McDermott: Time for the talking to end

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

So said Rudyard Kipling, a man for whom words, as a writer and poet, were his stock-in-trade.

Words have been a similarly potent tool for Brian McDermott, ever since the day humbly strode through the entrance doors at Elland Road. In his first interview he talked of how honoured he felt to be managing Leeds United, he spoke with great reverence of the encounter he’d just had in the corridors with boyhood idol, Eddie Gray. His words immediately connected with the supporters, we had a man whose values, plans and methods struck a chord, and because of that, there was an instant degree of infatuation.

Since then, Brian has continued to build that bond, the “side before self” mantra of King Billy’s days, so lacking for so long, back and recurrently evident over months of public discourse; it’s why, even on our darkest days, at Spotland, at Hillsborough, that while the players have rightly been on the end of scathing vitriol, McDermott’s treatment has been markedly more sympathetic – he’s on our side, he wants the same things as us, and he’s as devoted to the cause as we are.

But as powerful as words are, football and literature are not one and the same; the beautiful game may inspire more writing and discussion than almost anything else in many lives, but those words concern themselves primarily with what happens on the pitch…or what is happening off the pitch to rectify what isn’t happening on the pitch, or what needs to change, or what shouldn’t have been changed.

Words primarily are the preserve of the fans and the media, because ultimately, opinion is all they are empowered to offer, the actions that provoke and inspire those words, they remain the in the hands of a select few: the players, the management and the boardroom.

Those privileged enough to be able to exert a more ‘hands on’ influence at clubs, do of course also have the powers of words at their disposal as a positive tool for progress, but at Leeds United, it seems now that for too long, they’ve been employed as the most fundamental tool, and often the sole tool.

A little less conversation, a little more action please...

A little less conversation, a little more action please…

Ken Bates certainly appreciated the importance of words as propaganda, for years presiding over a desperately under-achieving football club with little or no criticism to deal with – yes there were always murmurings, but in creating Yorkshire Radio, words were his friends, being pre-scripted as they were to always cast him in a good light, accentuating the positives (as laughably insignificant as they often were – another wedding fayre, anyone?) while skipping around the burning issues, whenever he addressed the fans through his own media outlet, on his own terms.

Eventually, the tide did turn on Ken though, even if apathy, manifest in the form of falling attendances and commercial revenue did as much, if not more to oust him, than supporter unrest.

David Haigh and GFH similarly liked to use words, and lots of them. While Bates employed his words as a self-preservation tool, the new incumbents appreciated how using the right words could be a powerful driver for positive change. Talk of fresh starts, engagement, sustainability – it bought the owners favour, faith and time, time to get around to the meaty stuff of taking substantive action to address on the pitch matters.

GFH however have proven failures, catastrophic failures at that, borrowing money hand over fist, just to keep the club afloat. Their words, much like Bates before them have proved hollow and worthless. That just leaves us with Brian to buy into.

Brian’s has always been good with words, but he’s now at a club where words are a rapidly diminishing currency. Leeds fans have been mouth-fed promises and platitudes incessantly for the last 14 months, hungrily devouring them, like verbal placebos, but it feels now as though the time is upon us where prose powered delusions are dissipating, where the boundaries between actions and words are at their most clearly delineated.

“I don’t want just words. If that’s all you have for me, you’d better go”  (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

McDermott, more than anyone else in Leeds United’s recent history has been a deftly skilled manipulator of words; his words have bought him support, they’ve bought him almost universal goodwill, they’ve bought him understanding, sympathy and patience, but now, if he is to have any chance of thriving and surviving in LS11, our manager must instead allow his actions to define him.

If his history in Italian football and his initial movements at Elland Road are anything to go by, Massimo Cellino is clearly a proactive rather than prose-centric individual, one who rarely considers patience and progress to be complimentary bedfellows. Being that GFH would most likely push Oliver Twist to the floor in the stampede for a Wonga loan, it’s a fair to conclude that the money for the loans of Jack Butland and Connor Wickham has come out of the Italian’s pocket. It’s also follows that if the club ties up loans for such supremely talented players, they are doing so with a view to a push for the play-offs.

As a matter of fact, we know Butland and Wickham have been brought to the club for these ends – we know because Brian told us so. We know because Connor told us that’s why he was here too. So why, when we are being told that Brian still believes, the players still believe…why is so hard to believe this while watching Leeds?

