Friday, March 29, 2013

This is just the start of investment - GFH

YEP 29/3/13
Aabed al Zeerah has joined Leeds United’s board and GFH’s David Haigh tells Phil Hay he expects more new investors to follow suit.
GFH Capital expects to announce further sales of shares in Leeds United in the weeks ahead after relinquishing a 10 per cent stake to an investment bank in Bahrain.
The International Investment Bank (IIB) has acquired a minority interest in the Elland Road club in what is likely to be the first of several equity deals negotiated by United’s owner.
GFH Capital completed a full purchase of Leeds on December 21 but the addition of IIB to its ranks and the appointment of the bank’s chief executive, Aabed Al Zeera, as a director of United’s parent company, Leeds City Holdings Limited, is an initial step towards reducing the company’s exposure at Elland Road.
The Dubai-based private equity firm – itself wholly owned by Gulf Finance House, another investment bank situated in Bahrain – has been under intense pressure to outline its long-term plans amid doubts about its commitment and firm suggestions that another takeover of Leeds is possible, just three months on from GFH Capital’s own buy-out.
Yorkshire businessman and lifelong United supporter Steve Parkin is leading an attempt to buy a 51 per cent stake from GFH Capital and discussions over his offer continued in the Middle East this week while GFH Capital was finalising the sale of shares to IIB.
The Yorkshire Evening Post has been told that IIB’s investment will not affected Parkin’s bid and that his proposal remains on the table. It would, however, be likely to complicate a future attempt by Parkin or a third party to secure a 100 per cent stake in the Championship side.
The YEP also understands that GFH Capital anticipates further announcements of equity sales in the near future, a strategy which it said would allow it to maintain “successful, sustainable and long term ownership of Leeds United” and create a “consortium of like-minded investors.”
GFH Capital has not disclosed the price paid by IIB for its 10 per cent stake – GFH Capital bought Leeds from chairman Ken Bates and other minority shareholders for around £21million – but Aabed Al Zeera has joined the board of Leeds City Holdings Limited with immediate effect.
IIB’s chief executive has been a director of the bank since 2007 and is listed as an executive of numerous other companies in the UK, the Middle East and Africa.
IIB was established in Bahrain 2003 and calls itself a “regional leader in private equity investment, real estate investment, asset management and corporate finance.”
The bank reported a net profit of £5.4million for 2012 having posted a seven-figure loss in the previous 12 months. In a statement, Al-Zeera said: “We are delighted to become investors in Leeds United and would like to thank GFH Capital for facilitating this for us.”
GFH Capital executive and United director David Haigh said: “The introduction of IIB is in keeping with what have always been GFH Capital’s aims for the successful, sustainable and long term ownership of Leeds United.
“We believe that a consortium of like-minded investors provides the best ownership model for a club which belongs among the elite of English football clubs and global sporting brands.
“It is our aim to provide the finance and the stability to enable the club to complete that journey as soon as possible.”
GFH Capital’s plans were clouded in confusion last week after the accounts of Gulf Finance House indicated that it was seeking to sell the whole of its 100 per cent stake in Leeds before the end of this year.
A subsequent statement from GFH Capital insisted that the firm was “looking for investment in part of its share in the club, not its entirety” but the apparent contradiction has prompted enquiries by the Bahrain Stock Exchange and demands that Gulf Finance House clarifies its plans.
A spokesperson for the Bahrain Bourse admitted on Wednesday that it was struggling to elicit an acceptable response from Gulf Finance House, saying: “At least they need to tell us what is right or wrong.”
Sources close to Gulf Finance House say the bank is unlikely to alter the statement published with its recent accounts.
The controversy comes at a time when Leeds are heading towards the end of an unproductive Championship season and in need of a suitable replacement for out-going manager Neil Warnock, whose contract ends in June.
The possibility of Nigel Adkins succeeding Warnock following his recent sacking by Southampton faded on Tuesday when Reading unveiled Adkins as their new boss.
GFH Capital, however, sees the deal with IIB as a demonstration of its stated intention to retain a sizable and long-term stake in Leeds, despite indications that it was already poised to relinquish control.
Director Salem Patel admitted on the day of GFH Capital’s takeover that the company would “bring the right people on board – whether that’s management or shareholders or investors – to help try and build that asset to take it to the next level.”
A statement yesterday read: “IIB is the first strategic investor to come into the club in line with GFH Capital’s long-stated plans to strengthen the club’s overall shareholder base.
“Others are expected to join as GFH Capital creates the ownership structure which will provide the club with sound long-term finance as the basis for (their) return to the top tier of English football.”
GFH Capital claims to have invested around £10million in Leeds before and since its buy-out of the club and United recently announced significantly reduced season-ticket prices for the 2013-14 season.
That announcement was tempered by news that the first £3.3million raised through season ticket sales will be used to settle the loan which funded the redevelopment of Elland Road’s East Stand in 2011.
Parkin, meanwhile, is continuing to push his own interests with a view to replacing GFH Capital as the main shareholder at Elland Road.
The chairman of Clipper Logistics was unavailable for comment last night but he is believed to have flown to Dubai at the start of this week as negotiations about his offer for 51 per cent of shares intensified.
Parkin has been involved in previous, unsuccessful efforts to buy both Leeds and Bradford City but GFH Capital’s willingness to forego further portions of its stake could help to facilitate an agreement.
GFH Capital has confirmed that it is continuing to speak with potential investors having closed out its deal with IIB.

Gus Poyet now favourite to be next Leeds United boss

Scratching Shed 28/3/13
Brighton & Hove Albion manager Gus Poyet is the latest name to top the bookies odds for the Leeds United managers job.
Poyet, who spent time at Elland Road as Assistant Manager to Dennis Wise, was recently linked with a move to Reading following the dismissal of Brian McDermott, the bookies second favourite to replace Neil Warnock at odds of 11/4. The former Chelsea midfielder rejected Reading’s advances, instead deciding to continue his work at promotion chasing Brighton who are currently placed 7th in Championship, level on points with Leicester City who occupy the final play-off position.
Previous favourite Paolo Di Canio has slipped back down to 10/1, perhaps as a result of comments made by Neil Warnock who told a press conference earlier today that he thinks 3-4 good managers will become available in the summer, urging the owners of Leeds United to be patient in making their choice.
Leeds United resume their Championship schedule following the international break at 19th placed Ipswich Town on Saturday. Seven points adrift of the play-off places with only eight games remaining, Neil Warnock insists his side haven’t thrown the towel in yet.

Leeds United: An Open Letter to GFH Capital 2

Spoughts 28/3/13
By awinehouse_spoughts
To whom it may concern,
You may remember me from my last letter, where I said you were doing alright, but you could be doing a lot better. You (you being GFH Capital or whichever PR company you’ve hired this week) have done some other things since, and they’ve mainly been alright, with a handful less than alright, and a couple that are better than alright. A summation of your time in charge of Leeds in one word: alright.
On that note, let me put forward what I think you should do next: sell the club. No ifs, no buts, no selling tiny cuts. Today’s sale of 10% to IIB is hopefully not the beginning of a continual sale of tiny percentages to a great swathe of purchasers, because it will create a club that, in the future, grinds to a halt as people without the knowledge play at being football club owners. As much as it seems a way to bring funds in, it will ultimately result in a club being run in a shambolic fashion. Too many cooks and all that.
On the other hand, everyone and their mother seems to be aware of this supposed takeover by Parkin and Pearson, with Phil Hay noting that that is seemingly not off the table after today’s announcement. Rather than selling segments off piecemeal, just give the whole megazord to the adults who have kindly come over to the kid’s table and put down the food you’ve been waiting for. It’ll save a lot of problems later.
The reality is that you’ve got a lot of good ideas, and these ideas are all an improvement on what went on during the previous regime. No one in their right mind would call for a return to the days of yore, where a tyrannical dictator sat on the throne, refusing to speak to anybody who couldn’t produce 47 individual charters that decreed them worthy of his presence. The reality is, however, that ideas are not money. Hell, I’d love ideas to be money, who wouldn’t? But they aren’t, and having the best intentions in the world doesn’t mean you can carry them out. We’d rather, as a group of fans, not see more mystery men buy pieces of the club in order to fund your ideas – by all accounts there are people out there who have both ideas and money. By all accounts they’ve been swimming around the good ship Leeds United for years, and it’s time to let them come aboard.
A few months back, shortly after I wrote the first letter to you lot, I sat with El-Hadji Diouf for about half an hour, and he said something very clever that I’ve been wanting to share for a while. He said that when he came, he could hear people singing “you Chelsea bastard, get out of our club”. Diouf was under no doubts about what the future of Leeds United needed. “For eight years, Leeds fans have been waiting for a Messiah”. I have thought about what he said often, and agree wholeheartedly that it is true. This Messiah is not necessarily a sheik or a billionaire, but merely one with the club at heart and the power to take us back where we belong. History is littered with false prophets GFH, and we’re on the cusp of a celebration of a man who claimed to be a messiah, whichever way you fall on your belief in that. You are not the coming of the Messiah we have waited years for, it is time to take the opportunity to leave.
Thanks,
Amitai Winehouse
P.S. Sell the club.

GFH Capital unveils first investment move

leedsunited.com 28/3/13
10% sale of holding announced...
GFH Capital, owners of Leeds United FC, today unveils the first move in its long term strategy of bringing strategic investors into the ownership of the club by announcing the sale of 10% of its holding to the International Investment Bank ('IIB').
The CEO of the Bahrain-based IIB, Aabed Al-Zeera, will join the Board of Leeds City Holdings Limited.
IIB is the first strategic investor to come into the club in line with GFH Capital's long-stated plans to strengthen the club's overall shareholder base. Others are expected to join as GFH Capital creates the ownership structure which will provide the club with sound long term finance as the basis for its return to the top tier of English football.
Aabed Al-Zeera said, 'We are delighted to become investors in Leeds United and would like to thank GFH Capital for facilitating this for us"
David Haigh, Deputy CEO of GFH Capital, said: "The introduction of IIB is in keeping with what have always been GFH Capital's aims for the successful, sustainable and long term ownership of Leeds United FC.
"We believe that a consortium of like-minded investors provides the best ownership model for a club which belongs among the elite of English football clubs and global sporting brands.
"It is our aim to provide the finance and the stability to enable the club to complete that journey as soon as possible."

