Tag Archives: investment

Cellino Supporters: Big Improvement On Last Season’s Leeds 1, Huddersfield 4 – by Rob Atkinson

Cellino sunshine

Cellino – 0-1 better than 1-4, yes?

Supporters of embattled Leeds United supremo Massimo Cellino were jubilant this evening as they celebrated a “massive improvement” over last season’s performance at Elland Road against Huddersfield Town. A mere one goal defeat has left United mired in the relegation zone, but fans of Cellino point out that, in the equivalent fixture last year, Leeds were zonked out of sight by a score of 4-1. Furthermore, as one grinning Cellinophile exulted, this defeat was against the table-topping team unbeaten all season. “Really, when you fink about it, it’s an ace result and we should all be proud. We wouldn’t of got a result like this without Massimo”, our man burbled happily.

Evidence for the unique nature of Cellino’s tenure at Leeds continues to mount. Having let a manager go in Steve Evans, who exceeded his brief last season, released one of the more prolific of last term’s strikers in Mirco Antenucci, released the club captain Sol Bamba the day after the transfer window shut without signing a replacement central defender, Cellino also failed to sign another striker and has left Leeds with three senior central defenders, two of whom are loanees. It’s probably fair to say that it’s a performance unparalleled elsewhere in professional football.

Whether Cellino will be in control much longer, so as to make us all marvel anew at his incredible grasp of how to run a football club, has to be open to question. Rumour is rife that a deal is all but done to sell a majority stake in the club to a group of Far East investors. For Cellino fans, drunk on the achievement of holding Huddersfield to a mere one goal victory, this will probably come as a tragedy. But, to those Leeds United fans not suffering from cataclysmic delusions and a stubborn determination to ignore reality, a change of ownership could hardly be more welcome.

Meanwhile, the Cellinophiles will tenaciously be frolicking away as the club takes another step towards plummeting through the League One trapdoor. At the end of the day, it’s the simple things in life that appeal most to the simpler people in life. They say that ignorance is bliss. So at least, unlike most Leeds United fans, the supporters of Massimo Cellino will remain blissfully happy – until and unless their hero is replaced by someone who has a clue what he’s about.

Cellino OUT. Let it be.

 

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Only Believable At Leeds: Fan PAID to Support Cellino??   –   by Rob Atkinson

MASSIMO-CELLINO

Cellino: paying for the love after all?

In the latest twist to Massimo Cellino‘s Machiavellian tenure at Leeds United, Whites fan Scott Gutteridge has claimed that he was paid an average of £500 per month to talk up il Duce on social media. Specifically, the Facebook group Cellino In, later renamed In Massimo We Trust was a vehicle for pro-Cellino propaganda, bought and paid for by Leeds United, alleges Mr. Gutteridge. It’s a story that goes back to February, but it’s resurfacing now, with a vengeance. Names are being named and the whole thing begins to smell like a giant Italian rat.

The tragic part of the accusation is that, with many clubs, you’d laugh it off as nothing more than ludicrous fabrication. Even at Leeds, a club Gutteridge now describes as “rotten to the core”, it stretches the limits of credibility somewhat. But, in the end, if you’ve any more than a passing acquaintance with what’s gone on at Elland Road over the past few years, then yes. You can believe it. In fact, looking at the way our club has been mismanaged, with lack of proper investment and a ridiculous turnover of management staff, not to mention money wasted in various humiliating court cases – the notion that a club owner would actually pay for good press seems horribly likely. 

The irony for me personally is that, in Cellino’s early days at Leeds, I was an enthusiastic supporter. I even had a selfie with him, for God’s sake. Many were the thousands of words I penned in his cause, and against what I saw as the persecution of our saviour by the Football League. And I did it all for free. Laugh? I almost feel like putting in for back pay.

The scales fell from my eyes in due course, and I’ve made myself deeply unpopular with many Cellino acolytes by relentlessly attacking their hero for his dragging down of the football club I love. To me, he’s an inept, dishonest, egomaniac who shouldn’t be allowed near a club like Leeds United, the focus of adoration for thousands of fans worldwide. I’ve long been convinced that United will only prosper once more when Cellino is nothing more than a particularly unpleasant memory. 

