'He's not Norman Bates, in a strange way I feel reassured'

The ex-Chelsea chairman's abrasive approach could be just the tonic for Leeds, writes James Brown

A few years ago when I was editing
GQ magazine a colleague walked into the office and said: "Ken Bates' wife is on the phone, and she wants to talk to you".

A few years ago when I was editing GQ magazine a colleague walked into the office and said: "Ken Bates' wife is on the phone, and she wants to talk to you".

Believing the maxim that behind every big man there is an even bigger woman, I approached the call with a sense of terror, presuming I was about to get a grilling from the wife of a man who had infamously once recommended football fans be kept behind electric fences.

On the contrary, Mrs Bates simply thanked me for a recent business profile of Chelsea Village. "That was the fairest and and most balanced article I have ever read on Ken," she said. It was only the second time in my journalistic career that I had been called "balanced and fair-minded." (The first had been on commenting on the demise of Howard Wilkinson on Five Live).

When a man like Ken Bates arrives at your club it helps to have even a short history of being balanced and fair minded. He is not a man who naturally provokes fence-sitting, and already some Leeds fans are behaving as if Norman Bates has taken control. "Let's have a demonstration," one person wrote on a website. Why? He's not even offended anyone yet.

In a strange way I feel sort of reassured. I guess it's a sense of "he may be a bastard but at least he's our bastard now." Like many gleeful rival fans I had already begun to work out the odds of whether or not we could escape relegation if we were docked the penalty of 10 points for going into administration. I am now assuming this has been put on hold.

Given that Bates can only make money out of the club if the team is successful, he'll want us back into the big time ASAP. The first sign of things to come will be in his attitude towards the manager. In the latter years at Chelsea he appointed three good first-time managers in Vialli, Gullit and Glenda (OK, Hoddle had managed Swindon) and Ranieri was a pretty imaginative appointment. Kevin Blackwell hasn't done a bad job and he clearly has a vision of how the team should play - unfortunately that vision has too often included Michael Ricketts.

Our position as a club is pitiful compared to the glory European nights of just a few seasons ago. But the manager has, in David Healey, Matthew Kilgallon, Danny Pugh, Frazer Richardson, Aaron Lennon and Clark Carlisle, given some very good young players an opportunity. And he's given them some steady "bigger boys" like Paul Butler and Neil Sullivan to learn from.

Most of us have felt we are still short of an extra-special player, someone with creativity, a will to win and a touch of the maniac - like Vinnie Jones and Gordon Strachan. No one thought this character would emerge in the boardroom.

In Tom Bower's excellent book, Broken Dreams, Ken Bates takes a barrage of abuse and allegation, but then so do David O'Leary and Peter Ridsdale, and Peter Reid and Terry Venables, both of whom joined Leeds after the book was published. It looks as is if someone at Leeds United is using Broken Dreams as a headhunting guide. We only need Redknapp and we'd have the full set. Most football fans don't really care what goes on behind closed doors so long as their club's doing well on matchday.

Some might say that the wolf is no longer at the door, he's in the bed dressed as Granny, but to be honest right now I'm glad Baron Von Greenback and Co have passed the baton on. Their regime never looked anything but short term, as they admitted. It will be eventful, but supporting Leeds United has never been anything but.

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own