#9 Dream and Mind Games for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

The number nine shirt is an iconic one in the game of football – that has remained the case throughout all the changes in fashion, custom and positional theory over the years. As a former centre-forward myself, back in the days when such a term was still current, it’s rankled with me that there has been no Leeds United number nine this season. Not, at least, until today.

The arrival of Connor Wickham, on loan from Sunderland, has at last filled that vacancy. That the lad is enough of a natural centre-forward to demand the number nine shirt was borne out by some of his play on his debut in the 1-1 draw at QPR. Powerful in the air and adept on the ground, Wickham looks to be a formidable, if temporary, addition to United’s striking resources.

It was clear throughout the game that a fresh dimension was present in Leeds’ forward play. Flick-ons were won, accurately finding fellow United players. There was the promise of great things to come in the embryonic partnership with Ross McCormack. The odd give-and-go, the eagerness of each in possession to find the other in space. All of this bodes well for the short-term future.

Of course, Wickham’s signing is only a loan, as with keeper Jack Butland and the earlier acquisitions of Stewart and Kebe. These latter two are yet to live up to their reputations – to the extent that manager McDermott’s almost paternal belief in his former Reading charge Kebe is puzzling to many – but the quality of Wickham and Butland cannot be denied. A further loan addition is expected, and we can but hope that the standard of the last fortnight’s recruitment drive is maintained.

Meanwhile, on today’s evidence, much might be expected of the Wickham and McCormack axis as their partnership develops, with a nice little run of home games in prospect to get things simmering. To say that those winnable Elland Road fixtures will be make or break for United’s play-off prospects is no more or less than the truth.

But the more significant result remains the as yet unknown outcome of the off-field saga, as the Football League continue to scratch around for any reason to deny United their Italian prospective saviour, Massimo Cellino. It’s as if they’re messing with our heads, playing mind games with something that matters deeply to thousands of loyal and fanatical supporters around the globe.

The enhancements to the team under Cellino’s growing influence have necessarily been mere loans – but it’s the pedigree and quality of the last couple of captures which looks so significant. Whether or not either Butland, or Wickham, or both can be retained beyond the end of the season is a moot point. But it’s becoming clear that, as Cellino’s grip on Leeds becomes ever more hands-on, we are now shopping on Quality Street instead of looking to pick up discarded dross on Skid Row. Which makes it all the more bitterly frustrating that this “fit and proper” business drags ominously on. When you see the positive impact of Cellino, it begs the question: who in United’s recent history has shown more support or ambition – backed up by cold, hard cash – than the Italian has, in such a short time, and with such a long shadow over his ownership?

The more that Cellino invests, loans, contributes to the ongoing cost of keeping Leeds United going, the more his ownership begins to look like a fait accompli. If the League were to reject him now, the consequences for the club could be grave. Would that be an appropriate act for “fit and proper” rulers of the game? I beg leave to doubt their motives, and I have fifty years of murky history between Leeds and the League to back up those doubts.

If the Football League are in any real doubt that, for the future of Leeds United, Cellino is the only game in town, then they should look at his positive impact over the past few weeks, at his swift and decisive support of the manager’s desire to make his squad competitive. Look at that number 9 shirt, neglected all season up to this week. Perhaps, instead of bending over backwards to find reasons to dump United neck-deep in the brown stuff, they should simply do their job and apply the rubber stamp. It’s the decent thing to do, and it’s remarkably simple. Up, down, bang. Job done.

Even the suits at the League should be able to manage that.

10 responses to “#9 Dream and Mind Games for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

  1. I was wondering if you, Rob, or any of my fellow Leeds fans can explain this,,as it has troubled me ever since I found La Vita: the references to the football powers that be versus Big, Bad Leeds. In my country, in all the major sports, the teams that make up these leagues, fight each other as hard as they can, the goal, of course being, to advance in their playoffs and throw everybody else aside…yet the owners of these teams (who employ the people that run their leagues) all have a common goal, which is to see that as much money can be made as possible for them as a group.

    After all, it is a business. It is important to them to see natural rivalries…this spurs ticket sales. It is important to see teams hate each other…because it means more fans and thus more money. So why is their such hatred of Leeds by these people? If memory serves me correctly, Leeds is one of the biggest cities in England…their fans travel in bigger numbers then anybody else…and yet the league doesn’t want to see them successful?! Seems sort of archaic, no?


    • I’m sure there are differing viewpoints and I’d welcome a few here in answer to Brad. I have to go out, or I might have a little rant myself.


    • Hello Brad,can i attempt to address your question in stages? Firstly the EPL elite don’t have any trouble selling tickets they have enough glory hunters following the so called “big five”. Thats probably why anyone who dares challenge the cartel/cabal become subject to all kinds of dirty tricks and black propaganda,especially from the media. In the case of LUFC certain FA officials have held grudges against us for years,beginning with alan hardaker in the early seventies. I don’t buy the “everyone hates Leeds” thing though. Anyone who does hate us is naturally going to go to great lengths to let us know,i can assure you that although they seem to have the loudest voices they’re a tiny percentage of football fans. It’s the same with these polls to decide the most hated clubs,they’re no more a reflection of public opinion than a russian general election. Where i live i can mention Leeds United and most people recite the Revie team back to me,we are/were the 2nd team of anyone who knew about football in the 60s/70s and won legions more admirers during the O Leary era. I’m off out now too.


      • Chareose

        The reaction to Leeds united is relative to intelligence. For example although I see Man U as our natural competitors I don’t particularly view them with any hostility. I actually respect what they have managed to achieve and hope Leeds could emulate them. Neither did I automatically hate Alan Smith for going there (whilst waving his signing fee in favour of Leeds). The fans I meet who id view as intelligent don’t automatically hate leeds but there is a general feeling that Leeds are the club the rest of football loves to hate. We are their pantomime villains


  2. Multi-million pound, modern day football is still being run by a bunch of incompetent dinosaurs, that know absolutely nothing about football.
    The Football League, Football Association, UEFA and FIFA are all so out of date, they are all still using fax machines for their communicating.
    What next?, the computer?
    The Football League are obviously small-time compared to the major footballing bodies, but I have got a horrible feeling that they dragging their heels on the Cellino deal on purpose, just to ruin Leeds season.
    Leeds are one of the best supported teams, away from home, in Britain and put many Premiership teams to shame, by constantly filling out their allocation for every away game and maybe the Football League are pathetically jealous of Leeds being the biggest football club in the Football League.


  3. So nobody thinks it would be beneficial to the football league to have Leeds in the lower leagues to keep the little clubs in some sort of profit, ? I am tho rather paranoid.


  4. Andrew Manning

    Rob I could not agree more, Leeds fans ( club officials Inc ) are sick to the back teeth with the bias shown towards anything to do with LUFC from the FA. Without spending shed loads of cash ( that we don’t have ) in legal action against these freak children there’s not much we can do. This was all ment to be done and dusted within a couple of wks, lack of info supplied is their excuse, now we have to wait for their next pow wow to convene, what’s next ? We’re waiting for the next leap yr. What a bunch of shanks who want nothing more than to see LUFC go down the toilet. Surely clubs need to fans together an get these people ousted and replaced with some younger, finger on the pulse people.


  5. Reblogged this on earth535.


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