Matt Butler: Grayson bites his tongue about how unsettling life is at the Bates motel
View From The Sofa: Millwall v Leeds Sky Sports 1
You'd like to think that GFH Capital, who are in the midst of a drawn-out, on-off takeover of Leeds United, will have been glued to coverage from The Den yesterday to have another look at what they may be letting themselves in for. They will have been impressed by the work ethic of Neil Warnock's team, if nothing else.
One or two Leeds fans may also have glanced at the game, partly because matches against Millwall are frequently eventful, but also for a bit of insight because, apart from Neil Warnock's admission in Saturday's Independent that the will-they-won't- they takeover is "paralysing" Leeds, the supporters – the ones who really make or break a club, no matter what rich potential owners may think – are being kept in the dark.
With Simon Grayson, who apart from managing Leeds from 2008 to January this year, is an ex-player (albeit with only two appearances in four years) and fan of the club, in the studio as a pundit, it seemed a prime opportunity to get a bit of inside gen.
Simon Thomas, the host, and Grayson were hunkered in a corner of The Den at the opposite end to the space between the rowdier home fans and the away contingent, where Sky once placed their temporary studio. They presumably opted to move to the Cold Blow Lane End because between the North and Dockers Stands they couldn't hear themselves think over the hypnotic din of "Miiillll", which is almost incessant throughout every decently-attended Millwall game.
Thomas made nothing of the serene sunshine streaming in the window behind them, nor did he lead off on the fact that Millwall are trundling on quite nicely in the Championship. No, he went straight for the jugular and immediately set upon getting a rise out of Grayson, who, given his background, is well placed to comment knowledgeably – or, at the very least, passionately – about the ins and outs of Elland Road.
"Just how much of a distraction will the ongoing takeover be...?" Thomas asked, teasingly, emphasising the first three words. But Grayson was Boycott-like in his ability to straight bat. And, although his face flickered with emotion, his tongue was almost bleeding, he was biting it so hard, as he replied: "It will be, but you just have to get on with your job."
Darn. It would have been enlightening if Grayson had let slip a little bit of what is like to be in charge of a club in transition, not to mention feeling the heat from fans, a position he was in at Leeds until Ken Bates showed him the door.
Thomas persisted, reeling off all their injured and suspended players. "It's immense, the list of players they have out," he barked. "Pearce: suspended. Brown: suspended. Austin: injured. How hard... " But Grayson saw this salvo coming. "It is difficult, but they are only a few points off the play-off places; the Championship is a tight league."
You could tell Grayson wanted to say more pre-match and he did let himself wax lyrical on the players at Warnock's disposal at half-time, but there was something missing.
Perhaps the fact he was broadcasting to millions (thousands, anyway) made him hold back. Which kind of makes the idea of a studio expert redundant. If only they'd asked Bates – never shy of giving an opinion – to sit in and comment. Then we'd have found out what the current owner really thinks of the buyers.
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