Daily Archives: 12/03/2014

Is Shaun Harvey the Right Man to Rule on Leeds Takeover? – by Rob Atkinson

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Shaun Harvey – smile on the face of the jackal?

The natural state of any football fan is one of unease, dissatisfaction, maybe even a touch of paranoia. The game is like that; it builds you up, raises your expectations – and then brings you crashing down to earth with an almighty bump. There are exceptions, of course. Some sets of fans have it easy by regular standards. But there are few hiding places, few protected bubbles of success. Even Man U fans, in their Devon armchairs, have experienced the bitter tang of reality this season.

How much more likely is it, then, that we fans of Leeds United will view the world outside of our own beloved club with a jaundiced and suspicious eye, ready at any time for some or other callous institution to do us a bad turn. Look at our history over the past half-century, and there’s never been too long between one grievous injustice and the next.

Now we wait for the Football League to pass judgement on a takeover that might just see us free of the sucking morass of poverty that’s been dragging us down for so long. We are looking at two sharply diverging paths ahead: upwards towards top-flight glory with funding appropriate to the size of the club – or back down among the dead men, without a pot to do the proverbial in, headed for another administration and ruing the day. Which shall it be? Leeds United must await the long, gleefully drawn-out pleasure of the Football League.

And who, pray, sits at the head of the body making this future-defining judgement? Why, it is none other than Shaun Harvey, erstwhile CEO of Leeds United in the unlamented Bates years, complicit in the actions which typified the reign of a man who once swore to bring about the death of our club, if he possibly could. When Bates finally fell, Harvey was finished at Leeds too. The two acted in tandem during a nightmare period for United and, in the minds of Whites fans, there was little to choose between them in the final analysis.

So how has a man with such baggage as this ended up as the ultimate arbiter in a case with such grave implications for a famous old football club to which he contributed no great service during his time there? How could such a possible conflict of interests have been allowed to transpire? Can real justice be done here? Can it be seen to be done??

It’s certainly not an ideal situation, is it – not by any stretch of the imagination. But, lest we forget, the League have prior form for tolerating what would seem to be blatant conflicts of interest regarding Leeds, and in the fairly recent past, too. During United’s first season in League One, the thorny issue of the 15 point deduction – the controversy which eventually denied Leeds an immediate, automatic promotion – was voted on by fellow League clubs, many of whom, our League One rivals, had a vested interest in keeping Leeds at that level, thereby benefiting from our phenomenal away support.

Was justice served? It ended up as a massively complex and technical question. But was it seen to be served? Those vested interests, that undeniable conflict between parochial benefits and the greater good – they say no. Nottingham Forest, the direct beneficiaries of this carve-up, would argue the opposite as they celebrated an unearned promotion. But the whole thing left a nasty taste which persists to this day.

Neither, in the instant case, will justice be seen to have been done if Shaun Harvey should be instrumental in any decision to deny United the lifeline that Cellino appears to represent. Rumours from London cabbies about possible South African consortia aside, the Italian seems to be the only game in town. If he is now compelled to walk away, Leeds will almost certainly be in dire straits, unable to meet running costs, tumbling headlong towards another administration and all that that entails. Is that what the League, under Harvey, actually want? Many United fans of a certain age, able to remember the malice and vindictiveness towards Leeds United of one Alan Hardaker, will nod glumly and say “Aye, most bloody likely they do.”

If Leeds are to be cheated of their saviour, must it really be signalled by a Judas in the reptilian form of Shaun Harvey, poised to betray his former club with the kiss of death? Couldn’t they at least maintain a semblance of judicial disinterest, reaching a decision without the dubious input or decisive vote of Bates’ former henchman – leading as it might to a fulfilment of old Ken’s 30 years-ago vow to kill Leeds United off once and for all?

If things pan out that way, everyone will know that there’s something rotten in the state of our football administration. Anomalies like this should not crop up, not when the fate of a football club – which, let’s not forget, looms so large in so many thousands of lives – is quite probably at stake.

Let’s have the right decision, by the League’s own rules – the standards that permit paragons of virtue like Carson Yeung, Vincent Tan and Assem Allam to run various of our clubs. Cellino would be OK by that reckoning – so let him get in and get on with saving the club which gave English League Football its finest team.

But if it all goes wrong – well. We’ll know at whom to point the accusing finger of blame – won’t we?

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That GFH Statement Decoded – By Rob Atkinson

This is a statement from GFH – we still own the club, right? We are the OWNERS, so get that into your heads until you’re told different. Capisce??

GFH and Massimo Cellino are currently jumping through a set of hoops set up by Shaun Harvey, who we upset quite enough last year, so we have to tread carefully or we might not get our money and Massimo might not get his football club. It’s all frightfully complex and even we don’t understand it, so we don’t see how you rabble are going to make head or tail of it.

