Tag Archives: GFH C

What Does Sheffield Utd’s New Arab Prince Mean for Leeds?

Bramall Lane's Over That Way, Squire

Bramall Lane’s Over That Way, Squire

They seem to have pulled off quite a coup down at Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane, with the announcement that Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (or “Prinny” for short) has purchased a 50% stake in the League One club, becoming joint owner with Kevin McCabe.  No long and torturous process of due diligence for the Blunts – it’s a done deal, crash bang wallop, just like that.  Quite a difference, it has to be said, from the goings-on at Elland Road last year when it took what seemed like centuries and millions of pages of internet speculation before our own impoverished Middle Eastern takeover was completed.  So far, the main appeal of Leeds’ newish owners would seem to be their prized quality of Not Being Ken Bates.  But it may well be that Sheffield United have got themselves a rich billionaire, and with hardly any fuss, bother or publicity.

Still though, some things about this takeover imply a less than bankrolled future for the humble Blunts.  For a start, it’s been announced – highly conveniently – the day after the summer transfer window slammed shut.  And of course the spectre of the new Financial Fair Play rules will haunt any club with ambitions to buy its way to a higher status, meaning that even if Sheffield United were technically minted due to the bulging coffers of its new co-owner, they will be decidedly hamstrung in terms of exactly how much of that wonga they can spend on team improvements.  Then again, there may be ways around that, if your backroom staff includes a wily enough manipulator of accounts and accounting regulations.  Whatever the case, Blunts fans have every right to be excited about what appears to be a notable development in their club’s profile and ability to plan for a brighter future.

All this is taking place within crowing distance of Elland Road, and many of the Bramall Lane faithful will be having a satisfied chuckle into their greasy chip butties tonight at the thought of how their beloved Blunts have out-done Big Brother up the M1.  So what will this development mean for Leeds United AFC?  This is, after all, a club whose current owners have been talking loud and long about their desire to attract inward investment on a scale to allow United to move forward on and off the pitch.  Rumours were rife not so long back of a mega sponsorship package involving soft-drinks giants Red Bull, and only a day or so ago David Haigh was using his Twitter account to make cryptic references to that company.  Other rumours have referred to nameless Saudi princes who may want to be involved with a club which, although some way from Premier League status, certainly have a historic global profile that puts them in a stratospherically different league to either Sheffield club.  It’s being said that the new Prince of Bramall Lane could easily have afforded himself a Premier League club, but opted for life in Sheffield.  Why would this be?  Were Leeds owners GFH aware of the interest of this apparently mega-wealthy Saudi investor?   Do they still have other irons in the fire? Should we be worried that Salem Patel hasn’t tweeted one of his enigmatic little winks lately?  What IS going on behind the scenes?

One thing is for sure.  We live in an age of instant knowledge and mass-sharing of said knowledge on a variety of social media.  Football fans gossip on a scale undreamed of by the archetypal housewives over the garden fence, and if one consumer group feels that a rival consumer group is getting a better deal, they are liable to get twitchy, bordering on annoyed.  The reaction of Leeds fans is out there already: why can’t WE get ourselves a billionaire investor?  The potential at Elland Road, even under Financial Fair Play is much greater – so why aren’t we being snapped up by someone who doesn’t have to scrape down the back of the sofa every time we need the odd million for a Man U reserve. Why can’t we get lucky, just for once?  Things are undeniably better than they were under Bates – but with a body of support such as Leeds United has, with their memories of glory days and a glittering history, how long are they going to settle for that?

Now that a near neighbour appears to have sorted itself out as a new rich kid on the block, expect rumblings of discontent at Elland Road if things dont start to move on our own investment front.  It wasn’t a barren transfer window for Leeds, not by any means. But the way it fizzled out with inactivity on deadline day and no wingers or strikers arriving – that was uncomfortably reminiscent of the bad old days under Ken.  GFH will need to be aware that Leeds fans will never be happy merely to keep up with the Joneses, and now that those Joneses seem to have won the lottery, we’re going to be mighty reluctant to settle for the role of poverty-stricken neighbours.  With the pressure this development down the M1 has applied, there had better be some results forthcoming in the loan window – or the muffled protests will become a lot louder and the clamour for new signings in the January window is liable to be deafening.

