Tag Archives: League Managers Association

If Moyes Really IS Discussing Leeds Job, LMA Should Intervene  –   by Rob Atkinson

Moyes - not wanted or needed at Elland Road

Moyes – not wanted or needed at Elland Road

One real caveat to this article. The recurring “David Moyes for Leeds” stories are mainly appearing in that part of the press more suited to the facilitation of post-excretory hygiene than any real attempts to inform or even entertain. Ever since it started to look likely that Steve Evans might be the right man at the right time for Leeds United, the doggedly Whites-hating sector of the Fourth Estate have been engaging in their usual distracting habits. Talking up a replacement manager who has flopped in his last two posts is one part of that (attempting to tap up Lewis Cook on behalf of a minor manchester club would be another).

So, on the one hand, it’s quite possibly not true, falling into the “unhelpful and unsettling negative Leeds United rumours” category so beloved of our more tawdry hacks. On the other hand (like the irritating Lewis Cook thing), there just might be an element of truth hidden somewhere within the ever-present clouds of speculation and wishful thinking. And, if that’s the case, then it shouldn’t only be present incumbent Evans who might be more than a little angry.

For a start, it’s clear that the vehicle for this Moyes story is a putative takeover, or major investment, by Leeds fan and business mogul Steve Parkin. That worthy is said to have identified Moyes as his preferred head coach, regardless of the fact we have a manager in situ. Now, I’m not privy to the inner workings of Parkin’s mind – but presumably he’s got something about him to have amassed a supposed £200m personal fortune (on the other hand, look at the none-too-bright Alan Sugar). You really might expect, though, that a man and fan, who is contemplating such major changes at the club he loves, might wish to play his cards a little closer to his chest. And he might, perhaps, be looking at making a welcome difference after the craziness of the Cellino regime – rather than perpetuating il Duce’s “hire and fire” vicious downward spiral into chaos.

It’s also becoming steadily more apparent that Evans is settling in well at Elland Road, putting his stamp on the place and making that difference we all so want to see on the pitch. He’s promised winning football and, an awful lapse against Blackburn apart, he’s doing fine. The fans have, by and large, cottoned on to this, despite initial reservations arising out of Evans’ abrasive reputation – as well as that sombrero. Given all of the above, it would seem that the case for yet another change at the helm of team matters is hardly made. And yet still, this unwelcome chat goes on. It’s hardly conducive to the stability we yearn for, having so sadly lacked that vital commodity of late.

All of which leads me at last to the point of this article (yes, there was always going to be a point, sooner or later). Having established that it’s by no means certain the Moyes link is anything more than a Wapping great lie, we are nevertheless forced to consider the ramifications in the event of there being any truth in it. And, surely, if David Moyes is talking to a Leeds United-connected party about a job that is currently amply filled, then he would be open to some criticism under professional standards established within the managerial game for some time past.

Over the last couple of decades or so, there have been laudable attempts by the League Managers Association (LMA) to clean up the act of their collective members, certainly in terms of a set of standards to be applied in the matter of how club posts become vacant and are filled. Our own Howard Wilkinson was in on the ground floor of this, as he was with so much else, and a lot of the more enlightened policy-making over the recent past has carried his unmistakable brand of common sense and integrity. One of the examples of bad practice thereafter distinctly frowned upon was an unfortunate tendency for currently-filled managerial posts to be bruited about as if available, regardless of the feelings and morale of the poor sap actually doing the job, with prospective candidates for these posts encouraging – or at least not discouraging – such speculation.

Nowadays, with the LMA keeping a beady eye on things, there is a more civilised feeling about the whole thing. Managers linked with jobs currently being undertaken by some poor, under-fire soul will tend to refuse to comment on speculation surrounding those posts. As a past and prospective member of the managerial fraternity in England, Moyes will surely be aware of the current conventions. As he can’t be unaware of his name being linked in the press with a post-takeover position at Leeds United, could he not perhaps have made it known that he’s refusing to be a party to such speculation as there has been a manager recently appointed at Elland Road? A dignified silence, after all, only takes you so far – and can be interpreted in more than one way. By his failure to distance himself from the Parkin/Leeds scenario, Moyes is hardly doing Steve Evans any favours.

And, if the LMA are to have any bite or credibility at all, shouldn’t they themselves be all over this situation like a cheap suit? It’s the LMA’s responsibility to ensure fair play, professional standards and “To encourage honourable practice, conduct and courtesy in all professional activity” (LMA Major Aims #6). They too will be aware of a rising tide of speculation to the detriment of a fellow member who has been in his job only a few weeks. Why don’t they say or do something about it? The silence from all parties on this matter, while the press engage happily in their damaging and irresponsible speculation, is ominous.

I’ve blogged recently about there being no current need to do anything other than stick with the man in charge for the foreseeable future. With Massimo Cellino in yet another froth of confusion about whether he’s selling up, fighting his ban or (like some Schrödinger’s Tycoon) both simultaneously – we might expect that his attention will currently be elsewhere and Evans can perhaps be left to get on with the job he’s admirably doing. It would seem that the clearest and most present danger to Evans’ tenure is in the form of a man outside of the club, currently out of work, and with only startling failures in his last two posts to recommend him.

