Tag Archives: supporters

Cellino: “I Speak For The Fans”… But Then Betrays Them?   –   by Rob Atkinson

…and stop lying to us, my friend

An exclusive report in yesterday’s Yorkshire Post, under the byline of Richard Sutcliffe, claims that Leeds United was offered – and decided to refuse – the option of playing Monday night’s rearranged Sky TV fixture against Middlesbrough on Saturday lunchtime. The game would still have been televised, with a kick off of 12:30 as opposed to the original 3:00pm, but it seems very likely that far less disruption would have been caused to travelling fans long-standing transport and accommodation arrangements.

Many fans were put to inconvenience and financial loss by the short-notice announcement of the game’s move to Monday night. The Football League has claimed that an announcement could have been made much earlier, but for United’s behind the scenes attempts to leave the fixture as originally scheduled. Now it appears that a compromise offer of a Saturday lunchtime kick-off, which would have saved the plans of many long-distance supporters due to arrive in Leeds on Saturday, was rejected by the club. 

This will be somewhat galling to say the least for Leeds United fans in general – and those who suffered inconvenience at short notice in particular. United owner Massimo Cellino has done his best to heap all of the blame on the Football League and/or Sky TV. This blog has no track record for defending those bodies, but it does appear from Sutcliffe’s Yorkshire Post article that Cellino will have pointed questions to answer about the treatment of fans in this instance.

Cellino, after all, has presented himself as the defender of fans’ interests in this affair. The club owner, writing in the match day programme for last night’s Boro game, said: “We are aware of many supporters, not only from England but across the world, who made plans to attend this game at the originally scheduled date of Saturday at 3pm. Those fans feel the effect financially and emotionally, but it is difficult for their voices to be heard. It is with their interests in mind that we continue to push for change.”

It would be somewhat bizarre of Cellino to bemoan the financial and emotional effects on fans in one breath, if with another he is rejecting a compromise offer that would have negated virtually all of those undesirable effects. If this report is true, it would seem that our owner, no stranger to the art of manipulating the truth, has once again strayed from the path of strict veracity. Indeed, this would be more than just another casual untruth. Some might say that it’s rank hypocrisy for Cellino to pose as the defender of the fans against those nasty League barons and TV moguls – whilst simultaneously acting behind all of our backs so as to ensure that those fans will suffer the “financial and emotional” effects that it now seems could easily have been avoided. 

There’s no apparent reason to disbelieve the Yorkshire Post claims. Which leaves Leeds United, in the person of Massimo Cellino to answer these questions:

  1. Is this claim by the Yorkshire Post of a compromise offer – allegedly made as early as December 15th – true?
  2. If it is true, then why was it rejected – when acceptance would have minimised disruption to travelling supporters, including many coming from abroad?
  3. How can Cellino claim to be looking out for fans’ interests in these circumstances?
  4. If it can be shown that supporters have incurred financial loss and inconvenience due to actions and positions taken by the club, then what plans does the club have to compensate those fans for that avoidable loss and inconvenience?
  5. When is Leeds United going to return to a more transparent approach in its dealings with supporters?

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything believes that answers to these questions are the very least that fans deserve. 

Over to you, Mr. Cellino… 

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Leeds United Celebrates Victory in ‘Battle of the Lamppost’   –   by Rob Atkinson

Cellino sunshine

Cellino – winner or loser?

As Leeds United, this famous old, formerly successful, football club continues its laboured progress through one of the bleakest periods of its long and illustrious history, owner Massimo Cellino is jubilant today over a notable victory of historic proportions.

Forget promotion, forget League titles and cup final triumphs. Forget rampaging through Europe as the best team around. Cellino has redefined the word “victory” for United and its long-suffering fans. For he has just taken on a small group of those fans and has emerged a big, big winner. Leeds United, under Cellino’s courageous leadership, has accomplished the unprecedented feat of forcing the removal of a poster from a lamppost. These days, for Leeds, it really doesn’t get any bigger or better than that.

Of course, some disaffected malcontents will carp and criticise. Cellino should have ignored the poster, they will say. He should have kept his own counsel and denied the oxygen of publicity to a rabble of ungrateful fans who are  unreasonably demanding that United should be a proper football club again. Cellino, in taking this brave action, has merely drawn attentions to the grievances of a small group of activists, probably no more than 30,000 or so. This is what critics might claim.

But Cellino knows that he has secured a famous victory, and that his literally dozens of faithful acolytes will be thrilled at his success. “They shunt of bothered with that poster”, a pro-Cellino spokesman exulted yesterday. “Its defiantly been a wrong move from people what don’t have a clue how much Massimo has done for Leeds pacifically and football in general”.

The leaders of the Cellino Out campaign were unrepentant, however. “There are other campaigns being planned”, this blog was assured. “Just listen for the voice of the fans and watch for a blizzard of leaflets when we play Middlesbrough on Sky next Monday…”

Readers are cordially invited to submit their own opinion as to who, if anyone, has emerged victorious from The Battle of the Lamppost.

If You’re Loyal to Cellino’s Leeds United, You’re a Mug   –   by Rob Atkinson

Cellino smoking while Leeds United crash and burn

It gives me no pleasure to write an article under a title like that. In fact, it causes me immense pain. Loyalty is the raison d’être of the fanatical football supporter. It’s a byword for anyone who loves “their” club. It ranks right up there with passion and pride in the lexicon of the devoted follower – and that applies to followers of Leeds United far more than most.

Right now, the way the club is being run is a sick joke. The old maxim of “no one man is bigger than the club” has been torn up and thrown onto the fire by an egomaniac of an owner in Massimo Cellino, who clearly regards himself as the living embodiment of a famous old football club. He’s wrong, of course – but sadly for those of us who see that, he doesn’t recognise a world in which he can be wrong. As far as the Italian fraudster is concerned, he is the answer, whatever the question might happen to be.

