By Mark Rasdall
United. Together. In agreement. One voice. One mission.
I was thinking about what United meant in the context of Leeds United - our club - this morning, particularly amid rumours of a forthcoming announcement on the takeover (or not).
There are two clues to the subject of this post in the first two paragraphs. While all of the words in the first might be synonyms of United, the last two could be ambiguous. We, the loyal supporters, sing and chant with one voice, home and away, passionately and with a single faith which is that we are going to see our team win.
There is debate and criticism of course and we are entitled to enter into that too. If I don't think a player will run himself into the ground for Leeds United I am always going to say so. I do get behind the team at matches and I always want the team to win and for players to improve (if anyone can help to achieve this it is Neil Warnock). I tried to be optimistic about Jermaine Wright who just flattered to deceive and Tresor Kandol who was lazy, lumbering and possibly the worst centre forward ever to appear for Leeds. I may will them to get better and be key parts of a winning LUFC team (it is never, ever personal) but sometimes gut feelings are the ones to go with and no amount of support and encouragement can ultimately prove you wrong (sadly). Years ago I was encouraged to support Gary Sprake through his temperamental phases and I kept the faith until the very end but even the great Don Revie questioned his own judgement on choice of goalkeeper in the end.
Sadly Don is no longer with us and this is the real point I am making. We are all running out of time. I can just remember the 1966 World Cup and, as England set off on the trail again on Friday I am already wondering whether I'll ever see us win it again.
I first came into the Leeds United story in 1967 when we lost the FA Cup semi final to Chelsea, despite scoring two late 'goals' which were shamefully disallowed. Obviously 1970 (back to Gary!) cemented my conviction that Chelsea truly were the enemy, to be annihilated whenever possible ("wash your mouth out son..."). There have been many, many fabulous victories and great days since those early times but I don't know how many years I may have left to see Leeds United at the top of the pile once again.
Faith and patience are always rewarded, but sometimes not in the ways we expect, or not in the timeframes we all live in.
And so to Ken Bates. As you know I too worried about his Chelsea roots and, like Brian Clough before him, his criticism of Leeds in the past. I felt exactly the same about Dennis Wise. But Ken saved our club from financial ruin and his programme notes are fantastic. He has looked at non-matchday income generation and cut costs which were a legacy of previous 'keep the faith' financial regimes. He has looked after his investment, and rightly so. You or I would do exactly the same if in his lucky position.
The problem is that the rescue phase has just morphed into a maintenance phase on the field when it should have included much more team development, as well as club infrastructure development. The balance has been insufficient in investment terms to give us the quality of player to take us to the next level. We are worrying already about injuries and a very small squad compared to many other Championship sides.
If the takeover does not happen and Ken does not change this investment balance then we will not develop beyond a certain point in the Championship. The passion showed so far against teams like Blackburn and Blackpool (with their Premier League parachute payments and quality squads) has been fantastic and the organization of the team under Neil's guidance has, I think, given us a real foundation for success. It would be a real shame if that foundation is not built upon or, and this is a real worry too, an outside investor comes in and just saddles us with debt, buying in expensive reputation rather than commitment and reliability.
Whatever happens today or next week or next year, I just want to see good players playing with passion and running themselves into the ground for Leeds United. I want to look forward to a winning FA Cup run, another league title and a European win to wipe out 1975 for ever and the cheating Italians of 1973. But I want to see it, experience it, be part of it. It doesn't have the same effect for me, knowing that corporate entertainment in a new East Stand box is for the greater good of the club. I know that it is hugely valuable and I welcome it but it's not why I joined.
With a bit more financial and technical investment in the team itself I think we can go back to the very top and I'm actually quite optimistic despite all the uncertainty and you know why? Because the club already has investment - a huge investment every year until we can no longer walk down Elland Road. Because we are the investors and our passion and loyalty will always lead our hands into our pockets to help the team to move forward on the pitch where secretly we'd all like to be.
We're Leeds United and we do give a f***. "