Normality is the Holy Grail for Embattled Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson


Can Leeds find their Holy Grail?

Can Leeds find their Holy Grail?

The Holy Grail – as you will all know from your studies of classical Arthurian Legend, including Wagner’s Parsifal, Tennyson’s Idylls of the King and the immortal Cleese/Palin Meisterwerk, beloved of us all, Monty Python & the Holy Grail – is a semi-mythical, part-legendary symbol of something sacred and other-worldly, a spiritual treasure urgently sought by adventurers and heroes down the ages, something enticingly desirable but forever unattainable, always just beyond our reach.

So it is with Leeds United.  We have this unquenchable need, this elusive treasure always denied to us.  We want to be a normal football club, one that seeks to compete as a football club should, one that goes forward in harmony instead of turning in upon itself with suicidal zeal and self-destructive mania. We want to march on together towards a common goal, but instead we are possessed by demon after demon, and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.  When we occasionally do appear to glimpse one, it invariably turns out to be an onrushing locomotive, poised to dash us, together with all of our vain hopes, headlong into the void.

Why is this normality denied us?  What is it about Leeds United that condemns the club and its hapless legions upon legions of followers to such unending purgatory?  Does Alan Hardaker live on as some malign Poltergeist, fated to walk the corridors of Elland Road for all eternity, casting ghostly spanners into the works?  Perhaps Don Revie’s only real fault was a failure completely to exorcise the alleged gypsy’s curse which he had detected hanging around LS11 in the sixties, like some stormy, sulky cloud. It has to be something supernatural, for goodness’ sake.  Something that Sergeant Wilko was able to frighten away temporarily for the brief return of the glory days in 1989-92, before it returned with a vengeance, realising that the Sergeant’s bark was worse than his bite. What other explanation could there be?

Even when things have appeared to be going right, fate has slapped us about the chops before there was even a chance to celebrate properly.  The boom of 1997 to 2002 collapsed in on itself as we faced a black hole of debt and probable ruin.  Then, we had to flog off a talented squad on the cheap – amid tales of tropical fish and journeyman midfielders seeking and getting kings’ ransoms to lay our coffers bare.  Before that, the Last Champions almost turned into the first Premier League fall-guys as we replaced David Batty with Carlton Palmer whilst surrendering our domestic top spot to Taggart’s stormtroopers – we even sparked off their French Revolution for them – and on the cheap, too. Even before that, Revie’s peerless artists were denied more than they won – they should have won the lot, because they were simply The Best.

Typically, our most recent golden dawn also turned out to be a damp squib, as Grayson’s scum-busting warriors emerged from League One in 2010 fighting fit and ready to take the Championship by the scruff of the neck – only for Evil Uncle Ken to ruin it all and send us on a downward path which ended up in acrimony, despair and Warnock.  Surely, by now, Leeds United have sampled all of the many and various ways a football club can screw itself up.  Or is there worse yet to come?

The latest events at Elland Road are as bizarre and farcical as any I can recall in the whole topsy-turvy history of my support for this crazy club. Class A drugs, caught on espionage equipment installed in bog and Boardroom by our own prospective Tory Boy, Colgate Dave himself.  The club’s former dictator still hanging around Elland Road like a bad smell, nesting occasionally in his foul lair over the road above Subway, for whom a snap inspection by the Environmental Health chaps must be a constant worry.  The new owner is habitually referred to by our friends in the mainstream press, not by his given name of Massimo Cellino, but by use of the lazy soubriquet “Convicted Fraudster” as a matter of routine preference.  Massimo himself is giving a progressively more convincing impression of an impoverished billionaire, howling about financial excesses, closing down the training ground and preparing to sack club staff ranging from the tea ladies right down to Peter Lorimer.  The manager Brian McDermott has apparently cleared off on holiday, without leaving so much as a forwarding address to facilitate the matter of sending on his P45. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the club’s retained list is being mulled over by il Duce and a man called Benito.  To say that it’s a mess would be a hopelessly inadequate understatement.

