Tag Archives: money

Massive, Defining Week Ahead for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the next few days for Yorkshire‘s number one football club. The decisions due to be made by various parties could well dictate the shape, not only of the season ahead for Leeds United, but even of the next few years. A major change in management style and recruitment policy seems to be under consideration, with the abiding question being: and what happens if prime target Marcelo Bielsa doesn’t take the United helm?

That could of course turn out to be a question strictly for the pessimists and the more mischievous outposts of the press. While the glass-half-empty brigade on Twitter and the 95% of the media hostile to Leeds have done their best to stoke up doubt and despondency, the club itself, as well as respected journalists closer to the people in charge, exudes an air of businesslike calm. The expectation clearly exists that what initially appeared to be wishful thinking could actually happen. If it does – and we should know quite shortly now – then it could easily change the course of Leeds United history. And in a good way, too.

Interestingly, the betting markets still appear to assume that these great events will take place. And bookies have a vested interest in getting these things right. So this next week, so nearly upon us, could well be an epochal time for anyone with LUFC carved on their heart.

And if Bielsa doesn’t happen – well it’s still significant that Leeds are looking at that end of the talent market. There’s no reason to suppose that, should the volatile Argentinean decide that Elland Road is not for him, United will inevitably resort to the bargain basement outlets they’ve frequented before. The apparent change of attitude at the top of the club is at least as important as the names in circulation as possibilities as coach or new players. The intent of the club is the crucial thing, and we must presume that the nature of this intent will survive any short term disappointments.

So it’s still a case of “watch this space”, though not, you’d suspect, for too much longer. Sit back, and wait for great happenings to unfold down LS11 way. This could well be the first week of a whole new era for Leeds, maybe even one of a distinctly golden hue.

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Pontus Jansson Should Buckle Down at Leeds and Show Us Why We Used to Love Him – by Rob Atkinson

Pontus

Pontus as we knew and loved him

It’s been a love affair like so many others, waxing hot with passion and mutual desire in that early, devoted phase – then cooling off, with indifference where once was there was adoration. Harsh words are spoken, third party interest rears its opportunist head, and whatever the formerly enamoured couple might say only serves to emphasise the widening gap between them.

This is how things are now developing for those two erstwhile paramours, Pontus Jansson and the massed support of Leeds United. In the beginning, it looked like true love, with frequent, heartfelt declarations on both sides. Pontus said and did the right things, and the besotted Leeds crowd swooned accordingly. Pontus headed away every threat on our goal, and occasionally sallied forth upfield for attacking set pieces, nutting spectacular goals that roused the support to a fever pitch of ecstasy and adoration.

Surely, this was a love affair that would stand the test of time, with Jansson living up to the lyrics of his love ballad by demonstrating his willingness to head away footballs, opposing attackers, bricks, meteorites if need be. Pontus did it all, and communed with the support after the final whistle sounded and battle was done. Great was the love that cascaded down from the stands for our Swedish hero. Pontus was Leeds, and Leeds loved Pontus.

When the rot started to set in, it seemed scarcely believable – but, in reality, it was that age-old story of love and then loss being retold in the football idiom. Leeds fans didn’t want to believe their idol had feet of clay, and spent months in denial as Jansson’s form faded and the occasional lapses of fidelity became more frequent. Pontus started to show a tendency to bail out when the going got tough; only a few brave souls, at first, invited charges of heresy by pointing this out. The support en masse waited for signs that the beloved Pontus still loved them and would return to his brick-heading ways of those passionate early stages of mutual devotion.

But a few – a significant few – feared that the magic had gone, that the magic hat no longer fitted a swollen head, that Pontus had lost his desire and dedication. Time and again, when things were going against the team, Pontus sought the sanctuary of the changing rooms, nursing some apparent injury that would miraculously clear up when easier opponents were in the offing. It seemed as though our hero had a streak of yellow in what had seemed to be a warrior’s persona, and his adoring fans fretted at this evidence of fallibility in a man who, not so long before, had seemed to epitomise all that was good and heroic about Leeds United and its fanatical following.