That word loyalty resonates with fans, and people in general, no matter how hard times could possibly get. It’s a quality deemed to be of the first importance, especially at the very worst of times. This applies throughout most of life; stick together, guys, and we’ll get through this. But, in modern football, loyalty has been bent out of shape into a slavish obligation to turn up and support even the rottenest of regimes. And, right now – at a time when we the fans are palpably being made mugs of – those who devotedly roll up at the turnstiles, to cheer on their demoralised heroes, can only be classified as mugs. Helpless mugs who see no alternative to their lifelong habit of watching the Whites. Loyal mugs who justify the owner’s stubborn determination to stay in control, football pundits and rulers notwithstanding. 

The crowd tonight, or the more vocal part of it anyway, attempted to qualify their loyalty with repeated chants of “Massimo, time to go”. But they had to be there in the first place to join in with those chants. And they had to have parted with their hard-earned cash to be there, meaning that they’re propping up a regime that they’re now loudly opposed to. 

Make no mistake, the Elland Road crowd have correctly identified the villain of the piece. They’re not daft mugs – just misguided for being there at all. They know, those intuitive mugs, that Cellino is the problem. I’d hazard that the players know too – they’re certainly all too well aware from recent experience that no one “Head Coach” is going to be there long enough to make a real difference. Those players know that they’re actually playing not for any football man, but for a mad despot who will keep chopping and changing, sticking his unqualified nose in, reducing a great club to the status of a music hall slapstick routine. You can see it in, their headless chicken, panicky performances, especially under the eyes of those massed loyal, frustrated mugs in the stands. Is it any wonder that what Cellino promised would be a “beautiful season” is swiftly degenerating into ugly farce?

The time is now for the fans to organise, so far as such a thing is possible, and resolve as a body to be mugs no longer. Attendances at home and away must be made to suffer, in the hope of hitting any regime where it really hurts – in the pocket. The Cellino era needs to have the life choked out of it, if not by the League’s seemingly toothless “fit and proper” test, then by loyal, devoted people who love Leeds United – but are determined to be mugs no longer. 

We have decent players for this league. We have a manager in Steve Evans who has produced winning football at his previous clubs, in a manner undreamed of by his predecessors. The problem is not in the dugout and, despite appearances, it is not on the pitch. The problem is right at the top, where the rot set in when Cellino moved in – and any semblance of sanity or stability moved out. That rot will seep down throughout the club unless it’s checked. Eventually, the Leeds United we all love might very well rot to the core, and cease to exist in any form we might recognise or wish to see. 

The Elland Road crowd has taken a big step tonight towards assuring Massimo Cellino that he’s not wanted at Leeds. Now those loyal supporters must show a more painful kind of loyalty, by doing the unthinkable and staying away – withdrawing their vocal and financial support of this decaying club. They must stand up to be counted and make the rest of football sit up and take notice. They must stop being taken for mugs and they should stop acting like mugs. 

Because, deep down – whatever Cellino might smugly think – Leeds United fans are definitely NOT mugs – it just currently seems that way. That’s what we have to demonstrate, and it has to start now. 

And, if not now – after the rotten mess we’ve seen tonight – then… when?

Leeds United 0, The Idiots In Charge 3   – by Rob Atkinson

You can't count on the love, Massimo, my friend

You can’t count on the love, Massimo, my friend

Nil Three at home, then. Not good but, in the context of what is now a dead rubber of a season, not disastrous either. Not on the face of it, anyway.

It’s when you set out to look at the factors behind this defeat that the blood pressure starts to elevate towards danger levels. For once, I’m not here to blame the officials – though they undoubtedly played their incompetent and over-zealous part. I’m not even here, as I frequently have been, to lambast the Football League. My concerns are a little closer to home at present.

Looked at a day or so in advance, this was a game that Leeds United should have been looking to win, in order to maintain their recent goodish run, with a view to taking some momentum and supporter goodwill into summer – whatever that may hold in store for us (apart from another Ashes mauling at the hands of the Aussies). It was a winnable game because, let’s face it, Blackburn always should be, to start off with. And then there was the matter of their forthcoming FA Cup replay against Liverpool. A team with that in the offing, and Wembley awaiting the winners, could perhaps be expected to be a little distracted and therefore, you’d have thought, ripe for the taking advantage of.

Chris and Kev never forgottenAnd, really, any game at home or away should have been winnable on this weekend of tragic memory. It’s 15 years on Sunday since we lost two of our number, brutally murdered in Istanbul.

RIP Chris and Kev – never forgotten, and we’ll never forgive either.

For those 15 years, we’ve expected nothing less than total commitment from any Leeds team facing a fixture around this time. It’s about respect, which should act so as to enhance the standard level of professionalism and commitment we always look for. Any team facing Leeds on or about April the 5th should expect and be given a very hard time. It’s only right.

The ingredients were therefore in place for what should have been a Leeds performance to be reckoned with. But professional football is a game of fine margins, and any extraneous influence can act so as to reduce the chances of any team’s success on a given day. This week just gone, with quite appalling timing, the Leeds United powers that be have chosen to drop bombshells right into the middle of weekend preparations. A respected Assistant Coach, hardly in the job five minutes, has been suspended and told he has no future at Leeds; the Head Coach has apparently been told not to select the leading scorer due to unwelcome incentive provisions in his contract (so why did they agree them in the first place?) – and now that same Head Coach is having doubts about whether or not he can really carry on in charge. It’s difficult, he says – with admirable understatement.

So, whether or not the ref and his assistants are open to criticism, whether or not Blackburn Rovers performed above expectations, whether or not our team were below what we might have expected with the anniversary of Taksim Square imminent – the fact is that the people in charge at Leeds United, the chief among whom should not be influencing matters at all, currently – being banned – these people supposedly in control and acting in the club’s best interests have comported themselves like a bull in a china shop, smashing their way through the delicate business of preparing for a game without any regard for team or management morale. Those are not the actions of responsible owners. Those are the actions of clueless idiots.

