By Rob Atkinson
Today's rumour of a consortium involving Leeds United superhero Lucas Radebe is a real belter - as rumours go. What could be more highly exciting for your average United fan than the possibility of such a rightly-revered name returning to Elland Road - and with a wad of cash to flash as part of the deal? Well, so this story runs. It even has that slight sniff of possible believability about it, the sort that makes you say "Could it be? Naaaah, too good to be true..." But could it be a real, live prospect? Could Lucas Radebe, the beloved Chief of LS11 really be heading back to the club as part of a genuine UK group with a takeover in mind, or even just significant investment ambitions?
It's difficult to imagine anyone who could be more welcome back at the centre of things at Leeds United than Lucas Radebe. He'd be a natural candidate for any serious consortium looking for a fan-friendly figurehead whose whole-hearted acceptance by supporters would be guaranteed. And, as it happens, he was back
at Elland Road for the slaughter of Birmingham City just recently. The rumour runs that this consortium have already had talks with fans group LUST, that they see a pivotal role at the club for Radebe, that they aim to guide United back into Europe - even that (and this is where the timescale seems unfeasibly short) they intend to back Brian McDermott's recruitment plans in January. Surely things can't move as fast as that? Or could this actually be the major investment, described as "close" by Salah Nooruddin in the last month or so?
McDermott apparently is seen as integral to the group's plans, and they're making the kind of ambitious noises that will have any Leeds fan sitting up, panting eagerly and begging. Lucas might be their ace in the hole, but it would naturally have to follow that there are also substantial resources behind any such bid. This could possibly tie in with another recent story, whereby LUST - known to be fund-raising towards securing a stake in the club - would have any sum they manage to get together matched pound for pound by an unknown investor. Curiouser and curiouser.
Of course at the moment it's not much more than a rumour, or possibly a hybrid of two rumours. It's only just been officially denied, which of course will lend quite a bit of credibility to even the most outlandish rumour imaginable. If men in suits troubled to deny every rumour out there, they'd have no time to do anything else, would they? All we can say with any certainty is that it is a particularly attractive rumour - entirely because of the link with that man Radebe who so many that love the club would give their eye teeth to see return home in glory.
Could it happen? Given the timescale being talked about, we'd be expecting to hear much more pretty soon if this really is a goer. So far, the Club have been a little unconvincing in its initial rebuttals. There has been: "We are watching with a mixture of bemusement and interest the reports suggesting any credible takeover bid has been made." And: "No serious approach to us, as majority owners of the club, has been made by any members reportedly concerned with this consortium." The interestingly ambiguous words are highlighted. What can realistically be gleaned from those statements is that there is a consortium and that some sort of contact has been initiated.
Change can be good, change can be bad. But it's an open secret that United could do with a few bob to turn a frustrating season into a possibly thrilling one - by dint of some judicious surgery in the January window. That being the case, there will be rumours, and we shall have to assess each one on its merits, and judge the response of Leeds United by reading between the lines. But whatever other rumours might transpire, it's highly unlikely that they could be anywhere near as sexy as this one, which has caused the Leeds fans' Twittersphere positively to throb with excitement and anticipation. It has also put the inevitable gloom and doom merchants under severe pressure as they scramble to get their own wagons rolling and start shattering those nascent hopes with their pails of cold water. Each to his own.
My own particular cliché of choice for this type of scenario is "There's no smoke without fire". It remains to be seen whether this current spiral of smoke will turn out to be from a cheery Yuletide blaze - or a damp squib left over from Guy Fawkes month. It might just be an interesting week or two ahead.
Watch this space - and fingers crossed.