When will we ever learn? Back to Bob Dylan again. When will we ever learn?
A whirlwind start to 2018 began with the January to forget in terms of red cards, losing to lower league opposition in the FA Cup, fighting back to level up against Millwall with 10 men (only to lose in injury time), new badge launches, retraction of new badges after change.org went thermo nuclear and all the rest. You could not make this up. It’s like watching a soap opera. On second thoughts, there’s been no murders or plane crashes, so not so much a soap opera, more like a pantomime.
So, how could we top that off? I know, let’s sack the manager… oh no we can’t… oh yes we can! Lord knows what Mad March is going to give us. I don’t even want to think that far ahead.
So, the curtain comes down on TC. He bowed out after we lost to Cardiff, a fortnight last Saturday, to a chorus of boos from the crowd. No thanks for one of the best starts to the season in recent times. No thanks for some of the best awaydays we have had in years. No thanks for getting our defence as solid as a rock again, and no thanks for THAT Pablo goal against Burton. Had we kept 11 men on the pitch, we could have got a result. Warnock’s bully boys weren’t that good, they flattered to deceive. Realistically, our team is horribly depleted. Depleted because of injuries, which we can’t really do anything about, and depleted because of really poor behaviour on the pitch. Poor and at times, unsportsmanlike, behaviour which has seen us collect 7 red cards already this season in the League and the Cup.
We haven’t had our first team players all out on the pitch at the same time since New Years Day against Forest. As much as the majority of fans simply put down our losing streak to the manager, it is blatantly obvious that our dip in form is directly related to the number of injuries and suspensions that we have been subject to. Even before Forest, it seemed like some of the team were deliberately trying to get sent off (Vieira at Wolves) to jeopardise our onwards push to the play offs, ruining that brilliant start. After Bridcutt assassinated Ayling’s ankle at Elland Road in a bold and uneffacing manner, incidentally the likes of which we never saw anything of during his time with us, our players have been steadily crossed off the team sheet with the large red marker pen wielded by the football gods.
The same football gods who cannot and should not be dishonoured by fielding a weakened cup side.
Cut to the cries of those who mercilessly booed TC off the pitch, both at home to Cardiff and at the final whistle at Hull the other week. Those who have shorter memories than the most schizophrenic of goldfish in Ridsdale’s gold plated fish tanks. Not only can they not remember hailing TC as The Messiah not even 6 months ago, but they selectively forget pouring scorn on the likes of Villa and Derby for such a faltering start. Cut back to present day and look who’s laughing at us now.
When will we ever learn? What do we need to learn?
At the time of first writing this article, Radrizzani had just sacked TC. The vultures had just landed and all the amassed keyboard warriors in the ranks of Leeds United fans had one thing on their minds… we need an English manager. This is the first thing we need to learn. What exactly have our most recent English managers done for us? Using the wise words from worldfootball.net (not Wikipeddler) I have tried to sum this up in a historical, rather than hysterical, format.
Grayson? He lasted quite a while, from Dec 2008 to Feb 2012 and he did ok with the squad he had and the tight reins of the then owner. Redfearn then had his first stint then for 15 days until Warnock came in. Warnock? I have VERY strong opinions on Colin, some of which are just not suitable for this or any other public article. Suffice to say, in the words of the Harry Enfield character, Frank Doberman, Oi – Warnock – No! When Colin arrived, we weren’t in much trouble, swanning about in mid table mediocrity, as per the norm under “I promise I will get Leeds out of The Championship” bates – and surely he did – by getting us relegated to Division 3. Granted, by the time Colin left, we hadn’t got relegated, but we were dangerously swimming against the tide. Redders stepped in again for a total of 9 days before we struck gold (at the time it seemed anyway) with Brian McDermott. Brian survived a near miss sacking but then it all fell away after he struggled to have a plan B, not the first time I will say this. Dave Hockaday then survived for 3 months in June 2014, but only because we didn’t technically play any games for most of it. He was summarily despatched in the August, faring only marginally worse than contestants in the Big Brother house. For Redders, it wasn’t third time lucky, as Milanic was drafted in (see below). Redders’s – 4th time is a charm- last attempt was slightly longer before he was ousted by Uwe, again see below. Redders was the fans favourite, given his pedigree with the Youth Team, but that’s where his limit lay, sadly, no Plan A, Plan B or Plan C. Which takes us to Steve Evans, and well he did ok and should have been given more time in my opinion. Plus he came to Supporters Club meetings and wore his LUSC tie proudly! The only manager in recent years who had time for the ordinary fans, and I respect him alot for that. He wasn’t my first choice, but he was a genuine guy and I think he was proud to come to us. None of the rest of them showed any interest, for all their talk of how amazing they thought the fans were. I’m not even going to give the Snake a proper mention. No Plan A, B, C, D or E. F for fail in old O level speak! U in old A level – unrecordable – means you didn’t even get your name right at the top of the page.