So, in amongst this lot – how can the Leeds fan in the street possibly hope to attain that Holy Grail of normality?  He or she might as well cry for the Moon and the stars – there is just as much chance of success.  And yet other clubs appear to be able to go about their business in a relatively calm and efficient, unremarkable manner.  There might have been a time when this would have appeared to Whites fans as charmlessly boring, an exercise in tedium.  But wouldn’t we just grasp at the chance of it now?  Just imagine – a football club entering the close-season with bright prospects for the campaign ahead, quietly going about the business of improving its squad, resolute and determined to be battling it out with the best of the rest, for one of those prized tickets to the Promised Land. It sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  But it’s just not Leeds – rather it’s the privilege of lesser clubs, supported by less remarkable fans.  Why on earth does it have to be that way for us – and for so bloody long – when others have it so much better?

I’m afraid that this is one of those pieces with a few questions and no answers. It’s just a why-oh-why cry of distress, because that’s how I happen to feel as evidence piles up that we’re not out of the woods yet – indeed that we haven’t even hauled ourselves clear of the quicksand in the depths of those hostile woods.  I hope, but feel no optimism, that matters will clarify themselves as the next few weeks go by.  But realistically, I fear, we’re going to go into next season in a state of turmoil extraordinary even by LUFC standards.  There’s every reason to believe that it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Usually with these blogs, I’m not short of people ready, willing and seemingly able to tell me that I’m wrong; eager to demonstrate the folly of my reasoning and to put me straight.  I normally welcome this much as I do a dose of cod liver oil – it might do me good but I find it extremely unpalatable.  But – if you’ve indulged me by reading this gloomy tirade up to this point – the least I can do is take on board any more constructive views you might have to offer.  For once, I would actually welcome it.  I would even go so far as to say that I need it.  So, bring it on – please.

But for those inclined to agree with me, I’d say – let’s take it as read.  I’m depressed enough already…

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44 responses to “Normality is the Holy Grail for Embattled Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Wow Rob, I’ll have to send the wife round sharpish,she wont cheer you up, but i’ll feel better!

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  2. The spirit of hardaker lives on, the bent bastards are sending a crack team of investigators up to Thorpe arch, to find anything they can to fuck over Leeds.

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      • Derby White

        They say that what doesn’t break you will only make you stronger… Both mentally and physically which must all of us long suffering Leeds fans are genius Olympians 🙂 Then again if nothing changes, nothing changes so lets hope Massimo can in time make the changes that take us to where we all want and need to be. Stable both on and off the field.. MOT

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  3. Aussie Dave

    Drink red wine Rob. It works for me….then again being here in Perth Australia it helps to get away from the tabloids too. I rely on you to cheer me up mate. Drink, drink, drink that beautiful red Rob my boy, the numbness is a comfort…..

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  4. It’s taken as a given that things are going to get worse before they get better, but, as we all know, Massimo is a business man first and foremost.
    Anyone can hide stuff during due diligence, so it’s no wonder that sh1t creek is a lot deeper than he first thought, but at least we now have someone with a paddle.
    On a side note, what is it with these Europeans and their analogies. First we have Cantona’s seagulls and trawlers and now Cellino’s plane that, once the weight has been dumped, will fly itself to the Premiership.
    Mantenere la fede.

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  5. Simon Clarkson

    Do you think Massimo is painting a dark picture totally black? So what ever he doe’s will appear totally positive & progressive? I am certain that when the new season comes around as far as the squad is concerned, a significant amount of the dead wood will be removed and a the first building blocks in place, for an improved finishing position in the top half of the division. I think to be in a position for a tilt at promotion to the premiership will take at least three seasons at least as given our current position & squad.

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  6. As the king of swamp castle said ,
    “please , this is supposed to be a happy occasion , let us not bicker and fall out over who killed who” ,,

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  7. It’s simply explained. Plenty of owners have grown fat on the club but not since the days of Alderman Percy Woodward have any of the directors put more than a ten-bob note in. Cellino has paid some bills, but that’s just the housekeeping money – makes no difference but to keep the club alive. Any cash-generative business is going to attract predators even without fixed assets. Nothing that Cellino has done so far, slashing and burning here, there and everywhere, suggests that he is any different in having an eye for that main chance. I fear his champions are sorely deluded. On a related note, MC’s comments yesterday and the remit given to serial managerial failure Benito Carbone today are setting up BMac with a cast-iron case for constructive dismissal.

