Tag Archives: Ross McCormack

The Reason Leeds United Can’t Have Nice Things? Wage Structure   –   by Rob Atkinson

History is repeating itself down Elland Road way, and it’s getting annoyingly boring. It goes like this: Player with obvious potential arrives at Leeds United having not quite done it elsewhere. Player develops and gains confidence through regular football. Player has a brilliant season (or, more rarely, two brilliant seasons) and becomes a Whites legend. Media note with disapproval that player is doing well at Leeds, and relentlessly hype-up “wantaway” stories. Player’s “head is turned”. Leeds offer player new contract at approx 50% of what he could get elsewhere. Player is sold to club of embarrassingly lower historical status. Fans distraught and humiliated. Rinse and repeat.

This is the scenario currently playing itself out with Chris Wood, who had a fabulous season last year without necessarily having eradicated the flaws in his game that stopped him succeeding at the top level. It looks as though Wood, understandably by his own lights, wishes to quadruple his current earnings by participating in the relegation fight of Burnley FC, instead of fighting for promotion with Leeds United. Forty years ago, this would have been inconceivable – but back then football was a whole different sport. Imagine in 1974/75 First Division Carlisle United swooping for Second Division Man U‘s top scorer. The press would have poured scorn on any such notion. But it happens these days; minnows feed off sharks. It’s all about money, folks.

Leeds United, under new ownership, has done a lot of good things amid an atmosphere of renewed optimism. That atmosphere is about to be dissipated by the cold wind of an unwelcome reality check. Twitter is all aflutter about the increasingly strong rumours of Wood’s departure, and suggestions as to his replacement are many, but almost all sadly unfeasible. Sign Danny Ings, they say. Or Peter Crouch, or Jordan Rhodes. But the pesky elephant in the room, poised ready to sit on and squash any such fanciful notions, is the Leeds United wage structure.

In short, the wage structure is the factor that prevents the Whites from competing at the top end of even the Championship transfer market. Despite a lot of wishful thinking that players will flock to sign for the Leeds United brand, Super Leeds, the Revie Boys, Champions of Europe and all that, the annoying truth is that said players are only really interested in the bottom line on their sleek, fat contracts. All else is whimsy. The players want megabucks, and the parsimonious Yorkshireness of the LUFC wage structure doesn’t cater for such munificence.

And that is the sad truth, folks. Beyond which I’m a little too soul-destroyed right now to go much further. Wood will depart and, whatever transfer fee we receive, the reinvestment of that sum will be affected by the wages we are prepared to offer any potential like-for-like replacement. And that’s why we can’t have a Jordan Rhodes, a Danny Ings, or even a Nahki Wells. Because, unlike Middlesbrough, Wolves and even Sheffield Wednesday, we tend to shy away in thrifty horror at paying the going rate. That’s why we’re still in the second sphere, and will most likely languish there still when our proud centenary rolls around. That’s why we can’t have nice things.

We’re just too damned stingy, and that’s the real bottom line.

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Sky TV’s Jeremy Langdon “In Therapy” After Leeds Thrash Wasteful Fulham – by Rob Atkinson

A despondent Jeremy Langdon of Sky Sports - bless him.

A despondent Jeremy Langdon of Sky Sports – bless him.

The look on his face would have brought a tear to a glass eye; that deep and worsening misery, as things went from bad to worse for Fulham, was writ large in every line of his suffering face – his doleful expression enough to curdle milk. Who?? I hear you ask. Ross McCormack, maybe, or Matt Smith? Both would have hoped for a happier time of it against their erstwhile employers. Having striven with might and main to succeed and justify the transfer fees Leeds had extorted out of the Cottagers, the striking pair fired a succession of blanks between them, Mr. McContract eventually limping off with a suspected knee injury. Doubtless he’ll have been reflecting that this was not the Fulham he’d fallen in love with at that first, romantic meeting between greedy turncoat striker and pink, pretty, blushing new payslip.

But no – despite the horrendous evening that both of these former United hitmen undoubtedly endured, the man who cut the saddest and most tragic figure of all was surely the Sky Sports News live match reporter, Jeremy Langdon. He looked as though he’d lost a bob, found sixpence and been bereaved of his closest friends and family, all while nursing a severe case of strangulated piles. Poor, despairing man. We must surely be big enough in victory to send him all the very best of wishes for his eventual recovery, as he heads for the restorative therapy of counselling, medication and electrodes. The increasingly glum and despondent look on Langdon’s face offered up little hope of him ever smiling again. It had been a truly dreadful night for anyone without Leeds in their blood.

But, for the rest of us – those with the sequence LUFC repeating itself ad infinitum throughout our sporting DNA – tonight was a small miracle as well as a huge celebration. For a start, we won. And not only did we win – we well won, 3-0 away at a club that was taking both the mick and several liberties not too long back. And not only that – we absolutely scored, from a corner, yet – and new hero Sol Bamba got off the mark as a Leeds scorer with that second breakthrough. With Sam Byram having got matters off to a satisfactory start with a powerful header in the dying minutes of the first half, and Mirco Antenucci rubbing the Fulham’s noses in it with a scuffed finish late on – and a sending off for home defender Kostas Stafylidis  – all it would then have taken was a Steve Morison goal to have us pinching ourselves to wake from what would assuredly have been one of those – ahem – “special” dreams. Noctis mirabilis? Abso-bloody-lutely.

If anything can add that extra bit of piquant charm to a 3-0 win away from home, it’s the undeniable fact that the scoreline hardly tells the full story. Fulham could and should have had a hatful themselves but, sure enough, the old firm of McCormack & Smith, “Howlers, we make ’em”, were on the kind of form to make us all send up prayers of thanks that we ever managed to offload them. Poor old Ross had the ball in the net at one point, but brilliantly managed to be offside in the process, much to his amusing anguish. And there has to be some feeling that he actually sustained the injury which eventually saw him subbed, in violently protesting to the ref after Stafylidis saw red. 

Fellow flop Matt Smith must be suspected in some quarters of still being on the Elland Road payroll, such was the sublime insouciance with which he spurned several gift-wrapped, gilt-edged golden chances. Our shot-stopper par excellence, Marco Silvestri should also be accorded a massive chunk of credit; for when any Fulham shirt did threaten to get one on target, there was Signor Marco, proud and defiant, thwarting them like a good’un. It was lovely, deeply satisfactory stuff.

Leeds coach Neil Redfearn commented afterwards that Leeds could have won by a massive 6-0, such was our dominance late on – but, really, it could just as easily have been 6-6 and a tie breaker. Thoughts of a 6-0 win for Leeds would, in any event, have brought with them fears for the grieving Sky reporter Langdon’s very existence.

It’s tempting to say – if only it had mattered more, or counted for something. The play-offs, after all, remain a distant and seemingly unattainable Holy Grail – we’d need a miracle of Steve Morison hat-trick proportions to get anywhere near that particular Promised Land. But the evening may not have been utterly without meaning; Fulham will now be looking nervously over their shoulders at the relegation dogfight just a few points behind them. If Wigan can rally; if McCormack’s injury rules him out; and if Fulham themselves succumb to trapdoor nerves – then this season might, after all, have a riotously funny, Schadenfreude ending of maliciously comic satisfaction. You just never know – but you can always pray for such a rewardingly humorous outcome.

In our comfortable and complacent mid-table security, it’s nice to have something devoutly to hope for in the unseemly battle beneath us. Apart from happier times for poor dear Jeremy Langdon, of course. Honestly. His tragic little face….

 

Ross McCormack Peddles the Same Old Tired Line at Fulham – by Rob Atkinson

Ross McCormack, purveyor of bullshit to the gentry, kisses his last badge but one

Ross McCormack, purveyor of bullshit to the gentry, kisses his last badge but one

We’ve known it often enough at Leeds United – a player signs and, early in his time at Elland Road, there’s the opportunity in an interview to put on the sincere face and say “…there were a few clubs interested in me, but once I heard Leeds United mentioned, that was it – there was nowhere else I was going to go.”  We humble fans are left to wonder about the identity of the disappointed clubs – CF Barcelona, perhaps, or Milan, Internazionale or Paris St Germain.  Or possibly Doncaster Rovers or Scunthorpe.  It’s become part of the transfer scene; it’s expected. Besides, nobody takes it that seriously. It’s all part of the schmoozing that seems to be de rigueur on either side of any transfer involving a club of any history or notoriety  these days.  You just wish the script might vary occasionally.

The thing is, there is a feeling that – here at Leeds, anyway – there is sometimes a kernel of truth concealed beneath all of the bovine ordure we’ve become used to.  Hang on, we think – it’s only right what the guy’s saying.  We speculate as to who else might have been in for him, whoever he might be – and the fact is that any player we might currently be making overtures to is highly unlikely to have a higher-profile option elsewhere. For most of our motley crew of incoming transfers over the past decade or so, Leeds United is the biggest club they’ve ever played for, ever will play for. So why would such relatively humble performers look elsewhere when the chance to sign for Leeds crops up?  That’s not arrogance, it’s simply the way things are, with the club at its present, humble level of the game.  The platitudes may be exactly that – but, used in connection with a move to Leeds, true giants of the sub-Premier League world, they’re at least partly believable.  We have the history, the tradition, the stadium, the support, the training ground – well, perhaps strike that last one.  But Leeds are a bigger deal than most Championship players could aspire to, and that’s an undeniable fact.

When these quotes arise out of a transfer to Fulham, though, it does become slightly comical. And, guess what, our former captain and genuine one-season wonder Ross McCormack, badge-kisser and Twitter-whinger extraordinaire, has actually been and gone and come out with the usual bull – but this time, it’s in a Fulham context.  Try it for size, why don’t you – here’s what Ross said.  “There was speculation in regards to other teams, but Fulham was where I wanted to be.” Funny, isn’t it? Go on, see if you can say it without a giggle.  Ross must have managed it straight-faced, anyway – or he’d have grievously insulted his new friends and fellow cottagers and that would never do.

