Brian McDermott this week delivered to the board of Leeds United what he described as a `frank outline’ of what they need to enable them to exit the league that as he bluntly put it, we have been `trying for 10 years’ to..
One of the selling points of Neil Warnocks tenure was bluntness, honesty, and the sort of straight talking that the generally younger, less experienced managers before him had not delivered. Many of us of course remember the promotional video for the new kit, `New Shirt New Start’ in which Warnock firstly laments the season ending fruitlessly (largely down his disastrous first season tenure February 2012-May 2012) and speaks of the need to look to the future.
That seemed pretty ironic given he had no more than 12 months at that point prior to retiring. That said many of us (myself included) ached for that line in the sand to be drawn, to finally get to the Promised Land.
That dream of course remains unrealised. But McDermott’s actions appear to revolve around a root and branch review of where we are, and where we need to be, and to include a preparedness to address uncomfortable truths that Warnocks period at the helm lacked.
That directness seems order of the day now. On his defeat at Birmingham he was clear inasmuch as telling the fans his key objective on commencing his role was to secure survival. Stark contrast to Warnocks ramblings about a squad far better than any Leeds have had in recent Years, or that he could take them no further. Here McDermott addresses the fear we all `had’. He strikes you as the man to get the job done.
And there are more uncomfortable truths to be dealt with.
McDermott wants to look at ALL the players in the Leeds United squad. Back from Chester came the Turner twins; Ross Killock is back playing for the development squad too. McDermott has quietly reintroduced Adam Drury to the starting XI, whilst ensuring we won games we really ought to have done without breaking a sweat against a poor Sheffield Wednesday and Burnley, he appears to be beginning his work in earnest.
Another uncomfortable truth, the wasted squad at Elland Road, if we’d fully used it we may not have been in such a dire state in terms of our league position. Too long at the mercy of Warnocks favouritism, Drury, Poleon, White, Diouf, McCormack, Ashdown, theyve all either ended up out on loan, or rotting in the reserves whilst others, often out of position, filled their roles, often to a substandard level. In McDermotts words he wants to…
“Take all obstacles away from the players and they’ve got to then come back from the summer as fit as they can possibly be”
We need – and always have done – a fully useful squad, but for too many seasons now we appear to be quite accepting of the fact that lumps of deadwood exist in our squad to rival the current ash dieback epidemic. It strikes you that this might just be coming to an end. Whilst Warnock placed virtually half of Simon Grayson’s squad on the transfer list, perhaps we’ll see even more ruthlessness from McDermott?
On transfers he is also succinct…
“I need to talk about who needs to come in and if we can add good quality players who know this division and know what’s required, then that by definition will strengthen what we’ve got now.”
We aren’t scoring goals, one might then reasonably assume we’ll see a new striker, and players to provide them with ammunition, but players will be under no illusion that performance is the only route to a Leeds career. We’re conceding too many goals, no ifs no buts, no `curse’ on our defenders turning them bad. We just aren’t good enough, and it needs addressing – now.
Whats interesting though in both of these statements is that while its clear we’ve not done as well as we can there is no `sword of damocles’ hung over the players much as Warnock did. He talks about `removing obstacles’ from the current dquad, and then adding quality to it. So the approach remains positive, not damaging to morale.
The performance at Birmingham bore all the hallmarks of prior Warnock away performances recently; ok in patches, but despondent in others and with a lack of belief saturating the team especially up front where the fans knew – and the squad, that we weren’t going to win.
Job one for McDermott is to replace that doubt with self belief, its positive that we put in that performance because it shows our new manager exactly what we need to do to succeed, and get promoted.
Perhaps it’s been long overdue that we simply drop some of our unreasonable expectations as a club, accept that we haven’t been good enough, have a squad that has been underinvested in for years, by managers who more often than not have been overruled by a Bates lead board, more interested in their own financial progression than that of Leeds United as a football club. Once we accept that clubs we consider to be `lesser’ such as Wigan, Reading, Bolton and Blackburn are in fact far more financially better off, and that we need to fully start again and simply build a squad of young hungry players to get us promoted, and keep building from there and to overtake them againl then and only then will we progress and escape the lower tiers of English football once again.
We have a manager who has recent pedigree in building a quality squad of players to the play offs in his first season at Reading, and then to promotion in his second, hes done it with style, sure, but effective style, with motivated players. This is surely music to our ears.
Speculation on transfer targets will be rife, with McDermott’s ex-charges from Reading prime suspects (Harte, Le Fondre, Hunt, Mills, Gorkss), and if that did come off it would be great news, but one feels that McDermott (with his promotion of Neil Redfearn to a dual coaching and first team role) will want to engage with our world-renowned academy as much as he’ll try to unearth gems from the lower leagues and re-establish old footballing links with Reading.
It took our current manager 10 years to get under the skin of Reading, and he was key to their current success, perhaps in Leeds he sees a club that are set for success even more quickly, but who have failed to get many of the basics right. Ask most fans and they’ll lament the same failings McDermott has picked upon. Not enough involvement and engagement of youth to a serious level since O’Leary left. A substandard squad with players demotivated and played out of position. Too much deadwood in the squad, and too many journeymen, but worst of all a squad who at times seem not to care..
In his words thoug he is `full of optimism’ for next season – and this time we really mean it!
Reporter – Matthew Brown -Bolton