These are strange days at Leeds United. The football club is well-managed; by common consent we have the right man in Brian McDermott. The people that matter certainly think so, for the most part. Let’s all hope the Board still agree.
We have a half-decent team and lately the emergence of another highly promising youngster in Alex Mowatt has been a real boost, offering the possibility of allowing Ross McCormack to play as a striker where he’s most comfortable. More on that later.
We even have a personable and likeable chairman in Salah Nooruddin, who has lately been trying to issue comforting noises about investment and the further enhancement of the squad. Salah has a couple of very important things going for him: he has a nice, friendly smile – and he’s Not Ken Bates. This latter one really sums up his appeal for most Leeds fans after the last few years – but does Mr. Nooruddin have more positive attributes to offer even than the quality of Not Being Ken?
Well, we can but hope so. But when he’s been a bit more vocal, as lately – coinciding with a run of four defeats – Salah’s tended to send out some pretty mixed messages. That’s worrying enough in a businessman/banker type who should really worship at the twin altars of “Inspiring Confidence in the Marketplace” and a “Having a Strategic Plan”.
The trouble is, Salah’s got recent form for appearing to heap pressure on the manager after a couple of losses – tweeting that the “existing squad” should be winning – and now he’s been and gone and said that promotion would be “a very harsh target” for this season, which some have read as a hasty attempt to take that perceived pressure back off.
All well and good, but this papering over the cracks approach just leads to more trouble, because those who are paying through the nose do want a definite idea of where the club is heading; so when people blow hot and cold like this – well, it’s disconcerting…
Any football club’s fans surely want to believe that their hard-earned cash is being used to fuel ambition, Leeds fans perhaps more than most. So what do they think – what do WE think – when the chairman states that we can pretty much forget about promotion for the time being? What message does it send out to the existing squad? To potential signings who may, even now, be weighing up the club’s potential and – that word again – ambition? It’s all quite perplexing to us mere turnstile fodder – so how does it appear to a professional making a hard-nosed decision about which shop window he wishes to be displayed in as a result of any move on loan?
As I’ve said elsewhere, it might be that bit less confusing if the football people spoke on football matters, and the businessmen dealt with business. When Nooruddin says that “promotion is a harsh target”, is he speaking from a business or a football point of view? If the former, then all well and good – get on with sorting out that investment “to take us to the next level”, which is allegedly so close. If he’s speaking from a football point of view though, the only possible question is “Why?” He’s not remotely qualified, after all.
If Brian McDermott feels that promotion may be a harsh target, then presumably he’s saying that in the full knowledge of exactly how much he has to play with in the transfer market. Presumably also, he’s some idea of when any further investment might reasonably be expected. Brian is taking his time in the market, having apparently been mandated to recruit loanees – but again, that may be because other options have presented themselves from within the club. Ross McCormack played up front the other night and he’s been vocal since in saying that’s where he’s best deployed. If McDermott feels he can now do that because of the emergence of young midfield prodigies from the Academy, then fine. It would be nice to know these things, and from the horse’s mouth. We’ll listen to a football man talk football all day long.
But that’s the point – let people work to their strengths. Let Nooruddin and Co seek to improve the financial infrastructure. Let Brian get on with managing the team and making pronouncements about their prospects based on his professional knowledge. Let RossCo get on with scoring some goals instead of trying to be something he’s not. Let all that happen – and maybe the messages wouldn’t be as mixed; maybe we wouldn’t now be all a-twitter – and we ARE, many of us – about what seems like a club about to give up on the season. That is such a terrible message to send out when people are having to scrimp and save for expensive tickets, travel, programmes and all the related shelling-out that goes on each match-day.
It’s just been such a mess in the media this week, and the win over Bournemouth has almost disappeared in the middle of it. It shouldn’t have to be this way. These people are professionals, all of them. The least they can do is to try and sing from the same hymn-sheet (with due respect to the representatives of different religions involved). But you get my meaning. Let’s have a unified message, something we can all understand. “We are Leeds” would be a good start. “Onwards and upwards” is encouraging too. But it all needs to be underpinned by the best rallying-call of all.
“Marching on Together“.
Come on, Leeds!