When players and managers sit down to discuss contracts, one of the first things they speak about is an exit clause. Or to put it another way, how much they’ll be paid when they leave.
Football’s weird like that. It must be the only job in the world where you think about losing a job before you’ve actually taken it. But the industry is so cut-throat that you’re taught to negotiate for as much security as possible.
One way or another, Brian McDermott will get a pay-off when he leaves Leeds United. It probably wouldn’t need him to be sacked either. The way he was treated in January, he’d have a strong case for compensation even if he quit and walked away tomorrow.
Money won’t be a reason why he’s fighting on at Leeds. What I see in McDermott is a proud man who rates his ability as a coach and a manager and thinks deep down that maybe, just maybe, this can work out.
He’s taken a lot of criticism in a season which is becoming a complete nightmare but I find his attitude pretty admirable. At times like this, walking away is definitely the easy option. Yes, you lose your job and you lose all chance of turning things around but it’s got to be preferable to standing alone on the touchline watching your team lose and hearing moaning and abuse around you.
You don’t enjoy football when your back’s to the wall. He’s almost in a situation where if someone tapped him on the shoulder and said ‘thanks Brian but enough’s enough’ he’d feel a bit of relief. But he still believes his long-term ambitions at Leeds aren’t lost.
The mess he’s in is ridiculous. Everything is a problem. You might not think the wage deferral agreed by the players last week was a big deal, or you might not care, but I know exactly what that will be doing to the squad. It’ll be upsetting people and dividing people; it’ll be causing distrust with the club and, potentially, distance between the players and the manager too. This isn’t a time when anyone feels like doing favours for anyone else.
It sounds ridiculous now but back when I was at Leeds we had a dispute with the club over a bonus which was due to be paid if we won the Premier League. One day the board decided to renege on that.
Now this might seem petty and I appreciate how well paid we all were but the squad were furious. We basically threatened to go on strike as far as we could – to do everything we were contracted to do but nothing more. No media work, no commercial work, nothing.
Wage deferrals are quite similar scenarios. You’re being asked to help out by putting money aside but you’re not really sure if that helps deserved or if it’s going to be reciprocated.
Just to be clear, it’s not a matter of whether or not you want to assist the club and the supporters. That goes without saying. But at certain times, what you’re really being asked to do is give a hand to a board or a set of owners who are making a meal of things. So the dressing room asks ‘why should we?’ That goes for lads who’ve come through the system as much as anyone else. At the end of the day you all look out for number one. I find it amazing – truly amazing – that neither Gulf Finance House nor the club has said anything about the wage deferral since it was agreed last week. You’d think it had never happened. In my opinion, someone like David Haigh should be coming out to explain what’s happening, what’s been negotiated and to address the million and one issues at Elland Road. It would help as well if someone would say something about McDermott’s position. At the moment, he’s the only one answering any questions.
When I hear people calling for him to go right here and right now, I think of Nottingham Forest. They had Billy Davies there, a cantankerous individual, and he was doing pretty well until recently. Forest then sacked him, Neil Warnock turned them down and now they’ve no idea what to do. They’re on the verge of the play-offs and they can’t persuade anyone to take the job. To my mind, they’re talking to Stuart Pearce purely because he’s a Forest legend. I don’t think his record in management is very good and I’d see him as a risky choice.
At the moment, would I have any faith in Leeds to sack McDermott and make a change for the better? Absolutely not. Until they have a new owner in place and secure, focusing on the manager’s job is pointless. Whether you rate him or not, no other coach worth his salt would take this mess on.