My name is Corey, I’m 26 from Northern Ireland and I’m a Leeds supporter. This sounds like an introduction at an AA meeting. It’s not, but it could be. Supporting Leeds United has never been simple. Our anthem Marching on Together talks about our “ups and downs”. In the past few years we’ve had more downs than ups. We, as Leeds fans go through so much in support of this club. I remember when following a club was about the football. All that mattered was the results on matchday, how the teams around us did and how the table looked.

This has taken a back-seat to off-the-field goings-on. Talk to a Leeds fan about his club and you may hear the obvious, that results aren’t going well, we rely too much on Ross McCormack and we don’t have much creativity. But you are more likely to hear a never-ending tale of the off field woes. The takeover is dragging on. Is it happening or is it not? Is David Haigh buying the club with Andrew Flowers or is Massimo Cellino buying the club? Was Brian McDermott really sacked on “Transfer Deadline Day” or was he not? A Leeds fan will tell you about his hatred of Ken Bates and how he ruined our club (or in Kens opinion “saved” the club). What about this winding up petition from Flowers? Who’s paying the wages? Will the Football League bar Cellino from taking control of the club?.

We have been kept in the dark for so long regarding the running of the club that we take to Twitter, to Facebook and many forums and rumours sites trying to piece together any information. We sift through the “In the Knows” and moreso the “bullshitters” for any scrap of information. We read the endless opinion blogs from fans and respected journalists alike. We have become experts in Islamic Finance and Italian Law and how they impact the running of our club. We talk about international finance and the offshore finance centres around the world, be it a holding company in the British Virgin Islands, Nevis and the Cayman Islands, a fiducary company in Switzerland or a bank in Bahrain with a subsidary in Dubai.

I always wonder if other fans are like this with other clubs but I know they aren’t. The majority of my friends support Man United (yes, I’ll hold that against them), Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea or Spurs. I even have one friend who supports Man City but he has done since they were rubbish so I’ll not begrudge him their buying power or success. All they talk about is their title challenges, trophy hunts, transfers both in and out and their European quests.

Is it so much to ask for that Leeds United fans just have to focus on football?. We don’t want to worry about going into administration again. We don’t want to worry that our best players will be going out the door each window. We don’t even want our players worrying where their wages will come from and when, even if we don’t think they deserve it.

We “lived the dream” under Peter Ridsdale’s stewardship until it all came crashing down around us due to his mismanagement. That just goes to show the delicate balance between success and failure in football finance. That “failure” I must add, was finishing 5th in the Premier League. We would all love “failure” like that now. From the heights of the Champions League semi finals, goldfish and Seth Johnson’s contract to the lows of selling our prized assets, our players, our stadium and our training ground.

We then faced relegation to the Championship and then again, the unthinkable, to League One. The lowest point in our history and we faced this with a 15 point deduction. We fought back to zero and kept rising the table, breaking our own records along the way. We had a strong team spirit, we had fight and we had passion. We had some great players and of course some not so great players but even they put in a shift. They got round the pitch and worked hard and that’s what we appreciate as fans.

We don’t want or need an endless stream of badge kissers. Playing for Leeds United will probably be the biggest club the majority of our players have or will play for. We want them to wear the shirt with pride and give everything they have for those 90 plus minutes. It doesn’t matter if you’re walking out the tunnel to the Champions League theme tune in the San Siro or a cold and windy Saturday morning in Yeovil, put in a shift and do us proud.

We’ve had our nearly moments, those moments when you think everything is going to be alright. Those moments when you think the good times are around the corner. Those moments when you think this is our time. Those moments fade but the feeling of optimism is still there. Next season is going to be our season. For us, those moments are called the play-offs. A final defeat by Watford, a final defeat by Doncaster, a semi final defeat by Millwall and among this we had the humilation of that defeat by Histon.

But we’ve had our moments. Those moments when everything is all right and the good times are around the corner. The 3rd January 2010. With one defeat in our previous 21 games, we rode that wave of good form and optimism and beat “The Scum” in their own house. This resulted in a horrendous drop in our league form but come the 5th May 2010 we were celebrating. The photo of Andy Hughes celebrating provides us with the iconic snapshot of joy that day, a stark contrast to the photos of Alan Smith in tears in 2004. In typical Leeds United fashion we had to do it the hard way, down to 10 men and falling 1-0 down before Howson and Beckford found the net. The good times were back… only for that squad to be dismantled over the following transfer windows.