It remains quite possible that all of this speculation is based upon nothing more than the old press habit of adding two and two to reach a total of five. But, if there is anything in it, then it’s time somebody acted to nip it in the bud – at least until such time as there might be an actual vacancy (heaven forfend). I’m reasonably sure I speak for a majority of Leeds fans when I say that we’d prefer the historically successful Steve Evans to continue trying to repeat that success in LS11 – rather than a serial failure in Moyes. But who listens to the fans? So it would be rather reassuring if the LMA could show some minerals, or Moyes himself some trace of professional courtesy and honour – and just utter a few pointed words to end the matter, so we can all move on to the next crisis.

And worry not, “gentlemen” of the press – at Leeds United, that next crisis is never very far away. 

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The Lesson of Leeds United: Sort Out These Tyrant Owners – by Rob Atkinson

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Bates: Irrelevant

Many times over the past few years I despaired of the future of my beloved Leeds United.  It was a club dying under the not-exactly benevolent rule of one Kenneth William Bates, a man who had taken control at Elland Road almost 21 years after declaring his avowed intent to see the club banished from the Football League and sent into oblivion.  This perhaps wasn’t the best recommendation for the supposed saviour of United (we heard repeatedly later of how he had saved Leeds at least once, and possibly two or three times).

The next seven years made you wonder whether the Bates reign had started with the breaking of a mirror in the Elland Road boardroom, although what followed was not so much bad luck as bad management, bad PR, bad taste – just every shade of bad you could possibly think of.  Ken’s method of “saving” Leeds, involving as it did relegation to the club’s lowest ever league status, did not inspire confidence.  Administration ensued, with record points deductions which saw an institution of the game in this country being hounded by their fellow league clubs who snarled and slavered as they were ranged against a hapless and helpless United.  It was like watching a mortally-wounded lion being snapped at by a pack of degraded hyenas – or standing by, powerless and frustrated, as a beloved family member was beaten up by snarling thugs.  It was simply horrible.

All in all, then, Bates’ potential as saviour looked more like that of a man who was determined to compass the demise of the club – and many were the reminders of his 1984 Chelsea-owning vow:  ”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.”  Seven years under a Ken Bates thus motivated is a hell of a long time; for much of that period, things were bleak, grim and joyless around LS11.  The peaks of success were achieved in spite of Bates, not because of him; promotion and a famous win at the home of the Champions in the FA Cup came against a background of player sales, transfer market impotence and managers hamstrung into a frustrated inability to do their jobs properly and effectively.  Ken Bates was to Leeds United what Myxomatosis had been to the rabbit population of Australia; if he’d been left unchecked, the club may well have died.  It was that serious.

Now of course, despite the odd white-bearded apparition seen slithering around in the vicinity of Elland Road, Ken Bates is gone from the club.  It’s safe to pick up a programme again (and even a bit cheaper) – without having to bear the embarrassment of reading his latest rants against the fans (morons) or his business associates, nearly all of whom were either suing him or being sued by him – but at the club’s expense.  No more Radio Bates FM, no more silly bloody notions of a Northern take on Chelsea Village.  Gone and irrelevant, unlamented and destined (we devoutly hope) to leave no long-term mark on our beloved Leeds.

The legacy of Bates now is more intangible than material.  Sure, there’s the cladding on the East Stand and a few vanity projects elsewhere in the stadium.  But the true impact is on the fans; as a body we are now suspicious of owners, investors, saviours – yes, especially saviours.  The fans know what they want, but for the current owners of Leeds United it’s a slow process winning their unqualified trust – even if their aims really are absolutely parallel to those of the frustrated and long-suffering United support.  I write this with feeling; I’ve been as guilty as the next man of occasionally expressing doubts and reservations about where we’re heading under GFH, or under whatever the Consortium apparently on the brink of another takeover will call themselves.  It’s just not easy to lose that suspicion which amounts almost to paranoia; it’s not easy to trust men who are, after all, businessmen wanting to show some return on their money.  Trust will come, but more solid proof may be needed before everything in the garden is rosy.

Double jeopardy: Allam and Tan

Double jeopardy: Allam and Tan

Still, relative to certain other clubs, things are pretty good at Leeds United.  We could be Hull, struggling against an embarrassing change of name being foisted by owner Assem Allam on unwilling supporters who want to be Hull City and not Hull Tigers (cringe).  We could be Cardiff City, already suffering in red after they’ve been Bluebirds these many years.  Of course these two clubs are in the Premier League, and that will mean a lot to their fans.  But at what price?  Would Leeds United fans accept an elevation which comes at such a premium?  Red instead of White, or being known as Leeds Red Bulls even?  What price tradition, pride, identity?  I know how I’d feel – I’d fight such scandalous iniquities to my dying breath, and whatever the feelings of certain complaisant short-term glory seekers, I’m sure there’d be many thousands fighting with me.  As things stand, we have to trust that our current and future owners do not intend to follow a Hull or a Cardiff route.  If that trust were to be breached, things could get pretty hot for those gentlemen.

