Leeds United: A LUST for football life, but Ken misses point

LEEDS UNITED CHAIRMAN KEN BATES'PIC ANDREW VARLEY'�VARLEY PICTURE AGENCY'AUGUST 3rd 2010
LEEDS UNITED CHAIRMAN KEN BATES'PIC ANDREW VARLEY'�VARLEY PICTURE AGENCY'AUGUST 3rd 2010
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Leeds United fans will be hoping that new manager Neil Warnock can work more magic to topple Championship leaders Southampton at Elland Road on Saturday teatime.

It’s a big, big ask though, as anyone who witnessed the Whites’ opening-day demolition at St Mary’s will testify, but it says much about the positivity that Warnock has introduced that many would not back against it.

Hopes in the stands will be high after the new man’s immediate impact at the last home game, when his half-time chat helped inspire a stunning fightback from 2-0 down to beat Doncaster Rovers 3-2.

Okay, so a point at Portsmouth did not do much for the club’s uphill battle to return to the division’s play-off places, but an all-too rare clean sheet is a sure sign that Warnock is already getting to grips with the defensive problems that have plagued Leeds for two years now.

The fact he’s asked for a more physical approach from his team and managed to coax a tighter display from the existing personnel bodes well, particularly if he can add the new recruits he wants.

It’s one of football’s oldest adages but good teams really are built from the back – keep a clean sheet first and you don’t lose even if you fail to score and with the attacking options United have you wouldn’t back against them troubling the opposition.

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Win, lose or draw tomorrow Warnock has already made fantastic strides forward but with Hull City away, Middlesbrough away and West Ham at Elland Road on the horizon, the next four games will shape United’s top-six fate.

There will be interest too in what happens off the field tomorrow with Warnock having called for a major show of support from the Whites faithful.

It seems unlikely that his hopes of a 30,000 crowd for his debut in the home dugout will be realised, and there is unlikely to be any real help in terms of travelling support for the Saints with the match scheduled for live broadcast by Sky.

The home crowd will still be loud and proud though and as determined as the players to try to overturn that August hammering on the south coast and, at the same time, keep alive faint hopes of making the traditional end-of-season lottery.

You sense, though, that the underdog tag – and the nothing to lose and everything to gain feeling that comes with it – suits both Leeds and Warnock very well indeed.

And, in a way, the 63-year-old gaffer can’t lose. He’s had an immediate impact, more, in my view, than just the usual new-manager effect.

He’s also tightened up a leaky rearguard and the negativity that was swirling around the club only a couple of weeks ago all-but dissipated in a flood of broad smiles at the news Simon Grayson’s successor was a man with real promotion pedigree.

Warnock has, of course, made it clear that he wants everyone pulling together, a united Leeds if you like, because he knows that harnessing that on and off-field unity would make the club an almost irresistible force for any play-off campaign or, as is more likely, a fresh tilt at promotion to the Premier League in the 2012-13 campaign.

Surely then, you’d think, the club owner, Ken Bates, a man steeped in football and highly knowledgeable about the game, would do his bit and if not try to resolve outstanding issues with disaffected supporters, at least let sleeping dogs lie?

Well, actually no, the chairman again used his weekly radio broadcast to continue attacks on the Leeds United Supporters Trust and its chairman, Gary Cooper.

This is an organisation that, he insists, is an irrelevance, a minority group which doesn’t represent the views of the majority, stands for nothing and has no influence on the board.

However, he then reveals that the club had LUST’s ‘march for change’ from Leeds City Square to Elland Road before the Brighton game monitored – it was “mostly kids” – and said the prefects who did so even asked some why they were demonstrating and were told they were “here for a lark”.

If LUST is simply a rude irritant – Mr Bates’ words this week – which has no impact on the management or running of the club why would you have a march observed?

And if there are, as Mr Bates declares, very few LUST members, why continue to make such a big deal about the organisation?

He also suggested that LUST, which incidentally claims 4,000 members, was a negative barrier to investment and sponsorship because of the anti-Bates chants at matches. It seems highly unlikely, to me, that the only supporters doing the singing are members of LUST.

LUST, he said, was apparently free to join – “you get what you pay for” – before promptly urging all true Leeds followers to ignore everything bar official club sources and invest in only official publications.

Neil Warnock, fair play to him, has issued a call for unity. He’s asked the faithful to stop the back-biting and protesting in an attempt to get everyone, on and off the pitch, pulling in the same direction, but Mr Bates seems set on a divide and rule policy where the fans are concerned.

Come on, Mr Chairman, get with the programme.

United's Pontus Jansson on the bench at Bristol City.

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