ken-batesThe continued uncertainty surrounding Jermaine Beckford’s future has led some Leeds United fans to discuss a potential return to Elland Road, the same discussion we’ve had every year since his departure.

It’s a tired and boring debate which seems to divide our fanbase straight down the middle. Some will pull out the old cliché of “never looking back” insisting that the player isn’t what he used to be (or that he wasn’t very good in the first place), while others will respond by pointing to his exceptional goalscoring record as a Leeds United player.

There’s rarely any balance because both arguments could be equally valid and are based on expectations of Beckford being worse or just as prolific as before. Unless it’s tested, there’s no way to know for sure.

But this fascination with ex-players is an interesting topic because it stems from eight years of Ken Bates selling them.

It’s an unavoidable truth of football that players come and go, there’s no real point getting attached to them. But the best teams sell players under their own terms, usually when the players usefulness to sustaining their success starts to wane or they find someone better.

The trouble with Ken Bates’ Leeds United is that we were doing the opposite. Time and time again we sold key players in their prime, constantly hindering any chance we had of returning to the big time.

Due to the ‘undisclosed’ nature of the transfer market, it’s impossible to know for sure how much Ken Bates netted from selling Leeds United’s key players during his 8 years at the club, but of those featured below, I’d say a very conservative estimate puts us beyond the £20m mark.

Had we retained all of the players listed and put out a team containing such quality, there’s no doubt in my mind that we’d be back in the Premier League by now. The millions Ken netted selling off these assets pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions Leeds United would have made if we were promoted, but the consequences of Ken Bates’ short-termist approach have long since been realised.

Few supporters can argue that it benefited the club as we approach a decade outside the top flight.

Now Ken Bates has left the building, which sale do you consider to be his worst as owner of Leeds United Football Club? Vote now and share your thoughts at the bottom of the page.

NB: I’ve only included players for whom Leeds United received a fee. The likes of Jermaine Beckford and Bradley Johnson left on free transfers so haven’t been included. Luciano Becchio hasn’t been included because GFH Capital had completed their takeover when he was sold. 

Ken Bates' worst sale as Leeds United owner?

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  • Jimenez Flinnchez

    Impossible to say because so many of the players mentioned played with and worked off of each other, I don’t think any of those players mentioned would have been able to continue to grow with Leeds United had they been the ‘last man standing’ so to say.

    In terms of career moves you’d have to say that leaving Leeds has worked out worse for Delph and Beckford (though I thought Beckford did well at Everton myself), I’d hazard a guess that Becchio’s move to Norwich’s bench won’t do him any favours either (unfortunately).

    Do I think we should take Beckford back? Yes but I also think we need some quality in Midfield to be able to give him the opportunity to score goals. Whilst Murphy is a positive signing I’m not convinced that our aged midfield is good enough for us to go forward.

    I’d keep Green, Diouf, White and one of Tonge, Norris, Brown (same player basically, preferably Tonge) and put some speed on the flanks; Byram at RW and White at LW? Possibly.

    • Dave DB Beal

      I’ve been playing Byram and White in wide midfield on FIFA and they’re doing an awesome job… Poleon’s scoring for fun and McCormack is banging in what the keeper stops. :o)
      Lennon was my vote, for reasons more eloquently argued by others above.

    • Irving08

      Good man: you know your football. I htink BM is of a similar mind.

  • becchio 10

    All of the above

  • Dean

    I think Gradel was the worst. He actually possessed the ability to scare defenders and i think we missed him most. Delph had the potential but we hadn’t come to rely on him like some of the others.

    Be interested to get a current squad valuation as on paper we have a very good squad for next year. One or teo needed but i don’t think that is ever not the case.

  • NottsWhite

    The key theme with all these sales (with the exception of Delph) is that they were sold for less than their market value. For me the most criminal sale was Aaron Lennon, Spurs must have been pissing their pants for the amount they paid for him.

  • Kai

    I thought Aaron Lennon was sold during the Kraiser era? When Beckford left it started a combination and chain of events which resulted in Leeds letting player go or sell for nominal fees. Saying that it was GFH which put the money up for Aidy Whites contract so they have shown the right signs

    • TSS

      Bates arrived at Leeds in January 2005, Lennon went in June.

