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      Thursday
      Apr302015

      #thanksredders - the only words that matter from this season

      There is only one place to start: The Leeds United Supporters Trust and most reasoned Leeds fans think Neil Redfearn should continue next season (and beyond) in the job of Leeds United manager/head coach.

      As such, we’d like to offer him our thanks for providing much-needed stability in our recent times of turmoil, and especially for keeping us in the Championship #thanksredders

      The seeds of a crazy season (even by our standards) were set back in August with the appointment of Dave Hockaday (an appointment that perhaps made even no sense to Hockaday himself), a series of signings most of us had never heard of, interference from our majority owner (and sidekick Nicole) and his house guest (hands up who remembers Benito Carbone).

      Yet, as all this unfolded, the coach who was to contribute more than anyone to ensuring we escaped a fall into L1 was quietly getting on with his job in our academy.

      After four league games and two League Cup pantomimes, the Hockaday/Lewis experiment was terminated. Regardless of what anyone thinks of the idiocy of giving a coach just 6 games to prove his worth, it needed to be done, and it was best done quickly.

      Enter Neil Redfearn, who in his first team selection showed boldness and an eye for young talent that still nine months later takes the breath away in a positive manner.

      In just four league games we saw three wins and one draw … but more importantly, the first sight of Lewis Cook, the return of Alex Mowatt, the development of Charlie Taylor, and the resurrection of Sam Byram … all stimulated in that short, successful period. That September in itself would have been worthy of recognition alone.

      Any thought-out response to those games, would have given Neil Redfearn the job there and then.

      Alas this is Massimo Cellino’s Leeds United. Why make one gigantic mistake a season when you can make six or seven?

      In came Darko Milanic, a man so culturally irrelevant to the Championship it was painful to see from day one.

      The following six games encapsulated the fault lines in the “Massimo knows football” structure that was imposed. Performances declined, results were poor, and momentum was lost. It is perhaps useful to reflect on where the club was the day Milanic departed (or more accurately placed on two years’ gardening leave):

      * Played 14 league games

      * Won four (three under Redfearn)

      * Drawn 4,

      * Lost 6 (half under Hockaday, half under Milanic).

      One can only imagine what the position would have been if Hockaday to Milanic had been direct… We were learning very quickly why Cellino had sacked so many managers/head-coach in Italy, it was because he employed so many poor ones and was repeating the mistake at Leeds United.

      To be fair, Cellino did call for Redfearn again … and we are thankful that Neil had the grace to accept the invitation to bail the club out of the hole it found itself in.

      Without being able to repeat the magic of September Redfearn admirably steadied the ship with two wins and a draw in five games, including ripping the then top-of-the-league Derby County to shreds. The mini-run took us from 19th to 15th. Redfearn was doing a decent job of inserting stability into the football operation, just in time for Cellino to insert instability to the whole club.

      How any manager is supposed to keep things on track when the owner is at war with the Italian legal system, the football authorities and internally with anything with an opinion we don’t know.

      What we do know is that from the day the Football League imposed its sanction for Cellino’s tax evasion conviction to the day Massimo finally understood he had to serve the ban, we had a seven league game period of stagnation.

      We also had the bizarre situation of the majority owner rushing in loan signings (because we were under a transfer embargo), all from the same place his other less-than-successful signings had come from and two of the main ones – Cani and Ngoyi - carrying injuries. We can only be grateful to Redfearn that he stuck around, despite again the manager having little influence over incomings or exits.

      As soon as Cellino departed (again we sat far too close to the bottom three) the team’s form changed again.

      In 15 games 8 wins and 4 draws were accrued. We rose to the giddy heights of 11th. The young lads from Redfearn’s academy work were in full footballing form. The team was decent to watch. There was one of those senses of optimism that is usually followed by over-expectation.

      Then it happened again, the ownership/board decided the three months of stability needed undermining, and across a wide swath of areas at the same time.

      Coaches were sacked. Resignations (some actual, some fake), abounded. Players were “injured” en masse. Off-the-record briefings suggested managerial change was inevitable. All this was played out in the full eyes of the media.

