Tag Archives: Brian McDermott

Dear Massimo…. A Postcard From Filey to Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

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Dear Massimo

Weather beautiful, having a lovely time – wish you were here. In fact, I really wish you were here. There are a couple of questions that, given such a golden opportunity, I’d like to ask you. Things appear to be happening at Elland Road, just as this blog’s back is turned – a small matter of a silver wedding anniversary to celebrate. You know the way it is. How is the family, by the way? Anyway, as I was saying, change appears to be afoot down LS11 – and some of us out here are less than sure about the way things are going.

Personally, I’ve only had my eye off the ball for twenty-four hours or so – yet in that time, it transpires that the club is yet again unable to pay the playing staff. On the other hand, somebody appears to have found sufficient loose change – perhaps down the back of one of those banqueting suite sofas – to compass the demise of the manager. Whatever we out here may think of Brian’s predictable fate – and you’ll be aware, Massimo, that there are at least two schools of thought on that one – can the club really afford to be reaching settlements when the blokes at the sharp end aren’t getting their wages? We’ve heard the usual phrases – gentlemen’s agreement, mutual consent – but let’s face it, there’s always a few bob involved. One and a half million quid is what I’d heard. I know Brian’s a gent – a rare thing at Leeds United – but there’s a limit.

As far as this blog is concerned, no fuss will be made about the managerial change we could all see coming. New brooms tend to sweep clean, and no takeover is without its casualties. Being grown-up, sensible types, we know this. But given that mature and pragmatic outlook, what we crave above all is clarity – a few outbursts of frankness and information-sharing. If we know what’s going on, we tend to be happier and a bit more tractable. This is a significant consideration at that season-ticket selling time of the year.

The matter of our departed manager Brian is a case in point – but it’s not the only example of confusion arising out of mixed messages. We’d heard variously that you wanted to work with Brian, that you didn’t need a manager, that you couldn’t understand why the manager was at his poorly mum’s bedside rather than at his desk, and that you were astounded he hadn’t resigned. We have the likes of Lorimer and Gray to try and explain the meaning of this and other mixed bags – but you might concede that it’s not easy to pick the bones out of it all.

Would that it were only the managerial situation that’s causing such a mass scratching of heads – but things are confusing and bewildering in a wider sense, too. There’s the stadium and the now chained and padlocked training ground. It seems a long time now since you were speaking breezily of assuming control one day, and then nipping down the nearest ATM to withdraw enough cash to buy Elland Road the next. All of that early determination to act swiftly and decisively appears to have dissipated. We can well believe that you’ve found the odd skeleton in the closet – a mass grave and a veritable boneyard would not surprise us, given the immense dodginess of your immediate predecessors, to say nothing of the one before – or the chap currently in police custody in Dubai. We fans were ready for bleak news about the mess at Leeds United. What we’re really after is a revised statement of intentions in the light of the bodies you’ve dug up so far. For example, last I heard on Elland Road was the hope that it might come back under club ownership by November. Is that still the plan? It wouldn’t be surprising if it was becoming unlikely. But it’d be good to know.

Transfer policy is another thing. Mixed messages again there. Various younger Cellinos have been active on social media, outlining recruitment plans that appear to include Serie A players, an English left-back, and so on. The news from higher up is more confusing. Next season might well be one of fire-fighting and consolidation, we are told. But the club captain’s ambitions run more to a promotion challenge – and that’s quite reasonable, really. As a footballer, time is not on his side.

We are a little worried and unsettled out here, Massimo. Actually, that is to understate the case by quite a bit. Some clarity is badly needed – some good news would be welcome, too. In the absence of those two desirable factors, nerves are being shredded out here and fingernails nibbled. That’s hardly conducive to the making of financial commitments such as the purchase of highly-expensive season tickets – even if the club’s banking situation were sufficiently up and running to receive such payments. And we’re getting idiots from the likes of West Ham and no-mark clubs like that taking the mick, for God’s sake – how humiliating can it get?? We’re wondering, some of us, if it’s Fred Karno’s Army we’re following – rather than Super Leeds.

Sorry to be a nag – I know you’re busy. But all this gloominess and uncertainty is fair putting me off my cockles and mussels. So if there’s any chance of some positive tidings…? Thanks ever so.

Meanwhile, the weather continues fine on the East Coast’s golden sands. Off to Whitby today. Will write again soon. All the best!!

Rob

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Witch-hunt: but Brian McDermott and his Sick Mother Deserve Far Better – by Rob Atkinson

McDermott - under unfair pressure

McDermott – under unfair pressure

The football season is over; Leeds United will not kick another ball in anger until sometime in August, with the obvious priority of pre-season training and friendly warm-up matches coming in July, before the start of the Championship business.  Naturally, the club’s manager/coach/whatever you might call him, will have urgent business over the summer; a raft of important issues to resolve.  But, equally natural is the fact that, when the heat of weekly sporting conflict is off, even a man in McDermott’s stressful position, with the heavy responsibilities he bears – even he should surely be allowed to prioritise family matters – especially when the foremost of those matters is the illness of his mother and his consequent understandable desire to be at his family home in southern England after news of her admission to hospital.

