The fans are revolting, the manager is underfunded and the chairman's building a hotel. Why Leeds United are getting left behind.
This just in: Situation Report from the Leeds City Tourism Football Interface. There are over fifty hotels in Leeds but no fit centre forward with a year-in year-out goal scoring pedigree for Leeds United to start their first game of the season with. There are a number of critically acclaimed hotels in Leeds but no left back actually employed full time by Leeds United considered fit enough or good enough to start the new season. Instead the club borrowed a reserve centre back from Celtic to fill the role.
Summary: For a club who take millions of pounds in revenue a month this is a pretty disorganised state of affairs. What it represents is the refusal of the owner to invest in a playing squad with the sort of ambition the fans, manager and star players expect. They are the people who fund the club, the person who has to direct the team and the players who are expected to go out and compete. If you don’t have all of them onside you can wave bye bye to promotion.
Comment: But then this is just a fan’s eye view. To want a decent fit striker or a full time left back is apparently a naïve perspective when there’s a hotel to be built to make the football ground itself a property capable of generating revenue on a daily basis rather than once a week or a fortnight.
If Leeds didn’t have any hotels you could see the point of view but over the last fifteen years the city has exploded on the hospitality front. Its river and canal side developments are a commercial traveler magnet. There are thousands and thousands of hotel rooms in Leeds. No-one in their right mind has wandered through the city and said ‘F*** I wish they’d build some more hotels or apartments’ to be answered ‘Yep, they’ve not knocked up a hotel in months, whatsup withem?’
Then again maybe the Leeds United owner has a point. What’s the point in actually trying to get into the Premiership where you can make millions from television revenues, increased gates and sponsorship deals when you can be a grumpy big fish in a lower division? Especially when you can list 342 trouser presses and little kettles on your assets list?
The apparent lack of desire to reach the Premiership, as reflected in the refusal to bring in the sort of quality players being recruited by Nottingham Forest, Cardiff, Ipswich, Leicester and West Ham, is bizarre. Maybe Ken Bates doesn’t want to paddle in waters where he will be nothing more than a millionaire minnow amongst billionaires.
Early on in his stewardship of Leeds United Bates gave his first manager the sort of squad that should have been promoted. Most of the players Kevin Blackwell recruited could probably still improve our playing squad today. Many of them have since been involved in promotions from this division and played in the Premiership. Right now Hulse, Derry, Blake and Pugh would all step straight into our first team. This couldn’t have been more evident than today, seeing Southampton beat Leeds with two full backs who have been released by Leeds during Bates’ rule.
In his media relations Bates has so far banned the BBC and The Guardian for prying into the ownership issue but after today’s match you can’t help thinking they’re the lucky ones. That little old lady who was banned for going on the pitch last season is probably looking forward to more relaxed Saturdays this year.
For a club with financial muscle, a massive fan base, a manager with two promotions under his belt and an owner who has been in football a long time this should be the start of an optimistic season but the word on the street, the sound of the crowd, the screech on the tweets is ominously negative.
The general perspective amongst supporters is the owner runs the club to suit himself and f*** the fans, the manager and the players. Quality players like Fabian Delph and Jermaine Beckford have been let go, others who have been coached and improved by the Leeds staff have walked out after having their contracts run down. This is a style of asset management most observers see as bewildering and short term-ist. Had Leeds United offered Jermaine Beckford a suitably attractive contract two years before he left the club, ie: a year before he entered his final season, he could well have done for the Yorkshire side what Grant Holt did for Norwich as he fired the Canaries into consecutive promotions.
As it is the manager, Simon Grayson, seems to have to sell either Robert Snodgrass or Max Gradel if he wants the funds to bring in a player who would massively improve the team. For a club this size it is again, unusual, to start a season visibly weaker than it ended the previous one.
It’s a strange state of affairs and one that is hugely frustrating for the fans who follow the team wherever they go. Essentially this seems to be a battle between those that follow their club with passion and an owner who is rapidly making Scrooge look like Bill Gates.
This year in the Championship there are teams with impressive new squads (Ipswich, West Ham, Leicester), teams with new managers of a proven quality (Nottingham Forest, Ipswich, Leicester), teams with parachute payments and rich owners (Blackpool and West Ham), teams that were improving as last season finished (Burnley, Hull, Boro) and clubs who have been promoted with ambition (Southampton and Brighton).
Nowhere is there a competitive genre called Teams With Late Booking Deals and Little Plastic Baskets With Two Biscuits And A Hotdrink Sachet In Them.
Whenever anyone who supports, works for, runs or owns Chelsea mentions the success the club has enjoyed in the last decade not one of them mentions the f****** hotel. When I go down to Stamford Bridge six times a year to have a weekday client meeting, we don’t meet in the hotel, we sit in an executive box. No-one ever says, shall we go and have a drink in the hotel? In all the time the Chelsea hotel has been operating I have never known of anyone who has stayed there. It isn’t an important part of Chelsea Football Club. Why does Ken Bates think the Leeds United Hotel will be an important part of Leeds United Football Club. We want clean sheets on matchday not on checking in.
Leeds United are a football club, they are not a hospitality franchise. If Bates doesn’t support Grayson with new funding and buy him a decent striker who can score 20 plus goals year in year out in this division, a decent centre half, and make one of them experienced enough to lead a promotion charge as West Ham have with Nolan and Ipswich have with Chopra then this year will be one of infighting and carnage at Elland Road.
There was a time when the Leeds bootboys would chant to visiting fans ‘You’re going to get your f****** heads kicked in!’ Obviously not the best news if you’d just shown up with the opposition to watch the game but a damn site more traditional than ‘You’re going to get your f****** beds turned down.’