Monday, December 31, 2012

Leeds United face vital month

Yorkshire Evening Post 31/12/12
By Phil Hay
Neil Warnock admitted that January would be a “vital month” for Leeds United after the club reached the transfer window five points short of the play-offs.
United endured a sobering end to 2012 as a resounding defeat at Hull City left Warnock crossing his fingers in the hope of telling success in the January market.
The Leeds boss, who is under contract until the summer and aiming for a record eighth promotion as a Football League manager, said he was receiving the full support of GFH Capital and insisted the club’s new owners share his sense of urgency with the new year upon them.
United were comprehensively outplayed by Hull on Saturday, losing 2-0 to second-half goals from Corry Evans and David Meyler, and a gap of five points has opened up between Warnock’s squad and the Championship’s top six.
Warnock told the YEP: “January needs to be a good month for us. It’s a vital month and I think everyone at the club knows how vital it is.
“The new owners can’t wait to support us and they’ve said from day one that they’ll support me. I’ve just got to give them targets and hopefully do deals.
“They’re very supportive and we’re trying all the time to get players in.”
A new striker is one of Warnock’s priorities and the Leeds boss revealed over the weekend that his interest in West Bromwich Albion’s Chris Wood – recently on loan at Millwall – was likely to come to nothing after Leicester City stepped in with a £1.25million bid.
Warnock, who admitted in his national newspaper column that he “just can’t compete financially with Leicester”, said: “In fairness the owners said they were disappointed that I mentioned it but it wasn’t meant as a criticism.
“What I meant was that Leicester are like Chelsea – Chelsea in the Premier League. If they want a player then they usually go out and get him. I don’t think anyone, ourselves included, is in a position to get who Leicester are after.
“But they’re a one-off. There’s nobody else in the league like Leicester. And they can’t sign every one of our targets.”

Drury frustrated by lack of opportunity

Leeds United defender Adam Drury says it has been frustrating this season after failing to win a regular place in the Leeds starting line-up.
Drury started the game at Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day, his first appearance in over a month but he was once again dropped to the substitute`s bench for the trip to Hull City on Saturday.
The experienced full back says he is just going to keep training hard and hope to get a run of games in the side when it arises.
Speaking on LUTV, Drury said, "It has been very frustrating but it is one of those things, the manager picks the team that he thinks will win games.
"I have only been injured for the Hull home game and before the Middlesbrough game when I had a back problem, other than that I have been fit and training every day.
"I will keep myself in good shape and I will just have to take my chance when it comes. It makes it awkward when you do not get a run of games because it can take three or four games to get your consistency and up to match speed. You just have to be ready when you get your chance and I will do my best."
Drury signed for Leeds in the summer from Premier League side Norwich City after eleven years at Carrow Road.
The 34-year-old has faced competition for the left back position with Aidy White, Danny Pugh and Lee Peltier all playing in the position this season.
He has made ten appearances for Leeds this season. He was left out of the side for the first three games of the season before making his debut in the game at Peterborough United.
Drury started four of the next five games only missing the Hull game through injury and he has struggled to gain a regular spot in the side since.
The game at Forest on Boxing Day was his first appearance since starting at Millwall over a month earlier and despite Warnock praising his performance after the game he was once again on the bench at Hull.
Drury has made over 500 senior appearances during his career, spanning over 16 years and he has looked the most accomplished at left back for Leeds this season.

Neil not pressing panic buttons

Yorkshire Evening Post 31/12/12
By Phil Hay
Neil Warnock insisted today that Leeds United’s resounding defeat to Hull City was no cause for panic as he urged his players to keep faith in their Championship season.
Warnock told his squad to forget about Saturday’s 2-0 loss at the KC Stadium, despite admitting that Leeds received a footballing “lesson” from a consummate Hull team.
The United manager described City’s performance as “superb” and his players were subjected to a review of a one-sided Yorkshire derby after reporting to Thorp Arch for light training yesterday.
Leeds’ match in Hull was the second in a spate of three in seven days, with a home fixture against Bolton Wanderers awaiting them tomorrow, and Warnock was weighing up his options this morning after United slipped five points adrift of the Championship’s play-off zone.
The club lost 4-1 at Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day but were more comprehensively outclassed by Hull, who retained a hold on the league’s second automatic promotion place.
Successive defeats have arrived on the back of a sequence of five wins from six league games and Warnock clung to that form as he looked ahead to the visit of Bolton to Elland Road and the start of the January transfer window.
“Hull were superb and we couldn’t get near them,” Warnock said. “It was a lesson for us and we were in yesterday to have a run-down and a chat about it. We need to come out quickly tomorrow.
“Forget about Hull now. Yes, it’s disappointing but we’ve done well. We’ve won five out of eight games. We’ve got to get back into that form and get straight at Bolton.
“With January here, everybody at the club is positive. We mustn’t let one game deter us from going where we want to go.”
Warnock revealed that “administrative reasons” will prevent him and other Football League managers from signing new players in time for their New Year’s Day fixtures but three players are likely to return to his side having been rested at Hull.
Top scorer Luciano Becchio suffered a thigh strain in the build up to the game and was named on the bench, and Jerome Thomas also sat as an unused substitute with Warnock choosing to protect him for tomorrow’s match. El-Hadji Diouf was omitted from the squad at Hull completely.
Warnock said: “Diouf needed a rest. I knew that when he said to me ‘gaffer, I’ve never played so many games in my life.’
“I also knew that Becchio wouldn’t have played tomorrow if he’d played at Hull because of his thigh and I couldn’t risk him.
“Jerome’s a bit similar. He struggles to play two in four days but I’ll be glad to have those three back against Bolton.”
With the transfer window about to open, Leeds are aiming to secure a deal which will bring former loanee Michael Tonge back to the club from Stoke City prior to Saturday’s FA Cup third-round tie against Birmingham City.
Alan Tate’s loan from Swansea City is also likely to be extended until the end of the season but Warnock is hopeful of bringing new players to Elland Road in the early stages of the January window after describing the weeks ahead as a “vital month.”
A demoralised away following of more than 3,000 watched United’s defeat in Hull and Warnock said: “They need a lift and quite right. Let’s be fair, they’ve been frustrated for a long time. The frustration for them and for me is that we want to be better. But thankfully January’s here.
“We’d like players signed as early as possible but it’s not always as simple as that. Other clubs need replacements if they sell and there are all sorts of factors.
“You can guarantee that the transfer window will be last-minute again – not for us but for everyone. A lot of business will be done right at the end, on the last day. But we are trying to get one or two players in early.”

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Warnock cannot wait for transfer window

Leeds United boss Neil Warnock says he cannot wait for the New Year and the transfer window opening.
Leeds produced a totally abject performance at Hull City on Saturday and were very lucky to come away with just a 2-0 defeat.
With new owners at the club, Leeds boss Neil Warnock says he is now looking forward to bringing in some new players and he will be hoping to have them in before the championship game at Barnsley on January 12th.
Speaking on Yorkshire Radio, Warnock said, "We are trying to bring in one or two in as early as possible. I hope that by the time we play our next league game after Bolton we will have one or two in.
"We are in for one or two good players and we will be competitive. I know I will get the support and I need to keep my fingers crossed.
"I am just hoping we can get the players and I am getting the support behind the scenes."
Leeds will need to add plenty of quality to a side that look average. The centre of midfield lacks and pace and fight and the same can be said in the centre of defence as every time we come up against players with pace we look far to slow.
Warnock says he is concentrating on a striker but is this the area Leeds really needs to strengthen as a priority.
The defeat at Hull was only the fourth time Leeds have failed to score this season so the defence and midfield need to be the priority.
Warnock admits the club tried to sign Chris Wood from West Brom.
The striker has been on loan from the baggies with championship side Millwall.
The 21-year-old New Zealand international has netted eleven times in nineteen appearances for Millwall including the winner against Leeds at the New Den in November.
Wood has agree a deal with fellow championship side Leicester City believed to start in the region of £1.25 million, rising to £2 million and Warnock admitted that he could not compete with Leicester.
Speaking on Yorkshire Radio, Warnock said, "No one can compete with Leicester in our league when they come in for a player."
The news that Leeds cannot compete with Leicester is a reality check for the fans on what we may see spent in January under new owners GFH Capital.
Fans were hoping to see finances in place for the manager to bring in the quality that is needed in the January transfer window to give Leeds a hope of pushing for promotion in the second half of the season.
With little quality usually available in January, it looks like Leeds are still going to struggle financially to compete for any real quality that is available.

2012’s had more downs than ups - Hay

Yorkshire Evening Post 29/12/12
By Phil Hay
The world was supposed to end in 2012 and in that respect it could have been worse. But when Ken Bates spoke of a “particularly difficult year” in the same week as he sold Leeds United, it was a rare occasion when his comments met with unanimous agreement.
This, in its own way, has been an annus horribilis for Leeds. It does not merit comparisons with 2007 – a time of relegation, insolvency and points deductions – but 2012 has been one of those years: defined by falling attendances, managerial changes and a takeover which took more than 200 days to complete.
If United’s new owner, GFH Capital, delivers on its promise of a bright future and a fresh start then 2012, United’s 93rd year of existence, might yet be defined as the moment when the Championship club turned the corner. But as 2013 approaches, these are Inside Elland Road’s abiding memories of 12 hard and exacting months:

1. Simon Grayson’s 
Only Bates knows when the sacking of Grayson became an inevitability but most of us saw a dead man walking after Leeds finished 2011 with a 4-1 defeat to Barnsley.
“Embarrassing, shambolic,” said a shaken Grayson at the end of a match in which his players made a good fist of hanging him.
Two days later virtually every journalist had started writing his obituary as Leeds trailed to a Burnley side reduced to 10 men.
The divine intervention which came in the form of an own goal from Jay Rodriguez and a comical attempt by Burnley goalkeeper Lee Grant to throw the ball into his own net defied description.
Leeds escaped with a 2-1 win and Grayson escaped with his job. His resistance continued as a red card shown to Sean Scannell helped United avoid defeat at Crystal Palace on January 14, and the combined ineptitude of Alex McCarthy and Arran Lee-Barrett cost Ipswich Town a victory at Elland Road the following weekend – McCarthy handling outside the box and Lee-Barrett resorting to Grant’s style of hapless goalkeeping. By the time Birmingham’s Nikola Zigic ran Grayson through on the final day of the transfer window, the 42-year-old was like General Custer; bruised and bloodied with arrows in his hat.

