A Leeds United blog of rantings, match reports and a whole load of weird shit...

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Grayson's crucial 48 hours: Follow the Roses if you wanna be adored

Today while out and about in the car, flitting between such soul destroying cathedrals of Sunday consumerism as B&Q and Homebase, I was able to punctuate the mundanity of it all by sticking The Stone Roses’ debut album in my stereo. Like so many people of my generation, the eleven tracks on that record represent the very reason why I fell in love with music. But what gives those songs even greater resonance are the indelible association they hold with Leeds United’s glorious promotion campaign of that year.



Hearing the cocksure confidence, swagger and sheer arrogance of that initial release remains as exhilarating as ever, even over 20 years down the line, and when belting out the lyrics in the car, it dawned on me that The Stone Roses represented everything Leeds United were about as a club back then, and everything that’s sadly lacking now.

The Stone Roses weren’t interested in making a living out of music, of regularly releasing records, collecting the royalties, playing mediocre venues and ‘getting by’, they had a single raison d’etre, to be the biggest, most important, most revered band in the planet, notions of mediocrity were never entertained – they didn’t exist to get by, they had a vision: they were the best in their field and were destined to reach the very pinnacle, nothing else registered.

In 1988 Leslie Silver suddenly took upon the same philosophy. He appointed a manager, charged him with creating a long term vision for the club and then backed him heavily to do so, and like the Roses, by the summer of 1990 he was relishing an encounter with the big time.



Two years later of course, Silver fulfilled his dreams as his man took Leeds to the very summit of the English game; the Roses sadly were to crash and burn; contracts, court cases and infighting killed their momentum and they could only watch on as Oasis lifted the crown of “biggest band on the planet” that had been theirs for the taking.

Yet, last summer, some 21 years since their heyday, the Roses announced a series of comeback shows at Heaton Park; they became the fastest selling gigs in UK history – so how did this happen? And more to the point, how is this relevant to Leeds United?

Well the Roses vision, their arrogance, confidence and absolute belief in being the best has always lived on; it’s a huge part of the reason why they were so brilliant and why people bought into them so heavily. Although they can never hope to fully recapture that spirit of yesteryear, people still desperately logged on to try and secure tickets, just for the chance to just have another taste of the exuberance, the hope of that period. Even two decades on, the band talked a good game and you could sense at the press conference that a steely determination and unwavering belief still existed that they would fulfil every promise; that they were back to conquer, and not just to make up the numbers.



Contrast this to Leeds United. We’re back in the second tier, but where’s the excitement, the drive, the euphoria, the ambition? If Bates, by a perverse set of circumstances had fronted the Roses, his philosophy no doubt would’ve been “Why aim for the top, when you can get by as Flowered Up?" – it’s little wonder Leeds United can’t dream of shifting over 150,000 tickets in under 15 minutes!

However, Ken Bates is an old argument, as anybody with even the most miniscule modicum of sense has long appreciated that he represents the single greatest hindrance to our progress to the footballing summit. My issue lies now with Simon Grayson; is he actually good enough for Leeds United?

While I feel reluctant to stick the boot into Grayson, he is now at a crossroads and he isn’t showing any signs of choosing the right turning. His record over the last 12 months has been pretty awful, and it’s down to luck alone that the club remain on the fringes of the play-offs. Were it not for two dubious sendings off, a moment of madness from Alex McCarthy and defensive catastrophes in the Burnley and Ipswich ranks, Leeds could quite conceivably be on a run of seven straight defeats. Awful performances have become the norm... and let’s be realistic, if Grayson didn’t work for Ken Bates, then grumblings amongst the fan base would’ve been a lot more audible by now.

Grayson supporters will of course, rightly, point to the measly budget available to him, but in all honesty, I can no longer take that argument on board. Yes, of course, you cannot seriously hope to challenge for promotion with such measly resources, and yes, Grayson is on a hiding to nothing... and that begs the question: why the hell doesn’t he do something about it?!?

This is where my real problem with Grayson lies. Where’s his drive? Where’s the hunger to make Leeds United the best? Where’s the desire to repay the long suffering supporters with a successful team – one to be proud of?

Here I find myself again returning to the Stone Roses; the glorious album closer; ‘I Am The Resurrection’ could almost represent an open letter from Leeds fans to Ken Bates; amongst the most pertinent of the lyrical tirades are the lines:

Don’t waste your words I don’t need anything from you,
I don’t care where you’ve been or what you plan to do...

Now tell me those sentiments have never echoed in your mind when reading our chairman’s programme notes, or listening to one of his Wednesday morning radio addresses? Should Grayson feel the same? He’s one of us after all, or so we’re told. That’s what he’s been trading on to keep the faith and backing of the fan base. Yet do we see any evidence of that? On the contrary, what we read and hear are the same sorry old sound bites and clichés, toeing the club line. Either Grayson does truly believe that selling Howson was the best thing to do, or he’s playing up to the ‘yes man’ role – either way, that’s not what I want from a Leeds United manager.