  • craig

    Cant even bring me self to look, all of them. Thank God Bates no longer has power. No use looking back we have a great hungry Manager now, looks like they had a spring clean in the boardroom. On on on Mot. My heart would like Becks back not sure if we need him now though. Trust in Uncle Fester.

  • markman

    Main problem with Bates was that he never had any real money.
    Leeds usually lost money every year.he was always fire fighting or putting the odd million into other projects.I dont believe he every was in the position to put £5 million per season into playing staff.

    • TSS

      I’d bet building projects equal about £5m per year, and that was incredibly stupid because they’ve all lost money (Howards’ closed, Billy’s will NEVER recoup money it cost to build, YR continues to cost money and we couldn’t fill exec boxes we had, let alone new ones). He did exactly the same thing at Chelsea and it was the exact same result. They didn’t make money. Most of it was abandoned when Bates sold the club.

      Furthermore, Bates’ confused priorities impacted further on the budget as fans got tired of key players being sold and stayed away. So at this point (and this is why he had to sell), he’d wasted tens of millions building crap that doesn’t make money and probably never will (even if it does, it’d take centuries to cover initial cost of building) and the money he was using to build it all (your gate receipts) was spiralling downwards. He couldn’t make as much from player sales either because clubs knew how much he’d fucked up and how desperate we were for cash, Bates couldn’t hold anyone to ransom.

      They say insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results. That’s exactly what Ken Bates did at Leeds, only this time, he didn’t get so lucky when he was forced to sell (make no mistake, Chelsea were in a worse position than we’ve ever been when Bates left)

      • Stuart Wright

        While I agree with most of the points Billys probably will pay for itself because it didn’t cost much as such. The redevelopment included grill facilities for the boxes inside and, typical of Leeds, the whole redevelopment cost twice as much as it should have because of the asbestos found within the South Stand. Bates also knew that administration was on the cards sooner or later so spent the Watford play off cash on bricks and mortar which couldn’t be included in any settlement for the creditors.

        Billys will be serving ale for ever and a day on matchday and the costs, unlike the East Stand and Pavillion, which have helped to cripple us,, have vanished.

        • TSS

          Bars don’t make much money though, why do you think the Peacock is always changing hands these days?

          The breweries prices don’t help (me and a couple of friends considered buying a bar that was going under once), but there’s plenty of other overheads too such as staff, utilities, licensing fees (music, TV etc… all costs a fortune). When you’ve paid all that, you’re making pennies on the pint.

          There’s a much bigger margin in food, but if you’re only selling it on 30-40 days per year, and even then, very little of it, then that won’t be putting huge wads of cash in your pocket.

          Even the most successful bars and restaurants don’t make enough money to put a dent in most football club’s accounts, so there’s absolutely no justification for Bates spending so much of our budget building them.

          PS. We haven’t even started on the Pavilion yet. Another crazy waste of money.

          • Irving08

            Who cares if the Pavilion loses money ? It is nothing to the money wasted on the wages of the countless mediocrities who have worn the white shirt in recent years. And do you really think fans like me would have bought into the Membership scheme without it ? As you will know if you have used it, the Pavilion has been one of the few places with any atmosphere on matchdays in recent times. And tell me, where are families supposed to go on matchdays, if they want to sit down for a while before the game ? Football clubs and more recently greedy agents and overpaid players been ripping off fans for years – it’s about time we got something for what you allege to be virtually nothing.

          • TSS

            I don’t think Bates built it with the intention of losing money though, do you?

            Fact is, whether you like it or not, from a business perspective, it wasn’t the money-spinner Bates claimed it would be. Nor will it ever be. None of his projects were. They cost a fortune to build, lost money and destroyed the football team.

            I can drink anywhere in literally thousands of places in Leeds. I – like everyone else – go to Elland Road to watch football. That’s all we should be concentrating on.

          • Irving08

            A lot of people go to Elland Road for a day out – particularly many of the regional club members whom one meets in the Pav – where (not being a retired ‘hoolie, west stander, single, or blokey bloke) I have met more LUFC fans in the past three years than in the previous 40. If nothing else, the Pavilion has helped foster an identification with the club, at relatively small cost.