The way the season pans out for both Uniteds, Sheffield and Leeds, should make for very interesting viewing.  Watch this space.

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McCormack Boosts Leeds by Signing New Four Year Deal

McCormack Commits to Leeds United

McCormack Commits to Leeds United

The news that all Leeds fans have been waiting for – with just that slight worry that it may never come – has finally been confirmed.  Ross McCormack is staying at Leeds, having put pen to paper on a new four-year deal to end speculation that his future might be elsewhere, possibly further north and shrouded in perpetual smog.

Whatever the disappointment fans of Middlesbrough FC might be feeling at these joyful tidings, the chief emotion among the Leeds faithful will be relief.  The conviction in certain sections of the press that we were about to lose our most potent striker had amounted to an almost evangelical belief, or at least to a fevered plane of wishful thinking.  There may be excuses for certain ill-written and obsessive fan-sites of other clubs getting over-excited about the prospect of more misery for Leeds fans, but the gentlemen of the Fourth Estate do themselves no favours when they, too, sink to the levels of various anti-Leeds factions around the country.  But then again, hating Leeds in print is a standby pastime for newspaper lads and lasses since time immemorial, and it least it proves that our chant of “We’re not famous anymore” is a living hymn to irony.

The news that McCormack is staying will not exactly echo around the various leagues, ringing with significance, in the way that Gareth Bale’s forthcoming departure from Spurs will.  And yet one fan-site editor of a West Ham persuasion had pinned his colours so firmly to the mast of “GFH will sell McCormack” that you wonder if he might now perform the literary equivalent of clapping a gun to his mouth and calling in the decorators.  It’s amazing how the varying fortunes of Leeds United can still provoke such extremes of emotion, even after a prolonged period of obscurity, and even among fans of clubs we have never considered worthy of even a mild dislike.

Make no mistake though – leaving aside all the negative connotations of those who will greet the McCormack news with dismay – this sends out yet another massively positive message, albeit somewhat delayed, as to the direction the new owners of the club are taking.  Onwards and upwards is the theme – forget the past, the future is bright and White.  McCormack would have had no shortage of suitors had he wished to leave LS11, and if the club had wished to sell, they could surely have realised a large fee in exchange for his services.  Something is going unusually right at Elland Road and the longer the season goes on, the better things seem to get.  This will remain the case even when the odd, inevitable reverse occurs – as long as the principles seemingly being applied by the owners at the moment continue to guide their actions.

IF – and it remains a significant if – Leeds can now move to plug the few gaps in their squad before this transfer window closes, then a competitive season at the right end of the table surely beckons, maybe along with a juicy cup run or two.  The wind of change has been blowing down Beeston way, and it’s putting some colour into Leeds fans’ cheeks as well as a spring into their steps.

It’s been a long, long journey from what we can now assume is the rock-bottom nadir of our great club’s proud history.  But there are undeniable signs that a renaissance is underway, and maybe – just maybe – that United are back.

Leeds Fans – How Much Longer Are We Going to be Made Mugs Of?

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There are some glass-half-full types who might venture to suggest that this hasn’t been a summer like any other over the past ten years or so.  After all, Bates has gone, most if not all of his cronies have departed with him, and the air around Elland Road does smell sweeter as a result.  What’s more ticket prices have gone down from the actually obscene to the merely extortionate, there has been continual talk of new investment and strategic partners, and yes – we have our first seven-figure signing since we bought Richard Cresswell back when Noah was a lad.  O Brave New World that has such smoke and mirrors in it!

Because, despite all the feel-good changes and all of the positive talk – forget the past, it’s all about the future – there are still these nagging doubts.  Leeds United football fans are canny folk.  They know their football, and they can see quite clearly when there are gaping holes in the squad, and when the club is being stifled for lack of quality.  And despite the rich promise of million-pound Wunderkind Luke Murphy, and the more gangly potential of Matt Smith, freed from his Time Lord responsibilities in darkest Oldham to provide an aerial threat for Leeds United; plus of course the elderly skills of veteran Noel Hunt – despite all this, we can all see what’s missing.  Width, that’s what. Pace, that’s what too. And a rock-like, they-shall-not-pass presence at the centre of defence, that’s very much what also. And yet with a mere two weeks until this latest transfer window slams shut, we are still short of these aforementioned essential items, and we’re being fed a steady diet of rumours about who will have to go in order to make room on the stretched-out wage bill for incomings.