It’s the kind of situation that will make anyone re-think their priorities – but the state of affairs at Leeds appears to be such that it’s thought fair play in certain quarters to throw mud at McDermott, even in these sensitive circumstances. That’s bad enough when it’s just club officials doing it, or when the new owner is angling to get the manager out – but it’s even worse when ill-informed Leeds United fans are thus inveigled into joining in what seems likely to end up as a witch-hunt.

Sources close to McDermott claim that he has an eye on Leeds United business and that he has been contactable since heading home.  Leeds United spokespersons appear to differ on those matters.  But it’s a tawdry and disgusting state of affairs when a campaign against a man with his mother’s health on his mind should be carried out by those at the club who clearly have their own agenda, and who seem unwilling to let a small matter like a sick mum dissuade them from launching their insidious and – there’s no other word for it – snide attacks.

This does not show Leeds United in a good light.  It reflects poorly upon the men in charge, who appear to be neglecting sensitivity and compassion for a full measure of malice and vindictiveness.  McDermott evidently has enough on his plate, without penny-pinching executives attempting to lever him out of his job – and at the same time avoid the inconvenient necessity of paying him off.  It might even be counter-productive as a tactic – constructive dismissal cases have been founded upon far flimsier bases.  As a Leeds United fan, somebody whose regard and love for the club will always transcend and out-last the presence of any individual employee, I nevertheless find myself rooting for Brian – and hoping that his seemingly inevitable departure from the club can be managed with dignity, without any further rancour or ill taste – and with McDermott receiving everything that he is due to under his contract.  That’s only fair.

The current situation at Leeds United stinks.  That’s not Cellino’s fault – blame has to be laid at the door of the incompetent and self-serving people who have apparently been running a great club into the ground over the last couple of years – and of course there’s Bates before that.  But Cellino, if he is to appear as the saviour of the Whites, must avoid sinking to the level of those whose mess he’s now trying to clear up.  If McDermott is doing his best to fulfil his duties as best he can, whilst also fulfilling his obligations to his family and specifically his ailing mother – then he should either be left to get on with it, or – if that’s the way the wind is blowing – replaced properly.  Not by a campaign of smear and innuendo, when the truth of the matter appears fully to support Brian’s current actions.

This blog would ask any Leeds United fan inclined to jump on a Cellino-sponsored anti-McDermott bandwagon to think very seriously about what they would do in Brian’s position.  Let’s face it – you’d hasten to your Mum’s bedside, wouldn’t you – having made what provision you could for any obligations under your professional contract.  Anyone would.  You’d worry far more about the man who wouldn’t – the man who’d coldly proceed with business, without a thought for his mother.  Would you want a man like that in charge at Leeds United??

Brian McDermott deserves the sympathy and support of the Leeds United fans in his current thankless situation, even though he has not asked for it. Instead, he’s copping for loads of abuse on social media from supporters of the club who seem inclined unquestioningly to believe everything they’re being told by Leeds United.  Well, if you’ve read this blog, or the YP article linked above – now you’re informed. We may well be notorious football nutters – but we’re human beings first – aren’t we?? Of course we are.

So, for God’s sake, let’s start to act like it.

Whatsamatter You, Haigh? Gotta No Respect? – by Rob Atkinson

Massimo Cellino

Massimo Cellino

Reports that a winding-up petition against Leeds United FC had been issued by Sport Capital (Sole director: former United CEO David Haigh) were initially dismissed, due to the fact that they had first appeared in notorious lie-rag the Daily Mirror.  However, it now appears that – contrary to the best traditions of tabloid journalism in this country – there may have been an element of truth in the story.

It seems that the matter is to be considered by a judge in that there London on June 9th, according to documents seen by the altogether more reliable Yorkshire Evening Post.  This follows a statutory demand which set a 21 day deadline for payment of £957,000.  United failed to meet the deadline and were then served with the winding-up petition.

New owner Massimo Cellino, who purchased 75% of Leeds United through his company Eleonora Sport, has already seen off a £500,000 tax bill, paid arrears of wages deferred before the takeover and dealt with two other winding-up petitions in the short time since he was allowed to assume control of the club after a successful appeal against the initial refusal of the Football League to sanction his status as an owner or director.  Now, Cellino appears to have less than five weeks to settle another substantial demand.

David Haigh may now be seen in an even more unpleasant light by United fans, although there was never any unanimity of opinion that he had the best interests of the club at heart.  This blog has become rapidly disillusioned with the prospective Tory candidate, having once hailed him as a nice guy who might take us places.  Well, we all make mistakes – as the Dalek said, climbing off the dustbin.  Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is now happy to make clear that it regards David Haigh as an unctuous and oily chancer who was only ever after the main chance, and was probably a scummer in the first place (see below).

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Haigh – a deeply dodgy past?

Haigh will henceforth be identified in the minds of Leeds United fans with a period of ownership characterised by hollow and broken promises, facile attempts to manage supporter expectations, tacky publicity stunts and a solitary positive point of “Not Being Ken Bates”.  Massimo Cellino, meanwhile stands for – we hope – a brighter future under more efficient and ambitious leadership.  That being the case, we will look to see this latest financial threat being dealt with in short order, as Cellino has already managed more than once.  The nagging question is: why was the statutory demand not met within the 21 day deadline?  It remains to be seen whether or not United have any serious grounds for disputing that the money is owed.

