Bates' Bile

While international hiatuses offer solace from the anguish of match day combat they are seldom shorn of incident. This time the Ridings throbbed with the vastly differing emotions caused by two men at the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of both age and distinction.

Those of us that had naively hoped to see Kenneth William Bates expunged from our consciousness were given a rude awakening with the news that the ‘odious old goat’ will be allowed to continue his morbid fascination with our club. Don Massimo had agreed to allow a new look Radio Bates a slice of match day commentary rights, in a bid to stave off the impending courtroom battle stemming from Uncle Ken’s sacking by former owners GFH. In a decade of bile soaked mismanagement our former leader had used the defunct ‘Yorkshire Radio’ to torment both supporters and former directors of a pensionable age and now used his new outlet to trumpet the announcement in typically self-congratulatory fashion. Many fans reacted angrily to the taunts amidst fears of a return but such thoughts appear unfounded. The club made no mention of the development and a source close to the president moved swiftly to assure the restless.

The highlight of the international break was without doubt the development squad’s gorgeous six goal demolition of Doncaster Rovers. It was a result that augmented the first team’s perceived improvement and enhanced the view that better times were ahead. The performance showcased the club’s impressive mix of local and continental youth and further embellished the reputation of a prodigious Brazilian teenager with the facial features of a pre pubescent tomboy.

Adryan Tavares de Oliveira’s arrival ‘on loan with a view to a permanent deal’ was precipitated by week of intense dialogue between agents and various clubs with every whisper enveloped by speculation and intrigue. Dubbed the ‘new Kaka’ in his homeland the youngster had struggled to adapt to such platitudes but had still attracted the attention of our wily Italian owner. Despite not kicking a first team ball in anger Adryan was already enjoying the divine status given to him by a devoted section of supporters keen to anoint a new messiah. Our growing legion of first team coaches had thus far resisted such hysterical overtures but the Donny display lead many to believe that a small town in South Yorkshire would provide the setting for the second coming.

Hey Boots

Millers 2 Whites 1

In his ridiculously abrubt tenure Darko Milanic had proven himself to be a quiet and thoughtful man and under the circumstances it was just as well. Much of the noisy pre match build up had emanated from our Southerly cousins and in particular their belligerent and dislikeable manager Steve Evans. The Scot had spent almost two weeks stoking the cup final fervour with constant and almost deferential reference to a fallen giant’s glorious past and was keen to outline his desire to vanquish such an illustrious opponent.

To the disappointment of many our Latin American man-child was only good for a place on the bench but it didn’t seem to matter. By half time Rotherham appeared to have succumbed to the pressure of their leader’s verbal foreplay as a slick Whites breezed into a deserved lead. Our second half disintegration was as inexplicable as it was grotesque and the travelling hordes looked on in horror as flabby mascara clad Evans bounced around like a lunatic while his charges bullied our pitiful band. The final whistle sparked typical bickering between a bemused fan base keen to assess the merits of Darko’s continental style in a league allegedly brimming with long balls and physical presence. It was another sickening denouement that ensured another miserable weekend.

 Canaries 1 Whites 1

A trip to Carrow Road is not the sort of journey relished by a little known manager without a win to his name. The ‘second biggest club in East Anglia’ are another whose supporters seem intent on manufacturing some kind of rivalry and it is one in which they have generally prevailed over the last few years.

Darko’s tactics and team selection caused the usual debate and allowed the conspiracy theorists their fun. When the self style Norfolk giants’ god forsaken goal music chimed after an hour we all feared for the worst until Adryan, Antenucci and Doukara crafted an immediate response. Most of us would have considered it a pleasing evening until the spectre of racism reared its ugly head.

Whites 1 Wolves 2

Don’t let it be said that Massimo Cellino doesn’t listen. Another ugly Elland Road experience left the old house chanting Neil Redfearn’s name and social media networks ringing to cries of ‘sack the useless twat’. By 6pm the call had been answered and another mid-term sacking had ensued.

The merits of Darko’s continental style had been a cause for much debate since the Slovenian’s arrival just thirty-two days before. A tame surrender at Griffin Park was disappointing but not unusual and two home draws that followed suggested improvement. It was a Friday night collapse in Rotherham that set the alarm bells ringing. Quite why Darko chose to conservatively protect a lead in a contest we had hitherto dominated was as inexplicable as it was submissive and invited an onslaught that bellied our opponents’ ordinariness. An unconvincing point in Norfolk lifted the gloom but another negative tactical switch against Wolves stole abject defeat from the clutches of heartening triumph and sparked an unforgiving president into ruthless action.

