Saturday, 29 December 2012

Neil's broken promise

9th April 2012. Leeds United fall victim to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Derby County. Promotion pipe-dreams have been dashed weeks previous. Gutless performances and disappointment swamps Elland Road. As the final whistle rings around the rafters, Neil Warnock wanders towards Nigel Clough in order to shake hands with the victor of the day. He offers him the just congratulations and utters 'Enjoy this, you'll never see a Leeds United side like that again'.  

Of course, Nigel has the luxury of not owning a Leeds United season ticket. And whilst it took just 8 months before Derby tore a lacklustre Leeds side apart again, Clough didn't have to bear the uncomfortable demonstration put forward by Warnock's side week in, week out. That treat is offered but twice a year to divisional rivals.

It was unfair to judge Warnock too harshly based on his toying around with the remains of Simon Grayson's reign. Whilst the side lacked any creativity, passion or desire, it was tough to see how it could with success for the season rapidly falling out of reach. Even when mathematics suggested possibility, reality took the forefront of Leeds fans' minds. 

Danny Pugh, Paul Connolly and Darren O'Dea don't really fit the token of a 'side to be proud of'. When Neil promised Leeds United something to be proud of, time obviously had to be taken to build. The remains of the 2011/12 season were cast a write-off. His time to be judged would come in the following camapign. We're here now, and we're still left without anything to be proud in, left wondering what has changed so that we can once again feel pride in our team. 

Pride can't be taken from one-dimensional tactics which fail to deliver, nor can it be taken from the now clichéd following of stubbornness as the gaffer refuses to change the system in order to change proceedings on the field. Pride can't be taken from seeing the captain's armband carelessly tossed about from player to player without any consistency or strategy. 

There is no more apathetic sight watching Alan Tate deciding between his two caricature options of mindlessly hoofing the ball out of touch or passing back to Paddy Kenny. There is no feeling of pride or joy watching Lee Peltier's inane attempts at defending, only to be rewarded with a second, third and fourth chance, just in a different position. 

The club cannot expect to move forward whilst insisting on Michael Brown in his baby-grow Leeds shirt acting the enforcer. The fans cannot expect to feel optimistic from the embarrassing post-match interviews labelling horror shows as 'seven minutes of madness'. It's time for Neil to step up to the mark and make good on his promise of something for us to be proud of, as so far he's offered absolutely nothing.

Today's decimation at the hands of Hull City ranks as one of the worst performances seen under Warnock's tenure. Irrationality ensues after such a defeat, but the number of fans calling for Warnock's head is alarming. It is also understandable. It used to be a rarity when Leeds United would so easily buckle at the hands of a Hull or a Derby. These days, it's painfully predictable. 

It's no wonder that we are turned over so easily when the tactics and line-up are so seemingly void of consideration, but rather dealt with through the simple act of a tossed set of rune stones. Re-assurance that Shaun Harvey is working overtime to bring in 'one or two' players hardly gets the blood boiling anymore. After the last few years, it puts doubt over whether or not that Season Ticket renewal form should actually be handed in.

Warnock's signings this season have already come to a total of near £3 Million. That total was diabolically funded by the departure of Robert Snodgrass, but remains a frightening symbol of what Warnock can do when backed with funds (further doubt can be thrown into the mix when we recall his previous days at Sheffield United, over £2.5 Million spent on Adi Akinbiyi and Neil Shipperley). GFH has re-iterated their belief in Warnock, and trust him to spend their investment in January. The fans have become increasingly pessimistic.

Before today's game, new Director David Haigh tweeted 'Let's have the support from the fans please, come back to '. After eight years of heart-ache, it is no longer the responsibility of Leeds fans to blindly follow, fuelled on nothing but hope that the future will be different. The club needs to deliver and have merits to boast before pleading for fans to come back. It's time for the club to give us something to be proud of.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Much a-Diouf about nothing

El-Hadji Diouf seems to have made light work of what seemed to be an incredibly tough situation almost two months ago. When the news broke that the ex-Liverpool striker was training with the first team squad at Thorp Arch, a predictable split between the fanbase sparked a war of words across the United forums. The controversy tested the most resolute of opinions. 

'I'd rather see us be relegated', 'This is brilliant, he epitomises Dirty Leeds' and 'I'll never support a thing he does' just to name a few. Of course, the latter was me. And here I am, bashfully going against my word, swallowing my pride (and with that, a little bit of dignity). I'm starting to like El-Hadji Diouf.

It'd be remissive of me to not defend my previous stance on the situation. Back in April, when the rumour mill churned out the connection to Diouf, the most obvious problem was the relationship between player and manager. Suffice to say, there's going to be an air of tension when comparisons to sewer rats are made. Apparently, though, that air could be cleared in the space of ninety minutes.

That hour and a half ran solely on Neil Warnock's criticisms and disputes that he felt should be put forward to the Senegalese forward. It'd been a brave decision by the United manager to give El-Hadji the time of day, but also a commendable conversing act to accept these biting blows in order to reconcile. I can't imagine that frosty reception came with a free drink, either.

Our first problem is quickly resolved; Though in football, negotiations aren't that black and white. In business, a contract is agreed between two parties and signed to complete the transaction. Here, the process is followed by critical assessment from thousands of ferociously loyal followers, to no objective end. Divisions of opinion spread like wildfire through supporters. El-Hadji Diouf only adds petrol to the flames.

Whilst some were supportive from the start, it's more than easy to accept the reasoning behind why so many were sceptical, or even disillusioned. Just weeks after the departure of talisman, captain and star of the side Robert Snodgrass, we were treated to a convicted felon with moral baggage to boot (all on a free transfer and small wages, too. That one almost passed unnoticed, nice try Kenneth). 

Three cases of spitting towards players and fans, dangerous driving without a license, caught in a nightclub brawl, proposing sexual indiscretions to a strangers' daughter and threatening behaviour towards fellow team-mates isn't really the list you want to reel off when your new co-workers ask to 'get to know you better'. This is what El-Hadji has to work with, though, and as such will always face the dilemma of never having unanimous support. 

It's a lot to accept when welcoming anyone to your club. There's no point trying to cushion any blows here; Football matters to the supporters, so accepting such a questionable character into the club can be a genuinely tough feat. What comes off as an unwilling mentality to back the team really is just a difference of opinion in what is best for the football club. It's a sad state of affairs that decisions like these can cause divisions on the concourse, but at least it shows there's fire in the belly yearning for the very best at Elland Road. 

