By Rob Atkinson
Hearing that Andy, the intrepid owner of this site, had purchased and enjoyed the DVD of Leeds United's promotion season 1989/90, I thought I'd like to indulge in a little reminiscence over that fantastic campaign, with particular reference to one particular fearsome but loveable character, the like of which we could really do with at Elland Road these days.
The men who took Leeds United back into the top-flight the last time it happened in 1990 are, of course, legends now. They rank alongside some of the Revie boys because they rescued the club from eight years in the wilderness and restored us to the big time. We had our own diminutive red-haired midfielder as a sort of latter-day homage to Billy Bremner – mighty atom Gordon Strachan, who played a crucial role in the renaissance of Leeds with his leadership and goals. It was a team effort though, and it was as a team that they succeeded – Strachan apart there was no major star, but the guts and drive of the collective effort eclipsed all rivals by the end of that fantastic season, when we were crowned Second Division Champions in sun-drenched and strife-torn Bournemouth. And nobody in the whole club at that time epitomised guts and drive, as well as sheer fist-clenched, vein-throbbing commitment and fight, better than Mr Vincent Peter “Vinnie” Jones.
I’d been aware of Vinnie, of course – who hadn’t? His Crazy Gang antics were legendary and he’d lifted the FA Cup, but he was regarded as a bit of a maverick – still more hod-carrier than footballer, famous for a ten-second dismissal and for his promise to Kenny Dalglish before the 1988 Cup Final against Liverpool to "tear off his ear and spit in the hole". Still, despite these immaculate credentials, marking him out as a potential Gelderd hero, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine him as a signing for Leeds United, where stirrings had been going on ever since Sergeant Wilko marched in and started shaking the place up. The “marquee signing” – you didn’t actually hear that phrase in those days – was Strachan, plucked from under the nose of his old Man U mentor Ron Atkinson at Sheffield Wednesday to provide the quality at the heart of the Leeds engine room. Now that was the sort of signing I’d hoped and prayed for, and with the likes of Chris Fairclough joining Gordon at Elland Road it seemed to bode well for a real challenge as the close season wore on and 1989-90 loomed closer.
I was in a caravan on the east coast when I heard on the radio that Vinnie was signing for Leeds for around £650,000. I frankly didn’t believe it, but when the reality sank in, my initial reaction was to think – bloody hell, Wilko, what are you playing at? The signings of John Hendrie and Mel Sterland reassured me somewhat, but I was still having trouble seeing what the Jones Boy would bring to the United table, although our lunatic-fringe fans seemed well suited. The early signs were not encouraging. Strachan tells of an incident in a pre-season game against Anderlecht, where he saw an opposing player go down with his nose spread halfway across his face and blood greatly in evidence. Vinnie had casually “done” him en passant before sidling off looking innocent, and Strach recalls thinking: my God – what have we signed here?
Vinnie himself remembers his early days at the club, and being moved to violence by the negative attitudes of some of the players being edged out as Wilko’s new broom started to sweep clean. Among this disaffected few was John Sheridan, something of a Leeds legend – but Jones stood for no nonsense, and there were punches thrown and people seized by the scruff of the neck as he explained his views on solidarity and team spirit. Vinnie was obviously going to be a kill or cure measure – there were signs he might have much to contribute to the collective effort, but equally that he might turn out a loose cannon which could blow up in all our faces. Yet Wilko had a magic touch in those early years, and generally it was proved that he knew what he was doing.
In the event, and despite an uncertain beginning, Vinnie played a massive part in our promotion that year. The fans took to him from the start – the sight of him coming on as a sub in the first home game against Middlesbrough will live long in my memory. I can see him now, in the middle of the park with the game poised at 1-1, shouting and screaming as he conveyed encouragement and instruction in equal measure, arms pumping in an ungainly, baboon-like way, team-mates and opponents alike staring at him aghast. And then he frightened a Boro’ defender into scoring a late, fluky own-goal and we had won, setting us on our way after a disastrous opening-day defeat at Newcastle.
Vinnie just carried on making a difference. He worked and worked, encouraged and exhorted, fought for the cause and put the fear of God up the enemy wherever he encountered them. He scored spectacular goals, important goals. He showed flashes of genuine ability and some of his passing was sublime. He avoided disciplinary trouble to an amazing degree, given his lurid past. He sold himself to no less a judge than Strachan as an honest performer who could “play a bit”.
Vinnie also created a rapport with the crowd I’ve rarely seen before or since, chilling and joking with the wheelchair-users at the front of the West Stand before games, and smoking imaginary cigars as he took the plaudits of the adoring masses after finding the net against Ipswich. In the warm-up before the Wolves match at Elland Road, he provided one of the great moments of humour in a tense campaign, bringing down five year-old mascot Robert Kelly in the area with a signature sliding tackle, much to the delight of the Kop - and of young Robert himself.
