Leeds United: Warnock – the happy memories

By Nadav Winehouse
Let’s face it, the last 13 months have not been fun for Leeds fans. Well, the last 94 years have not been fun, but that’s not the topic for today’s article. 13 months ago, I was sprawled across the floor of a Kibbutz in Northern Israel, stealing WiFi from a another member of Kibbutz Beit Haemek in the hope that Ken Bates had replaced Neil Redfearn with someone with an ounce of competence. When the sluggish internet connection finally loaded WACCOE, the members seemed in a state of euphoria, Neil Warnock had been pictured with Ken Bates and Shaun Harvey outside a café in Monaco. I, for one, also shared the glee that they were experiencing, delighted about the fact that ‘Mr. Promotion’ himself was joining Leeds. Unfortunately, we all know how the 13 months that have followed turned out. The majority has been spent with depressing hoof-ball, increasingly tedious interviews and Michael Brown. Despite these factors, there have been a handful of enjoyable moments during Warnock’s reign of terror as manager of Leeds United.

Good Friday 2012 saw Leeds go to the Madjeski Stadium and face eventual champions Reading. The match not only saw Reading put a hand on the Championship but saw Leeds’s transformation into a Neil Warnock side. The innocent Zac Thompson suddenly had his mind hijacked by his midfield partner Michael Brown, and the only instruction was “destroy!”. He was sent off for a needless challenge 13 minutes into the match. Challenges akin to this were committed later on in the match by Danny Pugh, Paul Robinson and Michael Brown, with Brown not only breaking Jem Karacan’s leg, but also leaving a nasty hole within his sock – Don Goodman was disgusted. It was hilarious watching the fans within the flatpack, IKEA stadium watch on, ashen-faced as 1960’s style tackles flew in. Although in the end we lost, this match will go down as typifying Neil Warnock’s brand of football.

Leeds United’s rightful position is by the likes of Spurs and Everton. To my bemusement, we somehow managed to beat the two of them under Neil Warnock. Not only did we beat Everton, we beat them with the worst possible Leeds midfield imaginable, Aidy White playing on the right-wing in this match, a man whose only characteristic to suit this position is his pace, lacking all of the required technical ability to perform adequately in this role. The only man who thinks that Aidy White is a Right Winger is Neil Warnock. The other wing was occupied by Michael Tonge, who has the polar opposite characteristics to Aidy White, half-decent technically and provides some creativity, yet the speed of a 50-year-old man and no left foot. I’m still baffled how the central midfield of Rodolph Austin and Michael Brown managed to cope with the presence of Marouane Fellaini. Spurs was a similar encounter to this, Mourinho’s prodigy was tactically outclassed by a man whose strategical acumen is that of a 1960s . The two results were achievements, but the destructions at the hands of Chelsea and Man City that followed these results weren’t.

We can look at these three games and try to forget the other myriad horrors of Neil Warnock’s time as Leeds manager. I don’t think it’ll be possible, the post-traumatic stress of Michael Brown traipsing around our midfield, ‘Sharon and the kids’, and hoof-ball will be causing nightmares for years to come.

Follow Nadav Winehouse on Twitter (@nadavwinehouse1).

Leeds United: Why we need to blame the East Stand and Ken Bates

The first proper article that I ever put on this website was ‘The Curious Logic of Ken Bates’, discussing how underrepresented the playing side of things were in Ken Bates’s last season-long budget for Leeds United. This was, of course, the season after the summer spent developing the East Stand. I think it is fair enough to say that every disappointment since that summer can be traced back to the foolish development project, the height of what I believe to be Ken Bates’s incompetence at running a football club.

As much as Ken Bates blathered on about the need to diversify revenue streams over the course of a season, the East Stand will remain a white elephant for a good while. The cost of one of the Level 4 executive boxes for a season (around £20,000) is ultimately only equivalent to the rumoured wage for our highest paid player for a week. Does it really have the potential to make a profit great enough to be of value to a Championship club when compared to the over £6m cost of developing the stand? In my opinion, no.

Even aside from raw cost of the East Stand compared to the potential for useful income, I feel the need for alternative forms of funding to pay for it has hamstrung the club further. To pay for it, Ken Bates’s Leeds United borrowed £5m from Ticketus, and we are now obliged to pay them a total of £6.8m in exchange. Even if, as GFH Capital have claimed in recent months, we have no debts as a club (suggesting they have paid it off), that is a £6.8m hole in budgets for other parts of the football club, most damagingly for Ken Bates’s legacy, the footballing side of the club.

