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From Milk Crate to Press Box, 42 Years at Leeds United’s Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

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Sitting where Frannie Lee wouldn’t dare – within right-hook range of Big Norm

My Elland Road history is one of a gradual progression that has seen me following the varied fortunes of Leeds United from many different vantage points within that famous old stadium. I started out in the much-lamented Lowfields Road stand, its venerable roof famously braced by cross wires to stop it being blown away by anything above a stiff breeze. My spectating debut was in the funny little “shelf” area that ran the length of the stand between the terraces below and the seats above. I attended a good few games there, with our Gray and, solemnly in charge, my Dad – who saw that our match-day equipment included milk crates for us kids to stand upon, thus enjoying some sort of view.

When I first started going to Elland Road independently, I stood on the Lowfields terraces, but found the passion and buffeting of that experience a little too much – softie that I was. So the next move was to the Boys’ Pen, in the North-East corner of the ground. I stayed there until a ticket mix-up meant that I faced a choice between missing a League Cup tie against Everton, and braving the rigours of the Kop. I screwed up my courage to make my debut on that mighty and cacophonous hill – and never looked back. From that time on, I was a dedicated Gelderd-Ender and the Kop years represent my golden era of United support.

When the Kop went all-seater in the wake of Hillsborough and the Taylor Report, it never felt quite the same to me, and I sympathise with those who never experienced the thrill and surge of a packed Gelderd. One moment I’ll always remember is when Dave Batty scored against Man City early in our League Title season of 1991/92. As Batty himself later admitted, he was never much of a goal-scorer “but, against City, I were prolific”. Over a hundred games after his previous goal, at City in the late 80s, Batts hit the back of the net against the same opponents in ’91 – and at the Gelderd End, too. The whole stadium erupted in joy unconfined; I believe injuries were sustained on the Kop that day but, trust me, nobody felt any pain. It was a magical moment, the stuff from which legends are woven.

When my time on the Kop came to an end, my attendance at Elland Road growing less frequent, I became something of a nomad, taking in the view from the South, West and East of the stadium.  I was getting older and more curmudgeonly, less able and willing to tolerate the stresses of a packed crowd, or of bored kids making me get up and sit down all the time as they passed to and fro. I was becoming my grumpy Dad and, frankly, it had ceased to be fun. I was even considering a flirtation with Ponte Collieries, though my heart and soul belong to Leeds and always will. I just couldn’t hack it any more; I’d never got over the loss of the terraces, not that I’d last five minutes there, these days.

But now I’m back, a habitué of the press area courtesy of semi-regular Leeds United newspaper columns and, though I say it myself as shouldn’t, what has become a pan-global blog. Finally, I’m finding myself somewhat cossetted in experiencing an environment a bit kinder to middle-aged sensibilities. Last Saturday, I watched the Ipswich Town match beside one of my heroes, Norman Hunter, a legend of the Don Revie era at Leeds. I was utterly star-struck, but Big Norm was chatty and amiable – until the game started. Then he was kicking every ball, totally absorbed in the action, grievously upset at every United mistake (and there seemed to be a lot). It was an education for me in terms of what an old pro expects of the current crop, with the desk in front of us taking some punishment as Norm fulminated away. On my other side was erstwhile press-box doyen Don Warters, former Leeds United correspondent for the Yorkshire Evening Post. As Norman stumped off just before full-time, on his way to do his corporate bit in one of the lounges, I remarked that he didn’t seem too happy. Don grinned and replied, “He never is”.

I guess such hyper-involvement and the severely critical outlook goes with the territory for those guys who’ve been there and done it, especially at the level Norman, Billy and the rest played. But still, looking on the bright side – we did win on the day to stay top and, despite a couple of awayday blips recently, we’re still doing quite well overall. The football has been genuinely exciting so far this campaign, a real pleasure to watch and even to write about. What’s more, it’s a great view among all the scribes, the club kindly provides sandwiches, coffee and other such civilised comforts – and the company is amazing. All in all, just when I thought I was coming to the end of my Leeds United journey, it’s really wonderful to be back at Elland Road.

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Lowfields Road

Lowfields Road stand, towards the end of its life – but with the “Shelf” easily identifiable

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Leeds, Spurs, Everyone: Give Arsenal’s Main Man a Chance   –   by Rob Atkinson


The Tories think you are STUPID. That’s why they talk at you in three word, alliterative sentences, which they repeat over and over. 
Strong and stable. Brexit means Brexit. Magic money tree. Enough is enough. Coalition of Chaos. 

It’s the crudest and most obvious form of brainwashing you could imagine, but the Tories think – because you didn’t go to Eton, Harrow and then the Varsity – that you will be easily-led enough to vote FOR fox-hunting, the end of our NHS, tax rises for everyone except the rich, cuts in police and education, the Dementia Tax – and all the other nasties that the Nasty Party wants to foist on the many, so that the few can continue to ride their beloved gravy train.

They think you’ll be daft and masochistic enough to vote AGAINST free education, a decent living wage, investment in housing and social care and 10,000 extra police to make our streets safer. They think you’re THAT stupid. Well, are you?
I have a three word sentence for you. VOTE THEM OUT. And a four word sentence. BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. 
Because, in one respect, the Tories are right. Enough IS enough. Seven years of Tory rule have dangerously weakened our front-line defences, driven teachers to despair, piled more pressure onto overworked and underpaid nurses and junior doctors. They’ve made a mess of the economy and a laughing-stock of the nation.

Now Trump is supporting the woman who failed as Home Secretary, who is failing as Prime Minister and who wants YOU to back her vague and uncosted manifesto – in effect, sign a blank cheque – for another five grim years, so that she can continue to run down vital services and sell off infrastructure. When Trump supports something, you know it can’t be good.
The last seven years of ideological austerity, which have seen national debt double to almost £2 trillion, are ample proof that the Tories are hopelessly malign and clueless. Enough really IS enough. And this election will be your last chance to make a fresh start before the Tories rig the democracy game to make sure they stay in power forever. Don’t be stupid. Don’t let them do it. The stakes are high, have your say on Thursday, and get rid of the Tories. 
Give Mr. Corbyn your trust and your faith. Give him a chance to put things right for the many, not just the few. It’s probably the chance of a lifetime to escape the yoke of neoliberalism. 

America missed the opportunity afforded them by Bernie Sanders. Look where they are now. We must not make the same mistake. 

#VoteLabour #JC4PM #ToriesOut

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

Big Jack

Big Jack of Leeds United – neither forgot nor forgave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leeds Need to “Nail” Huddersfield’s Mooy: Ironic Whinge from Town Fan – by Rob Atkinson

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Terriers fan, moral high-ground holder and justice evader David Foster

As the latest Yorkshire Derby edges closer, with Huddersfield Town due to host Leeds United at High Noon on Sunday, the build-up took a slightly hysterical turn earlier today, when respected YEP reporter Phil Hay observed that United’s main job would be to “nail Aaron Mooy. If he runs the show, Huddersfield will win”. A fair enough observation, you’d have thought – but the reaction among certain Huddersfield fans of nervous and delicate dispositions was frankly ludicrous.

One Town fan in particular, a Mr. Duncan Foster, twittered his distress: “What an appalling tweet. If you worked for me I would fire you. To suggest “nail” a player is wrong. You have a responsibility”. Mr Foster, you may not be surprised to learn, is a drama director – so his hissy fit and histrionics were possibly to be expected. Feelings run high when local rivals meet, and that appears to be particularly the case among the denizens of Huddersfield’s Coronation Street-style cobbled streets, with their dark, satanic mills and packs of rabid poodles.

Ironically, Aaron Mooy himself has some form in the matter of “nailing” opponents – and in a much more literal sense of that word than Hay intended. Huddersfield’s early season win at Elland Road turned on an incident which many, Town manager David Wagner included, felt should have earned Mooy a red card, when he was guilty of a two-footed challenge on Liam Bridcutt. To add insult to injury, Mooy not only remained on the pitch, he also went on to score a fine winner. Huddersfield fans are neither the first nor the only ones to suffer from selective memory disorder but, in the case of Mooy, Leeds could respond with “live by the sword, die by the sword”. Phil Hay, for his part, found it scarcely credible that anyone could seriously think he’d been advocating injuring the Town man. The Town side of the exchange reeked of small-time paranoia and opportunism, and what has to be said is a slightly precious attitude from Huddersfield’s most prominent drama queen, Mr Foster.

