Tag Archives: ken bates

Image of Ken Bates

The Delusions of Ken Bates

Image of Ken Bates

Ken Bates is completely sure that what he does at Elland Road is correct. As much as the various outlets that criticize the running of the club disagree with what occurs, that one fact can stand above all others as an undeniable truth. The man in charge is completely, entirely, devoutly convinced that the Ken Bates method for running Leeds United is right. Not only this, it is the only way. The only way that Leeds United can have a future, Ken Bates feels, is through him.

A dictator is defined as “a ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has obtained power by force”. Many people would suggest that equating the chairman of a football team with those who cause strife around the globe as ridiculous. I would probably have agreed a mere seventy-two hours ago. This week, however, was the week in which the extensive nature of Ken Bates’s delusions came to the fore. He, dictating down to one of the various lackeys who crop up in statements that come out of the club, decided to ban the board of the Leeds United Supporter’s Trust (LUST). Clearly, judging by Ken Bates’ weekly interview that occurred a few days ago, this is in response to a group he knows little and cares little about. It must, therefore, have been as part of a giant cull of fans, because otherwise the event would not have occurred.

In doing this, Ken Bates has managed to galvanize the support base. Ideally, he would have hoped it had brought about a fan base united behind himself. He’d finally proven to the world that these were merely ‘morons’ and ‘sickpots’. Even if he hadn’t, at least these people who opposed him would no longer be an intolerable nuisance in the ground he does not own.

There are several fundamental flaws with this concept however. The first stems from the facts the majority of Leeds fans have become well acquainted with. Ken Bates, in his budgeting of Leeds United, spends at most 42% on the playing side of the team. We’ve covered this thoroughly already, but the fact is worth repeating. Football is primarily a game of dreams, a game in which fans should enter a season with hope and dreams about what may have unfolded by the end of the year. Yet Leeds have a set of fans well-adjusted to the notions of a summer of discontent. Last summer alone, Leeds lost several key first team players. It was clear the season was not going to be a positive one. This runs opposed to the very nature of football. Simon Kuper wrote about the almost permanently solvent nature of football clubs in The Blizzard, arguing that football clubs will always exist in one form or another, given the significant demand for them. Leeds fans do not ask for ridiculous debts to be run up, but they do ask for at least some risk, as without this, reward cannot come.

Secondly, as much as Ken Bates seems unwilling to accept this fact, there are laws governing the island on which his football team resides. Aside from the potentially repeated violations of the Data Protection Act in his weekly address, Ken seems convinced that denying LUST an outlet in the stadium is to deny them any outlet at all. Sadly for Kenneth, the ‘wishy-washy BBC watching liberals’ in charge incorporated the European Convention into UK law in 1998. This guarantees freedom of speech under the Human Rights Act. So, where Ken publishes only the positive through his various outlets, the various publications that people turn to for Leeds United news will continue to report the realities of the situation at Elland Road. This one incident alone has swelled the ranks of the Supporter’s Trust by a ‘mere’ thousand members. This is not Noel Lloyd. Ken is not the dictator of a secluded paradise. The outcry can, and may well lay siege to Bates’ regime at Elland Road.

Finally, Ken doesn’t seem to understand the movements football governance is taking. The Supporter’s Trust movement is backed by no less than the current Con-Dem Coalition, ideologically most likely to support anything that leaves business alone. For them to show this sort of opposition to the politics of football shows how far in the wrong direction it has travelled. English football is finally making moves towards the German model of ownership. Should Ken not rectify his relationship with the Supporter’s Trust, he may soon find himself permanently attached to a very hostile 51% co-owner.

Ken should therefore genuinely rethink his actions at Elland Road. Whether it is merely the output of his media outlets, or the actions he takes with regards to the fans, or if he does a proper rethink of the club’s policies, now is the time, ahead of next season, with mild positivity in the air, to really take advantage. Football is, by its very nature, for the fans. The fans are beginning to seriously demand change at Leeds United, and as LUST say, Ken Bates can easily be part of that. Alternatively, he can become an eternally decried figure in the annals of the club.

Amitai Winehouse is followable on Twitter @awinehouse1. Read his article, ‘The Gwynterview’ in the latest issue of The Square Ball, available now.

Why Grayson’s sacking is hard to countenance

“The third year is fatal” said Bela Guttmann, with regards to managers, cited often enough that it is has fallen into the football manager’s psyche. The dressing room loses respect for the manager. The manager gains an affinity for certain players above others, form or class aside. Opposition figure out how to deal with any tactics or innovations the manager initially brought to the table. Pep Guardiola, arguably the crafter behind one of the greatest teams of all time, is constantly on the verge of quitting the Barcelona job every summer. Last year, after winning the Liga BBVA and the Champions League once again, most in the media were gearing up for his departure. It therefore comes as little surprise that a mere month after his three month anniversary at the club, Simon Grayson, now ex-manager of Leeds United, has left Elland Road.

Last night (31st January 2012), Leeds United capitulated at home to Birmingham, losing 4-1 almost single-handedly to a striker who has only scored 8 goals this season. This despite the fact that reports from the ground suggested that the first half performance was one of the best Leeds have had for a long while. This is the truth of the latter part of Simon Grayson’s reign. This season, and during the back-end of last season, Elland Road has not been a particularly wonderful place to watch football.

There was a moment a week and a half ago, as Leeds played Ipswich, that one felt Grayson had lost anything that he may once have had. The day was windy, and any manager with slight tactical nous would have recommended the ball remain on the floor. Any ball sent upfield by goalkeeper or defender would get caught in the wind. Yet Leeds came out of the tunnel and, like most performances this year, the strikers found themselves confined to challenging defenders in the air. Admittedly, Leeds managed to win the match 3-1, but this was exclusively due to the capitulation of the Ipswich back line, and the granting of a red card to his former team by usually sturdy goalkeeper Alex McCarthy. Fans driving away from the ground last night would be caught up in a temporary surge of optimism, but by the time the radio phone-in had begun, it was clear that the fans’ discontent had not been assuaged by the result. There were clear faults with Grayson’s approach in their eyes.