Alas, the evidence against Pontus continued to pile up last season. Despite the occasional signs of defiance in defence, and the even more occasional evidence of lethal intent in attack, Pontus was, overall, the merest shadow of the Pontus we’d known and hailed as a defining hero the season before. Slowly, the truth was dawning on the Pontus fan club: here, just possibly, was yet another apparent idol who had flattered, only to deceive. We’ve seen enough of those before – but, with Pontus, it was supposed to be different.

Now, with his substandard contribution to Leeds United’s substandard season behind him, Jansson is away at the World Cup with his national team, and he’s making noises about his future that will not sound like sweet nothings to those who have worshipped him since those hearts and flowers early days. He wants to stay in England, we hear, but – despite the fact that he has a contract running until 2022, he’s not going to commit himself to seeing it out. He wants to aim for the Premier League, but if you read between the lines of his public utterances, he might rather achieve this through a transfer out of Leeds than soil his hands, feet and head by battling through another Championship muck and bullets campaign.

Maybe I’m doing Pontus a disservice, but perhaps I can be forgiven a slight bitterness. I loved Pontus too, as much as anyone, when he was doing it for Leeds and everybody was raving about this new juggernaut at Elland Road. And I’ve seen central defenders arrive on loan before, performing excellently and then, as soon as a permanent deal is signed, fading away to be the merest shadow of their former selves. It’s become depressingly regular – but I would have laughed at any suggestion of it being a route our Pontus might go down. And yet here we are, watching with horror as Jansson morphs before our eyes into just another Lubo Michalik. It’s just so sad to see a loved one end up this way.

Still, other relationships have hit rocky patches and still come through. It’s still possible for the Leeds support and their Pontus to rekindle some measure of the rapport that seemed to exist until comparatively recently. But it’s not for the injured party in these cases to make special efforts or resolutions. That’s for the one who strays, by word or deed – they’re the guilty element in the equation. It’s for them to renew their vows and attempt to rebuild bridges. Pontus needs to clear his mind, stop chelping about his club career until the World Cup is done with, and then settle down to win his admirers back by recalling the Jansson we used to know, possibly even – who knows? – with his partner of those heady early days, Kyle Bartley, once more by his side.

One more season of that partnership, together with improvement elsewhere in the squad, might enable Jansson to recapture his mojo, stop blaming others for his own failings and generally get back on the horse again and start heading away those bricks, to the left and to the right. If all that comes to pass, maybe Jansson will finally secure his passage to the Premier League. And it would taste all the sweeter, because he would have earned it. Along with, not incidentally, the renewed and restored adoration of his Elland Road fan club.

Pontus, you know it makes sense, and you know you owe us this – so make it happen. After all, every one of us wants the traditional happy ending.

Leeds United MUST Stop Their Ruinous Bargain Basement False Economy – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds Fans

Unrivalled support – the part of football where Leeds still rule

In the wake of Paul Heckingbottom‘s long, drawn-out, yet curiously unceremonious dismissal from his job at Leeds United, it’s important now to face up to certain unpalatable truths. The next United manager will be the club’s TENTH since 2014, giving our beloved club the unenviable title of “Highest Coaching Turnover” in that spell. That is a shameful record, a record of poor judgement and consistent failure under the auspices of successive owners. Leeds United are bang to rights on being the authors of their own misfortunes.

As a footnote to this latest sacking, somewhere amid the flurry of departures as the entire coaching staff was shown the revolving door, one of the men to leave, his contract not being renewed, was “Set Piece Coach” Gianni Vio, appointed with fanfares towards the end of the unfortunate Thomas Christiansen‘s abbreviated reign. Vio was somebody’s bright idea, yet another that didn’t pay off. It’s Leeds United who have ended up paying, over and over again, the price of rank bad decision-making, as contract after contract has had to be settled. You can see the financial folly of this, quite apart from the public humiliation of our club, when you consider that invariably it’s not just one single sacking, but a batch of them. So you multiply the cost of the settlements to be paid as contracts are more or less honoured. Then you start the costly process again – rinse and repeat.

The thing is, it’s US, the hapless, helpless supporters who are really getting rinsed. We have to suffer the slings and arrows of mickey-taking mates who follow less accident-prone clubs. In one dank corner of the national press, a certain bogroll of a “newspaper” which shall remain nameless has even had the audacity to suggest that Leeds fans must take part of the blame. With the possible exception of the dimmer end of the Twitter following, that’s arrant nonsense. Leeds fans as a vast congregation can do nothing but stand back helplessly, watching one slow-motion car-crash after another. It really isn’t good for the morale of the troops.

