The Dream is Collapsing

Today was not a good day. There has been myriad reactions to the news that came out this morning through the supporter’s trust. I’d like to make a few points about the situation, dispelling some thoughts that seem prevalent:

1) This is all LUST’s fault. BOLLOCKS! The Supporter’s Trust is the only reason this entire process began, pressure applied correctly on Bates and the club. They have been in touch with the buyers throughout and behaved correctly. They have never spread false rumours. They have kept us updated. Without them, who would have informed us? The official site, repository of ‘information’ that it is, has been more concerned with trivialities all summer. Other sources have been wrong entirely at times. The in the know twitter brigade has been at full force. Without LUST, we’d have had to deal with hundreds of different rumours. At least LUST gave us a focus upon which to pin our hopes.

2) Protest should be held outside the ground. Back the team. BOLLOCKS! We’ve currently got four players and a goat. There’s no quality anywhere in the side. Fans seem to be operating under some sort of delusion that Bates isn’t responsible for the standard of players that can be brought in. The players will not piss themselves because the nasty fans start chanting about the person who screwed them over in contract negotiations time after time. Shout, scream, sing. Make it far too uncomfortable for him to attend matches at the club he owns. I’m not advocating violence or vandalism. Peaceful protest will do enough. He’s a megalomaniac. He wants to feel he’s loved. If the majority show their dissent, Ken will not stay around.

Finally, I’d like to make two suggestions. Firstly, as my brother has said, the Southampton protest that was planned would be ideal against Wolves. No one to go into the Kop (or other stands) for the first seven minutes of the match, symbolising seven years of lies, would be an excellent protest for the television audience. It goes against much of what I enjoy at Leeds, but I think it’d work excellently. This could then be followed by seven minutes of Bates Out in the stands.

Secondly, and hopefully LUST is exploring this, protest needs to be organized as if we are members of the Arab Spring or the toppling of any dictatorship in the real world (you know, sans all the violence). We need propaganda of our own to combat that of the club – there’s value in it, as has been understood by world leaders all the way back to Cardinal Richelieu of Louis XIII’s regime in France. Leaflets, pamphlets, posters, banners, flags need to be displayed prominently. We need to disseminate information to those who do not necessarily spend all their time online through paper. The facts about the collapse. Information about how little of our money spent goes on what we love. Dodgy transfer histories.

We need a symbol. Gotham had one. Everyone has one. Can I suggest Noel Lloyd? Bring back a ghost from Ken’s past to haunt him.

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1) to read his tear drenched tweets about Leeds.

Review: Football Manager Stole My Life

Football Manager Stole My Life by Iain Macintosh, Kenny Millar and Neil White (Published by Backpage Press)


There was a moment yesterday when I had to mentally restrain myself from reinstalling Championship Manager 01/02. I’m not sure whether it was being reminded of David O’Leary’s propensity to take the Manchester United job or the constant mentions of Tonton Zola Moukoko that are contained within Football Manager Stole My Life from Backpage Press. I’m not sure how long the restraint will hold. Championship/Football Manager is arguably my favourite thing of all time.

As an ode to the aforementioned series, therefore, Football Manager Stole My Life (FMSML) is an immensely appealing endeavour. To this haplessly addicted fan, the book’s arrival in the post was an exciting moment. The initial inspection of the book, my sensual grappling with the front cover, revealed some surprising things. It is not the size of a normal book, and flicking through, is clearly presented like an overly long magazine. Freight Design have done an excellent job with the layout, even to this critical eye. Everything is clear and easy to read, and the allusion to the green of a football pitch throughout is a nice touch. The only minor criticism in this regard that can be made is about the usage of black and white images, but this is incredibly minor.

Aside from the aesthetic aspects of the book, FMSML is an immensely readable piece of non-fiction that should be appealing to those who are well acquainted with Sports Interactive’s series.

Earlier this summer, my football club was linked with Freddy Adu, the suggestion being that we had him on trial. It immediately brought back memories of trying to bring him to the club at the age of fourteen on Championship Manager 2003/04. The difficulties of doing so were myriad – age, work permits and the rest all hindered his move to England. The reality was, however, that everyone said he was “worth it”. Discussions between fellow enthusiasts always brought his name up. It brought some joy, therefore, to find out that Freddy Adu is “aware” of his history with the series.

