51 YEARS IS A LONG TIME IN FOOTBALL
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Take 1972, to whip a random example out of thin air, a year in which Manchester City got themselves into serious trouble over the distribution of money, in so much as they let Malcolm Allison spend it. Oh Rodney! How could you! But the rule doesn’t always apply. That year also saw Leeds United whip Manchester United 5-1, in a match which saw Mick Jones score a 15-minute hat-trick and his teammates string together a one-minute-and-20-second 22-pass sequence of contemptuous flicks and sassy feints with cheers of “easy” and “olé” ringing in the air. The famous 7-0 humiliation of Southampton (in their very next match, chronology fans and BBC 100 Great Sporting Moments completists) had nowt on this.
Point being, Leeds are highly unlikely to carry on in a similar fashion when they travel to Old Trafford on Wednesday. They’re hovering over the relegation zone, a mere four goals better off than Everton, an advantage unlikely to last too much longer given the bother Sean Dyche’s side caused Arsenal at corners and the fact Joël Matip and Joe Gomez are next up. Leeds accordingly sent Jesse Marsch packing on Monday, through the door marked Y’All Come Back Now Y’Hear, and next go into battle against their biggest foe with U-21 coach and former FA futsal guru Michael Skubala in charge. Not ideal – England’s futsal team are ranked 63rd in the world, just behind Cuba and the Solomon Islands – but not Dave Hockaday or Darko Milanic either, so it’s all relative.
“The mood, I wouldn’t say it’s down, but it’s OK,” began Skubala’s rousing call to arms on Tuesday. “As long as we are competitive and put on a good show on the pitch, that’s the most we can ask for.” Whether or not this stirring rhetoric will be enough to get the blood up remains to be seen, though to be fair to Skubala, Marsch has left behind an impotent shower while Manchester United are on a streak of 13 consecutive home wins and are very much in the title race, even if nobody’s really talking about that, which is kind of strange. So there’s probably no point in going too gung-ho, even if the Casemiro-lite diet version of Manchester United they’ll face offers a little hope.
Skubala went on to confirm that while his role is “exciting” it’s also only “temporary”, with Leeds looking to get someone in the post for the following game on Sunday. Carlos Corberán, currently at West Brom, is favourite to take over his fourth club in 15 minutes, just ahead in the betting of Rayo Vallecano’s Andoni Iraola and the obligatory Bielsa-Poch-Ralph-Ange quartet (see also the odds for Spurs, Southampton, Liverpool, and so on). By a quirk of fate, Leeds’ next game is also against Manchester United, again with 0.0% Casemiro but this time at Elland Road. Depending on how events at Old Trafford and in their boardroom pan out, Leeds could really be up for that one. Or too depressed to function. All things considered, in a big switcheroo from 1972, it’s probably less stressful being a Manchester City fan right now.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Shrimps Trust … share concerns raised regarding the source and legitimacy of funds necessary to support the company following any acquisition … Our current understanding is that the appropriate due diligence process is being performed by the EFL through their ‘fit and proper persons’ test and look forward to a decisive response being provided in due course. We will be writing to the EFL to express our current concerns on behalf of the Shrimps Trust membership and other Morecambe FC supporters” – the club’s supporters’ trust registers its fears over the proposed takeover by 20-year-old Sarbjot Johal, who is listed as chairman of private equity firm Sarb Capital, and director of drinks company Vitanic Limited.
FOOTBALL DAILY LETTERS
“Re: playing with the stars (Football Daily letters passim). My claim to fame was to organise a celebrity Ireland v England challenge during the course of a week of a cereal-sponsored ‘health week’ in Dublin in 1995. The England team consisted of an amalgam of Coronation Street stars under the coaching prowess of Jack Duckworth (Bill Tarmey) and other minor celebrities such as Arthur Daly’s nephew Ray (Gary Webster). The big star of the team was Norman Whiteside, who was an actual gentleman as I remember. The Irish team consisted of several minor DJ and rock band celebrities and ex-international Mick Martin. My biggest gripe was that my proud promo poster featuring the headline ‘a game of two laughs’ was vetoed by the then-chairman of Shelbourne, Ollie Byrne, where the game was played. I ended up doing the pitchside commentary as I was the only one who could identify the players from both sides. I can’t remember who won due to an infusion of Tin on the day and later on in some nightspot or other with none other than Stormin’ Norman” – Gerry Rickard.
“About 20 years ago on Sunday afternoons, my friend Jim and I would take our three young boys down to the playground at Portercroft School in Sheffield to kick a football around. Often, Jim’s son Adam would invite his schoolmate Kyle along, and it was obvious that Kyle knew his way around a football. He was in the Sheffield United boy’s team, but Jim and I like to think that it was the skills the two of us passed on those Sunday afternoons were what made Kyle Walker the player he is today” – Bryan Hopkins.
“Way back in the early-1960s, the team I played for was drawn in a big cup match. The other team included rock-and-roll star Tommy Steele, who played left-wing. My fiancee hated football, but since Tommy was playing, decided she would come and watch her first ever match. Towards the end, she turned to our team’s manager and said: ‘He’s not very good, is he?’ Whereupon our manager disagreed, but suggested Tommy should stick to rock-and-roll. ‘No! No! No!’ she suggested. ‘I meant my fiance.’ I never invited her to another match, but we did get married” – Mike Haines.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Bryan Hopkins.
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