Vinnie loved Leeds, the players and fans loved Vinnie and the partnership proved fruitful. Up we went, and when Vincent Jones finally took his leave for the humbler surroundings of Bramall Lane and Stamford Bridge, it was with a tattoo: “LUFC Division Two Champions” proudly inked onto his expensive leg, a partner for the “Wimbledon FA Cup Winners” one on the other limb. He was a Leeds United legend in only a little over a year at the club, a larger-than-life personality of massive ebullience and impact – and he is held in the highest of esteem in LS11 even to this day, when he mixes effortlessly in the rarefied, glitzy atmosphere of Hollywood.
So what do we need more right now than another Vinne type, as we hope to secure another long-overdue return to the top table? Those Jonesy ingredients of passion and power, guts and gumption, are just as important in this league today as they were in those far-off times as the eighties became the nineties. Who could possibly fulfil that role now? Joey Barton maybe? Even he could hardly be a greater culture shock than Vinnie was 25 years ago, but Barton is back in the QPR fold and far beyond our purse anyway – also, quite frankly, he lacks Vinnie’s essential honesty and sheer bad-boy charm. It’s difficult to say who if anyone we might now secure to play the Vinnie part – but if it were possible, in time for the next transfer window, to distil essence of Jones, or to clone him right from his bloodstained boots and tattooed ankles up to his fearsomely-shaven head, then I’d do it, and I’d present the result gift-wrapped for Brian McDermott to deploy as he saw fit.
A man in the mould of Vinnie Jones would be just the shot in the arm our club needs right at this point in time, just the incentive for the crowd to roll up its sleeves and get behind the team for the remaining battles in this 46 game-long war of attrition.
Just imagine the fillip that our season, our whole club would receive - if only we could have our Vinnie back now
By Andrew Butterwick
The final away trek of this hugely disappointing season saw the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly on the train heading for the Midlands and our clash with relegation threatened Birmingham City. The grey miserable weather matched Leeds' season perfectly. The hopes and aspirations of early season inspired by GFH's Emperor's clothes were soon lost in the mists of false promises, lack of money and another batch of dreadful performances by the men in white. Remarkably after all that we are still in the relative safety of mid table mediocrity as we head into the final two games of the campaign. I suppose we should be grateful for that?
We arrived in Birmingham with expectation levels low. Even after a couple of pre match refreshments it was difficult to see anything other than another turgid 90 minutes of football in front of us. Talking with some Brum fans as we walked up from Bordesley Circus changed my mind though. "Squeaky bum time for you lads" I ventured. "No chance we've a game in hand on the others and we should win today to make us safe" a rather too confident home fan retorted. "But you haven't won at home since October and you're only a point above the drop zone" I reminded him as he walked away in a haze of irritating self confidence. "I'd love it if we stuff them today" I muttered to HC in a reprise of a certain Mr Keegan's famous outburst. Suddenly I had my game head on!
Pugh and Smith replaced Warnock and Hunt respectively as the game kicked off in front of a 19,000 crowd with a healthy 3,000 plus from Leeds. As is custom now there were lots of fancy dress for the last away trip of the season with Scooby Doo, Bananaman, Fred Flinstone and a legion of SLI Roman centurions adding to the colour and noise in the away section. The atmosphere was in stark contrast to what was actually happening on the pitch as the game stuttered and spluttered through the first 20 minutes with nothing but disjointed football and little in the way of passing football to excite the fans. It was not difficult to see why the Blues haven't won at home for such a long time if this is how they play. Even our historic nemesis Mr Zigic looked ineffective. Leeds seemed content just to keep the game tight and restrict the blues to hopeful shots from outside the box. The game had 0.0 written all over it as the first half ended with Pearce making a terrific late block to deny Burke. "Wake up HC it's half time" I shouted. Not the best 45 minutes of football I've ever seen in fact I'd struggle to think of any that were worse?
The 2nd half started pretty much like the first but then on 57 minutes Alex Mowatt replaced Murphy. Not a substitution that had the away fans dancing in the aisles but it did have an immediate effect. Mowatt surprised everybody by bringing the ball down onto the floor before releasing Michael Tonge with what I believe is called a good pass...........Tonge curled a superb ball into the box where Birmingham born Smith placed a super header past Randolph in the home goal. 1.0 Leeds and the away end erupted in celebration. A minute later the same ploy worked again as good passing resulted in another cross heading towards Smith. The ball broke free for Pugh who smashed the ball gleefully into the net to double Leeds' advantage. 2.0. "You're going down with the Barnsley" boomed out from the Leeds fans as the home fans looked on helplessly.
