A new chapter for Leeds United?

Leeds united

The new Premier League football season kicked off last weekend, with all the usual hype and wall-to-wall media coverage that the Sky driven sporting extravaganza attracts nowadays.

For all the moans and groans from traditionalists such as myself, there is little doubt that the Murdoch money, as well as feathering the nests of many hundreds of footballers and many thousands of their hangers on, has also made the game a more appealing, family friendly sport.

Indeed, as an export, the Premier League is England’s most successful product, and as a competition it is, globally, football’s most exciting, and most watched.

Not that long ago the brand Leeds United was synonymous with top flight football, weather that be the old First Division or the new promised land of the Premier League. Indeed, it was as a result of chasing the ultimate fantasy of Champions League football that has arguably left United in the mess that its most recent history has been and to which I wrote about HERE.

Indeed a far more heartfelt and comprehensive ‘diary’ of the rise and fall of this great footballing institution can be found in the latest issue of men’s magazine Esquire in an excellent feature written by Leeds supporter Richard Benson. (http://www.esquire.co.uk/culture/sport/6825/the-fall-and-fall-of-leeds-united)

He paints a dire picture and seems to be as pessimistic about the clubs immediate prospects as any fan could be. To be fair, given the false dawns, broken promises and downright failure of all associated with Leeds in recent times, one can hardly blame him.

However, new season brings new hope – and in Leeds’ case a new owner too. One swallow does not a summer make, but a single goal victory on Saturday over Middlesbrough, with a late strike from new signing Billy Sharp, gives all of us who are hoping for a return to the top division for the Yorkshire giants a tad more reason for optimism. To follow that result up with a tame home defeat at the hands of Brighton mid week was not great – but let’s stay as positive as we can for as long as we can and give the new Elland Road regime a chance.

New Italian owner Massimo Cellino may seem a little eccentric, but his apparent enthusiasm for the project and his direct and robust style might just be what the club needs.

Of course, it could all go horribly ‘Pete Tong’ again – but surely, in the words of Labour Party activists circa 1997, when incidentally Leeds finished the season a very respectable fifth in the Premier League * – ‘things can only get better’. Let’s hope so anyway!

*Leeds United finished 5th in the 1997/8 season. In the 1996/7 season they finished 11th.

David Moyes


It came as no surprise that David Moyes failed as the manager of Manchester United. Not to Evertonians anyway.

During his reign at Goodison Park he turned Everton from perennial relegation strugglers to a team that finished consistently in the top half of the table. He replaced an ageing squad with a younger, hungrier group of players. He brought respectability and pride back to one of England’s traditional ‘big clubs’. And on the back of all this, he became the third best paid manager in the Premier League whilst at Everton – and then landed the United job ten months ago.

His achievements at Everton did not go unnoticed; largely due to Moyes’ own ability to spin a very credible and plausible tale. He was doing all this with one hand tied behind his back. He had no money to spend. He was operating on a shoe string budget. He had to sell his best players.

He convinced the media, and he convinced the majority of Everton fans, myself included, that finishing in the top half of the Premier League was ‘job done’ at a club like Everton.

The facts somewhat betray the ‘miracle’ that he and his friends in the press would have us believe he presided over though. Indeed, Everton were not punching ‘above their weight’. They were finishing in a league position that was in and around the amount of money they were spending in comparison to their Premier League rivals.

Other than Wayne Rooney, he was able to replace any player he sold with someone better. He was given the resources to break the club record transfer fee on several occasions. And, he was never undermined by his chairman, or the supporters.

His Premier League record was decent, but closer analysis of his performance at Everton clearly provides evidence that he was a ‘bottler’.

In his eleven years at Everton, Moyes failed to win a single game at Anfield, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge or the Emirates. He took Everton in to the Champions League in 2005. But his side were knocked out in the qualifying Round.

Though he led the Blues to an FA Cup final against Chelsea in 2009, his side failed to show up on the day, weakly surrendering despite taking the lead within a minute of the games start. Often overlooked, he scraped through to the final with a penalty shoot out victory over Man United’s RESERVES!

In 2012, he was back at Wembley for another semi final, this time against arch rivals Liverpool. Again Everton took the lead. Again, they lost the match as they went in to a second half meltdown against one of the worst Liverpool sides I have ever seen.

In truth most Blues supporters thought it was time for him to go then. He had taken Everton as far as he could.

Unfortunately the clubs chairman was not among that number, and we were ‘stuck with Moyes’ until United came knocking – but not until he had led Everton to an FA Cup Quarter final battering to Wigan.

