Season 13-14: It is not the latest super group, but a collection of characters who have made this season jaw-dropping even by Leeds United’s standards.
Elland Road Lifebelt Award – Ross McCormack
How heavily have Leeds United leant on their Glaswegian striker this season? Well, here’s a stat. Between their victory at Bolton on September 14 and their defeat of Blackpool last weekend, the club did not win a single game in which McCormack failed to score. That’s seven months and 37 matches back-to-back. And they tell you it’s a team game.
Director of Football Award – Hisham Alrayes
For his letter to Brian McDermott in January, informing United’s manager that all line-ups, formations and tactics must be approved by Alrayes and United chairman Salah Nooruddin 24 hours before kick-off. You can picture the two of them sat in Manama, sipping coffee, rejecting the diamond midfield and arguing over Aidan White’s best position. Football men, those boys from Bahrain.
Welcome to Yorkshire Award – Jack Butland
An England goalkeeper who came to Leeds with one eye on the World Cup in Brazil. “The summer is obviously a massive target and I’d love to be able to go,” he said. His experience since then? Twenty four goals conceded in 12 games, including five against Bolton and four against Reading and Bournemouth. There will be other World Cups.
Sacking of the Year – Ken Bates
Like a bolt of lightening on a sunny day. At least with Brian McDermott’s ham-fisted ‘dismissal’, you could see it coming a mile off. But Bates – United’s ex-owner and chairman – was dispatched late one Friday evening in July with no more than a cursory online statement. He’d been president at Elland Road for just 26 days.
Lawsuit of the Year – Leeds United FC v Ken Bates
The inevitable result of Bates’ unceremonious overthrow. Leeds (or Gulf Finance House) allege among other things that Bates breached his contract by renewing a private jet contract, claimed expenses he wasn’t entitled to and took money from the club’s safe and shop. Bates denies all claims against him and is counter-suing for wrongful dismissal and compensation of up to £750,000. Coming to a courtroom near you soon.
Cuckoo’s Nest Award – Gianluca Festa
An ally of Massimo Cellino’s who tried to secure a seat on the bench for Leeds’ 1-1 draw with Ipswich on January 28. That invasion of McDermott’s personal space failed but three days later Festa was lined up to take charge of the first team as Massimo moved to replace McDermott with his own man. Riots ensued, Cellino backed down and Festa watched a 5-1 win over Huddersfield from the East Stand. He has barely been seen since.
Board Member of the Year –Salah Nooruddin
AKA Santa Claus. United’s chairman has been absent from Elland Road since Christmas but give him his due: he knows where to put his foot. His tweet after a 2-0 defeat to Millwall in September, criticising the result while taking a veiled dig at McDermott, was a cracker, and his premature text message to Cellino on January 31 – informing the Italian that the club was his – sparked the madness of transfer deadline day. The spiteful reaction to Nooruddin’s tweet on April 6, congratulating “Massimio” on his completed takeover, should tell him that his days here are numbered.
Best use of Twitter – Ryan Hall
It’s going some to outdo David Haigh’s 131,000 followers (twice the number who follow @LUFC) or Salem Patel’s smiley face but Hall’s decision in October to tell the world that he would sit around and take his money at Leeds reminded you of that old equation: footballers on Twitter equals water plus burning fat. Young Ryan has had further scrapes since then, but the less said about the recent twitterings of his ex-partner the better.
Document of the Year –Project Athena
A dossier complied on Gulf Finance House’s behalf which was designed to smear, criticise and discredit Cellino. It did precisely that. So GFH sold 75 per cent of Leeds to him anyway. “How much? Deal.”
Best Racial Stereotype – GFH
A few months ago the bank informed McDermott that he should seek signings from the top European leagues, “and Brazilians.” Pele, Romario, Kleberson, Roque Junior. They’re onto something here.
Best Transfer Target – Ashley Barnes
The story sounds apocryphal but we’re assured that it’s true. As McDermott fought to sign Barnes from Brighton in January and GFH resisted, a message came back from the bank pointing out that Barnes had a lower rating on Football Manager than Luke Varney and was therefore a dubious target. Why waste money on a scouting network when you can download software for £15? Barnes has cried himself to sleep ever since. He’ll have to slum it in the Premier League next season.
Media Breakthrough Act –White Leeds Radio
A recently-launched pirate station which initially sounded like a parody. Stretches of silence were interspersed with calls to random takeaways as listeners killed time by using the station’s message board to exchange abuse. Then, on March 29, the presenter landed Ken Bates live. The following night, he broadcast a spectacular ‘interview’ with Cellino who proceeded to wash his dirty linen in public. Neither man knew he was being recorded and the lawyers were not amused as the audio went global. But Cellino quickly relented. “Maybe it wasn’t so wrong,” he said. “That was me.” Every ******* ounce of him.
Hand of Friendship Award – Massimo Cellino
David Haigh, poised to become United CEO: “I spent a lot of time with Massimo and realised he was someone I could work with.” Cellino a month later, informing Haigh of a change of plan: “You’re fired. David has to go. I’ve had too much of him.” Haigh resigned last week and is seeking repayment of a £1.7m loan from the club.