Returning momentarily to those lyrics, the next line in the song is the glorious statement:

I am the resurrection and I am alive...

Such a messianic claim is the preserve of a select and arrogant few in life; including admittedly, a number of the mentally ill, but for some others, it represents, albeit not in a completely literal sense, a belief in themselves, an arrogance that they are the best in their chosen field, that they exist to achieve and not to compromise, that their vision is an absolute and woe betide anyone who doesn’t facilitate and buy into it – it’s fair to say that Grayson doesn’t fall into this category.

Leeds United as a club is currently going nowhere, and rather than pushing, pushing and pushing to change that, Grayson appears to be complicit in this stagnation, rather than fighting it. To the outsider looking in, it appears that to our manager, the Leeds job IS just another job, a way of paying the bills, rather than a passion. As a fan, I can’t settle for watching my club settle for a life of mid-table mediocrity in the second tier, watching on as clubs a fraction of our size outspend and outperform us on a regular basis. Those at the top should be identifying the likes of Spurs as aspirational role models, rather than Burnley and Blackpool.

If Simon Grayson has serious ambitions for himself and the club, he should be demanding more: more of his chairman – a £9.5m budget is pathetic – more of the quality of players he’s looking to recruit; more of his coaching staff and most importantly, more of himself. I see no ambition, no long term plan, no vision for the future on the playing side of things – I’d expect nothing else from Bates, but when the same can be said of Grayson, it truly is worrying.

More to the point though, the same concerns seem to be held by the players. Two months have passed since the team’s last convincing performance – the 4-0 drubbing of Forest – and that was more a response to the tragic loss of Gary Speed than anything of Grayson’s doing. Before that, I’d suggest that you’d have to go right back to the win at the Keepmoat in September for a truly impressive showing. Furthermore, until recently, the one consolation to be had after our increasingly regular drubbings would be that there would be a ‘response’ in the next game – even that isn’t the case any more.

The club is directionless and the team has now fallen into line; Grayson’s words no longer carry the resonance they once did; he no longer has a vision the players can buy into. His words are now hollow; week in, week out Grayson emphasises the need to start games better, yet Forest aside, the team haven’t scored a first half goal since the 3-2 win at Peterborough – THAT’S 16 GAMES!!

The signs are that the players have lost their faith and with every passing game, so are an ever increasing number of fans. If the next 48 hours go as expected and a couple of loanees or cheap journeymen arrive then that’ll be the final straw for me. I want a manager who has a vision, ambition and who isn’t willing to settle for second best (or about fifth best in Leeds United’s case). If that costs him his job, then at least he can leave with his head held high, rather than face being implicated in overseeing the slow death of our club.

Grayson still has strong support on the terraces and no doubt a number of other club chairmen who’d happily employ him tomorrow; he must use his current position of power before he erodes it completely. It may be a gamble pushing Bates for funds, but the stakes are arguably even higher for Bates. Even our deluded despot must be conscious of how any such move to force the manager out could prove to be the decisive tipping point in the anti-Bates campaign.

One look at the most successful managers of recent years in the English game brings up names like Ferguson, Mourinho, Wenger and Redknapp - all of them possess an absolute belief in what they’re doing (not necessarily their chairman’s philosophy), a streak of arrogance and a determination to do everything their way. Win at all costs, not muster by as far as possible is the philosophy. Does Grayson possess this? I have my doubts.

A manager is recognised as much for his legacy at a club as his achievements. Howard Wilkinson is as much beloved for the nucleus of the Champions League side he helped create as for the titles he delivered. What would a new incumbent inherit from Grayson? - Maybe three or four decent players, a couple of whom are likely to depart in the summer, then a whole load of mediocrity.

If Grayson wants what we as fans want, he now really has to show it over the next 48 hours. No more quick fixes, no more squad men; players of proven ability or rich promise – players who’ll be around the first XI for many years, rather than another burden on the tight wages budget come next January. Ever since his inaction almost cost us promotion two years ago, Grayson has presided over a series of disastrous transfer windows. If come Tuesday night, Leeds fans are again feeling underwhelmed and bitter; I fear he won’t have the chance to break yet another series of false promises, come the summer.



To conclude by coming full circle, like Leeds United, I’ll always love The Stone Roses, even if, almost inevitably they fail to meet up to expectations in June. I guess as well as for the peerless music they produced back in that era, it was the attitude, the philosophy they personified that made them so special. ‘She Bangs The Drums’ remains THE requisite Roses track of choice for me, nothing quite captured their essence like the magical line:

Kiss me where the sun don’t shine,
The past was yours but the future’s mine,
You’re out of time...

Oh, to have an Ian Brown in the Leeds United hot seat...  

