Tag Archives: administration

Upbeat Umbers Strikes the Right Note for Off-Key Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Andrew Umbers - talking a good game

Andrew Umbers – talking a good game

If you’re a Leeds fan – and if you’re not, why are you even reading this??* – then you’ll be familiar with the concept of “glass-half-empty”. It’s something that pervades such a lot of the Leeds United-related talk everywhere these days, both on and offline. You sometimes get the feeling that any good news is ever so slightly unwelcome – deemed to be in bad taste by the sobersides pessimists that make up a bleak but significant proportion of the club’s support.

Twitter is an obvious example of this in the virtual Leeds world. There’s some right miserable buggers on there. It’s certainly not recommended for those United fans already of a nervous or depressive persuasion – it’d be set fair to finish them off. An evening perusing the #LUFC hashtag would be a mighty fine cure, too, for anybody reeling from an overdose of nitrous oxide (that’s laughing gas, for any Lancastrians who might be reading this). Even the cheerful Leeds fan, that rarest of creatures, doesn’t emerge from a session on Twitter unscathed, with any joy in his heart.

So your average Leeds fanatic doesn’t have to look far to find someone or something depressing in connection with the Whites. Bad news and sombre outlooks tend to wait around every corner, lurking there to pounce and enfold you in their miserable but vice-like embrace. The resultant gloom and despair tends to seep into your soul over time, like a thin but persistently damp fog will into consumptive lungs, rendering all but the most resiliently cheerful breathless with misery – asking of themselves what they’ve done to deserve being stuck with such a very depressing club to follow. And there’s nowt you can do about it; you just have to grimace and bear it, hoping against hope for a ray of sunshine in that ugly miasma of negativity.

All of which is why Andrew Umbers, Deputy Sheriff of Leeds United and lately promoted to the top job since a Football League posse rode in to take President Cellino temporarily away, is such a welcome breath of fresh air. With his sunny reassurances and breezy optimism over the future, both long and short term, Mr Umbers is positively manna for the soul. Try this for size: it seems he expects Leeds to be FFP (Financial Fair Play) compliant and out of embargo by the time the summer transfer window opens. What – really?

“Yes. We’ve submitted our FFP analysis. We’re already planning for what we need to do squad-wise for the 2015-16 season.” Wow. How good does that sound? The long faces and short tempers on Twitter had been predicting that this current transfer embargo will be around longer than Cellino will. Some people certainly seem to relish wallowing around in misery, don’t they? Not me. I’m only happy when I’m happy – and that one isolated quote from the rather lovely Mr Umbers has really cheered me up no end.

It’s received wisdom that any 50 year old Yorkshireman will normally be quite direct, not exactly shooting from the lip, perhaps, but not fannying around with smoke and mirrors either. Umbers does tend to tread quite daintily around his involvement with, and take on, previous administrations at Elland Road – but with his focus very much on the future and making the current set-up work, that is both understandable and forgiveable.

Nevertheless, the temporary Chairman’s appraisal of what has happened at Leeds over the past few years – seemingly, to the outsider, a succession of car crashes leaving blood and wreckage everywhere – is as upbeat as you could possibly expect. He refers to the initial scary impression at the time Cellino bought his controlling interest – the advice then was to scream and head for the hills, or at least call in the administrators – but he insists that the subsequent “root and branch strategic review” left the new incumbents defiantly unwilling to contemplate administration. Now, he says, the situation has “dramatically improved” – so much so that he feels confident about his prediction that Leeds will emerge from embargo this summer – and that a break-even position is attainable by the end of next season.

Breaking even, of course, is achievable via many and varied routes – there is more than one way to skin a cat, after all. Leeds broke even sometimes under Bates, but that was achieved largely through the deeply unpopular sale of prime assets – like footballers of immense potential and great skill. But Umbers has not emerged as a fan of selling some of the young diamonds coming through the ranks at Leeds, and that is at least as reassuring to the long-suffering fans of Leeds as anything he might say about balance sheets, lifted embargoes or pounds and pence. So the talk is of financial restructuring, rather than fire sales – more positivity for a body of support to digest, who have previously grubbed around on the barren ground of austerity and depression. It would be easy to get used to this.

Umbers’ tenure as the nominal head honcho is distinctly finite, at least this time around. He appears to be in for the long haul, though, speaking enthusiastically of building a new training ground, reacquiring the stadium (yes, that again) – and re-engaging with the community. “We have massively interesting developments that we’re working with the council on,” he offers, adding as a cliff-hanger, “More about that next month”. Wrapping up a distinctly glass-half-full briefing, he refers to the club being in a comfortable cash-in-bank position – and again, skirting neatly around less pleasant matters, he gives his opinion that relegation, whilst it would have severe consequences, wouldn’t be fatal. “This club would still be around”.

Relegation, administration – or any other of those nasty words to be found in such proliferation on Twitter – do not appear to be at the forefront of Andrew Umbers’ global view of the Leeds situation. He looks forward to the remaining 60 or 70 days of his stewardship with a smile on his face. “It’s a privilege,” he says. “We’re going to put in the hard yards and make the club viable.”

You get the feeling, the distinctly positive impression, that Mr Umbers means what he says and is confident – little by little, bit by bit – of delivering a two year recovery that will silence the gloom and doom merchants. And at Leeds United, of all clubs – where moaning and groaning was de rigueur even at the summit of the Premier League – that would, in itself, be no mean feat.

* Only kidding…

Celtic Fans Open to Ridicule Over Rangers “Old Firm” Claims – by Rob Atkinson

At Leeds United, we’re no strangers to the unwelcome feeling and experience of your club in crisis. We’ve seen our beloved Whites pushed to the brink of actual expiry and ejection from the league; we’ve seen administration and League sanctions. Spectacular collapse and the plummet from the heights of the game to the depths of despair was a process raised almost to a perverse art form by United – to the point that it became known as “doing a Leeds”. So we know what crisis, despair and poverty are all about – the only thing that can really surprise a Whites fan these days is to see a club in straits even more dire.

Which brings me on to Glasgow Rangers FC. There is no need for me to re-hash here exactly what has happened to them over the past few years. In short, it was a precipitous fall, and an unprecedented reduction in status. From being permanent members of a top two cartel, Rangers were sent spinning into the gloom and obscurity of Scotland’s lowest major league. The journey back is well under way, but problems beset them still. On Sunday, for the first time since their fall from grace, Rangers face Celtic in the Scottish League Cup semi-final at Hampden Park. The Old Firm rivalry is back, right? Well, not according to the hardly unbiased fans of Celtic FC. Take a moment to look at the rationale espoused by a group of their fans in an advert placed recently.

Celtic fans - are they kidding?

Celtic fans – are they kidding?

Now, surely – these Celtic fans cannot be serious? It’s a wind-up, right? Are they quite barking mad, these loose-lipped Bhoys? What are they worried or insecure about, that they should resort to this? The whole “argument” stated above smacks of trying too hard, a mean-spirited attempt to cast back down a club trying to recover from an almost terminal decline. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Rangers’ fall – and without declaring any particular affiliation on either side of the Old Firm divide – this blog has to state in the strongest possible terms that what we have here is a bunch of partisan yet clueless fans talking fluent rubbish.

Whatever arguments you might summon, whatever contortions you might go through, leaning over backwards to show that black is white – surely the one thing any set of football fans must agree on is the major factor in any football club’s identity. It is the fans, it has to be. The fans embody the tradition and continuity of any club. Football shirts might change colour, as with Cardiff. Ground moves are commonplace these days and have never been unknown. Players, directors, managers and staff come and go, without necessarily having any real connection to the clubs they serve for a time.

So what is the one thread that runs right through a club’s very soul and being? It is the fans, the loyal supporters who follow, follow, through thick and thin, passing on the supporting tradition down the generations, wedded to their club in good times and bad. And it is those Rangers fans, the ones who have stuck by the Rangers FC as they sank to the depths and rose again – they embody Glasgow Rangers and in so doing, they give unquestionable continuity to the institution that is Glasgow Rangers FC. They also make a total mockery of this laughable stance from a set of fans who feel just as passionately about their club – and who have thus allowed themselves to go out on a limb, in trying to kick a club when it’s down, succeeding only in making arrant fools of themselves.

I wouldn’t particularly care, normally, who wins on Sunday at Hampden. I miss the Old Firm games for their passion and spectacle, it’s for those reasons that I always tune in to watch and would one day like to attend one of these occasions. The tradition of atmospheric support from both sets of fans, with tempers frequently running high on the park and referees praying for the final whistle to come with as little as possible actual violence – that’s so much of what football should be about. These are factors which are gradually being marginalised in the modern game as a whole, with increasing gentrification everywhere and a diminution of the raucous passion we of a certain age remember. But all of that is still present at certain fixtures – Leeds against Man U is one, Newcastle versus Sunderland bears a mention – there is el Clásico, of course. But the grand-daddy of them all is the Old Firm game – even if a lot of the cause and reason behind this fact isn’t of a particularly savoury or relevant nature.

