Leeds United Stories, Vol. 1

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the square ball week

the square ball week


LUFC travelled to Blackpool on Tuesday night. Photo: Kenty
One story – no, one man – dominated Leeds United this week. The man who once told The Square Ball, in a brief interview conducted in barely penetrable scouse, that he was, “just waiting for that bus to come,” didn’t just get on the bus on Saturday afternoon: he got on the bus, he wrestled the driver from the wheel, and he drove it around the city til morning giving out free rides to children and animals. This was your week, William Paul Paynter.

It’s been hard to believe that old Barndoor Billy ever really scored those 29 goals for Swindon the season before we signed him; plenty of his goals came against Leeds, though, and when he posed in our away kit in a sports bra, we should have known the fates were against us. It’s fair to say that things haven’t really worked out for Billy Big-Boobs at Leeds United. Until last weekend, that is.

They were a long time coming, and Billy’s two moments of heroism against Peterborough haven’t gone unrecorded. Fear and Loathing In LS11’s match report includes a terrific diagram showing how Bill, Elvis and Haley’s Comet combined for Paynter’s epoch-defining first goal: “As he left the pitch for the interval, he gave his shirt to a spectator in the West Stand; the star exhibit for the new museum, senselessly discarded.” At HowsonIsNow, a long-running feature that we’ll call here ‘For Pity’s Sake’ – but which is normally stated in somewhat stronger terms – had to be totally inverted just to accomodated Paynter’s cool finish.

“He got a standing ovation from the appreciative Leeds fans as he was replaced by Becchio,” noted Travels of a Leeds Fan: “Surely he’d done enough to earn further consideration for next year? Two goals and two assists. He does look like a Warnock type of player.” Not everyone Travels spoke to was convinced about that: “‘Billy Barndoors played well but it was still shite,’ one urinal philosopher commented. ‘He can sell all of them for me on that performance’ another moaned.” Meanwhile, “We’re winning at home, you must be shit,” is an unusual way to reflect on a 4-1 home win, but that’s how Right In The Gary Kellys began their match report. The overall mood after Peterborough? Well done, Billy, well done Leeds, but let’s not get carried away thinking we’re any good yet, eh?

And normal service was resumed on Tuesday night. Well, it would be, it was Tuesday night. Billy failed to notch at Blackpool, and was rumoured on Twitter to have left the ground early after being subbed off for Becchio. “If Billy scores, we’re in the sea,” sang the Leeds support, but the optimism inspired by two Billy-gols and a 4-1 win soon disappeared as Leeds ground out a 1-0 defeat at the seaside, and managed to go down to ten men – again – Darren O’Dea sent off by the referee, one Mr Bates. Even old spectres were on hand to haunt Leeds along the pleasure beach: “The strangest thing was seeing Stephen Crainey keep McCormack firmly in his pocket for the large majority of the first half,” wrote Jenber’s Blog. “Such was his hold over McCormack that Warnock moved wee Ross to the other wing in a bid to get him into the match.”

Fear and Loathing saw more action off the pitch: first, quite rightly putting a Leeds scarf on a statue of Jimmy Armfield, before venturing through “the steel sheet fronted turnstiles,” past “A4 signs that read‚ ”Please refrain from bouncing in the stand” and into the cauldron of Bloomfield Road to hear the home fans’ singing, with “a genuine passion invigorated‚ ’We all hate Leeds scum‚’ – they must still be seething from that 3-1 reverse back in season 1970-71 when we last played them.”

The good news is, it’s almost all over. The end of season reviews are beginning at Howson Is Now and The Scratching Shed, while Neil Warnock’s big summer is beginning: or, as we’re calling it, Operation: Keep Snoddy. Can Colin convince Ken to let Shaun tell Gwyn to sign the players that Robert wants to play with? Only time will tell, but two have already gone: Mika Vayrynen and Ben Parker released by mutual consent. The writing has been on the plaster cast for Ben for so long he’s probably leaving with a gold watch from the physios, and his long sort-of service even earned him a valedictory word or two from the chairman. We’ll always remember him for running the length of the pitch and crossing to Becchio in the play-off semi-final against Millwall, one of the highlights of the third division years.

Mika Vayrynen didn’t have any sort of impact in his short time at Leeds, but he seems to have wound Ken Bates right up in his brief stay: “I don`t know why we signed him. A nice guy but a complete waste of money,” said Ken, emphasising each word with a kick to Mika’s buttocks as he marched him to the bus stop. Why Leeds signed Vayrynen has obviously just slipped Ken’s mind; he was quite definite about the reasons back in September: “I think we might have unearthed another hidden jewel,” he said then. Bates even called him at one point “Our Finnish friend,” although that was mainly because he couldn’t pronounce his name. Mika himself has responded to Ken’s latest comments on Twitter: “Obvisiouly money can’t buy class!!! Comments from an old man who don’t even no my name.I wanted to play but wasn’t used. My bad!!!! ‚ Thanks for your support, you guys have been great n deserve big things. #LUFCfans.” It’s a shame things didn’t work out with Mika at Leeds; he has the best profile picture of any footballer on Twitter by some distance.

Vayrynen wasn’t the only one to bite back at our chairman’s prolific public pronouncements this week, as Simon Grayson put his side of the story of how he lost he job – well, he put a bit of it, as he continues to err on the side of staying classy and not saying too much while his former employers continue to run him down. We can only hope that this summer Warnock sees some more of the backing Grayson obviously feels he didn’t get last time around. The early noises from Ken don’t sound hopeful, though, as he’s been getting his excuses in early:

“We’ve got the Olympics and we’ve got the Paralympics‚ you want to speak to a player, his agent’s on holiday. You like to buy a player, but the manager’s on holiday. And so it goes on ‘and if you buy too early you could be in danger of overpaying both for the player and the wages.”

Sigh. Alright Ken, let’s just keep Snoddy and call it quits, okay?

Maybe it would be better just to retreat into the past. The Premier League 20 Year Awards sadly ignores the 104 years of Football League history prior to 1992, but they are a good excuse to revel in the beauty of Tony Yeboah’s goal against Liverpool – and the Wimbledon one is on that video too, even if it doesn’t make the shortlist. Also overlooked, amazingly, is Nigel Martyn in the best goalkeeper category, but Ian Harte and Gary Kelly are nominated for best full backs. You can vote here. If you’d rather think back just a little further, twelve minutes of TV coverage of the build up to our 1992 title decider against Sheffield United have been posted to one of our favourite YouTube channels, SteakandSid. It’s crazy to think that this time twenty years ago, Leeds were on the cusp of becoming champions of England – will we ever be there again?

At The Square Ball, we’re busy putting together issue ten of our magazine, which will be on sale outside Elland Road before the Leicester game; but our most recent issue nine is still available to buy, at just £1 for a pdf version or £1.50 if you’d like us to post all 56 colour pages to you. There’s a bit of a 1986/87 theme, with articles about the play-offs and the FA Cup semi-final, about Billy Bremner’s reaction to losing (previewed here), and a very sensual Sheridan-themed centre spread from The Beaten Generation. Our newest podcast is also available, in which recording straight after the Derby game gave rise to a good solid hour of old fashioned moaning. We’re sure you can all relate.