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Monday, 16 January 2012

'Quick fix' Grayson needs a new transfer philosophy

“Pacifism a wonderful conviction in theory, but only in theory. Real life has a way of eventually rubbing even the most altruistic nose in a steaming pile of "F**k that". (Anthony Beal)

This articulate, concise despatch of wisdom is something I read online the other day, and being a Leeds fan, and this being January, the first thought it brought to mind was the transfer window; more pointedly, the long established themes of underwhelming ambition and broken promises that pre-dominate every post-mortem discussion that follows its closure.





Like many, I’ve long despaired that Simon Grayson hasn’t fought his corner more forcefully, pushing Bates for more funds (I dare not contemplate that claims he’s actually happy with his budget are true, as that raises questions about him either having a stifling lack of ambition in terms of recruitment, or that he lacks the faith in his judgement to spend big), but in accepting that Simon will forever settle for pacification over the “Fuck that” option, I do have to lose a certain degree of sympathy for our manager.

Before I go further here, I would like to make perfectly clear my stance on Ken Bates. For a long time prior to his self-heralded arrival at Elland Road I harboured a deep-rooted dislike for Bates and his time at the helm has only increased that manyfold. Having sat in on the creditors meeting back in 2007 where Bates essentially threatened to liquidate the club, rather than let it pass into the hands of other bidders, I dare say I despise him as much as any Leeds fan.

I state this as a lot of people, especially on twitter seem to believe that Bates hating and Grayson worshipping are inextricably linked, that somehow, because Bates, in their belief (quite rightly) is directly accountable for the stagnation, pessimism, low ambition and declining crowds at Elland Road, serious questions cannot be asked elsewhere. While showing such strong degree of loyalty towards Grayson, is highly commendable, to admonish him of all blame for our current situation is equally ludicrous.

Like a number of others, I’ve held concerns about Grayson’s ability to motivate the team over recent months – and yes, to be fair, with the gloom that surrounds the club, I can accept the argument it must more be difficult – my main concern at the moment however, quite naturally surrounds his transfer market activities. Yes, Grayson certainly deserves greater backing, but if he isn’t going to get it, and more to the point, isn’t going to push for it, then it up to him to make best use of the modest resources he has.

For me, this is where Grayson has much to prove; while the fact the club hasn’t paid upwards of £500,000 for a player since administration is utterly lamentable, so is the amount of money wasted both on the countless failed loanees brought into the club, and the incredibly mediocre journeymen who’ve been snapped up and subsequently tied up on long term contracts.

Below I’ve listed all the players (apologies for any omissions) brought into the club by Grayson during his tenure at Elland Road, and highlighted the names according to how successful I think each individual has been. The players picked out in blue I would consider to be good, successful buys, those in purple, reasonable successes, while the players in green I would consider the jury to be still out on. Those names that remain in black, I would consider a waste of money, a criminal waste in some instances (Collins, Paynter, Bessone, Rachubka…need I go on?)

PERMANENT DEALS

Richard Naylor
Mike Grella
Shane Higgs
Jason Crowe
Patrick Kisnorbo
Leigh Bromby
Davide Somma
Max Gradel
Neill Collins
Kasper Schmeichel
Billy Paynter
Federico Bessone
Paul Connolly
Alex Bruce
Lloyd Sam
Adam Clayton
Ross McCormack
Zac Thompson
Amdy Faye (short-term deal)
Ramon Nunez
Andy O’Brien
Paul Rachubka
Michael Brown
Danny Pugh
Mika Varynen (short-term deal)
Mikael Forssell (short-term deal)
Maik Taylor
Robbie Rogers

LOANS

Carl Dickinson
Lee Trundle
Sam Sodje
Liam Dickinson
Darryl Flahavan
Michael Doyle
Sam Vokes
David Martin
Hogan Ephraim
Tony Capaldi
Shane Lowry
Paul Dickov
Sanchez Watt
Jason Brown
George McCartney
Ben Alnwick
Eric Lichaj
David Gonzalez
Barry Bannan
Jake Livermore
Darren O’Dea
Alex McCarthy
Andros Townsend

Now I appreciate my views are purely subjective and that there’s substantial room for disagreement in some cases, but even so, looking through my list, it shows that Grayson has something like a 1 in 5 ‘hit rate’ overall, which leaves a lot to be desired.

More telling is what can be concluded upon closer examination; most notably, the continued failure of our loans policy and the futility of wasting what money we do have on permanent deals for extremely average Championship players who add to our depth, to our wage bill, but rarely to the actual quality of the first XI.