It has to be said also that any attempt to occupy the moral high ground on the part of “Corrie” director Mr. Foster tends to leave a slightly odd and repellent taste in the mouth. Foster, who was secretary of his local branch of Gamblers’ Anonymous at the time, narrowly escaped a driving ban in 2010. He was found with over twice the legal limit of alcohol according to a breathalyser test, asleep at the wheel of his car, which was parked three metres from the kerb, engine running and lights on. Foster escaped a ban only “by the skin of his teeth” after an emotional plea to magistrates, citing his many debts and his utter penitence. Such a narrow escape from just deserts puts him almost in the Aaron Mooy class for dodging justice, but it does also tend to make him look a bit of a hypocrite when he lectures a professional journalist about “having a responsibility” – and on the most specious and contrived of pretexts. Still, it takes all sorts.

The fact of the matter is, Phil Hay has it spot on with his analysis. Huddersfield work their best moves through Aaron Mooy, and any sensible opponent would set out to nullify him, if they can. Clearly, a team of Leeds United’s reputation and devotion to the beautiful game will take a more scientific approach than the one chosen by Mooy himself at Elland Road. We are not, after all, a side known for dirty or foul play.

After his assault on Liam Bridcutt, can that dirty dog Mooy – or indeed the hardly blemish-free Mr. Foster – really say the same? 

Leeds United Will Ignore Manager Monk’s Warning Tone At Their Peril   –   by Rob Atkinson

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Monk: time for the club to support him

As the January transfer window draws inexorably to a close, Leeds United‘s highly-rated young manager Garry Monk has delivered himself of a cleverly-loaded quote – one that his employers would do well not to ignore.

On the same day that academy graduate Alex Mowatt finally moved on to Barnsley (despite assurances that nobody in and around the first team would be sold) Monk has reacted thus: “I can only assume that the players the club have talked about will come through the door as soon as possible. I am excited. We need to strengthen.”

It’s a statement loaded with subtextual significance. Reading between the lines, the manager’s “excitement” sounds more like the onset of frustration. When he says “I can only assume” in reaction to Mowatt’s departure, it sounds very much as though the sale was not entirely desirable from his point of view – unless there are incoming reinforcements due. The unsaid addendum to “I can only assume” is “because otherwise, the club is messing me about and not supporting me as promised”.

Time is running out, fast. There is 4th Round FA Cup business to attend to this weekend, a potential banana skin of a game at Sutton Utd in which, ironically, Mowatt might have been expected to play a prominent role. But, beyond that, there will then be mere hours to provide the couple of players that Monk has continually said he needs. It would not do to frustrate and stymie a manager who has made this season so much more memorable, and for all the right reasons, than the past few have been. Garry Monk has done wonders for Leeds United, and the club is honour-bound to back up his efforts with quality recruits to give his squad the best chance of success.

Furthermore, if Leeds are once more to disappoint their fan base as well as their manager, with yet another window in which expectations have been merely managed and not met, then it really does make no sense to lose Mowatt now, with so many potentially vital games left to play. The mercurial midfielder with that wand of a left foot may not be the kind of player to build a team or a promotion challenge around but, on his day, he could be a game changer with his undoubted potential to grab a spectacular goal like a bolt from the blue. You need that kind of unexpected element in a squad. With Mowatt gone, and even Murphy and Diagouraga too, the first team pool is markedly weaker than it was at the start of January – when the aim surely had to have been to strengthen.

Make no mistake, Garry Monk is putting the pressure on his employers to deliver, and rightly so. He’s saying that, with Mowatt sold, it would make no sense for there not to be incomings over the next few days. It would be against all logic, it would be foolish and it would be a betrayal. It’s all there. That one quote says it all, quite subtly, but nevertheless unmistakably. Garry Monk expects and requires action, not just words. If the club lets him down, they will potentially risk losing the best thing to happen to them in a long, long while.

Leeds United must listen to their manager, and they must heed his between the lines warning. It’s high time for the club to put its money where its mouth is.