Ross might be far too busy adding up all of the different figures in his new contract to have any real appreciation of irony or unintentional humour – and let’s face it, most footballers’ brains aren’t wired that way to start off with – but he must surely be kidding himself if he thinks he’s going to convince even a diehard Fulham fan that he’s there for any other reason but the bottom line on his payslip.  Your actual realistic Fulham fan, should such a beast exist, might also refer back to Mr. McCormack’s recent statement that winning promotion at Elland Road would beat playing for just any Premier League – not Championship club; they might even wonder if, in fact, their new signing speak with forked tongue.  Then again, they might equally just swallow all of this crap. They’re a bit simple, you know, some of these London boys.

It’s a snippet that has raised a smile here at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, anyway.  It’s just so blatant, the way that Mr. McCormack has hardly paused for breath in between trying to convince us that he’d only leave for the top flight, and then attempting to convince the Craven Cottage faithful, all 15,000 of them, that he feels he’s joined West London’s answer to Real Madrid. As players’ wage packets and egos continue to enlarge exponentially, it’s something we’ll become more and more used to.  But beneath the essential comedy of it, there’s that hint of disappointment and disillusion too, that these daft lads can honestly expect people to take them seriously when they keep coming out with the same clichés, time and time again.

Mind you, the next time some swarthy Italian B international with an eye for goal and a crafty agent breezes through the door at Elland Road and declares it his ultimate heart’s desire – I’ll probably nod approvingly and believe him implicitly.  And why not?  We’re Leeds United, after all, and that still makes the vital difference – as Mr. Ross McCormack may yet find out to his cost. 

 

Matt Smith to Kick On for Leeds United Next Season – by Rob Atkinson

Matt Smith - massive potential

Matt Smith – massive potential

It tended to get slightly lost amongst all the hype and hyperbole surrounding Ross McCormack’s 29 goal annus mirabilis – but Matt Smith, last summer’s signing from Oldham, had a quiet little miracle year of his own last season, though used sparingly – as often off the bench as a starter – but to what stunning effect.

The bare facts of Smith’s first season at Elland Road are that he made 20 league starts, 19 appearances as a sub and scored 13 goals.  Even if you lumped the sub and starting appearances together to get 13 goals from 39 games, that represents only just under one goal every three games – no mean feat for a player equipped to act predominantly as a target man, providing flick-ons and knock-downs for smaller and nippier strikers.  The other factor, of course, is that this was Smith’s first season at Championship level and therefore a decided learning curve.  And he did learn – you could see it happening.  As the season progressed, he gained in confidence and know-how, becoming a more effective performer the more games he got under his belt.

Playing with (nominally) better players must have been of assistance to the lanky forward as well, but it should be remembered that Matt Smith was performing well in a team that, generally, under-performed and frequently struggled. There were glaring functional deficiencies in the Leeds United team unit, for the whole duration of the campaign.  Service from the wings – the meat and drink of any tall striker – was sporadic and disappointing, the loan signings of Kebe and Stewart being, by common consent, failures. There were times as well that the whole team looked shapeless and clueless, and Smith especially was frequently called upon from the bench to provide a Plan B for a side that had shot its bolt and was floundering horribly – this happened on far too many occasions last year.

Apart from that one notorious lapse at Sheffield Wednesday, when Smith came on as the obvious remedy to an appalling first-half display – only to be sent off after sixty or so seconds – the former Oldham forward generally made as much of an impact late on in games as might be expected, particularly given his inexperience and the pressure of performing for a club like Leeds, a pressure that saw some of his club-mates, notably Noel Hunt, fail to make any real impact.

Based on what we saw of him last season – and subject to any further signings yet to be made in the forward areas – I would expect to see Matt Smith build on a highly promising first season and look to secure for himself a regular starting berth, perhaps as part of a “Little & Large” up-front pairing. Even if the recruitment drive heralds the arrival of more forwards at the club, I’m convinced that Smith will play his part – the improvement in his game throughout last season gives ample cause for such optimism, and the fact that Premier League Crystal Palace came sniffing around speaks volumes for his potential too. It should be remembered as a fact of some significance that, only the season before he joined Leeds, Smith gave the Liverpool defence a terrible time in an FA Cup tie at Boundary Park, scoring twice as the Reds were knocked out by three goals to two.

Matt Smith can be the type of forward that any defence will simply hate playing against.  He is blessed with the height and physique which will enable him to bully defenders, imposing his game on them, roughing them up and getting his head to the ball as often as possible.  He just needs to be that crucial bit wilier, so as to concede fewer free kicks when refs feel he’s being a little too combative – but that will come with experience.  He is a good finisher, surprisingly adept on the floor for such a tall guy – and he has that attitude, a bit of a mean streak, which so endears any player in a white shirt to the demanding fans at Elland Road. We do love a trier, someone who wears his heart on his sleeve.  Matt Smith has those qualities, and he will have learned much from his on-field partnership with Ross McCormack. But the Scot is gone now, and Smith will have to work with new partners and, perhaps, be a little more selfish, looking to create and take chances for himself.

