Former Leeds United legend and Leeds Fans United ambassador Allan Clarke believes what has happened at his beloved club over the last few years has been nothing short of a disgrace. Leon Wobschall reports.
ALLAN CLARKE may not be resident in Yorkshire these days or a regular at matches at Elland Road for that matter, but the pain he feels at the chaotic state of Leeds United – his club and the fans’ club – is searing.
A truly legendary player in the Super Leeds era from 1969 to 1978, the man universally known as Sniffer plundered 151 goals in 366 games for the Whites and was their feted goalscoring hero when Don Revie’s team of all-stars lifted the FA Cup for the first time in the Centenary final at Wembley in 1972. Happier days, for sure.
Clarke later managed the club in the early eighties and despite being a Black Countryman by birth, the 69-year-old’s heart is very much in Leeds and more specifically Elland Road.
Retired he may be, but his dismay at the shambolic situation at his club is felt on a day to day basis.
More especially for the supporters, scores of whom used to avidly follow Leeds in the club’s heyday of the late sixties and early seventies during some intoxicating days when he and the likes of Billy Bremner, Peter Lorimer, Eddie Gray et al were king.
Those same supporters have had families who now make up the next generation of fans following the Whites with palpable passion like their elders. Through thin and thin.
The deep bond along with family is that of Leeds United, for young and old.
That was why Clarke agreed to become an ambassador for Leeds Fans United (LFU) earlier this year when he was approached by chief executive Dylan Thwaites, with a view on securing extended fans involvement at Elland Road and a minority stake and representation on the board.
Clarke, never one to suffer fools, listened intently to their passionate plans and quickly understood their business acumen and was suitably won over.
Clarke said: “When Dylan Thwaites rang me up to say we need to do something with the way the club is going, then I was more than happy and privileged and honoured to be the ambassador for the fans’ group.
“Their passion is absolutely wonderful as is the way they have gone about it. You are talking about real businessmen here.
“I am just a fan now and not a businessman, but Dylan is an entrepreneur and businessman and he has Leeds United going through his blood. There are other businessmen like that and like myself.
“If we can get someone helping to run the club on those lines, then I will be more than happy. And I am sure the gaffer and Billy will be as well.
“If we can get someone in the position where they can attend every board meeting who is working on behalf of the fans, that would be massive.
“After all, if you haven’t got fans, you haven’t got a football club and I have always said this.
“When you look at our fans, we aren’t even in the top league at the minute, which is where we need to be and should be.
“But when you are getting six to eight thousand travelling in the second division – I still call it the four divisions – to an away match, that just shows the support of this great club. My club.
“What saddens me as well is that when you look at Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Aston Villa and all these clubs who have been taken over by foreign people, they have not had anywhere near the problems that my club, Leeds United, have had in the past 20 years.
“What has happened to my club – which to me is the biggest club on the planet and the greatest club – and the way it has been run has been nothing short of a disgrace. It has never happened to those other clubs, but only Leeds United.
“It is totally unfair.
“I think the way our fans have been treated over many years now is an absolute disgrace, really. I feel really, really sorry for them.
“These things haven’t just happened in the last two or three years, these things have been happening for a lot of years – too long for my liking.”
Since arriving on the scene, LFU were thrust into the spotlight late last month and after meeting with owner Massimo Cellino, hopes were high that they could secure an exclusivity agreement after the besieged United owner stated he was happy to sell the club to fans amid considerable and increasing rancour.
That offer was subsequently reneged upon, but it has not knocked the resolve of LFU for very real change, buoyed by the fact that Cellino has shown a clear intent to end his association with Leeds, which has rapidly descended into a nightmare, both for him and many increasingly angry supporters.
Thwaites remains positive about fan involvement at Leeds and working with whoever successfully negotiates a deal with Cellino, who revealed on Tuesday night that six potential buyers have contacted his representatives to express their interest in potentially buying Leeds.
One name doing the rounds is Guiseley co-owner Steve Parkin, multi-millionaire owner of Clipper Logistics Group, who has previously bene linked with a buy-out of the club.
Another is former Southampton chairman and Nicola Cortese, although a report in the Daily Mail earlier this week has suggested that the Swiss banker had no interest in purchasing the Elland Road club.
One thing that Clarke is fully assured on is that LFU will not go away, with the group remaining in ‘cordial and friendly’ conversations with Cellino, while expressing a desire to work together with a third party to secure a minority stake, at the very least, in the club.
Clarke said: “This group are not going to go away easily.
“We are going about it in the right and proper manner and hopefully, in the not too distant future, it will be put in the proper hands with the fans having a say.
“All I am interested in is the fans having some control in the club and if they can do that, I can die happy.”