Tag Archives: GFH Capital

Leeds United’s “Life of Brian” – by Rob Atkinson

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LIFE OF BRIAN

In honour of our frustrated Manager, may I proudly present:

Leeds United’s “Life of Brian”

The “What Have the Bahrainis Ever Done For Us?” Scene, for those conspiracy theorists who maintain that the GFH regime is just more of the same old Bates crap. (With sincere apologies to the Pythons.)

ImageThe interior of COOPER’S house. A darkened room with a very conspiratorial atmosphere. BILLY and BIG JACK are seated at a table at one end of the room. EDDIE, dressed in Activist gear — white robes and a blue & yellow sash around his head — is standing by a plan (of a palatial residence in Bahrain) on the wall. He is addressing an audience of about eight MASKED ACTIVISTS including unsuspected double agent LASH. Their faces are partially hidden.

Eddie: We get in through the underground heating system here… up through to the main audience chamber here… and Haigh’s bedroom is here. Having grabbed him, we inform GFH that he is in our custody and forthwith issue our demands. Any questions?

Lash: What exactly are the demands?

Billy: We’re giving them two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of GFH Capital’s management structure of Leeds United and all related offshore companies, and if they don’t agree immediately we execute him.

Cooper: Cut his head off?

Eddie: Cut all his bits off, send ’em back every hour on the hour… show them we’re not to be trifled with.

Billy: Also, we’re demanding a ten foot mahogany statue of Brian Mawhinney with his cock hanging out.

Big Jack: What? They’ll never agree to that, Billy.

Billy: That’s just a bargaining counter. And of course, we point out that they bear full responsibility when we chop him up, and… that we shall not submit to blackmail.

All: (Applause) No blackmail!

Billy: They’ve bled us Whites white, the bastards. They’ve taken everything we had, not just from us, from our fathers and from our fathers’ fathers.

Big Jack: And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers.

Billy: Yes.

Big Jack: And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ fathers.

Billy: All right, Jack. Don’t labour the point. And what have they ever given us in return?

Lash: Luke Murphy?

Billy: Oh yeah, yeah they gave us that. Yeah. That’s true.

Masked Activist: And got rid of Bates!

Big Jack: Oh yes… Bates, Billy, you remember what he used to be like.

Billy: All right, I’ll grant you that buying Luke Murphy and getting rid of Bates are two things GFH have done…

Cooper: And Scott Wootton.

Billy: (sharply) Well yes obviously Scott Wootton … Scott Wootton goes without saying. But apart from Luke Murphy and getting rid of Bates and Scott Wootton…

Another Masked Activist: Ticket prices…

Other Masked Voices: Closing Bates FM… cheaper season Tickets… Fan re-engagement…

Billy: Yes… all right, fair enough…

Activist Near Front: And bringing back Radio Leeds…

All: Oh yes! True!

Eddie: Yeah. That’s something we’d really miss if GFH left, Billy.

Masked Activist at Back: Social media – a Facebook and Twitter presence for LUFC!

Big Jack: And it’s nice and quiet sitting in the North Stand now.

Eddie: Yes, they certainly know how to keep order… (general nodding)… let’s face it, they’re the only ones who could in a place like this.

(rueful grins and more general murmurs of agreement)

Billy: All right… all right… but apart from Luke Murphy and getting rid of Bates and Scott Wootton and closing Bates FM and re-engaging with the fans and bringing back Radio Leeds and social media and stewards shutting everyone up and Stadium Security making us sit down or chucking us out…. what have GFH Capital done for us?

Lash: Student tickets!?

Billy: (very angry, he’s not having a good meeting at all) What!? Student tickets?? Oh… (scornfully) Student tickets, yes… shut up!!

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Somma Time Some Way Off for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

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As rumours of an impending “high profile loan signing” continue to waft around Elland Road, there is also news of the possible return of an old favourite, a star that shone so bright and yet so briefly, a man who stood out as an instinctive finisher one moment and then collapsed as a serial treatment-room habitué the next. Davide Somma, powerhouse striker and ruptured cruciate victim extraordinaire, is on the brink of another comeback. Could these two rumours somehow be related? As “Private Eye” would agree, I think we should be told.

