Tag Archives: Sport Capital

High Time That Profiteer Parasites GFH Took Some Responsibility – by Rob Atkinson

Cellino - silent and unimpressed

Cellino – silent and unimpressed

The fact that Leeds United have missed a 21 day deadline imposed by a Statutory Demand – for payment of just under £1m allegedly owed to David Haigh’s Sport Capital outfit – is capable of interpretation in a number of ways.

One is to take the gloomy view that new United owner Massimo Cellino is not quite as minted as we have been led to believe; that he is starting to struggle under the weight of outstanding bills left behind by previous owners notable mainly for their incompetence and lack of experience, along with sundry other negative attributes.  And yet Cellino has acted swiftly to clear debts up to this point; when HMRC were owed £500,000 in unpaid tax, the bill was settled in the first flush of the Corn King’s reign.  Likewise, former suitor for the club Andrew Flowers was paid off quickly and the players’ deferred wages were restored to them, saving them from inevitable penury and the soup kitchen, I shouldn’t wonder.

Cellino has remained silent on this latest financial demand.  The form-book, though, suggests that if he was both willing and able to pay up, he would have done so promptly, perhaps with a few typically acerbic Latin observations on the craziness of running a Championship club along the lines of one in the latter stages of the Champions League.

But nothing has yet happened – and obviously this has persuaded some that the scenario above – of Cellino being not exactly skint, but cash-strapped enough to prevaricate – is being proved true.

Another possible version of reality, though, is that Cellino, a downy bird if ever there was one, is determined not to be taken for a mug; determined not to pay up meekly when others might be liable for at least some of the burden.  The money that Haigh is demanding was put into the club at a time when GFH – as they loudly and repeatedly trumpeted – were still Leeds United owners, for as long as Cellino’s purchase of a controlling stake was still held up by Football League red tape.  As has since become clear, however, GFH throughout this time were resolved to avoid meeting the club’s running costs and relied instead on what they claimed were contractual provisions supposedly obliging Cellino to meet those costs – even though the success of his purchase was in extreme doubt. Cellino differed on that matter; although he had been funding the club, he cut that off when the League initially ruled against him, a ruling that made his chances of ultimately owning Leeds United seem remote indeed.

At this time, Leeds were therefore grubbing about for money wherever and however it might be obtained, in order to keep the ship afloat.  Can Cellino, who must have seen his prospects of becoming owner receding by the hour, really be held totally responsible for the debts incurred in running the club and paying the bills during this awkward limbo period when nobody really knew what was going to happen?  His verdict on that is likely to have been: Not on your Nélie.

Another relevant consideration is of just how well GFH did for themselves during the time they were in charge of Leeds.  The bald fact of the matter is that Gulf Finance House has reported a net gain of $6.46m (£3.8m) from the investment bank’s time as majority owner.  This will, of course, include those last few weeks of uncertainty when they basically backed away from any financial responsibility, pointing fingers at just about anybody else, but refusing to meet business costs from their own purse.  Elementary arithmetic shows that the money they avoided paying not only had to be provided from elsewhere – but also that the cash thus saved by GFH will appear as a significant part of that £3.8m GFH net gain.

Profiting from an abdication of responsibility?  You can bet that Signor Cellino is not too impressed by that – especially when he is now faced with a bill from one or more of the people who did pay up when Cellino was hamstrung by the Owners and Directors test – and when GFH were pouting and sulking and claiming that, despite being owners, it wasn’t their responsibility.

It is also a fact that, as part of the deal whereby Cellino’s Eleonora Sport bought a 75% stake in Leeds United, GFH have retained a 10% stake “in order to take advantage of future revenues” – in other words, because they wanted to make damned sure that they would get a fat slice of the cake as and when Leeds United return to the Premier League.  This will be seen by some as just good business practice – but it means also that GFH are still a part of the entity which now faces a winding-up petition – and yet they are apparently showing absolutely no sign of wishing to contribute towards the settling of that matter, even though the debt was incurred on their watch, due to their unwillingness to meet owners’ responsibilities at that time – and despite the fact that they were telling anyone who would listen that they were still in charge.

