Leeds United chief on Trevor Cherry, potential return to action and UEFA guidance on settling tables
Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear writes his programme notes exclusively for the YEP.
Another week into lockdown and more sad news in the passing of another Leeds United legend with the sudden and unexpected death of Trevor Cherry.
I had the privilege of spending time with Trevor this season at both our Centenary and Freedom of the City events.
Trevor was exceptionally modest about his footballing career and I had the distinct feeling that he did not believe his achievements stood alongside those of his contemporaries.
However, the record books would disagree.
Trevor made, by the standards of the modern age, an astonishing 486 appearances for the club in service that spanned a decade.
In 1973/74, Trevor played 38 times in the title-winning season.
He went on to have the honour of succeeding Billy Bremner as Leeds United captain and also captained his country.
Our thoughts are with his wife, two children and five grandchildren at this difficult time.
In European football the decisions of the Eredevise and Ligue 1 to end their seasons prematurely may have dismayed many Leeds United fans, however in the same week the UK Government have stated the importance of a return to professional sport as a key pillar in part of a return to a ‘new normal’.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are now leading regular meetings with the larger governing bodies [of which the Premier League and EFL are central] on the operational specifics of how this can be delivered whilst minimising the risk to health.
This encouraging development comes with the broader positive context of the Government finally softening their stance that the UK populous would be too easily confused, by visibility of the principles of an eventual lockdown exit strategy, to not remember to stay at home in the interim.
Nobody within the game is suggesting that the importance of football comes within even the same ball park as public health and the work of the NHS but football is one of many economies that thousands of livelihoods rely upon and we now have come to a time that the dire implications of a paralysed economy need to be balanced with how health risks can be mitigated responsibly.
If, within the next six weeks, heavy industry, education, constructions and public transport can all enjoy a controlled and phased return to a new normality, then it cannot be beyond the wit of man to engineer a similar return for competitive football where regular testing, rigorous medical supervision and environmental control are all significantly easier to implement.
We should, therefore, be looking toward the resolve of the German, Italian and Spanish leagues who remain committed to complete the 2019/20 season.
Importantly though, if the public health environment deteriorates and makes a return to play impossible, we should be reassured by the UEFA guidance that leagues should then be settled based on ‘sporting merit’.
In this scenario, despite considerable creative thought, I have yet to be able to contrive a rational methodology that places Leeds United anywhere but inside the top two. I think [national press football writers] Henry Winter and Oliver Holt captured superbly the mood of the sporting nation when they wrote about the option to void the season as ‘a surrender’ that would ‘bow to the politics of envy’.
Sadly, it seems inevitable that the initial matches will be behind closed doors.
The prospect of games without the passion of a packed Elland Road or our away contingent out-singing the home support for 90 minutes is depressing, particularly with the anticipated drama and excitement that we all shared for our run-in.
Predictably, many supporters have already been in touch to establish their unique reasons to be allowed special access to a locked-down Elland Road. Whilst most correspondence focused on establishing individuals’ unsurpassed loyalty, the most ingenious group wrote to offer ‘Professional Ball Retrieval Services’.
Their credentials included an ‘intimate knowledge of the nooks and crannies of Elland Road’ and ‘a team well-trained in Klichousery techniques to return the ball at speeds appropriate to ensuring the home side gain a ‘competitive advantage’.
Finally, in the past week I had the privilege of adding my unconventional good looks to our weekly Leeds United twitter video for Clap for our Careers.
I know supporters have enjoyed how this simple tribute has brought together the Leeds United family but the key is that this sentiment extends beyond the crisis and leads to more fundamental changes as to how our NHS is valued.