Having stayed loyal for longer than was, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, either wise or reasonable – especially in the face of some bizarre decisions over the course of a bizarre season – this blog has had to perform an uncomfortable volte face. The events of this week have not, of themselves, caused any sudden, out of the blue 180 degree about-turn. Rather, they have been the last straw, the one that finally broke the camel’s back.

I can no longer stick up for Massimo Cellino and his cohorts. It’s all just become too ridiculous and humiliating. We’ve got a Hartlepool fan – a Hartlepool fan, for Christ’s sake – referring to us as a crisis club on Soccer Saturday. And it’s hard to do more than feebly protest that Jeff Stelling should move out of his glass house before throwing any stones. But he’s right. We are a crisis club – safety from relegation notwithstanding. How could we be seen as anything else? The leaders of the club are set fair to make us untouchable by any respected football professional in the game. If Redders were to walk – who would want to move into such a hands-tied, hamstrung job? Not anybody that, in an ideal world, I’d care to nominate.

Today, we lost a football match and had a lad sent off. It’s happened before, it will happen again. At the moment, those bare facts represent the very least of our worries. We’re now at the stage where more and more people, some of whom might be expected to have an apoplectic fit at the sacrilegious idea of a re-branded Elland Road, are now openly welcoming the prospect of new owners who might well do just that. That’s how desperate we have become; that’s the barometer of the urgent desire for change – yet again.

I should have realised the way things were going when I published a spoof article for April Fools’ Day, claiming that a Russian oil mogul was buying Cellino out. It got over 25,000 views, so it must have half-convinced some people. And, in the spirit of All Fools’ Day, I got some good-natured abuse for such an outrageous lie. But what I also got was a lot – a lot – of wistful responses, saying if only it were true, etc. That’s not the sign of a happy support – and it was a big enough sample to make me to think it’s a fair indicator of the current mood. Right now, if Red Bull were to march in and paint the whole stadium some god-awful shade of the devil’s colour – you get the feeling that a lot would simply sigh and say, get on with it, then – see where we go. That’s a shocking state of affairs.

For now, we simply have to blunder on, and hope that this season peters away without too much more in the way of humiliation. The Blackburn game doesn’t matter, of itself. Nor, to be honest, does a tough-looking fixture at Wolves on Bank Holiday Monday. It’s the factors behind the Blackburn result, and behind whatever might happen to us at Molineux, that are of real concern at the moment. I think it’s right and fair to lay the blame for this 0-3 defeat squarely at the door of the owners, whatever else might have gone wrong. And I feel the same way about the Wolves game. If we do well, I’ll praise the lads and the manager. If we get – as I fear – a proper seeing-to, I’ll be blaming the suits.

After a long struggle to stay loyal, and with the way I feel with all that has happened this week – and with Jeff Stelling’s non-ironic words buzzing in my head – that’s just the way it is now for this once but no longer pro-Cellino blog.

Celtic Fans Open to Ridicule Over Rangers “Old Firm” Claims – by Rob Atkinson

At Leeds United, we’re no strangers to the unwelcome feeling and experience of your club in crisis. We’ve seen our beloved Whites pushed to the brink of actual expiry and ejection from the league; we’ve seen administration and League sanctions. Spectacular collapse and the plummet from the heights of the game to the depths of despair was a process raised almost to a perverse art form by United – to the point that it became known as “doing a Leeds”. So we know what crisis, despair and poverty are all about – the only thing that can really surprise a Whites fan these days is to see a club in straits even more dire.

Which brings me on to Glasgow Rangers FC. There is no need for me to re-hash here exactly what has happened to them over the past few years. In short, it was a precipitous fall, and an unprecedented reduction in status. From being permanent members of a top two cartel, Rangers were sent spinning into the gloom and obscurity of Scotland’s lowest major league. The journey back is well under way, but problems beset them still. On Sunday, for the first time since their fall from grace, Rangers face Celtic in the Scottish League Cup semi-final at Hampden Park. The Old Firm rivalry is back, right? Well, not according to the hardly unbiased fans of Celtic FC. Take a moment to look at the rationale espoused by a group of their fans in an advert placed recently.

Celtic fans - are they kidding?

Celtic fans – are they kidding?

Now, surely – these Celtic fans cannot be serious? It’s a wind-up, right? Are they quite barking mad, these loose-lipped Bhoys? What are they worried or insecure about, that they should resort to this? The whole “argument” stated above smacks of trying too hard, a mean-spirited attempt to cast back down a club trying to recover from an almost terminal decline. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Rangers’ fall – and without declaring any particular affiliation on either side of the Old Firm divide – this blog has to state in the strongest possible terms that what we have here is a bunch of partisan yet clueless fans talking fluent rubbish.

Whatever arguments you might summon, whatever contortions you might go through, leaning over backwards to show that black is white – surely the one thing any set of football fans must agree on is the major factor in any football club’s identity. It is the fans, it has to be. The fans embody the tradition and continuity of any club. Football shirts might change colour, as with Cardiff. Ground moves are commonplace these days and have never been unknown. Players, directors, managers and staff come and go, without necessarily having any real connection to the clubs they serve for a time.

So what is the one thread that runs right through a club’s very soul and being? It is the fans, the loyal supporters who follow, follow, through thick and thin, passing on the supporting tradition down the generations, wedded to their club in good times and bad. And it is those Rangers fans, the ones who have stuck by the Rangers FC as they sank to the depths and rose again – they embody Glasgow Rangers and in so doing, they give unquestionable continuity to the institution that is Glasgow Rangers FC. They also make a total mockery of this laughable stance from a set of fans who feel just as passionately about their club – and who have thus allowed themselves to go out on a limb, in trying to kick a club when it’s down, succeeding only in making arrant fools of themselves.

