Paul Keats, the Chair of Leeds United Supporters’ Trust, stood down last week citing health reasons which means an Interim Chair many of you will be familiar with now leads the LUST board. Michael Green, the man behind former Leeds sites ClarkeOneNil and Lee Champman’s Sofa, who was also serving as vice-Chair to Paul Keats, has taken the hotseat and joins us here to answer a few questions.

TSS – You wrote for The Scratching Shed in the early days, but most will probably remember you from ClarkeOneNil, which was – very deliberately, it would seem – a divisive site with views that often polarised the fanbase. How do you go from that, to interim chair of the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust, a role that requires you to balance the views of all LUST members, even those you may disagree with personally?

MG – Let’s split this into two parts, starting with the blogs. Neither Clarke One Nil nor Lee Chapman’s Sofa were deliberately divisive, they were realistic and needed. They both also launched the blogging careers of a lot of writers. I am very proud of both those blogs and very happy to stand up and say they were right for the time and proved to be on the money by events.

Now in terms of being Interim Chair and representing the views of shareholders and members I am very clear, there are core principles and aspirations that are common to all persons interested in a co-operative, democratic approach to fans ownership and influence in football and I am happy to articulate them. Where events require, as they do in this modern 24/7 news orientated world, a perspective and analysis of breaking events or controversies (which has happened a lot on LUFC matters for the last decade and a bit) then the leadership element of the board members comes into play. It’s impossible to please all 9000 members at the same time, I doubt I ever pleased more than half the two blogs readership at any one time, all I can do is promote the interests of the Trust and Leeds fans in general to the best of my ability.

TSS – Along with ourselves, TSB and The Beaten Generation (with 1 or 2 others), ClarkeOneNil was one of the sites that took a very firm stance against Ken Bates from the beginning, but it took many years for a majority of fans to unite behind a Bates Out cause because many (understandably) saw it as counter-productive to the team’s success – a more toxic influence than Bates himself, some used to argue. I know you’ve been less than impressed by some of Massimo Cellino’s actions thus far and have been fairly vocal in your criticism of him, but do you see parallels with the early days of Ken Bates’ tenure or is there a way forward with Cellino?

MG – So many questions here. Starting with Cellino, Michael Green, West Stand ticket season holder, is less than impressed with some of his antics since January 2014, in the same way he wasn’t that impressed with GFH and there antics. But since stepping up to the Trust Board last year the only opinions I have offered were in the name of the Trust, approved by the board of the Trust. I want to be brutally honest, if a Supporters Trust can’t hold to account a football club owner who sacks 5 managers in a season, loses £24m in a financial year, gives strange and wonderful press interviews that at times embarrass the club, interferes with footballing matters based on his own instincts and gets himself banned for activities unrelated to football (some still ongoing as we speak) then we all might as well give up.

Now having said all that the Trust, not just me, believes owners should be judged on actions, we seem to be in the early stages of a calmer period. If over the next season we see normal football club activities, stability with managers and players, financial stability, a more reasoned approach to communications and a real sense of a rational plan for medium term development, then neither me nor any subsequent Chair will have any reason to moan. However responsibility for Cellino’s reputation amongst fans is firmly Cellino’s to improve. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than he does so with a period of considered reflective silence.

Now to Ken Bates, yes I saw the lie of the land early with him, In fact to this day I still struggle to understand why the rest of the support took another 5 years after administration and the associated blatant threat to the very existence of the club, to see the reality. However the adage “better late than never” applies here and he eventually departed, assisted on his way by the Trust’s involvement. Now even in a football culture full of Mike Ashley’s, Vincent Tam’s and others it takes a special kind of owner to provide the motivation to justify boycotts, marches and campaigns. Bates crossed that line with a “self before side” attitude and I hope no other owner of Leeds United ever does again.

TSS – We’re aware there’s been some dialogue between LUST and Leeds Fans LLP, how are those discussions going and what benefits do you hope both parties can gain from working together?

MG – Specifically we recently have had some early dialogue and by the time your readers see this some of the fruits of that dialogue will be hopefully public. I’m clear that the Trust welcomes any group which gets supporters interested in football matters and ownership, I call it the “let 1000 LUFC flowers bloom” approach. On Radio Leeds (10/07) I re-iterated we wished LFU well, congratulated them on their impressive progress and look forward to future constructive dialogue. In general I also made some comments on Radio Leeds about ALL fans groups coming together and putting old differences behind us, and I stand by that from there to whenever I depart.

TSS – How long’s this interim gig for and what are your plans between now and then?

MG – I stepped into the role when it became clear Paul couldn’t carry on due to ill-health, it is fair to say there was no stampede from other board members to take on the role. The Trust has to hold an AGM by the end of September. In a perfect world the Trust should be spending the next 3 months stimulating interest in its activities and core ethos and ensuring that AGM is a success (defined as being a launching pad for the year after that). I won’t hide away from some difficult issues, the Trust has let some parts of its structure wither on the vine, through no fault of any person, and it needs to put these, mostly internal, processes back into shape. But like I said that is a perfect world and that world hasn’t existed for the Trust and around Leeds United for some years.

TSS – Will you stand for the full-time position when the time comes?

