denoting a site of major historical interest, cannot, as yet, be confirmed.

Historical

Leeds United penalty – historically remarkable

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Would VAR Get Man United Relegated and Leeds United Promoted? – by Rob Atkinson

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Referees just love Leeds United

I’ve never really been in favour of the intrusion of modern technology into professional football. I was generally supportive of the view that the game needs its bits of controversy, things to talk about and argue over in the pub or, as years went on, via social media. And that, ideally, the game at its elite level should stay as close as possible in its essential character to the thud and blunder affairs fought out on parks pitches every Sunday morning.

But the old maxim of “the referee’s decision is final” has started to wear a bit thin, as with that other cliche “these things tend to even themselves out”. We were always asked to believe that, yes, referees made mistakes alright, but that they were honest mistakes, human errors. We were told that, over time, all clubs would get roughly the same amount of good and bad decisions, and that, ultimately, ability and fitness would be the decisive factors. And for a long time, many of us would believe these fables, we’d even repeat them to each other, wanting our beloved game to be straight.

The worm of doubt for Leeds United fans crawled out of the bad apples among the refereeing fraternity as far back as the sixties. I’ve written an article on this blog about the very worst decisions my club has been on the wrong end of – even limiting myself to the truly appalling travesties of justice, it it could have been a much longer list, space permitting. Leeds fans started giving wry smiles when referees were defended as honest Joes who were bound to make the odd mistake. We knew better, out of bitter experience. We knew exactly who would get the breaks and the dodgy calls, and we knew just as well that it wouldn’t be us.

The situation has never really improved for Leeds as far as getting a fair go from referees and the game in general is concerned. As I write, it’s 58 games since we last got a penalty kick awarded, during which time ten have been given against us, including some proper howlers. You get used to it, you come to expect it, but naturally, you never really accept it as your lot. I well remember Thomas Christiansen‘s ashen face after one match early last season; he was unable to credit what he’d seen with his own eyes, and I just thought, welcome to Leeds, mate – welcome to our world.

Things are different for other teams, of course, and it goes without saying that life at the non-crappy end of the stick is best exemplified by Manchester United, or the Pride of Devon, as I fondly refer to them. Their long penalty runs are matches without conceding one; it’s frequently said that nothing short of the cynical murder of an opposition player in their own penalty box will lead to a spot kick being awarded against them. One referee from the nineties, Graham Poll, frankly admitted that the best a ref could hope for when taking a Man U game during the tyrannic reign of Alex Ferguson, was to get the thing over, with as little controversy as possible, and ideally with Man U having won. That’s a mindset which must have yielded many victories in a game of fine margins; Man U were the beneficiaries of intimidated referees who wanted to avoid the Fergie treatment in the press, with a subsequent blacklisting from big matches.

This was a situation that applied throughout the Ferguson reign at Old Trafford, a period in which there was really no excuse for Man U failing to win the league in any one year. With everything in their failure, and the media vicariously lapping up the glory, Man U went from strength to strength. The learning curve their players were on under Ferguson was more than simply curved – it was totally bent.

But now, Fergie is long gone, and the major silverware eludes Manchester’s second-best football club. And yet still the “controversial” decisions accrue in their favour. Last night’s home game against Arsenal demonstrated both manifestations of the modern game; the old fashioned “lino’s call” for offside which resulted in Man U’s first goal, and the beginnings of modern technology ensuring that a goal stood which you would never see given against Man U in the days when eyesight alone judged whether the ball was over the line. Goal line technology, for a side that have seen so many narrow decisions go in their favour, is bad news for Man U. How much worse for them will it get when the video assistant referee (VAR) comes in for the Premier League next season, presumably taking away from the hapless Red Devils the marginal decisions they invariably get now?

It’ll be interesting to see what actually happens. My theory is that a club which has always suffered under the naked eye method of making decisions will be bound to do better when such a fallible system is superseded by state of the art cameras. And, equally, clubs that have always tended to get the rub of the green under “human error” will find themselves suffering disproportionately as those errors start to vanish from the game.