The segment that involves them catching up with Tonton and other stars of games past is therefore of interest, even just as a reminder of those who have come before. In fact, it brings an excellent comparison to the earlier segment where the various researchers point out their successes in calling future stars of the actual sport. The arrival of “Luis Leonardo Messi” in the database in 2004 is heralded as a moment of excellence within the book. It is of note that he had done little prior to this point, yet was still granted the highest potential ability. I’ve often queried how the researchers get the future of football so right, so to hear from them about their processes is interesting. The reality is, however, that actual football sometimes contrasts heavily with the simulated world of Sports Interactive’s making. The same researcher, Ivan Abella Villar, said that Oskitz Estefania of Real Sociedad should have been a player of the same level, yet injuries and the like stopped that dream short. The contrasting successes of these two players, both introduced to the game in the same year, is just one example of how FMSML goes to lengths throughout the book to symbolise the fact that Football Manager manages to live in this bizarre world halfway between reality and fiction. Whilst it seems ridiculous that dots on the screen can quickly translate into full-blown opinions on actual footballers, stories told within the book show the occasional benefit. Tales are told about jobs acquired due to the knowledge of football gathered from the game. Football Manager is shown to be a tool for many in important roles, and aside from being fascinating, it also gives justification to anyone arguing for the need to click continue one more time before bed.

The written highlight of the book comes in the form of The Heidenheim Chronicles, written by Iain Macintosh. The tale of a manager in charge of the worst professional club in Germany, it would probably not be wrong to suggest that the emotions displayed within are Macintosh’s actual reaction to a game of Football Manager gone hilariously awry. Macintosh is clearly a long running player of the game, and with that breeds an expectation of success. The reality of my saved games in recent years is a feeling of being a managerial prodigy dropped into the footballing world. Gone are the days of yore where I felt constantly on a knife’s edge, between acceptable performance, and outright failure and sacking. Macintosh’s writing, which is absolutely excellent, draws incredible amounts of sympathy. There is literally nothing he can do. I’ve made my mistakes on recent versions, such as stupidly taking on the Australia job, where no success can be had. This is soul-destroying. As Macintosh himself explores through an interview with a psychiatrist elsewhere in the book, Football Manager is a world one can escape into and have complete “control”. This goes for everything from tactics to signings. Success usually follows. Heidenheim therefore symbolises perfectly what happens when things do not go right. It is an experience like no other. Madness generally follows. Insane tactics. Heidenheim should therefore be read by all fans of the game. It shows that we are not alone in our instinctive reactions to a bad run. A failed game can be more painful than anything. As a piece of fiction, all Football Manager addicts need to read this, incredible sympathy will be evoked. This snippet of text suggests that the great Football Manager novel should yet be written.

The exploration of Football Manager’s beginnings is interesting, if not a tad confusing for those of us who are less acquainted with the names behind the game. It is also heartening to gain an excuse as to why purchasing every year’s edition of Football Manager is worth my time, as it provides benefits to organisations that deserve it. Furthermore, the segment about extreme habits provides some solace – I’m not the worst player on the planet. I have never gone on an open bus tour to celebrate a cup victory. However, I am mildly tempted to start emulating conditions for those tricky away European ties. Whilst the book suggests setting a wastepaper bin on fire to create an atmosphere akin to those travels to Turkey, I’m more interested in somehow making matches in Eastern Europe seem more difficult due to the inclement weather – after all, I am the sort of person who suggests getting Zenit and Sparta Prague in the group stages is a tough draw. The reality is that for a player of the game, there are enough moments and narrative beats that evoke thoughts and memories to make it a worthwhile purchase. If you’re considering purchasing it for yourself, consider no more. You will enjoy it, guaranteed.

The real question is the enjoyment non-players could glean from it. The stories of slightly insane players can still entertain someone who is not a fan, as demonstrated by my reading of them out to those in the vicinity to laughter, but this alone does not make up the book. The player profiles and the other referential items that make up a vast majority of the book would be lost on the average reader. Who is Nil Lamptey to them and what do they care? Why would learning about the environment in which the game was created (seemingly the same as that in which the game is often played) be of interest to them? The reality is, sadly, the book will be primarily read and enjoyed by fans of the game. This is not to say it will be niche – the majority of football fans I interact with are at least somewhat acquainted with FM. It merely means that before purchasing the book for a loved one, ensure they have an addictedness rating of at least “remember to call your work and ask for more sick leave”. You’ll probably already know.