It is only until you've been on both sides of the coin that you truly realise that each side has the same intentions. Prior to this, it was near impossible to gauge how having a player bring such controversy would be worth having at the club. At least with these divisions, the fans are still pulling in the same direction; For the best of Leeds United. It's hard to argue then that El-Hadji Diouf isn't a valuable asset for causing these divisions when despite them, we're still all hands on deck.

And so all that's left to consider is application; How does El-Hadji Diouf work in practice. It turns out quite well. On the field he has been a revelation. Despite shades of mediocrity away to Blackpool and Peterborough (where fitness remained an issue) it's hard to argue with the quality Diouf still holds. It feels almost impossible to shrug him off possession. His ability to cross is consistently superb, whilst his contributions to aid the performances of the younger pro's has been commendable. 

As for anything lacking, I still remain sceptical regarding his pace and his composure in front of goal, attributes that have given a more human touch to his all-round play. It's that lacking yard that was present a couple of years ago which makes me doubt if he holds the credentials to still succeed at the highest level. But let's not get ahead of ourselves; For this standard of football, you'll not find much better.

Praise for El-Hadji doesn't stop there. Question marks over his temperament seem almost void. Opposition fans and players haven't changed their ordinary routine of targeting a reaction, yet they've been left unsatisfied. Albeit early days, Diouf has risen above any attempts to rile him, and rather channelled the aggression into fuelling his performance further. As he approaches thirty, is it possible that Diouf has finally matured?

Whatever the case, it's clear that El-Hadji is revelling in his new role at Elland Road. Reminiscent of his days at Liverpool, he's surrounded by the essence of a big club again. The burden of stepping outside of that comfort zone into more humble beginnings hasn't raised it's head. His gold Cadillac would seem more out of place had it been parked outside of Oakwell. Luckily, they wavered any option to sign him earlier in the summer.

That pretentious monstrosity played token to the pantomime of El-Hadji Diouf, a symbol of all that has been. That arrogance and degradation isn't welcome flaunting around Leeds United. As I write this now, I'm constantly reminded of the possibilities under Diouf. Should you write 'Diouf' into Microsoft Word, it offers the auto-correct of 'odious'. Coincidence? Back in April, I'd have thought not. Even Bill Gates had him sussed.

But now, after two months, it's hard to see what all the fuss is about. On the pitch, he's as hard-working as they come, battling on every blade of grass. He's a patron to his own charity foundation, working wonders over in Africa. His middle name, Ousseynou, supposedly brings meaning to accepting change, travel and new experiences. These aren't the characteristics of a psycho looking for a tear-up. These befit a man wearing elbow-pads and tweed.

As much as this new found maturity could simply be a ploy to win over the fans, it's difficult to envisage a return of old under Neil Warnock. Should consistency set in now his fitness levels have peaked, it's hard to imagine El=Hadji's stay at Elland Road being cut short. That is sure to delight many an advocate of the forward. Surprisingly, that includes me. At least I'm not alone when dining on some humble pie. Now pass me a fork.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

LUST continues to be Bates' main cause for concern

United chairman Ken Bates' exclusive interview with LUTV left Leeds fans reminiscing over many a Wednesday, as the Elland Road faithful would tear their hair out at the petulance, idiocy and blatant lies that spilled out through his tedious beard. After a summer without the voice of Ken in our ears, his silence was broken at the weekend in order to update the quoted 150,000 customers of Leeds United on the latest developments surrounding the takeover at Leeds. Yorkshire Radio had hyped up the occasion with it's sole purpose to give fans the latest news that we'd all been craving.

What we received, however, was a thirteen minute interview which offered more time to those that Ken wished to attack than it did to an update on the ongoing investment negotiations, now into their fourth month. Alongside the Elland Road Kop and YEP reporter Phil Hay, the Leeds United Supporters' Trust (LUST) headlined Bates' list of 'idiots' and 'illiterates', ridiculed by the chairman as a 'waste of space'. 

Atop the list of criticisms towards LUST was their apparent disruptive behaviour which has allegedly caused significant delays on the takeover (that, and the weather...). Bates claimed that the statements (filled with 'inaccuracies') and twitter account of LUST meant that the prospective buyers required re-assurance that these views were of the minority and not the majority. His damning verdict on the trust finished with them being labelled as a 'pain in the arse' that had set out to attack him, something he called 'disrespectful'. 

Despite looking at the previous statements from LUST, it's hard to find what Ken is harping on about. Their statements have, on regular occasions, thanked the club and specifically Ken Bates for their updates over the summer, whilst asking the questions on every Leeds fans' lips. As a trust, their main job is to represent the views and thoughts of their members. This has been accomplished in a dignified and respectful manner, especially towards the club; An offer of respect that the club arguably has not deserved.

It's difficult to spot the attacks from LUST towards the chairman, leaving his claims of bullying seem a bit far-fetched. It may be best not to argue with Ken on the issue, though, his position to spot bullying may be far greater than any of ours. After all, he was characterised as a bully by the courts over his ongoing attacks towards Melvyn Levi earlier in the year. As the saying goes, 'it takes one to know one'. Maybe old Ken is onto something... Somehow though, I doubt it.

And if these ridiculous allegations weren't enough to ridicule any grasp of legitimacy for Bates, they were shot down dead when his employee and Leeds United boss contradicted his criticisms of the Leeds United Kop and support just hours after the interview was aired. Neil Warnock was filled with praise and adoration for the support following United's 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest, contradicting claims of the Kop, labelled as 'idiots' by the chairman. 

It doesn't end there, either. After criticising the core support at Elland Road, his rants led him to discuss how the prospective buyers required time this summer to learn the ins and outs of how to run a football club. Whilst this is obviously required, it seems somewhat ironic that Ken would preach how a football club should be run. I'm no expert, but I don't think attacking your main source of income and the membership that speaks on behalf of them is seen as intelligent when running a football club. Nor is getting the club into debt through building projects that will offer no real long term benefit for the club or the fans. Nor is constantly lying to the fans. Frankly, it's incredible he can even utter about how to run a club properly without it being liable.

The aftermath of the interview wasn't exactly great viewing for Ken. Forums across the internet and discussions within the ground were hardly sympathetic to Ken's dilemma. It's fair to say that nobody has bought a single word of his attacks and allegations towards LUST and their statements. In fact, it's the petulance and arrogance of the man that has seen another few hundred Leeds fans sign up to LUST following his interview. According to LUST's Gary Cooper, this is a common trend; 'We always get a run on memberships and shareholding when Ken has a rant about us'. It has been a great source of free advertisement for the Trust, who now boast 8,000 members (approximately 5% of Ken's quoted customer base, and growing), and can proudly state that they are the fifth largest supporters trust in the UK.  