Leeds United Legend Gordon Strachan in Elland Road Return – by Rob Atkinson

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Wee Gordon’s iconic strike against Leicester City in 1990

The word “legend” is bandied about all too freely in matters showbiz and sporting, but there are a handful of performers in both spheres who truly merit the accolade. One such, in the context of Leeds United Football Club at least, is current Scotland manager and former United captain and hero Gordon Strachan.

It’s twenty-five years now since the red-headed Scottish dynamo lifted the last old-style Football League Championship for the Elland Road outfit, completing a miraculous revival in the space of four years from the bottom of the old Division Two to the very pinnacle of the game. Such on-field leadership and achievement had not been seen in Leeds since the time of that other red-headed firebrand from north of the border, Billy Bremner. It is a massive tribute to Strachan that his name can justifiably be mentioned in the same breath as that of the late, great King Billy. In a world of so many sham legends, both stand proud as the genuine article.

To help mark the silver jubilee of that memorable last Championship, Strachan is due to return to Elland Road on Friday 4th of November for an evening of reminiscence at a dinner event organised by Events in the City. It’s fair to say that the Scot will be revisiting the scene of his greatest triumph, although Strachan’s own take on that might surprise a few people. As far as Gordon is concerned, the greatest achievement of his time at Elland Road was not that “Last Champions” success, but rather the Second Division Championship of two seasons earlier.

When Strachan was signed for Leeds by Howard Wilkinson in 1988, his brief was to be the on-field inspiration behind United’s longed-for return to the top flight. It was the fulfillment of that ambition, so keenly felt in the club itself and more widely in the city of Leeds and beyond, that really fired the former Manchester United man with pride. The fact that he went on to deny his ex-manager at Old Trafford, Alex Ferguson, a first English Title in 1992 ranks modestly second, for Strachan if not for the massed Leeds fans, to that initial achievement. But it must surely have added a piquant tang to the flavour of success that he savoured throughout his Leeds career.

Anybody who followed Gordon Strachan’s career will be aware of this diminutive man’s towering presence on the football field. Feisty, committed and skillful, he embodied all of the qualities that had been lacking in the Leeds midfield since the departure of Bremner over a decade before. The similarities between the two are obvious; but, if anything, Strachan was perhaps slightly more restrained on the field and somewhat more waspish off it. His performances in post-match interviews as a manager have become the stuff of legends in themselves, much admired and retold. After one defeat during his spell as Southampton manager, Strachan was collared in the players’ tunnel and asked by a reporter in what areas his team had been inferior. “Mainly that big green one out there,” was the laconic response. Gordon Strachan was still providing value and entertainment long after his playing career was done, and he continues to do as much to this day.

So it should be a memorable evening at Elland Road on November the 4th. Strachan will be assured of a warm reception in a place where he is rightly revered and, if he operates according to form, he should be well worth listening to. As the event takes place just a week before his Scotland team are due to take on the “Auld Enemy” England, in a World Cup Qualifier, there is also the prospect of some heartfelt cross-border banter to enhance and add an edge to the entertainment.

Whatever the outcome of the clash between the two oldest footballing rival nations, it’s guaranteed that Gordon Strachan will always be welcomed anywhere in England, where he gave sterling service to the Uniteds of Leeds and Manchester, plus Coventry City, as a player – as well as managing both Coventry and Middlesbrough. And the warmest welcome of all, in a city fiercely proud of its legends, will always await him at Elland Road, home of Leeds United FC.

Routine Win for Leeds Utd, Cup Final Heartbreak for Barnsley –   by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United 2, Barnsley 1

Routine for Leeds United these days appears to be outplaying determined but inferior opposition, getting into a winning position – and then having a late attack of the collywobbles which threatens to chuck a deserved victory straight down the sanitary facilities. Like that, this win over derby-day foes Barnsley was routine, right enough. It’s just that, lately, the Whites seem able to avoid the khazi part of the equation and grind out a positive result after all. So many times in the past, Leeds at 2-0 up would have been pegged back to 2-1 and had immediate conniptions. Now things are that bit different; now we have Pontus Jansson.

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is quite the fan of our borrowed Swedish colossus. Alongside Kyle Bartley, who took time off from defensive duties to grab the opener against Toby and his Tykes, Jansson is forming an on-loan central defensive partnership for United that is starting to look as good as anything in this league. Surely the most important piece of pending transfer business for Leeds in January is to secure these two on permanent deals. We all know it makes sense.

