Tag Archives: promises

‘Goals Pay the Rent’ and Leeds United Are Well in Arrears   –   by Rob Atkinson

Doukara Bristol

Doukara scores against Bristol City – one of four Leeds goals this year

The New Year of 2016 dawned with that familiar feeling for Leeds United fans of high hopes that we more than half expected to be dashed. December had been OK, and we had been promised an active January transfer window to add some quality to the squad. So, despite that dash of caution and reserve which comes with having been lied to so often before, many United fans felt something approaching optimism as the old year took its last feeble gasps.

Needless to say, it turned out that the caution, reserve – even cynicism – was fully justified, and that any apparent cause for optimism was just another mirage; all promise and no substance. Additions were made to the squad, and one big departure occurred, as is almost traditional for Leeds at this time of year. The new recruits look decent, which might be expected with a manager who, unlike certain of his predecessors, seems to have an eye for a good player. There were two loans and one actual bought-and-paid-for signing but, crucially, we missed out on any real injection of quality in the creative areas of the team. For it is goals, the making and scoring thereof, that have long been a thorny problem for this Leeds United team.

A glance at the time since that half-decent December shows starkly the level of poverty the team and the fans are struggling through in terms of that goalden currency you earn by hitting the back of the net. Those of a delicate disposition might wish to look away, as we squeamishly examine the team’s league output since the start of January. It’s a worthwhile exercise, though, nevertheless. As David Coleman memorably remarked when Kevin Keegan scored during Liverpool’s 1974 Cup Final demolition of Newcastle United, “Goals pay the rent“. Leeds won the League title that year, beating the Merseysiders into second place. There were no rent arrears for the Whites back then, in what was a season of glory for Yorkshire and England’s premier team. But Coleman’s pearl of wisdom is as true today as it was 42 years ago.

And how those famous words resonate for us now. In the seven league games since the turn of the year, four at home and three away, Leeds United have scored a grand total of four goals, one a bizarre last-minute own-goal to secure a home draw against MK Dons. Souleymane Doukara scored early against Ipswich before Leeds slipped to a 2-1 defeat and he scored again at Elland Road to beat Bristol City. And Mustapha Carayol notched one to hold Brentford to a draw at Griffin Park. And that was it, the sum total of the Leeds offensive output since this year began. The last two home games have yielded zero goals in over three hours of playing time. In a goalless draw with Middlesbrough that didn’t entirely lack merit, Leeds mustered two shots on target. In the previous home game, a 0-1 defeat to Nottingham Forest, Leeds did twice as well in terms of shots on goal, but still failed, as they say, to trouble the scorers. That’s quite frankly not good enough; it’s a record that screams out for corrective surgery to the squad. 

This is why the January window was so disappointing and represents so much of a missed opportunity. With injuries to key personnel up front and the loss of Sam Byram‘s considerable potential to create and convert chances, it was obvious to any observer with any football knowledge at all that attacking reinforcements were needed. And it wasn’t just a matter of a late push for the play-offs. Relegation cannot yet be entirely ruled out – and there is also the small matter of allowing the manager to recruit and “bed-in” his own players over the remainder of this season, with the aim of hitting the ground running for pre-season 2016-17. The fact that January was all about lying to us, and then trying to let us down gently, is a savage indictment of the man who holds the purse strings at Elland Road. And, whatever Steve Evans might say with his diplomatic head on, he was clearly champing at the bit to add to his squad – and he’s obviously a disappointed man now that even the loan window looks like bearing no fruit.

I wrote a month ago that Cellino deserved to be judged on his commitment to improving the squad during the January window. Now I say that he palpably failed that test. Leeds United fans must make up their own minds about the likelihood or otherwise of sufficient investment in quality during the summer to come. This blog fears that it may yet be just another window of opportunity wasted in “managing our expectations” – which is the euphemism of choice for lying to us a bit more.

One thing that seems certain is that, if he is not given a fair shot in the transfer market, then Steve Evans is a dead man walking at Leeds. Some may welcome that – I think it’s rather a shame. There’s a decent manager there, working under the usual difficulties at Massimo Cellino‘s Leeds, and a man who seems a sound judge of the type of player needed to succeed at Elland Road. It’s to be hoped that Evans survives and is able to make a convincing case for substantial levels of investment.

Because another thing that seems certain is that – without significant improvement – our beloved club will face another long, bleak season of struggle next season, and with no guarantee of Championship survival. Whether the owner will be making yet another hollow promise about a “beautiful season ahead” or not is largely irrelevant. Most of us, after all, are attuned to Cellino’s lies and hollow promises.

We also know, deep down, that – depressing and difficult as this season has been – next time around might just be harder still. 

Advertisements

Leeds United Owners Need to Start Playing Straight With the Fans – by Rob Atkinson

Image

The fans: the BEST asset of Leeds United

Whoever is currently in charge at Leeds United – and the answer to that question is quite frankly anyone’s guess – they do appear to have a dim awareness that the mood out here in fan-land is not entirely sunny and bright.  They seem a little hurt, not to say bewildered, about this.  Plaintive tweets have been seen, assuring us that hard work is going on and that the West Ham bid for our club captain of seven days standing has been turned down.  That nice prospective Tory MP Mr Haigh would like to remind us all that “we made our intentions clear in the summer” – when of course a succession of bids for Rossco from Smogland were turned down, before a new four-year contract secured the services of our lethal marksman – or so we thought.