Suddenly Leeds were in control of the game and passing the ball but not only that keeping possession. I must be dreaming. It got better with little over 10 minutes to go when another sweet move saw Ross Mac play a lovely ball into the box for Smith only for Cardiss to turn it into his own net. 3.0 Leeds and delirium in the away end.Why couldn't they play like this in the first half or for that matter all season? The blues fans were now streaming out of the stadium to the tune of "Time to go" and "we're only here to send you down" as the harsh reality of their precarious situation hit home. Macheda pulled one back for Birmingham and Brown so nearly got a 4th for Leeds after a barnstorming run. If that had gone in I think there would have been a pitch invasion! Leeds closed out the game with ease for a 2nd away win in a row. A late injury to Mowatt soured the celebrations.
Mowatt certainly contributed to the drastic change in the game as Leeds started to spray the ball about when he came on. Smith battled well again. In the end it was a good three points against a team who looked devoid of any ideas or determination. They now sit in the bottom three with just two games to go. That's squeaky bum time in my book and with any one of Charlton, Blackpool, Donny, Millwall and Brum all fighting to avoid the last relegation spot next Saturday is set to test the nerves of those uncomfortable fans.
The long journey home gave time to reflect on a result that was far better than the performance but at least we completed the double over the blues. So the final away trip for this season finished on a high, albeit after an awful first half. Now we just need to spike Derby's guns next week to march off into the summer with a spring in our step. Hang on haven't they beaten us on the last 97 occasions.............about time we won one then isn't it?
By Mark Rasdall
Nottingham Forest completed the double over Leeds United last night with a 2.0 win at Elland Road. You might say that they their players are really fighting to get into the Play-Offs and so were going to be really up for the game with Caretaker Manager, Gary Brazil's game plan perfectly executed and with him urging them on from the touchline.
That opening paragraph really says it all doesn't it? Yet another Home defeat - twenty one defeats in forty four league games this season; a worst away defeat in fifty years and one of the poorest FA Cup exits in recent history. Manchester United have endured a poor season by their standards - with all of the talk of restructuring after Ferguson in the background - and their manager, David Moyes, has paid the price. A proven manager who just could not hack it at a top club.
Were the LUFC players really fighting, as Billy always urged, whatever the odds? Brian McDermott said he couldn't fault their effort. In the second half they certainly tried but what was our game plan? I still do not understand why our defenders were pushed up so high that the centre-backs were exposed time and time again, having proved in many of those twenty one defeats that they are not comfortable on the ball and with that system. Pushing defenders forward is all very well if they have the speed to offer real width but they didn't have that either. As so many times this season we lost the game in the first few minutes. Brian said it was 'no accident.' Correct.
I do not understand why the system was changed and I have to say again here - having been really supportive of McDermott for a very long time - that I think their is a misplaced and unfounded self-assurance at play. His backhanded criticism suggests his players cannot play his system and therefore a summer 'clearout' is required. Surely you play to the strength of the players you have available at the time? Leicester and Burnley have got out of the league with a 4-4-2 their players are comfortable with and have drilled into them week in and week out. If our 'comfort zone' is to play three at the back then select a team that are happy with it; ditto with a 4-4-2. We may not have the biggest squad or best quality but Sean Dyche has managed it at Burnley without complaining about his players not being capable of understanding or worried about their salaries. Forest were missing key players such as Lansbury and Andy Reid who played so well against us at the City Ground, but they re-grouped and played to their strengths.
McDermott also has favourites which I think is hugely dangerous at any football club. Austin - surely little more than a burly pub player - can break up play and protect the defence. Murphy showed against Blackpool that he can create and score when pushed forward. So, as with Danny Welbeck, let's play them out of position and, in our case, the opposite way round: unfathomable. I don't think Austin or Hunt had bad games in the overall way of things but tactically, again, I was mystified and then really angry. When he did come on, Smith caused the usual panic with his height over a relatively average Forest defence but McDermott seems determined to prove that Hunt was a good signing at the expense of us winning matches.
McDermott brought in wingers with 'pace to burn.' Only one of them made the bench yesterday having proved that they don't - though I still have hopes for Stewart. The side was lacking in any kind of pace or energy. Is this because they have given up on the season now that we won't be relegated after all, or because they think Cellino will move them on anyway? Or is it because there is something wrong with the training regime under head coach Brian McDermott?
After Blackpool and Barnsley - two abject teams about to be relegated - a number of people were saying 'there we are: told you so. Give Brian stability and he'll turn it round.' Well he had stability yesterday and we played one-dimensional, pedestrian hoof ball - something we all hate and with little chance of any kind of penetration against Forest's blanket defence. McDermott said we needed more creativity. Murphy and Mowatt have shown they can do this and also that they cannot tackle in the manner of Austin or Brown. So, they were played in defensive roles and Michael Tonge - never forwards in going backwards - was expected to provide the guile until a hamstring pull enabled him to wander off for an early Horlicks.
