by James Oddy
Ken Bates once said that being involved with Leeds was like “having a long, drawn out affair with plenty of foreplay and slow arousal” in an age of “instant gratification”. However, it seems that no manner of foreplay can help Bates get it up. The club, that is. Not his, well, I’d rather not say. Let’s move on.
I wrote a few weeks ago, with the sale of Jonny Howson to Norwich imminent, that the team seemed to be at best stagnant, and at worst, in freefall. However, after the 4-1 defeat to Birmingham City and the sacking of Simon Grayson, there no longer seems to be much debate about the direction in which the club as a whole is heading.
As I speculated in my previous piece, Delph has indeed returned, and has shown signs of the quality that persuaded Villa to pay around 6 million pounds for him. But he has joined a team devoid of consistency, and seemingly, confidence. Of course, it is a manager’s job to give his players that confidence, and perhaps Grayson had indeed lost his ability to do that. Also, he had obviously been given some funds with which to replace outgoing players, but overall has bought poorly. But the extent of the funds is up for debate, as the overwhelming distrust between the board and the fan base has led to claim and counter claim with regards funds being made available. The fact that Schmeichel, Gradel and Howson were all sold for fees believed to be around a million upwards, but our recruitment policy mainly seems to centre around short term loans and free transfers, would suggest Grayson was hindered by a shrinking budget.
Chief-executive Shaun Harvey, speaking about the sacking, suggested that with the team still only being three points off the play-off spots, and the transfer window having shut, now was the time to get in some fresh blood in the dugout. But this also screams of an attempt to run the club on the cheap. If Bates and those working with him had doubts about Grayson’s ability to steer the club out of the position, would it not have been better to have allowed his replacement to bring in some new players in the window once they had assessed the squad?
Over recent months, fans have mainly focussed their energies on singing anti Bates chants.
Instead, Grayson has been removed, with his replacement unable to deal with the squad’s glaring inadequacies (notably a mobile and energetic defensive midfielder). Only the loan market, with its obvious restrictions both in terms of quality and player commitment, will allow any scope for fresh faces.
Leeds fans perhaps have a justifiable reputation as being unpleasant, but we support our team as long as we see effort and commitment, let alone skill. But over recent months, fans have mainly focussed their energies on singing anti Bates chants, with those bad vibes, man, being transferred to the team when they concede or squander a half decent chance. My worry is that those feelings of anger and distrust could make a good, experienced manager think twice before taking on the role, or put an inexperienced manager under immediate pressure to bring some improvement.
That replacement is mooted to be Neil Warnock, who has some previous with Leeds fans. But his success in steadying the even rockier ship of QPR with all its boardroom turmoil, suggests he could be a good, pragmatic, if not overly popular appointment. If he can unify the different aspects of the club, the season is still salvageable. However, how much a late season surge and even promotion can paper over the increasingly visible cracks between club and fan base is debatable.
Many of the issues surrounding the club this week pale into insignificance with the other news to come out of Leeds this week. Defender Andy O` Brian, had apparently refused to play for the club earlier this season due to an unspecified reason, leading to criticism from both Grayson (which in retrospect, was much more damaging than any poor loan singing) and the terraces. He was revealed to have been suffering from depression, but the club has confirmed that after treatment he has returned to training. His road to recovery has provided an uplifting counterpoint to other issues swirling around the club. It’s also a sobering reminder that, as much as fans we love our club and it can be difficult to look beyond its issues, some things are just more important than football.