By Mark Rasdall
Just before Simon Grayson got sacked, an online poll suggested that 70% of LUFC supporters wanted him to remain as manager of Leeds United. Over the weekend another poll was run and support for Neil Warnock to remain was apparently no more than 13%.
Now, running a poll immediately after an especially positive or particularly negative event is obviously going to skew the results but there has been a great deal of anti-Warnock sentiment online for some time now and especially following our away matches including our most recent loss at Barnsley on Saturday.
I really did think that Simon Grayson had run out of steam. In the same way as Kevin Blackwell's tactics or motivational skills were found out in the Play-Off final against Watford, I thought that Simon could take us no further. He is still a relatively young coach and time is on his side. He got us promotion from
the shanty towns of League One and I won't be forgetting that in a hurry. However, too often games seemed to be running away from us and Simon seemed unsure or unable to change things and there seemed to be no Plan B. His inspirational abilities were undoubtedly in question as well - particularly
after games such as the one at Oakwell last season.
We had Gary Mcallister in between times of course who wanted us to play our way to promotion; when that didn't work, again there seemed to be no Plan B and Simon initially seemed to understand that sometimes a more gritty, defensive setup with the team playing on the break was required. Gary was part of a golden midfield of himself, Gordon Strachan, David Batty and, of course Gary Speed. Howard Wilkinson may have been accused of long-ball tactics following his Sheffield Wednesday days and, yes, we went long to Lee Chapman very effectively, but boy did we play some football too and the team was built around the best midfield in the country.
It might not be Neil Warnock's fault that our most recent midfield of Snodgrass, Howson, Clayton and Gradel were allowed to leave - or maybe he could have fought more for those who were still with our club after he replaced Grayson. I don't remember him supporting Clayton very much and I'd rather have him in the team than some of those who play in our midfield at the moment.
Neil came with a huge amount of experience and clearly felt that experienced players were what was required to get us out of the Championship. He presumably also felt that a more 'professional' approach by players who needed little motivation would work for us in the same way as the other clubs he has been successful at. Well it isn't working; in fact it's getting worse, much worse. We may only be a few points away from the Play-Offs but let's get real, the gulf between our current team and a competitive Premier League team is vast and widening by the week.
I am not a manager and barely even played the game. No doubt Neil has access to information from Ken Bates and Gfh that mere lifelong fans such as me do not have. I have bowed to his judgement but I now have serious doubts as to whether he is really the man who can take us to a Premier League in which we will survive. He took QPR up and maybe he wasn't up to the job at that level in the same way as at Sheffield United when they came down again.
The latter relegation was shrouded in the Tevez affair at West Ham but surely the Blunts should never have been in that position if coaching, motivation, player selection and tactics were right more often than they were wrong across the whole season. If Neil were to take us up, why does everyone assume that with Premier League money we would be OK? We apparently had no money so he bought Varney. It isn't just his failing that concerns me but that Neil ever thought he would succeed in the first place.
In our last two away games we have failed to muster a shot on target; Peltier is played at left-back when game after game have proved that this is disastrous; our midfield sometimes looks robust or - as at Barnsley again on Saturday - non-existent (Barkley alone can't deal with the tactical problem here); there is barely any speed in the side and a terrible lack of creativity yet Poleon doesn't get a game and White is harangued by Warnock at every opportunity; our strikers get precious little service yet are also publicly criticised; we get players like Varney who remains one of the worst players I have ever seen play for Leeds and others on loan such as Thomas who, in my opinion, started well but flattered to deceive.
We have all blamed Bates and the new owners and money for all the bad things that have and are happening at our club. I don't think that's entirely fair any more than it is fair to blame Neil Warnock for everything that's going wrong. However, I think age has caught up with Neil and he is no longer the feisty, competitive manager he once was. His press conferences are just too nice as are his newspaper articles. I don't want him to be nice or reasonable, I want him to be furious at the terrible football we are playing. I want him to question his tactics and choice of player but in a positive way in terms of what he plans to do about it rather than just blaming his own players or the easy excuse of refereeing decisions going against us. We're Leeds, we don't get the rub of the green and we have always had to make our own luck.
In short, I want Neil to care as much as we all do and I want to know that he hasn't lost it. I want him to show us why we chose him and why he is still the man for the job. If he can't do that I'd like him to admit it and retire to Cornwall, leaving us to find someone with something like the same kind of passion we have for our club and one who genuinely has the ability to instil it into our play, week in and week out.