'Contractual issues' - Leeds United release hand tied behind their back with exciting prospect

-Credit: (Image: MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A hand tied behind Leeds United’s back in 2023 has been shorn loose ahead of a summer giving the boardroom excitement about a head start and greater transfer control. One year ago, 49ers Enterprises and Aser Ventures were locked in talks over the future of a newly relegated Championship outfit.

The takeover dragged and included time-consuming discoveries for the 49ers group, to the point Daniel Farke could not be officially appointed until July 4. In 2024, United’s ownership and management is already in place and there is stability that allows planning for the new season more than five weeks ahead of last year’s schedule.

June 2023 was eaten up by the takeover, due diligence, managerial interviews and wantaway players rocking the boat. This time around, while May 26 was painful, that fired a far earlier starting gun on plans for 2024/25.

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“That's probably the most exciting thing about this [coming] season,” said chairman Paraag Marathe. “We played the first third of the [last] season with one hand tied behind our back because of the player ins and outs, some players hadn't come in yet, some players had contractual issues.

“So, we regarded our season this year as one with a hand tied behind our back. Despite that, we finished 90 points. A season with 90 points is tremendous. When was the last time a team with at least that many points hadn't been promoted?

“It's 20-plus years since that's happened and so to do what we did, despite the way the first month of the season happened, [means] I'm excited about this season. We can come out being fully competitive from the first match of the season through 46.”

It wasn’t just that June 2023 was dominated by administrative duties at the top of the club, it was the knock-on effect for the rest of the summer. In delaying the appointment of Farke, it also pushed back progress on new arrivals and departures which stretched deep into the campaign, until the 11th hour at the start of September.

Not only will there be just two loan clauses to contend with, but Farke has the time, space and authority to make decisions on exactly who he does and does not want at Thorp Arch. Marathe was hurt by his Wembley experience, but feels emboldened by the head start they have on a 2023 summer which still delivered 90 points.

“I'm excited about the fact we have a full off-season, an extra five weeks to start planning our player and squad strategy,” he said. “It gives us a head start relative to ourselves and what we had before.

“It's why I have the same concurrent feelings of feeling hurt and sad, but also excited about the future.”