Ken Bates’ latest excuse for Grayson’s sacking is that with a squad of 28 we shouldn’t be signing new players, and Grayson’s work with the current squad has not been good enough. Question-marks already hang high above the last bit of his statement. But what about squad sizes?

I have a deadline to meet so let’s keep this short: I’ll take the bottom three clubs, the three mid-table clubs (which includes Leeds), and the top three clubs who aren’t newly demoted.

Bear in mind players signed and not yet played will not show on these stats. So Kenneth has the benefit of the doubt on each club.

Doncaster Rovers – 33
43 players have been named on matchday this season.
10 players have since left the club.
33 players in the squad.

Nottingham Forest – 25
34 players have been named on matchday this season.
05 players have since left the club.
30 players in the squad.

Coventry City – 26
30 players have been named on matchday this season.
04 players have since left the club.
26 players in the squad.

Derby County – 28
30 players have been named on matchday this season.
02 players have since left the club.
28 players in the squad.

Leicester – 30
30 players have been named on matchday this season.
00 players have since left the club.
30 players in the squad.

Leeds United – 28
33 players have been named on matchday this season.
05 players have since left the club.
28 players in the squad.

Southampton – 27
28 players have been named on matchday thsi season.
01 players have since left the club.
27 players in the squad.

Cardiff – 27
27 players have been named on matchday this season.
00 players have left the club.
27 players in the squad.

Reading – 30
30 players have been named on matchday this season.
00 players have left the club.
30 players in the squad.

So what do these stats tell us? They tell us that it doesn’t matter whether you have a squad of 25 or 33; if you’re players aren’t good enough you will be relegated. They also tell us that those clubs who go on to reach the playoffs or promotion are far less likely to sell players and have to bed new ones in place of old. Reading have kept their players; Cardiff have kept their players; Southampton have offloaded one player. Even the mid-table teams have not chopped and changed to the extent forced upon Leeds United by our inability to sign our best players to new contracts.

One extra factor that may explain why one or two are scratching their heads, is that young players will show up on the more frequented pages like Wikipedia. And this again reflects teams’ budgets. Big-spending clubs like Leicester have 8 unused young players in the senior squad. Relegation-embattled clubs like Doncaster Rovers are using every player at their disposal. Leeds falls into the latter category. We have only Will Turner of all our youngsters who is yet to make an appearance for us this season.

But even that does not tell the whole story. Teams like Leicester and Southampton have paid to get experienced players as well as young stars, and keep them. Leeds have youngsters (Aidy White, 20; Tom Lees, 21; Zac Thompson, 19) and young loanees (20 year old Smith to come in for 19 year old Thompson, 20 year old Townsend to give competition to 20 year old White on the wing). At 24, Robert Snodgrass is one of the most experienced players in the Leeds team and the one we’re looking to for leadership. Beside him is 34 year old Michael Brown, 40 year old Maik Taylor, 32 year old Andy O’Brien, 30 year old Paddy Kisnorbo.

This is where it goes wrong for Leeds. The oldies get injuries, or struggle to keep up with the rigours of a 46 game season. The youngsters make mistakes, and when the game goes the wrong way they’re more prone than experienced heads to panicking. Yet on the wages offered by Leeds, the only experienced heads we can afford are the cast-offs from other Championship clubs. Players who are too old or injury-prone to be considered worthwhile for other clubs to employ.

We have a larger squad Southampton – technically – and a similar squad to Leicester – technically – yet the numbers cloud the clear problems for Leeds. Run your eye over our squad, and try to name half a team who are good enough for promotion who have more than two years’ first team experience at a decent level. We’re relying on youngsters to do it all for us. Our young players deserve a chance, but it’s unfair on them to place the pressures of promotion on their still developing shoulders. Of course they’ll come out saying the believe they can do it: who didn’t at that age? But the old hands on our Board – including Peter Lorimer – should surely understand that it’s not a good idea to place all our hopes on them. They’ve shown under “Redders” that when the going gets tough, they’re nowhere to be found. Even if they have talent and skill.

Ken Bates laughed at Simon Grayson’s attempts to sign a new player:

“The first time I said ‘no’ to a player that Simon wanted to buy was last Thursday when he wanted to sign a player who was going to cost us £600,000 a year. I said ‘but you’ve already got six centre-backs, all of who you signed’.”

He was, in fact, being misleading, as the player Grayson had wanted to sign was a central midfielder. Not to mention that O’Dea had been signed as much as cover for left-back.

The player would have cost ££600,000 per annum. That’s roughly £11.5k per week. Reasonably expensive, but about on a par for a good midfielder who will help gain promotion. Don’t forget, it’s only a season since Bates was laughing at one club’s signing of an unproven product of a top Premiership academy on £10k per week – widely thought to be Jay Simpson for Hull City. Yes, £10k was laughable – because it was going towards an unproven player. That suggests £10k to a proven player is acceptable. Yet Bates is now laughing at Grayson’s attempt to sign a player on £11.5k?

Is £1,500 per week really that much in the mind of Leeds United’s chairman? It’s about the equivalent of 50 fans (well less actually) paying £36 for an away ticket. Yet Bates was happy to charge ridiculous prices, pull them away from the Cheese Wedge, stick them into the crappy West Stand, and has thus seen regular boycots of Leeds matches by visiting fans.

He says our squad is too big. We have 6 central defenders. Does he suggest we play Alex Bruce in midfield? Or O’Dea? He says our squad is too big: but it’s the same size as mid-table, unambitious Derby County. And who do we have in central midfield? A 34 year old who will almost certainly be leaving at the end of the season, a youngster who will leave in the next month, and Vayrynen and Clayton. Zac Thompson as cover. Hardly a promotion winning squad that you’re paying for Mr. Bates.

And this is what’s so strange. Ken Bates flip-flops on just about every issue. He first laughed at spending £10k p/w on an inexperienced player, and now laughs at spending £11.5k p/w on any player whatsoever. Remember Max Gradel?

“Ken Bates sensationally reveals that Max Gradel was told he could leave at the end of last season after spending the summer reassuring Leeds United fans we wouldn’t be selling our star winger.”

That’s a quote from this site as Ken Bates revealed all on transfer deadline day this autumn. And Simon Grayson on the same day? “The most frustrating day I have had as a manager”. I’m not surprised, Simon.

And then, as The Square Ball’s latest podcast pointed out, Ken Bates spent half of a radio address expounding the expense of loanees, before using Arsenal’s Henry as an example of why loanees work: “He’s a free player, free transfer.” No he’s not, Ken. You just said, loanees are bloody expensive!

It’s this confusion of contradictory statements that makes Ken Bates such a strange man to consider. Either he’s utterly thick, or he’s massively out of touch. Given his willingness to quote figures at us as if they will absolve him of all wrongdoing, when in fact they prove his double-standards and ill-considered strategies, I’d suggest the latter. Which is worrying.

Written by TimPM.

Appearance data: Stat Bunker. Photo Credit: Alex Knight Photography