And as we prepare for our Third Round cup game against Everton tonight, we see that only 15,000 of our customers will be making their way to Elland Road tonight. Similar ties against Liverpool and Tottenham saw sell out crowds just two years ago. A drop of almost 18,000 due to another two years of continued lies, lack of investment and petulance would suggest that it is no longer a majority behind Ken, whilst the Campaign for Change heralded by LUST continues to grow.


To join the Leeds United Supporters' Trust, visit Here (Membership is free).

Thursday, 6 September 2012

How Barber and Scum sent United to the brink of abyss

March 3rd, 2001. A regular catalogue of Premier League action awaits, the War of the Roses the opening act at Elland Road. Despite poor early season form and the almighty distraction of the Champions League, Leeds have fought their way from their Boxing Day mediocrity of 12th to 6th in the division, collecting just one league defeat along the way. Coming off the back of such tremendous form (along with an astounding 4-1 victory away at Anderlecht in Europe), hope is high in preparation for the tie against Manchester United. Manchester themselves are also on good form; The league leaders coming out of ties against Chelsea, Arsenal and Valencia (home and away) unbeaten. The lunchtime kick-off paired the two form teams of the division. A feisty affair awaits.

Fast forward eleven years to the present day. Leeds United, after seven years of tyranny under Ken Bates, have merged themselves into the furniture of second tier football. Meanwhile, Sir Alex Ferguson's side are no longer champions. They are no longer favourites for the title, and to everyone's enjoyment, they're not even kings of their own city. It is feasible for United to look back on this clash eleven years prior as the moment where they plunged into trouble. This isn't a tale for Manchester, though. There's only one United in these parts.

Amidst a flourish of bookings, dissent and controversy, both teams walked away from Elland Road that day with a mere point to their name; A result that did nothing but flatter Manchester. Having been on the back-foot for the entirety of the encounter, substitute Luke Chadwick embarked on a smash-and-grab mission as Alex Ferguson's men looked to pull off a remarkable result. Alas, Mark Viduka's header six minutes from time thwarted any daylight robbery.

Or so we thought...

This'd be the part of the film where the camera closes in on the lead, his expression flickering from bemusement to realisation. The smirk drops. This tale isn't over, the hero hasn't won. A flashback occurs and suddenly it's injury time at the end of the first-half. The scene emerges with a questioning cross aimed for Ian Harte, only to be collected in routine fashion by Manchester United goalkeeper Fabian Barthez.

An innocuous collision between the two. Nothing more than a coming together of players challenging for possession in the air. Barthez doesn't see it that way, though. He lashes out, violently stamping on Harte's standing leg. Graham Barber is aware of the melee and rightly awards the penalty United's way. The next step is obvious to all in the ground. Barber is to walk over to Barthez and brandish red from his pocket. On will step Paul Rachubka of all people and face Harte as he fires past the joke of a goalkeeper to lead United on to victory.

If only Barber had bothered to read the script. Or even the rulebook. Rather than red, the egg-like 'keeper sees yellow. Calamity Paul, already lacing his boots, looks forward in disbelief as Barthez prepares himself for what would turn out to be one of two match-defining moments. Not to worry, though; Paul is offered a leading role later on in the series as he goes undercover, with aims of ruining United's season.

Harte sees his kick saved by the lucky Frenchman, as both teams close in on the dressing rooms at the interval all square. Manchester's Steve McClaren takes it upon himself to confront Barber on the decision to award Leeds the penalty, despite the blatant attack on Harte's calf. Considering the unwritten pull a member of Scum's dugout can have upon a referee, you have to wonder if later leniency or bias was somewhat offered following McClaren's rant.

It's quite easy, in hindsight, to suggest that with half a game remaining, anything could've happened. That there was no guarantee that Leeds would have emerged victorious had the correct decision been made. Nonetheless, Barthez had been in superb form throughout the game; something which you would not have expected from Paul Rachubka. All of this becomes a redundant discussion in the greater scheme of things, though. A second heist taking victory from United's grasp would ensue in the second half.

Back to our cinematic cast-back, and we find ourselves in injury time at the end of the second half. Leeds are piling on the pressure having thoroughly deserved Mark Viduka's equaliser six minutes previous (and what a beautiful goal it was, too; Danny Mills breaking down the right wing leaving Dennis Irwin chasing shadows. His cross flicked on by Lee Bowyer, only for Viduka to show instinctive movement quicker than thought, arching his neck to power the ball past Barthez's right).

Leeds break from a throw-in as Mills sends a cutting through ball towards the path of Bowyer. Manchester's defence appeals for offisde, but the flag remains down. As Jaap Stam closes in, Bowyer unleashes a dangerous cross across goal. The out-stretching leg of Stam plays Viduka onside as he awaits the delivery. He remains surplus to requirements; Wes Brown's desperate attempts to clear possession fails miserably. The ball falls past Barthez's left. United have snatched it at the death. 2-1.

Or so we thought...

Up goes the flag. Brown's blushes are saved. Leeds are robbed, and Manchester United walk out of Yorkshire with an ill-deserved point. The disappointment on the day failed to affect Leeds' march up the table. Eight wins out of the remaining nine fixtures saw United finish in fourth position, a mere point behind third placed Liverpool, who in turn claimed the third and final Champions League spot.

Leeds followed the draw by travelling to Madrid to face Spanish giant Real in the Champions League, only to be robbed again by a goal from Raul that should've been ruled out for a blatant handball. Looking back, though, only one day proved too costly. The coveted position which later emerged as so important for debt-stricken United had been missed by a solitary point; Two of which had been lost at the hands of Graham Barber and Manchester United.

We all know the crisis that followed. Debts spiralled out of control, assets had to be sold and the club faced relegation in 2004. Debts still loomed over the club and there was seemingly no way out. Then, out of nowhere, Ken Bates came riding in on his white horse promising to take the club back to the top. I personally wasn't aware that the plan involved League One football, 25 points being deducted and the threat of liquidation hanging over us. Nor was I aware that we'd still be waiting for this promise to be fulfilled. I'm starting to wonder if old Ken lied to us. And to think, just one decision could've made things oh-so different.

