Tag Archives: Yorkshire Derby

Heroic Leeds Overcome Sheffield United, the League AND a Disgraceful Referee – by Rob Atkinson

Pablo celebrates after scoring United’s winner at Bramall Lane

There’s no such thing as a bad win away in a Yorkshire derby, but this 1-0 success for Leeds United at Bramall Lane was particularly sweet, and for reasons that transcended three very welcome points.

I might even go so far as to say that today’s win was every bit as satisfying as our last victory at this stadium, way back on 26th April 1992. Victory over the Blunts on that far-off Sunday proved sufficient for United to clinch the title of Last Champions, eventually finishing 4 points clear of what is now Manchester’s junior club. That was a great day – today’s result, fashioned out of adversity and good old-fashioned Football League corruption, had a savour all of its own.

As delighted as I was on the final whistle, I’d been snarling and raging at a lot of what had unfolded before me during the game, particularly a first half notable for the most abysmally atrocious refereeing performance you’ll see outside of United’s last two European finals. Referee Oliver Langford was so bad, you thought it had to be a joke or some surreal and paranoid dream. He looked on as McGoldrick of the Blunts stamped down on Mateusz Klich‘s shin in a classic over the ball challenge normally earning the perpetrator an early bath. Langford waved neither yellow nor red, he didn’t even blow for a foul. Whatever his agenda, such dereliction of duty exposed him as, at best, an incompetent fool; far more likely, given United’s treatment so far this season, he was simply as bent as any other corrupt official of this corrupt Football League, a body that seems to view its Last Champions not with veneration, but with cold hatred.

Langford wasn’t finished with Leeds in this comically bad first half display of persecution. Having booked Sheffield’s Enda Stevens after 25 minutes, he then contented himself with a mere warning for another blatantly bookable challenge; by this time I was chewing the carpet with frustration. The home side should have been reduced to 9 men by the interval, and could easily have been behind as a very decent penalty shout was ignored when Kemar Roofe was pushed and pulled out of the way in the Blunts box. And, just to add insult to injury, Kemar himself received a yellow for the heinous crime of turning his back to avoid a head to head collision. It was a Tinkleresque performance by the laughably bent Langford, and fans of a certain age will know exactly what I mean by that.

By half time, it seemed clear that I was going to get nothing out of watching this game apart from a headache, dangerously raised blood pressure and rear molars ground to powder. It’s fair to say I wasn’t looking forward to the second half.

And yet, it all came right in the end. Having endured yet more injury woe when losing skipper Liam Cooper after 21 minutes, to add to the various injustices listed above, United thoroughly deserved the two pieces of good fortune that eventually came their way. First, on 82 minutes, an overhit backpass had Blunts keeper Dean Henderson scrambling to stop the ball going out for a corner. All he managed to do was present sub Jack Clarke with an opportunity to put an open goal on a plate for Pablo Hernandez, a chance the Spanish wizard snapped up with relish, to the delight of the massed Whites in the stand behind.

And, as time ran out, Dame Fortune, that fickle jade, smiled on Leeds a second time, as a Conor Washington overhead effort beat United keeper Peacock-Farrell all ends up, but crashed against the crossbar instead of pegging Leeds back. So, we got the three points that one of the worst refs I’ve ever seen had tried so hard to deny us, and the very best of hard cheese to him, to Sheffield United and to the corrupt clowns of the Football League.

As for Leeds – the heartiest of congratulations on a win that showed character and guts in the measure needed by any team that knows it will have to battle against the odds to get anywhere. Based on today’s gritty and committed display, this Leeds United team might be about to sample a bit more of that title-winning glory that followed, with a little help from Liverpool, our previous success at Bramall Lane. Let it be.

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Leeds v Middlesbrough Match Officials Warned “Watch Out for Ayala” – by Rob Atkinson

Boro’s Ayala – a box of dirty tricks

As if tonight’s top of the table Championship summit clash between Leeds United and Middlesbrough wasn’t sufficiently loaded with potential flashpoints, one above all others had the potential to affect both the result and the disciplinary responsibilities of the match officials at Elland Road.

With a full house expected and the electronic eyes of the Sky TV cameras ever on the lookout for controversy as well as action, the atmosphere will be edgy and intense right from the start. Both clubs have playing staff previously on the books of their opponents, and there is a long-standing rivalry between the Kings of Yorkshire and the club best known for being Yorkshire rejects.

One potential source of strife and controversy stands out above most others though, with the likely presence in the Boro side of Daniel Ayala, a man with recent form in this fixture. Last season, with Leeds two goals to the good, Mr. Ayala blatantly wrestled Luke Ayling to the floor in the United box, an action somehow missed by match officials. Understandably outraged, Ayling sprang up to remonstrate, and in the subsequent kerfuffle, Ayala, with a look of saucer-eyed innocence on his face, contrived to have his team awarded an unlikely penalty.

Not all match officials, of course, are as visually challenged as the assistant referee on that occasion appeared to be. We must give him the benefit of the doubt, after all, and assume that it was his eyesight to blame, and not the presence of the Middlesbrough away support just behind him. But Ayala’s initial assault on Ayling was crude and obvious, and it’s reasonable to say that the incident was not one in which justice was served. Fortunately, Leeds hung on deservedly to win the game 2-1.

Mr. Ayala is still up to his nasty little tricks though, and still managing somehow to be blatant about it, and yet escape the notice of the men with the whistle and the flags. The recent Boro v West Brom game was a case in point, with Ayala clearly offending and completely getting away with it. How he does this is a mystery; we can only hope that forewarned is forearmed, and that – if Ayala does play this evening – the nastier parts of his game are spotted by the officials.

Here’s hoping for a good game and a fair outcome. MOT.

