Tag Archives: Ken Bates

Meet the Man Who’s REALLY Saved Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Elland Road

Leeds United, saved at last

These past few years, during a time when it’s been obvious for the most part that Leeds United really did need saving, there have been more or less extravagant claims on behalf of various parties who, their supporters would have us believe, have been the saintly figures behind various rescue acts to preserve the Yorkshire giants for their grateful fans. Such claims do not hold water. The men and the motivations behind the alleged rescue operations have been decidedly dodgy, with the “rescues” invariably accelerating United’s downhill plummet, as well as emphasising their shocking loss of credibility within a game once dominated by the heroes of Elland Road.

It’s pointless going over old ground again here, save to emphasise this blog’s viewpoint that, far from “saving Leeds United”, the various incarnations of ownership since the turn of the century have had in common their gross mismanagement of the club and its reduction to a laughing stock. For most of the time since relegation from the top flight, the story has been one of deterioration and decay, a gradual and insidious loss of status and prestige, and the disastrous admission to the club of two of the biggest villains ever to sully the name of football in general and Leeds United in particular. And yet still these two characters – Bates and Cellino – have their adherents among supposed Leeds fans, people who will still try to tell you that, without their own particular conman of choice, United might not even exist. The fact is that a club of Leeds’ stature will always eventually find a saviour, just as even the darkest night ends with the rising of the sun. It was simply our misfortune that, in the decade or so after the post-Ridsdale implosion, we managed to attract two men so inimical to the true interests of the club, and the game in a wider sense.

Enough of them. It’s with much greater optimism that we now view our club as its resurgence gathers a momentum that seems set fair to become unstoppable. The change of ownership started things off in the best possible way, in that it saw the end of Cellino (albeit to some bewildering peeps of protest from some quarters). But Massimo was gone, and we had a quite different Italian in charge; one who began to do novel things like keeping promises, investing in the team, recruiting football men to do football business – stuff like that. Andrea Radrizzani has overseen, in really a very short time, a total transformation of the club, the stadium and the playing staff at both first team and also – crucially – at U-23 level, where last season had been an unmitigated farce. So, can we point at Andrea and say, “Here is the man who saved Leeds United“? There’s quite probably a case for just such a conclusion to be drawn.

But really, you have to look back further, right back to the start of the process that would eventually see Massimo move out and Andrea move in. From this beginning, everything else has flowed. It’s the catalyst for Radrizzani’s Leeds United takeover that we’re really looking for, when we seek to identify Leeds United’s actual saviour.

And the thing is, it’s such an unlikely name, a man with only the most fleeting and tenuous connection with Leeds United, when he appeared as a veteran in the white shirt during John Charles’ testimonial in 1988, playing alongside Michel Platini and helping set up a pre-Leeds transfer Ian Rush for a hat-trick against Everton. Other than this brief glimpse of magic in a Leeds shirt, our man spent most of his career with old enemies north and south of the Scottish border, earning legendary status first at Celtic and then at Liverpool, where he’d been set the unenviable task in 1977 of replacing departed Kop hero Kevin Keegan. Naturally, he went on to surpass Keegan; success and the attainment of legend status was, after all, simply second nature to him.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, I give you the true saviour of Leeds United – not Bates, not Cellino, not even (though I would willingly kiss his Italian shoes) Andrea Radrizzani. The man and the motivation behind The Italian Job, whereby one Signor was replaced by another, is none other than Scotland hero and perennial thorn in the side of Leeds United and many others, Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish, MBE. Dalglish it was who, at a social gathering before a Champions League quarter final between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, spoke with enthusiasm to Radrizzani of Leeds United, of the size of the club and the passion of its fanbase; of how the whole place was a project just awaiting fulfillment, ready for the right person to go in and revive football’s archetypal sleeping giant.

“It was a casual chat at lunch with friends, it was my first time meeting him,” says Radrizzani. “We were talking about many things and for two minutes we talked about Leeds, the sleeping giant, the opportunity for someone coming here. He mentioned about the great opportunity if someone had a concrete project with a vision to bring back the passion. He also mentioned about how the city is passionate about the club and this is what I’m finding out.”

From this small beginning, the seed was sown that has brought us to where we are today, with Leeds United, so recently a basket case of a club, now showing the unmistakeable signs of growing vigour, health and confidence. A journey of a thousand miles, so they say, begins with a single step – and there’s no denying that Kenny Dalglish, on that blessed day for Leeds, applied the initial, gentle push that started Radrizzani off on the project he’s now conducting so well.

It’s frightening to contemplate where we’d now be, and in what sort of mood or depths of despair, if that chance meeting and casual conversation hadn’t taken place. Destiny took a hand, fate came a-calling, and when the two men met, Dalglish – a man of other clubs and different allegiances – spoke warmly of Leeds, of potential untapped and an institution of the game ripe for salvation. It was enough to set us on the road to recovery. Dalglish, bless him, was there when we needed him, and he said what we needed him to say.

At some future time when, we must fervently hope, (but now with much more confidence) we are truly back at the top table of the game – well, we’ll know that it’s our due, that we’re finally back where we belong. And in the still further distant future, when trophies are back on the sideboard and we’re stomping the fields of Europe again, it might be time for a few more statues to be erected around the fully-refurbished, highly impressive and club-owned Elland Road mega-stadium. It’s how we say thanks to our legends and our saviours, after all.

Laugh if you will, but consider the role played by Leeds United’s most identifiable saviour of recent years, think of the contribution he has made towards our recent, spectacular revival and resurgence. It’s no exaggeration to say that this man, in that one casual conversation, has made a pivotal difference to Leeds United history. It would be entirely fitting, in this humbly grateful blogger’s view, for one of those new statues – in some unspecified future year that I hope but don’t expect to see – to represent Celtic, Liverpool and, yes, Leeds United hero Kenny Dalglish.

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32 Years Since Bates’ Vow: Has Leeds Utd Finally Been Destroyed?   –   by Rob Atkinson

BatesEyes

Remember this quote from then Chelsea chairman Ken Bates in 1984, after Leeds United fans had damaged a scoreboard at Stamford Bridge? “I shall not rest until Leeds United are kicked out of the Football League. Their fans are the scum of the Earth, absolute animals and a disgrace. I will do everything in my power to make this happen”. 