I wouldn’t particularly care, normally, who wins on Sunday at Hampden. I miss the Old Firm games for their passion and spectacle, it’s for those reasons that I always tune in to watch and would one day like to attend one of these occasions. The tradition of atmospheric support from both sets of fans, with tempers frequently running high on the park and referees praying for the final whistle to come with as little as possible actual violence – that’s so much of what football should be about. These are factors which are gradually being marginalised in the modern game as a whole, with increasing gentrification everywhere and a diminution of the raucous passion we of a certain age remember. But all of that is still present at certain fixtures – Leeds against Man U is one, Newcastle versus Sunderland bears a mention – there is el Clásico, of course. But the grand-daddy of them all is the Old Firm game – even if a lot of the cause and reason behind this fact isn’t of a particularly savoury or relevant nature.

So where do these Celtic fans get off, trying to defuse, deflate, diminish all of this? Don’t they realise how much the game north of the border needs its return, and in full rude health at that? For goodness’ sake, Celtic need it. Surely, these pompous, paragraph-quoting fools are kidding. If they’re not, then they deserve the ridicule that should be coming their way. And, for the record, against my normal neutral Old Firm stance – I would say to them “If you really do mean this – then you’re idiots; and I hope you get stuffed out of sight on Sunday”. 

Unexpected Bonus for Harvey and FL as Leeds Splits Start to Show – by Rob Atkinson

Elland Road: are the foundations crumbling?

Elland Road: are the foundations crumbling?

It’s been just another cataclysmic day at Elland Road. In the wake of a battling draw against Birmingham City on Saturday, when the match officials put in a disgraceful performance that will no doubt have earned them plenty of brownie points at Football League HQ, Monday brought the League’s latest confirmation that the interests of its biggest member club are a long way down the list when there are vendettas to be pursued. Massimo Cellino’s ban under the largely discredited “fit and proper test”, prompted by a legal process that has some way yet to run under Italian law, has been upheld – meaning that the King of Corn must step away from his involvement with Leeds United until April, at which point the conviction, though not finally ratified in Italian courts, will be deemed “spent” under English law. Leeds as an entity are considering their options; meanwhile the individuals concerned have had plenty to say, with alarm and confusion regrettably ensuing.

Sadly, too, there are signs that the strain is beginning to show behind the scenes at Elland Road. This is potentially calamitous, but really not all that surprising; embattled is hardly an adequate word to describe the position of the club throughout this torturous season. Great Britain in the early part of World War II could scarcely have been more isolated or heavily assailed from all directions than the hapless West Yorkshire pariahs of Leeds. It appears highly unlikely on this occasion that a convenient Eisenhower figure is going to appear over the horizon, perhaps backed up by the cavalry. If Leeds are to fight on, they will – as ever – fight alone.

Such a siege situation historically demands unity and solidarity within the ranks as well as clarity and leadership from the top. If you’re lacking those elements, you can rest assured that your walls will ultimately be breached and the barbarian hordes will inundate your enclave with gorily fatal results. At Leeds, the splits are beginning to show – and under the pressure of universal hatred and contempt, those splits, the cracks just now appearing in the very foundations of the club, are liable to widen as they threaten to topple the whole edifice. This is an outcome that Shaun Harvey and his crooked cronies at the Football League must devoutly have wished for – but scarcely dared to hope might happen.

The alarming thing about any football club in this type of situation is the marginal advantage it affords all of its rivals. In professional football, as in any top level sport, those margins separating success from disaster are always fine. Games are won and lost, seasons succeed or fail, clubs stand or fall, not by gulfs of clear blue water, but by details of fine tuning. For Leeds, against whom it is an article of faith for rival clubs to raise their game – and engaged as they are in the dog eat dog frenzy at the foot of the table – the writing is now very clearly on the wall. The situation prior to the latest Black Monday was serious enough. Now, things have taken on a still more sombre and frightening aspect.

The reactions from within the club to the League’s latest knife in the back have been confusing, dissonant, unhelpful. At a time when a United front is absolutely crucial, Leeds seems to be an organisation divided within and against itself. The signals from the top – from Cellino himself –  have been of apathy, despair, defiance and then, disastrously, of a most bizarre attempt at self-aggrandisement, all in swift and bewildering succession. First we heard that the Italian was unsure as to whether he would take the reins up again at the end of this present ban. Then it was, well, someone else will sign the cheques; nothing has changed. This was swiftly followed by a rabble-rousing “I’ll be back” in the best Arnie tradition, as he seemed set fair to terminate the League in all its Machiavellian plotting. But at the last, as Monday ebbed away into Tuesday match-day, we had Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino blurting that three players – named as Bianchi, Sloth and Doukara – wish to leave the club in the event of Cellino’s appeal being rejected.

Just how this might be imagined to help the situation is nigh-on impossible to explain – so I won’t even try, as it’s honestly beyond me. But I could provide a list as long as your arm of ways in which such a pronouncement is shatteringly unhelpful. Firstly, we must assume that none of the trio identified as wantaways can be involved in the match-day squad for the visit of league leaders Bournemouth. How can they be? They’ve been publicly outed as the first of the rats clamouring to dive off the sinking ship. Their relationship with team-mates, management and fans must surely be so compromised that they will be of no use in any game, let alone one so difficult. It’s back to that fine-tuning mentioned earlier. In the run up to kick-off in a professional football match, everything has to be exactly right. There is certainly no place for the kind of stun grenade that Cellino has carelessly lobbed into the middle of sensitive preparations for a battle with the usual, highly-motivated opposition.