At some point, either now or, if not, then in the very near future as I earnestly hope, the powers that be at Elland Road must learn from the catalogue of mistakes that they have made and then repeated ad nauseam. False economy, shopping for bargains instead of concentrating on the quality end of the market, has cost United millions. They’ve set out to achieve success on the cheap, whether they’re buying players or hiring coaches, and ended up being massively expensive serial failures. That doesn’t make for good reading or writing, and the really nasty part is that the people responsible don’t take or even acknowledge the blame that is undoubtedly theirs. That’s the real sickener. And of course, they can point to that moron-market rag which is cheerfully blaming us, the real beating heart of the club.

This cycle of making do, paying up, lamenting and then doing it all again must stop. It’s time that Leeds United got serious about the business of making a success in football. Happily, there are a few behind the scenes signs that preparations are underway to make just such a quantum leap in ambition and aspiration. Capital injections, and the spreading of the net internationally to land a new manager, offer at least some cause for cautious optimism. Likewise, the names mooted as transfer targets have an unfamiliar sheen of stardust about them. It well be that Leeds United are on the point of growing up and getting serious about Life.

I certainly hope so, because surely the fans of this still great club cannot take much more of being made to look fools by association. Last season was an example of passionate support, home and away, with Elland Road packed out and the travelling army invading most of the country in their usual fanatical hordes. It was a level and intensity of support that the club did precisely nothing to merit; you have to question, though, whether another year of complacent apathy on the part of Leeds United will not see a dropping-off of support. It’s almost heresy to suggest this, but even football fans of the loyalest strip have their limit.

Perhaps Leeds will now go for a name and a reputation big enough to demand that enough time and money is provided for them to work their own brand of magic. Whether that will be Marcelo Bielsa, Claudio Ranieri, or some other high profile appointment, it is now vital that Leeds should depart from the ruinous path of false economy they’ve been travelling for so long. We must instead speculate to accumulate, not dwelling on the old nightmare of “living the dream”, but instead doing what is necessary to compete in a savagely dog-eat-dog league, to emerge, finally, into the daylight of the top flight – where this club belongs.

Carpe diem, Leeds. Seize the day, as you have yet another chance to do. Get it right, before you run out of chances. It’s time to march on together to success, instead of trudging towards the next dispiriting failure. The future starts here – and, this time, we must succeed.

Lasogga and Saiz the key to Leeds United promotion push

With Leeds sitting just outside of the top half of the Championship, it’ll take a big push to get the fans dreaming of promotion to the Premier League.

Nine teams are vying for the four slots in the end of season lottery, although Aston Villa and Derby would appear to have two sewn up. That leaves two from seven; Leeds United being one of those seven.

Paul Heckingbottom might have his work cut out in achieving Leeds fans’ dreams, but being unbeaten in the last three matches is a great basis for a late surge. The recent 1-0 win against Brentford was a huge morale boost, given the Bees are close rivals in the play off hunt.

Despite defender Liam Cooper scoring the only goal of the game, it was the partnership of Samu Saiz and Pierre-Michel Lasogga that really got fans pulses racing. In that combination lies Leeds’ best hope of putting together some end of season form and maybe, just maybe stealing sixth spot from under rivals’ noses.

287px-LASOGGA

Pierre-Michel Lasogga By Amy.Leonie – Eigenes Foto; aufgenommen beim Training von Hertha BSC Berlin, CC BY 3.0,

Lasogga is on loan from Hamburger SV and currently has ten goals to his name. It’s not been a great season by his own high standards; spells injured and on the bench have disrupted his momentum. What could he have achieved though if he’d stayed fit and in Thomas Christiansen’s plans?

Lasogga had five goals from seven matches going into March, a run of form that will be crucial to any lingering hopes of promotion.

If him hitting form wasn’t enough, Samu Saiz is also back in the starting line up after a horrible start to 2018. His dismissal in the FA Cup defeat against Newport might have been controversial, but Christiansen cites it as one of the reasons he was dismissed. The Spaniard might be unpredictable, but on his game he’s unplayable. Saiz has five goals and five assists this season, the second highest number of assists in the squad after Pablo Hernandez, having played six matches fewer.