2. The sale of Jonathan 
Such was the reaction to Howson’s transfer to Norwich City that the story published on the YEP’s website drew more readers’ comments than any story written before it, football-related or otherwise. The vitriol aimed at the club over the decision to sell their captain brought to mind the vicious response to the auction of Jonathan Woodgate nine years earlier, albeit on a lesser scale. Howson divided opinion between those who appreciated his subtle talent and those who counted his forgettable games but his departure on January 24 perpetuated the idea that players become more popular and talented in the minds of the public when they step out of the team. Leeds justified the transfer on the basis that Howson’s deal was six months from expiry, Norwich had offered £2million and the midfielder wanted a move to the Premier League, but that logic – and the promise that Howson’s fee would be invested in new players – failed to wash.
As YEP columnist Dominic Matteo said: “I’ve got a horrible feeling that Howson won’t be the last to leave. What chance of someone like Robert Snodgrass being here in August if Leeds aren’t promoted?” No chance, as it turned out.

3. Redfearn’s poisoned 
chalice and the appointment of Neil Warnock
United think highly of Neil Redfearn – highly enough to entrust the care of their academy to him. Speak to anyone who works with Redfearn and they’ll describe him as a very capable coach. But the answer to the prayers of a major English club who are managerless, rudderless and under heavy pressure? Not really. Redfearn was named as caretaker boss on February 1, the day of Grayson’s sacking, amid whispers that a convincing impact would earn him the job for the remainder of the season. In reality, his fortnight in charge underlined the need for a proven appointment. Though Leeds won Redfearn’s first game at Bristol City, they were beaten at home by Brighton and outwitted away at Coventry on a night when Redfearn was left at the mercy of a dissenting away crowd. Before long, club chief executive Shaun Harvey was flying to Monaco with Warnock and a deal for his services was duly done. Having sat on the story anxiously for almost 24 hours, both the YEP and the Yorkshire Post broke the news on the morning of February 14 and though Warnock took a seat in the stands for a 3-2 win over Doncaster Rovers, United’s nervous demeanour prompted him to visit their dressing room at half-time. He made no criticism of Redfearn, describing him as a “good coach” and a “good bloke”. “But I think he was quite relieved,” Warnock said.

4. The emergence of Sam Byram
United’s academy at Thorp Arch has seen its share of problems but the trickle of produce has not yet dried up. Tom Lees came of age last season and Sam Byram’s development in the past six months goes to show that youth-team squads never fail to surprise. It is doubtful whether Warnock knew Byram’s name before the teenager was asked to fill a hole during the earliest of United’s summer training sessions but he is part of that rare breed of players whose age and inexperience becomes meaningless when set against his ability. Speaking after United’s final pre-season friendly at Burton Albion, Warnock admitted candidly that he had no plans to use Byram extensively this season, not least because of the signing of right-back Lee Peltier, but Byram is one appearance short of 30 in his first full term. To give that figure some context, Aidan White managed a run of five successive outings before Gary McAllister removed him from the firing line in 2008. This mature 19-year-old is destined for big things as the watching scouts of Liverpool and Everton seem to have realised.
Player of the season as things stand? Very possibly.

‘Takeover My A***’ to the uninitiated and an acronym spawned by the many groundless takeover rumours during Bates’ reign as chairman.
United’s supporters scarcely dared to believe that a buy-out was in the offing when talk of foreign investment grew legs in May and the excruciating length of GFH Capital’s acquisition of Leeds left many doubting whether the firm would come good right up until the point when its takeover was signed off on December 21.
Twitter creaked under the weight of constant chatter during the previous seven months, and a thread on the Internet forum WACCOE – aptly titled ‘TOMA’ – attracted more than 135,000 posts, nine million views and the impatient prayers of a restless public.
The thread did not quite break the world record but it bloodied the noses of all and sundry, this floundering journalist included.
If GFH Capital doubts the whirlwind of attention it is stepping into, TOMA should change its mind.

Hull City 2 Leeds United 0: match report

Telegraph 29/12/12
By Ian Baker
Neil Warnock is not often tactically outfoxed but even he would have to admit he did not get his formation and team selection spot on for this Yorkshire derby.
The Leeds manager opted to play a wing-back system to match up against Hull City but the move backfired spectacularly as Steve Bruce’s Hull marched further towards returning to the Premier League.
Second-half strikes from Corry Evans and David Meyler were enough to give the hosts the local bragging rights but in truth it should have been an even more convincing scoreline as Leeds were thoroughly outplayed, unable to fashion a decent chance in the entire 90 minutes.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Warnock. “Aidy White and Sam Byram did their best at wing-back but it was an experience for them. I went with Davide Somma up front and thought he was ready to start but it was the wrong decision.”
Hull will wonder just why they did not have a half-time lead with Sone Aluko and Ahmed Elmohamady dominating proceedings. It was the latter whose threatening crosses twice nearly led to goals for Robert Brady and Robert Koren.
Leeds’ frustrations with their lack of control on the game were apparent given their ill-discipline, which included a yellow card for Michael Brown for refusing to move one yard over the touchline while he had treatment on a wound.
Hull though ignored the injustice of failing to lead at the break and produced a stunning start to the second half to kill off Leeds’ hopes of getting anything out of the game.
Evans struck his first goal of the campaign, slotting home after being played through by an exquisite pass from Robert Koren on 52 minutes.
Four minutes later Meyler struck home the goal that clinched it. The Irishman is on loan from Sunderland and was expected to have been recalled by manager Martin O’Neill to cope with injuries.
He celebrated a shock start by heading home from Brady’s corner and there was no way back for Leeds after that.
Meyler’s future remains unresolved. Technically he can still play for Hull at Blackpool on New Year’s Day if O’Neill decides not to recall him before his loan ends.
Bruce said: “I’d like to publicly thank Martin. I spoke to him on Friday and we agreed he [Meyler] stayed for the [Leeds] game but whether he stays any longer depends on Sunderland.”

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hull City 2 Leeds United 0: Beaten Warnock full of praise for Tigers

Yorkshire Evening Post 29/12/12
Second-half goals from Corry Evans and David Meyler earned Hull City a thoroughly deserved win over Leeds United.
Steve Bruce’s side dominated a one-sided Yorkshire derby and collected three points with a brace of finishes in the space of three minutes.
Hull’s first-half dominance continued immediately after half-time and it took a low, one-handed save from Paddy Kenny to deny Meyler on 48 minutes.
Sone Aluko pulled a shot narrowly wide moments later as Meyler slid in at the far post but City took the lead on 52 minutes when Evans latched onto Aluko’s through ball and slipped the ball inside Kenny’s far post.
City consolidated their lead three minutes later when Meyler met Robbie Brady’s corner with a clinical header which flew into the top corner of the net Kenny denied Hull a third goal by diving to parry Stephen Quinn’s curling effort and a tired-looking Leeds side struggled to create any chance of note in reply.
“It’s been a huge month for us. Six games, won five, drawn one...” Bruce said.
“I couldn’t have wished for a better return. We looked like we wouldn’t score in the first half but we went about our business properly and we were great to watch. Some of our players, Sone Aluko, you’d pay to watch.”
It was perhaps Leeds’s most anaemic performance of the season, with just one half-chance of note on an afternoon when 17-goal striker Luciano Becchio was benched because of concern over a thigh problem.
Warnock is desperate for the January transfer window to come in order to bolster his squad - new owners GFH Capital were present today - and the veteran boss knows Hull are the benchmark.
“I think Hull are a one-off, I don’t think there’s another team like them in the league,” he said.
“They are by far the best organised team in the league, they play the same home and away. They have a good squad with decent replacements.
“I feel the frustration that the fans feel with our squad, but we’re all glad it’s January coming up. I’m trying to get new players in, the new owners are supporting me and want to bring players in.
“Whatever we do, we’re not going to cope with Hull and Cardiff, but looking at the other teams, we don’t have much to fear. We need to get our own house in order.
“Hull are where they are and I can’t see many overtaking them. They play with one up front and have a desire, they don’t give goals away and they have a good recipe for success.”

Profits tumble at Leeds United

Yorkshire Evening Post 28/12/12
By Phil Hay
Leeds United have underlined the importance of GFH Capital’s recent takeover by publishing new figures which reveal a major financial downturn at Elland Road.
The club’s results for the 12 months leading up to June 30, 2012 show marked decreases in turnover and gate receipts and an operating loss of more than £3.3million.
United posted an overall profit of £317,000, helped by the sale of ex-player of the year Max Gradel and former club captain Jonathan Howson, but the figure decreased dramatically from £3.5million during the previous 12 months. Gate receipts were down 10 per cent and turnover fell by almost five per cent to just over £31million.
United’s parent company, Leeds City Holdings Limited, saw more severe decreases with its operating loss standing at £4.193m and its overall loss recorded as £536,000.
Along with the club, Leeds City Holdings Limited owns Yorkshire Radio – United’s official radio station – Leeds United Media Limited and the Centenary Pavilion.
The results have emerged a week after GFH Capital, the Dubai-based private equity firm, secured a 100 per cent buy-out of Leeds City Holdings Limited and acquired the majority shareholding of Leeds chairman Ken Bates.
The 12 months covered by United’s latest accounts span a period in which Bates faced long-running protests against his running of the club and average league attendances at Elland Road fell by almost 4,000.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

January signing number one 27/12/12
Ryan to join on permanent basis...
Ryan Hall will become the club's first signing of the January transfer window when he makes his move from Southend United permanent next week.
The 24-year-old initially joined on loan earlier in the season, but he will complete the formalities of a two-and-a-half-year deal when he makes the switch full-time. Ryan has made five senior appearances so far, two starts and three substitute appearances, and he has scored five goals in two Development Squad matches, including a four-goal haul against Derby County in November.
"When we brought Ryan in I said I believe he is a player with potential for a big future," said the boss. "He had only played once this season and his match fitness, and bringing him up to speed was the biggest priority.
"I'm sure during the length of his contract Ryan will have the opportunity to establish himself at this high level, and you can see that from his contribution at Huddersfield a few weeks ago.
"It's not just experienced players we are looking for to add to the squad, and if we feel there are youngsters like him available at the right prices we will look to the future as well."

