Over the years The Scratching Shed has always drawn criticism from a section of the Leeds United fanbase for what is considered to be a hypercritical stance on Ken Bates. Some would, and indeed have, gone as far as to say that the writers of this site are so clouded by an anti-Bates bias that we refuse to accept other factors are to blame for what I personally consider to be, a failing Leeds United Football Club.

Case in point is Simon Grayson, a man who I defended to the hilt throughout his tenure at Elland Road. It was never all that difficult considering his win percentage and highly successful start to the job, but when things went off the rails a little, some felt I was allowing Ken Bates’ failings to cover those of Simon Grayson.

I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Reactionary responses always seem to cloud the bigger picture, and under current circumstances you can’t have it both ways. You can either accept that the side is underfunded and that mid-table is the best we’re capable of (which is what the majority have said all along and predicted long before Max Gradel and Jonny Howson were sold) or you can blame the manager for the kind of inconsistent form indicative of mid-table teams – thus excusing Ken Bates by default. If you expect better than what we’ve seen then what you’re saying is that the team is better than a mid-table outfit. Anything else is contradictory.

People can excuse themselves by pointing to performance levels and tactical observations offered with the benefit of hindsight, but statistics don’t lie. Nor does the league table. If the club has paid for a mid-table team, and we’re in mid-table, then Simon Grayson was living up to all expectations.

When Max Gradel, Jonny Howson, Bradley Johnson and Neil Kilkenny were sold/given away and replaced by has-beens, frees and loanees there was absolute uproar. The fans knew the cheap replacements and loanees would not be of a similar skill level, or hold a similar level of passion for the club. Replacing a young heart-on-his-sleeve midfielder like Bradley Johnson with a has-been journeyman like Michael Brown was never going to be an improvement – and Simon Grayson can’t be blamed for that, he wanted Keith Andrews! But in an oh-so-typical Yorkshire Radio rant from Ken Bates, the Leeds chairman blasted his ridiculous wage demands and Shaun Harvey and Gwyn Williams brought us Brown instead. Andrews meanwhile ended up at the mighty Ipswich Town who, despite a lower turnover, higher wage budget and a similar amount of playing staff to ourselves, could afford him.

But we know all this. We know that our squad of young and hungry players has been systematically cast off and replaced by has-beens, unknowns and loanees because the club first failed to secure new contracts (Shaun Harvey) and secondly, failed to provide adequate funding for suitable replacements (Ken Bates).

So who should we be blaming?

Should Simon Grayson be held accountable for achieving mid-table with a mid-table team?

Should we not be questioning the distinctly average wage bill? The non-existant transfer funds? The constant sales of key players?

If you disagree with my assertion that Simon Grayson was underfunded, then fair enough. You’re well within your rights to complain about the performance. You’re wrong (see this link), but that’s beside the point – at least your opinions aren’t contradictory.

For the rest of you, you can’t look at the evidence, set your expectations to “incredibly low” then complain when the reality lives up to your own predictions. Doing so excuses Ken Bates and his minions, and that’s all Simon Grayson’s sacking was ever about. It was a simple ploy to distract the dissidents by creating division – Ken Bates has been doing it for years, just ask the Chelsea fans.

If you subscribe to the statement that Simon Grayson was sacked to give us a chance at the play-offs, then why are we sat here two weeks and six dropped points later without a replacement? If Simon Grayson was underachieving as much as Ken Bates likes to claim, then why wait until the end of January when there was talk of his sacking at the beginning? And why was every poor performance the managers fault before Simon Grayson was sacked, and now it’s apparently the players?

At this point in time, I actually think Simon Grayson’s downfall was that he over-achieved. The problems we’re now experiencing have existed all along, and always will whilst football isn’t the main priority of those running our football club.

When Simon Grayson led us to a 7th placed finish last season, it set the tone for everything that followed. It allowed the club to pretend the team didn’t need any further investment – “maybe a little tinkering around the edges, but nothing major” was the general theme of transfer discussion from the club – and has since been used as evidence we can do better, despite the sale of key players Max Gradel and Jonny Howson.

So are those of us that write this site overcritical of Ken Bates? Well, the crux of the matter is this – as a hard-working (well, working) customer of Leeds United Football Club, I expect a proportionate sum of my money to be spent on the squad I go to watch. I expect the biggest one club city in England to be aiming towards a successful future, and for the manager to be given the necessary funding to achieve that dream. I don’t want a hotel, I couldn’t care less about the museum and I managed to get suitably drunk long before Billy’s Bar and the Pavilion were added.

These things all come down to Ken Bates. A manager can only be judged by the funding (relative to division) that he receives, and in Simon Grayson’s case, he had a mid-table budget. Who else am I supposed to blame?

All I really expect is for football to be the priority. Is that really too much to ask of a football club?