Latest from the CEO.
Good afternoon and a warm welcome to another sold-out Elland Road. Today marks a welcome return to Premier League action after an unusually long absence that, while both team and fans alike have found frustrating, was justified as the world’s favourite league rightly took a weekend to pay respects to the world’s favourite monarch.
The focus this afternoon will be on bouncing back from an error strewn performance at Brentford that ultimately meant, while the vagaries of VAR were hugely frustrating, those vagaries were not decisive.
Attempting to influence the process or quality of decision making in the heat of the match is virtually futile, but there has been much more progressive subsequent dialogue with the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) and the Premier League subsequently, with all clubs hoping that such a calamitous weekend of VAR decisions will act as a catalyst for a meaningful improvement.
Similarly, the fact that “ball in play time” has reached a decade-low average of 55 minutes (with a remarkable spread of over 20 minutes between the highest and the lowest fixtures) will hopefully create an impetus to address the systematic “game management” that appears to be both increasingly pervasive and troublingly tolerated while antithetical to everything that has made Premier League football loved across the globe.
It seems like an eternity since the transfer window closed but, we should still belatedly welcome Willy Gnonto, our ninth summer signing, to the club and wish him the best of luck for his Leeds United career. Willy is a player who, it was originally planned, would join us in one of the next two transfer windows. Victor and his team had spent several months tracking the player and meeting him and his family – part of our process to optimise the chances of a player fitting our requirements and being successful. Such groundwork made the decision to accelerate his move, albeit at the last moment, more compelling and straightforward.
Willy, already Italy’s youngest ever international goalscorer, became only the third Italian player to make three international starts before the age of 19, playing his part in a busy international break with Leeds United being represented across the globe. Luis Sinisterra and Sonny Perkins notably continued their rich goalscoring form with Luis registering three for Colombia and Sonny Perkins notching four for a Darko Gyabi captained England U19 side.
While we all know our focus is always success for Leeds United, the number of international call-ups is once again a good barometer of the strength in depth that has been built at all levels and bodes well for an exciting future. Across all our contracted players we have in excess of 20 players taking part in national duty, a number that our coaching, recruitment and Academy staff should all be hugely proud of.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to Chris Bennett, the chairman of Leeds United Women, who we bid a final farewell to this week. Chris, as a volunteer, dedicated many years to the Women’s team and was at the heart of bringing them back into the club and professionalising their operation. I know he was very proud of his association with Leeds United but not as proud as we were of him, and his commitment and leadership.
Enjoy the game this afternoon. Our home form and the hostility of Elland Road will, as ever, play an important part in our fortunes this campaign.
Marching on Together,