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    • That had occurred to me. Wonder if Massimo has laid-off that flash team of legal advisers?

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    • Tend to agree.

      Some fans seem to think we are in the late 80s again. We aren’t.

      There’s no way to attract players of the quality of strachan, sterland, fairclough and chapman down from the premiership.

      Cellino is a millionaire not a billionaire, sadly we need the later to get us back where we belong.

      Still glad he took over, we will be a steady championship club. If gfh were still in charge we would be bankrupt and / or relegated.

      I’m resigned to never been up there with the way the premiership tv deals are going and the new financial “fair” play rules. I just go for the fans to be honest.

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      • There is a lot of resignation creeping in as people see our prospects becoming worse. It’s bound to have an effect on attendances. When will we have people who’ve heard of “speculate to accumulate”?

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      • Yeah but that could be dangerous if they speculate on the tick. We had that with ridsdale.

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      • That wasn’t speculation, it was suicide. As the man said, the only way to make a small fortune out of a football club is to start out with a large one. I thought Cellino was that minted man, but he’s suddenly gone all conservative on us. Woe, woe is me 😦

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  8. sniffershorts

    well I will take most of the later at the moment, rather than administration …….. however I know the pain is going to start throbbing again soon, like a monster to come alive after the ice has melted, lets not go to Camelot ………….. its a rather silly place!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  9. ‘preparing to sack club staff ranging from the tea ladies right down to Peter Lorimer’ – Genius! 🙂

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  10. Vancouver White

    I think there are two things going on here;
    1. Transparency; Cellino seems to be a heart on his sleeve type of guy, and he is openly addressing the problems. I think this is great, as once you’ve admitted there are issues, and are specific about what they are, then you can go about dealing with them.
    2. Cellino is trying to corner BMc into resignation. I think his words are clever, and he knows that the fans have lost faith in Brian, so he is gently trying to publicly belittle him, and I think it’s going to work. Every pic I see of BMc, he looks like a scalded school boy. He better have a very good ‘Plan’ when he returns from vacation.

    As per your current frame of mind Rob, let’s all sing a song; ‘Let’s Go F***ing Mental,…………

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  11. Cellino is doing what he has to do, to stop Leeds from going into administration and I really hope that he makes Carbone the team manager as soon as possible.
    Everything always seems to go wrong at Leeds though and I do seriously think that the football club is cursed and maybe someone should be brought in to exorcise the curse, which is forever dragging the club through the gutter.

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  12. When the 3 clubs coming down got around £60 million each from tv last year, plus parachute payments they will receive at start of next season, how the fuck can anyone break into the “club” unless they have man city style billionaire owners.

    And they get more tv money in the premier next year!

    It’s all bent to protect the “big” clubs. With the gravy train how it is now, true big clubs like Leeds & forest will be forever playing catch up on teams like burnley, stoke, norwich and swansea.

    Fan base and history means nothing any more. It’s all timing of been right place right time for the ridiculous tv rights.

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  13. Now you’ve done it Rob, just like a deep thinking, well meaning Phyciatrist, you have revealed all our fears and horrors and laid them out bare for the world to prod and poke at, you understand that I have’nt been this depressed since I read “the Bell jar” by Sylvia Plath, we all may suffer her fate, as now we are all as depressed as she sadly must have been!! I cannot give you any “real” solace, but as we have been walking in the fog of what came from Pandora’s box for a decade or so, the only thing that gets me from my pit in the mornings to face another weary day is, you got it…..HOPE.

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  14. Nice blog rob , dark times yes but I see a light in the distance , obviously we’ve been run lately in the shadow of the ss titanic but I feel me c can get the ship in order it may not end up like the queen eliz 2 but a steady cruiser back in the big time will be fine

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  15. too late Vancouver white…we’ve all already gone f**king mental. the only sane one appears to be you Rob. How i’ll never know lol. As usual you tell it how it is & how it should be, only problem is, is that we are & will always be a million miles away from how it should be. We live & dream & I live in the dream that one day this may happen & we are delivered to the promised land at our LS11 church.

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  16. Rob I think you need a holiday ,put your feet up & chill out and leave Massimo sort out the mess.

