Clean Slate

Posted by on Jun 30, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

It’s been a short summer since the day Newcastle kept us up, and I’m wondering is the time right for a clean slate?

You’d think that it would be the de facto stance from our board, albeit with new manager. Yes, a clean slate to start again. Indeed, I think it was announced just after the end of the season that Leeds United were getting the loanees back to offer them the chance of a clean slate. All those players who were “out of favour” with Bielsa were allegedly all brought back to ER and an olive branch was extended.

A second chance to prove themselves. You must remember all the talk about Bielsa “losing the dressing room” and “not playing the Youth” etc. etc. etc. How can you forget how our league position was laid entirely at the feet of Bielsa? It was Bielsa’s style of play, his stubborness, his poor team selection, refusal to play the U23s, his continued reluctance to go to Plan B, that was at fault. Nothing to do with the obscene injury list and players who just couldn’t perform on the day.

Although it must seem like a daydream now to those who have conveniently forgotten the terrible run in at the end of the season. Most will have forgotten when we hit the relegation zone. When our fate was taken out of our hands until the last day when Newcastle saved us from the drop. I saw many of the pictures on social media with our new manager’s face superimposed onto Steve McQueen’s in that great film, I wasn’t impressed.

Many said that I was not being fair. I should be glad that he’d done enough to keep us up. He’d only been given 12 games. But the games against Villa and Southampton at home and Palace away, gave me enough insight into his tactics. I knew it would go down to the final game and we would be praying for assistance from The Bar Codes. Relying on The Geordies to win? Every person I saw at the Brentford Community Stadium was anxious until the final minute. Even after Canos got sent off, it was still touch and go. The last 15 minutes seemed like they were never going to end. 

But true to form, Leeds fans went from one extreme to the other within a short 5 days. Less than a week  before the Brentford game, most of us had resigned to losing Kalv and Raphinha. Most fans had written the team off. Most had decided that the players just weren’t good enough and would never get us out of the Championship again. Many had decided once we got relegated we needed to ditch the old wood and start again with the U23 side and the residue of players that wouldn’t have left to join richer clubs in the PL. Within days of us staying up, fans were saying we should get Haaland. His lad, not Alfie. All of a sudden we had gone from Championship no hopers (again) to spending millions to get us into Europe. With the same team. Lawks a luvvy!

How things change though!

Despite the video, showing Kalv just after Christmas 2021

https://twitter.com/CoreyHolmes90/status/1475058637987061763

we knew Brighton would be his last game at ER in our colours. Most have forgotten this video above. Kalvin won’t have though. Probably be embarrassed with this to his dying day. It’ll be wiped soon to save some blushes, however, here is a still from it

Yep. The social media age, Generation Swipe. It was said, “Never in history has so much been documented, by so many, about so little of any consequence to anybody”. Harsh but fair. The folly of fleeting things.

Under Bielsa, in those short four years, everything seemed to have a permanence about it. It felt like it was never going to end. From the moment he came to us, it felt like there was just a natural progression. Certainly, after the Championship title win and then 9th in the 1st season back, it just felt like the next step was Europe and then Champions League. I’m pretty sure the makers of “Take Me Home” never envisaged it would end as it did. Would Kalv and Rapha have gone if Bielsa were still here? I doubt it. He made them the players they were. England International, eh? But Et Tu Brute? no one is ever going to know.

The impact of Bielsa’s era will be remembered with fondness for what it was. The rollercoaster ride into ascendancy will be looked back on in years to come with happiness. When we are fighting to stay up in the perennial relegation battle that we are doomed to without the likes of Kalv and Rapha. His legacy will remain, like his face on the side of the building in Hyde Park, as will Kalvin’s at the bottom of town as you go towards Crown Point Bridge. Is it the case of the folly of fleeting things again? As Hilda Ogden might have said , “many a misguided murial mounted in haste”.

People have argued that there was too much love and affection towards Marcelo. To those I would offer my commiserations, you obviously were never there to see it happen in front of your eyes. Bielsa wasn’t just a man with a slogan. El Loco wasn’t just a myth. He was akin to an art form, like Impressionism or Cubism. It was a Renaissance (Born again for those who never did french O level). It was his ethos. A shining light of aspiration in the seething pit of the money mad “Modern Game” of football. He was a breath of fresh air in the turgid, cesspool stagnation which is the PL. To which Kalv and Rapha have now deepdived into, with the lure of benchwarming in Champions League football – and er – the small bonus of being on three times their current salary? Mebbe? If the shoe fits as they say.

This has all gone now though. We are in the new era of RB Leedsburg. Where the performance will always be more important than the points. (Yeah – never gonna live that one down).

Clean slate? More like wipe the slate and chuck it out of the window.

The transfer window hasn’t even officially opened yet and already Ryan Edmondson has gone. Drameh has never come back from Cardiff. Nohan Kenneh has gone to Hibs. McCarron has gone to Stoke. It looks like young Jamie Shackleton is off too and now there is talk Cresswell is going as well. This is the same Charlie Cresswell, who along with Klaesson, saved our skin and SkinnyJeans against Wolves. Who next? Archie Gray? Summerville? I thought it was Bielsa who refused to play the youth? Wasn’t it was Bielsa who didn’t value the U23s? Surely it was Bielsa who had no faith in our Academy? Bielsa has gone now, so why aren’t we able to hang onto the likes of Cresswell. Is this the future of RB Leedsburg, sorry Leeds United?

Clean slate – my rear end!

But we’ve bought in players who have played in the Champions League! Surely that’s something? Well, Celtic play in the Champions League every year. So do Linfield. It would be interesting to see how they fare in the relegation battle at the bottom of the PL.

The 1st 6 games will be the test of his mettle. The build up to the World Cup break could be the foundation of our battle to stay up. The games after Christmas, when the players come back from international duty +/- injuries, may well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. That’s if history repeats itself, of course. Will the players come back unharmed after slogging themselves in the punishing heat of a winter World Cup? Who knows?