This is the man, however, that lead Leeds United to Old Trafford as a League One side, and won. This is the man, however, that lead Leeds United to White Hart Lane as a League One side, and managed to take a draw. This is the man, however, that lead Leeds United out of said League One. A manager who achieves these results is clearly not bad at his job. Managing players of the quality at his disposal to a victory against Man Utd takes an incredible amount of tactical and motivational awareness. This is why it becomes hard to countenance his sacking. Clearly the ability is there, and somewhere along the way he has lost it.

Rumours have emanated from Elland Road for the past year or so that Grayson has lost the dressing room. The manner in which he freezes out players after a single bad performance, leading to them rotting in the reserves, and never getting an appearance in the first team no matter how much they are suited for the job necessary, is clearly not conducive to a harmonious club. Word that Grayson’s affair, reported in the red-top media, led to him losing favour with Ken Bates and Bates’ wife was rife. The manner in which Grayson dealt with Andy O’Brien, chastising him and saying he would never play for him again, yet back-tracking when depression turned out to be at fault for his refusal to play again for the side, revealed plenty about how Grayson worked with his players.

This might be where Grayson, the man who did so well for Leeds a mere two years prior, fell down. As Guttmann said, the third year is fatal, and particularly key to Grayson may be the thoughts the dressing room had about him towards the end. Leigh Bromby’s wife posted on Facebook immediately after the sacking that it was “karma”, and simply said “good riddance”. Bromby clearly brought work back home with him.

The ability was, therefore, there at one point, but it has since been lost. This is why Leeds fans have hung onto positivity towards Grayson, despite the falls. It must be said that Grayson could probably sustain success for longer under a Chairman that does not treat the playing side of the club with such contempt. Grayson, however, in the end, is to blame, possibly for not leaving earlier. His replacement, awash with innovation, will probably get more out of a team of players coveted by Premier League sides. The real shame to Leeds fans that remember the football played in the early days, is that Grayson simply did not learn the lessons of Guttmann.

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter.

Ambition? Why Howson leaving has caused so much ire…

When people in the future look back at the departure of Jonny Howson from Elland Road, hindsight may get the better of them. Should Jonny not succeed in the Premier League, hampered by his injury, little will be said. Should Leeds United manage to get promoted from The Championship, Howson’s departure may become little more than a footnote in the annals of Leeds United, overwhelmed by the end result. However, as I feel, this day will be looked upon in the future as a genuine low point at Leeds United, on par with Woodgate’s departure that symbolised the end of the ‘living the dream’.

For a man who inspired such extreme opinions, Howson’s transfer to Norwich has inspired an incredible outpouring of grief. Social networks were ablaze with anti-Bates sentiment when initial news of the transfer came out of the club, and on Saturday, a size-able protest aimed at Bates gathered before the Ipswich match and continued to voice itself throughout the match. One of the moments which symbolised the extent of the fan’s ire was the seconds that followed McCormack’s equalizer. As is natural, following a turnaround to lead 2-1, those in the Kop celebrated, but immediately followed this by chanting “Bates out” once again.

Protests existed at the beginning of the season, but tailed off. Why did Howson’s sale symbolise such a momentous shift in the mindset of Leeds fans? In the view of this writer, Jonny Howson, Leeds United club captain, is simply the symbol of much of the success that has occurred at that club in the last five years. Not only this, but Howson had great potential to be the player that Leeds built the next few years of the club around.

Carlisle, Jonny Howson scored the two goals that sent Leeds to Wembley under Gary McAllister. Manchester United, the day that is still sung about around the goal, Howson played the impeccable, incredibly under-rated long pass that led to Beckford’s match winning goal. Bristol Rovers, Howson scores the equalizing goal that led to the win Leeds required to gain promotion from League One. Last season, Howson scored ten goals from midfield to supplement the strikers in what was ultimately a failed joust at the play-offs.

This aspect of last season truly revealed how great a player Howson could ultimately become. Simon Grayson, making him vice-captain and ultimately captain of the club, clearly saw Howson as the first name in any match day squad. In naming sides, he sacrificed prolific strikers in order to play one up front, with Howson slipping in behind Becchio. It is here that Howson revealed the force Leeds fans hoped he would become, showing himself to be a potentially great trequartista, playing as an advanced playmaker. As part of a front four of himself, Becchio, Max Gradel and Robert Snodgrass, Howson brought the other three men into play, caused havoc on the opposition back-line and looked simply unstoppable when running at a center back. Played in what had become his ‘natural’ position, given his forced adaptation into a central midfielder after a youth career playing as a striker, Howson looked a player worthy of building a team around.

Whilst he played incredibly infrequently in this role this season, on the few occasions he did he looked just as devastating. Against Nottingham Forest, for example, only the second time he appeared there, with Becchio ahead of him for the first time, Howson ran the game, even scoring a spectacular volley from the edge of the area against one of the league’s top goalkeepers. Injured in the next match, Leeds fans hoped for the best when he returned. A bright future seemed ahead, with a team built around this trequartista.

Yet Howson will now ply his trade at Norwich City. His potential is such, and especially considering that he came through the academy, that I feel this is a momentous event. Howson, upon recovery from his injury, could prove to be the most astute signing of Lambert’s yet. Genuinely a player to build a team around, Howson could easily prove to be a Premier League standard modern attacking midfielder. His potential, given the improvement over the last year alone, is almost limitless, and you can easily understand why Leeds fans are so unhappy at his departure.