            I do not miss the old days of turning up just before kick off or departing immediately for home after. With less money to spend and thus waste, Managers are forced to focus on getting the best out of the players at hand. Reaching for the cheque book, the loan market or simply stockpiling players is too often the easy way for the British football manager.

      • flippin-pop-it-bruva

        Bates made his money at Chelsea by making it into a corporate village and making it more attractive to a billionaire [I.E Abramovich] Chelsea were already a top flight team compared and would not reap the rewards leeds would get from being promoted [estimated 60-80mill] From my point of view Bates never had any intention of being promoted as he had the chance when Grayson left being a few points of the playoffs all he needed to do was to keep hold of his players and invest maybe a few million. He didn’t. Why? Because I think he would have come under intense scrutiny from the premiership and in particular with the fit and proper test. Therefore plan B was to do up a few directors box appeal to investors and stick around till he sold Becchio. He is still quids in from buying Leeds.

        • TSS

          1) Bates didn’t make any money at Chelsea, the club was close to bankruptcy on a scale much greater than Leeds United. He got very lucky with Roman coming in and bailing him out, or he’d have been absolutely ruined.

          2) Roman closed down most of the crap Bates built after he arrived because it lost money (just like it does at Leeds). GFH have started to do exactly the same thing, that’s why Howard’s closed and I suspect other loss-making ventures like Yorkshire Radio and the Pavillion will follow.

          • Irving08

            Chelsea were in Europe for goodness sake ! I’m sure they had cash flow problems, but bankruptcy ? I doubt it. And if it hadn’t been Roman, some other thief would have bought it. Anyway my main gripe is with your suggestion that GFH might contemplate closing the Pavilion. If they are stupid enough to do this then they can say goodbye to a lot of membership revenue, and goodwill too. Fans like me have waited decades for a decent space where we can drink before and after the game. Sod it I’m not going back to the Revie bar, waiting ages to be served and having beer spilt down me.

          • TSS

            “How dare you close our drinking establishments!?” I understand why that one hit a nerve haha.

            I never go in it (Old White Hart or city centre my usual pre-match choice of watering holes), wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. I think private business is more than capable of catering to our pre-match drinking, Leeds needn’t get so involved. There’s nowhere near enough cash in it to be worthwhile.

            Leeds’ problems started while we were still in Europe, it just took us a while (the fans, not the club) to realise the extent of them – why else do you think we sold Rio in 2002?

            Chelsea had serious issues, they had £80m in debt when Roman took over (mostly as a result of Bates’ vanity projects, which cost a fortune to build and didn’t make money, sound familiar?) and it was only getting worse – quickly.

            My Dad’s a Chelsea fan, I know the story all too well, and it’s all well-documented. I don’t just make this stuff up to bash Bates with, the man is an absolute idiot who continued to repeat the same mistakes at Leeds because he got lucky the first time. When his precious Chelsea Village disaster was stripped apart and closed down, he wanted to prove it worked at Leeds. Which it didn’t – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelsea_F.C.#Ownership_and_finances

            There’s a famous quote from one of the Chelsea directors that followed Bates in reference to his loss-making projects – “it seems all football fans want, really, is football…” Amen.

          • Jonbiriani

            Have you actually followed leeds for the past 15 years? Leeds were in Europe when our finacial collapse began. Just because a club is in Europe doesnt mean it cant go bust; look at Rangers. It just means that the wages and bills are far higher; if the income doesnt match the outgoings it doesnt matter if your Manchester United or Accrington Stanley, your screwed….

  • Proud White

    I think that we had no choice with Snodgrass who wanted to leave, Delph and Gradel for me.

    • eggheadsbarmyarmy

      Agree with Gradel, he was on fire when he went and the amount of chances he was creating for the team and the trouble he caused the opposition could have pushed the team on to higher things at the time. Never replaced and as a result it was then that we started to tread water instead of continuing to climb.