So now we have a situation whereby Cellino, having already stumped up millions during his brief time as owner, to settle legacy debts and repel winding-up orders, is faced with yet another bill – one incurred while he was not yet owner and one arguably attributable to the fact that the nominal owners GFH had put their wallets away and abandoned their financial responsibilities.  The same GFH who recorded a fat profit from a time in which they managed the club in a cack-handed way, the results of which are now at Cellino’s door.  And the same GFH that remains one-tenth owners of Leeds, ready to profit in that proportion from any future success, but seemingly unwilling to take anything like 10% of the responsibility for the currently pending litigation.  Does that seem remotely fair to you?

Football is business – big business.  But it’s not simply that.  It’s also an emotional matter, with complex questions of loyalty and commitment very much to the fore.  GFH remain on board at Leeds United – but it appears that they are here simply as parasites, unwilling to help or assist their host in any way, intent merely on sucking away greedily when the good times come around again.  That’s a deeply unattractive position to adopt, and the better it is recognised and understood by the fans, the worse it will reflect on GFH who, presumably, still have some interest in retaining a good name in the business world if not in the more parochial football sphere.

Cellino’s silence and inactivity in respect of David Haigh’s winding-up petition should really be seen in the light of the GFH stance – and not as any sign of poverty or lack of commitment on the Italian’s part. Massimo is no mug and it could well be the case that he is preparing to fight over this, even if the amount of money involved is small beer to him.  If GFH really are prepared to “lie low and do nuffink” until such time as there are dividends to be reaped on their 10% holding, then it’s laudable on Cellino’s part to stand up to them and make them pay up on their responsibilities, if possible – instead of simply allowing them to sit tight and reap a fat reward at some future date.  Surely fighting such unfairness has to be the right and proper thing to do.

The bill is due; it was incurred under GFH while they were cocking a deaf’un to the club creditors – including the playing and general staff.  Now it’s landed on Cellino’s doormat, and when he looks around, he sees only parasites – not partners.  That’s a tawdry and disgusting state of affairs.

If Massimo Cellino is prepared to contest this current matter on that basis, then this blog is of the opinion that he deserves the support of all Leeds United fans in bringing GFH to account.  Good luck to him in this – and also in the greater battles ahead as he looks to restore Leeds United to the game’s top table.

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).


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.

Leeds Boss McDermott a Welcome Beacon in the Fans’ Gloom – by Rob Atkinson


Brian McDermott looking for the best for Leeds United – with or without him

There’s a video clip doing the rounds today – it could easily be entitled “Strife of Brian”, but this is no Pythonesque spoof.  This is tragedy, pure and simple – it’s got all the necessary ingredients.  We have an embattled hero, dark and inimical forces grappling away in the background, mystery and intrigue – and most of all, the grim prospect of a very unhappy ending.  And all in a mere 2 minutes and 38 seconds.  For all its brevity, no-one could fail to be moved by the passion and courage, the honesty and unselfishness that shine through in this isolated bubble of truth and openness in the gathering murk surrounding Elland Road.  The hero is, of course, Brian McDermott and he has earned that title by his struggles to carry on in circumstances that would have seen a lesser man give up and head for the hills.

In this blog’s opinion, McDermott has also earned the respect, trust and unstinting support of everyone out here who would claim to be a Leeds United fan.  Brian has stuck his head above the parapet with the contents of that interview, not in his own best interests, but in those of the club – which he clearly equates with the fans.  He stands out in these dark and dismal times as the one real ray of light – along with maybe one or two of the playing staff.  His anger, his passion and his determination to see right done by Leeds United and its legions of supporters are an apt counterpoint to the anodyne platitudes which are all we occasionally get from the suits behind the scenes, those grey little men who argue about pounds and pence while the club slides ever backwards.  It would be hard to imagine more of a contrast than the one which distinguishes Hero Brian from the corporate clowns humiliating us as they squabble behind the scenes.

I saw a tweet today which sums up perfectly the Strife of Brian.  It invited us to imagine the situation of a man facing a tennis match against a Grand Slam champion, but having to face this virtuoso without a racquet – and with his hands tied behind his back.  This is how hamstrung our Brian has been, for pretty much all of his tenure as Leeds United boss.  Just as we’ve been made promises and have been let down, so has he – and when he is let down it’s more than just a personal disappointment – it’s his professional reputation on the line.  Matters appear to have come to a head in these last few days, as we approach the final week of a transfer window where so much was promised, so much was expected.  Brian talked of getting business done early – but he’s been betrayed in his trust.  It was all lies, yet again.  The carpet has been yanked from beneath his feet, and ours.