Either way, a lot of finger-pointing and blame can fall at several people's feet. Be it Bates, Ridsdale or even previous administrators, it's fair to say that a collective group of idiocy has placed us firmly where we are today. Just today, though, I choose to blame Scum.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Importance of Being Idol

Loyalty is a term that, without grace, has fallen out of the game. Back in the sixties, it was common practice to see the cult-heroes remain as one-team men. These days, you can announce on national television that you'd never move to your arch rivals, only to expect those fans to forgive you two years later for making the move regardless (Nevertheless, I'm sure their careers benefited from it. How are Milton Keynes doing, anyway?). Such a term can be loosely thrown about and quickly replaced with clichés regarding eggs on faces. Only a select few in the modern game deserve to be referred to as loyal. Luciano Becchio fits firmly within those select few.

Seventy one goals and almost a second century of games ago, Luciano Becchio's long term future in English football was in the balance. The Argentine had impressed in United's Irish tour of 2008, though not to an extent which had Gary McAllister begging for his signature. On the last game of the tour, Gary was still debating whether or not to extend Luciano's stint at the club. A routine post-match interview turned into a frenzy; The Scot confirmed that Becchio's fate was to be decided in the following half hour. Of course, an agreement was met to sign Luciano on a full-time basis. And of course, nobody could predict how important the decision in that half-hour period would turn out to be.

Four years on, and Luciano Becchio is recognised as the face of Leeds United. Whilst other firm favourites have gone on to pasture new (singular, they're all at Norwich), the Argentine striker has kept his focus solely on Leeds United and the task at hand. His efforts both on and off the pitch have won the hearts of many in the rafters; Not only has he proven his credentials time and time again on the field, he has never fluttered his eyelashes at another club.
Coveted for his goalscoring ability and willingness to put himself about, Luciano is a traditional secondary striker. Used primarily as a target man, his technique can sometimes be lacking (his first touch often coming into question from his doubters). He hasn't stayed shy from moments of brilliance, though. Anyone doubting whether or not Luciano has the raw talent to score beautiful goals should dig into the archives for his tremendous volley away to Middlesbrough, a sublime finish from a move started and finished by Luciano himself.

Regardless of doubt; His ability to find the net, win an aerial battle or draw a foul from an opposing defender more than makes up for any shortcomings in his game. With seventy one goals so far in Leeds United white, it's perfectly conceivable that Becchio will be the next striker to reach a century of goals at Elland Road. At twenty eight years, his prime is within reach for the next couple of seasons. No more fitting tribute would be on offer than for Becchio to reach the ton after his service and relentless passion for Leeds United.

It is those aspects that caught the eye of Neil Warnock, who back in February pin-pointed Luciano as a pivotal piece in his plan to get Leeds United promoted. The former QPR boss spoke of how he'd previously tried to sign the Argentine on countless occasions. Now that he finally has his man, he has become the forefront of attacking intent in his re-built squad. The admiration and support from a manager with seven promotions to his name should not be noted lightly. Further still, the backing and admiration from the stands for Becchio is there for all to see (if you haven't heard, he cost less than a certain Mr. Berbatov, and scores more frequently, too).

And it's the unanimous backing that makes Luciano such a pivotal figure within the squad. He is a man to look towards for inspiration, for drive and for passion. Even when his doubters piled on the pressure, his focus remained constant. Despite two poor injuries (the first coming in our promotion season; Taking him until late November to break into the side - The latter during last pre-season), Luciano has managed to break double figures in each of his past four seasons. With 149 starts to his name, he is close to one goal for every two starts at Leeds. It's incredible to even consider that he has his doubters.

The likes of Robert Snodgrass, though hard to argue with, created a saga with their futures. In the midst of Leeds' emergence following the depths of League One, only Luciano has remained sure in his desire to play for Leeds and talked the talk by keeping his loyalties at Elland Road. The opportunities for Becchio to join the crowd of exodus were prominent. In January, Hull came in with an offer deemed acceptable by the board and boss Simon Grayson. The decision lie solely at Luci's feet. At the time, rumours were rife regarding a fall out between Becchio and strike-partner Ross McCormack. The proof is in the pudding, though. Both Luciano and Ross remain at the club. Rumours are to be taken with a fistful of salt, nevermind a pinch. 

And that partnership is finally ready to blossom. Nothing but mere glimpses of the pair together were witnessed in Ross' first season at Elland Road. The preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, along with an early season injury to McCormack, dictated the pairs early fate. Impressions of the pair together acted as signs of promise, though nothing more. The following season saw Luciano struck down by injury, leaving the pair little time together to settle and gel. 

Two seasons on, and the pair now lead the line for United and have started clinically. Whilst Luciano has took the headlines with four goals in as many games, McCormack's involvement should not be disregarded. Two assists from the Scot have aided Luciano's impressive start to the season. On their day, it's hard to see another duo as threatening. It's up to them to continue to make it their day.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Pen for Ken

Twitter and Leeds United haven't really had a smooth ride over the past couple of years. Whether it's Davide Somma revealing the news on his long-term injury despite the manager's wishes or just Paddy Kenny putting Queens Park Rangers in their place, there is always a tinge of controversy when Leeds United and it's fans collide with a story on the social networking site. Even if it's not a tale of trouble, it's a case of sheer stupidity. Every fan is entitled to their own opinion, but when they're advocating a bid to re-sign Sanchez Watt on loan, that opinion is wrong.

It was a refreshing touch, then, to see the 'Pen4Ken' campaign start on twitter. The new hashtag craze (#Pen4Ken) amongst the Twitter Whites has a method to its madness. Fans are pledging to send a simple Biro pen addressed to Ken Bates at Elland Road (or, for those who have access to it, his home address in the tax haven of Monaco) along with a personalised letter reminding the Chairman of when such an item could be of valued importance to him in the coming weeks. Along with the following on twitter, a new website for the innovation has started here

Some letters have been quite elegant and profound (Read The Scratching Shed's version here). Others has been a little more brutal and to the point. It only seems fair, though, to send our Biro in a similar vein to which Bates would no doubt choose should he have been in a position to do so;


FAO Kenneth William Bates
Elland Road Stadium,
Leeds, West Yorkshire,
LS11 0ES

Dear Ken,

Please find enclosed a Biro I found in the bookies this afternoon. I am fully aware that fellow fans intend to send you a pen of more quality (perhaps, even, that of the Bic Cristal brand). However, seeing as you have failed to deliver in terms of quality and investment over the past seven years, I decided it would only be fair to respond in kind with my choice of Biro. 