  • Lufc1979ish

    Lucciano becchio was the worst and I’m counting it because ken bates was still chairman of the club at the time. Selling other players for a fee and then KB pocketing the proceeds is one thing like with snodgrass, beckford etc but actually giving away a player like becchio who scored near on 30 goals a season to another club for a non existant few and a pub player then that has to go down as the worst bit of business since selling cantona to man utd and giving them a platform to go on and dominate English football for the next twenty years.

  • mrsensible

    Got to be Mad Max! He really didn’t want to leave, Snodgrass chose to leave. He was probably right to.

    • EYLEEDS

      Disagree mate. Max wanted to return to France for family reasons. I seem to remember his parents weren’t around for some reason and he was responsible for his siblings and needed to be closer to them.

  • Compo’s Style Guru

    Tho not strictly a sale I believe letting Bradley Johnson go was the worst decision. He didn’t want to go nor did want silly money. However, his departure notified the arch vultures at Carrow Rd to the fact that Leeds would sell any player on the cheap and so they came back every year to cherry pick our better players.

  • ADZLDZ

    snodgrass,definately. if he had pace he would play for a top four side

  • Scarlett Gray

    I voted for Jonny Howson because, as far as I know I think we only got £750,000 + Add Ons (whatever they might of been), for what was one of our star players at the time … so I personally found that one as disappointing as any.

    To be fair they were all disappointing sales so I wouldn’t disagree with any votes for the others. The Fabian Delph one confuses me a lot too because I thought that money was supposed to go towards buying back Thorp Arch … Oh, just another of the strange the mysteries surrounding Leeds over the last few years!!!

    • TSS

      Delph’s sale was a turning point for many I feel. The second Bates went cap-in-hand to the council, after telling fans that Delph’s sale would be used for repurchase of TA, he lost the majority of the support he had. And he didn’t have much to begin with.

      • Scarlett Gray

        Absolutely, that was very strange. From the moment he came to Leeds Old Whiskers talked about the importance of re-acquiring the assets that were Thorp Arch and Elland Road. While Leeds were in League One he talked a lot in his programme notes about the importance of buying back Thorp Arch in particular.

        Something seemed to change in his thinking when Leeds went up.

    • Pete Sasqwax

      Yeah, Howson for me, too. Of all the lads that went, JH seemed like the one who really didn’t want to go. The others left and their sales were sanctioned, but they wanted to go. Jonny, in contrast, didn’t want to go, but was sold… and for a pittance. I understand the policy of accepting offers for those players in the last year of their contract and obviously Jonny had made his position clear as regards wanting Premier League football, but he was/is Leeds to the core. He wanted to see the club moving in the right direction with an attainable plan of achieving promotion (with recruitment to match) – for that, he got sold to the budgies for next to nothing.

  • gistheman

    Gradel for me as I thought in some was better than snoddy.
    Yes I would have becks back to and gradel if we could, but past is what it is past and we should leave it there and give the team and bm the support that has been missing from er for so long now and together we may got to where we want to remember mot!!

  • lewis

    i really don’t know how anyone can justify voting for delph, he is probably the only player we got the correct value for and went at a time we were in league 1 so werent any worse off for selling him, if villa were to sell him now they wouldnt recoup the money they paid us!, the only bad point was that the money dissapeared but then it did for every other transfer as well

    • Scarlett Gray

      Wasn’t it six million when all the add ons were totted up, if those clauses ever get/got activated? I agree it does seem a fair sale, just disappointing the way that the money was used which might sway peoples opinion …. and you’re now rightly going to tell me that doesn’t make it a bad sale :-)

      • TSS

        I think the potential fee was closer to £8m, though estimates do vary. I’ve always assumed £5-6m was paid upfront.

        • Lewis

          i think the only reasons people probably voted were because we got more for him than all the others combined and we didnt use the money effectively like we were told how it was good to be used for the future good of the club

          • Scarlett Gray

            Absolutely right , what may upset people about that particular sale is that we were led to believe the money was going to be used for one purpose and was subsequently used for another, less understandable one. Like you say, the money we (potentially) got/get with add ons was a fair deal.

            Personally I’d be much happier if Leeds had sold Fabian Delph and owned Thorp Arch in return rather than some swanky executive boxes in the East Stand.

