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

Hesco Bastion, protecting the troops. No, we’re not being paid to advertise. But it’s a message that inundates fans: it’s painted on the stands, it’s repeated over loudspeakers and radios.

It’s one of the least controversial statements you could make as a company linked to the military. What do we think about Iraq? Libya? Should we go to Somalia? Or bolster the Falklands? (shush-we’ll-antagonise-Luci). What about Blair, Brown, Cameron and Clegg? Whatever we think about them and their policies, red, blue, yellow (even green!) we all support the troops.

And what about Leeds? Most of us are rightly angered at Ken Bates and his Board. Think back to this time last year and we were so close to automatic promotion we could almost taste it. Since then we’ve gone on to lose five first team players, and not one of them left solely because Grayson thought that they could be improved upon. Not one. Whatever we think of their replacements, it’s not a healthy sign for the future.  Lorimer can talk about over-spending, but we can afford to keep our players without pushing ourselves into debt. Instead, our Glorious Leaders have decided not to spend significantly on them. £9.5million budgeted for the whole playing side; £7million for a redevelopment project alone. Can’t we afford better contracts Peter? Are you sure?

‘Who wants promotion?’ Ken probably asked, probably chomping on a cigar: ‘I`d prefer a hotel in Beeston.’

We’re right to “bawl and shout” about it. We had a miserable December with only 2 points from 12. That’s been enough to get managers and players sacked from less ambitious clubs than Leeds. But I think the fans would prefer to sack the Board.

From this time last season, we watched our promotion push crumble; the only entertainment provided by Ross McCormack and Billy Paynter fighting for the role of “Championship Torres of the Year”. Yet we got behind them, we applauded their efforts and we sang them on. It’s worked wonders for Ross, at least, who has come out this season and showed why he was in Actim Index’s top 10 when on form at Cardiff: because he’s bloody brilliant.

We’ve backed the players at matches as best we can, but we’ve been worn down by sky-high ticket prices and an ever-present reminder (the East Stand) of the decision not to keep our most valuable assets: the players. And that’s not a slur on our current players. We’re scared that the ones we have now will be leaving too: that’s half the problem. Clayton and White slot in well, and suddenly it’s a race against time to get them on decent length contracts. If our new players end up being that good I’ll just have to see them ripped away from me.

But spare a thought for the players. Robbie Rogers has uprooted himself from the other side of the world, and what he’ll witness is his teammates out there in no-man’s land trying to do their jobs amongst the apathetic cynicism of the fans, broken only by anger and insults flying from one end to the other. Bates (when he’s here) sits magnificently in his place, with Peter Lorimer sat near him. Bates conducts the protests of the masses, Lorimer frowns furiously at the plebs:

‘don’t they know we’re trying to build a lasting legacy here?’ he probably mutters, probably reading the latest quote for another development project.

The fans continue to “shout and bawl” and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a pasty white “Breadman the Impenetrable” in the Kop.

The players must be absolutely bemused. I wouldn’t blame Snoddy for slowing from his mazey run, looking up at the baying crowd chanting at a man who isn’t even there, making a despairing chuckle and giving up, watching Zaha Hadid and the Lotus Revolution race each other to Leeds.

These lads are footballers. I doubt many of them came to Leeds expecting a club that apparently can’t afford to keep its players, and a support that’s so fed up it can barely bring itself to cheer them on – even if it tries. When times get tough it’s that legendary twelfth man that makes all the difference. Players do their jobs, but it’s the vocal belief of thousands that has the ability to inspire them. Unlike Ferguson’s lot, our twelfth man doesn’t hold a whistle. Our twelfth man has always been our support and it hasn’t been fit and healthy this season. Who can blame us? But we’ve a good side, despite Bates.

We can be hypercritical as fans but let’s admit it, our season in December 2010 included Schmeichel, Naylor, Bessone, McCartney, and as I said: Billy Paynter & an underperforming Ross McCormack. Our team is better now than it was last season. We’re obviously missing Max, and we’re missing Jonny Howson & Bradley Johnson. But let’s think back to the dull days of League One; more precisely let’s think back to January 3rd 2010. There was no Max Gradel, no Aidy White, it’s unthinkable now but Robert Snodgrass was actually only a late sub. Our back line included Jason Crowe and Richard Naylor; our midfield included Michael Doyle and Andy Hughes. This team was good enough to beat a Manchester United side that included Berbatov, Rooney, Valencia and Giggs.

As the Guardian concluded:

There were long spells when they out-passed their opponents. The victory was no fluke and that, perhaps, was the most shocking aspect.

Don’t forget Ken Bates and his little lackeys, but also remember Simon Grayson who finally got us out of League One, masterminded a victory against Scum, nearly got one over on Liverpool, and forced Spurs and Arsenal to two replays. Apart from one match against Scum this season, we’ve never been embarrassed by a Premiership team when Grayson has been at the helm. If we can come up big on those big occasions, why can’t we win the playoffs? Let’s have faith, and blast the cobwebs off the rafters on Tuesday. We need to do our part – anti-Bates chants before the match, at half-time and after the match, but let’s scare Brum’s kecks off during the match.

Bates can’t sell one thing of ours: we are the club– our support traces itself back through our fathers and grandfathers to the glory days of Don Revie, Billy Bremner and Norman Hunter and it’s our kids that will be cheering the club on long after Bates has relinquished his power.

So fuck the Board and their property developments.

We are Leeds, and we’ll see our lads win!

Written by TimPM