By Mark Rasdall
I'm sure you'll all remember the famous FT ad campaign "No FT, no comment." The implication is that you couldn't do without the FT and I feel much the same about Leeds United as I have done for the last forty five years: I cannot do without the club.
However, it's hard to comment much beyond that because, unlike the FT, the club seems to be in the hands of people who would rather not
communicate, enter into debates or share informaton.
I work in web communications and certainly just because there has been a proliferation of online channels it doesn't mean they have to be used and, if so, they should be used properly. There is certainly a case for Leeds United, as with all football clubs, and GFH, as with all business owners, to be careful what they say and when. Rumours abound with football all the time and truth and lies exist side-by-side with the jokes on Twitter and Facebook. The transfer window can - and is - easily blamed for the need for secrecy amid negotiations behind closed doors.
However, the common football factor isn't the club or the owners, it is the fans. We have been here all along, through management and managers, owners and players. If the spokes people from Leeds United choose not to communicate with us at all then they are not acting as true custodians of our football brand. We are the LUFC customers and we are still kings of that relationship, yet treated as 'ordinary fans' because most of us can't afford executive boxes or the many commercial spin-offs that litter the official website. We just spend vast amounts of time and money on supporting the team, often in rubbish conditions.
We always queried the soundbites coming out of the Bates camp and were relieved to see Messrs Haigh and Patel on Twitter just as soon as the takeover was settled. They saw the opportunity to inform, share and have conversations with their customers and did the right thing. But then they decided to so exactly the wrong thing - they stopped informing, sharing and conversing with their customers. Into this vacuum have come rumours and speculation - most of which could probably have been prevented. The legacy of this is as much if not more distrust than before. Most of us always suspected that Bates was a crook and now GFH are being tarred with the same brush - and they have nobody to blame (not even Ken) but themselves.
Individuals are the new media, each and everyone of us can generate and share our views and word-of-mouth is more powerful than any channel since people began to leave their feudal villages of birth. It is not rocket science, not venture capital, it is easy: use the media at your disposal and tell us, truthfully, what is going on.
Nobody expects intimate details of transfer negotiations or longer term investment plans. We just need regular updates and answers to questions such as:
Why Dindane and not Becchio - tell us the truth
Why Warnock and not White - tell us the truth
Why the other Warnock and not Adkins - tell us the truth
Why Brown and not a creative midfielder who can run - tell us the truth
Why high ticket prices and low crowds - tell us the truth
Why long ball and not football - tell us the truth
Why Varney and not a footballer - tell us the truth
We could all answer these questions of course, but remember, we're just the ordinary customers; if you were a GFH and seeking to look after your brand you'd be reinforcing the message that all at Leeds United is in safe hands and going well. It might well be but how would we know?
By Keith Ingham
On the day when news broke of our leading goalscorer and the 10th highest in the clubs history Luciano Becchio has asked to leave, it made me think that somebody somewhere must stand up and be counted...Even if it does not much good it has to be done. So I'm doing it.
When the new owners came on board the relief that Bates had been replaced was tinged with the thought that would the new owners deliver all or some of the promises. By the lack of movement from the club in this transfer window they seem unwilling to give Warnock a large amount of money and he'll have to either sell to buy or wait until the loan window is open.
The lack of information from GFH is incredible, it beggars belief that after spending a small fortune on the club they should not invest on the playing side, like they assured the fans they would in this window. Really it's a farce and I'm betting it's raised a few smiles from our former owner who still remains as chairman of the club. Maybe this is why our best players are sold on as soon as somebody is interested in them.
Becchio has been a loyal servant if not a well paid one and at his age maybe this is his chance to try and prove himself at a higher level, but after a few negative comments from the manager his decision didn't come as a surprise to me. Comments by the returning Swansea player Tate about 'problems with finances' at Leeds has put more doubt into the fans minds. I'm asking GFH to be honest, if we're in the shit at least be honest because as my article is titled this really must end!
On On On
By Mike Courtney
Ok the headline might be a bit dramatic but hey how else can I get your attention! So far its been a frustrating January on the transfer front at Elland Road, with only the loan signing of Ross Barkley the only silver lining on an otherwise cloudy horizon. I refuse to count the acquisition of Tate, Tonge and Hall as new, seeming they were already on our books one way or the other.
