Tag Archives: transfer market

Radrizzani Honours Promise in Dramatic Break With Recent Leeds Utd Tradition – by Rob Atkinson

Elland-Road

Leeds: United and finally homeowners once more

New Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani has shown precious little respect for recent club traditions, blatantly keeping a promise to repurchase the Elland Road stadium despite recent precedents whereby owners have talked plenty about this issue – but have done, quite frankly, the square root of sod-all to make it reality.

In contrast to a certain lately-departed yachtsman, Radrizzani has said little, preferring to let his actions speak for themselves. Thus, we have today seen our spiritual home return to club ownership, relieving an annual rent burden and restoring the pride of thousands of Leeds United fans who had felt the shame of being long-term tenants at an historic venue synonymous with the club for almost a century.

This represents a stark contrast to the modus operandi of Radrizzani’s immediate predecessor, who talked of paying a visit to the nearest ATM and withdrawing the money needed to buy back the ground on Day One. A subsequent failure to honour that vow did not disturb the blind faith of a section of United’s support – but the shallowness of Il Loco‘s sincerity has been put into sharp focus by the decisive actions and intuitive feeling for what United’s fans really wanted, displayed in the short period of his sole ownership so far by Andrea Radrizzani. For this, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything salutes him – and at the same time acknowledges that the new owner’s intentions appear straightforward and highly laudable.

A week or so ago, I wrote a rather pessimistic piece, bemoaning what sounded like the same old line about wanting players who desired a Leeds United future rather than concentrating on money. I was horrified that so many agreed with the sentiments behind the article, having hoped that I’d be reassured by positive disagreement. And, to be fair, the “let’s look for players who want to be here” thing was a line we’d heard too often before – but in the days since, the attitude of the club towards recruitment has belied that old complacency and caution. Now, there is a real buzz about the place, with credible reports of ambition and investment. In just over a week, the atmosphere around Elland Road has regained its positivity.

So now we are owners of our own home turf and maybe even masters of our own destiny. There is real hope in the air, and some thrillingly eager anticipation of the approaching season. Leeds United, dare we suggest, might just be back.

I ended that last article expressing the earnest hope that I was wrong to be so pessimistic. Now, it seems that I may well have been, and nothing would give me greater pleasure. Keep up the good work, Mr Radrizzani. Keep the faith, meet our expectations, and we’ll back you all the way. That modern-day Leeds United tradition of flattering to deceive; promising much and doing nowt to bring those promises to fruition – well, it’s one we’d all be delighted to see cast out of the nearest window. In breaking that tradition, our new owner will lift the hearts of the Leeds legions around the globe.

And it might well be the start of a revival of that much older Leeds United tradition – Marching on Together towards glory and success. Surely, that’s something we can ALL unite behind – now that the club appears at long last to be in safe hands.

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Are We Going to Suffer Yet Again From That Same Old Leeds United Delusion? – by Rob Atkinson

Orta

Victor Orta – managing fans’ expectations?

One chilling phrase among a few sobering lines emerged from new manager Thomas Christiansen‘s debut press conference at Leeds United. Sad to say, the same old signs of fan expectations being carefully managed were all there – new players “but within our budget” etc etc. The implication was that the budget will be far from a bottomless bucket, but we all know that anyway. Leeds United has not been a “speculate to accumulate” club for ages now, despite the bounteous riches that await us, if we can only get over that hill and reach the Premier League Promised Land. So the promise of parsimony and caution isn’t exactly news to us fans. All that remains to be seen is the extent of the handicap we’ll be carrying, as compared to more ambitious and realistic clubs.

The really scary part, though, is what appears to this blog a sign of an almost deluded Elland Road view of the modern player’s priorities. I think it’s fair to say that we’re all aware of your average pro footballer’s top three most important things: in no particular order, they are cash, dosh and money. That’s a given, and any proletarian whinging will be met with a sharp volley of “it’s a short career”, “I’ve a family to look after” and so forth. The thing is, we’re under no illusions. Johnny Footballer isn’t motivated by love of club – he just wants to know what the bottom line is, and precisely how many high-performance motor vehicles that will put in his deluxe double garage with electronic drop-down doors.

