Tag Archives: Yorkshire Derby

Aggression, Consistency & Intensity: Heckingbottom’s Ethos is Leeds Through & Through – by Rob Atkinson

PH LUFC

Paul Heckingbottom: happy and honoured to be here

Paul Heckingbottom‘s performance as Head Coach in the first few days since his whirlwind move from Barnsley to Leeds United could hardly have gone better. Of course he’s only been talking the talk so far; the serious stuff, the walking of the walk, starts on Saturday, High Noon at Bramall Lane, with a Yorkshire Derby against Sheffield United. Still, in advance of that baptism of fire, the new Leeds boss has excelled as he set out his stall to players, press and fans, hammering home his message to great effect.

Let’s be in no doubt: for a Royston lad who grew up as a Barnsley fan hating Leeds United, Paul gets what our club is all about. His emphasis on qualities such as consistency, aggression and intensity could be taken from Page One of any United fanatic’s Leeds-supporting handbook. These are the ideals we hold dear, the characteristics we love and expect to be hated for. Without these principles, forged through blood, sweat and tears, there would be no modern Leeds United. They’re written into the DNA of the club – and now we have a man who appears to have the same list of attributes carved upon his heart.

It’s no mealy-mouthed recitation of what he knows we want to hear, either. The qualities espoused by Heckingbottom don’t fall from his mouth like lazy platitudes, but as the solid structure behind his footballing philosophy. Aggression with and without the ball. Consistency being the golden key to league success. Intensity, the way to the fans’ collective heart. These are the principles that can lead to success for what is a talented squad. How long it will take to establish such a pattern is another matter entirely.

For the time being, though, the task of showing us all exactly what we’ve got in Heckingbottom is well under way. Already, social media doubters and naysayers are swinging into line and declaring themselves won over. That’s not a bad start before a ball is kicked. The new Leeds boss has a disarming manner about him too, when asked about the pressure that goes with working at what is perceived as a sack-happy club, he gives us the anecdote of how he tells his kids not to worry about Dad getting the sack as, if he does, they’ll all be going on holiday. We even understand his childhood hatred of United; having seven shades kicked out of you in the field behind your Mam’s house by bigger, older Leeds fans is not calculated to endear a lad to that lot up the M1. But now, those same Leeds fans are ringing to wish him luck and success at Elland Road. It’s gone full circle, and – so far, at any rate – it feels right.

I’ve certainly not heard a better Leeds United philosophy since the early, heady days of Sergeant Wilko, who breezed into a troubled Elland Road from South Yorkshire thirty years ago, and did really quite well. As a precedent, the Wilko example is not a bad one for Paul Heckingbottom to emulate, though he appears happily to be very much his own man. But he has the same air of confidence and self-assurance about him; the same conviction that his way is the right way, hopefully with the same ability to carry others along on the path he treads.

It’s early days, and the sadness that accompanied the departure of Thomas Christiansen, a genuinely nice guy, has barely begun to dissipate. But in football, you always look forward, even when making comparisons with former Leeds legends. In Hecky, a coach who sets so much store by “getting on the grass” to work with his players, we might well have found at last a round peg for the round hole that is Elland Road. This is a bloke who was doing too much at Barnsley of what he didn’t really want to be doing – now he has the chance, in this Leeds United structure, of concentrating on what he does best.

It should work well; let’s all get behind the guy in the fervent hope that it will.

Advertisements

Monk’s Anger Should Ensure Feisty Leeds Display at Liverpool – by Rob Atkinson

odemwingie

Odemwingie: Who, Ref? Me, Ref?

Rotherham United 1, Leeds United 2

Garry Monk was naturally pleased with three vital points at the expense of a fired-up Rotherham United side – but he was clearly not a happy bunny after the final whistle, and you could see why. Leeds United, two up at half time and facing a depleted home side, after a senseless act of thuggery by Millers madman Peter Odemwingie brought him a well-deserved red card, should have been able to engage cruise control and ease to a comfortable three or four goal win. Instead, they allowed the complacency they’d been warned against during half time to creep into their play – and they came within one skied close-range finish of dropping two precious Championship points.

Such are the wrinkles Monk is doing his best to iron out of this Leeds United squad, and you have to say that there has been obvious progress within what he continually refers to as a young group. It’s live and learn as much as sink or swim in second-tier league football and, if the group can learn something from such a laissez-faire second-half display and still get away with a victory, then it’s been a good day after all. The record books will show that goals from Chris Wood and Souleymane Doukara were enough to see Rotherham off, despite Richard Wood’s late effort which only just beat an acrobatic Rob Green. At the end of the day, Brian, it’s all about results.

