By Dominic Smith
Ten days ago, as Leeds folded to a wholly unsurprising 2-1 defeat at home to Huddersfield, the
coming chain of events seemed inevitable. The unlikely play-off push became the impossible, and
the time had come for Neil Warnock to step aside as promised and let a new manager bed in before
a summer of repair. The despair at late equalisers given away to Wolves, Leicester and Crystal Palace
had given away to a grim acceptance as Leeds’ ill-fated season faded with a whimper. Warnock
summed up the mood in his post-match interviews, he was waiting to hear whether he would be
required for the rest of the campaign. The season was over. Time to move on.
Fast forward to today, and bizarrely, Warnock is still in charge, and our allegedly prime target to
replace him, Nigel Adkins, has taken over at Reading. I’ve written here about why I thought Adkins
would be Warnock’s ideal replacement, due to his track record at Southampton, his faith in young
players and the attacking style of play he champions. Although the shame of seeing a club like
Reading displaying greater ambition than us never seems to fade, it’s not the loss of Adkins that’s
the biggest scandal here, but our abject failure of leadership.
We’ve just been taken over by new owners espousing talk of a new era at the club, washing away
the narcissism and negativity of Bates’ chairmanship. The club’s media strategy has been enhanced,
its links with the local community strengthened, and its ticket prices clawed back from the upper
reaches of orbit.
But the meat and drink issues haven’t changed. As the on field displays stutter from the mediocre
to the abject to the backdrop of a funereal Elland Road, it is nothing short of farcical that Warnock
remains in charge whilst publicly admitting he has no plans to stay beyond the summer. Our season
is over, so why is he still here?
Perhaps more scandalously, Warnock claims he is involved in the process of appointing his
successor. Sir Alex Ferguson might be granted this privilege at Manchester United after a thirty
year gold rush at Old Trafford, but why is Warnock afforded this luxury after a season and a bit
of mediocrity? This can only be an indication at the paucity of footballing knowledge which exists
within GFH-C. Rumours of Adkins being approached by Shaun Harvey but remaining unconvinced
about the stability of the club don’t seem far-fetched, they seem the likely result of new owners with
a sketchy and short-term vision for Leeds United.
For a while I’ve thought that we’ve needed a long-term vision at the club for promotion and
consolidation in the Premier League. I had assumed this would be demonstrated on the pitch; by the
appointment of a suitably forward thinking manager, aware of the expectations of managing such
a great club, but assertive enough to introduce new ideas. But I now realise this was naïve. As long
as we have owners who look more interested in flipping the club for a quick profit, shady consortia
grappling to take part or total ownership, and the remnants of the Bates regime like Shaun Harvey
desperately trying to attract the type of manager to deliver this, we are doomed to failure.
Managers like Adkins, men the stature of Denis Bergkamp or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who fans on
Twitter have called for to take over, won’t throw their lot in with these owners. They won’t be
cherry picked by Neil Warnock, or taken in by GFC-H, Shaun Harvey and their panicky, fidgety
stewardship of Leeds United. We’d like to think the club sells itself, but clearly it doesn’t. It’s
becoming increasingly obvious that the biggest obstacle to Leeds getting back where they belong
are those trying to sell Leeds United to prospective players and managers. Adkins, like Howson,
Snodgrass and Becchio before him, can see they’re being sold a pup.
Follow Dominic Smith on Twitter (@DomoTheBold).