Leeds & Sheffield Wednesday Will Put Yorkshire Back On The Map
Ken Bates and Milan Mandaric are custodians of two great institutions in Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday. On the final day 31,375 turned up to see Wednesday beat big spending Middlesbrough FC, whilst a packed away end at Watford saw Leeds win 2-1. Surely next season both clubs must show the ambition that their Premiership sized fan-bases deserve, it is time to put Yorkshire pride back on the football map.
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Both clubs, football institutions in their own rights, know they can rely on fantastic support, despite their League position. Leeds (13th) averaged 21,572 with just under half a million turnstile clicks last season. With some, and it has to be said, much overdue optimism around the place they would easily average 30k and be able to compete in the Premiership. Wednesday averaged 24,078 with 553,794 turnstile clicks in what has been described as a season of consolidation. But surely both sides must now look beyond the lowly ambition of making up the numbers in the Championship.
It is true that both of these Yorkshire giants have felt the financial fall-out from their failure to stay in the top flight. But surely the £120 million on offer nowadays for even a season in the Premier League should inspire both Chairman to back their managers to at least mount a play-off campaign. Yorkshire is too big a County and these City’s have too big a footballing pedigree not to have a side in the Premier League. Then again the £48 million parachute over 4 seasons, will move to £60 million from this summer (£20m/£20m/£10m/£10m) putting both clubs at a disadvantage. This is something Mandaric has vowed to overcome and promotion would be a fitting celebration for the centenary of stainless Steel. He has a capable manager, too, in Dave Jones.
Leeds understandably have a distrust for their ex-Chairman, now El Presidenti no less, Ken Bates, still there for three years, at least, despite selling the club to GFH Capital. The test for the Middle East concern comes now, although the Manager Brian McDermott, is a good move as he is a canny, outside-the-box and clever coach. What Brian did at Reading was miraculous and, he should never have been sacked in February, given he was best equipped to turn things round. He has started well at Leeds, aided and abetted by young Byram, surely a Gareth Bale in the making. If the board back him with the magnificent seven he is asking for this summer, a tenner on promotion will be a wise bet. He was not everyone’s cup of tea but he does not need the money of Hughes and co, building teams not sides dotted with Carlos Kickaballs, that won’t fancy Barnsley away on a cold bleak Tuesday.
Wednesday on the other hand have shown gratitude to a chairman that has dug them out of an unthinkable financial hole. He was there at the Sheffield Children’s Hospital, with the players spending quality time with kids that need a glow to cling to. The cavernous Kop at Hillsborough even houses a banner thanking him in his native Serbian – Xbana Milan This City is Ours (Thanks Milan etc) – it is well deserved so far. So when he says he will vow to overcome the unfair advantage some sides have, you have to believe he will think and act smart enough to keep the faith they have in one of the most fantastic home ends in world football and put them back on the map.
In a game where success is everything and memories and sentiment short, both owners will need to shoulder the huge weight of expectation by doing better next season. They will, given, Leeds were 7 points off the play-offs and 7 from the drop this season, whilst Wednesday finished 4 points above the trapdoor. So with the purported financial strength behind both clubs let us hope both chairman can stand and deliver in 2013/14. In this game money talks and BS walks but both these sides have a goal head start at home. As a neutral, each and every time you go you can sense it. A religious fervour that deserves to see the light. When the hairs stand up on the back of your neck as soon as you enter the Hillsborough and Elland Road Cathedrals, you understand why football will forever be entwined with the working man’s soul. So over to you Ken and Milan, oh keepers of the Yorkshire faith.