Leeds United: Warnock bemoans ‘cancer in the club’

Neil Warnock.
Neil Warnock.
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Neil Warnock has painted a grim picture of his 13 months as Leeds United manager, bemoaning a “cancer in the club” and describing his spell in charge as a “lonely job”.

Writing in his latest autobiography, The Gaffer: The Trials and Tribulations of a Football Manager, Warnock accused members of United’s staff, individual players and the local media of undermining and complicating his reign as boss.

The 64-year-old was sacked by Leeds in April, a little over a year after replacing Simon Grayson as manager.

His tenure – supposed to bring him a record eighth promotion in the Football League – became a story of frustration as the protracted takeover by GFH Capital, a restricted transfer budget and mediocre results left Leeds at risk of relegation by the time he and the club parted company.

Warnock, who faced chants of “Time to go” from sections of United’s supporters in the lead-up to his dismissal, was scathing in his assessment of the atmosphere around Elland Road and Leeds’ training ground at Thorp Arch.

“There was some moaning from the fans but not as much as the local press would have you believe,” he wrote. “I did feel the local media were very negative towards the club.

“That negativity seeps through the club. There’s no humour at the training ground, no happiness at all, no joy in coming into work.

“I went to Leeds and found the attitude of the academy towards the first team is them-and-us. There’s very little integration.

“It’s like a cancer in the club. If we won a game, on a Monday they’d keep their heads down and ignore us. Yet if we lost they’d be waving through the windows. It made me think they didn’t want us to succeed because the club might then bring in better people to take their jobs.

“There had been cuts and cuts for years and it sapped morale. It’s a lonely job being manager there.”

Neil Redfearn is United’s highly-regarded development team coach, heading a group of academy staff in which former Leeds captain Richard Naylor manages the Under-18s.

Redfearn was caretaker manager prior to Warnock’s arrival and replaced him for one first-team game after his dismissal. Naylor’s Under-18 squad recently won their development league title at the end of his first season in charge.

Warnock, meanwhile, questioned the impact of Gwyn Williams, United’s technical director, who also worked for many years under Leeds chairman Ken Bates at Chelsea. Warnock said: “He’s obviously influential but I never did work out just what his role was. I suppose he’s been Ken’s eyes and ears for 20 years.”

Williams declined to comment when contacted by the YEP.

Leeds were under Warnock’s control for a total of 63 games, winning 23 and losing 25.

His reign was dominated by a takeover which spanned more than six months and was finally completed by GFH Capital in November, four months into the Championship season.

Warnock, who claimed he was “doing Bates a favour” by taking charge at a time when protests against United’s chairman were mounting, said: “While Cardiff were spending £10m and running away with the division, I had to sell (Robert) Snodgrass and (Luciano) Becchio.

“Most of the division spent more than we did – in the circumstances we over-achieved.”

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