Are We Going to Suffer Yet Again From That Same Old Leeds United Delusion? – by Rob Atkinson


Victor Orta – managing fans’ expectations?

One chilling phrase among a few sobering lines emerged from new manager Thomas Christiansen‘s debut press conference at Leeds United. Sad to say, the same old signs of fan expectations being carefully managed were all there – new players “but within our budget” etc etc. The implication was that the budget will be far from a bottomless bucket, but we all know that anyway. Leeds United has not been a “speculate to accumulate” club for ages now, despite the bounteous riches that await us, if we can only get over that hill and reach the Premier League Promised Land. So the promise of parsimony and caution isn’t exactly news to us fans. All that remains to be seen is the extent of the handicap we’ll be carrying, as compared to more ambitious and realistic clubs.

The really scary part, though, is what appears to this blog a sign of an almost deluded Elland Road view of the modern player’s priorities. I think it’s fair to say that we’re all aware of your average pro footballer’s top three most important things: in no particular order, they are cash, dosh and money. That’s a given, and any proletarian whinging will be met with a sharp volley of “it’s a short career”, “I’ve a family to look after” and so forth. The thing is, we’re under no illusions. Johnny Footballer isn’t motivated by love of club – he just wants to know what the bottom line is, and precisely how many high-performance motor vehicles that will put in his deluxe double garage with electronic drop-down doors.

So it’s acutely distressing to hear yet again the same old crap we’ve been fed before. This time, it’s from the persuasive mouth of Victor Orta – but it’s been said many a time and oft by various predecessors charged with explaining to the fans why we won’t be signing the kind of players Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough and even Wolves will be aiming for. The dreaded phrase is “My task is to find players who want to be here, and not for money”.

Now, I could help Victor here. I could name any number of players like that, starting with my good self. I’d play for Leeds United for the inestimable honour of wearing that white shirt (XXL, please), and I wouldn’t presume to ask a penny piece. As far as that goes, I’m the Whites’ ideal recruit. The trouble is though, I’m crap at football, and I always was – even in my prime thirty years ago. But just to let you know, Victor – if you want cheap and starry-eyed, then I’m your man. And there’d be no shortage of players, with the name of Leeds United carved upon their hearts, equally eager as myself, but sadly equally crap. I guess you can’t have it all.

And therein lies the problem. Other clubs in the Championship have sussed out the truth in that ancient maxim: pay peanuts, get monkeys. Leeds United, undoubtedly the biggest club in the second tier, have consistently failed to live up to that historical billing. They seem to feel – and this is quite explicit in the hackneyed phrase trotted out by Orta – that players will be clambering over themselves to enter the hallowed portals of Elland Road, without caring a rotten fig for the amount of remuneration available. They seem to believe that players think like besotted fans. But – and this is dead obvious but really, really important – they don’t.

Professional players have dedicated their lives to getting to that point where a club like Leeds United might be interested in them. They know their worth, and if they don’t, there’s some oily git of an agent all too ready to tell them, for a mere 15%. They’re clued-up, eager to realise their financial potential and utterly unsentimental. They will, of course, trot out the usual fan-pleasing platitudes once they’ve signed for somebody (As soon as I heard Leeds/Forest/Newcastle/Chesterfield* were interested, there was no other place for me) – but we all know that’s just professional blarney. It’s expected – nobody takes it seriously. It’s all about how much wedge they stand to earn.  *delete as applicable

One of two things is going on here. Either Leeds United, in the shape of their newly-hired management team, really do believe this guff about “players wanting to be here” – in which case, you worry for their knowledge and professional ability – or they’re spinning a line. And, in that latter case, we just have to hope that it’s the rest of the game they’re trying to spin a line to – and not us, the poor, long-suffering fans. If the club is trying to hide the true extent of their transfer pot from other clubs, in order to avoid prices being inflated, then they’re not being too subtle about it. And yet we might approve of such a strategy, if it gets us decent players for prices that aren’t too daft.

But if it’s us fans the club are trying – for the umpteenth time – to delude with tales of players unable to resist the honour of representing Leeds, despite being paid rather less than they might get down the road at some more cynical and sordid club where the belief is that you get what you pay for – then, frankly, it’s bloody insulting. But I just have this nasty feeling that might well be the case.

Only time will tell, and until these dark suspicions are proved correct, the new Leeds regime will have my cautious and conditional support. The proof of the pudding, as they say, will be in the eating – so we’ll just have to hope that the club’s movers and shakers are ready to sink their teeth into the transfer market, and give us a team to be proud of. Otherwise, I’m afraid to say, it’s difficult to see anything but a long struggle of a season ahead, with some or other degree of disappointment at the end of it.

As ever in this gloomy mood, I do hope that I’m wrong. 