At times during the Bates era, I used to wish that something official could be done about him, to have him forcibly excised from our club.  “Fit and proper?”, I’d think to myself, unable to understand how any governing body could accept this of such a transparently villainous and malicious, self-serving old curmudgeon.  I saw managers depart and I knew they’d not had a fair chance.  I used to hope that maybe the League Managers Association (LMA) would advise its members not to work for Bates, and force the issue that way.  I doubt it would ever have come to that – too many peace-at-any-price merchants in those particular corridors of power.  But that’s how desperate I felt, that’s how much I wanted rid.  It’s just a year ago since the beginning of the end of Bates.  What a very much happier year it has been.

Now, with things so much more positive around Elland Road, and with the promise of better things yet to come, I can feel some sympathy for fans – and managers – who are suffering under tyrants, much as we did.  Particularly, I feel sympathy for Malky Mackay, the manager of Cardiff City who got them at last into the Premier League and whose reward is that he probably won’t be their manager for much longer.  He’s been issued with a “resign or be sacked” ultimatum by owner Vincent Tan, a man whose football knowledge adds up to precisely zero.  Still, having ruined the Bluebirds image, he feels qualified to criticise the coaching, tactics and transfer policy of a football man, a solid professional and a man of dignity and restraint in Mackay.  This manager is a dead man walking and he must know it – but still, he’s travelled to Anfield with his team, hoping against hope that he can coax a performance out of what must be a bewildered, angry and confused group of players – at the daunting home of a formidable Liverpool side.  And then, he’ll be gone.  I fervently hope he sticks to his guns and refuses to walk, and I hope too that every penny of his contract is paid up to him.  He will emerge with massive credit for a job well done; he will not be out of work for long.

If there are any hitches with the terms of his dismissal, though, the LMA should show it does have some teeth – and withdraw their members from availability for the Cardiff manager’s position.  Maybe they should do that anyway, to show some solidarity and to demonstrate to Tan and the others like him that the cadre of football professionals will not be made to jump through hoops at the petulant whim of wealthy but clueless, spoiled and egotistical individuals who are just looking for a shiny toy to play with.  I would love to see Tan in the position of having to manage his own football affairs.  His players wouldn’t be able to perform for laughing.  And after all, why should any honest professional, player, coach or manager want to work for such a man?  Let him paddle his own canoe, and let him sink without trace.  In the long run, it would even be better for the fans that way.

English football stands today in real danger of being dragged down to the level of certain other leagues throughout the world, where petulance and tantrums rule over sober judgement and the sanctity of professionalism.  This is something that should be resisted, tooth and nail.  As Leeds United fans, we feel a rivalry with pretty much any other set of fans anywhere, and an antipathy with several groups who don’t need naming here – but decidedly, Cardiff would be among that number.  However, in this situation, I believe that solidarity and the greater interests of the game as a whole should transcend any mere club or fan rivalry.  I’d be happy to stand alongside any Cardiff fans who wanted to protest about Tan and his treatment of a manager who has delivered a lifelong wish for them.  I would be proud to stand four square with them, and chant and sing as lustily as any.  Ultimately, no club is an island, and what can happen to one could happen to any or all.  We have the thin end of an almighty big wedge here, and if something is not done soon, then we might be surprised at some of the changes that will be imposed on clubs that might appear impervious to such interference.  And, of course, more good, honest managers like Malky Mackay will be humiliated in the press, and will lose their jobs at the whim of a megalomaniac who isn’t fit to run a pub quiz.

We at Leeds United should be as conscious of all this as anybody else.  We were nearer to disaster than many would care to admit when the first rumblings of a takeover were heard halfway through 2012.  And who knows what the future yet holds for Leeds?  At the end of the day, the notorious truculence and militancy of the Leeds United support may yet be its biggest asset – especially if, as usual, the game’s various governing bodies turn out to be about as much use as a pet rock.  So we need to stand ready at all times to look out for the interests of our club, which is so close to the hearts of so many of us.  And in the meantime, we cannot afford to ignore the plight of our counterparts at other clubs.  Solidarity and the will to organise and resist are immensely powerful forces if wielded wisely – as we found in our own fight against Bates, the will of the fans being, I believe, instrumental in giving impetus and direction to the takeover.

Let’s support the Hull and Cardiff fans where and how we can.  Let’s see if we can’t apply some pressure, as an organised and cosmopolitan movement of fans, to bodies like the FA, the Football League, the Premier League, the PFA and last but not least the LMA.  Maybe then the message would be brought home to Vincent Tan and similar tyrants that the game is bigger than them – bigger by far – and that their actions if seen to undermine the foundations of that edifice, will not be tolerated.