This pen was picked up free of charge at the local William Hill store, had been acquired and discarded by several previous owners and struggles to hold any consistency or reliability. Frankly, this pen is on it's last legs; Any self-respecting businessman would snub such an inferior Biro for one of true quality. Does any of this sound vaguely familiar to you?

Please do not mistake this pen as a gift. It's not. Rather, this is merely a loan (I'd explain the concept to you, although I feel you may have an insight into how a loan works) and should be returned following the signing of the contracts handing over the club to the future owners currently in negotiation.

As with the freebies and loans that you have saddled this great club with over the years, I cannot guarantee you any success with this pen. Not to worry, though. Should this pen fail to deliver, I'm sure you'll have many more sent to you in the foreseeable future to complete the transaction and finally rid us of your shambolic reign at Leeds United.

Yours Sincerely,

Becchio Well Placed.


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Opening night

Saturday afternoons retain their comfortable, familiar feeling this weekend as Leeds play host to newly-relegated Wolves in the lunch-time kick-off (subject to Sky, Police, Weather and possible Apocalypse). Three and a half months of precise planning and take-over speculation have all past in preparation of the start of the 2012/13 campaign as Neil Warnock looks to take United back to the Premier League. It should act as a welcome start for Neil and his new-look outfit. Warnock's arrival in place of Simon Grayson was met with a large amount of optimism as Leeds sat just three points behind the playoff positions in mid-February. 

That level of optimism, for now, has been left unwarranted; Under Warnock, Leeds have returned less than a point per game. What was labelled 'Grayson's team' seemed unable to adapt to the new tactics and regime put in place, and by mid-March, United's slim play-off chances had burned out at the hands of Nottingham Forest (though that debacle is a whole other can of worms that we can leave unopened). It's fair to say that the clichéd instant impact that comes hand-in-hand with a newly-appointed boss was missing.

Nevertheless, a fourteen week period of 'major surgery' has seen Leeds re-vamped into a unit more typically suited to play under Warnock. A more prominent, hard working ethic has been brought into the side, and whilst a lack of invention remains a burdening issue a brighter season looks possible. All that has gone before should be casted out as nothing more than a footnote - Neil's legacy at Leeds United begins this weekend. Despite a tough start to the new campaign, Warnock and his men should be feeling quietly confident ahead of Saturday - Leeds' record on opening day is generally positive. In the past ten seasons alone, United have won seven (though the only two losses coming from the past two campaigns, at the hands of Derby and Southampton). 

Of course, last season's opener, away at St. Marys, was not short of it's own controversy. A summer of discontent and lack of ambition from the board sparked anger in the fan-base, with protests in the stands aimed at chairman Ken Bates. This was the first time the support had a majority voice on the terrace, together in one calling for Bates' departure. On the field, matters were hardly any more positive. Leeds fell victim to a 3-1 defeat courtesy of goals from Dean Hammond, Adam Lallana and David Connolly. Max Gradel's consolation penalty in the last minute of injury time healed no wounds. The Whites' performance had been epitomised by an almost cliché performance from 'Barndoor' Billy Paynter, summed up quite painfully by Howson is Now.

Prior to that was our return to the second tier where a new-look United, built on the premise of a tougher challenge following promotion from League One, played host to Derby County. Again on television, Leeds fell short of the opposition, as goals from Rob Hulse and  Kris Commons sandwiched Luciano Becchio's finish to confirm a 2-1 defeat. The performance left a lot to be desired; The tempo and creativity of the affair consistently controlled by Derby's midfield with little from United in response. Infact, the only shining light from a Leeds United perspective was the impressive debut performance of Kasper Schmeichel. The young Dane pulled off an outstanding double save to keep Leeds within fighting contention mid-way through the second half.

Perhaps the most iconic season opener was of that in 2007 as Leeds travelled to Merseyside, facing uncharted territory as the Whites faced their first ever third-tier match. A travelling army of 2,000 made the journey to Prenton Park, juggling emotions of excitement, anxiousness and sheer relief at the fact that Leeds were still playing professional competitive football. The summer prior had been a living nightmare for the Elland Road faithful, with the club's future consistently in doubt, only to be settled through Administration, confirmation of Ken Bates' extension at the club and a fifteen point penalty to start of the League One campaign. Nevertheless, football was back and so was the 'us-against-the-world' atmosphere. Despite an early setback, Matt Heath's second half header and a scrappy last minute tap-in from Tresor Kandol secured all three points, leaving Leeds on minus twelve and around two thousand sore heads the next morning.

It shouldn't be a cause for concern, either, should Warnock's side fall short against Wolves. Whilst a running start is ideal, it is far from a fair analysis of how the season will pan out. Title competitors of yesteryear Norwich will preach this louder than most - Their 7-1 defeat at the hands of Colchester not stopping them from topping the League One chart in 2010. United can confess to this, too. Opening day against Newcastle in '89 acted as the start of quite a lackluster opening set of matches for the season. Following the 5-2 defeat at St. James' Park, Leeds proceeded to pick up just one win and three draws in their next four games, leaving the Yorkshire outfit with just six points from five.

Whilst 2012/13 promises to be a season of uniqueness (for off the pitch matters, at the very least), Warnock can take solace from the lessons of 1990. Following Wolves, Leeds face tough challenges in the form of Blackpool, Peterborough, Blackburn and Cardiff. Many of those sides will fancy their own chances at a promotion or playoff spot. Leeds have been dealt a raw hand to start of their new era. As shown under Sgt. Wilko, though, a jittery start against tough opposition does not have to spell disaster for the rest of the season. The infamous side of 1990 grabbed the title on the last day of the season on an iconic day away to Bournemouth, and Warnock's men could be writing their own script, with the final act prepared for Vicarage Road, Watford. 

With around a dozen faces new to the Leeds United squad, it is only natural to expect a few loose bolts in the machine for the first few exchanges. Players need time to settle and gel, whilst the boss needs to fully assess who will be his preferred eleven. A tough start against recently relegated Wolves will not have been ideal, nor will the games proceeding. August should act as nothing more than confirmation of where the squad is at in comparison to the realistic challengers in the division, signposting the work that is needed for the rest of the campaign. Irrespective of early results, United will still be in with a fighting chance for promotion come May at Watford. 

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Bring a Game Boy, this could get dull

If controversy is your idea of fun, walk into any bar around the Beeston area on Saturday afternoon and mention Neil Warnock and Simon Grayson in the same sentence. Follow by ordering your pint, locating the group with the highest raised eyebrows and grabbing a nearby seat. It may be best to order a couple of drinks actually, these things can take a while. 

