DEPARTING Leeds United Supporters’ Trust chairman Gary Cooper admits that the trust’s achievements during his time in charge have surpassed all his expectations following the organisation’s formation in October 2009.
Cooper has decided to step down to spend more time with his family and also pursue his next challenge helping Leeds United Ladies and insists LUST’s future is in safe hands.
The work of Cooper and countless others have given thousands of United fans an independent voice, with LUST’s membership having swelled to around 9,400 after starting with just 224 members in 2009.
He is confident LUST’s profile will continue to grow and have an active say in the future of United.
Cooper said: “I made a decision some weeks ago. We set ourselves some targets back in 2009 and quite honestly, we have surpassed them a long time ago in terms of membership levels and a decent line of communication both with local authorities, local MP’s and central government.
“When I came to the chair and joined a refreshed board, we set ourselves a target of 500 members and said that 1,000 would be incredible. To achieve what we have in terms of membership is unbelievable.
“But rather than crediting myself or the trust board, I think it’s more testament to Leeds fans in general who believe that supporters should have a voice and right to have a say in the governance of their club.
“It’s testament to them and they deserve the credit.”
On the timing of his decision, he added: “When Mr Cellino took control, I sat and thought about things. I do like this guy as a person, you can’t help but like him, but I have said it’s going to be a roller-coaster and there will be hurdles to cross.
“I thought to myself: ‘Am I the person to deal with the rollercoaster ride and the hurdles?’ We have some really good board members and trust members and perhaps now is the right time. The trust is in a good place, it’s strong and credible and it’s integrity is completely intact.
“I have other things in the pipeline and will be doing an awful lot with Leeds United Ladies and do the same for them with what I have done for the trust.
“I feel it’s right to support my wife and family now. I have done my best for the bigger Leeds United family and can’t do a lot more. I will do my very best to find the right person to take it to the next level.”
While LUST have overcome many hurdles and raised their profile immeasurably to become a fully respected voice for United fans, Cooper feels that the challenges facing owner Massimo Cellino are colossal and that it will take some time to truly turn around the fortunes of the club, which remains in a chaotic state behind the scenes.
He said: “I have met with Mr Cellino twice. Once before he officially took over along with Ray Fell and then about a month ago. I genuinely like the man and ‘get’ his passion and enthusiasm and share that. If you are with him, he’s the life and soul of the party.
“Do I think he’s the right man? I don’t think there’s ever been the right man at any one given place.
“The club is in a mess and this bloke has a mess to deal with before he can start to go about the business I think he wants to do. It will take some time to right the wrongs from the previous owners of Leeds United and go right back to Peter Ridsdale with that. Where the club is now is all a knock-on effect from that.
“I think he (Cellino) has bitten off a lot more than he thought at the outset. Had he had his time again, I think he would have done things differently. But we are where we are and he’s the owner and he will make the decisions he feels are appropriate and he won’t be swayed by that.
“Supporters should not be surprised by anything. I know there was a lot of shock and disdain when Dave Hockaday was appointed, but it should not come as a shock. He (Cellino) will do things his way.
“There’s a lot of things to right and mess to clear before we can think of going back in the right direction.”