If they come back and, God forbid, we start losing again, what’s it going to take? Will the board wait til it gets to 5-0, 6-0 and 7-0 before the guillotine gets ready? Or will the 3-0, 4-0 ones be enough to send SkinnyJeans back to leagues where the performance is more important than the points? Groundhog Day is Thursday 2nd February 2023. Might the Board have learnt from their mistakes this time? Might they realise that chopping and changing might just cost them PL survival? Ask Dyche and then ask Burnley.

Clean slate or chopping block?

We’ll see if the Scarlet Pimpernel is around!

Read More

Come Undone

Posted by on May 12, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

Like the hole in my old 1990s knitted scarf , Leeds United have started to come undone. Judging by last night’s game, we are unravelling at the speed of knots (pun completely intended there). Opportunity to stick a picture of a cat in my blog? Done!

 

There are lots of possible song titles I could use for this blog. The obvious one  would have been; Leeds, Leeds Are Falling Apart Again. I resisted that though. I don’t like that song anyway, the irony has long gone, dissipated into the ether many moons ago. There’s also “Jessie” by Joshua Kadison. Yes, this is an actual song, see excerpt below. If you forget the line about the trailer, it could be how the anti-Bielsa mob could be summed up

If he keeps us up though, they will be vindicated. But if we do avoid relegation, it won’t be because of him, it’ll be in spite of him. We’d have been better off with this Jessie

I chose Come Undone as a nod to Duran Duran, not the Robbie Williams one. I’m not really a fan of his, especially the bitterness when he left Take That, but only because his vitriol put my acrimony to shame! It’s not often my rancour is eclipsed. Some of the lyrics of the Robbie “Come Undone” song do occasionally reflect on the situation that we find ourselves in though, you’ll have to listen to it to understand. But the Duran Duran version really hits home.

Leeds United have come undone. It’s falling apart at the seams, right before our eyes.

There’s two more games to go. I thought last night we would have come out fighting. Chelski have a Cup final to think about, we could have had a result against Arsenal on Sunday had we kept 11 men on the pitch. There was a massive build up encouraging fans to get behind the team and the usual segues (not sedgeways) from the manager with his inspirational quotes from some other famous dead person givvying us on. What happened?

Damp squib. Flat as a fart.

Anyone who regularly reads this blog will know how I feel about our new manager and the sacking of Bielsa. I wonder how Bielsa is feeling right now. Seeing the efforts of 3 years of hard slog (on his part and the players too, who objected to it more than we will know), go down the toilet. I wonder if Bielsa could have a meeting with The Board and our new manager today,  would be doing it using a nice powerpoint?

I jest, but I am so incensed with it all. I started off incandescent, then I fumed and now, I’m incensed. We were abysmal last night, from start to finish.

The usual excuses have abounded overnight. It’s not the new managers fault, he only had 10 games to change it. But he didn’t change it, did he? It’s the same. Nothing has changed apart from being much, much more narrower. Plus we have Coops and Phillips back, and Lord Bamford too, for a short while. Bielsa was decried for not having a Plan B. I don’t even think we had a Plan A last night.

You only have to look at Newcastle and Brentford, even Burnley really, and what they did in response to the threat of relegation.

The Geordies spent big. £93 million big. But he also looked to the existing squad too.

Excerpt from Newcastle Chronicle - cheers

They weren’t going to take any chances. And it worked didn’t it? They have leapfrogged us now, and are clear of the dropzone, happily contemplating next season.

Brentford bought Eriksen and Raya, their keeper, came back from injury. He’s made a massive difference. There’s a reason why Toney can smile. They’re more or less safe.

Burnley sold Chris Wood – to Newcastle and then sacked Dyche. I thought they had resigned themselves to relegation at that point and looking to the parachute payment to see them rebound straight back up. But the dead cat bounce back has helped them. We can only hope that the luck has departed them though, or else it’s curtains for us.

The Board took a gamble, and we shall have the result of that gamble soon. Either we stay up or we come undone and we capitulate.

When they sacked Bielsa, even I thought that we’d stay up. I thought typical, they sack Bielsa just before the winning run starts, the new manager would be bound to keep us up and then Bielsa’s sacking would be completely justified. Everyone would believe that Bielsa was the problem, even though our position in the table was down to a combination of the obscene injury list, ridiculous refereeing decisions, some absolutely shocking anti-football /cheating from Wolves, Brentford and Southampton, unlucky deflections and the post and the bar basically expanding by an inch whenever Rodrigo shot near them. 

We were 15th but we had Coops, Bamford and Kalv to come back into the team. We’d had a terrible run since losing 7-0 to Citeh at Christmas, but we’d played Sc*m, Liverpool and Spurs, had two long aways at West Ham and played a hard fought 3-3 against Villa away. We were due to play Leicester and Everton, had the likes of Norwich, Wolves and Watford to go at and winable games against Southampton and Palace too.

How could we not stay up? 

The board came out with the “It was always the plan to bring the new manager in anyway in the summer”, “Bielsa was just too difficult”, “The players couldn’t cope”. Who could forget this little quote?

I can’t. Remember everything, forgive nothing. But if we were safe by now, no one would remember this.

But 10 games later, we’ve come undone. Don’t get me wrong, if that tackle on Joffy at the end of the Southampton game had been given as a penalty, that would have given us a bit of leeway. Mind you, had we defended that free kick better and not been so negative, we’d be 2 points better off.

Hindsight & Presumption

Hindsight is a marvellous thing isn’t it? But presumption – presumption is the sickener. Hindsight and presumption is the footballing equivalent to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. The board presumed we would stay up without Bielsa. The players presumed that murderball wasn’t necessary. The players presumed they didn’t need the harsh training regime that Bielsa forced them into. The players presumed that they had got us promoted, into 9th in the first season up and they didn’t need to do much more than just turn up. Similar to all the new fans at Leeds United who just presumed they would be able to get a ticket when they wanted to. Unlike Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, there’s no happy ending for anyone here. It’s lose lose, unless we stay up of course.

