Former captain Brendan Ormsby last night called for an urgent end to the uncertainty surrounding the takeover of Leeds United and warned the club not to underestimate the danger of their current Championship position.
Ormsby fears United are on the verge of “big trouble” after seven games without a win, describing as “ridiculous” the length of time taken by Dubai-based GFH Capital to secure full ownership of Leeds.
The 52-year-old spoke of “total confusion” among the club’s supporters as work on GFH Capital’s proposed deal crawled towards a seventh month. The firm’s plan to complete a 100 per cent buy-out of United – a purchase which GFH Capital tentatively hoped to finalise last week – is surrounded by doubt amid little public communication from either side.
United’s squad have fallen to 18th in the Championship in the meantime and Sunday’s loss at Millwall extended their run without a victory into a seventh league match. The attempts by manager Neil Warnock to improve his weakened and out-of-form squad before tomorrow’s emergency loan deadline have been hampered by a shortage of funds and the ongoing delay in GFH Capital’s takeover.
Ormsby said: “The people involved need to realise what’s going on. They can’t let this drag on any longer. If the club’s going to be sold then get it sold. If it’s not going to be sold then it’s up to the current board to do something about the situation.
“A couple of weeks ago when the results weren’t so bad, I honestly thought it was too early to be worried. But the way it’s going, they could be heading for big trouble and it doesn’t feel like anyone’s doing anything about it.
“The way I see it, the team isn’t playing well and the manager’s hands are tied because he doesn’t seem to have any money. One week the takeover’s on, the next week it isn’t. There’s total confusion among the supporters and the atmosphere’s bad. If I owned the club or was trying to buy the club I’d be thinking ‘this can’t carry on’. I’d be worried.”
Warnock has approached several players in the past few weeks with a view to signing them on loan but, in the midst of a serious injury to Rodolph Austin and suspensions incurred by Jason Pearce, Luke Varney and Michael Brown, his inquiries have come to nothing.
Stoke City withdrew from a deal to send striker Cameron Jerome to Elland Road until January and Sunderland refused to discuss the release of Matthew Kilgallon, the former United defender. The need for an extra centre-back was heightened by the three-match ban imposed on Pearce after his red card against Watford on November 10.
Clint Hill is also unlikely to fill that void, despite claims that Warnock had targeted a player he managed at Queens Park Rangers and tried to sign on a free transfer in the summer.
Hill missed QPR’s game against Southampton on Saturday due to a bout of illness and is not thought to be surplus to requirements at Loftus Road. The Premier League club, in any case, are unlikely to allow fringe players to move on loan while so much pressure rests on their manager, Mark Hughes.
Leeds are themselves under growing strain, having failed to win a league game since beating Barnsley at Elland Road in early October, and Orsmby said: “There’s not enough quality in the team. You’ve got a lot of workers in there but not enough lads who can pick a pass for 90 minutes.
“I’m no fan of El-Hadji Diouf as a bloke but the lad’s got quality and quality wins you games. It wins you promotion. Leeds are 18th and they’re 18th because they’re not good enough. That’s my view. But at the same time those players need to take responsibility. They’re still getting paid and you get paid to perform. I don’t care what’s going on with the takeover or what’s going on in the boardroom – it’s not their business and they’ve no excuse if they’re letting it affect them.
“If you’re not getting paid, like players at some clubs don’t, then that’s different. Then you’ve got something to moan about. But for now the players answer to the manager. He’s the one who has to speak to the chairman (Ken Bates) and the board and deal with that side of things.
“If any player came out and said the takeover was affecting them then I’d be really disappointed. There’s a recession on and plenty of people aren’t getting wages. The lads at Leeds are getting paid and they’re getting paid to do a job. They need to start pulling results in before this run gets out of hand.”
United’s fixture list is not lending itself to an easy recovery. The club play Championship leaders Crystal Palace on Saturday before hosting Leicester City, one of the most expensively assembled squads in the division. A Yorkshire derby at Huddersfield Town ends a run of three games in eight days on December 1.
The lead-up to Christmas and the turn of the year, bringing with it the start of the January transfer window, will dictate what Leeds have to play for in the second half of the season. The table, as it stands, suggests that they are more likely to fight for survival than promotion, and Warnock admitted last week that his squad could be “a lot nearer the bottom in four weeks’ time.”
A fundamental part of GFH Capital’s proposal, a proposal which the Football League has been asked to approve, was the guarantee of meaningful cash for Warnock in the winter transfer window.
Repeated questions have been asked about the company’s ability to fund a £52m buy-out and then produce additional money for new signing.
But Hisham Alrayes, one of GFH Capital’s board members, claimed six weeks ago that “there is a budget put in place to invest plus the original investment for buying the club.”
Ormsby said: “January’s going to be massive. You’d assume that the takeover will be sorted by then but you can’t be sure of anything at the moment. Questions need answering and no-one’s answering them.
“If this is still going on when January comes then I dread to think what the league will look like. I’d fear the worst. Even now, if Warnock or any of the players told me there was nothing to worry about I wouldn’t believe that they honestly thought that.
“Every footballer will tell you that bad runs of form are difficult to get out of. Leeds need to get out of this one quickly or the season’s gone. The takeover needs to happen sooner rather than later too. The feeling I get is that everyone’s sick of it, from the manager down to the fans.”