Everybody has their own ideas on what currently represents our strongest line-up, I’d personally suggest that, all things considered, we only seem to perform consistently well with a 4-5-1 system, so would go with:

Longergan
Thompson
Lees
O’Dea
White
Snodgrass
Clayton
Pugh
Townsend
Howson
Becchio

While I’d suggest that many members of this line-up would be much coveted by rival clubs, a rather less palatable truth is to be found in considering how many of them are actually Simon’s players; only 6 of those 11 have been brought to the club by Grayson, and that number includes Thompson who remains a stop-gap measure for now, and two loanees – that leaves three permanent Grayson signings as fixtures in the team. For a man responsible for overseeing the arrival of upwards of 50 players in various circumstances over the space of 3 years, that’s pretty concerning, almost criminal, even more so if like me, you’d consider our current ‘crown jewels’ to be Lees, White, Snodgrass and Howson – all four of whom were inherited.

In the same regard, it’d be wrong not to give Grayson some credit for the emergence of Aidy White and Tom Lees; his consistent practice of loaning out youngsters has doubtless been a key factor in their emergence, much like Davide Somma beforehand. Furthermore, having previously seemed reluctant to put his faith in youth, even as recently as August when he preferred an unfit O’Brien to Lees, Grayson does now seem to be getting a little bolder in his approach. Indeed, the average age of the side wasn’t lost on him when heaping praise on our defensive discipline in the narrow loss at the Emirates Stadium.

Hopefully this move towards a greater appreciation and trust in younger players will mark a much needed sea change in Grayson’s philosophy in this and future transfer windows. Successful managers build teams with an eye on the long term, rather than constantly opt to supplant a succession of quick fix, short-term solutions into their squads. Yes, Grayson is hamstrung by a restrictive transfer budget, but part of the reason for it lies with his own buys – the likes of Bromby, Bruce, O’Brien, Connolly and Paynter would struggle to attract a flurry of interest amongst buyers if they were in the shop window, week in week out, as it is, lurking in the shadows, playing the odd arranged friendly game, they now merely represent financial liabilities rather than commodities, haemorrhaging funds from the club and proving notoriously difficult to offload.

If Grayson looks at our strongest XI and also takes moment to reflect on those few players that have left the club against his wishes during his tenure, the prudence of investing in promise and potential is surely inescapable. The best players currently at the club were all either brought through the youth set up or signed for modest, even negligible fees and were trusted to develop; while our most notable departed servants during his reign: Beckford, Gradel, Johnson and Kilkenny – the first three of whom would still irrefutably be regulars - were all brought in for nominal outlays.

Yes, there is always the need for a degree of experience, but when Grayson does bring such a player in, they must be proven, better than we currently have, and still have a lot to offer; not another Michael Brown, not just more of the same – buying another couple of Danny Pughs just won’t wash any more. And yes, loanees still do have a role to play, but only if we sign quality and on a relatively long term basis – the half-season loan of Townsend, and imminent touted arrival of Delph are both encouraging steps in the right direction. But most, most of all, we need to BUILD a team, and seemingly do so on a tight budget; if Grayson intends to toe Ken Bates’ ‘brick by brick’ rebuilding party line, then it’s imperative that his team building philosophy mirrors that, a long term plan to model an effective, cohesive unit built around a firm base, rather than a muddled together collection journeymen assembled on shifting sands.

A quick fix will no longer do in the circumstances; to prevail would be to stagnate. Grayson needs a strong, positive, philosophy, a definitive vision that the players and the fans can readily buy into – if he can offer that, he can re-engender a tangible faith both in the dressing room and on the terraces, and we can ask no more…but he has to be given the time to do so.

Bates deserves no such period of grace; if he continues to fall short in this transfer window then the very least he can deliver is new deals for the few coveted players we have and a genuine public backing of the man who’s got us this far. Grayson has his faults, many in fact, as I’ve suggested, but as most Leeds supporters know, it is with the man at the top where the buck ultimately stops.

Having started with a quote, it seems quite appropriate to bookend this piece with another:

"The superior man blames himself. The inferior man blames others." (Don Shula)

Ken Bates, take note.

Friday, 13 January 2012

LUTV: New schedule leaked





As part of their ongoing drive to provide the best possible service to the supporters, Leeds United have decided to completely re-think and revamp the whole LUTV viewing experience. The contents of a leaked internal email, detailing the first day's schedule is provided below*...

*Not necessarily true

LUTV Schedule: Monday 16th January

7.00am

BREAKFAST WITH BEN: Live from the LUTV studios, Ben Fry presents a mixture of up to the minute news, hard hitting interviews and celebrity gossip. Today’s guests include Lee Sharpe who’ll be discussing his new career, acting opposite Frank Bruno in the Sidcup Apollo’s production of Aladdin, and Kevin Blackwell who’ll be promoting his biography, ‘It Was Just Me and Gary Kelly’.

9.30am

THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW: Hard hitting talk show staged live from Beeston Community Centre, where morons, asylum seekers, the unemployed and single mothers debate the hot issues that dominate their personal lives.  Ken Bates presides over matters via a live video link from the Monaco Premier Inn where he holds the power to castigate any participant by releasing his pet springer spaniel, Jerry, on to them. Today’s guests include a single mother of 8 who’s returning for a third paternity test, a Leeds supporter who puts his credentials to the test as he aims to secure tickets to the disabled enclosure and four members of the Chinese Olympic team.