These were unequivocal words and, we may now reflect, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, that Bates was not perhaps the wisest choice to make when a vacancy arose for “Saviour of ailing West Yorkshire football club”. In the event, when Uncle Ken finally got his mitts on the club, he oversaw a historic plunge into the third tier, with the sideshows of various legal disputes involving the game’s authorities and others. When United, under Simon Grayson, finally hauled themselves back into the Championship and started to look like feasible contenders for the top flight again, the sales started; the club’s finest players were flogged off and inadequately replaced, most of the proceeds disappearing into a financial black hole, or going to fund vanity projects such as the East Stand refurbishment. Tellingly, the gleaming edifice is known by many Leeds fans to this day as “the Delph Shelf“.

When Ken found the heat in the kitchen too hot, he did not trouble himself overmuch with the need to secure ambitious, committed buyers who would take the club upwards towards its proper place among football’s elite. Instead, we got saddled with GFH, the poorest Middle East finance house in creation, and the unedifying spectacle ensued of more in-fighting, more egomaniac games, even less team investment, with criminal goings-on and jailbird revelations to follow. How glad we all were when they were marginalised and pushed into the background by the arrival of our very own King of Corn, il Duce Massimo Cellino himself. And how disastrously wrong we were to afford him any kind of welcome; we should have chased his taxi southwards out of the city and not stopped until it drove into the English Channel. If things were bad under Bates and worse under GFH, they have become positively farcical under Cellino.

There is no need to go into all the ins and outs of the Cellino regime so far, the broken promises, the lies, the false declarations of intent to sell up. We all know the sorry story all too miserably well. Suffice to say that we have now reached a situation where figures of no great stature in the game are being approached to take nominal charge of team affairs – and are saying “thanks, but no thanks”. And who can blame them? It would take a ridiculously self-confident man, one capable of the most exquisite degree of self-delusion, to willingly give himself up on the sacrificial altar of working for Cellino. The lessons of the last couple of years are starkly clear – taking the hot-seat at Elland Road is a shortcut to professional suicide. It’s a no-win situation that has left a trail of shattered reputations in its wake.

Meanwhile, the man who can accurately boast the best Leeds United managerial record since the heady days of Simon Grayson is being treated scandalously, with zero respect. Steve Evans has been left disgracefully unenlightened about his future, despite vague promises and inconclusive meetings, to watch the position he still currently occupies being hawked around any Tom, Dick or Harry who might yet be daft enough to be seduced by the name of Leeds United. Nobody of any common sense or professional pride will touch this job, though, surely. Nobody with his head screwed on properly wants to work with a lunatic.

The only real candidate is the man currently in possession, the man who knows the score, who is already committed to the task, who has done well and has won over many doubters, all while losing a medically worrying amount of weight. You couldn’t blame him for giving in to the hurt, salvaging his dignity and walking away. But Steve Evans wants to keep his job, he “gets” Leeds United and he has a burning desire to succeed, as he has undeniably done elsewhere. Yet the idiot in charge seems to have turned away from this man who has won the grudging respect of some of the most cynical of the fans – Cellino just lacks the guts, class and decency to come out and say so.

The football club’s dirty linen is being washed in public while the sporting world looks on and laughs. The manager of MK Dons turned us down. The Bristol Rovers manager is being courted, but Leeds United have not met that club’s conditions for talking to their employee, who has an improved three year contract on the table, waiting for him to show good sense and sign. It’s all going on, dreadfully humiliating and utterly cringeworthy, in the full glare of media and rival fan attention, while the long-suffering fans of Leeds United bow their heads, wondering how much worse things can get.

In 1984, Leeds United had good times ahead of them, they had chances even to establish a dynastic power at the top of the game – and they certainly put silverware on the table that we could never have imagined in that Orwellian, second division year of ill omen, when some freelance demolition contractors from West Yorkshire did a number on Ken’s scoreboard. But the Curse of Bates had been pronounced and, all this time later, you really do have to ask yourself: will he end up with his spiteful wish fulfilled? He paved the way towards the slippery slope we’re now descending like a greased pig. Rudderless, with no clear plan, with little if any communication between club and fans, miles behind other clubs already planning for next season – and with professional football men seemingly unwilling to touch us with a bargepole – we may well be about to plunge yet again into the abyss.

If that happens, we might despairingly look back to Bates’ words in 1984, we might ponder on his potless and clueless successors in the Elland Road boardroom since his own departure – and we might say to ourselves: well, he warned us, did Ken. And it looks as though he’s got his way after all. And what would Ken Bates say to that?

Perhaps: “Revenge is a dish best served cold”.

‘Mad’ Max Gradel Points Bamba to Home Comforts at Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

Striking success - Gradel scores his second for Leeds against QPR

Striking success – Gradel scores his second for Leeds against QPR

By common consent, one vital ingredient missing from the Leeds United recipe over recent years has been a class act on the wing. Somebody exciting, with the gift of pace and the trickery to go past people as if they were not there. Somebody with a goal or two in him; someone to terrify the opposition. Such a man was and is Mad Maxi Gradel, a raw talent when he was foolishly discarded by Leicester City, but a talent that blossomed – and how – at Elland Road.

Now, even after a few years away from Leeds, Mad Max is demonstrating that he still has deep feelings for the club where he strutted his stuff briefly, but to such effect. The Ivorian international, it’s been revealed, texted his countryman Sol Bamba – another former Leicester man – and recommended the Leeds move to the huge defender. “He text me two days ago and said he’d heard about my move and he was happy,” said Bamba. “He said I will love it here. He said the fans will be good with me if I do the business. He told me all the good things about the club and that gives me even more positive things about the club. He said only good things. I’m happy to be here and I cannot wait to get started.”