Many will still support him. Leeds fans, after all, are stubborn folk. And I’ll get more stick for this and subsequent articles. But I care not a jot. Cellino is receipted and filed as a crook and a charlatan – and if he doesn’t like that, let him sue me. The classical libel defence of “the truth” would see me through.

Is it really possible that even a Music Hall act like Cellino would actually pay a fan to say nice things about him – and then get caught out doing so? This man who once famously and drunkenly said “You can buy a bitch for a night – but you can’t buy the love, my friend”. Could he really be hoist so royally with his own petard?

Knowing the man’s character as I’m confident I do, with the testimony of many wise people, who know him better than I do, ringing in my ears – I have to say, it’s not only possible, it’s more than probable, it’s entirely bloody likely. 

Yes, I believe it. And it’s just one more reason why any Leeds United fan with his or her head screwed on should be saying long, loud and often:

Time to go, Massimo. Cellino must go!

Bridcutt Signing Confidently Expected in Time for Leeds 2019 Centenary Season – by Rob Atkinson

Bridcutt

Bridcutt – it could just be a matter of years now

Leeds United and Sunderland are now so close in their negotiations over midfielder Liam Bridcutt, that discussions over personal terms could begin as soon as the Christmas after next. If all goes well, that should pave the way for the combative former United loanee to join his new team-mates for at least part of the Elland Road club’s Centenary season, 2018/19.

More on this fast-developing story sometime in 2017, or after the finalisation of Brexit, whichever is the sooner.

Twitter Leeds Fans Unhappy at Having to Wait to Moan About New Signing – by Rob Atkinson

Ayling

Twitter Leeds fans’ verdict on Ayling: “Rubbish”

There has been a mass whinge-storm on Twitter from unhappy Leeds United “fans” upset at having to wait until as late as 4pm on Thursday to carp at, slag off, destroy, ridicule and otherwise criticise the club’s latest signing, Luke Ayling from Bristol City. Ayling’s likely capture was first rumoured two days ago, and some dedicated moaners have been champing at the bit ever since, just waiting to pour scorn on the deal. The delay has been described as “cruelty to dumb beasts”. 

Ayling is known as a versatile defender of great promise, able to operate anywhere across a back four, and some feel that this will make him a valuable asset for the Leeds United squad. Having waited impatiently to slag the lad off, though, some Twitter users are now holding nothing back in showing their absolute contempt for the signing. “Ah’ve never heard of this ‘ere player and Ah know nowt about him,” said one cantankerous individual from Pontefract, “but I can tell thee here and now that he’s rubbish and nowhere near the quality we need to sign. And whoever this Premier League midfielder is, he’s rubbish too. Absolutely bluddy useless. What’s Garry Monk playing at? He’s nivver consulted me, tha knows.”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything asked the career complainer, who wished to remain anonymous but whose name is Ivor Bigg-Gripe of Monkhill, what he might think of any other prospective signings this transfer window. “Well, you’ll have to wait for mah detailed observations, lad,” our man said, cautiously. “It doesn’t seem fair to rip ’em to shreds till they’ve actually signed, ‘owever long I ‘ave to wait. But I can tell thi now, they’re crap, whoever they are. Useless. All of ’em. And tha can quote me on that.”

Leeds are expected to complete a couple more deals before the end of the window, with as many as three players leaving the club. Twitter users on the LUFC hashtag are virtually unanimous in their disapproval of the un-named transfer targets, whilst agreeing nem. con. that whoever is moving out is vital to the team and should not be let go at any price.

The Leeds United Twitter feed has been officially classified as “ludicrous”.