I am just a loyal Leeds United fan and certainly no football expert. I have no doubt that off-the-field issues have been unsettling to downright corrosive at our club and I do admire McDermott for sticking it out thus far. But David Moyes never blamed the difficulties of starting a new dynasty - he just wasn't big enough for the club. McDermott has blamed everything - in a very nice way of course - but himself. We do have the chance to build a new regime at Leeds United but a big club needs a big, strong man (even a little bit frightening like Pearson or Dyche) and a decent coach at the helm. I'm sorry Brian but I am now certain that this man is not you.
By Andrew Butterwick
In recent years Leeds United have acquired more than their fair share of bogey teams such as Derby County, Millwall and of course Barnsley our noisy neighbours from South Yorkshire. No matter how poor Barnsley's form is or how low they are in the table a visit from the mighty whites to Oakwell is seen as a guaranteed three points by the followers of the Reds. It's like a hated Uncle visiting distant cousins and giving them a wedge of money to buy the week's shopping as payment for some mysterious family misdemeanour's way back in the mists of time. As a consequence the distant cousins always looked forward to the visit much more than Xmas even though they detested the said Uncle.
Today was the day Uncle Leeds paid their annual visit to Cousin Barnsley and as usual the Happy Chocker was dreading it. After all he has to put up with lot's of his Barnsley cousins day in day out at work. As usual Barnsley were in the middle of a desperate struggle against relegation but a battling win against fellow strugglers, Charlton, had given them extra confidence in front of the Easter showdown with Leeds. Would Barnsley resurrect their championship survival hopes or would Leeds bury the Barnsley hoodoo once and for all? We were about to find out.
After pre match drinks behind enemy lines in the Barnsley Snooker club HC, the Quiet One and yours truly joined the 4,000 nervous but noisy Leeds fans in the away end. Memories of the 11 goals we've shipped on the last 3 visits to Oakwell weighed heavy on my mind as we digested Brian McD's latest team sheet. Rudy Austin replaced Stewart on the bench in an otherwise unchanged team. The game started in bright sunshine with the hosts knowing that with games against Boro, QPR and Derby to come this was their best chance of 3 points to haul them away from the relegation trapdoor.
Leeds started brightly but it was Barnsley who had the first strike on goal when Jennings mistook the back row of the Barnsley kop for the goal as he sent the ball high wide and handsome. The first of many chants of "that's why you're going darn" rang out from the taunting Leeds fans. In previous visits to Oakwell Leeds have succumbed to a much more creative home midfield. Last year the blond haired Perkins was Leeds tormentor but this year the lack of quality in the red's engine room was thankfully there for everyone to see. Leeds first chance came when the hard working Smith planted a header towards the top corner but the alert Steele in the Barnsley goal was equal to it. Minutes later Murphy so nearly added to his two goals from last week when Ross Mac picked him out 10 yards out but his fierce header hit a defender with Steele struggling.
A combination of some early Leeds pressure and a hesitant Barnsley side started to give me a glimmer of hope that this just might be the day we actually do well at Oakwell. On 16 minutes the feeling got much, much better. A dangerous ball into the Barnsley box saw Smith out jump his marker and flick the ball in the general direction of Ross Mac who's first touch completely bamboozled the Reds defender freeing him to blast home his 29th goal of a very productive season. The away support roared as if we'd just scored the winning goal in a cup final. Some people would argue we just had. 1.0 Leeds.
Barnsley responded to the goal with a lot of bluster but very little skill. This was turning into a game that was right up Michael Brown's street as the wild tackles started to fly in from both sides. Etuhu was booked for the home side closely followed by Brown as the match struggled to get out of second gear with the referee's whistle working overtime. Barnsley had another couple of shots blazed into the kop as the match reached half time with the sides still separated by the sublime McCormack strike. News that Millwall were winning 2.0 at Boro didn't lighten the mood amongst the home fans.
The 2nd half started with the home fans trying to rouse their team by singing the theme from the Great Escape which to me seemed a bit bizarre given that the Great Escape was a heroic failure and not actually an escape? Still if it keeps them happy? The home team responded to the encouragement though as Leeds seemed content to sit back and let Barnsley come onto them. Not a tactic that did my heart any good or the lady who was stood next to me who was urging Leeds to "close them bloody down" and "gerrout" every time Barnsley attacked. Brian McD changed things on the hour as Hunt replaced Zaliukas as Leeds went to a flat back four. This stemmed the Barnsley flow as Leeds regained some control of the game. Smith stole in at the back post but his downward header was saved by Steele. Minutes later Ross Mac sent a searing volley over the bar to check the potential Barnsley comeback. Butland was hardly troubled in the Leeds goal other than making a couple of decent punches from dangerous crosses.