It seems odd then, that – with so many deserving targets for their anger and disappointment to be justly poured out – some Leeds fans are actually choosing to have a go at the man who represents our best hope of forcing some kind of breakthrough in this tiresomely endless impasse.  Some fans are absolutely calling for Brian’s head, citing tactics, transfer policy, substitutions – even his gloriously bald pate.  They portray him as an egg  or as a thumb, and they seem to think it’s funny.  Yet this is the man who is speaking out and calling for an end to all the uncertainty, all the fruitless quibbling in the boardroom, all the selfish machinations between opposing interests – and he’s doing it with dignity and professionalism.  Brian wants it sorted, and for us to start moving onwards and upwards – and isn’t that what we all want, all of us helpless and impotent bystanders out here?  Plenty of managers would refrain from comment, knowing that being too outspoken would land them a swift P45.  Plenty more would walk, leaving us to suffer without any leadership.  Still others would seek to follow a party line, cravenly hoping they’d backed the right horse.  But not Brian.  He’s stuck his neck out, to lay his head defiantly on the block.  He seems to be half-resigned to being a casualty of whatever change might finally occur – but he’s saying it’s not about his own interests.  He’s asking for a swift resolution to the takeover saga, for the club and for the fans.  Greater love hath no man…

For those who are preoccupied with details of his team selections, or substitutions, or certain of his transfer acquisitions, I would say – forget it.  We know nothing of his working conditions and the promises made and broken, except for the broad hints in that direction contained in this alarmingly frank and angry interview.  It’s impossible for us to judge the man – he’s been trying to build a house without tools, and with bricks of straw.  All we can say of him is that he’s there for us, the fans, and for the club we all love.  How can we currently ask more of him than that?  For the moment, tactics, substitutions and transfers  are irrelevant.  Football is irrelevant.  The season is a dead duck – it’s the very future of our club which is at issue here.  That’s what McDermott is telling us, and we need to listen.  In a crisis on stormy seas, the last thing you do is tip your friends overboard – and right now, Brian is the only friend we have.

Against Huddersfield at the weekend, all of the Leeds fans should be bellowing their support for this man.  We should be sending the clearest possible message to all the factions currently wrangling over our club; we should be making sure that they’re aware we have heard Brian’s message loud and clear and that we have taken it to heart.

In any conflict, it’s of the first importance to know your enemy.  We should be utterly clear on this – Brian McDermott is not the enemy here.  He speaks for us, because he cares and because he has the courage and resolve – along with the insider’s knowledge – to speak with the voice of a man who knows that what’s happening is not good for the club.  We have Brian to thank for the fact that we now know that too.  Let’s not be blind enough, naïve enough, to ignore it.  We must show our support for Brian McDermott, loud and proud – because quite frankly, he’s the only chance we’ve got.

Corporate Clowns Fighting Over Leeds United as Fans Suffer – by Rob Atkinson


The interested parties

Finally, the silence has been broken – what we have been waiting for in terms of hard information, or at least a statement from one of the main protagonists, has at last come to light.  It’s a breaking of the impasse – but not in a good way.  What we have heard is an unedifying tale of wrangles over the terms of an agreement apparently struck last November.  It seems that the Flowers/Haigh/Un-named Others “Sport Capital” consortium found something, or maybe several things, not to their liking after the initial agreement for the sale of 75% of the GFH holding.  Various elements, it is said, were “not as originally described”.  Sport Capital therefore made a “revised” (i.e. lower) offer, which GFH have turned down, seemingly preferring to listen to other suitors, with a certain Italian prominent among the names being noised about.

In other words, it’s a mess.  In fact “mess” is really far too kind a way of describing the utter shambles, the embarrassing pantomime, that has been this takeover so far.  Quite apart from the humiliating spectacle of watching our great club being fought over by a bunch of incompetents, there are a few odd matters arising out of all this.  Not the least of these is the Sport Capital statement “We were fully justified in revising our bid because a number of things have come to light which were not as originally described“.  Now that does seem bizarre, because – let’s not forget – the Sport Capital Consortium and the existing GFH ownership have David Haigh in common.  So if Sport Capital have uncovered something nasty about the club, something that would justify a reduction of the offer which closed the original agreement – then why and how wasn’t Haigh aware of this before?  He was, after all, a senior figure in the running of the club this past year.  Even Andrew Flowers, big wheel in the club’s main sponsors Enterprise Insurance, should have had some level of knowledge.  There’s a rotten smell here, somewhere.