The thing is – we’re on with it, OK?? It’ll be done when it’s done, as long as Shaun’s in a good mood. So stop nagging. We don’t mind putting out the odd statement now and then, but don’t expect us to give any actual info to mere turnstile fodder. Just trust us, right? Have we ever let you down? Actually, skip that one.

David Haigh has left GFH and gone to work with Cellino’s daughter, Eleonora, who is apparently a sport. He’s not daft, is he? Knows which side his bread is buttered, that one.

We would like to thank those of you who have continued to part with your hard-earned to see us ship nine goals in two home games. God knows where we’d be without you lot now that Massimo’s pulled the plug. Just hang on in there, it’ll be fine. Probably.

Statement ends.

So, Did Leeds United Ever REALLY Sort That Gypsy Curse?? – by Rob Atkinson

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I worship the memory of Don Revie.  He’s probably my all-time hero; he took over a nothing club with a nothing history, famous only as a stepping-stone for the World’s Greatest Footballer on his way to success with Juventus as Italian football’s finest-ever import (yes, step aside, Platini, Maradona, Law, Greaves et al – John Charles is still the King for the tifosi).  Don took over at Elland Road, instituted a scouting system second to none and – let’s cut to the chase here – gave us the finest club side these islands had ever seen.  But in one respect, Don’s effectiveness is open to doubt.  A notoriously superstitious man, he became convinced that Elland Road was under a malign curse – so he recruited a gypsy from Scarborough (I can personally confirm that the place is crawling with them) in order to exorcise the spell and ensure success.

The fact that Revie and his team achieved far, far less than they should have has been put down to various factors over the years, but the possibility that the lady from Scarborough was off-form the day she went about her curse-lifting cannot be excluded.  It would, perhaps, be the most likely cause of United’s managing to finish runners-up so often with easily the best team around.  Always the bridesmaids, never the brides, it was often and cruelly levelled at the peerless Whites – and while some trophies found their way to LS11, that legendary team – dominant during a viciously competitive decade – never won its proper dues.  And when the talent drained away from Leeds in the wake of Don’s departure – well, then the curse really bit.

From the perspective of a half-century on, it’s possible to argue the theory that Don failed in his efforts to rid Leeds United and Elland Road of supernatural barriers to success.  It’s even arguable that, since those halcyon times, the strength of whatever evil influence pervades LS11 has actually increased.  How else to explain the fact that so many players over the years have done well in elevated company, but arrive at Leeds United and are immediately transformed into bumbling failures?  Or, indeed, the number of players who have served a spell with the Whites, looked hopelessly out of their depth – and have then gone on to do distinctly OK elsewhere?

As a club, we do seem cursed in some vital particulars.  Look at the effect we have on centre-halves, for instance.  They come in, they look good, they earn a permanent deal – and then they start playing like Frank Spencer in the 1970’s sitcom “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em“.  Likewise with managers.  Our last two were notable for the ease with which they have attained promotion from this league into the FA Barclays Promised Land.  But they come to Leeds, shine briefly before the Gypsy’s Curse gets under their skin – and they then start floundering horribly, unable to make a single coherent decision, at a loss to pick a winning team or choose effective tactics.  They end up at after match interviews or press conferences, looking like rabbits caught in the headlights.  It’s pitiful.

Never has this line of reasoning seemed so obvious to me as right now.  We’ve just had two home games against distinctly un-scary opposition – and we’ve contrived to lose both, heavily, with only late goals putting a rather flattering patina on the ugly landscape of abject failure.  We have an intimidating stadium, players who have been successful elsewhere – and who will doubtless be successful elsewhere in the future – we have the best fans in the world, we’ve had managers with proven track records.  And yet we’re still irretrievably, inexplicably crap.  What to do?

Maybe the Italian guy is the answer in more ways than just the obvious financial sense.  He’s quite a superstitious cove himself, is our Massimo.  Perhaps he will sense the malevolent ambience around the place and take steps of his own to get rid of any other-worldly nasties that Don’s Scarborough exorcist failed to blitz.  Maybe the key to Cellino’s revolution lies in his ability to follow his own superstitions, make whatever supernatural changes are necessary and see Elland Road emerge from under the cloud of an ancient curse and into a bright new future where we get a bit of bloody luck every now and then.  At least we can rest assured we won’t be sporting a purple strip, and we can hope against hope that Cellino’s lucky colour is all-white.

It’s got to be worth a try.  Let’s face it, we’ve tried just about everything else – and still the Gods have rarely smiled upon us.  Then again, they’re usually too busy sorting out a spawny late winner for Man U, damn them.  We’ll just have to hope it’s not too late to get rid of whatever shreds of curse are still left after Don Revie’s failed attempt to get us blessed back in the sixties.  And I still won’t have a word said against the Greatest Manager There Ever Was.  He may not have known how to pick an effective gypsy, but he sure as hell could build up a club from nothing.  How we could do with the Don of Elland Road now.