In my opinion, Ken Bates’s incompetence when it comes to running football clubs is incredible. It is worth noting the word incompetence, because too often people believe what he did at Leeds was due to hatred of Leeds. He didn’t hate the club, and in fact, people have claimed, and supposedly seen evidence that he loved it – the problem is that I feel he’s systematically awful at being the chairman of a football club. He’s made what are, in my opinion, the same mistakes over and over in his (hopefully over) career in football chairmanship. At Oldham, he set up a loss-making radio station. At Chelsea, he built the now often empty Chelsea Village, which would have completely crippled them had Bates not been lucky enough that a certain Russian took a fancy to his club. At Leeds, he did one and intended to do both, with his full East Stand development ultimately planned to cost the club between £80m and £90m. Thankfully, it seems as though this will not be followed up.

I’ve said over and over that Simon Grayson was completely and utterly hamstrung by the budget in his last season at Leeds United, which was cut by a couple of million pounds, but despite this, and with Howson, far and away his favourite player, in the side, he managed to guide us to 5th. Part of me used to assume that Bates’s dislike of Grayson’s extramarital affair was to blame, but ultimately, I don’t think Ken had the money to give to Grayson, thanks to the commitment towards the East Stand. Grayson’s budget was cut massively, and this is likely where the sales of Grayson’s top players (Schmeichel, Gradel and Bradley Johnson (someone who clearly didn’t want to leave Leeds)) that summer came from. Grayson listed in a recent interview a desire to sign players like Jack Cork, who ultimately moved to Southampton that summer for an undisclosed fee, thought to be around £750,000, not a ridiculous amount for a football club that has the highest turnover in the league. Who did he end up with? Michael Brown.

Aside from destroying that transfer window, the East Stand will impact potential for years to come – a deal with Compass ties up hospitality revenues in the near future, meaning the club sees none of the revenue streams Ken Bates alluded to. There is a hole at Elland Road, and anyone who owns the club is going to have to plug it, something you have to sympathise with them on. Leeds is a club with great potential for growth, but in the short-term, there’s a hell of a lot of problems to deal with before the footballing side can prosper. It all comes down to what I feel are Ken Bates’s egotistical building projects.

Aside from the East Stand, the building of the Pavilion a few years back is also symbolic of what Ken Bates has done, I believe, to hamper the club. The reality is that people are never going to be particularly keen to trek out to Beeston. If Bates had managed to build the Hotel, it would have, in my opinion, been empty for the majority of the year. Just imagine how badly it would have crippled the club.

Successive managers in Grayson and Warnock (who I didn’t really like, but that’s not important) have had relatively difficult tasks in achieving at Elland Road. It all comes down, truly, to Ken Bates’s building projects. Think of the players who, in reality, should have been able to play in the same team:

Schmeichel, Byram, Lees, Delph, Johnson, Snodgrass, Howson, Gradel, Becchio.

A team that would have got us promoted with ease, especially with solid additions surrounding them (the likes of Stephen Warnock, Adam Clayton, Ross McCormack, even Lee Peltier at centre back).

The East Stand being redeveloped is possibly the worst thing that’s happened to Leeds United in recent years, allowing a team to be ripped to shreds rather than moving forward as it should have done. This is why I hate Ken Bates, not because of some notion of him being “Chelsea”, but because, in my opinion, his stupidity has crippled Leeds United.

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1).

Leeds United: Warnock all but resigns on Yorkshire Radio

Neil Warnock has just stated on Yorkshire Radio that he does not want to be in charge next weekend for the match against Charlton.

Going only a step below resigning outright, the incumbent boss stated that it was best for Leeds United to appoint someone as manager temporarily until the end of the season, waiting until the summer to appoint the correct man.

Warnock, who faced a huge amount of vitriol from the stands at Elland Road, was referred to as ‘the one season wonder’ by the hosts of the match day program.

It seems unlikely he will be in charge for the Charlton Athletic game. He has since recommended that Gwyn Williams, technical director at the club, be made assistant to Neil Redfearn, who should be placed in charge until the end of the season. Redfearn, of course, was the caretaker prior to Warnock’s appointment.

With Leeds facing the concept of relegation more noticeably than any notion of promotion, an appointment needs to be made rapidly, because on the back of Warnock’s interview, it is clear that the situation at the club is not ideal. With two wins probably needed to confirm Leeds’s status as a Championship side, the club needs the boost of a new man in charge.

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1).