      During this time, Neil Redfearn showed class and dignity, despite having his integrity and loyalty undermined (the sacking of Steve Thompson bordered on a direct attack on Redfearn himself). The inevitable drop in results should not in the slightest be blamed on Redfearn.

      The facts are clear as day: when Redfearn is allowed to get on with his job, unhindered by the interference of others, he gets results.

      When the club is dragged into inexcusable turmoil Don Revie or Howard Wilkinson would struggle to get results. This is why the Trust stated in our “Leadership Statement” of April 9 that we needed:

      * Neil Redfearn being given the contract extension his record this season demands.

      * Neil Redfearn to decide who his coaches are (whether that includes Thompson or not).

      * Massimo Cellino to promise to leave footballing matters to the manager and his staff, regardless of whether Nicola Salerno is replaced or not.

      These demands are still true today. They are the basic requirements of a stable footballing structure, one that allows both Neil Redfearn the chance to take his proven ability to identify good players further, and shows the basic appreciation of his work this season.

      The Trust and the support can’t thank Redfearn enough for survival, can’t appreciate him enough for the talents that have come through the Thorp Arch academy, can’t shout from the roof-tops loud enough just how much we want to see him in the dug-out (hopefully with a full coaching contingent) when 2015-16 commences.

      This club has needed some small sign of continuity for a long time, both off and on the pitch.

      Off it we look like having to wait some time for this to come, but on it we have an opportunity to finally achieve this.

      For too long, short-termism has ruled the Elland Road roost. It’s time for a different approach. Only we can ensure that different approach by demanding it loud and clear.

      Let’s have our voice heard so the club get the scale of feeling about him being rewarded for the magnificent job done under trying circumstances.

      Let’s sing his name from the rafters and give him a heart-felt thank you well deserved.

      The Leeds United Supporters Trust thanks Neil Redfearn for his brilliant work in 2014-15 and we look forward to thanking him again for years to come.

      We call on all sections of Leeds United’s support to join the Trust in turning this Saturday into  #thanksredders day.

      Click the above banner to show your support and thanks to Neil Redfearn

      Friday
      Apr242015

      Dear Mr Umbers...‏

      ...a tongue in both cheeks, a draft of a letter never sent

      Dear Mr Umbers,

      Leeds United, as you referenced in your somewhat interesting answers to Phil Hay’s question in a recent interview, is a great symbolic football club. Even in the 11th season of its exile from the Premier League, 23 years on from our last our last League Championship and numerous examples of bad publicity over the last decade and a half, the club, and its loyal support, remains iconic in the football world. So why, we ask, do you feel the need to generate further negative publicity with your recent remarks?

      Mutterings from you of conspiracy, the “head-coach” talked about as if an irritant rather than an integral part of the football operation presently responsible for our divisional survival, other employees livelihood and reputation trashed without the basic normal employer processes undertaken, calamity after calamity played out all over the old and new media with no-one giving a regard for the consequences on the support. All this undertaken in a short time-span whilst you hold the fort for our banned majority owner. It is no wonder you haven’t had time to do basics like put the head coach on the contract he deserves, decide which players out of contract should be offered new ones or even confirm/deny rumours the first-team will be training in LS10/11 next season, clearly when you are too busy putting out fires of your own making such matters need not concern you!

      The Leeds United Supporters Trust has reached out to the club on a number of occasions since the arrival of Massimo Cellino as a majority share-holder. We have tried to act with the dignity our support would expect and deserve. But it is fair to say that both “El Presidente” and your response has been at best cursory and at worse short-sighted ignorance, not just to us, but to the support in general. Supporters of Leeds United across the board are fed up of strategically inept leadership and deliberate miscommunication, a constant theme now of the last 5 ownership structures. However, despite the legends that were Ridsdale, Krasner, Morris, Bates, Haigh and Nooruddin, your variant of the alienation communication skill set is almost unique. Yes, in fact, you seem to have in a much shorter timescale become less credible than Massimo himself and that is some achievement.