Leeds United owners sell 10pc stake to Bahrain bank LATEST

YEP 28/3/13
By Phil Hay
Leeds United’s owners, GFH Capital, have sold a 10 per cent stake in the club to Bahrain-based International Investment Bank.
There had been uncertainty over GFH Capital’s intentions for the Whites, with some suggestions that they were looking to offload completely.
However, it appears that is not the case.
Instead, GFH is recruiting “strategic investors” to strengthen the club’s financial position, which it believes is necessary if Leeds are to regain their former status as a Premier League heavyweight.
IIB’s chief executive, Aabed Al-Zeera, will join the Board of Leeds City Holdings Limited.
David Haigh, deputy chief executive of GFH Capital, said: “The introduction of IIB is in keeping with what have always been GFH Capital’s aims for the successful, sustainable and long term ownership of Leeds United FC.
“We believe that a consortium of like-minded investors provides the best ownership model for a club which belongs among the elite of English football clubs and global sporting brands.
“It is our aim to provide the finance and the stability to enable the club to complete that journey as soon as possible.”
GFH expects other investors to join, providing Leeds with “sound long-term finance”, said the club.
International Investment Bank B.S.C was launched as an Islamic Investment Bank in October 2003.
On its website, IIB states the “core business activities of the Bank include investing on its own account and investment, underwriting and placement in real estate and private equity in conformity with Islamic Shari’ah”.
Al-Zeera said: “We are delighted to become investors in Leeds United and would like to thank GFH Capital for facilitating this for us.”
Whilst fans may wonder at the wisdom of investment from yet another Bahrain-based organisation, GFH insists it is the only way Leeds can recover their former status, having been relegated from the Premier League in 2004.
Since then, the West Yorkshire outfit have been mired in financial woe, even dropping into League One in 2007.
Although they were able to clamber out of English football’s third tier, it has proved impossible to reach the Premier League.
GFH Capital took control of the club from Ken Bates last December and claims to have already invested £10million in the Elland Road outfit, beyond the sum it took to acquire ordinary shares in the first place.
Amongst the benefits of GFH’s ownership, fans have already seen a reduction in match ticket prices, the introduction of half season tickets and a reduction cost of season tickets for 2013-14.

Bahrain Stock Exchange Requests Takeover Clarification From GFH

Scratching Shed 27/3/13
The Bahrain Stock Exchange has requested clarification from GFH Capital regarding the future of Leeds United.
A year-end report from Gulf Financial House, the parent company of GFH Capital, listed Leeds United as a ‘held-for-sale’ asset, an accounting classification used when a company expects to sell the majority share of an asset within 12 months.
When the report was made public on the website of Gulf Financial House, the media quickly reported that Leeds United was once again for sale, leading to speculation amongst fans as to who the next owners may be.
This drew what appeared to be a conflicting statement from GFH Capital via Leeds United’s official website. While the firm didn’t deny they were seeking investment in the club – a position they’ve maintained since day one – they insisted their position hadn’t changed, referring to an earlier interview with David Conn in which Salem Patel said they’d prefer to sell a 30% stake and maintain majority ownership.
All this has left fans unsure as to whether we’re actually for sale or not, and it appears we are not alone.
The confusion has now prompted the Bahrain Stock Exchange to seek clarification on the matter, explaining to Bloomberg that;
“[Gulf Financial House's compliance officer] says the company has already disclosed its position in the financial report for the year so we requested to clarify the article on the website and we haven’t had a response.”
The Bahrain Stock Exchange official accused Gulf Financial House of “not following regulations defined by the central bank of Bahrain” adding that “they have to confirm, deny or correct whatever statement is declared to the public or to newspapers.”
What’s clear is that Gulf Financial House are sticking to the year-end statement they published, but GFH Capital seem to be suggesting a smaller sale of shares than their parent company.
An apparent breakdown in communication seems to tie in with speculation linking local businessman Steve Parkin with a takeover attempt. Reports claim the millionaire Leeds United fan is dealing directly with Gulf Financial House in an attempt to takeover the club, effectively cutting GFH Capital out of equation.
With a bit of luck, Gulf Financial House will attempt to clarify matters at their annual shareholders meeting tomorrow.

Leeds United: Nigel Adkins and a lack of ambition

Spoughts 27/3/13
By Dominic Smith
Ten days ago, as Leeds folded to a wholly unsurprising 2-1 defeat at home to Huddersfield, the coming chain of events seemed inevitable. The unlikely play-off push became the impossible, and the time had come for Neil Warnock to step aside as promised and let a new manager bed in before a summer of repair. The despair at late equalisers given away to Wolves, Leicester and Crystal Palace had given away to a grim acceptance as Leeds’ ill-fated season faded with a whimper. Warnock summed up the mood in his post-match interviews, he was waiting to hear whether he would be required for the rest of the campaign. The season was over. Time to move on.
Fast forward to today, and bizarrely, Warnock is still in charge, and our allegedly prime target to replace him, Nigel Adkins, has taken over at Reading. I’ve written here about why I thought Adkins would be Warnock’s ideal replacement, due to his track record at Southampton, his faith in young players and the attacking style of play he champions. Although the shame of seeing a club like Reading displaying greater ambition than us never seems to fade, it’s not the loss of Adkins that’s the biggest scandal here, but our abject failure of leadership.
We’ve just been taken over by new owners espousing talk of a new era at the club, washing away the narcissism and negativity of Bates’ chairmanship. The club’s media strategy has been enhanced, its links with the local community strengthened, and its ticket prices clawed back from the upper reaches of orbit.
But the meat and drink issues haven’t changed. As the on field displays stutter from the mediocre to the abject to the backdrop of a funereal Elland Road, it is nothing short of farcical that Warnock remains in charge whilst publicly admitting he has no plans to stay beyond the summer. Our season is over, so why is he still here?
Perhaps more scandalously, Warnock claims he is involved in the process of appointing his successor. Sir Alex Ferguson might be granted this privilege at Manchester United after a thirty year gold rush at Old Trafford, but why is Warnock afforded this luxury after a season and a bit of mediocrity? This can only be an indication at the paucity of footballing knowledge which exists within GFH-C. Rumours of Adkins being approached by Shaun Harvey but remaining unconvinced about the stability of the club don’t seem far-fetched, they seem the likely result of new owners with a sketchy and short-term vision for Leeds United.
For a while I’ve thought that we’ve needed a long-term vision at the club for promotion and consolidation in the Premier League. I had assumed this would be demonstrated on the pitch; by the appointment of a suitably forward thinking manager, aware of the expectations of managing such a great club, but assertive enough to introduce new ideas. But I now realise this was na├»ve. As long as we have owners who look more interested in flipping the club for a quick profit, shady consortia grappling to take part or total ownership, and the remnants of the Bates regime like Shaun Harvey desperately trying to attract the type of manager to deliver this, we are doomed to failure.
Managers like Adkins, men the stature of Denis Bergkamp or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who fans on Twitter have called for to take over, won’t throw their lot in with these owners. They won’t be cherry picked by Neil Warnock, or taken in by GFC-H, Shaun Harvey and their panicky, fidgety stewardship of Leeds United. We’d like to think the club sells itself, but clearly it doesn’t. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the biggest obstacle to Leeds getting back where they belong are those trying to sell Leeds United to prospective players and managers. Adkins, like Howson, Snodgrass and Becchio before him, can see they’re being sold a pup.

Warnock tried to get Adkins to Leeds United

YEP 27/3/13
By Phil Hay
Neil Warnock last night revealed how he spoke with Nigel Adkins and urged him to pursue the manager’s job at Leeds United prior to Adkins’ appointment as Reading’s new boss.
Warnock said he and Adkins discussed the soon-to-be-vacant post at Elland Road more than two weeks ago and claimed the 48-year-old was “definitely interested” in succeeding him as manager of Leeds.
Adkins was seen as a leading candidate to replace Warnock, who remains in charge of United but will leave the club before his contract expires in June, but Reading unveiled the ex-Southampton coach yesterday, filling a vacancy created by Brian McDermott’s recent sacking.
Adkins has taken control of a Reading squad who are seven points from safety in the Premier League and headed for relegation to the Championship, 12 months after winning promotion.
The YEP understands that Leeds – once again the subject of intense takeover speculation – took a keen interest in Adkins following his dismissal by Southampton in January but did not hold formal talks with him, even after his period of gardening leave from St Mary’s ended.
Adkins’ unexpected availability made him a viable option for United but yesterday’s announcement left McDermott, Paulo Di Canio and Gus Poyet as the most prominent alternatives to their existing manager.
The odds about former Bolton Wanderers boss Owen Coyle coming to Elland Road, meanwhile, shortened sharply in the aftermath of Adkins’ deal with Reading.
Warnock told the YEP: “I spoke to Nigel a few weeks ago and told him what a great club Leeds are – what a great opportunity it would be for him here. The club need an outstanding candidate and I think you’d put him in that category. But he’s obviously weighed everything up and decided that Reading’s the best move for him.
“To be fair to Reading, they’re a well-run and established club and he’ll be safe even if they come down. Then he’ll have money, a good squad and every chance of getting them back up. I can see the appeal but I think he’d have been great for Leeds too.”
Asked if Adkins had been interested in the job at Elland Road, Warnock said: “Absolutely. He was definitely interested. But then you don’t really need to sell Leeds United to anyone. The club sells itself.”
Despite his apparent enthusiasm, Adkins is believed to have harboured concerns about the stability of Leeds amid an on-going attempt by local businessman Steve Parkin to buy a 51 per cent stake from United’s current owner, GFH Capital.
GFH Capital purchased a 100 per cent shareholding from club chairman Ken Bates just three months ago but Parkin is engaged in advanced negotiations with the firm’s parent company, Gulf Finance House, having been approached for investment by GFH Capital shortly after its takeover on December 21.
With fresh doubt surrounding the club’s immediate and long-term future, Adkins’ appointment at the Madejski Stadium came as another worrying development for United’s support at a time when securing Warnock’s replacement is an obvious priority.
The 64-year-old has already confirmed that he will leave Leeds if his squad fail to win promotion to the Premier League this season and United are seven points behind the Championship’s last play-off place with eight games to play.
Warnock, however, is willing to remain in charge while the club seek his successor and he will be in charge for Saturday’s fixture at Ipswich Town.
GFH Capital does not appear to have made any attempt to remove him from his post since United’s 2-1 defeat to Huddersfield Town on March 16, their last game before the current international break.
“All I’ve said to the owners is that I’ll keep going for as long as it’s mathematically possible for us to get into the play-offs,” Warnock said.
“If they want me to manage us through the last eight games then I’ll do that but it’s one game at a time for me at the moment.
“I’ve got a good squad here who I know will put the work in for me every time they play and all we can do is get as many points as we can and see where it leaves us.”