Naturally, the controversy stems from their polar-opposite styles of play. Grayson's side are built with the purpose of promoting attacking, free-flowing football. It doesn't matter if you score three, because we're going to score four, to quote a typical mantra. Clearly, it never mattered if all twenty-thousand were clenching their buttocks in anguish every time a counter broke from the opposition, either. Under Grayson, United were built to shock and surprise. A trip to Elland Road could've offered anything from a calamitous breakdown from Paul Rachubka to having a Ross McCormack tap-in seal victory in the 97th minute. 

Perhaps Simon felt guilty about the prices the Elland Road faithful were having to pay and wanted to put on a show. With Warnock's ever-impending retirement, though, the clash in direction may stem from his desire to see through his career in the most predictable way possible. Nobody wants to see Neil crashing to the floor with a heart-trauma after Danny Pugh allows yet another mediocre winger in on goal. Despite the clash in style and focus, the only thing remains evident for those who've 'treated' themselves to a season ticket at Elland Road this season - It's not going to be pretty.

This shouldn't be read in any pessimistic tone, or even viewed as a damning statement ruling out any intention of promotion for Leeds this season. After a faultering start to Warnock's era (to put it kindly), 'major surgery' has seen a new look United line-up brace the field. Equipped with added bite and composure, the Yorkshire outfit look more organised and capable of holding firm against most attacks that will be thrown at them this season. New blood in Lee Peltier, Paddy Kenny, Adam Drury and Jason Pearce have completely over-wrote any lasting memory of a defence kindling a resemblance to that  of Simon Grayson's, and for it all the better. 

Despite a slight fear that young Peltier, Pearce and the now seemingly ever-present Lees may hold too little experience to hold strong throughout a whole campaign, the back line at Elland Road looks more dependable than any time previous under the demise of chairman Ken Bates' seven and a half reign. The extra protection extended from the new cult hero Rodolph Austin only further stresses the point that Leeds will be one of the hardest sides to beat in the division. And irrespective of Ronnie Jespon's ridiculous waistline, the entire squad seems to have avoided a similar fate, with the side looking in great physical shape. Initially, the new-born resilience of Leeds United is something to look upon with relief. 

With that in mind, though, every decision comes with it's own consequence. A lack of invention or creativity seems to be the lasting impression on the rest of the squad as a reaction to the over-dependance to protect the defence. Of those that have joined the squad, Luke Varney remains the standout purchase in terms of attacking intent, a rather poor sign of things to come. Depsite a fairly positive pre-season campaign so far, the truth remains that Varney's contributions to a side in this division has consistently been below par. Last season, his offering of just six goals and one assist proved not enough as Portsmouth fell victim to relegation. Throughout his career, his record struggles to shine much brighter than this. Fellow Fratton Park arrival David Norris was mooted as a signing to bring more attacking intent to the side, yet also struggles to raise the temperature. 

Throughout the midfield and attack, a lack of pace or invention leaves the side feeling flat and predictable. At the very least, an inventive winger to replace the heavy boots of Robert Snodgrass is required, alongside a new striker with instinctive class. Since the loss of Max Gradel (and before that Jermaine Beckford), the loss of attacking prowess has been painfully clear. Replacements like Danny Pugh further dug the coffin into the ground. Whilst the likes of Nicky Maynard and George Boyd have been raised by the media as solutions to the new issue at hand, securing talent of this calibre is now looking more and more like a losing battle. Warnock's damning statement on Tuesday night, re-igniting the seven-year regular cliché 'sell to buy' sent warning signals to all those in white that the likelihood of signing players with flashes of brilliance that have oh-so often been missing will be hard to come by yet again. 

It's that lack of sparkle that will leave the fans with their chins resting firmly upon their palms. Whilst some like to roll off the cliché that the likes of Newcastle United and Liverpool were born to play beautiful football, it is often forgotten in the midst of a nationwide agenda towards 'Dirty Leeds' that attractive and engaging football is also a traditional aspect of the game at Elland Road. Sacrificing this as payment for success is an acceptable route to end the demise that has been since our relegation from the Premiership in 2004. Only time will tell if Warnock's decision to play Devil's Advocate to Grayson's previous regime will prove successful. Many will feel that without an improvement on what once was, the new brand of 'anti-football' will come at a price not worth paying.