Brian McD stood impassive in the technical area as Leeds loosened the relegation trapdoor for Barnsley. "Wear your track suit every week" chanted the knowledgeable Leeds fans as they sussed the real reason for Leeds sudden up turn in fortunes. The expected late charge from Barnsley never materialised as Leeds toyed with their South Yorkshire cousins. "It's just like watching Brazil" mocked the away fans as the disgruntled home fans headed for the exits knowing full well that League One football was almost certain after this defeat. Full time 1.0 Leeds and the Barnsley hoodoo well and truly buried.
This was a hard earned battling victory against a team short on quality and confidence but the 2nd win on the bounce together with a 2nd clean sheet sent the majority of Leeds fans home happy. Warnock was my man of the match with good performances from Murphy and Pearce. Ross Mac once again showed he has the class to play at a higher level as he heads for 30 goals in a season. The Happy Chocker couldn't stop texting and tweeting on the way home just to remind his many Barnsley supporting colleagues what the score was. Delicious! It might have been a game very short on quality but a win is a win and given the location this one was as sweet as it gets.
Forest head to Elland Road on Monday for another Televised clash. Can we keep another clean sheet or will it be another goal fest against the tricky Trees?
By Andrew Butterwick
Blackpool arrived in LS11 with a worse recent record than their struggling hosts.........a fact most Leeds fans find impossible to believe. I mean how can any team be worse than the abject imposters of Leeds United players we have seen over the last six weeks? The Donkey Lashers have won only 2 of their last 25 games and have failed to win any of their last 14 away games as they have slowly sunk into the smelly quicksand of the relegation quagmire. Leeds have tried really hard to keep up with that standard of ineptness as they have only a lucky win over Millwall in their last 12 games to shout about. "Today's match should be a classic then" I suggested to the Happy Chocker as we boarded the train at Selby station. He just chuckled and rolled his eyes. As has become the norm we had more than enough off the field antics to debate and dissect as the train trundled along into Leeds. Haigh's resignation, Cellino's night out with the fans in the Peacock, a million fan friendly quotes from the mad Italian and of course the incredible saga of the spy cameras in the boardroom and even the toilets. Urinal Philosophers beware! Just another week on Planet Leeds then?
We heard the team announcement in the members bar. A back 5 including Zaluikas with Wootton at wing back. Tonge, Brown and Murphy formed the midfield three with Ross Mac and Smith up front. It felt weird discussing the paucity of right back cover whilst watching Forest loanee Peltier on the big screen. Ah well. The minute's silence in remembrance of the 96 fans who went to a match and never came home was impeccably observed. I am sure I wasn't the only fan thinking "there for the grace of god go I" thinking of games attended with similar crowd congestion on the old terraces.
Leeds started the game on the front foot for a change and within two minutes Pearce put a half chance high and wide. Leeds were playing with a bit more purpose than of late against a hesitant and nervous Blackpool side. It wasn't difficult to see why they were in such poor form. The recalled Murphy looked eager and created a good chance for himself as he ran intelligently onto a pass from Ross Mac only to be denied by a last ditch Blackpool tackle in the box. After the dross we've had to put up with recently this was almost liquid football..............almost! Blackpool didn't show too much of a threat going forward with Butland only having a soft Goodwillie shot to deal with in the first twenty minutes.
Leeds were looking comfortable and converted their early pressure into a goal on 22 minutes. Smith rose and flicked on a long ball forward to Ross Mac who had drifted off his man on the edge of the box. The Leeds captain calmly picked out Murphy steaming into the box at pace.......Murphy's first touch forced him to pull the ball back instead of shooting before slipping the ball between Gilks and a Blackpool defender into the net. The cheers rung around Elland Road like a volcano of relief. We were 1.0 up in a game we really needed to win to avoid an unseemly end of season relegation fight. The goal fired up the crowd who in turn fired up the team. Minutes later Ross Mac ghosted into the box only to see his header drift wide from a superb Wootton cross after more good work by Murphy. Blackpool then had a mini revival as first Bishop missed a glorious headed chance before Goodwillie went near with two shots. "We need another goal" I muttered to HC.
The game headed for half time with Leeds still trying to take advantage of a poor Blackpool side. Murphy was bundled to the floor on the edge of the box after another surging run. Free kick. Tonge stepped up and rattled a shot that Gilks only just held onto in the Blackpool goal. HT 1.0 Leeds and the home fans gave the team a decent ovation as they trooped off for their cup of tea. The Urinal Philosophers were shocked. "unbelievable we've still got a clean sheet and we're one up" one cheery fan announced. "We'll be getting a nose bleed if we keep this up" another one shouted.
Leeds might have felt pleased with their first half performance but they got an early reminder of how precarious a single goal lead is as Bashem slid a shot just wide of Butland's post from six yard out after just 90 seconds of the second period. Leeds hit back with a good chance of their own as Ross Mac controlled the ball in the box and laid an inviting ball into the path of Warnock who's shot ballooned wide. The game became increasingly scrappy as Blackpool looked for a life saving equaliser. Hunt replaced Smith on the hour to be greeted by boo's as he entered the fray. He might not be the best player in the world but booing him before he's touched the ball is just crass.
