the square ball week: a cold summerBack
Spring renews. The leaves of last summer have fallen in autumn and decayed in winter, and when the snow clears, new leaves, lives and lambs bud, grow and frolic in a fresh landscape. That’s the theory, anyway. I’m not sure what spring does when winter shows no sign of leaving and hunters spend April tracking sasquatch’s footprints through the snow, from Elland Road all the way to Michael Brown’s front door.
It’s not quite yet cold in summer, but what we have here is weather, of the wrong kind, at the wrong time, and rather too much of it at that. And until it goes, we can’t get on with our lives; all those new lambs, leaves and football managers can’t burst into life until the old wool coats, bare trees and Neil Warnock have been swept of snow and warmed in the sunshine.
The reaction to Nigel Adkins’ appointment at Reading, such as this by Dominic Smith at Spoughts, rather summed up the winter/spring roadblock that has built up at Leeds United. The frustration at the lack of ambition as a good (but despicably smug) manager went to another club, the lists of rivals, and both The Scratching Shed and Right in the Gary Kellys proposing Paulo di Canio on Sunday, all rather forgot that we do currently have a manager. There’s not actually a vacancy.
But then you read that even Neil Warnock was trying to convince Nigel Adkins to take the job Warnock currently holds, and you realise that what Leeds have is not so much as a manager as a dugout full of grey slush that nobody can be arsed shovelling. Warnock has said that he’s willing to advise GFHC on their next manager, and Andrew Butterwick at Travels of a Leeds Fan has some suggestions of what that advice might look like, but you don’t take advice from a snowman about how to eat your easter eggs.
Unless you’ve never seen an easter egg before, or the inside of a football club. And David Haigh and Salem Patel do seem up for all the help they can get; you can almost see them nodding wisely as Warnock explain’s why Browny will make the perfect player-manager. “He certainly sounds convincing,” they’ll say, gingerly pushing a contract across the desk.
Help and advice is coming to GFH Capital and Leeds United too in the shape of a major new group bringing their expertise to the table: Ian Monk Associates will be handling GFHC and LUFC’s public relations from now on. I’m sure it’s a relief to us all that GFHC acted so swiftly to sideline The Outside Organisation, although like Warnock Outside will still be here, working on “community engagement intitiatives” – so I guess GFHC have two PR companies now, plus Peter Botting, who is still ‘crafting the narrative’ for David Haigh on his personal website. As long as everybody has their story straight.
Once that story is straight, somebody needs to tell the Bahrain Bourse, who were not at all happy about the confused messages from GFH vs GFHC that I discussed last week. That regulatory mix-up led seamlessly into Thursday’s announcement of the first – first! – strategic investment move by GFHC. Who would this mystery strategist be?
In the end, it turned out to be another Bahraini bank: meet our new ten-percenters, the imaginatively named International Investment Bank, and Leeds City Holdings’ newest board member, Mr Aabed Al Zeera, who comes weilding his hefty Ordinary National Diploma in Business Studies from Evesham College of Further Education. “The introduction of IIB is in keeping with what have always been GFH Capital’s aims for the successful, sustainable and long term ownership of Leeds United FC,” said David Haigh, although he didn’t reveal how much IIB are investing, how much return they intend to realise on their investment and when, or how selling off bits of the club in 10% chunks to random bankers who are hoping their accounts will “turn grey” adds to stability at LUFC. IIB are based on the 37th floor of a blue and yellow tower, though, so there is at least some vague connection to our away colours.
Whether this bitty strategy towards investment – 10% here, 51% there – is the right one for Leeds United remains to be seen. Perhaps the new investment bank will attract other investment banks to buy shares in their shares, who could in turn attract investors in their own shares, forming a big sort of pyramid like struc – nah, forget that idea. There is a strong argument, though, for just sweeping all the snow away and letting someone with the wherewithal to handle the job themselves take charge; the speculation around Steve Parkin hasn’t gone away, and in his second (much shorter) Open Letter to GFH Amitai Winehouse at Spoughts suggests: “Rather than selling segments off piecemeal, just give the whole megazord to the adults who have kindly come over to the kid’s table and put down the food you’ve been waiting for. It’ll save a lot of problems later.”
With the manager touting himself out of a job, and the owners dividing their ownership up into little pieces, Leeds seem to be taking the ‘two players for each position’ approach to heart in all the wrong places. On the frozen pitches of Thorp Arch, however, there have been some signs of springtime. Young players Lewis Walters, Luke Parkin and Alex Mowatt followed Chris Dawson by signing professional contracts at Leeds. There’s a long way to go from ‘first professional contract’ to ‘successful professonal footballer’, but every Leeds fan feels a bit of joy when a player with a good reputation in the youth sides gets nearer to the first team. Leeds’ players have made an art of being wintry since August, making sure the ball descends with snow on it even on sunny days, and we have to hope that once the play-off ‘dream’ – is anyone really still dreaming of the play-offs? – is finished this weekend, the young lads will get a shot.
Easter tells us, after all, that something must end before the world can be reborn; if that something is our play-off chances, Neil Warnock’s management, or the playing career of Michael Brown, I’d take any of those to see Dawson roll back the rock from the cave.