It was a transfer window that every Leeds fan was anticipating after the takeover this day last month by GFH and the promise of good times ahead. Yeah I know they said they would not be spending crazy money but not to spend anything at all on badly needed new blood, well that definitely was not what the Leeds faithful were expecting.
Yes there are still 10 days left in the window and we don't have another league match until the 2nd of February so there is still time for GFH to open the cheque book and get 2 or 3 new players in to compliment the lads we have. But if all the rumblings in the press and on the fans forums are correct then there is little or nothing in the offing.
The only players we seem to be linked with are Steve Morison at Norwich and Aruna Dindane, the former Pompey striker. That worries me slightly as it could mean the end of Becchio's time at Leeds if the rumours circulating are true. Morison cost Norwich over 2.5 million so they aren't going to let him go on the cheap and since we couldn't or wouldn't compete with Leicester for Chris Wood, then I don't see how we can afford the price tag... Unless Becchio is going in the other direction to join his old mates Johnson, Howson and Snoddy. As for Dindane, yes he looked ok a number of years ago and has an eye for goal and he seems to fit the criteria of a Leeds signing i.e. FREE TRANSFER. So unfortunately that seems the most likely scenario. I also see that our friends over the road, Hull, have been strongly linked with another one of our former targets, DJ Campbell. Now for me he is the type of striker we badly need, someone with pace, and if GFH are serious about backing Warnock, then surely this is someone we should at least try to buy. Warnock has worked with him and QPR are his old club so why not push for him.
We don't need too many players to make us promotion contenders, as it stands we are 5 points off the play offs and now is the time to push for home. A left back, someone with pace out wide and Barkley until the end of the season along with that illusive goal scoring forward with pace. e.g. Campbell, and we can still make this season a memorable one.
So come on Colin and GFH, get off your backsides, get that cash flowing and invest in the future of the greatest club in the world. The fans deserve this, the club deserves this and football as a whole deserves to see Leeds back in the top flight. It will be money well spent. You will have the ground full to capacity every home game with the best supporters in the land. You must speculate to accumulate so get spending and get Elland Road rocking again. You have 10 days so let us see you walk the walk after you talked the talk this day last month.
MOT, Leeds Leeds Leeds
By Andrew Butterwick
The snow was glistening and Jack Frost was nipping at any exposed extremities as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One, Brother Chris and yours truly gathered at Selby station for the trip to the Theatre of Hope for today's game against Bristol City.
In a week when when the news has been dominated by cycling cheats, dodgy burgers and media panic over a few flakes of snow it was good to escape back to the surreal atmosphere of Planet Leeds. Becchio's future at Leeds, will we actually buy any players this January and should Warnock fall on his sword were all much more interesting topics to discuss as the train rattled along through the snow covered outskirts of Leeds.
The freezing temperature and recent lack lustre performances had reduced the crowd to a shivering 18,000. As predicted the team news sparked more debate. Lees and Pelts were at the centre of defence with Byram and White at full back. Austin and Brown filled the centre midfield spot with Barkley and Ross Mac out wide. Becchio and Diouf were up front while Kenny returned in goal. "Quite an attacking team despite the lack of creativity in the centre of midfield" I commented.. The groundsmen had done a superb job in preparing a perfect pitch so all we needed now was a perfect performance to warm the die hard fans. Mmmm! The game kicked off with Leeds taking the early initiative. Austin looked brighter than in recent games and as usual Diouf provided a calming influence on the proceedings. The early pressure didn't exactly see Leeds peppering the Bristol goalie with shots
though but Austin dragged a shot tamely wide whilst Ross Mac hit a free kick lamely at the wall after Kilkenny had fouled Lees. Barkley was the next Leeds player to test Heaton in the Bristol goal as he flicked a looping header straight at the Robin's goalie.
