Everywhere you look, Leeds United are in limbo.
They’ve got a takeover that’s been going on for weeks and could still fall through. They’ve got 12 games left in a season which is already dead. They’ve got a manager who doesn’t know how long he’ll have a job and players who don’t know what the future holds for them.
No club in history ever achieved anything in those circumstances. When it comes to standing still, Leeds have got all the bases covered. The reason they’re suffering from mid-table obscurity is because they’re no better than that in any department. That goes for what’s happening off the pitch as much as it does on it.
There isn’t much I can add about the takeover which hasn’t already been said. Either it goes through and we look for answers from Massimo Cellino or it fails and we look for answers from the people who already own Leeds. One way or another, it has to be sorted. But more and more blame is being piled on Brian McDermott and it’s no secret that pockets of supporters want to see him go.
Obviously he can’t be considered blameless for the fact that the season is petering out. That’s the first thing to say. If performances like the last two against Bolton Wanderers and Reading are nothing to do with him then what exactly is his responsibility? McDermott’s a sensible bloke and he’d never try to hide from this. He’s dealing with plenty of distractions, yes, but his team need to be better.
Which brings us round to the players. In this situation, I’m always inclined to point the finger at the squad rather than the manager. And here’s the reason.
Back before Christmas, Leeds were playing pretty well. The results were good and the league position was good. That leads me to question what’s changed to turn them into a team who look like they’ll struggle to finish in the top half of the Championship.
I very much doubt that anything has changed with McDermott’s tactics or philosophy. He’ll be training the players in the same way and working with them in the same way. Are the players working as hard as they were and are many of them at the top of their game right now? Is the manager the problem or are the players simply not performing?
People will use Queens Park Rangers this season as an exception to the rule but it does tend to be the case that the club with the best players win their division. The club with the worst players usually finish bottom. And needless to say, the quality of your squad comes down to money. Several of McDermott’s signings haven’t worked out, that’s true, but I think he could have had more backing. He’s aiming for promotion with a squad who probably aren’t up to promotion.
Some fans will lay the results at McDermott’s feet and call for him to be sacked. They’re entitled to their opinion. But how often do we say it? The sides who do best and make the most progress are the sides with stability – a stable manager, stability in the squad and stability behind the scenes. You can’t thrive without it.
Only one club recently have coped with chopping and changing manager over and over again – Chelsea. And there’s a very simple explanation for that. They’ve got exceptional players and huge characters in their dressing room; guys who can cope with big changes. I’m not sure Leeds have those personalities to fall back on, regardless of who’s in charge. I don’t see many lads really leading the fight.
A new manager can change the style of the team and give people a bit of an overnight lift but in the longer term I’m not convinced that many coaches out there who are willing to manage Leeds and work in the Championship would do a considerably better job than McDermott. He’s right in what he said this week – there’s a cycle at Leeds where a manager comes in, gets some acclaim, has a bad patch and then gets sacked. Surely that can only happen so many times before you come to the conclusion that always looking for something new and different isn’t a sure strategy.
Is McDermott a bad manager? No. Does he have a decent track record? Yes. Is he doing well at the moment? Not really. But maybe this is one of those situations where the club should keep the faith. Because in all honesty, I’m not sure what the right alternative is.