As a team and a club, Leeds United are ready for the final push – that last step forward which takes us into the Premier League.
So who better for the manager’s job than Neil Warnock? If you’re looking for someone who’s been there and done it (and that was our remit after sacking Simon Grayson) then Neil fits the bill perfectly.
The fact that he’s won promotion seven times in his managerial career tells you he’s a specialist, not a one-hit wonder or someone who got lucky. I honestly see this as the biggest decision the club have made for a long, long time. It’s a real sign of our intent and ambition.
But make no mistake –Neil has a major challenge ahead of him, especially for the rest of this season. People might look at him and see a miracle worker but, like any manager in any other job, he needs patience and time to get things right.
He’ll be hoping to snatch a play-off position in the next two months but you could hardly claim it’s in the bag or there for the taking. It’ll be a major achievement if it happens.
It’s true to say there are no simple games in the Championship, or not many anyway, but our run-in could be easier. After Portsmouth tomorrow we’ve got Southampton, Hull City, Middlesbrough and West Ham United. To describe that as a defining stage of our season would be an understatement. It’s a crucial spell. We’ll probably know where this season is going by the end of those four games.
But that’s why it’s so encouraging to have someone like Neil on board. If you’d back anyone to make the unlikely happen then it’s him. How much he can change overnight remains to be seen, but I’m confident of seeing a tighter and more organised team on the field. A team who are harder to beat and much less porous at the back.
Once again, our defensive record has been a major problem. It’s been spoken about less than it was last season, but we’re still a side who could do with scoring two goals a game, just to guarantee a point.
Under Neil, QPR kept 25 clean sheets on their way to the Championship title and a solid defence is a fundamental requirement for any successful side.
I’ve no doubt that we’ll see a big improvement over time and I really get the feeling that we’ve moved into a new era.
How far we go under Neil is down to him and his players, but I’m incredibly optimistic. If promotion doesn’t happen this season, I’ve no doubt at all that we’ll be leading candidates next year.
That was always the point of changing our manager – to give ourselves the best chance of taking the next step. We look forward now knowing we’re in safe hands.