Over the past few weeks I have noticed a growing disdain on the Leeds United message boards about the reign of Simon Grayson. Many have criticised Grayson for his poor record in the transfer market and his failure to build on an impressive first season in the Championship. I have even seen people discounting our first year in the Championship and referring to a poor back to end to our promotion season as proof Grayson didn’t have the minerals to lead Leeds back to the Premiership. On top of that you have the ramblings of our senile chairman attacking anyone in sight (Grayson, O Dea, Varynen) and a former Leeds ‘legend’ stroke puppet attempting to tarnish the reputation of a bright young manager. I’m just not buying it…
Following these unnecessary and unwarranted attacks Simon Grayson recently broke his silence through the BBC. Grayson sighted a lack of investment as a major contributing factor to our poor performances this year and I fully agree. After promotion to the Championship the majority of fans were speaking of consolidation, which seems to have been forgotten. People prefer to look at Norwich and say that should have been us; Well why should it? The name of our club? The fact is we over achieved in our first year, yes the campaign dwindled towards the back end but for whatever reason we never invested in January to freshen up what was a tired squad.
Coming into the new season we all hoped we could improve on the previous year and get into the play offs. When Simon Grayson left we were three points off the play offs, where are we now? In the close season we lost Neil Kilkenny and Bradley Johnson, two major contributors to our prior successes. We lost Davide Somma for the whole season and on the final day of the transfer window arguably our star player Max Gradel departed. To replace the aforementioned we signed Michael Brown, a rusty 35 year old and Adam Clayton emerged. Despite all this we were still in and around the play offs for the first half of the season. In January we lost our captain Jonny Howson and the wheels came off. Simon Grayson was sacked a day after the transfer window shut having been once again denied the opportunity to invest in his squad.
Cue the arrival of Neil Warnock, the board believed he could get more out of the existing squad. To put it bluntly he hasn’t, nowhere near. Warnock has asked where the quality is, well Neil I can tell you exactly where it is. It’s playing Premiership football for Norwich and up front for St. Ettienne.
I truly believe if we had kept out squad from the previous year and added two or three quality players wed have taken this poor Championship league by storm. We weren’t too far off with the shadow of a squad we have now.
Before people start reeling off the poor signings of which there were a few (Bessone, Paynter, Connolly, Collins and the Fins) does anyone actually believe that Forsell and Varynen were the players that Grayson identified to improve our squad? Most of them were brought in on short term deals simply to make up the numbers. Rather than investing in proven players the management team were forced to search for a diamond in the rough (found in the form of Gradel and Somma) and herein lies the explanation for the large squad we apparently have.
In the interests of a balanced argument I wouldn’t say Grayson was without flaws. His man management skills were questionable, his tendency to make one or two individuals scapegoats for the teams poor performances (Bruce, Bromby, Connolly) and the Andy O Brien saga cannot be ignored. His post match interviews were often clichéd and lacking in substance whilst our midweek record shows there are clearly issues with the clubs fitness regimes. Many detractors point to his failure to shore up a leaky defence, well fair enough. You can’t have everything though, we played an attractive attacking brand of football and a fifty percent win ratio shows it was for the most part successful.
After this seasons failure i prefer to remember Simon Grayson for the good times and would argue that Neil Warnocks struggles with the current squad are not cause to criticise Grayson for building a poor squad but a reason to praise Grayson for achieving what he did with a under funded team. Anyway, what’s done is done and maybe it was time for a change but let’s not forget what Simon Grayson achieved at our football club and here is to hoping for a better time next year under Neil Warnock.
Reporter Jeff Griffiths