While the debate over the suitability of Cellino as an owner will continue to rage, his willingness to support McDermott in the loan market cannot at least be questioned. Brian wanted four players in January, now he’s got his four. It’s belated and the best part of two months late, but the fact that he’s brought them on board anyway suggests it’s not too late.

But what Leeds need now is wins. We were promised positivity from the start at the Riverside having failed miserably to even test the keeper at the AMEX – it was barely evident. Post-match, Brian mused that a point represented a decent return from a tricky assignment.

Squandered lead

Squandered lead

Yesterday, Leeds got the positive start and had the opportunities to wrap up a victory before Jermaine Jenas waltzed through the backline to equalise. Come the second half though and that positivity, that urgency, it was nowhere; that’s not to say the players didn’t compete, but the mentality returned to being about solidity over positivity. QPR had taken a solitary point from their previous four games and Leeds controlled much of the first period, the game was there to be won, if only Leeds had the courage in their convictions to do so.

But Brian didn’t grasp the nettle, he didn’t roll the dice and for tactical reasons beyond everyones’ comprehension, persevered with Kebe. Elsewhere, questions persist; Cameron Stewart remains wholly ineffective on the left, but untried on his natural right side. Austin remains the one with the greatest licence to go forward, while Murphy, a prolific scorer at Crewe and a more creative midfielder spends much of his time trying to function as our ball winner, and yesterday, in Byram, the most positive player we possess in wide positions was left to kick his heels for all but 30 seconds of the afternoon.

The lack of forthright ambition transmitted to the School End Upper where the away supporters watched on, uncharacteristically muted; when the 1700 clustered behind goal were as one in thought and deed it was in reference to that latter sin –  “Byram for Kebe” rang out, as indifference and frustration became bewilderment. Every individual can be heard from time to time crying out for tactical changes in their desire to see a victory, yesterday though marked the first time the supporters had collectively questioned a specific (in)action on the part of the manager. It can be a slippery slope as Neil Warnock found out this time last year.

I like McDermott and I wholeheartedly agree with his assertion that what Leeds United really needs is stability, but football is a results business, and by continually playing up the team’s chances of making the play-offs, and in doing so, securing further investment in the playing squad to aid that aim, our manager now finds himself with 14 games ahead of him and has a duty to go into every one of them looking for victories – otherwise, what is he here for? By signing Butland and Wickham he’s forsaken the right to simply frame March and April as progressional steps in the rebuilding job. Instead he’s openly accepted Cellino’s invite to audition himself as the man who should be starting next season in the dug out.

If these next two months continue to be peppered merely with post-match soundbites about disciplined, committed performances and “good points”, Brian might just do Cellino’s dirty work for him. As our manager maintains, the offer of the Leeds United job doesn’t come around that often. It’s down to him now to ensure that, come May, he’s not vacating the post, thinking “if only”.

“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” (Mark Twain)

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19 responses to “McDermott: Time for the talking to end

  1. Spot on. It became obvious as the game went on that McDermott was settling for a point in a game that was there for the taking. He now needs to show us what he’s made of because if we don’t get in the playoffs I would say it’s pretty certain he won’t be here next season.

  2. Buck stops in McD office, that is a fact. I dare to say that we shouln’t loan any more players; we have Alex Mowatt and Chris Dawson for god’s sake. Centre MF is and will be the point of focus in this beautiful game. But MCD lack of trust for the player like CD it must be personal issue because these “injury” and even in YEP I read of family issues which prevented him to be in Slovenia camp.

    But there is time for a change and I think it is now. Laudrup is available and why not?


  3. left kebe on too long yesterday, he did nothing all game , lost the ball too easily, scared to tackle wont or can’t go on a run sam should have been sent on earlier. Austin and Warnock in competition for the headless chicken of the team. McD, its time to walk the walk.

  4. Brian may or may not come good but at least give the guy an honest go at it. Do you believe if the money made available to him for Wickham and Butland was there in the last window Stewart and Kebe would have been 1st choice? GFH sold us all a pup and McD is suffering for it but he was given a 3 year deal so let’s not be another sub standard club (Fulham, Brom, Swansea Cardiff)and toss him out less than half way through it, keep backing him with our hearts and voices and if the new owner backs him with quality signings then he should be given until Dec to show what he can do, if by then its clear it’s not happening then part ways.