Leeds United miss out on Nigel Adkins

Right In the Gary Kellys 26/3/13
As per last week’s article on this site the need for urgency in settling the long term future of Leeds United was underlined in all too dramatic fashion as former Saints Boss Nigel Adkins was set to be unveiled as the new manager of Premier league basement dwellers Reading.
A smart appointment by them, and him. If he pulls off a miracle and keeps them up he’ll be assured of legendary status in East Berkshire. If he goes down to the Championship, the damage had already been done and he surely has the nous to get them back up again with some sensible spending.
Meanwhile back at Elland Road it seems inertia is the order of the day.
On this very site Nigel Adkins has come out top twice in recent polls as the fans choice – and the case was compelling. Adkins can squeeze top level performances out of sides as ordinary as Scunthorpe and Southampton, with a bit of funding and vision he could no doubt have done just as well at Leeds United.
But this is academic now, what might have been type note…
Neil Warnock remains in the dugout, the players are talking about next season, and the papers abound with tales of our owner’s parent company looking to dispose of their stake in Leeds.
There are of course options, there always are, and perhaps the above is an unfair conclusion on our clubs board. The Premier League is what it is, there is a slim chance Adkins could still be managing in it next season with Reading, whereas that chance is close to zero with Leeds – which would you or I choose? A confirmed tangible owner, with funds to invest? Over the uncertainty of Leeds. The choice seems stark when put in context. Was Adkins then ever a realistic choice once the Premier League came knocking?
We may already be down the road some way with a Di Canio, Poyet or heaven help us a Roy Keane. We don’t know so perhaps for the moment we keep our enthusiasm for a scrap in check.
One name that has not been mentioned (surprisingly) is the former Reading Manager Brian McDermott. With good recent experience of promotion and with an eye for a good player.
McDermott stock within the betting market has jumped considerably since the appointment of Adkins to 14/1 for the Leeds job. One thing’s for sure, something needs to happen soon at Elland Road, or we risk yet another summer of sloth, and whilst the last thing we want to do is regurgitate the same issues, the concern is surely now palpable at Elland Road.
This is, after all the period that GFH Capital outlined as critical for Leeds in terms of the transfer market, squad building and strategy. The urgency of the January transfer window has gone, so the only obstacles to progress will be self inflicted ones?
Whilst it’s surely welcome to hear that with Bates gone the club are attracting new investment, it’s equally important that we start our new journey now as a club. Back to the Premier League.

How Leeds Became Football's Most Hated Club With The Most Hated Manager And Player

Sabotage Times 25/3/13
by Andy Peterson
It's been a hell of a season for Leeds United who, already widely disliked hired Warnock and El Hadji Diouf. So how can they now change their fortunes for the better?
Events at Leeds United during the last decade have rarely read like any one of football’s traditional scripts; following on from a takeover by new owners GFH Capital seven months in the making which was only concluded last December, the club now finds itself in the unlikely situation whereby the incumbent manager is talking publically about finding his own successor.
But the Anfield boot room this is not. There is no cosy, promote-from-within philosophy in the modern game as we know, and Neil Warnock in reality finds himself a victim of his own personal schedule, one he’s repeatedly stated doesn’t feature any involvement with a side in the Championship beyond the end of this season. This bold vision of the future would of course all point towards a record eighth date with destiny via another promotion to the Premier League come May, were it not for the more painful truth that United’s Premier League hopes are only a possibility in the hands of several pure mathematicians. Instead of gearing himself up for one last crack at the big time, Warnock instead finds himself contemplating a more mundane reality in which the only Ferguson he’ll be involved with 12 months from now will be of the four wheeled Massey variety.
It’s a measure of how outgoing despot Ken Bates had managed to lower expectations that Warnock’s appointment was at the time seen as some sort of coup, the veteran slipping into an Elland Road ejector seat still warm from Simon Grayson’s ultimately flawed stewardship. The former was supporter friendly and it was widely perceived had been undone by a lack of support in the transfer market; the latter was initially viewed by fans in popularity terms lurking somewhere on the barometer between Abu Hamza and Ryan Giggs. The locals were restless, a state of mind compounded by the arrival soon after of El Hadj Diouf, a player who needed no introduction and completed a remarkable triptych by which Leeds were now the most hated club, with the most hated manager fielding the most hated player in British football. Oh, how we laughed.
Warnock’s popularity gradually rose to tepid based on some of his rhetoric and constant attempts to keep the fans onside by playing to their combined ego. The protracted early scuffles in the takeover meant that he found himself able to exploit similarly Grayson’s get out of jail free card - the slammed shut transfer window – and for a while the club began to make modest on field progress, taking advantage of the odd Premier League club for whom the League Cup is a financial irrelevance. The problem though lay equally in his direct style of coaching – branded hoofball by the rapidly diminishing faithful – and in his odd tactical nuances, especially away from home where he attempted to match formations with the opposition, with disastrous and frequently embarrassing results.
Then came the January window, one dreaded by Leeds fans and in which top scorer Luciano Becchio was sold to Norwch F***ing City. Unsettled by an agent possibly agitating for one last money spinning move, the Argentinian handed in a transfer request, an act which Warnock seemingly took personal umbrage to. Short of a scale model of the Belgrano being produced in press conferences before during and after the move which saw a bemused Steve Morison come the other way, the manager’s contempt for his want away player couldn’t have been more thinly veiled. Given the Beak’s temporary control of the first team squad, however, in retrospect this act of spiteful expedience will now almost certainly end up being his sole legacy. That, and a number of claims for whiplash.
Despite declaring himself as happy as he could be with the post January playing residue and stating without irony that he feels he’s done a “Fabulous” job, Leeds under Warnock have become harder to beat than in recent years but turgid to watch. The loss of Robert Snodgrass (To where? To Norwich F***ing City, of course) last summer has proved even more damaging than at first thought, as a roster of players which almost to a man define journeyman has struggled for any kind of ignition. By the time Leeds had been beaten at home by lowly Huddersfield after only mustering a draw with Peterborough, the game was up.
But hold on. Warnock has made no secret of his desire to throw in the towel should things get on top; the first hints of this were after the humiliating FA cup defeat at Manchester City. The clamour to replace him is now almost deafening. But for once I’m agreeing with him here, saluting the flag pole on which he’s running up his thoughts. Leeds are currently on 52 points, a total from which relegation remains a distant possibility but not a practical one. The bold move by GFHC would’ve been to unseat the manager in January, but they didn’t and that’s history. Why knee jerk now, when you have months to find a new supremo? The task in front of whoever that is will be astoundingly difficult. A lop sided squad that lacks quality. Far too few goals. A fan base that is constantly failing to unite. It’s time for a long term, pragmatic view on things, to hire someone who has an ambitious vision for the club, a mindset which extends to all facets of how it plays football. This might mean missing out on some short term targets, but for me anyway, no matter. The next decision the new owners make is likely to be the most important of their entire and probably brief tenure. If that means a few more games of route one mediocrity before the right decision is made, so be it. There’s little room for manoeuvre now.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Leeds United: Fresh twist in battle for control of Whites

YEP 21/3/13
Leon Wobschall reports.
Exactly three months ago today, GFH Capital officially took over at Leeds United.
But the contented smiles among Whites fans that December day have now been replaced by furrowed brows and widespread bewilderment.
Today, confusion reigns more than ever with thousands of supporters wondering just what is going on behind the scenes at their football club and what are the motives of the Dubai-based private equity group.
This despite yesterday’s attempt by GFH Capital to clarify its position after it was revealed in the end-of-year financial statements of their parent company Gulf Finance House (GFH) of its formal intention to start negotiations to sell the club.
To add to the confusion, reports last night suggested that GFH had all-but completed the sale of the club – with the bidders to take over led by local businessman and multi-millionaire Steve Parkin, who is said to be working on the deal with potential partners from the Middle East.
Parkin, who famously tried to buy United back in 2004, declined to comment when contacted by the YEP.
But it is believed that talks remain ongoing and that while a deal has not yet been concluded, it could be shortly.
It is understood that the bidders are dealing with GFH and not its 100 per cent subsidiary GFH Capital, with GFH Capital acting CEO Salem Patel and deputy David Haigh – both United club directors – seemingly sidelined from the potential deal.
Parkin is a figure well known on the Yorkshire business scene. Alongside a previous bid to purchase Leeds, he was also linked with a move to purchase Bradford City and the Bradford Bulls to form a joint sporting club in a new stadium back in 2011.
He is the chairman of Brighouse-based distribution firm Clipper Logistics, a company with a £200m turnover, 28 distributions and 2,500 staff.
Talk of United being back on the market had intensified after details of GFH’s financial statement for the year to December 31, 2012 were revealed.
Part of the statement read: “The group has an active plan to sell its stake in LUFC Holdings (company which owns LUFC) and accordingly the assets and liabilities acquired were classified as held for sale and presented in the consolidated statement of financial position. Subsequent to the year end, GFH has commenced negotiations relating to the sale of its stake in LUFC Holdings.”
But then came a separate GFH Capital statement yesterday afternoon. Part of which was at odds with the above and only added to the sense of perplexity.
It stated: “Gulf Finance House (GFH), parent company of Leeds United FC owner GFH Capital, published its financial audited report that stated it was looking to sell its stake in the club. “To clarify and as previously stated, GFH Capital is looking for investment in part of its share in the club, not its entirety. GFH Capital has been transparent since acquiring Leeds United and is continuing to look for strategic investors in part of the club that can invest in Leeds United, alongside GFH Capital, to ensure a long term, sustainable future.”
What can be gleaned is that while GFH seem willing to sell up lock, stock and barrel, GFH Capital – it’s 100 per cent subsidiary – only wish to sell a part stake of around 30 per cent.
Yesterday’s call for further investment and message that they are in it for the long haul is the same one which GFH Capital made after rejecting a bid for a majority stake in the club on February 10 – less than nine weeks after taking over.
It remains to be seen what happens next regarding United’s future – up in the air on the pitch and off it with the managerial issue also looming increasingly large for the club’s owners, with the countdown to boss Neil Warnock’s departure having already begun.
As it stands, despite the attempts by GFH Capital to clarify matters regarding their ownership intentions, cynicism is sure to abound among supporters.
It is all a far cry from last December when, just four days before Christmas, there was real hope among the Leeds faithful that the club had indeed turned the corner with GFH Capital taking over the Elland Road reins from Ken Bates. But the honeymoon period has not lasted long. And supporters are yet to be convinced that a brighter future is in the offing.
The admission from United’s new owners that they were seeking strategic investors so soon after taking control only fuelled further doubts about their long-term ability to fund the club – and they refuse to go away.
Patel, GFH Capital’s chief investment officer, has previously alluded to cashflow shortfalls, pointing to the previous regime’s mortgaging of season-ticket money to financial firm Ticketus in order to receive £5m up front to pay for East Stand refurbishment work.
Patel has also spoken about GFH Capital being effectively hamstrung by funds being committed to building projects, which have heightened their appeal for investment.
Yesterday’s statement did confirm that from the GFH Capital point of view, at least, there is an intention to continue to financially support the club.
They revealed how an injection of around £10m in funding has already been spent since December – both to strengthen the first-team squad and provide working capital.
But it is clear that new investment remains a priority and with talk of supposed new owners holding advanced talks with parent company GFH, it raises the very real possibility that Mr Patel and his GFH Capital team may yet be sidelined before they get the chance to develop the club any further.

