“The buck stops here” is a phrase that was popularised by U.S. President Harry S. Truman, who kept a sign with that phrase on his desk in the Oval Office. But where does the buck stop in football, and more specifically – where does it stop at Leeds United? We don’t have a President – the last candidate for that position was bundled into a car and dispatched into exile in Monaco; he hasn’t been heard from since. The next most likely candidate for stopper of the buck is the current Leeds United Chairman, Salah Abdulla Nooruddin Nooruddin. Mr Nooruddin’s views on just where responsibility lies for the present state of the club appear somewhat ambiguous, as witness the tweets that accompany this article, specifically the one issued in the wake of the Millwall defeat.
Leeds United is a football club quite unlike any other, as we all know – but it nevertheless shares some characteristics in common with more run-of-the-mill outfits. One of these foibles is that any praise or appreciation of the fans as a body of support; any suggestion from the suits at the top that the turnstile fodder at the bottom are not merely that, but are in fact salt of the earth heroes of whom the players, staff, directors and tea-ladies are in respectful awe – any such sentiment expressed at times of tension particularly, can be relied upon to go down well. A well-timed word or two to this effect might even buy a stressed Chairman some useful time and room to manoeuvre. It’s been done before.
That explains the honeyed words in the earlier tweets. But Salah appears to have emitted the most recent tweet under some duress, in response to some angry hectoring from irate fans who can see this season falling apart. And, looking beneath the surface of that tweet, it begs the question: just how wise or otherwise was this tweet? What is Salah actually saying?
To say in so many words that the club are trying to bring in a striker AND a winger – a necessity I’m on record as specifying a few days ago – is encouraging. We can but hope that, thus committed, Mr Nooruddin and Co will make good on this statement of intent. The rest of the tweet though is a little more problematic, with – once you start to dig – a few more layers to it. “BUT with current squad we should have won today!!!” says Salah, plaintively. Based on what, exactly? The lack of width and creativity is nothing short of legendary this far into the campaign. Squillions of pixels and fonts have been expended on setting out the extent and effect of that problem. Leeds United are well known among those who love them as an impotent force, firing blanks; one that, to quote the hackneyed cliché, couldn’t score in a brothel. This is why we need the early Christmas present Salah was coyly referring to. It’s perplexing that the Chairman should so bluntly be stating that we should have won. Who’s he blaming exactly? The players themselves? The manager himself?? These are shark-infested waters, and Mr Nooruddin should be well enough aware of the esteem in which Brian McDermott is held by the supporters, to keep his toes safely out of them. Such sentiments, expressed by a layman, could easily be misconstrued.
The view of the massive majority of the support is quite plain, and it sits very well with the characteristics of the modern game, dominated by big money and overseas owners, whether rich or not so rich. The supporters, by overwhelmingly common consent, do not blame Brian for the current situation. They do not even blame most of the players; they know there is some residual deadwood left over from the old regime, and they know that reinforcements are urgently needed. Given all this, many – perhaps most – of the supporters will view the Chairman’s blithe assertion that the current squad, with all its deficiencies, “should have won” a highly competitive Championship away game, as somewhat naive, a little bizarre, slightly bonkers. This is not really Salah’s area. Salah’s area is to listen to that nice Mr McDermott, to take on board his wisdom concerning the personnel we need and then to set about obtaining those personnel with as little fuss and bother as possible and without undue delay.
That’s the role of the executive as opposed to the expert professional, Salah. That’s division of responsibility, that’s delegation up the line. All you have to do is make what the manager wants possible – to somehow find the money without which it’s NOT possible. It’s a vital, pivotal role. And that, Mr Nooruddin, is why the buck stops with YOU – so please. Do not even think about passing it.