For better or worse, Cellino is the foreseeable future of Leeds United, and the fan-base will wish to see decisive action on several fronts over the summer, leaving a leaner, fitter club to embark on a more successful campaign next season.  The club’s captain, Ross McCormack, has quite reasonably pointed out that Leeds need to be challenging at the top end of the table next time around. This stance has quite a lot to do with his own age – not a million miles from thirty – as well as the undeniable necessity of firing the club’s support with enough enthusiasm for what the immediate future holds in terms of on-field ambition.  Cellino’s pronouncements have been more cautious – he appears to envisage a season of recuperation for a financially ailing organisation, prior to a promotion charge the year after. One thing it would be good to see is the owner,the manager and the captain all singing from the same hymn-sheet. After all, there’s a telling clue in the word “United”, chaps.

So Massimo – if you get to read this, or if anybody brings it to your attention – let’s get a few preliminary things sorted.  You have the reputation of a guy with a few quid behind him.  Very well – let’s get the aforementioned oily creep Haigh paid off and sent packing, damn his eyes. Then let’s get the ownership of the stadium and training ground brought back wholly within the club – thousands of us seem to remember a very definite statement to this effect not too long back, but there have been no signs yet of you taking a trip down to the nearest ATM and withdrawing the necessary 15 or 20-odd million quid.

And lastly – for now – let’s get you, Brian, or whoever, and Ross around a table somewhere (Billy’s Bar is quite nice, I’ve heard) and let’s see if a unified statement of policy can be agreed upon, one that satisfies supporter thirst for success and ambition – as well as meeting the prudent fiscal constraints you might feel necessary in order to restore the club to a state of rude health, financially speaking.  All that these current mixed messages are doing is muddying the waters and worrying the fans.  And you need the fans on board, Massimo. As a wise man said quite recently, “You can buy a bitch for one night, but you can’t buy the love my friend.”  You can, however, chuck a few quid at bringing about a situation where love may grow.

Leeds United's chief executive, David HaighFirst things first though.  I’m sure you’ve had enough of judges lately – so let’s send Haigh packing with his grubby money repaid to him, shall we?  No need for any June 9th court date then, and we can get on with the other items on the agenda.  We’re expecting you to be busy, you know, while we’re sat on our backsides watching Wimbledon and the World Cup. Attaboy, Massimo.  Go get ’em.

Would Leeds United Fans Welcome David Moyes? – by Rob Atkinson

McDermott: miracle man

McDermott: miracle man

The unthinkable has happened.  It’s been the talk of football for the past few weeks, the subject of fevered speculation.  Debates in pubs and clubs up and down the country have raged white hot, with arguments put passionately on either side.  And now, after a comprehensive two goal defeat at the weekend, the sensational news can be confirmed:  Brian McDermott is still in his job at Leeds United.

In other news, Man U have sacked David Moyes.

On the face of it, these two facts have very little to do with each other.  But McDermott’s continued tenure at Elland Road is, if anything, much more unexpected and sensational news than even the sacking of Moyes.  The received wisdom has been than Man U are a club that do not subscribe to the hire and fire cycle common to – well, more common clubs.  This is all part of the Man U self-image as something special, the hollow “biggest club in the world” façade that is rapidly being eroded away by a new, post-Ferguson reality.  The news that Moyes has finally gone is, really, no surprise.  He had been struggling with a job at a club founded on self-delusion, the “Biggest & Greatest” myth. Anybody would have struggled. The next man will too, unless Man U wake up and smell the coffee.  But that’s their problem, and I wish them endless bad luck with it.

The point, as far as Leeds United are concerned, is that there is now a managerial high-roller on the market, at a time when our incumbent man – nice guy though he undoubtedly is – has a record which would normally have earned him a whole pile of P45s under previous regimes at Elland Road.  It might be that people would scoff at the idea of somebody like Moyes at Elland Road – and yet ex-England boss and former Dutchman Schteve McClaren has been in charge of comparative minnows Derby County this season, to good effect.  It may also be that Moyes himself, once bitten and twice shy, would not wish to work with a character like Massimo Cellino who appears to change managers on a whim, depending how he feels when he gets up that morning.  But the question is still there to be asked: would Leeds United fans welcome Moyes to Elland Road?

The immediate objection is the fact that he’s been in charge of “them”.  But really, the Man U pedigree is a non-factor.  Let’s not forget, two of our favourite sons in Johnny Giles and Gordon Strachan were denizens of the Theatre of Hollow Myths, until they saw the light and bettered themselves. And Moyes was a square peg in a round hole at Man U – he started out by trying to act like a Fergie-Lite, attempting to carry off a whinging and moaning act worthy of the Govan tyrant.  It wasn’t in him; he’s not that type of guy, and the Man U experience has worn him down to a twitching and Gollum-esque husk of a man, bug-eyed and hunted – it’s easy to feel relief for him that his misery there is over.

What could Moyes bring to Elland Road?  A reputation untarnished by his time with Man U, for a start – certainly among football people including the more enlightened fans.  He’s liable to have benefited from a massive pay-off from his former employers, who have torn up most of a six-year contract before his bewildered eyes.  It may well be a more relaxed and a happier Moyes that walks into his next job.  And he might possibly prefer, in the immediate aftermath of his Pride of Devon experience, to shun the Premier League limelight.  Again, this appears to have been the option favoured by McClaren, another former Man U man and another highly effective operator in more conducive circumstances.  Moyes did a solid job over many years with little money at Everton.  He was recognised as a highly competent coach before that, at Preston.

