Liberated from the maniacal clutches of Ken Bates, Leeds United AFC, one of the best supported football clubs in Europe, now can safely begin its climb back to where it belongs — near the top of the England’s top flight league. In Brian McDermott, the Whites have a manager that will guide them back to the Premier League if given time to do the job.
During Bates long and controversial tenure at the club, Leeds consistently sold its best players yet continued to regularly increase ticket prices to a level unseen in the history of the Football League. He refused to talk face-to-face with the Supporters Trust and often took to insulting those who cared deeply about the club.
Bates’ tenure was also characterized by megalomania. Under his stewardship, Leeds United failed to buy back its Thorp Arch training ground or Elland Road despite finding the capital to begin and maintain a radio station widely known for its propaganda about the club. When Bates bought the club in 2005 (though claiming at the time he had no ownership interest and just was serving as an executive for the owners), he promised to quickly buy back both the ground and training facilities. Often Bates used this radio station and his favorite tool, his column in the Leeds United official match programme, to attack journalists and enemies on the board.
The megalomania of Bates dominated every single thing Leeds United did. When he was finally run from the club, supporters celebrated in the streets and the pubs of West Yorkshire as if Leeds had won a major trophy. It was a time for celebration after finally enjoying liberation.
With that era now firmly behind the Yorkshire club, McDermott can focus on football. The manager’s Reading teams traditionally started slowly and then picked up in November and December. In the 2010-11 season, Reading was closer to the relegation places than playoff spots as November began. Yet McDermott’s side ended the season at Wembley in a playoff final against Swansea. The Swans won on that occasion keeping Reading in the Championship another year, but when the Royals were struggling in November talk began to surface of potentially sacking McDermott. What ensued was a record run to get Reading not only to the Premier League, but as Champions of the second flight.
McDermott inherited a Leeds side that was cobbled together under previous managers due to the severe financial restrictions Bates put on the club. But currently sitting just six points out of a promotion playoff spot, McDermott’s side is well positioned for the usual late run that his clubs enjoy.
Keep an eye on Leeds United as they surely climb the table back towards their rightful place near the top of English football.