By Rob Atkinson
The back end of a season with nothing left but pride to play for is an eerily uninspiring time for any set of fans. It's much more the case for the long-suffering band of faithful supporters attached to the ailing giant that is Leeds United. The last decade has been 90% nightmare, 5% unfulfilled hope and possibly 5% consolation-prize high spots. You won't run out of fingers counting up the good times. A clutch of decent cup wins, including one spectacular success at The Theatre of Hollow Myths when we beat a Man U side in one of their champions incarnations. We did it, what's more, as a third tier side - and we should have had three as well. Then there was promotion from that shameful third tier, secured with a glorious win over Bristol Rovers. Read that again: "glorious win" in the same sentence as "over Bristol Rovers". That's how far we had fallen.
Since returning to the Championship, the league fare has been meagre at best. We have mostly flattered to deceive with an under-powered team lacking in quality; a clear product of the club's inadequate approach to investment. There have been some frankly dreadful low times, the kind of performances especially at one-time fortress Elland Road which would have the most committed Leeds nutter wondering if Saturday afternoon shopping with 'er indoors might not be that bad after all. 4-1 up to Preston and lost 4-6. An abysmal 3-7 tonking by the nauseatingly nicknamed Tricky Trees of Nottingham Forest. 1-6 at home to Watford's take on the Italian "B" International side. We've done OK at times, but nothing spectacular - and the general report would have to sum us up as "nowhere near good enough."
Any Leeds fan worth his or her salt will have constructive opinions as to how progress may best be made towards the top end of this league, and they will likely have firm options identified for changes on and off the field. I'm no different, and I strongly believe that the off-field scenario is still in as urgent need for revolution as is the patchy and ineffective first team squad. The first thing I would do is give the whole place the air of a spring-clean, with added fumigation and fresh coat of paint. This could be achieved in one fell swoop by telling Mr Kenneth Bates that his services are no longer required in any capacity; that he will not be retained in any position whereby he might be seen as representing Leeds United AFC, and that he should proceed - without passing "Go" or collecting £200 - to his Monaco tax haven, returning (if at all) only after purchasing a match-day ticket.
Ken Bates has had enough exposure on the back of Leeds United. We've heard enough about how he's "saved" us, a novel definition of that concept which includes taking us to the brink of ruin, costing us oodles of money in the funding of his endless court battles, presiding over relegation, administration and a points-deduction saga that was a complex and migraine-inducing mess. Against this backdrop, you have the man himself, abrasive of personality, coarse in self-expression, using intimidation as his weapon of choice with threats of court action against anyone who upset him - and lastly but not leastly his endearing habit of summing up those loyal and faithful fans who happen not to agree with his philosophy on life as "morons."
The fresh start that Leeds United require is only one official, Leeds United headed-stationery printed letter away: Dear Ken, we regret to inform you.... etc. The position of Life President is for a man of dignity, a man who has supported the club all his life, a man who is content to see his name on the official roll whilst keeping his own counsel unless asked for it. A man like the late lamented Earl of Harewood, the quintessence of decency and class, a figurehead any club would love to carve for their own. Ken Bates is to Earl Harewood as water is unto wine, and we should not have to put up with such a profound and precipitous drop in standards.
Get Ken out - RIGHT out - and it's a start. There would still be much to do, but it could be done in an improved atmosphere; many thousands of fans would feel instantly better about the club they love, a nasty taste would be gone from our collective mouths, a leaden weight from our tired shoulders. We might at last be able to March On Together in the truest sense with this corrosive influence gone from the club. Please - whoever has the power to bring this about - make it happen and make it happen SOON. Then let's get on with rebuilding our Leeds United.