Still, Monk’s post-match demeanour left nobody in any doubt that the paint had just been blistered off the away team dressing room walls; the young group had been treated to a savage analysis of their shortcomings that, we can but hope, will lead to rather more focus over the next few games. That focus will be sorely needed for the stern tests that lie in wait for United; first at Anfield in the EFL Cup quarter-final, and then rather more importantly in massive league games against Aston Villa and high-flying Brighton and Reading outfits. If Leeds can emerge from that little lot with an honourable exit from the Cup and six or seven more league points safely banked – well, there won’t be too many glum faces around Elland Road.

If Garry Monk really is the real deal at this level – and there seems no valid reason so far to doubt that – then he will be adept at the art of dealing with matters in-house and by the judicious use of both stick and carrot as the occasion demands. All great managers, together with those aspiring to greatness, have had the common sense to know that sometimes an arm needs to go around the demoralised shoulder – and other times a boot needs applying to the relevant backsides. Young teams will wax and wane, it’s part of the process of becoming battle-hardened and consistently effective. Today, some of Leeds United’s players were found wanting – and got away with it. But it must not happen again.

On Tuesday night at Anfield, there will be nowhere to hide – and the eleven men in United shirts must have the message of what is expected ringing loudly in their ears. Whatever kind of side Liverpool put out, a display of the sort we suffered through in the second half at Rotherham will leave us needing an abacus to keep the Reds score, and headache pills for afterwards. The important thing today was the win and the three points – but if we were to gain the bonus of improved displays over the important games coming up from whatever bollocking was delivered in the dressing room – then today will have been doubly productive.

There are testing times ahead but, as the ancient scholar said, it’s a case of “per ardua ad astra” – through hardship, we can reach the stars. It would take a stellar performance at Anfield to survive another stage of the EFL Cup, and league points will be hard to come by over the next few league games; still, with the right proportions of carrot and stick from our bright young manager, you just never know.

GFH Exit Sees Cellino Move Into Leeds United Departure Lounge   –   by Rob Atkinson

Cellino sunshine

Cellino – beginning of the end of the road?

Leeds United versus Huddersfield Town doesn’t kick off until 3:00 pm on Saturday – but already, many Leeds United fans are proclaiming the most significant victory of the season. It’s a result that owes nothing to last-ditch defending, brilliant midfield play or clinical finishing. This vital win has been fashioned, not on the hallowed turf of Elland Road, but in the more subdued atmosphere of a boardroom or lawyer’s office. Because at last, or so it certainly seems, Leeds United is back under 100% ownership, instead of being shared, argued about and fought over by unequal partners. Minority holders GFH, it appears, have relinquished their stake in United, leaving Massimo Cellino as sole owner of the whole shooting match.

The reason this is so significant has more to do with future possibilities than current ownership. Some Leeds fans will be glad to see Cellino in outright control – others would prefer to see him 100% uninvolved, with a new Sheriff in town. But the fact remains that, with the minority partners off the scene, everything now looks a lot more neat and tidy as interested parties consider bids for the football club. Up to now, the continuing presence of GFH has been a complicating factor that has made any successful takeover bid – or even majority investment – much less likely actually to succeed. For this reason alone, farewell and good riddance, GFH.

So the eventual impact of Cellino’s total ownership of Leeds might be to see in new owners, rather than simply cementing the controversial Italian’s position as Leeds United supremo. And many, particularly among certain hard-bitten ex-pros who actually wore the famous white shirt, would see that as a good thing – if it could bring to an end the dizzying turnover of coaches at Leeds, as well as securing some actual net investment.

The fact that current manager Garry Monk is widely seen as being “under pressure to save his job” just a few games into his United tenure is symptomatic of the less than stable situation at Elland Road. Yet another transfer window without spending more than player sales brought in is one more sign that squad development is not an upward trend. Leeds sold Lewis Cook to Bournemouth for £6m plus add-ons – and replaced him with a man in Eunan O’Kane ousted by Cook from the Bournemouth first team. And for the usual “undisclosed fee”, too. The critics would tell you that this does not represent investment in the team, and it’s a point of view hard to dispute.

The case for a new regime at Elland Road, with a much-needed injection of capital, has long seemed quite convincing. Now, with the departure of GFH meaning a much less complex scenario for would-be buyers, it may be that things really will start to happen – off the field, at least. Which is why so many United fans are singing victory songs well in advance of a ball being kicked this coming weekend.