Could such a revolution actually result in the previously favoured club losing their exalted status, while the erstwhile pariahs come to the fore? Well, that’s probably just my over-active tendency towards wishful thinking. Still, it would be vastly entertaining and deeply satisfactory, if it ever came to pass. But the whole culture of the game and its supporting media is ranged against anything so unthinkable. During the Man U v Arsenal game last night, BT Sport‘s resident ex-referee “expert” Phil Dowd acknowledged that Man U’s first goal was narrowly offside. “But it was so close,” he demurred, “it would have been very harsh to give it. So, good goal.” That type of Man U-centric thinking still takes my breath away, even after decades of hearing stuff just like it. And it makes me think that, technology notwithstanding, the Old Trafford team will probably still be getting that annoying rub of the green for some time to come.

That’s not really any of my concern, though I’d like to think it vexes a few of you out there just as it does me. But my priority is Leeds United, and – eventually – we’re going to be playing our games under the electronic eye of VAR. And maybe then, if not before, we might actually get the odd penalty, or at least not have so many utterly crap ones given against us. And, if that proves to be the case, then I’ll happily declare myself a convert to this new technological approach. After all – who can afford to go down to the pub for an argument these days?

Can Wonderkid Jack Clarke Make Miraculous History for Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

…league games since United got a penalty kick

Leeds United’s teenage wonder and rumoured Manchester City target Jack Clarke is already making a considerable name for himself, on the back of a string of cameo performances that have seen him lend a new dimension to the Whites’ attacking play. No less a football authority than Clarke’s Elland Road manager, Marcelo Bielsa, has acknowledged the youngster’s potential to be a game changer, and it may even be that Clarke is destined to write himself into the history of Yorkshire’s No. 1 club by winning for them – whisper it in hushed tones – a penalty kick.

Some, of course, will dismiss this as fanciful in the extreme. There’s some justification for such cynical pessimism too – teams don’t go 58 games without a penalty (and having ten awarded against them over the same period) without some pretty determined referees being prepared to turn a blind eye and cock a deaf ear to all appeals, however much merit they may have. So why should a fleet-footed wide man, with consummate control and more tricks up his sleeve than you could shake a stick at, make any real difference?

The reason for guarded optimism lies in young Jack’s engaging ability to receive the ball in space out wide, in an onside position (unlike Alioski) and then jink and trick his way past his full back before making inroads into the opposition area (unlike Alioski). Keep doing this, and you’ll get chopped down in the box, sure as eggs are eggs. And keep getting chopped down in the box – well, surely you’re bound to get a decision sooner or later, even if you’ve got a Leeds United badge on your shirt.

And when that momentous penalty kick is awarded, maybe even this season, we might even manage to convert it, unless we’ve actually forgotten how it’s done. In which case, I do hope that the squad occasionally watch the video of last season’s shootout at Burnley in the Carabao Cup, when we made taking penalties look as easy as shelling peas. With that encouragement, anything is possible – but maybe I should just stop wishing for penalties, and enjoy how our heroes seem to be managing perfectly well without any.

Still – it would be nice. So make those runs, young Jack, commit those defenders and just hope that, when the referee does blow his whistle, it’s not just to book you for “diving”.

New Left Winger Option Could Bring Best Out of Leeds United’s Gjanni Alioski – by Rob Atkinson

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Pawel Cibicki – new option up front?

At the moment, and despite the unstinting public support he receives from the Elland Road coaching staff, it’s fair to say that Leeds United’s Gjanni Alioski is clinging onto his first team starting spot by the very tips of his fingers. He’s having the sort of season that might normally be expected to make him cast fearful glances at the January transfer window, wondering whether the club might make an astute purchase to give them options in his left-wing berth.

But the fact is that Alioski might well face a more immediate challenge from a player returning to his parent club from a loan spell abroad, in the shape of Pawel Cibicki. The 24 year old Swede has just finished a stint at Norwegian club Molde, making 13 appearances which have yielded 3 goals, a number of assists and a probable increase in confidence for a player whose ability is unquestionable. There are some who feel, or hope that, like Mateusz Klich before him, Cibicki can return to Leeds and thrive under Bielsa where he failed to hack it under previous management. Alioski is coming increasingly under the critical scrutiny of unimpressed fans, though he continues to be an automatic selection, for the moment anyway. But might this just be for the lack, so far, of any realistic competition?

