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leeds united 2 – 2 charlton athletic: try, mowatt, achieve

leeds united 2 – 2 charlton athletic: try, mowatt, achieve


It can happen to any of us – you begin with the best of intentions and with everything mapped out and planned – you know what you want to do, you know how to do it, now it’s just down to the doing.

But it doesn’t work. And you look like a bit of a fool.

But all is not lost. Life will, in most circumstances, give you another opportunity, sometimes straight away; it might not be the same as how you originally planned it, but in this case it’s all about the arriving rather than the journey. If the journey can be beautiful too, well, so much the better.

This time, though, you have to think quickly. Assess the situation, work out where the danger is around you and work out your best chance of avoiding it, and your best chance of success. If at first you don’t succeed, battle, scrap, fight, and at the first opportunity, try again. And succeed. And be the hero.

But anyway, enough about Massimo Cellino’s floundering attempts to buy back Elland Road. How about Alex Mowatt’s first goal?

The first goal was the important goal. On a night when so many things Leeds tried didn’t come off, in a season when so many things Leeds have tried haven’t come off, what Alex Mowatt tried first didn’t come off; I think he was thinking about a right footed volley to the top corner when that ball first dropped, until he noticed the flight of the ball wasn’t quite right, and that his right foot ain’t always all that – not compared to his left.

Keep dreaming of the perfect goal, and you won’t have to dream for long. Mowatt dreamed it real within moments.

That Mowatt had the confidence to take on that strike even after fluffing the first attempt says a lot for him, especially in comparison to the hedgehogesque performances of many of his teammates this season. Normally, at the first sign of adversity, Leeds players have retreated into their spiked ball of safety rather than risk their soft pink noses; Mowatt this time sorted his feet out, then sorted the ball out, then sorted the defenders out, then picked the top corner out and sent the ball flying in.

Although I’m willing to praise Mowatt for his confidence and his willingness to get back up and try again, and I’m sure his hipswaying goal against Cardiff on Saturday will have got him the mood for this sort of thing, I’m also going to suggest that the second goal – the better one – wouldn’t have happened without the first.

This time there was nothing to overcome except the fact that Leeds players generally don’t do this nowadays: they don’t often score one spectacular goal, let alone two. But with the ball at his feet on the edge of the box again, Mowatt seemed to think, well, it worked last time, so how about a go at a different corner? And in it flew, as easy as that, and it really did look easy; again, not something we’re used to from Leeds this season. We haven’t, as a rule, been making football easy.

We’ve actually kept trying to squeeze the football out as much as possible. When this game kicked off – we played Charlton Athletic, by the way, and despite Mowatt’s brace drew 2–2 due to a dodgy bit of goalkeeping and an even dodgier bit of refereeing – but when the game kicked off, it was all anyone could do to drop the subject of the club, and concentrate on the football.

There were exactly thirty minutes to kick off when GFH Capital’s reply to Massimo Cellino was first tweeted by Phil Hay of the YEP; the surprise appointment of Stephen Warnock as captain in Jason Pearce’s absence had almost pushed Cellino’s day of media calls (Sky Sports News, the YEP, the BBC, there may have been more) to the back of people’s minds, but the news from GFH-C that Cellino was trying to renegotiate their purchase agreement, wanted “financing” from them for something, has “only paid part not all of his obligations” to GFH-C, and that GFH-C had only “agreed to sale of McCormack on basis that Cellino would proceed with buying stadium” and are surprised this hasn’t happened didn’t exactly help focus anybody’s minds on a Tuesday night of association football.

The situation with Cellino and Gulf Finance House Capital sounds complicated but there’s a simplified version: Cellino bought 75% of the shares in the club, but signed a deal that any major financial decisions would need agreement from 85% of the shareholders, meaning he needs GFH-C and/or Salah Nooruddin’s sign-off. Don’t ask me why. If I’d been there to advise him I’d have advised him against agreeing to that, and I don’t have the first clue about share purchase agreements.

It had been sort of assumed that the relationship with GFH-C had all been sorted – mainly because that’s the impression Cellino gave. “We’ve fixed the past with GFH,” Massimo told Phil Hay in July; “With GFH I was ready to fight them but they didn’t want to fight because they’re happy with my work. We found a way to get peace and we’ll work for Leeds. There’s no issue.”

Well, that doesn’t much apply any more, apparently. “I thought two months ago we found a solution,” says Cellino now. “I was happy. But for the last two months I’ve been trying to fix everything and I haven’t fixed it yet. I can’t take any more of it. There’s no respect for me … So not buying the stadium now is protecting the club. Because of legal issues I can’t say much more but buying the stadium today is giving a chance to someone else to hurt the club more. I cannot allow that.”

He cannot allow that; he cannot explain it; he cannot buy back Elland Road; he cannot justify why when he said two months ago “we have fixed the past” he is saying today that “I haven’t fixed it yet.”

Just when I was getting used to the confident, swaggering, away-end dwelling coach-sacking Massimo, we’ve got the pathetic Penelope Pitstop version back again, whining about dying because the luggage and the plane and GFH-C. The one who is ending up sounding like Alice Cooper:

“We have to clean up something from the past or it’s going to be poison. Nobody else is worrying about that but I’m worrying about this club. I’ve invested a lot of money, I want to invest more, and the best investment I could do is buying the stadium. So I’m disappointed. Nobody is more disappointed than me.”

I saw one person more disappointed than Massimo Cellino in Elland Road tonight: Alex Mowatt, when his first attempt at a world-ending Marco van Basten superbike volley came to nothing. I did not, however, see him whining about it. I saw him get up, show some class and skill, and score if not the all-time World Cup end credits goal of his career, a fine and beautiful goal that gave him the platform and the confidence to score another one even better.

It was a heartening sign, on a night when even though Leeds didn’t get all three points, and didn’t really look good enough to, they showed more than they have for a while, and hinted that more is possible in these ninety-minute interludes when the soap opera is played out on the grass. If you really need some advice on how to push this plane, Massimo, on how to recover when you’ve fluffed your lines, on how you can still be a hero if you don’t complain, but change and try again: go talk to Alex Mowatt.

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