While Leeds United’s financial woes have been mentioned in this space previously, there’s not much laughter to be found in reports former Newcastle chairman Freddie Shepherd (above) was bailing the club out. Unless you read The Fiver’s take on it, however. From the Guardian’s Tom Lutz and Paul Doyle :
Ah, Ken Bates. To admirers he’s a working-class hero who rose from wretched poverty to fabulous wealth thanks to hard work and canny business dealings; a courageous and principled man who, when chairman of Chelsea, chased away the Headhunters and took a stand against the r@cism to which his peers turned a blind eye, a deaf ear and, therefore, a thumbs-up.
To others, he’s the vindictive, attention-seeking blowhard who once wanted to electrocute fans; the blundering fool who got Chelsea in lots of debt before being flukily bailed out by Roman Abramovich. To Martin O’Neill, he’s a “footballing cretin”; and to the Fiver, he’s Papa Smurf, Kuddly Ken or Bad Santa, depending on our mood. But if there’s one thing that everyone can agree he is, it’s this: the chairman of Nasty Leeds United. But not for much longer according to today’s sensational news!
Or rather, according to weekend reports that we didn’t get round to reading till today. Because the Mail on Sunday – having spotted The Country’s Most Popular 85-Year-Old Club Owner Who Looks Like A Fat Uncle Albert dining out with The Country’s Most Popular Former Club Owner Who Looks Suspiciously Like Fat Freddy Shepherd And, In Fact, Is None Other Than Fat Freddy Shepherd – excitedly declared that Bates is about to sell all his shares to the former Newcastle United laughing stock!
“This is inspired speculation,” guffawed Bates today before rubbishing the report by insisting he had no plans to sell … but that Fat Freddy may indeed take a stake in the club. “Freddy is not about to swoop in a ‘sensational deal’ for Leeds and I’m not about to sell it either. Freddy is a good friend of mine and has been for years. I went up to see him, and we finished up having lunch. Inevitably the subject of football came out … he would like to get back in and I would like an investor, so the two fit in.” Of course it’s never easy to know whether to believe Bates – but following up the above declaration by dubbing Fat Freddy a “very wise man” didn’t exactly bolster his credibility.
So there you have it. Just two days after Nasty Leeds equalled their best league start since 1973 by notching up their fifth consecutive victory – a run that has whittled away their pre-season points deduction and ensconced them comfortably at the bottom of the table – the Elland Road faithful can start dreaming of a happy and stable future. Sorry, that should read: the Fiver can look forward to an eventful and amusing future at Elland Road.