 

Cellino’s “Old Lamps for New” Policy and How It’s Sold to Leeds United Fans – by Rob Atkinson

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Allegedly want-away youth product Charlie Taylor

The Massimo Cellino propaganda machine is cranking up again, the object as ever to sugar-coat nasty pill after nasty pill in an effort to make the Leeds United support swallow them. The strategy – for want of a better word – behind this recurrent process might best be described as “old lamps for new”, in a reversal of the trick practiced by another pantomime villain, Abanazar in Aladdin. As we might remember from our younger days, nasty Uncle Abanazar offered “new lamps for old”, in an effort to gain ownership of the lamp with the genie inside. Cellino, a perverse villain if ever there was one, has made a habit of selling off unpolished diamonds from the Leeds United youth policy, getting a good price for them, and then investing in cheaper but more experienced recruits, in the hope that he might thus conjure up the Premier League genie without the unpleasant necessity of a big net spend.

The worst thing about this decidedly short-term policy is that there are so many Leeds fans, seemingly drunk with ecstatic worship for their Italian hero, who are ready and willing to forget that it’s our home-grown future we’re pawning off, for some pretty risky short term loans and purchases. It’s a short-sighted policy that could yet reap rewards if this squad, shorn as it is of its locally-nurtured talent, can still contrive to blag a play-off place or better, and maybe somehow scramble into the Promised Land. Stranger things have happened, as Leicester City amply demonstrated last year. The difference is, Leicester went about it honestly, without manipulating their support and indulging in cheap publicity stunts.

That brings me neatly onto the season ticket refund promise. If Leeds United don’t make the play-offs this coming season, then a chunk of season ticket receipts will go back to qualifying buyers by way of refund (or maybe even via discount against future season ticket purchases). Some were impressed by this, others realise that such grandiose gestures have to be costed and allowed for. They have to appear in the budget for subsequent seasons, and I’ll give you three guesses as to how any such shortfall might be made up.

The latest we hear is that Charlie Taylor, last week’s contract rebel, and the scourge of Serie A side Atalanta, is this week’s transfer requester, as the Elland Road publicity department has its crafty two penn’orth. Not so long back I heard from a guy who met Charlie at a pre-season friendly. “Will you be staying then, Charlie?” asked the fan. “It’s out of my hands,” replied our young and promising full-back, glumly. And the truth is, it is out of his hands, as it was out of Sam Byram‘s hands, and Lewis Cook‘s. Further down the line, there’s Alex Mowatt – and later, perhaps, our exotically-named and lavishly talented young prodigy Ronaldo Vieira.

There’s not much point, when you think about it, in these young men rocking the boat or making trouble. They have their careers to think of, after all, and their new clubs might not be impressed at a loose lipped footballer. So, we hear that yet another youngster wants to jump ship, and a lot of fans will say, sod him, then. If he doesn’t want to play for Leeds United, let him go. And lo and behold, another new lamp is sold off for a big profit – and a small proportion of that profit is invested in the loan or purchase of an old lamp which is slightly tarnished, perhaps, but might just shine for another year or so yet.

As I said earlier, all of this might just work. The squad being assembled by Garry Monk looks quite promising, and is perhaps two or three quality additions away from being competitive in this league. We’ve even bought an uncut diamond for ourselves, in the exciting shape of Kemar Roofe. But it’s a big gamble, with the high stakes being put down at the cost of what’s always been regarded as our club’s lifeblood – the procession of top-class youth products from the academy. If the gamble pays off and we go up – then it’s a whole new ball game, as they say. But what if it doesn’t? What if, with our diamonds all sold off, we’re left short of the play-offs, and stuck with several once-valuable but rapidly depreciating assets? Those old lamps won’t bankroll our future, and it’s the future we’re now in the process of selling (hopefully with some nifty sell-on clauses). And the thing is, sadly, the new lamps being sold off are the ones largely getting the blame.

When we all should, of course, be blaming evil old Uncle Abanazar.

Leeds United Unearth Some Diamonds On the Emerald Isle – by Rob Atkinson

shamrock-rovers-xi-v-leeds-united

Leeds United completed a satisfactory Irish section of their pre-season programme yesterday, with a comfortable 3-0 win at Shamrock Rovers to follow Wednesday evening’s 2-1 victory over Shelbourne. The 100% success rate is gratifying enough, but more significant is the fact that United seem to have added appreciably to their options going forward.