The hole that Brian McDermott currently finds himself in, following yet another abject display against Notts Forest, could well be too deep for him successfully to clamber out of.  His first year at Elland Road has been one of upheaval; takeovers protracted to a farcical degree, sackings and reinstatements, the whole nine yards.  Leeds United have been – along with possibly Blackpool – the Charlie Corrolli of the Championship, the laughing-stock of the league.  In these circumstances, it’s difficult for any manager to manage but – again, even acknowledging his undoubted good-guy credentials – the performances have been abject and now the excuses are beginning to have the dull ring of repetitive hopelessness.

This blog has been a supporter of Brian McDermott – but there comes a time when you just have to acknowledge that something isn’t working and that it urgently needs remedial action.  If the time is right for a change of management (or coaching) at Elland Road, then it’s also an appropriate time to be looking at who is out there, who might be available.  Malky Mackay is a name that many might advance, and with good cause.  Billy “Job Done” Davies?  No, thanks.  David Moyes – hmmm.  It’s a fascinating thought, not all that realistic on the face of it – but just imagine.  What if Moyes, not short of a quid or two after his Man U contract is settled, were to stroll into Elland Road and re-establish himself as a football man who knows what he’s doing?  What if he were to drag our club back up by the bootstraps and get us motoring into the Promised Land?  Giles came from Man U as a player and did it for us.  Strachan too.  Could Moyes be the latest Man U discard to find success in LS11?  Could he complete a hat-trick for us to relish?

Stranger things have happened.  If you want to identify just one – it’s the fact that, after Forest cruised to victory at Elland Road in second or third gear, Brian McDermott remains Leeds United manager.  Surely that is one ongoing miracle whose days are well and truly numbered.

How Leeds Could Do With a Season or Two of Frank Lampard – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds? Up norf, innit??

Leeds? Up norf, innit??

Cast your mind back to the genesis of Leeds United’s last promotion charge out of the second tier and back into the Promised Land.  In Sergeant Wilko, we had the man to lay down the rules and ensure that the work ethic was in place. Howard Wilkinson had turned up at Elland Road to be interviewed for the vacant managerial post at Leeds – and had ended up turning the tables on the bemused board members when he started interviewing them. The upshot was that he not only got the job, but also a cast-iron commitment to doing that job the way he wanted to, as opposed to the shoestring budget poor Billy Bremner had been stuck with.  It’s safe to say that the Leeds bosses were impressed by their new man, and they supported him accordingly.

The master-stroke came early.  Wilkinson beat off interest from Ron Atkinson at his old club Sheffield Wednesday to sign Man U’s mercurial play-maker Gordon Strachan.  This was some coup; not only were the Wendies still in the top flight, but Big Ron had been Strachan’s mentor from their days at the Theatre of Hollow Myths.  But Strachan was the right man at the right time in the right circumstances for Leeds; the battle ahead was tailor-made for his combative style and world-class ability, leadership and dedication.  The rest is history – we thought we might get a good year or two out of Strachan, yet we ended up with arguably the best eight years of his career, harvesting the Championships of the top two divisions in a three-season spell and establishing United as a top-flight power for fifteen years.

Wind forward over a quarter of a century from the capture of wee Gordon, and we find Leeds marooned once again in the shadowy hinterland of second-tier football. Morale is low, relegation to a humiliating second spell of League One football remains a faint but nightmarish possibility, the club has just been shaken up with yet another change of ownership and – just to put the tin lid on it – we have a sulky Football League, licking their QC-inflicted wounds and wondering how best to stitch us up in the weeks and months ahead.  What we need right now is inspiration on a par with that provided by our second-greatest ginger Scottish captain way back in the late 80’s.

This blog is open to suggestions here, but it’s difficult to think of a more likely candidate to play the elder statesman role so badly needed in an ineffective and inexperienced midfield than Frank Lampard of Chelsea. The man is a legend, but his ongoing career at Stamford Bridge must surely be in doubt as this season reaches a climax.  He might, of course, feel that he can stay on and fight for a continued place with Mourinho’s winning combination.  He may well end up with a double of League and Champions League this season, after all.  But if he were to decide that he wanted one last challenge – could his mind possibly be led in the same direction as Strachan’s was in 1989?  Could he decide that he wants to be instrumental in reviving the fortunes of a veritable sleeping giant?

Lampard would bring goals, class and composure to our midfield and – while he’d hardly cost the earth in a transfer fee – he would justify what would doubtless be high wages by forming a statement of intent as regards Leeds United’s transfer and team-building plans.  That was exactly the effect the Strachan coup had, back in the day.  Suddenly, Leeds was a possible destination for players of class and ambition.  That one signing made us high-profile again.  Lampard – or someone in his mould – would be the ideal “statement” signing for the summer of 2014.  If Frank doesn’t make the plane to Brazil, it’s more than likely that his England career would be over.  The legs aren’t quite what they used to be, but as part of a midfield which includes younger players to do his running for him, Lampard could be a major success in the Championship.

It remains to be seen, of course, what the summer will bring for Leeds – assuming that we do stay up.  There will be other issues to resolve – will Cellino still be in danger from the more detailed judgement in the Nélie case – or indeed from other cases yet pending?  Will the implications of Financial Fair Play on the back of a year or so’s mismanagement by GFH lead to a cautious transfer policy, despite the fact that Massimo is minted? It all remains to be seen.

For the time being, though – with the Football League temporarily at least chained up and impotent – we can indulge ourselves in a little daring to dream.  The next transfer window should be a lot more interesting than the last few, when the only real debating point was how many lies we were going to be told to flog a few more season tickets.  The signs are that Cellino will not be treading the path of deception, valuing the biggest asset of Leeds United as he does.  “Fans are not for sale, they have feeling and you don’t buy feeling,” he has said. “You can buy a bitch for one night, but you don’t buy the love my friend.”  The man has the soul and spirit of a poet, his fluency of expression promises to be a highlight of the Leeds United soap opera for as long as we’re allowed to keep him. Perhaps such a poet, someone who thinks so clearly and expresses himself so fluently, can look back at history for inspiration and then act on it to provide Elland Road with a new talisman.

If he does, he’s odds-on to have ideas of his own – and who knows, perhaps even Brian will get a say in the matter.  But just while we are daring to dream, my ideal situation would be for the name of Lampard to crop up, and then for Leeds to be audacious enough to ask the question.  Stranger things have happened – two months before Strachan arrived in LS11, any suggestion of that calibre of recruit for Leeds would have led you to a sojourn in a rubber room with the old back-to-front jacket on.  Wind back a further thirty years, and the signing of Bobby Collins from Everton would have appeared equally as outlandish a possibility.

Lampard for Leeds as the latest springboard to success and renaissance? Unlikely perhaps.  But, where Leeds United and Massimo Cellino are concerned, never say never.

New Leeds Striker McDaid a Welcome Statement of Future Intent – by Rob Atkinson

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New Leeds striker McDaid – massive potential

In among all the angst and uncertainty that seems to make up the entire public profile of Leeds United these days, there has been one ray of hope in the shape of a young Irish footballer of immense potential arriving at the club. Robbie McDaid, snapped up from Glenavon in an uncharacteristically sane and far-sighted move, looks to be a genuine striking prospect.  The selling club has had the good sense to insert a clause entitling them to 10% of any sell-on fee – the sure sign that a player is expected to go far and rise high.

To be fair, this has the hallmark of McDermott the scout firmly stamped on it.  The manager has previous for recruiting quality Irish talent from his Reading days, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that our Brian may well have unearthed another real diamond in McDaid.  His manager at Glenavon, Gary Hamilton, says of his former charge:

It’s a fantastic deal, foremost for Robbie to give him the chance to go full-time.

“He was to sign on a YTS deal, but after he scored twice in an Under-17 game while on trial a few weeks ago they ripped that up and offered him a two year pro contract. I’m delighted for Robbie. He is a great lad. He has bags of skill, he can score goals, but his biggest quality is that he listens.

“It is rewarding when you have a young player getting a move like this. I thought he would have gone at the start of the season, but it has all gone through now.”

The fact that Leeds have been impressed enough to change tack so sharply, signing the lad on full pro terms instead of YTS, speaks volumes for the regard United have for their new acquisition.  McDermott observed ““He’s a young player with great potential. I met him and his parents and he’s a lovely lad.”

Glenavon will also play United in July as part of the McDaid deal.  Manager Hamilton is thrilled at the prospect of a meeting between the two clubs. “Leeds United are a massive club and have a huge support here,” said Gary, who played against Leeds in a friendly when with Glentoran. “It will be a great day for us and hopefully we can get a big turnout for it.”

No date has yet been set for the July friendly; doubtless it will be confirmed as part of Leeds United’s pre-season plans.  McDaid is doubtless one for the future – but the future is where the real focus is now for United with the current season all but dead apart from pessimistic worries over getting dragged into the relegation fight.  Thankfully, whatever parlous form Leeds are currently showing, we can rely upon the likes of Millwall, Barnsley, Yeovil and Charlton to be even worse.  We’ll be back at this level next year – and who knows what kind of impact young Robbie might make in his new environment?

All Whites fans will wish him well.  Welcome to Leeds United, Robbie McDaid.

Is West Brom’s Graham Dorrans the Best Option for Leeds Utd? – by Rob Atkinson

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Graham Dorrans – career revival needed

West Bromwich Albion midfielder Graham Dorrans has been tipped in some quarters to be the latest loan target for Leeds United as they look to rekindle their fast-disappearing hopes of a late push for this season’s Championship play-off places.  Rumours gathered pace earlier on Saturday when Dorrans was omitted from the Albion squad to face Man U.  The Scottish international has been frozen out of match-day involvement with the Baggies lately, but his quality is undoubted, particularly at Championship level where he made Team of the Year as West Brom won promotion in 2010.  Quality is a big issue at Elland Road just now.  It was a commodity totally lacking in the calamitous reverse to an ordinary Bolton side, along with backbone, nerve, character and grit.  Those are five characteristics any successful side simply cannot do without – Leeds came up with a consistent zero in all areas.  So the addition of pedigree in the shape of a proven creative midfielder would be welcome; though some might pose the question: just why would Dorrans wish to climb aboard what would appear to be a sinking ship?