Somma appeared to have earned himself such a bright future with his gamble on the price of a transatlantic air ticket to seek his footballing fortune. A successful trial, a contract and a flurry of goals – some bearing the unmistakable hallmark of class and composure – and the world was the likeable hitman’s lobster, or so it seemed. Then, injury, rehabilitation, setbacks, the cycle of despair. His hopes shattered, his prospects doomed, Somma fell out of contract in June. And yet he’s now back at United, seeking to prove his fitness – and who knows? The dreaded cruciate injury is not the football career’s death-knell it once was. A nifty bit of key-holing and a man can be fit for purpose again. Look at Gazza. Well, maybe that’s not the best example of redemption – but he came back from a wrecked knee to play for England again, didn’t he? Of course he did.

The thing about Somma is – good though it would be to see him back at his best and bunging in the goals for Leeds United – it’s all about context. In the club’s current straits, there really is an injection of top-class ability needed, both in a supply-line of chances and a taker of them too.

The cropping-up of Somma’s name just now has to be purely incidental to more urgent requirements. It couldn’t really be that our high-profile loan will come from the physio department of the local orthopaedic hospital. We need more of a Sharp than a Somma right now to salvage the hopes of this season. And despite the seeming prevalence of them in and around Leeds United, we could do with a Burke too. Birmingham’s tricky winger looks ever more a snip at £600k, but that boat has probably sailed.

The news that Davide Somma may yet be on the verge of a return to fitness, with the potential to function as a professional footballer is good and welcome. If such a comeback from apparently career-ending injury is ultimately to the benefit of Leeds, then so much the better. But the fact that social media outlets are currently all a-Twitter with hopes that Somma might be the saviour we need right now – that surely must be a rumour too far.

The very best of luck to the lad in his latest attempt to regain fitness – and thousands will be hoping he can fulfil his early, rich promise in a Leeds United shirt. But our immediate salvation must surely lie elsewhere.

International Break is as Important for Leeds as it is for England – by Rob Atkinson

....or divided we fall

….or divided we shall most certainly fall

It’s no exaggeration to say that the next couple of weeks might very well make or break Leeds United’s season.  It’s as serious as that.  Not for any reasons of points or league placings, but to nip in the bud the deadly, creeping disease of apathy that can seize hold of a club’s supporter base and throttle all hope out of it.  Don’t get me wrong; the international break is clearly important for England too.  But all they have to do is win a couple of games at Wembley, with everything going for them and the cream of the country’s talent (such as it is) at their disposal.  Easy peasy.  Leeds United have no such simple task.  Leeds United must somehow conjure up a whole new philosophy, advance further down the road of securing significant investment and cheer up a moribund fan-base to the point where they can inspire the team again, instead of reducing it to nervy inefficiency.  No pressure, then.

Conflicting noises have come out of Elland Road this last week or so.  First we’re told that new players are on their way, but the existing squad should have won in the most hostile of Lions’ Dens.  Then there were glad tidings of “investment to take us to the next level”, but with the same breath we were told it was hard to secure such investment and that promotion was “a harsh target”.  Neither was the tantalising concept of “the next level” defined.  The next level of what?  Angry Birds?  Surely, they couldn’t have meant the next level up the league ladders, better known as the Premier League.  That is, after all, a harsh target. None of these pronouncements have come from the football side of the club, though you might be forgiven for thinking they had, what with learned opinions being offered about the capabilities of the existing squad vis-a-vis Millwall.  So confusion reigns, and the sickly stench of discouragement and resignation begins to drift among the fans in their expensive seats.  If promotion is a harsh target, they muse, aren’t these seat prices slightly harsh then?  What are we being invited to hope for, and at premium prices too?