Report on Financial Statements 27/12/12
Leeds United Football Club Limited ('Leeds United') is the primary wholly owned subsidiary of Leeds City Holdings Limited ('Holdings').
The financial year end for both companies is 30th June 2012.

Leeds United Football Club Limited Headlines
Turnover: 2012 - £31,080,000 : 2011 - £32,678,000
Operating Profit: 2012 - (£3,348,000): 2011 - £939,000
Overall Profit: 2012 - £317,000 : 2011 - £3,504,000
  • Turnover decreased by 4.9% in the period.
  • Gate receipts decreased by 10.6% in the period to £11,368,000 which represents 36.6% of turnover.
  • First Team Squad and Management costs were £12,869,000 compared to £11,614,000 in the previous period in the Championship and represents 41.4% of turnover.
  • Leeds United employed an average of 213 full time employees during the period compared to 207 in the previous period. In addition, 667 casual part time people were employed.

Leeds City Holdings Limited (Consolidated) Headlines
Turnover: 2012 - £33,097,000 : 2011 - £34,475,000
Operating Profit: 2012 - (£4,193,000): 2011 - £509,000
Overall Profit: 2012 - (£536,000) : 2011 - £509,000
  • These figures include the accounts for Leeds United Media Limited, Yorkshire Radio Limited, Leeds United Centenary Pavilion Limited and Leeds United Football Club Limited.

Ownership Statement 28/12/12
Leeds United Football Club Limited ('LUFC') the company that holds the share in the Football League, is a member of the West Riding County Football Association and an Associate Member of the Football Association.
LUFC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Leeds City Holdings Limited ('LCH').
LCH is wholly owned by LUFC Holding Limited ('LUH') a company based in Grand Cayman. LUH is a wholly owned subsidiary of GFH Capital ('GFHC') a company based in Dubai.
GFHC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Gulf Finance House, BSC which is based in Bahrain. No shareholder in Gulf Finance House, BSC holds over 10% of its shares.

December 24 2012

Nottingham Forest 4 Leeds United 2: Sharp unpicks Leeds lock to open floodgates for Forest

Yorkshire Post 26/12/12
Leeds United manager Neil Warnock concedes his team were outplayed by Billy Sharp after his double helped set up a 4-2 victory for Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.
The on-loan striker from Southampton took his tally to eight goals in 18 games and was also at the heart of the flashpoint incident that Warnock felt swung the game in Forest’s favour.
Leeds were ahead through an 11th-minute goal from Paul Green but Sharp went down under a challenge from Tom Lees to give himself the chance to equalise from the spot before the end of the first half.
Sharp then fired his second of the game soon after the restart and a three-goal blitz in nine minutes – Rodolph Austin scored a clumsy own goal and Dexter Blackstock headed home the fourth – stunned the visitors, who had a late consolation from Davide Somma.
However, Warnock believes the penalty marked the start of his side’s downfall. “I just hope Tom learns from the incident – it is a harsh lesson for him but one he’s got to make sure doesn’t happen again,” he said.
“I’ve known Billy a long time and if you are up against him in the area he’s going to be clever.
“Tom has just breathed on him but Billy has made sure there is contact and gone down. In that situation you have got to stand a yard off him.
“It’s a penalty because 20 out of 20 referees would give it. Billy used to get penalties for me like that at Sheffield United so I can’t complain.
“Tom has just got to be more professional.
“It was really disappointing because at that stage it was the only way I could see Forest scoring.
“The equaliser gave Forest the lift they needed and we were guilty of being very amateurish and naive in the second half.
“If you concede three goals in seven minutes at any level you can’t expect to win football matches, but at the end of the game I’m still disappointed that we have passed by another chance to win a game.”
Sharp coolly rounded goalkeeper Kenny and slotted home his second goal in the 54th minute to start the match-changing spell.
Three minutes later an out-of-touch Austin swung a clumsy leg at Forest defender Ward’s cut back and lashed the ball into the roof of his own net.
Forest midfielder Andy Reid ghosted past right-back Sam Byram and clipped in a fine cross for Blackstock to shrug off Tate’s challenge and head powerfully beyond Kenny.
It was the first defeat since the takeover of Leeds by GFH Capital but was not enough to keep Sean O’Driscoll in a job.

Nottingham Forest 4 Leeds United 2

Yorkshire Evening Post 26/12/12
Billy Sharp struck twice as Nottingham Forest turned on the style either side of half-time to send Leeds United spiralling to defeat at the City Ground.
Forest, who had slipped to 11th place after taking only four points from their previous five matches, were the latest side to make a mockery of the form book in the npower Championship after Sharp converted a late first-half penalty to cancel out Paul Green’s early opener for Leeds.
Sharp fired his second of the game soon after the restart and a three-goal blitz in nine minutes - Rodolph Austin scored a clumsy own goal and Dexter Blackstock headed home the fourth - stunned the visitors, who had celebrated the completion of last week’s takeover by Dubai investment bank GFH Capital with victory over Middlesbrough on Saturday - Leeds’ fifth win in their last six league games.
Defender Greg Halford, midfield pair Radoslaw Majewski and Adlene Guedioura, plus striker Blackstock returned for Forest, while Leeds, for whom Davide Somma struck a late second, recalled Adam Drury and midfielders Michael Brown and Austin.
The game was only 12 minutes old when Leeds nosed themselves ahead. Jerome Thomas swung the ball over from the left and after El-Hadji Diouf’s shot was parried by Forest goalkeeper Lee Camp, the ball broke for Green to tap home into an unguarded net from no more than two yards.
It was midfielder Green’s third goal in four league games and Leeds, who won the corresponding fixture 4-0 just over a year ago, were next to threaten again when Jamaica international Austin, back after a nine-game lay-off due to an ankle injury, drilled a 25-yard shot over the crossbar.
Leeds striker Luciano Becchio’s header from Drury’s cross was comfortably gathered by Camp, while at the other end visiting goalkeeper Paddy Kenny pulled off a fine save in the 28th minute to keep out Forest defender Elliott Ward’s goalbound header.
Forest deservedly equalised in the 44th minute.
Referee Lee Probert did not hesitate in pointing to the spot following Lees’ challenge on Sharp and the Forest striker picked himself up to send Kenny the wrong way with the subsequent penalty for his eighth goal of the season.
Forest, suitably perked, looked the more dangerous side after the break and stole into a two-goal lead within 12 minutes of the restart.
Blackstock headed a long clearance brilliantly into the path of Sharp, who coolly rounded goalkeeper Kenny and rammed home his second goal in the 54th minute and three minutes later an out-of-touch Austin swung a clumsy leg at Forest defender Ward’s cut back and lashed the ball into the roof of his own net.
Worse was to come for Leeds. Forest midfielder Andy Reid ghosted passed right-back Sam Byram and clipped in a fine cross for Blackstock to shrug off Tate’s challenge and head powerfully beyond Kenny into the bottom corner.
Leeds substitute Somma made his second appearance in 19 months midway through the second half following a serious knee injury and slid home Ross McCormack’s cross from close range to reduce the deficit in the last minute, but not before Kenny had pulled off another fine save to tip away Forest defender Alan Hutton’s 30-yard blockbuster.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Hands off our Beccs!

Yorkshire Evening Post 24/12/12
By Phil Hay
Neil Warnock warned rival clubs that Luciano Becchio would be off-limits in the January transfer window after the striker’s 17th goal of the season intensified Leeds United’s pre-Christmas surge.
Becchio struck twice at Elland Road to seal a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough on Saturday and a delighted Warnock rejected suggestions that the Argentinian’s prolific strike rate might provoke a battle for his signature next month.
The United manager said he had received assurances from the club’s new owner, GFH Capital, that he was under no pressure to sell players, and he indicated that Becchio, who has 18 months remaining on his contract, would be retained next month regardless of any offers for him.
Becchio’s form has established him as the Championship’s third highest scorer, behind Burnley’s Charlie Austin and Crystal Palace’s Glenn Murray, and his second-half header handed an improving Leeds side their fifth win in six league games on Saturday.
Warnock’s plans for this season were badly affected by the sale in July of former club captain Robert Snodgrass to Norwich City, but GFH Capital, which completed its 100 per cent takeover from United chairman Ken Bates on Friday, has promised Warnock that he will not be asked to part with key members of his squad in the weeks ahead.
Warnock said: “I don’t think we’ll lose anybody we want to keep. I can guarantee that while I’m in charge and they’re in charge there’ll be no key players leaving here – unless we want them to leave.
“We need every good player. We want to look upwards, not downwards or sideways. It’s not just Becchio. If I was a Premier League manager I’d be looking at three or four of my players. If anyone calls then I’ll answer my phone but I know what I’ll say and I don’t think the new owners will mind me saying it. No-one will leave unless we want them to.”
GFH Capital’s reign began in impressive style on Saturday, with Elland Road witnessing its biggest Championship crowd of the season and Leeds reaching the halfway point of the term in eighth position after a tense victory over Boro.
Representatives of the Dubai-based firm met with Warnock for talks on Friday, leading to fresh discussions about the transfer window, and Warnock said: “I’ve told them what I think and I think they trust me totally.
“I’ll get the support I need next month but it’s a case of whether we’re able to get the players. Teams want to hang on to good players and they can make it difficult when you try to sign them. We’ve got to have a bit of luck.”

