Football League Attitude to Leeds Still Tainted by Hardaker’s Hatred of Revie – by Rob Atkinson


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Shaun Harvey and his fellow Leeds-haters at the FL

Here we are, then. The deal is all but done.  Save only for what should really be the formality of Football League approval, Massimo Cellino is the new owner of Leeds United, having purchased a 75% stake in the club, the remaining 25% remaining in the hands of GFH and their various investors. A fairly complex management structure will be in place, seeing Haigh and Nooruddin retain executive positions, something that Cellino himself has at least initially set aside in favour of the non-executive President’s role.  But there is absolutely no doubt at all wherein resides the power behind the throne; Cellino has promised to re-purchase the Elland Road stadium and move to Yorkshire – he also intends to take the same hands-on approach to player recruitment as he took at Cagliari. How all this will pan out in practice remains to be seen.  The proof of the Yorkshire Pudding will be in the eating.

So, what of this Football League “formality”?  Well, guess what.  It now seems likely to be spun out for as long as those men in suits can feasibly manage.  On the face of it, neither Cellino’s existing convictions, regarded as “spent” under English law, nor his pending prosecution for embezzlement (innocent until proven otherwise) can currently be counted against him.  In the absence of any other apparent issues, the Football League (under their own tightly-defined rules) would seem to have little option other than to rubber-stamp this takeover.  But when this august body finally commented on the matter earlier on the Friday before the weekend of the Yeovil game, it was only to say that they required further information from Cellino and from GFH.  Until this information was forthcoming, it concluded tersely, the matter would not be progressed.  Oh, and you can’t have that Italian lad Tabanelli on loan either – it was all done against the rules. Oh dear, how sad, tough.

So, what should be a simple matter will drag on, it seems, for at least another week.  Meanwhile, the financial situation at Leeds United is becoming steadily clearer and the picture being painted is not a pretty one. It would seem that, until the eventual approval of our Italian saviour, we do not have the proverbial pot in which to do the proverbial.  It’s so hard to dismiss the image of pasty little men in grey suits rubbing their hands in glee over the way in which they have been able to prolong the discomfort of a club they have long treated as a pariah compared to the rest of the “football family”.  In this, they are acting very much in line with what the late unlamented Alan Hardaker, Football League Secretary back in the day, would have wanted and approved.

Alan Hardaker was a failed footballer turned successful bureaucrat, exhibiting the kind of pettifogging regard for rules and regulations, to the exclusion of common sense, observed in many such grey and rigid little men.  Once he had taken a dislike to United manager Don Revie – and admittedly, it was mutual – he seemed to allow this emotion to colour all of his dealings with Yorkshire’s premier club.  Decisions were made which seem utterly extraordinary now – the requirement to play a title decider 48 hours after the Cup Final win in 1972 stands out, but that frankly bizarre decision was no isolated example of official intransigence.  Hardaker was usually outspoken in defence of his position, leaning over backwards to justify himself whilst, in the same breath, explaining how the disputes were all Revie’s fault anyway.  He described the United boss as ” totally ruthless, selfish, devious and prepared to cut corners to get his own way”, stating also that “As secretary of the Football League I often found Don Revie, as the manager of Leeds United, to be a pain in the neck”.  In the light of such comments, it is no surprise that Leeds were usually lacking for friends in high places.  Their pursuit of every honour in the game left them in need of some breathing-space and consideration now and again – but none was to be had under Hardaker and this played a large part in United’s fate of being seen as always the bridesmaids, never the brides.

The late Alan Hardaker

The late Alan Hardaker

Alan Hardaker has been dead for almost 34 years now, but his memory is honoured in the eyes of Leeds-haters everywhere, every time an official decision is taken to the detriment of that much-maligned club.  Brian Mawhinney, loathsome Tory and willing tormentor of Leeds over the “Minus 15” debacle, was a worthy successor to the Hardaker legacy.  Now we have Shaun Harvey in the box seat, former Bates poodle and hardly free of prejudice where the interests of Leeds United are concerned.  Hardaker would be proud of them both; nobody standing at his graveside would be able to detect the sound of any spinning going on down there. Hull-born, Hardaker openly hated Don Revie’s Leeds United – and that rancid sentiment tainted all of his dealings with the club whilst he was in office. The current incumbents are rather less vocal than the late Alan, it must be said.  Brian Mawhinney, for instance, was much given to weasel words about Leeds being a valued member of the football family – but the underlying attitudes haven’t changed noticeably, as was demonstrated in the saga which developed around the 15 point deduction which – only just – managed to keep United back in League One after that first season, to the undeserved benefit of Nottingham Forest who copped fur a promotion they’d failed by some distance to merit on the field.  To this day, apparently, the Football League will still do Leeds United a bad turn if they possibly can.

It will be very interesting to see which way the League do eventually jump. Any decision to reject Cellino would seem hard to justify under the rules as they exist – but you get the feeling that, the more Leeds fans have realised they have a possible new era of financial muscle and security in prospect, the less keen those little grey men have been to give the deal that final seal of approval.  A week earlier, it all looked different; angry Leeds fanatics were horrified at the prospect of Cellino, barricading him inside Elland Road and seeing off all attempts at rescue. At that point, the Hardaker thing to do would have been to approve the Italian immediately.  Now, the Football League quite possibly perceive a dilemma.  How best to serve the worst interests of Leeds United??