Huddersfield Release Rob Green, Plotting Raid for Leeds Keeper Wiedwald? – by Rob Atkinson

Felix Wiedwald – is “The Cat” heading for the kennels?

Just when Leeds United fans were thinking that humiliations inflicted on them in recent years just can’t get any worse – could near neighbours and Premier League superstars Huddersfield Town now be setting their sights on United’s German goalkeeping sensation Felix “the Cat” Wiedwald? Surely the board wouldn’t be daft enough to allow such a mistake to be made – and yet stranger things have happened, with the Elland Road club having lost jewels from their crown on previous occasions when local rivals have come a-hunting.

Cast your minds back over the past few seasons, and you’ll see that Barnsley were at it, somehow persuading United to sell Alex Mowatt for a paltry £500,000. Mowatt went on to shine in the ranks of Oxford United as a loan star – what a clanger Leeds dropped there.

And it was Barnsley again, some years earlier, paying a significant sum for prolific front man John Pearson. Really, we’ve been shown up far too often, and to lose a genius like Wiedwald now to the Terriers would be a bitter blow indeed. But with Rob Green moving onto pastures new and less obviously canine, there may well be room for “The Cat” in the Huddersfield kennels, as they gird their loins for another gloriously grim battle against relegation.

Town fans just love to put one over on Big Brother from up the road, so you can be sure they’ll be clamouring for their club to make this deal happen. And, with their Premier League trillions burning a hole in those Premier League pockets, Huddersfield are unlikely to be put off, even by an asking price of £10 million, if Leeds were to hold out for something approaching Bundesliga veteran Wiedwald’s true value.

We’ll just have to sit tight, rely on our illustrious neighbours to cut us a break – and hope like hell that this one doesn’t happen.

Yorkshire Football Urgently Needs a Revival, and Only Leeds Can Do It – by Rob Atkinson

Pride

Yorkshire’s best and only hope – Leeds United

The frenzied scenes of celebration among Huddersfield fans, as their club narrowly avoided relegation from the Premier League, served mainly to put into sharp focus all that is wrong with Yorkshire football. And, much to the chagrin of any fan from the right side of the Pennines, there’s plenty wrong. Huddersfield saved their top-flight existence in much the same way as they’d earned it in last season’s play-offs – by hanging on grimly for draws and relying on slip-ups from others. It was a glory-free spectacle but, sadly, it’s the best the Broad Acres currently has to offer, which is a stinging indictment of the current state of all things football in God’s Own County.

When you look elsewhere in the county, the Sheffield clubs attained differing degrees of mediocrity, Leeds flattered to deceive and then reverted to type, Barnsley went down not with a bang but with a whimper – and the less said about the rest, the better. Perhaps Rotherham United might earn some glory for Yorkshire; that remains to be seen. The point is, the football performance of the Yorkshire area has been much the same as usual: when Leeds aren’t doing well, there’s nowt much going on. And so, while United remain in the doldrums, the best we can offer is the occasional play-off success or relegation escape. Compared to the fare being served up in parts of the lesser county to our west, where Manchester’s finest has emerged as the best team in Premier League history, this is a humiliating state of affairs.

The fact of the matter is that just about all of Yorkshire‘s footballing pedigree, such as it is, resides in LS11. The last two times that Leeds United have gone up to the top division, survival has been the last thing on their mind. On both occasions, they’ve gone up, had a brief and not exactly respectful look around to gauge the lie of the land, and then set about winning the thing, elbowing lesser mortals out of the way and imposing themselves brilliantly, much to the annoyance of media and rival fans alike.

This is the responsibility that Leeds United carries, nothing less than the pride and honour of the greatest county in the land. Nobody else will pick up that baton; nobody else can. It’s down to Leeds – if they can’t do it, it won’t be done. Things are different now as compared to those two previous promotions in 1964 and 1990. That twenty-six year span – the same gap, ironically, that now separates us from our most recent League Title – was the last hurrah of old style, ultra-competitive, strength in depth professionalism, when there wasn’t a six team cartel at the top of the league, monopolising the glory. To dominate in that era, as the Revie Boys did, when there was much less of a financial divide between the great and the not so great, was an achievement indeed. The way things are now, Leeds – in order to fulfil their destiny of salvaging Yorkshire pride – will have to place themselves on a comparable financial footing to the current behemoths of the game. To say that won’t be easy is to fall into the trap of hopeless understatement – yet, if United can just barge their way into the Premier League, there would be few  if any juicier investment opportunities than a one club city of enormous prestige and illustrious history.

So, there’s the challenge. And only at Elland Road, as far as Yorkshire is concerned, is there even the remotest expectation, never mind demand, that such a challenge should be accepted. Because at no other club in Yorkshire will it even occur to the fans or the directors that such a thing is possible. The ultimate aspiration for them is to survive at the top table, hoping to lick up some rich men’s crumbs. This is the lesson of the unbridled joy with which Huddersfield’s survival was greeted. For Leeds, this would be a humiliation they could not countenance; when United do go up, the demand and expectation will be for so much more. And rightly so, for that is our proud legacy.

However hard the task, however unlikely the chance of gatecrashing that elite group, it’s the hungry and imperious expectation of success, written into the DNA of the club and its fans, that makes Leeds United the only candidates to bring some football honour and respect back to Yorkshire. If Leeds United can’t deliver, then nobody will – and we must hope that Leeds Rhinos in Rugby League, and Yorkshire County Cricket Club too, can fulfil that urgent desire for honour and success. In White Rose football, it’s United first and the rest nowhere, just as much as it has always been; that’s the grave responsibility we carry, just by virtue of being Leeds.

With the club’s centenary approaching, it’s time to deliver on that responsibility. As the Great White Hope of an entire county, let’s grit our teeth, and get on with it.

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.

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.