Leeds United Stories, Vol. 1
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the square ball week

the square ball week

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We’re sure we made our feelings about selling Snodgrass quite clear in this column last week. We used the word ‘no’, and we repeated it several times, for emphasis. “No,” we said. “No, no, no, no, no.” We don’t think anyone could be in any doubt as to our views there. We felt we had got our point across with no room for argument, and yet somehow, Robert Snodgrass is now a Norwich City player. Just like the rest of them. We’re starting to get the feeling that Ken Bates doesn’t really listen to us after all.

Snoddy was the one, the last one, the only one we had left: the player it was worth paying to see. Of course no player is bigger than the club and one player doesn’t make a team, but players who can produce that moment of magic, that bit of individual brilliance – just watch this highlight reel on YouTube, if you can face it – are rare. And when you find them, you want to keep them. Not sell them to Norwich.

The other galling aspect of this transfer is that this makes three of our League One promotion midfield now playing in the Premier League – Johnson, Howson and Snodgrass – plus one, Gradel, playing in the top flight in France. Leeds United, meanwhile, are not playing in the top flight of anything. Where might we be if we had kept those four together over the last two seasons, instead of gradually letting four quality midfielders drift away?

Snoddy’s role in this can’t be ignored – in the end, it seems, he wanted to go. Maybe we’re romantics, though, but we still think he wanted to captain Leeds to promotion more. Neil Warnock claims Robert was offered £15k a week to stay, and surely Norwich can’t have offered a substantially better deal than that; he could have bargained for more in wages and signing on fees by staying put for another season anyway. Money doesn’t seem to be the factor. The factor, instead, seems to be that Snodgrass does not have the confidence that Leeds will go up this season, so his dream of captaining a promotion charge is over already.

Takeover fatigue also seems to have played a part. Warnock says he would have had more chance of keeping Snodgrass if that had been completed three or four weeks ago. With Warnock trying to convince him to say, Bates and Harvey making more promises, mysterious bidders phoning from abroad, but the whole thing still showing no signs of completion: can you blame Snodgrass for checking out of the stress of that situation, and taking the offer of the quiet life in East Anglia and a chance in a higher division?

We’ll miss him. We’ll miss him terribly. He always looked knackered, with his hunched shoulders and hangdog expression, but with good reason – can anyone of think of another so-called ‘luxury’ player who got through the work Snoddy did? Well, apart from Gradel. Then, up the other end, he’d twist and turn like a 1950s ideal of twinkle-toed wing play, more and more often starved of space as our other dangermen – Beckford, Gradel – left, but still forcing an opening past first one marker, then two, then three. There were times when that teenage trial with Barcelona didn’t look far fetched at all. We love blood and thunder at Leeds – and Rodolph Austin is confirmed pending a work permit, by the way – but we love flair too. Eddie Gray, Tony Currie, John Sheridan, Eric Cantona, Tony Yeboah, Harry Kewell – and then a bloody long gap, to Robert Snodgrass. Let’s hope the gap to our next brush with flamboyance isn’t as long.

Snodgrass’s sale has had one immediate impact: Ladbrokes reckon Blackburn are a better bet for promotion than us now. There’s more analysis of the move here on Leeds Online, and at The Scratching Shed. Personally, of all the things I’ve ever written for The Square Ball, my favourite is still a prose poem to the sleepy headed Snod from back in 2010, so here it is as a last hurrah: Robert Snodgrass is Tired, by me. Sweet dreams, noble prince.

Warnock is still promising some icing for our rather stale looking cake, and talking of the need for marquee signings. One thing to watch out for, now, is where the £3m for Snoddy goes. It’s all a change from the excitement of Tuesday, when Leeds confirmed four signings in one day – yes, four! They even allowed themselves a little theatre, announcing Rodolph Austin’s capture at half time in the game against Tavistock. Alright, it doesn’t have the glamour of bringing Rio Ferdinand on the pitch, but these are austere times. The new faces are arriving in quantity, although their quality is still open to debate. We covered Austin and Andy Gray last week; added to them are goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown, striker Luke Varney, and now midfielder David Norris. As The Scratching Shed note, Norris makes four players signed from Portsmouth this summer, as they battle to survive and start the season; we’ve been in for a couple of others too, like Joel Ward, who went elsewhere. One Pompey fan tweeted this after the Norris transfer: “Dear Leeds United. Cheers. That is all.” He may not be thanking us if, as Howson Is Now predict, we go back and buy the whole town.

The other good news story of the week was securing Aidy White on a new contract. The cynical among us might suggest we’re just guaranteeing ourselves a fee when Norwich come knocking next summer, but really we’re just pleased that we’re keeping at least one promising, young, local player at his hometown club.

Somewhere amongst all the chaos, Leeds have even managed to play (and win) three games of football. Pre-season started with a 5–2 win at Farsley, who obligingly played ‘Marching On Together’ before kick off; you can read reports on Fear and Loathing in LS11, Leedeetee and Through It All Together. Reports from the Cornwall tour are a bit harder to find, mainly because everybody is still down there getting pissed in advance of the game with Torquay on Friday night, but we’re expected a full rundown in this weekend’s Fear and Loathing Week of Torture. 6–0 and 4–0 are good results, but then if we weren’t beating Tavistock and Bodmin, we’d have something to worry about. Team bonding is Warnock’s other main aim of the trip, and hopefully Snoddy leaving halfway through won’t have dampened spirits too much.

Leeds United also had success, of a kind, off the pitch this week, as the test case against West Yorkshire Police was won in the High Court. The judge ruled that WYP have been wrong to charge LUFC for matchday policing away from the stadium itself, and Leeds could now be owed a £1m refund – although a common sense approach is being urged. Also in policing news, the results were announced of the Football Supporters’ Federation and Leeds United Supporters’ Trust’s survey into policing and stewarding at Elland Road. One of the standouts is that three out of four fans would prefer club stewards at Elland Road rather than “bouncers” hired from agencies; it is also notable that West Yorkshire Police have welcomed the survey. They’ll be taking part in an event with FSF and L.U.S.T. at the Magic Sponge after the Shrewsbury game on August 11th, to explore the policing and stewarding issues raised by the fans.

L.U.S.T. also moved this week to try and get the parties involved in the takeover process to release some information to the fans. L.U.S.T. have been on the front line of the takeover story from the start, trying to keep fans updated and working to establish what will happen and when, while the current board and their “investors” have kept an almost total silence. The Trust’s statement reflects the general impatience with the current impasse, with the season just a few friendlies away and no sign of an end to the takeover. L.U.S.T. chair Gary Cooper was also interviewed on TalkSport, and on BBC Leeds’ West Yorkshire Sport – both are well worth a listen. Some reports suggest the takeover could take another two weeks, but that would surely be taking the cliche about ‘going to the wire’ to an absurd degree. But then, ‘Leeds United’ and ‘absurdity’ have been synonymous for a long time now. Exhibit A: Paul Rachubka, yep, that’s right: still here.


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