It may be that I’m just being paranoid – but remember, that’s the natural psychological state of any Leeds fan of long service.  If you know yer history, you’ll be able to point to many instances where the game has dealt United a disgustingly scurvy hand.  So really, it’s no wonder we’re bleedin’ paranoid.  But for me at least, the suspicion won’t go away that somebody, somewhere is looking to see what spanners they can throw in the works of a deal that looks more and more likely to be Leeds United’s best hope of progress onwards and upwards. Indeed, given the parlous nature of matters as they stand, with the club living hand-to-mouth and surviving on ad hoc loans, Cellino may even be the only chance of the club surviving in a form recognisable to its legions of fans worldwide.  It could just be that serious. We’ll simply have to keep our fingers crossed that the next week can finally see things confirmed, letting us get on at long last with daring to dream and celebrating the purchase of our beloved Elland Road.

So come on, you Football League suits, get your finger out and do the right thing – if only to prove to me that all my dark suspicions have been groundless and that you really are an impartial and benevolent ruling authority with the best interests of ALL its members at heart.  Stand up, Shaun Harvey, and prove you’re a better man than you appeared when you were yapping obedience to Ken Bates. Let us start dreaming our dreams and debating whether or not we really want del Piero.  Can you actually show us, Shaun, that you have some atom of integrity after all?

I really, really hope so.  The sooner old Hardaker is angrily spinning away in his grave, the happier I and many thousands more Leeds United fans shall be.

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32 responses to “Football League Attitude to Leeds Still Tainted by Hardaker’s Hatred of Revie – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Well said Rob. Some of us older ones well remember the ghastly Hardaker. Smart move to keep Haigh and Noorudin in place to smooth the way. Nothing on Brian yet but I just feel he will keep the job but may have to accept some changes in responsibility. As the Italian said – ‘he needs a coach not a manager’. Apart from the FL all in all a good day. Two wins in the next four days would really do it for me!

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  2. JOHN INGHAM

    GOOD ARTICLE MR.ATKINSON.PLEASE SPARE. A THOUGHT FOR OUR PREVIOUS SAVIOUR MR.BATES,WHO AS I TAP THIS REPLY OUT WILL BE P…..G HIMSELF AT OUR CURRENT DILEMMA!I AM NOT NORMALLY SPITEFUL,BUT I HATE THAT MAN MORE THAN YOU DISLIKE MR.HARDAKER.GOOD WEEKEND EVERYBODY AND LET’S HOPE FOR 3 POINTS TOMORROW.

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  3. I agree but to be fair to the FL a week ago the majority of Leeds fans were praying for the FL to reject Cellino. Now we are in debt and its clear the consortiums are skint SUDDENLY its all switched round. Im sure the rest of the worlds sports media are baffled by the switch and I cant see how we can be surprised if the FL do reject Cellino considering the amount of pressure that’s been put on them……

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  4. David Smith

    Rob – interesting and topical blog. I must confess I had no idea that there was such acrimony between Don Revie and Hardaker and of course it now makes sense why the Football League insisted on Leeds playing Wolves two days after our FA Cup final triumph over Arsenal. Even Mawhinney and Harvey wouldn’t have the gall to insist on that ………..or would they? MOT

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  5. Spongenose

    Roberto (for surely that is your new Italian moniker?) – this is what you wanted all along isn’t it? Cellino in? I certainly did!

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    • Even if I didn’t (and I’m actually well pleased and cautiously optimistic) – there simply seems no other viable option. We’re skint and desperate, beggars can’t be choosers, etc etc. Bring it on.

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  6. Michael Brooks

    Yes all too familiar I was at both Arsenal and Wolves games. Believe the reason given was the European Championships and if delayed Leeds players would have to withdrawn. Suspect other teams players in similar circumstances would have received a period of grace. I fear the outcome of the decision presaging nothing has changed and we will receive an unprecedented tough call on fit and proper test.Shame one doesn’t apply to the game’s administrators.

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  7. I remember being on the Lowfields Road after Hardaker shook a seven . To my amazement we , along with the rest of the Football League , gave him a minutes silence . The first few seconds went by fairly quietly and I remember thinking this ain’t right so I shouted ” what a wanker , he fxxking hated Don Revie ” and started booing . Within seconds the tosser got the respect he deserved . Never ever regretted it for one second .

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  8. Well iv no idea what to think anymore.. Cellino i wish all the best to even though i have avidly opposed him.. Lets see what he can do for the club and i wish with all my heart he does well in proving me wrong.. I actually think Del Pierro would be a useful addition to say the least.. not as an outright player but as some1 to help with training and pop on every now and then to make championship defences look silly.. I can imagine McCormack wudnt mind a 39yr old Del Piero as a strike partner..