But the truth has been revealed. Or at least last night’s game revealed a lot of truths.

Our fitness has sunk to Paddy Kenny lows. We have about as much pace as Jabba the Hut. Our tackling skills have packed up and gone on their summer holidays already, all they needed was the finesse of the Beradi bloodbath to make them extra special. Our formation looks as steady as the first little pigs’ straw house – in a Force 10 gale. We look as organised and capable as The Prince Regent in BlackAdder The Third, or for those of you who will remember, Selwyn Froggett. Never mind – oh never mind! We have bumbled through in Clouseau fashion since the new managers arrival, somehow winning a few games. I can only hope that in the classic indomitable Peter Sellars’ style, we get the job done in the next few games, somehow. 

I’m fed up of this “oh well, I preferred it in the Chumpionship”. No! I didn’t. We, or rather Bielsa, fought long and hard to get us back where we belong. I don’t want us to go down. Nevermind this “If we go down, we go down fighting” rubbish. We need to fight and not let all this hard work of the last 3 years go to waste. 

The only ones who want us back in the Championship are the EFL. Do we really want to go back to being their cash cow? Not likely

 

 

 

 

 

Read More

Think For A Minute

Posted by on May 10, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

Those of you who are old enough will remember Think For A Minute by The Housemartins from, wait for it, 1986! Yep, 1986. 32 years ago, the Housemartins told us to just think for a minute.

This is the cover of the single off Ebay, as I don’t have a copy of it anywhere

The 80s was an era of Anti. Anti establishment, anti Thatcher, anti war, basically anti everything. Punk had been at the forefront and then the music became a little less angry. Not helped by S.A.W, the trio that bought us such tragic, but undeniably catchy hit songs in the 80s, from the likes of Kylie and Jason Donovan off Neighbours and Rick Astley. Stock, Aitken and Waterman – they’ve got a lot to answer for.

I was never a massive Housemartins fan. They were from Hull for a start and dressed like casuals in tucked in polo shirts, blue stonewashed  jeans with loafers and white socks. They even went a bit Sam Fox and did the whole acid wash jeans look when they got famous, but Paul Heaton had a good voice. And this song was a good song.

Think For A Minute, if you listen to the lyrics, seems at first to signify a yearning back to the good old days of community spirit, when you did actually leave your doors open, but then you realise it’s more about apathy and the lack of inertia.

Think for a minute.

We’ve got three crucial games to go, we need to think for a minute. The apathy has to end. But it is a big ask.

I honestly don’t know what the worse thing about Saturday’s game was.

There was so much to be disappointed in. There was so much to be cross about. I’m not just on about the display on the pitch either. It was the (in)decision, the poor choices, the football in general.

From the first 10 minutes, in fact from the word go, we were trying to play the ball out from the keeper. We’ve been doing that all season, and it hasn’t really worked. Initially because most of the defence were out anyway at the start of the season, but then, since Bielsa got sacked and Coops and Phillips got back in the team, it hasn’t really improved. We are at the dogend of the season, against Arsenal who are challenging for Chumpions League places. Eddie was never “Leeds” and had a point to prove on Sunday. Raphinha and Ayling combined to leave young Meslier exposed at the worst possible time for a sucker punch. Then for the second goal Raphinha and Ayling were shrugged off down that wing again, and it was a simple pass.

This was the basis of the frustration that led to Ayling’s rash challenge and the sending off.  Which it was, as it was indefensible. The ball was going out, it was never a goal scoring opportunity. But the rush of blood to the head because of the previous mistakes, was borne out with the mistimed, misjudged tackle. The Arsenal player made a meal of it, just to make sure, but it was a red.

At 2 – 0 down, our manager had to make a change. Even though Raphinha was already dangerously close to another yellow, he left him on and took off Joffy. It was Joffy’s first start! Just leave him on! We were already losing, at least with Joffy we had a chance to score a goal. But Joffy was the sacrificial lamb for a defender to, er make sure we didn’t lose any more? Our goal difference is terrible. Was he honestly  hoping Burnley would leak another 20 goals in the next 3 games? Apathy. We needed to stay positive and look for goal scoring opportunities. We needed to think for a minute.

When Llorente hung back and waited for everyone to move, before he closed in on the far post to shoot past the keeper, we were in with a chance. The noise was immense, we thought we could peg them back at least to a draw. Or at least we could have done if Joffy had still been on. A bit of hope and belief will never go amiss. Leeds United are always asking for the crowd to be positive to help the team. How about Leeds United have a bit more faith that supporters will always get behind the team anyway, and reciprocate with some footballing alacrity on the pitch?

I have to say, it is the majority of supporters who will pledge undying support. Not those who walked out early at Leicester away after they’d spent most of the game slagging the pro Bielsa fans who were still singing Marcelo’s name. They weren’t fussed. Those who stormed out before the end of the Norwich game at ER and missed Joffy’s goal, they weren’t too confident either.

Even in the dark old days of Division 3 football, we were still all turning up. The memories of singing “We’ll score again, don’t know where, don’t know when” in ironic desperation come flooding back. We’ve never needed gimmicks like a drum or anything, we’ve always had enough zeal. Glass half full not half empty. Like the Dark old days of Division 3, we need to seriously think about hoofing the ball up to the striker up front and hoping that he gets on the end of it. No pissing about playing it out from the keeper. Get the ball, get rid. Either into the top of the East or West Stand or up to the only guy who is in front of the half way line.

Back to Sunday, not content with the on pitch antics hacking me off,  there is this:

This from our own fans. This is probably the most disappointing thing.

For those of you who don’t know, before the game, 3,000 shirts were left on the seats in the away end at the Emirates Library. Token gesture. Bit like the big “Yorkshire” sign last weekend, but with T shirts that couldn’t really be rolled into balls and chucked onto the pitch at Raphinha. Incidentally, I wonder what’s on the menu for tomorrow night. Another big sign like “Up North” maybe?

