Leeds United versus Huddersfield Town doesn’t kick off until 3:00 pm on Saturday – but already, many Leeds United fans are proclaiming the most significant victory of the season. It’s a result that owes nothing to last-ditch defending, brilliant midfield play or clinical finishing. This vital win has been fashioned, not on the hallowed turf of Elland Road, but in the more subdued atmosphere of a boardroom or lawyer’s office. Because at last, or so it certainly seems, Leeds United is back under 100% ownership, instead of being shared, argued about and fought over by unequal partners. Minority holders GFH, it appears, have relinquished their stake in United, leaving Massimo Cellino as sole owner of the whole shooting match.
The reason this is so significant has more to do with future possibilities than current ownership. Some Leeds fans will be glad to see Cellino in outright control – others would prefer to see him 100% uninvolved, with a new Sheriff in town. But the fact remains that, with the minority partners off the scene, everything now looks a lot more neat and tidy as interested parties consider bids for the football club. Up to now, the continuing presence of GFH has been a complicating factor that has made any successful takeover bid – or even majority investment – much less likely actually to succeed. For this reason alone, farewell and good riddance, GFH.
So the eventual impact of Cellino’s total ownership of Leeds might be to see in new owners, rather than simply cementing the controversial Italian’s position as Leeds United supremo. And many, particularly among certain hard-bitten ex-pros who actually wore the famous white shirt, would see that as a good thing – if it could bring to an end the dizzying turnover of coaches at Leeds, as well as securing some actual net investment.
The fact that current manager Garry Monk is widely seen as being “under pressure to save his job” just a few games into his United tenure is symptomatic of the less than stable situation at Elland Road. Yet another transfer window without spending more than player sales brought in is one more sign that squad development is not an upward trend. Leeds sold Lewis Cook to Bournemouth for £6m plus add-ons – and replaced him with a man in Eunan O’Kane ousted by Cook from the Bournemouth first team. And for the usual “undisclosed fee”, too. The critics would tell you that this does not represent investment in the team, and it’s a point of view hard to dispute.
The case for a new regime at Elland Road, with a much-needed injection of capital, has long seemed quite convincing. Now, with the departure of GFH meaning a much less complex scenario for would-be buyers, it may be that things really will start to happen – off the field, at least. Which is why so many United fans are singing victory songs well in advance of a ball being kicked this coming weekend.
Now, all we have to do is beat unlikely League leaders Huddersfield Town on Saturday, to confirm the natural West Yorkshire pecking order and get this second chunk of the season off to the ideal start. And then, with three derby-day points under our belts, we’d be savouring the taste of home victory for the first time this campaign as we try to re-establish Fortress Elland Road. Could things really be brightening up for Leeds, at long last?