The Chairman of Leeds United, Salah Nooruddin, is a man much occupied by weighty matters. Quite apart from his duties in the world of high finance, Mr Nooruddin now obviously has to attend to the day-to-day running of a still huge football club, though some might argue that he is approaching that task with the pragmatic aim of making of it a smaller one.
Mr Nooruddin took the time out of his busy schedule yesterday to grant an interview to the media, presumably prompted by rumblings of discontent among the supporters of a club that has consistently under-achieved in the past decade and which has seen last year’s takeover completed on a scale dwarfed by the likes of those at Manchester City or even Nottingham Forest. Indeed, little Sheffield United down the M1 appear to have shown Leeds up by getting themselves a rich billionaire. So what’s going on at Leeds? Salah was kind enough to explain, in the simplest of terms, for the benefit of the uninitiated.
Firstly, on the manager Brian McDermott: “He’s the right man to take this club forward.” Hmmmm. Well, we already knew that one, Salah. Tell us something new. The chairman then drew on his extensive knowledge of the professional game as he went on to cover the perilous ground of the club’s progress this season, explaining that we’d had a good start, but that it had turned around a little bit and that this was “the nature of football”. Again, all very illuminating – but is it the nitty-gritty we need to hear? Those of us who have watched United for the past few decades are all too painfully aware of the nature of football as it applies to Leeds. It may be summed up as constant depression with peaks of hope and short spells of achievement, but doomed to ultimate disappointment. There’s really no need for an investment banker lecturing us about the nature of football in order for even us bone-headed and unsophisticated fans to realise that.
Mr Nooruddin then proceeded to describe how manager and players are all still settling in and testing each other, a process that some will have noticed has been going on at clubs much higher up the league who have had the bad taste to invest heavily in players and wages. “When we brought (Brian McDermott) in we were very happy about that. I think it’s been proven on and off the field here”, the chairman confirmed. “He’s done a good job and he’s trying to rebalance the squad. He takes account of the owners’ interests, the club’s interests and the players’ interests. So far we are very happy.” So far. Well, that’s good then.
After the defeat at Millwall, Mr Nooruddin had taken to the Twittersphere to provide a more immediate summary of his feelings as to that performance. Stating that the club were trying to bring in a striker and a winger, he went on to aver that “the current squad should have won today”. Again, this apparently profound knowledge of the world of professional football is not backed up by any body of evidence concerning Salah’s experience in anything but banking – but what is Twitter for if not for knee-jerk reactions to events beyond your control?
After yesterday’s interview, Mr Nooruddin may well be feeling quite content that he has acted decisively to mollify United’s notoriously touchy support. On the other hand, there is the argument that some may find his less-than-qualified statements a little worrying. Bland and glib assertions about the “nature of football” will butter no parsnips, Mr Nooruddin should understand. Neither will his less than forensic assessment of the current squad, leading to the slightly shaky conclusion that they should have beaten Millwall, impress those match-going fans who have seen it all before, who have heard hollow promises and lame excuses without number and who just want our manager to be provided with the tools he needs to carve himself a level playing field and have some chance of competing with the Leicesters, QPR’s and Burnleys of this world. That doesn’t seem a lot to ask.
I’d be far more impressed with Mr Nooruddin if he avoided all attempts to speak learnedly, as one handing down knowledge from on high, about the matter of football. He should instead be reassuring the Leeds public that he and his fellow directors are listening to the football wisdom of Mr McDermott, taking on board his recommendations based on a lifetime of experience in the game – and then applying their own specialised financial knowledge and business acumen to the task of sorting out some wonga in order to realise Brian’s wishes for his squad.
Now that would be reassuring.