10.30am

THIS MORNING: Christa Ackroyd and Alan Sheehan host the daily entertainment show, live from Thorp Arch. Today Shaun Derry provides more tips on personal grooming, David Prutton puts five market leading hair conditioners to the test and Ramon Nunez models this season’s must have knitwear.






The manufacturer of ‘Holland’s Pies’ reveals how to produce steak & peppercorn pies with zero meat content, while in the book club, Zac Thompson and Aidy White share their thoughts on ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’.

12.00pm

DICKINSON’S REAL DEAL: Documentary following former United striker, Liam Dickinson: having sufficiently impressed in his trial at the Bernebeau, Liam’s secured an initial 6 month deal to show his worth. But how will he fit in with his colleagues? Today Liam befriends the club’s sweeper as he aims to settle in his new role as a toilet cleaner at the world’s richest club.

12.30pm

BARGAIN HUNT: Today we visit the North East where Glynn Williams is running the rule over a 34 year old left back who’s turning out for a Bishop Auckland Select XI against the local Liberal Club.

1.00pm

LOOSE WOMEN: Simon Grayson returns to join a panel of Ryan Giggs and John Terry to reveal the secrets of the footballing lothario. Today’s debate: keep it in the workplace or keep it in the family?


1.45pm

ONE BORN EVERY MINUTE: Another season ticket renewing Leeds fan comes under the spotlight. Today’s subject is Keith, a road sweeper from Featherstone who reveals his expectations of a multi-million pound spending spree in transfer window, and his visions of Ken Bates’ face in a slice of malt loaf.

2.15pm

SHAUN THE SHEEP: United’s CEO provides a tantalising insight into the club’s transfer and wages negotiation policy.




In the interview he reveals that the club lavish upwards of three-fold Accrington Stanley’s collective budget and denies that the summer move for Keith Andrews stalled over the midfielder’s refusal to pay for the name printing on his shirt.

2.30pm

SONGS OF PRAISE: The Kop’s charming ditty to former goal scoring machine, Enoch Showumni comes under the microscope. There are interviews with those responsible for the lyrical content and melody, while in an explosive chat, roommate Lubo Michalik corroborates the accuracy of the chant’s content.

3.00pm

POINTLESS: Fast moving game show where contestants including Gillingham’s Pat Scally start the contest with 15 points and have 45 minutes in which to reduce the tally to zero through financial mismanagement and flouncing Football League rules.

3.40pm

EMBARRASING BODIES: Hard hitting investigations where corrupt, inefficient and morally reprehensible organisations are exposed by our glorious chairman. Following previous attacks on FIFA, the Football League and Leeds City Council, Ken sets his sights on the Scarborough branch of the Independent Leeds United Supporters Club.

4.10pm

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Ken returns to convince a consortium of investors as to why putting money into a hotel and nightclub in the middle of Beeston represents a far more viable scheme than committing money towards a development in an area where people may actually want to visit.





5.00pm

CELEBRITY COME DINE WITH ME: Ainsley Harriott hosts a culinary evening at the award winning Howard’s restaurant. Robbie Savage and Paul Connolly are this evening’s visitors, braced for a two course feast of hot dogs and humble pie.

5.30pm


TOP GEAR: Ben Fry reports live from the Elland Road superstore on the essential new lines from the Macron leisurewear range and the pick of the other gifts available in-store and online.




Today’s highlights include a pair of retro replica Enoch Showumni shorts with reinforced gusset stitching, ‘I’m Leeds, and I’ve Followed Through’ baby grows, season ticket savings piggy banks and draft excluders in the shape of a prostrate Luciano Becchio .

6.00pm

BRITAIN’S GOT TALONS: An exclusive six-part documentary that catches up with United legend David Batty as he opts out of the media spotlight to pursue his true passion in life. In today’s episode, an emotional Batts opens up his first kestrel sanctuary, located on the northern tip of the Ribble Valley.

7.00pm

CORONATION STREET: New cooking show where households on the same street compete with other to prepare the best coronation chicken dish. Judge Billy Paynter awards marks according to taste and presentation.

7.30pm

(NO SHIT) SHERLOCK: Another amusing compilation of Simon Grayson’s post-match observations. In today’s episode we look at the numerous instances of references to not starting the game well enough, poor defending and the midfield lacking quality.

8.00pm

STRICTLY COME DANCING: To whet the appetite ahead of the opening of Beeston’s premier nightclub, Jonny Buchan presents a glitzy evening from the LUFC Conference Centre (the biggest facility of its type, between Leeds and Newcastle) with stars, past and present, taking to the floor. Tonight Phil Masinga teaches the world to waltz, Tresor Kandol performs ‘The Robot’, while Andy Couzens attempts to represent the medium of fire in an interpretative piece. In a rare public appearance, Ben Parker provides a stunning finale, having been given the club doctor’s clearance to charm the crowds with the ‘Safety Dance’.