Could such enthusiasm for our beloved Leeds hold out any hope that we may yet see Gradel himself back in a United shirt? Maxi’s return to LS11 has been mooted many a time and oft, but for various reasons it’s never quite happened up to press. That’s surely not to say that the player wouldn’t be up for it, though. The feeling during Maxi’s too-brief time at Leeds was that he formed a strong attachment to the club and to the fans. This was despite his occasional red-mist moments – notably of course the one that so nearly upset United’s promotion clincher at home to Bristol Rovers back in 2010. Leeds fans have always been partial to the presence of a certifiable nutter in the team – but it’s probable that tolerance would have snapped had Gradel’s insane reaction and sending-off cost his team dear that day. Happily, as we know, it all came right – and Max survived to demonstrate that he was a force in the Championship during Leeds’ first season back, when we briefly threatened to charge through the second tier and into the top flight at the first time of asking.

Sadly, the executive management of the club was deeply flawed at that time, and a succession of managers found themselves hamstrung by the dodgy policies of the bearded menace in the boardroom. Gradel was one casualty of a bizarre transfer ethos which seemed to identify any player with real potential to take the club forward as a priority sale item. We lost a lot of good players, and the best we have done since, really, is tread water in the Championship – nowhere near good enough for a club like Leeds.

Now, current crises notwithstanding, there may be a glimmer of light at the end of a long tunnel – certainly as far as player recruitment goes. The club has managed to secure the services of some genuinely exciting players, without (so far) revisiting the past – although there have always been calls for the likes of Beckford, Snoddy and even Howson to return and fulfil their destiny at Elland Road. The Cellino policy (when he has been allowed to get on with his running of the club) has been to seek out good prospects at the right price, supplementing the signings with an injection of talent from the youth and development squads. Against this background, the re-signing of Gradel would buck the trend somewhat – then again, trends are there to be bucked.

The difference with Gradel is that you feel he needs to be at a club where he’s loved and believed in; he seemed a player who would give of his best most reliably with a vociferous crowd behind him to light the blue touch paper. For this reason above all, the feeling at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is that – if there is just one past player Leeds should be looking at re-engaging, then Mad Max Gradel is that man. His ability and pace out wide – something still notably absent in this group – could open up new dimensions for the likes of Sharp, Antenucci, even Doukara and – as we fondly remember – he had a hell of a finish on him as and when he got a sight of the target. His goals against Notts Forest in a pulsating victory at Elland Road (the one where TV commentators tried to excuse a two-footed challenge by a Florist player to claim he shouldn’t have been sent off) will stay long in the memory. The feeling was that Max loved Leeds and that Leeds loved Max – why shouldn’t such a reciprocal passion be re-ignited?

Allowing for whatever may yet happen in the remainder of this window, a move for Gradel could kick-start a survival push this season. It’s a season that few really expected to bring concrete rewards – although you had hopes. But even as part of a rescue mission for a squad that could challenge more confidently next time around, the addition of Max would be an exciting and potentially productive development. As far as this blog is concerned, he would be the top choice should Leeds after all look to bring back just one old favourite.

Maxi for Leeds – yes please. Let’s have a bit of Gradel madness for the rest of this turbulent season.

Leeds Fans Need to Seriously Consider 4 Month Away Games Boycott – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United's massive away support

Leeds United’s massive away support

This article was originally published on April 8 this year, at a time when Life, Leeds United the Universe & Everything, in common with all other fans and bloggers with the interests of Leeds United at heart, could clearly see that the FL, smarting from defeat in the High Court, remained determined to “get” Massimo Cellino eventually. This was true then and it’s been proven true on Monday, with the League decision once again to disqualify the Italian under its Owners and Directors Rules, the so-called “Fit & Proper Test”.

It remains the case, clearly, that the League see a dubious conviction on some relatively petty import duty transgression as being far more serious and worthy of action than, say, a conviction for rape (Oyston at Blackpool FC), money laundering (Yeung at Birmingham City) or chronic and serial mismanagement of its biggest and most celebrated member club (Ken Bates, Sean Harvey and GFH Capital at Leeds United over the past decade). This incredibly perverse set of priorities serves to characterise an organisation that has unfailingly demonstrated its naked hostility to Leeds United (its premier member club, let’s not forget) and has utterly failed to abide by its implied duty of care to this club and its fans.

The original article, reproduced below, called on various bodies and all fans to consider an away games boycott, effectively hitting other Football League clubs in the pocket and striking at the central financial interests of the League itself. This remains, in my opinion, the best way forward. The idea received a mixed reception at the time and may well do so again; the idea of giving up those beloved away trips is not easy to stomach for some of our hardier fanatics.

But consider: the League has today acted to bar Massimo Cellino, yet this sanction has to be finite, lasting only until March, when the conviction it’s based on will be spent. So now my call is not for an open-ended boycott, but rather a refusal to buy tickets for away games for the duration of this Football League sanction. I believe that this would be feasible and a high-profile way of making a point by a set of fans who normally turn up in their thousands, lining the pockets of the very people who are against us.

The Football League, having lost an appeal against its disqualification of Massimo Cellino in front of an independent QC, are now showing their true colours in the wake of that humiliating defeat.  Rather than personifying dignity and acceptance of the outcome of a judicial process, they hastened to point out that they were “disappointed” and stated they would be considering the judgement. There is no humility, only arrogance.  There is no recognition of the duty of care they have towards their largest member club and its thousands of long-suffering fans – only naked malice and an avowed intent to plunge that club back into the crisis from which it appears to be on the point of emerging.  It amounts to a vendetta.  Two facts above all have emerged from this over-long saga.

  1. The Football League do not have the interests of Leeds United at heart.
  2. Leeds United are too big for the Football League.

Item 1 above is the mildest way of putting what is increasingly obvious – that the League regard the Leeds takeover situation, not as a chance for a famous old club – exercising its own judgement and right to secure a stable future – to get back onto an even keel, but as an opportunity to hammer that club further into the mire. How else to explain the zest with which its lawyers conducted their side of the appeal argument before Tim Kerr QC?  They resorted to trying to discredit the independent Italian legal expert because of a harmless if misguided comment on a social media platform.  Yet, in the same breath, they were relying on the portions of that witness’s evidence which aided their case.  Kerr rightly threw such selective pleading out of the window – but the underlying message was of a determination to deny Leeds United their rich new owner that amounted to vindictiveness and malice.