Becchio blast defeats Boro

Yorkshire Evening Post 24/12/12
By Phil Hay
Apocryphal or not, it became one of John Lennon’s most famous quotes. Was Ringo Starr the best drummer in the world? “He’s not even the best drummer in The Beatles.”
There is something of Starr about Luciano Becchio. In a debate about the best forward in the Championship, some would argue that there are better forwards at Leeds United. But Championship football is all Leeds could aspire to next season were it not for Becchio’s enduring class.
Whatever his faults – and even his manager sees a few – the Argentinian has strayed into indispensable territory. Neil Warnock can take or leave many of his performances but United’s boss accepts that the game would be up without his 17 goals. It might yet be up if Leeds rely on Becchio in the second half of this season as heavily as they have in the first.
Warnock made that point to United’s new owner when he met with representatives of GFH Capital after the completion of their takeover on Friday.
It is precisely because of the threat of a deterioration in Becchio’s strikerate or fitness that Leeds will bid for a new forward when the transfer window opens next month, regardless of their existing squad or the resumption of Davide Somma’s career.
“We’ve got to try,” Warnock said. “If anything happened to Becchio – and I touch wood when I say this – where would we go from there?”
The answer to that is back down the Championship, unless their other strikers are about to flourish. Becchio was not responsible for the better football seen at Elland Road on Saturday but his two goals bought a tight win over Middlesbrough and gave Leeds the pleasure of a merry Christmas. A hard-done-to Tony Mowbray looked on with quiet envy.
Boro have suffered at Becchio’s hands before and five goals in four games against the Teesside club is nemesis’ trend. He was the least impressive of the two centre-forwards at Elland Road, outplayed by Lukas Jutkiewicz, but Jutkiewicz was loose when it mattered and Boro paid heavily. Becchio, in contrast, saw three chances and came within one save of a hat-trick.
Twenty three games into the Championship season, the 28-year-old is three goals short of his highest tally for Leeds in a single term. He has scored almost half of all their league goals.
“I bet in a third of his games he’s not even played that well,” Warnock said. “He’s had poor games so imagine if he got some consistency going. I keep telling him that.
“I know that when he plays well we play well but there are days like Derby (United’s defeat at Pride Park on December 8) when if you look at the metres he covers, it’s an embarrassment.
“The two strikers at Derby, Ross McCormack and Luciano, were very poor. The statistics showed that one of Derby’s lads was doing more than those two put together. That can’t happen.
“We’ve got to be able to change things when he’s not up to it because he won’t always be up to it.
“In most areas we’re covered but there are areas where we need competition. Strikers is one of them.”
On the evidence of Saturday, there is more call for changes to Warnock’s defence or the areas of his team which are compromising their stability.
Middlesbrough succumbed to Becchio’s 45th and 73rd-minute goals but Jutkiewicz, who opened the scoring on the half-hour, had two prime opportunities to strike again in the second half, driving one shot into the side-netting and another again a post.
Further chances materialised as Boro grew desperate, with substitute Jason Pearce meeting an improvised finish from a prostrate Jonathan Woodgate on United’s goalline and the bizarrely enigmatic Marvin Emnes hooking an overhead shot inches wide of Paddy Kenny’s right-hand post on 89 minutes. “We shaded it,” claimed Warnock afterwards, knowing full well that the margin had been fine.
It was, regardless, a significant result on the first weekend of GFH Capital’s ownership.
The response to Friday’s takeover was an attendance of more than 25,000, up 6,000 on the crowd seen at United’s win over Ipswich Town seven days earlier.
The last Saturday before Christmas is notrious for poor turn-outs but Elland Road felt alive.
A fifth win from six league games positioned Leeds on the verge of the play-off zone, a target which Warnock considered unattainable a month ago.
“There’s been a feelgood factor for a few weeks now,” he said. “The new owners can’t wait to get going.
“People talk about consolidation but I’ve already said to them ‘let’s not waste opportunities.’ I don’t want to consolidate anything. We’ve got to be there or thereabouts this season.”
Boro are as likely to be in that vicinity, to judge by their performance in Leeds. The finesse in Mowbray’s side contrasted with the relentless energy which saw United home and they rued the timing of Becchio’s first goal, scored in the last minute of the first half.
Woodgate, the former Leeds defender, said: “We’re a good team and we’re going to go up. All the lads think that. People say we’re doing well but I think we should be top. Concentration let us down today and that isn’t good enough.”
Jutkiewicz drew first blood after 29 minutes when a mislaid pass from El-Hadji Diouf allowed Emnes to put the forward clean through.
Kenny blocked Jutkiewicz’s first shot with his legs but was beaten at the second attempt when the ball deflected off the foot of Alan Tate a yard in front of him.
Jerome Thomas wasted an immediate chance to equalise, dragging Kenny’s long clearance wide as Diouf appeared at the far post screaming for a tap-in, and a brilliant save from Jason Steele kept out a goalbound header from Sam Byram but Leeds toiled. Michael Tonge looked fatigued and an ill Paul Green struggled to get involved.
The half was petering out when weak headers from Seb Hines and Richard Smallwood presented Becchio with a bouncing ball which the striker volleyed into the net with the aid of both posts.
“That was hardly even a half-chance,” said Warnock in admiration.
Encouraged by it, and helped by Warnock’s decision to replace Green with Aidan White, United approached the second half with more more direction and more aggression. Steele tipped a Becchio header inches over his crossbar on 72 minutes but was unable to react when the striker met the resulting corner with a finish which struck Woodgate and flew into the net.
Boro gathered themselves and dispensed with aution, attacking at will. Grant Leadbitter lashed a volley narrowly wide and both Woodgate and Emnes thought they had scored.
Steele himself should have done so when he advanced for the final corner of the game and failed to connect with a free header.
“To go a goal down and beat a team as good as Middlesbrough is a hell of a result,” Warnock said. “To use the old cliche, I’m only looking at the next game. But I think the Champioship’s wide open.”

