What next for Leeds United?
The anticipation is there, so is the optimism, but lingering in the background like the pimpled and awkward kid at a school disco is a foreboding anxiety.
As the lights are dimmed for the final dance there is a yearning that someone will step forth, take us by the hand, and lead us to the spotlight and away from social persecution.
As a pariah of English football and a name synonymous with the consequences of excess in the world game, Leeds United are currently the subject of a takeover bid by parties unknown (speculation suggests connections from the Middle East). An exclusive agreement reached last week to afford due diligence to be carried out has raised the hopes of supporters worldwide.
While the noises emanating from Elland Road are positive, hope is tempered with caution for fear that the winds of change not be revealed as the blurting, stench of gas expelled from the rear of false promise and delusion.
Back in 2005, Leeds United were anything but united. The pain of Premier League relegation, a fresh scab if not an open wound, was still being picked at by various boardroom manoeuvrings. There was the tedious ongoing sale of footballing and club assets (notably the stadium and training grounds to the local council) to pay for the debts that were forced upon the club by the fiscal ineptitude of a former Chairman who’s largess and ego is now well documented.
In spite of all of this the 2005/2006 season finished with the club making a bid for a Premier League return with an appearance in the Championship Final against Watford. What followed was a performance from Leeds United that was counter intuitive to the pugnacious reputation of the club and it’s proud history, an insipid and fearful approach to the game by then Manager Kevin Blackwell confining Leeds to an embarrassing 3-0 loss at Wembley Stadium.
However, supporters will see 2005 as heralding the arrival of a force as loathed as the Leeds teams of the 60’s and 70’s and every bit as combative and belligerent. 2005 saw the club purchased by former Chelsea Chairman Ken Bates under spurious circumstances, and signalled the birth of a footballing relationship that remains mired in contempt and loathing to this day.
Fast-forward to season 2011/12, and Leeds United’s imperious Chairman has exhausted what tiny reserves of patience the club’s faithful had in his stewardship. The club’s supporters are not the only subjects of Ken’s despotic and autocratic leadership. The BBC and other journalists were banned from Elland Road for questioning the complex nature of his acquisition of the club. This included his regular match day programme rants, where upon he derided supporters’ chants for his exit, saying “I saved your club in 2005 and 2007 when nobody else would”.
“The rebuilding of Leeds United is a bit like sex. In an age of instant gratification, Leeds United is having a long, drawn-out affair with plenty of foreplay and slow arousal.
“We’re in this for the long term. We may have had two disappointing results, but we will get there – we are building for the future.”
Leeds United supporters would be forgiven for engaging in metaphors of their own, with the more likely parallel being trapped in a loveless marriage, staying only for the kids, only to see them regularly removed from our care amid cries of unfit parenting and promises of a greater life elsewhere.
The sale of the club’s better players to finance non football related activities such as a museum, corporate boxes, and lately a proposal for an ice skating rink has fostered a lynch mob mentality coursing through large swathes of the fan base. Cultivating supporter opinion at this moment on the favourable action to take Leeds forward would suggest a revolution is needed similar in ferocity to one last seen in France over 200 years ago.
The events of the past few weeks have stirred the imagination and fed the appetites of gossip columns and those ready to administer schadenfreude. However it’s the supporters, of which I am one, who fear not the unknown, but more of the present, and certainly the past. We wait for news of new owners with positive intent, who perhaps see Leeds United as that pimpled kid at the disco shuffling nervously, but for a flourish of confidence and a leading hand will sweep us away from the current malaise, and into the promised land of the Premier League.
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