Now they’re threatening our most precious possessions, and the squad’s only sparks of flair and creativity.  Dioufy?  McCormacky??  We must keep these players, or risk becoming even more pedestrian and predictable.  Surely even a Dubai-funded Tory can see that. But the situation is such that, unless we can shed some of the real deadwood – no names, no pack drill – then we’re either going to have to wave a tearful farewell to some of our major players, or make do with what we’ve got.  Brian is not happy.  The board are saying nowt.  Are we soon to hear the fateful words “Don’t forget, there’s always the loan window opening in a week or so…”?  Save it, guys.  We’ve heard it all before, year after depressing year.

The fact is that Leeds United are almost certainly doomed to get yet further into a second decade outside of the top-flight.  The longer we stay out of that billion-dollar glare, the more we will become ever more pallid for lack of limelight, the more chance of the club ending up perpetually moribund, like a bigger version of Preston or Huddersfield.  There is an acute awareness of this among the fans – that much is obvious from the most cursory perusal of the various fan-sites and message-boards.  It’s no secret, that’s for sure – and historically, there are few more militant bunches of fans anywhere.  And yet still, the powers-that-be are following the blueprint of previous regimes, and seeking to manage our expectations, to deflect our passion and desire with blarney and vague not-quite-promises, underpinned by artfully-leaked rumours.  Multi-million pound investment imminent?  Bid possible for return of Maxi Gradel?  Ker-ching.  Another few hundred tickets sold for the opening game, and then queues all the way down the West Stand car-park for the League Cup visit of tiny Chesterfield.  But you can’t fool all the people all the time, and despite carefully-scripted exhortations from Brian McDermott, the crowd for the Wednesday game was way down.  And why not?  It’s live on Sky and some of those tickets are £36.  It’s not rocket science, chaps.

It’s about time Leeds United appointed a Minister for Truth.  I’d be up for the job.  It’s not going to happen though – but can we at least ask for a little more transparency instead of the same old, same old EVERY bloody year?  We know there is no oil-rich billionaire around the corner.  We know Maxi isn’t coming back (or Snoddy, or Howson, or Becchio).  So please – whoever you are – stop feeding us this pap, and get on with what you’re supposed to be doing.  Give Brian the support he needs instead of having the cheek to set two-year deadlines for promotion.  Carry on engaging with the fans – you’ve made a start, but there’s a long way to go.  Learn the lesson that you need to speculate to accumulate, and then maybe we won’t have to watch far smaller clubs snapping up players who would love to play for Leeds United – if the money was anywhere near par for the course.  It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.  Stop selling us a line and give us a Leeds United to be proud of again – and then we’ll be right behind you in our highly vocal thousands.  You know it makes sense.

Bumper Crowd for Leeds’ Opener Shows Fans are On Board

We Are Leeds

We Are Leeds

It’s been a topsy-turvy summer for Leeds United and its long-suffering fans, following hard on the heels of a grievously disappointing Championship campaign in 2012/13.  The close season has produced rays of hope aplenty though, shining a beam of optimism through the murky sullenness that has hung over the support these last few years.  Chairman Bates had held our famous old club in his talons, doing seemingly as he pleased and dismissing all attempts to make him see sense and make Leeds United competitive again.  Now Bates has finally gone and all his acolytes with him; his mouthpiece in-house radio station has gone too, the new owners are finally meeting productively with fans’ groups – we’ve even spent a few bob in the transfer market.

Not all is sweetness and light, however.  Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be Leeds United without a few under-currents about the place.  It would appear that money is still too tight to mention, despite recurrent rumours of major investment from the likes of Red Bull, or the ever-present spectre of a loaded Arab prince about to step in and buy a controlling stake.  These dreams it appears are just that – and meanwhile we have hard financial realities to face. Unless we can unload some of Colin’s deadwood, it’s difficult to see where manager Brian McDermott’s “priority signings” are going to come from.  Normally a summer of transfer impasse will have Leeds fans in a froth of negativity, but it’s slightly different this time around, simply because that dreadful weight of Bates’ brooding presence has been lifted from our shoulders.  The place feels cleaner somehow, some of the pride has returned.  It feels as though we have our Leeds United back again.

