In a season that promised little from the off, delivered minimal hope, and that has all but ended in despair the sense of outrage at Elland Road is palpable.

The mature response in these circumstances is to reflect and re-consider the reasons for current situation, that the `blame game’ be avoided. But to be frank, I’ve never really held with that.

What follows is a candidate list, of the 5 worst decisions (and this is entirely subjective – and opinion based) which have lead us to where we are – a voting option follows beneath.

1. Selling the crown jewels

We overachieved in our first season back in the second tier. A 7th place finish was more than we could have dreamed of on the day we scraped past Brizzle Rovers. Yet we ended up disappointed to miss out on the play offs. The key to that? A coveted cache of some very talented players :-

Jonny Howson, home-grown, Leeds supporting, a box to box midfielder capable of defence splitting passes, late runs into the box, and the odd meaty tackle, a second division lampard if you want. Yes he went missing from time to time, but at 23 you can forgive him that.

Max Gradel, a top quality striker cum winger, an Ivory Coast international, with bags of pace, flair, and a genuine hunger for goals. You `pitied the fool’ who was given the job of marking him, and despite a foul temper, generally much loved by the Elland Road Faithful.

Bradley Johnson – Not everyone’s cup of tea,  Johnsons proclivity to aim for Row-Z was a shortcoming, but he remains to this day, full of running, a genuine ball winning midfielder, and able to score goals of almost mind bending quality (see Arsenal FA Cup 2010). Like Michael Brown in his prime. He was a player we plucked from relative obscurity at Northampton town.

All the above of course are now plying their trade elsewhere. Howson at Premier League Norwich, ditto Johnson, and Gradel at Ligue 1, Saint Etienne. Collective transfer fees of close to £4m received for those players seems of little comfort when we review the threadbare squad at Elland Road.

Howson seemed a sacrificial lamb,. He wanted evidence (like most of us) that Leeds were serious about the premier league next season, and like all of us saw zero investment of any note into the squad. Refusing to sign a new contract until the time was right, he was hardly engineering a move out. But lo and behold in January Bates and Harvey decided to cash their chips and accept £2m for a player worth probably 3 times that amount – had they not delayed and bungled a new contract (of which more in point 2)he might be with us still.

Would keeping Howson have kept us in contention for the play offs? Well he’s playing for Norwich now, and isn’t it March? We were all told he wouldn’t be fit until April? A key player, with good fitness record, and a scorer of critical goals (Carlisle, Bristol Rovers) Howson was Mr Dependable, and one of few who coped well with pressure.

Gradel was of course `not for sale’ a phrase which should be banned from Elland Road forthwith – we’re sick of hearing it. Apparently he wanted to be close to his Family in France (who are Paris based I believe) by moving to St Etienne – a 5 hour 525Km drive from Paris. Mmm? £2m later on transfer deadline day and he was sat in the conference room of the rather unspectacular French club, (who most of thought were an Indie Beat Combo from the 90’s), next to some bloke who looked like the Toymaker from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – with a big grin on his face. Gradel would have bagged us 20 again this season; perhaps a bigger contract might have encouraged the Gradel clan to move to Yorkshire? Didier Drogba doesn’t seem to be hell bent on playing for Sochaux or Auxerre to be closer to his brood? Just dreadfully handled and like Howson despite the cash and saved wages – where was his replacement?.. Still waiting.

Johnson publicly stated he wanted to sign a new contract (much as Howson had done) and yet come the close season he fell off the radar and we all knew he was on his way with Norwich, West Brom and a couple of other mid table premier league sides interested.

He’s since slotted nicely into Norwich’s midfield, and we all look on enviously. Why on earth did we let one of our key players leave? But as per the two previously mentioned where was the `superior replacement?

Bates has got out of jail with the emergence of Adam Clayton, but an aged Michael Brown, the bizarre Mika Vayrynen, and the inconsistent Ramon Nunez and Lloyd Sam just haven’t cut it. There have been latter additions like Robbie Rogers, but their impact has been limited, and the odd loan who couldn’t stick it (Townsend) surely keeping hold of your best assets is key – we sold them – and didnt adequately replace them.

If our budget on day one was £9m for playing staff and we were up by £4m (£5m if you include Schmeicel) how does a £12M spend represent a strain on the business? Youd still be in the money. So bad decision 1 selling our best players.

2. Failing to tie players down to contracts

As already mentioned Howson and Johnson’s contracts were running down a la Jermaine Beckford, but they weren’t alone. Neil Kilkenny also basically got fed up with waiting for championship wages, and like Johnson voted with his feet.

We all sat in disbelief as Johnson and Kilkenny’s contracts ran down. Surely we’d learnt our lesson with Beckford? But amazingly the club had the gall to suggest that the Beckford decision was a calculated one, and that Leeds pick and choose who they offer contracts to – andf hold players to them. A total nonsense when you review the Gradel saga. We all considered losing Howson, Johnson, and Kilkenny – surely we wouldn’t lose all of them – would we? Erm yes.

Not only did we manage to get beaten to the punch for David Norris by Portsmouth, Keith Andrews by Ipswich, who were frees we allegedly came close to signing, we failed to offer our own enough. And the market is dictated by the consumer. Kasper Schmeicel’s situation was more bizarre still – we apparently spoke with his agent and established he might want a pay rise at the end of the season – the response, a trip down the M1 to Leicester and a gleeful ken Banking a near £1m transfer fee (allegedly) Schmeicel replacement Rachubka haunts all of our nightmares, and Lonergan has proven just as inconsistent as Schmeicel.