The boo boys were soon feeling a tad guilty though as Hunt rose to flick a delightful ball into the path of Murphy who beat the oncoming Gilks with a delicate finish to give Leeds a welcome two goal lead. Get innnnnnn! 2.0 Leeds. Minutes later Murphy turned provider as he set up Ross Mac with a delightful ball through the middle but Gilks thwarted the Leeds captain with a good save.
Aidy White replaced the injured Zaliukas with 15 minutes left. Blackpool put Leeds under pressure for the last 10 minutes without really looking like spoiling the home side's rare clean sheet. Even 5 minutes of added time couldn't spoil a much needed and welcome win for the struggling home side. Final score 2.0 Leeds. There was a mixture of relief and well relief as the fans streamed away from the ground. News that Barnsley had lost and Millwall had equalised late on meant we were in the rarefied atmosphere of 16th place a full ten points above the relegation places with just 4 games to go. Phew!
Murphy was the man of the match with a much improved performance from his last outings in a Leeds shirt. Zaliukas also looked assured at the back. Good as it was to win and keep a clean sheet most fans were conscious of the quality or lack of quality of the opposition. It was a battling performance though and after Tuesday's inept efforts I suppose we should be thankful for small mercy's? Barnsley away next week and a chance to not only lay the Oakwell hoodoo but also to virtually condemn our bottom of the table neighbours to relegation. That would be nice tha know's
By Mark Rasdall
I am a lifelong Leeds United supporter and I am feeling good this morning - really good. LUFC was my first love and I love the club as much now as in 1967 when I first met them as a seven-year-old. My journey through life is illustrated by our numerous 'ups and downs' together: winning the League Cup in Primary School and facing down the Arsenal fans; winning the League just before O' Levels started and again just days after our first son was born; proposing to my wife during the second Play-Off game against Charlton, celebrating getting to the Coca-Cola final resulting in the birth of our daughter...
The downs are numerous but merely the dates should suffice:
1970, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1982, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2007 (and many more) and definitely the first few months of 2014 where we seem to have been on the brink of financial and football disaster once again...
Not since Howard Wilkinson's time when he put a proper ten-year plan in place have we really seen a true and sustainable strategic connection between football club and football team. If convicted rapists have been deemed fit and proper to run clubs in the Football League, then none have raped our club more than GFH allegedly taking out the TV and Season Ticket money and bleeding the club dry until now. Any human being who thinks that Luke Varney is a better prospect than Ashley Barnes must have been on Prozac rather than Prozone. As I write this, there is a hot rumour that David Haigh has left the club and I hope that the Together Leeds consortium might still consider taking some or part of the 25% still held by GFH. I believe involving them in the governance of our club would be a good thing, now that the financial requirement of them is reduced. They are also open to true fan involvement in the running of the club and a far better communication channel would be a great start.
And so to Massimo Cellino. I was reading the written judgement last night of his appeal against the Football League decision to disqualify him (with 'The Football League's corrupt' still ringing in my ears from the Wigan game) and Rob Atkinson also talks about this in his excellent blog post. Like Rob, I am quite appalled at the lengths to which the Football League seemed to be trying to ban someone who has run a football club for 22 years and can provide the finances necessary to save and re-build the League's biggest brand.
As Tim Kerr QC says in point 50 on page 14 "all concerned in this process, including the League, would be expected in general terms to support the attempts of the club, with its illustrious history, to overcome its current financial difficulties, with or without Mr Cellino as a director." I think he was surprised that the League were so disinterested in looking after 'one of their own' that they did not take the specialist legal advice open to them at the outset - presuming PR and public opinion to validate their stance - and then tried to discredit the Italian legal expert they had been relying on when his evidence seemed to undermine rather than support their case. It all smacks of grubby men in grubby rooms with self-interest at heart in the case of the other club chairmen asked to rule on their greatest rival club and an incredibly destructive mentality from those expected to explore all feasible ways of supporting their members rather than seeking to annihilate them...
We've seen it all before on many occasions of course, from dodgy FA Cup decisions against Chelsea in the 1960's, then being forced to play a ridiculous number of games in too short a period in 1970 which was guaranteed to destroy our chances and of course the apparently selfish and nasty campaign led by Brian Mawhinney seven years ago. None of this includes those notorious and blatant acts of corruption on a European scale in 1973 and 1975 and lack of real concern by the authorities after Galatasaray. If you're seriously looking for acts of dishonesty in Europe then there they are. Perhaps Chris and Kevin and their families will draw some crumbs of comfort that yesterday of all days should be a day when the tide may finally have turned for Leeds United...
