A despondent Neil Warnock last night admitted that promotion was slipping away from him and Leeds United as the drawn-out takeover of the Elland Road club threatened to drag into another week.
In a frank expression of frustration and disillusionment, Warnock said the protracted attempt by GFH Capital to buy United had placed the club in a “straightjacket” and severely reduced their chances of reaching the Premier League this season.
The Leeds manager spoke out ahead of tomorrow’s league game at Millwall with United 18th in the Championship and facing the prospect of falling 10 points adrift of the divisional play-offs after today’s fixtures.
The club’s season has played out against a backdrop of uncertainty and confusion surrounding the ownership of Leeds and the fate of GFH Capital’s bid to purchase the club from current owner and chairman Ken Bates.
Negotiations over the proposed sale are continuing more than six months after they first began and United’s campaign has deteriorated in the meantime amid a shortage of transfer funds, and badly weakened squad and a winless run spanning six league games.
GFH Capital’s takeover plan has been passed to the Football League for approval but the Dubai-based firm is not yet believed to have finalised a deal with Bates. A statement released by the company yesterday said only that it hoped to secure ownership of United “shortly.”
Warnock said: “It’s difficult times at the moment.
“I’ve got to try and be as diplomatic as possible, considering how I feel, but it’s extremely difficult to get anything done or to get any answers. I’m basically like a supporter who knows a little bit more.
“The main thing is to get the takeover over the line. When you’re like this as a club, as we were at QPR, you’re very much stagnated.
“You’re almost in a straightjacket. The club’s got to move on, the sooner the better.
“Until it happens, no matter what anyone tells me, I won’t really believe anything. I don’t think I can.”
Warnock has been manager of Leeds since mid-February and his contract with the club runs until the end of this season. He admitted shortly after his appointment that he was contemplating retiring next summer and had come to Elland Road with the intention of securing a record eighth Football League promotion.
The 63-year-old said: “I get frustrated because if I was 10 years younger then there’s always tomorrow. But I want to do it today. It’s looking very much like that’s not going to be possible and it’s a disappointment.
“I don’t think I’m thick and if you look at the league table, I don’t think we should be talking about promotion at the moment – which is what I came for.”
GFH Capital is promising to back Warnock in the January transfer window but an absence of immediate funding has prevented him from signing any players on loan in the aftermath of last weekend’s costly loss to Watford.
Leeds dropped to 18th in the table after their 6-1 defeat and saw a stretched squad weakened further by the loss of Jason Pearce, Michael Brown and Rodolph Austin to suspension and injury.
United were seven points above the Championship’s relegation places prior to today’s matches and Warnock said: “We already know that with injuries and suspensions and inactivity in the transfer market we’re going to have a very small squad in the next few games.
“We’ve got top teams to play so we could be a lot nearer the bottom in four weeks’ time. But football’s not always like that.
“The window for the loan market ends next Thursday and I’ll be very surprised if it (the takeover) happens before then. So it doesn’t really help me. By all means I can look for players in January. But where will be in January?
“I know everyone’s working as hard as they can to come to a solution but we’re desperate for players and not just short term.”
Asked if the situation might cause him to question his future, Warnock said: “I want to keep certain things within and try as hard as I can to put a team out for the fans.
“If the fans weren’t behind me then I could answer that question straight away. But while the fans are behind me and they see I’m doing my best, I’ll do my best.”