Leeds MUST Match Skipper McCormack’s Ambition – by Rob Atkinson

Ross the Boss

Ross the Boss

Conflicting, contradictory noises have been emerging from Elland Road this last week or so, ahead of what we must hope will be a busy and productive summer of change for Leeds United.  Some days provide cause for optimism – a “new Leeds” is spoken of, and one of the junior Cellinos makes himself busy on Twitter with all sorts of enticing hints and half-promises.  The boss, meanwhile – Massimo Himself – is occupying his time by metaphorically rending his garments, tearing his hair and gnashing his teeth at the chaos he has found since entering the sacred portals of the spiffy new East Stand façade.  We understand from the latest pronouncements that the club is haemorrhaging a cool £100k a day in operating costs, with losses of around £1m a month.  The closure of the training centre, Thorp Arch, until pre-season training begins is, perhaps, understandable in those parlous circumstances.  But what wider message does it send out?

Massimo the Concerned

Massimo the Concerned

Cellino had spoken earlier of a season ahead which will primarily be about ensuring that the boat is fit to float, with any ambitions of sailing to the Promised Land of the FA Premier League to be deferred until 2015/16.  Again, there are at least two ways of looking at this.  It might be seen as sober pragmatism from a man horrified at the scale of what he has taken on, hamstrung by the restrictions of so-called “Financial Fair Play” regulations and determined to get his priorities right.

And yet a professional football club runs on aspiration and ambition – especially one with the size, history and expectations of Leeds United.  This is adequately reflected by the very public stance of the club’s skipper, Ross McCormack – who is firmly of the opinion that Leeds has to be up there at the sharp end next season, competing for elevation to the top flight at the earliest opportunity.  His message is: I’m willing to stay and fight – as long as the club as a whole will be fighting alongside me. This attitude is understandable in a professional footballer approaching that watershed age of thirty.  Ross is saying that he cannot afford to hang around waiting for ambition to kick in – he needs to consider what’s left of his career and, as a Scottish international and a family man, where and at what level he wants to be playing his football.

For once, it’s possible to be less than cynical about a footballer’s motivations. We know that most of them are preoccupied with the bottom line; the net amount on their payslips.  But McCormack has shown an unswerving devotion to the Leeds cause – apart maybe from an attack of doubt on that confusing night when McDermott was sacked and Sky TV mounted an unprecedented and disgraceful campaign to flog him off to any and every interested party.  McCormack though has never made any secret of the fact that he is happy and settled at Elland Road – but he wants success, and in that he is fully in step with the voraciously hungry and cruelly deprived fans.  It’s possible to divine also that Captain Ross is less than impressed by the closure of Thorp Arch; one barbed tweet asked plaintively for training facilities ahead of his next Scotland call-up, with a pointed reference to the locked and gated Leeds training ground.

Clearly, then, there is the potential for some conflict of interests in the summer ahead.  If it were down to the fans, there is little doubt as to who would be accorded overwhelming support.  McCormack is all for ambition and investment, with a concerted push for promotion at the top of his agenda.  It is abundantly clear that, if Leeds United fail to deliver a strong challenge next season, McCormack will consider his position at the end of it.  He would have little choice and none should really criticise him.  Time and tide waits for no man and, especially, for no footballer.  The Leeds United support will feel that McCormack speaks for them, and they will be solidly behind him in the urgent desire for a squad that can deliver next time around.

Cellino’s horror-struck attitude may not, after all, be a total impediment to the emergence of this required ambition from United next season – but clearly we are going to have to wait and see what moves are made in the transfer market before we can judge exactly what the on-field aims are for 2014-15.  Rumours abound about who will stay and who will go – indeed, as I write, manager Brian McDermott himself is heavily backed to take the reins at The Hawthorns for West Brom’s next relegation battle.  There’s no doubt that a hell of a mess needs clearing up at Elland Road, despite the plaintive denials of 10% shareholders and 100% parasites GFH.  Whether the club can emerge from this difficult summer as a fighting-fit unit next season must be open to severe doubt.

At some point, there is going to have to be some accord between the leading players in this Elland Road drama/farce.  Those leading players should include the Cellinos, the manager – whoever that might be – and leading footballer Ross McCormack.  The minimum requirement, as things start to get sorted out, is that all of these principal characters should – as far as possible – be singing from the same hymn-sheet.  If that’s not possible, then it’s hardly the work of a Sherlock Holmes to detect that trouble lies ahead.

As for the fans – we’ve had enough of trouble.  We’ve had enough of seeing the name of Leeds United making headlines for every reason under the sun – except for positive football reasons.  One straw to clutch at is the recent exchange of courtesies and opinions between Gary Cooper, representing LUST, and Massimo Cellino – who was able to provide assurances of “sensible” investment to improve the squad.  It sounds as though there is now a line of communication open between Mr Cooper and Signor Cellino, and that’s surely something to be glad and relieved about.  LUST have always seemed to me to have the potential to be honest brokers.