Don Massimo was quick to explain his reasoning and apologise for another mistake but it didn’t lift the despond. Albert Einstein once remarked that ‘insanity was doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results’. Such a rationale suggests il Presidente suffers more than most. We have learned to live with his love for camping out on the edge of legality but the constant procession of managerial casualties continue to upset and hurt. Those fans that weren’t involved in the usual navel gazing were left to spend Saturday night vulnerable to the derision of others. Most of our antagonists could only dream of our glorious history and untapped potential but the promised rebirth seems as far away as ever.

Tell

It was a rewarding but ultimately frustrating experience. Those departing the old house will have tempered the disappointment of a draw with the promise of brighter things ahead. We should have been out of sight by the time Tom ‘Ten Bob Head’ Lees and his cronies drew first blood. Their celebrations betrayed the importance of a cup final goal and gave their pitifully low away following something to hang on to. It seemed another commemorative DVD was a distinct possibility until Giuseppe Bellusci’s ice cool finish earned a share of the spoils. The goal was the least that both player and teammates deserved following a crisp and energetic passing display which forced visiting keeper Kieran Westwood into a number of athletic exertions.

Whatever confusion and carnage follows in Don Massimo’s wake, there is no doubt that our Italian revolution has engendered a playing style befitting a club of our stature. Strikers with the confidence to keep the ball in tight areas and midfielders showing authority in possession are a joy to watch, while the theory that a centre back can caress a pass on the chest and lay a deft flick is like a new science in our house. The defender in question was the combative but supremely gifted Bellusci whose goal marked an impressive all round display that will further aid his ascension into cult status. He was even seen admonishing Wednesday’s goal scorer Chris Maguire when the midfielder chose to petulantly goad the Kop end following his neat finish.

Years of prehistoric football methods have weighed heavily on our collective shoulders and you can taste the palpitations when someone over plays in the defensive third but newcomers like Bellusci, Thomasso Bianchi and Mirko Antenucci appear up to the task. Despite Sky Sports’ resident bonehead Peter Beagrie’s assertion that UEFA pro licensed, multiple national champion and serial Champions League protagonist Darko Milanic isn’t qualified to coach in England’s second tier, this performance suggested our humble and quietly spoken coach can cause a surprise.

Lounging Around

It was a fixture that spawned another impulsive sacking and fuelled a growing debate surrounding the president’s interference in team affairs. This low-key, midweek fixture against nobody in particular, produced another telling indication of the interminable chaos at the heart of Don Massimo’s Leeds.

Club consultant Graham Bean’s departure came after the former FA mandarin consented to Reading’s request for a twenty-four hour delay to proceedings. A plea that came as a result of the Royals’ televised Sunday joust with Wolverhampton Wanderers. It was an action that found its roots in both good faith and fair-mindedness but came crucially without the president’s blessing and further agitated a hot-blooded Italian already angered by television’s treatment of the club’s fixture list. The subsequent fall out produced an unedifying spectacle in which Mr Bean labelled the club ‘a madhouse’ and his former paymaster ‘a c#*t’.

The drive into Elland Road was accompanied by local radio’s mischievous suggestion that full back Stephen Warnock had become another victim of Don Massimo’s infamous temperament. There were claims that the player’s omission had come at the president’s behest and although unsubstantiated, the rumours were not beyond the realms of one’s mental compass. Warnock has been one our most consistent performers this season and in his post match interview Darko struggled to outline the reasoning behind such a snub.

Despite the unpredictability of the club’s internal politics the Italian revolution seems to have provided a telling improvement to our side’s playing style. Opening exchanges saw the type of passing football that we hope will eventually lay the technically moribund efforts of recent times to rest but a lack of end product crippled any promise in the final third. Over complication and waning concentration allowed Reading and their ‘slimy get’ of a manager a firm foothold in the game and although one fan blamed Darko’s dubious substitutions for the second half malaise, control had been lost well before then.

 

Don Massimo

It was always going to happen. The only surprise is that it didn’t come sooner. Our colourful, impulsive and often wayward owner had indulged in a month’s worth of cogitation before finally deciding to end our ninety-five year wait for a continental coach. Despite Don Massimo’s ingrained urge to gamble and the newcomer’s relative obscurity, Darko Milanic’s arrival did not imbue the type of grief-stricken hysteria that embraced his predecessor David Hockaday.

Slovenian football finds its history entwined with that of the supremely gifted technocrats and perennial underachievers of the former Yugoslavia and it was a point respectfully acknowledged by the vast majority of supporters. Unfortunately we live in an era that pays scant regard to the lost histories of such nations and as a result this newly formed country finds itself languishing in the backwaters of the European game and open to derision from notable observers.