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    • Funny you should say that, as I’m leaving for the Far East later tonight. Yes, it’s a few glorious days in Filey to recharge the batteries and celebrate Mrs Rob’s birthday. Bring it on 🙂

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  17. Happy days,enjoy.

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  18. Cellino IS a convicted fraudster, so it’s only right that he be treated as such by the press. That’s what being convicted, even in Italy, of dodging your import tax means. The fact that he has spent convictions for tax dodging and for ripping off the EU doesn’t help. He only scraped through the FAPP test after the appeal he definitely wasn’t going to make because a QC found that the judge hadn’t used the word ‘dishonest’, allowing for the possibilty that he somehow forgot to pay or that his accountants were confused or were off visiting their sick mothers, or something. But I though your view was ‘Who cares, he’s got cash?’ and ‘Who cares what the press say about Leeds?’

    That said, I don’t see why you’re worried about events. The problems of the last 20 years are mostly down to successive owners. Wilko lost it after winning the title and George Graham wanted to manage in London after giving us 2 years, but Riddler and co. overspent, appointed questionable managers and failed to supervise (it’s a fine art, but alarm bells should have been ringing loud and clear about DOL over a year before he left), Krasner’s lot were under-capitalised and couldn’t get investment, and Bates got in. Haigh and Patel started well, got out of their depth and made a mess, GFH waited for SC and then stuck to their preferred buyer and caused a bigger mess in the meantime. Haigh is obviously just a random nutter with the cameras (assuming they were everywhere, including the toilets, as reported). Things are really only worse here than at other clubs because we had Bates for so long.

    Granted, Cellino is rude and doesn’t care about accuracy when he complains about this situation, but again you’ve said that this is what you wanted. You’ve said in the past that you’d have been happy to let Di Canio manage the club, and he really is a fascist. We’ve no idea (unless you’ve read something I haven’t? I don’t read everything that’s reported) about Cellino and Carbone’s political views. You reckon the players should all go and that McDermott has made too many excuses for them (as I interpret your previously expressed views) so you shouldn’t care that his retained list is being bypassed. Also, you haven’t shown any concern about Cellino’s obviously not being prepared to run a football club the British way, which you’d said you thought he would.

    As for transfers, you must have known perfectly well that we wouldn’t be buying anyone at all, that it would just be loan players from Europe. Cellino said he’d do that before he even got in. You’ve said that you think this could work.

    So why worry? I think Cellino will prove to be an overgrown spoilt kid who’s only prepared to spend money on buying things and clearing urgent debts (with an outside chance that he simply doesn’t have the cash he said he did), and that you and other fans have been clutching at straws and will come unstuck, but this all remains to be seen. Everything is actually what you’ve said you wanted. Of course it’s bloody, but you wanted staff cleared out, and so on. This is what it looks like. Unless we’re wound up in June or the FL manage to flush MC out (it doesn’t matter what happens in Italy now, they haven’t the balls), we can’t really judge until pre-season at the earliest. In the meantime you can enjoy seeing Brown, Pugh and the other out of contract players given the boot.

    P.S. Look very, very carefully at the bathwater receding into the distance. I think that you may just (though you might need hindsight) be able to make out a baby along with the rubber ducks. Only not yet.

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    • Again, you venture into the territory of the disingenuous. Just because there’s an easy hook, that’s not a reason for the press to use it ALL the time – unless they are determined to flag up their ongoing hostility. After all, they refer to “Giggs” or. “Ryan” or even “Welsh wing wizard Ryan Giggs”. You don’t have them lazily using the pejorative if accurate “woman beater”.

      As for babies and bath-water – your desire to say “I told you so” sometimes seems rather at odds with what otherwise appears a reasonably erudite, if somewhat loftily insouciant, approach to debate.

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      • My point is that I’m not saying ‘I told you so’ yet. ‘Disingenuous’ means insincere. I assure you, I mean it.

        As for the press ?!? What??? The press hate us. I don’t think slagging off Cellino has much to do with Cellino, they’d find some reason. Also, while I know you disagree, there are those of us, even journalists, who find it distasteful that a man with that background has bought our club.

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  19. keith white

    Rob love your style ; I’m so depressed if I had a tie I would be hanging from the rafters

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