Now, all we have to do is beat unlikely League leaders Huddersfield Town on Saturday, to confirm the natural West Yorkshire pecking order and get this second chunk of the season off to the ideal start. And then, with three derby-day points under our belts, we’d be savouring the taste of home victory for the first time this campaign as we try to re-establish Fortress Elland Road. Could things really be brightening up for Leeds, at long last?

Yorkshire Derby Joy: Sheffield Wednesday 1, Leeds United 6 – by Rob Atkinson

Take That, Wendies - Hat-Trick Hero Leee Celebrates

Take That, Wendies – Hat-Trick Hero Leee Celebrates

Today, we’re taking a look back to almost exactly 24 years ago to one of Leeds United’s, let’s say, more emphatic performances on their travels. Ahead of the lunchtime kick-off at Hillsborough – a fixture we can hardly anticipate with any pleasure, given current form and the sour mood surrounding Leeds United as a club – this match in January of ’92 provides some particularly happy memories.

As 1991 turned into 1992, there was plenty to look forward to for our great club.  Against many expectations, Leeds had stayed the pace in the first half of the season, to remain Man U’s main challengers for the last ever old-style Football League Championship.  We also retained an interest in both Cups, and there was no European football to muddy the waters, as we’d “only” finished fourth on our top-flight re-entry the season before (a position, it should be noted, that gains entry to the guaranteed riches of the Champions’ League these less demanding days).  So it was the League Cup and the FA Cup that promised to be the distractions from our pursuit of the Title, and guess what?  We were drawn at home in both competitions against The Pride of Devon, our main rivals for the Championship.  You couldn’t, as they say, make it up.

History shows that our beloved neighbours from “ovver t’hill” ended our involvement in both Cups, deservedly 3-1, let it be said, in the 5th Round of the League Cup (then Rumbelows Cup).  By contrast, a distinctly unlucky exit in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup followed, when a dominant Leeds performance brought only the bitter pill of a 1-0 defeat, and a worrying injury to Lee Chapman into the bargain.   Prior to the Cup games, we had played Man U in the league at Elland Road, drawing one each in the first game of what was known at the time as a “Titanic Roses Trilogy” by unimaginative sub-editors everywhere.  So honours were by no means even, but the consequences of this mighty three match series would be felt over the remainder of the season, and – some would argue – far beyond.

The immediate fall-out was that Leeds were “free to concentrate on the League”, as the cliché runs.  Man U, meanwhile, continued on to Wembley in the League Cup, enjoying a victory over Nottingham Forest, but ended up losing amusingly at home to Southampton in the FA Cup.  The fixture congestion they suffered as the season entered its final stages would be significant, if not actually decisive, in the eventual destination of the Title.

As far as the Title went, the lads from the Theatre of Hollow Myths had suffered a shock on New Year’s Day, capitulating 4-1 at home to QPR. Later that January 1st, Leeds won competently 3-1 at West Ham, and remained well in the race for the ultimate domestic honour.  The scene was adequately set, then, for Wilko’s first return to Hillsborough since he had quit Wednesday to become Leeds boss in 1988. This would also be Chapman’s last game before his season-threatening FA Cup injury. He was destined to be sidelined only temporarily, and he went out in emphatic style.

There was a crowd of 32,228 at Hillsborough, the usual vociferous contingent of travelling Leeds fans rivalling the home crowd for noise from the outset, and completely drowning them as the game went on. Leeds United were weakened – so it seemed – by the absence of the injured Gordon Strachan and suspended David Batty, half of their legendary midfield Fantastic Four. Any side, surely, would miss performers of such calibre. Leeds, however, seemed determined to make light of the problem, and tore into the shocked Wendies from the start.  Full-back Tony Dorigo made an early, darting run, cutting in from the left and making good progress down the centre of the pitch, before unleashing a right-foot thunderbolt that home ‘keeper Chris Woods had to tip over.  From the resulting Gary MacAllister corner, Chris Fairclough rose to head downwards, and found Chapman in splendid isolation 4 yards out; his finish was sure and deadly.

For a local derby, the contest had been decidedly one-way traffic – Chapman was to send two towering headers just wide before Carl Shutt had a scuffed shot smothered by Woods in the home goal. Then, a true champagne moment as Mel Sterland fed the ball to Chapman on the right. In a completely untypical burst of pace and control, Chappy surged between two hapless Wednesday defenders, raced into the area, and unleashed a shot that beat Woods completely, just clipping the frame of the goal to rapturous applause from the Leeds fans at the Leppings Lane End. I remember thinking at the time that anything was possible now, if Lee Chapman could do something so utterly out of character. And so it proved as, from a free kick awarded just right of centre some ten yards outside the box, Dorigo stepped up to absolutely hammer the ball past a helpless ‘keeper. Cue raucous jubilation from the White Army behind the goal, celebrating as clean a strike as you could ever see, hurtling into the far corner with precision and power.