Even if it’s all just hype and brinkmanship, and the players concerned have no intention of seeking to absent themselves from a struggling, failing club – the damage may well have been done. Even if there are no schisms within the squad, even if Redders does not feel that he’s been dealt an exceptionally cruel hand by his maverick owner – what are the poor, bewildered fans to make of it all? Just what will the atmosphere be like at Elland Road, a ground that should be a cauldron of white-hot support to test the nerve of any opposition? How much good will it do Leeds United if that normally vociferous support are stunned and demoralised, reeling from the news that a good proportion of the squad want out? In the event, Casper Sloth seems to have come out and denied that he’s anything other than totally committed to the Leeds United cause, asserting his own commitment to fight for the shirt and produce better than we have so far seen from him. But, welcome though that might be of itself, doesn’t it merely emphasise the utter failure of Leeds United’s personnel to be seen to be singing from the same hymn sheet? The damage has most likely been done – just how much of a disunited United side will take the field against the table toppers, who are seeking to avenge an unlikely early-season defeat on their own patch?

We keep on saying this – but it’s difficult to think of a worse day in the club’s history, and that is not primarily down to the corrupt and foolish League’s latest travesty; it is more down to the appearance of turmoil and chaos within what should be the Leeds United “circle of trust”. You might argue for the post points deduction era as being comparable in terms of crisis, but that whole minus 15 thing was demonstrably a unifying factor in Dennis Wise’s cobbled-together League One squad. Now, at a time when, more than ever, they need to be able to rely on each other, that priceless quality of unity seems to have been recklessly, thoughtlessly tossed away as intemperate mouths have spoken without caution or reason, with no regard to team spirit or the need to be together and fight a common foe. It might now be down to the fans to somehow overcome their own doubts and trepidation, to get behind the team and inspire them as few if any bands of supporters anywhere are better able to do. But what sort of shape is that support in right now? Not very happy, not very united and not very impressed with the man who had appeared as a saviour – that, surely, is the absolute least of it.

It would be just like Leeds United to bounce back after all, in the course of what must be a Tuesday of healing and rapprochement. It’s happened before, hasn’t it, and not so long ago at that. In the wake of last season’s lowest ebb, with the summary dismissal of McDermott by an owner not yet in situ and Sky TV’s urgent efforts to persuade our star striker he should be demanding a transfer, the team responded and, after a nervous start, utterly destroyed Huddersfield Town 5-1 with that striker – I forget his name – notching a hat-trick. It’s not impossible that a similar scenario could unfold with Bournemouth in opposition (and probably feeling that crisis-torn Leeds are there for the taking). Morison to score three, anyone? It’s not impossible – it’s merely bloody unlikely.

Whatever the outcome of the match on Tuesday evening, Leeds have to get it right in the hours and days immediately afterwards. They have to put a stop to all of these mixed messages – and certainly there should be an immediate halt to any tactic of broadcasting the message of “the players love me so much, they don’t want to stay without me”. Wiser counsel must prevail and, with that in mind, it is to be hoped we hear a bit less of certain highly vocal and emotional parties – and a lot more of the new Chief Operating Officer, Matt Child. His was the sole voice of reason and sanity on Monday; amid all of the confusion swirling around him, he spoke quite well. He might just offer some sort of navigable route out of the morass in which we currently flounder.

The one thing we cannot hope for is any sympathy from outside of the club, its support and a very few gentlemen of the press who have demonstrated in the past their unwillingness to follow the herd on its Leeds-hating stampede towards the common gutter. So, we are just going to have to make the best of things, as usual, strive to support the team against the south-coast high-flyers on Tuesday evening – and simply hope against hope (and against all realistic probability) for better times ahead. Surely, even this remorselessly grim season must yet have some positive moments in store for us?

 

Angry Leeds Fans in Protest at F.L. HQ, Preston TOMORROW – by Rob Atkinson

The Football League: rubber-stamped as corrupt

The Football League: rubber-stamped as corrupt (and incompetent)

The Football League Operations Centre at Edward VII Quay, Navigation Way, Preston PR2 2YF will be the scene of peaceful protest tomorrow, as Leeds United fans turn up in force to hold the League to account for their callous and ignorant treatment of its biggest and most famous member club. The local police are fully aware of the planned protest and have liaised with the organisers to ensure a smooth and peaceful event, between 10:00 and noon on the day.

There is no need to go over the fine details of the League’s mistreatment of Leeds United here. It’s all been well-documented enough – and the League in its complacency has taken not a blind bit of notice despite all the articles, arguments and logic placed before it. Serenely ignorant, they have blundered on, determined to act in the worst interests of United, flying in the face of their own guiding principles. It is time, therefore, to turn up in numbers and to make some noise. We must devoutly hope that the media will take an interest so that, perhaps, a few ripples may spread further afield. This blog understands that BBC Look North are interested in the event – again, let us hope so.

The other purpose of the protest event is officially to present to the FL a printout of the Change.org petition (publicised on this blog a number of times in the past few weeks). This petition has now broken the 20,000 barrier. That’s not so far off an average home attendance for Leeds in these parlous days; pretty good going for a campaign that is largely confined to online media and will therefore not have reached the ears of many less tech-minded Leeds fans.

The protest in Preston is the culmination of months, years, decades of shoddy treatment of our club Leeds United at the hands of the League. Finally, we have the opportunity to be heard.

Support the petition. Support the protest. Make your voice heard. We may never get another chance as good as this.

Almost 20,000 Leeds Fans Already Support Football League “Cellino” Petition – by Rob Atkinson

Nearly 20,000 now...

Nearly 20,000 now…

The following article has been submitted by petition organisers for inclusion on this blog, and adapted by myself for publication here.
One final push for the petition!
At the time of writing the petition has been signed by 19,599 fans. It would be great to get it over the 20,000 mark. A massive 85 countries around the world are represented by those who have signed the petition! 

