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the square ball week

the square ball week


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It is a truth generally acknowledged that the first letter of the alphabet is ‘A’, for ‘Austin’ or ‘Allan Clarke.’ But ‘A’ has always seemed like an underwhelming beginning. “A,” the alphabet begins. “A what?” the world asks. Or maybe the alphabet is expressing confusion – “Eh?” – which isn’t good when you’ve only reached the first letter. ‘A’ seems to have won the race to the front of the language, and then not known what to do next. So, let’s forget all about ‘A’, and let’s give The Square Ball week over to its neighbour and better: ‘B’.

B is for Bristol City: a game which became more of a battle than it ought. The bounce effect following the Everton win looked more like a deflated beach ball for the first hour, as United struggled to get going against Kilkenny and co. But when Brown and Byram set up Diouf for the opener, it kickstarted a five goal thriller that, credit where its due, Travels of a Leeds Fan had called in advance. Another from Diouf and a solo run and curler from Michael Tonge made Adomah’s leveller for Bristol irrelevant; at least, until an injury time own goal from The Beast brought more bother on our defence. Maintaining form after the, let’s admit it, bolts from the blue against Forest and Everton was going to be vital, and getting out of Bristol with three goals and three points was a great effort.

B is for brace: old-fashioned football parlance for ‘two goals,’ which is what the never all that prolific El Hadji Diouf got at Ashton Gate. Both were close range poacher’s efforts, too. After his meandering performances on the wing, Diouf is proving an able deputy alongside Becchio while McCormack is injured.

B is for Bolton: and bluster, and blunderbuss, and bloody set piece bastards. It’s also for Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s dystopia made hyperreal in Horwich, according to Fear and Loathing in LS11, anyway. And also on the subject of dystopian terror, referee Phil Dowd’s constant whistling and posing didn’t please Mr Travels much, either. Sam Allardyce is long gone from Bolton, of course, but they play sometimes as if still controlled from his brain by bluetooth headset: a team with Premier League players and Premier League payments ought to have more in its locker than banging the ball at Kevin Davies. Jenber’s Blog highlighted the story of Davies’s two goals: Warnock took the blame for sending Austin to mark him, then issued a deft knee to the balls of Davies’s ego by claiming Rodolpho didn’t know anything about Bolton’s best. 2-2 was a sign that we could maybe start approaching these games against the division’s ‘bigger’ teams – Wolves, Forest, Bolton, etc – with a little less trepidation, and a touch more belief.

B is for Byram: “head and shoulders above the rest,” according to Jenber, “his control and composure belie his young years.” Lord Byram opened his scoring account with a sweet chip against Oxford in the League Cup, and now has a league goal after his intelligent back header against Bolton; half time intervened, but Sam took straight to the pitch again to win the penalty from which Becchio put Leeds ahead. Byram’s nineteenth birthday was only a couple of weeks ago, and his league career is only a handful of games old, but the kid is already bossing Championship matches and being talked about for England.

B is for Becchio: still scoring. Still beautiful. He does penalties now, too. Just saying.

B is for bidders: once potential, now confirmed, or sort of, if you believe them, or read between the lines, or can work it all out. B is also bankers, Bahrain, Bates, buy-out, billionaires, boxes (executive), and bollocks: arrange those any way you like to tell your own version of the takeover story. The whole saga did turn its public face to the light this week, as Gulf Finance House amped up their publicity drive and threw confidentiality to the wind. Well, almost to the wind: David Haigh, the most tweet-happy of the GFH execs, spoke to Sport360 about his frustration at not being able to say more. (That interview is also notable as it was given to Mr Eddie Taylor, who cut his young writing, er, fingers with The Square Ball magazine.) David Haigh’s chat with Eddie followed Friday night’s statement from GFH, outlining their plans should their takeover bid be successful. That plan doesn’t seem to extend far beyond, “Get promoted, make mad dollar,” but that’s a start. More detail came first in this video interview with Hisham Al Rayes, which in an eerie flashback to May sent the Leeds internet world scrambling for Arabic translators; then in this written account from Sport360, which English speakers will find easier to deal with. While the confirmation of GFH’s interest, their statements, and their Twitter communication takes away some of the fog that has beclouded this summer, there is still as much befuddlement and bafflement around the situation as ever there was, as Right In The Gary Kellys note. Do GFH want to buy for themselves? On behalf of someone else? Have we seen the full consortium, or are others involved? Are GFH good people? Bad people? Do they know their football, or just property? Are they just good at making money – or just good at losing it?

B is for banned Burton’s boss: ah, Peter Ridsdale. It was surely only a matter of time before he got caught for something, and this week he was barred from being a company director for seven and a half years after some less than regular accounting at his WH Sports Group. Publicity Pete is still, however, ‘chairman of football’ at Preston, a peculiarity examined in depth by 200%. Ken Bates has long loved to hark back to the Ridsdale era to excuse his breathless belt-tightening at Leeds, and that Ridsdale still holds positions of influence in football boardrooms is a remarkable thing. But then, the same could easily be said of Bates, and for Leeds fans it would be a welcome relief if one day our owners and executives didn’t just scrape through a ‘Fit and Proper Person’ test, but ballroom danced through it, showering chocolate buttons to children and wafting around them a rare bouquet.

B is for bogey, and Barnsley: one and the same. I don’t often wake up screaming, but the knowledge that Barnsley hold this hoodoo over us does have me in a cold sweat some nights. It was 1997 when we last beat Toby Tyke and his bulldog buddies, and some of the results in recent years have been embarrassing. I’m fearful. Recent form has been good but we’ve been working the same eleven players like beavers, to borrow Chris Kamara’s phrase, and the likes of Brown are surely too decrepit to cope, and Byram too delicate. In the midst of it all, of course, is The Beast, who looks bulletproof but came to us near the end of a full Norwegian season. If God won’t listen then I turn to you, B for Billy Bremner: please don’t let them beat us again.

Last of all, B is for Ball, The Square: issue two of the mag will be on sale again at the ground before the Barnsley game, 56 pages of LUFC brilliance about Becchio, Bates, The Beast, and, if you’ve got a cold, Bark Backson. £1.50? B is for bargain.