Dubai: UAE-resident and former Leeds United midfielder Carlton Palmer, has heralded an imminent takeover of his old club by Dubai-based firm Gulf Finance House Capital [GFH], as a “massive” development. But he’s also stressed the need to keep current coach Neil Warnock in charge should the deal go through.
GFH Capital is believed to be just days away from confirming a £52 million takeover for the three-time English First Division titlists, and securing current owner Ken Bates’ 72.85 per cent stake of the Yorkshire-based club.
If successful, the private-equity firm is also expected to regain ownership of Leeds United’s Elland Road stadium and Thorp Arch training ground, sold by the previous board in 2004. Any announcement, expected this week, would put the wayward Championship strugglers back on path toward Premier League football, after eight years in the doldrums.
Current manager Neil Warnock revealed on Thursday that he’s already been told, by prospective owners, to ready a wish-list of new players for the January transfer window. But following a 6-1 defeat at home to Watford on Saturday, the club is 17th in the Championship and without a win in six games, meaning his position could come under review.
Palmer, 46, who played for the club under Howard Wilkinson and George Graham between 1994 and 1997, scoring five in 103 appearances, welcomed new investors but spoke in support of Warnock.
“They’ve already got the right manager in place and if you add a massive cash injection the league is still theirs to get promoted this season,” Palmer told Gulf News.
“It’s a massive club that deserves to be in the Premier League, all it needs is a little investment. They have a huge fanbase and if they can get back in the topflight they’ll have capacity crowds [37,900] every week.”
Palmer added: “They’ve got a manager in there that is a past master in getting people up to the Premier League so it wouldn’t make sense [to replace him].
“If you’ve done your homework and know what you’re doing then certainly to start off with, you wouldn’t get rid of Warnock. You’d leave him in there and give him the tools to get the job done then assess it once you’re up.
“For sure he’ll run it close and get them into the play-offs even without the money, he’s that type of manager — but the finances would make a massive difference.”
Palmer said of current owner Bates: “He’s put in the dough over recent years, coming very close to the playoff finals, but it seems he’s stopped putting the money in and he’s obviously looking to sell out.
“The fact the club doesn’t own the land has been a stumbling block for negotiations but if the deals been done to buy the land back its got to be positive news for the club, so long as these people have got the money,” he added.
Should GFH Capital acquire Leeds United it would follow a string of other Gulf-based takeovers in English football. Manchester City was purchased by Abu Dhabi owners in 2008 and Nottingham Forest was bought by its Kuwaiti owners this summer.