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Monday, 30 July 2012

Jelly and ice-cream at Warnock's house

Considering Robert Snodgrass' departure, the arrival of Portsmouth FC (essentially, given what is left) and still having Ken Bates at the club, you could have forgiven Leeds fans if there had been a tinge of angst in the atmosphere as the Whites moved the pre-season party to the South-West. This time last year, fans were planning protests and demonstrations to show the support's disdain towards the efforts of those in a position of power at Elland Road. Despite the demonstrations being a fairly mellow affair, it proved that Leeds fans were capable of voicing their concerns. Voiced concerns were not a problem, here, though. Instead, around 3,000 Leeds fans took in the Devon and Cornwall sun in good spirits, whilst the team quietly grabbed three morale-boosting victories.
It's easy to see why the Yorkshire following was so relaxed when compared to the abomination that was last summer. The arrival of Paul Rachubka, Michael Brown, Michael Vayrynen et al highlight the significant lack of quality that was introduced to the side that had previously finished just three points outside of the playoffs. In return, Leeds allowed Kasper Schmeichel and Max Gradel to move on. It's pretty easy to recall why fans were so apathetic towards our chances of promotion last season. Not only that, but the introduction of Neil Warnock has revitalised hopes and aspirations within the Elland Road stands - Something which, rightly or wrongly, former boss Simon Grayson failed to do.
And despite this summer's transfer activity lacking any real excitement, the new faces that have signed on have at least generally improved the overall condition of the squad. Basing on their merits gained from the Cornwall tour, Jason Pearce, Jamie Ashdown and Paul Green can be pleased with their own introduction to the Leeds faithful. Pearce lived up to his reputation built at Portsmouth as a player who'd be willing 'to leap up at a brick and head it away' if it was thrown in his direction. Calm and composed, it was often puzzling to see a confident centre back grace the Leeds United shirt. Green also kept a composed look about himself, showing signs of being the consistent 7/10 midfielder that has often been craved in the middle of the park at Elland Road. Ashdown, meanwhile, had barely signed his contract at Leeds before showing what he could do, being tested (almost surprisingly) with a handful of testing attempts from Tavistock and Bodmin, responding to them somewhat comfortably.
It wasn't just the debutants who showed signs of promise, either. Ross McCormack's first half performance against Torquay brought back those early-season memories of instinct and precision from the Scot that brought such interest from the likes of Wigan and Blackburn. Aidy White seemed to capitalise on the momentum from his contract renewal with some impressive performances, using his speed as a regular source of trouble for the opposition. That said, these sort of introductions should always be taken with a pinch of salt. The standard of competition was far from ideal, and those that travelled to Scotland will remember the general consensus that Calamity Paul Rachubka was 'not actually that bad'. The true calibre of what has been brought in is yet to be truly tested, and only time will tell if the likes of Andy Gray and David Norris truly have the credentials to be competent parts of a promotion winning squad.
Despite the opposition, the surroundings and mentality towards the Cornwall trip was taken to positively by all. It's a rare sight when Leeds fans are openly relaxing, burger in one hand, pint in the other, laying out on the grass bank as the Whites bring home a 4-0 victory. Nor is it common for the connection between players and fans be so strong as it was during the open-session of pre-season training which saw a more than respectable showing from United fans. This is what was on offer, though, and could prove to be the bonding session that was needed for fans, management and players to unite before a heavy season ahead.
Manager Neil Warnock has already admitted that the current state of the squad is not fit for promotion, lacking three or four faces that can add that bit of style and creativity to really unlock sides and make a team enjoyable to watch. These type of players come at a price (look at Robert Snodgrass). It may be that the Snodgrass money is tucked into immediately. It may be a case of waiting on an imminent takeover bid to dot the I's and cross the T's. Whatever it may be, though, the patience and general positivity of the fans towards Neil Warnock and a speculated takeover deserves rewarding with more positive movement in the transfer window. Whether or not that will be delivered is another matter - Snodgrass clearly didn't think so. If you believe the press, though, we can expect the likes of Nicky Maynard or Jermaine Beckford to be adding some flair to proceedings. It's all a waiting game, just hopefully one on the final stretch.
But nevertheless, the last week with Leeds United has proven to be a much needed reminder that come rain or shine, Beckford or Paynter, Bates or Bahrain, the Elland Road faithful still know how to make following Leeds United an enjoyable experience. Those at Torquay, Bodmin and Tavistock emphasised why this club is still admired by some and loathed by others, and why Leeds United still has a little bit of soul in it yet.


Monday, 16 July 2012

Mustard, churches and the lure of Canary Norwich

Despite the appeal of the largest Conference Centre between Manchester and Newcastle, a loss-making radio station and a postman as CEO, Leeds United may have to once again face up to losing a star player to the canary call at Carrow Road. Ken remains sleepless at night, fretting over the appeal of Coleman's Mustard, their famous cathedral, with it's 315ft spire (the second highest in England, nevermind between Ipswich and Bristol) and Waterloo Park, wondering just what he can do to stop the relentless pursuit from Delia and her boys for Elland Road's finest.

Of course, the answer is simple - Ambition. It's a race we've fallen far behind in since 2009. Sure, we started well. Our team was fresh, filled with upcoming talent and balanced well despite the loss of Fabian Delph. Norwich themselves had tripped over their shoelaces as soon as the pistol fired, losing 7-1 to Colchester on opening day. Fast forward two months later, and United had even grabbed a late 2-1 win over the Canaries thanks to Jermaine Beckford (and an 'assist' by Fraser Forster). Max Gradel debuted for Leeds United and frightened the fans; A loanee was showing signs of performing well. Norwich left Yorkshire that night falling eleven points behind Leeds with just twelve games gone. They left inspired by a young midfield trio of Bradley Johnson, Jonny Howson and Robert Snodgrass. Nearly three years on, and Norwich look set to chase their final piece of the trilogy, the Canaries keen on bringing Snodgrass to Carrow Road to join friends Jonny and Bradley to link up again; This time in the Premier League. It's a wonder they didn't sign Michael Doyle, too.

Three years can be a long time in football. You can either build upon momentum and make something truly outstanding happen, or simply falter behind, floating on mediocrity as your stars look to abandon ship. Norwich took the former option. After steam-rolling the second half of the 09/10 campaign and claiming the League One title, they followed on with a second successive promotion to the Premier League in 2011. Star players were kept on the books, despite interest from other clubs. Leeds, on the other hand, began to crumble despite promotion. 

First, the expected departure of Jermaine Beckford was challenged with 'Barndoor' Billy Paynter's arrival. A year later, after a faltering end-of-season challenge at the Championship playoffs, Max Gradel and Bradley Johnson followed the exit signs at Elland Road. Contract negotiations handled by Shaun Harvey, a man deemed more suitable to handle free newspapers from door to door had a part to play. Chairman Ken Bates remains at the forefront of accusation though, and rightly so. His lack of ambition and intent to sell off a young and ambitious midfield saw the club settle into apathy in the mid-table slums of the second tier. Much like the rabbit, we stopped and took a quick nap, the only difference being that we were far behind in our race.

And now, as Norwich settle in for a second top-flight season, they look set to take the final piece of Leeds' 09/10 midfield which held so much promise and so much opportunity, with Sky Sports reporting a bid from East Anglia for the Scottish winger. Whilst Ken and co. were concentrating on the importance of building projects and casino plans, Delia was allowing young and talented managers pull the strings and improve the aspects of the Football Club that truly matter; Those on the pitch.

Whilst a bid has not been accepted (or, for that matter, rejected) by United, it is testament to the talent that has come (and gone) from this young side. It is also testament to the blatant lack of ambition that has rotted the soul of this club for the past seven years. Snodgrass himself has questioned the club's level of intent to challenge for the top-flight, asking the question 'how can you say you're aiming for promotion then sell your captain [Howson]? ' When Snodgrass posed the question to a fans' meeting back in March, it's doubtful he felt he'd be wondering if the question would include himself just four months later.

Irrespective of the outcome of such a bid from Norwich, one point remains firm in the eyes of all. Leeds United has fallen behind from where it should have been and is chasing shadows in an attempt to salvage any joy or success. Gone are the days where fans can feel confident in their young, promising side at Elland Road. Instead, we shudder at the thought of a phonecall from Carrow Road, petrified of who they could be taking this time. And despite the potential takeover on the horizon, the forefront message to Leeds fans today remains that until Ken Bates leaves, United will be nothing more than a second-tier club built on mediocrity, stripping playing assets in order to expand the building portfolio.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The grass isn’t always greener, unless you’ve been ploughing through mud


A seven year reign in which Leeds United has stagnated in progress via administration, twenty-five deducted league points and three years in the lowest reaches of the club’s history appears to be coming to a close. A statement on the official website stated that the club have ‘granted an exclusivity period to enable a potential investor to carry out the appropriate due diligence’, signalling the final stretch before a new era begins at Elland Road.