So it’s acutely distressing to hear yet again the same old crap we’ve been fed before. This time, it’s from the persuasive mouth of Victor Orta – but it’s been said many a time and oft by various predecessors charged with explaining to the fans why we won’t be signing the kind of players Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough and even Wolves will be aiming for. The dreaded phrase is “My task is to find players who want to be here, and not for money”.

Now, I could help Victor here. I could name any number of players like that, starting with my good self. I’d play for Leeds United for the inestimable honour of wearing that white shirt (XXL, please), and I wouldn’t presume to ask a penny piece. As far as that goes, I’m the Whites’ ideal recruit. The trouble is though, I’m crap at football, and I always was – even in my prime thirty years ago. But just to let you know, Victor – if you want cheap and starry-eyed, then I’m your man. And there’d be no shortage of players, with the name of Leeds United carved upon their hearts, equally eager as myself, but sadly equally crap. I guess you can’t have it all.

And therein lies the problem. Other clubs in the Championship have sussed out the truth in that ancient maxim: pay peanuts, get monkeys. Leeds United, undoubtedly the biggest club in the second tier, have consistently failed to live up to that historical billing. They seem to feel – and this is quite explicit in the hackneyed phrase trotted out by Orta – that players will be clambering over themselves to enter the hallowed portals of Elland Road, without caring a rotten fig for the amount of remuneration available. They seem to believe that players think like besotted fans. But – and this is dead obvious but really, really important – they don’t.

Professional players have dedicated their lives to getting to that point where a club like Leeds United might be interested in them. They know their worth, and if they don’t, there’s some oily git of an agent all too ready to tell them, for a mere 15%. They’re clued-up, eager to realise their financial potential and utterly unsentimental. They will, of course, trot out the usual fan-pleasing platitudes once they’ve signed for somebody (As soon as I heard Leeds/Forest/Newcastle/Chesterfield* were interested, there was no other place for me) – but we all know that’s just professional blarney. It’s expected – nobody takes it seriously. It’s all about how much wedge they stand to earn.  *delete as applicable

One of two things is going on here. Either Leeds United, in the shape of their newly-hired management team, really do believe this guff about “players wanting to be here” – in which case, you worry for their knowledge and professional ability – or they’re spinning a line. And, in that latter case, we just have to hope that it’s the rest of the game they’re trying to spin a line to – and not us, the poor, long-suffering fans. If the club is trying to hide the true extent of their transfer pot from other clubs, in order to avoid prices being inflated, then they’re not being too subtle about it. And yet we might approve of such a strategy, if it gets us decent players for prices that aren’t too daft.

But if it’s us fans the club are trying – for the umpteenth time – to delude with tales of players unable to resist the honour of representing Leeds, despite being paid rather less than they might get down the road at some more cynical and sordid club where the belief is that you get what you pay for – then, frankly, it’s bloody insulting. But I just have this nasty feeling that might well be the case.

Only time will tell, and until these dark suspicions are proved correct, the new Leeds regime will have my cautious and conditional support. The proof of the pudding, as they say, will be in the eating – so we’ll just have to hope that the club’s movers and shakers are ready to sink their teeth into the transfer market, and give us a team to be proud of. Otherwise, I’m afraid to say, it’s difficult to see anything but a long struggle of a season ahead, with some or other degree of disappointment at the end of it.

As ever in this gloomy mood, I do hope that I’m wrong. 

Russell Crowe’s Needless White Noise Drowns Out Leeds Utd Transfer Talk   –   by Rob Atkinson

Time for Crowe to leave the arena.

