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

Monday, 19 November 2012

Another home grown LUFC product moving on...

After 10 and a half months and more site visits than I ever dared contemplate, the time has come to move on..

I've not given up on moaning and talking drivel you understand, I've just chosen to do so from a shiny, pretty, almost professional looking, new home. So to anyone who's visited in the past, a big 'Thank you', and to you and anyone else who's just stumbled upon this site by chance, here's a small plea to visit my new pad...it's rather easier on the eye, I promise!

Just click here!

See you on the other site,


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Leeds United 1 Watford 6

Before I set off to yesterday’s game, I tweeted to remark that I felt I could now identify with how condemned animals (vile or otherwise) must feel ahead of that final journey to the vet… if only there was some footballing equivalent to a lethal injection at Elland Road. Imagine if you were able to come in, take up your place, and on the signal of the referee’s whistle you were put to sleep and sent to a happier place, but then could be awoken from your slumber at full-time so you could retrospectively mourn the loss of another 3 points.  

Admittedly, it’d completely defeat the purpose of going to the football and might undermine what could be construed as a hugely ambitious series of object lessons in character building for Leeds United supporters, but how many more tortured spectacles can one fan base be subjected to? While most tearful, grief-ridden parties are able to say goodbye to their beloved creatures knowing their pain will be over in an instant, Leeds supporters had to witness an episode akin to the drawn out death throes of a road kill casualty, doomed from the initial impact of that sickening collision, but unable to pass into the eternal void until a succession of desperate blows had followed and beaten the final embers of life out of it.

I can’t say I’ve ever had to undergo the traumatic act of ‘finishing off’ an animal that’s been left, strewn across on the roadside after a coming together with my front bumper; but the analogy still rang very true with me, having brought back to mind an email that was read out on an ‘Adam & Joe’ radio show, several years ago. The topic of the day was accidental animal killings – a relatively strange subject for lunchtime radio, I grant you – and it initially inspired a relatively light weight response about trodden on frogs, budgies in vacuum cleaners and the like, until one correspondent disclosed an encounter with a knocked down rabbit and his attempts to inflict a mercy killing. He detailed in length the trauma and tears he suffered as he rained down blows with a tree branch, and then finally a rock to put the rabbit out of its misery…an ordeal that lasted for a full 20 minutes. The presenters delivered the tale in a tone that alternated between horror and hysterics as they came to terms with the spectacle unfolding.

The Arena of Tortured Souls

Fast forward to Elland Road, 10th November 2012, 3.28pm; having spent the best part of half an hour, playing around with gay abandon, creating chances, seemingly existing in a bubble of innocence, shielded from the harsh realities of Championship life, the creatures of the Leeds United starting XI are about to experience another world shattering awakening.

Until then, it had all looked so promising; true, Aidy White had filled his time confirming that he was just as hopeless playing on his natural side as he was on the right, while Michael Tongue exhibited the mobility of an asthmatic ant with a hamstring injury, but otherwise, good. David Norris had side-footed against the post from 12 yards after excellent work from Austin and Byram, while Varney had spurned a fine one-on-one opportunity. Leeds were on top and the 3-5-2 system offered promised. Then it happened…that initial sickening impact!

Watford broke, Matej Vydra the speeding, oncoming vehicle, his deft exchange with Alex Geijo leaving Paul Green as the startled rabbit in the headlights; the ex-Derby man, rendered dazed as he hopefully raised his hand towards a sympathetic linesman, but redemption was not forthcoming and he was left to stagger, limply in the general direction of the goal as Vydra buried his opportunity.

The fatal wound was inflicted, now the prospect of enduring the long drawn out suffering as Leeds died on their arses. Step forward Jason Pearce to inflict the first blow with that tree branch; Geijo again the tormentor as an ill-timed lunge was greeted with a red card – Warnock was to claim it only worthy of a booking, Pearce though appeared phlegmatic and offered little protest…at least he would not have to endure any more of the pain first hand.   

