Daily Archives: 03/11/2015

Plans For Statue of Leeds Legend Mowatt at Elland Road   –   by Rob Atkinson

History-maker Alex Mowatt: to be immortalised outside Elland Road?

Leeds United 1 (Mowatt), Cardiff City 0

After eight barren months without a win at Elland Road, and 32 years since a win over this pesky South Wales outfit on home soil, Tuesday night’s 1-0 victory over Cardiff City came as a welcome relief to everyone with Leeds United carved painfully into their hearts.

It was a win that provoked reactions across the full gamut of human emotional response, from a devastatingly gutted Don Goodman, Sky TV’s Leeds match mickey-taker of choice, right through to the joyful elation of young Alex Mowatt himself, the scorer of a goal fit to win any game of football. Picking the ball up halfway inside Cardiff territory, almost midway through the second half, Mowatt shimmied away from a distant challenge with one sinuous matador’s flourish of his hips, looked up briefly and then back down at the ball – which he caught with an absolute purler of a left foot strike to hammer it into the top right-hand side of the Gelderd End goal.

Cue the mayhem of relief and hysteria as the hardy Leeds fans behind that malnourished goal exploded into cavorting celebration. Mowatt took the rapturous applause with a clutch of delighted – or astounded – teammates dancing dervish-like around him. Meanwhile, poor Goodman, with a face like the smell of gas, sadly relayed news of the goal to a mainly disappointed nation.

It was the undoubted high point of a low-key match between two sides currently locked together in second-tier mediocrity. But that goal will long be remembered, and not just for its sumptuous quality. It was a goal, note well, that brought to an end those two dismal runs of failure. No home wins since March was a shameful record for a club whose home was once regarded by many good judges and Alex Ferguson, as the most hostile and intimidating arena in football. And 32 years is far too long to let a club as deserving of regular sound thrashings as Cardiff are, go unchastised.

So, two monkeys were dislodged from our collective back on Tuesday night, two unwelcome ghosts were laid to rest. It’s fanciful of course – even edging close to bitter sarcasm – to suggest raising a statue to our youthful midfielder on the strength of one sublime strike. But though intended as a bittersweet jest, the jocular notion in this article’s headline sums up the relief generated by one fairly unremarkable but sorely needed victory.

In a week when Massimo Cellino bid farewell to Elland Road – as a matchday spectator, at least, and subject to any late changes of his mercurial mind – and when it also became a distinct possibility that a fans’ consortium might replace the Italian, possibly with a Gladiator on board, it was vital, crucial, utterly necessary to mark this possible fork in the road with a win. And that we did – for which Don be praised.

Onwards and upwards now? Well, perhaps. Despite the shenanigans at boardroom level, it appears that new manager (let’s call him a manager now) Steve Evans is expecting to strengthen his patchy squad significantly before the end of the loan window. And that’s with a view merely to staunching the flow of our life-blood, with the prospect of further major surgery in January. From this small beginning, great changes could come about. Maybe. 

We start anew then, with a home win under our belts, with some cocky old foes subdued for once and with a whole new era quite possibly about to begin. Will things get better now? Is the only way up? We shall see. Don’t forget – next weekend is Cup Final weekend. 

Well – it is for Huddersfield Town and their motley crew of dog-botherers, anyway…

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Leeds Fans Be Careful What You Wish For… You Might Get It   –   by Rob Atkinson

Fan ownership as practiced at the dizzy heights reached by Dulwich Hamlet

Fan ownership as practiced at the dizzy heights reached by Dulwich Hamlet

Leeds United fans desirous of owning a small piece of their beloved club are in some danger currently of putting that understandable, emotional desire in the way of seeing the big picture of the club’s best interests. It’s entirely understandable that this should be so. Most fans have already made a significant financial investment into the club over the span of their supporting lives, alongside the unquantifiable emotional input required to support a capricious leviathan such as Leeds. It ain’t easy and it ain’t cheap either; no wonder the average fan in the street becomes all starry-eyed at the prospect of buying for themselves a tiny piece of the action. 

Many fans would regard a place in the boardroom at Elland Road as second only to seeing their name on the team sheet and on the back of that world-famous white shirt, or at least a coach’s tracksuit in the dugout. But in more sober moments, when reality lays its cold and bony fingers on the back of your neck, you doubt, deep down, that you have what it takes. You know you don’t have it in you to sniff goals out like Clarkey, or launch howitzers like Yeboah. You suspect that, despite all the tactical acumen you display down the pub or in the internet chat forum of your choice, you might get found out if it were down to you to out-think other Championship managers once a week or so. And when it comes to sitting on that sharp pinnacle of ownership, where the buck truly stops and all the blame ends up – only the über-confident, surely, would back themselves to succeed where so many men and their millions have failed before. 

Leeds Fans United (LFU) seem to be haunted by no such doubts and fears. They’re confident of purchasing from our current, crazy owner a majority stake in United for around £30m – and what’s more, they promise a hostile reception to any worldwide corporation or billionaire individual with the temerity to bid against them. So very opposed are they to the whole idea of counter-bidders, that they are demanding exclusivity as they haggle with Massimo Cellino to persuade him to sell on a no-profit basis. This shows admirable confidence and no small degree of chutzpah – but is it really the right thing for Leeds? Is it the best option for us all, going forward?

Leaving aside the strong emotional appeal of a fan-owned club, is this the right model for today’s game and the redemption of a fallen giant that has spent years in penury, existing on crumbs and unable to compete? The fact of the matter is that, if the fans’ group who want to purchase the club gain their exclusivity of negotiation, then we’re likely to miss out on possibly feasible bids from adequately minted, suitably ambitious and possibly, dare I say, honest parties – or maybe even Red Bull – who might now be interested in acquiring a club for whom the only way should be up. Surely, it is open to some doubt that we should be happy to see such possibilities ruled out in this sort of cavalier manner, simply because some Gelderd Enders and South Standers fancy being in control. It’s not really a model that has been tried with success at the higher levels of the English game. Portsmouth FC, the current largest fan-owned club in the country, are not exactly pulling any trees up in their quest to get back to the top from the depths to which they have so precipitously sunk. 

I’m simply not clued-up enough on the minutiae of the LFU bid to dissect it and debate its merits and demerits. It’s really just this possibly unhelpful (for the rest of us) desire for exclusivity that bothers me. All I want to be assured of is that we are made aware of and have the chance to consider any other bids for the club that might be in the offing. You never know, we might just happen across someone of integrity and ambition who doesn’t think he knows it all about The Beautiful Game, but is willing to invest heavily in those who do. It’s not an immutable law that we’re always going to be saddled with shysters and con-men. Our luck has to change sometime – especially if we’re a bit careful whose money we take. I’m saying we need an open collective mind and a range of options – not exclusivity and Hobson’s Choice.

Don’t get me wrong – I can quite see how this exclusivity thing is in the interests of the fans who would be kings. And I applaud that natural desire to take supporter passion and commitment into the top levels of the club. But, really, aren’t we running the risk of biting off our noses to spite our face, or – if I may be permitted to mix my metaphors – throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Are the best interests of Leeds United really going to be served by this fans’ process – to the absolute exclusion of all outside interests and possibilities?

Call me faint-hearted, or a fan of little faith – but I’m really not so sure they are.