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fall of the house of bates: gwyn williams gone

fall of the house of bates: gwyn williams gone


Kevin Blackwell, Gary McAllister, Simon Grayson and Neil Warnock all paid for managerial failure with their jobs; Dennis Wise got out while the getting was good. Through it all, one man remained secure in his work at Thorp Arch, despite holding the job title that arguably should have laid the blame for the last seven years of underachievement squarely at his door. 

Gwyn Williams is finally gone now, according to Phil Hay at the YEP, who knows how to underplay good news for the greatest impact. Throwing it out on Twitter this morning as if an afterthought, Phil said, “Also, we understand that technical director Gwyn Williams is leaving. Currently on gardening leave, negotiating severance deal.”

There is probably some hard science out there about the speed with which even the most intricate structures collapse once they’re abandoned, and the Fall of the House of Bates can now be added to the research. It has taken less than a week after Ken stepped down for Williams to be removed, confirming that he was only ever a cog in the Bates machine, not the Leeds United one. Remove Bates, and you remove the reason for Williams to be here.

Gwyn Williams was the man who discovered John Terry, and was described as having “the biggest contacts book in Britain” when he arrived at Leeds in the summer of 2006. It’s believed that those contacts meant it was Williams who got the call when Luciano Becchio was looking for a trial, so we can give him that, but beyond Luci it’s hard to say who or what Williams ever brought to the club. Agreed while Wise was manager, and eventually completed after McAllister took over, it seems the purchse of Enoch Showumni can be identified as the Technical Director’s work; after that, you have to guess at who was to blame for Sorsa, da Costa, Sa and the rest. One thing was for sure though, if a signing didn’t work out, it was never Williams’s job on the line.

Neil Warnock might have come closest to identifying Williams’s actual job, as Ken Bates’s eyes and ears at Thorp Arch. “He’s obviously influential,” said Warnock, “but I never did work out what his role was.” The Academy seemed to be within his remit, but players like Lees, Byram and Poleon who have come through in recent years seem to have been due to the hands on work of Neil Redfearn and lately Richard Naylor, while Brian McDermott’s instant alterations to the operations suggest they had not been working under the most effective of bosses. Redfearn in particular had reason to object to being thrown in at the deep end as caretaker manager two more times than I think he cared for; Williams, whose job title made his seem like the natural choice as caretaker, did once actually take charge of one match, once, a defeat at Southend, but never graced the bench again. His time seemed to be spent, according to Warnock, reporting back to Basecamp Bates in Monaco and, if local rumours were to be believed, pulling strings in the press to undermine Simon Grayson.

This week of big changes – new chairman, new managing director, new million pound midfielder, new striker – has created a new sense of optimism on the eve of the first pre-season friendly at Farsley on Saturday, and fans are wagging their tails like spoiled puppies, not knowing who to give their grateful licks to first. David Haigh’s new Twitter profile picture is obviously meant to convey the message of a hands on, fax-reading all-action decision maker, but I’d be happier if he was pictured simply doing what I suspect he has been doing: listening to Brian McDermott. The boardroom changes were agreed months ago when GFHC took over, but what we’ve seen this week – and what we haven’t seen for years – are football changes, and those have to be down to having a manager in place who has ideas, and who cares, and who will make himself heard; and who has a board who seem willing to give him what he needs, while removing what he doesn’t need.

I don’t know what Gwyn Williams made in salary as Technical Director over the last seven years, but I suspect its more than we could have paid some actual technically good footballers over that time. If anything bodes well for this season, it’s that the focus for resources like Gwyn’s wage is moving squarely to McDermott, and the team he can put on the pitch.

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