Andy Hughes promotion

Andy Hughes celebrates promotion, May 2010

Then it was time for TOMA – Takeover? My Arse! After years of frustration being vented towards Kenneth William Bates, he was finally doing what we all wanted. He was finally f***ing off… or was he? The takeover process dragged on through the summer months when we first caught a glimpse of Mr David Haigh and Mr Salem Patel. They were being backed, according to Ken, “by a very wealthy individual with close ties to the Bahrain Government”. Then the takeover was off and then it was on again. GFH Capital were going to be our knights in shining Arabian armour. They were going to get rid of Ken Bates and really bring the good times back to Elland Road. In December, just before Christmas we got to hear such wonderful phrases like “building a successful and sustainable club”, “engagement with the fans”, “a fresh start for Leeds United”, oh and let’s not forget my personal favourite “We plan to buy back Elland Road but let’s not put a timescale on that…”

At least the takeover was done and we could finally look forward to producing good football on the pitch, investing in the squad and getting us promoted back to the Premier League. We had taken on top flight opposition in the League Cup, knocking out Southampton and Everton before we took the lead against Chelsea, then their expensive subs took the field in the 2nd half and outclassed us. Obviously this was the time to add to the squad and push us forward?

Oh no, wait, we are Leeds United and it’s a transfer window. We sell our top goalscorer Luciano Becchio to Norwich in possibly the worst transfer deal since Harry Kewell went to Liverpool. We do have a fondness for selling our best players to Norwich so at least we didn’t break tradition and we did get Steve Morison. Let’s all thank GFH for bringing one Habib Habibou to our attention too, I’m sure we all had the desire to watch videos of a grown man chase a duck off the pitch and throw it over the advertising hoardings. Unsurprisingly Habibou and Morison didn’t fire us to promotion or even play off contention, maybe if Neil Warnock played Ross McCormack as a striker we might have had a chance, who knows… or we could have just kept Becchio…

Enter Brian McDermott. He steadied the ship, he kept us in the Championship, he played Ross McCormack as a striker and he even helped Luke Varney find the net, twice, in one match. We planned for the summer transfer window and that annual feeling of optimism swept across Leeds fans. We then signed Luke Murphy, our first £1 million signing since Rob Hulse. Then he scored a 95th minute winner on his debut on the first day of the season. Oh things were going to be good this season…

More takeover news was rearing its ugly head in the background though as Sport Capital – a joint venture of Andrew Flowers and David Haigh press forward with their own purchase of Leeds United. A deal announced in November but still not completed in January before it ultimately fell apart. Who’d have thought a football club takeover fronted by a member of GFH would be so difficult? At least GFH had kept us fans in the loop throughout the whole process. That re-engagement with the fans really paid off then. There’s nothing like a Salem Patel smiley face on twitter or David Haigh’s inability to correctly quote Billy Bremner to get the fans blood boiling, especially whilst results on the field were atrocious. Rochdale brought back horrible memories of Histon.

Other clubs have their problems with their owners. Portsmouth have “done a Leeds”, a term which I hate acknowledging. Cardiff City have essentially sold their soul for one season in the Premier League. Fulham are on the brink of relegation whilst on their 3rd manager of the season and recently the FA rejected an idea from Hull City’s owner to rebrand the club as Hull Tigers. The one thing these clubs have in common is that their owners at least kept their fans updated with what they were doing or planning. Their ideas haven’t always been looked upon favourably by the fans but at least they knew.

In 2014 Leeds United have been a rudderless ship. Our incumbent Chairman, Salah Noorudin is nowhere to be found. We never hear from him except for a one paragraph entry in a matchday programme. He is, in fairness, the exact opposite of Ken Bates. We’ve had our Managing Director David Haigh, either buying the club himself or trying to do a deal with Massimo Cellino, or raising money to go climb a mountain somewhere. We’ve had Hisham Alrayes trying to sack Brian McDermott at half time during the defeat to Sheffield Wednesday. Then we have Brian actually getting sacked on 31st January and then getting brought back the next day.

In recent developments we’ve found out that Salem Patel was having private twitter conversations with fans in regards to who the club should sign whilst he masqueraded on Leeds forum “waccoe.com” defending GFH at all possible times. We also learn that Brian McDermott was required to give his formations and squad lists to Bahrain for approval 24 hours before each match. All of this whilst the club is losing close to a million pounds a month, wages aren’t being paid and Massimo Cellino’s takeover of the club was blocked by the Football League. The threat of administration loomed over our heads with talk that we could face a 10 point deduction. And yet the club said nothing…

I’m writing this on the 5th April. This is a date that Leeds fans don’t forget. 5th April 2000, two of our own, Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight were tragically and senselessly murdered in the streets of Istanbul on the night before a UEFA Cup match with Galatasaray. We lost to Wigan this morning, but their fans were a class act. The whole stadium took part in a minutes applause in memory of our two fallen fans. It’s moments like this that bring it all home, football is just a game. It may be a multi-billion dollar industry but at its purest, at its core, its 22 men on a field playing a game. Nobody should go to a football match and not return home afterwards. Istanbul, Hillsborough, Heysel – these are things that shouldn’t be allowed to happen again.