    As an aside who do all the fans calling for Brian to go want as a replacement and how long are they prepared to give him with little financial backing and off the field antics McD has had to endure? Who do they believe would put up with all the lies and being sacked, who else would have acted with the dignity and class shown and in reality continue to show the genuine loyalty to our club,us the fans and the city of Leeds,or who would have taken the money and ran? As a lifelong fan it frustrates me to see some of the performances being churned out but sacking a genuine football man without giving a fair crack of the whip will set us back further in the long run IMO. In McD I trust still,keep the faith and MOT and most importantly remember as card carrying fans we all have and are entitled to an opinion let’s respect that in each other what over side of the fence we sit.

    • From another lifelong fan, many thanks Gerry … for everything I would have liked to have written.

      Leeds United Football Club is a club desperate for long term stability and the values that BMcD brings to the club will go a long way to ensuring that stability. History shows that the most successful period/s was when the club was in reliable stable.

      Massimo Cellino may be prepared to throw his money at the club in an attempt to achieve immediate success, but would he not be better following the Leicester plan? It’s taken Nigel Pearson well over two years to build a team capable of mounting a serious challenge for promotion to The Premiership … following on from 9 managers plus a number of caretakers between 2006 and Pearson’s appointment in 2011 … Leeds have had 7 plus a number of caretakers in the same period. During Pearson’s time, Leicester have spent a substantial amount of money, slowly building the squad that is now running away with The Championship whilst many supporters called for his head … not something that can now be heard, but their board held it’s nerve and suck with Pearson … please, please Massimo, if you are successful in your attempt to buy LUFC, and I’ve changed my mind and hope you are, sick with BMcD, back him with your money and I believe that you, collectively, will bring much needed success to back to LUFC.

    • wow finally someone with for sight .. some one who is not short termist. I agree with all you have said here

  5. I believe Leeds united, even with the team and resources we have should go to win every game regardless of the opposition, as fans we show no one respect ‘we’re Leeds United we don’t give a f##k’ who you are what you have won or who you have bought, we went to old Trafford with a league 1 team and stuck it to Rooney and co.

    However I think Brian and the players show teams far too much respect especially away from home and why??? We alway fill the away end give the lads the best possible support, do they get stage fright? Take Blackburn for example 7 thousand fans travelled to be entertained, and we only had ONE chance!

    We need balls Brian clough, Jose mourinho balls. Kebe is Brian’s signing and he’s sticking by him hoping he finds his feet, but he isn’t! Everyone makes mistakes Brian drop him, we need to go all out to win every game.

    However I hope Brian is still our manager in ten years time in the premier league in Europe we need stability, hate to say it but look at the scum, enough said.

  6. i wish in an interview someone would question why he has so much loyalty towards kebe, when it is obvious to see that everyone watching leeds but brian knows he has leeds playing with 10 men. you dont have to be a manager to realise how poor he is . i like brian and his words , but i believe leeds dont need brians words, and its time for a new manager with “ACTIONS” instead

  7. Leeds are extremely poor away from home and apart from the scrape win against Yeovil, the last few weeks have been pretty unproductive and wasted.
    It seems such a long time since Leeds last played at Elland Road, but when Leeds are back at Elland Road next week, the McDermott excuses and the blaming of the referee must stop and the wins must come or McDermott has no future at Leeds.
    The wins have to come from now on, because I really fear that if Leeds go into administration, then they will need at least 60 or 65 points, just in case they are docked points.

  8. Spot on, with Butland and Wickham, I think Massimo is giving Brian enough rope; however I think if we’re in the hunt for a play-off place up until the last game, I think he’ll hang on until next season, even if we don’t actually make the play-offs. With 5 out of the next 7 at home we are still definitely in with a chance.
    Kebe looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights and has done pretty much since he arrived – I’d move Stewart over to the right in front of Byram and move Peltier over to the left (Warnock gives away too many silly free kicks) and play Mowatt off the left.

    • I agree, I would rather play an extra midfielder, such as Mowatt, than play Kebe in every game, which will cost McDermott his job.
      The problem with Kebe is that he looks like Thierry Henry and plays like big John Pearson and it is baffling just what McDermott sees in him.
      After scoring against Huddersfield, Kebe had the cheek to hold his ear towards the Kop, as if he was trying to make the fans eat their words of criticism, but what has he done since? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING !

  9. Kebe is going to cost BcM his job. Kebe is not sowing any determination to do his job. He is half speed and soft. Please don t kick me. Here you are you can have the ball back. Sorry Hebe, sorry Brisn if he doesn’t drop him now!