At 2-0 down, the home side were making increasingly desperate attempts to gain some sort of foothold in the match. This desperation was adequately demonstrated when, from a harmless-looking ball into the Leeds area, Wednesday striker Gordon Watson ran in front of Chris Whyte, continued on for another step or two, and then hurled himself into the air, landing in agonised paroxysms of simulation between a bemused Whyte and Leeds ‘keeper John Lukic. Such obvious fraud and villainy could have only one outcome, and the stadium held its collective breath for sentence to be passed on the miscreant. Instead – amazingly – referee Philip Don pointed to the spot as Whyte snarled his outraged disbelief.  Whether none of the officials had seen the extent of Watson’s ham-acting, or whether they were perhaps moved by sympathy for the mauling Wednesday were taking from a rampant Leeds, it’s impossible to say.  Ex-Leeds hero John Sheridan stepped up, saw his penalty brilliantly saved as Lukic tipped it against his right-hand post, and then gleefully belted home the rebound to give Wednesday a massively unmerited lifeline.

An act of such base and scurvy treachery required nothing less than a riposte of the utmost nobility and beauty. And, happily, so it came to pass. Just minutes after the home side’s ridiculous blagging of an unfair route back into the game, Leeds effortlessly took control again with a goal sublime in both conception and execution. Lukic bowled the ball out to Dorigo on the left flank; he sent it down the line to Gary Speed, who took one touch to steady himself, before sending a beautiful flighted cross into the Wednesday area.  And there, inevitably, was Chapman, horizontal in mid-air, neck cocked to hammer the ball unanswerably past Woods, the perfect counterpunch to suck a knavish low blow.  It was a gorgeous goal, sweeping the length of the left side of the field, taking the entire home team right out of the game, and re-establishing the two goal margin which was the least Leeds United deserved at half-time.

The second half that day was simply a story of how a blood-and-thunder Yorkshire derby turned into a stroll in the park for Leeds United.  It seemed as if all the life had been sucked out of the home team – a Wednesday side, let’s not forget, who were unbeaten at home since the opening day of the season, and who would go on to finish third in the table.  So they were no mugs, but Leeds United were absolutely irresistible on the day, and would have hammered far better teams than the hapless Owls.

Possibly, Wednesday were simply embarrassed about that cringeworthy penalty, possibly they were tired, having been run rings around since the start.  Whatever the case, their heads dropped steadily further and further as the game progressed, and they offered little resistance as Leeds proceeded to throttle the life out of them.  Chapman completed his hat-trick after the hour, heading in after Speed had struck the bar from a corner.  Poor Speedo was looking the other way, bemoaning his bad luck when the ball hit the back of the net, turning his frustration to joy.  Then perennial bit-part player Mike Whitlow ventured forward, just because he could, and rose unchallenged to meet Wallace’s right-wing cross and head easily over a stranded Woods.  It was left to little Rodney Wallace to administer the coup de grâce, striding clear after a shimmering exchange of passes in midfield to dink the ball over the advancing ‘keeper, and put the suffering home side finally out of their misery.

For Leeds, it had been their biggest away win in over 60 years as they returned to the First Division summit in the best possible manner.  The message had been sent out loud and clear: United were serious about their Championship challenge, and they would surely look back after their eventual success in the League, to identify this sumptuous display as one that defined them as potentially the best team in the land.  For Wednesday it was utter humiliation, and truth to tell it was difficult to sympathise.  Better really to lose 6-0 than to be tainted as they were with such a crass and obvious example of cheating – and it hardly reflected much credit on myopic referee Don, either.

It was a massively impressively performance, a hugely significant victory, and the sweetest possible return for United’s ex-Owls contingent.  Mel Sterland always took great delight in beating the Blades, but this victory over his boyhood favourites would have only happy memories for him, as indeed for Chapman, Shutt and of course the Sergeant himself.  Leeds would march on to the Title, Man U’s quarter-of-a-century wait would extend for another 12 delightful months – and Wednesday would recover to finish impressively, despite another awful trouncing at Highbury.

But January 12th 1992 belonged entirely to Leeds United, who looked like Champions a full four months early with this five star, six of the best Masterclass display.