It’s a little odd too that Sport Capital, having (as some might say) reneged on the terms of the original agreement, are now accusing GFH of “breaching their covenant” in talking to other interested parties.  GFH are also accused of breaching their covenant with the fans – whatever that means – but it’s unlikely after today’s revelations that those fans will be confining any expressions of displeasure to GFH alone.  To the fan in the street, sick to death of being messed around by a series of chancers playing fast and loose with Leeds United – an institution of the English game, by the way – it would appear that all parties concerned are conspiring to make of our club a laughing-stock, an embarrassing soap-opera which does little but heap shame and humiliation on the heads of its loyal and fanatical supporters.

It’s difficult to take sides on the little information available, even since Flowers decided to speak out.  But the impression that goal-posts have been moved is not easy to avoid.  Flowers also said  “This boils down to much more than money but GFH have chosen to ignore that”.  But isn’t that slightly disingenuous?  To the selling party, it’s always going to be mainly about the money, surely?  Even though GFH were intending to retain a 10% stake, they will still have an interest in realising what they can for the chunk of the club they’re selling.  For Sport Capital to reduce their offer – and then cry foul and scramble for the moral high ground when the sellers refuse to lower the price – seems, to say the least, a little naïve.  And after all – if it boils down to much more than money – why have Sport Capital reduced their financial offer after an agreement had been reached?  There is much more here than meets the eye, much that we still don’t know on the basis of Flowers’ statement which – let’s face it – is only going to represent a one-sided point of view.  So when he, and Haigh, dismiss rival bids as being bad for the club and the fans – can we really trust their objectivity in a matter where they indisputably have a vested interest?

Meanwhile, hard on the heels of this new storm, Brian McDermott has had the task of trying to field a team that will stop the on-field rot by getting a result at Elland Road against Ipswich.  To say that the prevailing circumstances are not conducive to team preparation is a masterly feat of understatement.  I will try to raise the enthusiasm to write something about the Ipswich game later, but it’s hardly my prime concern right now and I freely admit that.

McDermott has been looking and sounding distinctly glum this past day or so, and all you can feel for the guy is deep sympathy – the sympathy you’d feel for any professional trying to do his job hamstrung and hindered by the manoeuvres of the crass amateurs in the chain of command above him.  Brian wants the matter swiftly concluded and, he emphasises, in the best interests of the club.  Give the guy an award for common-sense, a quality notably lacking elsewhere in what’s going on.  Reading between the lines, you can tell that Brian is half-expecting to be a casualty of whatever outcome we eventually get.  But he’s got his head down, doing his best in a difficult situation and he deserves the support of every true Leeds fan for as long as he’s at the club.

You honestly wonder how much more the fantastic fans of Leeds United are prepared to take.  If you got a couple of the more cynical type of satirical sitcom writers together, and asked them to pen a series about a football club setting out its stall to take the mickey out of its large and loyal fan-base, then they wouldn’t even be able to imagine or approach the farcical reality that now confronts us.  We deserve a lot better than this; but it’s a situation that has gone on now, with a few changes in the principal cast, for quite a few years.  In this time, we have seen clubs that suffered alongside us in the bowels of League One go on to comparatively great things.  Southampton, Swansea – even Norwich.  For heavens’ sake, Norwich have managed to prosper with three-quarters of our League One midfield and our top-scorer of last season warming the bench.  Reality would be funny if it wasn’t so utterly sickening.  For many, of course – the sad acts out there whose chief pleasure is to see Leeds United wounded and suffering – it is funny, in fact it’s riotously amusing.  And this all adds to the depression and misery for our fans, people who live and breathe Leeds United, people though who seem to be the least significant factor in the thinking of those who are wrangling over a great club.

It has to stop, and stop soon.  Clearly, this transfer window – despite the lies we were told last month and for most of this – is not going to be of any real help to us, and therefore this season is yet another write-off.  The only realistic aim now is to make sure we stay in this league, hoping that the ownership issue can be sorted out to leave us with a regime that can support the club’s immense potential and the fans’ justifiably sky-high ambitions.

That should be the bottom line, but right now it appears nothing more than a pipe-dream.  The clowns fighting over Leeds do not deserve any more of our faith or patience.  They don’t deserve to be associated with such magnificent support.  So step aside, clowns – and let’s have somebody in who knows their football, loves the club and has the will, imagination and financial muscle to take us forward.