20 responses to “Are We Going to Suffer Yet Again From That Same Old Leeds United Delusion? – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Interesting to say the least. I always wandered when will Leeds get back into top flight football and even attack for the European spots.

    But, given the priorities of footballers nowadays, such as money as you outlined, maybe the solution is in building your own players?

    They should focus more on homegrown talent who know how to appreciate the English clubs.


  2. Philip of Spain.

    He,T.C.sealed the job apparently, after a prolonged,extended PowerPoint presentation underlining his credentials and knowledge of Leeds Uniteds,players,history and failures of last year.Credit to the man who must have researched for hours getting his facts right.That would have pleased the new end,bearing in mind his P.R.and negotiating background.Can he cope with the rigours of The Championship and will he get the right players and support that you mentioned in the article,that’s the deal,talking in a meeting one thing,Bringing to life,another.

    I have to say,at this stage the blood ain’t rushing through the veins,the excited anticipation is absent.Don’t think the ticker could stand a pre Monk year of unadulterated dross!!Please,let me be wrong!!!


  3. Two comments to make
    1 surely the playing management structure ie the staff training the players should be selecting new recruits
    2 we’ve got a bucket?


  4. HI Rob!
    Once again hit the nail on the head I fear!
    No doubt when Radrazinni spelt out over two meetings his vision for a football director who would find players for Garry to say “yes” to, when he was left out of the loop when Sacko was given a new contract, when he explained that new players would play for the club and not be bothered about money,when he explained that the 12 months would only be 12 months “because he (Rad) didn’t know Garry that well – we now can all legitimately say that Garry had no option but to “move on”. ” year contract for a powerpoint presentation – and 12 months for a man who has just given us the bext year in at least 7, when the gates were bursting with returning supporters because of the “regenerated Leeds” .

    Thet sh*t on him – and they will no doubt sh*t over all of us season ticket holders Too!
    MOT Gerry Cwmbran
    I also hope I’m wrong…


  5. David Dean

    I have watched as much of the press conference as I could stand. It was a total embarrassment and I felt sorry for Thomas and more sorry for the Leeds fans. My initial thoughts are certain relegation battle. This is an unmitigated disaster, they look so out of their depth. Pep and rest have all followed Monk. Monk wants Charlie Taylor, Bartley and Chris Wood. No wonder Monk left. I will support 100% the manager and team but I have to be honest with my opinion – much to the dismay of many fans screaming to give TC a chance. I would much prefer Rosler or Steve Evans or Brian Mac or Redders. I am in fear that we are going to sign players not up to scratch and that we will be in a relegation battle.


  6. Rob, I fear your fears are correct. I try hard to be open minded and optimistic and will as ever, be behind the team in whatever form it takes. Sadly however, this feels like the of same old same old. Paradoxically, despite constant change, there remains a state of inertia at our beloved club. MOT regardless David (desperately hope I’m wrong of course!)


  7. henrymouni

    Really dull, uninspiring press conference!!
    Manager happy with the squad!! Yikes!
    Mr Orta is not looking for big name players, who come for the money!!! What money??
    Heard it ALL before.
    They think we are stupid!!
    Are we??


  8. No Rob, you are not wrong. I recall commenting on your upbeat blog when Clownio took charge. He was never going to succeed and neither will Radrizzani’s “continental management model”. Christiansen has been installed to coach a team that will be built and developed by committee – headed by Victor Orta (great job he did at Boro by the way).
    This is why Monk left, no ifs, no buts. There’s only one winner here, and that’s Steve Gibson. He’s learned his lesson; ridding himself of the failed “continental model” including Senor Orta and, at the same time, replacing that with a manager who will have a greater say in Boro’s recruitment and, therefore, team composition and style. Gibson’s simplified his structure, putting control where it should be – oh, yes, and he’s pinched our manager into the bargain while offloading Victor Orta onto us as our new Technical Director. Ha! Do me a favour.
    Orta’s insistence that the coach will have “final say” on players cuts no ice – the coach will not identify or choose the players he wants, he’ll just be offered a range of “in budget” buys, presumably from Spain’s 2nd division. We’ve been through this before with Cellino’s Serie B recruits and it didn’t work. Our progress last season was firmly based on the recruitment of Jansson, Bartley, Bristol City’s RB, Green, and the coaching of Wood – most of which was down to Monk and his staff. He made mistakes, but he moved us forward.
    Now, we start all over again, last season wasted. When it fails this time – and it will – Christiansen will be the fall guy but it won’t be his fault. Meanwhile, Kinnear, Orta, Bravo et al will just move on to the next coaching failure, drip feeding him their expertly chosen third raters.
    Eventually, Radrizzani will see that all he needs to do is to appoint an experienced manager, who understand the Championship and how to recruit for it, give him control, and support him financially. And there’s the crux of it. He won’t because he himself has neither the confidence to do that, nor does he have the knowledge or the finance.
    Rant over. But, for christ’s sake it’s not rocket science.
    Here’s to yet another year of struggle – and I genuinely hope to receive a torrent of abuse and vitriol as soon as we’re promoted. It’s the hope that kills you.