It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Worst of Times, for Leeds Starlet Cook   –   by Rob Atkinson

 
For any lad that grows up supporting his local club, nursing the dream of one day turning out in that sacred shirt – and who actually makes that dream come true – there can be no sweeter moment than that precious first goal for the team he loves. Tonight, in the humble surroundings of Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium, that longed-for moment arrived for Lewis Cook, when he stabbed home a rebound of the Donny ‘keeper to notch his first senior goal for Leeds United.

Sadly, the fairytale would have no happy ending. Leeds had already been pegged back thanks to Scott Wootton‘s agricultural challenge in the United area, leading to a Rovers penalty that stand-in guardian Ross Turnbull narrowly failed to save. And then came Cook’s moment of misery to erase his earlier joy. Surging down the right on a mazy run, the youngster took a slightly heavy touch, overstretched in his attempt to keep possession – and walked for a resulting foul that looked even worse than it was. Thanks to that mad moment, it would be ten-man Leeds for the rest of the piece, and a Yorkshire derby cup tie was ruined as a spectacle. 

The Doncaster fans in the crowd, eager to see the home team compass the demise of local favourites Leeds, were suitably encouraged and filled with hope – but for the remainder of ninety minutes plus extra time, Rovers showed no real sign of being able to dispatch their numerically weakened opponents. Indeed, for much of the rest of the tie, it was Leeds looking marginally more effective going forward. But in what became a war of attrition, neither side was able to land the telling blow, and the game trudged its inevitable way to deadlock and the dreaded shoot-out.

Ironically, Leeds’ two eventual lottery losers were the second half substitutes who had done most to rekindle some hope among the Leeds faithful that United could yet emerge winners. Chris Wood and Sam Byram had given an extra dimension to United’s stubborn rearguard action, and both showed plenty going forward to suggest how vital they will be in the season ahead. But their two penalties in the shootout – Byram’s only mildly awful, but Woods’ truly abysmal – cost Leeds a real chance of victory,  an unlikely chance that had been so ruggedly earned in the ten-man struggle following Cook’s first-half indiscretion.

So, Leeds are out of this competition again, to lower league opposition again, with ten men after having taken the lead, again – and in another derby as last season’s farce in Bradford was reprised only a little less farcically in Doncaster. And, really, what the hell. We were no more likely to win the League Cup than Rovers are now.

Few United fans will mourn such an early exit. It was not the defeat that rankled, more the manner of it. Another long struggle with ten men, with energy cruelly sapped ahead of a far more important game at the weekend. Head Coach Uwe Rösler had spoken prior to the match of taking the game to Rovers, an approach that is “in our DNA”. Fair enough, but it is the suicidal part of United’s genetic makeup that needs to be addressed, that fatal tendency to give away daft penalties and lose players to red cards through rash tackles. Herr Rösler has his work cut out to eliminate such innate, self-destructive traits. 

After the dust has settled on a night to forget, we must spare a thought for young Lewis Cook, for whom a magical moment, eagerly awaited for literally all his life, was so swiftly eclipsed by a rash and reckless lunge he’ll long regret. Fortunately, there is ample time and opportunity for redemption where one of United’s brightest prospects is concerned.

Lewis Cook undeniably has the talent and character that ensures he can and will bounce back, to forget tonight’s temporary woe and enjoy many more of the best of times, in the Leeds shirt he promises – transfer follies permitting – to grace for many years to come. 

Live TV Incentive for Huddersfield Town’s Cup Final – by Rob Atkinson

Huddersfield fans - a different breed

Huddersfield fans – a different breed

Excitement levels were rising today in the avenues, alleyways, streets and kennels of Huddersfield, with the news that their seasonal Cup Final against the club they’re utterly obsessed with, big brother from down the road, Leeds United, will be televised live by the Sky cameras.

Local boy Jack Russell was almost beside himself with gleeful anticipation as he gave his reaction to the momentous news. “It’s momentous news, this,” he yapped eagerly. “We have a bone to pick with Leeds after their two lucky wins against us last season. And it’s a bone that I’m off to dig up right now,” he added, before scampering off to cock his leg against the gas-lit street-lamp outside his owner’s ramshackle two-up, two-down.

Elsewhere, anticipation reached fever pitch amid a positive orgy of excited yelping and bottom-sniffing. The dark, satanic charity shops of West Yorkshire‘s most 19th Century spot were being stocked with Big Match merchandise: Town v Leeds collars, baskets and feeding bowls were flying out of the door as trade became brisk a few short hours after the news broke that the locals’ Cup Final would indeed be screened before the whole nation.

