Sour Grapes and Self-Delusion! – 9/2/15

Any impartial and objective observer would have agreed that Brentford fully deserved to win at Elland Road on Saturday. Their margin of victory was narrow and Brentford squeaked home with a single goal from Alex Pritchard. The statistics, though, tell a totally different tale. Brentford dominated possession, attempted and completed far more passes then the opposition, committed less fouls and had more shots on target. David Button walked off the pitch at the end of the game with his kit unblemished, so little had he had to do.

Leeds had appealed in desperation for three penalty kicks, one of which appearing to be a close call but had otherwise only threatened in the last few minutes when they made a desperate late surge towards the Brentford goal and forced a few scrambles which might have gone their way had it not been for some resolute defending. The referee was strong and did not allow himself to be swayed by the baying hordes of home supporters screaming for free kicks and penalties.

Brentford held out for a comfortable win and their only complaint would have been that they had missed a number of gilt-edged chances to make their victory far more conclusive and less stressful right at the end.

Former Leeds hero Eddie Gray fully agreed with this assessment and stated that the best team had won:

I don’t think Leeds were unlucky to lose to Brentford on Saturday.

I thought we should have had a penalty kick in the first half and I thought the referee was very average. But most of the major decisions he got right. Neil Redfearn also thought we should have had a penalty in the second half but I didn’t think that was a penalty kick and that’s just opinions. But I thought we were second best in the game and Brentford deserved to win. Brentford are one of the better teams in the league and we’re not at that level yet I don’t think.

An examination of the Leeds message boards quickly demonstrated that a mere handful of fair minded home fans  shared his viewpoint, but even then there was generally a patronising sting in the tail:

I hate reading that Brentford are better than us and we are still a long way behind them. Having supported Leeds United during the Bremner, Giles, Gray era its very hard to accept that Brentford can be better than us. I know its true but it just fills me with sadness. Lets hope we don’t have to wait too long before Super Leeds are back where they belong.

I totally agree with you Eddie, Brentford, were the best side to visit Elland Road this season, they did their home work on Leeds and we did not force a single save from their keeper, but we were worth a point because of our gutsy performance.

There was a sense of disbelief that not only was it ludicrous that a team like Leeds, steeped in history and past glories, should be forced to sully their hands and demean themselves by actually having to play the likes of Brentford but that we should have then fallen down at their feet, paid homage to them and then allowed them to walk all over us.

Just read some of the other comments that more accurately reflected the sour, bitter and twisted mood of the Leeds supporters:

But it’s an indication of where we are at the moment as a club that we can’t beat Brentford.

We are Leeds, we are being victimised by referees

That referee wants kicking out of football – Leeds players were kicked off their feet time and time again – he gave Brentford ALL the free kicks, Austin was thrown to the ground in the penalty area – and he gives Brentford a free kick. I lost count of how many blatant corners we SHOULD have had – the Football League is corrupt.

I never thought I would see the day when Brentford would take six points off us

However, with the assistance of Mr Salisbury and his officiating team, Brentford couldn’t really lose the game.

It wasn’t just the clear penalty that Leeds were denied in the first half that made it an inept performance, but the referee’s clear insistence in giving Leeds absolutely nothing, whilst gifting Brentford a free-kick almost every time a tackle was made.

Although they had possession United rarely troubled Brentford’s keeper but we still didn’t deserve to lose.

Is there any way that the performance of the officials can be examined and questioned by the Football League?

If Leeds were not allowed to play football and were constantly pulled back, then the Football League needs to look at the wider implications of that.

I have never read so much myopic and delusional drivel in my life. Their argument can best be summed up as: we are Leeds, we have a divine right to win and when we don’t then it can only be someone else’s fault, and by the way there is a conspiracy against us too.

Everything about Elland Road was living in the past: The aggressive and one-eyed home fans who bayed at the referee and the away fans throughout the game, the way we were packed away in a distant, dank and dark corner of the ground and ripped off for the privilege, the constant tape loop before the game of, admittedly, great goals from their far and distant past and the distinctly old fashioned and faintly martial club song that resonated around the ground.

Leeds remain in a time warp and are firmly stuck in the early and mid 70’s, a period when they deservedly dominated the English game. It is easier and more comfortable for them to remain there, in their bunker, than take the tougher approach of self-examination and understanding why the world has passed them by. Their fans cannot and will not accept that they have fallen upon hard times through “living the dream” and abject mismanagement as well as the normal cyclical nature of good fortune and success.

They have a well developed sense of entitlement and arrogance which was truly bemusing to witness in the flesh and then read about. And yet, in truth, loyal Leeds supporters deserve far more than they have received over the past decade and more, and their reaction to Saturday’s defeat was simply their coping mechanism as they are totally unable to comprehend that the football world has moved on and their prehistoric tactics and approach have been superseded by a new breed with clubs such as Bournemouth and Brentford at the forefront.

The fact that Brentford took six points from Leeds this season without conceding a goal or barely a shot on target speaks volumes and should be lesson enough for the Leeds fans, but there’s none so blind as those who will not see.

Matthew Benham Versus Massimo Cellini – No Contest! – 28/9/14

saville1.thumbI don’t normally write two blogs in a day.

It really is quite hard enough to write one!