The development squad at Leeds United has come through this season when the first team has looked a bit threadbare in various positions. But wide up front on the left has remained Alioski’s province, apart from the rare occasions when he’s been required to cover (and has possibly looked more effective) at left back.

Cibicki’s return though, unless the club plans to farm him out again, at least provides another option in Alioski’s first team role. It may take a while for the Swedish U-21 international – who has a vocal advocate for his value and ability in compatriot Pontus Jansson – to get up to speed in terms of fitness and the ability to fit into the Marcelo Bielsa pattern. But if he can be seen to be knocking on the door of the first team at Alioski’s expense, that must surely be good for the club. Cibicki could be a handy option off the bench, particularly as he can play as a striker or a winger, while persuading Alioski that it’s now time to buck his ideas up and produce what we all know he’s capable of.

It’s all about options, strength in depth and permutations – but, surely, a player of such undoubted ability suddenly becoming available, and doubtless with a point or two to prove, must be good news for everyone. Except, just possibly, Gjanni Alioski.

Leeds United Must Beware Potential Baggies Banana Skin – by Rob Atkinson

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Marcelo Bielsa – taking nothing for granted

West Bromwich Albion, one of the pre-season Championship promotion favourites, have been distinctly off-colour lately, sinking to seventh in the table after defeat at Hull City became the latest example of points carelessly dropped by a talented squad that should be doing much better. This miserable run of form has put Leeds United‘s own recent blip into sharp perspective; despite injuries and a number of, shall we say, controversial decisions against them, the Whites have contrived to stay top of an extremely competitive league, and will head to The Hawthorns aiming to consolidate that position.

Yes, the misfiring Baggies have had their own injury worries, but manager Darren Moore will not be looking for any excuses ahead of a mouth-watering clash with Yorkshire’s finest. In point of fact, Moore should be able to welcome back a number of key players ahead of Saturday’s evening kick off, including the prolific (at this level) striker Dwight Gayle, who would certainly need a close eye keeping on him by a Leeds defence slightly unbalanced by the injury absences of Luke Ayling and Gaetano Berardi. Certainly, more problems can be expected from the Albion attack than the meagre threat posed by Wigan last weekend, and United will need to be wary of what is essentially a wounded and therefore dangerous animal in West Brom.

It’s a classic situation of a team bouncing back to the top of the league after a slightly difficult period, going to visit a team on the crest of a slump. So often, the confidence of the higher-placed outfit turns out to be misplaced as the home side is inspired by the challenge and comes sailing out of the doldrums to win. This is the potential banana skin waiting in the path of the Leeds juggernaut, and club, players and fans alike would do well to be extremely wary of the challenge that faces them on Saturday.

Of course, the world’s best coach isn’t likely to be all wide-eyed and unknowing, and will have his men adequately prepared. Even so, and having witnessed a win at Wigan that was a lot less convincing than it should have been, I have a slightly nervous feeling about this one. Really, a side settling well into the Bielsaball concept should be looking to deal with any and all resistance – but we know that, in the real world of dog eat dog Championship football, it frequently doesn’t work out quite so tidily clear-cut. If Leeds can add a clinical edge to their finishing, and retain the ability to dominate possession, create chances and cover back in numbers, then three points at West Brom is distinctly achievable.

Anything less than that level of performance, though, and we could well slip up on that banana skin. Fingers crossed that, with yet another international break looming, Leeds are ready to sign off this segment of the season with a performance that ticks all the necessary boxes. 

Sky To Make All Leeds Games Start After 9pm Due to Pre-Watershed Sweariness? – by Rob Atkinson

Sky needs Leeds, but not the naughty language

Regular viewers of the various Sky Sports channels may have noticed a certain primness creeping into the satellite broadcaster’s football coverage of late. They’re coming across a bit like a stern Victorian maiden aunt, the type who, on hearing any form of profanity, will purse her lips and call upon high heaven to hurl a lightning bolt or two at the profaner.

Time was when sound effects microphones would pick up all sorts of four-letter naughtiness, and hardly even twitch by way of reaction. Not an eyelid would be batted in the commentary box, there would be no blushes mantling the cheeks of the presenters, no placatory words of apology for a TV audience possibly rendered rigid with shock at such audibly blue language.

