For the first time since early October, the international break has afforded the supporters of Championship clubs a respite from an unrelenting league programme. For Leeds fans, UEFA’s scheduling almost feels like a noble act of mercy, offering the prospect of at least one weekend, not sullied by another unremarkable Leeds performance. However, for GFH-C it should represent a lot more, a Godsend no less, if they are serious in their intentions to make the club a force, come August.
If something positive was to be salvaged from the wreckage of yesterday’s miserable defeat, it was that even Neil Warnock was moved to accept publicly, that the loss dealt a “fatal blow” to the club’s play-off aspirations. With such statement, Warnock has essentially admitted that not only our season, but his own managerial career is over. In the press conference afterwards, he spoke more about the task of finding his successor than anything that happened on the pitch:
“We have talked about my successor with the owners because they know I will not be here if we are not in the Premier League. If we do not have a chance of getting in the play-offs, I will step aside.”
He was then quick to assert though that just because the season was dead, his tenure at the club wasn’t necessarily over just yet…
“But that does not mean I will definitely go before the end of the season…I want them to get the best manager they can get to replace me and some of them might not be available until the summer.”
In other words, Warnock will remain for however long he is told that his services are required. The question is, should GFH-C be telling him now, in no uncertain terms, that this is no longer the case?
The fact is, Warnock appears to consider himself an integral part of the appointment process, his own self-generated hyperbole, positing him as a prudent guardian of the Leeds managerial post until a new man arrives on board, but in reality, is his continued presence now more of hindrance?
GFH-C find themselves in a unique situation where they’ve been afforded a fortnight to make decisive steps towards laying the foundations for a new season, almost two months before the current one ends. They even have the blessing of the current incumbent of the manager’s post to do so. The season is now dead, the time is indisputably right…decisive actions have been taken in recent days to remedy the prickly issue of ticket prices, now the owners need to prove their mettle when dealing with on the pitch issues and resolve, or at least address as far as they possibly can, the managerial issue.
From the forums, twitter and phone-ins, Nigel Adkins appears to remain both the logical and most popular choice, and if recent reports are to be believed, is now free to take on his next managerial role. In a perfect world and if GFH-C are able to offer the resources necessary to entice him, then his appointment this week would transform the mood around the club at a stroke.
However, should such a swift appointment not be possible – and it’s quite conceivable that the owners aren’t able to confirm a new man until the much touted “imminent” investment is secured – that should not be justification enough for the retention of Warnock. The way in which the appointment process has been spoken about does suggest supporters may still be in for a wait, and thus the need for a man to fill the void in between, but why not entrust that job to Richard Naylor?
The temporary promotion of Naylor makes sense on a number of levels; firstly, having done such a fine job with the youth side and with the emphasis over the final 8 games leaning now towards the longer term, then who better than Naylor to decide which of those eye-catching youngsters are ready to be blooded in the first XI? Furthermore, with the pressure off and their boss overseeing matters, it’s unlikely that Chris Dawson, Lewis Walters and the like could be offered a more comfortable passage into Championship football.
In addition, if for arguments sake, it is a Nigel Adkins or Brian McDermott type of manager being lined up, would their well established footballing philosophies not dovetail rather better with what Naylor’s clearly been preaching, as opposed to the direct idealism of our departing boss? On the basis of his work so far, it seems reasonable to expect that Naylor will be a long term fixture in the club’s coaching make up, so such an opportunity could also be invaluable for his long term development, as well as help him to establish a firm relationship with the incoming top man
It is of course also feasible that Adkins, McDermott, Freedman, Di Canio even, are all ‘pie in the sky‘ options, that hopes of investment are just that and GFH-C will be scrimping around for the next man to inherit the Elland Road ‘hot seat‘; if that is the case, then a decision to allow Naylor to demonstrate his abilities would make even more sense.
Finally and begrudgingly by his own admittance, Neil Warnock’s time is up at Leeds and so surely it makes little sense to me to retain him any longer? Even if over the course of this next fortnight, Messrs. Haigh and Patel still can’t realistically aspire to be stood, flanking their first managerial appointment while he holds a Leeds scarf above his head, smiling into the glare of a thousand flashbulbs, that’s not to say that other positive decisions cannot be made in the interim.
GFH-C may still, rightly or wrongly, place great importance on Neil Warnock’s input as they work towards installing a new successor, but if so, an advisor is all he should be from this point. In the dug out it’s high time for a fresh face and a more progressive mind frame and if it isn’t immediately possible to have that from a new man, then let us at least allow Richard Naylor to start on the groundwork for him.