Maybe, a mere two weeks hence, things will look better.  Perhaps, after we’ve sat and watched England cruise to qualification for Brazil 2014, we can turn our attentions back to Leeds United in a more positive frame of mind.  Will we have new faces to slot into our supporters’ team formations and post on Twitter? (Do I go traditional 4-4-2 or should I stick with the diamond? What about wing backs either side of a three in defence, eh? Hmmmm. Complicated, ain’t it.)  A couple of new faces could do a lot for morale out here, among all the armchair coaches and strategists, not to mention the galvanising effect on the team and its performances under the man who matters, Mr McDermott. And maybe there’ll be rumours of money coming into the club. There certainly should be, we’ve rarely been without them this past two years.  Rumours we have aplenty; pounds sterling, dollars or even shekels have been in somewhat shorter supply.  But you never know.  There’s no football for Leeds United for two long weeks. Surely something will happen in that time.  Perhaps even … something wonderful??

It’s to be hoped so.  The present mood out here is not positive, and the people responsible for those conflicting statements – and for what amounts to defeatist talk, dammit all – must hold their hands up for that.  If nothing else happens in the next fortnight while England’s millionaire playboys are poncing about at Wembley, it would at least be nice to see a more unified Leeds United emerge at the end of that time, singing the same song, or at least avoiding such excruciating discords.  A couple of high-class loans would do us all the power of good and maybe – just maybe – we could then go Marching On Together into the January market with a bit more hope than seems likely right now.  After all, we’re all Leeds, aren’t we?  Of course we bloody are. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

Leeds United: Mixed Messages and Fading Ambition. What IS Going on at Elland Road? – by Rob Atkinson

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These are strange days at Leeds United.  The football club is well-managed; by common consent we have the right man in Brian McDermott.  The people that matter certainly think so, for the most part. Let’s all hope the Board still agree.

We have a half-decent team and lately the emergence of another highly promising youngster in Alex Mowatt has been a real boost, offering the possibility of allowing Ross McCormack to play as a striker where he’s most comfortable.  More on that later.

We even have a personable and likeable chairman in Salah Nooruddin, who has lately been trying to issue comforting noises about investment and the further enhancement of the squad.  Salah has a couple of very important things going for him: he has a nice, friendly smile – and he’s Not Ken Bates.  This latter one really sums up his appeal for most Leeds fans after the last few years – but does Mr. Nooruddin have more positive attributes to offer even than the quality of Not Being Ken?

Well, we can but hope so.  But when he’s been a bit more vocal, as lately – coinciding with a run of four defeats – Salah’s tended to send out some pretty mixed messages. That’s worrying enough in a businessman/banker type who should really worship at the twin altars of “Inspiring Confidence in the Marketplace” and a “Having a Strategic Plan”.

The trouble is, Salah’s got recent form for appearing to heap pressure on the manager after a couple of losses – tweeting that the “existing squad” should be winning – and now he’s been and gone and said that promotion would be “a very harsh target” for this season, which some have read as a hasty attempt to take that perceived pressure back off.

All well and good, but this papering over the cracks approach just leads to more trouble, because those who are paying through the nose do want a definite idea of where the club is heading; so when people blow hot and cold like this – well, it’s disconcerting…

Any football club’s fans surely want to believe that their hard-earned cash is being used to fuel ambition, Leeds fans perhaps more than most.  So what do they think – what do WE think – when the chairman states that we can pretty much forget about promotion for the time being?  What message does it send out to the existing squad?  To potential signings who may, even now, be weighing up the club’s potential and – that word again – ambition? It’s all quite perplexing to us mere turnstile fodder – so how does it appear to a professional making a hard-nosed decision about which shop window he wishes to be displayed in as a result of any move on loan?

As I’ve said elsewhere, it might be that bit less confusing if the football people spoke on football matters, and the businessmen dealt with business.  When Nooruddin says that “promotion is a harsh target”, is he speaking from a business or a football point of view? If the former, then all well and good – get on with sorting out that investment “to take us to the next level”, which is allegedly so close.  If he’s speaking from a football point of view though, the only possible question is “Why?”  He’s not remotely qualified, after all.

If Brian McDermott feels that promotion may be a harsh target, then presumably he’s saying that in the full knowledge of exactly how much he has to play with in the transfer market.  Presumably also, he’s some idea of when any further investment might reasonably be expected.  Brian is taking his time in the market, having apparently been mandated to recruit loanees – but again, that may be because other options have presented themselves from within the club.  Ross McCormack played up front the other night and he’s been vocal since in saying that’s where he’s best deployed.  If McDermott feels he can now do that because of the emergence of young midfield prodigies from the Academy, then fine.  It would be nice to know these things, and from the horse’s mouth. We’ll listen to a football man talk football all day long.

