Taken from Yorkshire Radio’s interview with Leeds United owner Ken Bates today…
‘Mr Chairman’ speaks to Ben Fry about everything other than the £2million bid accepted by Leeds United for captain Jonny Howson. Palace, Snoddy, trialists, Robbie Rogers, Fabian Delph, transfers, his seven-year anniversary at the club, Ipswich and season ticket renewal forms…
Ben Fry: Chairman, first up, a point on the road at Palace. I suppose if you were offered that beforehand, I would have been a good result.
Ken Bates: Erm, I’m not sure. I think we’d say ‘no, we need to win these games rather than draw them’. A point’s a point. I suppose you could argue that in 2012 it has been 4 points out of six but against 10 men we should have beaten them. That’s disappointing. Nevertheless, we’re keeping up with the pack although we are still outside the play-off places, albeit by one point (TSB-three points, Mr Chairman).
BF: On the day Robert Snodgrass returned to the side and returned to goal scoring form after only two weeks out. He has made a remarkable recovery. Credit to him and credit to the medical staff.
KB: Er, yeah. Although of course I had my appendix out a few years ago now. Not in my youth. But the technology is quite amazing because normally, they used to cut you open and take the organ, which is necessary in the way our bodies work. But he had it with keyhole so he was in and out within a day. so the only thing we were worrying about was that if he made any sudden stretches or turns it could damage the tissues so he had to be very careful about that. It’s fantastic. We knew he’d be back for the Ipswich game. Crystal Palace was very much touch and go. So he touched and went for go.
BF: He seems to be the man finding the back of the net at the moment. A bit of a reliance on him for his goals.
KB: Well, yes, but we don’t give a damn who scores goals as long as we score them. It’s nice to spread them around a bit.
BF: Now yesterday there was a behind closed doors game at Elland Road against Newcastle, giving some trialists a run-out. A 2-0 win with Mikael Forssell on the scoresheet and a trialist scoring. Important that the team keep playing football, even when it is a bit frosty at Thorp Arch.
KB: Well I think it was very frosty at Thorp Arch because originally they were going to play the previous evening and we had to get the undersoil heating on at Elland Road from midday for the game yesterday. But all credit to the ground staff for performing but if you remember, last season Elland Road was the only place where we never had to postpone a match out of all the clubs in Yorkshire. So obviously we haven’t got a bad ground and we’ve got very good staff. It was important the game was played because players need to play games. They can do simulation warm-ups and that kind of stuff as much as you like but there’s nothing like playing matches so it’s very important for those who did play and of course it gave us a chance to look at three trialists, one of whom looks promising.
BF: One of the players who featured in the game was Robbie Rogers, who has signed with the club subject to a work permit. Another speedy winger to add a bit more width.
KB: Well we’re always going to welcome those. Robbie is a full American international. I think he is one short of the required number to qualify automatically for a work permit because it’s very important that we get him. Simon will be at the tribunal hearing our application for a work permit.
BF: Now there’s plenty of speculation as the January transfer window continues about players coming in as the club. Even talk of a possible loan return for Fabian Delph.
KB: Well, there’s lots of discussions going on about players both in and out. If I commented on every bit of speculation there is we’d have this conversation for five hours instead of, mercifully, this 15 minute interview. We are talking to a number of clubs about permanent deals as well as on loan but we’d rather announce what we have done rather than what we are going to do.
(Edit added after interview) BF: Now this morning a story was put on LeedsUnited.com confirming that the club have accepted an offer for Jonny Howson from Norwich with the player having just six months left on his contract and stated a desire to play in the Premier League at the earliest possible opportunity. Discussions continue over personal terms and Norwich. Now I know you’re not going to comment on the Jonny Howson story at the moment but there are other stories in the media this week, linking players with moves away from Elland Road. Are these stories an unwanted distraction at this stage? (end of edit)
KB: Well yes of course it is. I mean we can’t stop speculation. A lot of the problems you have these days are agents who leak stories to the press, for two reasons; obviously to stimulate interest in their players and to try to see if there’s more than one club that are going to be interested in a player i.e get an auction going on terms. We’re making a note of those agents and also making a note not to deal with them in the future, unless absolutely necessary because if you can’t trust them, you can’t do business with them. But we are active behind the scenes. We’ve already signed Danny Pugh, we’ve already extended Maik Taylor’s contract, we’ve signed young Townsend from Tottenham so that’s three. We’ve agreed terms with one of our young players and we’ll announce that as soon as it’s signed… he’s signed rather. There are other discussions going on but as usual, we talk about what we have done, not what we are going to do.
BF: Now this week you’ve been at the club seven years. The song talks about ups and downs. How has the experience been for you?
KB: Yes, Ben. It’s been seven years hard labour and I’m totally innocent.
BF: We’ll move on to the game at the weekend against Ipswich. Two important home games coming up. Ipswich are a side you don’t want to underestimate but they have been on a terrible run and are struggling all season.
KB: Yes, they actually thought they were going to be among the front runners but something has gone terribly wrong there but they are a force to be reckoned with. Of course we are now into our last 20 games of the season; 11 of which are at home and only 9 away. It’s important that we do beat Ipswich and keep our 2012 league unbeaten run going. We do of course have a bit of an injury crisis at the moment at the club but that’s why we have 29 professionals. Probably one of the largest squads in the Championship. So Simon and his merry men have just got to get on with it and win the games.
BF: And still 13 days to go on the season ticket freeze. How are renewals going at the moment?
KB: Well, the online has been open for some time of course but most people like to renew in person or by post. It’s coming along quite well. Application forms only landed on people’s doorsteps this week. The initial response has been quite promising. We expect it to go up on Saturday because as Mandy in the box office yesterday was saying a lot of people like to hand their ticket applications in personally because they don’t trust the mail as much as they used to, especially if there’s cash involved. We’re quite happy with the response to date and of course, the fact that we have frozen the prices until January 31st is an incentive for people to get them in early and take advantage of the two forms of interest free credit which means it’s one of those rare cases of have your cake and eat it scenarios.