My early optimism began to melt away like a snowman in the sun as the half wore on. Kenny made a couple of decent saves but the Leeds play lacked cohesion and creativity. Brown was Brown in midfield and Austin flew around like a demented ball on a pin ball table but it wasn't easy on the eye. For Bristol Kilkenny was enjoying his return to the first team as he pulled the strings for the Robins. There are still plenty of home fans who look enviously at the ex Leeds midfielder as he plays the ball on
the floor and provides a link between the defence and attack. The game stuttered to the break. Diouf nearly broke the stalemate as he latched onto a through ball but just couldn't keep the ball down while Barkley caused panic in the Bristol back line with a wicked cross just before half time. 0.0 at half time and disgruntled boos once again accompanied the Leeds team down the tunnel. This was not a game to entice the missing thousands back to ER.
The Urinal philosophers had all had enough. "He's got to go" one fed up fan snarled. "We haven't a clue" one other fan offered. "It's better than Barnsley" one optimist piped up but was soon shouted down. "it's even worse than Bolton" one fan opined. The last comment summed up what a lot were feeling though "I don't know why I bother. I could be in a warm pub rather than watching that rubbish. Doing a great job? He wouldn't know a great job if it hit him in the face" referring to Mr Warnock's recent assessment of his work.
So with those ringing testimonials assaulting my thoughts I settled down for the 2nd half with a heavy heart. Paddy Kenny was called into action early in the 2nd half as Bristol fired in a stinging shot. There weren't many signs that the entertainment value was going to rise in the 2nd period although Leeds did seem to want to attack more led by Bryam's raids down the right flank. Austin powered forward but then hit a weak shot just past the post. It sort of summed the game up. An hour passed as Leeds started to build some pressure on the bottom of the table team. Then we got a fleeting glimpse of quality in an otherwise dour afternoon. Byram and Diouf created some space down the right wing before the ball was laid back to Barkley. He hit a perfect cross to the back post where Ross Mac soared like a Scottish salmon to head home a quality goal. Get innnnnnnnnnnn! 1.0 Leeds. Now they could kick on a close the game out against a poor Bristol team.
Well not quite. Leeds did push on to get the killer 2nd goal but they lacked the necessary fluidity to kill off the struggling Robins. Consequently there was always the danger that the south west side could pinch a point but in the end the game ended in a flurry of ragged ineptitude and Leeds ran out winners thanks to the single Ross Mac goal. The mood amongst the fans shuffling away from the stadium after the match was hardly celebratory. We might have ground out 3 points for the sixth consecutive time in the league at Elland Road but there is no hiding the inadequacies of this current team or more to the point the tactics and selection of the manager. NW bemoaned the fact that Leeds fans glass's are always half empty in his post match press conference but he can't seriously think that his side are playing good football? If he does he needs some serious therapy.
A win is a win though and the three points keeps us just in touch with the play off positions something I find hard to reconcile with the way we are playing at the moment. Maybe Warnock is right and the Urinal philosophers and the majority of Leeds fans just don't get it? Then again maybe not! The FA Cup will provide a welcome distraction from the turgid league entertainment next week. Hopefully we will get a decent crowd in and create some atmosphere for the TV pundits to marvel at. You never know we might even get a result against the mighty Spurs. I live in hope. There is something definitely not quite right with the club at the moment though and whilst the new owners have listened and adjusted ticket prices for the Posh and Blackpool games that will not halt the weekly hemorrhaging of crowds unless the performances on the field improve significantly. Even die hard fans have their limits and at least 10,000 have seen that limit passed this year.
So very few positives to take out of the game today. Ross Mac's goal was one of them together with the centre back pairing of Pelts and Lees. Byram showed his class going forward with his mazy runs. Let's hope the prospect of the cup game against Spurs can lift the club together with a couple of much needed signings before the end of the transfer window. You never know dafter things have happened!
By Keith Ingham
It's usual for fans to rate the team after a game but I'm asking even with the recent results aside should Neil Warnock stay as manager or do we need somebody with fresher ideas.
Please leave a comment as it will be interesting to get a cross section of fans thoughts. I'll send the best to the club for consideration.