9.00pm

FILM PREMIERE – 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE: Biopic of Ben Fry, co-creator of the legendary Yorkshire Radio; the station that's single-handedly redefined the north of England's music scene with it's revolutionary playlist of soft rock, manufactured pop and The Lighthouse Family. The film traces Ben's meteoric rise from the underground Featherstone drum & bass club scene and provides a glimpse into his plans to make Beeston the clubbing capital of the UK.

10.30pm

BIG BROTHER: Fly on the wall reality show following the trials and tribulations of Rod and Ray Wallace as older brother Danny, mercilessly puts them through physical and psychological torture. Broadcast live from a cellar of a back to back in Holbeck.

11.00pm

FATHER ED: Despairing of declining moral standards in modern day football, ‘Leeds United Legend’ Eddie Gray turns to religion and establishes a parish in Thorp Arch.






In tonight’s episode, the trainees are made to attend a sermon where Father Ed lectures them on what they ‘can’ and ‘cannae’ do as a representative of the club, Glyn Snodin ponders the meaning of existence in a ‘heart to heart’ and Robert Snodgrass in ordered to say 10 ‘Hail Marys’ after using blasphemy in a training match.

11.30pm

THE SKY AT NIGHT: A panel of esteemed astronomers are thrilled to witness by chance, a supernova in the belt of Orion, whilst trying to track the destination of a Bradley Johnson free-kick from last season’s clash with Norwich City.

11.40pm

BLUE PETER: Highlights from Peter Lorimer’s latest racy one hour stand-up show at Billy’s Bar.

12.00am

PEEP SHOW: A ground breaking first for English football; LUTV are proud to announce the inaugural club-affiliated ‘adult’ PPV service. Tonight’s highlights include Last Tango at Palace, Fry Hard and the educational ‘Slow Arousal: The Ken Bates Guide to Sustained Performance’.


4.00am


CLOSE


Ben Fry's image appears courtesy of howsonisnow.com
'Visit Beeston' courtesy of thebeatengeneration.co.uk

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Ken Bates Voodoo Experiment Archive

A series of experiments aimed at relieving Leeds United of its evil despot through the medium of voodoo. Behold, an archive of all the experiments to date...

EXPERIMENT 1: WATERBOARDING


EXPERIMENT 2: SOLITARY CONFINEMENT/SENSORY DEPRIVATION





EXPERIMENT 3: CRUCIFIXION 





EXPERIMENT 4: HANGING





EXPERIMENT 5: KIDNAPPING/EMOTIONAL TORMENT




More to follow over the coming months...

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Nottingham Forest 0 Leeds United 4

Admittedly this post comes some time after the event, but as it was already written I thought I'd stick it up regardless for a number of reasons:

1. There can never be enough pieces written with regard to Gary Speed.
2. This contents of this blog are a little sparse, thus far. And...
3. This is probably the last post that'll be made on here in some time (maybe ever) that isn't tinged (overloaded) with sarcasm, cynicism and a degree of mockery.

DISCLAIMER: May contain excessive sentiment having been written while under the influence of wine...

When the sudden, tragic news of Gary Speed’s passing broke late on Sunday morning, the nation stood witness to an outpouring of emotion and genuine, heartfelt disbelief unparalleled in the modern footballing era. Former team mates, club officials and supporters alike, came forward in countless numbers to pay tribute and express their utter devastation over the loss of a man who’d served his sport so magnificently for over two decades.

As a numb footballing world watched on, still struggling to comprehend the news, all eyes focused on the Liberty Stadium where 20,000 of Gary’s fellow countrymen had the honour of being amongst the first to pay tribute; the poignancy of that minute’s silence was in turn both overwhelming and uplifting; the spontaneous wave of applause reflecting the desire of shell shocked supporters to above all else, express their appreciation, to articulate en masse, just what Gary Speed meant to the modern game, in doing so, setting the tone for similar tributes held across the country, with club and even sporting loyalties, cast to one side as two nations mourned.


Billy’s statue, already awash with shirts on Tuesday afternoon, bared testament to Speed’s immense popularity; a sea of white, yellow and blue, punctuated not only with the black and white stripes of Newcastle, but also representation from the likes of Ipswich, Wrexham and Liverpool… even a Manchester United shirt lay proudly, bearing the simple message ‘From a football fan to a football legend: RIP Gary’, its unchallenged prominence in the display, not questioned, merely appreciated – in times great loss, the relative futility of even the fiercest rivalries can be cast into perspective.


