A fiery debate on Twitter last night has resulted in a new feature for The Scratching Shed – LUFC fans face-off.

The idea is that two fans with opposing views on something at the club present their argument, and we finish with a public vote to see what the masses think. We start with Ken Bates v Peter Ridsdale – who was the worst chairman?

Arguing that Ken Bates is the worst will be myself whilst Andrew Nattan – Leeds United season ticket holder and writer of the Unmemorable Title copywriting blog – will be arguing the case for Ridsdale.

‘At least we had hope’ by TSS

If Bates’ crime is that he couldn’t care less about the fans, Ridsdale’s was that he perhaps cared too much. The truth is, you probably need a happy median.

The problem was that Ridsdale is a Leeds United fan. For me, that makes empathising pretty easy.

The question you have to ask yourself before you blast Ridsdale as an incompetent fool and blame him for the total destruction of our club is; would you have done anything differently?

I’ve asked myself that very same question hundreds of times over the years, and the truth is, I’m no closer to an answer now than I was the first time I started hypothetically pondering my Leeds United.

I’m sure we’d all like to think that we’d have vetoed some of the transfers, Seth Johnson being a prime example. The fact is however, that I don’t recall too many people complaining at the time. In fact, it was quite the opposite; Johnson was a player with a big reputation expected to achieve great things. An inspired signing from O’Leary we reasoned, boasting to our rivals that it was another sign of our club’s huge ambition and unstoppable ascent. And as for O’Leary – he was the best thing since Don Revie and deserved the full financial backing of the club.

My reasoning for Bates being the worst chairman is not because of the contempt with which he treats fans, not because of his deluded priorities, not because of the court battles, the administrations, the -25 points or even his threats to liquidate the club if he didn’t regain ownership.

My argument for Bates being the worst chairman ever is the very fact we’re having this debate. Football fans are supposed to argue over who should be playing up front, or which positions need strengthening. Whether our new midfield warrior is what England needs to conquer the world, or which pub to go to before the game.

Under Bates, those things are an afterthought. We’re all so terrified of another delve into the dark recesses of League One, or the consequences when the tangled web of deceit Bates’ regime has come to represent comes undone that a huge cloud hangs over our love affair with this great club.

At no point throughout the six and a half long years of Bates’ reign have Leeds United ever brought me a moment of pure peace. A moment where there wasn’t a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that this temporary high will be shattered by a far bigger low.

That wasn’t the case with Ridsdale, he gave us excitement and belief. However temporary it may have been, times were good. Bates meanwhile can’t even offer us the most basic need of football fans anymore – hope.

My argument basically comes down to enjoyment. I simply can’t fully enjoy the football under Ken Bates’ regime because the off-field activities weigh heavy on my mind. His interviews, excuses and propaganda are extreme psychological torment to me, whilst my suspicions that his takeover of the club will come back to haunt us just won’t go away. At least with Ridsdale we had hope.

‘It’s the hope that kills you’ by Andrew Nattan

Let’s face it. When it comes to supporting Leeds United, we’re all used to disappointment. Our best ever decade saw us amass more bridesmaid’s dresses than trophies. We’ve lost more cup finals than most sides play in. When there’s a light at the end of our tunnel, it’s usually a train. Rushing towards us. On fire.

So while we’re all used to spectacular failure, we can’t still quite handle hope. And hope’s something that Peter Risdale gave us in spades.

Being top of the Premiership at Christmas. Being 90 minutes away from a European Cup final. The Leeds fan’s psyche can’t deal with these things. We start to get carried away. When Ridsdale let O’Leary run wild with the chequebook, we all started to believe that we’d have all the medals and trophies that we should’ve picked up under Revie and Wilko.

But we didn’t. And every near miss was like a dagger in the back. We believed that we could win trophies. That flame of hope burned brightly and when we fell at the final hurdle (or the first), we were genuinely gutted. We were distraught at being forced to compete in the UEFA Cup, as it was beneath a club of our stature.

And when the money ran out and the long decline started, the comedown from years of hope nearly killed us.

That’s something we don’t have to deal with under cuddly Ken. Ridsdale gave us an ex-England manager of inexplicably good reputation. Bates gave us a boss-eyed dwarf. Pete gave us the Toxteth Terror and under Ken we’re stuck with Barn Door Billy. He’s taken the hope that was killing us and replaced it with downtrodden pragmatism.

But by robbing us of all hope Bates has given us the freedom to enjoy any minute modicum of relative success. When we lived Ridsdale’s dreams, we shrugged at a 5-0 hammering of Hapoel Tel Aviv as if winning away in Europe was the minimum we could expect. But here in the midst of Bates’ nightmare, we have the freedom to celebrate a home win against Bristol Rovers with cheers, tears and a pitch invasion.

Scrappy wins against provincial nobodies are more numerous than European adventurers, so in a strange way, Bates gives us more scope for enjoyment than Risdale ever could.

But if you can’t accept that Ken Bates forcing our sights downwards allows us to enjoy wins that should’ve been embarassingly trivial, you should look at the legacies of these two men. Ken’s going to leave us with 50-odd corby trouser presses, a museum and the finest conferencing facilities in a thirty-eight mile radius.

Ridsdale? He left us with Ken Bates. And no number of lost semi-finals can make up for that.

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