On On On
By Andrew Butterwick
After the surprise cup win at a deserted St Andrews in midweek Leeds welcome Bristol City to the Theatre of Hope for the latest game of the championship season. For the second time in a week we face the strongest team in the league, the one who are holding the rest of us up from their lonely position at the bottom of the league. But as our friends from Oakwell showed last week nothing can be taken for granted in this super competitive league........especially when the said lonely team at the bottom of the league have Mr O'Driscoll in charge. Last time we came across him he was plotting a Boxing Day massacre against Leeds with his Forest team. A massacre that cost him his job bizarrely! With confidence officially "fragile" at Leeds the Robins will present a stern test for mis-firing Leeds especially with the "new manager" bounce that SOD will generate.
The win at Birmingham, welcome as it was, didn't entirely paper over the cracks appearing in the new owner's castle. The old problem of announcing "we've got a couple of new signings who should be here by the weekend" has once again infested Planet Leeds. Fans expectations are raised only to be dashed when the inevitable problems with said signings prevent any new player making it to Thorp Arch. I'm just glad that Shaun Harvey's "working hard behind the scenes" or we might be in real shit street! With the closure of the transfer window fast approaching Neil Warnock's attempts to bring some quality players in to the club look more and more unlikely. Still we haven't sold any of our decent players yet have we?
On the subject of players leaving the situation with Becchio puzzles me. Yet again Warnock referred to people "turning his head" at today's press conference. Why does he come out in public and say that? I can't believe it makes the atmosphere on the training ground very good? It's also a significant turnaround from NW stating "Becchio's going nowhere" a couple of weeks ago? I hate to say it but all of this has an all too familiar ring to it. We've been a selling club for the last few years so when the new owners appeared there was hope that those days were gone. I do hope that come 1st Feb that hope is still alive?
Team selection will be interesting for the Bristol game. With Barkley and Tonge available and Becchio recovered from his mystery illness there will be plenty of debate amongst the Leeds faithful as to what the best eleven is. Should Becchio start? Did Ross Mac do enough to keep his place? Barkley will start but who will drop to the bench? What position will Pelts play? Will Lees start? What about the tactics? In what will be arctic conditions will the famous Hoofball style predominate or will the passing game that blossomed in the 2nd half at Brum takeover.
As Johnny Nash once sang "there are more questions than answers" on Planet Leeds at present. Hopefully some of the burning ones will be answered in the next two weeks. I do hope they are what the majority of fans are desperate to hear and not the same old frustrations that we've endured for the Bate's years.
On the field here's hoping Leeds get suitable revenge on Sean O'Driscoll for his Boxing Day triumph. That will depend on which Leeds team turns up though. If it's the one that woefully surrendered at Oakwell it will be a long cold afternoon for the remaining faithful fans. Or will we see some spark of hope rising from another win at Elland Road? Life is never boring supporting Leeds is it?
By Andrew Butterwick
Tuesday night football is not usually kind to Leeds United so as I travelled down to Birmingham for this cup replay I wasn't feeling that optimistic. It might have had something to do with "that" performance at
Barnsley but my mood mellowed as the inevitable pre match thoughts started to surge through my brain. If we can just stop Zigic..........yes I know we never have but there's always a first time I reasoned. and if we could just manage a couple of shots on goal we might just sneak it? As I wasn't even convincing myself I decided the best course of action was to have some amber nectar to dull reality!
By the time the Happy Chocker and brother Chris had joined me in the Ibis bar I was slightly more optimistic but with a heavy dose of foreboding. Then I saw the team. No Becchio. Varney starts with Brown and Austin in midfield. Ross Mac and Diouf up front with Pelts and Lees at centre half. Drury started at left back. Cyberspace exploded. "Becchio's gone" screamed the Twitter wire. "Just seen Becchio at Wigan" shouted one tweet. What's he doing there I wondered, Wigan are at Bournemouth! If the fans were in revolting mood before the team was announced they were now verging on mutinous tinged with a good sense of gallows humour. I think it's safe to say expectations were a touch low amongst the 1,500 travelling away support in a woeful 8,000 crowd.