The King is dead – long live King Matt?  It would not surprise me at all.

Relief for Leeds Fans as The Sun Fabricates “Ross Wants Out” Story – by Rob Atkinson

The gutter end of the Fourth Estate are after us again

The gutter end of the Fourth Estate are after us again

Summertime is always a tense part of the calendar for the long-suffering fans of Leeds United – rivalled only by the January transfer window, as we wait in uncomfortable anticipation for the identity of the next star to be sold for a song.  That’s the way it’s been for a good – well, bad – few years now.  It remains to be seen whether things will be substantially different under the reign of il Duce Massimo Cellino.

Clearly, this year’s speculation was inevitably going to surround Ross McCormack.  Top scorer last time around and always first in line to wear his heart on his sleeve when it came to confirming his love for and commitment to Leeds United, McCormack is the jewel in the crown for club and fans.  Such a player is bound to be marked down by the rutting hogs of Fleet Street as the Number One target for their idle speculation, scare stories, made-up rumours and downright lies as they set about their task of appealing to the Leeds-hating majority of their readership.  The lower you go into the gutter, the higher the proportion of Leeds-haters there will be among the buyers of whichever toilet roll you’re talking about – and at the very bottom of the sewer, beneath even the excrement and detritus that is the Mirror, the Mail and the Express, there you will find the Sun and the Sport, rotting away in a noisome mulch of their own writing.

So it’s a big relief when one of these illiterate rags comes out with a clearly made-up story.  Such a one, you can bet your bottom dollar, is Simon Austin’s pisspoor effort today in the Sun.  No sources are quoted – unsurprisingly.  The whole thing stinks of a speculative effort which the hack concerned will quietly forget about when it’s proved wrong.  Austin is merely doing his masters’ bidding in an effort to thrill the anti-Leeds brigade out there – all in the interests of selling more copies.  This commercial prime mover, the need to sell, sell, sell, has always ranked for the Sun and similar toilet papers, far, far above any such considerations as factual reportage and journalistic integrity.  The net effect of all this is that anyone who hates Leeds United will get another cheap if temporary thrill – and anybody with the individualism, originality and sheer good taste to love the club will breathe a sigh of satisfaction and murmur to themselves “It’s in the Sun, so it must be bollocks”.

Similarly, today has brought a couple of snide little reports in the Sport and the Mirror – further examples of the very worst of the British press –  about the Leeds players bringing packed lunches in to training.  Here, it’s the crafty implications of penury that are offensive, not so much any factual inaccuracy.  It’s Fleet Street acting as a purveyor of anti-LUFC propaganda that irritates. The thought of booze-sodden hacks having a chortle over this sort of thing is annoying – but again, it’s merely a sign that they’re doing their level best to paint as negative a picture as possible of a club that it’s firmly in their commercial interests to be seen hating.  It’s a gutter press thing, a talentless hack thing – it should be regarded as natural in terms of what happens all the time at the very bottom of any cess-pit.  The particularly disappointing aspect is that certain internet outlets, who should know better, pick up these myths and recycle them as fact

The moral, of course, is to avoid all of the bog-roll tabloids, or – at the very least – to take their lies merely as confirmation that there’s nothing to worry about as yet. More reliable information is usually available from the better-informed blogs of several clubs, from players’ Twitter feeds, from the so-called “quality” press (some of them) – or even (occasionally) from Leeds United itself.  The local press also provides an option that is almost respectable as compared to the mendacious hacks who peddle their lies for the gutter-end of the national press.

For the time being, then, there is no cause for alarm.  The Sun says that Ross wants out; so we can be tolerably certain that – at present – he’s looking forward to another season of stand-out performances in the white shirt of Leeds United.

 

Fallen Canaries Still Chirping as Rumours Surround Leeds’ McCormack – by Rob Atkinson

Over the past few years, Leeds fans have had to grin and bear it as little Norwich – an unfashionable club from the back of beyond – have used the fact of their temporarily higher league status to pluck such gems as Snodgrass, Howson, Becchio and, erm, Bradley Johnson from the Elland Road payroll.  In truth, only the first two of those four departures were all that painful – the odd twinge caused by Luciano’s departure has been relieved by his zero contribution to Naaaarritch since he joined them – but that hasn’t stopped those loveable Ciddy fans from gloating and grinning and taking the mick.  Every time another transfer “coup” has been completed, there they’ve been, savouring the novelty of lording it over Mighty Leeds, crowing about us being their “feeder club” (no marks for originality there, lads) and generally cavorting all over the internet like the small-time wurzels they are.