So, on Sunday, it was released on social media that Radrizzani had arranged all these T shirts to be put on the seats for the travelling away support, in support of Stuey, who went in for that challenge and came off worse. For those that got there at “normal” time, they were there, in their resplendent glory, a truly splendid sight to see. For us who arrived at the Arsenal Library in “our” normal time (10 mins before kick off), we were greeted with empty rows. Because our OWN fans, our OWN “All Leeds Are We” fans, felt fit to nick other people’s T shirts.

So much for solidarity then. Some of us are obviously more “Leeds” than others. Not that I was particularly bothered. I’ve never really needed a shirt (or colours for that matter) to show how much of a Leeds fan I am. But a spare T shirt always comes in handy, and I was a bit miffed that there wasn’t one on my seat.

So to see the “stealbay” advert today was a bit of a kick in the teeth to be honest. The T shirts were free, but up to the time of publishing, this one was up to £113 with 19 bids. At least the one underneath it is just going for a tenner (now up at £41 though). The Club will have to do something (again) just like they had to with those yellow flags which were put on the seats at the start of the season for that brilliant display. People were putting them up for £££s within days. The Leeds United superstore will now have to sell these shirts at £10 to stop fans being ripped off by charlatans like this guy.

Just think for a minute, stop being so selfish. I know times are hard, and if it is to pay for your increase in your leccy bill, at least put that in your description to stop other Leeds fans from slagging you off for ripping them off.

All it takes is a minute, just think

Read More

Balls

Posted by on May 6, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

Balls.

At the risk of sounding a complete mysogynist, the next 16 days are going to depend on balls. The next four games will rest on balls. It sounds funny, doesn’t it? But it isn’t a joke.

Next season, and future seasons, will basically depend on balls and how we handle them in the next 16 days.

Footballs

It’s going to depend on how good we are at putting the ball in the back of the net. Just for clarity, the oppositions’ net. That’s just for starters. But it is also highly dependent on stopping the opposition getting the ball into the back of our net. That makes it sound so easy doesn’t it? Someone put a picture on facebook of our predicted team formation against Citeh on Sunday. It was a diagram of all of the team, apart from Raphinha, stood in the 6 yard box. If that had been the actual plan, that may have worked. After all, focusing all your efforts on defence kept Sean Dyche and Burnley up all this time. People laughed at Burnley – they’re not laughing now. Dyche and his particular style of  negative football may be gone but they are in with a better chance of staying up than us. This used to be us defending…..

Ballwork – working with balls

We are also highly dependent on the simple skill of passing the ball to each other. Also another basic. Our players really need to string a couple of passes together. Unless of course, the rest of  our season is going to depend on long balls from Meslier straight to Dan James, bypassing defence and midfield. Technically this happened against Citeh anyway, when we got the ball. The long ball game hasn’t been seen in a long time at Leeds United. Not since the heyday of Colin et al and Steve Mo-ri-sonnn, where Paddy Kenny lumping the ball upfield was the preferred option because our midfield was so inept. But, it isn’t just the ability to pass it, but to get on the end of it, trap it, pass it and shoot. BielsaBall – how I miss it!

Blocking the ball

We need to get back to being able to block the ball and protect Meslier like we did the other  season. Remember that game, with that video that “went viral”? Someone put a David Attenborough voice over on it, hunting like a pack of wolves, or something, and someone else put the Titanic music over it?

this is the link from the original in case you have forgotten

https://twitter.com/LUFCMOTcom/status/1266635560304676864

and this is the story from the article two short years ago

https://the72.co.uk/169520/simply-amazing-leeds-united-fans-comment-on-video-and-bielsa-quote/

Those were the days eh? When the team was fit and not injury ridden.

The best example in recent times of not being able to block a ball was that Ward Prowse free kick. We always knew that if we gave Southampton a free kick, they would score from it. We always knew that Ward Prowse would swing one in over the wall. He always does. So why did we think it fit to lie someone on the pitch behind the wall? What was the point of that? Especially against someone who always curls the ball? Or was it more of the case that having someone on the ground is “on trend” for free kicks in the PL, so everyone has to do it to fit in? A man on the near post or even a couple nearer the touchline would have been a better tactic. We were clinging onto a slim lead, not 3 -0 up.

A speciality free kick taker. Remember them? We used to have one of those. Ian Harte, Gary Mac, Kalvin Phillips even, before Bielsa turned him into the defensive midfielding maestro he excelled in so much in the Euros. Now we don’t even have a speciality penalty taker, let alone anyone with a deadly right or left foot. I don’t know whether it is because we just don’t have anyone who wishes to step up and take that gauntlet, or whether we just aren’t confident with a dead ball full stop.

Grow a pair

At the risk of getting cancelled, we need to grow a pair. At some point over the weekend, I saw a comment saying that it looked like the team had been c*strated. Someone else watched that Citeh game and thought, like me, that the team looked a mere shadow of it’s former self. Not just in terms of the inability to win a game, defend etc. etc. etc. But genuinely, it looked like we had lost our balls. Citeh didn’t even break into a sweat. I know it was widely publicised that when the new manager came in he “adopted new strategies” and decided to designate “group leaders”. Well that’s all fine and good, but has that actually materialised into results? (Wins against Wolves, Norwich and Watford?) This is the table as it stands

At first glance, ours looks better as it doesn’t have so much red on it, then you realise it’s because we didn’t have a game that week!

I know I sound critical, and I am bitter, I cannot deny that.

We could and should have beaten Palace. Leicester were poor and Villa, well their form isn’t exactly brilliant, is it? Burnley play Villa twice in the space of two weeks. Southampton, I’ve already discussed, we cannot go one nil up and then defend it for 45+ minutes. That’s what Southgate did, and look how that worked out! We needed to go for the jugular and get another goal to settle our nerves, but we sat back and the rest is history as they say. It is now out of our hands and we can only rely on teams around us losing which is a horrible state of affairs. Until the City game, it was squeaky bum time. I had hoped Citeh would have other things on their mind, but in truth, they could have played the U23 side that was here the other day, and the result would have been the same.