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  9. snifferclarkesboots

    Signor Cellino strikes me as a man who is accustomed to getting his way. What connotations that will have for our club remains to be seen. He’s passionate about football in true Italian style and will no doubt care about what is going on on the pitch. All indications are he will want to interfere and how he and Brian hit it off remains to be seen. But if I were Brian, and he hasn’t already, I would be brushing up on my Italian.
    If Massimo is the kind of guy who doesn’t like to lose, which I sense he is, this should bode well for Leeds. Then I just want a someone running this club who is as passionate about it as the fans (maybe that’s being over optimistic).
    Where I live there are plenty of leanish Italian men who have hooked up with large Yorkshire lasses. They tend to run restaurants, but they all appear happy and their businesses are thriving. So hopefully Cellino and his new mistress are equally productive in the field of play. We can all watch, he’ll make us all very happy, and we can rightfully hail him the “King of corn… porn… horn” or the Italian equivalent.
    But as you say, with Leeds, there is usually a sting in the tail especially if the signs appear positive.

    Love reading your articles by the way, Rob.

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  10. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
    Been a supporter since before Revie & learned early on that nobody wanted us to be successful. Nothing much has changed.
    PS Love your articles – always a good read.

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  11. remember payin into boys pen and climbing over barrier into kop

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  12. Hi Rob, great article. I’m old enough to have attended both the final and the game at Wolves 2 days later. What I remember most is the blatant penalty that wasn’t given agst one of the Wolves players, would have guaranteed us the double. As a Leeds fan I’m used to terrible decisions but that one has stayed in the mind for over 40 years.
    I’m very worried about the new owner but hey can it be worse than the present shower and surely he must be better than Ken!

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  13. markaizlewoodsfanclub

    is our beloved lufc disliked? of course it is, revie making little lufc the kings of English football the southern press hated it .
    paranoia is taking over with fans, believe it or not we are not the exception to the rule!!!! we get treated the same as the other 91 clubs!!!! by the fa.
    we have just been unlucky with idiot owners,who knows cellino just might be our knight in shining armour and brings back the good old days and I tell you what the fa and premier league (and most importantly sky these days) to quote keegan they” will love it”.
    who do you think they want to sell around the world? unknown`s like hull tigers wigan warriors(sorry athletic)Fulham,norwich and the likes .
    no they want to show the world lufc v devon united etc they want to show stadiums full of the most loyal & loudest fans in the country
    do the powers that be want to destroy lufc? no chance(they might not admit it)but a successful lufc(without the baggage) is an easy sell.

    am I being naïve? maybe but you have to hold on to something when you follow lufc

    by the way you write some cracking stuff rob(just a bit less of the paranoia plz)
    mot

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  14. This Hardaker bloke sounds like a right piece of work, when he was alive.
    Hardaker still has the undeserved honour of having a “Man of the Match” trophy named after himself, in every League Cup Final since 1990.
    It’s a total disgrace and absolutely laughable that the League Cup “Man of the Match” trophy is still named after a failed footballer and long forgotten Football League Secretary, when it should have been named after a professional football great, such as Bobby Moore or even Geoff Hurst.
    The “ganging up” situation, in which Mawhinney and the kangaroo court of Football League clubs, all voted for Leeds being docked 15 points, has not happened since and I have always viewed it as a “Leeds hating” punishment that the League 1 teams all gained a huge advantage from.
    The whole situation was about keeping Leeds in League 1 for as long as possible, because every away ground became a sell-out, when Leeds were in town and the 15 points deduction was always going to stop Leeds from getting automatic promotion in that first season in League 1.

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  15. http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/matches/19700401.htm
    Rob playing Wolves two days after the cup final is nothing compared to this log jam. 1970 was the year we chased 3 trophies right to the end and came up with nothing. 8 games in 15 days with the small squad size that was around then!

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  16. snifferclarkesboots

    A brief profile of Cellino on Jimbo’s European Football Papers’ Review and a potential future owner of Calgiary 🙂
    http://www.theguardian.com/football/video/2014/feb/07/james-richardson-european-football-papers-video-review

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  17. Here’s a thought. If you have the cash you can buy Leeds for virtually nothing. Buy 75% for 25 million and then buy ER for say around 15 million as fixed by the formula and then pop it into the balance sheet for say 35 million. Hey presto you got most of the value of your cash back! Now this just proves that most pretenders to the Leeds throne don’t have the money to play that trick. I strongly suspect that Cellino does.

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  18. Ropey Wyla

    As a mere mortal who like many others simply posts his opinion from time to time I feel I have the freedom of being as pleasant or unpleasant as I choose and it is with that in mind I say this; thankfully all old little grey men, not least those who have an agenda against our beloved club, eventually fit nicely into pine boxes or shiny urns, Mawhinney will be the next, God speed

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  19. I’d happily piss on Hardakers grave.

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  20. A hands-on approach to player recruitment from the owner? Great; after all, he’s done that so well for Cagliari. Presumably the chaos will start just after he moves to Yorkshire. I shall stick around for precisely as long as Brian does – maybe he’ll win promotion in the meantime, and Cellino go to prison before next summer’s window.

    Hardaker, burn in hell!

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