Truth be told, those viewers at home didn’t give a toss anyway. They would sit there unbothered by any amount of effing and jeffing from the terraces, intent on watching the game and enjoying the atmosphere that was, let’s face it, generated in no small measure by the ripe and ribald chanting of the deeply partisan sets of opposing supporters. It’s how football is meant to be, and this nanny-like tendency to worry out loud that viewers may be offended is as annoying as it is deeply unnecessary.

But, it does seem to be the way that Sky’s football coverage is going. Time without number, just lately, I’ve heard the commentator intoning “We apologise if you were offended by any bad language you may have heard”, and I for one find it embarrassingly paternalistic and patronising.

As for their approach to Leeds United games, regular readers may well have guessed, correctly, that the headline to this piece is tongue-in-cheek. But any satire has its roots in things that could conceivably happen without any great tide of shock or surprise ensuing and, already, Sky’s attitude towards the vocal contributions of the massed Leeds support has been one of summary censorship, as we witnessed after a mere 10 seconds of United’s last TV fixture at Wigan last weekend.

At the first hint of “language likely to offend” – and particularly because it was, from Sky’s point of view, damagingly anti-corporate in its intent, the sound engineers pounced, the audio dampers were applied, and the United chants were largely muffled. With them went most of the atmosphere, but that’s seemingly a trade Sky are willing to make, rather than allowing any neat and raucous summary of their coverage and underlying philosophy to be heard by thousands of customers.

At the moment, and for as long as Sky’s suppression of audible protest continues, this is an upsettingly lop-sided commercial relationship. Sky’s Championship coverage needs Leeds United far more than United needs Sky, with the viewing figures for Whites games far outstripping the rest of the field. And yet the most televised club in this league receives a sum which is but a fraction of what the bottom-placed Premier League club trousers – now, that’s not a good deal, that’s blatant exploitation. Add to that the continuing smattering of snide remarks and unflattering reportage, and you wonder why we bother – except that, for many fans, live TV is their best and only chance of seeing their chosen team in action.

So, don’t expect to see Leeds United games kicking off exclusively at post-watershed times of the day – not just yet, anyway. But there are rumblings of discontent about Sky’s attitude in several aspects of their coverage, both from within the club and without, among the massive broader support at home and overseas.

Let’s not forget that United owner Andrea Radrizzani is a TV mogul in his own right, and has publicly expressed strong views not wholly supportive of the status quo. It may well be – fingers crossed – that Leeds will ascend to the top flight sooner rather than later, and feast on the financial bounty now denied them. But that doesn’t make the existing situation fair or right, especially for the clubs left outside in the cold, noses pressed to the window, drooling at the banquet within. That kind of inequality sows the seeds of revolution, which is something the fat cats in the Sky boardrooms would do well to reflect upon.

Leeds Fans Ask Sky Pundit “Who Are You, and What Have You Done With Don Goodman?” – by Rob Atkinson

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Ouch – Don Goodman reacts as that alien probe slides on in there 

Among the many talking points emerging from Leeds United‘s victory at Wigan Athletic on Sunday – ranging from the inspiring sight of eight Whites players chasing a lone Wigan attacker in the manner of a pack of lions running down a terrified wildebeest, to Kemar Roofe openly laughing after he converted a chance presented to him by the bumbling home defence – the one that stands out for many United fans is the apparent kidnapping of Sky pundit Don Goodman and his replacement by a lookey-likey with a deep and abiding love for the Elland Road outfit.

It’s difficult to come up with an alternative explanation for the Leedsophilic nature of the co-commentary from the DW Stadium. Whoever the voice behind the mic belonged to, it certainly wasn’t the Goodman that Leeds fans know and despise. This guy, contrary to the Don Goodman modus operandi, had so much positive to say about the Whites, drooling over the skills of Pablo Hernandez, praising the organisation and desire that typify Bielsaball, generally singing a hymn of praise to our United heroes throughout the game.

The real Don Goodman, as we know from past experience, would have been bemoaning the nature of Leeds’ winner “Life is sometimes so unfair”, to quote his doleful exclamation after a United goal at Huddersfield a few years back. He’d have been vocal in his frustration that Wigan created so little. He’d have shed tears at the ruthless pooping of Wigan chairman Dave Whelan‘s farewell party. He’d have lapsed into a monumentally sulky silence as Liam Cooper & Co clinched the three points, erased Wigan’s unbeaten home record and returned to the Championship summit. All this type of thing we have heard from Goodman’s bitter repertoire on too many previous occasions, but there was none of it on Sunday.