There must be somebody like that out there, surely.

West Ham “McCormack Bid” is the Acid Test for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson


Please….. no more bloody straws…

When a tantalising Sky Sports News tweet appeared today, promising a “major Leeds United transfer development” after 4pm, you somehow knew it wouldn’t be good news – despite David Haigh’s promise of just that for long-suffering Leeds fans sometime this week.  But good news and the January transfer window don’t really go together like fish and chips for Leeds United.  The January transfer window is more of a misery time for us, or at best one of bleak disappointment, leading to dull and resentful apathy.  That’s the way it has been and – despite the usual promises – it’s looked for some time now as though this one will be no different.

So when this Sky Sports story finally broke, telling the world that West Ham United have made a “surprise bid” for our Captain of one week, Ross McCormack, the natural reaction was to laugh bitterly – and the first thought that went through a cynical head was, “Yeah, that’d be about right – why not really rub it in?”  After all, this is the club that sold top-scorer Luciano Becchio just when we needed him most, this time last season.  This is the club that sold our brightest talent and the nearest we’ve had to a Leeds United icon lately, in Robert Snodgrass.  Those were to Norwich, of course, a small club who seemed to delight in being able to pick on a moribund giant.  West Ham could easily be placed into that category too.

A hybrid of two riddles here: what do West Ham and Leeds United have in common – but also what’s the difference between them?  Answer: both are joke clubs – but West Ham are a joke club with some money.  And money talks, as we can all deduce from the deafening silence (apart from those few isolated tweets of promise) emanating from our club this past few weeks – weeks that were supposed to be about making signings and ratifying a takeover, for those who believed all the blarney we were fed in December.

It’s hard to write that riddle thing, even to make a point.  But, with everything that’s gone on at Leeds United lately, it’s difficult to reach any other conclusion but that we are a joke club.  A sick joke, an unfunny joke.  A joke club run by joke people who believe they can get away with feeding the fans crap for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and then expect them to beg for more crap for supper.  And the sickest joke of all is that they probably can get away with it.  The only possible source of resistance is from the fans, and our fans are as divided as any, with some factions for GFH, some wanting the Sport Capital group, even a maverick few still harking back to Bates – and all of them willing indeed eager to have a barney with any of the rest, whilst pouring ridicule on the few real attempts out there at organising support.  Read any Leeds United internet forum, and you’ll see it’s true.  We might all be Leeds, but United we most definitely are not – and that’s tantamount to a licence for the suits in the boardroom to do as they think best – a scary thought for anyone who wants Leeds United once again to occupy a prominent place in English football.

There’s the story of the straw that broke the camel’s back (this is not a middle-eastern consortium reference).  The moral is, of course, that if you go on piling up the burden on the poor old camel, it will eventually collapse at the addition of even one more straw.  In the same way, the faith and patience of the fans – those of us who can smell the stench of what we’re being fed – is surely at breaking point.  What will it take for that faith to finally collapse?  And what happens then?

The only way to register a protest in today’s world is to try and hit people in the pocket, because of that aforementioned fact that money talks.  It’s not the club’s fault that West Ham have seen fit to bid for McCormack.  But it IS the club’s fault – presumably – that this is the only item of news we currently have to chew on, we who are so hungry, so starving for some positive tidings, a ray or two of hope that maybe we have a brighter future.  That positive news, despite many coy hints, smileys and tweets from the usual suspects, has failed to materialise.  Our expectations have been managed; two loans apart, the club has almost managed to negotiate yet another window with no investment anywhere near the scale of the serious players at the top of the league.  That’s taking the mick, and dress it up how you like, it’s not good enough for a club like Leeds United with fans like the fanatical yet deeply put-upon Leeds fans.

Leeds United Football Club need to consider very, very carefully now as to just how much more their loyal body of fans will put up with.  Nobody likes to be made a fool of, especially not in front of a gaping, jeering world of rival fans, workmates and just anybody who feels inclined to rub salt into wounds, ie almost everybody.  The time is approaching when the final straw will be added to that onerous burden, and then some sort of collapse of support is possible.  People will vote with their feet, people will find better things to do with the hard-earned money in their pockets.  Why shouldn’t they?  The club will always preach about loyalty and support – but that’s a two-way street and at the moment the traffic is strictly one-way.  So why should people continue to pay still-exorbitant prices to watch football at a club which seems to have forgotten entirely what it’s supposed to be about?