On his final day in the home managers dug out at Goodison, he was given a heroes farewell by those of us who had accepted his ‘managed expectations.’ The Everton faithful recognised that when the biggest club on the planet come knocking…

There was a guard of honour, a standing ovation and a bloody great send off for a guy who had actually not won us a single trophy or even an away ‘derby’ game in eleven years. He left on the crest of a wave, head held high and with our very best wishes. But then!

It took Moyes eleven minutes to destroy a reputation that it had taken him eleven years to build. In a remarkably stupid press conference at Old Trafford he criticised his former club, the club that had made him, the club that paid him a salary that was the third highest in the league, the club that had given him that rousing farewell only weeks earlier, for not being grateful for a nickel and dime bid for two of their leading players.

He tried to bully Everton in to selling Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines on the cheap. He disrespected Everton in a way that would have been unacceptable for any manager to do, let alone one who had enjoyed the long association he had enjoyed with the club.

Not surprisingly Evertonians best wishes evaporated, replaced by the contempt he had shown them and their club.

Long before this though, and long before the disaster that has been the last ten months at United, I knew the Old Trafford job was too big for him. United fans often told me Moyes would succeed Sir Alex and I always, always said ‘that job is too big for him’. So it proved.

The manner in which he was dismissed was appalling, and not in keeping with a club of Manchester United’s stature. However, some may say ‘what comes around goes around.’

Many pundits have argued that Moyes hasn’t been given enough time. In my opinion, ten months or ten years, he would have been unable to hack a job where expectations cannot be managed; defensive football not tolerated. Even inheriting a Premiership winning team, albeit one in decline, he still failed to win at Anfield, the Emirates, Stamford Bridge or, fatefully, Goodison Park.

And if there was ever any more evidence required to prove that Moyes and United would never have worked, you only have to look at Everton since he left, under the leadership of Roberto Martinez.

Gone is the pragmatism, the negativity, the dampening of ambition. The Spaniard oozes positivity, confidence and hope. He dares his club to dream; recognising rather than dismissing its rich and proud history.

He does this whilst his team on the field of play perform in a swashbuckling style that has seen the phrase ‘school of science’ return to Goodison Park, replacing the more conservative ‘people’s club’ motto coined by his predecessor.

David Cameron once said to Tony Blair across the dispatch box of the House of Commons “You were the future once.” Martinez could have shouted the same thing across the dugout of Goodison Park to Moyes as he managed United for the final time.

The Old Trafford hierarchy may not have covered themselves in glory over Moyes’ dismissal, but give them credit for recognising relatively quickly that he was the wrong man for the huge job that is manager of Manchester United.

That does not make Moyes a bad manager though, and I expect him to return to a hot seat soon with a Newcastle, Villa or Sunderland and do a fantastic job for them. That is his level, and he, along with thousands of Evertonians and United fans, should know that now too.

The highs, lows, laughter, tears and downright frustration of Football


I have been a football supporter for as long as I can remember – and an Evertonian even longer than that.

As a kid, my Dad always told me that whoever was top of the table at Easter would win the league. If that still holds today, then in a few weeks time Liverpool will be crowned Champions.

This week on Merseyside football fans have gone through every single emotion that the beautiful game can throw at you.  At Anfield on Sunday, Liverpool finally overcame Man City 3-2, and then in mid week watched their Manchester rivals totally blow the title with a disappointing performance against relegation bound Sunderland resulting in a 2-2 draw.

After the euphoria of an incredible performance and win over Arsenal less than a fortnight ago, Everton seriously dented their prospects of joining their neighbours in the Champions League next season, falling to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of lowly Crystal Palace.

Amidst all this was the twenty fifth anniversary of a football related tragedy that remains an indelible stain on the English game – Hillsborough.

Far more qualified writers than me have put into words just how much of a catastrophe that totally unnecessary and wholly avoidable horror was. Those that lost loved ones have finally secured a modicum of justice and content through their sterling, relentless campaigning work.

Weather you support Leeds, Blackburn, Burnley or Carlisle, you will admire the work of those families. If you were going to big football matches during the seventies and eighties you will have thought at some point ‘that could have been me’.

It took twenty five years for the 96 who were killed at Hillsborough to get some kind of justice. It took about twenty five weeks before the powers that be recognised that if it was to survive as a sport and as a business football could not go on treating fans like cattle, sub human, cretins.

Today we have 21st century state of the art stadiums, sensible policing and clubs that by and large recognise the need to ‘entertain’ before and after the match even if what you are watching during the ninety minutes of play is not particularly riveting.

