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the square ball week: tell a friend

the square ball week: tell a friend

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Photo by leeds27bb on Twitter

Our pasts never leave us. It lives on in our memories; small reminders can prompt remembrances of incidents and people long forgotten, of where we’ve been and what we’ve done. 

Sometimes our past will appear to us in a dusty photograph found in the back of a drawer. Sometimes it’ll be a flash of recognition of someone you pass on the street. 

And sometimes, your past rents an office above the shop over the road, and barges into your dining room for its Sunday dinner.

The return of Ken Bates to Leeds – the city, if not the club – is the return nobody wanted; but it’s the return that eight years of Ken as chairman prepared us for. He was always going to do something like this. The questions were what, and when?

It’s been a relatively blissful spell without him. There was rejoicing last December, when he sold up; more rejoicing in June, when his presidency was cancelled; rejoicing every time “He’s out of our club” has been sung at Elland Road. There’s been a quiet joy in being able to enjoy the football, too, at least since Warnock went, without ‘What’s Ken written in the programme today?’ being the first question every Saturday.

The price of Ken Bates is eternal vigilance, though; and the immediate downside to his return is having to turn our attention beardwards once more. Pressure immediately mounted on the YEP’s Phil Hay on Twitter and forums – why isn’t he over there finding out why that businessman is in that office? – and indeed Phil and his colleagues produced two long articles this week about Bates’s new “media venture” – “It’s goodbye Yorkshire Radio and hello Radio Yorkshire.” But they seemed to be typed with the heavy keypresses of someone who had worked hard all his life to become a football writer, but somehow ended up writing about the life and times of an old man in an old fur coat.

It is important, though, that Bates gains no foothold again at Leeds United; but at the moment the figure he resembles most in my eyes is not a scheming Machiavelli or a sinister Count de Monte Carlo, but former footballer Ryan Hall. Ryan tweeted his thanks to all at Leeds this week, with some humility now that his contract had been terminated, but that was sandwiched between a photo of some boots he’d been sent (which are presumably now in the bin) and a “new toy” Range Rover that seems to be one of the fruits of his pay off from Leeds. 

Now, I’m not immune to the personal element of Twitter accounts. I’m sure that, somewhere among the many thousands of Leeds fans that follow him to ensure he’s abused daily, is a small core of friends and family with whom Ryan likes to keep in touch. He could have been tweeting a photo of new car to show his mates. And why shouldn’t he?

But equally, he knows full well that he’s followed by thousands of Leeds fans who think he is a money grabbing jerk, and that they would see the photo and think only one thing: that it was bought with the ticket money we paid into the club. And they saw it, and they thought it, and they replied as expected, and the world kept turning.

It’s similar with Ken. On the one hand, Beeston – or the bits he’s seen from his car, at least – is an area he knows well. Rents are cheap, and the office above Subway presumably offered generous terms and an early move-in date, handy for the motorway network. What it’s not handy for, though, is the airport, and if I was travelling from Monaco on an expensive aeroplane to oversee development of my new radio station, I wouldn’t be too keen on spending valuable time on traffic trying to get from Yeadon to LS11 every time. There are offices nearer the airport that would suit his needs. Or nearer his flat on The Calls in town; there’s a lot of suitable office space to be had in the city. There’s not really a strong business case for basing Radio Yorkshire in what was, until recently, a tanning salon.

Photo by LUST on Twitter

One reason for the decision shone clearly in a photograph this week – not a dusty one from the back of a drawer, but one taken on Wednesday night at the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust meeting, held in the Legends Bar in the South Stand. Posing side by side for the camera were LUST chairman Gary Cooper, and Leeds United managing director David Haigh, and over their shoulders through the window, the illuminated Subway sign shone brightly; the windows above were dark. 

I’d like to imagine Ken was hidden behind a curtain with the lights off, watching the goings on over the road from a mouldy old armchair. Perhaps a raven would disturb him, quothing “Nevermore.” But it’s common knowledge that in fact Ken had booked out a Leeds restaurant for the night and was wining and dining a private party; whether to celebrate good times gone by, or to launch new plans for the future, I don’t know. I wasn’t invited, thankfully, which will be at least one question I can answer truthfully when my time with St Peter comes. 

He didn’t even leave a light on in the office when he went out, which surely would have been one way to distract everyone at the LUST meeting; he missed a trick there, did Ken. Instead the supporters trust he used to lambast, chaired by the man whose name he used to drag through the mud, met in a stadium for which several of those present were banned from buying tickets for their views, with one of the men who bought the club from Bates. Perhaps, if he did come back to peer at goings on over the road, this was too much for Ken to bear. 

Haigh wouldn’t/couldn’t answer questions about Bates, or investment – and the latter, given the increasing amounts Haigh seems to be chucking into Leeds at the moment, is maybe the most pressing – but that he attended at all is a sign of how far the club has moved on. But that Ken Bates has made camp over the road, like a spider over a plughole, and is locked in litigation and radio stations with our club again; that’s he wining and dining in Leeds with the sycophantic and deluded; that he’s strolling around in Billy’s Bar like he owns the place; shows how difficult it is to shake off your past. 

What I want to write about on Monday morning is how Marius Zaliukas completely dominated Jordan Rhodes, and how Leeds beat Blackburn in handsome and memorable style. It would be easier to do that if Ken wasn’t over our collective shoulders. Throw salt three times and spit, or usher him through an open window with a rolled up magazine. But we can’t live with him in the room. 

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