  10. Good summary, and I think the mood has comprehensively shifted re McDermott after ‘freaky Friday’. Brighton was frustrating but not wholly unexpected – we could (despite the euphoria) have been dead and buried by Hudders at half time and we could (should) have been 2-0 down v Yeovil at half time. The Middlesboro performance and set up mystified me – the more so because there was all the talk of ‘going for it’. Yesterday too. Had we lost yesterday, it would have made no material difference because I doubt we are going down. Had we won, going into a run of winnable games, it would have shifted both the mood and the points difference. Right now, the playoffs are close to impossible because not only would we both a spectacular run of form coupled with a minor collapse from at least three others above us.

    I think it was Henry Winter who said that McDermott was a thoroughly decent bloke who maintained his dignity through all the bad nonsense at the end of jan, even if, ‘in all honesty,he isn’t the best manager in the business’. He has done a good job so far with the tools he has been working with, but this is a time to try something different.

    We are playing with 9.5 players (I give Stewart a half, and Kebe a zero). Worst case, with Poleon/Byram/Chris Dawson on the field we would have pace and it would demonstrate intent. I think Kebe will do for Brian, as Morison in a way did for Warnock.

    Either way he’s not going to survive past the end of the season, but – “better to burn out than fade away”

  11. What we need is stability. Months of it. Sadly the clowns at the club and the ever impatient blogs and internet keep scratching the itch. I bet you couldn’t write coherently if you were being besieged by a hornets nest and an ever changing environment.

    There isn’t a manager in the world that could do anything meaningful at this club.

    Possibly the saddest thing is that while we thought Mowatt was the answer to our overloaded undertalented midfield problems he’s slower than Kebe. Young lad who shouldn’t be seen as our savior simply because he can pass the ball.

    Dawson? Poleon? Dear God. Clutching at our never ending supply of straws. Mowatt is the best and he’s not good enough yet). What chance the rest?

    • But my point isn’t by any means that McDermott should be sacked, rather, that if we’re being realistic, he’s fighting to convince Cellino of his merits. Rightly or wrongly, he needs to make a statement over the next 14 weeks. Two months of moderate improvement is unlikely to wash with the Italian.

  12. What do you meen 9.5 players? take away plodder boy Austin, 8.5 players every game.BMCD will loose his job sticking stubbonley with Kebe & Austin & a negative, stop the other team, tactics ,I also would like a decent bloke to manage us to prem.,but he has done too many brainless things .ref.,Leicester it’s a disgrace they hav’nt gone up before, massive wages & squad, it would be like QPR taking 3 years to go up then saying Rednapp was worth sticking with ,it’s harder not to get promotion with that sort of Money.BMCD could have got better players in than he did with same outlay ,plus play people we have got who are better than he brought in.There shouldn’t be any one not wanting Cellino he is our saviour.Look out for Danns ( a cheap available player ignored) against Austin this week

  13. Brian has made a lot of poor decisions and is very fortunate to have survived. If nothing pretty amazing happens by the end of the season he will probably go.

  14. I still think managing a football team under the circumstances that GFH perpetuated would make it impossible for any manager to succeed. I also think that had Cellino been in charge earlier BMD would have gone for better quality players than Stewart and Kebe. MCD obviously has a management style that tries to coax the best out of players by being patient. Over a whole season that works but if he really is intent on having a shot at the play-offs he really does not have the time to be patient. Kebe and Stewart have shown little in the games I have managed to see. The fact that our best player of last season Byram is unable to get an automatic start is also strange. If the manager insists on playing Peltier at right back then surely Byram is a better bet than Kebe. Likewise Mowatt for Stewart although Mowatt lacks the speed to play as an out and out winger. The Wickham / McCormack link looked highly promising so hopefully if Mowatt and Byram start we might just get more possession to give the strikers more opportunities. I think BMD has to get out of his comfort zone and try and get his team to control games. If he is incapable of doing that then he will be found out and Cellino will act accordingly. I like the manager, he seems a decent bloke and he obviously wants the job long term. I hope he is successful but to do so he has to be a little bolder than what he has so far demonstrated. I truly think promotion is already out of reach as Wigan have hit form at the right time and I would be surprised if we could catch them even with a run of victories. But you never know and you you never will if you are not prepared to be brave. What is there to lose? MOT

  15. Great article mate!

    I find it really frustrating, that on top of the struggles Brian had, he did have the form of settling for points. He claimed we would be ‘going for it’ earlier in the year, then proceeded to play out for draws, saving subs to 80th + minutes, too little too late.

    I like Brian, but he needs to show us more next season if he gets the players he wants. Although, playing one of the form Strikers of the Premier League on the wing was a worry!

    I will be back time and again to this great blog!


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