Darko TooPhil Neville took to the airwaves to air his disgust at the ‘stupid appointment’ of ‘this Slovenian lad’ that he’d ‘never heard of’ and paid no respect to a former international who’d been a serial trophy winner as both player and a coach. It was mood shared by the majority of media outlets keen to whip up another managerial controversy. Mr Neville’s unwanted interference was given short shrift by most and led one fan to retort ‘Phil Neville is a twat of the highest order that should be bummed by every able-bodied male over the age of 18 until he falls over and farts the white of Leeds’.

To be fair to the Mancunian and his under fire back passage, the comments were sparked by Don Massimo’s decision to overlook the credible claims of Neil Redfearn and it was a salient point. Most of us would have been delighted to see our academy director thrust into the front line on a permanent basis but generally accepted our leader’s assertion that his current role is too important to disrupt.

Our upturn in fortunes had presented the new man with a bittersweet introduction to English life. Mr Redfearn’s successful redeployment managed to mould our rag-tag bunch into a formidable force and had not only seen his stock rise but also left Darko with little room in which to manoeuvre. A prolonged slip of recent standards would see the vultures circle with a ready-made replacement identified.

The new era began in less than auspicious fashion with an anaemic and limp reverse in West London, a defeat stained further by a team sheet that saw serial underachievers Morison, Tonge and Murphy on the bench at the expense of the untapped and exciting talents of Adryan, Montenegro, Benedecic and Billy Sharpe. Don Massimo provided the highlight of the day by appearing in the away end pressed intimately against his followers but would have been alarmed at the way his side meekly succumbed to an energetic and inarguably better Brentford team. Darko Milanic requires time to prove that he isn’t Mr Hockaday with an accent and a tan but in the parallel universe of Leeds United, time is in scant supply.

 

Listen To Sniffer

Bantams 2 Whites 1

Twitter bubbled with rage and psychosis dripped from every pore. That was before a ball had even been kicked. Firstly but not foremostly was SKY Sports decision to employ a studio guest list made up solely of pundits with a Bradford City persuasion. Many cried foul and you could see their point but it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Our monopolisation of the channel’s Football League output is hardly down to our silky style or their concern for our welfare. We are a car crash waiting to happen and they know it.

Mr Hockaday’s team selection was the detail that spawned incandescence and saw our ‘scrotum faced’ coach accused of arrogance. Fans fumed at the sacrifice of new tricks for old dogs and even our foremost fanzine ventured the opinion that our beleaguered boss was as good as signing his own death warrant. On his arrival ‘The Hock’ claimed to encourage and nourish youthful vigour but this cautious and unimaginative line up betrayed a desperate man fighting for his life. The ignominy of defeat was expected and indeed inevitable following Luke Murphy’s reckless abandon but the nature of another capitulation was as ridiculous as it was painful. The sight of Don Massimo scuttling away after the Bantam’s dramatic winner left us in no doubt that it was all over. The Hockaday Experiment had unequivocally failed.

Whites 1 Trotters 0

The arrival of Bolton concluded another shambolic week in which howls of derision had again been thrust our way. Don Massimo’s heavy handed and capricious approach to team affairs had yet again created an unedifying spectacle. One fan summed up the mess supremely well when comparing our troubled club to the woes of Iraq……’a once proud and progressive kingdom laid to waste by a succession of tyrants, maniacs and lunatics’. There was a sliver of sympathy from those who professed to care about the disciples of a club being ‘ripped apart’ by another charlatan but even that felt like an insult. Where had those descending voices been during a decade of Bates and Bahraini bandits?

The Hockaday affair had been as cruel as it was illogical. Not only did it land another damaging blow to our already punch drunk psyche but it also cast a decent man to the more feral of our number. This toxic attitude had become so ingrained that our former coach had endured a torrent of vitriolic bile and personal abuse which went much deeper than the perceived failure on the pitch. Some players were reported to have sought clemency for their embattled boss but the die had been cast.

Spirits for the Trotters tussle were lifted by news that Academy Director Neil Redfearn would be delivered to the first team dugout. As a player the Dewsbury lad enjoyed a nomadic existence trawling a variety of unspectacular Northern outposts before retiring to his native West Yorkshire. Recent years have seen his passion for youth football oversee the regeneration of our once great academy and for the third time in as many years this steady rock of a man had been thrust into the face of farce.

