x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

At 79, Ken Bates is still baiting rivals

Ken Bates, the Leeds United chairman, will relish taking his place in the directors' box at the Emirates Stadium today as his side take on Arsenal in the FA Cup third round. Bates hopes it will be a taste of things to come.

LONDON // Ken Bates, the Leeds United chairman, will relish taking his place in the directors' box at the Emirates Stadium today as his side take on Arsenal in the FA Cup third round. Bates hopes it will be a taste of things to come.

Leeds are banging on the Premier League door, having moved on from last season's promotion from League One, the third tier, to assume a position in the Championship play-off places.

"Obviously, the aim since I took over in 2005 was to get this great club back where it should be. It was a five-year plan so it has taken a bit longer but we are heading in the right direction" Bates said.

"A game at Arsenal will give us a real taster. We will have 8,500 fans travelling down and the level of play and the surrounds will show us where this club can be heading again. I have a lot of admiration for Arsenal.

"They are an institution. It is well-run, well-managed, conservatively operated and they deserve a great deal of applause. They don't go and buy success; they build it."

The last statement was an obvious jibe at how Chelsea have gone about their business since Bates sold the club - which he bought for £1 (Dh5.70) in 1982 - to Roman Abramovich in 2003.

Even at the age of 79, Bates - known for ruffling feathers during his long association with the game - could not resist using the media interest around this game to fire off a few verbal bullets at some former rivals.

"I have to say I admire Arsene Wenger for what he has done as a manager of the club, but I have never really been a great fan of the man," Bates said. "Wenger moans a lot and never sees anything", referring to incidents on the pitch.

"Yes, he's a great manager. But the fact of the matter is you have to look at his behaviour at a great club."

Of Chelsea, Bates added with a bit of restraint: "It's a different club now.

"I was very careful not to criticise the Abramovich regime. I simply said their values are not my values, their methods aren't my methods, their attitudes aren't my attitudes"

So how would he greet Abramovich if Leeds do gain promotion to the Premier League this season?

With a glint in his eye Bates said: "Mr Abramovich will be very welcome in the chairman's suites, providing he's wearing a tie."