Huddersfield fans have mixed feelings about the comparatively long wait for their season’s high-point; the match does not take place until November 7th, with a lunchtime kick-off. But the feeling among the majority is that the league games leading up to the Final will enable Town to prepare adequately for a challenge they failed to meet twice last season. “It’s not abart results in t’other games afore t’Coop Final,” insisted local character Al Sation. “It’s all abart t’proper preparation, like, cos t’most impooortant thing is to beat Leeds, or at least gerra draw, or at t’very least keep it darn under three this time.”

Meanwhile, large areas of Huddersfield are expected to subscribe to mains electricity for the first time, in order to be able to use their new Sky TV subscriptions for The Big Day. Others have stated that they don’t hold with such new-fangled nonsense, and will attempt instead to run reconditioned Sky HD boxes off the gas supply or perhaps by steam. “If we gerrall this leccy nonsense tekkin’ a foot’old in t’Tarn, it’ll be t’beginning o’ t’end,” barked octogenarian rat-catcher Fred Bassett. “T’place’d go to t’dogs. Not that that’s a bad thing, tha knos…”

Leeds fans groups declined to comment specifically on the Huddersfield game, merely expressing mild surprise that the local derby against Sheffield Wendies had not been selected for live coverage. “We’re that used to being on the box,” said one world-weary Whites fan. “It’s getting to the point that we’re always on – but I suppose it is nice for the smaller clubs to have their time in the spotlight. Even Huddersfield!”, he added, chortling merrily.

The Leeds game will, in fact, be Huddersfield’s second live TV date of the season, in addition to Wolves away in October. But the John Smith’s Stadium outfit have admitted that the trip to Wanderers will now be treated as just another warm-up game in preparation for the real thing. Talk of fixtures against Leeds being treated as Cup Finals has long been a bone of contention among Terriers fans – but it certainly remains the case that this is the fixture that means more to them than any other. The televised Leeds game is set to gain the highest viewing figures of any TV event among Huddersfield viewers – with the possible exception of Crufts.

Football League Issue “Apology” to Huddersfield Over Leeds Match – by Rob Atkinson

The Football League board, yesterday.

The Football League board, yesterday

The Football League have moved to smooth ruffled feathers at Huddersfield Town, after a “misunderstanding” led to the hosts in Saturday’s West Yorkshire derby missing out on the current “penalty against Leeds United” refereeing policy. A League spokesman, Ivor Whytes-Grudge QC, confirmed that a “formal apology” had been issued, but insisted that it was just a communications breakdown that had led to the Terriers being denied a spot-kick at some point in the game. The formal League position is that the appointment of an official from the Premier League pool was to blame; the League’s own refs, they say, are well aware of current requirements as can be seen from statistics in recent matches involving Leeds.

When pressed on the matter of penalties, Mr Whytes-Grudge was emphatic. “The League has nothing to be ashamed of here. This has been a simple mistake and, as we all know, mistakes will happen from time to time. But if you look at Leeds last three games, it’s clear we’ve been doing our bit – at least with our own officials,” he added, wryly. “In those three games prior to Huddersfield, there has been a well dodgy penalty awarded against Leeds in each match. Further, in the Birmingham game at Elland Road, two nailed-on awards for Leeds were brilliantly refused. And against Bournemouth, the ref managed to award a penalty near the end and send the Leeds player off – when the foul was outside the box, with covering defenders. Sadly, the silly lad Kermorgant missed it – we’re actually considering a disrepute charge over that.”

What went wrong in the Huddersfield game, then? Surely, they’re feeling dogged by bad luck? “Well, it was a shame, but it was just one of those things. We had the appointment of Chris Foy imposed on us, after he was dropped for that weekend from the Premier League. Then – and we have to hold our hands up here – it was down to us to brief Mr. Foy thoroughly on current Football League policies. And that didn’t happen. Our bad.”

So will normal service be resumed this weekend? Mr Whytes-Grudge was cautious. “We’ll have to see about that. This Huddersfield complaint had to be looked into, and we’ve had to do a proper grovel – but it has rather brought things out into the open. The Leeds coach, Redfearn – he was starting to make a few remarks about them being got at and, when you’re sussed, you have to have a rethink and come up with a Plan B. We might just have to be a little bit subtle from here on in – know what I mean?”

Legendary Football League administrator Alan Hardaker, 102, is dead.