Last season, progress for Leeds was hindered by a lack of goals. The summer’s big signing, Chris Wood, struggled through injury and a lack of service, though he still went on to be top scorer. The lack of firepower alongside Wood, as well as poor service from out wide, conspired to limit both chances and goals for a United side that never really threatened to challenge towards the top.

There are early signs, though, that the coming season might be different. In the two victories this week, three new recruits have shown they might just have what it takes to increase the Leeds forward threat. Swedish striker Marcus Antonsson notched a brace in Saturday’s stroll at the Tallaght Stadium, his two goals sandwiching a Wood penalty. This alone seems to promise a productive partnership, but it was Antonsson’s hard work and movement that really caught the eye as he presented many a problem for the Shamrock defence. Add to this the pace and trickery of fellow big-money signing Kemar Roofe, along with loanee Hadi Sacko and the youthful promise of the exotically-named Ronaldo Vieira, and things might just be looking up for the Yorkshire giants as an attacking force.

Compared to the hard times of last season, it’s already looking like an embarrassment of riches up front for Leeds and, with the sure touch of new coach and former Swansea defender Garry Monk at the tiller, a significant improvement in the defensive third would be no real surprise. Further recruitment is expected, perhaps another winger coming in – NEC Nijmegen’s Anthony Limbombe is hotly-tipped to sign – and some strengthening in midfield where United have lost a potential star in young Lewis Cook, to Bournemouth. With another centre-back also on the agenda, it could well be a busy time at Elland Road as the countdown to the big kick-off proceeds.

Exciting times for Leeds perhaps – and yet nobody who knows the club will be getting too excited just yet. The wins in Ireland are encouraging, but the potential of the group Monk is putting together will face sterner tests before the season starts in earnest. A glamour friendly at Elland Road will see Serie A aristocrats Atalanta provide a real challenge on July 30th. By then, there may be new faces in the United team, with the recruits we’ve seen so far further bedded in. Garry Monk, though, will be focusing all his preparations on the Championship opener at Queens Park Rangers on August 7th, when live TV will give millions the chance to pass judgement on this new Leeds United.

For the time being, it’s looking promising for new coach Monk and his new team. Perhaps Leeds United might be about to launch a serious bid for promotion, something their long-suffering fans will confirm would be long overdue.

Leeds Eyed by THREE Billionaires Amid Transfer Frenzy? – by Rob Atkinson

keep-fighting

They really could do worse than rename the close season as the silly season. Trawling through the Leeds United stories at this time of year above all is an exercise in sorting out the absolutely unbelievable rumours from the merely outlandish. Today has been a case in point. Top of the poll in terms of credibility is a likely move for Swedish attacking hotshot Marcus Antonsson for a mooted £1.25 million. There even appears to be a possibility that this deal could be done as early as tomorrow (Monday), with some sources stating that a medical is booked. This, despite what we’ve been told about a board meeting on Tuesday holding the key to any imminent transfer business.

The Antonsson story may well have some legs, but from here on in it gets progressively less likely. Another story doing the rounds is that young striker Ashley Fletcher has had his £7,000 a week wage demands met by Leeds, as he considers a move away from his current billet at Manchester’s second-ranked club (no, apparently that’s not Stockport County). Fletcher spent a portion of last season on loan at Barnsley, who stormed back from bottom of League One just before Christmas to gain promotion to the Championship via the play-offs, easily out-classing Millwall at Wembley. Could Leeds United really tempt a player away from rival clubs in darkest Manchester and the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire? Decide for yourselves – but money talks, and some sources are hinting that Leeds currently appear not to be short of a bob or two.

keep-calm-and-dare-to-dream-9

Sorry about the background colour, Massimo…

Which brings us neatly to the least likely rumour of all, which has led to a revival of the frequently popular #TOMA hashtag; as not one, not two, but three billionaires are said to be interested in purchasing the Elland Road club, possibly as a consortium of simply obscene wealth. Because, if you believe the whispers, these guys – unlike current owner Massimo Cellino – are actually rich billionaires. Australian, too – which may explain a certain lack of intellectual and financial rigour. Still – if they’re that rich (and if they actually exist) – who cares?

