Being Leeds: It’s Hoping for the Best but Always Expecting the Worst – by Rob Atkinson


Leeds United - up against loaded dice

Leeds United – up against loaded dice

As the calendar tips over onto Friday, April the 4th – the day a QC is due to hand down his decision on the appeal of Massimo Cellino against his disbarring as Leeds United owner – it’s hard not to reflect on the track record of Leeds as a club, whenever these crucial days come around.  By and large, it’s been a tale of frustrated hope and seemingly inevitable disappointment, whether you’re talking about Cup replays, Cup Finals, points deductions or the attempted over-turning of massive miscarriages of justice.

Justice always seems to frown on my club.  It even did so when it was most urgently sought: in the matter of two lads who travelled abroad to watch their team play in a UEFA Cup semi-final, and who never returned home. On Saturday it’s the fourteenth anniversary of the senseless murder in Istanbul of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight – and justice has never really been served for that despicable act.  RIP lads – you’d be as disgusted as the rest of us with what’s been going on at the club you loved.

Beside such human tragedy and wanton waste of life, lesser matters of course pale into virtual insignificance.  Nevertheless, Leeds United have faced another confrontation with the arbiters of justice this week – and it may well be that yet another slap in the face is about to be administered, after an agonisingly long and drawn-out process which has been dragging on now, through various twists and turns, since well before Christmas.

It’s a saga that has dragged down what had seemed a reasonably promising season with it.  The Leeds of pre-Christmas had been doing alright, without pulling up too many trees; they seemed well-placed to kick on in the new year and maybe challenge for a long-awaited return to the top flight.  Wind forward a few short months, and the picture is radically different. Distracted – apparently – by off-field issues and worries over ownership and payment, the team has performed dismally against a backdrop of cowardly betrayal by GFH, United’s current, spineless owners.  Now we look over our shoulders fearfully at the relegation dogfight, rather than upwards in aspiration towards the play-off zone.  The pattern is remarkably similar to last year; the fans do their bit, pay through the nose – only to see their club’s campaign implode and peter out into embarrassing failure.

Historically, we should be used to having our hopes raised in expectations of glory, only to see those hopes turn to dust as bitter disappointment invariably claims us yet again.  Without going over the dreadful list of all those near-misses – just think of two European Finals ruined for us by bent referees, of domestic ambitions in the early seventies thwarted by intransigent and vindictive League officials (thanks, Mr Hardaker), of an official FA dinner breaking out into spontaneous applause as Leeds were beaten in the 1987 play-off final, of a Premier League referee raising his arms in triumph as the opposition scored against us in a match he was controlling.  And so on and so forth.  We really should know better, by now, than to expect anything more than bad news, the cold flash of shock and bitter let-downs time and time again.

As we await the Cellino verdict, we are again hoping for better times – and we yet again find our mood turning towards pessimism as we realise that – as ever – this one will probably go against us.  In the last day or so, a senior politician has been given a gentle rebuke for another expenses swindle, and Sunderland FC have escaped severe disciplinary action for fielding an ineligible player in five matches this season.  Yet it’s more than likely that Leeds will finally be denied their saviour over a matter of import duty on a yacht which amounts to a measly few hundred grand against Cellino’s wealth of over a billion – and yet this has been gleefully accepted as dishonesty rather than the oversight it quite possibly was.

More happily, it turns out, Massimo Cellino may well be far down the road of  perfecting a Plan B, in anticipation of a stolid refusal to accept him as Leeds owner.  It is now being suggested that he could join forces with erstwhile rivals Together Leeds and their front-man Mike Farnan, to remain in the picture as Leeds move into a new era.  By the time Friday finishes, it’s quite probable that we will have all of our hopes invested in this Plan B if – as history teaches us is almost certain – United get their hopes dashed in Court yet again.  Perhaps the powers that be are even now figuring out a way to nip this idea in the bud.  Paranoia?  Maybe, maybe not.