I agree that our foreign managers haven’t been up to scratch either. Uwe Rosler, he had a bad start in his managerial reign in that pre-season friendly in Austria, and it didn’t bode too well for him after that. Then, Darko Milanic, who is back at Maribor by all accounts, but at the time, given all the off pitch shenanigans with the FA and EFL trying to get Sig Cellino sent back to Italy, there were too many distractions for them to concentrate on winning games.
Going back to my original point, however, do we need an English manager? Look at the Man Citys, Chelskis etc. Yes, they have the money to buy players in, but their players still get crocked, and they play their second side. Albeit, even their third/fourth sides are miles better than the Championship first teamers. But, the last English manager to do well in the premier league was….Scottish! Even Leicester were forced to admit that Ranieri was the key to success after Pearson had built the foundations. Once the players turned on Claudio and forced him out, the truth was revealed. Leicester probably won’t get relegated, but only by the virtue that there are worse teams in that league who will. The margin between the top of the premier league and the bottom is huge. Unlike in our league, where a few dropped points from losing when we should have drawn, or drawing when we were ahead and should have finished the game off with another goal rather than sitting back, mean the difference between play offs and mid table mediocrity. Even though it feels like decades since we last won a game, we’re still in the top half and even though I have given up on playoffs and actively thinking about enjoying May this year, it’s not impossible. Just highly unlikely, that’s all.
An English manager is not the be all and end all. I wish Carvalho all the best of luck at Swansea (please can we have Bartley back?), and I will laugh if the Wendies miserably fail. A decent foreign manager with the owner’s full support, and more importantly the financial backing, may be the better solution. Which leads me to my second point, bringing in new players.
Regular readers will know of my intolerance of SkyTVis f**kings**t-all-one-word’s transfer deadline circus, and the keyboard warriors who have a field day hammering on their emoticons / emojis ( I really don’t know what they are called, and I am not bothered either) at the next prospective signing. Then when we don’t sign any big names in the summer or January, they just bleat about not bringing enough talent up through the reserves. You CANNOT have it both ways! Either you concentrate your efforts on bringing the Youth team through, OR you go for the big money signings. No gifted young player is going to want to plough through the ranks, if at the end of the day, the only prospect of getting in the first team will be playing in a weakened side in the early rounds of the League or FA Cup, when the manager is picking names out of a hat. The reserves should be playing properly, not being despatched to Rhyl to be beaten up, and they should be the source of the substitutes. After that, the Youth team. I cannot believe that we didn’t have a reserve, reserve defence when Ayling, Cooper, Jansson etc. got injured/ suspended early this season. Yes, Pennington and Shaughnessy got injuries too, but what happened to Anita? I really felt for De Bock being brought in before the ink dried on his contract, how can we let ourselves get so depleted of players?
I hate that Alan Hansen catchphrase ” strength in depth” – what does that mean? Depth of what? The bath? Does it just mean a team need a few of each players, or a few utility players to come in for injuries? A while ago, we had Paul Hart at one of the LUSC meetings and he mentioned that premier league scouts were hanging round our Youth Team fixtures like vultures. Is that where our Youth team are going? To “bigger, better” clubs? But only to find, again, that they will never get a first team game as there is always some football agent out there who will be peddling his wares at Christmas. So realistically, it is a no brainer to a kid with talent, stick with your local team or go to a premier league club and warm their bench for more money instead? As I said, no brainer.
So to Heckingbottom. If Radrizzani had set his heart on targeting an English manager who was already at a club and was willing to pay the other club off, I would have preferred him go to Mansfield and get Big Steve back. Evans has been doing a good job at Mansfield, he knows our set up, and when he came to the LUSC meetings, he was genuinely humbled to be received by us. He could not have shown more respect to us, the ordinary fans, it was more than the lip service that we have endured before him and since. I might add, had Colin offered to come to a meeting, I would rather have spent the evening pulling my teeth out anyway.
I may be proved wrong with Heckingbottom, he might turn out to be just as amenable as Big Steve. He’s a Yorkshireman after all. He might be approaching us as I type and begging to come to an LUSC meeting, who knows? As for his team selection, I am not sure if he picked the team against T’Blades, or he let someone else do it. As much as I like O Kane as a player, I wouldn’t have picked him as Captain. He’s too young and not had enough experience, and that headbutt was rubbish. Didn’t even draw blood. He needs to speak to Beradi and get some lessons into how to properly get sent off for a head butt. Pablo’s captaincy was also a mistake though, he was like the Scarlet Pimpernel at times against Hull, as he has been most of the season. You cannot fault his talent, but he does do a Lord Lucan. Jokes aside, when the team haven’t been performing and you come in as a new manager, just make the changes. Don’t stick to the failing formula, create your own masterpiece. The world is your oyster. Drop Roofe, he has been pants the last few games, give him a break. Give Sakho a start, play Anita, he looked good at the start of the season before he got injured, play 4-4-2, just face it 4-3-2-1 just doesn’t work.
Put your own mark on it. Make it your own. This is your golden ticket..