GFH must show their ambition
4 January ~ In 2011 Leeds United chairman Ken Bates wrote in his programme notes that "The rebuilding of Leeds United is a bit like sex. In an age of instant gratification, Leeds United is having a long, drawn-out affair with plenty of foreplay and slow arousal". For many Leeds supporters Bates's words could also be used to describe the recent protracted takeover of the club. It came to a conclusion in December, almost six months after the club's website revealed that Bates had entered into an exclusivity period with a preferred bidder.
Even when the takeover completion date of December 21 was announced in November few fans believed it would happen. But shortly before the Mayans predicted the world would end – the coincidence wasn't lost on Leeds supporters – news broke that a deal with Bahrain-based private equity group GFH Capital had been concluded. The vast majority of United supporters were happy to see the back of Bates, although their joy was tempered by the news that Bates would retain his seat as chairman until the end of the season, after which point he is set to take on the honorary role of club president.
Bates's tenure was punctuated by petty feuds with the former owners of the club, the supporters' trust and even the police. So far the new owners have made all of the right noises and all the right moves. Shortly after the takeover deal completed the club launched an official Twitter feed to keep fans up to date with developments. The popular half-season ticket scheme that Bates had previously ditched was also reintroduced.
Despite such gestures the new owners will ultimately be judged by what goes on in the January transfer window and what happens on the pitch. Before taking ownership GFH pumped funds into the club to secure the loan deals of Alan Tate from Swansea and Jerome Thomas from West Brom, both of whom made a big impression alongside Stoke's Michael Tonge. But Neil Warnock's admission that the club had been priced out of the market for West Brom's Chris Wood, coupled with the return to their parent clubs of Thomas and Tonge, raises concerns.
The two scrappy wins and two emphatic defeats since the new owners took over only emphasise Warnock's claim that the club needs to strengthen in the transfer window to stand a chance of pressing for a play-off place. With Leeds just two points shy of sixth place in the league, the next three weeks or so should give supporters a clearer idea about the scale of GFH's ambitions. Simon Creasey