By Josh Grainger
In the late hours of last night the somewhat unsurprising news that Neil Warnock had parted company with Leeds United became official.
A club statement published at around 10pm stated: "Leeds United have parted company with Neil Warnock with six games of the season to go."
"The decision has been taken with a view to preparing for the 2013/14 season and Neil Redfearn will be asked to take control of first team coaching until a permanent appointment is made."
The news came as no major shock to any Leeds fan, the departure of the former Sheffield United and QPR manager seemed on the cards even before Warnock's post-match interview, after Leeds' 2-1 defeat to Derby on Monday evening. In Warnock's interview, the 64 year old told Yorkshire Radio that he didn't expect to be in charge for next week's trip to Charlton Athletic. Hours before his departure was confirmed, in what proved to be his last match in charge of the Whites, a late Jake Buxton header gave Derby all three points and put an end to Leeds' already unlikely play-off hopes.
One thing that Neil Warnock in future may be able to boast in his admittedly impressive CV, is that he gave a professional debut to 18 year old Chris Dawson. The Dewsbury born midfielder had been on the fringes of a first team debut for large chunks of the season after playing a key role in Leeds under 18s' title winning season. Whilst tiny in height, the same adjective cannot be used to describe the future that
the young central midfielder appears to have ahead of him. After earning places on the Leeds bench numerous times, most notably in Leeds' fourth round FA cup win against Tottenham, Dawson was finally given his first taste of professional football, when Warnock named him along side Paul Green and Rodolph Austin in Leeds' three man midfield against Derby. In a fairly dull match, Dawson was one
shining light, regularly running at the Derby defence, as well as making tackles and causing havoc down the flanks.
A tiring Dawson was replaced by Ross McCormack in the 55th minute, receiving a standing ovation from the 21,000 or so Leeds fans, I'm sure it won't be the last we see of him this season. Dawson's replacement McCormack showed the crowd and the Sky cameras why he should be starting in a struggling Leeds side, he put the Whites ahead with a fabulous first time effort from the edge of the box. Leeds looked like they be on course to take all three points, then Jason Pearce stupidly bundled down Chris Martin in the area, Derby had the chance to level the game from the spot. Connor Sammon's penalty came back off the post, however it summed up Leeds' luck that the ball spiralled straight to Paul Coutts who turned in the rebound.
Another shining light in a dull Leeds season has been Sam Byram, he was inches from putting Leeds back ahead, however his header came back off the crossbar. Just as it looked like Leeds were going to have settle for a point, there misery was compounded when Jake Buxton escaped from the slack marking of Luke Varney to head in a winner for the Rams. Leeds' efforts deserved at least a point, but it would not have shied away from the fact that recent performances have not been worthy of a promotion winning team.
When Simon Grayson was sacked as Leeds manager after a 4-1 home defeat to Birmingham on February 1st, 2012, Neil Warnock lead the way in the betting odds to take over at the Yorkshire club. Just over two weeks later, he was officially announced as the new Leeds United manager and the club publically said that Warnock's aim was to reach the play-offs in his first year. Warnock was in the stands for his first match, however it still felt as if temporary manager Neil Redfearn was in charge, despite this however, goals from Andros Townsend, Adam Clayton and Luciano Becchio (none of whom are still at the club) helped turn around a 2 goal deficit to beat Doncaster Rovers 3-2. Sadly however the form never really picked up for Warnock since that match. Warnock's first real game in charge of Leeds was an away trip to relegation threatened Portsmouth. The game ended in a goalless draw, a match that summed up Warnock's reign at Elland Road. Leeds finished the season in a worse position than before he had taken over, a 2-1 defeat to Leicester at Elland Road on the last day of the season, meant they finished the season in a disappointing 14th place.
Many Leeds fans thought that the next season was when Warnock's magic wand would really start to wave. A summer dominated by takeover talk for the Whites meant that the manager had limited funds to work with when assembling the squad he hoped was fit to take Leeds back to the premier league. Warnock surprisingly decided to make the most of relegated Portsmouth's financial troubles and took no less than four of the South Coast team's players off their hands. The first of which was Jason Pearce, a solid centre back who had been voted Portsmouth's player of the season. Luke Varney, David Norris and Jamie Ashdown were all to follow, none of whom were particularly young and worryingly none of whom particularly stood out as promising players.
Warnock's promotion hopes were dealt a major blow when star player Robert Snodgrass agreed to move to Norwich, and he was never suitably replaced, despite Warnock claiming that Luke Varney was the man to fill Snodgrass' boots. A few weeks into the season it was clear that Varney was not a patch on Snodgrass, who just to add salt in wound's, was blossoming in the premier league. One Leeds United podcast summed the Varney - Snodgrass swap up perfectly when he likened to "Selling your best cow and replacing him with some moulding beef", whilst somewhat disrespectful to Varney, his performances on average were less than average, however he was by no means the only one underperforming. Warnock's prize possession Paddy Kenny was doing just about alright between the Leeds sticks, however by the time Christmas came around the majority of fans felt that sub goalkeeper, Jamie Ashdown should be playing ahead of the ageing Kenny.
After what seemed like an age, the much talked about middle-east takeover finally went through in November and ironically Leeds' form started to pick up immediately. A three match winning streak followed the announcement, however things came crashing back down to earth with a 3-1 away defeat to Derby. Leeds season continued in this manner, an impressive win always seemed to be followed by a loss and Leeds' play-off hopes were slowly fizzling out. Warnock's petty excuses annoyed the Leeds faithful, who became fed up of his blaming of referee's etc.
After several lifeless performances, Warnock soon experienced the criticism of the Leeds followers. Even after some win's, such as Bristol City, Warnock still was criticised for his brand of football. To cut a long story short, Warnock leaves Leeds in 12th position, 8 points off the play-offs, more worryingly only 5 off the relegation zone. Whilst the threat of relegation isn't serious enough to make Leeds fans sweat at the moment, if the next few results don't go their way under caretaker boss Neil Redfearn, Leeds could find themselves with a relegation battle on their hands. The new Leeds United owners, GFH Capital have stated that they have already drawn up a shortlist of potential candidates to succeed Neil Warnock, however have stressed that their first choice may not be available immediately and it may not be until after the season has concluded that Leeds appoint a new permanent manager.
Several names are being linked with the job already, Nigel Adkins was at one point odds on faviroute to take the job, however he opted to move to Reading instead. On the topic of Reading, their former manager Brian McDermott is one of the strong faviroutes to take charge, as is current Brighton manager, Gus Poyet. Poyet was assistant manager at Leeds under Dennis Wise before leaving the club to take a role at Tottenham. Numerous other potential candidates have emerged, former Manchester United man Mark Hughes has recently been linked, as has recently sacked Martin O'Neil. I don't expect a new manager to be announced for a few weeks at least, and with ongoing speculation regarding Leeds' boardroom, it could be more complicated than one would expect. For now at least, Redfearn is simply expected to keep Leeds from being sucked into a relegation dog fight, however even the most optimistic of Leeds fans would admit that a play-off place is just about impossible for the Whites.