Leeds United owner contradicts itself over plans to sell club

Guardian 20/3/13
Company now says it will sell only some, not all, shares
New position goes against statement in annual accounts
David Conn
Leeds United's owner, GFH, has taken the extraordinary step of contradicting statements made in its own annual accounts, insisting it is not, in fact, intending to sell the club immediately, only a stake in it. The Bahrain-based finance firm stated in its 2012 accounts that it bought Leeds, as recently as 21 December, as an "asset held for sale", which it planned to realise within six to 12 months. The accounts stated that the club had "commenced negotiations relating to the sale of its stake".
Following media reports of that detail, GFH issued a statement on the Leeds United website emphasising its previously publicly stated position that, having bought the club from the previous owner Ken Bates for £22m, it is looking for "strategic investors" to buy a stake in the club, but is not selling it completely.
"To clarify and as previously stated, GFH Capital is looking for investment in part of its share in the club, not its entirety," the statement said.
Pointedly, the statement referred throughout to GFH Capital, which is based in Dubai, the subsidiary of GFH that carried out the takeover from Bates, not to GFH itself, the parent company. However the statement did not explain why the stated strategy of GFH Capital, to invest in Leeds and look to rebuild the club's fortunes while selling a stake to strategic partners, was contradicted by the parent company's accounts.
"GFH Capital … is continuing to look for strategic investors in part of the club that can invest in Leeds United, alongside GFH Capital, to ensure a long-term, sustainable future," the statement said.
Salem Patel, the chief investment officer of GFH, the parent company, who was centrally involved in the takeover from Bates, told the Guardian last month that even in purely profit-motivated terms, the finance house would do better to rebuild Leeds and win promotion to the Premier League than sell the club immediately.
Explaining it was interested in selling a 30% stake to a "strategic investor", Patel said that if it sold a majority stake to a buyer without the funds capable of making Leeds successful, "we become a minority shareholder in an investment not going anywhere". He added: "We do not wish to make a short-term profit to miss out on the £150m-£200m which could be made if the club wins promotion to the Premier League."
GFHC has put money into the club, which it said was partly to cope with cashflow problems inherited from Bates, under whose ownership the club mortgaged future season ticket income to finance work on the Elland Road east stand. The statement on the club website said the cash injected into the club by GFH now amounts to £10m, "to strengthen the squad and for other working capital purposes". GFHC also promised: "Additional financial support will continue to be provided as required."
The statement highlighted a price cut for 2013-14 season tickets in a bid to re-engage fans, many of whom complained of high costs under Bates. "GFH Capital has fulfilled the plans pledged," it said. "Its strategy for the club remains the same; to build a group of strategic investors to put Leeds United in the best position both on and off pitch for the long term."

A message from the owners

leedsunited.com 20/3/13
GFH Capital have issued the following...
In March 2013, Gulf Finance House (GFH), parent company of Leeds United FC owner GFH Capital, published its financial audited report that stated it was looking to sell its stake in the club. To clarify and as previously stated, GFH Capital is looking for investment in part of its share in the club, not its entirety.
GFH Capital has been transparent since acquiring Leeds United and is continuing to look for strategic investors in part of the club that can invest in Leeds United, alongside GFH Capital, to ensure a long term, sustainable future.
Since GFH Capital took ownership of Leeds United, it has fulfilled its promise of investing in the club, with around £10 million having already been injected into the club; to strengthen the squad and for other working capital purposes. Additional financial support will continue to be provided as required. Through cutting ticket prices, reducing 2013/14 Season Ticket costs and the introduction of Half-Season tickets, attendances have risen at Elland Road as GFH Capital continues with its goal of re-engaging existing fans and attracting new supporters to the club, plus the recent International Soccer Schools and 'Take it to the Kids' initiatives.
To date, GFH Capital has fulfilled the plans pledged and its strategy for the club remains the same; to build a group of strategic investors to put Leeds United in the best position both on and off pitch for the long term.

Confusion reigns at Elland Road after Leeds owners demand £7m from sale of the club just THREE months after takeover

Mail 20/3/13
By Jon Harvey
Leeds owners GFH Capital have added to the growing confusion at Elland Road by insisting they are actively seeking investment but do not want to sell the club.
The Dubai-based equity investment firm, who bought the club in December following a protracted takeover from previous owner Ken Bates, said in their financial statements for the year ending December 31 2012 - which came to light yesterday - that they were negotiating to sell their stake in the club's parent company LUFC Holdings for £7million more than they paid.
But in a club statement released this afternoon the owners said they were looking to attract investors and did not want to end their involvement at Elland Road.
It read: 'In March 2013, Gulf Finance House (GFH), parent company of Leeds United FC owner GFH Capital, published its financial audited report that stated it was looking to sell its stake in the club.
'To clarify and as previously stated, GFH Capital is looking for investment in part of its share in the club, not its entirety.
'GFH Capital has been transparent since acquiring Leeds United and is continuing to look for strategic investors in part of the club that can invest in Leeds United, alongside GFH Capital, to ensure a long-term, sustainable future.
'Since GFH Capital took ownership of Leeds United, it has fulfilled its promise of investing in the club, with around £10million having already been injected into the club; to strengthen the squad and for other working capital purposes.
'Additional financial support will continue to be provided as required.
'Through cutting ticket prices, reducing 2013/14 season-ticket costs and the introduction of half-season tickets, attendances have risen at Elland Road as GFH Capital continues with its goal of re-engaging existing fans and attracting new supporters to the club, plus the recent International Soccer Schools and ‘Take it to the Kids' initiatives.
'To date, GFH Capital has fulfilled the plans pledged and its strategy for the club remains the same; to build a group of strategic investors to put Leeds United in the best position both on and off pitch for the long term.'
But in their latest financial statements Gulf Finance House, GFH Capital's parent company, had clearly stated they were looking to sell its interest in the club.
GFH's financial statements for the year ending December 31 2012 said: 'Subsequent to the year end, (GFH) has commenced negotiations relating to the sale of its stake in LUFC Holdings.'
GFH also said in their financial statements that they bought the club off Bates for a 'bargain due to pressure on the sellers to exit their holdings due to change in their business plans.'
Last month GFH Capital confirmed they had turned down a bid by an undisclosed party to buy a controlling stake in the club.
It had been reported that an unnamed Yorkshire-based consortium had made an offer for a 51 per cent share with a view to securing a phased buy-out.
Former Leeds director and current owner of Super League side Hull FC Adam Pearson later distanced himself from speculation linking him with a takeover of the Championship side.
Today's news brings more instability to the club, whose play-off hopes are hanging by a thread.
Leeds are seven points adrift of the top six with eight games to play, while manager Neil Warnock has indicated he will leave in the summer if the club are not promoted.

Leeds owners GFH Capital have added to the growing confusion at Elland Road by insisting they are actively seeking investment but do not want to sell the club.

Independent 20/3/13
The Dubai-based equity investment firm, who bought the club in December following a protracted takeover from previous owner Ken Bates, said in their financial statements for the year ending December 31 2012 - which came to light yesterday - that they were negotiating to sell their stake in the club's parent company LUFC Holdings for £7million more than they paid.
But in a club statement released this afternoon the owners said they were looking to attract investors and did not want to end their involvement at Elland Road.
It read: "In March 2013, Gulf Finance House (GFH), parent company of Leeds United FC owner GFH Capital, published its financial audited report that stated it was looking to sell its stake in the club.
"To clarify and as previously stated, GFH Capital is looking for investment in part of its share in the club, not its entirety.
"GFH Capital has been transparent since acquiring Leeds United and is continuing to look for strategic investors in part of the club that can invest in Leeds United, alongside GFH Capital, to ensure a long-term, sustainable future.
"Since GFH Capital took ownership of Leeds United, it has fulfilled its promise of investing in the club, with around £10million having already been injected into the club; to strengthen the squad and for other working capital purposes.
"Additional financial support will continue to be provided as required.
"Through cutting ticket prices, reducing 2013/14 season-ticket costs and the introduction of half-season tickets, attendances have risen at Elland Road as GFH Capital continues with its goal of re-engaging existing fans and attracting new supporters to the club, plus the recent International Soccer Schools and 'Take it to the Kids' initiatives.
"To date, GFH Capital has fulfilled the plans pledged and its strategy for the club remains the same; to build a group of strategic investors to put Leeds United in the best position both on and off pitch for the long term."
But in their latest financial statements Gulf Finance House, GFH Capital's parent company, had clearly stated they were looking to sell its interest in the club.
GFH's financial statements for the year ending December 31 2012 said: "Subsequent to the year end, (GFH) has commenced negotiations relating to the sale of its stake in LUFC Holdings."
GFH also said in their financial statements that they bought the club off Bates for a "bargain due to pressure on the sellers to exit their holdings due to change in their business plans."
Last month GFH Capital confirmed they had turned down a bid by an undisclosed party to buy a controlling stake in the club.
It had been reported that an unnamed Yorkshire-based consortium had made an offer for a 51 per cent share with a view to securing a phased buy-out.
Former Leeds director and current owner of Super League side Hull FC Adam Pearson later distanced himself from speculation linking him with a takeover of the npower Championship side.
Today's news brings more instability to the club, whose play-off hopes are hanging by a thread.
Leeds are seven points adrift of the top six with eight games to play, while manager Neil Warnock has indicated he will leave in the summer if the club are not promoted.