The background to this attitude is odd, to say the least.  One of the League’s member clubs has as a majority shareholder a convicted rapist.  The son of that unsavoury character sat on the panel which originally decided that Massimo Cellino was not a fit and proper person to act as a football club owner or director.  The irony is immediately apparent, as is the stench of arrogant hypocrisy.  Really, you couldn’t make it up – if you did, it would be dismissed as fanciful.

Any fan of Leeds United, if of long enough standing, will have witnessed examples of the Football League going through back-breaking contortions to make life as difficult as possible for the Whites of Elland Road.  It’s a tradition that dates back to Alan Hardaker and his rabid hatred of Don Revie.  Hardaker is dead now – but the ugly attitude towards Leeds lives on, through the unctuous reptile that is Brian Mawhinney, as he did his worst in 2007, to the present day with Shaun Harvey in charge – the same Harvey who, in cahoots with Ken Bates, did his level best whilst employed at Elland Road to fulfil his master’s 1984 vow to see Leeds and its fans banished, destroyed, erased from existence. Lest we forget: “I shall not rest until Leeds United are kicked out of the football league. Their fans are the scum of the earth, absolute animals and a disgrace. I will do everything in my power to make sure this happens.” So said Ken Bates, and he came pretty close to success – aided by then Leeds CEO and current FL CEO, Shaun Harvey.

A salute to the League

A salute to the League

The fact of the matter is that Leeds United are simply too big and too historically important for an antiquated and inept organisation like the League.  This is, after all,  a body that embraces failure and the presence of also-rans as core values.  The members of the League are, by definition, clubs who have either failed to stay in the Premier League, or who have never been good enough to get there.  It’s a has-been or never-was League for bit-part players, chorus members.  The stars, the principals in the pantheon of English football, ply their trade outside of the jurisdiction of the FL. At the moment, Leeds United form part of the Football League’s brigade of failures.  The events of the past few months have shown us clearly how vital it is for United to shake the dust of this two-bit organisation from their feet, and move on up.

Meantime, we are necessarily subject to the rules and attitudes of an outfit that has shown itself beyond reasonable doubt as “not fit for purpose”.  Until Leeds can drag themselves out of the Football League quicksand, they will have to fight their own corner as best they can.  As things stand, Massimo Cellino is in – he is the new owner of the club.  He has the wherewithal and the experience and determination to bring success in a higher sphere to Elland Road, whilst at the same time restoring that famous old ground to club ownership and bringing it up to 21st century standards – the same applies to the training complex at Thorp Arch.  These are good and necessary steps for Leeds – and they are initiatives that the League would prefer to see nipped in the bud, as they remain openly determined to oust Cellino if at all possible.

The fans are in a unique position here to have their say and to vote with their feet.  Those fans are rightly famous throughout the country as providing a travelling army of away support which brings atmosphere and vast income to every ground they visit over the course of a season.  Home clubs keep all of their gate receipts these days, so that away support – so vital to our competing clubs – benefits Leeds United only in terms of vocal encouragement.  The clubs in the Championship – and, by extension, the Football League – benefit financially to a great degree, from the loyalty and commitment of the Leeds United away fans.  Now those fans should put club interests before their own, and be prepared to make a significant sacrifice in order to make an unanswerable point to the Football League – who they have propped up with their hard-earned cash since 2004.

For, surely, it is now time to consider a boycott of ALL away games by ALL fans of Leeds United FC.  The only way of influencing such blind, uncaring officialdom as we are up against, is to hit it hard, in the pocket, where it really hurts.  I would now like to join those voices calling for the Leeds United support to do just that – by withdrawing attendance at away games and letting the other clubs and the League bear the brunt of greatly reduced income as a result of such a boycott.  I should like to see Leeds United Football Club, if possible, refusing to take allocations of away tickets for the duration of any such action.  If the Football League wish to act against the best interests of Leeds United – and its fans – then let fire be fought with fire.  It wouldn’t take long for impoverished Championship clubs to start squealing and complaining to Shaun Harvey and his corrupt crew, as they see their income plunge without that Leeds United pay-day.

Supporters groups such as LUST could be instrumental in backing and organising an initiative such as this.  It seems drastic, and there will be many who would baulk at the removal of one of their lives’ major preoccupations, even if only temporarily.  But those people should ask themselves: why do we have to settle for such unremittingly harsh and malicious treatment from the Football League and its member clubs – think back to the self-interested clubs vote that confirmed the 15 point deduction before the start of 2007/08 – and yet continue to line the pockets of those club and the tin pot League to which they belong?  Why should Leeds United tolerate this situation any longer?  Drastic situation call for drastic measures.  It’s time to fight back.

I should like to see, initially, at least some wider debate about the merits and demerits of an away games boycott.  I’m sure it’s an argument that would rage hot and heavy.  But I believe, at this stage, that such a boycott is our one good chance of having our say and of the powers that be simply having to listen.  The alternative is that they will smile smugly at any peeps of protest, and carry on regardless in their business of keeping Leeds in crisis – to the approval of their rapist and embezzling cronies in Championship boardrooms who continue to be regarded as fit and proper against all justice and logic.

I’d like to call upon LUST, and the MPs of Leeds constituencies, to take up cudgels against the treatment being meted out to Leeds United by the incompetents at the League.  They should be putting the question – why should a football club, alienated and ostracised by the League of its current membership, continue to contribute so massively to the financial well-being of that League?  I believe it’s time to call a halt.  The gloves are off now; if the League want to batter us, then let’s batter them right back.

That’s my say.  What do the Leeds United fans out there think? 

Former Leeds Hero Kisnorbo Showing Ominous Signs of Heat Stroke – by Rob Atkinson

Paddy showing early signs of brain fatigue

Paddy showing early signs of brain fatigue

For the second time in a few days, this blog finds itself having to speculate on matters medical. Just recently, I was expressing concerns over Giuseppe Bellusci’s endangered coccyx as a result of his habit of making vertical landings on his tailbone after scoring for Leeds. Now, there is worrying evidence that former skipper Paddy Kisnorbo, currently plying his trade in the sun-drenched environment of his native Australia, may be suffering the effects of chronic heat exhaustion, a condition that can cause confusion, among other undesirable symptoms.