The odds are not in Leeds’ favour, they’re a long way down the list for promotion, priced as 50/1 for a long-awaited return to the top table, well behind next best bets Brentford and Preston on 14s and 20s respectively.

It might still be worth looking at the bet £10 get £30 888sport betting offer, though, as Lasogga can be found at a generous price to finish as the league’s highest scorer. He’s seven behind in the charts at the moment, but with Saiz providing the bullets he might be a long-shot to storm up the table.

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Pablo Hernandez By Juan Fernández – flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0,

It is looking increasingly like another year in the second tier for Leeds United, something fans will lament with one breath and praise in the other. After the torrid Cellino years, any sort of stability should be welcomed and, although Paul Heckingbottom isn’t a manager to set pulses races, one or two of his stars are. Lasogga is due back at Hamburger SV in May, but Saiz remains contracted to the club beyond this season. The former will likely not be back next season, so replacing him will be incredibly important, but Samu Saiz should be retained because, in him, Leeds have a player that can change a game in a instant.

Who knows, with a little bit of luck and hard work, it might just happen as early as this season. Miracles do happen every day in football and Leeds United are undoubtedly due one soon

Glittering Success and Glory Are So Close for Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

Leeds, monopolising the silverware

Leeds United are not that far at all from a team that carries all before it, dominating the domestic scene with a clean sweep of sparkly honours, and looking set fair to succeed on the world stage. How good does that sound?

Sadly for most Whites fans, that glory and success, so close at hand that we can absolutely smell the silver polish, is represented by a different team in a rival sport, just a few miles up the road in leafy Headingley. Super League Champions, League Leaders and back-to-back Challenge Cup Holders Leeds Rhinos are the undoubted Kings of Rugby League, monopolising the cups, trophies and other baubles for both team and individuals. They have brought a sense of pride to the city of Leeds in a way that United used to do once upon a time, long ago – a way that the hapless and misdirected Whites can only dream of now.

That’s a bitter pill for followers of the round ball game in Yorkshire‘s biggest and best city. It’s a pill only slightly sweetened for those who, as I do, happen to follow Leeds in both sports. For those die-hard United fans who have no love for what they might term egg-chasers, it’s an unwelcome reminder that, quite frankly, we’re no longer top dogs on our own patch. And there’s very real danger inherent in that unpalatable fact.

The problem for Leeds United is that, in a proud city where there is fierce rivalry between devotees of competing sports, continued failure and monotonous mediocrity are simply not sustainable. Watching top level professional sport is an expensive business at the best of times – and the current times are patently not the best. With continued failure and disappointment, there is no feelgood factor to lessen the sting of high ticket prices. There’s no warm glow of value for money – and that’s a matter of real concern to any citizen of the People’s Republic of Yorkshire, where traditionally pockets are long and arms are short. There is a much-told tale that copper wire was originally discovered by two Tykes fighting over a penny. Apocryphal as that may be, there can be no doubt that denizens of the Broad Acres are careful with their brass, and will sniff out value for that commodity with a bloodhound’s zeal. Like it or not, there’s precious little value in Leeds United these days. 

If you’re a youngish person of limited income but some breadth of mind – someone whose memories don’t stretch back as far as real success for Leeds United – what are you going to do? Where will you go, if you fancy spending some of your hard-gained cash on a match-day ticket? The lure of Headingley and the rampant, success-sated Rhinos must surely be hard to resist. As for the football down at Elland Road – well, would you? With cash in short supply? It’s asking a lot, especially of youngsters who simply cannot know what a rocking stadium behind a successful United side is really like. 

Some people attempt to defend football’s ludicrous prices, citing pricey theatre tickets and the like. But you don’t set out to watch Swan Lake and end up coming home depressed on a cold, wet night, after watching a bunch of overpaid, under-motivated failures slide to yet another drab, morale-sapping defeat. Ultimately, in the quest for the Holy Grail of value for money, people will tend to vote with their feet – and that tendency will increase with each additional year of disappointment, disillusion and broken promises. Add into this mix of bleak depression a glittering counter-attraction just across the city – and the clear and present danger to a complacent and decadent football club is all too easy to see. 

