Still awaiting their, er, long-awaited takeover, Leeds United will be hoping they don’t succumb to another 7-3 defeat at the hands of the Reds. Tim Nichol from The Scratching Shed tells us what to expect from the home side.
What’s the latest with the ongoing takeover scenario?
Don’t open that can of worms! We’ve been hooked on the latest gossip since May and one forum alone is approaching seven million views for the takeover thread. That said, our chairman Mr Bates insists on not listening to anyone but himself and the club — the rest is ‘pub gossip’ — and he’s only given us three club statements and a mention in programme notes. So the short answer is: who knows? Certainly not the fans.
How bad have things got under Ken Bates?
Realistically? Here comes an essay… Many clubs have had far worse. He just completely lacks any ambition, which as I’m sure Forest fans will appreciate is not the kind of man you want in a club that’s realistically too big for its league. We’ve the lowest wage/income spend in the top two divisions, we’ve an enormous turnover that puts us in the mix with clubs with parachute payments, yet we spend only at mid-table levels on wages. We’ve season ticket prices only less expensive than the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea — and I’m sure you’ve noticed the price of away tickets — yet in the past few years we’ve had a team largely made of freebies. This season we’ve spent a bit on Lee Peltier and Paddy Kenny, etc. but the flip-side is we’ve a squad our manager publicly claims is about 18 men.
But the worst thing is our apathy, and his dictatorship. Our fans are either worn down, or taken in by myths like ‘he saved us (twice)’. The ultimate threat in 2005 was administration, Ken Bates not only pushed us into administration in 2007, but promised to put the club into liquidation if he didn’t get his way. In the end he regained control despite better bids from more financially capable people thanks to some mysterious offshore debt built up since his arrival whose owners nobody could legally identify. Some saviour.
But the man has used club funds to build a dominance of the media any dictator would be proud of. So plenty of fans have been brainwashed into thinking that spending money at any rate will result in the death of the club. It’s nonsense, of course, we’ve the kind of money to be a top six spender in this division without accumulating debt, but Ken prefers his property developments; at heart, that’s all he is. He’s spent over £20 million in the past five years on development, and this supposedly financially responsible chairman has mortgaged season ticket income against a £5 million loan. Rangers were the last to try that. What a joke.
Expectations for the season?
In late summer many still thought our takeover would be complete by the end of the transfer window. We were pretty optimistic. I think confidence has dropped a lot but if we do get taken over and can invest in January I think we can get a top six spot depending on how well we ride the storm now. Alternatively, we’re looking at more mid-table obscurity if things don’t go right. And if Bates’ decrepit claws aren’t cut from us this season? Let’s not think about that.
How has the club changed since Neil Warnock took over from Simon Grayson?
It’s changed quite a lot. Grayson liked a passing team with wide inside-forwards and a lot of creativity (though on our bad days we still played a lot of hoofball). Max Gradel and Robert Snodgrass together tearing at Arsenal in the FA Cup like pincers is a fantastic memory to have. Unfortunately, the lack of money did for Grayson and he couldn’t afford to keep what he was building. Warnock came in and won over a pretty desperate crowd. He wanted to build a solid team people wouldn’t want to play, signing controversial characters like David Norris and El-Hadji Diouf, but again a lack of money means he couldn’t realise his ambition. The football isn’t as pretty, but up until now we’ve been a bit more consistent this season. That said, I get the feeling the wheels are coming off with our injury crisis — three or four injuries in and an 18-man squad leaves you struggling to fill the bench.
What can we expect tactically?
It’s a tough one to call now. Against Cardiff we lost Ross McCormack, which is a massive blow, and it means we’re likely to play someone just behind the target-man Luciano Becchio instead of a conventional 4-4-2, but who is a mystery. We’ll battle, but I don’t think we’re capable of possession football so don’t expect it to be a pretty match. Above all, Warnock will probably go on a rampage before repeating last season’s fiasco!
Who are the key players to watch out for?
We would have quite a few, but we’re so threadbare at the moment they might struggle. Becchio is fantastic when paired with the right forwards, but I get a feeling he’ll struggle without McCormack unless young Dom Poleon gets to try McCormack’s role. Poleon’s a talented youngster who’s come through our Academy. Rody Austin is already a cult-hero; he’ll run all day, won’t shirk tackles, has some pace and a sweet long-shot. In the right situation the lad could be great for us. Then there’s the boring one of the keeper. Paddy Kenny’s shown already he’s consistent and easily capable of playing a division above this. Without him our goal difference could already be pretty poor! That’s three key men all playing centrally, Warnock kept saying he wanted a ‘solid spine’ and I think he’s succeeded.
What’s going to happen on Saturday?
I’d love to say we’re going to beat you 7-3, but that’ll have to wait for later in the year! We’ll battle and Forest might just struggle to deal with that approach (Cardiff did for 45 minutes). If that happens, we’re capable of grinding out a win against anybody. But if Forest are comfortable with our approach, I’d guess it’ll be a fairly comfortable win for you. Either way expect 60% of the possession, because our team seems incapable of keeping the ball.
Image: Chris Heaton (CC-BY-SA-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons