As embarrassing as our embattled search for a new manager is, it gives me a great opportunity to quote yet more Shakespeare, and draw a parody / parallel from one of my favourite film franchises, Indiana Jones. This time, the film is Indiana Jones – The Last Crusade – i.e. the search for the Holy Grail and the scene where he drinks from what turns out to be, the Poisoned Chalice. His poor choice as the ancient Crusader says. Two of my favourite actors Harrison Ford and Sean Connery

Or if you prefer the full clip

Cinema magic. I seriously want to put something in from Monty Python and The Holy Grail, but it is completely irrelevant to my piece today. I’m doing it anyway, because am so obsessed with this part in Life Of Brian

It’s the first thing I think of when our number 39 runs on the pitch. How very childish, I know.

Back to it now. How did we ever get from Holy Grail to Poisoned Chalice? This is the quote from The Great Bard

We got to the Promised Land and The Holy Grail of the PL under Bielsa. The rest is history. Once again, we find ourselves just above the relegation zone and managerless. Or Head Coach-less as they say nowadays. This time, there is no one waiting in the wings. There was no pre-planned head honcho to come and take the hot seat this time. Worse still, it appears that no one actually wants the job. The role that was so vaunted, is now just a poisoned chalice, it seems. I don’t think the Board expected this, did they?

How has this happened?

Why is this the Poisoned Chalice? I bet The Club are asking the same question.

To me, the answer is simple. There is an obvious internal struggle at our Club. An infernal, internal struggle over who is actually in control. It seems it is a fight to the death between Radrizzani v Orta v The 49ers v The Fans who the Club listen to. I added the last one for fun, they just want the bragging rights…

To me, there are a few reasons to why no one wants to come and manager the Club.

1) Why would anyone want to come to a Club that treated Bielsa with so little respect? I am biased, obviously, but given the way that Bielsa was dismissed, is there any self respecting manager who would be willing to take the risk of being sacked which such disregard? There were probably managers who would have taken this job, maybe because they didn’t like Bielsa. Dyche probably would have come, but that horse has bolted. The chance of Pochettino coming here is about as likely as me winning the Eurosquillions. But there’s always hope!

2) The noises from the Club were that they were fully behind SkinnyJ and he was never going to move on. Whether intentional or not, it looked like the investment into his style of play, his former RB players and his USA connections were going to keep him here and keep him safe. The massive investment into this squad showed a statement of intent. The songs for the players even though they hadn’t necessarily demonstrated their worth, the PR stuff, the planned pre season tours etc. All of this a show of common purpose, a full on commitment. So something pretty serious must have happened to turn the tide.

What message does that send to any prospective manager? It says that despite the millions of investment and vocal support, we will drop you like a stone if it comes to it.

3) Our fickle, fickle fans and the toxicity that is on social media. Some of the stuff I have seen is palpably poisonous. The most bizarre thing about it is that, as I was reminded early this week, we have always had fickle fans. Even back in the 70s and 80s. However, (un) social media has got a lot to answer for. As someone said a few days ago, there is no healthy debate anymore, just lots and lots of endless abuse dealt out to people who disagree. Much of this is down to managing expectations. Many many people were caught in the euphoria of getting promoted and then that fine 1st season up. The trouble was, once it looked like we were going to struggle, the exhilarating exuberance turned to melancholic misery. Those who were faint of heart and not necessarily used to the obligatory ups and downs of being a Leeds fan have struggled. In their struggle, harsh words have been spoken. Every day almost. Plus, it’s not even the newer Global audience fans who have been so outspoken, some have been longstanding fans who have just exhausted their tolerance. Who would want to be the manager of a Club with fans with such bitterness towards each other?

Me, if I was asked, I would baulk at it. 

The Answer

My choice would be someone with PL experience, either playing or coaching. Given serious lack of investment by the PL / FA over the last 30 years into getting ex PL players involved into the coaching side, there is little chance of that.

This week the FA / EPL have done a massive press release promoting inclusivity and diversity. Which is great, but what has been going on for the last 20 years? Given the breadth of talent in the last 30 years, why haven’t masses of the old PL players made it into coaching full stop, let alone any of an ethnic minority? If you think about how many of the formers stars (of colour or not) have made their money in the punditry business, why hasn’t anyone really  succeeded as a manager? If they have so much technical nous, why are they just sat spouting drivel on the box?

Is it money? Probably. The True Gods of Football at SkyTVisf**kings**t and BT are loaded. Most of the time the pundits are sat indoors, warm in the cold weather and airconned in the summer. They are shielded from the verbals unless they dare go pitchside. Travel and expenses paid for by the puppet masters.

Is it that the richest, most exciting league in the world isn’t really bothered about future  development in coaching skills? Are any players encouraged to go down the coaching route at all towards the latter stages of their careers?

I think it is all about money. The FA and the PL earn it. Players earn it. Greedy agents earn it. The Clubs earn it, but then end up splashing it all on players wages and agents fees, and the massive transfer fees of course. How much of the money goes back into grass roots football and investment into the community?

Here is an example of a PL club investing in it’s money in it’s community

Strange then that Citeh is being pilloried by PL and the FA. The facilities for match going fans at Citeh rank amongst the best in my experience (almost on a par with Accrington – they took cash!). If you think about New White Hart Lane and how unfriendly that ground is with regards to parking and facilities for less abled fans. There’s no need to comment on Chelski’s ground after last season. Old Trafford looks like a crumbling relic from the 70s (not as bad as our West stand though) and Livarpool probably spend a lot of their funds on VAR and referees / linesmen. As Pep said, it’s mostly because they are jealous. I hope Citeh’s lawyers take the PL to the cleaners.

Back to the Holy Grail and Poisoned Chalice. 

We are no longer a “big” club, despite what our PR says. We are relegation fodder. It’s my belief that this stems from the infernal internal disputes at our club. At least under Cellino we knew who was in charge. Who the Big Kahuna is now, is anybody’s guess. Until this gets sorted, who will come to Leeds?

The new manager, or any new manager worth his salt will want to be in charge of who he picks. Any new manager should be able to pick the best 11 men and subs for the game. This is essential. For however long he feels he is unable to do that because either the Board or the fans are whingeing, no one would want to come.

No players should automatically assume they will be picked. Regardless of how much they cost the Club, which country or previous club they played for, or if they have a good song or not. There is not one player who deserves to be played because it’s good for the Global brand. If a player isn’t fit, he shouldn’t even be in the dugout. If he can’t last 90 minutes, unless he is the next Solskjaer or Tore Andre Flo, no player should be on the teamsheet.

The facts

We have 16 games left. Our team need to be fit to last 90 minutes, or at least know that they need to be attacking and winning every ball if they get on for the last 20 minutes. Our new manager needs to be scrutinising every opponent so we can exploit their weaknesses and capitalise on our strengths. There does need to be a Plan A, B, C, D and E – whatever it takes. Social media critique needs to pipe down. Just say your piece and be done with it. When people start swearing and abusing each other, the argument is lost. Each to their own opinion, it is all valid. We are all individuals not sheep. No one needs to be told what to think. It is not 1984.  

The facts are:

1) We give the ball away far too much.

2) We cannot hold the ball up, especially under pressure

3) We pass sideways and backwards too much, especially in the 2nd half when we are losing.

Fans whinge that the defence is the problem. If we only ever conceded goals from corners or set pieces, I would accept that. But how many goals have been handed to our opponents, on a plate, in the middle of the pitch from a lazy casual flick or a panic pass? Too many. It is part of a bigger problem. We don’t play measured football anymore.

Under Bielsa we played a fast flowing, slick passing game when it worked. The last 12 months has seen what can only be described as panic passing. It’s fast, but it is uncontrolled, frantic and frenetic. Everyone clumps together like cold porridge. It’s like watching a pinball game with the ball pinging all over the place and everyone tripping over each other with their heads on fire.

Like all teams we have strengths, like Gnonto’s speed and drive and weaknesses. But with a resurgent Firpo and Wober looking better and better each game, our defence is starting to take shape. As seen in the last two games, Harrison and Bamford work hard and cause trouble, which aids the running of Willy and whoever else is out on the wing. Our central midfield needs work to link it all up.

For me Rodrigo’s absence is a key factor. If he had been there for Forest and the last two games against Sc*m, we would have won 2 and possibly just drawn the last one. He shouldn’t even have travelled given we had Rutter, Perkins and Greenwood available to support Patrick up front. Coming on at Accrington is the thing that has hurt us the most and possibly was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ultimately, I think the ridiculous decision to bring him on at 3 -0 up cost SkinnyJ his job, let’s hope it doesn’t end up costing us a PL spot next season. 

Let’s hope we can find someone who will take on the poisoned chalice and turn the tables on it, and see us back to the Holy Grail.