But that’s the point – let people work to their strengths.  Let Nooruddin and Co seek to improve the financial infrastructure.  Let Brian get on with managing the team and making pronouncements about their prospects based on his professional knowledge.  Let RossCo get on with scoring some goals instead of trying to be something he’s not.  Let all that happen – and maybe the messages wouldn’t be as mixed; maybe we wouldn’t now be all a-twitter – and we ARE, many of us – about what seems like a club about to give up on the season.  That is such a terrible message to send out when people are having to scrimp and save for expensive tickets, travel, programmes and all the related shelling-out that goes on each match-day.

It’s just been such a mess in the media this week, and the win over Bournemouth has almost disappeared in the middle of it.  It shouldn’t have to be this way.  These people are professionals, all of them.  The least they can do is to try and sing from the same hymn-sheet (with due respect to the representatives of different religions involved).  But you get my meaning.  Let’s have a unified message, something we can all understand.  “We are Leeds” would be a good start.  “Onwards and upwards” is encouraging too.  But it all needs to be underpinned by the best rallying-call of all.

Marching on Together“.

Come on, Leeds!

Why is it That Leeds Can’t Sign a Player?

Salah Nooruddin, the United chairman has made some gently soothing noises of attempted reassurance in an interview earlier today. But the question remains: why DOES a club the size of Leeds United, a big fish in a smallish pond, have such difficulties in the transfer market – seemingly, even, in the loan window. Is it ALL about money, or are more sinister reasons afoot?

Here, Altwoodmoon speculates about some of the names we have missed out on. Clearly, the players are out there, some of them desperate for a chance to show what they can do in competitive football. Some would surely relish the chance of the Elland Road stage and the exposure that provides. So why are we so crap at getting these lads in??

altwoodmoon's Blog

The ambitions of the Leeds fans seem to demand immediate and constant progression. Without this progression they disappear from the stands and moan on social media a tool of the devil that makes all of us immediate experts on the matter. I do worry about some of these experts professing that they know best and know how to get us out of this crappy league and wonder why they have never been picked up by clubs including Leeds (who have needed it) to help them out of this predicament, perhaps it is because while we all have opinions and knowledge this is not in how to motivate footballers and to strategies a match.

I worry about returning players being suggested I have been thinking and cannot I identify a returning player who has been as good second time around. Becchio, Bentley Long none have kicked a ball in anger for…

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6 months on from Colin but his corrosive legacy lingers long at Leeds United

A scathing post-mortem on Colin’s reign at Leeds United. This blogger lays the blame for our current, less than vibrant state squarely at the feet of Messrs. Warnock and Bates. A year after this article first appeared, I think it’s still obvious the author had a point…

Could the Leeds United Chairman be Trying to Pass the Buck? – by Rob Atkinson

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“The buck stops here” is a phrase that was popularised by U.S. President Harry S. Truman, who kept a sign with that phrase on his desk in the Oval Office.  But where does the buck stop in football, and more specifically – where does it stop at Leeds United?  We don’t have a President – the last candidate for that position was bundled into a car and dispatched into exile in Monaco; he hasn’t been heard from since.  The next most likely candidate for stopper of the buck is the current Leeds United Chairman, Salah Abdulla Nooruddin Nooruddin.  Mr Nooruddin’s views on just where responsibility lies for the present state of the club appear somewhat ambiguous, as witness the tweets that accompany this article, specifically the one issued in the wake of the Millwall defeat.

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Leeds United is a football club quite unlike any other, as we all know – but it nevertheless shares some characteristics in common with more run-of-the-mill outfits. One of these foibles is that any praise or appreciation of the fans as a body of support; any suggestion from the suits at the top that the turnstile fodder at the bottom are not merely that, but are in fact salt of the earth heroes of whom the players, staff, directors and tea-ladies are in respectful awe – any such sentiment expressed at times of tension particularly, can be relied upon to go down well.  A well-timed word or two to this effect might even buy a stressed Chairman some useful time and room to manoeuvre.  It’s been done before.

