There are some glass-half-full types who might venture to suggest that this hasn’t been a summer like any other over the past ten years or so. After all, Bates has gone, most if not all of his cronies have departed with him, and the air around Elland Road does smell sweeter as a result. What’s more ticket prices have gone down from the actually obscene to the merely extortionate, there has been continual talk of new investment and strategic partners, and yes – we have our first seven-figure signing since we bought Richard Cresswell back when Noah was a lad. O Brave New World that has such smoke and mirrors in it!
Because, despite all the feel-good changes and all of the positive talk – forget the past, it’s all about the future – there are still these nagging doubts. Leeds United football fans are canny folk. They know their football, and they can see quite clearly when there are gaping holes in the squad, and when the club is being stifled for lack of quality. And despite the rich promise of million-pound Wunderkind Luke Murphy, and the more gangly potential of Matt Smith, freed from his Time Lord responsibilities in darkest Oldham to provide an aerial threat for Leeds United; plus of course the elderly skills of veteran Noel Hunt – despite all this, we can all see what’s missing. Width, that’s what. Pace, that’s what too. And a rock-like, they-shall-not-pass presence at the centre of defence, that’s very much what also. And yet with a mere two weeks until this latest transfer window slams shut, we are still short of these aforementioned essential items, and we’re being fed a steady diet of rumours about who will have to go in order to make room on the stretched-out wage bill for incomings.
Now they’re threatening our most precious possessions, and the squad’s only sparks of flair and creativity. Dioufy? McCormacky?? We must keep these players, or risk becoming even more pedestrian and predictable. Surely even a Dubai-funded Tory can see that. But the situation is such that, unless we can shed some of the real deadwood – no names, no pack drill – then we’re either going to have to wave a tearful farewell to some of our major players, or make do with what we’ve got. Brian is not happy. The board are saying nowt. Are we soon to hear the fateful words “Don’t forget, there’s always the loan window opening in a week or so…”? Save it, guys. We’ve heard it all before, year after depressing year.
The fact is that Leeds United are almost certainly doomed to get yet further into a second decade outside of the top-flight. The longer we stay out of that billion-dollar glare, the more we will become ever more pallid for lack of limelight, the more chance of the club ending up perpetually moribund, like a bigger version of Preston or Huddersfield. There is an acute awareness of this among the fans – that much is obvious from the most cursory perusal of the various fan-sites and message-boards. It’s no secret, that’s for sure – and historically, there are few more militant bunches of fans anywhere. And yet still, the powers-that-be are following the blueprint of previous regimes, and seeking to manage our expectations, to deflect our passion and desire with blarney and vague not-quite-promises, underpinned by artfully-leaked rumours. Multi-million pound investment imminent? Bid possible for return of Maxi Gradel? Ker-ching. Another few hundred tickets sold for the opening game, and then queues all the way down the West Stand car-park for the League Cup visit of tiny Chesterfield. But you can’t fool all the people all the time, and despite carefully-scripted exhortations from Brian McDermott, the crowd for the Wednesday game was way down. And why not? It’s live on Sky and some of those tickets are £36. It’s not rocket science, chaps.
It’s about time Leeds United appointed a Minister for Truth. I’d be up for the job. It’s not going to happen though – but can we at least ask for a little more transparency instead of the same old, same old EVERY bloody year? We know there is no oil-rich billionaire around the corner. We know Maxi isn’t coming back (or Snoddy, or Howson, or Becchio). So please – whoever you are – stop feeding us this pap, and get on with what you’re supposed to be doing. Give Brian the support he needs instead of having the cheek to set two-year deadlines for promotion. Carry on engaging with the fans – you’ve made a start, but there’s a long way to go. Learn the lesson that you need to speculate to accumulate, and then maybe we won’t have to watch far smaller clubs snapping up players who would love to play for Leeds United – if the money was anywhere near par for the course. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. Stop selling us a line and give us a Leeds United to be proud of again – and then we’ll be right behind you in our highly vocal thousands. You know it makes sense.