Can I divorce Leeds United Football Club?

I am starting to believe that the madness attached to Leeds United is somehow linked to my holidays.It seems when we slap on the factor ten another manager is sacked. We were in Spain when David O’Leary was fired.Wales – Kevin Blackwell. Tenerife – Simon Grayson. Lake District – Dave Hockaday and this week Cyprus. You get the picture. Beware Steve Evans – planning Florida in February! Mind you, there have been so many it probably also coincides with me having eggs for breakfast or wearing my lucky grey tee shirt.

By far the best gag of the week went to Paddy Power for revealing that research suggests that, by the end of 2017, nobody would be more than 6 feet from a former Leeds manager.

I have never trusted people who suddenly switch clubs. If, in the extremely unlikely event (OK – let’s face it – it will never happen), Ronaldo were to switch back to Old Trafford, the hundreds of white Real shirts seen routinely in the UK would suddenly turn red. For me, for whatever reason you choose a club, once done, that is it. No changing. Ever.

However, recently things have got so bad I am now wondering if divorce proceedings should be introduced, even on a trial basis. I am not talking easy, modern divorce but something more out of the Sixties where proof of wrong doing is a major requirement. This week may have been the final straw. The fact that the owner can sack yet another manager just a few months after deciding he was the best man for the job is laughable. For him to sack a manager and not be sure if he is allowed to do it is worse – and he has done it twice. Having had to reinstate Brian McDermott for having sacked him before he owned the club, there is now a question mark against whether or not he is allowed to be in a position to sack Uwe Rossler having been suspended again by the Football League for being a bit dodgy.

So, what are the grounds for the case against Leeds United Football Club?

Unreasonable behaviour

Certainly, any club that builds a massive stand and installs seats so close together that anybody over five feet tall is knee-capped for 90 minutes has to be unreasonable. Visiting Manchester City’s ground for the Magic Weekend for a couple of seasons made me appreciate just how comfortable a modern ground can be.

You may think that 20 years of stunning mediocrity, punctuated by periods of sheer Keystone style ineptitude would be unreasonable but I don’t think so. Part of supporting a club is the up and down nature. The years of second division tedium in the eighties meant that the Tuesday night return to Division 1 against Man Utd in 1990 was all the sweeter.

Adultery

Although the club has been rogered senseless by successive owners over the years, maybe I am not entirely blameless in that respect. My real passion these days is rugby league and season ticket loyalty has long since passed to Bradford Bulls (now that is a lesson in ups and downs in sport!).

Drunkenness

Believe it or not, this used to be a valid cause for divorce and the club certainly hasn’t helped in this regard over the years. Anybody would turn to drink with this lot in charge.

Insanity 

This could be the clincher. Any club that still gets almost 30,000 people turning up week in – week out to watch minimally talented, passionless, over paid Bentley drivers has to have some thread of insanity running through it.

Dessertion

I certainly qualify on this measure. I have just realised that it has been more than 15 years since I set foot in Elland Road for a Leeds game (having gone under protest for rugby league test).  Maybe this would be the easy way. After so long, maybe nobody would notice of I turned up at a new club? The nightmarish scenario would be to take my place at another ground only for the crowd to rise as one and chant “Leeds fan, Leeds fan, out – out -out” (or worse!).

 

No, it would have to be done officially and above board. Maybe FIFA or UEFA would see it as a nice little earner, charging an “administration” or “consultancy” fee to smooth the way. They must be short of a bob or two as they haven’t fined Jose Mourinho yet this week. Having said that, the suggestion that they may fine Man City for their fans’ booing the Champions League anthem is beyond belief. The words corrupt, tinpot and dictatorship all spring to mind.

Where next

So, assuming I was granted my divorce – where next. Geographically, I live almost exactly equidistant between Bradford City and Guiseley. My first taste of professional football was seeing Bradford City play Plymouth Argyle in around 1970. They have always been the second result I have looked for (OK third having looked hopefully to see if Man Utd lost). Maybe they should stay second choice. There is something appealing about a small cub like Guiseley. Then again, the divorce hasn’t become law yet, new manager, maybe new owner to come and Bolton away to his afternoon…

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Can Leeds a big city without a Premier League team?

Can Leeds be classed as a big city without a Premier League team?

Bridgewater Place
Bridgewater Place in evening sunshine

I always had a very hazy view of where Shropshire was. My knowledge of geography was largely based on following the exploits of Leeds United in the seventies. So, whilst I knew that Ferencvaros was in Budapest and Juventus played in Turin in Northern Italy, Somerset was a complete mystery, with no football league team. There was the odd non-league impact in the FA Cup but, largely, Somerset may as well have not existed. Maybe it didn’t exist – who knows?  My knowledge has now widened, thanks to life experience and getting lost on the way to Devon, but also, Yeovil were admitted to the league in the nineties. There are other counties without teams – Cornwall at least and who knows what else is lurking down south? The point I am gradually rambling towards is that the perception of a large section of the UK population and, these days the rest of the world, is based on weekly TV coverage of the Premier League.

So, can Leeds be classed as a big city without a Premier League club? The obvious competition is not encouraging. Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool all have two each, whilst London has six, admittedly including QPR and Crystal Palace which will probably prove temporary.  As you would expect, these top four cities in terms of population dominate the league. Leeds is fifth, followed closely by Sheffield, Middlesborough (Teesside), Bristol and Bournemouth – all outside the Premier League. It is only Stoke at 11 that has representation. Punching above their weight are Hull (24th in population), Burnley (43rd).

Kasabian at Leeds Arena
Kasabian at Leeds Arena

I admit that my view may be a little narrow. How does Leeds rate on other facilities associated with big cities?  As a music lover, the most glaring omission was a large concert venue. Of course, the Arena has more than made up the shortfall in that area. Some of the biggest names in entertainment (and McBusted) have been drawn to the superb venue. As a result, large numbers flock to the city to spend their money rather than the flow being to Manchester, Sheffield and even Nottingham.

There are many wonderful places to eat in Leeds but not a single Michelin star between them. Obviously, the list is dominated by London but Bray boasts four, albeit with a rubbish football team.  It is probably in one of those counties that doesn’t exist.

Grand Depart
The Grand Depart as Leeds puts on a show

I could go on and quote numbers of museums and the like but, you know what, I don’t care! The very essence of what makes Leeds special is that its size is manageable. I can walk across the city centre and be anywhere in 20 minutes – try doing that in Manchester or London. I like the fact that I can walk into bars and restaurants and be greeted by name – you don’t even get that in most workplaces in the capital. The city is vibrant and constantly changing – just look at the number of cranes on the skyline. A large student population keeps it young at heart with a lively live music scene. We still have a thriving, independent retail sector, not relying on the large chains that make most town centres replicas of each other. We need to cherish places like the Corn Exchange and make sure it sits comfortably alongside Trinity and Victoria Gate. We know how to put on a show – just look at the Tour De France. Think what kind of show we could put on for the European City of Culture. Leeds Loves Food, Live At Leeds, Leeds Festival, The Waterfront Festival – all firmly established as part of the calendar alongside many more.

It is not perfect, far from it. Manchester’s tram system would be great, but would it be worth the years of disruption to achieve? Rather than a headlong rush to be the biggest, let’s embrace what makes Leeds a great place to live and, until United allow us to live the dream again, maybe the Rhinos and Yorkshire cricket will continue to fly the flag. (As a lifelong Bulls supporter that last sentence was really difficult.)

FFF

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