So where do these Celtic fans get off, trying to defuse, deflate, diminish all of this? Don’t they realise how much the game north of the border needs its return, and in full rude health at that? For goodness’ sake, Celtic need it. Surely, these pompous, paragraph-quoting fools are kidding. If they’re not, then they deserve the ridicule that should be coming their way. And, for the record, against my normal neutral Old Firm stance – I would say to them “If you really do mean this – then you’re idiots; and I hope you get stuffed out of sight on Sunday”. 

Leeds United Dream Ticket Talks “Very Productive” – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United's only current asset

Leeds United’s only current asset

An unfamiliar word threatens to gain some currency in the English language: “supersortium“.  As words go, it’s a bit of an ugly duckling.  There are a few too many syllables for the liking of certain football supporters, particularly those of a Barnsley or Millwall persuasion – and it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.  But, for Leeds United fans, the one remaining tangible asset of a failing football club – this strange word may just herald the dawn of a whole new era at Elland Road.  And boy, oh boy – do we ever need one of those.

The supersortium is, of course, really just a common or garden consortium – only bigger.  In the case of Leeds United, it’s what you get when you take one hopeful bunch of guys with some nice ideas but a charming vagueness as to how much hard cash they have, and add a likeable lunatic of an Italian with family wealth of well into ten figures and a comfortable annual income not unadjacent to €200m.  The revelation that Mike Farnan’s Together Leeds Group have been enjoying “very positive” talks with Massimo Cellino has taken some of the attention away from the fact that the Italian’s appeal verdict is set to be revealed very shortly.

Cellino has been trying, via Eleonora Sport Ltd, to acquire a 75% stake in Leeds – but the Football League has decided that Massimo wouldn’t fit in too well with their collection of virtuous paragons, including rapists, money launderers, porn barons and other such innocent characters.  A barrister (a Chelsea fan, incidentally) has been considering the legalities of the matter – and his verdict is due any time now.

If the appeal is successful, then Cellino is presumably able to go ahead with Plan A and sort Leeds United out in his own unique fashion.  If he fails, though, he will surely be considering all options.  It may even be that a joint venture, with co-operation between Cellino and Together Leeds, is now the preferred option going forward.  From everything that we know – which is doubtless but a small fraction of the true facts – such a combined operation could be a very solid foundation for the re-launch of a healthier and happier United.

Events over the past few days – notably a highly irregular interview with an extremely tired and emotional Massimo – have caused a radical shift in opinion among the Leeds United support.  Where before there had been some guarded support for the Italian, now we appear to be entering the territory of mass adulation – the kind of thing that spawns tribute t-shirts and causes quotes to be circulated with approval from the gems of wisdom uttered by Cellino and relayed without his knowledge to an admiring world. It’s been a sea-change in the climate of support out there,  and now those who wish for him to fail and begone are distinctly in the minority.

The wisdom of Cellino

The wisdom of Cellino

This is understandable to anyone who has listened to Massimo’s tablets of wisdom, and his uninhibited style of self-expression. From that evidence, we appear to have on our hands a nutter in the best traditions of Leeds United; somebody who is a perfect fit for the club.  The fact is that, should it now turn out that we have to move on without Cellino, there will be many regrets among the Whites’ support.  And the feeling is unmistakably out there that, if this nutter, this profane retailer of fluent critique and homespun wisdom, were actually to end up approved – then a new United legend would be born from whom many memorable sound-bites would be forthcoming over what promises to be one hell of a ride ahead of us.

It may well be best all round if some sort of deal can be done between two parties that looked certain, until this latest remarkable development, to be engaged in a winner takes all tussle.  Co-operation between two parties, each with distinct and different benefits to bring to the table, looks likely to promise a brighter future for the football club we all love.  The presence of a maverick like Cellino could perhaps be tempered by the more considered approach of Farnon & Co.  Equally, the kind of institutional caution that characterises a group of sober-sides businessmen might well need the occasional spicing-up that an individual like the King of Corn could provide – not to mention the considerable factor of his immense wealth.

Thursday promises to be a landmark day, with the QC due to hand down his decision.  But, whichever way that goes, the whole matter is likely to take a few more twists and turns yet, before the future of Leeds United becomes at all clear.  The question still remains right now as to whether or not Leeds United actually has a feasible future.  For the time being, it is extremely encouraging to hear that there is dialogue between two supposedly competing parties, and that their agenda consists of the establishment of some security and future for Leeds, with the avoidance of administration an absolute priority. Surely, nobody with the interests of United at heart could possibly argue with the common sense and essential rightness of that.

Marching On Together.  It has a certain ring to it, don’t you think?