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Monday, 15 August 2011

Premiership Ego Leaves Leeds Pointless

I honestly can't remember a football match that has angered me more. Stood in disbelief at the realisation that the final 30 minutes would be nothing short of 'pointless', in every sense of the word...

Referee Anthony Taylor obviously left home on Saturday morning (from Manchester, it's worth pointing out) with the bewildered notion that the anticipated 25,000 plus crowd due at Elland Road, had handed over ever-increasing sums of money just to see him... As an amateur referee myself, I was instructed from day one that refereeing a game isn't about being a Hitler-like dictator, punishing everything and everyone that deviates from my perception of the law, but more about managing the game and it's participants. I've no idea where Mr Taylor received his training but that direction was obviously not part of it. 

From as early as the eight minute he was dishing out needless cautions; Max Gradel and 'Boro full back McMahon slid into a 50-50 challenge and both reacted angrily to the other's perceived over-zealousness. A scene familiar with anybody who has ever watched a football match before. Instead of attributing it to a product of the atmosphere or heightened adrenaline, he set the ball rolling on the worst refereeing performance I have ever had the displeasure to witness. 

Gradel was dismissed before the half hour for a misjudged tackle, again on McMahon. The tackle itself was possibly worth the caution that Taylor couldn't brandish quick enough, but it was more mistimed than malicious and few would have complained if he had administered a 'last warning' and moved on as most referees would have done. Unfortunately Anthony Taylor is not 'most referees'. If that wasn't bad enough, he then predictably evened things up by dismissing McMahon, for what was nothing more than a slight obstruction. Awarding the freekick and then buckling under pressure as the crowd made him aware of the situation. He was roundly booed off the field at half time by both sets of supporters, amidst mild bemusement at his latest clanger.

Unfortunately for Leeds, the worst was yet to come. With the game delicately poised, and presumably not enough spotlight on the referee. Mr Taylor awarded Leeds a free kick on half way, after adjudging that Emnes had take a dive over Jonny Howson's leg. It was difficult to argue with his decision, he was no more than ten yards from the incident and confidently pointed  in Leeds' favour, whilst reaching for his yellow card. What happened next is why football referees are amongst the most despised figures in sport... After waiting a minute or so for Emnes to get to his feet, he brandishes the yellow card at Howson, swiftly followed by a third red of a match that had been devoid of a single 'bad' challenge... Meanwhile the crowd look on in disbelief and confusion. Middlesbrough then take their free kick and go on to win a match that was a 'no contest' from that point forward.

It turns out that the referee allowed himself to be over-ruled by the fourth official over Jonny Howson's sending off. A fourth official that was standing a good 40 yards further away from the incident than he was... The crowd were supposed to guess this small detail. It capped a dreadful performance from Taylor, who has now dismissed 5 players in his last 2 trips to LS11. Snodgrass was dismissed for obstruction against Sheffield United last season before The Blades' Jamie Ward received his marching orders for 'almost' fouling Neil Kilkenney.

It seems the 'Premiership Referee' tag turns officials into celebrity-style egomaniacs when they arrive at Football League grounds. It's a cliché but the referee really did cost Leeds United the game on Saturday and with it poured many thousands of hard earned pounds down the drain.

On the face of it, a one-nil reverse to a distinctly average Middlesbrough side is very disappointing. Add to that the fact that we're currently pointless and in the relegation zone, it's nothing short of a disaster!

Having said that, anybody who was in attendance on Saturday would have a hard time making a case for a 'Boro victory before Leeds were reduced to nine men. Such was The Whites' dominance, it wasn't until Gradel was dismissed that the Teesiders managed a shot on target. Even with ten men United looked the more likely to break the deadlock. Indeed, it wasn't until Howson departed proceedings that Leeds lost their foothold in the game and had to resort to a damage limitation exercise.