MG – Straight answer today, I just don’t know. One thing people perhaps need to note is that I can’t think of any of the last 6 Chairs of the Trust (you note I use the term Chair not Chairman) who didn’t find the role took up a significant amount of their personal time, energies and thinking, in some cases leading to ill health, in another case to media hounding, and as a consequence other parts of their life’s suffered. Believe me it’s no glamour trip.

My view is clear, the role is demanding and requires a form of leadership that is difficult to find. If any person wishes to lead the Trust they should make themselves available to go on the board and from there stand. I don’t recall when the board needed an election because the number of applicants exceeded the maximum number of places as stated in the constitution which gives you a clue to how wide the field is. The process is simple, become a board member, stand at the AGM for Chair, the board will then select. I categorically state here and now, if I see a better candidate, even if I become minded to stand myself, I’ll back them. What I will also say is this, I have no desire to lead the Trust without affirmation of some form beyond the usual democracy, so if I’m nominated for the Chair and selected by the board I will ask the shareholders in the meeting to confirm that, can’t say fairer (and I would I think be the first to ever do that).

Regardless of whether it 3 months or another 3 years, I hope to be reflected on in the future as a decent Chair.

TSS – Let’s end with some football, since that’s why we’re all here in the fist place. Thoughts on Uwe Rösler?

MG – My football opinions, especially around managers, are, as your readers may recall, usually considered unique. I liked McDermott, I hated Warnock, I loved McAllister’s teams, I disliked with a vengeance Wise’s teams, Grayson did for us what he does best within his limitations, Blackwell had nothing but limitations, O’Leary was pulled in out of the Graham bag, Hockaday and Milanic might as well have been pulled in out of The Peacock’s second XI.

I know the managers out there at other clubs who impress me with tactics, signings and playing style of teams and I know who don’t. None of this really applies to Rosler for two reasons, 1) this club needs stability so he need not impress me that much for me to want Cellino to leave well alone and 2) from his Brentford and his Wigan days it’s going to be interesting which Rosler evolves at Leeds United. It could be the one that molded a decent passing side with young players at Griffin Park or it could be the slightly dour one that struggled at pie-eaters central early last season. I wish him well, I hope he plays the kids as much as Redfearn did, and I really hope he is allowed to do his job without the noises off issue. The best I, and others can do is to want to see him around a bit longer than the average for the last 12 managers and not to demand instant success.

TSS – And finally, any predictions for the coming season?

MG – I am a season ticket holder, I travel 200+ miles each way to games, all I ask for is good football from a young squad.

6 Responses

  1. henrymouni

    Good interview TSS!
    My nephew is involved with LUST but I am not sure what they do?
    Unless the LU owner is interested in what they have to say, where can they go?
    Neither Bates or Cellino have given them much encouragement.
    Cellino,( the Italian Bates), promises things that never materialise, as Ken did.
    He says it is the fans club, but nothing can be further from the truth.
    So what is all the time consuming work at Lust for?
    It must be a very frustrating job, all round.

  2. oldschoolbaby

    I can`t stand this adoption the intellectual high ground over Bates. No one, that I know or saw anyway, prostrated themselves before him or cast rose petals in his path. He was treated with scepticism and distaste from the start. OK some of us, recognising his advancing years and musing over whether his perverted ego might actually welcome some success, had a higher tolerance level. But that was attributable to the fact that acknowledgement you are sustaining nasty burns does not always justify abandoning the frying pan for the fire. I`m still not sure how GFH could be considered an improvement and whilst I don`t entirely agree I don`t have the arguments to robustly counter Henry`s assertions that Cellino is the Italian Bates.
    It`s not an entirely valid comparison but today`s Greek nonsense has to teach us the value of caution. The time for action has to be when there is a clearly preferable option on the table.

    • TSS

      I can’t speak for MG, but for my part, what was so frustrating was having a fanbase who, deep down, knew better (and as you say, largely agreed he was bad news) somehow expect him to change. And while there was certainly more on that centre ground than either extreme, Bates still had a lot of blinkered supporters buying into his nonsense

      • oldschoolbaby

        Hope invariably triumphs over “expext”ation. It`s the human condition.

    • henrymouni

      TSS was one of the first to see through Bates, OSB.
      I, and many others thought he was our saviour, and when he said he wanted to re-build our club we thought he meant the team and NOT the buildings!
      Constant broken promises and crazy rants and court cases took their toll.
      Massimo has continued this tradition!!
      We have got rid of so many players I have lost count.
      Rudy was a surprise, and it looks like Sharp will be the next.
      Massimo is getting the support Bates got to begin with, but the fans are older, and maybe wiser to him and his bull…!
      It is not a question that we should be cautious, as we have no say in the matter.
      But constant broken promises and lies are bound to make us cynical!
      The similarity between him and KB are frightening.

      • oldschoolbaby

        That`s the nature of football, Henry. It`s our escape. Our passion. We desperately want to believe. That said I think it`s a bit strong to suggest a significant number considered him to be a “saviour”. I thought of him as someone to keep the ship afloat until he dropped dead on the bridge. After what went previously the opportunity to tread water seemed something of a bonus.
        Bates and Cellino may present similarly on occasions but they are different animals. Cellion with his Latin emotions and impulsivity could be forced out by the fans. There is much more “of the night” about Bates. Challenging him is likely to make him more bloody minded.
        And you`re right, we don`t have much say in the matter. Doesn`t stop us saying it though, does it ?

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