Now, even with my undying optimism, I have to say despair is creeping in. For the last decade, my super power was my unwavering optimism. I always thought that we would get promoted until it was mathematically impossible. Now, until it is mathematically impossible, I am hanging on to the thinnest thread that is the relegation fight back.

Whatever happens, my season ticket, like many others’, has been renewed. This will be my 28th consecutive season, I simply couldn’t afford one before then. You didn’t need to buy a season ticket when I started going, you could just pay on the turnstile, and as for away tickets, it was never that hard to get one. I bought a season ticket because I was proud to be Leeds. I still am. It’s my club. There’s many more in the branch who have done longer. Leeds United belongs to us. The current custodians are merely temporary. We are the permanent ones, win, lose or draw.

I spoke to a guy the other day who said he didn’t think there were that many who were long term season ticket holders, apart from the ones who bought into the bond scheme. He seemed to think there was less than 500. It would be interesting to know how many people there actually are who, without fail, have held season tickets for 20, 30, even 40 years. The Chairman, Charley Megginson is one, The Secretary of the branch another. Maybe I should do a poll? Or maybe just ask Leeds United directly. 

As it stands though, whether we stay up or go down, ecstatic or sarcastic or cynical or bitter, I remain Always Leeds Always Loyal

Read More

Another 28 Days Later

Posted by on Apr 30, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

It’s probably not quite another 28 days later, more like another 30 days later. But basically it is now nearly two months since they did the dirty deed and sacked Bielsa.

And yes, I’m still fuming.

I’m going to stick to my form from last time and assess the situation since my last 28 days later blog, with all the calm, reasoned and well balanced thoughts that I can muster – for about 5 minutes. Then I’ll resort back to the usual! I am nothing, if not consistent.

First things first, whereabouts are we in the table compared to where we were when Bielsa got sacked at the end of February?

Well this is where we are now, 16th.

This is the table from February when we were 15th

The main difference is that Newcastle have leapt (way) over our shoulders, Brentford are out of sight and Burnley have gained on us.

Secondly, another 28 days after Bielsa had been sacked, we have now had the likes of Cooper and Phillips, and Bamford (albeit for just the one game before he got injured for the rest of the season again) back in the squad. The sheer presence of Kalv on the bench, even though he was never going to play, was, according to one of the new managers soundbytes “enough to rally the team”. Or something like that. To be honest, he comes out with so many new soundbytes and segues (or sedgeways as I like to call them), it’s hard to keep up with them. Reliably, though, a bit like the Boris “three – phrase – slogans” (remember them? “Hands, Face, Space” or “Test, Track, Trace” …. “Cheese, Wine, Dips” ), they can all be put on a tiktok or short enough to be put on a picture of his learned earnest face, and shared on facebook or twitter, and instantly forgot. 

Incidentally, can anyone remember what happened to the £37 billion that was spent on Test, Track, Trace, that was used for about 6 months and then shelved? Just think, if we had a hundredth of that , we could have bought Ronaldo, Sancho, Cavani, Rashford MBE and Fernandes and we’d be Top 3, er ….. Top 6 right now

Thirdly, the last few games that we played before they sacked Bielsa were against Top 6 opposition and we were giving goals away for fun. The last few games under our new manager have been against Norwich, Watford and Palace. Both Norwich and Watford have easily demonstrated why they are going down.  Palace last weekend had just come out of a gruelling Cup semifinal and had nothing to play for. Palace are safe from relegation and their players were tired. We got a draw. But we beat Wolves, who were down to 10 men and er.. it was a tough fight against Leicester and Villa (who haven’t won a game in the last 5). But we got a draw against Southampton.

Fourthly, ….. No, that’s enough. I think I have made my point.

Like many others, I thought we would beat Palace. They had nothing to play for. They were safe from relegation and the Cup was their only chance to get into Europe. They had recently lost in the Cup semi final and their players would have put everything into that, as unlike Leeds United, Palace were proud to fight for a Cup trophy. The Cup game was on the Sunday (17th) against Chelsea, they played against a resurgent Newcastle on the Weds (20th) and then they played us on the Monday night (25th). It’s nothing compared to the Revie sides’ title run in back in 1970, but Palace still had to be drained by it. Our plan should have been, by the second half after a bit of attacking football in the first 45 minutes, it was time to take advantage of their exhaustion. But we still couldn’t get a decent shot on target. In fact, if anything, Meslier was the busier of the two keepers, pulling off a decent double save at one point from Zaha.

Our manager repeatedly said that it was a well deserved point after only getting two shots on target all game. Players went on social media defending a hard fought draw. Pundits jumped to justify the gameplay, the team formation and performance. My feelings? Once again, I’ll leave it to Bill – Shakespeare, that is. Another masterful quote from Hamlet, of all plays, although it has morphed over the years “methinks thou protesteth too much”.

Too much overkill for me. Let’s be honest – we were rubbish. We could and should have capitalised on the Fatigue Factor, but we didn’t. Palace looked like they were the team hungry for the 3 points to secure Premier League survival. They looked and played like their lives depended on 3 points to stave off the relegation nightmares. Sadly, we did not. 

It’s the dog end of the season. We are in a relegation battle. Norwich and Watford are down, but who is going to be the third? We have struggled against the Top 6. We have Citeh next. We play Chelski who need Champions League security. Arsenal are aspiring for Europe. We play Brighton at home and then  Brentford is our last game. The last thing we need is a final day decider at Brentford. We needed to beat Palace. 

On that cheery note, what else has happened another 28 days later?

