The history of Leeds United Football Club has been nothing short of a dramatic script. They seem to have this knack of falling down at the brink of glory and greatness. Leeds were one of the dominant sides in English football along with Liverpool during the late 60’s and early 70’s under the shrewd guidance of Don Revie.
Poor team management and administration saw Leeds compete in the 2nd division for over a decade before Howard Wilkinson got them promoted to the 1st Division and a couple years later Leeds clinched their 3rd title by winning the last English Football Division 1 Championship.
Life in the Premier League came in the form of mixed fortunes for Leeds. They were probably the most attractive team in the league from 1998 to 2002. David O’Leary along with Chairman Peter Ridsdale dreamt big. The academy was churning out good talents in Alan Smith, Paul Robinson and Jonathan Woodgate and that coupled with the purchase of big name stars in Rio Ferdinand, Mark Viduka, Harry Kewel, Robbie Fowler, Oliver Dacourt and others, they were sure will help realize their dreams. But in spite of the talents brought in, Leeds’ failure to qualify for the champion league and win domestic glories left them with hefty loans unpaid which eventually led to a financial meltdown and relegation.
The process of rebuilding was hampered by Leeds’ relegation to the English League 1 division (3rd tier in the football league system). With Financial troubles still at large, players by the dozens were loaned in to the team. Changes in squad became a constant sight for Leeds fans.
But the famed academy once again developed quality players like Howson, Fabian Delph, and some clever dealings in the transfer market brought in Kilkenny, Johnson, Snodgrass, Becchio, Kisnorbo and others.
Leeds United finally had a squad that could take them back to their glory days. Simon Grayson got them promoted and things seemed to be going the right direction when Leeds ousted their bitter rivals Manchester United in a 3rd round FA cup tie.
Things changed when Ken Bates the chairman bought out the club to take complete ownership. Known for his egoism and eccentricity Bates intended to reform the way the club was playing. Arguments and disagreements followed and gradually the core of what was in the making of an excellent team started disintegrating. Beckford and Delph were snapped up by Premier league clubs early on and the trio of Robert Snodgrass , Jonny Howson and Bradly Johnson joined Norwich City in the Premier League during the last season .
Simon Grayson, Leeds’ successful manager of three seasons was sacked after a disagreement with Bates over transfer finances.
Starting all over again
Ken Bates appointed Neil Warnock as Leeds’ new manager this summer. Warnock comes in with quite a reputation of having a magic touch when it comes to getting teams promoted. Neil Warnock since being appointed has gone to lengths in trying to get the squad he needs for Leeds to push for promotion. Handicapped with financial difficulties , Warnock has done the best he could. Various protests have rung out at Elland Road in favour of removing Bates with the owner refusing to vacate his seat and calling the fans “morons”.
Jason Pearce became Neil Warnock’s first summer signing coming in from relegated Portsmouth. The 24 year old will be joined by Lee Peltier coming in from Leicester and experienced left back Adam Drury. Patrick Kisnorbo and Leigh Bromby, the only survivors of the defensive overhaul by Warnock and Bates will be expected to mentor the young defense.
Academy graduate Tom Lees did quite well at right back last season but has started the season at center back with injuries to Kisnorbo and Bromby keeping them on the treatment table.
Paul Green is what one would call a typical ‘Championship material’. He spent the last 4 years at Derby County with prior experience in the division coming in the form of yo-yo club Doncaster Rovers. An astute buy, he’ll be slotted into the midfield to fulfill the playmaker role. With Leeds fancying the classic 4-4-2 formation, Green will be partnered by another central midfielder in new hard men Rodolph Austin and David Norris and the aging Michael Brown.
The Jamaican Austin was bought from the Norwegian club Brann to add steel to the midfield. Known as the ‘beast’ for his hard playing style, his primary job will be to shield the back four. Young Zac Thompson can be expected to bring in some agility to the central midfield.
The forward role is something Warnock will be at a little ease with. Becchio and Ross McCormack have been leading the attack for 2-3 seasons now and they will be flanked by the mercurial El Hadji Diouf and Luke Varney. The strike force was re-enforced by the additions of highly acclaimed youth product Dominic Poleon and the old war horse Andy Gray ( Nephew of the White’s legend Eddie Gray). Youth products Aiden White and Sam Byram are also expected to shoulder responsibilities on the flank.
But even the most optimistic of Leeds fans will not bet money on their club to make it to the play-offs, least so on automatic promotion. Neil Warnock with the little money made available to him has brought in experience but not so much on the creativity front. The loss of Howson and Snodgrass, who were so vital to the club in terms of creativeness, will hurt Leeds this season.
Most of all, Warnock will be quick to realize that with a new team, team-spirit, a togetherness and a good understanding will be nil and he should be looking to incorporate that into the team first. A wining mentality only comes in and stays when a team’s chemistry is perfect. Don Revie, when he took over Leeds in the early 60’s was quick to realize this.
Warnock will have his hands full with building a team core around which a whole squad can develop and dealing with an impatient owner and chairman who is quite stingy when it comes to releasing funds for transfers. Leeds fans will be hoping that at least this time around they will have an unceasing bunch of players who’ll lead their beloved club back into the Premiership in an encore of their glory days.