The root cause of this concern can be traced to Kissa’s bizarre recent statement that Ken Bates’ stewardship at the club was A Good Thing for all concerned and that, should the Evil Papa Smurf return to his former role as club despot, many would actually welcome him back. So ridiculous are these opinions – really, Paddy would have made more sense had he sat on a pork pie for a week saying “wibble” – that many are very worried about his state of mind, speculating that the intense heat in Melbourne may have actually melted his brain. Paddy’s cranium and its contents have been a cause for concern in the past, as witness a spectacular head injury whilst at Leeds and his long term use of a bonce bandage thereafter.

Kisnorbo was a genuine hero at Leeds, with the image of the bloodied warrior at the forefront of his fearsome reputation, endearing him to Leeds fans who famously appreciate those willing to shed blood for the cause. Only now is it becoming apparent that the damage may have been more serious than first thought. The long-term effects of a significant concussion, allied to later exposure to heat over a long period of time, can give rise to confusion as previously stated – and even to hallucinations; seeing or hearing things that aren’t true. This is the only feasible explanation for Paddy’s apparent conviction that Bates was anything other than a malign influence at Leeds and somebody who would be chased away by an angry mob, should he ever again darken the doorstep of Elland Road.

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything wishes Paddy Kisnorbo a full recovery from what seems to be his currently troubled state of health – and we hope and trust that he will be seeing things more clearly again in the very near future.  

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

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Dear Massimo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rob

Fear and Loathing in Monaco and Dubai as Cellino Goes Forensic? – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United finances under intense scrutiny

Leeds United finances under intense scrutiny

The first thing you think when somebody reputed to be a billionaire – with annual income well into seven figures – takes over your beloved football club, is: brilliant; now we shall have the best of everything. No more poverty, no more crushingly-disappointing transfer windows.  We are back.

This being Leeds United, of course, it looks like it might not actually work out that way – at least, not at first.  The first order of business for Massimo Cellino is evidently to sort out the mess off the field.  And, from all accounts, what a hell of a mess it looks like it is.  Apparently, Massimo’s advisers have described the financial situation at Leeds United as ‘the worst mess they’ve ever seen at a football club’.  So, who says we’re not still the leaders in at least one field??

Still, that’s some going for a club that, over the past few years, has enjoyed some of the biggest commercial revenues of any outfit at this level, charged the highest ticket prices and still attracted among the highest attendances, appearing with monotonous regularity on TV. Yet this same club has paid out wages at somewhat under the top rate for the Championship, as well as displaying very little ambition in the transfer market – whilst selling some of its top talent on a depressingly regular basis.

So how has a club run along these lines managed to embroil itself in such utter fiscal chaos?  Where, exactly, is the gaping hole through which so much money every month is haemorrhaging away? You can point to certain peccadilloes of past regimes – the lavish re-upholstery of the East Stand, for instance, improving part of a stadium that the club doesn’t even own. There may be a certain reckless foolhardiness detectable there, especially if, as is rumoured, future season ticket revenues were mortgaged against the cost of what seems to have been a vanity project, to titivate a ground costing megabucks in annual rent.  The ultimate beneficiary of that has never been satisfactorily identified – but may not be entirely unrelated to certain craftily-advantageous financial arrangements centred around the Cayman Islands part of the world.

Even so, it’s difficult to see how the sums add up to such a distressingly appalling bottom line as has been hinted at by Cellino’s horror-struck people.  Small wonder, then, that the King of Corn is taking the step of recruiting “forensic accountants” to conduct a root and branch investigation.  The image thus conjured up of intense and focused, pale and determined men, poring over every scrap of paper and every byte of data remotely connected to Leeds United over the past decade or so, is actually rather a pleasing one.  Let’s face it, we all want answers – and they’ve been conspicuous by their absence at Elland Road this century.  Excuses we’ve had aplenty, together with some hollow boasts about how things are moving forward.  And yet here we are, in this parlous mess.  Something needs to be done, and Cellino is taking the forensic approach to doing it.

‘Forensic’ might loosely and unscientifically be interpreted as “leaving no stone unturned – and no rat untrapped”.  There are a few rats that immediately spring to mind who may very well be quivering in their lairs right now.  One such lair might better be described as a tax lair – the bolt-hole of a venerable old gentleman whose financial affairs mean that he must perforce spend the better part of every year – better for us, that is – in the sunny climes of southern France.  Does Master Bates have skeletons concealed in his closet?  Are they about to be yanked out and made to perform a Danse Macabre?  These ‘forensic’ types tend to wind up knowing exactly where the bodies are buried, and with a fair old clue as to how they got into that sadly moribund state. What revelations might they have to make concerning Uncle Ken and his Monaco closet?

Those “ten percent parasites” GFH might also be wriggling uneasily, wondering just what salient facts, which they would prefer to remain concealed, are about to be brought, glistening nastily, out into the cold and pitiless light of day.  What will be the story concerning the GFH input into Leeds United during their term as majority owners – as opposed to any financial benefit they may have extracted during that period?  As that excellent investigative organ Private Eye is always saying, we think we should be told – and it seems to be on the agenda that we might be.  And there is a lot of fascination, on the part of the fan in the street, regarding the nitty-gritty of just exactly how these preceding two sets of owners have conducted themselves – and at what cost to the football club and the football fans whose interests they supposedly had in safe-keeping.

Whatever the controversy of some of the measures currently being implemented by Cellino – and whatever the likelihood in the short term of more hard times ahead – it does appear that he is set on cleansing and re-inventing a club that, from all appearances, has been rotten from the top downwards for far too long now.  The Italian seems to have availed himself of pretty much the best legal team Euros can buy in his ultimately successful fight with the Football League to gain control of Leeds United.