Someone has written to an Argentinian newspaper to publish a letter to Bielsa, and the letter has “gone viral”. I think Bielsa knows how some of us feel about the way he has been treated and how much some of us were against his dismissal, but it is the thought that counts.

A more disturbing, actually perturbing as opposed to disturbing, as it isn’t really much of a worry, is that people actually started to object to the “pro Bielsa sentiment” by deflecting the attention away from Bielsa’s achievements and trying to compare what Bielsa had done, to what Sergeant Wilko did for us.  There were many facebook posts saying that Sgt Wilko has been unfairly treated with disdain from the Bielsa fans, and that really Wilkinson deserved more plaudits as he had achieved more than Bielsa ever did. I saw polls and stats demonstrating that actually Wilkinson had done more for Leeds than Bielsa. Polls and stats trying to make out that the huge respect that Bielsa had earned, was more likely over inflated ego and more hype than the truth. I don’t know about Twitter, I’m not on it, but it would be interesting to know what Elon Musk thinks.

What I would say to that is, it’s not even a valid comparison. Two completely, utterly different things.

When we got promoted and then won the League, football was a completely different kettle of fish. Money hadn’t got into the game yet. Every team was basically on a level playing field with each other. It was down to footballing skill and individual talents. It was down to teamwork and the odd bit of spirited tackling from the odd player, David Batty comes to mind. Just about every team had a free kick specialist, like Harte. Players were reknown for having a deadly left foot, or right foot, or sprinting down the wing etc. etc.

Modern football players are more recognised for their diving skills than fancy footwork. Now, Modern Football is basically down to MONEY. It’s down to which team can buy all the top players up. Not necessarily to actually play them on the pitch, but to keep the bench warm and stop them playing for their opponents. Take Cavani, for example, what a waste of talent. 

The basic principles of the modern game are not too dissimilar to “The Art of War” by Sunzi (now Sun Zhu). Winning or at least staying in the Premier League is like warfare. All warfare is based on deception. You cannot win by brute force, or footballing skill in this case, alone. You need a bit of guile and thinking to overcome your obstacles. For those of you who have never read The Art of War, think Jason and Goliath and Brain over Brawn. In Modern Football, if you can’t beat them on the pitch, just buy them off it.

In many clubs in the top divisions in Europe, money has been a major factor in the success of these clubs. Money to spend on players. Money to buy better players to score goals (Messi, Neymar) / defend (Dick Van Dyke) etc. to win games, mostly. As opposed to buying players to sell shirts. It is a bonus that old Ronaldo has actually netted a few despite his lack of willingness to pull a shirt on and get on the pitch at times. And then there’s the money to buy players to stop them scoring goals against you. Take Sancho for example. Given free reign at Arsenal maybe, or Spurs, to plug the leak after Kane stopped playing earlier in the season, he would have been a potential threat. Lingard was having a whale of a time on loan, but why allow another squad to strengthen who could challenge for a Champions League place?

I am digressing again, back to another 28 days later and back to Leeds United v Bielsa.

I stand by my thoughts that if they had not sacked Bielsa, we would be safe right now. We would have beaten Leicester and with Coops and Kalv back, and maybe Bamford, we would be looking to a nice relaxing run in to the end of the season. We would have beaten Palace. We would be planning a pre season trip to South America, as Bielsa would not have turned down a trip to his own namesake stadium, and then we would be back to Guiseley, Harrogate Town and York City, as Bielsa did not like to go far to get his players fit for the new season.

Instead we are in the “it’s in our own hands” situation. Fingernails bitten to pieces potentially.

We are all hoping that Everton keep losing and Burnley start losing again to help settle our nerves. If they don’t, it’s not going to be a very good few weeks. In February, even though we had had a poor run of results, many Leeds fans were still thinking we were safe in mid table, albeit the bottom end of it. Many were thinking, at least we weren’t in that awful perennial problematic position of Premier League relegation fodder. Many thought that we were above that. Many thought that having seen how we performed in our first season back, with BielsaBall, we would never be in with the Norwichs and Watfords ever again.

How quickly things can change. With one stab in the back.

I am still fuming. Bielsa brought more to us than premier league football. He brought the game back to us. He took a set of Championship players and turned them into Championship Champions. He took that same team, with a couple of additions, to 9th in the Premier League in the first season up. The best a newly promoted side has ever achieved.

He brought football, as it used to be played, back into the Premier League. Exciting, attacking football. Of that there is no question. In some of the most challenging times, with all the bat flu restrictions hampering training and our own daily lives, let alone his, the players and the Club itself, football was brilliant. Football kept us going over these last two awful years where our lives were harshly restricted by what was going on around us. Sometimes I think people forget the impact of the response to the pandemic and how much adversity we have faced. If you think back to how difficult it was for us, think about how much of a challenge it was for Bielsa.

Season 1: He comes from Argentina, new country, new club, plays with most of our forwards (Roofe, Bamford) injured but we do ok, just falling short in the play offs.

Season 2: Doing great guns, Bat flu stops and starts the season, ruins all his plans for getting the team up to scratch, we still get promoted in summer, we never get to see it.

Season 3: Without us seeing any of it live, we play the best football the Premier league has seen for donkeys years and we achieve 9th. Everybody loves him. He has changed English football for the good.

Season 4: Still playing under difficult times because of restrictions and with most of the team injured, especially Kalv after the Euros, patience wears thin and they sack him.

Is that a bit too simplistic?

I understand it has been difficult for Leeds United. It was difficult for them to see us go from 9th in the first season back, to losing all the time and having 60 goals scored against us. The board were worried. The keyboard warriors who can’t remember the times when we were really shit, were worried. But we had so many injuries, it was unreal. They just needed a bit of patience. Once our players were fit again, we would be ok.

But they didn’t and now we are where we are now.

Still, at least the players can go out and have a beer and a pizza when they want to without worrying about Bielsa having a pop at them. Hope it was worth it, Brute.

.

