Wednesday, May 12 2021

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A ray of hope in a miserable week

Update: April, 15/2021 - 15:46
NEVER GIVE UP: Leeds United’s Stuart Dallas (left) celebrates after scoring against Manchester City. AFP Photo

Paul Kennedy

Sometime I really hate football, or rather football fans.

On Wednesday night as the Real Madrid coach drove to Anfield for the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Liverpool, one brainless buffoon threw a brick at the bus.

I mean come on, really? You think that will make all the difference? You really think a smashed window will intimidate the most successful team Europe has ever seen?

Over the past few seasons, when visiting teams arrived at the stadium, thousands of fans lined the streets to give them a ‘warm welcome’. This usually consisted of loads of chanting and cheering plus the odd red flare, in an attempt to psych out the opposition. That’s fair enough.

But to actually throw a brick, stone, rock, or whatever at the coach is just idiotic. I hope whoever is responsible is caught quick-sharp and dealt with in the strongest possible manner. Ideally by sending the culprit to Madrid and dumping him headfirst into a bullring dressed head-to-toe in red.

There have been other incidents over the past few weeks that made me embarrassed to be a Liverpool supporter.  Social media trolls, hiding behind their computer screens racially abusing Trent Alexander-Arnold and Rinsola Babajide of Liverpool FC Women is totally abhorrent.

But despite all this negativity, there was one thing on the pitch this week that was a real joy to see.

Leeds United midfielder Stuart Dallas scored both goals, including an injury-time winner, to help his team beat table-toppers Manchester City.

This really was a ‘Roy of the Rovers’ moment for the Northern Irishman, who not that long ago, was earning around $100 a week playing in Ulster.

Dallas started his career, while also working as a joiner, at his hometown Coagh United in the Ballymena & Provincial Intermediate League before moving to Crusaders FC in the Northern Irish top-flight.

The 'Cookstown Cafu', as he later became known, was a revelation for the North Belfast side and helped Crusaders secure League Cup and Setanta Cup glory in his two seasons at the club before making the move over the water to Brentford FC in England’s League One.

Things didn’t immediately go to plan in London and when he was shipped out on loan to Northampton Town in League Two, I’m sure Dallas would have thought his footballing dreams were coming apart.

But instead of giving up, Dallas learned from his loan spell and returned to Brentford a much better, and more experienced player.

He was rewarded with a new contract and became a regular in the starting 11. He also scored the club’s goal of the season.

In 2015 he moved to Leeds United and forced his way into the first team. During the 2018-19 season, United’s new head coach Marcelo Bielsa began using Dallas in different positions and he became their utility man, putting in excellent performances in every position he played.

Leeds won promotion the following season, and Dallas has now played more than 200 times for the Yorkshire club, with Saturday’s win over City probably the highlight of his career.

After his amazing brace against the would-be champions, Dallas was asked about his 91st-minute winner, to which he replied: “I took one touch and just closed my eyes.”

Just the type of thing I’m sure Roy Race would have said if he’d have scored the winner for Melchester United. VNS

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