Whether the ambition and investment that can be spared for next season will be enough to see Leeds make enough of a show to satisfy the burning desire and ambition of Ross McCormack – that’s another matter.  But the skipper has vehemently made his point and has placed on the table the not inconsiderable stake of his immense footballing talent, goalscoring record and leadership ability. In many ways this “skipper’s stand” is the single most positive thing about Leeds United here and now.  If there’s one thing above all the Elland Road crowd has always loved and taken to its collective heart, it’s a trier, a battler, someone whose every fibre is straining for success and the pride of wearing the shirt and the badge.  When an individual like that puts his cards on the table as Ross has, he’s well on the way to legend status – no small matter in the context of Leeds United’s star-studded history.

One last, positive note.  In another of his regular tweets, and in among the usual rumours that he’ll be leaving for Cardiff, West Ham, Newcastle etc etc – McCormack has given us a cheery “see you pre-season!”  That’s a half-decent straw to be clutching at amid the current doom and confusion.  Let’s just hope it comes true – and that we can March On Together from there.

25 responses to “Leeds MUST Match Skipper McCormack’s Ambition – by Rob Atkinson

  1. sniffershorts

    Ross has served us well, unless we invest in a decent playmaker behind him , and a decent winger, who he and the likes of the improving Smith can feed off, he will be off. The problem this term due to Ross and his tenacity and hard work rate elsewhere, it took a toll on his ability to score a whole load more goals, as a marksman he could be a 40 a season man in this league. of course we need to invest in all areas, and if I suspect he leaves, and im betting he will, a new player of his calibre will be hard to find. Rob now Malaga are sniffing around and plenty premiership teams also, he has said he wants to play at a higher level who wouldn’t …. with all the doom and gloom of how Mr Cellino is going to clear up this unholy mess, he will see 6-7 million as a good fee to spread on an uneven field unfortunately…. I hope I am wrong very wrong…….


  2. I believe with all the players heading out and finacial mess we seem to in we will struggle to asemble a team capable of bettering this year, we have a squad to build. Ross going wouldnt surprise me reminds me of snodgrass other year, thats all he wanted was us to invest and get a team together capable of competing near the top, we will see



  3. Spot on article, we know nothing yet, exciting plans announced that there is a consideration between fans, LUST and MC about buying ER via a consortium of fans and management. It’s obvious we are still recovering from the massive fallout 12yrs ago, Bates was a vampire and GFH massively incompetent. As long as MC get’s us on the straight and narrow, improvements to the squad whilst not being afraid to tell it like it is, I think most fans would take that dose of humility. As for Ross McCormack at £6m, if that cash went on 4 or 5 decent players, whilst we lose a lot of the dead weight, perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad thing,


    • We’ve had a long history of vampires not just bates.

      Gfh and the various hangers on around the krasner consortium also bled us dry. Ridsdale spent like mad, but it wasn’t his money, he still left elland road with his pockets well and truly lined.

      Even before ridsdale, fortherby thought “theyve had their title, now its time for me to feather my nest”, selling the likes of batty and macallister, weakening the team just at the point where all the big money for playing in europe started.

      Leeds have a long and ignoble tradition of being led by short sighted greedy venal idiots.


  4. I agree about McCormack, hes quality and about as loyal as it gets in modern football but It is also possible to view some of his remarks as snipes at Cellino. Ross feels hes in a strong position and as you say understandably wants the club to match his ambition otherwise hes off.

    Unfortunately Cellino is giving the impression that its not going to be easy to rejuvenate leeds as quickly as first hoped. To be fair he appears to have obstacles at every turn. The Financial mess, the FFP rules and I would lay a wager that the Yanks preparing take over of Cagliari will not be happy with Cellino switching top players to LEEDs. Many of those players Like Ibarbo who are involved in the WC want to wait until the end of the tournament to see what interest it stirs up.

    I feel for Cellino and I wish Friday night transfer day had panned out differently. He was on the verge of bringing in 7 players but I suspect that some of those avenues have closed or become more difficult.

    Also whats Cellinos understanding of the british transfer market….who is going to supply him with targets ??? He must find new respected scouts in the UK. He has my sympathy and I would most certainly be onboard with any scheme involving fan buyout of the ground and facilities.

    Back to Ross……….I suspect that the way things are going, Cellino may sell him (out of annoyance) but as you hinted Rob, that would be a risky business because 30 goal a season strikers don’t grow on trees…..infact its difficult to name a couple of players who can do it in recent times ?


  5. Can I also just say on here……Lee Chapmans Sofa……what absolute drivel every time??? Latest article he implies that Cellino cant be a billionaire because hes not prepared to pay £100 for the Thorpe Arch lecy bill…………. (FFP ??? Why Should Cellino be happy about pumping money into a loss making club. Like any intelligent individual he will want to make the club atleast break even ??)
    Then he rants on about ex Leeds legends who work for Leeds………yes Lorimer is a waste of time but the others have done nothing wrong………..I know I know I should not read his articles and have just blocked his site on news now……………


  6. Sadly I dont think mr cellino has as much money as we think.

    I’m expecting mid table mediocrity again.