Read More

29 Days Later

Posted by on Mar 28, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

For those of you who have seen the film 28 days later, think of this episode of the blog as less about the Infected, but more enraged, than, well Rage, really. For those of you who haven’t seen the film, it’s about some people with well meaning good intentions (releasing a certain animal), unfortunately with unforeseen circumstances, resulting in a terrible outcome for everyone. It has it’s moments of mild peril and it probably is a bit scary. Like the Walking Dead used to be before Rick got taken away in that helicopter. Some parallels can be drawn to our current state of affairs, I suppose.

Yes, I’m still fuming, but I am prepared to take a look at the aftermath, 29 days later. 29 days after Bielsa was dismissed.

I’m going to start with facts. Yes, facts for a change. No bias, just plain facts and factual  incidences that have occurred 29 days later, 29 days after Bielsa’s departure. I will start calm and factual, but rest assured, by the middle of this blog I will have gone back to my usual bitterness and by the end, the blog will be full on supposition, rumour and complete hearsay – bit like most of the mainstream media then.

The last 29 days.

We lost to Spurs and they dismissed Bielsa. ( Technically now 30 days)

The club announced they replaced him with Jesse Marsch.

We played Leicester City away and lost 1 nil.

We played Aston Villa and we lost 3 nil.

We played Norwich and won 2 – 1. Joe Gelhardt with the injury time winner.

We played Wolves and we won 3 – 2. Ayling with the injury time winner

we have had this summary from Orta about (not) investing in new players and using the Academy players

Bamford is now out for 6 weeks

But the injuries are slowly coming back

Enough of facts, what has really gone on?

Bielsa got sacked. I was and still am incandescent about it. I just cannot be grown up about it. I cannot accept that what has gone on is anything but WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. See – I have written that in capitals, so it must be bad.

We played Leicester away. A Leicester team that quite frankly, were and had been absolutely shocking. Their results up to our game were loss to Spurs 3-2, draw with Brighton, loss to Forest 4-1 in the Cup, loss to Liverpool, draw with West Ham and loss to Wolves, but a win against Burnley I think. The positive build up to the game was basically the “dead cat bounce back”. It was proclaimed that now Leeds were rid of Bielsa, the only cause of our dire results, we would beat them easily, as Bielsa was the chain around the neck of Leeds United. We were told that Bielsa was the one dragging us down to the relegation drop zone. On the day, we lost. There was no change to the team, no change to the formation and no change to the continued playing of players out of position that Bielsa had been so derided for. We just couldn’t finish (albeit their goalie played a blinder) and realistically we should have won because we had Leicester – they were poor. But, we didn’t. Leicester were ours for the taking, and we did not capitalise on their terrible defending and lack of shots. We lost to a far inferior team that day, apart from Schmeichel – he was Man of The Match. The excuses rang out that the tell was that the goalkeeper got MOM, but that was just paper over the cracks.  The soundbyte from Bielsa’s replacement? “The performance was more important than the points” . Really?

We played against Villa in the new manager’s first game at ER. Stevie G had intimated that he was sorry he wasn’t up against Bielsa. We lost to Villa. The game was the same. Still misplaced passing, still struggling with defending and I think we managed one, yes, just the one shot on target all game and that was Gelhardt. We were taken apart. It was a difficult watch. People murmured that thankfully, at least, the Bielsa “man marking” system had gone. To be honest, that day we were just not capable of man marking any of them especially not that Coutinho. Realistically, we would have struggled to man mark the Black Knight from Monty Python in that game (look it up if you don’t know what I’m on about). I think Villa had 15 shots on goal, 9 on target. The one thing that I did notice that was different, was that we were very narrow across the field.

We played against Norwich. The bottom team whose run of form was only slightly worse than ours. Their only saving Grace was that at least they hadn’t let in as many goals as we had. Once again, another reminder that Bielsa was the architect of our demise by letting in 67 goals, repeated on the media ad infinitum. The players had come out in the week and said that it was all sweet smelling roses now, people were returning from injury and once more we all waited with bated breath at the team announcement. Bamford was back! We scored first with that deflected Rodrigo shot, Norwich thought they got a pen even though Rasicha stood on Ayling’s foot, but VAR was our friend that day in more ways than one. Raphinha had that free kick off the bar and James had a couple of decent shots. But true to form, in another heart stopping game, we just couldn’t hold out and in the 90th minute Norwich equalised. Insult to injury was saved by Meslier’s fine save with his noggin, and then, up steps the hero. Our own sponsored player Joe Gelhardt comes on and scores within two minutes. The goal that I didn’t see in real time. Not because I had walked out when Norwich equalised, though. No, because I didn’t think that Raphinha stood a chance of getting that ball, so I had my head in my hands. I didn’t see him reach it and cross it. I didn’t see Joffy come rushing in to score the winner. The first I knew was when everyone around me cheered. More fool me for not believing in Raphinha.

We played Wolves, Patrick’s in the starting 11, Kalvin’s on the bench and we beat them. Wolves cheated and dived and feigned injury like they always do. They went two goals up after Bamford dragged a shot wide and then limped around on the pitch until he went off in tears. Apparently, Patrick had got kick on his foot too (like most of the Wolves players felt fit to deal to us most of the game) which had been the catalyst. Patrick goes off after stretching awkwardly for a cross, Greenwood came on. Neves, arguably Wolves best player goes off after spending the majority of the first half  rolling around on the floor accruing injury time. But within two minutes of their best player going off, Wolves score. Llorente goes off and is replaced by Koch at 40 mins, but because of all the injuries, there is still at least 10 minutes to go. Jimenez clatters into Koch for his first yellow and then Klich gets caught in the face. Charlie Cresswell comes on as Klich’s face is slowly swelling up like Violet Beauregarde, and then just before the halftime whistle, Wolves go two up. It’s half time, we’re doomed! There’s not even ten minutes gone in the second half and Jimenez and Meslier go for the same ball. Jimenez is already on a yellow and he gets sent off, Meslier goes off and young Klaesson comes on. We try desperately to play with the extra man advantage, with Charlie Cresswell doing a Tony Adams in defence, but Wolves just keep going. Eventually, Harrison gets a goal after a VAR check, then Rodrigo scores and it’s 2-2 and Wolves record of never losing a PL game after going 2-0 up is looking jittery but reasonably ok. The rest is history, Ayling secures the win and we all celebrate like it’s 1999. Some of us breathe a massive sigh of relief that there is hope, and if we play 10 men for the rest of the season, we will stay up. Jesse does a bizarre post match interview and says Kalvin was never going to be able to come off the bench, he just put him on because there was no one else left. We played Arsenal at the height of the batflu issues when Liverpool said they couldn’t field a team. The subs bench Bielsa put out had 15 year old Archie Gray with Kenneh, Moore, Jenkins and Bate. Yes, there had been a challenging U23 game against the Sc*m midweek, but is that a good enough reason to risk Kalv? The likelihood of him ever going to have to come on was miniscule, but then so is losing 4 players to injury in one game. Jesse reassured us that at the end of the game, all the players were OK.