Whilst no clues have been given from official sources as to whom the new investors are, nationwide rumours have suggested parties from America, the Middle East and even Canada. Some are helpless with frenzy, dreaming of Galactico’s and silverware. Others remain firm-footed, focussing on the positivity and change that appears imminent at the club. All that remains consistent within the hopes and thoughts of the Leeds United faithful, though, is the near unanimous opinion that after seven years of questionable leadership, the change in ownership is overdue.

Uncertainty remains regarding the identity of the potential owners’ or their intentions and wealth. Dreaming of re-union clashes with Manchester United and Chelsea may be a bit too premature, especially considering the challenges still ahead of United. Manager Neil Warnock has labelled the task of re-building the squad as ‘major surgery’. This isn’t a videogame, though. Surgery doesn’t usually include trying to move on a surplus-to-requirements appendix sitting on a three year contract. Without significant investment, immediate success is possibly an unrealistic aim.

The transfer list at Elland Road is far from ideal, with six players on presumably comfortable wages available for transfer. Considering the quality (or rather, lack of) on a list including Paul Connolly and Billy Paynter, as well Leeds’ recent record in moving on unwanted first-teamers, the usual route of contract termination seems a predictable (and expensive) inevitability. Meanwhile, the club is covering the medical costs and wages of long-term casualties Leigh Bromby and Paddy Kisnorbo. Fans have estimated the need for 7 or 8 first-team standard players in order to foresee the club’s rise to the top of the division. All-in-all, promotion with Leeds United will not be cheap.

It’s a tall order with such unwanted weight. Admirable surges in the Football League in recent years have become a common feat, with Southampton and Norwich following in the footsteps of Swansea. The Welsh side’s prominent rise saw them reach the Premier League from League One in the space of four years, with fellow managers watching in awe, desperately revising the common link between the three to deduce the winning formula. Obvious conclusions state that the club’s desire and quality in their management and playing staff is pivotal, whilst the ambition of the board of directors cannot be questioned. Just as important, though, is their consistency throughout the playing staff. Clubs carrying dead weight will always fall behind. Those that can depend on the consistent quality throughout their squad will usually be the cream of the crop.

Unless heavy investment is afoot, the chances of promotion at the first time of asking seem slim. Even with investment, nothing is guaranteed. Whilst Bates’ stringent exercises often follow with a tired lecture on Leicester’s failed season, his reference point has some validity. It often becomes far too easy to fall victim to beginner’s mistakes when introducing yourself to new found wealth. Tiring footballers looking for their last pay-day and over-inflated wages can become a regular occurrence. Nevertheless, this does not become an excuse to spend just a third of your revenue on the playing staff, in-case you fancy buying a team of your own.

This isn’t written in an attempt to undermine any positivity surrounding the club, but rather bring realism to the forefront. For far too long a suffocating grip has choked the club into surrendering apathy, leaving inadequacy and disappointment a regular end-of-season finale, only to be simply sighed and shrugged at before the cycle begins again. Our frustrations at the current regime are closing in on an eighth year, making it far too easy to jump the gun and become delirious at the proposition of a change in leadership. Such expectation of change could easily lead to early frustration and disappointment, though, if immediate success isn’t brought. Sadly, the departure of Ken Bates (hopefully alongside Peter Lorimer and Shaun Harvey) does not immediately clear the club from the effects of the last seven years. The lack of quality in the squad will need to be addressed, alongside the short and long term future of side projects including Yorkshire Radio (Bates’ loss-making token idea).

Despite this, the opportunity for change can only come as a positive step in the long-term future for United. Ken Bates’ period at Elland Road could technically be described as stagnant. Leeds have dropped just three places since Bates’ arrival, though the story isn’t told in such mediocre tones. Continuing financial trouble saw the club suffer relegation, two separate point deductions and three years in League One, the lowest depth the club has bared witness to. Despite promotion in 2010, more angst ensued after the departure of key players with a less than favourable return. A verbal war between the support and board saw Bates effectively kiss any hopes of winning the fans’ over goodbye, causing the first organised protest at the start of the 2011/12 campaign, with Bates returning a damning retort, labelling the fans as ‘dissidents’ and ‘morons’.

The fans are not alone in their lack of confidence in the current regime. A recent statement from the supporters’ trust stated that star players within the squad had become disillusioned and unhappy at the current leadership at Leeds, stressing that it could soon turn into the reason for their departure. An unhealthy relationship between the boardroom and dressing room could have resulted in fireworks. The imminent takeover has calmed a potential storm (and large exodus of higher level quality).

Ambition levels have been questioned recently, with star man Robert Snodgrass postponing contract negotiations in order to analyse the quality of player recruitment over the summer period. So far, three uninspiring but soundly competent players have joined the rank at Elland Road. Jason Pearce, Adam Drury and Paul Green begin the rebuilding process, all in a relatively cheap manner. Just £300k has been parted with. These are not the marquee signings that cripple your opponents with fear, nor should they act as the highlight of our summer activity. Alongside match-winners and a bit more luxury, however, and they become worthwhile jigsaws in a successful Championship side.

Any new owner at Leeds should already be aware of the height of expectation that surrounds the club. Despite recent poor showing and financial footing, the club is built on one of the most prestigious histories in the country, backed by a relentless following whose support remains unconditional. A shadow of what it should be, Leeds United is a sleeping giant, stirring more with each passing day. To unleash the potential of the club, the new board must prioritise a solid connection with the support, in particular the supporters' trust. Extensive investigations as to who remains in a professional capacity should also be of paramount importance. Frankly, those that think they can suggest dubbing the Crimewatch theme over the harassing pursuit of an elderly pensioner aren't fit to hold a job here.

Without a running start, rapid progress and significant investment, any new owner will find it difficult to take care of all of United's priorities before the final curtain at Watford in May. A long term plan seeing the club reach the Premier League within the next two seasons may be more beneficial and firm-footed. This doesn't alter the positivity of the future, however. The end of apathy is near. There is light at the end of the tunnel.