It does sound, after all, like the old story of a hard-done-by sports team shouting resentfully, “We wuz robbed!”  But when you look at the history of Leeds United – and at what tends to happen every time one of these crunch times comes around – it’s hard to escape the conclusion that we’re rolling with the dice loaded against us.  Inevitably, we end up disappointed, hopelessly crying foul to wilfully deaf ears. There’s no real reason to suppose that things will be any different this time around.  Disappointment and injustice.  It just goes with the Leeds United territory.

Could it really be different today?  By the time our demoralised team takes the field at Wigan on Saturday, we’ll most probably know.  Meanwhile, it’s fingers crossed for Cellino and Plan A.  Surely, one of these days, Leeds United will cop for an even break?  It might be today – stranger things have happened.

Just – you know – don’t hold your breath. 

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24 responses to “Being Leeds: It’s Hoping for the Best but Always Expecting the Worst – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Rob, the only up side of being down under is that I get to read your great and incite-full posts first. The down side is that I’m up half the night constantly checking blogs, Twitter, news now etc. in the expectation that we will all be finally be put out of our misery with this blasted takeover saga. FFS QC, FL, destiny, roll that god damn loaded dice!

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  2. RIP lads never forgotten

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  3. scottywhites

    RIP mr loftus and mr speight seems like only just the other year how time has passed you are always in our thoughts at elland rd and will never be forgotten. Lets just hope the QC has seen the light and gives cellino the go ahead, and i still say cellino and together leeds would be better for us as a joint venture, lets hope the boys do a bit better against wigan on sat;i cant belive im saying this but a draw would do, i will still be there…..MOT

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  4. It seems to me that our QC is taking a long time to say yes.
    Which leads me to think he is writing a large tome on the validity of the FL position, with some further recommendations, which will naturally involve a huge down side aimed at LUFC, who are totally responsible for losing up said QC’s week and making him do some work.
    A raft of sanctions:- 1/ containing a transfer embargo to include the inability to release players whose contracts end,2/ A points deduction for next season for attempting to better oneself. 3/ A recommendation that a sale or transfer of interest or ownership be delayed for 12 months for a cooling off period to stop the speculation over ownership.

    It would seem to be a waste of a week if he were to just say ok . Unless he is sorting out a compensation package for all the damage that has been caused to LUFC by various ruling body’s FA, FL, uefa etc. If only.

    Thanks rob for some good reads.

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  5. Rob, I have found the whole process with this QC very strange. If we are given to understand the only sticking point was the interpretation of Italian law in the UK for the appeal process surely it would not take more that about an hour to decide that one with expert help?
    So, there must be a lot more going on than we know presently, and it could be that an acceptable deal is being thrashed out with Farnan’s lot being involved.
    Meanwhile, we hear that the penniless asian arabs have been poking their noses into team selection; the players are being drip fed their wages and Haigh has a plan with Bates to jump in and buy the club out of administration.
    The question is, who controls that decision as it appears Cellino can sell on his 75% stake if refused by the FL to anyone he fancies without GFH being involved. You couldn’t make it up, and if you did no one would believe it!!
    Also, there is an Act going before Parliament to take the whole vetting process out of the hands of the FL and Premier and put it with the FA because of ‘possible business influences’ on decisions. For that read a committee of other club representatives voting another member down for their own self interest!
    We live in hope.

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  6. i have every faith in the system rob , and the system says the FL had to turn him down last time to save face , they knew he would appeal and win.. but this way they can be seen as doing things to the letter of the FL law…

    RIP KEVIN AND CHRIS

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  7. As always, a well thought out piece Rob, a rare chink of common sense in an otherwise insane world for Leeds fans everywhere. I despair at the comments made by so called supporters on various blogs/comments and is is the case, the rabid opinions of the small minority tar us all with the same brush. You only have to occupy the south stand on a Saturday to see these people carry out their funny little lives. Occasionally amusing, always dim, sometimes vile. Hey ho, a reflection of society I guess.

    Anyway, to my brief point. Whether or not you are a BM fan, and recent results and performances have shaken most of our confidence, there are lines that decent people don’t cross, either in writing or by deed and this week the bad has turned into the ugly. Be ashamed of yourselves the phone call makers, blog abusers etc. How anyone can be expected to operate, regardless of income levels, under a cloud of misery, uncertainty and lunatic interference from above from people who know nothing about football? Failure to understand that and the mitigating circumstances illustrates lack of human empathy and downright stupidity.