The game kicked off with our nemesis, Zigic, thankfully on the bench. Good call Lee Clark! With the non existent crowd the atmosphere was strange to say the least although the good natured Leeds fans did
there bit to create some noise on a freezing cold evening. The opening exchanges were scrappy. Leeds seemed to have a bit more urgency about them than on Saturday but chances were few and far between as the Leeds fans longed for a shot on goal or a corner, something they failed to do against Barnsley. Michael Brown was prominent, chasing and pressing the Blues midfield at every opportunity. He's not the most skillful player to ever pull on a white shirt but he does give a 100%. Leeds soon lost Drury through injury to be replaced by Aidy White. No side created anything of note in the first 20 minutes but it was the Blues who looking slightly the more lively of 2 hesitant teams. Marlon King led the line for the home team but was well shackled by Tom Lees. Up front Leeds still hadn't managed a shot on goal but Austin had worried the Brum fans sat behind the Leeds goal a couple of times.
Just after the half hour Leeds were split open down their left flank as Redmond got to the bye line before picking out Wade Elliot who was unmarked at the back post to slot home the opening goal. 1.0 Brum. Bollox. We hadn't been sparkling but we didn't deserve to be behind. The home support suddenly found their voice and there was an all too familiar feel to this away trip. We were losing again.
Then Varney escaped his marker in the box but couldn't direct his header goalwards. Should have been 1.1. That gave us a smidgen of hope but it didn't stop the away fans taunting the few home fans who had turned up with "how shit are you you've only got one goal" As the game meandered to half time there was already a heavy sense of resignation amongst the fans born out of watching Leeds United too many times this season. Half Time 1.0 Birmingham but we had won a corner.
The mood amongst the Leeds fans at half time was similar to what you find in a crowded dentist's waiting room. A lot of nervous people not looking forward to the pain that was about to engulf them.
Then something quite unexpected happened. Leeds started to play football. They were passing more than 3 times to players in a white shirt and low and behold they started to get on top of their midlands rivals. Excitement began to seep through the frozen pores of the Leeds fans as they gradually realised we might just get back into this game. Green was suddenly all over the pitch, Diouf was at his skilful best teasing the opposition, even Rudy Austin started to play well. Brown continued his sterling work tackling and pressing and Ross Mac began to get into the game. Varney was working hard and getting good reward as he pressurised a wilting back line. This all coincided with keeping the ball on the floor. Not sure if that had anything to do with it though?
Buoyed by the positiveness on the pitch and shots actually reaching their target the Leeds fans roared their much maligned heroes on. Doyle in the Birmingham goal was suddenly working overtime as Leeds fed on the adrenaline rush that shooting on target brings. A goal was coming and on 70 minutes Leeds got rich reward as another sweeping attack down the Leeds right saw the ball crossed to the back post where Diouf controlled it before rolling it to Ross Mac who slotted home the equaliser. 1.1 and game on.
Leeds were now on fire passing the ball around like they'd done it all season, which they haven't, as they went for the exposed Birmingham jugular. Green should have buried a chance from the edge of the box after good work by Varney before Leeds were awarded a penalty for handball with 15 minutes remaining. The assistant referee gave the penalty after Robinson had handled a dangerous cross. Diouf stepped up and chipped the ball home. 2.1 Leeeeeeeeeds. The away fans were now in ecstasy! Who said we'd no chance?
Then Zigic got stripped. No not the giant assassin who always scores against Leeds! Sure enough within a minute his tall gangling frame got on the end of a cross and headed goal wards.........Noooooooooooooooo! I shouted as a Leeds head bobbed up and headed away. Minutes later Ashdown pulled off a fantastic save to deny Birmingham. Nerves were fraying but just 3 minutes of added time stood between Leeds and a plum 4th round tie against Spurs. Pearce replaced Diouf to shore up the defence as Leeds dug in for an unlikely victory. Full time 2.1 Leeds. Unbelievable. What a change from Saturday as the players were cheered from the field.
Leeds fully deserved their victory on the basis of a positive 2nd half performance in which they dominated the game. Brown and Varney exceeded expectations. Lees was outstanding at the back and even Pelts played well at centre half. Diouf and Green did well and Ross Mac finished a lot brighter than he started.........but then again that's when we played the ball on the floor. Special mention to Ashdown in the goal. He never let's us down. So remarkably it was Leeds fans with smiles on their faces as they left the stadium. By what I could hear Lee Clark is not that well liked in the Blue half of Birmingham.
Bring on the Spurs....................it would seem we're on another cup run? Delicious!