Takeover press conference transcript - 21 December

Shaun Harvey: First of all, welcome to Elland Road. I don’t think it needs and major introduction as to the reason why you’re here today, but it gives me particular pleasure to welcome on my left Salem Patel and on my right David Haigh, who are both representatives of GFH Capital, the new owners of Leeds United Football Club. It would be appropriate for me to add at this stage the apologies of Hisham Alrayes, who has also joined the board of Leeds United but is currently on other business in the Middle East and unable to join us today, but he will be seen at Elland Road in the not too distant future.
On behalf of everybody on the top table, I would like to offer our thanks to the professional teams that have worked behind the scenes in making this transaction possible. This required a lot of effort on behalf of a lot of different people and for that we are grateful.
And finally, ladies and gentlemen of the media, if when you’re asking questions you could announce your name and the organisation whom you represent it will make it a little bit easier for us in addressing the questions and the floor is yours. The gentlemen are available for questions. Thank you.
Bryn Law from Sky Sports News: It’s been a long time coming, why, why have you bought Leeds United?
Salem Patel: Leeds United, as you know, is a great football club, its history, it’s got pedigree, it’s got a fantastic base on which we can build the club up. Now, we looked at a number of clubs but for us Leeds United was the most attractive for the reasons I’ve already outlined. What we really hope to achieve with this club is to bring back the type of atmosphere that we all witnessed on Wednesday, when, although the result wasn’t fantastic, the atmosphere, the crowd, it was absolutely fantastic being here on that night and that’s what we want to really re-create, a sustainable, successful future.
Bryn Law: And how are you going to do that? That is going to take some investment, isn’t it?
SP: Obviously, it’s going to take investment and we wouldn’t have bought a club like this if we weren’t prepared to make that type of investment, but what we want to say is that we’re not going to be spending crazy money like some football club owners have, but what we want to do is to make the investment sustainable and make the club successful, simple as that.
David Haigh: But I think there are other things as well. It’s not just always about money, it’s about re-engaging the community, re-engaging the fans, small steps as well as obviously investment can make such a big difference and that’s one of the things that attracted us, Salem, to Leeds United, the fan base is fantastic, not just in Leeds, but around the world, in Norway, in Bahrain, in Dubai, there’s supporters’ groups everywhere, obviously supporters’ groups here in Leeds as well, and that’s what makes it so very special.
Bryn Law: How important is Premier League, the potential to be in the Premier League to what you want to do here in future?
SP: Clearly any new owner, or any existing owner, of a football club that is in the Championship or in the divisions below has the dream to go into the Premier league. Financially it is the best place to be and that is where we hope to take this club to, but our business model is not predicated on the club being in the Premier League.
Bryn Law: You have engaged with fans already, the pair of you, by social media, by Twitter, you’ll be aware of concerns about GFH itself. Can you allay those concerns that some fans have about the level of investment that could even be possible?
DH: Concerns have been… As far as we’re concerned, we’ve bought this club with cash, there’s no doubt. We’re looking forward to the future. As you mention, we’ve interacted with fans already, for a number of months, we have today set up an official Twitter account, we can continue to interact with the fans, so we’re very open to people raising their concerns, raising their issues with us, we’ve had 4,500 messages of support over the last month and there are more coming in today, so I think that’s a good indication that we’re open to the concerns of fans.
Bryn Law: But is GFH the financial model, or is there someone behind GFH?
DH: I think it’s… We’re a very transparent… I’m glad you asked this question, it’s a very good one, because it’s one that we’ve had a lot of comments about. We are a Dubai-based, regulated bank, owned by a Bahrain-based, regulated bank that’s listed on four stock exchanges, including London, so when it comes to transparency as to where the money has come from, who are our investors, who are our shareholders and our directors, it’s very clear and it’s incredibly transparent.
Bryn Law: So, the next question after that is, and the one I’m getting asked a lot to ask is what happens in January?
SP: In January the transfer window opens and, as you will all know, it’s not a great time to do business. Thankfully for us, we’ve already got quite a good squad, and we’ve got a few players coming back from injuries. Neil’s already publicly stated what he wants and we’re going to try and do our best to help him to achieve that, but if you’re going to ask me what amount of money we’re going to spend in January, unfortunately we’re not going to be able to answer that.
Bryn Law: One for you, Shaun. Why isn’t the chairman here?
SH: This press conference is about Leeds United going forward and as everybody knows he will remain the chairman of the club, and it’s going to be a very important transition period for everybody between now and the end of the season. But I think we wanted the focus to be on the future going forward and on GFH’s investment and takeover of Leeds United Football Club, rather than anything else, so that’s the reason, it’s about the future.
Bryn Law: And talking of the future…
SP: Sorry, if I may. We would really like to thank Ken Bates and Suzannah Bates for all of the help and assistance. It’s been a long and hard seven months of negotiations with them, but we’ve grown to know them really well, David more so than most, and we’d like to thank them once again for helping us to complete this transaction.
DH: I think that’s right. As Salem has mentioned, we spent seven months with Suzannah and Ken, seven months with the club, learning all about the club, and it’s probably one of the longest takeovers in history and I think it was Phil Hay that said 206 days. I think that’s quite unusual for a football club, so we’ve had seven months to get to know this business inside out and that puts us in a very good position going forward.
Bryn Law: Last one from me. I’ve been in this position, asking these questions too many times before, it has to be said. Why is it going to be different this time?
SP: Who have you been asking those questions to?
Bryn Law: The previous owners.
SP: Of Leeds United?
Bryn Law: Of Leeds United, yes.
SP: There’s only been three previous owners in the last few years, in the last ten years.
Bryn Law: Well, in the last ten years, but go beyond that…
DH: Well, perhaps you’re older than you look (laughs). It’s the good Yorkshire weather, isn’t it?
SH: I think now that the top table’s played with Bryn’s question, I think the reality and the genuine part is, Bryn, this is the start of the way forward. Yes, you have sat here before, as have many of your colleagues, at many other football clubs. Time is the judge as to how the club goes forward, and that’s got to be what it’s allowed to do. Everybody’s interests are perfectly aligned, everybody wants to see Leeds United Football Club back in the Premier League as quickly as possible for a whole variety of different reasons so at least that’s the one thing that will bring everybody together, and let’s hope this new era is the one that achieves that goal.
John Wray from Gosnay Sports Agency: Can you say whether there’s a plan to buy back the ground, and if so what the timescale might be?
SP: Yes sure. Look, any club would love to own its own stadium, the stadium is the heart of the activities of a football club. Currently, Leeds United do not own the stadium, nor its training facility. It is part of our plans to buy back the stadium, but we’re not at liberty at this moment to put a timescale on it.
SH: And, John, just to clarify, it is the club that has right to exercise the option to buy Elland Road back. No such option exists over Thorp Arch but over Elland Road, which is obviously I believe the key interest of the majority of fans, it is there for a very considerable period of time to come, so it’s not time dependent.
John Wray: Could I also ask what influence, if any, Mr Bates will have between now and say the end of the season on policy, policy making?
DH: To answer your question, it’s clear that as of today, Salem’s joined the board of the football club. I joined the board a couple of weeks ago, our CEO has joined the board, together with Ken and Shaun. We are now very much in control and the buck does stop with us.
Adam Pope from BBC Radio Leeds: What exactly have you bought, because Ken Bates had a controlling share, but not a hundred per cent share?
SP: We’ve actually bought 100% of the holding company that owns Leeds United Football Club… Leeds United Football Club, 100%. So we’ve bought 100% of Leeds City Holdings.
DH: Which is the most fantastic football club in the world… That’s actually what we’ve bought, not just the company.
Adam Pope: How are you going to convince fans that it’s the right thing to keep Mr Bates involved when they, obviously as you’re aware, are not that keen on having him around?
DH: Ken has been a fantastic steward of the football club while he’s been here. He’s taken it from difficult times, and he’s primed it off the pitch for the Premier League, so we’ve got a lot of thanks to give him for that. Now we are in a transitional period where we’ve just taken ownership, we are in the middle of a season, we want to make sure we’ve got the best chance of the Premier League as possible and the way to do that is to strengthen what is already there and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
Adam Pope: And how’s Neil Warnock responded to the news that this is finally done, late last night, I believe?
SH: Well, I’ll go first. He did ring me and he said, ‘When can we have the conversation about January?’ I think to answer your question, like all managers Neil will roll with what’s going on and obviously concentrate on the job that he has, which is to actually achieve what all of us want, to try and get promoted.
SP: We’ve been speaking to Neil, on and off, since pretty much the process began, so he knows us fairly well, we know him fairly well. I’m sure he’s delighted, as are we.
DH: He was a very important point of our deal and he was actually a term of our contract, that he remains, so that’s how much we rate Neil, and Salem spoke to him last night. We’re off there after we finish with you guys to see Neil and the team. Adam Pope: And how will you encourage the fans that have been lost, if you like, over the last few years, back into Elland Road?
DH: We start today. Obviously, the easy way to do that is to start winning all the football matches, everybody will come back. But there’s lots of initiatives that we’ll be doing immediately. One of those, obviously, is we now have an official Twitter account, something that, Leeds is the tenth most-mentioned club on Twitter, didn’t have a Twitter account. That’s been resolved. One of Salem’s ideas, which he was working on, is the half-season tickets. That comes into play, I think, very shortly, further details will be on the net tomorrow.
SH: Yes, details are in the match programme and will be available online very quickly.
SP: And it’s also about re-engaging with fans and re-engaging with supporters, both in Leeds and outside of Leeds. This club has tremendous support. In the Middle East, believe it or not, in Norway, in Sweden, in Ireland, so it is about re-engaging with fans, listening to what they have to say. We set up a GFH Capital Leeds account where we received, like David says, thousands of e-mails, 4,500 e-mails. We’re already listening, we’re already trying to take on board as many things as we can really.
Adam Pope: And finally, how much have you paid for the club? Are you able to tell us that?
SP: A lot of money (laughs).
DH: As you all know, we’ve had some fantastic confidentiality agreements in place (laughs) for the last couple of months and parts of them still remain so we can’t discuss that.
Adam Pope: Ever?
DH: Not now.
Michael Morgan from The Sun: Neil’s gone on record as saying he wants to tie up the four loan signings, and maybe bring a couple of new players in. Is he assured of the funds to cover those deals?
DH: The thing is we will support Neil as he requires. Salem, do you want to…
SP: Shaun’s actually conducting these negotiations as we speak, but I think Thomas and Tate are two key players now for Leeds and they were brought in a couple of months ago and we really hope to keep them and Tonge, whose loan contract will expire in a couple of days again, we hope to keep him.
SH: Those conversations are ongoing and will continue to be ongoing. There will be peaks and troughs in terms of how near we get to a solution at which particular time. The key bit is, Neil is pretty clear in relation to what it is that he’s seeking. That always helps. There’s nothing worse than maybe, if, we could… we know what we’ve got to try and deliver to meet the aims. And having just invested in the club, without making radical statements, it should be consistent that we are going to try and help him as far as we can to get the club promoted.
Michael Morgan: Shaun, do you think those negotiations will be concluded in time for you to see these deals go through on 1st January?
SH: The Thomas and Tate deals run on to 2nd January and those conversations are ongoing and need to get to a conclusion but as everybody knows there are many differing factors, not just money at stake as part of these. Obviously Michael Tonge’s loan deal finishes after Saturday’s game. Michael’s enjoyed his time here, but three parties will need to agree if he’s going to be able to stay, the player, Stoke City and Leeds United, in that particular example. So there’s never just one determining factor in all these. We’re keen to be able to, want to carry on what we’re doing. We’ve won four games out of the last five League games, so the formula would appear to be working, and that’s what we want to continue with.
Michael Morgan: Can you tell us how far down the line you are with those negotiations.
SH: It’s actually irrelevant how far we are down the line. It only matters when it’s done or it falls over. Everybody has good days and bad days, and who knows who’s potentially going to get injured in training for another club this morning, and that’s what it all depends on, that’s the peril of having players on loan, if they’re not yours. So we’re working hard and I’d be disappointed if we aren’t successful, but nobody can make any promises.
John Wray: Can you give any assurances to the club’s staff about their futures? SH: Well, I’m still here, so that’s half a chance (laughs). And they don’t know them all yet, so… I don’t think there’s anything to be worried about before Christmas, John. The reality is…
DH (joking): Did you get that memo?
SH: The reality is the football club’s been bought and the business behind the football club has been bought because it’s been successful. At the risk of putting words in people’s mouths, you’re certainly not going to change things on a whim very early, and we’ve already talked about the continuity over the balance of this season that’s massively important, so I think everyone can look forward to a bright future, rather than looking over their shoulder wondering what’s coming next.
SP: Just to reiterate that one of the key things we were looking at was the quality of the staff, the quality of the management, and Neil Warnock’s, that speaks of itself. The people behind the scenes, the people on match day, the people who are running the commercial activities, etc, our experience with them in the games that we’ve been to and behind the scenes has been absolutely fantastic, so we really hope that we can retain everybody and it’s not just a case of us wanting to, they will have to want to stay with us as well. We really hope to continue to build this club into our vision, which is a sustainable and successful football club.
DH: And as Salem says, they really are… we were at the Christmas party last night and they really are a fantastic, dedicated, loyal team of people here, and that’s something that attracted us and we see it more and more every day. Hopefully, in time, as the club grows and becomes part of, the heart of, Leeds again, that’s something we can develop further.
Bryn Law: David, you described yourself as a fan, can you be hard headed on that basis?
DH: I think I can, yes.
Bryn Law: It’s been an issue here before, obviously (laughs).
DH: Why do you say that (laughs)?You do need to keep your business hat on and understand…
SP: That’s why I’m here (laughs).
John Wray: After the end of the season, David, will you become chairman, or has that not yet been decided?
SP: We anticipated this question. We’ve never actually said that David would become the chairman and we really don’t know where that rumour has started from. What we anticipate… we don’t actually know as of today who will become the chairman in six months’ time, but whoever it will be will have experience, will be someone that we can… who can hopefully help us take this club forward.
John Wray: Could that be someone from outside the club?
DH: I think they key thing is to focus on what we have now. That’s something we need to look at next year, at the end of the season, not something we need to focus on now. Now we’ve got a lot to focus on in terms of the football, getting promoted, etc. and deciding who’s going to sit on the top rung of the directors’ box is not necessarily the most important thing at this stage.
SH: John, we’ve talked about this period between now and the end of the season. One of the key things we’re going to do is to review all the different areas and aspects of the business from a governance point of view just to ensure that the club is secure for the long term going forward. And all these types of decisions will actually evolve out of that process. No one over another is actually going to get priority.
Andy Hunter from the Guardian: Is it fair to say that the Ken Bates role come the end of the season will purely be a figurehead role as club president or will he retain an influence on policy on the board?
DH: I think we’ve outlined clearly that Ken will remain chairman to the end of the season and therefore become honorary president of the football board. We very much see that an honorary president is not a day to day executive role by any means.
SH: Have we any more questions, ladies and gentlemen? Well, on that note, thank you all for your attendance. I wish you all a very merry Christmas, a prosperous New Year, and let’s hope the next time masses are assembled like this in this room, we’re talking about successful events on the field. Thank you.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Warnock - I don't want to spend stupid money