It may well be that joke club West Ham are kidding themselves if they think they can tempt McCormack to join a team that has just sustained a 0-9 defeat in a semi-final and who are very probably headed for relegation.  But if Leeds United have any say in the matter – and after all, they do – then they need to consider very carefully what’s best for the club and the fans before taking that usual step of buckling and grabbing the cash.  That camel’s legs are trembling, and who can tell how many more straws it will take to complete the job of flattening it along with all of our hopes, our faith, our belief?

This bid for Ross McCormack may well be the acid test.  Can Leeds United pass it?

Drip, Drip, Drip as the Water Torture Goes On for Leeds Fans – by Rob Atkinson


Dear Mr Haigh – some answers, please

This blog has posed the question in the recent past: what exactly is holding up the latest Leeds United takeover?  But however earnest that enquiry was, I did think that by now there would have been some clarity, some answers – maybe even some of the oft-foretold good news after the dotting of i’s and the crossing of t’s. And then, we could move swiftly in the transfer market with still almost two weeks to go – and perhaps resurrect what is turning into another season of crushing disappointment.

But no. Instead of things getting better, they appear to be on the point of becoming worse.  Instead of some welcome clarity, all is obscured confusion, with rumour and counter-rumour flying about like lost souls in some Leeds fans’ purgatory.  After everything else that has gone on since our last real high point – promotion from League One in 2010 – this drawn-out continuation of unresolved anguish and uncertainty seems almost calculated to cause the maximum stress to anyone out here who loves the club, exposing us to ridicule after we’ve been heard to express optimism in the wake of this or that promise or optimistic smiley tweet from one or other of our prospective owners.

It wouldn’t be so bad if some of this incessant to-ing and fro-ing wasn’t avoidable.  If, for instance, we were just dealing with the inevitable complexities of due process that go along with any major deal, we could perhaps smile bravely and deal with it.  But it’s the coy little hints, the periodical hints and promises that elevate the situation from the mundane level of irritation and disappointment to a needless peak of exquisite cruelty.  Did we really need the Red Bull comments to tantalise is?  Do we really need to know about morning coffee with a billionaire if coffee is all it turns out to be??

Now we are getting indications that the whole thing might be about to collapse, having been previously assured that it would all be done early this window and that, in any event, any delay in completion would not hamper Brian in the transfer market.  And there’s the old refrain striking up again: “business is difficult to do in January”.  That, and the new doubts about the takeover endgame are vying with each other as to which negative piece of information can best sicken and dismay the loyal fans out here, waiting for something good to happen.

It seems likely now that this will drag on, until another transfer window has been safely negotiated with no inconveniently expensive signings, just a couple of loans.  Once again, the suits will be able to heave a sigh of relief.  The most significant announcements from the club lately have been of a sale in the club shops of cut price winter woollies.  Ring-a-ding ding.

It’s difficult sometimes to say – which is the worst aspect of this situation?  Supporting a club that has no apparent ambition to compete with the other clubs in the same division, smaller clubs that are forever out-stripping us in investment and the will to win?  Or being made mugs of time and time again?  Leeds United do not even appear to bother finding new excuses; refinements of the same old ones we’ve all heard before will apparently do, as far as they are concerned.  It’s enough to make the most loyal of fans angry.  I’m loyal, I have Leeds United engraved on my heart – but I’m spitting feathers at what the fans are being expected to put up with.

It’s time some for definitive statement to be made.  Clauses requiring discretion and confidentiality are all well and good, but they don’t address the morale of the fans, and they do nothing to ease the growing unrest and annoyance out here.  Players and staff come and go, even the stadium isn’t forever.  But the fans as a body are the continuous thread running through the history of the club.  We ARE Leeds United – so show us due respect and sort this embarrassing mess out – or at least treat us like adults, end this maddening drip, drip, drip water torture situation – and tell us what’s what.

That’s surely not too much to ask for, is it?

Could Glenn Hoddle be the Man for Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

Hoddle for Leeds?

Hoddle for Leeds?

These are confusing times – even distressing, perhaps – for Leeds United fans.  Results have been poor of late, to say the least.  We have arrived at a point where, after deeply humiliating defeats at Rochdale and Sheffield Wendies, a late and narrow loss to league leaders Leicester has been hailed in some quarters as a triumph of sorts, restoring some pride if not yet belief.  The display against the Foxes was certainly much-improved – but when the best source of comfort and encouragement is a defeat cherished for its battling qualities and narrow margin, then you know that expectations have sunk to an unacceptable low for a club with the history and tradition of Leeds United.

