After another weekend of dismal football at Elland Road, watching a Leeds United team be outthought and outplayed for the umpteenth time in recent memory, I thought my first column for TIAT would be a simple lambasting of the manager, something that previous readers of my weekly outpourings in their previous incarnation on Clarke One Nil will have been quite used to. That was until today’s release by the Leeds United Supporters Trust of their take on the recent accounts posted by the club, which when coupled with newly christened Ass Man (or Assistant Manager as he would prefer to be known) Mick Jones revealing on Saturday that the club expect bids to come in for Luciano Becchio and Sam Byram have sent the rumour mill into overdrive and sent a wave of paranoia across the Twittersphere.
Let’s make no bones about it, Leeds United under Ken Bates were a financial mess. With apparent debts of £20m, the club are back in the same situation as they were in 2007 when the club entered administration. Despite Uncle Ken’s constant claims that he was running a tight financial ship, this only appears to have been in terms of spending money on the actual playing side of the club. He was quite happy to let the commercial side of the club, the one which he claimed would be the long term saviour of the club, plunge into financial disarray, sucking money out of the only thing we as supporters really care about, the team on the pitch. It is difficult to believe that anyone could think that holding weddings and parties could bring in as much cash as the mega bucks available from Premier League TV money.
It seems clear then that Leeds have barely generated two pennies to rub together, never mind a transfer war chest in the last few years of Ken Bates ownership, hence the constant speculation regarding the impending departure of our better players. Looking likely to follow in the footsteps of Delph, Beckford, Johnson, Howson and Snodgrass are Becchio, Byram and Lees. Following Jones’ announcement on Saturday that the club expect to receive bids for Becchio and Byram, there have been rumours today that the club are actively touting the pair around, just in case those bids don’t come in!
However didn’t we think that the January sales had become a thing of the past at Elland Road? The knights in shining armour of GFH Capital had rode to our rescue, meaning that we would be spending on additional bling, rather than cashing in on our crown jewels. What have they got to say regarding the potential loss of our brightest prospect and our talismanic striker?
Sadly not a lot. Despite being all pally pally in the run up to the takeover, in its immediate aftermath and when enjoying themselves at the Rock Bar on Saturday night, the silence on Monday was deafening. Unfortunately there attempts to be the punters pals may come back to bite them on the bum, as the fans want answers as well as accessibility.
As well as the noises about players going out, there are also rumours that deals to bring players in are collapsing. Jerome Thomas has returned to West Brom and Michael Tonge, who was expected to be signed permanently before Saturday’s cup tie, remains at Stoke with the deal "up in the air".
So what the hell is going on? Are we potless, likely to remain a mid-table Championship club for eternity or is there a more subtle game being played here? Neil Warnock received, for Leeds managers in recent years, a substantial amount of (GFH’s?) cash in the summer and what quality did he bring in? Whilst Paddy Kenny, Paul Green, David Norris and Jason Pearce have been relatively successful, Rodolph Austin is a shadow of the player we saw in August and September, although his fitness is of course a major issue on that front. Lee Peltier and Luke Varney have been complete busts and he seems to have lost faith in Adam Drury and Andy Gray.
Warnock himself has refused to commit himself to the club beyond the end of the season, and his list of transfer targets hardly inspires thoughts of promotion. Tonge, Thomas and Tate have all flattered to deceive at various times, while Sky Sports claimed Clint Hill was a target on Monday with other rumours linking Anton Ferdinand.
With January generally a time for wild speculation, it is time for some of my own. I believe that GFH will not spend massively in this transfer window, for the simple reason that they have no faith in the manager. Since taking over they have seen the side play awful football, the manager chasing has- been players and showing no signs of committing himself long term to the club. Why should they spend cash on players of the calibre Warnock is chasing when he has already shown that his judgement is not exactly the greatest?
In my opinion there is a game of brinksmanship going on. Warnock wants to spend, GFH are refusing to spend on the players he wants, so he ups the stakes by leaking, through his assistant that our best players may be sold. GFH can’t slate the manager, after backing him so publicly at their unveiling.
We are therefore at an impasse, and as fans we need to take a deep breath and accept that to all intents and purposes this season is over. We are not likely to spend millions on players, when we have no idea if our manager next season will want them. We are also unlikely to turn down any ridiculous bids for players, however I don’t expect any to come in which meet our valuations of the players concerned.
Sam Byram has been a first team player for 6 months and is unlikely to get into any side in the Premier League at the moment. Should he continue to develop as he has this season, then like Fabien Delph before him, he may move on at the end of the season. Tom Lees, although a little more established is also highly unlikely to move on, the speculation that arose on Monday coming totally out of left field.
That brings us on to Luciano Becchio. Despite my love for the Argentinean, I have to highlight his limitations. He works hard and has an undoubted eye for a goal, but is his all round play of a Premier League standard? If it is, it would be at the lower end of the spectrum and is he willing to sacrifice his place at Leeds for relegation struggle in the Premier League? I for one doubt it.
So where do we go from here? Well I think it is going to be a month fraught with rumours, tension and in-fighting and one that will end as it did in 2012, with the departure of the manager. For it is only by looking at a medium to long term solution that Leeds can escape the limbo which the club currently finds itself in.
The board at Leeds United need to bring back attractive football at a reasonable price to entice back the 28 and a half thousand who decided to give Saturday’s FA Cup tie a miss. Instead of looking back nostalgically at January 3rd 2010 we need to be dreaming of where we will be in January 2015. Under the current manager the only thing we will be looking up at is the ball in the sky. So for now let’s keep our feet on the ground and our heads out of the clouds, and let’s hope that we bring in a manager who wants to do the same thing with a football.
Of course all this is just my opinion and that is what football is all about. If you agree, disagree or just want your say, then please use the comments button and let us know what you think.
You can also follow me on Twitter @clarkyboy72 and the site @TIAT_LUFC