    Rant over. Onwards and upwards to better days.

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  8. snifferclarkesboots

    To put a positive spin on this Rob. The occasions when our club are successful you know it has been earned on merit, often against the odds. There is no success sweeter than that.
    Other clubs, I won’t bother to tarnish the white space, have won far more trophies but as you say have often had the ‘blessing’ of heavily bias officialdom. The same bodies who are galled by any good that happens to Leeds.
    It is a cross we Leeds supporters have to bear and I cannot see it being otherwise.
    But ask yourself this. Would you want to mingle with a bunch of cronies, pimps and flakes routing for a continually ‘successful’ Leeds, or be part of a genuine core of dedicated supporters savouring the hour when it cometh. For that hour will come again and it will be sweet.

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  9. Peter Dout

    Tim, in answer to your question why the QC is taking so long, it is because they do! I asked my wife ( solicitor and once of the bar) on Monday if an expeditious outcome could mean 24 hours? She just smiled and said a week is rapid, QCs’ rarely reply in less than two weeks. I’m afraid it matters not how long it took the QC to come to a decision, the time lag is customary.
    I am just hoping Messimo’s week spent here in Leeds ( came last Friday ) is a pointer to him knowing something we don’t. MOT.

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  10. I’m out tonight so it would be great to have something to celebrate for a change. We sure as buggery won’t have anything to cheer about after tomorrows battering. I’m rather concerned about the abusive phone calls BM is alleged to have received during the night though. Obviously if these are Leeds supporters then they’re lowlife,but how on earth did they get his number? There could be skullduggery afoot, possibly journalists desparate for a story during the lull. Or dare i say it BM himself trying one last time to get the dissenters back on his side? Until there’s an arrest some of the sanctimonious bloggers and supporters should be careful what they say.

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  11. Reality Cheque

    On a lighter note for just a second Rob, can whoever is responsible for the legal fees regarding Cellino’s appeal against the Football League’s ruling be granted League-al Aid???

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      • Brace yourselves for more bad gags as the club has announced (another) sleepover,this time it’s on the pitch. They really do walk into these jokes,backwards.

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      • Apparently there’s going to be 60 tent emplacements with a maximum of four to a group, no all adult groups as it’s a family-oriented thing. That’s 240 people overnight on the hallowed turf. Will they have signs saying “Do not leave rubbish on the pitch”?? And will those signs spell the end of their United careers for certain midfielders and forwards???

        That’s bad joke number one – now, carry on 🙂

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  12. FFS – if THE decision is to be announced at 18.00 today, then the decision must be known. Why wait ? Two reasons – torture Leeds fans for as long as possible and enable the weasels from the FL to disappear for the weekend and leave somebody else to field the flak. Nothing new there.

    However, what is new is the rebirth of real hope. MC and Together Leeds really could be the dream team, neatly sidestepping the FL’s lumbering attemps to land the ko blow. A group with, at last, the best interests of the club at heart and the financial muscle to make it happen.
    BUT- it’s the hope that kills you.
    MOT with MCTL; please.

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  13. FFS – just read that there is a further delay in announcing THE DECISION !

    If this isn’t incompetence it must be malevolence. Either way it is a complete and farcical shambles. Would you expect anything else from an organisation led by Shaun Harvey.

    There must be a major shake up of the FL after this. Don’t hold your breath though.

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  14. There will be no decision to today according to sky sports.Are they waiting for the talks between together leeds and elanorasports to come to an agreement. Let’s hope this is going to be our new beginning.

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  15. Another good read Rob.
    The further delay in proceedings only goes to demonstrate the point you’re making. And the more the ‘establishment’ dick us around the more desperate I am for Massimo, the iconoclast, to beat them and take charge of LUFC.

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  16. Leeds are organising a “sleep over party” , they claim its the first ever time Leeds fans will have slept at elland road…
    Do i really need to say it rob ?

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  17. Lol , too obvious … oh the irony

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