      We should be fair on this interview referenced, you at least do open our eyes to the “ongoing financial difficulties” the club is suffering. We do however wonder how that fits into other comments about investment in squad building, ground ownership and other areas that seem to be bounced around by both you and Massimo. Having, as you do, close contact via your family with the club auditors we would have thought you had an over-riding priority to ensure the recently confirmed £23m worth of losses (with £54m worth of debt on the books) didn’t become a trigger for more choppy financial waters. We can be as sure, as eggs is eggs, that the transfer embargo won’t be lifted if the 14-15 figures are in the same ball-park.

      Whilst you were responding to the questions from the Yorkshire Evening Post you seem to indicate that you needed to be more informed on footballing matters, we as a Trust are surprised a man with your background had time to become expert on such things as injuries, etc. I suppose the positive to be gained from that is to presume that when Massimo is next informed he is banned from exercising the usual owners control for a yet to be specified period the club has you to be the ultimate arbiter of players abilities. Lucky us.

      Of course it is pertinent to remind ourselves you are the continuity factor at the club over the last few years, you managed to gain the confidence and trust of Mr K W Bates, GFH and Massimo Cellino and thus have been a consistent whilst our team finishes consistently lower half of the division and our communications and public relations remains a constant car-crash. That is perhaps the ultimate answer to our question in the first paragraph, you are simply following the template set by all those business associates of yours, except you have taken the incompetence to a whole new level (including a special mention of your social media threats to sue individual supporters is worth a reference here).

      Whilst the talk out of the club, via you and others, is of a Massimo Cellino return, realities of Italian court cases tell us that could be short-lived (we will allow others to decide is that a good or bad thing). If it is our destiny to have you in the chairman’s position either for the duration or on and off over a few years please allow us to offer some advice: less is more, but honesty is everything.

      The Trust notes you stated “whatever others might think, I am a Leeds fan”, well Mr Umbers perhaps you can think how a Leeds fans would feel in advance of your next public statements. Maybe that approach might guide you to actually saying something that allows the club to at least try and start “to winning fans around”, as a Trust we can only hope for better times but we are clear your recent contributions to the club are yet to help facilitate that long overdue prospect.

      The process by which you start to change the relationship with the support starts with one simple step, genuinely talk to them, try and persuade the owner to do the same. You know where to find us (other supporters groups are there and should also be respected), you know where the myriad of stakeholders who wish for noting more controversial than a normal, maybe successful, football club are. Only a short-sighted bunker mentality would fail to take advantage of what our great support can bring. Previous owners made the mistake of thinking being combative and misleading was the same as marketing. The Eleonora Sports/GFH board you chair sit at a cross-roads where one route repeats our recent turbulent history. Ball is in your court Mr Umbers, for now.

      Regards.

      Leeds United Supporters Trust

       

      Join us in having your voice heard with thousands of other Leeds fans HERE for FREE!

      Thursday
      Apr162015

      Home is where the heart is...

      Somewhere out there in twitter land is a man who every Thursday puts out a tweet counting the number of weeks since our club “President” announced he would rebuy Elland Road by. This article isn’t to berate or show up Massimo Cellino for that number of weeks soon becoming more than 50 but instead to remind ourselves just where Elland Road sits in our collective consciousness.

      Every time one of us passes Elland Road on a train from London, whether match day or not, we are always struck by two things. The first is how there is always someone on the train who will blurt out their awe, usually along the lines of “oh so that’s Elland Road” and secondly how even in its least flattering state (and let’s face it the old girl is not at her best in this era) a sense of “place” is generated, it’s the home of Leeds United, still, despite the last 12 seasons, one of the best known football clubs on the planet.

      We all know the complications, someone else owns our ground, others including Leeds City Council own some of the land around it. It’s been out of the clubs asset list since 2004 and despite a few stories over the years suggesting otherwise we don’t look like getting it back quickly. Yet despite the consequences of the Krasner Board cashing in for short-term cash flow, it is our ground and it belongs to the supporters. Without football and Leeds United it’s just a bit of land that might not generate any capital value as much else.