Now, these cheeky, chirpy, safely-anonymous internet trolls are at it again, all agog with excitement that their little irritant of a football club are tipped by the gutter press to make yet another raid on a club that has looked down on them for the bulk of their undistinguished history.  It’s the classic small man syndrome; you suffer for years at the hands of bigger boys like Leeds, Ipswich – even Colchester and so on – and when the chance crops up to puff your chest out and do a little crowing after all those decades of feeble cheeps, well, you fill your boots (as it’s only too easy for those six-toed feet to do).

And where, after all, is the harm you might ask?  If this internet bravado helps the currently happy (despite demotion) Ciddy fans forget their inglorious past, then good luck to them, right?  After all, prior to their recent double promotion success, their club was mainly famous for the tired and emotional display of Delia Smith when she unwisely seized the match-day mike after lavishly sampling the vino cabinet, and treated the stunned home crowd to a slurred and cringeworthy motivational speech:  “Wheeeere aaaare yoooouu?  Let’s be ‘aaaavviiiin’ yooooouuu!!!”   It was entertaining for everyone outside Carrow Road, but let’s face it – it’s hardly a siren call to tempt a Scotland star who already has a first team berth in a far bigger club – or so you’d have thought.

However, money talks and – as one easily-pleased Canary reminded me just today (via a tweet, appropriately) – Norwich have recently copped for around £70m simply for achieving relegation.  Against that, we have Mr McCormack’s recent assertion that winning promotion as captain of Leeds United would mean a lot more than playing for “just any Premier League club”.  We must presume, then, that the attraction is that much greater again – when the option in front of him is just any ex-Premier League club.  Norwich is the arse end of nowhere, after all – you’d have thought that last season’s Championship top-scorer could do a hell of a lot better.  But, it’ll likely come down to just how many zeroes there are on the end of that bottom line.  Rossco is tied to a contract at Leeds, and there seems to be little suggestion that the club are minded to improve it.

Yesterday, the talk was that a firm bid of £5 million had been made by a Championship club – later tentatively identified as Fulham, another of the parachute payment brigade, lavishly rewarded for last season’s calamitous failure.

To be quite frank, I could cope if he went there. It’s not ideal – and I’m not saying a few more millions than that measly five would sugar the pill rather better – but at least Fulham’s not bleedin’ Norwich and those cocky bloody internet Canaries. I swear if I ever caught one of those I’d pretend I thought it was a lemon and squeeze it into my drink.

Roll on the end of the transfer window. Rumour has it that what’s left of our squad might start playing a few games of football then…

Norwich in for McCormack … Yeah, Yeah, Put a New Record On – by Rob Atkinson

Ross McCormack

Ross McCormack

They’re not the brightest bunch down at the Daily Fail – they seem to lack any real intelligence or imagination.  This is odd for a representative of the gutter end of the Fourth Estate which depends so much on fabrication and ludicrous hogwash for the majority of its output.  Perhaps the strain of supporting Mr Camoron’s ridiculous and unelected regime has addled those tiny brains.  Whatever the cause of this rag’s latest foray into Fantasy Island territory, it’s all getting more than a little boring now.

What the Fail‘s dim but persistent hacks have cottoned on to is the fact that the best way to rile Leeds United fans is to run yet another story linking our current best player (no challengers to Mr McCormack for this title at the moment) with Norwich City – based purely on that backwoods Norfolk outfit’s notable record of signing some of the Whites’ meagre pool of talent over the past few seasons.

The difference at the moment of course is that Norwich are now a Championship club again, having suffered an hilarious relegation despite securing the services of 75% of the Leeds United League One midfield. When those regular raids on the Elland Road playing staff were going on, the Canaries were, albeit temporarily, Premier League birds.  It’s a distinction far too subtle for the booze-raddled mind of your average FAILOnline fantasist, but that Premier League status did make a difference for as long as it was a fact. It’s a difference that no longer applies, though – so what (we might ask) is the rationale behind the current story linking our Ross to the ex-Premier League (they are no more, they have ceased to be) Canaries?  I’ll tell you what. Nothing. Nada. Zip, zilch and, as Mr Cellino would no doubts say, niente.  It is all, to use a technical term descriptive of the journalistic standards at the Fail, bollocks.

It’s hardly unlikely that Mr McCormack will move on to pastures new this summer.  He will have no shortage of clubs queuing up to recruit him, and on much better terms than his present agreement.  But Leeds United have him tied to a contract, and Ross himself has spoken of the attraction of staying at Elland Road and winning promotion as captain.  Much better, he said, than playing in the Premier League with “just any old club”.  So how much better still are his current circumstances than the scenario of playing for just another Championship Club, against Leeds United (to whom he has consistently pledged his allegiance) – and uprooting his family into the bargain.  It just doesn’t add up.  Then again, neither does your average Fail hack’s expenses account.

