Ken Bates Doesn’t Change, But Circumstances Do TSS March 1, 2012 Leeds United 34 Comments People don’t change. They just don’t. In my student/professional tax-dodging years, I studied psychology. From the numerous experiments I witnessed and countless more I studied, and the huge amount of research I’ve read and evidence I’ve seen, my own personal belief is that people are born a certain way, and that other factors thereafter shape who they become. Their underlying personality is fixed, but their behaviour and how they act isn’t. It can’t be. It has to change constantly, we have to adapt to every situation. We all act differently in a professional sense to what we do around friends and family. We act differently in a crowd of our own football fans, to what we would outnumbered in a crowd of fans from another team. My point is, people don’t change – circumstances do. Take Ken Bates for example. He is, quite literally, incapable of accepting he may be wrong, and that someone else’s ideas may be better than his own. That’s just how he is. He’s far too stubborn and his narcissism will never allow him to accept fault for anything. However, Ken Bates is still adaptable to changing circumstances – he has to be, else he’d fail miserably and wouldn’t have had the moderately successful life he has. A key example is that Ken Bates has to treat Neil Warnock differently to how he treat Simon Grayson because various circumstances dictate that. Warnock’s past success and willingness to walk away the moment he feels he’s unfairly done by is a small factor in this, but the bigger picture is the financial situation at the club which is determined by success on the field. Bates only ever came to Elland Road because of the financial possibilities, and he isn’t naive enough to think that he can maximise that potential without promotion. There’s no conspiracy at play here, he isn’t trying to keep us in the Championship to dodge a £5m debt – the returns far outweigh the cost. The circumstances at the start of the 2010/11 season were Leeds returned to the Championship for a season of transition. Ken could have gambled and spent heavily, but the reality is, it’s rare teams get promoted at the first time of asking regardless of spending. You either need to buy a team of experienced Championship players and hope they gel quickly, or allow your League One side to get some experience and see what needs to be improved. We – quite wisely – chose the latter. Ever-adaptable, when Leeds started to perform above all expectations and the cheapest promotion in history looked possible, Ken was left with funds to play with. By January 2011, when most of us demanded a couple of quality signings for that final push, Bates had already decided the team was good enough and funds had been diverted into off-field activities. By the summer, Leeds were heavily invested in improving Elland Road. Vast sums of cash had gone in to various projects, the biggest of which was the East Stand redevelopment, and all this meant that there was less money free to spend on the squad. This was quickly highlighted by the departure of several key players who the club couldn’t meet the wage demands of, so replaced with frees and loanees. In theory, these players were more experienced and more capable of achieving promotion than those that had departed, but in reality, it was an extreme gamble. There’s never any guarantees when you sign players, sometimes they just don’t fit – especially at Elland Road where expectations are incredibly high. Make multiple changes to your team and there’ll be a transitional stage which ultimately costs you points. While the management and players spend weeks and months trying to make square pegs fit round holes, the supporters grow restless. The realisation that the squad we had before was more capable than version 2.0 is blatantly obvious. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Tinker with it a little and smooth over the cracks by all means, but when you’re within touching distance of your ultimate goal, you don’t scrap the thing completely and start anew. So the circumstances had changed again and by January 2012, the fans are dissenting and the ticket sales are taking a huge hit. This was way beyond any worse case scenario Ken Bates had predicted when he started investing money in the stadium, how could he see this coming? Things were going so well. The fans blame Ken, but Bates is still incapable of admitting he was wrong because he hasn’t changed. People don’t change. Deep down however, Ken knows the club is going backwards. What he also knows is that there is no great surplus of funding to fix it, it’s already been spent. Look around Elland Road, it’s there for all to see. The circumstances mean that he can’t simply throw money at the team to fix the problems. His own personality means that he lacks the ability to admit he was wrong and explain the situation to supporters, and even though he knows his attempts to shift blame will be largely dismissed, he also knows football fans are fickle and that a big enough distraction will change everything. In comes Neil Warnock, and alas, the circumstances have changed once more. A new manager always brings a change of atmosphere, and more often than not, a temporary change in form. New ideas, new approach, same players. The investment is still needed, Neil Warnock was the first to point that out, but by the end of the season the circumstances will have changed again. With no building work planned there will be more funds to play with. Neil Warnock wouldn’t be here otherwise, not a chance. So why not just say that and give Simon the funds? Because Ken hasn’t changed, he can’t admit fault and he needs to buy himself time and rescue the season ticket renewal situation. Most supporters already agree that reaching the play-offs this season is unlikely, so Ken Bates has effectively ended dissident uprisings until the summer when he’ll once again be judged based on how well he supports the manager. A couple of marquee signings, optimism levels will rise, attendances will increase and things at Leeds United will be back on track. All of this without Ken Bates ever accepting he made a mistake. Because people don’t change. But when circumstances change in a way that negatively effects Leeds United’s bottom line and pushes the club further away from the ultimate goal of a Premier League pay day, Ken Bates is as adaptable as anyone.