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Monday, August 15, 2011
Bates hits back

Will Tidey

Welcome to The Trawler, your weekly submersion through the teeming waters of life in the Championship, League One and League Two. You might be surprised what you find down there.

Leeds fans go to war with Bates

Twenty years ago Leeds United were on their way to winning the First Division title. Heady days peaked with a Champions League semi-final appearance in 2001, but no sooner had success returned to Elland Road, than it went away again - and all the club's money with it. Just six years after a European campaign that saw them beat AC Milan and draw with Barcelona, a broke and broken Leeds were preparing for life in League One. It was hard to stomach for the club's fiercely proud supporters, but still they came to worship. Gates averaged over 26,000 for the 2007-08 season and the loyal masses finally had something to celebrate again in 2010 with promotion back to the Championship. Optimism was starting to seep back in. Under Simon Grayson Leeds scored 81 goals on their return to the second tier and only just missed out on the play-offs. Most agreed they were capable of challenging again this season, but two defeats in their first two league games are already testing the tolerance of some of football's most long-suffering fans. It's not Grayson they're unhappy with, it's Ken Bates. The club's 79-year-old chairman bought Leeds for an undisclosed sum, from mystery overseas owners, in May this year. Since doing so he's overseen a summer of frugal spending and the sale of a number of senior players. Frustrations have been exacerbated by reports Bates has approved 7 million worth of improvements to Elland Road's corporate facilities. A small protest before their home defeat to Middlesbrough on Saturday culminated in chants of "Bates out", but the man himself fired back in an interview with the Yorkshire Post on Monday: "I hear fans saying that the wage bill isn't big enough or we don't spend much money, but how would they know how big our wage bill is or how much we spend? "I'm still here and the reason I'm here is because no Yorkshireman was willing to put his hand in his pocket in 2005 or 2007. If it wasn't for me, there wouldn't be a football club at all. The people complaining are a vociferous minority." Bates can expect the minority to swell if Leeds fail to beat Hull City on Tuesday night.

Notts County back in Europe

Notts County have made an addition to their fixture list for September. Between League One meetings with Bournemouth and Walsall, the club will squeeze in a trip to Turin to take on Juventus. Juve have invited the football league's oldest club to open their new stadium on September 8, continuing an association between them that dates back over a century. According to County's official website, the Italian giants contacted County player John Savage in 1903 to see if he could help source a kit in a colour other than pink - hence Juve playing in black-and-white stripes. In recognition of that exchange Juve will wear pink for the first half of the exhibition game at the 41,000-capacity Juventus Arena, with County expected to don a special edition all-white strip for the second half.

Indian summer for Betsy

Wycombe Wanderers winger Kevin Betsy is the archetypal journeyman footballer. A career that began at Woking has so far visited Fulham, Bournemouth, Hull, Barnsley, Hartlepool, Oldham, Bristol City, Yeovill, Walsall and Southend. The 33-year-old is now in his second spell at Wycombe, but just when his playing days should be winding down, Betsy has found a new lease of life on the international stage. Betsy took up the opportunity to represent Seychelles this summer and has been rewarded with a Gold medal at the Indian Ocean Games. In a tournament that reads like a guide to best holiday destinations on the planet, the hosts beat Maldives in the group stages, before seeing off Mauritius on penalties in the final. Betsy was on target in a 1-1 draw, but should be back in the Wanderers squad for Tuesday night's clash against the tropical island destination of Leyton Orient.

Cup draw heaven for Exeter

It's not been a great start for Exeter City in League One this season. Paul Tisdale's team have taken just a point from their first two games and are still yet to score a goal, but their fans have at least got two rather appealing cup ties to look forward to. In the Carling Cup, St James Park will welcome Premier League royalty in the form of Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool. Meanwhile, in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, Exeter have been gifted a dream home tie against bitter south-west rivals Plymouth in the first round. "It doesn't get much better than that," City fan Paul Horn told me last week. Naturally he's expecting them to win the games.

Yeovil manager defends formation

Yeovil have sparked a tactical debate in League One with their controversial 3-5-2 formation. The club's official website are labelling it 3-4-1-2, but either way it did the trick in their 3-1 win against Oldham on Saturday. "People were questioning about formations, saying 'We cannot do that, we have got to revert back to a 4-4-2 and batten down the hatches'," said manager Terry Skiverton. "We are trying to do something a little bit different - we did it during the second half of last year and we are trying to do it now. "I am asking people to buy into it because it is a bit different and it is not the standard thing. I do not think there is anyone else in the league playing three at the back. We are giving it a go, we believe in it, the players believe in it and I just want the supporters to as well."

Culture clash

There were some entertaining scenes outside Brighton station on Saturday night, as celebrating Brighton and Crawley fans emerged into hoards of giddy Gay Pride revellers in neon make-up and an array of fabulous costumes. As the football fans chanted, so the Pride masses blew whistles and danced around them. Everything went down peacefully and both groups appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. • Have your say on Twitter @willtidey and get in touch with Championship, L1 and L2 stories you'd like to see covered in next week's Trawler.

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