The “writers” for the likes of the Sun, the Mail, the Mirror, etc etc, are never going to be good journalists, telling the truth and uncovering legitimate stories.  That’s so far beyond the bounds of probability as to be laughable. But they could at least vary the standard fare a little, in the hope of eventually becoming slightly less pisspoor journalists.  Why not link McCormack at least to a Premier League club?  It’d still be made-up crap, most likely – but at least it wouldn’t be quite such transparently obvious crap.  The current habit of using Norwich all the time, just because of the well-known irritant factor for those of a Leeds persuasion, is lazy; it’s unimaginative; it’s boring.  It doesn’t help the clubs concerned, or the fans of those clubs – and neither does it reflect well on proper journalists working for serious newspapers, who tend to get tarred with the same brush by an undiscriminating public as the morons who rattle off the same old crap from their rightful place at the sewer end of Fleet Street.

So please – do us all a favour.  Put a new record on, or just shut up altogether. Or stick to writing astrology columns. You wouldn’t be missed in the real world of sport – and at least doing horoscopes you’d have a bit more chance of being right once in a blue moon. 

Newcastle Bid for Leeds Skipper: Might McCormack End Up at “Any Old Club” After All? – by Rob Atkinson

Those loveable Geordies

Those loveable Geordies

As a statement of intent and a welcome expression of loyalty, Leeds United skipper Ross McCormack’s tasty little soundbite towards the end of the season would take some beating. “I think about the feeling of being at Elland Road on the last day of the season, winning promotion and being captain,” said United’s 27 year old, 29 goal top-scorer. “That would surpass just playing in the Premier League for any old club and I don’t say that lightly.”

It was indeed a weighty statement, neither to be made nor taken lightly. McCormack was letting us know of his burning ambition to play at the highest level, whilst at the same time telling us that it would take a special club to tempt him to do this in any other but the white shirt of Leeds United. Ross is happy here, he can see himself achieving much at Elland Road – if the club’s ambition is seen to match his own. And if not, then he is well enough aware of his own value as a potent striker to be sure that he could command a move to another club in the same bracket, reputation-wise, as Leeds.

All of which on-the-record disclosure makes me feel that the rumoured interest from Newcastle might be just the start of what could develop into a bit of a clamour for Mr McCormack’s valuable services – that’s if his one-to-one with Signor Cellino has left him thinking that his future would be best spent elsewhere. If he is to leave, then this one rumoured bid could spark off an auction – with, presumably, more feasible suitors waiting in the wings.

It’s not as if McCormack will necessarily be on the radar of the “Big Four”, after all – but you’d have thought there might be interest from the likes of European make-weights Spurs and Everton, just below that élite level and pushing hard. To see our Ross go to a Newcastle or a Man U or a Southampton, though, would be somewhat perplexing. Such a transfer would put him smack in the middle of the “any old club” territory that he’d appeared conclusively to rule out. There are even rumours of interest from yet further down the food chain, with relegation fodder West Ham and Joke League Champions Glasgow Celtic reported to be sniffing around.

As far as this week’s alleged bidders Newcastle are concerned, they do have prior form as stalking horses. Their enquiry to Everton about the availability of Wayne Rooney led directly to the then-effective forward making his move to Man U – back when they were a leading club. So you may well surmise that mention of the long-trophyless Geordies, as prospective employers of the talented McCormack, might spark more serious interest among bigger, more serious clubs.

The more you look at it, then, the less likely it might appear that McCormack will end up in those oddly humbug-esque black and white stripes. And if he did go to the Wonga Stadium, you’d have to question his motivations – an area that he’s been at some pains to elucidate to those of us Leeds fans out here who have looked for ongoing reassurances of his commitment to Elland Road. Has it become a case of any Premier League port in a storm for Rossco? Or is he actually still committed to achieving success at the club to which he’s time and time again reiterated his loyalty and commitment? This blog thinks we should be informed.

Time, as ever, will eventually tell. One significant factor is the length of time left on our leading scorer’s contract. That would tend to drive the price upwards should an auction commence – and then it would rapidly become a question of where lie the best interests of Leeds United Football Club.

And whatever the priorities and motivations of Mr Ross McCormack – whatever the level of interest out there from Premier League clubs of whatever status and calibre – it is those best interests of our beloved Whites that should be the deciding factor. Not even our top goalscorer, our heart-on-the-sleeve inspiration in that No. 44 shirt, is bigger than the club – and that, my fellow vile animals, is the real bottom line.

Leeds MUST Match Skipper McCormack’s Ambition – by Rob Atkinson

Ross the Boss

Ross the Boss

Conflicting, contradictory noises have been emerging from Elland Road this last week or so, ahead of what we must hope will be a busy and productive summer of change for Leeds United.  Some days provide cause for optimism – a “new Leeds” is spoken of, and one of the junior Cellinos makes himself busy on Twitter with all sorts of enticing hints and half-promises.  The boss, meanwhile – Massimo Himself – is occupying his time by metaphorically rending his garments, tearing his hair and gnashing his teeth at the chaos he has found since entering the sacred portals of the spiffy new East Stand façade.  We understand from the latest pronouncements that the club is haemorrhaging a cool £100k a day in operating costs, with losses of around £1m a month.  The closure of the training centre, Thorp Arch, until pre-season training begins is, perhaps, understandable in those parlous circumstances.  But what wider message does it send out?