So, the only logical deduction is that poor Don has been kidnapped, possibly by aliens, and replaced pro tem by a Leeds-supporting and highly authentic (looks and voice wise) clone or robot. Clearly, a glitch in the programming meant the tell-tale absence of any bitching about Leeds – and that’s what has given the game away. Rumours that the artificial Goodman is being touted as a replacement for Noel “Get Iiiiiinnnnn” Whelan, due to the former’s audibly greater enthusiasm for the Whites, cannot be confirmed. Whatever the future holds for the clone, who is presumably even now being dissected by evil Sky TV technicians, our thoughts and prayers must be with the original Don Goodman, wherever he may be. If his fate is to be experimented on by eager and avid aliens with anal probes and other invasive nasties in their armoury, then we must hope that the experience is neither too humiliating nor at all painful. Well, not very painful. Or, maybe just a reasonable amount of moderately excruciating pain. You get my drift – there is some payback due here.

No doubt those aliens, or representatives of the Leeds United fan-base, or whoever is responsible for Goodman’s abduction, will be effecting his return to Sky Sports and normal duties before this deception becomes common knowledge. Perhaps he will even have learned a little from his experience and, as he wriggles uncomfortably in his chair, he’ll possibly recall the nature of the probing he’s undergone, and maybe soften his attitude towards United from now on. Anything’s possible, after all.

But if Goodman’s best Leeds-hating days are behind him (fnarr) and he’s therefore of no further use to the Evil Empire, then there are surely plenty of available bitter ex-pros who can’t abide United and are willing to demonstrate this at every opportunity. Tony Gale, a former Hammer who has never forgiven Leeds for that Vinnie Jones-inspired 1-0 win at Upton Park in 1989, and has been blowing bubbles of anti-Leeds vitriol ever since, would be an obvious possibility. It’d make a change, anyway – and to be honest, I’m not quite sure I’d want to sit through another punditry performance like that given by Don’s clone on Sunday. It was rather uncomfortable, a bit like an unpopular and vaguely creepy uncle handing out the toffees and half crown coins to the youngsters at some benighted family gathering; it’s just rather too nightmarish.

The thing is, with Leeds, you know there’ll always be another live Sky game coming up soon. So perhaps we’ll see a different performance from former Wolves player and sworn enemy of the Baggies Don Goodman, when we appear before the cameras (and, occasionally, the crowd noise mics) at West Bromwich Albion this coming weekend.

Watch this space…

Can Leeds United be the First Club Promoted Without Being Awarded a Single Penalty? – by Rob Atkinson

Lash Lorimer

Peter Lorimer demonstrates his penalty technique – from the days when we used to get them

Assuming Leeds United are not awarded a penalty at the DW Stadium during their televised meeting with Wigan Athletic on Sunday (and it’s a fair assumption, as we have seen this season, when some pretty good claims have been ignored) then the Whites will have clocked up 54 league matches without getting a single spot kick. In that time, many an obvious penalty has been refused United and, of the nine awarded against them, there have been some right stinkers, such as the ones given to Stoke and Brentford since the start of the current campaign.

This has now become quite a story in various media, and it makes you wonder what effect it might have on the referees and other officials in charge of United’s games going forward. My guess is that it will simply steel their resolve; no self-respecting, God-fearing, righteously Leeds-hating referee wants to be seen as bowing to external pressure, after all. So it could be a while yet before Leeds get a penalty, and when they do, Pablo Hernandez will probably miss it (as he did our last one, sometime around the Napoleonic Wars).

So – assuming that the record continues – could we actually go a whole league season without one single penalty kick? That’s not unknown, actually, at least in the Premier League, which is the only division for which I’ve seen these statistics. It’s still quite rare, though, and I honestly do wonder whether, in the Championship, with its higher incidence of what we may term “agricultural defending”, it’s really feasible that a club can actually draw a blank for the whole campaign. But I stand to be corrected and, as ever, I welcome any informed input.