That explains the honeyed words in the earlier tweets.  But Salah appears to have emitted the most recent tweet under some duress, in response to some angry hectoring from irate fans who can see this season falling apart.  And, looking beneath the surface of that tweet, it begs the question: just how wise or otherwise was this tweet?  What is Salah actually saying?

To say in so many words that the club are trying to bring in a striker AND a winger – a necessity I’m on record as specifying a few days ago – is encouraging.  We can but hope that, thus committed, Mr Nooruddin and Co will make good on this statement of intent. The rest of the tweet though is a little more problematic, with – once you start to dig – a few more layers to it.  “BUT with current squad we should have won today!!!” says Salah, plaintively.  Based on what, exactly?  The lack of width and creativity is nothing short of legendary this far into the campaign.  Squillions of pixels and fonts have been expended on setting out the extent and effect of that problem.  Leeds United are well known among those who love them as an impotent force, firing blanks; one that, to quote the hackneyed cliché, couldn’t score in a brothel.  This is why we need the early Christmas present Salah was coyly referring to.  It’s perplexing that the Chairman should so bluntly be stating that we should have won.  Who’s he blaming exactly?  The players themselves? The manager himself??  These are shark-infested waters, and Mr Nooruddin should be well enough aware of the esteem in which Brian McDermott is held by the supporters, to keep his toes safely out of them.  Such sentiments, expressed by a layman, could easily be misconstrued.

The view of the massive majority of the support is quite plain, and it sits very well with the characteristics of the modern game, dominated by big money and overseas owners, whether rich or not so rich.  The supporters, by overwhelmingly common consent, do not blame Brian for the current situation.  They do not even blame most of the players; they know there is some residual deadwood left over from the old regime, and they know that reinforcements are urgently needed.  Given all this, many – perhaps most – of the supporters will view the Chairman’s blithe assertion that the current squad, with all its deficiencies, “should have won” a highly competitive Championship away game, as somewhat naive, a little bizarre, slightly bonkers.  This is not really Salah’s area.  Salah’s area is to listen to that nice Mr McDermott, to take on board his wisdom concerning the personnel we need and then to set about obtaining those personnel with as little fuss and bother as possible and without undue delay.

That’s the role of the executive as opposed to the expert professional, Salah.  That’s division of responsibility, that’s delegation up the line.  All you have to do is make what the manager wants possible – to somehow find the money without which it’s NOT possible.  It’s a vital, pivotal role.  And that, Mr Nooruddin, is why the buck stops with YOU – so please.  Do not even think about passing it.

Leeds Lose Again With McDermott Hampered by Poverty of Options – by Rob Atkinson

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  Pleasing results elsewhere involving those teams Leeds fans just love to hate could provide only the coldest of comfort as United slipped to defeat as well – the bitterest of pills to swallow against a club and fans who are the very antithesis of what football should be all about.  On days like this, you just have to look elsewhere and get what consolation you can from defeat for both Sheffield clubs, for Barnsley, for West bloody Ham and, best of all, for Man U, the archetypal scum club themselves.  All very well and good in its way – but football is about winning. There seems to be no immediate prospect of that at Leeds.

So – Leeds United went to Millwall and lost 2-0.  Millwall, a nasty, horrible team with nasty, horrible fans from a nasty, horrible part of London.  Surely, the worst of times.  We can but hope so; things can’t get much worse than this third league defeat on the trot – 4th in a row if we include the midweek cup tie in Newcastle – and fingers will be crossed that our early season form has now bottomed out.  Derby away though loom after the home clash with Bournemouth – not the most promising pair of fixtures to start our revival and charge towards promotion.  I jest.

