After months of frustration, contradiction and disruption, the latest comment crawling out of Elland Road may be just the welcoming news that Leeds United football club and it’s fans desperately needs. The BBC, although not disclosing their source, have reported that GFH Capital’s proposed £44 million takeover of the club is now close to completion and that it is little more than a “question of formalities” before the takeover can be officially completed.
It is understandable that Leeds fans may opt to take this speculation with a pinch of salt. Time and time again this year, similar rumours have been spread by unknown sources claiming that a deal was on the cusp of being finalised, only for that to never materialise. With a believed confidentiality agreement still in place between the two respective parties, it has made communication between club and fans tough. This has led to the rumour mill working overdrive and frustration amongst the Leeds faithful, who remain in the dark over the future of their own football club.
But this latest ray of hope carries more substantial weight than previous erratic claims that proved unfounded, and although it may be too optimistic to expect a deal to be confirmed in time for Saturday’s visit of Watford, there is genuine hope that Leeds fans’ long-standing wish for Ken Bates to sell up may now, finally, be granted.
The argument for Ken Bates’ departure is clear. Tuesday’s lacklustre performance at Burnley, which saw Leeds deservedly beaten courtesy of a late Charlie Austin strike, saw the club slide down to 15th position in the Championship, a worrying situation for a club whose apparent target is promotion. But the issues and complexity of the situation Leeds United find themselves in runs deeper than a league table position, and have been building for some time.
After Leeds’ impressive maiden season back in The Championship two years ago, in which The Whites only narrowly missed out on the play off positions, there was an expectation that Leeds, as a football club, would push on and that the sleeping giant would once again be awoken. But since then, top players have been sold and there has been a reluctance to re-invest the money profited from these sales back into the playing squad.
A young, energetic squad that had serious promotion capabilities and qualities was disbanded for cash, and the truth of the matter is that those who have come in as replacements simply aren’t of that same quality. The midfield quartet of Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson and Gradel, who have all departed Elland Road in the past eighteen months, have never really been adequately replaced, and as such Leeds have never reached the heights of that season since. Promotion on the cheap largely doesn’t work, and Leeds have found this out to their cost
The inevitable result of this is that Leeds have stagnated, and if anything now look closer to a return back to League One than they do a return back to the Premier League. Whilst other sides in The Championship have moved forwards in terms of ambition, Leeds have retracted. Admittedly, Leeds are now a financially stable club who no longer have the monetary issues that haunted them over the past decade, but the club is simply currently not prepared to spend the required amount of money to give Leeds United the best possible opportunity for promotion, and this is why investment from other sources is needed. Tuesday’s defeat of Burnley was the catalyst for Neil Warnock to cry out for that much needed investment, stating it is the only way the football club can move forward, and that the prolonged takeover saga needs to be “put to bed” as soon as possible.
Whilst it is disputable as to whether the drawn out takeover process is having a detrimental effect on the pitch (there are many Leeds fans who will simply acknowledge that the squad assembled simply isn’t good enough for the job in hand), it is evident that Leeds United badly need this takeover and subsequent investment to be wrapped up as soon as possible. With dwindling crowds and the team falling alarmingly down the league, the club is crying out for a much-needed lift. Victory over Watford on Saturday would provide short term encouragement, but the takeover, and departure of Ken Bates, is what is really needed for long term prosperity at Elland Road.