GFH deny plans to sell up UPDATED

YEP 20/3/13
By Leon Wobschall
Leeds United owners GFH Capital have reiterated their desire to attract strategic investors to the club and denied they plan to sell up, despite their parent company saying otherwise.
A statement issued by GFH Capital said: “Gulf Finance House (GFH), parent company of Leeds United FC owner GFH Capital, published its financial audited report that stated it was looking to sell its stake in the club.
“To clarify and as previously stated, GFH Capital is looking for investment in part of its share in the club, not its entirety.
“GFH Capital has been transparent since acquiring Leeds United and is continuing to look for strategic investors in part of the club that can invest in Leeds United, alongside GFH Capital, to ensure a long term, sustainable future.”
The statement followed reports that Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House had given formal notice that they had started talks to sell the club, which they only purchased on December 21.
GFH state in their financial accounts for the year to December 31, 2012: “The group has an active plan to sell its stake in LUFC Holdings Limited, and accordingly, the asset and liabilities acquired were classified as held for sale and presented in the consolidated statement of financial position.
“Subsequent to the year end, the group has commenced negotiations relating to the sale of its stake in LUFC Holdings Limited.”
A consortium involving Yorkshire businessman Steve Parkin - thought to have been at the forefront of a failed bid to purchase a majority stake in United last month -have been linked with a fresh offer.

New Leeds United owners decide to sell – three months after buying

Guardian 19/3/13
Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House ready to make quick profit
Negotiations with potential buyers have already begun
David Conn
The Bahrain-based owners of Leeds United have given formal notice that they have begun negotiations to sell the club, which they bought from the previous owner, Ken Bates, only on 21 December. In their financial statements for the year to 31 December 2012, Gulf Finance House (GFH) state that they bought Leeds for "a bargain purchase" and are now holding the club for sale, which they envisage completing within six months to a year.
GFH also revealed for the first time the price they paid for Leeds, "net cash" of $33m (£22m), and they assess the club to be worth immediately $10m (£7m) more than that. Bates owned 73% of the club via his offshore company, Outro, so of that £22m purchase price disclosed by GFH, he would have been paid £16m. He has never revealed how much he paid to buy Leeds, so it is not known whether Bates, a tax exile living in Monaco, made a personal tax-free profit on the sale.
In their financial statements, GFH say without further explanation that Bates was under some duress to sell the club."The bargain purchase was due to pressure on the sellers [principally Bates] to exit their holdings due to change [sic] in their business plans," they say.
GFH make it clear they are seeking almost immediately to sell Leeds. The club's assets, which the accounts assess to be worth $88m (£58m), are noted as "held-for-sale" with "maturity" predicted within six months to one year.
"The group has an active plan to sell its stake in LUFC Holdings [the company which now owns Leeds]," the financial statements say. "Subsequent to the year end, [GFH] has commenced negotiations relating to the sale of its stake in LUFC Holdings."
In February Salem Patel, GFH's chief investment officer, told the Guardian the fund is looking for "strategic investors" who would buy a minority stake, preferably 30%, to reduce GFH's exposure to the price of buying and funding Leeds. Patel said GFH might consider selling a majority stake, but only to an investor with enough money to fund Leeds to success.
Patel said GFH had paid substantial sums already into Leeds because the club had "a cashflow shortfall" due to season ticket income from this and next season having been mortgaged under Bates's ownership to finance building work in the Elland Road east stand.
The GFH financial statements, signed on 23 February, make it clear GFH is actively seeking to sell its stake and has already begun negotiations to do so. Neither Patel nor David Haigh, deputy chief executive of GFH Capital, the subsidiary fund that actually bought Leeds, have said with whom they are negotiating, or on what terms.
The accounts show that GFH, which has had financial difficulties during the property and financial market slumps, recorded in 2011-12 a modest profit of $10m (£7m). The GFH chairman, Esam Yousif Janahi, hailing a "positive turnaround," said the firm had restructured millions of pounds of debt, and he cited the Leeds acquisition as a high point. "LUFC promises to be a high yielding investment opportunity, which GFH is successfully placing with its investors," Janahi stated.
Leeds, managed by Neil Warnock, are 10th in the Championship, having lost at home to west Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town on Saturday.

GFH have an “active plan” to sell Leeds United

Scratching Shed 19/3/13
GFH Capital have begun negotiations to sell their stake in Leeds United according to the year end financial statement from Gulf Financial House, the parent company of GFH Capital.
A report from the Reuters New Agency says GFH paid a lump sum of $33m (£21m) to acquire the club, a deal which is believed to include add-ons at a later date.
In the financial statement, GFH explain that negotiations to sell Leeds United began almost immediately after the club was purchased, adding;
“The Group has an active plan to sell its stake in LUFC Holdings Limited, and accordingly, the asset and liabilities acquired were classified as held-for-sale and presented in the consolidated statement of financial position,”
Both David Haigh and Leeds United refused to comment when contacted by Reuters, pointing towards an interview with David Conn earlier this year in which Haigh and Patel say the plan is to sell a minority stake only.
Nothing particularly ground-breaking in this, the interview David Haigh points towards in The Guardian told us that GFH were already looking for investment of sorts. What’s interesting is how long this has been going on and the term “active plan” which, to me at least, suggests they already have people lined up to sell their stake (or part of it) to.
Reduced to clear
Elsewhere in the statement, GFH say they acquired Leeds United for a “bargain price” adding;
The bargain purchase was due to pressure on the sellers to exit their holdings due to change in their business plans.
On completing the purchase of Leeds United, GFH said;
GFH, through its 100% owned subsidiary, GFH Capital Limited completed the 100% acquisition of Leeds United City Holdings Limited and Leeds United Football Club (LUFC); a fully integrated and one of the best supported clubs in English Football with a large fan base. LUFC promises to be a high yielding investment opportunity, which GFH is successfully placing with its investors.

Monday, March 18, 2013

GFH-C: A Fortnight to Lay the Foundations for a Successful 2013/14 Season

Fear And Loathing In LS11 17/3/13
by Ken DeMange
For the first time since early October, the international break has afforded the supporters of Championship clubs a respite from an unrelenting league programme. For Leeds fans, UEFA’s scheduling almost feels like a noble act of mercy, offering the prospect of at least one weekend, not sullied by another unremarkable Leeds performance. However, for GFH-C it should represent a lot more, a Godsend no less, if they are serious in their intentions to make the club a force, come August.
If something positive was to be salvaged from the wreckage of yesterday’s miserable defeat, it was that even Neil Warnock was moved to accept publicly, that the loss dealt a “fatal blow” to the club’s play-off aspirations. With such statement, Warnock has essentially admitted that not only our season, but his own managerial career is over. In the press conference afterwards, he spoke more about the task of finding his successor than anything that happened on the pitch:
“We have talked about my successor with the owners because they know I will not be here if we are not in the Premier League. If we do not have a chance of getting in the play-offs, I will step aside.”
He was then quick to assert though that just because the season was dead, his tenure at the club wasn’t necessarily over just yet…
“But that does not mean I will definitely go before the end of the season…I want them to get the best manager they can get to replace me and some of them might not be available until the summer.”
In other words, Warnock will remain for however long he is told that his services are required. The question is, should GFH-C be telling him now, in no uncertain terms, that this is no longer the case?
The fact is, Warnock appears to consider himself an integral part of the appointment process, his own self-generated hyperbole, positing him as a prudent guardian of the Leeds managerial post until a new man arrives on board, but in reality, is his continued presence now more of hindrance?
GFH-C find themselves in a unique situation where they’ve been afforded a fortnight to make decisive steps towards laying the foundations for a new season, almost two months before the current one ends. They even have the blessing of the current incumbent of the manager’s post to do so. The season is now dead, the time is indisputably right…decisive actions have been taken in recent days to remedy the prickly issue of ticket prices, now the owners need to prove their mettle when dealing with on the pitch issues and resolve, or at least address as far as they possibly can, the managerial issue.
From the forums, twitter and phone-ins, Nigel Adkins appears to remain both the logical and most popular choice, and if recent reports are to be believed, is now free to take on his next managerial role. In a perfect world and if GFH-C are able to offer the resources necessary to entice him, then his appointment this week would transform the mood around the club at a stroke.
However, should such a swift appointment not be possible – and it’s quite conceivable that the owners aren’t able to confirm a new man until the much touted “imminent” investment is secured – that should not be justification enough for the retention of Warnock. The way in which the appointment process has been spoken about does suggest supporters may still be in for a wait, and thus the need for a man to fill the void in between, but why not entrust that job to Richard Naylor?
The temporary promotion of Naylor makes sense on a number of levels; firstly, having done such a fine job with the youth side and with the emphasis over the final 8 games leaning now towards the longer term, then who better than Naylor to decide which of those eye-catching youngsters are ready to be blooded in the first XI? Furthermore, with the pressure off and their boss overseeing matters, it’s unlikely that Chris Dawson, Lewis Walters and the like could be offered a more comfortable passage into Championship football.
In addition, if for arguments sake, it is a Nigel Adkins or Brian McDermott type of manager being lined up, would their well established footballing philosophies not dovetail rather better with what Naylor’s clearly been preaching, as opposed to the direct idealism of our departing boss? On the basis of his work so far, it seems reasonable to expect that Naylor will be a long term fixture in the club’s coaching make up, so such an opportunity could also be invaluable for his long term development, as well as help him to establish a firm relationship with the incoming top man
It is of course also feasible that Adkins, McDermott, Freedman, Di Canio even, are all ‘pie in the sky‘ options, that hopes of investment are just that and GFH-C will be scrimping around for the next man to inherit the Elland Road ‘hot seat‘; if that is the case, then a decision to allow Naylor to demonstrate his abilities would make even more sense. Finally and begrudgingly by his own admittance, Neil Warnock’s time is up at Leeds and so surely it makes little sense to me to retain him any longer? Even if over the course of this next fortnight, Messrs. Haigh and Patel still can’t realistically aspire to be stood, flanking their first managerial appointment while he holds a Leeds scarf above his head, smiling into the glare of a thousand flashbulbs, that’s not to say that other positive decisions cannot be made in the interim.
GFH-C may still, rightly or wrongly, place great importance on Neil Warnock’s input as they work towards installing a new successor, but if so, an advisor is all he should be from this point. In the dug out it’s high time for a fresh face and a more progressive mind frame and if it isn’t immediately possible to have that from a new man, then let us at least allow Richard Naylor to start on the groundwork for him.

