Mismanagement and poor finances off the field together with mismanagement and poor performances on the field led to the downfall of the once great Leeds. A club who, less than 20 years ago (just less mind), were the English Champions. Holding off the challenge of their bitter rivals across the Pennines to take the 1991/1992 title, while the destiny of Newcastle United was being re-charted dramatically by a certain messiah (ahem….).
Of course, being in the second tier wasn’t entirely alien to Leeds, once they’d succumbed to relegation from the giddy heights of the Premier League. Leeds United’s very own messiah, Don Revie pulled off a similar feat to that of Mr Keegan, in saving them from the third tier in the ’60s, before going one better than King Kev did for us in the ’90s and leading the club to glory with Championships and Cups coming out of their ears. Ok, so we’re not that alike then……
They were also previously ensconced in the old Division Two for eight years before they rose again to the First Division in the ’89-90 season and onto yet more glory taking the number one spot in the top flight two years later. All this despite being under the stewardship of Howard Wilkinson, the last English manager to win the top flight.
In truth, Wilkinson was obviously a half-decent manager in most people’s eyes yet trying tell that to a Makem. However, if you’re going to fail miserably, it may as well be at the expense of that lot down the A19 and their Premiership status, via a record-breaking low points total.
Leeds, under the tutelage of George Graham and David O’Leary, established themselves in the Premier League and made in-roads into Europe. Not unlike Newcastle United but slightly ahead of the town in their financial freefall. By now, Peter Ridsdale had taken out loans against the likelihood of continuing Champions League football (sound familiar?). When they failed to capitalise, there was a gaping hole where their repayment vehicle should have been and Leeds had just picked up the biggest parking fine going.
The following years saw Leeds fire-fighting but the inevitable sale of their big guns to balance the books and the subesequent tension between successive managers Terry Venables and Peter Reid and Ridsdale. Neither was happy with the prospect of losing their best players nor with the inevitable scenario of Ridsdale reneging on his promise that they wouldn’t be sold.
Gerald Krasner, an insolvency specialist, led a consortium of local businessmen which took over Leeds and under his chairmanship oversaw the sale of the clubs’ assets, including senior and emerging youth players of any value. In the 2003-2004 season, Leeds finally fell with a thump back into the second tier.
The plummet was just beginning but having been forced to sell both their training ground and their Elland Road stadium in the autumn of 2004, for a brief spell it seemed the rot was stopping. The board finally sold the club to Ken Bates for £10 million. Kevin Blackwell was already installed as manager and stabilized the team by signing players on free transfers and low wages and Leeds finished the ’04–05 season mid-table in the Championship.
Unfortunately, the following season started badly and the loveable Dennis Wise was unable to stop the club sailing into uncharted territory. In the year 2007, Leeds Utd slipped into the third tier of English football for the first time in their history but not before entering administration. However HM Revenue & Customs challenged the CVA, a decision which could ultimately have resulted in the liquidation of the club. Under league rules, if the club were still in administration at the start of the next season, Leeds would have been prevented from starting their campaign by the Football League.
And so Ken Bates bought the club once again and despite a 15 point deduction, Wise guided them to the play-off places and when little Dennis left to darken our doors, former fans’s favourite Gary McAllister narrowly missed out on promotion. With a run of poor results in 2008, McAllister was sacked and Simon Grayson installed. Grayson did well but could only get as far as the play-off semis.
And so Leeds Utd begin another term in League One.
So, both clubs steeped in history, with impressively large stadiums and passionate die-hard supporters, trying to get the golden eras back but having gone into financial meltdown. What else is familiar?
Staff and ex-staff for one thing. In recent years, we’ve raided Elland Road for the likes of Woodgate, Bowyer, Speed, Batty, Viduka, Smith and (wincing) Dennis Wise though arguably, other than Speed and Woodgate, they had their better years down the road. Both clubs are also about as currently popular as one another though ironically, given the theme, for different reasons. Leeds, however, are still said to be the most hated team in the country. It’s nice to be top of something though, eh?
So then, enough of my waffle about Leeds, this is a Newcastle blog after all but their’s should have been a lesson we all learned from.
Some quite frightening scenarios that have been painfully played out for the Leeds faithful and to which we teeter dangerously towards. While we’re on our current path to oblivion, Leeds are essentially building from scratch and have a plethora of talented youngsters and a resolve to claw their way back to where they belong. We may well pass them on the way down. Hopefully we’ll come to a fork in the road and make the right choice, or at least someone will make it for us.
In the meantime, let’s hope the result of our arranged friendly this week isn’t another indication of the changing fortunes of two great clubs.
I really couldn’t take another kicking while we’re down.