Now, it appears that no expense will be spared in securing the services of the most effective accountants to wade through the murk of the financial situation at Elland Road.  Perhaps one day, this “only the best will do” approach might yet be applied to the recruitment of playing staff.  That’s the dream, after all, when you get a billionaire owner.

First things first, though.  From the revelations accumulating day on day, it would appear that the Leeds United edifice is not so much crumbling as dissolving away before our very eyes.  Cellino looks to be dealing with a structure that is on the edge of total collapse – and it’s understandable that this situation has to be addressed before any on-field luxuries can be contemplated – so it may well be a ticking-over season next time around.

That, of course, would be down to the competence and application of whatever players we end up with in the squad, as well as the motivational and coaching abilities of whatever manager is in charge next time around. Comparisons are usually invidious – but look what Sean Dyche and an unheralded Burnley squad did last season.  They had been tipped for relegation.

Things at Elland Road are looking so very unhealthy though, that the on-field issues might well take second place in the minds of United fans, to the even more burning issue of who has done this to us.  Who, when and how – not to mention why.  There are some glaringly-obvious suspects.  Maybe – just maybe – Massimo’s Meticulous Money Men will have them bang to rights before too long?

Time to Get Back to Leeds United FOOTBALL Club – by Rob Atkinson

LUFC - Leeds United Farce Club

LUFC – Leeds United Farce Club

The football part of the Leeds United year – that bit where we actually put a team out onto a grassy field to take on and hopefully defeat another team – is over.  In truth, there wasn’t that much football to talk about even while the season was going on.  And yet football remains what it is all about for Leeds United – or, at least, what it should be all about.  Hence the title of this article.  I’ve even helpfully  put the word “FOOTBALL” in upper case, to emphasise its theoretical importance.

Because, over the past few years, the actual footballing aspect of Leeds United’s activities seems to have dwindled away somewhat – it has faded into the background as other issues have assumed an unwanted prominence.  The very nature of the focus put upon the club by the outside world has changed; there has generally been far more to talk or to write about off the field as opposed to on it.  Whatever the rights and wrongs of how this has come about, it is most definitely not A Good Thing.

Lately, those iconic initials LUFC have been a lie – or at least not the whole truth.  What we have been following could instead have been described in other terms – Leeds United Soap Opera, for instance.  Leeds United Farce. Leeds United Three Ring Circus, or even Leeds United Police Five.  The club has been in an almost perpetual state of flux over the past three years – and before that, what might have been described as a period of stability was actually anything but; the nature of the despot at the top of the pile saw to that.

At the risk of seeming glib and facile, what is urgently needed now is to get back to being about football.  That’s how it used to be, for most of the first thirty years of my support.  In that time, we were subjected to a varying degree of competence or incompetence as our beloved Whites set about their business in the sphere of professional sport, with varying degrees of success.  But that was where the focus was; the enemy was without and not within.  We were all about trying to defeat our competitors and get Leeds United as near as possible to the very top.

The club we have now, though, is not only under attack from the outside; it is beset by problems of an internal nature, to a far greater degree than at any other time I can remember.  We always had our problems at Leeds, but they were football problems – relegations, semi-final defeats, dodgy refereeing decisions and of course the permanent enmity and malevolence of the Football League.  This situation created the Leeds United that I love; the Damned United, the United with a siege complex where the feeling was one of “you might hate us, all of you out there – but that hate makes us stronger”.

Now, the siege complex is still there, but we’re having to look to the situation behind our own ramparts for the greatest danger to our prospects of becoming once more a great and successful football club.  The continual back-biting and internecine squabbling in the boardroom; cameras in that boardroom and bizarrely also in the toilets; stories of Class A drug use making the location of those cameras in the conveniences that bit less strange; a state-of-the-art surveillance suite located above Subway just across the road, that our former dictator might still be privy to everything that’s said or done.  It’s not even the stuff of a James Bond movie – more like some tacky and down-market 007 imitation, like the dreadful American “Our Man Flint“.  It’s embarrassing and harmful; it’s a million miles away from where we want and need to be.

Last season, things on the field were so bad from Christmas onwards, that we’ve ended up trying to take some comfort in the fact that we’ve finished once more as the top Yorkshire club.  I hate to say it, but being top club in Yorkshire these days is a bit like being the tallest mountain in Holland – not much to write home about.  In the light of what we now understand has been going on behind the scenes, though, the waning of the team’s performance in the second half of the season is, perhaps, a little more understandable.

After all, any top club needs to run like a well-oiled machine; there needs to be a feeling of smoothness and harmony to inculcate that sense of professional excellence.  It’s a game of fine margins – each and every club needs all the edge it can get, and the feel of the place is an important part of that.  The players at Leeds United must have felt, lately, that they were playing for Fred Karno’s Army – and performances dipped accordingly. With those fine margins, it doesn’t take much to derail a club’s season entirely – and this is precisely what has happened.  It’s simply elementary sports psychology – the collapse of Leeds’ season is amply demystified by those revelations of chaos and strife behind the scenes.  Clear-sighted fans who have said that – without McCormack’s goals – we might well have gone down are extremely close to the bulls-eye.

Now we have the new broom in Cellino, which appears resolved to sweep clean.  Already, one of those enemies without – the trashy and ridiculous Daily Star – is trying to foment rebellion, stating that Leeds fans are furious at the possible dismissal, along with other staff, of legends Eddie Gray and Peter Lorimer.  But that’s OK; hostility from the gutter press has always been part of the Leeds United experience – long may it remain so.  The real question is of whether Cellino, by his actions over the summer, can bring about a healthier internal state of affairs whilst keeping the fans onside.

There are rumblings of discontent, certainly.  The proposed closure of Thorp Arch over summer smacks of penny-pinching parsimony, just at the time when those dare-to-dreamers had started singing “Dirty Leeds, Filthy Rich”.  The financial landscape should become clearer over the summer; meanwhile the closure of Thorp Arch still lacks the poverty-stricken overtones of the culling of Publicity Pete’s rented tropical fish.