All in all, the view from the Elland Road boardroom of the various dissident elements out here appears to be that of a rueful parent bemoaning the ungratefulness of spoiled children.  We’ve done all this for them, they seem to be crying woefully, and see how they repay us!

So are we being ungrateful?  Are GFH/Sporting Capital/Signor Cellino/A.N.Other right in thinking that their sterling efforts are being thrown back in their faces by an unappreciative rabble?  Let’s look at a couple of the main issues.

Firstly, the burning issue on everyone’s mind for some time now.  The takeover.  Now we’ve been told various things about this.  It was all done and dusted, waiting only for Football League approval, and things would be in place in time for the transfer window.  We were told this in December; then the forecast changed slightly, and word was that things might just drag over into the start of January – but that Brian’s transfer plans were not affected, and there was a list of targets for board consideration.  Things dragged on.  Now we were told that it was still on track, just i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed.  Brian was looking at four players.  Then we heard that the Football League had asked for more information, that the club was co-operating fully, oh and here’s two loan wingers to shut you lot up.  By this point we’d gone out of the Cup at lowly Rochdale, and we were about to be subjected (with the aid of our two game-changing pacy wide men) to a history-busting defeat at Sheffield Wendies.  Now, here we are in the last week of January, the takeover appears no nearer, the best news we’ve had for ages is a narrow defeat at home to Leicester, there’s been talk of a dodgy Italian convicted fraudster, we’ve had promises of good news for the week just gone (must have missed that) and transfer talk is starting to turn, with a weary inevitability, to the summer window.  Pie in the sky, by and by.

Secondly, there’s this Ross McCormack thing.  Just because we resisted the Smoggies’ overtures in summer, we apparently need our wrists smacked for daring to get all het up when a bid is received from some no-hope East End outfit for our skipper and top-scorer.  Leeds United appear to be wondering: what all the fuss is about?  Why are these people complaining and getting up in arms?  After all, it’s not as if we have a history of selling vital players for a song to Premier League strugglers in January – is it?  Oh, hang on…

West Ham will probably be back – there’s still a week to go and they may just share that annoying habit, common to clubs with some shred of ambition, of being persistent in trying to sign quality players and improve their squad.  You see this kind of thing everywhere these days: clubs splashing the cash, if you’ll pardon the vulgarity, and buying players all over the shop.  It’s enough to give a prudent outfit like Leeds United a bad name.  And you only have to look back over the past few transfer windows to notice that Leeds don’t indulge in all of this “new signings” shenanigans.  No, sir.  They just promise to, that’s all.  And promises are made to be broken.

That’s the nub of it, really.  If the powers that be at Elland Road really want to know why some of us out here are less than happy with the way things are being run, they really need to look to themselves – and try and avoid a few less-than-helpful practices.  For instance – and this is especially important for people who have set their stall out with “transparency and fan engagement” as buzzwords – could we have a bit more straightforwardness, and a few less tantalising tweets, coy hints, teasing smileys and irrelevant bollocks about coffee mornings with random billionaires?  That would be nice.  And again – if you’re going to make promises about transfer targets and takeover completions – why not keep a few of them?  That would possibly go towards filling the credibility vacuum that you currently inhabit.

What the fans really want, in the extremely short term, is to be treated like adults rather than as unruly and demanding children whose expectations have to be carefully managed, lest they become recalcitrant and ill-behaved.  All of this drip, drip of promising but ultimately false rumours will not get us anywhere.  No more Red Bull jokes, please.  Likewise, less of the details about coffee-based pre-prandial engagements – unless there’s something likely to come of it by way of solid investment and the funding of some ambitious plans.  Contrary to what you might think, you suits in the boardroom, we’re all grown-ups out here, and we want to be dealt with fairly and squarely, rather than fed a diet of condescending rubbish designed to obscure what’s really going on.

If Ross McCormack is still a Leeds United player by the end of January, I’ll be happy, if a little worried about his future in the summer and beyond.  But don’t expect me to be all ecstatic just because one preliminary bid has been turned down – recent history has taught me, and others out here, not to be quite so gullible.  It’s taught us to expect the worst of Leeds United, for then we won’t be quite so disappointed when the worst happens – as it has over the recent past, with unfailing regularity.  And don’t expect us to be grateful when promises are made and broken, when expectations are raised and then sent crashing down.  There’s no use pouting away in the boardroom about how unappreciative we all are.  Treat us as adults, tell us straight, stop peddling crap – and then see how the attitude changes.  It’s worth a try, gentlemen, surely?

Just at the moment, all the McCormack talk dominates other matters, and we’re being invited to be happy that a bid has been turned down.  Meanwhile, the last few days of this window slip by, and while we all wait and see if the Hammers come back with an improved bid, we’re not nagging you about takeover completions and inward bound signings – are we?  Well some of us are, and we’ll continue to do so, whatever smokescreens may be put up to deflect us.

There’s an old saying from across the Atlantic: “The wind blew, and the crap flew, and for days the vision was bad.”  Count on it, Mr Haigh & Co – most of the fans of Leeds United are a lot more clear-sighted than you might wish to believe.