Tag Archives: money

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. 

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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

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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.

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

a shirt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marching on Together“.

Come on, Leeds!

The Tipster: Dark clouds continue to hang over Manchester City and Manchester United ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League jaunts

I see the point – but I feel given the result in the recent derby clash between the two Manc clubs, it’s the reds who have more to worry about than the blues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moyes Fluffing His Fergie-Lite Lines as the Mask Drops – by Rob Atkinson

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It sounded odd at the time. Leading up to the start of his first season at the Theatre of Hollow Myths, David Moyes chose to abandon his previous upright, downright, straightforward no-nonsense Evertonian demeanour and go for a good old-fashioned Fergie whinge with the requisite helpings of paranoia and self-righteousness. “They’re conspiring against us,” he grizzled, bitterly. “Three tough games against title contenders in the first five league outings.  It’s no’ fair.”  It was straight out of the Taggart Manual, from Chapter One: “Build a Siege Mentality”.  The thing is, however tried and trusted the lines are, you need the right kind of actor to convey them. Now that the Old Ham had gone off, could the relatively green Moyes carry on with the same old act?  Was it even such a good idea to try?

Whatever the whys and wherefores, the gambit appears to have blown up in the fledgling Man U manager’s face.  Yesterday’s humbling against Mancunian giants City was not only a salutary lesson on the field.  It also raised serious questions about the new man’s deportment off it.  On the face of it, the Moyes Whinge, as it has come to be called, looks in retrospect like a timely warning.  Of the three fixtures he was complaining about, the Pride of Devon have lost both away matches, at Liverpool and City, and gained a somewhat lucky point in a dour home struggle against Chelsea.  But the fact is that the fixtures are simply that: fixtures.  There’s a clue in the name, and while Sky may tamper slightly for TV requirements, the basic framework for the season is carved in stone.  To complain about them at the time Moyes chose to complain, and in the terms, moreover, he chose to employ in making that complaint, showed more weakness than foresight, more lack of confidence in himself and his team than lack of faith in the authorities. What message was sent out by the manager to his troops as they prepared for combat? Would they have been inspired by their leader’s belief in them?  Or would they, instead, have had a subliminal fear implanted of facing three formidable teams early in the season?  Were they, in short, afraid?

A hindsight version of the Moyes Whinge emerged this morning on the radio.  He referred again to the perceived unfairness of the fixtures arrangement.  As an exponent of psyching his team up and psyching opponents out, Fergie was tiresome, he was tedious, he was annoying and detestable in the eyes of his enemies.  But it clearly worked more often than not in the bunker that was Man U’s dressing room.  Moyes, by contrast, seemed to have waved a white flag and called for stretcher-bearers before a shot had been fired. Certain of his players, van Persie for one, are already emitting rumbles of discontent. You can imagine them asking themselves: who would we rather have as our leader as we enter the trenches?  The margins between victory and defeat are incredibly fine, one iota of backsliding by the historically dominant force, one iota of improvement in the fortunes of his enemies (the football term for “iota”, interestingly, is “Özil”) – and the tables can be well and truly turned.

It may also be that Moyes’ emergence from the comfort zone of Goodison into the fishbowl glare of the Theatre of Hollow Myths has been particularly ill-timed.  The gene-pool at the top of the Premier League appears to have expanded dramatically over the summer.  Arsenal have improved by probably more than just one Özil.  Tottenham seem to have contrived to have lost a golden nugget and replaced it with the equivalent weight in gold-dust, and to have improved in the process.  Chelsea have wound the clock back to the reign of the Special One, and you just know he will weave his magic again whilst laughing sardonically at his carping critics in the media, embittered journalists all of whose significant others are unanimous in fancying Jose.  Liverpool have looked “at it” again, despite a dip in the last two games.  Everton are unbeaten, with a new style and belief under Martinez.  The whole landscape at the top of the game has a new and, from the Man U point of view, dangerously unfamiliar look about it.

Maybe one craggy and purple-faced individual in particular foresaw this sea-change, and perhaps this explains the abruptness of his departure from the hot-seat in Salford.  There must, after all, be a significant danger that the still debt-ridden Evil Empire will finish outside of the top six this season, favourable ref decisions notwithstanding; and on that subject – what on earth happened to Howard Webb in the Derby?  He failed utterly to live up to his Man U Player of the Season form, and must now be worried about his place in the team.  Moyes has a lot on his plate, and – sallow-faced and bug-eyed compared to the smug, well-fed, puce sleekness of his tyrannical predecessor – he frankly does not look as though he has the appetite for it.

The noisy neighbours across the border in Manchester will be well aware, as they leap and cavort in celebration in the sullen faces of Manchester’s Red minority, of the problems that are stacking up for the hapless current incumbent of Salford Towers. But those happy fans will care not one jot, as is the case with thousands of other equally happy fans the country over, outside of Devon and Cornwall.  They can see golden horizons ahead, and a game reinvigorated by true competition across a well-matched group of clubs vying for the ultimate prize.  If Man U do end up outside in the cold, there will be millions who feel it’s a reckoning that’s arrived not a minute too soon.