Even if any team has previously played a second tier campaign without even one penalty, I’d have serious doubts over whether that team would have managed to be promoted. Any club looked on so unfavourably by match officials must surely feel as though its card is well and truly marked, especially if they keep on getting dodgy penalties awarded against them. That’s been the Leeds United experience so far this term – and yet, despite the additional problem of injuries to key personnel, the Whites ride high in the table, and will look forward to kicking on when (if) the treatment room gets a little less busy.

Leeds have shown every sign so far that, at their best, they don’t need refereeing generosity (or even common sense) in order to win Championship matches. They’ve managed to stay right up there, even in spite of some appalling decisions against them. So – assuming I’m correct to say that no team has ever been promoted without at least one penalty being given to them – could Leeds United be the first to achieve such a difficult challenge?

I actually think that United really could see their penalty drought extend to cover the whole season, despite the fact that we have tricky players who can only be stopped by chopping them down – and yet I remain optimistic of success, hopefully via the automatic route. Because, as well as the “no penalties for you, Leeds” rule, there’s also the well-established law that United just don’t do play-offs. So it’s top two or bust for us, penalties notwithstanding.

I’d really like to know if this would be a first, and I might even check the odds and have a moderate punt on it. But, if any friendly Statto out there knows better, and can prove that I’m barking up the wrong tree, and that it’s all been done before – then, please, let me know. Ideally before I part with any of my brass to Big Bad Bert the Bent Bookie. Thank you.

Leeds Hand Out Karmic Retribution to Notts Forest’s Former Real Madrid Man Karanka – by Rob Atkinson

Smith and Karanka 2001

Alan Smith of Leeds United disputes possession with Aitor Karanka of Real Madrid

Regarding the drama arising out of last weekend’s Leeds United versus Notts Forest encounter, it continues to become more intriguing as the days have passed; the plot thickens and the web grows ever more tangled. The Case of Kemar Roofe’s Nefarious Handball Equaliser waxes curiouser and curiouser, with one common thread reaching back to the beginning of the century, through various historical events of uncanny similarity. 

On Tuesday of this week, I wrote a mildly defensive piece here, trying to justify what really seemed barely justifiable, as I explained that Roofe’s transgression was actually a long overdue rub of the green for a Leeds United side more sinned against than sinning. I wasn’t all that convinced I was right – but you have to stick up for your team. 

On Wednesday, having found that the holier-than-thou Notts Forest had themselves benefited from a comparably dodgy equaliser a few years back, I went more on the offensive, accusing the City Ground faithful, the Nottingham Post and particularly Messrs. Kenny Burns and Garry Birtles of faux outrage if not actual hypocrisy. I now had an unarguable point, I felt, particularly as the current Forest manager Aitor Karanka had been the Boro manager diddled by a Nottingham handball in that earlier incident. You couldn’t call it karma – not quite yet – but it was a neat little coincidence. 

And then I discovered to my delight that Roofe’s errant hand had indeed brought long overdue karmic retribution to Mr. Karanka – and that this was the classic dish of revenge best served cold.

Cast your minds back, if you will, to 2001 and Leeds United’s Champions League visit to Real Madrid. Both sides had already qualified for the knockout stages, with massive clubs such as Barcelona having already gone out. And man u had gone out too. So, although the meeting in Madrid was technically a dead rubber, the pride of two great clubs was at stake. 

Alan Smith had given Leeds an early lead, to the delight of their travelling fan army, of which I was one. But then came our familiar companion injustice to kick us in the jacksy yet again, as Madrid star Raúl equalised with – yes, you’ve guessed it – a blatant handball. In fact this was an outrageously obvious punch into the United net, but it stood, and Leeds were on their way to what was to be an honourable 2-3 defeat.

And the link with the two handball incidents previously mentioned? None other than our old friend Aitor Karanka, then a defender in the Madrid team, and one of those Real players happily celebrating a Raúl goal that should never have been allowed.

So please understand if I’m short of sympathy for Mr. Karanka, Forest manager when Leeds got a handball equaliser, and coach of Middlesbrough when Forest did it to them. He’s suffered twice, yet it really is cumulative payback for that night in the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu – so for me, he can just grin and bear it. There’s this slithery progression of hypocrisy backwards in time, in that the Forest fans were outraged with Leeds United last Saturday over something they’d celebrated against Middlesbrough four years back – and, in turn, Mr Karanka was outraged with what is now his current club, four years back, about something he’d celebrated in the colours of Real Madrid against Leeds in 2001. It’s gone full circle, which is all very symmetrical, fitting and ultimately satisfactory, I hope you’ll agree.