Given how they read I suspect you all think I knock them off in about ten minutes or so.

Unfortunately the truth is somewhat different.

These articles don’t write themselves and generally it takes quite a while to compose my thoughts and set them down on paper.

Very often I sit there looking at that empty computer screen winking back malevolently at me and have absolutely no idea what on earth I am going to write about, but somehow it all seems to come right in the end, the words begin to flow, and, given that quite a lot of you make positive and helpful comments too, and seem to come back for more, I must be doing something right.

I watched the Reading versus Wolves match at lunchtime with great interest and was impressed with our former loanee George Saville who used the ball excellently, but ran out of steam soon after halftime.

He missed a wonderful chance when set free on goal and also still seemed to be playing on the edge, all too ready to flare up and react to any provocation and it was evident that Reading set out to wind him up and clearly succeeded in their aim.

Given that we play them next weekend I watched Reading carefully.

They were as neat and tidy on the ball as you would expect from a Nigel Adkins team but were porous and vulnerable at the back and left gaps that we could surely exploit.

For a home team they seemed to create remarkably few chances, but still scored three times, yet more evidence that the finishing at Championship level is far more clinical.

I then tried watching a terribly one-sided Premier League clash between West Bromwich Albion and a horribly limited Burnley team who I fully expect us to be playing against next season.

Albion were no great shakes themselves, but were far better than their opponents, and won in a canter by four clear goals, with Saido Berahino scoring twice and looking a real handful.

huntHopefully his short loan spell spent slumming it at Griffin Park was a bit of an eye opener for him and helped him grow up a bit.

It would certainly appear that he was taught some manners by Uwe Rosler and Gary Alexander and he does seem a more mature young man now.

I have also spent some time browsing the Sunday newspapers looking, as I always do, for former Bees plying their trade elsewhere up and down the food chain, and what really interested me today was not so much who played yesterday but more importantly, who didn’t.

Missing from action for whatever reasons were regular stalwarts such as Marcus Bean at Colchester, Ryan Dickson and Gavin Tomlin at Crawley, and Leon Legge at Gillingham.

Most remarkably, Craig Woodman, a permanent fixture in the Exeter City team, was also absent yesterday through injury.

More concerning for me was the continuing absence of stalwart David Hunt from the Oxford United squad.

mc2He is one of my favourite former Brentford players, as, just like Marcus Bean, he was always totally committed to the cause, as well as having the time to engage with supporters.

I hope that he is simply injured and not slowly slipping away from us next to be seen playing outside the Football League.

Of course that happens to every player eventually but he surely still has so much to offer.

What caught my eye though more than anything else, were the remarkable photographs of the eccentric Leeds United owner, Massimo Cellino standing behind the goal alongside the (currently) adoring away supporters.

Apparently he arrived at the ground accompanied by his minders and did not stay in the Directors’ Box but first sat amongst the Brentford fans in the Braemar Road Paddock before being removed from the home area to stand with his fellow Leeds fans in the Brook Road end.

Now what was all that about?

Was he so filled with passion for his team that he could only express his support sufficiently by standing behind the goal with his fellow supporters, or was it just more evidence of his need to be the absolute centre of attention, and milk the love, support and homage of the Leeds faithful, especially on a day when his new manager was taking charge of the team for the first time?

mc 1Perhaps he was reinforcing his diktat that “I, Massimo am still Number One at the club” and making sure that everybody else was aware of the fact and duly recognised it.

Given the problems that Leeds United have faced in recent years, maybe their supporters are glad to have him and are prepared to accept his idiosyncrasies.

Perhaps they are just grateful for his attention and support and feel that he will restore them to their past glories.

Who knows?

Maybe they are correct and he will in fact be successful.

His early decisions and ability to change direction without apparent rhyme and reason do not fill me with any great confidence and I suspect it will be a turbulent ride for everybody connected with the club.

To be honest I keep thinking about John Hurt, who gave such an unforgettable performance as the megalomaniac Caligula in “I Claudius”.

Personally when I read about his antics, which have, of course attracted massive tabloid newspaper headlines, I just sat there and gave thanks for the people who are currently running our club so quietly, unobtrusively and effectively.

We have a strategy and a plan both on and off the field, from top to bottom, and we seem to be keeping to it, and you know what, it is working because it has been well thought through and is eminently sensible and pragmatic.

We have previously been subject to the whims of dictatorships and seat of the pants leadership, and personally I find that approach annoying, upsetting and totally exhausting.

No football club should be subject to the whims of one person acting alone without any checks or balances.

And it never works for long either.

I have no problem with Leeds United and I wish them every success apart from when we next play them later on in the season at Elland Road, but I know which team I would rather be following, and I well suspect which club is better run.

benhamThe Leeds United fans were good natured in defeat yesterday and recognised and accepted that they had been second best on the day, but they were, perhaps understandably enough, pretty patronising about “little Brentford” and they described us on their message boards as a small club with a terribly old fashioned stadium that in previous years they would not even have deigned to play in a preseason friendly.

Well, times have changed and I far prefer our immediate future to theirs.

Oh and I believe that Matthew Benham has also been known to stand on the terraces with his fellow Bees fans, but given his lack of public profile and desire to remain incognito and firmly behind the scenes, I suspect that hardly any of them even recognised him!