  9. Leeds Bjorn

    Bang on Rob , pity a few of the rose tinted glasses brigade don’t get it , we’ve had to lap up the dross for too long now , after a season of coming close I’m beginning to feel a bit underwhelmed about next season


  10. Rob, as ever, a brilliant statement of all we fear and feel. Just for a season we seemed be getting something together. Then cellino went. Two days later monk went. The enormous question is why. To Middlesbrough. Of all places. There’s a malaise in the club and we deserve to know what it is. We damn well deserve it. Carry on Rob..


  11. Orta was fine until he mentioned Chris Wood…………that was damning for me……….he stated twice almost apologetically “I Hope Chris Wood stays”…………… The guy is under contract so where does hope come into it ?? He hopes we dont get a 15 million pound offer because they intend to cash in ??

    I think Chris Wood is going……….thats the only conclusion you can get from those comments……. I know some leeds fans live in fantasy land and everyone is easily replaceable won championship manager but the last time leeds sold a 30 goal striker it was 3 years before we found another ! Your writing off your promotion hopes at a stroke and it will also suggest that leeds must still sell to buy, in which case Radrizaani is no different to Cellino, a little more well meaning but potless and completely unambitous


  12. David Smith

    Not a very inspiring trio ……OK perhaps that’s a little harsh on Christiansen, but as press conferences go, Orto & Kinnear are supposed to be professional PR men for the Club and in truth neither filled me with great confidence or enthusiasm, one I had difficulty understanding and Mr Kinnear looked like a deer caught in the headlamps of an oncoming juggernaut !! Like many on this blog, I will be more than happy to be proved wrong, but on the basis of this afternoon’s press conference, I think I will be waiting quite a while. MOT


  13. Mike Durham

    Yes Rob, I’m praying to both King Billy and The Don that Mr R is an expert in playing his cards close to his chest. Perhaps the proof will be in the Kyle Bartley pudding? £7.5m would be excellent business to at least lay down a marker and that figure should not be beyond us?


  14. Thanks for the comments, guys. I’m horrified to see such wholesale agreement with what is rather a pessimistic piece. Don’t get me wrong, I believe what I wrote. But I guess I was also hoping that someone would tell me I was being needlessly negative, and then give me chapter and verse on how we’re going to recruit quality and rip up the Championship next season. Because this is one thing I really do NOT want to be right about.


  15. Hi Rob
    I try looking at this in 2 ways,
    Firstly I really dont like this Victor Orta and I dont like the way he comes across as saying Thomas works for him, really, I have heard many power mad stories from Middlesborough fans I know and I dont like the way he comes across. I thought Radz was in charge.
    But secondly on the other hand as a business note, you dont tell everyone you have a large pot of money before going into negotiations or you just get out priced from the start, so this could be a bluff.

    My main concern is taking someone from such a lower league side and putting them in charge at Leeds, It hasnt worked before Thomas doesnt come across as a strong or confident person, which nerves me a bit. I would have been happier with an ex-leeds player or even Poyet


  16. Once again you have seemed to perfectly capture the mood of the real Leeds fan. It seems like we are yet again hoping for the best but logic is pointing towards the worst. Italian imperial style ownership. I am of the opinion that a name is not necessarily required to succeed but I do worry about the lack of this league experience. For me, what seemed like the chance to reboot after a crazy period is sadly beginning to looking like deja vu. How long before we get the – this is a three year plan for promotion line?
    I’ll support like a good little lemming but…. Lets see how the game plays out during the summer and on the pitch. Honestly my heart is going out of this.


  17. Unfortunately but amazingly I agree with everything everyone of you have said. I’m underwhelmed by the new set-up also,I too have dark suspicions or should i say DARKO suspicions as he seems to be an appointment in a similar vein to Milanic. And the backroom staff? They’re going to need a 40ft dugout to get everyone in. The ground improvements are an embarrassment too. A new roof on the west stand doesn’t fill me with confidence regarding the owners ambition.


  18. David Watson

    Spot on Rob. I want to be proved wrong but I fear another year of underachieving is ahead of us. The press conference did not make me feel confident for the upcoming season. The appointment of Christiansen will be a stroke of genius or a gamble that didn’t pay off; I rather fear it will be the latter. And before anybody shoots me down in flames, I will back the new Coach 100% but we have had, what, 13 years of mediocrity punctured by the occasional decent season and nothing I have seen so far tells me we’re going to be pulling up any trees this season.


  19. Scally Lad

    I fear you’re right, Rob. All this caution tells me we’re headed for another mid-table finish at best.


  20. Karl Major

    We are definitely a pot nearly empty bunch, ALAW.


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