You’d have thought our asset stripping this season might have taught us a valuable lesson, but apparently not. With Aidan White, Adam Clayton and Robert Snodgrass, Ross McCormack close to the end of their deals we still haven’t clarified what next?

Some clubs seem to do this under the radar so as to achieve a good price for players. Our contract lengths seem almost fair game, and negotiations seem to turn bad rapidly. Remember Brad Johnson’s lambasting at the hands of Ken Bates for Picking his `ma up from the station instead of meeting with him to discuss wages – we should definitely get rid of the arrogant so and so Ken..

Bad decision 2 – mishandling players contracts

3. Failing to invest in new players

So you get £2m for Gradel, plus his save wages, £2m for Howson plus his wages, you save Kilkenny’s Schmeicel’s, Johnsons wages – you get like for like – right?

Erm no.. we scrabbled around the bargain bin again, imagine what class of winger you’d get for £2m and at say £12K to £15k a week – already budgeted for. A rising star from League One, a premier league youngster, or a star from one of your rivals. Well let’s not forget this is Leeds. We already had Lloyd Sam and Ramon Nunez – so why not plump for a centre half? Or rather, why bother.

I wont go on.

The usual tripe we’d gotten used to got trawled out – “why buy – when you can do loans? You’ll get premier league quality without the transfer fee”.

“The player was asking for an exorbitant wage – we told him where to go” – the greedy sod.

“We only want players who want to play for Leeds – not mercenaries, if the wages were all that were important – we dont want him.”

We ended up taking a squad to Scotland for Pre-season reminiscent in depth to that which Dennis Wise took – mid-insolvency to Eastern Europe. Which player we brought in this summer sparks the imagination? Sets the pulse racing, or has made a real difference? Answer – none of them. A restrictive wage policy and an aversion to paying transfer fees was for a time glossed over by some `ok’ performances, and by some of the youngsters doing well – for a time.

But our failure to invest and strategize long term is at the root of our dreadful squad.

Bad Decision 3 – not investing in players

4. Investing £7m in the East Stand

But the figures show a profit for 2010-11? £3.5M (near enough the combined transfer fees for Howson and Gradel)

Surely we do make money? Well yes we do, and have a healthy turnover where income conveniently seems to nearly match our outgoings. A rarety in business.

Where did most of our investment cash go in the summer of 2011? The East Stand redevelopment.

Most of us will never see the fabulous Ivory trimmed Pleasure Palace of which Kublai Khan would be jealous – where Ferrero Rocher run like a mountain stream alongside lashings of Lambrini and Carling Black Label. Joking aside we put (by the looks of it) £2m of cash into those boxes from our own turnover and borrowed a further £5m.

Whoopidy do! – so what are the visitors going to watch, more championship drudgery? – did they enjoy 7-3 versus Nottingham Forest more than someone sat in the cold Yorkshire Air that night?

Investing copius amounts of money on our rented ground when the premier league is far from guaranteed seems the most mind blowing piece of bad judgement. £2m would have made some serious inroads into redeveloping our squad, or even our youth set up, as would a £5m loan. It seems like the emperors new clothes. A vanity project which has left us embarrassed. Its the type of decision you lament when in administration. Why was cash flow so poor? Well we were servicing a loan for empty corporate boxes, empty because we didn’t get promoted. Why didn’t you see to it that you did get promoted? Well we needed money for the corporate boxes. Goodnight Vienna.

Bad Decision 4 – Investing what money we did make into corporate boxes.

5. The sacking of Simon Grayson

This is a two-tiered bad decision.

The board were vocal at the time of Grayson’s imminent departure and immediately afterwards concerning just how much they had backed him in the transfer market. And while our erstwhile manager made some gaffes (Paynter, Bruce, Bessone, Sam, Rachubka) which manager doesn’t? Especially one forced to trawl the bargain bins with the aplomb of a 76 year old pensioner (too close to home Ken?)

Generally he did find us some gems, and gave starts to some decent youth players (Somma, McCormack, Gradel, Clayton, Naylor, Lees, White) He returned a decent win ratio of course (over 50%) too.  But his lack of backing in Summer 2011 – at precisely the time he should have been rewarded for strong showing in the championship saw a season of struggle almost inevitable, worse still as per the above his best players got sold from under him.

A manager like Grayson needs backing, not slagging off in public. But the real rub came in the shape of the timing of his departure and the `planning’ around it. Sacked just after the transfer window closed – the club brazenly admitted the move was engineered so the new man could `get the best out of the existing squad’.

They went on to appoint Neil Redfearn, a likeable guy, but at best an assistant at this level ,and certainly not a man to heap a disillusioned and over-tired squad on, losing at Coventry away and Brighton at home is the difference between where we sit now – and the play offs. Sure we brought in Warnock (who seems on paper to have performed worse still) but that decision was appalling in its timing – why didnt they sack Grayson at Christmas, or earlier in the season if they didnt rate him?

Bad Decision 5 – Sacking Simon Grayson

Biggest Mistake?

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