While Leeds ‘live off’ their ‘big-club name’, neighbours Huddersfield Town have gone the ‘right way’ about behind-the-scenes stability – something he sees lacking at Elland Road. Leon Wobschall reports.
LEEDS UNITED may be blessed with the twin advantages of fan power and a higher ‘credit rating’ in the modern-day footballing strata than Huddersfield Town, but their neighbours are streets ahead in another key department.
That is the considered verdict of Trevor Cherry, a man who is the most celebrated member of an exclusive group of players who are revered on both sides of the A62 derby divide with each club pulling on his heartstrings and arousing his passion.
Now 68 and retired he may be, but the former United captain – a class act whether it be in the all-White jersey of Leeds or the blue and white stripes of Town – maintains a keen interest in affairs at both Elland Road and the John Smith’s Stadium.
Although given his natural affiliations to both, he cannot truly win on derby day when he has a foot in both camps, as he will on Saturday when Leeds are seeking to record successive league doubles over Town, which would represent a first in their history.
Regardless of what transpires on the pitch, Cherry is more concerned with the bigger picture, something that vast swathes of United supporters also are, even accounting for the fact that the continuation of a promising upturn of recent results with the acquisition of some bragging rights would make a sweet weekend prize.
While Cherry sees Leeds as the more pre-eminent force in regards to fan numbers and ranking – you have to go back to 1961-62 for the last time that they finished below Huddersfield – he is equally quick to acknowledge that Town’s stability and order behind the scenes is something that United palpably lack and crave, in his opinion.
It is the view of many, not just Cherry, that Massimo Cellino’s reign at Elland Road has been thoroughly tempestuous and disordered in comparison to the structured goings-on down the road at Huddersfield under a widely-respected footballing figure in Dean Hoyle.
One of Yorkshire’s most successful entrepreneurs, life-long Town fan Hoyle has been an esteemed custodian of his club since becoming the majority shareholder in June 2009, pumping in millions of pounds into the club’s infrastructure and enabling it to stand on its own two feet with a self-sustainable future.
His duty-of-care legacy – if ever he does elect to sell the club – is his considerable investment in Town’s plush Canalside training ground.
Over at Leeds, the foundations are much more unstable at a place where no-one can be certain what the future holds under an owner in whom a fair number of supporters have lost confidence, regardless of the fact that his financial input into the club has been considerable.
Cherry, who made 476 appearances for Leeds in a decade of sterling service from 1972-82, told the YEP: “I feel sorry for Leeds United (fans), it’s scandalous really. The fans are brilliant and I feel for them.
“They have suffered for 12 years now and Leeds are a massive club and should be in the Premier League at least.
“There’s no real (league) difference now and Town have actually got that stability, despite the difference in the size of the clubs. Dean has done well keeping Town afloat and putting his money in and I think they are punching above their weight really.
“Leeds are just in the wrong division with the wrong owner for me.
“I know the owner has put money in, but there’s all the other stuff. There’s all these superstitions and I am not superstitious!
“I saw the Brighton game which was very poor. But you just don’t know what is going on off the field, do you ...
“Looking at Dean, he has a real feeling for the club and is steady.
“He’s a local man who leaves other people to do the job, which is what you need. I am getting older now, but he’s the best chairman I have ever known at Huddersfield by a long way.
“Leeds just need some local owners for me, even without the big money. To be perfectly honest, I’d rather see Leeds go down a division, but have a decent carry-on.”
All things considered, Cherry believes that Steve Evans has made a fair fist of life in the hot seat at Elland Road, with the hosts heading into Saturday’s game with wind in their sails after winning three games on the spin.
Leeds have the chance to record a fourth successive league victory for the first time since November 2009 if they take the derby spoils on Saturday.
That would provide a touch of succour for supporters for whom the term ‘long-suffering’ is apposite following another rollercoaster campaign which has once again had it’s fair share of vicissitudes and unedifying headlines.
But it is the medium and longer-term horizon that Cherry is rather more concerned by and something which an upturn in form on the pitch can only partially soothe for him.
Cherry added: “I actually think Steve Evans has done a good job with what he’s got and you can’t ask for much more really.
“He has got a bit of pride back in, fair do’s. He seems to get what I call his pound of flesh out of his players.
“(But) You just don’t know what is going to happen and I feared that they would go down at one stage (this season).
“You never know what is around the corner and I just despair.”
The scenario is certainly a world away from those glory days he was afforded at Elland Road when results on the pitch coexisted with stability off it and something he hankers for again at LS11.
Cherry, who moved to Leeds at the age of 24 for £100,000 in the summer of 1972 – turning down overtures from Tottenham and Birmingham City to join – said: “Everybody ‘played’ for the club when I was there and there was a lot of pride and the club was a lot more stable, definitely.
“But I think the situation at Leeds now is a bit of a laughing stock and I don’t like that.”