Sacrifice. It’s a human sign, apparently, when things go wrong…
On 27th May 1989 our greatest manager sadly passed away from a terrible illness. There has never been another to match him at this club. There has never been a team to match the team he put together and nurtured. We see the phrase “side before self” used so often when the great Don is mentioned. Those days seem a million miles from Leeds United this last decade, but this, for me, should be the way forward.
The players and managers today complain about fixture congestion, when they travel to USA, Asia and Australia for money spinning friendlies at the start, during and at the end of the season. The primadonna players feign fouls, exaggerating excessively to get the upper hand, rather than try to win the ball honestly. They complain about risk of injuries, when back in the day the pitches resembled mudbaths and the footballs weighed a ton. This whilst wearing scientifically designed boots and aiming at the roundest, fastest and lightest footballs ever. The clubs hold the home countries to ransom, objecting to players playing in international tournaments. The pride for playing for your country has completely waned. It is all about the money, money, money. The managers / coaches play weakened sides in the League and FA Cup fixtures, especially those teams who play in the Champions League / Europa Cup / concentrating on staying in the league – delete as appropriate. The fans dismiss the early exits from the cup games, claiming they have bigger fish to fry – like getting promoted or even just saying in the league.
It was said that Don kept a detailed log of every team he played against and was due to play. He did this to make sure that every weakness could be exploited, and he could optimize our performance to make sure we got the upper hand. That was 50 years ago, so given the digital age, how easy would this be now? We have media capabilities that enable the game to be viewed from every conceivable angle, not just from the pitchline but also via drones. We have “go pro” and other similar programmes which can be utilised, over and beyond just pen and paper.
Now that Monk has left the building, what do we need as a new manager / head coach (delete as appropriate)?
Firstly, we need to stop bickering about the difference between a manager and a head coach. Whatever we call him, he is the guy who is responsible for what goes on in that 90+ minutes. Whether he has a team of Lionel Messis and Ronaldos or a Sunday league side, he is the bloke who tells the 11 men what to do. So he needs to have a plan A, plan B, plan C or however many plans he needs. He need to make sure he doesn’t field a team of small wiry players against a a midfield and defence made up of solid six footers. Equally, no hoofing the ball up either. The man in charge needs to prepare for any eventualities if we lose a player to injury, give away a needless penalty, get men sent off, or even, if we go three goals ahead in the first 15 minutes. He is the one who decides if and when to sub, and who to sub for. Ok, he may not be able to buy players he wants, but he certainly has to play to the advantages of the players he has got.
Secondly, our players need to step up and play to the best of their abilities for the full 90 mins. If they can’t, the manager needs to change it at the time and then address it during training through the week. They have as much responsibility as the managers have. This is regardless of whether they are just on loan or permanently signed ( as permanent as a full contract is!). Players should be playing for their own pride, nevermind just trying to win the game. As for refusing to travel and play on the day, well, enough has already been said about that. No one wants to see half hearted challenges and lukewarm chasing down of long balls. The one thing that stood out this last season was the way Beradi and Ayling flung themselves in front of the ball to deflect it away from goal. It looks like we are going to lose Captain Bartley, because he has had such a good season with us. I wish him well and he has my thanks.
This leads onto my third point. We need a good captain, someone who can command respect from his team and lead them. I don’t think Bridcutt was cut out for the job but Captain Bartley was. As it stands, we have no obvious stand out candidates in the present team, but who knows?
Whoever becomes our new man in charge, I hope he can pick up where we left off in our positive areas and see what we need to change to improve where we were lacking. Our defence was good, Chris Wood was on fire, I still think O Kane and Phillips suited each others play. The gaps just need filling in, as long as we don’t lose anyone else.
The final words are left for Garry-with-two-Rs. You could have done it you know. I really believe we had a chance to go up last season. Newcastle were struggling and all we had to do was pull some decent results out of the bag. We couldn’t hold the draw at Huddersfield and never even got going at home to Cardiff, sadly beaten by Sol Bamba. We hung on from the 5th minute at Fulham for the draw and QPR at home was a non event. Then came the run of 8 games at the end of the season where we won ONE game. That’s relegation form, no one can gloss over that fact. Yes, we got the equaliser in the 96th minute at St James Park, but we lost to Burton for crying out loud and Wolves at home was just embarrassing. Any other coach/manager, at any other time of the season would have been sacrificed..