Warnock in talks over Leeds successor

Yorkshire Post 17/3/13
LEEDS manager Neil Warnock has already spoken to the club’s owners about his possible successor after watching his side’s play-off hopes dealt a huge blow today by West Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield.
Terriers midfielder Neil Danns volleyed home his first goal for the club in the 54th minute and although Leeds substitute Aidy White headed home with his first touch soon after, James Vaughan held his nerve to slide home an 86th-minute winner for the visitors, who triumphed 2-1.
A first home defeat for Leeds since early February following three straight draws leaves them four points adrift of the npower Championship play-offs with eight games remaining and Warnock admitted today’s loss felt “like a fatal defeat”.
“Realistically we’re running out of games and (the owners) GFH know my situation, I speak to them on a regular basis,” the 64-year-old said.
“Once we’re out of contention for the Premier League they know I won’t be having another year in the Championship.
“They’ve got to look after themselves really. We’ve spoken about my successor, about people coming in if mathematically it’s impossible to get into the play-offs.
“I’d like to think that I’d have an input on that because the job we’ve done over the last 12 months, the staff and I, I think is fantastic.
“Yes I’m frustrated because we just lack that bit of quality, a bit of midfield creativity and a bit of pace.
“We’ve sorted everything else out, but haven’t been able to sort that out and it catches up with you.”
On today’s defeat, Warnock added: “I’m obviously disappointed, but I can’t fault the players, they put everything in.
“We’ve had so many opportunities now over the last six to eight weeks to be 10 or 12 points better off.
“The problem is we’re always chasing the points to get back in there. It almost felt like a fatal defeat today because of the points situation.
“I’d love to come in and blame the players, but they’re a great bunch, they couldn’t give me more.”
Leeds hit the woodwork twice, through Luke Varney’s first-half header and Rudy Austin’s 25-yard volley in the second period, but Huddersfield match-winner Vaughan also hit the crossbar just before the break with a header.
Huddersfield manager Mark Robins described his side’s performance as “brilliant” and said the return from a long-term hamstring injury of former Leeds striker Jermaine Beckford had given his squad a big boost.
It was Robins’ third win since he replaced Simon Grayson as boss last month and lifted the club eight points clear of the relegation zone with eight games remaining.
Beckford was back on the bench and made his first appearance since January in the second half.
“I thought it was brilliant,” said Robins.
“It was a typical derby game. The referee set his stall out early doors because he booked a couple of players and I thought there might not be 11 players left on the pitch.
“We grew into the game. We were resolute in the first half, got ourselves in front and conceded a really poor goal from our perspective because we started to drop (deep) and there was no pressure on the ball.
“But we kept our heads and although we were pegged back we were still in the game and although they were throwing bodies forward we dealt with it well.”

Warnock in talks over club’s future direction

YEP 16/3/13
Leeds United manager Neil Warnock has already spoken to the club’s owners about his possible successor after watching his side’s play-off hopes dealt a huge blow by West Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town.
Terriers midfielder Neil Danns volleyed home his first goal for the club in the 54th minute and although Leeds substitute Aidy White headed home with his first touch soon after, James Vaughan held his nerve to slide home an 86th-minute winner for the visitors, who triumphed 2-1.
A first home defeat for Leeds since early February following three straight draws leaves them four points adrift of the npower Championship play-offs with eight games remaining and Warnock admitted today’s loss felt “like a fatal defeat”.
“Realistically we’re running out of games and (the owners) GFH know my situation, I speak to them on a regular basis,” the 64-year-old said.
“Once we’re out of contention for the Premier League they know I won’t be having another year in the Championship.
“They’ve got to look after themselves really. We’ve spoken about my successor, about people coming in if mathematically it’s impossible to get into the play-offs.
“I’d like to think that I’d have an input on that because the job we’ve done over the last 12 months, the staff and I, I think is fantastic.
“Yes I’m frustrated because we just lack that bit of quality, a bit of midfield creativity and a bit of pace.
“We’ve sorted everything else out, but haven’t been able to sort that out and it catches up with you.”
On today’s defeat, Warnock added: “I’m obviously disappointed, but I can’t fault the players, they put everything in.
“We’ve had so many opportunities now over the last six to eight weeks to be 10 or 12 points better off.
“The problem is we’re always chasing the points to get back in there. It almost felt like a fatal defeat today because of the points situation.
“I’d love to come in and blame the players, but they’re a great bunch, they couldn’t give me more.”
Leeds hit the woodwork twice, through Luke Varney’s first-half header and Rudy Austin’s 25-yard volley in the second period, but Huddersfield match-winner Vaughan also hit the crossbar just before the break with a header.
Huddersfield manager Mark Robins described his side’s performance as “brilliant” and said the return from a long-term hamstring injury of former Leeds striker Jermaine Beckford had given his squad a big boost.
It was Robins’ third win since he replaced Simon Grayson as boss last month and lifted the club eight points clear of the relegation zone with eight games remaining.
Beckford was back on the bench and made his first appearance since January in the second half.
“I thought it was brilliant,” said Robins.
“It was a typical derby game. The referee set his stall out early doors because he booked a couple of players and I thought there might not be 11 players left on the pitch.
“We grew into the game. We were resolute in the first half, got ourselves in front and conceded a really poor goal from our perspective because we started to drop (deep) and there was no pressure on the ball.
“But we kept our heads and although we were pegged back we were still in the game and although they were throwing bodies forward we dealt with it well.”

Leeds 1 Huddersfield 2: Terriers' double derby delight as Vaughan gives survival hopes a fillip AND dents rivals' play-off push

Mail 16/3/13
James Vaughan struck an 86th-minute winner as Huddersfield exacted revenge on their West Yorkshire rivals and dealt Leeds' npower Championship play-off hopes a major blow.
Vaughan kept his composure to steer home the winner from inside the penalty area after Leeds substitute Aidy White had cancelled out Scott Danns' opener for the visitors early in the second half.
It was a welcome victory for Huddersfield, beaten 4-2 by Leeds at the John Smith's Stadium in December, and lifted them eight points clear of the relegation zone.
Leeds' outside play-off chances appear to be fading fast as they slipped to their first home defeat since early February. They still trail sixth-placed Nottingham Forest by four points, having played a game more than all their rivals.
Leeds almost took the lead in the fourth minute when Luke Varney's goalbound header from Stephen Warnock's corner was headed off the line and up on to the crossbar by Huddersfield skipper Peter Clarke.
Huddersfield goalkeeper Alex Smithies then did superbly to keep out a low shot from El-Hadji Diouf, back in the starting line-up for the first time in seven matches, as Leeds looked to build up a head of steam.
The visitors withstood the early barrage and responded in style in the 21st minute when winger Danny Ward, making his first start since breaking a bone in his foot in December, clipped over a superb cross from the left and striker James Vaughan headed against the bar.
Chances at either end dried up, though, as both sides lost their way, but Varney almost escaped the attention of Town defender Antony Gerrard in the visitors' area following Diouf's neat pass and Ward's header from Clayton's headed pass was brilliantly saved low down to his right by Leeds goalkeeper Paddy Kenny just before half-time.
Too many passes went astray after the restart to give the Elland Road crowd anything to shout about and it was Huddersfield who seized the initiative to claim a 54th-minute lead.
Huddersfield right-back Jack Hunt's cross was not properly cleared and, when Vaughan's ball back in was blocked, the Town striker was allowed to head the ball backward into the path of Danns, who volleyed his first goal for the club cleanly inside Kenny's near post.
Leeds boss Warnock sent on White and Ryan Hall for Paul Green and the ineffective Habib Habibou respectively and was almost instantly rewarded.
Home defender Tom Lees swung over a cross that eluded Town centre-half Clarke and White charged in at the far post to beat Hunt to the bouncing ball and steer his header over Smithies into the opposite corner.
Ward forced another decent save from Kenny minutes later with a crisp left-footed drive from the left edge of the area and Leeds defender Sam Byram headed Diouf's corner wide.
Huddersfield boss Mark Robins replaced midfielder Oliver Norwood and Ward with former Leeds striker Jermaine Beckford, making his first appearance since January due to a hamstring injury, and Sean Scannell in the 76th minute.
Leeds then went close to taking the lead in spectacular fashion when midfielder Rudy Austin's dipping 25-yard volley hit the bar and bounced down on to Smithies' back.
But it was Huddersfield who snatched all three points. Danns slipped the ball to young defender Hunt and, following his slide-rule pass into the area, Vaughan held his nerve to side-foot a neat finish beyond Kenny and inside the far post.

Leeds United adopt sensible pricing plan, but still must get their sums right

YEP 16/3/13
By Phil Hay
Leeds United first put a firework up the backside of season-ticket prices in 2005. Later that summer the club got in touch to tell the YEP that income from sales had reached £4.5m with a further £1m guaranteed in credit payments.
It prompted a very obvious question: how many season tickets had been sold? No comment. And with that you realised that a steep hike in prices had hacked away at the existing group of holders, as if there was any doubt that it would. Over time, 17,000 ran closer to 10,000 and the battle lines were drawn.
Before the contentious rises, adult holders were charged a minimum of £330 and an average of between £400 and £450. Allowing for inflation, the reduced prices announced by Leeds on Thursday are almost in line with pre-Ken Bates attitudes. If you’re over 21 and yet to receive a bus pass, you’ll pay an average of £491. That’s £21 a game.
This is sensible pricing in action and not before time; a genuine attempt to find the middle ground between revenue and inclusion. United’s satisfaction with gate receipts of £5.5m in 2005 said it all – a makeweight in their eyes for the thousands of fans who burnt season tickets in droves. And so it went on. Certain seats in Elland Road’s East Stand cost £726 for the 2006-07 season. Premiership prices for relegation and administration.
It was not only the sheer expense that raised hackles. On top of that was the absence of concessionary tickets in either the East or West Stands, out with the Family Area and the discrepancies between renewal prices and those set for new applicants. If you renewed in the lower East Stand last season you paid £633. If you applied for a new ticket, you paid £711. Or more likely, you didn’t. It reflects the fact that tickets are no longer selling.
The revision of United’s pricing structure for next season has addressed many of those issues. It cut basic costs and applied a more reasonable levy to new applications. There’s a difference between rewarding loyalty and hammering people who want to join the throng. The introduction of a young adult category helps those who, by and large, are as pushed for money as under-16s and an age group with decades of attendance in them. It is not that tickets for Elland Road have become cheap overnight but they are closer to the going rate and far more accessible.
After two months of delicate courtship, this is GFH Capital’s first real overture to the supporters of the club it bought in December. Watch Leeds 4 Less, Paint It White, official Twitter and Facebook pages – none of that washes like an announcement which tackles a core concern. Lower prices are a stripe on the company’s arm but also a feather in the cap of the staff at Elland Road who pieced the strategy together.
There was no standard reduction of 10 per cent across the board on Thursday. The cuts were substantial, varied and exact, up to a maximum of 32.9 per cent. United said the changes stemmed from discussions at their Regional Members Conference in November 2011 which implies that the club are seeing sense in what they’re hearing.
Leeds being Leeds, Thursday’s announcement did not pass without complication. The revelation from club director Salem Patel that the first £3.3m raised from season ticket sales would go directly to Ticketus, the firm which loaned United £5m for the redevelopment of the East Stand in 2011, reminded us of how much there is to sort out. Kudos to Patel for his honesty but mentioning Ticketus was an odd way of nurturing optimism for next season.
Already you wonder how much money Leeds will have to throw at their squad.
Season ticket uptake is not exclusive of those factors. Thursday’s reductions were widely appreciated but Leeds will fight the same fight in 12 months’ time if they drift through next season as they’ve drifted through this. Some people struggle to afford tickets in the first place; others don’t see value in what they’re paying to see. GFH Capital cannot be all things to all men but falling attendances are a multi-track problem. The standard of football matters.
There was criticism of comments this week by chief executive Shaun Harvey, saying “the level of fans’ response will form an integral part of our budgeting process for the squad next season”. It sounded like a threat, not least because of the payment due to Ticketus for an expensive development carried out on his watch, but Harvey was saying it as it is.
Prices are down and so will be United’s income unless sales go up. Progress relies on this move paying off.
Quid pro quo.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Leeds United 1 Peterborough 1: Play-offs move further out of Leeds’s grasp

