The Roland Harris Column

Thursday 30 January, 2003

How enjoyable is it to see Leeds United going down the pan?

I ask it as a question. Chances are if you live in Bradford one or two of your drinking buddies are Leeds fans. I know some fine Bantams who go out and have married folk who find football East of Pudsey. For these people these are worrying times.

Barely educated thug Jon Woodgate is being sold to Newcastle United. Robbie Fowler is off to Manchester City and frankly anyone with the cash can get anything they want from Elland Road. Lee Bowyer for 100,000? Why not? United gambled on the playing in a higher league, the Champions League, and lost. Any of this sounding familair?

We've been there haven't we. Leeds are looking liek a magnified version of Bradford City in the summer. We could not afford, still can't afford, wages for the likes of Robert Molenaar, David Wetherall, Ashley Ward and of course Benito Carbone. We got through, just about, but from everything I've heard it was about as close to being no Bradford City as it could be.

Leeds are doing it all on a bigger scale. We managed to run up debts of around 30m, they sold Rio Ferdinand for that much and barely made a dent in the need to get rid box. I do not know the figure that is owed from Elland Road but I think when it comes out will be be staggering. Real Madrid were once 200m in debt. I don't think it will be that much, but I think it will be in that region.

I don't know how a club gets out of the sort of debt. I mean if the sales of Rio, Woodgate, Fowler, Keane, Bowyer, Dacourt et al are not enough to clear it then you cannot see that much would. I would guess that the debt is at a more manageable level but for the club to still have to sell they must be in some trouble cause most banks would love to lend against Premiership millions and if you are more than a season of millions in debt then you wonder if the club has a future.

Should we enjoy this?

I mean it was a painful summer for everyone connected with City and frankly I think that we will see an action replay of it at Elland Road in June. I can see them going to administration and everything. I can see tears and soul searching and fans worried.

Should we enjoy this?

If Leeds United had got their was there would not be a Bradford City. 1983, winding up order and all that. I mean with that and the general annoyance of Leeds fans, the fact that selling a few players seems to have turned the professed dyed in the wool white into a floating fan, the racism, the attitude problem that comes from Elland Road and that fact that without them there would be more football goers on a weekend looking for a club. With all these things in mind should we dance a jig of joy at the idea of Leeds United going under?

I wish we could but no.

No is the sorry answer. We can't be glad if Leeds go down the pan. It's too damaging for football on a whole to lose a club. To lose a club the size of the kids in the sweetshop of Elland Road is too big a blow. Football runs through trickle down Reagan-nomics (And who said that University is wasted money- Ed) and you need big clubs to start the trickle.

What can we sing about then? Well hopefully the January sales of Elland Road will gut the club of moral and it can take a nose dive. They are only 11 points above the drop zone and West Ham and Sunderland will not go quietly. We can laugh at them as they join us in Division One. We can hope that on the last day of the season that some crafty cockneys at Leeds' final away game of the season at Highbury chirp up with the call "We're going to Europe, you're going to Rotherham."

Now that I could enjoy.

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