Time for Russell Crowe to leave the arena

Just when things were hotting up and getting really interesting down LS11 way, with a frenzy of delicious speculation about attractive transfer targets for our club, along comes Russell Crowe with the worst-timed, least relevant tweet in recent history – telling us all what we already know and no longer very much care about.

Crowe’s declaration that he will not, after all, be buying Leeds United (I understand that was the gist of it) might possibly have caused some hair to be torn and some clothing to be rent asunder among Whites fans – if it had come a few months back, when new ownership fever was in the air, and Massimo Cellino was embattled after yet more maverick craziness. But things have changed since then, and in a good way for once. Adam Pearson has brought some sanity to the Elland Road asylum, we’ve gone literally weeks without sacking a head coach – and there are welcome signs that seven-figure investment in the first team squad is actually here to stay. 

In these circumstances, with a slightly sedated captain on the bridge and a capable first officer with his hands on the wheel, the good ship Leeds United appears to be navigating tolerably well some still choppy waters. Give or take the results themselves, this season has a fresh and breezy feel about it. And, if we are still scanning the horizon anxiously for signs of that first win, then at least there have been no defeats so far to darken the sky. Even though we took a torpedo at Doncaster, still, it was technically a draw – and with ten men for much of that engagement too. Leeds staggered, but they have sailed on, more or less serenely. 

In the wake of our latest draw, against Yorkshire’s most successful club of last century’s inter-war period in Sheffield Wendies, glad tidings of positive transfer market activity have filled the ether. Not one, but two tricky wide attackers, a possible England U-21 central defender, and the Lord knows what-all. Bids of serious money made and accepted, players said to be “distracted” or to have “had their heads turned” at the prospect of interest from Leeds – it’s been heady, dizzying, unfamiliar stuff. And if we are still tending to founder on the jagged rocks of personal terms and other such spiky hazards, then at least a positive broadside of ambitious intent has been let loose. And that, to Leeds fans, is the sweetest sound we have heard in many a blue moon.

So, in among all this rampant positivity comes the almost forgotten figure of yesterday’s gladiator, Maximus Publicitius himself, doubtless with new films to plug and a social media profile in need of some attention, flooding the Twittersphere with irrelevancy. Crowe was all over Twitter not so long back, making a noise like a prospective Leeds owner. But when he went quiet, the United support forgot about him and got on with supporting the team or arguing with each other, as fans are meant to do. Personalities come and go, after all – but Leeds United is forever, and things do seem better now that we have a business-suited gladiator in Pearson fighting for us. For Crowe to pipe up again right now is bizarre, it’s distracting and it’s not particularly welcome. 

As one Facebook cynic put it: “For Crowe to say he’s no longer interested in buying Leeds, is like me saying I’m not going to bother sleeping with Beyonce“. Just so. It’s an irrelevant statement, seeking to opt out of something that was never really an option in the first place. For better or worse, Leeds United does not appear to be for sale – and the more pragmatic of us are moving on, still with some reservations, but more than a little mollified by the undoubted changes for the better that have taken place.

Memo to Russell Crowe from Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything: now is not a good time to be rocking the boat. There was a period when our ship perhaps needed steadying, but all that we got from you then was sound and fury, signifying nothing. More of that now is just taking away the focus from more important stuff. Please, Russell – put away the sword and the shield like a good chap, and lapse back into the silence from which you should not lately have emerged. Try to retain some credibility, against some future day when you, or someone like you, might well be needed. With Leeds United, you just never know.

But for the moment – let us get on with our transfer speculation, and the quest for that first win, in peace and optimism. Thanks, Maximus.

Why Joey Barton Should Be Begging Leeds United to Sign Him – by Rob Atkinson

Barton doing what Barton does

Joey Barton doing what Joey Barton does

Mixed messages have been emerging from Elland Road over the past few days, leading up to and since the capture of Brentford winger Stuart Dallas. We’ve been told that Dallas is likely to be the end of any significant incoming business for Leeds United; but we’ve also heard from Adam Pearson that il Duce Massimo Cellino is prepared to sanction one, or possibly two more signings. This has naturally set tongues wagging and keyboards rattling as the Whites cognoscenti speculate on who else might yet arrive down LS11 way.

