The Square Ball podcast returns with a two-part special to close out the end of the 2012-2013 season. Part one is a retrospective of the season just gone, and among other things it includes a special tribute to Neil Warnock: Daffodil Cop. To celebrate both the return of the podcast and the end of the dire 2012-2013 we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite moments from the past season.
Below you can listen to and download part one of podcast 61, entitled ‘Teenage Mutant Karate Tortoises,’ and leave your own memorable moments from last season in the comments section. The second part of the podcast – a look ahead to 2013-2014 – is also available now.
Here are our five memorable moments:
1. The Departure of Neil Warnock
For a manager who only left in early April, the Sword of Damocles had been hanging by an ever more frayed string over Colin since before the New Year. Whether it was Hull or Barnsley that did it, the majority of fans appeared to have lost faith in Warnock around January, and little that Warnock did had any effect in winning it back. In fact, much he did had the opposite effect, whether purposefully antagonising the Argentine wonder and helping him move out of the club, or his giving off the impression that his seven promotions from the Sunday League Division Three perhaps made him more important than Leeds United. When he announced his own departure on Yorkshire Radio on April 1st, having told GFH Capital to sack him, it was a suitably baffling end to a tenure that could and perhaps should have ended a good few months before. Whilst in his new book he has claimed, with a degree of justification, that he was not adequately supported in the transfer market, there will be few Leeds fans who couldn’t have seen another manager getting more out of the players. Warnock’s departure, which lifted a gloomy cloud from Elland Road, brought about exactly that, as Brian McDermott immediately improved performances and results. Among other things, Colin’s time at Leeds United will forever be characterised by Ross Barkley, Browneh and his well-worn mantra: “I can’t fault their effort, they’re a great bunch of lads.”
2. The Emergence of Sam Byram
As I wrote for issue 8 of the print version of TSB, Sam Byram is really good at football. The thing is, no one really knew this last summer, unless everyone who’d ever seen him play for the academy was just keeping him a secret. Taken to Cornwall in pre-season to make up the numbers as our transfer moves spluttered, Byram just kept doing well, scoring a great volley against Preston to cap off a good pre-season. Then came Shrewsbury, and following that Wolves, where he marked £10m Matt Jarvis out of the game. He quickly became undroppable and since then has just improved and improved. The hope is that he sticks around for a very long time, but to achieve that we may need the club to improve its divisional status in the near future.
3. Luciano Becchio vs. Chelsea
I remember standing up what felt like 30 seconds before anyone else in the East Stand. It was the precise moment the ball came to Tonge’s feet and Jerome Thomas started sprinting away, but I wasn’t watching him. Becchio – always there, always ready – was sprinting through the middle. Just like against Millwall, just like against Wolves, Becchio knew exactly where to put himself, and the man on the left simply had to find him. I like to pretend Becchio is just temporarily missing, that next season at some point he’ll pop up through the middle, knocking a ball delivered from the left into the back of the net in front of the South Stand. Even if he doesn’t, we’ll have this moment, the perfect cap on his Leeds career. The second half doesn’t count; just this one moment, when Becchio scored and we went one-nil up against the Champions of Europe and the East Stand felt like the Kop at its loudest and the Kop just resembled a tidal wave constructed not of water but Leeds fans and there at the centre of it all was Leeds United’s Luciano, as he should be.
4. Ben Fry gets shown up by a 10 year old
From the sublime to the ridiculous. For those of us lucky enough to factor in some time sat in the ground as part of our match-day schedule, Ben Fry provides an active figure of fun; he’s become part of the day. His polished radio voice harmlessly booming around the Elland Road PA system, he asks some kids who their favourite player is and what the score will be, which is inevitably Leeds winning by a relatively realistic margin. Ahead of the Derby game however, even a consummate professional like Ben was caught out, as a child with a sense of humour beyond his years suggested that we’d probably lose – with all the players in earshot. It was a transcendent moment of glorious anarchy that temporarily stumped the otherwise unflappable Mr Fry and suggested that the kid in question fundamentally understood what it’s like to be a Leeds United fan.
5. Takeover Day
“F*** me, it’s done” was the first response on Waccoe. It felt apt. The takeover that never was turned out to be the takeover that was finally finished. On Twitter that morning, in what was turned out to be a misguided attempt to blow a virtual raspberry at journalist Duncan Castles, Salem Patel (where has he gone, by the way?) suggested it had all collapsed. People were frothing at the mouth. Along came the familiar voice of Ken on Yorkshire Radio, and just like that it was done; awkward presidential role aside, he was going. Kind of. Despite the fact that things haven’t exactly been perfect since, not least the news about Salah Nooruddin that emerged this week, that morning felt like the start of a new chapter at Elland Road. It appears the story still has not reached a conclusion, so that sense of relief and hope for the future has not yet dissipated entirely.
Amitai Winehouse (@awinehouse1).