Mr Redfearn’s team selection did much to justify Don Massimo’s decision to dispense with David Hockaday’s services. A youthful side led by home-grown starlets Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt bossed large parts of the encounter and battled stoutly to resist the Lancastrians’ frantic efforts to spark a recovery. Our leader also sprinkled an influence on a crucial victory. Casper Sloth and Mirco Antenucci showed promise while keeper Marco Silvestri proved an exceptional game winner.

Mass Meets The Mass

Blues 1 Whites 1, Cherries 1 Whites 3

To many supporters’ disappointment the international hiatus did not conclude our search for a third manager in three months. Instead our ‘confused’ owner opted for a brief sojourn to Miami in a bid to collect his thoughts. As usual a catalogue of names were mentioned but nothing concrete materialised amid growing concern about Don Massimo’s reputation and the difficulties it can bring on such occasions. Those fears were summed up by Johnny Giles comments labelling the Italian as a ‘head banger’ and given some credence when supposed favourite Oscar Garcia chose Vicarage Road.

A more considered approach to the problem was perhaps wise under the circumstances and represented a welcome departure for an individual often enveloped by ‘unfathomable chaos’. It seemed to not only betray a man who realised the importance of his next move but also one that felt comfortable in his choice of surrogate coach.

Difficult trips to Birmingham and Bournemouth would test everyone’s resolve but the subsequent outcomes paid testament to Mr Redfearn’s temporary redeployment. Both encounters displayed our propensity for sluggish starts peppered by early confidence crunching concessions but on each occasion the coach and his young charges repaid their president’s faith. At St Andrews astute substitutions wrestled a deserved point from the jaws of tepid defeat. Two days later subtle tactical changes saw us recover from a murderous opening half an hour to inflict clinical destruction and misery upon the Dean Court faithful. It is very rare that Leeds fans spend Tuesday evening suckling on the teat of victory but this powerful south coast revival allowed just that.

Whites 3 Terriers 0

Saturday saw another humiliating Elland Road humbling for our dog bothering cousins but this one seemed to suggest something more tangible. In February the same opponents gleefully found us embroiled in another maelstrom driven by protests, phantom sackings and the sight of wealthy Italians fleeing mobs through the dead of a Beeston night. That victory however robust provided nothing more than a brief moment of respite in a relentless storm.

Eight months later uncertainty still lurks but an exhilarating show was the culmination of a period that points to better times ahead. It also provided a fitting conclusion to Neil Redfearn’s third and most impressive stint at the helm. In his final post match interview the coach displayed the quiet confidence of a man whose stock has grown markedly in little more than a fortnight because of his ability to blend our collection of misfits, starlets and rough diamonds mined from the coal face of continental football, into a competitive force. While he spoke of a calm and ‘measured’ display fans pointed to an ‘organised rampage’ that tore our former captain Lee Peltier and his battered Terriers ‘a new arsehole’. We were confused, bemused and basking in the warmth of our own potential.

 

The Gelderd End

Whites 0 Seagulls 2, Hornets 4 Whites 1

One of the many issues that befall a club like Leeds United when languishing in the Championship, is the division’s collection of combatants with scant repute whose followers attempt to manufacture a ‘rivalry’ in order to justify their existence.

Brighton fans don’t generally interest themselves in such folly but recent times has seen a minority of their number travelling to Elland Road determined to cast us all as moronic homophobes. The pursuit of equality in society is an honourable aim but those from ‘Sussex by the Sea’ ought to remember the rather stereotypical welcome their pro Thatcherite town of the 1980’s gave to visiting Northerners and how the Goldstone Ground regularly serenaded us with songs about slums and signing on.

Watford supporters take their fascination with the Red Ridings to a bizarrely unhealthy level. Despite the cavernous gulf between the history and size of both clubs, there has been a desperate ploy by those in sleepy Hertfordshire to engender some kind of mutual antipathy with their West Yorkshire ‘rivals’. This is quite a strange concept for many of us and it’s a struggle to find a reason why. Even after our trouncing in Cardiff there was little anger shown to our opponents as we instead chose to vent our frustrations at the pointlessness of the Blackwell regime. Perhaps the demise of their so-called historical agitators Luton Town has left the Hornets feeling empty and aimless and in need of a fillip from further afield.

The faithful returned to the old house for our match with Brighton in fairly upbeat mood and with good reason to do so. The Middlesbrough victory had given us enough to believe that steady progress was being made. What transpired was another in the litany of Elland Road debacles in which an unperturbed visiting side were allowed to stroke the ball around at nothing more than training pace, while their befuddled opponents chased aimlessly. The second half improved slightly with at least an attempt to adhere to the passing principles that Mr Hockaday is said to champion but we were largely hamstrung by a lack of speed in both body and mind. The coach later acknowledged a truly ‘painful’ experience.