Four Stars out of Five


Purchase Football Manager Stole My Life from Amazon for £9.09
Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1) to be repeatedly jabbed with a large ‘read me now’ stick whenever a new article goes up.

The Sale of Snodgrass: What does it mean for the future?

“When I was a boy / everything was right / everything was right” – The Beatles.

Why? Why why why why? Why? Was the gypsy curse never eradicated properly? Did something go wrong? As a child I pictured those damn red devils on the Manchester United badge laying down some sort of voodoo. It must have been some sort of dream, looking back on it. Alternatively, I actually have a direct line to Ferguson’s brain, in a Voldemort/Harry Potter-esque display of mind power, and him, the short ginger one and the one with the pedo-stache dressed up in devil costumes and put together some sort of devious spell that explains the up-fuckery that has occurred around Elland Road since I was a boy.

I turned 20 eight days ago, and the situation compared to ten years ago cannot be much more different. It was only the beginning of the fall. I remember hearing of O’Leary’s sacking one day after school, but I didn’t really understand why at the time. In the ten years since, we’ve arguably only had one decent season. That was in League One. Three of the four midfielders who featured in that side regularly will soon play for a team in the Premier League. We own none of the four.

There are myriad ways in which people have interpreted the departure of Robert Snodgrass. Some Leeds fans have criticized it as the typical movement of a player who has done what is expected and put self before side. They have uttered oft repeated phrases such as “no name on the back of the shirt is more important than the one on the front”.

This is obviously true. Leeds United, as a concept, will exist far longer than Robert Snodgrass’s playing career. It already has, and barring any extenuating circumstances, will continue to do so well into the future. Given that he has left the club, Snodgrass’s time will certainly be little more than a footnote in the annals of the history of the club. He was a good player, at times excellent, and last season he was one of very, very few shining lights. A wand of a left foot, and ball control that impresses, Snodgrass is far too good to sit in the Championship.

There is a flaw to the concept that the players don’t matter, only the club itself. Leeds United, in its current conception, relies upon several things. The most important of these is the perception of its own fans.

For Leeds United fans travel up and down the country to support the club. Despite a season that was worse than average, Leeds took the most away supporters in the football league to stadiums. In the eyes of its own fans, Leeds United is still a big club. There is a limit to this belief. It is impossible to maintain this thought once it actually becomes a delusion. This becomes clearer and clearer as more players depart to clubs that should be lower on the food chain – the Norwich Cities of this world. When players escape from Elland Road at the first true opportunity, when these people are literally paid to be there, how can any less be expected of fans?

I am not concerned for the current generation. Clearly the time has come and gone for the current fans of the club to wave the white flag, when Histon and the rest beat us on wind swept pitches in the lower reaches of league football. It is their children I am concerned for. Whilst my year of Leeds fans at school were all committed to the concept of Leeds United (as I detailed in an article for The Square Ball), even given our upbringing outside of the usual spheres of footballing influence, the same cannot be said for my younger brother’s contemporaries. A mere four and a half years younger, from what he says the majority of those in his year group do not support Leeds United. He only ever saw one game of ours in the Premier League live (a loss to Spurs), and awaits the day that he’ll see another. Those younger than him do not even have that. Why, given the choices available in this world, the free broadcast of football teams who play the game in a manner that can only be dreamed of, would those younger than us choose Leeds? With this generation of comfortable parenting, which mothers and fathers will allow each other to plunge their children into the depressing world being a Leeds fan has become? If things don’t improve, if we don’t keep our best, who will have any impetus to support Leeds thirty years from now?

So Snodgrass has left. Yes, in reality, he is not Lionel Messi. He is not even Junior Hoilett. For a generation of kids, born into the doldrums of the lower leagues, however, he is, or was, a hero. I was lucky when I grew up. I arguably got to see one of the world’s best defensive partnerships (at the time, even though I did not realize it). I got to see a genuinely world-class striker in Mark Viduka, on his day. I even had a hero who had grown up in the club, who turned down bigger moves (even though he has since been vilified…and I’m not talking about Smith). Things went bad, but by then I was committed.

We weren’t always big. It took a mindset shift generations ago. We had to become the best. People seem to increasingly think that doesn’t matter, as long as we’re still Leeds. But these people remember the best. Within time, we’ll just be another side. We’ll still know We Are Leeds and what that means, but what will that mean to those younger, who never experienced it?

Who do the kids have to love? Who will the children idolize? They’ll be gone next week.

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter @awinehouse1