Neil Warnock last night revealed how he spoke with Nigel Adkins and urged him to pursue the manager’s job at Leeds United prior to Adkins’ appointment as Reading’s new boss.
Warnock said he and Adkins discussed the soon-to-be-vacant post at Elland Road more than two weeks ago and claimed the 48-year-old was “definitely interested” in succeeding him as manager of Leeds.
Adkins was seen as a leading candidate to replace Warnock, who remains in charge of United but will leave the club before his contract expires in June, but Reading unveiled the ex-Southampton coach yesterday, filling a vacancy created by Brian McDermott’s recent sacking.
Adkins has taken control of a Reading squad who are seven points from safety in the Premier League and headed for relegation to the Championship, 12 months after winning promotion.
The YEP understands that Leeds – once again the subject of intense takeover speculation – took a keen interest in Adkins following his dismissal by Southampton in January but did not hold formal talks with him, even after his period of gardening leave from St Mary’s ended.
Adkins’ unexpected availability made him a viable option for United but yesterday’s announcement left McDermott, Paulo Di Canio and Gus Poyet as the most prominent alternatives to their existing manager.
The odds about former Bolton Wanderers boss Owen Coyle coming to Elland Road, meanwhile, shortened sharply in the aftermath of Adkins’ deal with Reading.
Warnock told the YEP: “I spoke to Nigel a few weeks ago and told him what a great club Leeds are – what a great opportunity it would be for him here. The club need an outstanding candidate and I think you’d put him in that category. But he’s obviously weighed everything up and decided that Reading’s the best move for him.
“To be fair to Reading, they’re a well-run and established club and he’ll be safe even if they come down. Then he’ll have money, a good squad and every chance of getting them back up. I can see the appeal but I think he’d have been great for Leeds too.”
Asked if Adkins had been interested in the job at Elland Road, Warnock said: “Absolutely. He was definitely interested. But then you don’t really need to sell Leeds United to anyone. The club sells itself.”
Despite his apparent enthusiasm, Adkins is believed to have harboured concerns about the stability of Leeds amid an on-going attempt by local businessman Steve Parkin to buy a 51 per cent stake from United’s current owner, GFH Capital.
GFH Capital purchased a 100 per cent shareholding from club chairman Ken Bates just three months ago but Parkin is engaged in advanced negotiations with the firm’s parent company, Gulf Finance House, having been approached for investment by GFH Capital shortly after its takeover on December 21.
With fresh doubt surrounding the club’s immediate and long-term future, Adkins’ appointment at the Madejski Stadium came as another worrying development for United’s support at a time when securing Warnock’s replacement is an obvious priority.
The 64-year-old has already confirmed that he will leave Leeds if his squad fail to win promotion to the Premier League this season and United are seven points behind the Championship’s last play-off place with eight games to play.
Warnock, however, is willing to remain in charge while the club seek his successor and he will be in charge for Saturday’s fixture at Ipswich Town.
GFH Capital does not appear to have made any attempt to remove him from his post since United’s 2-1 defeat to Huddersfield Town on March 16, their last game before the current international break.
“All I’ve said to the owners is that I’ll keep going for as long as it’s mathematically possible for us to get into the play-offs,” Warnock said.
“If they want me to manage us through the last eight games then I’ll do that but it’s one game at a time for me at the moment.
“I’ve got a good squad here who I know will put the work in for me every time they play and all we can do is get as many points as we can and see where it leaves us.”