I’ve said before that increased reliability from a more solid back line would pay its dividend in terms of greater freedom and confidence in midfield and up front. It’s starting to pan out that way, with the team more often able to take the lead and then consolidate with a second goal, as at Cardiff recently. The man who delivered the coup de grâce that day was at it again against the South Yorkshiremen, Pablo Hernandez finding the bottom corner after an assist from Eunan O’Kane. At 2-0, Leeds were dominating the visitors, forcing errors all over the pitch and revelling in this unfamiliar feeling of confidence. And although Barnsley did break through with a worrying amount of time still left, forcing poor Charlie Taylor into an own goal, the Whites held out – and that’s a sign of durability and determination for which we can all be gratefully thankful.

So, three points for Leeds against opponents who have been troublesome in the past both home and away. Barnsley share with just about all the smaller Yorkshire clubs – and a good few further abroad – that “we all hate Leeds” chip on their collective shoulder. It’s served them well in the past, imbuing their play with a Cup Final intensity that has often seen a bewildered Leeds crumble. On this occasion, though, it was just too big an ask in the end – and the South Yorkshire Reds had to trail home empty handed, the banquet and the open-top bus cancelled, the souvenir t-shirts and DVDs on hold, till next time at the soonest.

The latest international break is well-timed too, and three points is the ideal way to go into a time for regrouping, planning and recovering from injuries. And, on a day when we marked the sad loss of the late, great Don Revie‘s son Duncan, a win was a fitting tribute to Leeds United’s first family at a time of such sadness. 

RIP Duncan Revie

Football’s Best Fans Caught Between Rotten Club and Predatory Media – by Rob Atkinson

The unrivalled support - where Leeds still rule

The unrivalled support – the only area where Leeds still rule

Did you ever play piggy-in-the-middle as a child? It’s a game for three, with one in the middle, trying to intercept a ball that the other two are throwing between them. It’s fun for the two, not so much, after a while, for the one – so every now and then, if the unfortunate “piggy” doesn’t succeed in catching the ball, the players will swap around so as to share the enjoyment. That’s only fair, after all.

If you’re a Leeds fan, you might well identify with that unfortunate player in the middle. For that’s just how it feels, being trapped between the club on the one side and a voracious media on the other – both of them seemingly doing the best that they can to ensure you, as the fan caught between them, have the worst time possible. The difference between the game and this real life situation is that the poor sap trying to break out from the role of victim never actually seems to get that break. Thus, football’s best fans (by a country mile) continue to suffer as club and media pile the agony on, week after week, month after month, season after depressing season. And yet there may be some hope, as we shall see. Perhaps this darkest hour may yet herald a golden dawn.

Leeds fans are the best in the business – but they are currently caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one side, there is the bumbling incompetence and woeful lack of vision of a succession of club owners, ensuring that Leeds United are always seemingly engaged in trying to shoot themselves in the foot. How the fans would like to catch that side out, in order to have a go themselves.

And then, on the other end of the piggy-in-the-middle game, you have the assembled national media, for whom Leeds United have long been the target of choice. The media, in their various repellent forms, have been demonising and attacking Leeds for decades now – always ready to seize on yet more bad news to ram it down the throats of the hapless supporters in the middle, who had had enough way, way back – when I first took an interest as a fan. The fans would like to catch that side out too – and some are trying to make their feelings heard, little by little.

It really has been going on that long for the Fourth Estate in this country. Leeds United have been hated in print and over the airwaves for the whole time since Don Revie‘s boys climbed out of obscurity and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. The difference back then, of course, was that it was more a siege complex than piggy-in-the-middle. The club – back then – had far more than its share of misfortune. But, in a marked contrast to the current tragic state of affairs, it didn’t appear to be actually complicit in all the bad stuff and the suffering of the fans. The maxim for Leeds in those days was displayed proudly on the dressing-room wall, visible to terrified opposition players as they walked past in the corridor outside. “Keep Fighting”, it said – and did they ever. The press decided that this was just not on – and war was declared. It’s a war they have waged ever since, long after Leeds as a club apparently gave up the fight to resist.

