What Leeds Fans Should be Demanding for NEXT Season – by Rob Atkinson


Leeds United - top flight in all but name

Leeds United – top flight in all but name

While all the wrangling over “fit and proper” tests is going on, while we’re all earnestly debating the future in-post of the current Leeds United manager (be it long or short) – while we’re all tearing our hair and rending our clothes at the media pantomime our club has become, enabling even Sun readers to essay a disdainful look down the nose at us – what should we really, actually be thinking about?  What burning issue deserves our closest attention?  What crucial conundrum should we be looking to resolve for ourselves which, once settled and decided, will colour our approach to all of the other, allied issues??

The answer, surely has to be (and the title of this article has probably already given you a clue to this) – what do we actually want for next season?  Where do we want to be, how do we want our campaign to go?  Assuming that by then the club is on an even keel – and I know that’s a fair old dangerous assumption – what would be the best way of celebrating this, of marking our return to sanity and being a football club again, instead of a three-ring circus?  I have a theory.

To me, there are two main possibilities.  For both of them, let’s assume that the Cellino takeover is complete, that Elland Road is Leeds United property again, and that there is some financial & managerial stability at the club with clear signs of a competitive transfer and wages budget.  I know that’s all a bit of a difficult proposition to swallow, but bear with me here.  Right then – one real possibility is that this current season has fizzled out into a mid-table anti-climax, as has been our usual recent experience.  It’s summer and we have the World Cup to suffer through, with some Test Cricket as a subsidiary diversion, and holidays and other lovely things that come with slightly warmer weather.  One of those lovely things could be a close-season of heavy recruitment involving quality players at Championship level, preparing our squad for a serious assault on this division next time around.  Nice.

The other feasible possibility is that, aided perhaps by some Cellino-financed muscle in the loan window, we’ve put together a run in the remainder of this season, and blagged ourselves a late play-off spot.  Riding the crest of a wave, we cruise into the Wembley final and a 4-0 thrashing of – ooh, let’s say Nottingham Forest, just for the karmic pay-back from 2008 – to finally make it back to the Premier League after all these years.  Also nice.

Incidentally, there is the faint third possibility, i.e. that we completely implode after a Football League refusal to sanction our Shady Italian. In this scenario, Shaun Harvey wakes up with a horse’s head next to him, Brian McDermott resigns and Michael Brown takes over as head coach, leading us to ten consecutive defeats and relegation to League One with the fire-sale of any remaining half-decent players we have.  Not nice at all, and hopefully not all that likely either.  Let’s just ignore that one, then.

So of the two scenarios that could play out – failure again this season but an all-out assault on the Championship Title next year, or struggling to glory via the lottery of the play-offs – which would we actually prefer?  Many will be seduced by the vision of being back in the big-time as early as next August.  Those people might also be hoping for an unlikely England World Cup victory, possibly with Jamie Milner scoring the decisive winner against Germany in the Final.  Optimism is an attractive trait – but the pay-off can be cruel.

Promotion this year would most likely see a season of grim struggle next time around, unless we were prepared and able to invest much more heavily than would be wise, or even legal under Financial Fair Play.  A season-long relegation battle might be the stuff of dreams for some clubs – but Leeds United aren’t a Norwich or a Cardiff.  Last time we went up to the top-flight, twenty-four years ago, we swaggered in for a year-long look around, during which we battered a fair percentage of the established opposition, before winning the bloody thing second year up.  The sheer cheek of it took everyone’s breath away. Now that’s the way to do it, if you’re a Leeds United.  But it’s so unlikely as to be next to impossible, that we could go up and stomp around like that next season.  Quite frankly, if all the effort of securing promotion is going to see us in a dog-eat-dog relegation fight with the dregs of the Premier League, I’d just as soon not bother, thanks.