Massimo the Concerned

Massimo the Concerned

Cellino had spoken earlier of a season ahead which will primarily be about ensuring that the boat is fit to float, with any ambitions of sailing to the Promised Land of the FA Premier League to be deferred until 2015/16.  Again, there are at least two ways of looking at this.  It might be seen as sober pragmatism from a man horrified at the scale of what he has taken on, hamstrung by the restrictions of so-called “Financial Fair Play” regulations and determined to get his priorities right.

And yet a professional football club runs on aspiration and ambition – especially one with the size, history and expectations of Leeds United.  This is adequately reflected by the very public stance of the club’s skipper, Ross McCormack – who is firmly of the opinion that Leeds has to be up there at the sharp end next season, competing for elevation to the top flight at the earliest opportunity.  His message is: I’m willing to stay and fight – as long as the club as a whole will be fighting alongside me. This attitude is understandable in a professional footballer approaching that watershed age of thirty.  Ross is saying that he cannot afford to hang around waiting for ambition to kick in – he needs to consider what’s left of his career and, as a Scottish international and a family man, where and at what level he wants to be playing his football.

For once, it’s possible to be less than cynical about a footballer’s motivations. We know that most of them are preoccupied with the bottom line; the net amount on their payslips.  But McCormack has shown an unswerving devotion to the Leeds cause – apart maybe from an attack of doubt on that confusing night when McDermott was sacked and Sky TV mounted an unprecedented and disgraceful campaign to flog him off to any and every interested party.  McCormack though has never made any secret of the fact that he is happy and settled at Elland Road – but he wants success, and in that he is fully in step with the voraciously hungry and cruelly deprived fans.  It’s possible to divine also that Captain Ross is less than impressed by the closure of Thorp Arch; one barbed tweet asked plaintively for training facilities ahead of his next Scotland call-up, with a pointed reference to the locked and gated Leeds training ground.

Clearly, then, there is the potential for some conflict of interests in the summer ahead.  If it were down to the fans, there is little doubt as to who would be accorded overwhelming support.  McCormack is all for ambition and investment, with a concerted push for promotion at the top of his agenda.  It is abundantly clear that, if Leeds United fail to deliver a strong challenge next season, McCormack will consider his position at the end of it.  He would have little choice and none should really criticise him.  Time and tide waits for no man and, especially, for no footballer.  The Leeds United support will feel that McCormack speaks for them, and they will be solidly behind him in the urgent desire for a squad that can deliver next time around.

Cellino’s horror-struck attitude may not, after all, be a total impediment to the emergence of this required ambition from United next season – but clearly we are going to have to wait and see what moves are made in the transfer market before we can judge exactly what the on-field aims are for 2014-15.  Rumours abound about who will stay and who will go – indeed, as I write, manager Brian McDermott himself is heavily backed to take the reins at The Hawthorns for West Brom’s next relegation battle.  There’s no doubt that a hell of a mess needs clearing up at Elland Road, despite the plaintive denials of 10% shareholders and 100% parasites GFH.  Whether the club can emerge from this difficult summer as a fighting-fit unit next season must be open to severe doubt.

At some point, there is going to have to be some accord between the leading players in this Elland Road drama/farce.  Those leading players should include the Cellinos, the manager – whoever that might be – and leading footballer Ross McCormack.  The minimum requirement, as things start to get sorted out, is that all of these principal characters should – as far as possible – be singing from the same hymn-sheet.  If that’s not possible, then it’s hardly the work of a Sherlock Holmes to detect that trouble lies ahead.

As for the fans – we’ve had enough of trouble.  We’ve had enough of seeing the name of Leeds United making headlines for every reason under the sun – except for positive football reasons.  One straw to clutch at is the recent exchange of courtesies and opinions between Gary Cooper, representing LUST, and Massimo Cellino – who was able to provide assurances of “sensible” investment to improve the squad.  It sounds as though there is now a line of communication open between Mr Cooper and Signor Cellino, and that’s surely something to be glad and relieved about.  LUST have always seemed to me to have the potential to be honest brokers.

Whether the ambition and investment that can be spared for next season will be enough to see Leeds make enough of a show to satisfy the burning desire and ambition of Ross McCormack – that’s another matter.  But the skipper has vehemently made his point and has placed on the table the not inconsiderable stake of his immense footballing talent, goalscoring record and leadership ability. In many ways this “skipper’s stand” is the single most positive thing about Leeds United here and now.  If there’s one thing above all the Elland Road crowd has always loved and taken to its collective heart, it’s a trier, a battler, someone whose every fibre is straining for success and the pride of wearing the shirt and the badge.  When an individual like that puts his cards on the table as Ross has, he’s well on the way to legend status – no small matter in the context of Leeds United’s star-studded history.

