The Scratching Shed is pleased to welcome author and Leeds United fan, Robert Endeacott, who is here to discuss the recent Together Leeds meeting and plans for part fan ownership of the club. 

I don’t recall where I saw first mentioned an interview with Mike Farnan on a new (to me at least) website but I visited the site anyway. I’m glad I did, it’s an excellent site and the interview highly interesting. Plenty of previously unanswered questions were finally explained by the ‘mysterious’ Mike Farnan. He came across as honest, a man who had been part of a realistic solution to the ownership issues plaguing ‘our’ club, a solution that nonetheless was ridiculed and denounced by the reverend GFH amongst others. We now know why GFH behaved that way and we the fans have suffered ever since of course.

I sent an email to Together Leeds expressing my interest and offering any help I could give, to get Leeds back on track with the involvement of good people. I emphasised the good part. That interview also confirmed the involvement of a couple of significant supporters, the main one being Gary Verity. For me, Verity’s presence ‘on board’ the initiative is massive, the work he has done in recent years is outstanding and he has to be one of the very best names possible to be associated with our club.

A few days later I received an invitation to attend a meeting of around a dozen individuals, all Leeds United fans, with no agenda as such but an opportunity to meet like-minded fans, to further question Mike Farnan and to discuss new ideas for a new initiative. That’s how it all happened, Meeting 1: no espionage, no conspiracy, no cock and bull story. No bullshit.

No hidden or prior agenda either, no ‘axes to grind’, no fights to fight or old scores to settle, just an open discussion amongst ardent Leeds fans. I understand there have been plenty of differences of opinion between certain attendees in the past, but this wasn’t, isn’t about any Leeds fans thinking they’re better than any other Leeds fans, or anyone trying to prove they’re more passionate or more correct than anyone else, it’s about Leeds fans trying to unite and work together to have a significant, united say in the running of the club. It’s about Together Leeds, the name which we have taken from Mike Farnan & co (now the Farnan/Verity initiative), the primary aim being the 25% of shares not owned by Massimo Cellino. Cellino is not everyone’s favourite person of course but he was not discussed very much at all in the meeting as he is not a target nor, I believe, is he the real enemy.

At the meeting, we were each asked to individually introduce ourselves to the whole group seated around the table. Public speaking is not a favourite pastime, and I know I’m far from alone in that, but anyway I did it and I didn’t embarrass myself too much. No one did, it felt like the opposite to me in fact, we were clearly all allies in our love for LUFC, and there isn’t a room big enough in the world to fit in all the Leeds fans who feel as passionate and who care as much for our club. So there I was, telling the group about a few LU-related books I’ve done, and about how long I’ve been a fan even though I’ve no idea what my first game was, stuff like that, when I suddenly found myself rambling down Memory Lane to my late Dad’s career as one of the ground staff – how he always supported the team, worked his proverbials off, never let anyone down, practically idolized Don Revie OBE. For most of his 26 years at Elland Road, my Dad’s boss was head groundsman John Reynolds, another great bloke who also is no longer with us and is a huge loss to the family spirit of Leeds United.

Anyway, to cut to it: at the risk of being looked upon as a hopeless, over-dramatic dreamer or somesuch, I explained to the group that it’s thanks to my Dad that I’ve always been a Leeds fan. Being born and having lived in Beeston all my life has helped too of course, but I know for a fact that the good stories about Don Revie and the club’s treatment of all its employees were true. Those memories have inspired me all my life. The one where ground staff are toiling on the Elland Road pitch in freezing conditions, trying to tend to the pitch (before the undersoil heating) and Don Revie came out carrying a tray of whisky tumblers to help keep them warm, my Dad was one of those grafters. That was true, as was the club’s directors providing all full-time employees with a free fresh turkey at Christmas. Revie knowing every single employee by their first name, being their friend, being considerate and being compassionate, that was all true. The staff and partners being treated as well as the players’ for the games at Wembley or the numerous big cup games, they always happened, and the Christmas parties laid on for the children of the players and all the staff too. Spoiler alert – with The Don disguised as Santa! And of course so many of Revie’s players enjoy telling of how ‘The Gaffer’ would send gifts and cards to their parents and families if one was unwell.

And any of the Elland Road staff lucky enough to have worked under Revie will tell you that when he took on the poisoned chalice of the England job, each Christmas there was a card delivered, personally signed by Don Revie and sent from Lancaster Gate. Classy cards they were too.

But are these stories that relevant or remarkable? Perhaps not individually, but just as a small example of the family atmosphere he fostered at the club, the true spirit of unity and togetherness, and the loyalty and respect and great camaraderie which ran right through Leeds united from ‘top’ to ‘bottom’, these stories are immense. But when Revie left, it all started going wrong, badly wrong, and very quickly. The other club famed for its belief in ‘family’ was Liverpool. What did they do when Bill Shankly departed? They passed the management baton to Bob Paisley who had already been at the club for years. Paisley knew the importance of retaining the same sort of unity within the club that we had, and it served him quite well!

But this ramble isn’t about them, it’s about us, Leeds United. Can we really be united again, with what has gone on this century? I would love for a return to an atmosphere at least similar to that enjoyed by everyone at the club under Don Revie. Is that too much to ask, to hope for? Is it a diabolical dream? Well no, not for me it isn’t.

Besides, who really in their right mind would want to work for someone who doesn’t respect or value them, who doesn’t appreciate the work they do (regardless of how ‘important’ it is) and who doesn’t give a damn about workers’ rights and the like and who will happily get rid of them if it somehow seems fitting?

When meeting new people, First Impressions mean a lot to me even though I’m not eloquent enough to really explain why. I can tell you though, genuinely, honestly, frankly, that everyone at that meeting was there in good faith and ‘… for the sake of Leeds United’. There was no talking over one another, there were no raised voices, there were no ulterior motives and there was no ego-sparring going on. It is way way past the time for us as Leeds United fans to stop arguing amongst ourselves, and to stop the personal conflicts that do no one any good, least of all the club’s greatest asset, us, yes US! I think we all have taken so much punishment and been verbally assaulted so often from various quarters that we’ve slowly and surely begun to take it out on each other. For all our sakes, as Leeds supporters, enough is enough.

I was fortunate to attend that meeting and I feel that Mike Farnan and Gary Verity, Adam Pearson and co (I do not know the identities of all the wealthy Leeds fans who are connected to this initiative but I trust that they are ready and waiting) are genuine Leeds fans, are genuinely aiming to do what is best for the club and for the fans, which involves fan ownership and representation at the highest level. We the fans need to stop the in-fighting, we need to unite and be together. I firmly believe the new initiative is the clear and best way forward for everyone associated with Leeds United. It’s as simple as that, M. O. T.

Robert Endeacott, January 2015