Absent owners but no hiding place from Leeds United failure - Graham Smyth's relegation Verdict

No one sets out to get relegated but collective failure at Leeds United has delivered the outcome Andrea Radizzani said was impossible.
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After three seasons in the Premier League, the Whites will once again return to the EFL and though this relegation is not the 2004 version, it can be described as nothing more than deserved.

An error-strewn, hapless 4-1 defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur on the final day confirmed what was already all-but inevitable. The final nail, perhaps, but in truth the coffin had been sealed by a raft of decisions over the course of 15 months or so. The succession plan following Marcelo Bielsa's sacking, the identification as Jesse Marsch as the best fit to follow the Argentine, the quality and depth of the recruitment targeted so specifically to the wrong man and his style of football, the opportunity missed to change the manager ahead of a World Cup break and transfer window, the January transfer window, the lateness of Marsch's sacking, the subsequent faffing and chasing of unobtainable targets. Nail after nail after nail.

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A few weeks ago NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo went viral with a response to a journalist who asked if he classified the Milwaukee Bucks' season a failure following elimination from the play-offs.

"There's no failure in sports," he said. "It's not a failure, it's steps to success."

His answer evidently struck a chord with Junior Firpo, who shared the video on his Instagram. The little problem that exists with that is summed up in the word relegation and all it can entail for a club and its employees. Some can even lose their jobs. Maybe it helps a professional athlete to tell themselves that failure doesn't exist but the real world consequences are enough to make a nonsense of the argument. Failure exists and it's very real. And this, this Leeds United season, this trajectory is what it looks like.

Digging out Firpo alone over social media would be churlish and unfair, particularly when the club's owner has been a moth to Twitter's flame on so many occasions.

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The Leeds squad has a number of players with accounts that are managed, massaged and manicured by PR firms who rake in thousands to put out glitzy graphic posts advertising when and against whom their star is next playing. Robin Koch's lot went a day early once and when it was pointed out by this correspondent on Twitter in the form of gentle ribbing, they asked the club to ask for the Tweet to be deleted.

FAN TARGET - Leeds United fans chanted for Andrea Radrizzani to sell the club but he was not present at Elland Road as the Whites were relegated. Pic: GettyFAN TARGET - Leeds United fans chanted for Andrea Radrizzani to sell the club but he was not present at Elland Road as the Whites were relegated. Pic: Getty
FAN TARGET - Leeds United fans chanted for Andrea Radrizzani to sell the club but he was not present at Elland Road as the Whites were relegated. Pic: Getty

Quite who these people think they are appealing to when they knock up these graphics, given that every Leeds fan knows exactly when and where each game takes place, is a mystery but it's all an attempt to build a player's brand. The jokes about pre Plymouth Argyle or Rotherham United Instagram graphics write themselves. Brands will be taking a hit this summer.

At least, however, those graphics were an attempt at some form of pre-match communication, something the club opted against in the build up to the Spurs game. There was no attempt at an explanation from the Elland Road hierarchy as to how Leeds have found themselves here, no update on the takeover, nothing from Andrea Radrizzani who spent the week in Italy lining up a takeover of Sampdoria and no programme notes from CEO Angus Kinnear. The 49ers have been silent for some time now. Sam Allardyce was left to do the talking, about a mess not of his creation and one he could not clean up.

If a great footballing institution falls and no one is around to explain why, does it make a sound?

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Radrizzani and the 49ers were not in the stadium to hear it, but if they were listening closely enough to their televisions just two minutes into the game the name Marcelo Bielsa would have come across loud and clear. That was what the fans were singing, with Leeds already a goal down.

Allardyce put five in the back line, he put a centre-back in front of them, then two centre mids, one winger and one striker. And Tottenham still played through them, giving Harry Kane one of his easiest finishes of the season.

That was the cue for anger, Bielsa's name, a derogatory chant about Radrizzani and then a full repertoire of songs about players still loved but no longer present. Gaetano Berardi, Mateusz Klich, Pablo Hernandez and then even further back. The EFL medley, someone on Twitter coined it.

To that soundtrack Leeds huffed and puffed, created a few chances and had to be sharp to prevent further concessions as Spurs hit them on the counter attack. Yet with Adam Forshaw one of very few showing anything like composure on the ball, the quality of Leeds' work in the final third did little to suggest a comeback was possible.

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There were no changes at half-time and whatever was said didn't work because within two minutes of the restart it was 2-0 thanks to another embarrassment of a goal. Kane ran down the middle, Liam Cooper couldn't stop him and when Pascal Struijk miscontrolled the ball Pedro Porro was in behind to shoot past Joel Robles.

Georginio Rutter, a player for next season in Allardyce's eyes, was thrown on in a triple sub. As one January signing entered the field, another - Weston McKennie - left it to a chorus of boos.

Unlike the American, Rutter made an impact, setting up Jack Harrison for a goal that briefly sparked a glimmer of belief, until Leeds themselves snuffed it out by allowing Kane to run into an acre of space behind Luke Ayling to score on a counter attack.

Most chanted 'sack the board' as some left and one invaded the pitch. 'He showed more fight than you,' was the observation from the stands as the invader was carried out.

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Lucas Moura waltzing his way through the defence to add a fourth dialled up the fury and the full-time whistle confirmed what was already known. Leeds United, relegated.

The closer you pass by the drain and the more times you circle it, the likelier it is that you will be sucked in.

Falling out of the top flight the way that they have, with Allardyce in charge for four games, six defenders in the starting XI, all but a handful of players booed off, no director of football and no certainty over who will own the club next season, asks this question - was it worth sacking Bielsa? Even if it felt like it was time, even if it was indeed time, so much has been lost, including the one unifying figure they had and what has been gained? They've gone down regardless, after a season that was even less enjoyable than the last one, with a team that doesn't even resemble a ghost of what it once was, and the whole thing needs torching and building again.

The apology came shortly after Allardyce had fielded questions from the media. Who signed off on it remains a mystery. No one owned it. What it said about what will happen next and who will own next season was nothing.

There will be no disowning this failure, though, even if no hands go up and no heads appear above the parapet. Radrizzani and Leeds have achieved the impossible.