There is some worry about whether the Football League will still try to make a comeback and try to annul this deal in the summer but surely even they can see beyond their silver cutlery and crystal glasses that legislation on a European and spectacularly expensive scale may not be advisable - and certainly too risky for a body with a responsibility for many football clubs and supposed 'duty of care.'
And so to the team. I think we all know the strengths and weaknesses of both players and manager. I have always hoped it might come right for Brian and part of me still does but I do worry about some of his tactical changes and player selections and am concerned that he might just not be big enough for our club and fans. Watching Uwe Rosler kicking off on the touchline yesterday and Brian wandering around with his notepad didn't and doesn't fill me with confidence. I am quiet, like Brian, and do things quietly but I wonder if we need more gravitas and maybe even a fear factor from players who have to face an angry rather than just disappointed or mystified manager?
I have had a difficult March with first my Mum suffering a stroke and then my Dad dying. The stress has not been helped by lack of communication about what has really been going on at our beloved club. Bill Shankly may have been wrong about football being more important than life and death but it is on the darkest of days that football offers us hope of sunnier times ahead. Go Leeds United; Strength to Leeds United; Forza Leeds United. It makes such a difference to all of our lives and the clue is in our name; the togetherness of Leeds United fans is something the Football League could learn so much from.
By Andrew Butterwick
As usual there has been considerable turbulence on Planet Leeds this week as both the takeover soap opera and the woeful form of the team continue with no apparent end in sight for either. Conspiracy theories, stories of internal bitching and yet more supposed deadlines have flooded social media with monotonous regularity over the last few days causing vitriolic debate amongst Leeds fans and also the shameful and unforgivable abuse of Ross Mac's better half, Courtney St John. All the turmoil, worries and fear for the club are put into perspective today though on the 14th anniversary of the murder of two of our own, Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight, in Istanbul. Murder never has and never should be part of a game of football. RIP Chris and Kev.
Despite the prospect of almost certain defeat against the pie munching Wiganers the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly gunned the car westwards for the lunchtime kick off against our high flying hosts. News that UK Coal are planning to close Kellingley pit hade made the Happy Chocker understandably less than his usual cheery self. I mean why close a source of a significant volume of coal just miles from the largest coal fired power station in Europe, Drax, whilst importing coal in from the other side of the world to keep it going? Bonkers! Grey weather greeted us as we entered Wigan and met up with Wigan fan Blackers for a pre match pint and friendly banter in the Brockett Hotel. Blackers' local knowledge was more than useful as he directed us to Galloways Pie Shop, when in Rome and all that, for our match food and also to a suitable parking spot. "Look out for the dog shit on the walk to the ground though nobody picks it up around here" he correctly advised us.
Once inside the ground we assessed Brian McD's latest team whilst devouring Galloway's finest offerings consisting of a mini meat pie for a starter followed by a classic Meat and Potato for main. Absolutely delicious. They certainly live the dream in Wigan! McD had recalled Brown to the centre of midfield to add some much needed steel and Noel Hunt replaced Aidey White. Mmmm who's going to play up front and who's playing on the wings? As the game kicked off Ross Mac appeared to be playing wide allowing the goalless Hunt to play alongside Smith. Slightly puzzling when we've got the top scorer in the league stuck out on the wing?
The opening exchanges were promising for Leeds as they seemed intent on keeping the ball on the grass for once. Warnock finished an encouraging move by hitting a half volley wide before Ross Mac tried to wriggle through and get a shot away. The hosts looked neat and crisp when they had the ball but the resolute Leeds back four snuffed out all but a sweetly struck Gormez drive in the first 15 minutes. All four sides of the ground respected a minutes applause for Kev and Chris on 14 minutes. Sometimes football fans put rivalries to one side and come together.......... this was one of them. Well done Wigan.
The Leeds crowd were in good voice as usual and showed their contempt for the present owners with a universal chorus of "Backs turned for the GFH" before turning their attention to the Football League for banning Mr Cellino. Back on the field Wigan were finding Leeds a tough nut to crack as Brown led a much more confrontational approach to winning the ball back than has been seen in recent weeks. It was somewhat of a surprise then to see Leeds go behind. McArthur was the architect of the move with a mazy run from the inside right spot that was finally halted by a desperate tackle on the edge of the box.......the ball ran free to Waghorn who's low shot just beat Butland inside the post. Butland saw the shot late but will be disappointed he didn't keep it out. 1.0 Wigan.
The play became scrappy as the game moved to half time. Wigan's back four were solid and for once Leeds were denying the opposing team chances on goal. Gormez finished the half with a shot that nearly went over the roof of the stand. HT 1.0 Wigan. After all the pre match worries of suffering another annihilation it wasn't a bad first half. Warnock had been articularly visible both in defence and attack. Brown had contributed well in the middle and Tonge had tried to get the ball down and play. Hunt ran about a lot.
