Leeds United: We should be already planning for new season – Whelan

Charlie Taylor.
Charlie Taylor.
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If I was in charge of Leeds United, I’d want the ball rolling by now. I’d want decisions made left, right and centre so that we looked and felt like a club with a plan of attack for next season.

I know you can’t do all your business overnight but a lot of what’s going on at Elland Road frustrates me. I can’t understand why there hasn’t been an announcement about Steve Evans. Either he’s staying or he’s going.

There really can’t be much more to ponder. We all know how he manages and how he works. We all know what he’s about. If Massimo Cellino likes what he’s seen then keep him. If he doesn’t, at least do him the courtesy of letting him know. We’re making hard work of something which shouldn’t be complicated.

If Steve does go, and I think we all feel that he will, I seriously hope that the club have got a replacement lined up and ready to take the job quickly.

It would be stupid to be in the middle of May with no idea of what comes next. Let’s face it, the club were safe from relegation a long time ago. The people at the top have had ages to plan for this close-season. We need to see some serious urgency and we need to see action.

I have to be honest, I’m a bit worried about this summer. There’s nothing coming out of the club to make me feel confident about a plan of action. As far as the head coach goes, we’ve got to go for someone who knows the Championship. That to me is an absolute given. Foreign would be the wrong move – and by foreign I mean someone coming in from abroad who’s never been involved in this league before.

You could point at someone like Aitor Karanka and say ‘it worked with him’ but Karanka is quite a special case. First up, he’s been given time. Proper time. Cellino’s gone through six head coaches so far and he came here in 2014. Karanka took charge of Middlesbrough before Cellino’s takeover even went through. That’s stability and that’s what I call support.

On top of that, Karanka has had plenty of money to spend and a top squad at Championship level, combined with serious backing from Steve Gibson.

That backing hasn’t only been in the form of money. When Karanka and his players had a fall-out a couple of months back, what did Gibson do? He stood by his head coach. He stood by him and ignored any whingeing that was coming from the dressing room.

At Leeds I want to see the same sort of set-up. I want to see a manager who has the authority to get rid of players who aren’t right for the team or for the atmosphere.

I want to see a coach who has control of transfers and can sign players who he knows are going to fit in. If there are divisions in the squad at Leeds, and I’ve been very open about my opinion on certain players, then it’s hardly surprising when you think of the haphazard way in which some of the the recruitment has been done. It’s not joined up.

People talk about being left behind in the summer but in reality we started this summer behind. We finished 13th in the table, a long way off the play-offs, so it wasn’t much of a secret that better was needed.

The sooner we sort out a head coach the better but I’m also disappointed at the handling of the contracts held by the likes of Lewis Cook and Charlie Taylor.

Again, it would be nice to see some evidence of efforts being made to extend their deals. At the moment we’re at risk of heading down the road we went with Sam Byram and that has to be avoided at all costs.

I don’t care what anyone says – we lost a good player in Byram and we lost money. The fee we got, £3.7m it was reported, was less in my view than he was really worth but as much as we could expect with six months on his deal. As I see it, both Taylor and Cook are worth more than Sam but they’re 12 months away from the end of their deals. If they don’t sign up soon, what happens? Do we get round to January and go through the same situation we saw with Byram?

If they were to go, we won’t get better replacements without spending some serious cash. So why are we dragging are heels? What do the club want or what does Mr Cellino want? The reality of football is that the wages of these players need to rise. Forget about structures or parity – better players get paid more money. That’s they way it goes. And top talent earns a premium. In parts of my career I earned much less than some others around me but you didn’t moan about it. Sad as it is, there’s always someone better than you or more valuable than you.

I’m not naive about contracts. I know that Cook on a 10-year deal wouldn’t stop Premier League clubs bidding for him. But longer deals give players security and they give clubs more too. They push a youngster’s value up so if a big-money side does try to bully you, they’ve got no choice but to pay top dollar.

But there’s more to it than that. From the outside, a club who have their leading players tied down properly look like a club with their business in order. It’s the same with the head coach. Every summer we get to this stage and find ourselves asking what’s going on. It doesn’t instil confidence and it doesn’t make you feel like Leeds have got the best possible chance of having a go next season. It feels to me like we’re already losing time.