Nowadays, the press are as watchful as ever for any negative news they can publish and trumpet as propaganda. There’s something virtually every day. Only this morning, some online refuge for amateur hacks is gleefully speculating that ‘the “Redfearn controversy” could force talented youngsters to leave Elland Road’ words calculated to ensure that any Leeds fan will feel that bit worse over his or her Bank Holiday cornflakes than he or she might otherwise have done. And this piece of spiteful speculation, propped up by a line from some willing rentaquote ex-player, springs from yet another in a long and depressing series of own-goals by the club, which has foolishly isolated a manager in Neil Redfearn who had been doing just fine, thank you.

So Leeds United – a club currently rotten from the top and teetering under the strain of decades of mismanagement – provides yet again the raw material for a vindictive press to launch still another salvo of propaganda and negativity. And yet again, the fans – the best and most loyal set of supporters anywhere – are caught between the two opposing forces, powerless to do anything but despair and wonder when and where it will all end.

The hope for the future, such as it is, remains vested in those amazing fans. This is a group of supporters who continue to follow the club – that famous though latterly tarnished name – the length and breadth of the country, at any antisocial hour of the day or day of the week, in their vociferous thousands, out-singing and out-shouting home support wherever they go. It’s a modern phenomenon that attracts grudging respect from rival clubs, rival fans – even areas of the press. And maybe – just maybe – those remarkable fans hold somewhere among them the hope that this still determined and pugnacious piggy-in-the-middle might yet break out, and start having a say on either side of the game.

There has long been the facility – afforded by social media and the network of blogging sites – for fans to make their voices heard against the babbling background of the popular press. So now, if this or that gutter rag comes out with something particularly stupid and vindictive, the fans’ voice can be heard, comparatively faintly perhaps, but still there – and still defiantly raised in scorn and protest. The press and other media, though remaining powerfully unaccountable for the most part, no longer have it quite all their own way – and, particularly at local level, journos and broadcasters are having to take account of that steadily more audible fan voice. It’s a vox populi process that will only continue and become more effective over time.

And now, even the club itself  – and its succession of incompetent and unscrupulous owners – may yet be vulnerable in some measure to the effect of the fans. Just this past week, seven days wherein United have managed a couple more spectacular PR own-goals, an initiative has been taking off whereby at some point a group of fans might be able collectively to purchase a stake in the club – something that could lead to supporters having a real and inalienable right to a say in exactly how Leeds United should be run.

Leeds Fans Community Benefit Society (Leeds CBS) has attracted such interest among the support that it has brought forward the date on which the fans can invest in the possibility of buying a stake in Leeds United. Any fan can now become a Leeds Fans CBS shareholder – click here to see how – with the chance of playing their part in a future, supporter-shared, ownership. It’s an initiative that has won the approval and endorsement of respected local journalist Phil Hay of the Yorkshire Evening Post – for years a principled local oasis in a national desert of Press derision where Leeds United is concerned.

The fact that Hay – a resounding voice in the Leeds United press world – writes so encouragingly about a supporters’ initiative is highly significant. There is a sense that something serious might be happening here – a possible game-changer. As Hay puts it, during an apt summary of the Leeds CBS mission, serious financial backing can only enhance the fans’ cause – in other words, money talks, and the more of it there is, the louder that voice. The prospect of serious money, contributed by fans in support of a fans’ initiative, could now be the difference between more well-intentioned rhetoric and a real chance of a real say in the future running of the club we all still love – warts and all. And that could put us in on the ground floor of fan ownership in this country if, as some believe, it’s the way forward in a future that sees the corporate bubble finally burst.

For Leeds United and its amazing support, it’s been piggy-in-the-middle now for far too long, and the fans are sick of being trapped between two opposing yet equally malign forces, impotent – up to now – to do anything that might break the cycle. But it may be that this powerlessness – this feeling of just having to sit back and suffer – could finally have an end in sight. If the fans can have their voices raised against an uncaring and vindictive national media on the one hand – and if they can contribute their own hard-earned cash towards improving the running of the club itself on the other – then there might just be some light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. And – you never know – this time it might NOT be an onrushing locomotive bent on dashing all of our hopes and wishes. You never know.

Between us, the sayers and the doers might just have the means whereby that helpless piggy-in-the-middle – represented by the finest supporters anywhere – finally breaks out and has its long-awaited day in the sun.