On the other hand, if we are in a position to rebuild this summer for a Blitzkrieg approach to the second tier in 2014-15, then that could well lead to us blasting our way through the division and hurtling into the Premier League rather than scraping our way there by the fingernails.  Promotion achieved thus carries its own momentum – you’re building for the top flight on more solid foundations, as compared to our current footings of sand.  And the fun! Imagine a season next year to compare to the promotion campaign of 1989-90.  Those old enough to have witnessed it will know exactly what I mean.  After a slow start, we conducted ourselves like a Panzer tank for much of the league programme, the skill, commitment and aggression of our football blowing most opposition into tiny smithereens.  We had a rough patch, and it was a bit close for comfort in the end – but, still.  What a season that was.  Something along those lines, possibly an improvement in some aspects – that would do me, and I suspect many others too.  It’s certainly preferable to a Premier League season of grim, defensive, survival football.  So, tempting as the notion is of play-offs this season, with the incentive of rubbing somebody else’s nose in it as we’ve had our noses rubbed in it on showpiece occasions past – it really won’t do.  We’re useless at play-offs anyway, so if we made it, there’d probably only be misery for us.

So my conclusion is: let’s not waste our time with fast-fading hopes of promotion this year.  Let’s abandon such thoughts, unless the team suddenly gels, goes on a run and absolutely forces us to contemplate success.  On current form, let’s be realistic – that’s unlikely to happen.  Let’s instead wait this season out, hope and pray that the various suits in the club and at the League sort themselves out and get their act together, and let’s hope that this summer sees an exciting reconstruction programme ahead of an all-out attack on the summit of the Championship next time around.  Because, to me, when Leeds United arrive back in the top-flight, they should do so as Champions – not as winners of some tagged-on mini-tournament.  Let’s do it in style, as we did in 1964 and in 1990, taking such power and momentum along with us that we immediately became competitive in the higher sphere.  Let’s have our rivals wary of us. I remember a fanzine article in the summer of ’90, a Liverpool fanzine I think it was.  The title was “Bloody hell – they’re back!”, and it was all about Leeds United and how we’d probably seize the top-flight by the nuts and shake it up good and proper.  And we really did.

That’s what I really want for Leeds United.  I want us to do it in proper Leeds style, I want us to burst into that elite group like a torpedo, creating chaos everywhere.  I want them all to hate and fear us again – I definitely don’t want to read fans of other clubs saying, “Ah – look at once-mighty Leeds – finally managed to get back up and now see how they struggle”.  No, thank you.  Let’s do it the right way, the Leeds way.  Let’s make Vinnie and Howard and wee Gordon and Batts and the rest of them proud.  Let’s see Big Jack and Eddie Gray smiling at a revival of the Revie spirit, with “Keep Fighting” on the dressing-room wall and with our departed heroes approving, from wherever they are now.  Let’s March On Together – not limp apologetically into an exclusive club that doesn’t really want us.  Let’s get in there, and fuck ’em up.  To me, another year is a time well worth waiting – to make sure that we get where we want to be – by doing things the way we want to do them.

The Leeds United Way

The Leeds United Way

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40 responses to “What Leeds Fans Should be Demanding for NEXT Season – by Rob Atkinson

  1. I think me Cellino will allow Brian to bring in the loanees he thinks he needs.
    Then he can assess the manger over the remaining months, before spending millions on players in the close season.
    I suspect Mr Cellino will haste his own transfer targets in mind anyway.
    Ads we cannot loan players from Europe now, he will have to rely on Brian’s picks.
    I would like to see a team that can control the ball, and pass it to each other.
    That would be a giant step forward Rob.

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    • I agree. Those two fundamentals appear to be areas in which we’re weak. This is brought home to me every time I watch Premier League football, as played by the likes of Swansea, even. Literally a different league.

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  2. George Wood

    However…..

    Going up this season would provide a sufficient payback for GFH to exit having accomplished their goal of a return to their investors. Getting rid of GFH with their despicable ‘private equity model’ would be good for LUFC.

    Straight back down and then build the team and the Club to make a proper assault the following season using the parachute payment.

    (Just an idea)

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  3. David Lees

    Hate to be a fly in the ointment over this one but I have a nasty feeling that the FA are holding out until the end of the month when Cellino’s Court case is due to start and will hold their clearance until the result. If found guilty they will take great pleasure in handing the takeover to the other consortium who have already whined to them (Farnham and Co)
    Let’s hope I’m wrong !!