Bamford is now out for 4 weeks at least, for rupturing his plantarfascia. That’s the bit underneath your foot from the ankle to your toes. If anyone has ever had plantarfascitis, you will know how painful it is when it is just swollen, let along when you have completely ruptured it. Patrick is not OK.

The rest of the players are getting back though, and Klich was snapped in Harrogate having a pizza at the weekend, so he must be OK. Ayling managed to inflict injury, tackling this time in the ring not on a football pitch, resulting in Josh Warrington’s Klich-like swollen face. Was the jaw broken before Ayling’s headlock?

I think my version of events is better than the first factual one.

Rumour, supposition and gossip.

29 days later and it still doesn’t make sense to me. If Bielsa was such a problem why not completely change the style of  play immediately? Why not change the team? Why not play the players in their preferred positions? Why leave poor Dan James on his own, up front with the giants who make up the PL defensive walls? Why not start with Joffy? Why not get “proper” big name players in the team? If what we were told was correct, it was down to Bielsa that the squad was so small, wasn’t it? With Bielsa gone, the shackles had gone and the Club we free to look at other players? Surely?

It had to change

In the immediate aftermath of Bielsa’s dismissal, all we heard was “It had to change”. What had to change? Because frankly, the last 4 games have demonstrated that nothing much has changed. Bamford came back, albeit too early as he is now out, out for the rest of the season probably. Hindsight is a marvellous thing though. Apart from looking decidedly narrow against Villa, it hasn’t changed on the pitch. Both the Norwich and Wolves games were basically Bielsaball with the exception of Charlie Cresswell at Wolves, but he was a forced substitution. So maybe it was something to do with the players or the board? If it was the players that were unhappy, I would like to just remind them of my previous blog, Et Tu Brute. If any of the players were involved in the sacking, I wonder if they can sleep at night? The phrase “Never Forgive, Never Forget” or in the case of Jason Bourne “Remember Everything , Forgive Nothing” is not something to be trifled with. 40 years on and Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen are still not welcome back at ER by certain Leeds fans. It’s not just them either, Smithy and Judas Kewell. What if it was the Board, however?

What went wrong?

Simply put, Bielsa just didn’t do what it said on the tin. Bielsa came to Leeds with a history of flamboyant bust ups and singular characteristics which meant that The Board were never prepared for him to be here this long. It must have been a complete shock to hear him say this on the eve of his 100th game (allegedly)

No one ever expected Bielsa to become the cult hero that he was. We’d heard tales of him at Newells Old Boys and the Chilean National Team, but in the UK? At Leeds United of all places? He could barely speak English! How was he going to get by needing an interpreter wherever he went?

Bielsa became uncontrollable. He was peculiar, he had his eccentricities, but that just endeared him to everyone. A genius lauded by everyone, even the harshest football pundit. The longer he was here, the more his popularity would grow. He took the limelight from everyone. The players, the Board, everyone stood in his shadow. Except the fans. He always respected the fans. He had the upmost respect for us. The ones who were loyal to Leeds. He was always happy for a photo op with the fans and he seemed genuinely pleased to be around us. There were songs written about him, giant murials of him, even the bucket was famous. Yet he remained modest, humble and gracious constantly to his adoring public.

He was just too effing popular, with the young and the old, and with that has to come an element of green eyed jealousy from the people who he had taken the spotlight and publicity from. But he wasn’t even trying to steal anyone’s thunder. Bielsa was just being Bielsa. Some people just do not need to do anything to be popular. They just are. People are just drawn to them, they don’t even need to put effort into it, because they are just likeable. There is a  brilliant quote from Twelfth Night, good old Bill Shakespeare again, “Do not fear greatness, some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”. I also like to add another, “Some aspire to greatness, but some just never achieve it”. Some people just cannot take being second fiddle, especially to someone who is so unselfishly mild mannered and self effacing. Marcelo Bielsa achieved greatness, that is , unless he was born great. But he is gone, and I’m still fuming.

The future?

It is 29 days later, so what are we left with now?

You know my thoughts on this. It’s not the new managers fault (apart from the fact that he could have just done a Zammo and just said No). He is here now, for however long. But he promoted Mark Jackson, so hopefully the Bielsa Way isn’t completely lost. The new manager is young, he wears skinny jeans, he is keen to be interviewed, all the time in fact, a bit too over eager for me. He likes his cliches and his soundbytes. He doesn’t need an interpreter. He hasn’t changed the look of the team though has he? Is that good or bad? Is he paying homage to Bielsa or just not got his act together as yet? We will see how it all pans out.

First Impressions.

First impressions last. This excerpt (sorry about the quality) wasn’t his finest hour. He just needs to stop being so eager to please. Take your time. Be measured. You don’t have to perform to the media. You are a football manager, not a eager beaver touchy feely sharer. Just manage the team.

I’ll leave you to decide

Read More