Paul Green was also spared further torture, becoming the sacrificial lamb as Tom Lees joined Peltier in the centre of defence; Leeds had started the game boasting three centre halves, but now had two who could only muster three good eyes between them. The Kop greeted the decision with howls of derision…White and Tonge had inexplicably survived the cull.

Come half-time, Warnock retreated back to the persona he knows best. Gone was the shrugging and quiet reflection and back was the shouting and the throwing of the kitchen sink at the problem. White off, Diouf off; Brown on, Hall on; no substitutes left to fall back on – to hell with the consequences! This was to be a famous day, a turning point in the season…oh f**k!

Two minutes into the second half, a corner. Rodolph Austin, positioned on the fringes of the 18 yard box leaps in a token effort to block the cross and falls awkwardly; suspected broken leg; the tree branch beats down on the limp, twitching body of Leeds United one more time, delivering a thundering blow. A writhing Austin departs Elland Road via the North West tunnel, and with him, any dreams of recovery.

The remaining 9 huddled together, wondering how a barely cohesive system with 10 men could be adapted to accommodate one less – the 3-2-2 formation was born, the kitchen sink retrieved for another offensive, unaware of the horrors to follow…

6 (SIX)

It took another 10 minutes, but it finally happened; the change of weapon, as Watford disposed of the tree branch and picked up the metaphorical rock; Abdi, leaving Brown flat on the turf and drilling past Kenny to make it 2-0, began the sequence of unrelenting, fatal blows. Yates then curled in a free kick, a strike delivered with a nonchalant pleasure. Then a brief flicker, perchance that fabled glimpse into the afterlife before the final passing, as a possessed Varney hunted down Dooley and Ekstrand – a penalty his reward, duly converted by Tonge.

Warnock exploded within the confines of his technical area; spewing profanity-laden rage from the extremes of the dash-lined perimeter in the direction of the fourth official. Yes, the game was over, but why no second yellow card for Ekstrand? It was as if Warnock needed a captive audience from somebody in authority as those inhabiting the prime executive suite in the East Stand had been paying little attention to his cries.   

Within 3 minutes, Vydra left Warnock wondering why he’d bothered, tearing through a patchwork backline to chip over Kenny to make it 4-1; the last rites were being delivered, the lifeless carcass of Leeds United was ready to be committed to the ground: ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But still the blows continued. The referee showed no mercy, deciding that putting everyone through a further 10 minutes of added time was absolutely necessary. Murray obliged the official’s twisted desires with aplomb, sweeping home from 25 yards – the quality of Watford’s finishing was more akin to the Champions League than the Championship…it’s like everyone, to a man, was lining up to dance on the newly dug cemetery plot. Then Troy Deeney (yes, Troy Deeney) thundered home in the closing seconds to confirm as much; his knee slide a fitting playground style celebration for the playground scoreline.

N11: 2.55PM -  This used to be the home of the hardcore...

During the post-mortem, the ever likeable Gianfranco Zola couldn’t help but sympathise with Leeds, speaking of how bad fortune had so served to undermine any hopes of a result. Supporters were even made wait up until almost 1am to re-live the whole sorry spectacle on the Football League Show. It wasn’t long ago that a Leeds humiliation such as this would be headline news for all the gloaters…even they seem to have got bored of it all now. The Leeds fans certainly are – ask any of the 18,000 or so who had the stomach for it…

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Lamentable Leeds lacking leaders at all levels

Last weekend, I devoted some time to debating whether to buy a ticket for the forthcoming cup tie with Chelsea; I’d avoided the previous two rounds having made a conscious, principled decision to boycott the games – I’m very much in the “No more dough to Monaco” camp; I’ve not spent a penny on food and drink at Elland Road in over 2 years, and don’t intend to do so again until Ken Bates has left the club. Having bought a ‘United for Life’ season ticket back in the days of Krasner, the League Cup provided me with my first opportunity this season, to draw a line in the sand over attending home matches; a chance to register an individual protest that would actually hit Bates in the pocket.