To their credit, United kept going to the 95th minute and were only one lucky break away from an equaliser. Although it is worth noting that a better team than Middlesbrough would have no doubt put our depleted ranks to the sword and left us on the wrong end of a 'thumping'. As it was, 'Boro struggled to keep possession, wasted chances and misplaced countless passes, despite the extra space the two dismissals had afforded them.

In a perverse way, it might be that the team spirit that was so absent against Southampton has just been born, the remaining Leeds players gave everything and curiously defended better with nine men that we have done in the last 18 months with a full quota of players. Andy Lonergan and Adam Clayton being the stand out performances... here's hoping!

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Monday, 1 August 2011

Championship Preview: Everybody wants Shane Long!

Last week I was asked to answer some questions, and give my opinion on the upcoming season by the editor of a football blog named GEORGE WEAH'S COUSIN. A Southampton supporting blog. I'm not sure if the editor is actually a relative of the former World player of the Year though...

I was glad to oblige. I answered the questions as honestly as I could, although I will admit that yesterday's result and performance has changed my mind slightly.

The editor of the blog has just published my answers, and the answers of supporters from the other 22 Championship clubs. Most believe that West Ham and Leicester will fight it out at the summit and many can't wait to play Leeds (we're not famous anymore!) However, the most striking result is that Shane Long would be the the ideal signing for the majority of the participants, myself included.

Feel free to comment on the blog and disagree with myself and the other team's fans in all 3 parts at;

The Hull fan's view of Elland Road is classic!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Football’s Coming Home…


When Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightening seeds sat down to record their now iconic anthem, I’m sure they had much grander spectacles in mind than a non-competitive, Rochdale versus Leeds United fixture  on a wet Tuesday night in mid July…

Whatever they had in mind, their track captured the imagination and propelled the National team to their last decent tournament campaign, and whilst tomorrow night is a far more modest occasion, the lyrics still ring true with one member of The White Army.leeds dale

Growing up in Rochdale supporting Leeds United is not the easiest route for a child to take, totally surrounded by the red and blue of the regions most accomplished teams, it wasn’t until I was 10 that I saw a Leeds shirt in public away from Elland Road, on a weekend camping trip to Harrogate. Teased at School to the point that I feigned illness after Leeds collapsed at home to Manchester United in the League Cup circa 1991, only to be told by my mother that “It’s only a game…”. When, later that season Leeds beat Manchester United to the First Division title to become Champions of England, my smugness was short lived as I quickly realised that there was still far more of them than me…

Against the back drop of would be Scum fans, already fluent in the garbage that is synonymous with every idiot who “can’t get tickets”, I stood their in the minority, sporting my Leeds kit at every opportunity. It wasn’t long after this that I realised that their was another minority amongst the now Sky Sports fuelled, Old Trafford propaganda machine… Rochdale fans! Despite the many Premiership clubs in the North West (Oldham included at this point) there was still some people loyal to their home town club, a  club for whom success was just something that happened to other teams, yet here they where – DALE ‘TIL I DIE.

rochdale It was from this that my affinity with Rochdale was born (and the free tickets the school used to hand out). I’d watch ‘The Dale’ from the Sandy Lane End whilst struggling to get overly excited or emotional about proceedings. Looking around I longed for the day that I could be in the away end and show Spotland a real atmosphere. Countless years and cup draws have gone by and a fixture at Spotland has remained elusive. The closest we got was the weekend of the play-off disaster at Wembley against Doncaster, I stayed the night in London to watch Rochdale the day after. Had ‘Dale’ managed a win against Stockport that day, then Rochdale versus Leeds United would have been a league fixture – unthinkable at the point that this story began.

So here we are; Rochdale versus Leeds United, albeit a pre-season friendly. We may not get the atmosphere that I had hoped for all those years ago but United took nearly 800 fans to Falkirk last Tuesday evening and just shy of 2,000 to Motherwell over the weekend so 30 miles or so isn’t that far.

A Leeds defeat, even at this level of competition would be difficult to live down so let’s hope we perform… either way Football is indeed, coming home (For me at least…)

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