Yorkshire Post 13/3/13
By Richard Sutcliffe
A TENTH season outside the Premier League is surely beckoning for Leeds United after another frustrating, if entertaining, stalemate for Neil Warnock’s men.
Following on from the recent trio of draws on the road that had seen a potential nine-point haul turned into just three by the concession of late equalisers, United lost further ground against one of the Championship’s lesser lights.
Worse still, Leeds being held by a Peterborough United side, who belied their lowly status with a hugely impressive attacking display, came on a night when one of the clubs in the West Yorkshire club’s sights suffered a setback of their own, seventh-placed Brighton & Hove Albion losing at Barnsley.
All in all, therefore, a disappointing start to the 10-game run-in that Warnock believes can take his side into the top six – a point illustrated by the muted reaction of the 24,240 crowd at the final whistle.
A few booed, a few clapped. But the overwhelming reaction was one of resigned silence, almost as if those who had braved a cold night sensed that a potentially fatal blow has been inflicted on United’s attempt to gatecrash the play-offs.
Certainly, the manner in which Peterborough were able to create chance after chance of their own as play raged from one end to the other hardly suggested that Leeds have the quality to make a late dash to reclaim a Premier League place that was surrendered in 2004.
In truth, Posh could – just like Leeds – consider themselves unfortunate not to claim all three points with a combination of some lacklustre defending by the home side and the quality of Dwight Gayle allowing Darren Ferguson’s side to play a full part in an engrossing contest.
The tone was very much set in the first half, an extraordinarily open affair that saw chances aplenty created at either end. Both teams played their part in this, not least in how neither looked comfortable when asked to defend even the most basic of situations.
Never was this more apparent than with the game’s opening goal on 15 minutes as Leeds were undone by a simple punt forward by Posh goalkeeper Robert Olejnik that the home defence inexplicably failed to deal with.
The upshot was Gayle being able to claim possession before firing a tremendous shot that beat Paddy Kenny at his near post.
Leeds could not even claim to have been unfortunate to fall behind with Peterborough having served notice of their attacking threat just two minutes earlier when more sloppy defending had afforded Gayle a chance that he almost took with a shot that crashed against the crossbar.
Posh, to their credit, continued to press once ahead and United were grateful to Kenny for keeping out Lee Tomlin’s effort with a flying save before the hosts finally sprang into action once the game had entered the second quarter.
First, Stephen Warnock volleyed narrowly wide after being picked out by a floated cross from Luke Varney.
Then, after Ross McCormack had shown a tremendous turn of skill to get to the byline, Jason Pearce headed the Scot’s cross over after being picked out inside the six yard box.
It was a let-off for Posh, who were then grateful to see Paul Green shoot straight at Olejnik in the visitors’ goal and Steve Morison hook an effort wide following more sloppy defending by Ferguson’s men.
The end-to-end nature of the game continued after the restart as Posh opened up the home defence with ridiculous ease courtesy of a neat one-two between Gayle and Tomlin which ended with the first-half goalscorer firing narrowly wide.
Varney then missed by a similar margin at the other end as the Leeds striker met Tonge’s cross at the near post with a firm header.
Once again, it was a let-off for the visitors and, once again, they failed to heed the warning as another mistake – this time by goalkeeper Olejnik – allowed United to equalise just before the hour.
A deep inswinging corner by Warnock created the opening for Byram, who gleefully smashed the ball into the roof of the net from close range. Olejnik, however, was guilty of initially leaving his line in the hope of catching the ball en route to the back post only for it to fly over his net and towards the grateful Byram.
Varney had the ball in the net 15 minutes from time, but was rightly pulled back for offside.
It was Peterborough, though, who could consider themselves most unfortunate not to claim a late winner with Warnock cynically dragging Tomlin to the floor as Kenny raced recklessly from his line.
The left-back was booked for his troubles, a punishment that was also meted out to Green for an even more cynical foul on Gayle as he looked to be through on goal.
Leeds also had Kenny to thank for keeping out a stinging drive from Gayle to ensure the home side at least claimed some reward from last night.
Even so, time has to be running out now for United, who simply cannot afford to drop any more points this weekend when Huddersfield Town head to Elland Road for the final game before the international break.

Leeds United v Peterborough United: Gayle blows a hole in Whites chances

YEP 13/2/13
By Phil Hay
The right fixture at the right time, you assumed, but ultimately the wrong result. This would not be Leeds United if the club avoided a backwards step on what promised to be an optimistic night.
A game in hand against a club in as much trouble as Peterborough United had the look of a Godsend but the Championship’s capacity to surprise is as high as Leeds’ capacity to disappoint.
The division made unhappy reading after Dwight Gayle goal deflated Elland Road and left Leeds fighting to salvage a draw.
Gayle’s 15th-minute effort – the product of sharp shooting and tame defending – warned of a hard evening to come and Leeds were duly demoralised, despite Sam Byram’s equaliser.
Held by a side who are struggling to fend off relegation but not yet down, the bleak picture in front of Leeds is not simply a case of gut feeling; it is a matter of basic mathematics, their position weakened by the loss of two points they could not afford to lose.
The best-case scenario for United with nine games to play is that they finish the season on 79 points.
Even allowing for a league in which teams at both ends of it are digging around desperately for points, the margins are growing improbably short.
Such is the difficulty of chasing a play-off place, rather than defending one.
Byram replied to Gayle’s goal early in the second half, turning home a corner as the introduction of El-Hadji Diouf as a substitute brought some urgency to a performance which for 45 minutes created chances but caused concern.
The team which United’s manager, Neil Warnock, has come to appreciate recently were unable to cut Peterborough apart as he hoped they would.
Warnock’s unflinching commitment to a fixed line-up is a throwback to bygone days and specifically the days of Howard Wilkinson. Wilkinson was the last Leeds’ manager to stand by the same team for six games running at the start of the 1992-93 season, with limited success.
The most Warnock was willing to do was add Diouf to his bench and dispatch Ryan Hall to the wilderness again and at times in the first half it felt like a step too far.
There were interested observers across the Championship last night, on a day when Nottingham Forest, Bolton Wanderers and Middlesbrough all idle, and Mark Robins took a seat in the crowd in preparation for Huddersfield Town’s visit to Elland Road on Saturday.
This week had the makings of a staging point for United; an opportunity to cut deficits in front of them before the international break led into the home straight.
Victory over Peterborough would have been half of the job done; anything less was as good as worthless.
United’s football at the outset was languid, too disjointed to run ragged a group of Peterborough players who gave as good as they got and sometimes gave better.
Michael Tonge was first to examine either goalkeeper, striking within reach of Bobby Olejnik from 20 yards, but a Danny Swanson strike deflected wide at the other end and Gabriel Zakuani made nothing of a close range header from an early corner.
The first warning shot arrived in the 13th minute when Tommy Rowe tore through United’s midfield and laid a pass into the box, forcing a ricochet which fell to an unmarked Dwight Gayle.
The forward’s finish was firm and powerful and smashed off the face of Kenny’s crossbar, offering Gayle another chance on the rebound which he could only hook into Paddy Kenny’s arms.
If United thought they had dodged a bullet then they were wrong.
Two minutes later, Gayle wriggled free of Lee Peltier’s clutches and chased a loose ball into the box before cracking it into the top corner of Kenny’s net.
Kenny was covering his near post but could barely react to the fierce flight of Gayle’s shot as it sailed between him and the upright.
Already, it was turning into that sort of game. Kenny’s diving save kept Lee Tomlin’s 21st-minute shot out of the top corner of the net on 21 minutes – by no means the first occasion when Leeds have been indebted to their keeper – and Tom Lees was lost to injury soon after.
The arrival of Jason Pearce was not exactly an answer to the absence of positive aggression in the centre of midfield but Leeds asserted themselves gradually, creating half-chances for Steve Morison and Ross McCormack. It gave an anxious crowd something to cling to.
Stephen Warnock’s volley as the half wore on was a more dangerous effort, driven wide after Jack Payne’s clearing header brought a deep cross from Luke Varney, and periods of United’s pressure were relentless if misdirected.
All the same, Kane Ferdinand should have stretched Kenny’s net again when the keeper’s punch dropped to him on the edge of Leeds’ box. Pearce was well placed to clear.
The centre-back missed a better chance of his own before the interval, heading McCormack’s cross over the crossbar from a position where it seemed impossible to miss, and Green and Morison could also have equalised with slightly more precision. But in its entirety, the half was worrying.
Warnock dispensed with Morison at the break, bringing Diouf to the fore, but the sight of Gayle breaking away and narrowly failing to find Kenny’s net four minutes into the second half was less than encouraging. Peterborough’s strategy was clear by then but Leeds made the most of Gayle’s miss. In the 57th minute, an onslaught from Leeds forced a corner and Stephen Warnock’s swinging delivery fell to Byram who stuck a foot out and stabbed it into the roof of Olejnik’s net.
The equaliser was a direct challenge to Peterborough’s composure and the game took a predictable course – Darren Ferguson’s side resorting entirely to counter-attacks while Leeds pressed more patiently.
There were moments of panic at both ends as Green missed an opportunity to pick out an unmarked Diouf six yards from goal and confusion between Kenny and Stephen Warnock led to a sly tackle by Warnock on Ferdinand which referee Stuart Hooper might easily have ruled a professional foul.
Warnock was booked as Ferguson remonstrated with the fourth official.
As the tension built, Varney found the net with an offside flag raised and Kenny produced a brilliant save to tip a Gayle strike into the crowd.
Green escaped with a professional foul which looked even clearer than Stephen Warnock’s and Pearce headed wide in injury-time.
The football was nothing if not compelling but the order of the night was not entertainment. Leeds can do little more now but cling to hope.