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  4. benitio sniffersshorts bianco sempre

    Rob, another sound piece as always, I have always felt I want a Leeds team to prove its self worthy of promotion, this was last felt when we gained promotion from the third tier, at least we were at team, at least we fought with passion, tenacity and the grit we love, when WE ARE LEEDS. It wasn’t pretty but we had some good players, of which I wont dwell on and bloody Whores witch, come the day I am so looking forward to knocking on their door. Frankly we just are not good enough, if Massimo gets the green light, some loan deals could make the difference, and if we got up Id take it, but it isn’t a group like we saw under the Don, Wilko or even Oleary. Brian is trying to say the right thing, he loves us, he wants us to do well, he wont be negative, he cant be he needs to save his job. So he is going to say we still have a chance, even Warnock still had belief!!!!!!!!

    if he does not help take us up this term, when IL DUCE is in power, the axe will come down as sure as eggs are eggs. As much as he has said he will back Brian it will be a short term. And to be frank when a bigger name comes in, we would have all forgotten a few weeks past, and thanking Brian for his time….. but fans are fickle and like all others we will want the best players and the best manager well DONT WE.

    if we go up it will be a miracle, so we return to what we ruddy always say this time in the season, next season, next season. well it has to be doesn’t it as we will not be happy without the thought of the Promised land.

    We now live and wait for the FL approval, and in the meantime we cross our fingers for this episode to conclude, so we can least put some planning in at the end of this season for the Triumph of next season, when we can parade some silver wear through the streets of Leeds again…. and keep on doing it for some time to come. we wear our colours we always will MOT.

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  5. It’s sickening that we’re already thinking about our hopes for next season in the championship isn’t it? If Cellino DOES come through,what about Vialli or Di Matteo as coach and if we’re going to sign any Italian in his 30s can it be Buffon as opposed to the buffoon who stood rooted to the spot for the Brighton goal? I’m convinced also that we could easily fill the stadium should we increase the capacity of Elland Road to 60,000. Now’s the time to do it while we still have a load of tripe on the park.

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  6. What’s the hold up rob fit and proper Roman abramovich carsten yeung Vincent tan football league get your finger out I rest my case

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  7. Mowatt, because he doesn’t have a great turn of pace, could be the new Batty, tell him to sit in win the ball back, play it to a White shirt and chip in with a goal once every 5 years. Where we would find another Vinny or Strach I’ve no idea, although Milner (with the help of Cellinos brass) on a season long loan wouldn’t go a miss.

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  8. know what you mean about going up with attitude,but i’ll take this season promotion &getting prepared pre season to aim at top half prem.Southampton are doing ok( plus I’m 60 & running out of time to see us back up)

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  9. Senario al la orange ,
    Cellino takes charge , buys back ER and reduces season ticket prices , ploughs a £20m war chest into the team and in the Jan window another £10m ( just to make sure we go up) , we then reach the final of the FA cup were we play out a 3-3 draw with man u and win on pens,, oh and at half time everybody gets a free pie and a pint at every home game !!!

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  10. AllWhiteNow

    Amen to that Rob. I’ve never understood the attraction of getting up to the PL just to struggle and watch your team being beaten – all for the money and none of the joy that comes from watching Leeds WIN. But lets not forget that the PL is a very tough league with a moneyed elite that make breaking into trophies or European adventures seriously difficult. Very different to the old 1st Div. So, I agree completely. It needs serious building and serious commitment from the owners to reap the rewards. As they say – no-one has a divine right to be in the Premier League, but we bloody well have!
    Massimo – make it happen mate, will ya? MOT

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  11. Isn’t promotion to the PL via the play offs worth 100m these days? More than enough to re-build a squad. Let’s have none of this “straight back down” talk chaps. That may be an acceptable business plan for the likes of sunderland,boro or burnley,but not us. Remember who we are.

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  12. I accept we would struggle in the Prem’ but we are struggling now!
    Prem’ every time.
    Lets struggle in comfort.

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  13. LOL it’s got scenario no. 3 written all over it, hasn’t it!? 🙂

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  14. Let’s see where we are after the Bolton game Rob. If everything has settled down and we have 2 or 3 new players in we might be on a roll. I could take losing a Play Off final this year but I just feel we might make it. As for a struggle in the Prem, I just don’t think Cellino would be having that somehow!!

