A fond farewell to Chairman Ken?
Sunday, 30th Jun 2013 09:15
There has not been that many reasons to be cheerful at Elland Rd of late and can we gain that much pleasure that today is officially the last day of Ken Bates eight-and-half year Chairmanship? Given that GFH Clueless have given him a new three year role as Honourary President which he begins on Monday morning.
"I looked into Suzannahs eyes and said darling I must save Leeds United" said the self proclaimed White Knight, who charged to our rescue in January 2005 when the club were facing a winding-up order from the tax-man. Bates is believed to ave paid £10m for the privilege of forming an unlikely union with a club he once called to e kicked out of the league during his years as Chelsea's chairman.
Initially relations between Bates and the outgoing board led by Gerald Krasner were chummy, but this soon soured in particular where former Director Melvyn Levy was concerned, Bates twice facing libel action in the courts his costs funded from the stretched club coffers. Supporters were disgruntled, Bates questioned what the Supporters Club did for the club and formed Regional Members organisations.
By the end of 2004/05, Leeds fans faced up to the reality of massive ticket price hikes. Despite rumours from day-one Bates would bring in his prodigal son Dennis Wise, Kevin Blackwell stayed and steered the club into the play-off final where we were humbled by Watford. A poor start to 2006/07 gave Bates an excuse to bring in Wise but on the field it proved to be a disaster as Leeds were relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time in our history.
If that was a bitter pill to swallow, further unrest on the terraces came when the club entered administration, still wrestling with the debt burdened from the overspending Ridsdale era. A farcical summer followed with our major creditor Astor basically saying they would only back a Bates-backed repurchase. Therefore he regained control of the club, but Leeds were slapped with a 15 point deduction at the start of the season.
Rather than amplify the dissenting voices against Bates, and there were many, the Football League became the new enemy and a siege mentality galvanised an amazing unbeaten run which even saw Leeds briefly top League One at Christmas. Despite losing Wise and his Assustant Gus Poyet, the club still made the 2008 play-off finals under Gary McAllister but once again faltered at the big stage, Doncaster Rovers running out 1-0 winners.
By Christmas 2008 with Leeds faltering in the promotion race and a humiliating FA Cup defeat at non league Histon, Bates gave McAllister the sack just days before Santa got his out and Blackpool boss and former Leeds youngster Simon Grayson took charge of the club he supported as a boy in time for the Boxing Day clash with Leicester City.
Grayson was a popular appointment, although he did not quite pull-off the fairy take end to the 2008/09 season, his first full season in charge saw Leeds dramatically win promotion on the final day of the 2009/10 season and was also memorable for beating Manchester United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup 3rd round. However the joy was soon tempered with top scorer Jermaine Beckford leaving the club having failed to renegotiate new terms, an indicator by many that the wage structure at Elland Road was a stranglehold on the clubs ambitions.
Having finished a healthy seventh in 2010/11, the summer saw further indicators that Bates was willing to pander to the whims of several high profile players when it came to wages leading to the departures of Bradley Johnson, Kasper Schmeichel and Max Gradel. January 2012 saw skipper Jonny Howson follow Bradley Johnson to Norwich and fan protests against Bates became more prominent in the backdrop of the refurbished East Stand.
The next casualty was Grayson, dismissed on February 1st following a 4-1 drubbing at home to Birmingham City. It was a decision that hardly endeared Bates to the protesting fans, much sympathy coming Grayson's way given the restraint on his budget and the fact that Leeds were just four points off the play-offs.
Although Neil Warnock was hardly the most popular visiting manager at Elland Road, the fans soon warmed to his amazing record of getting clubs promoted and his no nonsense attitude. It was hailed by many as a master stroke by Bates, but it all turned sour. Leeds limped into 14th place. In May, rumours of a takeover began circulating and once it was confirmed as being true, the talk was of ownership rather than the incoming players Warnock needed. Seven long months of speculation ended with Bahrain based GFH Capital finally gaining control of the club on December 21st.
The takeover's completion was met with mixed feelings, particularly where Bates was concerned. He would remain Chairman until the end of the season, abdicating on June 30th but a three-year deal to be our Honouary President perplexed those of us desperate for a clean break.
As of January, this summer has been yet another transfer-window of austerity. Are GFH replicating the Bates business model of sticking to a modest transfer budget and capping the wage bill? Or have they inherited a set of accounts hamstrung by Bates's obsession with stadium rebuilding plans?
As well as this legacy, I'm sorry but I will not be breaking out the Pomagne just yet as he is still here. As well as yearning for the new players that have yet to materialise, I have been eagerly anticipating him inflicting his unique brand of misery on another club which would surely compromise his non executive post at Elland Road?
Photo: Action Images
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