History is repeating itself down Elland Road way, and it’s getting annoyingly boring. It goes like this: Player with obvious potential arrives at Leeds United having not quite done it elsewhere. Player develops and gains confidence through regular football. Player has a brilliant season (or, more rarely, two brilliant seasons) and becomes a Whites legend. Media note with disapproval that player is doing well at Leeds, and relentlessly hype-up “wantaway” stories. Player’s “head is turned”. Leeds offer player new contract at approx 50% of what he could get elsewhere. Player is sold to club of embarrassingly lower historical status. Fans distraught and humiliated. Rinse and repeat.
This is the scenario currently playing itself out with Chris Wood, who had a fabulous season last year without necessarily having eradicated the flaws in his game that stopped him succeeding at the top level. It looks as though Wood, understandably by his own lights, wishes to quadruple his current earnings by participating in the relegation fight of Burnley FC, instead of fighting for promotion with Leeds United. Forty years ago, this would have been inconceivable – but back then football was a whole different sport. Imagine in 1974/75 First Division Carlisle United swooping for Second Division Man U‘s top scorer. The press would have poured scorn on any such notion. But it happens these days; minnows feed off sharks. It’s all about money, folks.
Leeds United, under new ownership, has done a lot of good things amid an atmosphere of renewed optimism. That atmosphere is about to be dissipated by the cold wind of an unwelcome reality check. Twitter is all aflutter about the increasingly strong rumours of Wood’s departure, and suggestions as to his replacement are many, but almost all sadly unfeasible. Sign Danny Ings, they say. Or Peter Crouch, or Jordan Rhodes. But the pesky elephant in the room, poised ready to sit on and squash any such fanciful notions, is the Leeds United wage structure.
In short, the wage structure is the factor that prevents the Whites from competing at the top end of even the Championship transfer market. Despite a lot of wishful thinking that players will flock to sign for the Leeds United brand, Super Leeds, the Revie Boys, Champions of Europe and all that, the annoying truth is that said players are only really interested in the bottom line on their sleek, fat contracts. All else is whimsy. The players want megabucks, and the parsimonious Yorkshireness of the LUFC wage structure doesn’t cater for such munificence.
And that is the sad truth, folks. Beyond which I’m a little too soul-destroyed right now to go much further. Wood will depart and, whatever transfer fee we receive, the reinvestment of that sum will be affected by the wages we are prepared to offer any potential like-for-like replacement. And that’s why we can’t have a Jordan Rhodes, a Danny Ings, or even a Nahki Wells. Because, unlike Middlesbrough, Wolves and even Sheffield Wednesday, we tend to shy away in thrifty horror at paying the going rate. That’s why we’re still in the second sphere, and will most likely languish there still when our proud centenary rolls around. That’s why we can’t have nice things.
We’re just too damned stingy, and that’s the real bottom line.