Then again, it’s Derby that we’re nestled up against in the twilight zone of mid-table Championship anonymity, along with Wigan – all three of us on 11 points as those imprudent, financially reckless clubs who actually saw fit to invest in their squads race ahead at the top.  Where’s the bloody justice, eh?   Answer me that.  A bare couple of weeks ago, things had looked much rosier.  Brian had just reaffirmed his commitment to Leeds United, and the lads promptly went and won at Bolton.  It’s been all Bleak House ever since; now we find ourselves 9 points off the automatic places and – much more relevant, this – 7 off the play-off zone.  The owners’ attempts to quash any expectations of promotion notwithstanding, it’s not good enough.  Not for Leeds United and not, you suspect, for Brian McDermott.

The fact is that, even if the GFH Master Plan (what a document that must be) doesn’t require promotion this season, it must at least demand some evidence of progress; and the customer base, or “fans” as they used to be called, will be in just the mood to let GFH know that it’s their cautious approach to investment that is holding the club back from even looking like potential challengers.  If the support is unhappy – and they are – then GFH are on the edge of a precipice in terms of the latitude they have to run Leeds the way they want to.  There will be too much pressure, too many people voting with their feet, for the investment they’ve made to promise any return in the foreseeable future.  That’s a scary thought for any investment banker.

Things have to look up for Leeds, and soon.  An influx of quality is needed, as the manager frankly admits.  McDermott knows he’s being asked to hold back the tide with a wall made of Saudi sand, and he’s not daft enough to carry the can for a situation that’s not his fault; not of his own making.  We have the man for the job – that much should not be doubted. But like anyone else, he’ll struggle to succeed if he doesn’t have the tools and the other backing anyone needs from above in any chain of command.  Struggle is not what Leeds fans are paying over the odds to witness, but it is the scenario that’s unfolding before our increasingly horrified eyes.  This situation simply has to be nipped in the bud.  GFH -it’s over to you.

Time to Push the Panic Button for Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

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In a word, no.

True, the home defeat to Burnley – United’s second reverse at one-time fortress Elland Road already this season – was depressing, dispiriting, deeply disappointing.  Brian McDermott had no complaints about the merits of the visitors’ win, simply stating “They were the better side.”  What evidently stuck in the manager’s craw was sending out a side designed to get at their opponents from the off and seeing them getting, in his words, “beaten up” by a Burnley side that could have been ahead already by the time Scott Arfield rifled home an acute finish to give Leeds that sinking feeling again.

As at Reading in midweek though, the blow of going behind came hard on the heels of an excellent chance for Leeds to take the lead, Luke Varney fluffing his lines in front of goal. And Leeds continued to press and to make and spurn chances for the remainder of the first half, before shoddy defending left one-time Whites loanee Sam Vokes in ample space eventually to force the ball past Paddy Kenny.  0-2 and the damage was done. Things improved in the second period, but sub Matt Smith’s header with ten minutes to go allowed only a brief flicker of hope, extinguished by the lack of any real chance to secure a second that might have denied a deserving Burnley outfit.

The Elland Road faithful had not been pleased by the performance of referee Probert who had denied the home side a penalty after Sam Byram appeared to have been brought down in the box before the interval, but McDermott chose to focus on the lack of cutting edge that is costing Leeds a realistic return on chances created.  “We have to score more goals here”, said the United boss.  Indeed.

This campaign is starting to define itself now, and it’s a veritable model of the truism that speculation is usually the father of accumulation.  The rich are starting to pull clear at the top of the table while Leeds are roughly where they might be expected to be, with a patchy squad, an excellent manager, plenty of progress off the field and woefully inadequate investment on it.  Much was made of the signing of Luke Murphy in the window, for that magical million-pound figure, a bar that hadn’t been cleared by Leeds United since 2005. But the Championship is a big time division nowadays, and the clubs at the top end are investing big money to try to ensure their parachute payments don’t fade away before they’ve hoisted themselves back up into the League of Milk and Honey. Leeds, for the time being, are just not on the same financial plane as those eager sprinters QPR and the others who have shelled out on the potential to take the Championship by the scruff of its neck.

Some of the comparisons are yet more sobering. Yesterday, even penniless, potless Birmingham benefited from an enlightened recruitment policy, their loan signing Lingard from Man U blitzing the startled Sheffield Wednesday with four goals on his Blues debut. The story behind that performance is of a virtually unplayable Chris Burke – the winger deemed “too expensive” for Leeds at £600,000 – torturing Wednesday as he supplied the new forward with his chances.  So why weren’t Leeds in for either or both of these players who so ruthlessly put the Owls to the sword? The apparent short-sightedness of this policy, whereby Leeds will not shell out a chunk of money to give themselves a chance of reaping many times that with promotion, is a glaring flaw in the overall strategy.  That said, it’s a sign of the times that we must necessarily be talking about promotion in terms of financial reward anyway, in a game that – remember? – used to be about glory.

What is certain is that, the way things currently are at Leeds, there is no real expectation of promotion this year – the powers that be have said as much in so many words.  It follows that there is no need for actual panic in terms of results and that steady progress towards a more realistic challenge next time around would be acceptable – though whether such a pragmatic view will be forthcoming for the fans, who regularly empty their bank accounts into the Elland Road coffers, is another question.

For the time being, we have to glumly chew on the bitter pill of mediocrity that results from the paucity of playing resources in crucial areas of United’s squad.  We know we have a manager of the necessary pedigree and one moreover who has endeared himself to the notoriously hard-to-please home crowd.  McDermott is a diamond worthy of polishing and treasuring, but he’s being asked to rebuild a fortress with tools that are more suited to fashioning a sandcastle.  We have to understand that – keep the faith – and leave that panic button alone.

What Price the Soul of Leeds United?

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After the brief optimism of a few weeks ago, when the first post-Bates day saw welcome changes in the boardroom and welcome signings on the pitch – including one for whom we supposedly paid actual BIG money – things have gone a bit gloomy again over at LS11. The pre-season programme has now brought three successive defeats, including a woeful display at Walsall which Brian McDermott described as his “worst day as Leeds United manager”. The perceived wisdom is that we still need quality additions, including a rock of a centre-half and at least one tricky, fleet-footed winger. Brian’s “priority signing” is still unsigned, and unidentified. Clearly, more serious money is needed. Where’s it coming from?

The sequence of news items has been interesting. Once all that early-July optimism started to wane, the Red Bull story surfaced, and it refused to go away. The fans of course immediately started adding two and two to make five, and the scare stories of team rebranding circulated, along with slightly more feasible rumours of stadium naming rights. The battle lines were drawn; one camp stands firm in its traditionalism and will not tolerate the idea of the team playing at the Red Bull Arena, nor even a glimpse of that devil’s colour red on our pristine white shirts (with the fat blue stripe). On the other side there are those who feel we’ve sunk too low to be coy about appearances and naming rights – show us the money, they say, and you can basically do what you like to us. But we need to be talking massive money – we’re not, after all, some cheap trollop of a club you can buy for a song.

Once the Red Bull story had been around a little, and it had been possible to gauge fans’ reactions, Brian started to appear in the media again with his gloomy face on, bemoaning the lack of progress in the transfer market and making pessimistic noises about having to sell before he can buy. It makes me wonder whether, having realised that there would be significant fan opposition to the idea of naming rights to Elland Road being sold off, GFH might just have briefed Brian to get out there and make these dolorous pronouncements, putting the fear of God up the support that another season of under-achievement awaits and basically softening us up for whatever commercial coup they might have lined up. I’m not saying that Brian will necessarily be so ready to dance to the GFH tune, but I do smell a big, fat rat in terms of how our expectations are being managed, and how our instinctive suspicion of corporate influence over our club’s traditions is being dissipated by worry over lack of transfer money.

The fact is that the precedents are already out there for success at any price, and that we will ignore these new trends at our peril. Man City play at the Etihad, and Arsenal at the Emirates. If corporate stadium names are OK at these two grand old clubs, then why not at Leeds? It’s not as if any Leeds fan would ever call it by any other name than Elland Road anyway, so why the big fuss? We can expect to be wound up by opposition fans and the media, but what’s new about that? Surely the priority now is to give Brian McDermott the tools to finish the job.

If we remain too ignorantly proud to go with the flow, then we have to accept that the price of pride might be one we don’t wish to pay. Do we want to play at the Red Bull Arena in the Premier League, or at Elland Road in the Championship – or maybe even in League One? It might just be that the choice is as simple and stark as that.