Leeds United

Premiership

St James’ Park

Friday 17th September ’21 @ 8pm

Match week 5 of the SKY soccer franchise sees us back at SJP, under the lights, as next up it’s Leeds United. With the ‘live’ TV cameras in attendance and an increasingly vexed Geordie public, there’ll be nowhere to hide for Mr Bruce.  Lucky for him he possesses ‘broad shoulders’ and ‘rhin-ow skin.’  I think he’ll need them both. ‘Black eye Friday’, indeed. 

You’d think we’d all have better things to do than to constantly revisit an ambition-less club, owned by a mute, sociopathic miser and ‘managed’ by this woeful, waddling cliché.  However, there’ll still be a decent crowd in attendance, no doubt buoyed by a large and noisy contingent from West Yorkshire (both in the away end, and more worryingly in the ‘home’ seating areas if certain reports are to be believed.) Despite all of this, I’m still actually rather looking forward to it. I must be mental, and am most likely ‘part of the problem.’ 

Our visitors have fairly recently suffered dark ‘mackem’ style days in Div 3 North and had almost become forgotten about as they spent a generation away from top flight togger.  Now, they’re back in the big time and are quickly retaining ‘media darling’ status.  This is largely due to their size, curious infamy and a slightly eccentric but likeable coach in Bielsa, whom (on last term’s showing) appears to know his onions.  During the 20/21 Covid campaign they were a side that generally played with organised graft and skill as they swaggered up and down the country putting many noses (including ours – twice) out of joint. 

I’ll admit it. They’re a canny looking team with the likes of the ‘hard to dislike’ and industrious Kalvin Phillips plus a reborn Patrick Bamford. However, as a club, I’ve always struggled with them a bit.  I mean, it’s a mint night out, I’d much rather play them than someone dull like Watford  & I kind of respect them as a big deal, but they just remind me too much of Chelsea. Large amounts of money on themselves, mixed with a decent dollop of casual violence. 

By the late 90’s/early 2000’s their support had really begun to grate. Rarely folk to hide their lights under a bushel, the one’s I knew had become absolutely unbearable as their swashbuckling team nearly won both domestic & European honours. I’ll freely admit that some of my ire was stoked by the ‘green-eyed monster’ as we were suffering the transition of Kevin’s champagne football to Kenny’s flat tin of Irn Bru.  However, emerging from this hellish period I can rarely recall enjoying a match as much as when Sir Bobby’s ‘young guns’ went to their patch and turned them over 3-0. ‘Thankyou very much for Jonathan Woodgate’ we roared in glee. NUFC were on the up. They were financially fucked & only heading one way. The puce-ness of their malignant glares was delicious. 

As we all know, the footballing gods frown heavily on such Geordie hubris. I mean, look at the clip of us now!  And their owners are looking upwardly mobile, with stadium expansion plans etc. 

Leeds have actually begun this campaign in a rather alarming fashion. From four played, they currently sit only one point above Steve’s superstars and are snugly ensconced with us in the drop zone.  Whether this is an annoying blip or the beginning of a Sheffield United style ‘second season syndrome’ I guess we’ll find out in the weeks and months ahead. One thing’s for sure; NUFC were ever a ‘port in a storm’ so if they don’t slink back home with three points in their deep Yorkshire pockets, I’d really begin to feel concerned if I were them. 

They’ll arrive on Tyneside with somewhat of a defensive crisis to deal with. Already down to the bare bones in the middle, they have now lost Pascal Struijk following his strong challenge on Liverpool’s Harvey Elliot last Sunday.  I thought it looked an unfortunate injury as opposed to one caused by ‘malicious intent’ but the flouncy Mr Pawson was always gonna brandish a red versus a top 6 side.  Whilst this will be a worry for them, a quick glance at Newcastle’s Joelinton fronted team sheet should settle any pre-match nerves. 

Onto the Mags.  Where to begin? 

In the week preceding our regulation Old Trafford reverse, our dumpy, dugout dweller swapped his expensive Castore clobber for factor 30 & Speedo’s as he plumped for a Peri Peri laced Jet2 package instead of actual graft.  I know it’s been kicked about a bit on social media and the Chronicle’s Lee Ryder asked him about it following the Ronaldo ‘love in’, but I still struggle to get my head around it. We’d a point from three games and he’d just had most of the summer off.  His pouty, outraged dismissal of the Geordie hack should tell you all you need to know about this chancer.  Put simply, he couldn’t give a fuck. 

Going into this one we’ve now got one point from a possible twelve, with the likes of Spurs and Chelsea waiting in the wings. It’s a six pointer in mid September, and no mistake. Mint. How Bruce will line us up I’ll leave you to guess, but Manquillo’s excellent contribution in Manchester is an apt barometer for his muddled thinking.  He could’ve been playing him ahead of the Championship level Krafth for weeks, but as ever, he usually makes the wrong call.  

Any side worth their salt should be ‘smelling blood’ when facing this Newcastle side. We have individuals like St Max and Almiron who can hurt teams on their day, but if they’re off form / nullified all we have is ‘huff & puff’ and nowadays, a rather creaking defence. I think a great deal depends on how our opposition view this one. A cautious approach could give us some sort of chance, but if they decide to get at us, they’ll only be one winner. 

I touched upon the idea of ‘Black eye Friday’ at the start of this preview. I was half joking, but Friday night peeve giddiness, away ‘interlopers’ and a poor performance on the pitch could see a tinder box scenario at SJP. I think it’ll be 2-1 to them, like last season. I really hope I’m wrong. 

Nick Clark

@Clark5Nick 

I know I’ve probably gone on about them a bit too much, but I’ve decided to do a final post preev section called….. 

Leeds fans – Things that have stuck in’t mind, over t’ years. 

Up here. 

Sitting with Castle Farm Mag in 2000 in his old ‘underneath the SKY box’ Leazes pew. Leeds support a bit too up close & personal for my liking.  They’re flying, we’re struggling. Olivier Dacourt puts them one up early doors. “We’ll never be mastered, by you, (points at us in a rather unfriendly manner) by you, Geordie bastards!” I recall a properly mental looking gadge. Looks straight outta Strangeways, about 20 odd years my senior beadily eyeing unassuming old me. Bulging, reddening hate filled grid, the lot. I gave him a ‘wank’ sign in return from the safety of 20 feet and a sizeable drop above. 

Then Nobby & Clarence won it for us 2-1. Lovely. 

He’ll be in his mid 70’s these days. I reckon I’d have him now. 

Down there

My Nokia, with a ‘Blaydon Races’ ringtone goes off in a radge Leeds city centre boozer’s bogs, a few hours after a completely unexpected 3-1 NUFC win at Elland Rd. The locals all around us, less than impressed. Although I’m bladdered, I can smell the urine soaked danger and am out of there like a slightly overweight bat out of hell; as one of them tries to grab us. Hadn’t even washed his hands. 

Not quite a ‘Dorian’ moment from the ‘Football Factory’ (get it watched if you’ve not seen it). But, I definitely had to be ‘on my toes.’  Rather embarrassingly, I discovered about five minutes later, when in t’ clear, it was my (now dear departed) mummy just checking to see if her little Timmy was ok. 

Mirth.