BBC: “Distressing Scenes” Stopped Us Showing Full Leeds Highlights – by Rob Atkinson

Manish: "Upsetting scenes"

Manish: “Upsetting scenes”

Many fans of Leeds United – and even Huddersfield Town – were mystified at the BBC’s decision to show only brief highlights on the Football League Show of the pulsating West Yorkshire derby between Town and United on Saturday. Leeds fans have become used to an apparent BBC policy whereby matches featuring the League’s biggest and most illustrious club are given only scant coverage by the corporation, usually about thirty seconds somewhere towards the end of the programme’s Championship montage.

Derby games, though, might normally be considered a special case, with a large (for Huddersfield) and passionate crowd creating a vibrant atmosphere and adding to the spectacle of fierce local rivals going at it hammer and tongs. And yet, once again, the coverage was minimal. At the start of the programme, reference was made to “today’s early kick-off”, but this was an allusion to the Brentford v ‘Boro live Sky game – not the Town v Leeds affair which also had a lunchtime start.

When asked for an explanation of what might seem, on the face of it, to be slightly odd editorial decisions, a BBC spokesperson commented “Actually, we had planned to show extended highlights of Huddersfield Town versus Leeds United, featuring the match prominently near the start of our Championship section. But sadly, there were some distressing scenes caught by our cameras and we felt that these would be too traumatic to show to the vast majority of our viewers. We are always wary of transmitting events and unforeseen developments that may upset our audience. In this case, the game turned out in a way we could not possibly have foreseen – and we felt we had to reduce coverage to the minimum allowable and leave it till later in the programme.”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything – whilst fully cognisant of the fact that the Huddersfield player Tommy Smith sustained a head or neck injury towards the end of the game, and that scenes such as that are always difficult and possibly traumatic viewing – still felt that this incident, upsetting though it undoubtedly was, hardly justified “pulling” the full highlights. We therefore put it to the BBC that, by the time the programme was broadcast, Tommy Smith was in a stable condition in hospital, sitting up and talking to doctors. Surely, the coverage could have gone ahead as planned – maybe with a reassuring message that the player was fine now, and in no danger?

The BBC spokesperson spluttered a little, and we wondered if he had perhaps choked on a corporate nibble. “The injury to the Huddersfield player? You thought that’s what I was talking about? No, no, no,” our contact laughed uproariously. “Oh, dear me, that’s a good one…” The laughter continued unabated as we waited patiently for our man to calm down and explain himself. “Look, you’ve totally misunderstood me,” he chortled, eventually. “When I referred to distressing scenes that we couldn’t possibly have anticipated, I didn’t mean some common or garden injury! Think, man! This was a Leeds United away win, clinched by a superb goal in the last few minutes! Can you imagine anything more horrible, more upsetting for our viewers?? We couldn’t possibly expose them to that – now could we?”

Manish Bhasin is a self-satisfied git.

Huddersfield Complete Hat-Trick of Cup Final Defeats – by Rob Atkinson

2-1 in yer latest Cup Final...

2-1 in yer latest Cup Final…

Almost exactly a year ago, Huddersfield Town rolled up to Elland Road confident of easy pickings against a Leeds United side traumatised by the events of “Black Friday” – the eve of the local derby when a new owner-in-waiting sacked the manager and all of a sudden moves were afoot among the media to get our captain to declare he wanted out.

Bad times, as anyone would agree. Could the Whites bounce back and do a job on their mad-keen neighbours Huddersfield? For lowly Town, this was always one of the big fixtures – their fans demanded a victory over the Goliath from the big city. At first all seemed well for the minnows – they were ahead and, in one corner of the stadium their small pack of fans yapped and barked gleefully, prominent among the songs being a taunt about Captain McCormack not wanting to play for Leeds.

Prescient as that appears now, at the time it was a joke too far and McCormack, with the help of his team-mates in white, rammed the quip back down those doggy throats as the Terriers were eclipsed 5-1 in a stunning comeback. McCormack scored three, and it was a silent and bedraggled pack of hounds that sloped off back to their kennels that night.

Poor Huddersfield fared no better on their next visit to Elland Road, earlier this season, when Leeds put three past them without reply and could easily have had more. Again, the away support was silenced early as Rudy Austin slammed home an opener in front of the South Stand. Then Bellusci struck a sublime chip against the Town bar, the rebound dispatched firmly by Antenucci – and it was Antenucci again to complete the scoring after the interval. For me, the day was embellished by corporate hospitality and selfies with Terry Yorath and Massimo Cellino himself. It was a particularly good day for Leeds – but for Town it was their second Cup Final trouncing in just a few months. Surely, things could only get better for our canine friends?