Roy Keane “No Longer Softest in Man Utd History” as Rooney Hits the Deck – by Rob Atkinson

Wazza in his final sentient moments before the lights went out

Wazza in his final sentient moments before the “lights went out”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything can exclusively reveal that Roy Keane, he of the trademark glower and scowl, optimistically intended to give the misleading impression that he is hard, has been stripped of his long-standing title of “Softest Git in Man United History” after Wayne Rooney‘s virtuoso exhibition of glass-jaw softness in his own kitchen the other day. The incident in question was described as “a friendly sparring match between old mates whilst Colleen was safely away on a foreign break with her two other children.” Unfortunately, Wazza was unable to take the pace, or anything like a decent punch – and ended up “swooning on the floor like a big fat girl”.

Rooney’s conqueror was former team-mate Phil Bardsley, who managed to lay out the until-recently bald English talisman with a classic short left jab, sending the Scouse lightweight to the floor in a non-too-graceful manner not unlike that of an overbalancing sack of manure. Bardsley was reported to have said afterwards “It was only a love tap, I was shocked when he went down like a bag of sh*t*. I’d clipped him just before, so maybe he was a bit confused and thought he should hit the deck for a penalty, like at Preston North End.”

The abrupt and seemingly painful way in which Wazza the Dazzler hit the floor initially caused some alarm at Man U, a spokesman for whom remarked that they pay their striker £350k a week to stay fit and score goals, not “ponce about with the toy gloves on and look stupid”. The club’s concern increased when it became clear that Rooney may have struck his head on a chair on the way down. “We were a bit concerned about possible brain damage,” said a member of the Pride of Devon medical staff, “but we realised that his hair implant would have absorbed a minimum 90% of the impact. Anyway, he hit his head, not his backside, so any cerebral or neural damage is most unlikely,” chortled the un-named medic.

Fighting Phil Bardsley, the one-punch marvel who dropped Wazza in a heap in his own kitchen, later expressed concern that, as a result of the incident, Rooney was now being heralded as the softest git in club history. “That’s rubbish,” insisted Bardsley. “It’s still Keano who’s the softest, soppiest git for me, easy. Look at how he backed down before Mick McCarthy in Japan, and ran halfway round the world to hide at home. Scuttling up from behind and elbowing harmless little Jase McAteer, that was about Roy’s mark. Even Shearer had him cacking himself. And he couldn’t take a punch, no way. Listen, Bryan Robson or Cloughie could lay that fairy out simply by breathing on him after a decent boozing session. Keane is all front – you can’t say that about Wazza. He’s mostly arse.”

The incident was caught on video and can (at the time of publication, anyway) be viewed from a link within this BBC article. Viewers should exercise caution due to the clip’s extreme levels of dangerous comedy humiliation, which could cause some sensitive readers literally to laugh themselves sick.

Louis van Gaal, the man in charge at the Theatre of Hollow Myths, was not impressed by the story, telling Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything: “I’m schimply not impressed by this schtory. Boxing is not conschistent with a footballer’s lifeschtyle. This must schtop … schtraight away.”

Rooney, who scored against Spurs on Sunday while still only semi-conscious, was unavailable for comment. It is reported that he will not be giving any interviews until the results of a custom-designed “below-the-waist” brain scan are available. Roy Keane, reported to be on a short, bromantic break with Adrian Chiles in Brighton, was also keeping a tight-lipped silence in the face of requests for a quote. He is believed to be furious at accusations of softness, but – being too frightened dignified to face Bardsley up and settle the matter like men – is settling for a few glowers instead.

Colleen Rooney is still a broad on holiday. 

Supporters of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything; Link Now Fixed

A number of people have been in touch to say that they have tried to donate to the blog, but have found the PayPal link not to be working.

I think I’ve fixed this now, or donations can be made using the email address RobofLeeds07@aol.com. Must say sorry to anyone inconvenienced or whose time has been wasted.

Thanks to all concerned for your invaluable support, it’s vastly appreciated. The blog has just had its best-ever day, with over 31,000 hits on Sunday Feb 1st. It’s down to loyal and generous contributors that I’m able to keep this going.

MOT 

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