So, this probably really is the silliest of silly seasons, but at least the rumours are positive, for once – and they’re certainly entertaining, to this jaded and careworn blogger, anyway. And, let’s face it, a preoccupation with transfer rumours of greater or lesser likelihood, together with that old Leeds United favourite #TOMA – it’s got to be better than babbling on about Leave versus Remain. Hasn’t it?

The next couple of weeks could be pretty interesting and – just possibly, for once in a long, long while, actually in a good way.

Cellino Sells Leeds Utd to Russian Oil Baron in £7.4 Billion Coup   –   by Rob Atkinson

A Russian oil field, yesterday

A Russian oil field, yesterday

NB: This article should be read with extreme cynicism after 12 noon on April 1st. 

Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino is on the point of completing the sale of his holdings in the company that owns Leeds United in a surprise mega-millions deal that will see the club bankrolled into the Champions League, a spokesperson for Eleonora Sports has confirmed. 

The shock deal has been brokered in the last seven days between oil billionaire Aprelya Pervyy and Cellino’s personal representative Avril Primero. While the share purchase price is given as “in the tens of millions”, it is understood that the total deal will be worth almost seven and a half BILLION pounds sterling, with the purchase of Elland Road, the foundation of a new triple A class Academy and the establishment of a new LUTV channel on the Sky platform factored in.

The new owners are believed to be targeting Champions League success within three years, to coincide with the club’s centenary celebrations in 2019. Financial Fair Play restrictions are “unlikely” to be seen as a barrier to success, with infrastructure investment through several specially set-up companies enabling United to compete at the top end of the transfer market.

With the deal due to be completed before the summer transfer window opens, the close season is expected to be a busy time for Leeds, with “significant behind the scenes restructuring” anticipated. Hollywood A-Lister and lifelong Whites fan Russell Crowe is confirmed as being uninvolved at this stage, but is believed to be monitoring the situation from his base in Australia. Crowe has been quoted recently as stating he is “impatient for success” at Leeds; that long wait could now be about to end. 

No further developments are expected today, but Cellino may have a statement to make as early as tomorrow, April the 2nd. 

Who’ll Be the Next League One Club to Overtake Leeds United?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Time's running out for Leeds United

Time’s running out for Leeds United

Leeds United are now in danger of becoming a perennial Championship club: just a bit too well-resourced and well-supported to repeat the disaster of relegation to League One – or so we all hope and trust – but nowhere near good or competently-run enough to make the life-saving jump into the Premier League. And believe me, the clock is ticking on that jump. It’s an elevation that will become more and more of a formidable mountain to climb over the next few seasons.

The problem is, among many other Leeds United problems, that the reward for Premier League failure is about to go through the roof. Soon, clubs relegated from the élite top flight will be able to bank ‘parachute payments’ of around £100m pounds, allowing them a clear head start on their unsubsidised second tier competitors.

The clear implication of this is that we may shortly have what amounts to a closed shop, consisting of the usual permanent Premier League members, plus a small pool of hinterland dwellers, bobbing up and down between the top two divisions. The so-call Financial Fair Play rules will make it difficult for even wealthily-owned Championship clubs of long standing to break into this yo-yo fringe group, never mind the band of true aristocrats.

For the likes of Leeds United, and even Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday and a few other genuinely sizable members of the new underclass, this could represent the start of a living death of perpetual mediocrity.

So it follows that Leeds really must get its act together, and get up there in time to be the beneficiaries of parachute payments, as opposed to being marginalised by their galvanising effect on others. Sadly, there is no real sign that our heroes are remotely well-equipped enough to move on up anytime soon. It seems more likely at this stage that we will be overtaken by lesser clubs, who will happily make hay while the sun shines everywhere except, it seems, over LS11. This is not an unnecessarily gloomy or unrealistic prediction. It’s already happened too many times. 

