There’s been a lot of talk recently about what Leeds United should and shouldn’t be doing over the summer. More specifically what our new owner should be doing to get us back on track. My fellow writer Matt touched on this in his article this week, and fellow Leeds fans were quick to respond with thoughts of their own. Some of the comments got me thinking though – do we, as Leeds fans, have a superiority complex? Almost the opposite of small Club syndrome if you like; are we suffering from big Club syndrome? I think we might be…
Let’s start with Thorp Arch. There was an outcry like you wouldn’t believe when Massimo Cellino announced that they were considering “all options”, including moving out of Thorp Arch entirely. Now that option may very well depend on the terms of the lease, and whether either (a) a lease break exists in the near future, or (b) the current owner, Jacob Adler, is interested in ending our lease prematurely. With the housing shortage in Leeds, it might well be that he could do that, and sell the land for more than Leeds United could buy it back for.
But I digress. Every time exiting Thorp Arch is mentioned, fans hit back with how many players have said Thorp Arch’s facilities were part of a reason for them joining the Club. Really? So they’re signing for Leeds because we have plush training facilities? Sorry, but give me players like Andy Hughes and David Prutton any day – players who didn’t even know if they would get paid when they signed on the dotted line. And has Thorp Arch really improved the vast majority of our signings that much? Did Luke Varney leave a better player than when he joined? Did Paul Green? Would they have been worse players for spending the last 2 years training at Roundhay Park? Probably not!
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Thorp Arch is a Premier League facility, and costs Premier League money to run. The hard facts of the matter are that we are not a Premier League team, haven’t been for a decade, and do not have Premier League money. As a rather ropey analogy, if I was earning a million quid a year, and had a house and a holiday cottage, but then lost my job, what would be the first thing to go? The holiday cottage. If Cellino does decide that we’re turning our back on Thorp Arch I have no problem with that; if and when we get back to the Premier League, we can look at building Premier League class facilities again then.
Supporters also seem aghast at the thought of the likes of Ross McCormack and Sam Byram being sold to ease financial difficulties. Let’s be realistic here – we finished 15th in the Championship this season. Cellino, whether it be because of a lack of due diligence, witchcraft in the books, or buying the Club after one too many bottles of Peroni, HAS to sort out the finances before anything else. Because stumbling from one financial disaster to the next just doesn’t work, as we’ve seen time and time again. Every player has their price – if top Premier League players can be prized away from just about any club, then who are we kidding to think that are players can’t be? If McCormack and Byram are sold (I’m struggling to think of anyone else who might command a decent fee) and the money is used to finally get us on an even keel, who are we to complain? We have no divine right to keep our best players, and we have a duty to finally get the financial albatross off our back.
The above might sound pessimistic, but we’ve labored for too long under the misapprehension that we’re a big Club. At the moment, we simply aren’t. We can’t afford £100k per year each on three club ambassadors. We can’t afford Premier League class training facilities. And we might not be able to afford to keep our best players. None of this is Cellino’s fault; it’s the fault of previous regimes who thought that we could lumber on footing the cost of the above, and worry about it later. Well Cellino is worrying about it NOW, and if that means a season or two of transition, then we will be all the better for it in the long term.
We’ve won titles before Thorp Arch existed, and we’ve sold our best players before and got over it. Try and see the potential in any changes that happen in the coming months, because not making those changes could be even worse for the fallen giants.
Reporter – Ian Wylie