    Still glad he bought the club though, I would be expecting relegation if gfh still had their claws in the club.

    Rather worryingly odds on ross going to malaga have shortened to 2/1. Wouldn’t blame him though, its a better opportunity than joining one of the relegation threated premiership teams.

    Can’t help thinking we would have been better going bankrupt after ridsdale and starting again. Worked for fiorentina who got In the shit around the same time, now they’re 4th in serie A and reached the Italian cup final.


    • It doesn’t matter how much money he has, you are only allowed to spend a certain amount on a football club beyond what it can bring in terms of income………….otherwise we face transfer bans and large fines under the FFP rules.


      • Quite probably this is why he’s saying he needs a year’s grace to sort things out. If he invests in the infrastructure of the club, that’s not affected by FFP – I believe. So buying and improving the stadium and investment in other income streams would all improve the whole picture and give more latitude for squad investment. But still – you can understand Ross being in a hurry.


      • And yet teams like man u are allowed to spend well beyond their means and have the highest debt ever In world football

        FFP just another scam to look after the “big” clubs and give them more of a slice if tge foitball pie. look at how theyve clamped down on the new boys man city, but turned a blind eye to real madrid, PSG, chelsea etc..


      • I’m sure that there will be people at each club affected with their eye on the bigger picture, ready to complain loud and long about any perceived preferential treatment. Man U simply aren’t as scary these days as they used to be.


      • oh I think we will be playing them again within a few years rob.

        But…… because theyll go down. They’re situation at the moment feels very simmilar to the back end of the ridsdale era.


      • Chareose

        Man United earn hundreds of millions. Not a good example. Man City overspend and are being punished for it…..apparently


      • Man u have the highest debt in world football.

        their budget depends on regular European football (much like ours did under ridsdale). big crowds don’t protect them from that, look at dortmund, biggest crowd in europe, more than man u get, in pretty serious trouble a few years back.

        now you could mention all the merchandise, but how long will their army of “fans” in China, usa, wherever keep buying their kits and stuff when they could switch to a winning team that’s playing in the champions league.

        missing on Europe when you’re running a club on the tick is a big deal, as we know from experience


      • That’s cheered me up 🙂


  7. Another well-written article, Rob. Well done.
    Certainly, the statement from LUST issued yesterday was also good reading and should be pleasing to all Leeds United fans.


  8. scottywhites

    good read again rob, lets just hope cellino can stop this amazing amount of money being lost and spend on some players with quality to keep mcc happy if he went how and who would replace him, to replace him it would cost at least 8 mill and would a 8 mill player want to come to the championship, as for thorpearch if it helps in making the money lost smaller then im all for it surely the scotland squad have there own trianing ground and mcc can train with them and has the list for players leaving and staying come out yet that would give us an indication on the changes at ELLAND RD.If cellino shows no ambition i think mcc will be gone in the jan transfer window and we wont see the likes of him till the prem if we get there


  9. Massa says we are running at £100,000 per day – £36.4 million per year costs .
    I’ve just read our latest turnover was £32 million . How can we be losing £1 million per month ?
    It probably is a bit messy but I’m sure it will work out , after all G F H reckon to have made a profit on the deal ! The mind boggles
    Im sure Cellino knows in 2002 we were in the top 20 turnovers in Europe . Like restoring an old motor , a bit of time and money spent should leave him with something priceless . Here’s hoping !


  10. Pingback: Cardiff’s Demise Even More Satisfying Than That of Norwich City – by Rob Atkinson | La Vita, Leeds United, l'Universo e Tutto

  11. I tend to think that Ross is laying the way for his departure,maybe a chance to play in a top league and the age clock ticking,also doesn’t seem tobe Massimo biggest fan.On another note why would Massimo bring in lawyers from london to deal with the debt,there must be alot of illegality that has been uncovered deep within the club finances.It’s another wait and see. MOT


    • These figures don’t add up though.

      there was a financial report done a month or so back, by some football finance professor (at Leeds uni I think ) on all the championship clubs

      our wages were bang on average for the championship, smack in the middle, but our gates were 2nd highest and merchandise by far the highest (only beaten by a few premiership clubs). What was high at Leeds was “other expenses”, which I guess was consultantsy fees for gfh to look up players on football manager, harveys half a million quid “performance” bonus, rent on ER & TA etc..

      even with our bloated squad of journeymen we were shelling out nothing in terms if wages compared to likes of qpr, forest, Bolton, leicester etc..


      • Chareose

        ………………………..Ken bates sold our season ticket income for 3 years for a loan remember ????

        Leeds only made money under Bates because he asset stripped the clubs players


  12. did , I say Ross Mc isn’t going , its too much of a gamble to sell him and then try to settle A.n.other , how many seasons did it take Ross to hit nearly 30 goals? These things take time , and since MC has made a statement about getting Leeds back in the premiership in two seasons it would be pretty foolish to then sell the championships golden boot


  13. Sorry about that rob , my so called smart phone deleted half the text ,, I think it got my point over though


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