Look at the Premier League membership right now. It makes for worrying study. You will find five of our former League One opponents there, mostly well-established top flight members now, while we remain as strugglers one step above our historical low point. Behold the success stories of clubs Leeds United should leave gasping in their wake. Swansea City, promoted from League One in our first season at that level, have added a League Cup to their mantelpiece and have generally done well. Southampton, European qualifiers now after emerging from the third tier a year after we did, and looking to consolidate and hammer on that Champions League door. Even new arrivals Bournemouth are looking reasonably well able to hold their own among the giants, as are Norwich City. And look at Leicester City, promoted from League One in our second season at that level. As I write, they are sitting proudly at the summit of English football, Premier League leaders, for the moment at least, and looking thoroughly at home in such exalted company. 

Leeds could and should have done better than any of these clubs, each of them recent denizens of League One. All of them are far smaller than the Whites, but have benefited from positive commercial and football strategies, not shying away from the speculative investment it takes to accumulate league points. They are well run for the most part and demonstrably scornful of any perceived glass ceiling. What they have accomplished should have been far easier for a club the size of Leeds. But our five years in the Championship have been a story of abject failure and serial incompetence, all underpinned by a total lack of vision and ambition. It’s no wonder we’ve been left trailing by the likes of Southampton and Leicester, and it would sadly be no surprise to see other clubs of similar size, currently below us in the pecking order, overhauling and leaving us behind in the near future.

So, which clubs currently languishing in the murk of League One might yet beat us to the sunny lower slopes of the Premier League? Two obvious candidates are Coventry City and Sheffield United, both doing reasonably well in the league below us, both tolerably well-run now after hard times – and both the kind of club that would, you suspect, see promotion to the Championship as a signal to kick on, invest, and make the most of their upward momentum. Which is just exactly what Leeds United threatened briefly to do in that momentous first season back at second tier level, before the fire sales started and the club began to lose its heart if not quite yet its soul.

For too long, Leeds United has appeared more complacent than hungrily ambitious; more disposed to “manage” its supporters’ expectations, rather than seek to fulfill them. With clubs all around us – smaller but more beadily focused clubs – avid for success, recognition and, yes, those Premier League millions too, Leeds simply can’t afford to tread water for much longer. The Premier League is a top table positively groaning under the weight of good things, even for those forced to leave the party early. With the increasing likelihood that victims of relegation will be fortified by that generous parachute for resurrection almost immediately, it’s only going to get harder and harder for the less-privileged to gatecrash the feast.  The likes of Sheffield United and Coventry will be well aware of this, as will more immediate dangers like Forest and Wednesday at our own current level. Leeds United just seems to be drifting along, more concerned with internal crises than the need to better themselves, waiting perhaps for some divine right to assert itself and convey the club back to the Promised Land.

Well, it ain’t gonna happen, guys – as any long-suffering and knowledgeable supporter would be well able to confirm. They say the spectator sees most of the game, and it’s the Leeds United fans, as opposed to those entrusted with the running of the club, who appear most acutely worried about exactly how and when we are going to find ourselves back where we assuredly belong – and able to capitalise on the undoubted potential of the club in a much more financially conducive environment. For a true giant like Leeds – by far and away the biggest club below the Premier League (and bigger than most inside it) – the opportunity is there for the taking to re-establish itself as one of the big, swaggering kids on the block.

It will take bravery, audacity, sufficient investment, nerve and some cool heads to achieve this – all currently noticeable by their absence around Elland Road. But if we don’t sort ourselves out soon – and start making some serious steps forward – we may yet get trampled in the rush by our smaller, meaner rivals – each of whom provides in effect a blueprint for the approach we should have been taking all along.

Tick tock, Leeds United. Get your act together. Time is running short.