Sadly for dog-lovers everywhere, today illustrated the fact that there has been no improvement in the fortunes of West Yorkshire’s poor relations – dogged though their efforts may be, they are seemingly doomed to failure. At their Meccano stadium, Town must have been hoping it would be third time lucky after two fruitless trips to Elland Road. But Leeds set about them early, hounding the poor pups for every ball, and were soon rewarded with a neat finish from Sam Byram to give the visitors the lead.

Town rallied, scoring from a corner before the interval and it was a fairly scruffy battle in the second half, decided late on when sub Billy Sharp hurled himself at a cross ball to bury his header in the Huddersfield net. With time about up, it seemed a certain winner, but a nasty-looking injury to Town’s Tommy Smith delayed the end of the game as Leeds held out through an interminable period of added time. The final whistle eventually signalled United’s third successive victory over their humble neighbours and, with better news of the stricken Smith coming later on, the day had ended well for Leeds at least.

So, despite all that desperate doggy desire, despite those troublesome chips on Town shoulders where Leeds are concerned, it’s been business as usual today, with Leeds taking the spoils – and so, the poor dogs had none. These are bleak times for Town fans, for whom each season is all about whether they can possibly snatch a rare victory over Leeds. That’s gone for another year – so what now for the Huddersfield breed? Can they bounce back? Will their manager survive yet another Cup Final defeat? Will any of them watch the highlights on the BBC?

Never mind any of that. Leeds won. Again. So who really gives a toss?

Crazy Gang Visit Kennel Club as Terriers Seek Revenge Against Loopy Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Mirco scores against the DBs

Mirco scores against the DBs

A return to league action after the traditionally blank FA Cup 4th Round weekend for Leeds sees United attempt to complete a second successive league double, in the wake of that unlikely but welcome achievement against high-flyers Bournemouth. On paper, completing the six-point tally against Huddersfield should be an easier task – but as usual in local derbies, Leeds will have to deal with the Cup Final complex felt to a particularly acute degree by our canine friends from down t’road.

The fact that Bournemouth, so effective in the Championship this season, have been dismissed twice by Leeds’ stuttering and inconsistent performers says much about the topsy-turvy nature of this second tier. Anyone, it seems, can beat anyone else – Leeds have also beaten Derby at Elland Road, yet have contrived to lose to some awfully mundane teams too – and this must be the fear as far as Saturday’s game at Town’s Meccano-inspired stadium is concerned. Elland Road has hardly been a fortress for the Whites this term, and arguably their most complete performance came in the 3-0 demolition of Huddersfield back in September. Revenge will be high on the agenda for Chris Powell’s men – not that this David normally needs any added incentive to try and best their own particular Goliath.

Leeds are this years Football League Crazy Gang, mad as a box of frogs from top to bottom, with the management crying out for proven Championship performers whilst selling such men by the job lot. Warnock and Pearce have left, with the addition of the impressively huge Sol Bamba, of whom we must hope he will also be hugely impressive. Bamba has been kicking his heels as a Serie A outcast and is likely to see his first action in a Leeds shirt in this derby encounter. Fellow Italian league loanee Granddi Ngoyi is also likely to be pushing for inclusion and should at least make the bench. Steve Morison, nursing a hip problem, should be fit to continue his sole striker role.

For Huddersfield, midfield man Jonathan Hogg is a doubt due to a knock, new loan signing David Edgar stands by to deputise. Huddersfield’s bark has been worse than their bite this season, but there will be the usual rabid desire to put one over on the hated foes from Elland Road – so we can expect a terrier-like showing as they doggedly hound their opponents for every ball.

Allowing for the Cup Final factor, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything can see a draw as the most likely reward for Leeds United this weekend. An annoying defeat, however, would also be quite in character – especially after the high of defeating the league pace-setters last time out.

On balance, a 1-1 draw seems a fairly good bet – though with Chris Foy in charge anything at all is possible. In the highly-charged atmosphere of these Yorkshire derby occasions it’s probably more likely than not that one or both teams will suffer dismissals, especially with a temporarily demoted Premier League flop ref looking to regain some credibility. On the plus side, he did OK at the Theatre of Hollow Myths five years back, when Leeds slew the Pride of Devon in their own back yard.

This blog will stick its neck out, more in hope than expectation, and plump for a 2-1 success for Leeds. The character shown in the 4-2 victory at this venue a few years back would do admirably – and, indeed, nothing less should be acceptable where Yorkshire bragging rights are at stake. Three points here, with maybe another signing or two to come by close of business on deadline day – and it will have been another decent week for the Crazy Gang, our beloved Loopy Leeds.