Any new manager needs stability
5 April ~ Neil Warnock's departure from Elland Road has caused a raft of unemployed managers to issue the usual soundbites about the great club with the fantastic fans. Even David O'Leary (remember him?) resurfaced to advertise his availability during an interview with Sky Sports News. As Warnock exited with the supporters' chants of "fuck off to Cornwall, it's time to go home" ringing in his ears, he reflected on a missed opportunity to take Leeds back to the Premier League and lamented the loss of two of his best players in Robert Snodgrass and Luciano Becchio.
Warnock struggled during a tumultuous season that finally saw the protracted takeover (widely referred to as TOMA – "Takeover My Arse") go through in December.
There had been some rumblings of discontent from supporters following the departure of the club's top-scorer Becchio to Norwich in January. However, the signings of Steve Morison, Michael Tonge and Stephen Warnock suggested that the new owners, Dubai-based GFH Capital, were prepared to spend despite openly admitting they had modest means. They promised fans a new era of transparency and were quick to reassure United supporters that they were in it for the long haul, publicly stating that they weren't averse to other investors taking a stake.
So all Leeds followers were surprised last week when the latest financial report from Gulf Finance House (GFH) – the parent company of GFH Capital – outlined their intention to sell their stake in Leeds United. In the report the company confirmed that they had paid around £22 million to purchase the club from a group of investors led by Ken Bates, a transaction described as a "bargain". Furthermore, GFH admitted that they had already "commenced negotiations relating to the sale of its stake". Cue the emergence of the Twitter hashtag #TOMA2 as speculation ran wild that the club was on the brink of being "flipped".
To quash the rumours GFH Capital reassured fans on the club's website that they weren't actually looking to offload their stake – despite what their parent company stated in the audited financial report. Instead they reiterated their claim that they were looking for "strategic investors" willing to invest in "part of its share in the club" to put "Leeds United in the best position both on and off pitch for the long term".
They appeared to have delivered on this promise last week when it was announced that they had sold a ten per cent stake to Bahrain-based International Investment Bank (IIB). David Haigh, deputy CEO of GFH Capital, heralded the deal as a key plank of the company's strategy to deliver a "successful, sustainable and long term ownership of LUFC".
However, Haigh's statement was seemingly contradicted by a Bloomberg News story, which reported IIB's CEO Aabed Al Zeera as saying that the bank intended to sell its stake in Leeds once the value rises. "Maybe not this year or next, but surely over the medium term it will grow in value," Al Zeera said.
This flurry of contradictory statements issued in a short space of time left things as clear as mud for long-suffering Leeds fans who have yearned for a period of stability since the club dropped out of the Premier League. Talk of a bright future under someone such as Brian McDermott, Owen Coyle or Martin O'Neill might fill the tabloid gossip columns and make for a lively debate on social media but until there is complete clarity around the future ownership of the club, the identity of Leeds' next manager seems irrelevant. Simon Creasey