Leeds are hardly likely to be the only club at this level who might be interested in a loan deal for Dorrans.  Nottingham Forest, as usual, have been heavily linked with the midfield star.  One thing that could possibly influence any decision on the player’s part is his friendship with former United favourite Rob Snodgrass.  The two were team-mates at Livingstone prior to Leeds’ capture of Snodgrass – so we might hope that our former wing wizard would have a quiet word with Dorrans, to our advantage – though what he might actually say is anyone’s guess.

Dorrans of Scotland

Dorrans of Scotland

Dorrans was described in glowing terms by the Guardian in 2010: “Composed, creative, combative and consistent, Dorrans is easily the best all-round midfielder seen at West Brom since Bryan Robson.”  There is little doubt that such a player – if he can recapture the form that saw him so highly-rated only a short time back that Manchester City were reportedly ready to lash out £6m on him – would be a distinct asset to a United midfield notoriously lacking in creativity over the past year or so.

Whatever the current parlous state of things in general around LS11, that quality shortfall has to be addressed at some point and, in meeting United’s need, Dorrans might well be doing himself a big favour.  Elland Road is a high-profile stage upon which a player of sufficient character can re-invent himself at a level where quality will inevitably shine.  If the rumours of Leeds’ interest are true, then a deal would probably benefit all parties.  Albion currently have a depreciating asset on their hands, the player isn’t getting game time – and Leeds are just desperate for straws to clutch at right now.

Graham Dorrans might just be that straw, but Brian McDermott will be hoping it’s not the one that breaks the camel’s back.  If Dorrans, or some other similarly-skilful midfielder were to put pen to paper for United – and then have the impact of a Kebe or a Stewart – that might just be a straw too far for the hapless camels of GFH.  Any short-term loan player arriving at Elland Road right now must be aware that he probably has a longer shelf-life at the club than McDermott himself.

Quality, backbone, grit – all those qualities mentioned above are not apparent at Leeds United right now, and they are urgently needed.  But the one vital commodity the whole place is running out of faster than any other at the moment is patience.  Just how much longer can the current farce carry on without some drastic action being taken?  GFH maintain a sulkily defensive stance.  The players’ Twitter feeds are silent and ashamed.  Signor Cellino is ranting in the Sun.  Watch this space.

Watching With the Enemy: Yeovil 1, Leeds Utd 2 – by Rob Atkinson

Yeovil Leeds

Following Leeds United by any means is traditionally a frustrating experience. Watching them “live and as it happens” on Sky TV can be downright infuriating, especially if, as I do, you prefer your journalism impartial and unbiased.  It’s something which negatively affects the Sky experience, whichever way the game is going.  When Leeds are struggling and go a goal behind, the commentators’ jubilation makes you want to fasten your hands around the offenders’ throats and squeeze tightly.  When our heroes come back, taking the lead and seeing it out, the funereal sulkiness is no less annoying.  But circumstances dictate that I could not make the trip to the West Country, so I must perforce grit my teeth and try to relax and enjoy the match.  Fat chance.

This game at Yeovil took place at the end of a week you would think could have been played out only in the most lurid fiction, dreamed up by the over-active imagination of a hopeless fantasist on some really powerful mushrooms.  Quite frankly, I’m too tired to go over those events again; suffice it to say that the bizarre weather conditions at Yeovil’s tiny and typhoon-ravaged ground seemed like the most mundane normality compared to what had gone before.  Most of the first half consisted of the Leeds players striving to propel the ball anywhere near the home side’s half of the pitch, their clearances mostly ballooning into the air, performing a complicated loop-the-loop and drifting back towards the United goal.  Rinse and repeat.  Our neutral and unbiased commentators, Daniel Mann and Don Goodman, were getting more and more uneasy at Yeovil’s failure to capitalise on the conditions; clearly the prospect of Leeds benefiting from playing the other way in the second half was a matter of extreme concern.  There was a peak of joy and a trough of deep disappointment ahead for them, before the half-time whistle blew.

First, a left-wing corner just after the half-hour.  “At last, an in-swinger coming”, breathed the commentator, fired with anticipation.  And then joy unconfined as the ball whipped in viciously to be met by the head of Ishmael Miller and rocket past Paddy Kenny into the Leeds net.  Mann and Goodman brought out their pre-baked line about it being the first time in history that Yeovil had taken the lead against United, as renewed optimism surged through them.  Kenny was less chuffed; he had spent most of the half with the look of a man who suspects a practical joke is being played upon him, regarding the ball with the utmost suspicion as its path through the air invariably took some unpredictable diversion.  Now he shook his head, glumly.  It was not a day for keepers or defenders, not in the teeth of this gale – but Leeds had almost weathered the storm and could feel optimistic about a wind-assisted second half with just the one goal to pull back.

Then, disaster – depending on your point of view.  Mann and Goodman exulted – a penalty to Yeovil, conceded by Sam Byram’s tackle on Kevin Dawson, and a chance for the home team to establish a lead they might hope to hold against the wind in the second half.  I slouched down in my seat, ready for the worst – but Miller blasted the spot-kick gloriously high, clipping the crossbar before continuing on into low Earth orbit.  I allowed myself a cautious smile, but the misery in the commentary box was palpable; a great chance missed to go in two goals to the good – now there were very real fears over what the second half might bring.