One name that refuses to go away is that of perennial bad boy Joey Barton, formally of QPR, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Olympique de Marseille and, for all we know, Borstal FC. Barton has had what might charitably be termed a troubled past. He’s proved himself on many an occasion not to be above a little thuggery, in much the same way that the sea is not above the clouds. Without doubt, he’s courted controversy and a certain measure of revulsion in those who believe that the beautiful game should be played beautifully or not at all. But there’s more to Barton than mindless violence and, undeniably, he’s a class above the vast majority of Championship midfielders in terms of pure football ability.

The pros and cons of Joey Barton are sharply delineated – he’s almost all black and white with very few shades of grey. On the negative side is the lack of discipline that has seen him on a porridge diet in his time, with several occasions on which he’s been bang to rights when put to trial by TV. Then again, Duncan Ferguson never let a spell in Barlinnie prevent him from becoming a legend in the game – something that, for all his notoriety, Barton has thus far signally failed to accomplish.

Still on the negative side, there’s Barton’s accustomed wage level. His habitual demands would see him fit into the Leeds United wage structure much as a quart fits into a pint pot. So, on the face of it, both his “attitude problem” (for want of a better phrase), and his affordability would seem to mitigate against him as a likely target for Yorkshire’s top club. But neither of these factors should necessarily prevent Barton from turning out in a Leeds United shirt.

The thing is, Joey is 32 now, with a senior career and earnings history going back 13 years. He will not be short of a bob or two – neither, surely, is he completely incapable of learning by experience when it comes to curbing that nasty temper. And on the plus side – the lad can play, far better than most of the opposition he’d meet in this league.

Looking for similar examples of players who might normally be expected to be both too expensive and too risky discipline-wise, the name of El Hadji Diouf springs irresistibly to mind. Diouf was the least likely of Elland Road recruits, having been a top-earner and a serial practitioner of some of football’s nastier tricks. But he duly came to Leeds, accepted relative peanuts in remuneration, cleaned up his act enough for his manager Warnock publicly to regret having compared him unfavourably to a sewer rat – and he made a moderate success of things in a team consisting mainly of players several classes of ability below him. Whether that’s enough of a precedent for us to be optimistic of seeing Barton in a Leeds United shirt is open to some doubt. But there’s one man who should be moving heaven and earth to make this happen – and that man is Joey Barton himself.

The fact of the matter is that Barton has possibly one shot left at writing himself indelibly into the pages of football history. He may or may not care about doing this – but any footballer worth his salt wants, ideally, to be regarded as a legend. And that, even today, is the opportunity afforded to the right calibre of player by Leeds United FC. After well over a decade in the shadows, and having plumbed hitherto unheard-of depths by sinking as low as the third tier, Leeds remains a giant of the game. The Elland Road club is, in fact, the last giant ever born – clubs have come to the fore since United did in the sixties, but not to such devastating effect and not for so long; certainly not to attain the rank of a footballing behemoth, as Leeds did from nowhere under the legendary, incomparable Don Revie.

In the late eighties and early nineties, Leeds United conferred legend status on characters as diametrically different from each other as Vinnie Jones and Gordon Strachan. That’s what being instrumental in revival and success for Leeds does for a player. And that’s what it could do, even at this late stage, for Joey Barton. As his career draws to a close, as he contemplates life after football and his descent into obscurity, that’s something that Mr. Barton should be thinking about extremely seriously. You’re a long time retired, after all.

It may well be that very nearly all of the Leeds transfer business is complete, after all. And if we do recruit more bodies, they’d more than likely be cover out wide and in central defence. But the need is still there for some versatile, commanding presence in midfield, too. And, sadly, the Vinnies and the Strachans are precious thin on the ground these days.