The loss of Speed is felt no more acutely than at Leeds. For my generation - raised on years of 2nd division obscurity, of watching the club struggling to emerge from the shadows of the Revie era on the pitch and ignominy on the terraces off it, and with only John Sheridan as our salvation – the promotion and championship winning sides represented everything most beloved about Leeds United; Gary was OUR Eddie Gray: markedly different in playing style but sporting that same number 11 shirt and every bit as integral to a sublime midfield unit. He was one of our own and despite leaving the club 15 years ago, his omnipresence at the highest level served to ensure he was never out of our collective consciousness; and now he was gone, in his prime and for no conceivable explanation.

As a club, Leeds United has endured more than its fair share of heartbreak and adversity, for the supporters, Tuesday night represented the opportunity to do what we do better than any others; it was about standing up and being counted, it was about saluting one of our heroes. The Meadow Lane Social Club provided an effective gauge for the pre-match mood; awash with Leeds fans but collectively subdued rather than raucous, around a dozen replica shirts emblazoned with ‘Speed 11’ on the backs, a stark visual reminder that just for once, the result was secondary.

The atmosphere prevailed inside the stadium; as the referee’s whistle signalled the start to a rousing minute’s applause, supporters everywhere struggled to control their emotions, many wept openly, whilst others, more hardened looking souls, manfully battled to stem the flow from welling eyes. Yet the tribute still felt like a mere pre-cursor to the main event, when come the 11th minute, we as supporters could pay tribute in our own special way.


When the moment arrived it was at first instigated by a small group, but by the end of the first cry of “Ohhh, Gary, Gary! Gary, Gary, Gary, Gary, Gary Speed!!” the chant had swept across the length of the Bridgford Lower Stand. In a touching moment of solidarity, Forest fans in the upper tier momentarily rose in unison to applaud. During those next 11 minutes, many of those who’d struggled to hide their emotions previously finally buckled, like many others, I struggled at times to sustain the chant; the emotive swell within playing havoc with my ability to do so. It was a truly inspiring moment to be part of, a tide of “Ohhh’s” consistently sweeping down the stand in a relentless crescendo that sent tingles down the spine. Midway through I couldn’t help but notice one lone steward (not an employee of our club), he bowed his head for a full minute before attempting to discreetly turn away and wipe a tear from his eye, so moved was he by the spectacle. The pride I felt then as a Leeds fan then was such that for the first time I actually found myself willing us NOT to score, to allow this stirring tribute to run its full course, even cursing Michael Brown for what in other circumstances would be considered a creditable long range effort.

Then, that moment arrived; one offering such an impossibly perfect symmetry of circumstances that even I - somebody who groans at every trite cliché commentators dig out on these occasions - found myself re-evaluating my thoughts on the concept of fate; as the final roars of tribute gave way to a triumphant chorus of “Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!” Snodgrass and Clayton hustled and dispossessed a hesitant Guy Moussi; Snoddy then strode forward and drilled the ball with his left foot into the bottom corner. I didn’t even see the goal; I was taking a moment out, reflecting and recomposing myself, I only looked up in time to see the net bulge – as it happens, after mad celebrations, it emerged I was far from alone as nobody else around was sure who scored either, it was only the sight of Snoddy’s raised fists that confirmed some fairly patchy collective guesswork.

It was a well merited goal for a Leeds side that was up for it from the start and was sandwiched by two other very presentable Snodgrass chances. With Howson looking reborn in his favoured role and Aidy White providing added impetus down the wing, Leeds bossed the half and Howson’s stupendous second – a brilliant looping half-volley from 20 yards - certainly didn’t flatter the visitors at the interval.

After the break it was more of the same as Leeds continued to dominate, indeed only wayward finishing by Ross McCormack and general ineptitude on the part of Ramon Nunez in their substitute roles conspired to ensure that Becchio’s fine header and Clayton’s close range finish were the only goals added to the tally. 

Indeed as the second half progressed, the Leeds fans were even able to salvage some light relief from the evening; Andy Reid obliging in the best possible style to chants of “He eats what he wants! He eats what he wants! He’s Andy Reid…he eats what he wants!” by waddling after Aidan White, clattering into him and promptly receiving a second yellow.

That moment of comedy merely provided a silver lining to a perfect evening; the final whistle arriving as “4-0 for Gary Speed” boomed out from the away end. It was a magnificent display where, just like every fan, every player stood up to be counted, every one of them at least an 8/10 showing… very, Gary Speed.

Yet there was still time for perhaps the most special moment of the evening. At the final whistle, Simon Grayson as he always does, came to applaud the fans, only this time he lingered, probably for a good two minutes, determined to share the moment and his gratitude; finally he turned to walk away, but then paused, just momentarily and pointed to the heavens – “That one’s for you, Gary.”

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Barnsley 4 Leeds United 1

Today was never going to go well; Leeds travelled to Oakwell not only in an abysmal run of form, not only short on goals, but now also deprived of our most likely source of inspiration. Not content with the despicable comments designed to undermine him in the local press and on Stasi FM by Lorimer and Bates, fate had decreed to vomit violently into Simon Grayson’s turkey korma – without Snoddy where was our spark coming from, where were the goals? That said, we were playing Barnsley anyway, so what did it matter?



