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the square ball week: leadership

the square ball week: leadership


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It was destiny that something major would happen today. The recent flurry of actvity at Elland Road was the warning; with renewed takeover talk, Warnock getting the sack and the team drifting away from the play-offs, out to calmer waters, then straight past them towards the waterfall, the chances of something important being announced on Friday grew hourly. The clincher came, of course, as soon as the new issue of The Square Ball went to print, ready for sale on Saturday lunchtime. “They’ve finished their magazine,” said Salem to Dave, maybe, “Now they can’t change a word. Get Brian announced.

On the upside, the late and quite sudden appointment of Brian McDermott means we don’t have a repeat of last year’s ‘Why It Has To Be Warnock’ article by Adam Jubb (now online here), although some of us were a bit more circumspect; instead we can give the new man until our next issue – in two weeks – before we decide whether to praise him highly or write him right off.

Opinion so far is a little mixed. Some of the names being mentioned – Poyet, Di Canio, O’Neill, O’Leary, Luis Enrique – had a bit more glamour about them than the man who looks like a thumb and, er, that’s it; that said, I’ll take a thumb over McClaren, McLeish, Allardyce or Appleton any day. The Scratching Shed asked a Reading supporter for a fan’s eye view of their old boss, and some sounds good: “There’s little doubt in Brian’s ability to get the most out of players”; some sounds bad: “It’s not pretty and don’t expect Barcelona style play”; and some, frankly, sounds an awful lot like Howard Wilkinson: “His first and favourite tactic is 4-4-2 … There are some question marks about his ability to get the most out of those £1m-£3m middle tier transfers.”

It seems doubtful that McDermott will get the chance to plan out a decade’s worth of work in true Wilko style, but it would be interesting to know just what was discussed between Brian, the GFH-C reps and Shaun Harvey. Sergeant Wilko told the Evening Post this week that Leeds would struggle to attract a manager while the uncertainty about GFH/GFH-C/IIB’s plans for the club continues: “Any manager taking the job, as far as I can see, would not know who he is going to be working for. And that matters enormously. That is the most important relationship within the football club.”

For McDermott to take the job while the long term plans of GFH-C and their parent bank still seem so unclear to us laymen means he must have been given either a heckuva lot of reassurance, a heckuva lot of cash, or he’s a heckuva lot of stupid. Hopefully it’s mostly the first one, and we’ll not mention an Indian development partner of GFH being raided “in connection with alleged misappropriation of USD 2 billion” following a failed joint development project in Mumbai.

It was not, all told, a shining week for the leaders of our football club, as Ofcom announced its ruling that our current chairman and president elect, one Mr Kenneth William Bates, had in their view, “taken advantage of his position as a company director of Yorkshire Radio and, ultimately, its owner, to use programmes as a vehicle to air his views about Gary Cooper and Leeds United Supporters’ Trust.” Following the judgement that found Bates guilty of harrassment of Melvyn Levi, using the same beard-channel on the same beard-frequency, a distinctly unpalatable picture emerges of a club radio station doing the bidding of the club chairman by deliberately campaigning against the club’s own fans. What’s worse, the key players in these sorry sagas – Chairman Bates, Chief Executive Shaun Harvey, and station director Ben Fry, are all still in place, leading LUST to ask for an explanation of their continued involvement in this brave new GFH world.

Leadership is important – somebody has to tell Luke Varney to stop looking so, god, I dunno, I think the word is ‘inane’ – and Brian McDermott needs to put his stamp on the club, fast. And it needs to be an intelligent stamp, not just the fluff from some mouldy old slipper dragged along from Cornwall. The Redfearn and Naylor experiment seemed like a nice idea up until the game started at The Valley; “Dire,” was the assessment of Andrew Butterwick at Travels of a Leeds Fan, and the 96th minute late loser showed how tough it is to change the culture of a club in a week when you’re only the caretaker anyway. That’s the worry with McDermott; you can’t help fight off the nagging feeling that if three points and safety had been earned at Charlton, Redders would have guided us to the end of the season and a new manager could have been selected at leisure. Instead we’re looking for someone, anyone, first of all, to keep us in the Championship, and Brian McDermott looks like the best around right now. The important thing is to recognise that his real job starts in the summer, and not to rush to judgement over the next five games. Unless we lose them all and go down, that is, in which case we’ll put him in the stocks alongside that bloody Warnock.

Other things: Jack Bennett at Spoughts invites you to remember Warnock as a failure; also at Spoughts, Amitai Winehouse invites you to think of Rodolph Austin a little more kindly. Everywhere else, including at TSS, you’re invited to remember Davide Somma at all – he’s fit again, hurrah! Now let’s give the glue some time to dry before we go and break him again, okay? We might need him, if Matthew Brown-Bolton’s Exodus of Stars at Right in the Gary Kellys comes true; although RITGKs also cover Man City’s £10m interest in Sam Byram, which you would hope would fund some replacements, as you sob and pretend you won’t miss him. For signings we may turn to Falkirk, where ‘Bairn of the Millenium’ Kevin McAllister has been talking about his role as scout for Leeds; he’ll "cheer on the Bairns and then flog ‘em to Leeds" in the Scottish Cup this weekend. One of our own youngsters notched a career high out on loan at the weekend: Lewis Turner scored the goal that promoted Chester to the Conference. Chester FC are owned by their supporters, following the ruination of the Stephen Vaughan era, and this is a good time for a hat-tip towards the tireless Pompey Trust, who took control of their club this week. Slightly more macabre, the Birmingham Mail have an interview with that Birmingham lad whose leg was broken at Elland Road this season.

As mentioned above, the ninth Square Ball magazine of the season will be on sale before the Sheffield Wednesday game on Saturday, bright and early – have a sneak peek here on Vine. We’ll also have copies for sale in the Made in Leeds shop in Trinity next week, so you can pick up your copy in an actual retail environment, if you can’t get to one of our lovely sellers along Lowfields Road. £1.50 (or £1 for the digital version) gets you 56 pages of quality independent Leedsness, including articles about Warnock, Somma, Warnock, McCormack, Warnock, the 1950s, Warnock, videos, full-backs, Brian Deane, London, and Warnock, Warnock, Warnock. And absolutely nothing about Brian McDermott. Think of it as a collectors item!