The petition can be found here and we urge all your readers to take a look and, if they agree with the sentiment, sign, share on Facebook and RT on twitter! If everyone who has signed can find another fan to sign we would be approaching 40,000! Just click on the link below:

Please – Sign Here!!


If we can help show the following aims are being achieved, then we can say with justice that the petition has been a success:
 
a) To make clear the sense of injustice and the strong feelings of many Leeds fans 
b) To bring what many fans feel is extremely unfair treatment of Leeds United by the Football League to mass media attention 
c) To put additional pressure on the Football League to think again as to whether they are really acting in the club’s best interests

We ask the FL to look again at the FPP test and to ask themselves if it is truly fit for purpose, especially for an owner in situ. There are directors and owners of other clubs who have done far worse than Massimo Cellino. The crux of the matter is that he is now an owner in situ and the rules the FL developed were to assess potential owners prior to purchase. Their sole aim in this matter is to assess if that person is fit and proper to run a football club – nothing else. What better way to assess this in the Leeds United case than by monitoring how Cellino is running the club, rather than looking at old evidence to make a decision? Indeed, Cellino would be able to run any club in Italy, or be a director/owner of any other UK company. Why should these rules be so different? Are the FL really acting in the best interests of Leeds United by asking for Cellino to resign – only for him to be able to take his place again in March? Isn’t this actually just needless disruption for the sake of it, seemingly calculated to destabilise the League’s biggest club?

There is another extremely important point to make here. Those that vote on the Football League are not impartial – not by any stretch of the imagination. Financially the FL are better off with Leeds United in it. Also, other clubs have a better chance of succeeding if Leeds United are sanctioned. Sean Harvey was 100% correct not to vote – but we feel that NONE of the voters (chairman of competing clubs) are impartial. It should ALL be decided upon by completely independent parties. You wouldn’t find relatives of the victim on a court Jury so why are chairman of rival clubs asked to make a decision on Leeds United? 


It is not as simple as Cellino resigning and coming back in March as there are similar court cases on the horizon, so the question has to be asked as to whether the rules are truly fit for purpose. Whether he has or hasn’t paid the correct import duty/tax on a boat or car really shouldn’t be relevant as to whether he can do a good job for Leeds in running the club. He ran Calgiari in Italy for over 20 years! We need the Football League to take a good look at what they are trying to achieve and whether their current rules achieve it. They say he is ‘dishonest’ and therefore should be banned. How is tax duty on a boat / car worse than those that live as a tax exile in order to pay less taxes throughout their lives! What about the many other directors of clubs who have a far more chequered past than Cellino! Let’s not forget that there are the likes of money-launderers and convicted rapists among these seemingly untouchable gentlemen…

If Cellino (and his family) were to be forced out, then it is pure speculation as to what would happen next. We just hope the club would be sold without going into administration, otherwise there is a worry that the likes of Bates/Harvey could be sniffing around again and the vast majority of United fans would agree this would not be good for LUFC. There are constant rumours of others ready to take over Leeds but Cellino is the only person who wanted the club so badly he was willing to sign anything to make sure it happened – no one else was willing to pay the asking price. They clearly didn’t want the club as much as he did. Some may say he shouldn’t have signed the original Share Purchase Agreement on those terms or he should have done more in the way of Due Diligence. Had he done that who knows where we would have been now. GFH would probably still own 100% of Leeds. No one else wanted the club enough to pay the asking price. Cellino has shown he is passionate about Leeds. Whilst he has made mistakes he deserves a chance to take this great club to where he wants to take it – The Premier League and then onto the Champions League.
All of the points raised above need to be aired in public and then addressed by the authorities currently engaged in a determined campaign to oust Cellino. This latest push to get the support for the petition over 20,000 and onwards towards 25,000 is a big step on the way to obtaining the kind of national publicity necessary to make a difference – to have a real effect on the issues currently clouding Leeds United’s season.
If you haven’t yet signed – PLEASE do so, then share this widely and ask any friends to sign also. If you have signed – then please share the petition among as many people as you can in order to get even more support.
Leeds United – your club – needs you.

 

Leeds Fans: TELL the Football League What They Should be Doing – by Rob Atkinson

Football League officials in sober conclave

Football League officials in sober conclave

The Football League, by their decision this week to disqualify Massimo Cellino as owner/director of Leeds United, have demonstrated their utter inability to appreciate the factors at play in this situation. The arguments have been laid before them; the fact that Cellino’s “dishonesty” is as water unto wine beside the wrongdoings of certain other Football League club shareholders and owners (there are rapists, money-launderers, porn barons and other such unsavoury chaps out there. None of these bad boys attract the attention that Cellino does from the League as they pig-headedly pursue their vendetta).

It’s also true to say that Cellino can point to a highly productive track record as Leeds owner since he first appeared on the scene. Various whimsical coaching appointment decisions aside, he’s got the club on a sounder financial footing than at any time this millennium, he’s assembled a fine and talented squad – at last being gelled by the right coach – and he’s pursuing capital investment with a view to making all our dreams we dare to dream come true. The Football League, by contrast, continue to betray themselves as corrupt, purblind fools who are clearly not fit for purpose in their brief of running the game below elite level.

The text of a current petition at Change.org is reproduced below. I would ask anyone who hasn’t signed it yet to read the arguments advanced by the petition organiser, and to sign it without further delay. If you have signed it, I would urge you to share it as broadly as possible, to ensure the maximum possible support. The grounds laid out below make good sense; this petition deserves universal support from anyone with the interests of Leeds United truly at heart. Since the latest crass League decision, support for the petition has raced up to over 9,000. We need 10,000 at least to have a good chance of generating some media interest and gaining a wider platform for the argument that Massimo Cellino has been good for Leeds United, and that – in the interests of the club and the game in a wider sense – he should be allowed to get on with the job he’s doing.