Leeds United boss Neil Warnock says he will not want to spend stupid money when the transfer window opens in just over a week`s time.
Leeds finally announced new owners on Friday, with Dubai based investment bank, GFH Capital taking over the reins at Elland Road.
Warnock has been promised support in the January transfer window by the new owners but the Leeds boss feels it is a matter of getting in the right players at the right price, rather than spending what he calls 'stupid money`.
Speaking on Yorkshire Radio, Warnock said, "I think they know I don`t want stupid money. I won`t be spending stupid money for the sake of it.
"It is a matter of trying to get the right two or three players in, wheeling and dealing, because that is what I have done all my career and nothing will change. I am never going to spend five million on a player; we need to walk before we can run.
"I just need the support for the type of players I am trying to get in, that is what is important to me.
"We have targeted a certain number of players and we will try and bring them in."
Warnock says his priority is a striker to give Luciano Becchio competition and he is already being linked with big money moves for strikers.
Southampton striker Rickie Lambert is the latest to be linked to Leeds in a £1.5 million move according to the Daily Mail.
Lambert helped fire Southampton to back-to-back promotions in the last two seasons, finishing top scorer in the division in both seasons.
He netted 31 times last season as Southampton won promotion to the Premier League.
He has been a regular in the saints side this season and he has netted six goals in the Premier League so far this season.
Midfielder Paul Green was forced off through illness at half time in the win over Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Aidy White replaced Green at half time after Green complained to Leeds boss Neil Warnock that he felt unwell.
Warnock explained on Yorkshire Radio after the game that Green had told him close to half time that he felt unwell. "He came to see me about ten minutes before half time and said he felt terrible, felt sick and he didn`t feel like he had any energy.
"I asked him to stop on until half time as to not give anything away to Middlesbrough."
The Green withdrawal forced a change in the Leeds system with Byram moving up into the right midfield position in place of Green. Lee Peltier reverted to his recognised position of right back with White slotting in at left back.
Warnock says it is like having a new player after Davide Somma made his return from a long-term injury.
Somma was a surprise inclusion on the bench on Wednesday night against Chelsea after eighteen months out after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury in the summer of 2011.
He was an unused substitute on Wednesday night, with Warnock saying he did not want to risk Somma after putting in so much hard work in returning to full fitness.
Somma made his reappearance for the club, when he came off the bench for the final twenty-two minutes of the game against Middlesbrough on Saturday.
The South African international striker showed glimpses of the form that saw him net 12 goals in 18 starts in his only full season in the Leeds first team.
Warnock was delighted to have the striker back and he feels it is like signing a new player after so long out of the side.
Speaking on Yorkshire Radio, Warnock said, "I thought he looked sharp. He has done well in training and he is like a new signing for me."
The return of Somma is a huge boost for Warnock who is looking for a striker to add competition for places in attack.
Luciano Becchio continues his great form this season. The Argentinian scored twice in the win over Middlesbrough to take his tally to seventeen for the season.
Fellow striker Ross McCormack was once again a frustrated spectator as he was an unused substitute.
Andy Gray wasn`t amongst the eighteen players named for the Middlesbrough game and he could be seen as surplus to requirements when the transfer window opens in just over a week`s time.

Leeds United 2 Middlesbrough 1: Becchio wins Warnock praise

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/12/12
Leeds manager Neil Warnock hailed Luciano Becchio’s finishing as the Argentinian’s double earned his side a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough.
Becchio hoisted his tally for the season to 17 and his recent scoring spree to seven in seven league and cup games - but an additional striker is still on Warnock’s wish-list.
Warnock said: “Luciano’s first goal was unbelievable. It was not even a half chance but a top-quality finish.
“It was the first time he had ever been on the winning side in a five-a-side game in training on Friday. He looked so lively that I said ‘is there any chance you’ll be like that tomorrow’ - and he was!
“I still feel we need another striker because Luciano can’t play week in, week out, with so many games coming up and we need someone in case he gets injured. That has to be my priority.
“It was a super day for our new owners at the end of a really positive week. I have to be delighted, especially coming from behind to beat a very good side. We put our bodies on the line near the end and there were a lot of tired legs out there.”
Middlesbrough had led through Lukas Jutkiewicz’s deflected strike but manager Tony Mowbray said: “We had a host of chances and missed them.
“We were through one-on-one two or three times and threatened the goal more than enough to have got something out of the game, but give Leeds credit.
“They worked hard and defended well without putting us under much pressure. They had a tough game against Chelsea on Wednesday and sent just about the same players out against us. They got a result so good luck to them.
“Becchio’s first goal was a great one. To turn and hit the ball as well as that showed great technique, but our own finishing needed to be more clinical.”
Boro’s 29th-minute opener had an element of luck about it. Jutkiewicz saw his first shot parried by Paddy Kenny but the striker’s follow-up effort from 18 yards deflected in off Leeds defender Alan Tate.
It was Boro’s turn to curse their luck just before half-time when Sam Byram’s cross was headed out by Seb Hines, only for Jerome Thomas to nod the ball down to Becchio. The Argentinean turned rapidly and his shot cannoned off one post onto the other before crossing the line.
Becchio’s second goal arrived when he leapt to head home El-Hadji Diouf’s 73rd-minute corner, to the delight of new owners GFH Capital’s representatives in the directors’ box.
Jutkiewicz was only denied a second goal by a post on the hour but there was a deafening cheer for home striker Davide Somma, who left the bench in the 69th minute for his first appearance in 19 months.
Leeds go into Christmas two points and two places off a top-six spot, while Boro are fourth.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Leeds United 2 Middlesbrough 1: Becchio double earns Whites victory

Yorkshire Post 22/12/12
LUCIANO BECCHIO ensured Leeds United’s new owners enjoyed the dream start to their tenure with a thrilling victory over Middlesbrough.
The Argentinian took his tally to 17 goals for the season with a strike either side of half-time to keep on track United’s hopes of gatecrashing the promotion race in the second half of the season.
Defeat was harsh on Boro, who played some neat football and also created a host of chances in front of a 25,406 crowd that included 3,000 in the away seats.
However, that failure to punish Leeds when on top came back to haunt the Teessiders to ensure GFH Capital’s takeover on Thursday was followed by the West Yorkshire outfit claiming a fifth win in six league games.
Becchio had cancelled out Lucas Jutkiewicz’s opener with a stunning turn and shot on the stroke of half-time.
The Argentinian had hardly been in the game up to that point but he then underlined his importance to Leeds’ promotion prospects by netting the winner, albeit with a bit of help from Jonathan Woodgate.
Pinpoint delivery from an El-Hadji Diouf corner created the opening and Becchio did the rest with a bullet header that beat Jason Steele in the visitors’ goal after taking the slightest of touches off Woodgate.
Boro, who had taken the lead on 29 minutes, had started much stronger than their hosts after the break and goalscorer Jutkiewicz showed great skill to turn Alan Tate before racing clear only to then fire into the side netting.
Leeds had another lucky escape on 54 minutes when Marvin Emnes was played in down the right and his cross was stabbed wide of his own net by Tom Lees when the ball could easily have trickled into the net.
It was a big let-off for United, who were then thankful to see Paddy Kenny turn a . Jutkiewicz shot on to the post after the home defence had again been opened up.
Kenny then saved with his shoulder to keep out an awkward shot before Seb Hines fired against a post and then Emnes shot just wide an acrobatic overhead effort from 15 yards to ensure that Leeds went into the Christmas with another vital three points.