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  15. Would be happy with a 3year plan rebuild and gel next season with a team full of young talented players then promotion in year 2 then let’s fucking have it in year 3 live in hope and die in disappointment MOT

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    • We are well into our 3 year plan, but I cannot see any progress at all.
      Life is too short for any plan past the next game.

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  16. Mike Durham

    Hi Rob, fabulous article as ever and fair points very well made but I’m not sure you can always choose when you want to be promoted… I personally feel that an awful lot of Investors would probably love to be part of a Whites success story but feel that involves the PL as oppose to the upper echelons of the Championship and if we were to go up via the play-offs, I have no doubts about our ability to stay there.
    I’d love us to try and build a team around a certain Mr Hoolahan who I think would be a realistic target for this year and could well fill the Strachan role…at least we’d get the ball down and play and be a much more exciting proposition to watch.

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  17. Interesting piece, since I had already decided to have a rant on your site following a disappointing first visit to Brighton FC last Tuesday.

    I won’t even comment on the difficulty of actually getting there. Super stadium, but what a nightmare journey. I actually missed the first ten minutes, but by half time I had realised that this was actually a good thing! One of the worst 35 minutes of football I have ever witnessed. Everything was so flat and lifeless. The second half began with 10 minutes of pressure from the Mighty Beiges, but soon subsided into a mediocre non-event and after Ulloa had scored Brighton’s inevitable goal, we never looked likely to get anything back.

    Now, I’ve been to plenty of games where we’ve lost, but I still had a good time. Excitement, bit of banter with fellow fans, a good sing-song, a decent performance giving a sense of injustice and some hope for the future. There was none of that on Tuesday, just a flat sense of continuing despair.

    I see the club & BM are talking up our chances of promotion once stability has been restored – fat chance! They can’t be serious, we are just so mediocre, it’s untrue. Having grown up with the suffocating possession football of Revie’s boys, I find the team’s total inability to keep the ball infuriating. This is not a recent trend, Howson & Johnson gave the ball away regularly and Austin is following the trend. It’s just BASIC. Keep the ball and the opposition are out of the game.
    Kenny is adequate, makes some good reaction saves, but poor on crosses.
    Centre backs also adequate. Lack pace and are prone to too many mistakes. What’s happened to Zaliukas? He looked class, but is frozen out after one awful game.
    Warnock is a liability IMO. A thug with zero attacking contribution, and the tendency to give away fouls in dangerous areas.
    Byram is not yet back to his best, but has bags of potential. Wasted at full back, might make a good creative CB / sweeper.
    Midfield is lightweight and can’t keep the ball. Austin has the power, but no finess. Would be better in a more defensive role. Murphy is neat & tidy and gives the ball away less than most, whilst coming up with the occasional blinding ball. Needs to impose himself on the game more and would be better played in a more attacking role. Mowatt looks promising, but is very raw.
    Upfront, Ross is our only real class act, but things just didn’t go for him Tuesday. I’ve always rated Kebe, he’s got real pace, but he’s just not brave enough for Leeds. He’s a luxury we can’t afford just now. As for Pugh, a defensive player as part of our strike force, why, just why?
    Which brings me to BM. Top bloke, loves Leeds. Top manager? I’m starting to have my doubts.
    Tactics on Tuesday were dire. Midfield either gave the ball away after 2 passes or played backwards to the defence, three of whom can ‘t pass water, so back to Kenny and a long ball up to our 5’8″ lone striker marked by TWO strapping CB’s!
    After 5 minutes it was obvious we need 4-4-2 and Matt Smith. Ok, he has his limitations, but he wins almost everything in the air, and Ross is clever enough to profit. Making the change after we finally went behind was too little too late.
    Finally, the fans. We are in grave danger of not being special anymore. We’ve always been passionate and witty with our songs. Tuesday, the fans were as flat as the game. Even my favourite chant of WATCCOE was sung as a dirge. People were angry and nasty, I stood next to a drunk who spent the whole fame shouting that he’s rather lose than be a faggott – methinks he doth protest too much!
    Is some stability & progress too much to hope for,

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  18. I wonder whether anyone in Bahrain has bothered at ANY stage whatsoever, to pick up the phone and call the al Thani people to see if THEY”D be interested in buying a much much bigger club than Cagliari? Let’s face it, they make Cellino look like a pauper and can certainly afford us.

