Things have been a little eventful to say the least at Leeds this season, sackings, appointments, transfers and plenty of Ken Bates bashing along the way for good measure, meant another unsettled time for the Yorkshire side. Leeds fans should be used to it all as it seems like every season is the same story; expectations are high and every fan wants that return to the dizzy heights of the Premier League, but it just seems a bridge too far for this sleeping giant who always seem to hit the odd speed bump or two. Maybe they shouldn’t have sacked Grayson, but that doesn’t matter now as Neil Warnock arrived bringing a new wave of optimism to the club as it looked as though Leeds finally had the right man to take them back to the big time, but things haven’t gone according to plan.
We must remember the Championship is a tough place to be and an even tougher place to get out of, no longer can clubs buy there way out of the league, it takes all the right ingredients to make it happen. Simon Grayson was a surprise sacking, but hadn’t managed to reach the top despite a valiant attempt during his reign at the club, but can Warnock really do much better?
Warnock has something about him, he seems to get teams together and players seem to rise to the challenge of playing for him. Warnock also understands what Leeds are all about, he is a proper Yorkshireman after all, but can he work his miracles on Leeds as he has done with QPR and Sheffield United before?
The Championship is a league that constantly evolves, we have seen a shift from long ball, power football to a balance between physicality and footballing ability. Norwich and Swansea are the latest clubs to get promoted due to a mix of such playing styles and a great manager who gets the most out of his players – you can see shades of both in the way Southampton are progressing this season, could it be that Warnock can do this to Leeds, after all QPR played their way out of the league even though they spent big along the way to do it.
Things haven’t started well for Warnock, which was capitulated most recently with the clubs 7-3 loss to Nottingham Forest. Leeds’ immediate future is up in the air, but Leeds have plenty of potential.
Leeds have successfully managed to keep churning out good young players, you could go as far as saying the Leeds academy is up there amongst the most successful in the country. Fans have been up-in-arms about the club selling young stars such as Jonny Howson, but this is just reality for any Championship club nowadays, it is bread and butter stuff financially. Saying that, you don’t want to sell players like Howson if you do want to give yourself the best possible shot of getting out of the league.
Despite Howson’s exit, if you look around the Leeds squad, Warnock has a lot to work with. Young players like Tom Lees, Aidan White, Adam Clayton and Robert Snodgrass are still there…how long for is anyone’s guess, but Warnock would hope that promotion this season, ahead of plan, is a good possibility. He has players like McCormack, Becchio and Darren O’Dea that are good quality for the Championship and can do a job, but they are in danger of falling away as the transition between the young fresh approach of Grayson, is replaced by the experience of Warnock.
Warnock’s record thus far does little to inspire confidence; he has been unable to make his mark on the team inheriting a squad until the end of the season. If promotion this season is not forthcoming, in the summer he will build Leeds’ squad by making the spine of the team experienced by bringing in either what he considers the best around in the Championship at the right price or Premier League players that need game time. He does need a summer to make his presence felt.
This maybe Warnock’s last big challenge, but if you look around the league you won’t find many men or managers more equipped to do this task. Grayson is now the past and his exit is yet to be justified in Warnock’s appointment. This could once again be a season of discontent for the Elland Road faithful and maybe it needs to be if they want to get promoted and stay in the Premier League when they get there. Leeds have the stadium and unbelievable support, but it is now up to Warnock to rise to the challenge and give the fans what they really want. This is his last big challenge, it looks as though it could be his hardest, time will tell if Warnock can succeed or retire with a blot on both his and Leeds’ copybook.