These are good foundations to build upon, and expectations appear to have been modified accordingly.  Ever since we have returned to the Championship, each season we’ve set out with promotion to the Premier League as the be-all and end-all.  Now we have David Haigh saying that promotion is a realistic objective “within two years” – and yet some are actually wondering if this isn’t putting too much pressure on Boss Brian.  That’s quite a change from the pressure heaped upon Simon Grayson’s narrow shoulders, and even the gnarled and battle-hardened Neil Warnock found the heat in the Elland Road kitchen too hard to stand.

Given the new-era atmosphere breathing fresh air into LS11, it’s arguable that a two year timetable is quite acceptable, particularly as the owners haven’t yet been able to fund transfer recruitment on the scale of a QPR, for instance.  But we should remember also that some of the clubs who bought big this time last year suffered and struggled all season long. Blackburn bought Jordan Rhodes from ‘Uddersfield for a cool £8m, and almost went down. Wolves, with a Premier League parachute payment to fund additions, did go down. Loadsamoney is no guarantee of Championship success; the trick seems rather to be a united and happy squad under an inspirational manager.  Those ingredients may just be to hand; that’s what Brian and the lads will have to demonstrate over the coming months.

The sudden optimism and the positive feelings about the club seem real enough though. Our new owners have certainly made their mark, phrases like “engaging with the fans” have been backed up by ticket price initiatives and a more generally positive (and less obviously exploitative) approach to marketing.  If proof of this healthier club/fan relationship is needed, look out for the attendance at Elland Road on Saturday against Brighton.  It seems certain to break the 30000 mark, and all that is needed then is a good performance by the team, a positive result ushering in a solid start to the season, and the Leeds United ball will be well and truly rolling again.

That’s not too much to ask, now is it?  Brian and the lads in White – it’s over to you.

Bates Leaves Leeds on a Typically Sour Note

Not-So-Cuddly Ken

Not-So-Cuddly Ken

It came out of the blue in a terse statement from Leeds United: Ken Bates would no longer be club president, and all his connections with the club had been severed forthwith. No reasons were initially given – and quite frankly, nobody at first cared. The main thing was, Bates was gone. He was going to be President of the club for life, then it was going to be only three years (there may not actually have been much of a difference between those first two) – but now he was gone, history, end of. Bye bye, Ken. Don’t let the door whack you in the arse on the way out.

Now, though, more details have emerged as to the reason for Bates’ abrupt departure. It appears that Ken – never a man to underestimate his own importance – had committed the club to a £500k contract for private jet flight to and from the Monaco bolt-hole of il Presidente for matchday travel. No RyanAir or EasyJet for Uncle Ken, you see, he was going to do it in style and, as ever, the club – the fans – would be the ones forking out for it. This, then, is the straw that has broken the Dubai-based camel’s back. Ken received a missive, delivered by hand, informing him that his non-services would no longer be required.

Staggeringly, Ken seems to resent this. After all the legal shenanigans that have punctuated his reign of terror in LS11, costing the club a reported £4m, he now feels that he is a wronged party, that Leeds United have treated him “despicably” and that he should be compensated. So, he intends to sally forth to pursue his favourite pastime of litigation – with Leeds United this time in the respondent’s box, as opposed to blindly funding his deluded fantasies. The irony of this is breathtaking, and it is only to be hoped that the British legal system has finally had enough of this irascible old man’s nonsense and will proceed to laugh him out of court. Football’s had its fill of Ken – honestly, hasn’t the whole country?

This, let us not forget, is the man who proposed (quite seriously) that fences enclosing fans on the terraces should be electrified to dissuade those of an eager disposition from getting at rival fans or the field of play itself. Who knows what that might have led to if the whole concept of fencing hadn’t become deeply unfashionable in the wake of Hillsborough? This is the man who declared his ambition to be the ejection of Leeds United and its “animal” followers from the Football League, following the actions of a group of freelance demolition contractors from Yorkshire in disabling the Stamford Bridge electronic scoreboard in 1984. Big Brother was watching us, and he decreed we weren’t fit to be part of the football family. He wanted us out – and he so nearly achieved his objective, didn’t he? This is the man, after all, who presided over the lowest point in Leeds United’s history. Ken Bates is a name that will forever be associated in the minds of Leeds fans with failure, corruption and despair.

