This article is a guest contribution written by Dje. If you’d like to have an article considered for publication here on The Scratching Shed, please use the online form. 

Prior to our welcome, albeit fortuitous, win at home to Ipswich, Simon Grayson made a promise to Leeds United fans: that there’ll be no more key player sales following Jonny Howson’s imminent sale to Norwich City.

Unfortunately such matters are almost entirely beyond Grayson’s call on three accounts.

First of all: disharmony amongst the players. An unhappy player is not one easy to keep at a club, regardless of how much you might not want them to leave. Even during Saturday’s game, The National, an albeit unlikely revelatory source, being a United Arab Emirates-based newsfeed, revealed that Robert Snodgrass has now ended any contract discussions to further his stay at Elland Road. The reasons given were one of Grayson’s making, the other of a policy led by Shaun Harvey & Ken Bates.

Apparently Snodgrass is not chuffed that he wasn’t made team captain, an honour given to – and fluffed today – by keeper Andy Lonergen.

I think many others will also be surprised that Snodgrass wasn’t made team captain. OK, he does not always have the greatest of impact, being marked out of the game on occasions, but there is no doubting his commitment to the club. That and the fact that he is the one remaining outstanding talents that we hold, why Grayson would want to unsettle the last jewel by selecting Lonergen as captain is beyond me.

The second alleged reason why Snodgrass has ended contract negotiations is in sympathy with most Leeds fans after Howson’s sale to Norwich was revealed earlier this week: a sense of betrayal by the club that we have underinvested and failed to bring in the quality of players expected and promised. This leads to the second factor why the fate of the squad is predominantly beyond Grayson’s making: the financial directive at Elland Road which is led by that irascible pair, Ken Bates and Shaun Harvey.

For many months The Scratching Shed has led the line to point out how dominant these two figures are in leading our transfer activity (or a lack of one). Bates has his own building project at Elland Road to keep his hands, and our invested cash, busy. Harvey has been left with the internal financial governorship of LUFC transfers. This is the guy who has so single-handedly failed to secure our best players – Johnson, Kilkenny, and more recently Howson and White – on contract durations that keep them at the club as key players, or assets for eventual sale. Running down their contracts, allowing them to leave on a free or nominal amounts (£750,000 in the case of Howson according to The National’s article) seems to be Harvey’s cream.

Make no mistake, if Snodgrass has declared his unwillingness to discuss his contract being extended that can only be read as a desire to be elsewhere, and presumably at a Premiership club or a Championship one with real ambitions of going up. This is not to question Snodgrass’s desire to keep playing for Leeds. He won’t do an O’Brien on us. Once more he was on hand and willing, to get our underperforming team out of gaol and back on track this afternoon. But his alleged move to end contract talks will work perfectly with Harvey and Bates’ rubric to cash-in on him either during the remaining days of this transfer window or, and more likely, in the summer.

The combined force of Harvey and Bates as the ringmasters of the size and lightly paid composition of our squad was shown in the Ipswich programme notes. The delightful Ken revealed to the non-‘moron’ Leeds fans, those who he feels marginally accountable too, that we are currently over-spending on wages to the tune of 23%. Our player budget was £9.5m for the year, but is currently running at £11,722,000 per annum.

Bates failed to suggest if this imbalance was down to the falling attendance levels at Elland Road (just shy of 23,000 today), possibly as this would offer an empowerment and encouragement to ‘the vociferous few’ who are refusing to attend (especially our home matches) and/or renew their season tickets. Alternatively Bates was simply leading up to a future denouement of dissenting Leeds fans as the culprits for a financial imbalance and justification for future player sales. How dare we not pay Premiership prices for League One-standard football! How dare we not attend!

You see, Bates’ desire to flash the figures to the fans can be read in two disparate ways.

First let’s revel in the spin. Bates added in his programme notes that the imbalance of the two quoted amounts (‘a bad business practice’ as he called it) acts as ‘a demonstration of how far we have backed the manager’. How sweet that Bates is risking losing money to finance Grayson’s squad. But then that is the second way it can be read from Bates: THIS is Grayson’s squad, not only too expensive, but underperforming expensive players ~ blame him not me!

This is a classic move to distance himself from any personal responsibility for turning the club into a ‘selling club’, and under-performing on the field. It is the third reason why Grayson is not in the position to dictate the fate of the Leeds squad ~ because he is being set-up by Bates as the scapegoat if the fans so desire one. One who Bates and the omnipresent Shaun Harvey will claim has been over-resourced financially (despite it being Harvey who does the negotiations), who has brought in inadequate players (despite it is Harvey who does the negotiations) and under-performed in the league (despite having a squad of players unsettled by the Bates-Harvey financial directive of if-in-doubt-sell-and-find-spurious-reasoning-for-it).

With his hands bound, it is a pointless exercise to believe a word Grayson says regarding transfers. It is not that he is being deliberately deceitful; merely that he has almost no control over the destiny of what he is saying.

Good luck Simon.

Guest contribution written by Dje