One last, positive note.  In another of his regular tweets, and in among the usual rumours that he’ll be leaving for Cardiff, West Ham, Newcastle etc etc – McCormack has given us a cheery “see you pre-season!”  That’s a half-decent straw to be clutching at amid the current doom and confusion.  Let’s just hope it comes true – and that we can March On Together from there.

Whatsamatter You, Haigh? Gotta No Respect? – by Rob Atkinson

Massimo Cellino

Massimo Cellino

Reports that a winding-up petition against Leeds United FC had been issued by Sport Capital (Sole director: former United CEO David Haigh) were initially dismissed, due to the fact that they had first appeared in notorious lie-rag the Daily Mirror.  However, it now appears that – contrary to the best traditions of tabloid journalism in this country – there may have been an element of truth in the story.

It seems that the matter is to be considered by a judge in that there London on June 9th, according to documents seen by the altogether more reliable Yorkshire Evening Post.  This follows a statutory demand which set a 21 day deadline for payment of £957,000.  United failed to meet the deadline and were then served with the winding-up petition.

New owner Massimo Cellino, who purchased 75% of Leeds United through his company Eleonora Sport, has already seen off a £500,000 tax bill, paid arrears of wages deferred before the takeover and dealt with two other winding-up petitions in the short time since he was allowed to assume control of the club after a successful appeal against the initial refusal of the Football League to sanction his status as an owner or director.  Now, Cellino appears to have less than five weeks to settle another substantial demand.

David Haigh may now be seen in an even more unpleasant light by United fans, although there was never any unanimity of opinion that he had the best interests of the club at heart.  This blog has become rapidly disillusioned with the prospective Tory candidate, having once hailed him as a nice guy who might take us places.  Well, we all make mistakes – as the Dalek said, climbing off the dustbin.  Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is now happy to make clear that it regards David Haigh as an unctuous and oily chancer who was only ever after the main chance, and was probably a scummer in the first place (see below).

Image

Haigh – a deeply dodgy past?

Haigh will henceforth be identified in the minds of Leeds United fans with a period of ownership characterised by hollow and broken promises, facile attempts to manage supporter expectations, tacky publicity stunts and a solitary positive point of “Not Being Ken Bates”.  Massimo Cellino, meanwhile stands for – we hope – a brighter future under more efficient and ambitious leadership.  That being the case, we will look to see this latest financial threat being dealt with in short order, as Cellino has already managed more than once.  The nagging question is: why was the statutory demand not met within the 21 day deadline?  It remains to be seen whether or not United have any serious grounds for disputing that the money is owed.

For better or worse, Cellino is the foreseeable future of Leeds United, and the fan-base will wish to see decisive action on several fronts over the summer, leaving a leaner, fitter club to embark on a more successful campaign next season.  The club’s captain, Ross McCormack, has quite reasonably pointed out that Leeds need to be challenging at the top end of the table next time around. This stance has quite a lot to do with his own age – not a million miles from thirty – as well as the undeniable necessity of firing the club’s support with enough enthusiasm for what the immediate future holds in terms of on-field ambition.  Cellino’s pronouncements have been more cautious – he appears to envisage a season of recuperation for a financially ailing organisation, prior to a promotion charge the year after. One thing it would be good to see is the owner,the manager and the captain all singing from the same hymn-sheet. After all, there’s a telling clue in the word “United”, chaps.

So Massimo – if you get to read this, or if anybody brings it to your attention – let’s get a few preliminary things sorted.  You have the reputation of a guy with a few quid behind him.  Very well – let’s get the aforementioned oily creep Haigh paid off and sent packing, damn his eyes. Then let’s get the ownership of the stadium and training ground brought back wholly within the club – thousands of us seem to remember a very definite statement to this effect not too long back, but there have been no signs yet of you taking a trip down to the nearest ATM and withdrawing the necessary 15 or 20-odd million quid.

And lastly – for now – let’s get you, Brian, or whoever, and Ross around a table somewhere (Billy’s Bar is quite nice, I’ve heard) and let’s see if a unified statement of policy can be agreed upon, one that satisfies supporter thirst for success and ambition – as well as meeting the prudent fiscal constraints you might feel necessary in order to restore the club to a state of rude health, financially speaking.  All that these current mixed messages are doing is muddying the waters and worrying the fans.  And you need the fans on board, Massimo. As a wise man said quite recently, “You can buy a bitch for one night, but you can’t buy the love my friend.”  You can, however, chuck a few quid at bringing about a situation where love may grow.

Leeds United's chief executive, David HaighFirst things first though.  I’m sure you’ve had enough of judges lately – so let’s send Haigh packing with his grubby money repaid to him, shall we?  No need for any June 9th court date then, and we can get on with the other items on the agenda.  We’re expecting you to be busy, you know, while we’re sat on our backsides watching Wimbledon and the World Cup. Attaboy, Massimo.  Go get ’em.