The day might not be far off now when the Leeds Rhinos, masters of a vibrantly exciting, brutally committed, compelling spectacle of a sport, could well be not only Rugby League’s class act, but the top of the bill in their own city, on merit, with only feeble opposition from a poverty-stricken and dystopian LS11. And, Rhinos admirer though I gladly am, that’s a day whose dawn I really do not wish to see. 

Sacked Matteo Takes Mirror’s Thirty Pieces of Silver – by Rob Atkinson

Let me say right from the start – Dominic Matteo is a Leeds United hero. He’s earned that status, as have a select few before and since his time at Elland Road, by virtue of one historic, iconic moment. When Matteo rose at the near post to head home a corner into Milan’s net at the legendary San Siro, he sealed his place in Leeds United folklore – a place cemented by his subsequent performances in the white shirt. Yes, Dom Matteo is a bona fide Leeds hero. But even heroes are not immune from criticism.

Peter Lorimer could doubtless vouch for that, if he was of a mind to. His place in United’s pantheon of greats is a far more elevated and glittering one than even San Siro hero Matteo’s. Lorimer made his debut at the tender age of 15 and went on to forge a fearsome reputation as the rocket-shot weapon in the Leeds locker. Lash, they called him, and legend had it that goalkeepers would dive out of the way of one of his 90 mph strikes, rather than attempt a save and thereby risk injury or worse. Lorimer played a massive part in the golden era of Super Leeds; his “legend” status was surely indisputable.

Except, of course, he’s viewed very differently these days. Peter Lorimer is guilty, in the eyes of many Leeds fans, of selling his soul to the devil, in the not-so-cuddly guise of Wicked Uncle Ken Bates. That such a sparkling reputation as Lorimer’s could be so sullied should be a warning, surely, to lesser lights – that treachery and duplicity will not be tolerated by Leeds fans, no matter what your achievements are. It’s a warning that Dom Matteo, with his peroration in the paper that hates Leeds United more than any other gutter rag you could name, appears to have failed to heed.

In writing for the Mirror – a toilet tissue of a so-called “newspaper” – Matteo risks putting himself outside of the Leeds United family. He risks becoming a pariah – which is how some now see the iconic “Lash” Lorimer. The Mirror is not the only scandal rag currently to have a pop at Leeds – the lamentable Mail, often known as the Daily Heil by those with the inside track on editorial politics, has also had a go. It’s not too surprising; the gin-raddled hacks who staff these chip-wrappers-in-waiting are well aware that bad news about United sells copies among the cluelessly-ignorant, Leeds-hating hoi polloi.

But the Mail are just winging it; the Mirror have managed to lure the presumably unwary Dom Matteo, a contemporary Leeds hero, over to their dark and loathsome operation. It’s not a particularly wise move on the part of Matteo, recently sacked by Leeds – though he would surely claim this has had nothing whatsoever to do with his outburst in the most degraded of all gutter rags, the Sun not excepted. Had wiser counsel prevailed, Dom may well have stuck to disseminating his wisdom through the pages of the Yorkshire Evening Post, which benefits from both a more enlightened editorial stance and a readership to match. At least that way, his glowing reputation among Leeds fans would not stand at risk of becoming tarnished – as it does today.

It’s to be hoped that Matteo was well paid for his intemperate contribution in the slimy pages of the Mirror. Exactly how much it’s been worth to him, we’re likely to be left to guess. Thirty pieces of silver, perhaps? It’s a tad out-dated and probably not all that inflation-proof – but in the circumstances, it does seem appropriate.

Leeds’ Bournemouth Humiliation Worsened by PR Calamity – by Rob Atkinson

Don't forget the crowd bonus, Gaffer

Don’t forget the crowd bonus, Gaffer

You won’t hear me going on about tactical issues, team shape, diamond formations and all that malarkey. I know my limits. I have played football, mind you – in the distant days of my youth. I was goal-hanger-in-chief for Bradford College 1st XI in 1981/82, scoring in every game I played. I even scored a hat-trick past a keeper who’d played in a World Cup Qualifier. OK, it was for Oman. But still…

And even when my full-scale football days were over, I still played 5-a-side well into porky middle-age, undeterred by a snapped cruciate ligament.  I look back on my playing days very fondly, but I don’t kid myself I know the game on a deep tactical level, so I refuse to pontificate about it.  I know there are plenty who have no such reservations, but I also know that the pros think of these types as a rich source of amusement – not to be taken seriously.  So I’d rather stick to what I know for my scribblings.