Those of us that weren’t at Wembley on Saturday afternoon were at nearbyVicarage Road witnessing another humiliating afternoon that left the Head Coach hanging by a thread. Many Leeds fans could luxuriate in the consolation of a Challenge cup victory but there was no such solace for those of us of a black and amber persuasion. Don Massimo was reportedly so incensed by the manner of the defeat that rumours of the coach’s demise began to circulate from the most reliable of sources. The cyber ghouls found their thirst for misery and misfortune suitably quenched, while Talksport’s Stan Collymore expressed his anger at ‘the waste of a huge club’.

Twenty four hours of depression later Don Massimo publicly announced a stay of execution for his beleaguered employee in typically dramatic fashion. “Blame me. It’s my fault. I am the manager maybe I should sack myself” barked the President admitting to his own shortcomings. “I want to do everything too fast – I want 15 new players, I want to be in the Premier League, I don’t want the old coach, I want a new one. I want to build Rome in 12 hours but it doesn’t happen. If another coach comes in and we have the same problems, we are back in the shit. So I’ll wait.” He then went on to admonish newcomer Giuseppe Bellusci for the sending off that precipitated a desperate capitulation. It was mistake that the Italian defender subsequently apologised for.

For those of us that would like to see our colourful owner succeed the whimsical public musings and desire to micro manage every facet of the club sits uneasily. I doubt that any reputable coach worth his salt would feel comfortable with the prospect of working in such a restrictive and emotional environment. It is true that the current system is in its infancy but I think we all realise it is unlikely to succeed in its present form. There are times when there appears to be no system at all.

Going Casual

Lions 2 Whites 0

For the first time in many a year the dawn of a new campaign was an unwelcome guest in my house. Its arrival signalled the end of a largely carefree summer that saw the rebirth of ‘Classy Cas’, an entertaining Brazilian diversion and the impressive coronation of Vicenzo Nibali on the slopes of ‘Le Tour’. A feeling of contentment had only occasionally been pricked by happenings at Elland Road but now the boundless state of nervous tension had returned. There was simply no appetite for the tortuous months ahead.

Our club’s continually fluctuating disposition had taken another turn for the worse during the previous week. An urgent need for positivity floundered upon the collapse of several transfer deals, Benito Carbone’s abrupt departure and Don Massimo’s less than judicious comments about his newly installed Head Coach. Our collection of self righteous malcontents was bristling with anticipation.

Events in South London didn’t disappoint those strange souls that seek solace in their own side’s woes. An undercooked visiting side tamely surrendered in front of what will be Millwall’s only sell out of the season. With a number of our new recruits deemed unready for the rigours of England’s second tier, last season’s band of clueless nitwits were left to reconnect us with the misery to which we have become so accustomed.

Whites 2 Stanley 1, Whites 1 Boro 0

By the time the Elland Road faithful convened for a tough league opener against Middlesbrough, an air of nervous optimism had tickled our bellies once again. Sully Doukara’s well taken brace helped negotiate a potentially uncomfortable cup tie against Accrington, while off field developments gave those of us with a less entrenched outlook a sliver of optimism upon which to grasp.

Stung by the debacle at The Den, an experience that had him shivering like a shitting dog, Don Massimo swept into action in a bid address our many deficiencies and within twenty four hours Giuseppe Bellusci, Liam Cooper and Billy Sharp had been captured. Not only did this swift action portray a decisive and enterprising owner but also suggested the Italian’s hard line approach had softened somewhat. Bellusci and Cooper arrived following quickly resurrected deals that had previously been frustrated by the financial demands of agents and clubs, while Billy Sharp decamped to the Ridings despite the President’s initial conclusion that that the striker was too old.

While all three recruits suggested a renewed sense of conviction within the corridors of power and seemed to reinvigorate and reunite an often fractious fan base it was Sharp’s signing that struck a real chord with the masses. The deal put an end to a five year spell in which player and club had been continually linked. Even when he appeared in the colours of our opponents there was always a feeling of quiet admiration and the numerous goals that he plundered against us were always met with forlorn thoughts of what could be.

Against Boro the new arrival found his every touch embraced with a gasp of eager anticipation. Both he and fellow debutant Cooper slipped seamlessly into an admirable team effort that matched a heavily fancied opponent stride for stride. The game seemed to be drifting towards a goalless denouement until King Billy’s final contribution sparked the sort of euphoric scenes that suggested the self appointed ‘fat lad from Sheffield’ was born to play for our club.