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the square ball week

the square ball week



Euro 2012 caused a lot of debate this summer about evolving football tactics and styles. Spain made a convincing case for themselves as the best team of all time, scooping up yet another trophy; but there was growing dissent from those who claimed their short passing game had become boring. Some pointed to the difficulty Spain had in breaking down packed defences as evidence that the style had had its day; others cheered for Germany, who added power to finesse but couldn’t get to the final.

And then there were Leeds fans, whose tactical plan has remained largely unchanged for forty years. “Oi, Gray/Sabella/Sellars/Brolin/Kilkenny,” we’ve always yelled, deleting as appropriate, “Stop fannying around and get some blood on your boots!”

Enter, from the Nordic north via Jamaica, Rodolph Austin. Or rather, enter some tasty looking YouTube videos of Austin steaming full-blooded through some startled looking Norwegians with ‘MOT’ written on the back of his shirt. It’s meant to be!

Neil Warnock has confirmed his interest in the midfielder and Austin’s club, SK Brann of Norway, have rebuffed a £200k bid; Rodolph himself says he wants to come, and even banged in a goal for Brann at the weekend as the perfect sign off. Spoughts have gone the extra mile in their coverage of the most eagerly awaiting transfer at Leeds since Filipe da Costa: not only has Eric Winehouse rounded up the best of the YouTube footage, but he has sought the opinions of three knowledgable Scandinavians to give the most comprehensive picture available of our new midfield general (ah c’mon, he’s as good as signed!).

Going in depth like that is a good thing, because we have been burned by YouTube before; we didn’t mention Da Costa there for nothing, and if we could still find those Seb Sorsa videos, we’d be bringing them up again now and bleating, “beware!” It’s easy to see why the Rodolph Austin clips have got everybody so worked up, though: if there’s one thing Leeds fans like, it’s wanton violence in the midfield. There have even been academic studies into our ‘Dirty Leeds’ leanings, while we would defy anyone to watch these twelve seconds of video from Leeds v Sunderland in 1989 without standing up and yelling, “Get into ’em Bairdy son!”

Farsley had better look out. It’s a Friday night start to this year’s pre-season friendlies, and while Rodolph may not have signed up yet, Brown and Pugh will feel him breathing down their necks and may have to up the severed limb count a notch. It’ll be a relief to finally get the football underway again: ninety minutes without worrying about takeovers or transfers. As long as we don’t get beat, that is. On the subject of transfers, here is The Scratching Shed’s roundup of incoming rumours from this week; and some more detail on Lee Peltier, who looks like he’s coming.

You’ll also note, from that article, mention of Robert Snodgrass leaving. We at The Square Ball have only one thing to say about that: and it’s ‘No!’, a million times. Howson Is Now knows how we feel. Cooler heads prevail at TSS, where they also deal with Andy Lonergan’s departure to Bolton; Becchio Well Placed have an article putting a sale to Norwich in context alongside all our other recent sales to Norwich (“It’s a wonder they didn’t sign Michael Doyle, too”), while Right In The Gary Kellys find an even older echo, from 1996, where failure to complete the Caspian takeover in time saw McAllister and Speed exit stage left. We’d like to reiterate The Square Ball’s stance on the prospect of selling our captain and best player: No! No! No! No!

The Leeds United Supporters’ Trust seem to be taking a similar view, and the rapid approach of the new season led them to release a statement on Tuesday, which we covered here at Leeds On Line. With the silence from the club becoming eerie, and the rumours about Snoddy way too loud, L.U.S.T. asked if the club couldn’t allow the fans at least a shade of new news about the takeover negotiations. And as if by magic, up popped the Great White Bearded Silent One to tell his old friend Harry Harris that he was making no comment at all… before adding the new news that the exclusivity period for due diligence has been extended. This is the third time now that a call for an update by L.U.S.T. has been quickly followed by comment from someone at the club, even if that comment has only been the equivalent of opening the toilet door a crack to yell, “I’m not finished, go away!” This time, though, as Leeds Will Make You Dance (which your present correspondent writes, by the way) pointed out, it was ESPN who got the word from Ken, who seems to have even lost patience himself with Yorkshire Radio. Sure, Harry Harris once gave Ken a magnum of champagne labelled ‘Chairman of the Millennium’, but we’re sure Ben Fry would have done the same if he was paid enough.

The other takeover hints this week have both been deftly wrapped up by The Scratching Shed. First, Adam Pope at the BBC got an amended response from Bahrain, where blanket denials of involvement have relaxed to, ‘yeah, maybe, but what of it?’; while on Thursday an intriguing new company came to light, registered in the name of the husband of Leeds United director and long-time Bates-acolyte Yvonne Allen: Leeds United Vision Ltd. On Twitter The Beaten Generation also spotted that a Leeds TV Ltd was registered a week ago at the same address in Bingley. The purpose of these new companies has everybody stumped, but when you’ve already got Leeds Media Ltd, Leeds Pavilion Ltd, Yorkshire Radio, and all the rest, what’s a couple more?

Other things. Plenty of good stuff, and no embarrassing photos of TSB writers this time, in Fear and Loathing’s 11th week of torture. TSS have the best bits of Warnock’s big interview of the week, including his description of Leeds fans as ‘bonkers’ – maybe he saw all the Rodolph stuff on Twitter. Amidst all the excitement about Rampaging Rodolph, Timothy Hodge picked up on a transfer rumour that, if true, would cause serious soul searching. An unusual one: In Bed With Maradona reprint an article entitled Sheffield Wednesday: Team of the Future from a 1985 issue of World Soccer; the relevance to us is that the manager profiled in the piece is a 41 year old visionary by the name of Howard Wilkinson. It’s well worth a read if, like us, you’re followers of the tao of Wilko: “To a large extent we are a disgrace if we are going to call ourselves a profession. We use the prefix ‘professional’ before football as if we have an inferiority complex – and rightly so.” And finally, if you were wondering how Ken Bates has been keeping himself busy for the last two months, wonder no more: here he is, riding the circle line with Martin O’Neill. O’Neill once called Ken “a footballing cretin”, so it’s nice to see they’ve sorted out their differences.