For instance, I know enough about Public Relations to sort out the good, the bad and the ugly from the plain disastrous.  It was PR of that latter variety – the really crappy end of that particular stick – that Leeds United now stand guilty of, after yet another dire performance on the field. The team was thrashed out of sight by Bournemouth, a club who had never before beaten the once-mighty United.  Clearly, these are dark days, though Bournemouth are a decent side with a go-ahead young manager in Eddie Howe.  So it’s no real disgrace for this Leeds squad to lose to them – but, as is the case far too often with the modern-day Whites, it was the spineless manner of the defeat which really rankled.

Even that, though – even the appalling defending and general laxity of play – must pale into insignificance by the side of some of the quotes emanating from the United camp in the wake of this defeat.  The players, we are given to understand, are distracted – talking about the club ownership issues and, much more specifically, whether they are going to get paid.  This information is offered almost hopefully, as a sort of mitigating background to the inadequacy of the football Leeds are playing these days.  Bloody hell, guys.  Really?

Trust me – nobody has more sympathy for the working man and his right to get paid than I do (I also extend this courtesy to working women – outside the field of professional football).   I’m one of your actual left-wing reds under the bed, a proper old-fashioned socialist.  I’m deeply suspicious of management and I’m a strong supporter of workers’ rights, including the right to withdraw their labour if necessary.  What I’m not by any means as enthusiastic about is a bunch of extremely well-paid young men seeing fit to grouch – in these parlous times – about the possibility of not being paid on time, when their average bottom line must be forty grand a month at least.

To my mind, this is obscenely disgusting, and it is a PR disaster of the first magnitude that somebody has seen fit to voice such a matter as in any way excusing or making more understandable some of the players’ currently pathetic levels of performance.  When you think of the times we live in – times when we’re thanking God it’s been a mild winter so far, because otherwise pensioners face agonising heat-or-eat choices – it makes the blood boil, surely, to hear even a suggestion that athletes earning up to and beyond half a million quid a year should be grizzling about their lot if force majeure necessitates a temporary reaction to acute cash-flow issues.

There are people out here in the real world actually starving, for heavens’ sake. Yes – quite literally fading away from malnutrition in this first-world country of ours, reduced to subsistence on food-bank parcels and watching, horrified, as their kids become vulnerable to scurvy and rickets.  And yet, in this bleak context, you have the luckiest of young chaps, earning their munificent living in a manner most of us could only dream of, actually having the gall to grumble that this week’s £15k pay-cheque might not turn up on time – and this, apparently, is putting them off their game.  The sheer nerve and bad taste of that makes my head spin.  I don’t want to name names, but the person who has raised this issue of the poor players “worrying” must surely wish that, on that particular subject, he’d kept his gob firmly shut.

These are bad, hard times for Leeds United, there’s no denying that.  But at the end of the day, football is only a game – and the players who are so preoccupied with thoughts of the next fat wage-packet that they’re seemingly incapable of kicking a ball straight, must surely lack even the most remote sense of proportion.  So what if this week’s fifteen grand doesn’t show up?  What did you spend last week’s on, or that of a week before?  Are you down to the last six-figure sum in the bank yet?  Honestly lads, my heart bleeds for you, it really does.

There’s a real world out there, and most of the people living in it would laugh tears of bitter mirth at the very idea of a professional footballer at a club like Leeds United actually whinging about or even worrying about money.  As a breach of good taste and etiquette, that knocks passing port to the right into a cocked hat.  Things may well get a good deal worse at Leeds before they get better – but even if they do, all the sympathy should be reserved for the fans, those long-suffering fans who follow them everywhere, at vast expense, leaving home fans in awe of their sheer gutsiness wherever they visit.  There was the usual raucous army down at Bournemouth, most of whom will have arrived home, cold and dispirited and about £100 lighter in the pocket, sometime in the dawn hours of Wednesday morning.  How will they feel when they hear about the players’ petty worries?  Not too impressed, I’ll be bound.  They might well think – what if nurses, or soldiers, or fire-fighters decided to stick the bottom lip out and sulk when things got a bit stretched financially?  Where would we all be then?  And they might well be tempted to snap at a discontented footballer: “Honestly – grow up”.

