The clock’s ticking and we’re starting to get close to some key dates now. Pre-season starts in a fortnight’s time and that has to be seen as a fairly firm deadline for Leeds. The right choice is better than the quick choice, we all know that, but the last week of June isn’t exactly the start of summer in the football calendar.
I remember from my playing days how quickly the close season goes and you can probably times that by 10 for a club owner; especially an owner who needs a new manager. The break flies by and I always found that we were back at Thorp Arch before we knew it. From the point of view of the players, they’d prefer to check in for training with a coach waiting to meet them.
Sometimes, with the best will in the world, it simply isn’t like that. Let’s be honest, Garry Monk’s decision to resign caught everyone by surprise and whatever contingencies Leeds had in place for finding another manager they won’t have been completely ready to begin the search. Garry leaving struck me as a bizarre turn of events at the time and it still does, whatever the various explanations for the parting of ways.
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If Massimo Cellino had been taking over this summer, you’d almost have understood Monk saying ‘this is going to be bonkers, thanks but no thanks’. With Radrizzani and with this season behind the club it’s almost as if Monk and Leeds stuck together while they navigated choppy waters and then walked away from each other when things felt calm and most promising.
Like any situation, you’d need to have been a fly on the wall to understand what really went on. One thing I will say it that despite Garry quitting, the job at Leeds is more attractive than it has been for years. The club are by no means starting from scratch. They’re merely starting late in the day, no question, but early enough to get things together if the search for a new manager doesn’t run on too much longer.
I’ll confidently predict that for the players, this will feel nothing like the pre-season when I joined Leeds in 2007. You’ll remember the script: we’d been relegated from the Championship, we’d been in administration, we were heading for a 15-point deduction and it felt as if we’d sold everyone and everything worth selling.
Dennis Wise being Dennis Wise, the fitness side of pre-season was extremely tough. His tests at the very start – a way of assessing whether you were up to his standards (I probably wasn’t) – involved a two laps of a 400m track in a certain time followed by a set distance on the rowing machine in a certain time. The targets were strict and it was bloody hard. You got pushed until you hit them. It was certainly one way of snapping you out of your summer holidays.
The weird thing was that you’d do these tests with players who two days later were gone, never to be seen again.
So many of us were on trial or working at Leeds without contracts because the financial problems meant the club weren’t able to make signings straight away. They had to promise some of us deals on the never-never. Some lads dropped in for bit and then left.
From the start I was happy to stick around and sign, despite the problems. It seemed pretty obvious to me that normal service would resume before long but that’s a great example of the sort of pre-season you want to avoid.
It won’t be anything like that at Leeds this summer. The circumstances are completely different. But I do think it helps everyone to know the direction you’re going in.
The advantage back then was that Wise, whatever people thought of him, was there as manager. Players came and went but the ethos and the way of working was the same.
That’s what the current Leeds squad will be looking for: direction and clear instruction about how they’re going to attack the new season and how they’re going to play.
Beyond the recruitment of new players, that’s probably the biggest thing for the club this summer: making sure the squad adapt quickly to a new approach.
It would be a real shame, given how good the past 12 months have been, if the club and the supporters went into the new year feeling like their chances were effectively the toss of a coin.
Leeds have a great opportunity to make themselves more serious contenders and this decision will dictate so much. It’s a fine balance between waiting for the right man and taking the leap before patience starts to wear thin.