If Joey Barton had the sense he was born with – another conundrum not easily answered – he’d be prepared to walk barefoot over broken glass to Elland Road, there humbly to seek audience of Messrs. Cellino and Pearson (and maybe the physio team too, after miles barefoot over broken glass). He should be literally begging for the chance to play for Leeds, for his last shot at legend status. He should be promising to clean up his act and to become a role model for the youngsters and a hero to the fans. He should do all of this for the return of a reasonable pay-to-play deal, as befits an extremely wealthy man who has naught to lose, much to make up for – and a lasting reputation in football to gain.

Joey Barton – do you want to be a legend? Come to Leeds United, then… and, if you play your cards right, we might just arrange it for you.

Rudy to Become a 500,000 Pound Pie – by Rob Atkinson

Bye bye, Rudy

Bye bye, Rudy

It seems likely that ex-skipper Rodolph Austin will, after all, be leaving Elland Road this window – following the trail blazed by Jason Pearce to darkest Wigan over on t’wrong side of the hills.

The move comes just a couple of days after manager Neil Redfearn stated categorically that Austin was “not for sale”. That stance appeared to be dictated by the non-availability through injury of loan signing Granddi Ngoyi, who is likely to be out for a short while yet.

The nature of the modern game means that players can these days “better themselves” by moving from a footballing giant like Leeds to comparative midgets like Wigan. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing, I feel it’s difficult to say – it depends on your point of view. Any “bettering” will be purely financial, as there is still a massive status gap between the likes of the Latics and the Whites of Elland Road.

It’s likely to be a busy deadline day in and around LS11 – and it may be that the exit of Austin – apparently dictated by the chance of a fee (sadly well short of six million dollars) for a player who could have walked for nowt in July – will necessitate one more incoming transfer than previously anticipated. That, or we might be left light in midfield over the next few games, whilst still precariously placed in the league table.

Tomorrow should be a very interesting day.

Tabloid Smears Can’t Mask Growing Optimism at Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Big Mass

Big Mass

It’s been just another few days in the grubby life of tabloid sports journalism UK style. Those booze-befuddled hacks, desperate to sell more copies than their fellow downmarket scandal rags, wallow happily in a sea of effluent they’ve excreted themselves, pandering to their readership’s darker prejudices. The target, of course, is everybody else’s favourite bêtes noires, our own beloved heroes in white, Leeds United.

This week, it’s been the Daily Heil with a mish-mash of unrelated stabs in the dark, all attempting to add up to a hatchet job. Very poor, very amateur … very Daily Heil. The truly awful Daily Mirror, for their part, attempted to up the ante by luring an unwary ex-United hero, Dominic Matteo, asking him a bunch of loaded questions and publishing the result under the supportive title of “Leeds are a laughing stock and I fear they’ll get relegated”.  Matteo’s recent dismissal from his position at the club is, of course, entirely unrelated to the views he now expresses, which in turn have nothing to do with the soiled wad of banknotes undoubtedly pushed his way from the Mirror‘s own filth fund. This blog understands that Matteo himself is less than impressed with the headline, the poor naïve soul. Bit late now, Dom – isn’t it? For future reference: when you sup with the Devil, you’d better use a long spoon.

The good thing is that neither of these pisspoor efforts at spreading alarm and despondency have been any more effective than a cat-flap in an elephant house. They’re irritating, nothing more – the kind of articles you could predict, almost word-for-word, without even having to glance at them. Such is the parlous state of UK tabloid coverage regarding football in general and Leeds United in particular. These people have their agenda and, once you take that on board, their stuff generally means nothing.

The other good thing is that, slowly but with gathering momentum, the Leeds United locomotive is pulling away from the sidings and getting ready for full steam up. The driving force behind this is, of course, United’s own Signor Loco, Massimo Cellino. There is definitely something about this guy that hasn’t been seen in the vicinity of Elland Road since – well, ever. He’s one on his own is Big Mass, they broke the mould when they made him. From a most inauspicious start, he’s gradually won over more and more of the vast Leeds United army out here. Supporters of the maverick Italian have seemed to outnumber the naysayers and doom/gloom merchants for some time now. In the beginning, the balance was rather different.