Leeds 1-1 Peterborough: Byram strike not enough to earn the Whites all three points

Through It All Together 12/3/13
By Tom Crowther
Sam Byram’s third goal of the season was not enough for Leeds to take all three points in front of 24,240 at Elland Road in an entertaining score draw. Dwight Gayle opened the scoring for the Posh who gave as good as they got on the night.
Manager Neil Warnock named an unchanged starting eleven for the sixth game running; the last time the Whites managed that was in 1992. El-Hadji Diouf recovered from illness to replace Ryan Hall on the substitute’s bench.
Peterborough started the stronger of the two sides and Dwight Gayle had the first real clear cut chance on 13 minutes as his effort smacked against the crossbar.
The following attack Peterborough deservedly took the lead through Gayle. The former Dagenham striker took on Peltier and finished tidily leaving Paddy Kenny with no chance.
To make matters worse for the Whites, the United backline had to be disrupted when Tom Lees was taken off with an injury and replaced by Jason Pearce.
Leeds finally enjoyed their first spell of pressure after 28 minutes when Ross McCormack, making his 100th appearance for the club, had a shot blocked by the Posh defence.
The game really opened up after half an hour and both sides had chances to score. The away side caused Leeds all sorts of problems on the break and after a poor punch from Paddy Kenny; Kane Ferdinand’s effort was cleared off the six yard line with Kenny stranded.
At the other end, Leeds should have equalised through Jason Pearce who will be disappointed he didn’t find the net. He headed over from a corner when it was easier for him to score.
In stoppage time the Whites once again threatened after good build up play from Paul Green and Sam Byram but Steve Morison dragged his shot wide of Bobby Olejnik’s goal.
Leeds failed to score in the first half for the 13th consecutive game.
At half time Warnock brought on El-Hadji Diouf for Morison with McCormack moving to a more central role. According to Warnock, Morison had been playing through the pain barrier at Leicester and Crystal Palace, therefore Warnock may have made the right decision not to aggravate the injury he may have sustained.
It was Peterborough who started the brightest once again as Gayle had a great chance to double the Posh’s lead but his effort went wide of a relieved Kenny.
After 56 minutes Leeds finally drew level through Sam Byram. The right back arrived late at the back post to stab home a Stephen Warnock corner.
Like the first half, the second half became really open with chances at both ends as the game was approaching the 70th minute. Peterborough looked threatening throughout on the break as Lee Tomlin and Gayle found a lot of space behind the Leeds backline.
With 14 minutes remaining, Luke Varney did find a way through when he finished off a good move by stroking the ball past Posh keeper Olejnik, only to be denied by an offside flag.
At the other end, Kenny came to United's rescue with eight minutes remaining when he made a terrific save from Gayle after the Peterborough man looked to capitalise on a defensive error.
Leeds piled on the pressure in the four minutes of added time but couldn’t find a winner and the game finished all square. Leeds failed to put pressure on the teams above and the draw leaves them five points off the play-offs.
Disappointing result for the Whites and this could well be the end of United’s play-off aspirations. I feel that we won’t get anywhere without another good goal scorer to rely upon.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Warnock’s backing striker Morison

YEP 11/3/13
By Phil Hay
Steve Morison answered criticism of his form with two clinical goals against Crystal Palace, earning the praise of Leeds United manager Neil Warnock.
United’s boss rounded on critics of Morison after the striker’s second-half brace earned Leeds a 2-2 draw at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Warnock saluted the attitude and work-ethic of a player whose performances have been closely scrutinised since his move to Elland Road from Norwich City in January.
Morison joined Leeds in a deal which took United’s top-scorer Luciano Becchio to Carrow Road and his first seven appearances for the Championship club yielded just one goal.
But he produced two deadly finishes on another frustrating afternoon for Leeds, putting the club on course for a priceless win over Palace.
Glenn Murray’s 85th minute equaliser denied United the chance to move to within four points of the Championship play-offs with 10 games remaining but Warnock was pleased to see Morison make his mark.
Warnock said: “Steve’s done well for us and he’s taken a bit of pressure of me in the last few weeks.
“The fans have given him stick instead of me so he’s done well for me. I don’t know what will happen on the phone-ins now.
“He knows what I think about him and he’s been good since he’s been here, even in the games when he’s been given stick.
“I think he’s contributed and made other opportunities for other players. That’s what I look for in a striker – how much they put into the team. He’s a team player, not an individual like we’re used to.”
Morison struck for the first time on 55 minutes, cancelling out a first-half header from Murray.
The ex-Millwall forward scored again 12 minutes later with an instinctive volley but Palace averted defeat when Murray tucked away his 30th goal of an outstanding individual season with time running out.
Palace are now unbeaten in 18 consecutive league matches at Selhurst Park but despite insisting his players had enough chances to win the match, manager Ian Holloway said: “That was against as good a Leeds team as I’ve seen in quite a while.”

Crystal Palace v Leeds United: Lethal Murray dents Whites’ play-off hopes

YEP 11/3/13
By Phil Hay
Ian Holloway is off-the-wall enough to drop Glenn Murray at the height of the season but even he must lack the nerve. The Crystal Palace striker has bloodied almost every Championship club and Saturday’s draw at Selhurst Park added Leeds United to the list.
“Tired,” said Holloway of Murray last week in what was either a euphemism for three games without a goal or a monumental bluff on Holloway’s part.
Murray started against Leeds and scored first and last, rescuing Palace by hitting United where it hurt in the 85th minute. Yet again, those in white shirts walked away with a crestfallen air.
Holloway, Palace’s manager, likes to use a statistic which shows that in the highest two divisions in each of Europe’s five major footballing nations, Murray’s strike rate – 30 goals and counting – ranks second only to Lionel Messi, but the forward is not alone in finding Leeds prone in the dying embers of a game.
“I’ve seen it all before,” said Neil Warnock after Murray snatched a 2-2 draw.
Indeed he has; a 93rd-minute equaliser at Wolverhampton Wanderers last month and an even later equaliser at Leicester City as recently as last Tuesday.
Warnock’s players are devoting more time to kicking themselves than they are the opposition. Murray’s volley, taken with the touch of a striker as prolific as him, was the most painful, averting a highly-significant result.
There was nothing fine about the fettle of Wolves or Leicester but Palace are a team in vogue: high-scoring at Selhurst Park and close enough to automatic promotion for Holloway to think that his squad can cover the ground in front of them.
Warnock was pleased to see them scrambling for a point but well aware of the price of the two surrendered by his side with five minutes to play.
“Unfortunately, that’s us,” he reflected ruefully. “We had great chances. Paul Green had one in the first half and Ross McCormack could have made it 3-1 in the second. Palace wouldn’t have come back from that.
“But David Norris had a great chance to make it 2-0 in injury-time at Leicester and we ended up conceding. Think where we could have been. It’s obviously disappointing.”
Victory over Peterborough United at Elland Road tomorrow is paramount, a game in hand over Nottingham Forest, Bolton Wanderers and Middlesbrough.
Two goals from Steve Morison, a striker who will take time to endear himself to Leeds as Murray has to Palace, dramatically altered the balance of a match which was end-to-end in its entirety and seemingly destined for a predictable outcome once Murray opened the scoring in the 28th minute.
Holloway described himself as “bewildered” afterwards, saying Palace “might have won comfortably”, while Warnock insisted that Leeds were worth no less than a point.
Good friends in uncompetitive circumstances, they would have struggled to agree on the colour of the sky at full-time.
Tempers were strained if not quite frayed.
Warnock rolled his eyes at Holloway’s suggestion that Luke Varney and Stephen Warnock deserved red cards early in the second half, though United’s boss agreed that Varney’s booking for a dive inside the box on 55 minutes was warranted. The inept and cynical fall made Gareth Bale look like butter wouldn’t melt.
“I don’t condone that,” Warnock said. “You know me – I think players should get banned for six games if they get caught diving. That would soon put a stop to it.”
The situation as it is, Varney is nonetheless likely to start against Peterborough.
Holloway was so incensed by the dive and an earlier foul by Varney on Jonathan Williams that he confronted the winger on the pitch afterwards, provoking a confrontation with United captain Lee Peltier and forcing Warnock to intervene and act as peacemaker.
“I had a set-to with Luke Varney because I know what he did,” Holloway said. “He got a booking for a complete waste-of-time of a dive and he was laughing about it but he basically tried to get a penalty and that ain’t funny.
“And where was the referee with the blatant foul on Jonathan Williams? Varney should have been off.
“We should have killed the game but we also relied on the referee being brave enough to give yellow cards. He was so lenient it was frightening.”
Leeds carefully navigated the first 28 minutes, limiting Palace to two chances which Murray struck directly at Paddy Kenny, but the forward scored at the third attempt after Wilfried Zaha, the Manchester United-bound winger, switched flanks.
In no time, his pass into United’s box found the run of Williams who matched Zaha’s skill with a hanging cross to the far post. Murray was almost underneath the crossbar when he met the ball and drove a header into the roof of the net.
Half-time was almost upon Palace when Paul Green slipped through the home defence and drove a shot against goalkeeper Julian Speroni, spraying the ball into an empty box. Varney reached it first but found home defenders throwing themselves in front of his shot, deflecting it to safety.
Zaha dragged a shot wide with only Kenny to beat as the visitors emerged sluggishly for the second half and Stephen Dobbie’s finishing struck everything but Kenny’s goal.
But the tone of the atmosphere changed completely in the 55th minute when Varney carried Norris’ pass down the left wing and cut the ball back to Morison who controlled it neatly and beat an unsighted Speroni.
Thirteen minutes later, Morison punished Palace again as a long clearance by Kenny bounced through an inanimate defence and sat up for the striker who lashed a left-footed volley into the same corner of the net. It felt for Leeds like the Red Sea opening in front of them.
Already angered by Stephen Warnock hacking down Zaha as the winger sprinted towards Kenny – a foul which drew only a caution – Holloway could hardly believe his luck. But it held in the 78th minute as McCormack dragged a low finish wide with Speroni exposed and improved immeasurably five minutes from time when Murray slipped the attention of Stephen Warnock and met Damien Delaney’s high cross with a sharp, first-time volley under Kenny.
There was no love lost in injury-time and less still when Holloway moved aggressively towards Varney on the pitch at the final whistle.
“You know how well you’ve played when you see Ollie going off like that,” Warnock said.
“But it’s like anything. You get frustrated in their position if you don’t win. They’re used to winning here.”