      It sits as it does, dominating the low ground of Beeston, majestic in its contradictions and clashing architecture. As anyone who purchased the recently released book on the place instantly recognises, it has been even more imposing, the days of large diamond footlight stanchions are alas gone. However it remains omni-special, a continuity exists that Arsenal, Sunderland or Brighton fans don’t have (although none of those clubs modern manifestations are bad grounds). Iconic doesn’t cover it sufficiently.

      Yet for all the symbolism you only have to recall changes in the area around the ground to know there is no guarantee we will always play at Elland Road. The recently completed Police building sits on a site once occupied by a greyhound stadium. The Park + Ride and other car parks occupies where our training ground was until Thorp Arch opened (remember when someone tells you Thorp Arch is not up to scratch remind them what we used to have!!). Change is everywhere, we may even one day have a railway station close by (even basket case Coventry City can progress one of those). The question is how do we ensure the heart of Leeds United remains Elland Road?

      We could, although it would be risky, assume that the limited value to be extracted from using the site for anything else than sport would help (developers however have a way of generating value from where others see none). We could equally assume because no-one has plans to relocate us the issue isn’t important, although some of us whose memories stretch beyond Kalvin Phillips debut will recall the 1999-2000 relocation plans that a certain ex chairman was promoting. No, in truth, if you want to take the slightest risk out of the equation there is only one way forward.

      4 years ago the Government enacted a series of measures designed to allow communities to protect local assets it valued. One of those processes is called “Assets of Community Value”. You may wonder what that has to do with football grounds, well have a look HERE, which explains it well. When you also look HERE you note which ground stands out by its absence!

      We have seen a lot of social media talk around recently of “if not now when?” When it comes to securing Elland Road as a football ground for Leeds United in perpetuity that is correct, regardless of who claims ownership. The Leeds United Supporters Trust would be more than happy to be the prime-movers around making progress on this but we need to be clear, it’s not about one fan group or another having a pet project, it’s about doing something for Leeds United supporters to achieve.

      Elland Road is our collective home, let’s ensure it stays that way.

       

      You can join the Trust FREE by clicking HERE and adding your details. Alternatively, you can become a shareholder for just £5 per year by filling in the form and clicking on the Individual Shareholding PayPal link below it

      Tuesday
      Apr142015

      LUST Statement on LUFC Accounts

      The Leeds United Supporters Trust are disappointed to find that not only have the widely circulated losses for Leeds United being confirmed as £23m for 13-14 but also that additional possible futures issues, like the contingency required to cover a possible court case with the kit suppliers, has surfaced.

      The Trust is constantly reminding owners and directors of the need for supporters to feel a period of stability will accrue, the publication of the accounts today doesn’t assist that process, no matter how much flowery justification the present still under a ban President inserts.

      The Trust will continue to campaign for the financial transparency Mr Cellino promised last year but has failed to follow through on and we re-iterate the 8 demands for clarity we issued in our statement on the 9th of April.

      The Board - Leeds United Supporters Trust

      Thursday
      Apr092015

      Trust Statement: Leadership at LUFC

      “Just because things are different
      doesn’t mean anything has changed”

      This week is exactly 1 year since Massimo Cellino, via his company Eleonora Sport, was allowed by the Football League to commence ownership of Leeds United. We stood 16th in the Championship at the time. 7 months later the same Football League initiated a process that lead to Mr Cellino being banned till May 2015 from control of the club, you may recall this Trust communication HERE  which appealed for all parties to put the interests of the support first. We were 15th at the time but quickly sunk to 21st before Cellino accepted his fate.
       
      Another 5 months on and instability has again reared its ugly head. Despite on the pitch the team racing away from the threat of relegation to a one off height of 11th, all whilst a temporary peace and stability reigned in Massimo’s absence, we have seen the first anniversary of our last completed takeover fully reflect not just the chaos of the last 12 months, or the 3 before that, or the 12 months before that or the previous 8 years before that but our whole existence in over a decade. The last two weeks have placed Leeds United fully back in the limelight for all the wrong reasons and again, the needs of the support, season ticket holders, regular attenders, occasional attenders, fans from afar, for clarity and calm have been blatantly ignored.
       
