The following is a guest contribution written by TimPM. If you’d like to have an article considered for publication here on The Scratching Shed, please use the online form. 

I was a fan of Andy O’Brien when he came to Leeds in October 2010. I still remember that time – I was taking a year out from my own career following an (unconfirmed) nervous breakdown. I say unconfirmed – we all know what a nervous breakdown is and there has been an unspoken understanding around the subject from everyone involved with me.

We’d just been absolutely thrashed by Cardiff, 4-0. The fold had started when a long ball over the top had caught Neill Collins out of position, had been allowed to bounce by Bruce, and hadn’t been collected by Kasper Schmeichel. It was a breath of fresh air, then, when Andy O’Brien was plucked from the Premiership. Apparently coming to regain match fitness, O’Brien had an instant impact. In our next match (away at Scunthorpe), Jonny Howson was given the freedom to attack from midfield and showed his class with a fifteen-minute hattrick. But what we often overlooked, was the excellent debut O’Brien had. Coming straight into the defence for Neill Collins, O’Brien was part of a (more or less) carbon-copy from the Cardiff match. A ball came up, Bruce and Schmeichel failed to deal with it between themselves, but this time a cool Andy O’Brien smashed the ball away from the goal.

After that match, I knew that O’Brien was exactly the tonic for a shaky Leeds defence that had struggled at times with our first faltering steps back in the Championship. O’Brien undoubtedly had class and talent – he’d made hundreds of appearances in the Premiership and rarely been caught out there. Leeds’ faltering steps had nevertheless seen us ploughing headlong up the table, showing undeniable class at times, and we ended up second in December.

Spring wasn’t so kind. The team’s position crumbled, and eventually we ended up agonizingly close to the playoffs, but even missing that. A lot of players had struggled. The criticism of a few of them – O’Brien especially in my memory because I rated him – was at times excruciating when I read it back now. In fact, in one way it was hilarious: half of us derided Bradley Johnson as a defensive midfielder, and he’s now almost an international. If ever there was a better example of why not to listen to fans, it’s probably that.

Then came our struggles at the start of this season. Looking back at the articles from the period leading up to O’Brien refusing to play, they’re as bad.

His last match was 6th November against Leicester. On November 11th TheScratchingShed ran an article in response to rumours that one-time Leeds youngster Michael Woods had retired from football: ‘Bitter Leeds Fans Amused by Woods Retirement’. I’m glad I wasn’t one of those, in fact I was sympathetic for the lad who had taken a jump in his career similar to mine – and seen it not pay off, similar to me. Yet looking back at it I wish I hadn’t written half the comments I had, and talking about the kid like we did was horrendous. After all, we didn’t know him yet we’d all put in our two cents.

Then on November 14th rumours surfaced that Monty Gimpel was being tracked by Arsenal.

“I don’t want to see youngsters played just because they may at some point in the future be good – especially when we’ve so much ground to make up for promotion” I commented, “There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be handy enough for a few bench appearances though? Bruce, O’Brien & Bromby haven’t exactly been fantastic, and Lees has done well with little experience?”

The article poster questioned me labelling Lees inexperienced: he had over a hundred appearances at lower level, but nobody picked up on my obvious generalisation – O’Brien had only made two-three appearances for us so far that season. It’s something you wouldn’t think about when you treat footballers as something completely detached from us, yet over the past week I’ve found out that some members of the playing staff at Elland Road have read blogs and forums. I don’t know who, and I’m not suggesting O’Brien ever has, but almost everybody’s been on the receiving end of stick at TSS, WACCOE, or any of the other outlets of fan opinion online.

My first ever published article was written for this blog; it was the news that Andy O’Brien had refused to play for us and wouldn’t be picked again. It was stylishly written, if I do say so myself!, but it dealt massively in rumours.

Despite a fantastic late comeback at Turf Moor on Saturday, the Leeds camp is still far from settled this season.

November began with the dramatic mental implosion of much maligned stopper Paul Rachubka and threatens to end with an acrimonious exit for Republic of Ireland veteran Andy O’Brien.

O’Brien has had a torrid season managing just two league appearances and a poor performance against former club Bradford. The 32 year old, rumoured to be one of Leeds’ top earners, told Simon Grayson before Leicester City that he would not play for the Whites again. It is thought that O’Brien has been frustrated by a lack of football.


Rumour has it that O’Brien is trying to fix a move to West Ham, while BBC Sport journalist Jacqui Oatley has taken to Twitter to claim that O’Brien had not refused to play for the club, but the manager, whom he regarded as “his worst ever”.

It definitely wouldn’t look out of place in one of the famously a-moral rags. I’d tried to be sensitive on the Rachubka topic – I felt sorry for the lad, and I didn’t want to add to the criticism, but on reflection that didn’t come out at all. I wrote about the rumours that O’Brien was one of Leeds’ top-paid players, the rumours irresponsibly tweeted by Jaqui Oatley that he had a personal falling out with Grayson. Basically, if I had been writing about people I knew, I’d’ve been something rhyming “bit stiring”.

We’re all ill-informed fans at the end of the day- some more ill-informed than others… We’ve no malice, but I think we often forget that these are real people we discuss. There could be 101 reasons for Andy O’Brien’s worries, but you couldn’t rule out any of our lads browsing the blogs and forums and getting problems. I wrote something, ending my blog, yesterday before this came out. I think it’s something that should be repeated here because I think it’s something we all need to think about:

It has come to my attention over the last few days that parts of the playing side of Leeds are reading the blogs and forums. Inadvertently, a place where I can spout my ill-informed opinion has become a place where me and plenty of others are accidentally offending the very lads we’re wanting to support.

So I’ve decided to stop this blog and not to write for TheScratchingShed again. I write this to inform those who have read my blog – because you deserve to know (even though we probably should have thought) that the people you’re writing about might be able to see every word. I wish I’d known sooner. I honestly never thought a footballer with their brilliant jobs and all that would waste their time reading what fans think. As if we’re ever right about much in the first place? But in this day and age, the only place for football talk seems to be in the pub or on the sofa.

For my part I am honestly sorry for any offence or stress I’ve caused anybody at Leeds.

Reading it back after a day, you can tell it’s heart-felt because the style’s less “gosh got to prove myself” me, and more pre-wide-world 18-year-old me.

The article topic? I had always had an unexplained, nagging guilt over Andy O’Brien. Even though it’d disappear quickly. There was something about the situation where I’d maybe subconsciously realised this might be a man struggling and I’m being pretty harsh.

I’m really glad that Andy O’Brien has come out and sought support. It’s something like 10-20% of people in the country who suffer from these problems, as best as can be guessed by doctors. But so many of us don’t come out about problems like this. It takes a real man to seek support, and in my opinion Andy’s done himself absolutely proud.

We never know who’s reading. And we should back Andy O’Brien to the hilt, just like we would with anybody going through a tough time. But more than that, we should use this example to remind us that anybody could be reading what we write. I’ll repeat, I have no reason to believe Andy read this blog or any of the forums, but just looking back at how we treat players who might read, it’s often not good.

Written by TimPM