Shrewsbury and Oxford, I chose to go to; the takeover was still in the days when “imminent” seemed to mean “imminent”, but come the Everton game, my patience was at an end. In truth, it could’ve been a harder decision to make; after all, the League Cup fails to inspire much excitement and the live television coverage ensured I missed little, other than the prospect of standing in a half-empty stadium. Southampton was a harder call, I had no alternative way of watching the game, but then again, the opportunity to watch a club we played last year, fielding their reserve side hardly promised an enthralling spectacle.

But now Chelsea…

In truth, it’s not a game I would ever fancy our current side to win, but still…Chelsea. An 8 year hiatus from the Premier League has served to ensure that such clashes that reignite deep-seated, traditional rivalries are few and far between, so the opportunity just to sample the pre-match buzz again was starting to do battle with recently established principles. That was, until last night at Turf Moor.

Goal waiting to happen...

Under any other regime, I’d have already secured my quarter-final ticket, I would’ve also snapped up my seat for the two previous rounds – no thought would’ve been required; just another unconditional act of devotion towards my club. If you’re a supporter, you back, you follow and you invest in your club, regardless of the fixture. However, what the Burnley game reinforced in no uncertain terms is the fact that Leeds United no longer resembles a football club.

Football clubs are sporting institutions. By definition, such bodies are both formed due to, and are sustained by, a passion to compete, a desire to achieve the absolute maximum possible, a continued quest for self-improvement and progression within their field, and ultimately the glory that comes with it. Those at the top, who dare to dream, inspire others to do so – to follow by investing heavily, emotionally and financially, into shared, collective ambitions.

Under Ken Bates, such synonymous traits have long since been cast out from the Elland Road philosophy. Leeds United is no longer about football; its primary function now is to provide a mouthpiece, a soapbox, an audience for a man whose outdated bile, few would otherwise choose to listen to. Football has long since been relegated to a side show; a means to an end, a necessary evil that must be sustained at the lowest possible cost, in order to keep one man’s ego and public profile intact.

The tragic fact of the matter is that attitudes have become ingrained; Peter Lorimer has long since opted for his 50 pieces of silver over any loyalties to those who paid to watch him, but the spectacle of hearing Eddie Gray prostituting himself out for a pay packet, gets sadder with every passing week; a man who is part of the fabric of the club, forsaking the old mantra of “Side before self every time” in favour of his bank balance. You wonder how Billy would feel. The likes of Gray should be revered, not reviled, but it’s nigh on impossible to defend his stoic defence of his employer when even Thom Kirwin has gone out on a limb to criticise the club. From top to bottom, at every level, Leeds United screams “balance sheet” and not football club.

And now finally, that attitude has crossed the final frontier – the Leeds away end; while too many home games to mention in recent years have been anaesthetising affairs, away trips have always provided for infinitely better match day experiences. Even when on the pitch, the team get a pasting, there’s always the comfort of being part of a boisterous Leeds army to provide some solace from the day. That was far from the case last night; in fact, there was barely a whimper throughout.

Despite the ludicrous nature of the never-ending takeover saga; that supporters can see our prospects of a successful season receding with every wasted, passing day and regardless of the fact that both the club and GFH appear to view the fan base with utter indifference, there was barely an utterance of dissent last night; a couple of short lived bursts of “Bates Out!” was as expressive as the crowd got.

Some who preach the need to support the team to the point of excluding any hint of protest may rejoice, I was rather more concerned; people should be livid with the situation, desperate to vent their fury, but last night it really just appeared that nobody cared any more – those in attendance still remain passionate about the club, but no longer have a cause to fight for or to believe in; if Leeds won, nobody was kidding themselves about a promotion charge, while defeat would be just confirmation of what everyone suspects – that Leeds are a club going nowhere. As in the boardroom, affairs on the pitch have become almost incidental. But even the news the masses have longed for may offer little solace. If Bates goes …so what?  Do GFH inspire hope? Not at the moment.

In many respects, this feels like the lowest period in our 93 year history. There’s no belief in those at the top, in the heroes of yesteryear, in the players of today, or the guardians of tomorrow. But while the buck ultimately stops with the owner, the club is currently lacking leaders at all levels.

