During the hard summer months of no football, sunshine and the glorious Olympics, it was hard to image the Leeds United outlook past the transfer window.
Now that seems a world away. In the middle of September with only the ’emergency loan window’ to peer into and scrape the barrel with, we find ourselves no closer to a takeover, no closer to promotion and with no idea about how long we will have to further suffer the insidious chairmanship of Ken Bates.
The obvious questions remain; namely, ‘Why the hell is he still here?’ It has long been suggested that his wife, Susannah and CEO Shaun Harvey have tried to convince him that it is in everyone’s best interests for him to sell now but one can’t help get the feeling that something as big as Leeds United is the play thing with which to keep him going in his late years. (No sexual references please, we are British)
We can speculate as much about Bates’ reasons for not having signed those glorious documents in equally ridiculous manner that we can about Neil Warnocks for still being at Leeds United Football Club.
I have to say I am absolutely stunned that Warnock is still here.
One couldn’t help but stare wantingly at the Leeds boss as he stood unmoved on the touchline, arms folded, brow furrowed and wonder just how much he is being paid. Well he can’t be in it for anything else, can he?
The PR from camp Warnock is simple, but wonderfully effective; in almost every, if not all of his interviews and most match rants come a reference to the fantastic support the club continues to receive, week on week. From the day he was announced as Leeds boss back in February, Warnock enthused:
“I feel I have one big challenge left in me and believe Leeds is a club that should be in the Premier League.
“I want to be the man who is able to deliver this for a set of fans who never cease to amaze me with their numbers and loyalty.”
“Having met with Ken it was an easy decision to take up the challenge and, with his support, we share the same vision of getting Leeds United in the Premier League.”
And so on and so forth.
When it comes down to it though, Warnock is in charge of a weak squad, riddled with injuries to key players, bereft of any financial clout with which to cover the injuries and as far away from his key objective – a record breaking promotion, as he was when he was out of a job.
So one has to ask, what is keeping him at Leeds? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want Warnock to leave, far from it. His experience and nous has kept Leeds from suffering far heavier and many more defeats than what results we have dug out to date, but without significant investment, Leeds will not get promoted, it is as simple as that.
Warnock is one of very few managers around who have the experience to get the best out of a bunch of average players but even the likes of him need a base from which to build, something he has not been able to do since he arrived at the club. Not how he’d have liked, anyway.
As he said when he was appointed, he believed or at least had the intelligence to suggest that his ambitions were matched by the chairman but since Huddersfield could’ve offered Warnock a better basic wage, believed to be £1m, one still can’t fathom what keeps him on the Elland Road touchline.
When you look at the table, Leeds sit uncomfortably in 14th place, having suffered defeats more comprehensive than the final scores would suggest having competed against teams with budgets which the Elland Road faithful could only dream of. Budgets which allowed the likes of Cardiff City and Blackpool keep Craig Bellamy and Matt Phillips on their respective benches, while Blackburn Rovers had the utter luxury of fielding a striker who (will) cost a mere £8m. Warnock on the other hand, after the injury to Ross McCormack was forced to admit he’d have to ‘go and ask’ for money with which to plug the growing gaps in his weakened team.
It does of all point to the same stagnating problem at the club, namely, the chairman. God knows what he has promised Warnock to get him to hang around, or maybe Warnock really has nothing better to do with his days than have to coach the likes of Luke Varney. Who knows.
I mean, if you ever needed an example of how far off the promotion pace Leeds are, you need look no further than the bench Warnock was forced to knock-up for the visit of Hull:
Jamie Ashdown, Paddy Kisnorbo, Danny Pugh (Yes he is still here, no I don’t know how), Michael Brown, Zac Thompson, Andy Gray and Dom Poleon.
This isn’t ambition, this isn’t a reflection of what the manager and the chairman would have us believe. Promotion? With this lot? We’re fickle, we’re tired and we’ve run out of patience but we’re not stupid. It leads one to further wonder about the prospective owners because Leeds have no assets; these players have no value. They are buying a brand with history, potential and the leases to our training ground and cream-cladded stadium.
The other question of course is over the identity and intentions of the prospective new owners. On the one hand, must we fear their unknown quantity or, as it has for me, just got to a point (which came long ago) when anything is better than what we have now? Can it really get worse? Worse than our lowest ever point when the club was at its knees at the mercy of Ken Bates? I doubt it. Even a buyer looking to make a quick buck and who’d bugger off as soon as we were promoted would do for me, it’d do for Warnock too. We must embrace change and believe it will be good for us.
Where do we go from here? Well, nowhere really. The sad reality is, that I have come to terms with at least, is that even if this takeover does somehow kick back into life and actually get completed – by hook or by crook, it will have come too late for this season. The nice reality about that is that one can now sit back and ‘enjoy’ the rest of the season without the stresses and strains of worrying about other teams results which could prevent us from clinching promotion. (Ha!)
I’m not advocating pessimism, I must add. I know I am a miserable bugger at the best of times and struggle greatly to find and enjoy anything remotely positive about Leeds United but I implore you, desperately, not to become likewise.
One can be positive, for instance, about the work of the Leeds United Supporters Trust, who continue their excellent work on behalf of thousands of Leeds United fans and who scored yet another golden PR point with a perfectly placed advertisement outside the executive entrance to Elland Road’s East Stand.
I want to be happy and joyful about Leeds United however I feel that whilst I have not fallen out of love with them, I am just not in love with Leeds United. I want to feel this much joy again:
P.S thanks to @ken_demange for bringing my attention to Warnock’s latest quotes about the takeover. My timing is impeccable…
“If I’m honest I didn’t envisage the situation being like it is at this stage of my career where I do desperately want to try and get that eighth promotion. There is lots of ups and downs being manager of Leeds United and being a supporter of Leeds United. I am trying my hardest to do things and I will continue to do that until it becomes a situation where you can’t. If you can’t, you can’t. Everyone is working hard behind the scenes to change all that now. Hopefully, we will have some good news in the next 10 days, couple of weeks.”
Here’s hoping, Neil.