Leeds United as a club doesn’t have a lot going for it at the moment.  It doesn’t own its stadium or its training ground.  It’s beset by takeover crises and an ownership and investment situation which seems to worsen by the hour.  But what it does have is undeniably the best support around – it’s the last real asset of the Leeds United “brand” and as such, it’s something the club simply cannot afford to squander.  But really – even a fanatic will run out of enthusiasm at some point – probably about the same point a saint loses the last shreds of his or her patience.  It’s a finite resource, like anything else. And if there’s one thing guaranteed further to sicken a devoted fan who has just made a round trip of hundreds of miles at great expense to see the heroes in white get well and truly stuffed, it’s to be made aware that those so-called heroes can think only about the next wedge of cash due to them – and sadly not about those poor fans, without whom there would be no game of football for them to get overpaid to play.

That’s a terribly sad situation, and I truly hope that all parties to this tasteless leak of unpalatable information get a lot of earache for it, together with a stern reminder of what real life is like out there in the real world. I’m a devoted Leeds United fan, and there’s not much about my beloved club that could ever genuinely nauseate me.

But this thing has – it really, really has.

Time to Do Away With Megabucks Ownership and Let Fans Run Clubs – by Rob Atkinson

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Vincent Tan: clueless

The time is fast approaching when the people who know what the game in this country is all about, are going to have to stand up and be counted.  I mean, of course, the fans – and I write in the full awareness that too much standing up can lead to you being evicted from some of the more authoritarian clubs in the various leagues.  But this type of standing up would be symbolic.  It would send out a signal that we, the fans, have had enough of clueless owners and chairmen manking about with our game.

In the last week or so, it’s been carnage in the Premier League alone.  Steve Clarke of West Bromwich Albion has been sacked, a decision that makes lighting that extra boiler to get a few more leagues of speed out of the “Titanic” seem like a model of sober judgement.  Andre Villas-Boas has gone too, a victim of his club’s failure to hang on to their star performer from last season, Gareth Bale.  Anyone who saw the look on the face of Danial Levy during Spurs’ 5-0 demolition by Liverpool would not have given much for AVB’s chances of avoiding the pre-Christmas axe.  Meanwhile, up in Hull, battle-scarred old warhorse Steve Bruce is having to hide behind a sickly grin and pretend that it’s OK that Hull’s megalomanic owner, Assem Allam, is planning to trample all over the finer feelings of City’s support by forcing through a name change to Hull Tigers whilst inviting those who vociferously object to “die as soon as they like”. Tigers, Tigers, rah, rah, rah!

And now we have the news that Cardiff City’s clueless owner Vincent Tan has told his successful manager Malky Mackay – a hero to the Cardiff fans, and rightly so – to either resign, or be sacked.  Presumably Mr Tan feels that Mackay has been interfering too much in team affairs, and not listening to the vast wisdom of one V. Tan Esquire.  Who does this jumped-up little pro think he is, after all? Doesn’t he know whose toy Cardiff City is??

In truth, it’s beyond a joke already.  Good, honest pros are at the mercy of clueless amateurs whose only qualifications to be where they are in the football hierarchy are a stuffed wallet and a fool’s ego.  It’s way past time that somebody, somewhere, got a few people of common sense and influence together – or failing that, the likes of Bobby Charlton and Trevor Brooking would do – and set to discussing an alternative model for the game in England – before these spoiled, rich-kid charlatans ruin it beyond repair.

You wouldn’t have to look far to find that alternative model.  Go East, young man – cast your eye and focus your thoughts across the North Sea and look how things are run in the Bundesliga of good old Deutschland. Wonderful stadia with safe standing, reasonable ticket prices, a fantastic league nurturing a successful national team – and the fans involved at every level, helping make the decisions that ultimately affect them, for the good of all – not just some bloated plutocrat with a brain full of damp rot and the arrogant belief that wealth justifies autocracy.