Exclusive – David Haigh & Salem Patel Interview

Right in the Gary Kellys 22/12/12
Now we all know as proud Leodensians that yesterday was `Mad Friday’ when common sense is put aside, in favour of Viking style lager consumption, and indeed Viking style pillage. A night when traffic cones, kebab shop owners, and taxi drivers alike quake in fear and dread.
At RITGK our Friday night was little mad for different reasons, as our site editor received a tweet inviting us to meet up with David Haigh & Salem Patel at a smart Leeds City Centre Hotel the following morning, Did that just happen – erm yes it did.
An earlier than anticipated train ride from Birmingham & Wakefield for Matt BB & Matt M, saw us land in rain soaked Leeds not knowing quite what to expect.
We randomly bumped into David first in the reception, and once we’d ensured the scene was clear of prying eyes and ears we spoke, more openly possibly that we might have imagined after 7 years of a `nearly’ closed media shop at Leeds – why?
Well as per Salem Patel “Not because this is a PR Exercise – it’s the right thing to do. To re-engage with fans groups, with the wider community” a decent opening line.
And more was to follow
We asked what they considered job one as they sat at their desks – their response?
Well they didn’t have desks as yet – one imagines ken might be leasing those as a secondary part of the deal (we jest of course)
David Haigh’s take was “we’ve been doing this now for at least 7 months, there wasn’t a day one really”
Agreeing Salem Patel added that the key job in terms of a sound bite was “getting it right for Leeds on and Off the Pitch”
It strikes you one of the key points for GFH is re-engagement of fans, and this struck us as very definitely their `job one’ – Salem asked us twice (at least)
What do we need to do to bring the fans back? It’s a good question, No fans – no football club – a simple equation”
So perhaps the days of fans concerns being disregarded as the angry murmurs of `morons’ are behind us, there seems a genuine energy and drive to understand why fans aren’t in Elland Road each home game packing it to the rafters.
David & Salem both wanted to know if we were at the Chelsea game (Matt M was Matt BB at this point nods gamely and feels a deep sense of shame!) They want that atmosphere `more regularly’
That the feeling of elation when Becchio scored was so unstoppable that “Even Ken stood up” – Well you heard it here first, Ken Bates does stand up at football grounds.
They both pointed to the release of half season tickets as wanting to make a statement of intent that fans are welcome, wanted and an essential part of their plans longer term. Also that they immediately opened up a twitter account to ensure communication lines were open.
They again asked our opinions about whether we felt these were good ideas – and yes they are.
How long has it been since we felt like the club wanted to listen to supporters opinions? It’s a tough job watching Leeds United., but trying to express opinions over the last 7 years has been tougher still with Bates in charge.
But what of Ken? An 8 month courtship was surely not easy – why did it take so long? David tells us there is still a confidentiality agreement in place but referred to a 300 page legal document that was created in the process. Ken himself? Well perhaps my favourite quote – his opening line to David? “How old are you?”
David compared Ken to Bernie Ecclestone, an entertaining character, with “great stories” and a fondness for strepsils. We didn’t push this one too much further because as per yesterday’s press conference this process is definitely about the future, but it definitely struck us that our chairman offered a `firm’ approach to them on initial advance.
So why Leeds United?
3 Key points as per Salem –
Did the club have debts? – no, did it possess a decent stadium – yes, there is little that needs doing to the stadium. And finally what about the manager – when we saw his track record we knew he was the right man and as per yesterdays press conference it was a contractual requirement he was in place”
So backing Warnock is critical. Will they put their money where their mouth is in January?
The message here was that we have a “good nucleus and spine to the team already” but that they wanted to focus on ensuring players like Tate and Thomas become somewhat more secure, whether that means season loans or transfers isn’t abundantly clear What was telling though was that Salem referred to “strengthening in the summer” Which as we wrote yesterday seems logical in terms of continuity.
As the conversation moved back towards the business side of things Salem Patel was keen to point out another key advantage for Leeds.
With UEFA Financial Fair Play (UFFP) coming into effect 2013/4 “Leeds are at an advantage to clubs with smaller gates, and fanbases” according to Patel.
The days of “Sheikh Mansour and Abramovich” throwing vast transfer fees into loss making businesses were highlighted as unsustainable, he has an eye on the bottom line, but wants to do things sensibly and responsibly.
Are you reading Peter Ridsdale? If you are this is not an opportunity for another consultancy role..
Leeds have good gates, strong revenue streams, and managed properly it was made clear they gave us potential. But the conversation quickly turned to their main drive Re-engage the club with eh City. Place it at the heart of the community. Root and Branch.”
Haigh & Patel both highlighted the almost invisibility of Leeds shirts on the high street, or in shop frontages. They want that visibility to `increase’
And here we couldn’t resist – What about thorp arch? Will we see Leeds getting first dibs on the next Micah Richards? Seb Hines? Aaron Lennon? We opined that as a club this was almost as critical to Leeds fans as seeing success – that the success came from the city itself.
And music to our Ears Salem chips in -
We want to see Leeds kids at Thorp Arch, that they choose us over Man United or Man City. We’ll work hard with Shaun Harvey to see what we can do to achieve this.”
But this is only part of the plan.
“Businesses, the council, Schools, Colleges, the armed forces aboard” were cited as people they wanted to engage with.
Not just one supporters group – but ALL supporters groups”
David Haigh then spoke off the `unexploited worldwide potential of Leeds United” that he’s about to do an arctic trek and even up in the Arctic Circle he’s bumping into fellow whites. Not polar bears, but Swedish, Danish, Norwegian fans. So there you have it – we’re everywhere even at the North Pole.
Leeds has a bright future with these guys as the picture shows. And potentially the tallest football director in the league in David Haigh!

It’s a fresh approach from new owners

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/12/12
New directors Salem Patel and David Haigh joined Shaun Harvey to face questions at Elland Road.
Why did GFH Capital decide to invest in Leeds United?
Salem Patel (United director and GFH Capital director): “We had a brainstorming session in May. We have a new acting CEO and we were looking for new ideas. Being from England and being passionate about football, I said we should look at English football. It was before the new (Premier League) broadcasting deal had been announced. We were looking for different types of investments. Everyone is investing in health care and defence sectors. I thought ‘let’s push the boat out a bit.’
“We are really pioneers of investment in the Middle East and we thought football would be a very good sector to go into. We looked at several clubs and it was coincidental that we happened upon Leeds. But when we got the investment memo from the broker saying ‘this is for sale’, I was in London at the time and met the broker. I liked what I heard and relayed the message back to head office. I went back to Bahrain and within a week I was back meeting Shaun Harvey and being shown round. Within another week we signed our first agreement with Leeds.”
David Haigh (United director and GFH Capital deputy chief executive): “I was the one that was pushing it every time it looked like it might not happen but the idea was Salem’s. I was always making sure the papers were on the top of the in-tray.”
The takeover of Leeds United took more than seven months. At the outset, how long did you expect the process to take?
SP: “We didn’t have a timeline but we didn’t think it would take as long as it did. Ken Bates is Ken Bates and we are not individuals. We’re a regulated bank and certain processes have to be taken if we’re to invest in anything. It’s not like Roman Abramovich coming along and saying ‘I don’t care what’s going on, I have the money to sort this out.’ We had to ensure we knew everything about the club before we bought it. The period of due diligence finished in October. It really did take that long. But now we are here as the owners of Leeds United.”
DH: “This is probably one of the longest ever takeovers, 206 days. That’s quite unusual in football but we’ve had seven months to get to know this club inside out. That puts us in a very good position.”
The deal is reputed to have cost £52million. How much has GFH Capital actually paid for Leeds United?
SP: “A lot of money.”
DH: “We’ve had a fantastic confidentiality clause in place for the past few months and part of it still remains so we can’t discuss that. Not now.”
What exactly has GFH Capital bought?
SP: “We’ve bought 100 percent of the holding company that owns Leeds United Football Club. We’ve bought 100 per cent of Leeds City Holdings Limited.”
DH: “The most fantastic football club in the world, that’s what we’ve bought. Not just a company.”
There are suggestions that GFH Capital plans to flip Leeds United – buy the business and then sell it quickly at a profit. Is this your strategy?
SP: “The way our business model works, it’s not about flipping or long-term, short-term. The way we typically work would be to identify a project then bring strategic investors with us.
“If people want to call that flipping then it is flipping. But to us it’s not flipping. It is identifying an asset and then bringing the right people on board – whether that is management or shareholders or investors – to help try and build that asset to take it to the next level. We’ll not be selling 100 per cent, we’ll be maintaining a shareholding in this club.”
There are concerns about the financial strength of GFH Capital and its parent company, Gulf Finance House. Where has the funding for this takeover come from?
DH: “To us it is very clear. Despite the rumours, this is a cash purchase. We have used our money. We are a regulated bank in Dubai and owned by a regulated bank in Bahrain, listed on four stock exchanges. All of our shareholders are clear. You can see that on the Internet. There is total transparency.”
Ken Bates claimed that you are backed by “a very rich individual who is very close to the government of Bahrain.” Is that correct and if so, who is he?
SP: “That is what Ken says. We never said that.”
Bates is remaining as chairman until the end of the season. Why did you take that decision and what influence will he have on club policy?
SP: “It’s a period of transition, certainly. We want to leverage on his experience. But that was the deal.”
DH: “We have the same goal – to get this club back to where it belongs. To wake the sleeping giant. Do you have as many people to help you as possible? Yes, you do.
“As of today, Salem has joined the board of the football club. I joined a couple of weeks ago. Our CEO Hisham (Alrayes) has joined the board, together with Ken and Shaun. We are now very much in control and the buck does stop with us.
“Ken has been a fantastic steward of the club. He’s taken it from difficult times and he’s primed it off the pitch for the Premier League. We’ve got a lot of thanks to give him for that.
“We’re in a transitional period where we’ve just taken ownership. We’re in the middle of the season and we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the best chance of getting to the Premier league. The way to do that is to strengthen what’s already here and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
The plan is for Bates to step down as chairman and become club president at the end of next season. What active role will he have?
DH: “We’ve outlined clearly that Ken will remain as chairman until the end of the season and thereafter become honorary president of the club. We very much see an honorary president as not a day-to-day executive role.”
Will David Haigh replace Bates as chairman?
SP: “We’ve never actually said that David would become chairman and we really don’t know why that rumour started. We don’t actually know as of today who will become chairman in six months’ time. Whoever it will be will have experience, somebody who can help us to take the club forward.”
DH: “The key thing is to focus on now. That’s something we can look at the end of the season. We need to focus on the football, getting promoted etc. Deciding who’s going to sit on the top row of the directors’ box is not necessarily the most important thing at this stage.”
Do you plan to buy back Elland Road and Thorp Arch and what timescale would you set on those deals?
SP: “Any club would love to own its stadium. The stadium is the heart of the activity of a football club. Currently, Leeds United do not own their stadium or the training facilities. It is part of our plans to buy back the stadium but we’re not at liberty at this moment to put a timescale on it.”
Shaun Harvey (United director and club chief executive): “It’s the club which has the right to exercise the buy-back on Elland Road. No such option exists on Thorp Arch but over Elland Road – which I believe is the key interest to the majority of fans – it is there for a very considerable period of time. It’s not time-dependent.”
How has manager Neil Warnock reacted to the completion of the takeover?
SH: “He did ring me and say ‘when can we have the conversation about January, Shaun?’ Like all managers, Neil will roll with what’s going on and concentrate on the job he has which is to achieve what all of us want – to get promoted.”
SP: “We’ve been speaking to Neil on and off since pretty much the process began so he knows us fairly well and we know him fairly well.”
DH: “He was a very important point of our deal. It was actually a term of our contract – that he remained. That’s how much we rate Neil.”
How much financial backing will he have in January?
SP: “As you all know, it’s not a great time to do business. Thankfully for us we’ve already got quite a good squad and a few players coming back from injury. Neil’s already stated publicly what he wants. We’re going to try our best to help him. But if you’re asking me how much money we’re going to spend in January, unfortunately we’re not going to be able to answer that.”
But success is going to take investment?
SP: “Obviously it’s going to take investment and we wouldn’t have bought a club like this if we weren’t prepared to make that sort of investment. What we want to say is that we’re not going to be spending crazy money like some football club owners have. What we want to do is make the investment sustainable and make the club successful, as simple as that.”
How important is Premier League potential to GFH Capital’s plans?
SP: “Any new owner or any existing owner of a football club that is in the Championship or in the divisions below has the dream to go into the Premier League. Financially it’s the place to be. That is where we hope to take the club to. But our business model is not predicated on the club being in the Premier League.”
How do you plan to increase crowds at Elland Road and bring back supporters who no longer attend?
DH: “We start today. The easy way to do that is to win more matches and everybody will come back. But there’s lots of initiatives that we’ll be doing. One of them is that we now have an official Twitter account (@LUFC). Leeds is the 10th most mentioned club on Twitter but didn’t have an account. That’s been rectified. One of Salem’s ideas is half-season tickets and that comes into play very shortly.”
SP: “It’s also about re-engaging with fans and re-engaging with supporters both in Leeds and outside of Leeds. This club has tremendous support in the Middle East, believe it or not, and in Norway, Sweden and Ireland. It’s about listening to what they have to say. We set up a GFH Capital Leeds account where we received thousands of emails so we’re already listening and trying to take on board as many things as we can.
“We’ll take a fresh approach. This is a fresh start. We realise the club is part of the city. On Wednesday night (before United’s League Cup tie against Chelsea) the hotels and the restaurants were full. Same with the bars and the taxis. The city must have been grateful that such a big game was taking place.
“We want to see that throughout the season and I think having a thriving football team helps. Leeds is by no means one of the worst cities in England. It’s thriving. But we think a successful football team can help the city to also grow and expand.”

