The Leeds crowd were angry, boos rang out from the Kop and angry fists were being shaken towards the dugouts. We sang “What the f*** is going on?” and “You don’t know what you’re doing!” towards our own management as we crumbled horribly to a 1 – 4 home defeat to leave us 10th in the table having been much higher only a few weeks earlier.
The all-blue strips of the opposition were celebrating wildly in front of their own fans, enjoying the fact they were fourth in the table and looking good for a tilt at the play-offs. They’d basically muscled us off the ball throughout the game with their team of giants and we’d played like a team that was frightened of our own shadows. Within 30 hours of the end of the game our manager was sacked.
No, that isn’t a description of the events of this weekend, it was something I wrote six years ago following a humiliating 1 – 4 home defeat to the Blues of Birmingham, when a certain Nikola Zigic scored all four to more than cancel out an early Ross McCormack goal.
The manager sacked then was of course Simon Grayson. Six years on and an identical scenario played out again this weekend at a freezing Elland Road as January morphed into February. This time it was Cardiff’s Bluebirds that plunged a sword deep into our hearts to end all hope of a play-off challenge and this year it was Thomas Christiansen who would pay the price.
So, history has repeated itself as it so often does in football and it has left us all waiting once again to see who the club will find to take on this seemingly poisoned chalice, otherwise known as the Leeds United manager’s chair. Six years ago Ken Bates had Neil Redfearn to turn to for a few games, a safe pair of hands while he pontificated as to who he’d offer the full time job to. We knew we needed a strong character to stand up to Ken Bates and when Neil Warnock was appointed, although few Leeds fans applauded, some of us at least thought he was someone capable of standing up to Bates.
We are in a similar situation again now although it looks like the new permanent man will be straight in this time. True, Andrea Radrizzani has way more support than Ken Bates ever did, but the situation at Leeds is once again crying out for a coach, or preferably a manager who above all else has huge cohonas and someone who will demand to have his voice heard at the club in all matters related to the playing staff.
At best there is the belief that the current structure at Leeds, with Victor Orta as Director of Football (DOF), means that the ‘coach’ is exactly that and no more than that; he coaches the players he’s provided with. Most football fans just do not see how that can possibly work and particularly when there is doubt over the credentials of the DOF, which there most certainly is with Victor Orta. Yes, Orta has brought us Sammy Saiz, a real gem of a footballer who we are missing so badly at the moment but there are around twenty other players Orta has now recruited, none of whom look anywhere near that quality.
The two latest that we have seen play, Adam Forshaw and Laurens De Bock at least appear to be solid additions to the team but many of the others have looked decidedly average, even lightweight and often half of our starting XI is still made up of players from last season who we knew weren’t good enough then. Anita, Lasogga, Alioski, Wiedwald, Cibicki, Klich and Gomes have all chipped in this season but there are question marks as to whether any of them are really strong enough to help us climb out of the Championship, while Jay-Roy Grot looks miles away. If Orta is to be allowed to continue with his scatter gun policy we must have a coach experienced enough in the English Championship and vocal enough to get his voice heard; Thomas Christiansen didn’t give the impression of being either.
Fundamentally I don’t agree that the DOF structure can’t work in the Championship, we’ve seen examples where it can and Middlesbrough managed to get promoted even with Orta in the role although it didn’t apparently work well enough to keep them in the Premier League for more than a single season.
The coach must have equal status though, not only in establishing the player targets but also to ensure he gets due respect from the players. Many of us have believed Leeds have been too soft this season and we seem to be making the same errors time and time again despite claims by TC that discipline is being tackled and errors are being addressed. Maybe that’s down to a lack of weight behind the coach in dealing with players brought in by the DOF. Who knows?
Anyway, we wait with baited breath and no little trepidation as to who the new man will be. For me, I want someone the players will all respect from day one, someone with the gravitas to tell it like it is, to not back away from difficult decisions, preferably someone with experience of the Championship, someone who has got it agreed with Radrizzani and Orta that his say is final on playing matters and who comes in. Is there someone like that out there? We’ll see!
By David Watkins