On the pitch there are seldom few who are showing themselves as being fit for the fight; take out Kenny, Pearce, Peltier and Byram from the line-up at Turf Moor and there was nothing left. There are many players who are simply not good enough for a mediocre Championship side, let alone Leeds United. There are others coasting along, content in the knowledge that their place in the team is under no serious challenge, while others exhibit the body language of men who bought into a vision, into promises of a bright, post-Bates future, only to discover it to be a sham.

In short, the team, rather like the fans, remain committed but just don’t have a cause to galvanise them. Like us, they’ve been patiently awaiting the big name reinforcements since July and the assembly of a promotion challenging squad, and like us, they’re beginning to wonder if another season is going to be frittered away.

While Neil Warnock must feel sickened to the core by the whole affair, it is now time for him to step up to the plate. Football sides are very much a reflection of their manager’s personality and philosophy, and Warnock has always been painted as a fighter; the man in the tracksuit, shouting and bawling from the touchline at his players, officials and anyone else who’ll listen. Warnock immediately won fans over back in February with his straight talking, no nonsense approach – it almost felt like he was one of us. In recent weeks, his reactions to most poor results and questions of possible signings have involved much philosophical sighing and shrugging of shoulders… while it’s possible to emphasise with his takeover fatigue, such responses no longer reflect what we as supporters want to hear. Simon Grayson ultimately allowed himself to become part of the problem at Elland Road by toeing the line, accepting repeated failures to honour promises; his vastly experienced successor has no such excuses

Talk is (very) cheap, at the moment...

Now is when Warnock should be fighting his corner, demanding some degree of backing – if this takeover is so incredibly close, WHY can’t funds be released to secure loanees? The team and the supporters need some impetus and belief, and while those at the top continue to be so spectacularly negligent to these ends, that doesn’t excuse our manager.

Warnock may also choose to consider some of his selections and tactical choices. While broken promises over ‘marquee signings’ have undoubtedly left him a long way short in terms of the quality and strength in depth he was seeking, there are still players being inexplicably afforded chance after chance, while others are simply not being offered the opportunity in their preferred positions. The continued involvement of Danny Pugh sends out all sorts of wrong messages about the standards players have to meet in order gain selection. In midfield, Michael Tonge, despite barely having played a game at Stoke in 4 years is an automatic selection, while Michael Brown, offered reduced terms to reflect his status as a fringe player is back as a regular starter.

Although out of position, Aidy White has proven himself a complete waste of space – being Leeds born and fast, doesn’t make him a great player; the ability to pass, shoot, cross or beat players would certainly help though. More pressingly, what White’s right-sided midfield role also does is deny the team its best wide attacking outlet, by pushing Byram to right-back, which in turn has often resulted in Peltier on the left. To those more educated in tactics there may be method behind the madness – I can’t see it.

The result of the tinkering, the lack of competition, the shrugging of shoulders is what was seen at Burnley – Leeds have certainly been dominated more, but have rarely been quite so awful to watch. Long diagonal punts and little else was offered from an attacking perspective and the inability of the midfield to keep the ball, confounding and depressing in equal measure. People have questioned whether the defence this season is actually any better than before…I’d urge them to consider how long Leeds spend without the ball and reconsider their statement.

Just before half-time, I received a text message from a friend – it was like a Godsend, as it ultimately offered me a distraction for the remainder of the evening; I took the opportunity and found far more to interest me in those light hearted exchanges than any of those I’d paid £30 to see. It really shouldn’t be like this…

So while Bates, Haigh and Patel continue to undermine our latest campaign with their pathetic posturing and attention seeking, and should be the targets of any ire, it all comes down to Warnock in the meantime to drag matters back on track; he still enjoys an exalted status as a man of the fans, but if he wants to continue to do so it’s time he did right by us, by his players, and by himself. Performances are his domain, if he wants his players to put up a fight and for the supporters to stand up and be counted then he needs to do so too.

It’s high time that Bates and GFH were brought to account our boss; for pressure to be applied. It may cause more yet more anger and acrimony, but surely anything…anything, has to be preferable to the apathy of the present?