All the regeneration, television money and razzamatazz have made football a safer sport to watch in terms of your physical well being. Emotionally, it can still kick you in the guts when you’re least expecting it. And that’s why it’s still the greatest game on the planet.

Justice for the 96. And don’t buy the Sun!

Tom Finney

It was with huge sadness that I learnt of the great Tom Finney’s death last week.

When I was a Member of Lancashire County Council I had the privilege of meeting Tom on three separate occasions, and very fortunately ended up at one particular dinner in his company.

He obviously noticed my dulcet ‘scouse’ tones and started to wax lyrical about one of his former teammates Bill Shankly, telling me what a great player he was and how he knew he would go on to be a fantastic manager at Liverpool.

On learning that I was actually an Evertonian, he quickly began to regale tales of a young Howard Kendall, who had appeared in an FA Cup final for Preston North End at the tender age of just 17. Tom told me that Howard was the best footballer never to be capped by England, and again he was eager to praise Kendall for his achievements as a manager at Everton.

Tom Finney

When I asked the affectionately know ‘Preston Plumber’ about his own England career, he won over 70 caps scoring 30 goals for his country, he quickly moved the conversation on to some of the players he played alongside at international level. He was keen to avoid talking about himself, far more comfortable talking in praise of others. To say he was a humble man is an understatement.

And as much as he clearly loved playing for his country, he loved his club more, once saying “North End was a love affair for me. All I ever wanted to do was play for Preston.”

Of course we have players in the modern game who proclaim their love for the club who are currently paying their wages (‘Once a Blue always a Blue, hey Wayne), but we all know that they are, quite literally, playing the game.

It could be argued that there wasn’t as much money in football back then of course. But consider this. In 1952 Finney was offered the opportunity of joining an Italian club for a signing on fee of £10,000. That was a big figure back then, a record fee in fact. That he remained a one club man until the end of his career tells you all you need to know about one of our greatest footballers, a genuine legend and a true gentleman. RIP Tom.

To see the DQ Icon feature on Tom Finney please CLICK HERE

What is going on at Elland Road?

Elland Road

From Peter Ridsdale through to Ken Bates Leeds United Football Club have endured what can most kindly be described as a rollercoaster ride in recent times. But even by its own incredible standards, this week must go down as one of the most bizarre in the clubs history.

The manager was apparently sacked on Transfer Deadline day, with the club captain going onto the Sky Sports channel to tell viewers of his own personal distress at the news. The following day, with the help of a hat-trick from the skipper, Leeds comprehensively beat Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield by five goals to one. Post match it was announced that Manager Brian McDermott had been re-instated, or perhaps never really, officially, sacked in the first place.

To put the icing on this very messy cake, a winding up petition was issued by one of the clubs sponsors on Wednesday, claiming none payment of fees.

If you are a Leeds fan all of this must be humiliating and extremely concerning. But football supporters across the country should be equally horrified and equally concerned, because it could be your club next.

The number of people who have used the phrase ‘well, it’s only…’ when talking of the decline at the hands of incompetent owners of ‘smaller’ teams like Portsmouth and Wimbledon now need to wake up and smell the coffee.

Blackburn Rovers, West Ham and Coventry City are among a growing list of great clubs who have been grossly mismanaged as the wealth and excitement of the Premier League has disguised some of the more financially questionable activity in and around the game.

It is not only ‘small’ clubs’ who can fall victim to gross mismanagement. Bigger clubs can be hit just as hard, if not harder.  Ask Liverpool, who escaped the clutches of two Yankee cowboys by the skin of their teeth. And Leeds – they don’t come much bigger than Leeds.

In the halcyon days of the 60’s and 70’s under Don Revie they conquered all before them in England, and were a whisker away from becoming the champions of Europe too.

As recently as 1992 Leeds were League champions and they won the League Cup in 1996. They were Champions League semi finalists just over a decade ago.

The attendances at Elland Road average around 30,000 even in the Championship and they are genuinely a big club – but it hasn’t stopped them from becoming a laughing stock at the hands of a series of owners who are clearly not ‘fit and proper’ people to run a football club.

It is time that the ownership of our football clubs became an issue. It is time for the Football Association to actually do something worthwhile. And it is time for our politicians to intervene.

I get that football is a business now. But it is not beyond the wit of the powers that be to come up with a set of official rules and regulations that would prevent the further abuse of football ownership in this country. Maybe it is something Greg Dyke should tackle as part of his commission on English football?

Meanwhile poor old Leeds, once the scourge of English football, and hated by supporters up and down the land, await for the next instalment of what is turning out to be a never ending nightmare for a once mighty club. And the rest of us replace that hatred of Leeds with a far more insulting emotion –pity!