Leeds were now playing towards the massed ranks of their supporters but it was Wigan who carved out the first chance of the 2nd half as McManaman put a through ball to Perch who's shot was brilliantly blocked on the edge of the box. Leeds had failed to seriously test the Wigan keeper in the first half and if they were going to rectify that they needed to up the tempo and take more risks. The match remained tight though with Leeds feeding off a couple of hopeful crosses into the box which Smith failed to get on target. The hard working Tonge then had a shot from 25 yards that deflected into the keepers hands. Wigan looked dangerous on the break. In the first half Gormez looked a threat when he wasn't doing his Tom Daley impression but thankfully he seemed to have a sat nav malfunction in the 2nd period as one or two of his passes went awry. On 63 minutes Tonge finally got Leeds first shot on target but Al Habsi made a comfortable save in the Wigan goal. I'm sure I've seen the Wigan goalie in a Hot Chocolate tribute band?
The game entered the last ten minutes with Poleon on for Hunt. Leeds were still only one goal behind and hopes started to rise that we might just sneak a point not that the man in the middle was going to give us any help as he made some strange decisions. The worst of which was ignoring a head tackle on Warnock that would have received a sin bin if the Rugby League team had been at home. Ross Mac had Al Habsi scrambling as he tried a delicate chip but the ball sailed inches wide. Time was ticking on though. The inevitable last assaults provided a few "nearly" moments as Poleon, Ross Mac and Byram pumped in dangerous crosses but Smith and Pearce couldn't direct any of them goalwards. The game ended 1.0.
I was disappointed as I dodged the dog shit on the way back to the car. It was a tight game that with a bit more luck and possibly ambition we might just have got a point. At least we competed. Then news started to filter through that remarkably the Judge had upheld Cellino's appeal and the Italian was now owner of Leeds United. In the sense that the word "administration" should now disappear from discussions this was brilliant news................but we thought that when GFH took over didn't we? Much as I welcome Cellino into the Leeds United family with his passion and Italian temperament together with his clear contempt for authority I will reserve judgement on whether he is the new messiah for a few months yet.
Warnock was probably my Man of the match today but although we lost at least it was a reasonable performance. Watford away on Tuesday night should be interesting. Will Brian McD be in charge? Will David Haigh be scouring the vacancy columns? Will we get a much needed win? Check your seat belts and heart pills. Something tells me that the new era at Leeds United will make any rollercoaster ride on Blackpool Pleasure Beach look like a gentle Sunday afternoon car ride with your favourite Aunt.
By Keith Ingham
We were told on Thursday, or it was rumoured that finally Massimo Cellino would get to know if the keys to Elland Road would finally be in his possession. That was put back by a not named time after 'events' that had occurred during Thursday afternoon or the evening. This caused a lot a people to begin to think that the Football League would rather have the Devil himself at Leeds than the Italian billionaire.
Throughout Friday eyes were constantly looking at Twitter, well mine and my mate Jon's were anyway but no information was forthcoming and the uncertainty around Elland Road was growing by the hour. Earlier in the week Together Leeds, a group that GFH would not speak to due to them making a 'laughable' offer back in 2013. The talk was that a consortium which included Cellino and members of TL join and propose to join in the hope that it would try and hopefully win backing for the deal. It came out that under the deal that GFH had agreed Cellino could sell the club to whoever he wanted to if the QC supported the FL as he in fact now owned the club by the matter of the shares he now owned because of the incredible amount of money he'd already put in.
The Wigan game seemed to be secondary as Brian McDermotf talked up his still unpaid footballers chances at the DW. The match was lost 1-0, although the players put in a better shift it was still the fourth defeat in a row and only three wins since the wheels fell off before Christmas. As the dying minutes of the game were being played out the airwaves cracked with a rumour mentioned by BBC Radio Leeds commentator Adam Pope, in it he said the QC had upheld the Cellino appeal and he was to become the new owner of Leeds United FC, although he stressed it had not yet been confirmed. Within the hour or so the FL came out and ratified the rumour, even the Sun gave out the news that he had got the club.
Fans, on the whole seem to greet the Italian with open arms, the prospect of their club going 'tits up' had convinced them he was a lot better option than was presently owning and avoiding every question that was asked of them. Whether or not he does actually do what he said he will do we will wait and see but without doubt this will be a 'hands on' owner and a few of the over paid players currently doing not much might find an Italian shoe up their bottoms. He will not put up with the recent showings which after I viewed the Charlton game is a very good thing indeed. It is hoped that Mr McDermott is given a chance to finally manage the football side of the club without doing the 'men in suits' jobs. Ive said he should go before but I feel he deserves at least a period of stability before the well sharpened axe is indeed wielded.
Ciao Mr Cellino, welcome to the club with the best supporters in the land. It's going be a fun ride my brothers and sisters!.
" Insieme a Marciare "
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