  • Lewis

    on a more positive note if we get some of the people we are linked with we will be able to have a best signing/action of gfh come the end of the transfer window onwards and upwards

  • fordy

    notice that the ones voted for are wingers just shows you what the fans think we need

  • Dave

    Ken bates sold our captain. How are you supposed to come back from that as a team.

  • Irving08

    Gradel undoubtedly – we lost with him the speedy outlet, the element of unpredictability, the opportunistic goals, the unsettler of defences. He left when we still had a chance. By the time Snoddy left – and he’s the only other serious candidate for worst sale – we were already gone.

  • ALMonkey

    Gradel went continental though and I’d say was a step forward in his career as the chance of him playing European football increased which is surely an aim for any player? St Etienne finished 5th last season. He was very unlikely to play European football with Leeds, let’s not kid ourselves. Sometimes you have to accept that if a bigger club comes along, it’s wrong to stand in the player’s way if he wants to further/enhance his career.
    Whereas many of the others went to clubs on a similar footing at that moment in time, with the exception of Lennon and Delph. Therefore the sales to Norwich and such are probably ‘worse’

  • Colin

    Snodgrass, Delph, Howson, Gradel – that in itself is 4 standout alerts and lessons learned to GFH Capital, as to why Leeds United should not sell Byram, Lees or McCormack.

    I voted for Jonny Howson. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. That’s when the Bates Out protest really took effect, and attendances dramatically fell after that.

    Name me one other football club that FORCIBLY sold its born and bred local Captain and fan of the club since a boy (even though he didn’t want to go).

    • benson

      Snodgrass apart all the named players havnt set the football world alight have they? I agree that most were probably sold cheaply based on their value to Leeds rather than market value. Johnson walked as did beckford and delph really was overpriced(8 million Murphy 1 million) the main problem was we became known as a selling club by both other clubs and players. In reality Snodgrass and lennon are premier league class Johnson plays fir a premier league club( at least for next season!) . The rest including Howson and delph and gradel are championship players. Becchio will no doubt be loaned out at Christmas cos he not premier league class also. We might as well debate were Leeds wrong selling Duncan mckensie. Mot

      • Colin

        Irrespective of whether you think they were quality players, none of them were replaced with players who were better. None of them were even replaced with like for like players.That was the big issue for me.

        • benson

          To reiterate we are a selling club. Howson snodgrass becchio were all sold to balance the books. The same story going back to Ferdinand and woodgate. Even batty . Byram will probably be the next. As a fan it sucks but things won’t change for a long time. Mot

  • spellz

    Glad this topic came up I have wanted to rant on this subject for ages but I will keep it short.

    Howson definitely, at that point we was being laughed at by the media for having
    “a lack of ambition” but completely justified as we were effectively running as a club to fatten Bates pocket very low point as a proud Leeds fan and one I do not wish to see in the future after that the sale of others like Snoddy just deteriorated any last faith I had in the board.

    M.O.T AA.

  • caseyrybac

    i could kill that scumbag bates.

  • Genghers

    Gradel had reasons for leaving, being closer to his family whom he supports. Howson for me is the player who I was most gutted about – our captain and most creative/attacking midfielder, and a die-hard fan on top of that. I genuinely feel he was forced out…

  • Pete Sasqwax

    The issue with most on the list (Howson aside) is that they did want to leave. I appreciate that’s hard to accept and it’s easy to berate Bates for selling them (particularly those who went on the cheap) but these players had stayed as long as they could have been expected to – longer, in some cases. In that sense, the point of who was the worst sale is moot. The key issue – and the reason most of us hate Bates as much as we do – is the reason why these players wanted to leave, which has been outlined on enough occasions, as we can surely agree.

  • PAUL W

    Gradel and Snodgrass were the worst sales under Bates, due to them both being so influential to Leeds scoring goals. As usual at Leeds, they both went for low fees that made absolutely no difference to improving the Leeds team.

  • Johnny Ginderskov

    worst sale was definetly Aaron Lennon…1m £…??? 2 month later at tottenham worth 10 m £…. AND playing in the English squad… sounds like a joke..but it’s the truth… and he calls himself a businessman..:-(

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