the square ball weekBack
It’s the perennial first game problem. “Who’s he?” That’s Peltier. “Is he any good?” Colin’s made him captain, he’s a right back. “Wait, you said that Lord Byron kid was playing right back.” That’s Sam Byram. “Who did we sign him from?” Nobody, he’s from the youth team. “So who’s playing centre back then?” Peltier and Pearce. “Piers who?” What? “Never mind. Who’s that in the exec boxes?” Ken Bates. Still. “No the guy with him. And the woman.” What? Where? “Up there. They look Arabic. And rich. And they’re wearing Leeds scarves.” Really? Damn. I knew I should have brought my opera glasses.
Not only were we faced with trying to identify twenty-three different debutants against Wolves – ha, only joking, we haven’t got twenty-three players – but old Ken threw an identity crisis curve ball into the mix by packing the chairman’s suite with People Who Look Like People Who Might Take Over Football Clubs (And Are Rich). The desperate efforts to identify this mysterious bunch were tinged too with a great deal of optimism; optimism that increased when the Evening Post identified them as Salem Patel and David Haigh, senior representatives of GFH Capital, a Dubai based investment company. It all fitted together so well, and Right In The Gary Kellys were, like many of us, optimistic this would soon be over. Meet Bates in Leeds, watch Leeds beat Wolves, dinner at Nando’s, sign a contract or two, and there’s your takeover done by 9am Monday morning.
The team did their bit. The opening day attendance was down for the third season in a row – 4,000 more people saw Leeds play Exeter in 2009 than saw Leeds play Wolves – but Warnock’s team looked more up for it than ever. The Scratching Shed put Rodolph Austin at the centre of the performance, but I liked the newly signed-up Ross McCormack buzzing around the peripheries. Then there was Becchio’s goal: rightly immortalised in gif form by Howson Is Now, in shape, execution and celebration it was like a step-by-step retread of the classic Parker/Becchio goal against Millwall in the play-offs; Luciano went with his head this time, but otherwise it was a replay of one of his best moments for us.
Jenber’s Blog also picked out Becchio, and noted Paddy Kenny’s swerved pass to start the move – wasn’t it this very column last week that picked Kenny as our one flair player?; Travels of a Leeds Fan found praise for our new look midfield in the gents at half-time – “”I’m not sure I’m used to seeing our midfielders tackle… is this really Leeds?”; while Fear and Loathing in LS11 cast the well-behaved Elland Road crowd as lovesick, balcony-gazing Romeos and wondered just what Andy Couzens really knows about the takeover. And how he knows it.
Wolves might be a stereotypical ‘transition’ team under their new manager, but so are we, and they’ve got the added help of Premier League money in the back account at Molineux; it was easy to feel quite giddy after a resounding first day win. One man who seems to have got a touch carried away is the aforementioned Keeper of The Flair of Halifax, whose Sunday morning probably took a turn for the worse when he checked his sent texts. I’m sure Kenny has a goalie gloves endorsement already, but we’re going to try him with an anti-drunk dialling gloves sponsorship and see if he’s in to it. Spoughts also took a turn towards thoughtfulness after the Wolves game, less through drink than through pragmatism, as the “terrifying, terrifying man” that is Rodolph is balanced out by the soft puppy (plus Diouf) that makes up our reserve attack. We also enjoyed Spoughts’ tactical preview of the season, which had charts and everything.
Beating the old gold of Wolverhampton was a pleasant bonus; but that we then struggled against the nu-orange of Blackpool wasn’t exactly a surprise. The spark and spangle of Elland Road on a Saturday was replaced by the tat and kitsch of the seaside on a Tuesday night, and phrases like “thoroughly outclassed” (TSS), “rude awakening” (Travels) and “only a ‘Rachubka’ away from shipping 5 goals” (F&L) were the unavoidable result. As F&L points out, this was the game we were looking to for clues as to how our season will go – can Warnock get this squad to ground out wins on crap Tuesday nights in crap seaside towns? Not this time, was the answer, and it made Saturday seem like it had been but a brief dream – or a takeover-fuelled hallucination.
Those men from GFH began to feel like a mirage as the week wore on. No doubt a win at Blackpool would have helped, but having dangled rich foreign businessmen infront of the crowd and the Sky cameras at Elland Road on Saturday, to have then not offered a single word since about the progress of the takeover has served only to agitate the fans. Ken ranted in usual dreary fashion about “pub gossip” in his Wolves programme notes, before bizarrely invoking the fates of Portsmouth and Rangers; but Bates should know that nature abhors a vacuum, and where there is little information to had, what information there is will be expanded to fill it. After we all saw Bates sit with potential investors on Saturday, then fly home will the deal still not completed, he can only have himself to blame if the Waccoe forum led ‘Pen4Ken’ idea of mass-mailing biros to Monaco to persuade him to sign the paperwork make it hard to get over the doormat this coming week.
It’s an important week ahead, too. The season has started, the transfer window has nearly ended, and as RITGK’s analysis shows, our squad is gritty but by no means deep. Travels of a Leeds Fan is already resigned to emergency loans, but even without a takeover, we were supposed to beyond all that now. Peter Lorimer was particularly scathing about Simon Grayson’s reliance on the loan market after he was sacked, but it looks like our board are forcing Neil Warnock into exactly the same stop-gap solution. Normally a trip to Peterborough would be just a chance to stand in comfort at a match (yes, it is possible!) and put one over on Son-of-Baconface, but there may be more at stake this weekend. Nature abhors a vacuum, and while the Leeds board might do silence, Leeds fans certainly don’t.