Happy Birthday to the Last English Champion – by Rob Atkinson

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Sgt Wilko – Champion

Another Leeds United birthday to mark with an appropriate tribute for all the man did for our great club. This time it’s someone who is a contemporary of those 70-somethings who have celebrated recently – the likes of Paul Madeley, Norman Hunter, Paul Reaney and Johnny Giles – but who was never, by his own acknowledgement, anything more than mediocre as a player himself. In the managerial arena though, Howard Wilkinson – 72 years old today – has outstripped virtually all of the Revie greats, winning the last ever Football League Championship, going down in history as the last Englishman to win the league in the 20th Century and masterminding the second incarnation of a winning Leeds team from a starting point remarkably similar to that which Don Revie inherited in the early sixties.

Wilko’s career after his playing days ended was an upward graph of coaching success from humble beginnings, but he went on to have two stints as caretaker-manager of England, as well as spells with Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday and Notts County. It is for his time at Leeds United, though, that he will be remembered as a football manager who walked into what had become a poisoned chalice of a job, a club with a revolving door on the manager’s office and one which had signally failed to recapture the magic of its one great period at the top of the game. Wilkinson came in with the air of a man who was going to put a stop to all the nonsense and set matters straight. Let the record show that he succeeded, beyond the wildest dreams of any Leeds fan at the time he was appointed.

In TV interviews at that time, he could be seen by the side of chairman Leslie Silver, regarding his coffee cup with little enthusiasm and mildly joking that he hoped we’d be able to afford better crockery when he got us winning. Leeds were treading deep water at the bottom end of the old Second Division, and had been looking more likely to proceed downwards from that point than up; a situation uncannily similar to the one Don Revie found in 1961. Both men would be able to count on the bounteous fruits of a productive academy, though Revie felt able to blood his precocious youths somewhat earlier than Wilko could in his reign. But where Don found his Bobby Collins, so Howard was able to persuade Gordon Strachan to step down a league and be the catalyst for a revival that may not have been as enduring as Revie’s, but was arguably even more meteoric and spectacular.

Wilko joined for the still fairly new 1988-89 season, and spent the rest of that campaign overhauling discipline at the club and bringing about his own type of working environment. The graph spiked upwards from there. In his first full season, with a batch of good, solid recruits added – and after an uncertain start – Leeds went top of the league and hardly faltered until promotion and the Championship were clinched on a sunny day in Bournemouth. A season of high achievement followed as Leeds swiftly found their feet back in the top flight after an eight year absence. United did far more than consolidate, battling away at the top end to finish an eminently respectable fourth, as well as reaching two domestic semi-finals. The following season was the last of the old-style Football League, and Wilko’s Leeds achieved immortality by winning the Title by four clear points to become the Last Champions. Less than four years after joining a club going nowhere but downhill, Howard Wilkinson had restored Leeds United to the very pinnacle of the game. It had taken Don Revie twice as long to win his first League Title.

While all this had been going on, Howard and his staff had been overseeing the development of an Academy setup which would go on to produce many stars towards the end of the century; many players who are still flourishing at the top level had their start in what was rightly famed as a world-class breeding ground for football talent.

One of the main regrets of the Wilkinson era at Leeds is that he did not survive long enough in the job to introduce these home-grown prodigies into the first team himself. But Wilko’s later years at Leeds coincided with boardroom uncertainty and financial mismanagement, both of which had their effect on sales and recruitment policy. So, we lost a Speed here and a Batty there and the likes of Carlton Palmer and Nigel Worthington came in; the club was reduced to offering pre-retirement homes to such as Ian Rush and David O’Leary. O’Leary it was, after a George Graham interregnum, who gained the most from Wilkinson’s enlightened youth development programme. Looking back, it’s clear that things could have worked out differently – quite probably the seeds of our 21st Century disaster were sown in Wilko’s 1996 sacking.

Howard Wilkinson stands alone behind Don Revie as Leeds United’s second-greatest manager, and probably as one of the more wronged men to have lost his job when so much of it had already been done to ensure the club’s own crop of major stars. As before, Leeds lacked the courage and patience to see it through; but these things are always clearer with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight.

Happy Birthday, Sergeant Wilko – you’ll always be remembered fondly at Elland Road, and your place in the history of English football is secure.