Football in this country has a long history of being in thrall to a clutch of well-to-do local businessmen, but at least there was a hint of democracy in the old-style board of directors.  Now it’s CEO’s here and Directors of Football there, and all frantically knuckling their brows to whichever barmy billionaire sits on top of the whole creaky edifice.  They say with power comes responsibility, but not in English football.  No, sir.  These people delegate the responsibility whilst hanging on to the power.  They hire and they fire and then they do it all over again.  As the process goes on, so the credibility of the game diminishes – what’s the reaction of the fan in the street when he hears that an excellent coach like Steve Clarke has been sacked before the season is half-over?  Why, they laugh derisively, clearly unaware of the respect due to some stockbroker and investment banker who happens to own most of West Brom – despite being unburdened by any knowledge of the game.

Sadly, it looks nigh-on impossible to transform our game into anything resembling its efficiently-successful German counterpart.  Too many vested interests, too much money involved – and far too many tender, fat, sleek egos which demand to be stroked and adored whilst being party to amateurish decisions that would shame a Tory minister.  So it looks as though we’ll have to put up with what we’re reluctantly witnessing happen – and resign ourselves to the game here become ever more like the franchise system of American Football.  Yay.

When’s the next home Ashes series, anyone?

Financial Fair Play Rules Will Be Anything But Fair – by Rob Atkinson

Image

FFP – In aid of The Cartel

With the news that QPR are in line for a massive fine – reportedly a possible £62 million – for incurring heavy losses in their vain attempt to retain top-flight status, it’s time to pause, scratch our heads and reflect: just who ARE going to be the beneficiaries of the Financial Fair Play rules?

Firstly, what is “Fair Play”?  Doesn’t it imply a leveling of the playing field so that true competition might be a feature of our national game – instead of an all-powerful cartel at the top of the Premier League, carving up the goodies between them?  One of the worrying aspects of the Fair Play rules appears to be their scornful attitude to inward investment. Suddenly, this has become a grubby, slightly indecent concept, the clubs trying to invest their way towards parity with the Big Boys are looked upon as upstarts, unwelcome parvenus  The idea of slapping a massive fine on top of a big operating loss is likewise perplexing – somewhat akin to seeing a dangerous blaze which threatens loss of life and property, then trying to put it out by spraying petrol lavishly all over it.  We are in danger here of applying a cure that is worse than the disease.

As a Leeds fan, I suppose I should be leaning towards rules like this.  Leeds are a big club, and success would multiply their potential to succeed commercially by a factor of many. Presumably, this sort of self-generated wealth would meet with the approval of the minds behind Financial Fair Play – although, given the fact that it’s Leeds, we’re just as likely to get hit with a 15 point deduction.  But the whole thing stinks to me; I am cynical as to the thinking behind it – and even more so, I am cynical as to the interests of those who are behind the thinking.

Financial Fair Play appears to my non-financially-wired mind to want to put more power and financial muscle into the hands of those who already have the most power and financial muscle.  It will benefit, surely, those who have tapped successfully into vast overseas markets, those with massive supporter bases consisting of millions of people, most of whom will not necessarily have even visited the country wherein resides their team of choice.  The more tacky memorabilia and replica merchandise such a club can sell, to the biggest market possible, the more the new regime of Financial Fair Play will approve and enable that club.  Who on earth COULD they be thinking about here?

I’m even more worried, having heard about the bleak situation facing QPR, about the direction in which our game is heading.  It seems to be all about empowering the powerful, and rendering those who want to rise and compete incapable of doing just that. The legends that have been built up in the game over the past century or so are now in a position to benefit enormously from rules that reflect today’s “Devil take the hindmost” philosophy.  That might thrill the capitalist souls of many, but it doesn’t do much for the guy who likes the idea that, every now and again, some hitherto unregarded club will ascend through the levels and leave the Goliaths with a bloody nose. That sort of scenario, to me, is what sport is all about – and if you legislate against clubs trying to better themselves in what is increasingly a money-dominated game, then you’re cutting off a hell of a lot of the appeal of the game.

Or am I just being hopelessly naive?

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

....or divided we fall

….or divided we shall most certainly fall

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

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

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

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