 

The wisdom of Cellino

The wisdom of Big Mass

The thing about Cellino is, every time he opens his mouth, pure gold pours out. For a stranger to these shores, he has a way with the language that is at once unique, compelling and deeply memorable. We all remember his observations about buying a bitch for a night, but not being able to buy the love, my friend. Admittedly, he’s not the most PC guy around. But that was a hell of a quotable sound-bite for somebody caught unawares by a phone call out of the blue, more than a touch ‘tired and emotional’ and with his guard distinctly down. There’s a fluency to the quote, a rhythm that lodges it in your consciousness. He’s been coming out with similarly notable pronouncements ever since. Some are less printable than others, but all have that Big Mass stamp of authority, confidence and authenticity about them.  Cellino shoots from the lip, he doesn’t waste words and he always makes his point crystal clear.

Actions, they say, speak louder than words – so it’s encouraging that Big Mass has recently started to show himself as a do-er and not just a talker. Shock waves are still reverberating around the football world at the price he extorted from poor old Fulham FC for a flash-in-the-pan Scottish badge-kisser of dubious motivation and fitness. People keep appearing in social media, all shocked-like, and pointing out another two or three internationals who have moved for a combined fee of less than Cellino got for Rossco. Don Revie described his capture of John Giles from Man U as “robbery with violence” – and so it was. By that reckoning, Fulham have been the victims of an armed blag that John McVicar would have been proud of.

The sale of McCormack was greeted by a kind of astounded approval by the Leeds United supporters fraternity – remarkable when you consider it represented the departure of yet another top performer, even though you did have the feeling that No. 44 might have had difficulty reproducing that annus mirabilis form next time around. But there were no mass protests, there was no real social media uproar. People were just too damned impressed by the amount we got. Naturally, there have been some feeble peeps from the usual doom-monger suspects, bleating about the figure being misleading, blah blah. But for the most part, we seem satisfied with the deal – and why the hell not?

If that wasn’t enough reason for a burgeoning optimism about LS11, then throw in a rash of signings since Ross sulked off down south, mostly unknown to us it’s true – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t quality. Nobody had heard of Hasselbaink before he arrived, or Radebe, or even Yeboah to a certain extent. Cellino and his deal-maker Salerno have form for finding rough diamonds and polishing them up. They managed it in a Fiat 500, and their stock is a lot higher now that they’re in charge of a Porsche. And all the time, Big Mass is there, hands on, sorting problems and building towards the new season, generally smiling, throwing out little nuggets about having millions in working capital – generally creating an atmosphere of positivity around Leeds that we haven’t seen the like of since before Publicity Pete got found out. A 16-0 pre-season win has done nothing to harm this heady feeling of reckless happiness, either (doom-mongers: “Who were we playing, Brazil?? Haw, haw, haw.”)

In such a swaggering manner are we sauntering expectantly towards the new season and 46 acid tests of the new regime. It won’t be all moonlight and roses, we can be sure enough of that. But there does now seem to be a new, unfamiliar optimism in the air, a feeling that last season can be consigned to history with a lot of its baggage now shed and a tasty few signings on board – with more to come. The feeling is growing that the new season will see a Leeds United worthy of our support – and that is support well worth having, when the crowd are up for it and the team are fighting for the shirt. We’ve seen those days before, long ago admittedly – but who knows? Maybe they’re on the point of coming back.

If that is the case – well, it’d take more than a few miserable and talent-free hacks wielding their poison pens to deflect us from our path onwards and upwards.  We’ll be Marching On Together quite shortly now, setting off on that League marathon with a visit to darkest Millwall. Bring it on, then. Forza Leeds and the tabloids can stick their spite and negativity where the sun don’t shine.