It’s taken over 17 years and a convoluted path to see some sort of football justice, but it was well worth the wait for me. Every time I see a replay of Kemar Roofe’s handball goal from now on, it will be with keen pleasure, and no guilt at all. And that qualifies as what, for Leeds United, is a rare and delicious happy ending.

Notts Forest Fans Rail at Leeds ‘Cheats’, But Strangely Quiet on Their Own ‘Evil Genius’ – by Rob Atkinson

The City Ground Nottingham – home of hypocrites

Football, as befits this country’s national sport, used to have standards. Now, it seems, the Beautiful Game is more about double standards. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the city of Nottingham, where hypocrisy and sanctimony walk hand in hand wherever Notts Forest fans gather, with an overarching sense of holier-than-thou in every nook and cranny.

This past week, Notts Forest fans have been throwing their hands up in disgusted horror and emitting shrill squeaks of protest at the nature of Leeds striker Kemar Roofe‘s late equaliser against them at Elland Road last Saturday. Roofe seemed to hold his hand up and admit the goal may not have been strictly legit, but that has failed to pacify the outraged “Tricky Trees”, who had plainly never before witnessed such infamy and unfair play.

Or so you’d have thought, given the depth of their apparent disgust. A few of the City Ground bright boys even logged into a live stream of a Leeds United U-23s game from Thorp Arch earlier this week, simply so that they could be seen in the live comments, in full-on j’accuse mode, howling “cheats!” at bemused United fans watching the game online. That’s going out of your way to make a point, actually logging in to a second string game. It borders on obsession. Surely, they must feel they have a solid grievance and a steep elevation of moral high ground.

And yet… and yet… check out this YouTube clip of Darius Henderson‘s late equaliser against Middlesbrough a few years back. Surely that can’t be handball? It really can’t be – because, if it were, those highly self-righteous Notts Forest fans would remember it, and then possibly forbear from casting “cheat” aspersions on others, lest they might appear to be hypocritical humbugs

Certainly though, the Darius Henderson equaliser does appear to be a far better example of a blatant handball than Roofe’s, which was more of a clumsy lopsided tumble compared to Henderson’s classical punch. And some Forest fans certainly do seem aware of this less than glorious episode in their history – indeed, Henderson is referred to tongue-in-cheek as an “evil genius” in some quarters of the “Tricky Trees” online world. Why then be so up in arms about Roofe’s more innocuous effort – unless you are indeed the most blinkered variety of hypocrite? It’s a puzzler, right enough.

Incidentally, talking of punches, try Googling “Dawson on Jansson” – for a damning tweet which may show another incident in the Leeds v Notts Forest game where the away side appears less than wholly innocent. This little cameo should be considered alongside any claims that Pontus Jansson actually raised his hands to Michael Dawson (who, let’s face it, deserves punching as often as possible).

Going back to that Henderson handball goal against Boro, though, certainly the opposition manager on that occasion was in no doubt that his team had been cheated out of victory. “I didn’t need to see the replay, for me it was enough to see the reaction of my players,” he said. “I’m sure it was handball because my players told me it was through their reaction on the pitch.“ The Middlesbrough manager that day, so incensed at Notts Forest’s dishonesty and cheating, was one Aitor Karanka. I wonder – whatever became of him?

Perhaps the Notts Forest fans bleating online, as well as former Leeds and Forest skipper Kenny Burns, of whom I wrote yesterday, should take some time to reflect on both of the incidents highlighted here, and possibly agree that only he who is without sin should cast the first stone. Or, to be less piously biblical about it: stop lobbing stones when you’re living in a bloody great greenhouse, you utter hypocrites.

I’m sorry to speak intemperately. But it’s as clear as clear can be that Notts Forest fans are bang to rights here for cant, humbug and hypocrisy – and there’s good reason to suppose that even their manager, when he thinks back to being cheated by Forest in his Boro days, might just agree with me there.