New director Patel keen to keep hold of ‘key’ loan duo

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/12/12
New Leeds United director Salem Patel has backed Neil Warnock’s decision to pursue the January signings of Jerome Thomas and Alan Tate, describing the pair as “key players”.
Patel, who along with David Haigh met with Warnock at Thorp Arch following the announcement of GFH Capital’s takeover yesterday, gave a clear indication of Leeds’ desire to keep Thomas and Tate as talks with the players’ parent clubs intensified.
United are understood to be willing to pay £250,000 to turn Tate’s loan from Swansea City into a permanent agreement next month and GFH Capital will support Warnock’s attempt to secure Thomas until the end of the season having witnessed the winger’s impact during his short spell with Leeds.
Thomas is due to return to West Bromwich Albion after United’s New Year’s Day game against Bolton Wanderers and Tate’s final appearance is also scheduled for January 1.
On-loan Stoke City midfielder Michael Tonge, meanwhile, was due to play for the last time against Middlesbrough today, three months after coming to Elland Road on an emergency basis.
Patel said: “Shaun (Harvey, United’s chief executive) is conducting negotiations as we speak but Thomas and Tate are two key players and we really hope to keep them. With Tonge, again we hope to keep him.”
Warnock has stated previously that he would willingly limit himself to signing a new striker in January if United find a way to retain their existing loanees.
Ryan Hall’s temporary move from Southend United will become permanent when Leeds pay a £150,000 fee next month and the agreement of an 18-month deal with El-Hadji Diouf on December 14 ended doubts about his future.
Harvey said: “Neil’s pretty clear on what it is that he’s seeking. That always helps. “We know what we’ve got to try and deliver and with (GFH Capital) having just invested in the club, without making radical statements it should be consistent that we’re going to try and help him as far as we can. We’re keen to carry on what we’re doing and we’ve won four out of the last five league games so the formula would appear to be working.”
Warnock has been in contact with United’s new owners through the summer and he met with them at Thorp Arch following training yesterday morning.
United’s manager claimed promotion from the Championship was still attainable this season, saying: “From my own point of view it’s an opportunity and while we haven’t set the world alight, the opportunity’s still there.
“I’m not saying we’ve got to spend, spend, spend because we haven’t. We’ve got to adjust the squad to create more competition in certain areas. If we do that we’ll have a great chance this season.
“We don’t want to spend million and millions. We just need to bring the right players in. But there’s a bright future ahead.”

Bates’ absence sums up new dawn at Elland Road

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/12/12
By Phil Hay
The last time Leeds United held a major press conference in Elland Road’s Bremner Suite, the club unveiled Dennis Wise as their new manager.
Ken Bates addressed the floor that day surrounded by friends and allies – Wise, Gus Poyet and Gwyn Williams. “Chelsea Re-United” as one journalist joked. “They say ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’.”
Bates teased. “I’ve got them on the top table.”
He was missing from the top table when the media gathered beneath the West Stand on Friday. As the seller in the deal which handed ownership of Leeds to GFH Capital on Thursday night, he kept his distance while club chief executive Shaun Harvey sat down alongside new directors David Haigh and Salem Patel, the buyers’ representatives.
When the 81-year-old’s name came up, Haigh was complimentary but insistent. “The buck stops here,” he said. Not in Monaco and not with Bates. Not any more.”
Willing though GFH Capital were to retain him as chairman until next summer and then appoint him as life president of the club, Haigh’s comment was his way of convincing those listening that the new boss was not the same as the old boss.
“This press conference is about Leeds United going forward,” said Harvey when asked why Bates was not in attendance.
“As everyone knows, he (Bates) will remain chairman of the club and it’s going to be a very important transitional period between now and the end of the season.
“We wanted the focus to be on the future and on GFH’s takeover of Leeds United, rather than anything else.”
Haigh and Patel had no shortage of time to consider their opening gambits – 206 days between the announcement by Leeds that takeover talks had commenced in May and the completion of their deal on December 20.
The record for days taken to cycle around the world is less than 96.
Haigh called it “one of the longest takeovers” but his consistently-wide smile revealed how pleased he was to have both feet in the door.
The buy-out was Patel’s idea but those who have worked closely with GFH Capital say Haigh was the man who performed CPR on the occasions when its takeover threatened to die.
His productive relationship with Bates and Bates’ wife, Suzannah, was worth its weight in gold to the company from Dubai.
“It’s been a long and hard seven months of negotiations but we’ve grown to know them really well,” Patel said. “David more than most.”
Over the course of a 22-minute briefing, Haigh and Patel discovered the desire of the media and United’s supporters to examine the minutiae of the club’s business. Bates was discussed, inevitably, and the possibility of repurchasing Elland Road and Thorp Arch came up before long. There was the question of their support for manager Neil Warnock and their plans for the January transfer window; queries about GFH Capital’s funding and the strength of its financial position.
Haigh was as positive as a new owner should be and Patel dealt with the finer details of the business model, without revealing too much.
He avoided rash promises and would not put figures on the transfer pot set aside for Warnock or the timescale surrounding the proposed buy-back of Elland Road.
From Harvey’s remarks, it appeared that repurchasing the Thorp Arch training complex is a more difficult and unlikely aim altogether. The buy-back clause on that property expired in 2009.
Elland Road, Harvey claimed, was “the key interest to the majority of fans”.
Those supporters appear to matter to GFH Capital. The club set up an e-mail account after completing the first part of its takeover on November 20 and received more than 4,000 messages.
Its appreciation of the need to tackle falling crowds was displayed by Haigh announcing that half-season tickets would go on sale with immediate effect, starting with the club’s game against Bristol City on January 19.
Haigh and Patel have been like season ticket holders themselves these past few months. Both have attended numerous games at Elland Road and arrived in England in time for Wednesday’s Capital One Cup game against Chelsea.
Hisham Alrayes, the third member of GFH Capital who has joined United’s board, was on business in the Middle East yesterday but is due in Leeds after the turn of the year.
“Leeds United is a great football club,” Patel said. “It’s got history, it’s got pedigree and a fantastic base on which we can build the club up.
“We looked at a number of clubs but for us Leeds United was the most attractive for the reasons I’ve outlined.
“What we hope to achieve with this club is to bring back the type of atmosphere we witnessed on Wednesday. That’s what we want to create – a sustainable, successful future.”
They will hear no argument against that. United’s expectant support can live with sustainable and successful.
Haigh and Patel eventually excused themselves and drove to Thorp Arch to meet Warnock and his squad, leaving the public to digest their words.
Actions always speak louder but there was no sense that the men from Dubai had begun their dance on the wrong foot.