Barnsley! Sodding, twatting, backwards f**king Barnsley! What is it with Leeds and clubs like this? How do we regularly find ourselves, seemingly, helplessly dragged into petty one-way rivalries with tin pot outfits that invariably give our side a pasting? Unsurprisingly, all things considered, I set off on the short trip with the same sort of trepidation that a dog might on a trip to the vets to have its balls lopped off.

Arriving in the town I found little had changed. I parked in a side street opposite a branch of PC World where staff were excitedly marketing the launch of the Commodore Amiga, bullishly dismissing claims that the Sega Mega Drive was going to spark a new gaming revolution. A short walk up the hill got me to the Metrodome in good time a quick drink and also a ‘Big Foot’; a hot dog of such astounding length that I found myself reminiscing about Enoch Showumni’s spell at the club.

On arrival at the stadium I decided in a moment of inexplicable naivety to place a bet and found myself having the same conversation with a number of other supporters – who the hell did we fancy to score? Clayton from long range seemed the only feasible option, but as news of his absence filtered through, many decided not to bother – needless to say, they had the right idea.


The one positive from the team news was Grayson’s decision to go with a 4-3-3 cum 4-5-1 formation, not least as the possibility of winning the midfield battle with an engine room boasting Brown and Varynen without reinforcements was nigh on inconceivable. The only major issue was the decision to place the resoundingly one-footed Ramon Nunez on the left, rather than the right; with McCormack’s tendency to drift infield at the first opportunity, a lack of width looked a distinct probability.

Regardless, Leeds started the game reasonably well with Keogh spurning an early opportunity, while at the other end Barnsley offered little in a low key opening. Perversely the balance of the game tipped resoundingly in the home side's favour when they lost the services of their key player, as Jacob Butterfield limped off.  While most opponents would regard that as an opportunity to take a stranglehold on the game, Paddy Kisnorbo deemed it the signal to reach for the self-destruct button; he dithered, like a bewildered dementia patient, waiting to be guided back to their room by a nurse, as Ricardo Vaz Te relieved him of the ball, strode into the box and lashed the ball into the bottom corner, a mere 60 seconds after his introduction from the bench.


The goal was enough to spark riotous scenes in the corner of the main stand as a small collective of men in their 20s, seemingly on their lunch break from performing community service, took the moment as the signal to spend the remaining 75 minutes taunting the 5,500 Leeds fans in the North Stand.

After the goal, Barnsley seized control of the game, their midfield constantly first to any loose balls, most of which were supplied by an increasing shaky looking Leeds backline. When we did threaten, it was exclusively through Nunez from long range. As the team trooped off at half-time, they did so to a mixture of boos and galvanising shouts of encouragement – another disappointing half, but things could still be turned around.

Dickie Bird’s appearance at half-time briefly lifted the spirits and elicited what ultimately provided the final discernible round of applause of the day from the Leeds end. The inevitable chants of “Sign him up!” as he dribbled with a football, almost felt too close to the bone…he was certainly quicker over the grass than Paddy.

The second half brought a capitulation to eclipse just about any (bar maybe Preston) as Barnsley bossed the game with embarrassing ease. Yet somehow in the midst of this non-contest, amongst the sea of shit representing the club, Kisnorbo and Connolly still managed to stand out as beacons of utter mediocrity; both performances utterly unforgivable.

The less said about the goals conceded the better, they were all pathetic. The fact that Vaz Te has scored more times in 136 minutes against Leeds than in 7 years for Bolton speaks volumes. Sadly the same thing could be said about the inaction of the South Yorkshire Police, around 20 of whom stood looking on ambivalently as the community service brigade chanted about Istanbul.

After the fourth goal went in, those Leeds fans that remained could only find solace in defiance and humour, the former making way for the latter as a storming rendition of “Marching on Together” was followed by a rather mocking chant of “Bring on the Arsenal”. Ultimately though, a flattened, demoralised following spent the closing stages watching on in a resigned fashion, only sparking into life to greet the players with a crescendo of boos at the final whistle.

A humiliated Grayson trooped off, head down, and only Clayton amongst the team acknowledged the support with any applause, the rest couldn’t wait to get off – shameful. The Barnsley fans partied as if they’d secured promotion, the irony of the club using ‘Chelsea Dagger’ as the goal celebration music at Oakwell, inescapable. As much as I want Larry to succeed, at the moment he’s making it increasingly easier for Bates to turn the knife.

So once again, the Leeds fans found themselves miserably trudging away from Oakwell, while the home supporters made a bee-line to the club shop to order this season’s commemorative DVD and the community service crew went back to litter picking on the grass verges of the M1.

Same old Leeds, same old shit.