Today is also a day that Leeds fans won’t forget. Massimo Cellino won his appeal against the Football League and is allowed to complete the takeover of our club. Hopefully he will follow through on his promise to purchase Elland Road. I hope this is finally the new dawn for Leeds United and we can rise out of the darkness and get back to where we belong. This is nothing more than we, as fans, deserve after all we’ve been through.

Last year I stood in the Nou Camp as Barcelona played beautiful football beating Real Valladolid. They had been confirmed La Liga winners the previous week and were receiving the trophy after this match. There was a great celebration and fireworks display as Messi, Iniesta and Xavi et al paraded the trophy around the stadium. This was a great sight to see, but it meant nothing to me. It doesn’t give the same feeling as standing in a sold-out Elland Road whilst a chorus of “Marching On Together” fills the ground. I want to relive that again in the Premier League just as I did for the first time as a 9-year-old boy in 1997.

Barcelona have a motto – “Mes Que Un Club” – More Than A Club. That’s applicable to us too, we are more than just a club.

We Are Leeds!

Article submission

The above was a guest submission from Corey Barkley. If you have something you’d like to be considered for publication here on The Scratching Shed, please email it to admin@thescratchingshed.com

  • Guest

    Good read.

  • Mexicoleedsboy

    Nice one man! Yep we are Leeds, this is Elland Road and watch this space! MOT.

  • Lynda Proctor

    Absolutely spot on

  • A

    This club needs more than an injection of money, it needs an injection of real faith and a leadership that can support that. Until there are a group of people in place who have that same beliefs & goals we’re going to be constantly, frantically scrabbling around in the lower reaches. The next year is going to be critical for our club. Great bit of sense writing BTW.

  • RoystonLUFC

    Eloquently put, Mr non-iron. Ironically though, the optimism in your penultimate paragraph might (MIGHT, not definitely) be unfounded. I’m still not sure what the Football League have up their sleeves but I know they’re gunning for us and they won’t miss a chance; even less do I know what a certain Dr Sandra Lepore might have to report in June. So we’re still not in the clear – even though Cellino is here in town as we write. It’s still difficult focussing on the football when all the time I’m trying to predict what will happen if Cellino is evicted in June, after having bought ER and TA, and (hopefully) a brand new team!. The mind boggles as to how that could all be unravelled. So they reject him – what about all the money he’s invested? Who would replace him? etc.

    I wish we could just talk about the football. Come to think about it, that would make me even more pessimistic! Let’s continue discussing the boardroom soap opera…

  • Counte of monte fisto

    Awesome summary

  • Tyler75

    I think ‘Mes’ of a club sums us up nicely – When people I don’t know ask me if I like football, I always reply ‘No, I’m A Leeds fan’ . Can’t imagine what it would be like to support a boring, run-of-the-mill, stable football club. Forza Leeds.

  • gordon

    The judge Sandra lepore has already stated that she believes that it was a misunderstanding rather than a deliberate act of tax evasion. Wouldn’t it be better to pay the fine and say that it was a misunderstanding,sorry. Then we can all move on
    This will not give the FL anything to come back at us with.

    • Irving08

      Has she ? Where ? The QC leaves the question open while indicating a range of possibilities under dolo eventuale. I was always quite impressed by Massimos’s claim that he was not a dishonest man. Reckless, careless…..possibly, which would be enough to be going along with !.

  • Murray

    Hit the nail on the head there Corey, great to see a lot of the younger ones in Northern Ireland following Leeds too….more than a club…MOT, from Londonderry.

  • Drogheda White

    Great read Corey, sums it up perfect! Just hoping we are steering into the clear now, but with Leeds its never that simple is it? haha MOT from just south of the border in Drogheda

  • Leeds1920

    This is really the end of the return. In five years time we will be pissed of that only two Leeds player’s are in the England team and we still can’t get away tick we tickets. MOT.

  • mrbigwheels

    Big tick for that Sir… Key the music… Let this be the intro and antham

  • Michael Lord

    Excellent article, well written. 10/10. Nice one mate

  • Richard

    Can’t wait for Saturday – we are going to lift the roof. Great article young man!

  • Irving08

    This is a really excellent piece whose content partially belies the title. The Grayson years saw us play some of the most exciting attacking football I’ve seen in my long years of supporting Leeds: Beckford, Becchio, Snoddy, Gradel and Howson ! Let’s not forget that.

  • wheressniffer whenuneedhim

    Excellent read Corey, looking forward to the next one. Lets hope the wave of optimism for next season is the real deal this time.