      Let’s examine events just from that period:
      • A chief operating officer has departed the club, the implication being he was marginalised.
      • The de-facto Director of Football has resigned, so says Cellino, but not before leaving a festering issue by suspending, with board approval, the Assistant Manager. The Director of Football has failed, as have the club, to clarify the resignation and as we speak it is unconfirmed.
      • The Assistant Manager (or Assistant Head Coach depending on interpretation) has been suspended until the end of his current contract (May 2015), having only been put in place a few months earlier after a protracted extraction from Huddersfield Town.
      • The manager, Neil Redfearn, has indicated that he wasn’t consulted on any of this and as a consequence is considering his position. The Manager also has a contract expiring soon and has yet to be communicated with as to his future.
      • A split in the squad, with camps based on their relationship with Cellino, opening up.
      • The Manager apparently instructed on who he can or can’t pick for contractual reasons, with top scorer Antenucci the centre of some confusion.
      • Italian press reports have suggested Cellino wishes to sell and has also expressed an interest in buying Parma. Cellino himself has made contradictory noises around his intentions. He also has been dealing with his numerous Italian court issues.
      • The present “Chairman” of the club, Andrew Umbers has also been seen making suggestions that contradict, with hints that the club is still in some financial difficulty (we await official club confirmation of the £25M losses from 13-14 reported to the Football League as part of the Financial Fair Play process).
      • Agents and journalists have lined up to suggest our talented youngsters (Cook, Mowatt, Byram) will be sold this summer whilst others future remains in considerable doubt, particularly the loans in and those whose contracts expire soon.
      • Reports have said Red Bull were in discussions to buy the club, Cellino publicly acknowledged communication and then Red Bull denied it. Meanwhile others have also publicly stated they are in “multiple discussions” with other parties with a view to putting together some kind of consortium, thus adding to the fevered speculation.
      • The club refusing to pay its staff a living wage despite a football wide campaign.
      • Our minority owners seem to be having some sort of corporate rebuilding, our ex Chairman (and their ex-employee) will soon enjoy a year in a prison cell.
      • Elland Road has not been re-purchased and as yet no site for a new training ground has been found (or if found, purchased).
      • Season ticket renewals have not happened. They would normally have started by now.
      • No indication has been given whether the transfer embargo will be lifted.
      • All in all, and we may have missed some things, this is not what constitutes a stable club.
      What rankles most for us at the Trust is how all of the above is just another manifestation of the fault lines inherent in a club that finds reaching out to the support impossible. The Trust has made at least 3 different attempts to open positive, meaningful communication with the club, mainly with a view to bringing about the stability and clarity so needed by the support. We have to be honest and say the present regime is no more accessible than the Bates era one was. This is both disappointing and regrettable.
       
      The Leeds United Supporters Trust feels that it is ridiculous to expect the support to suffer another summer of chaos and instability. We are particularly concerned that all parties, whether present owners or future bidders, don’t expend their energies at the expense of the footballing side. For us some things need clarifying immediately, they include:
      • Neil Redfearn being given the contract extension his record this season demands.
      • Neil Redfearn to decide who his coaches are (whether that includes Thompson or not).
      • Massimo Cellino to promise to leave footballing matters to the Manager and his staff, regardless of whether Salerno is replaced or not.
      • Cellino/Eleonora Sport/GFH to make a clear statement on whether they intend to listen to offers over the summer. Cellino also to indicate how he intends to de-couple from the club in the event of further convictions in Italy.
      • A transparent explanation of club finances to be made including an honest appraisal of debts and the prospect of the transfer embargo been lifted.
      • The club, via owners and senior staff, to start to open up meaningful dialogue with supporters groups, including the Trust. This dialogue to be based on honesty and integrity.
      • An unequivocal statement on the future of the young talent, with preferably “not for sale” to mean that.
      • A commitment from the club, to its long suffering fan base, to make the period from today until the end of next season as stress free a period as it is possible to muster.
      The Trust is aware that the above is an intense list, but after 14 years of chaos in a variety of forms it is time for the clarity and stability we demanded back in December to come to the fore.
       
      Michael Green, Trust Chairman Paul Keat and The Leeds United Supporters Trust board.