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  19. Why don’t we get 10,000 fans to stick 5k each in??
    £50mill not a bad start………….

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  20. Promotion worth 100 mill., worst scenario straight back down where we would have been, 60 mill., wind fall, 160 mill better off, take promotion when& what ever way AGREE mostly with .Rex I’ve been saying what you have said weeks ago ,one thing though Austin looks powerful but is not& he WASplayed deeper & was even worse thanhe is now,but blind faith Brian keeps investing! Zaluikus wasn’t & never will be class & Howson was excellent & is in prem league. There is giving the ball away trying a25 yd pass then theres giving the ball away( present team) trying 1yd pass sideways OR backwards & Kebe is just too frail & timid Poleon sitting doing nothing much better

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    • It’s not ALL about money. Or rather, it IS – but it shouldn’t be. And if money is the reason it’s ok to be just any old club and go up budgeting for relegation – instead of doing it the Super Leeds way, going up and basically taking over and doing as we like as we have TWICE in my lifetime – then the Leeds United I knew is truly dead. And another bit of my soul died with it.

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  21. Counte Of Monte Fisto

    The sad thing is Rob of our current squad only Ross could be considered premier league quality with a revitalised Byram capable. The rest lower championship or league 1. Let’s get this season over with mid table safety again. Then get rid of ALL of our players except the 2 above plus Mowatt, yes that’s right get shut of the lot they are garbage. Normal wisdom says don’t make too many changes but these lot are so crap I would ignore that. Problem is it’s adding up to a lot of cash, £25m to buy us £15m for ER, £6m for TA. Then £5m plus to clear out the garbage then £10-15m to get in promotion quality players. Then that’s just the start, hope Massimo’s got deep pockets.

    The fact that Colin thought he had left the cake needing only the cherry adding should have him locked up for his own safety.

    I hope for another Vinnie, Sterland and Strachan season, oh how I dream of that again. Being allowed to compete would be a start though.

    MOT

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  22. Reality Cheque

    I see a very bright light at the end of our decade in a dark tunnel. All the expressions of doubt are understandable given our history of being cheated out of European Cup Finals, robbed of any realistic chance of winning the double against Wolves, and having the misfortune to have a League Championship title wrecked by a certain (non-Specsavers client) with a whistle called Tinkler etc, etc. However, I am daring to believe that Cellino will get across the line and bring a significant change in our fortunes. 10 more days or 15 more days of waiting is bearable by comparison so lets be patient and enjoy the party when it arrives. MOT

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    • I always say Tinkler helped rob us of the ’72 title too, given that Elland Road was closed for the first few league games the start of the season after his comical display to help West Brom win that day.

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  23. With Cellino’s sale of Cagliari now in doubt (allegedly), do you think for one second that anyone at all at Elland Road or Bahrain has the intelligence to contact the Al Thani family?
    These blokes own Paris St Germain, not some pokey Serie B outfit with no ground and more managers than Tesco’s!
    Not only that, their wealth makes Cellino look poverty-stricken.

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    • I do believe that part of the Fit & Proper test means that, if the buyer already owns a club, they have to commit to offloading it so as to avoid any possible conflict of interest – which is presumably why Cellino seems to be trying to sell Cagliari. But can you see the al Thani family wanting to sell PSG in order to buy Leeds? Can anyone else shed some light on this?

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      • I don’t believe that can be the case Rob, given that Watford and two other clubs including Udinese are owned by the same interests? I might be wrong though. I guess i’m clutching at straws now, the same as the rest of us!
        Al Thani family is a lot more cashed-up than Massimo could ever hope to be. Wouldn’t Leeds United be a more tempting name to own than Cagliari?

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      • It was just something I read mate but I take your Watford point. And – bias notwithstanding – I’d have to agree that LUFC are potentially a better option than Cagliari. What’s more, if we’re looking to hit the top, we would NEED al Thani type wealth – nothing less would do.

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