If Cellino can clear out the nasties from inside the club – and indeed from over the road above Subway – then he will have taken important strides towards providing a newly-professional atmosphere within Leeds United for the re-opening of business in July.  That, for now, is his main priority in the view of this blog.  If that involves the loss of the likes of Lorimer – reviled not long back as Bates’ yes-man – and even Eddie Gray – who must now view being sacked by Leeds as one of things that just happens to him now and then – well, so be it. Cellino has got to be allowed to go forward in his own manner, and – as long as that direction really is forward – we simply have to let him get on with it.

All we should really be asking of next season is the re-emergence of Leeds United as a football club, first, last and foremost.  Enough of the embarrassing sideshows.  Enough of conflicting egos, spinning us lines and eyeing up a swift and risk-free profit.  The objective has to be the placing of our best foot forward onto the first rung of that ladder back to the top.  All else is so much hogwash and hot air.

Let’s just remember that the “F” in “LUFC” stands for Football and not Farce. Because it’s been the other way around for much too long already.

Welcome to Elland Road, Blackpool AND Their ‘Fit & Proper’ Rapist Owner – by Rob Atkinson

Blackpool director Oyston - guilty after every appeal, but "fit & proper"

Blackpool director Oyston – guilty after every appeal, but “fit & proper”

Massimo Cellino’s first home game as Leeds United owner throws up an interesting comparison, as – despite the recent appeal decision in his favour – the Italian remains under the shadow of Football League action at some point in the next few months.  The visitors, Blackpool, have as majority shareholder (and still registered as a director and therefore “fit and proper” in the eyes of the powers that be) convicted rapist Owen Oyston.  In a further twist of irony, Oyston’s son Karl sat on the Football League panel that shook its collective head, tut-tutted in righteous disapproval and sighed in a faintly scandalised fashion – as it ruled Cellino disqualified under its Owners and Directors rules, for import duty unpaid in Italy on an American yacht called Nélie.

Let’s start by exploding some myths.  There are those who now feel that, since Thursday, when the FL announced it was ratifying Cellino as a Leeds United director, there is nothing further to worry about.  This is manifestly untrue, and readers of that brief statement from the Football League will note the presence of giveaway words like “currently”.  There is no stick to beat Cellino with at present – but the League are keeping their powder dry and believe me, they mean to get their man, as and when possible.  On Thursday, the League merely rubber-stamped Cellino’s current status as fit and proper, having no other choice.  He had been found not subject to the OaD disqualifications by a stage of the League’s own process and – for now – that’s it.  But if the Italian judge in the Nélie case, Dr Sandra Lepore, in her reasoned judgement, were to impute dishonesty against Cellino, then he had better watch out again.  Fortunately, he has some decent lawyers and what looks like a sound defence.

So, that’s the “Massimo is now safe from the League” myth dealt with.  Now – what about Oyston?  Here we have a convicted rapist who apparently causes the Football League no qualms at all.  Ah, but – I hear you say – that conviction was ages ago and it’s “spent” now – so it’s not fair to say that the Football League are being unfair in a comparative sense.  The problem with that argument is that it is factually incorrect.  Oyston was found guilty of rape – a foul and horrible crime against the person – and sentenced to 6 years in prison.  He actually served three years and six months,  The rules relating to how convictions become “spent” – i.e. when they do not have to be disclosed in most circumstances and so become less restrictive in terms of professional status etc – are made under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA).  In Oyston’s case, it is entirely clear that his offence will never become spent, as he was sentenced to (and actually served) over two and a half years.  The other limb of the League’s Owners & Directors test relates to “dishonesty” – and it is this provision that threatens to snare our Massimo.  As for Oyston – if it is to be argued that rape is not a dishonest act, then surely what should really be on trial here is the set of regulations that permits such a grotesque result in the first place.  Can you really have an “honest” rapist??

Given that the League – which argued its case in front of Tim Kerr QC with unprecedented zeal and was not above the odd dodgy trick either – seem determined to “get” Cellino, then why, we are surely justified in asking, do they not display a similar determination to rid themselves of a character like Oyston?  And yet that question never arises, except in this and other blogs who seem to feel there’s a blatant contradiction here.

Is it because Oyston was convicted before the Owners and Directors rules were laid down?  That dog won’t bite, I’m afraid.  One of the salient points to emerge from the Cellino appeal was that the OaD rules are on-going in their application.  In other words, should any owner or director be found to rest within the scope of disqualification at any time, then the League can consider that person under OaD – and act accordingly.  So, after all that – why is there no action against Oyston?  And why, on the other hand, is there such a remorseless determination to exclude Cellino?

Some will point out that Oyston has always maintained his innocence and has persisted with all possible avenues of appeal.  As regards his protestations – well, to paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies in the Profumo case, “he would say that, wouldn’t he?”  The appeal options have availed Oyston naught.  He lost in the Court of Appeal and he lost again at the European Court of Human Rights, which held that his appeal was “manifestly ill-founded”.  Given all of that, the Football League would appear on the face of it to have some explaining to do, as to why they continue blithely to ignore the fact that they are, in effect, nurturing a rapist viper in the bosom of their “football family”.

As Blackpool visit Leeds United on Saturday, the two contradictory sides of this whole issue are brought into close contact, whether both parties are actually present at the match or not.  The more that Leeds United fans get to know Massimo Cellino, the more warmly he is regarded.  His deeds in the short period of his control have more than matched the words he uttered beforehand.  He has cleared off at least two debts that could have led to Leeds United being wound-up and going to the wall (whether in their heart of hearts the League mandarins consider this to be A Good Thing will probably remain moot).  But Cellino is undeniably acting as a fit and proper owner should, in protecting the best interests of his club.  Our various owners in recent history have signally failed to do this; indeed the newly released financial results for the most recent period available cast severe doubt on the fitness of GFH to run a piss-up in a brewery, never mind a leading football club.  Which begs more questions: why were the Football League not more diligent in investigating GFH? Or Ken Bates?  Why pursue the one man who is ready, willing and able – through his own resources – to steer Leeds United away from crisis?

