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the square ball week

the square ball week


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We’ll take anything. We’ll take rubbish. We’ve taken rubbish before, and we’ll take it again. But here’s the nub. It has to be rubbish with a point. Rubbish with a purpose. Rubbish with an end in sight. Rubbish without rhyme or reason is not for us, and if that’s all that’s on offer, you can keep it, and you can keep the season ticket renewal forms when they drop through the door. It’s November. It can’t be long now, eh?

George Graham got a pass in his first season, because although we only scored twenty-eight goals, it was understood to be a necessary step in a rebuilding process; plus, our safety secured, he went straight out and bought Hasselbaink in the summer. Likewise, Kevin Blackwell was forgiven much in the ‘me and Gary Kelly’ season because of the size of the job and because he got Brian Deane to score four goals in one game. We knew what they were trying to do and the difficulty they had working towards it, so even when we didn’t like it, we cut them some slack.

So far, so Neil Warnock. But as the burst of positivity of a month ago has been swept away by a month without a league win, fans are starting to wonder what the point of all this is. There is no real, sensible reason why Leeds United should be this bad at this point. A concluded takeover would have made the biggest difference, of course, but even without the money that would hopefully have brought, is this rubbish really the best Neil Warnock can do?

Brighton on Friday at least showed the good side. Despite conceding two penalties, despite being unable to control Craig Mackail-Smith, and despite Tom Lees playing while temporarily blinded from a poke in the eye, Leeds kept themselves in the game and got away with a point. Gus didn’t like it, but in many ways that only made it better. But not much. As Travels of a Leeds Fan pointed out, “The fans were quiet as they streamed away from the ground … A point from a game we didn’t play well in is always welcome but once again we were relying on doggedness not quality.”

Travels reported more of the same against Burnley on Tuesday night: “The disgruntled Leeds fans were very philosophical at the end. ‘We’re shit and we know we are’ summed it up perfectly.” We didn’t even manage to smuggle a point away to disguise the problems, although we did keep Tom Hark off the tannoy for eighty-three minutes until Charlie Austin got his inevitable winner. At Fear and Loathing in LS11, Adam Jubb has snapped:

“In many respects, this feels like the lowest period in our 93 year history. There’s no belief in those at the top, in the heroes of yesteryear, in the players of today, or the guardians of tomorrow. But while the buck ultimately stops with the owner, the club is currently lacking leaders at all levels.”

The whole thing is worth a read; Adam voices a lot of the frustration being felt not only at the lack of direction at the top of the club as the takeover drags on, but the bemusement at some of Warnock’s tactical decisions. It’s a point made by Jimmy Neal at Right In The Gary Kellys, too: the team’s task isn’t made easier when its good players are played out of position, and some of Warnock’s selections seem hard to fathom.

To his credit, Colin seems to have sparked back into life after the Burnley game too. “We’ve got to say to hell with it now,” he’s told Phil Hay, in the run up to the Watford match. “We’ve got to go gung-ho. Let’s throw some players in, change things and have a go on Saturday.” That sounds more like it. There are doubts over Ryan Hall’s fitness, but you could say the same about half our first team, and after he scored four goals in a development match this week, Hall must be in line for a start. Some good news also emerged as it sounds like Ross McCormack and Davide Somma are on their way back: the latter in particular has Amitai Winehouse excited at Spoughts. Phil Hay also reported on Twitter that an attacking player is due in on loan, leading to much frantic checking of which QPR forwards aren’t currently getting a game.

It’s safe to say it won’t be Taraabt. But given a little money, would it be so far-fetched? Sadly, a little money is all we have – at the moment, anyway. The current state of the takeover can be summarised in tweets. Ian Dennis of the BBC: “I understand Leeds United takeover worth 44m should be completed by the weekend with GFH Capital.” The Supporters’ Trust: “From what we have ascertained from our sources, the news that the takeover will be completed by Saturday is incorrect.” Phil Hay of the YEP: “Senior GFH C source says takeover is “getting there” but thinks completion before the weekend is ‘unlikely.’ Didn’t rule it out though.” For their part, GFHC tweeted a link to something from September, to general confusion. And then on Thursday night, Duncan Castles – Peter Lorimer’s nephew, no less – declared his belief that “Ken Bates is set to remain at Leeds United as part of a partnership deal with GFH Capital.” So there you have it – clear as mud.

Phil Hay took a more in depth look at the situation last weekend, and Andy Peterson has written for The Sabotage Times about whether swapping Bates for GFHC would be a net gain, or whether we’ve more to fear from their past record. What we are to think of an alliance between the two is, right now, beyond me. The only conclusion I can draw from the suggestion that GFHC would go into partnership with Bates for a ‘phased takeover’ is that they haven’t got the money to buy the club outright, after all – and that doesn’t bode well for the January transfer market.

This business of trying to choose the least-worst from a selection of hopefully benign millionaire overlords is a uniquely footballish phenomenon, and it leads nicely into a plug for the Un-Convention Football event at the National Football Museum in Manchester this Friday night (the 9th). Moscowhite – i.e., me – will be representing The Square Ball on the Ideas For Modern Football panel along with Ryan McKnight (FC Business blog), Amanda Jacks of the Football Supporters Federation, Daniel Sandison (editor of Halcyon magazine and co-editor of new fanzine Stand AMF) and Glenn Kitson (The Rig Out, Pazzport), all moderated by Anthony Clavane, Leeds fan, Times writer, and author of Promised Land and Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here? Our panel starts at 8pm, but there are events, panels and bands going from 4pm – you can register to attend here, for free. I’m told Dion Dublin will be there to demonstrate something called The Dube. The mind, it boggles.