Barely half a minute into that second period, those worst fears of Messrs Mann and Goodman were realised.  A comical kick-out from Town keeper Marek Stech resembled a vertical banana as it soared high and reversed direction, dropping to the lethal Ross McCormack.  The United striker snapped up possession, shifted the ball past a defender onto his right foot and dispatched a beautiful curling effort wide of Stech into the far corner.  “Might have been a slight deflection on that,” grumbled a morose Goodman.  200 miles north, my joy was only slightly tempered by the obvious sulkiness of the Sky guys.  We were level – suck it up.

As the second half progressed, the weather stayed remarkably faithful to Leeds, contrary to my pessimistic half-time feeling that the wind would probably change for the second forty-five.  Leeds were thus enabled to do to their hosts as they themselves had been done by in the first half, and at one point a possession graphic showed the unimpressive figure of 0% Yeovil activity in United’s final third.  Town did pose the odd threat, however – commentator Mann grabbing the chance to claim that Yeovil were dealing better with playing into the wind than Leeds had – but it was mainly one-way traffic apart from a few home forays towards the United goal, with one comical but alarming piece of juggling by Kenny being safely retrieved.

A bizarre match was decided in an inevitably bizarre fashion.  Leeds won a free-kick on the right, far out from Town’s goal.  With sub Matt Smith on, it was tailor-made for a high, in-swinging delivery, and Stephen Warnock duly obliged – only to see the ball evade Smith and all of the other personnel in the penalty area, including Town keeper Stech, as it described a parabolic trajectory up and then down over all of the helpless heads and arms, into the Yeovil net.  Warnock triumphantly raised his arm as if he’d meant it, the Leeds players and fans cavorted with joy at the turning of the tables, and the gruesome twosome of Mann and Goodman very nearly wept.

That was pretty much it for a game of two halves but one fairly consistent gale.  Jimmy Kebe, falling short of his performance of last week in a very different sort of game, could and should have scored a third, as perhaps should McCormack himself.  There was still time for Mann to welcome Yeovil sub James Hayter with the story of how he did for Leeds in a Wembley play-off final, but any wishful thinking along those lines was doomed to come to nothing.  Leeds could even have had more, but were wasteful, meaning that the two Yeovil fans-for-a-day on the Sky gantry could hold onto some shreds of hope right to the end.  But end it did, with United victorious, Yeovil plucky but beaten, and the broadcasters misty of eye and with lips aquiver, trying to put a brave face on things.

Afterwards, Brian McDermott was invited into the Sky studio under the beady gaze of Peter Beagrie where, subjected to some fairly intense and persistent questioning, he produced another bravura performance of dignity and restraint, refusing to be drawn on his future, refusing to comment on the changes currently sweeping through the club, insisting time and again on emphasising his commitment to the team, his staff and most of all the Leeds United “army” of fans.  What a guy.  If that most precious managerial commodity – time – could be earned by sheer class and composure, then Brian would be in the job until the day he draws his pension.  Sadly, it’s unlikely to work out that way but, in the meantime, hats off to a quality man.

So, it’s on to Brighton next Tuesday and thankfully a game out of the Sky TV glare, before Signor Cellino’s date with the Football League.  Who knows what will have happened in the Leeds United soap opera by the time next weekend rolls around?  That’s a break for Leeds who have no game thanks to their early FA Cup exit.  But even though there’ll be no football, you somehow know that the on-going story of  the Damned United will still be twisting, turning and baffling us all – and you know that Sky TV will still be sniffing around and hoping against hope that it all ends in tears for the Whites.  Fingers crossed that there’s more misery ahead for Murdoch’s men.

Despite All the Wrangling – Doesn’t Cellino Own Leeds Utd Already? – by Rob Atkinson

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Cellino – Signor Leeds United in a very real and legally-binding sense

Since the turmoil of last weekend, when low farce threatened to proceed via melodrama to real tragedy – before turning into a rip-roaring epic with a hat-trick hero – things have settled down, battle lines have been drawn and it’s situation normal at Elland Road.  In other words, the football is all but forgotten, various big egos are competing to see who can wee highest up the wall and the fans are relegated to mushroom status; kept in the dark and fed a load of crap.

But what is the reality of the situation?  Despite all the fighting and fratching, all of the writs and wrangles – isn’t it actually quite simple?  If you strip away all of the extraneous nonsense, then doesn’t it all boil down to an elementary matter of whether or not a contract now exists between GFH and Eleonora Sports Ltd?  If that contract does exist, then it’s difficult to see how it can now be argued that negotiations can properly continue between GFH and any other party. People will point to the fact that, when Cellino’s solicitor arrived at Elland Road to “complete” the deal, he was ushered off the premises, the papers left unsigned.  So: no deal, right?  But it’s not really as cut and dried as that, not when we look at the basic elements of what constitutes a contract.

Basically, a contract exists where one party makes an offer accepted by another party, with a “consideration” – i.e. money changing hands. No signatures needed, no paperwork – a contract is technically binding without all that.  Offer, plus acceptance, plus consideration = a contract, with all the enforcing power of contract law behind it.

So if Cellino had his offer to buy 75% of the club accepted by GFH – as it seems they have acknowledged – and if, as he says, he has paid for those shares – even if those funds are actually held in an escrow account and not yet paid to GFH; then it’s difficult to see how GFH can, at this stage, repudiate the contract and enter into discussions with a different party. So it does look to me as though Cellino owns Leeds Utd, subject only to official ratification under the FAPP Test, which he would almost certainly pass due to spent convictions which cannot, under English law, be prejudicial to his status as a “fit and proper person”.  Cellino himself appears ready to go to law in order to defend his contractual position.  Worryingly, it appears that the other parties in this whole sorry mess appear equally determined to have their day in court.

Can anyone make a serious alternative case, for the enlightenment and edification of this blog, to the conclusion that Cellino is the de facto owner of Leeds United? I’m still trying to sort out for myself whether I actually want this for Leeds, or not. So I’ve no interest in being right for being right’s sake; if anyone can tell me why all of the above contract theory is not true, then I’ll be happy to be convinced accordingly.

If the contract issue is as straightforward as it currently appears – and admittedly, these things rarely actually are – then Cellino only really needs the green light from the relevant authorities to move in and start putting his mark on the club.  What that would mean in practice is the subject of a whole separate article, and there are as many opinions as to his positive/negative effect on Leeds United as there were fans in the stadium when Leeds mauled Huddersfield last Saturday, or so it might appear.

In the meantime, all of the kerfuffle which currently occupies us all to the exclusion of anything to do with the actual football business of the club, could just be sound and fury, signifying nothing.  Just an almighty, annoying waste of time.  If it really is such a simple question as “Is there a contract, or isn’t there?” – then for God’s sake, let’s get it sorted out, and swiftly.  The one real voice of calm and sanity in all of this, Brian McDermott, has said himself that the ownership issue needs sorting out fast. Elsewhere, there have been quotes from David Haigh to the effect that talks might go on for “days, weeks, months”.  God forbid – we just do not need that.

Looking yet further down the food chain, our one-time main sponsor figurehead, Andrew Flowers – thwarted member of the Sport Capital consortium who started all of this nonsense by reneging on a done deal and submitting a “revised offer” for the club – is now issuing a winding-up order against the club whose best interests he ostensibly has at heart.  Apparently, this winding-up order is no wind-up – this guy means business.  It’s a pity he didn’t have the integrity to see the original deal through and save us all a lot of grief.  Now, it would seem he’s having to join forces with yet another consortium to match Cellino’s bid.  But little has been heard of what financial muscle this “super-consortium” would have to take the club forward post-purchase.  And this is a vital issue – after all, it’s not just the initial cost – it’s the upkeep.  Could we have any faith in future investment for the club, the team and the stadium if Flowers & Co did get their way?  And isn’t Flowers himself open to a charge of being vindictive in trying to stretch this matter out by such drastic means?

The next match is just a few days away, in the public glare, via the unsympathetic and mischievous medium of Sky TV.  Can we hope for matters to be sorted by then?  Who knows? But surely, that would be in everybody’s best interests – not least the team, the fans and the patient but long-suffering Brian McDermott.

Comments invited, it’s your club, not theirs.  Please – make your feelings known.

How Leeds Fans Can Influence Football League to Stop Cellino – by Rob Atkinson

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The Football League – screwing Leeds United and Leeds City since 1905

It’s simple, guys.  A little reverse psychology is needed, along with a knowledge – based on historical precedent – of how the Football League and the FA think, concerning matters Leeds United.

Firstly, write to the Football League, emphasising that you are a Leeds United fan who is sick to death of what has been happening to our club since the financial meltdown of the early years of this century.  Tell them that there hasn’t been a penny to spend at the club for well over a decade and that a continuation of this will see the club haemorrhage support and spiral downwards towards yet another administration.

Then tell them that Cellino is promising to invest millions into the club, that he intends to re-purchase and develop Elland Road into a modern state-of-the-art stadium as well as ploughing megabucks into the improvement of the squad.  Tell them that, if Cellino is approved, a run to the play-offs this season is likely and Leeds might be back challenging for honours as early as next season.  Mention that, even if the club failed to go up this season, then with Cellino’s backing they will certainly romp home to win the Championship next season.  Beyond that, the sky would be the limit – but tell them that you see a Cellino-owned Leeds United back at the very forefront of the English game, busting the current Champions League cartel wide open.

Tell them, in conclusion, that this is a pivotal moment in Leeds United history, that the club is at a crossroads and that we are depending on their swift and unequivocal approval of Cellino to save us from a bleak future of despair and failure – and to propel us instead onwards and upwards to a new glory era. Emphasise how we are depending on them for our very existence as a club with a future in the English game.

It’s that simple.  Tell them all that – then just sit back.  You won’t have to wait for long.  If they get enough feedback of that nature, it will take them approximately five minutes to reject Cellino’s purchase of Leeds United out of hand, with assurances that Leeds are part of the football family etc etc.  We can rely on them for this, it’s all happened before.  Once they’re certain of what’s worst for Leeds, then that’s what they will decree.

So if you want to block Cellino – beg for him to be accepted.  In the perverted, perverse world of the Football League and the other authorities in the game with regard to their relationship with Leeds United, such a contrary approach is the only one guaranteed to succeed.

On the other hand – if you want Cellino in, then ignore everything I’ve just put, and write in damning him as a malign influence who would be certain to have the club wound up and Elland Road burned down within six months. You see how it works?

You pays your money, you takes your choice.  Whatever you want for Leeds United – just ask the Football League for the opposite.  ‘Twas ever thus.