Ken Bates and his megaphone mouth, unconnected to anything remotely resembling a brain, has represented everything bad about football for decades now – and it’s time we all had a well-earned rest from him. It is perhaps fitting that Bates and Ferguson – two markedly less-than-pleasant football personalities – should be heading into the sunset at the same time. Having the name of Ken Bates connected to the club I love has been a deeply horrible experience for me and thousands of my fellow Leeds United fans. The final separation looks highly unlikely to be amicable – Uncle Ken is far too self-involved and vindictive for that – but it is nonetheless a most welcome development for anyone with the best interests of Leeds United at heart. Ironically, GFH Capital are now quoting a confidentiality clause in refusing to comment on the reasons for the End of Ken, something the Bearded Gob used extensively during the endless takeover saga last year. So for the time being, Bates is wasting his bile on the desert air and getting no official response. But many thousands of happy individuals in Leeds United colours would be happy to deliver one last message to him.

Sod off, Ken, and take your legal team with you.

Leeds Fans Pinning Hopes on Luke Varney – Are Things That Bad?

Super Luke Varney

Super Luke Varney

Leeds United’s pre-season programme hit a real low point at Walsall, the 1-0 defeat seemingly the least of the problems on a night when the team’s performance levels were a world away from what will be needed in the nitty-gritty of the Championship marathon to be run over the next nine months. It was the pallid nature of the Leeds side’s display which had the supporters tearing out their hair by the roots. As this is an option denied to our smooth-domed manager, the disappointed and frustrated Brian McDermott settled instead for dubbing the match his “worst day as Leeds manager”.

Happily, in the next outing at Stevenage, both performance and result were immeasurably better. A 3-0 stroll away from home is always a decent result, whatever the opposition. Stevenage may not be the stiffest possible test, but at home they have slain many a higher-grade opponent as Newcastle could testify. The stand-out role on the night was filled byLuke Varney, last season’s pariah-in-chief, a man who has been described as having all the popularity and appeal of a fart in a spacesuit. It could take a miracle to redeem a reputation like that, and a nine-minute second-half hat trick might just qualify considering Varney’s utter failure to pull up trees in a Leeds shirt last season, the odd flash of promise notwithstanding. Such was the vitriol aimed at the ex-Pompey hitman last time around that you might wonder if even such a lethally-effective performance might help his cause. But wonder of wonders, the Leeds fans appear to have taken note, and appear disposed to look much more favourably upon Mr Varney.

On the face of it, this is a little strange. Leeds fans are not noted for their tendency to re-appraise players once they have initially passed judgement. Dating back to the hapless Terry Yorath, it’s usually been clear that once this crowd takes against you, you need to start thinking about moving on, even if it’s to Coventry. That the fans now seem willing to give Varney the benefit of the doubt might say more about the increasing sense of pessimism out there, as the transfer window drags on with no further quality signings, than it does about any new-found tolerance on the part of the Leeds support. In short, if they’re bigging Varney up, then things must be bad – doubtless an impression confirmed in some measure by McDermott’s recent gloomy demeanour.

Perhaps, though, a new investor may be found shortly – to give us wingers? Perhaps the hangdog expression on Brian’s face is just a front as he toils behind the scenes to bring us some late but great additions to our humdrum squad? Who knows? But it seems clear enough that pinning our hopes on last year’s flop is not exactly a statement of optimism for how things might go this time around. It could just be that – if things do pick up on the transfer front, and if early results are favourable with Mr Varney confined to the bench – the vociferous United support will go back to having a go at the poor lad, and urging him to ply his trade elsewhere. It’s not a happy thought for our hat-trick hero, and it’s also possible of course that he might show himself to be true Leeds United material and bang in 15 goals before Christmas. It’s to be hoped he does. But just for the moment, this new adulation says more about the general pessimism of the fans than it does about Super Luke Varney.