“Dear The Football League,

The Owners’ and Directors’ test (previously called Fit & Proper Persons test) was brought into effect in 2005. The purpose of the test is to better protect clubs and the reputation and image of the game, thus to protect Football League member clubs from Owners and Directors who might mismanage or ultimately guide a club into administration. With this in mind, rules and guidelines were written to protect member clubs.  The fundamental intention of the test – to protect member clubs and act in their best interests – should not be forgotten.

Since purchasing the club six months ago, Massimo Cellino has turned around Leeds United’s precarious financial position.  Under his control, the club’s debt and operating expense have reduced. Leeds United have signed 15 players – many of whom seem to be extremely talented and don’t demand the high salaries that can often force clubs into administration. For the first time since the turn of the century, Leeds United’s finances seem to be under control.

The dire financial situation which Cellino inherited was caused by the mismanagement of the two previous owners who both passed your Fit & Proper test – namely Ken Bates and GFH Capital.

Massimo Cellino has invested a lot of money in Leeds United – initially through his purchase and then through subsequent investment.  In all probability, if you force him out now, Leeds United would, again, be facing administration. Forcing Cellino out of Leeds United is not in the best interests of one of your member football clubs and would in fact, be very damaging indeed.

The Owner’s & Director’s test is particularly valid prior to an owner taking over a club. However, the same critera should not apply after ownership has begun. In many circumstances, removing the owner could cause harm and instability to a member football club. A new set of guidelines which monitor how the club is actually being run would offer much more insight into determining if the owner or director is fit and proper to run the football club.

Cellino is now a major part of Leeds United. He has owned the club for six months. He has made large contributions, both on and off the field, and many of the fans are in support of the direction he is now attempting to take the club. Cellino would not be prevented from becoming an owner or director of any other business in the UK.  Considering Cellino has owned Leeds United for six months already, an examination of the financial statements in the periods before and after his takeover would enable you to better judge his ability to control the football club. Forming an opinion based on his non-payment of import duty on a boat in Italy in 2012 is now inappropriate.

Please remember that your responsibility is to act in the best interests of Leeds United and to protect the club from being controlled by someone who might mismanage it. This needs to be the most important factor in your consideration of this matter.  Do you now genuinely believe that Cellino will not manage Leeds United in its best interests?  Are you just desperately seeking to find him dishonest so you can block him for some other reason? We sincerely hope that Shaun Harvey’s relationship with Ken Bates along with Ken Bates apparent desire to regain control of the club is not a factor in your decision.

Everyone signing this petition is requesting that you allow common sense to prevail and that you drop your pursuit of Cellino, attempting to force him out of Leeds United.  Please also take some responsibility for allowing GFH and Ken Bates to purchase Leeds United and control the club for too many years.  The club and its fans have suffered greatly under the control of previous owners and directors.

We would like to bring your attention to your charter which states that ‘The Football League is committed to providing excellent service to its stakeholders and club supporters.  The League is a listening organisation, which aims to be open and fair in its dealings with all persons representing the interests of the game.’

With the above in mind we strongly request that you act in the best interests of Leeds United Football Club and release a statement confirming that you agree that forcing Massimo Cellino out of Leeds United would not be acting in the club’s best interests; and that you will continue to monitor the situation with respect to any future foul play, as you would any other member club.”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is happy to support this petition – and to campaign for an end for the interference by the Football League in the internal affairs of their premier member club. I hope that anybody who reads this article will be prepared to support this as well – and also to help spread the word by sharing this as widely as possible.

Please get involved – please help. Leeds United is your club, so do your bit to make sure the idiots and buffoons of the League aren’t allowed to destroy it.

Leeds in Crisis: Darko’s Failure is the Failure of Owner and Fans – by Rob Atkinson

Darko: hello, goodbye

Darko: hello, goodbye

A lot of Leeds fans will have woken up very happy this Sunday morning, following the shock sacking of Darko Milanic after defeat by Wolves yesterday. Perhaps they’re right to be; perhaps Neil Redfearn is indeed the Messiah and will in due course restore us to the promised land, serving up sumptuous feasts contrived of paltry loaves and fishes along the way, all washed down with copious draughts of wine produced supernaturally from water. It’s to be hoped so, for it appears that only a miracle or two will extend any Leeds United Head Coach’s tenure beyond an initial settling-in period.

Those happy Leeds fans who believe in and are confidently awaiting this miracle, though, should perhaps give their heads a shake. They should ask themselves about the wisdom of the owner in overseeing the dismissal of three hot-seat occupants in a season barely over a quarter of the way through. They should wonder about the ability of the club to attract high calibre candidates in the future, should this season’s second coming of Redders not prove to be that of a Saviour. In short, they should ask of themselves: “Is this really what we wanted?”

This blog is and has been a firm supporter of Massimo Cellino and all of his works behind the scenes at LS11 since he assumed control of Leeds United just a few months ago. Articles have been written praising his single-handed turning around of a moribund hulk, and the input he has had into the recruitment of several extremely promising signings, the potential of which we have all seen. But this blog begs leave to doubt whether Massimo’s genius extends to the recruitment and retention of a high-end coach – the kind of guy who is going to define the direction of the team and squad; the sort of achiever who can take a serial under-performer like Leeds and drag it back into the big-time.

Cellino is the man who makes the decisions; what he needs above all is the ability to back his own judgement, He needs to display some cool and some sang-froid – the propensity to avoid panic when the first signs emerge of the current plan going tits-up. It is this faith in his own judgement, this ability to control panic and suppress knee-jerk reactions, which currently appear to be missing from the Massimo make-up. That does not bode well. How many more times this season are we going to hear “I made a mistake with this guy – sorry, my friends…” – and how many more times are the fans going to sanction such boom and bust recruitment tactics?