It’s not as if all the misery is on the park, either.  TOMA II is starting to assume the epic proportions of its humongous forebear, TOMA I – echoing swathes of silence are punctuated with a few hollow-sounding reassurances about dots and crosses for neglected letters of the alphabet, but the days drag by and nothing of note has happened, other than the club’s 999th and 1000th loan signings of this depressing century – or at least, that’s how it feels.  This current transfer window, just like the several preceding it, was talked-up as THE window in which we’d be flexing those big-club muscles and getting that squad strengthened as we’ve all known for ages it needs to be.  As January wanes towards February, it’s starting to feel like the old, old story – but we’re still being promised good news, so you never really know.  It’s just that it always seems the same at Leeds United – there’ll be pie in the sky, by and by.  Yet it always seems to turn out to be humble pie, and we’ve swallowed plenty of that this past decade or so.

It wouldn’t be Leeds United, either, if there were no speculation over the manager’s position – even though our Brian hasn’t been in that uncomfortably perilous hot-seat for a twelvemonth yet.  This blog is on record as stressing it’s firmly behind Mr McDermott, steadfast in the belief that all the guy needs is time and backing of the munificent fiscal variety (we’ve had all the platitudes, thanks).  But with TOMA II dragging on, and on, and on – pending approval from some higher authority that seems determined to sit on its arse and prevaricate until our transfer options have disappeared completely – what real chance does BMcD have to get things sorted as he doubtless wishes to do?  Instead, he’s reduced to the soundbites we’ve heard before from other managers – McAllister, Grayson, Warnock – whose one common factor is that they’ve all ended up sacked.

There are conflicting messages emanating from the United support where Brian’s own prospects are concerned.  A vociferous if less than convincing minority seem to want him gone, and will argue that the recent run of results is sufficiently bad to have seen most men out of the Elland Road revolving door.  What I see as wiser counsel argues for patience, continuity, stability – basically to write this season off in terms of promotion ambitions, get the takeover sorted – and then attack the squad re-shaping job in the summer.  Because surely, one day we’ll have a transfer window that doesn’t end up as a bleak disappointment?  Even last summer’s was no great shakes, the major high points being the signing of Luke Murphy (ahem) – and the getting-rid of Ken Bates.

Brian's our man

Brian’s our man

I ran a poll a few days back, and it’s evident already, as can be seen from the illustration here, that the vast majority of the contributors to that, when asked the straightforward question of “Keep Brian or get rid?”, are opting for the stability and security option.  A massive 90% want to hang on to Brian, dwarfing the measly 10% who would have a change less than a year after appointing him.  If this is representative of the support as a whole, then the owners – whoever they are – should feel secure enough in their choice to keep their faith in McDermott.  But it’s notoriously the case that patience runs short very quickly in football and that, especially when new owners come in, they frequently bring with them a new broom to sweep clean.

All of which laborious preamble brings me to the point of this article.  Remember – I support Brian, I think he deserves time and backing to do the job he so clearly and passionately wants to do.  But if the powers that be DID decide to get rid, then I feel it would be time to think big in an effort to restore some faith in the way the club is being run.  I watched the Chelsea v Man U match the other day and a studio guest was one Glenn Hoddle.  I have to say, I was impressed by his evident deep knowledge and understanding of the game as he dissected the mistakes the Man U defence had made.  His is an impressive CV blotted by one unfortunate episode of nuttiness.  A little nuttiness is surely not a factor that should debar any candidate from the Leeds job – we’ve had Clough and Warnock in the past, and I’ve even heard some call for di Canio.   And deep down, if the worst came to the worst, I just feel that Glenn Hoddle might be the man for Leeds – and Leeds might just be the challenge to tempt back a high-class coach who is still young enough to make a renewed mark on the game.

Madness?  Perhaps.  Remember please, my first option is to keep Brian McDermott.  But IF he’s dismissed – and history tells us that for any manager the sack is just a few crap results away – then why not Hoddle?  Wouldn’t we enjoy his style of football?  Might he not be the man to reinvent Leeds as a classy footballing machine motoring back towards the top?  What do people think?  I await your opinions, however derisive, with interest.