By Peter Lorimer
For a long time I listened to supporters telling me they wanted a change of ownership at Leeds United and wanted Ken Bates out.
Well those fans got their wish eight weeks ago when GFH Capital bought the club. Yet now I hear United’s new owners coming in for stick as people make assumptions about what they’re doing and what they’re planning for the months ahead.
Just to reiterate, they’ve been in charge at Elland Road for eight weeks.
You can’t seriously tell me that a period of less than two months in the middle of the Championship season is a fair period of time on which to judge a takeover.
There are always questions to be answered when it comes to the running of a major football club but there’s a need for patience and understanding too.
All the same, I’m pleased that a couple of the new directors are holding a fans’ forum on Monday.
You could hardly accuse them of ducking the public and the event’s an opportunity for anyone who attends to raise what they think are the key issues. By the end of the meeting I’m sure we’ll have a clearer idea of what GFH Capital’s vision is.
But it’s wrong, for example, to say that nothing’s happened so far. In January we signed six players and tied Sam Byram to a new contract. And while Luciano Becchio was sold, it’s increasingly clear from what Neil Warnock is saying that Becchio was better off out of here. He wanted to leave, of that there’s no doubt.
Most of the lads who came in – Stephen Warnock, Steve Morison, Michael Tonge and Ryan Hall – agreed fairly-long deals and it’s worth remembering that we beat West Ham United to the signing of Warnock. His wages won’t be cheap.
It might not have been the wild expenditure that certain people were looking for but nor can anyone claim that the club did no business. In truth, the new owners did as much as anyone should have expected in the circumstances.
For a while now Leeds United have been a team with an outside chance of promotion – no better, no worse.
If they don’t go up then there’ll be decisions to be made about an awful lot of things at the club. Is the manager staying on and which of the players are part of the club’s long-term plans?
You could see a scenario where things chance quite dramatically.
For that reason it would have been stupid for GFH Capital to throw its eggs into one basket last month.
Yes, the January transfer window was an opportunity to kick on but you’ve got to retain some sort of perspective.
As Neil Warnock said last week, promotion has looked like a long shot for some time. Personally I don’t think it’s particularly wise to gamble on long shots.
As for the fact that the new owners seem to be open to investment, what’s wrong with that? Most owners of most clubs take the same attitude. If an outsider is willing to support your business with cash, it makes sense to at least think about their offer. Football is such an expensive sport these days and it’s no longer the case that a local businessman with a spare £2m can buy his city’s team. Times that figure by 10 and you’re starting to get close.
When GFH Capital bought Leeds, the reported price was £52m. Put together all of the company’s likely ambitions – investing in the squad, buying back Elland Road and so on – and the potential outlay starts to climb towards £100m.
That sort of figure means nothing any more but think about it for a moment! It’s not very reasonable to demand that any owner clicks two fingers and produces £100m overnight, especially when GFH Capital said from the outset that it wasn’t going to throw stupid money at Leeds.
There’s a certain expectation level at Elland Road and over time the new board are going to have to live up to it but when I look at January and hear the grumbling that’s followed it, I’m at a loss to know what everyone thought would happen.
As far as I’m concerned, the club’s attitude last month was sensible – they had a go at what’s left of the season but accepted that promotion from the Championship has never really been in our hands.
You might think differently and if you do, get yourself down to the fans forum on Monday. Tickets are free for members and season-ticket holders so there’s nothing to stop you from asking questions and speaking your mind.
I hope you get the answers you’re looking for and I hope they earn our owners a little more patience.