The Football League, instead of sulking about their appeal defeat, need to look at this whole picture – including some of the dubious characters currently infesting boardrooms up and down the land.  They need to be very sure that they are pursuing rectitude and not a vendetta.  The upshot should be that they act fairly – and are seen to be acting fairly.  It might seem, on the face of it, rather unfair to drag Oyston’s name into all of this, when he’s served his time and so on.  But it’s the League who have to carry the can for that as well, in allowing such seemingly blatant contradictions to persist.  They have hung Mr Oyston out to dry, simply by giving the appearance of leaving him – a convicted rapist and guilty under the law of a foul and disgusting crime – in undisturbed peace, whilst harassing Cellino at every turn as he tries to do thousands of people a good turn by saving their beloved football club.

It simply doesn’t add up, and the Football League would appear to be bang to rights on the most glaring double standards rap you could possibly imagine.  I hope that these arguments can eventually be put directly to a responsible person in the League – perhaps by a Leeds area MP willing to take up cudgels on the club’s behalf.  And I hope we get some answers because – again, on the face of it – Leeds United could very well lose their saviour in the next few months, under the least transparent and most unfair set of circumstances imaginable.

Do these arrogant, faceless people really imagine that we’re going to tolerate that?

That Was The Leeds United 2013 That Was – by Rob Atkinson

Image

A look back before we look forward…

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  January 2013 at Elland Road saw Leeds United in the throes of transition from the misery of life under Bates to a newly-budding optimism surrounding what was still technically, for the time being, life under Bates.  The long-awaited takeover had finally happened, but many were unable to see beyond the strings which were clearly attached.  After daring to dream, it seemed as though the old nightmare still had its final act to play out.  We were stuck with Ken Bates until the end of the season as Chairman – and then for three years beyond that as President, threatening to sully an office previously held with honour by the late Earl of Harewood.  Still, it was better than Bates owning the club.  So, modified rapture.

January was a mixture of indifferent league form relieved by significant Cup success.  Neil Warnock’s charges had ended the old year with a thorough drubbing at Hull; though the final score was only 2-0, the Whites had been taught a sobering lesson in how the game should be played at this level, and the score-line distinctly flattered them.   Sadly, another 2-0 defeat at Barnsley on January 12 showed that the lesson had not been learned.  How a team so humbled in two league fixtures could possibly knock out the mighty and Bale-inspired Spurs from the FA Cup was puzzling to say the least.  But that’s what happened – Spurs went the way of Birmingham whom United had beaten after a replay in Round Three, and we were through to face the daunting task of playing Champions Man City away in Round Five.

Leeds took an uninspiring single point from the opening three league games of February and then bowed out of the FA Cup at the Etihad, the 4-0 spanking again not really reflecting the lopsided balance of play in City’s favour.  Able to, as they say, “concentrate on the league”, Leeds beat Blackpool 2-0 and played out a goal-less draw at Blackburn to enter March, which turned out to be the last full month under Neil “Colin” Warnock.

Colin had looked ever less capable of fulfilling the United dream of promotion, and March was the month that broke the back of that ambition.  A scratchy win over Millwall was followed by three draws and then two defeats and, as April rolled around, Colin’s tenure ended after two further losses – at home to Derby and then at the Valley against Charlton Athletic.  And then, it all changed – though too little and too late.  By this time, the hopeful peering upwards at the playoff zone had been replaced by anxious glances over our shoulders at the relegation tussle.  When Brian McDermott was appointed, he immediately said all the right things as new managers tend to do – except he managed to imbue his words with a sincerity and meaning that marked him as somebody we might actually want at the helm.

Brian’s first match was a 2-1 defeat of Sheffield Wednesday, a badly-needed and richly satisfying victory after the previous chelpings of then Wednesday manager David Jones.  A win over Burnley followed, hoisting Leeds to mid-table security before two successive defeats re-awakened those nagging worries.  But all was well by the last day of the season as we travelled to Watford and won 2-1, successfully pooping their intended promotion party and sending Hull up instead.  Ah, well.

So that was it for the season.  During the summer, big changes were afoot at boardroom level, including the welcome early termination of Bates’ connections with the club, a £1 million-ish signing for the first time in absolutely yonks, and generally increased optimism and morale.

The story of this season so far has been “steady as she goes” with new players bedding in, plenty of our familiar flaws still in evidence, but overall a much brighter and happier atmosphere about the whole place under Brian McDermott, who has continued to forge a great relationship with the fans as he displays a quiet determination to succeed in this job, regardless of distractions elsewhere – the Ireland job, for instance.  McDermott is known to have ambitions in this direction, but he swiftly distanced himself from speculation, stating firmly that he had a job to do at Elland Road.  In fact, McDermott’s hand on the tiller has resulted in an identical position at the turn of the year as compared with previous seasons.  Leeds have fallen away in the past – can they now build on what looks certain to be yet another fresh start under the Haigh-led consortium?

2014 looks as richly promising as any year in recent memory.  Our arguably top performer over recent games, with due deference to the prolific Rossco, has been Marius Zaliukas, signed initially on a short-term deal.  That deal has now been improved and extended to the end of the 2014/15 season – surely a cause for celebration.

More signings are promised in this window following the expected ratification of the takeover by the Football League.  There is the possibility of a winger, maybe another striker too to take some of the burden of McCormack.  These could at last be exciting times.  2013 was a year in which we have moved from one takeover watershed to another, with no great change in league position but with a massive improvement in the whole atmosphere of the club since Bates was shown the door.  What we have now is a solid foundation to build upon, with a club that seems likely to be relatively well-funded, ahead of Financial Fair Play regulation, and able to exert some buying power in the transfer market to supplement the good players we already have at the club – including promising youngsters such as Byram and Mowatt as the Academy production line continues to flourish.  It’s impossible of course to speculate about what an article penned next New Year’s Eve would say – will it reflect on solid achievement, steady progress or dashed hopes?  All are possibilities.  That story will unfold in the next twelve months.

Meanwhile, let’s raise a glass to 2014 and all it might bring to fans of Leeds United AFC in terms of progress, excitement, maybe even glory.  Happy New Year to #LLUUE readers everywhere, to all Leeds United fans and to everybody else.  Let’s see where it takes us!