The Eerily Quiet Leeds United Rumour Mill TSS January 6, 2012 Leeds United 130 Comments Despite a severe injury crisis threatening to end any hope of a Leeds United play-off push, a team desperately in need of strengthening is attracting little attention from the daily rag fuelled rumour mill. Not since the days of George Graham, when Leeds United were so incredibly boring that the tabloids couldn’t bear commenting on us have their pages been so lacking in Leeds United rumour/scandal/myth. Perhaps that’s a good thing however? After all, the rumours serve only to heighten expectations which invariably leads to a massive fall when the transfer window closes and Michael Brown is as close as we’ve got to an exciting new recruit. Generally speaking of course, when we do sign players they usually come out of the blue, so maybe we should be encouraged by the absence of Leeds United rumour? I suspect there may be an alternative explanation however. All the warning signs are there that this could be another forgettable transfer window for The Whites, despite the promising start made by signing the sensational Andros Townsend on a season end loan deal. 1. The Excuses Start Early Before the window had even opened our beloved chairman was firing the warning shots, insisting that “we” wouldn’t spend recklessly and gamble on our financial security – basically a rehashed version of his summer warnings where Leeds United spent pretty much nothing. This invariably leads to questions about the pointless £7m vanity project bolted on to the East Stand and finished in a lovely cream colour. Pre-empting such a response, the chairman explained that banks won’t lend football clubs money in this economy to spend on luxuries (such as their core business – ie. a squad), but they will lend money to a man with a series of financial disasters under his belt to add value to a stadium of which no one knows the owners – prudent business there from the banks, aren’t you glad we bailed them out? “Yes Mr Bates, what can we do for you today?” “I’d like a £7m loan to build an extension onto the stadium I lease” “Hmmm… Any financial troubles in the past Mr. Bates?” “Well, in the interests of full disclosure…” unlikely, I know “…there was a small matter of an Irish savers bank that may have gone bust after I loaned all their cash to some shady businessmen… oh, and there was a couple of financial glitches when I owned Chelsea, but some Russian gangster bailed me out there… does an administration with Leeds count? Because, in my defence, I totally screwed the system there and managed to con my way back in debt free…” 2. Wage Budgets It doesn’t matter that your chairman won’t splash the cash for players when you have an ‘extremely competitive wage budget’ that your manager can do what he likes with – except we haven’t, and he most certainly cannot. A quick flick through the accounts of Championship teams should be enough to end this fallacy once and for all. In reality, Leeds’ wage budget is distinctly average – neither relegation or promotion worthy, kind of in the middle. You know, mid-tableish. There’s an old saying that ‘you get what you pay for’ and that’s generally true of football. Ken Bates isn’t lying when he says “money doesn’t guarantee success” but he’s papering over the fact it’s impossible without it. When was the last time Everton won the Premier League I ask you? No one takes the top flight title without considerable investment and the same is true of the Championship – money does not guarantee success, but spending nothing at all guarantees the Championship trophy won’t be paraded in front of your fans come May – unless of course, a team that did invest happens to be your final game of the season. Then you get to look on enviously. 3. The Convincer While we’re putting an end to fallacies, let’s address the notion that it is Grayson who picks the players and he alone who is responsible for the team we go to watch each week. I know we’re all trying to forget it ever happened, but let’s circle back to summer 2011. Remember those joyful hours spent listening to the barely coherent ramblings of our chairman blasting the likes of Keith Andrews and Lee Bowyer for being unrealistically greedy? For demanding extortionate wages impossible for Championship clubs to meet? Remember them both signing for the mighty Ipswich Town? Perhaps Keith Andrews demands were too much – I’m in no position to dispute that – but wages are relative to the division and the quality of player you’re chasing. If you want the divisions best, then you better be prepared to compete with the other teams ready to cough up. Alternatively, you could slag them off in the press and settle for Michael Brown – depends on your aspirations I suppose… This is just one example of Simon Grayson highlighting the player he wants before Shaun Harvey failed to negotiate a contract with them and Ken Bates subsequently slated them in his weekly address to the nation. So yes, Simon Grayson does pick the players, but consider this – when Shaun Harvey has failed in negotiations because Ken Bates’ budget doesn’t stretch far enough, where do you go from there? Well, you move from Keith Andrews to Lee Bowyer of course, and fail again. Somewhere in this failed search for a central midfielder was Alan Smith who decided he’d rather warm Newcastle United’s bench than take a paycut at Leeds. Further failure followed with attempts to sign Sammy Clingan and Nick Montgomery. Five (probably more) down and by this point, the rest of the Championship have snapped up most of the quality leaving Simon Grayson desperate for a central midfield and only the runt of the litter remaining. Step forward Michael Brown. Doesn’t strike you as a transfer policy that’s going to win you the league, does it? 4. B-b-but Ridsdale Of course, no transfer window would be complete without a cursory nod to our former chairman, to whom Ken Bates owes a thousand and one thankyou cards for the numerous times he’s provided a perfect scapegoat when anyone dare question the owners ambition. The excuse has worn thinner than Don Revie’s lucky suit. Two takeovers and an administration have passed since then and any remaining problems can not be attributed to him – nor can he be used as a go-to excuse every time someone dares to suggest we should be seeing some return on our investment. It’s all very black and white when the Ridsdale excuses come in to play. There’s Ridsdale’s way of spending money and Ken Bates’ way of not spending anything at all. The grey area in the middle that many a team have secured promotion from is non-existent. Don’t even bother mentioning it, you’ll be blasted for your failure to understand football finances, morons. I thought I had a handle on it once. My general understanding was that you had a total income (X) and an expenditure (Y) and that X minus Y equals Z, or available funds in this case. Turns out, I was in the right area, but I failed to mention Peter Ridsdale which, by all accounts, is the first rule of Leeds United finances. For those of you as naive as I once was, the Peter Ridsdale rule means no matter how high the ticket prices, no matter how much you make from selling your star players and no matter how many money-spinning cup ties you have, available funds become zero – because of Ridsdale, naturally. “But we do have funds, Simon Grayson spends them all on wages” I hear the posse of angry Bateswashed… I mean brainwashed… apologists scream. I refer you to point 2.