The fans – a vociferous if not particularly large proportion of them, anyway – have to take their share of the blame for this latest farcical development. It has been alarming to see how so many of those fans, especially those highly active on social media, appear to have bought into the serial hire and fire policy that has appeared to characterise Cellino’s ownership of Cagliari and now Leeds. In many ways, Darko Milanic was onto a loser right from the start of his engagement, simply because so many supporters wanted Redfearn to get the gig, after his brief but productive interregnum. When Redfearn was overlooked, or unwilling (depending upon which version of events you believe) – the Redders supporters were disappointed and thus not disposed to give Darko much of a chance. That might be understandable – but to call (as they did) for the head of a new Head Coach a mere two or three games into the job, especially after the previous “permanent” appointment bit the dust only a few games into the season, surely smacks of the most arrant folly.

Even more worrying is the alarming possibility that Cellino is making the mistake of listening too hard to the fans in areas where the head should rule the heart. If the Italian is capable of being swayed by what might be called mob rule, then we stand a real risk of the lunatics taking over the asylum. What we can’t afford at any price is for the fans uncritically to take on board the excesses of Cellino, or for Cellino to be unduly influenced by the more extreme and hard-of-thinking section of the fans.

Redfearn cannot be exempt from criticism in this sorry mess either. To say he was coy over his wishes for the top job on a permanent basis is somewhat to understate the case. He waxed lyrical about his love for the development role, but then – when he didn’t get the head coach job – a faint tinge of sulkiness seemed to descend upon him; he was unwilling to be involved with the first team and, as far as I can see, he is open to a charge of failing to support and assist the new man. Now, it appears he will get his chance to be top dog under the Presidential shadow. Woe betide him if he fails to take it, and Leeds United must stand in very real peril of losing altogether a man in Neil Redfearn whose influence at the club has been one of the fairly few positive themes in the past year or so.

Sacking a head coach is a very serious step indeed, and we’ve now seen three such decisions taken since the last ball of last season was kicked – and still two months to go till Christmas. Who will be in charge then? Can any of us hazard a fair guess? We must hope it will be Redfearn, but who could say with any certainty – and what is being said out there in football land about the attractiveness or otherwise of the Leeds United post?

The dismissal of your manager is not guaranteed to pay dividends anyway. Yesterday at Leeds, the football in the first half was extremely easy on the eye, and United dominated a decent Wolves outfit. Then it all went wrong, and the next thing we knew Darko had his cards. Meanwhile, in Birmingham, the City team that had seen their manager sacked in midweek surrendered abjectly at home to Bournemouth, losing 0-8. The upheaval of one managerial sacking was clearly enough to absolutely destroy that team. How will the Leeds squad react to their fourth change at the helm, and only fourteen games gone?

Let’s not run away with the idea that Leeds United’s current plight is simply down to Darko Milanic, or even a shared responsibility between that gentleman and the hapless Dave Hockaday. The problem runs deeper and the blame must be ascribed on a much wider basis. Owner, staff and fans must hold up their hands and admit failure in their distinct and vital roles. The owner needs to hold his nerve now, have faith in his (latest) chosen man and refuse to succumb to panic and outside pressures other than in the most dire circumstances.

Given continuity and some steadiness about the place, the squad is easily good enough to hold its own in this division, and that’s what it’s all about for the current season. Consolidate and build as positively as possible for a real challenge next time around. The fans, collectively, have to refrain from carping at every little setback and making childish demands for heads to roll. Supporters should support – a significant proportion of Leeds United’s fanbase, especially online, appear to be completely unaware of that.

Disappointed after the home defeat to Wolves, I only learned of the sacking of Milanic when I received a text from a Radio Aire reporter asking me for a reaction. Gobsmacked, stunned – and above all worried – aptly summed it up. I’m extremely worried about the immediate and longer-term future and I’m pessimistic about the prospects of any coherent plan being given the time and opportunity to develop. How could I be otherwise, given the events of this season so far?

Change can be good, it can be bad, it can be disastrous. It should not be embraced for its own sake, neither should it be brought about too frequently, at the first sign of trouble. Some calmness is needed now – and a bit of faith in the people who are being left to pick up the pieces of a fragmented season so far.

I remain a Cellino fan and this blog will continue to support him in his ongoing fight to get on with the job of reviving Leeds United in the face of  petulant opposition from the buffoons of the Football League. I’m actually a fan of Neil Redfearn too, though I feel he hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory during the brief reign of Darko Milanic. An examination of Neil’s four games in charge this season will reveal that he got a bit lucky on a  couple of occasions; we should have been buried alive by half time at Bournemouth and a couple of other displays lacked inspiration. If he can consistently hit the heights we attained against Huddersfield, then we’ll be cooking with gas. But there has to be some doubt that things will go that well.

Thanks to the strictures of the transfer window, the one thing that will remain a constant until the new year at least is the make-up of the squad. And I believe that there is enough quality at Elland Road for a formidable team to emerge out of the ingredients we currently have to play with. If that happens, and if the club is much more comfortably placed after Christmas, then Neil Redfearn will deservedly take plenty of credit for that. I hope it is the case – and I hope that there is less of an opportunity by then for a hostile press to pick away at the club as they inevitably will after this latest debacle. The likes of Robbie Savage and Phil Neville at the chimp end of the scale, together with Jeff Stelling, Gary Lineker and others further up towards the intellectual end, will all be queuing up to say “I told you so” in the next few days and weeks. The sad thing is, we’ve played right into their hands – and I do mean all of us.

Some people have managed completely to forget about the meaning of that “Marching on together” theme song we’re so justly proud of. Cellino, the maverick,  can be excused for not having the club’s culture ingrained in him to that extent. The fans can have no such excuse – and it is down to us now to support the club through thick and thin – and to support the team and the management, instead of hollering for change at the first sign of an ill wind. The team and the fans represent the most likely influences for calm steadiness and some much-needed continuity as we try to go forward. Let’s all remember what “support” means – and let’s get on with delivering it.