Leeds United brought an end to Neil Warnock’s ill-fated reign at Elland Road last night as a 2-1 defeat to Derby County sparked the club’s search for their next manager.
United revealed that a short-list of candidates to succeed Warnock was already in place after reacting to a 16th defeat of the Championship season by dismissing the 64-year-old from his post. Warnock had himself urged United’s owner, GFH Capital, to appoint a caretaker in the aftermath of a fractious afternoon at Elland Road where goals from Paul Coutts and Jake Buxton earned Derby a narrow win and sparked fresh protests against him amongst an angry home crowd.
The former Sheffield United boss – appointed by Leeds in February of last year – had been on the verge of departure for several weeks after agreeing with members of United’s board that he would stand down if his squad no longer retained a realistic chance of qualifying for the Championship play-offs.
They were eight points off the pace last night with six games to play.
Warnock has been replaced on a temporary basis by United’s academy manager, Neil Redfearn, who led the club through a testing four-game spell last season while Leeds secured former QPR boss Warnock as their replacement for Simon Grayson.
Assistant manager Mick Jones and first-team coach Ronnie Jepson have also left Elland Road, leaving Redfearn to plan for Saturday’s match at Charlton Athletic.
Warnock spoke with Leeds directors Salem Patel and David Haigh prior to the announcement of his departure having first faced the media.
His exit was confirmed shortly after 9pm.
In a statement, Leeds chief executive Shaun Harvey said: “We would like to thank Neil for his efforts and share his disappointment that we could not achieve promotion.
“We now need to look to the future and the search for his replacement is underway, for which there is no fixed timescale as securing the services of the right person is the primary objective so as to give us the best chance of promotion next season.”
United have compiled a list of potential options to replace Warnock, though they admitted that an appointment was most likely to take place after the season finishes. United said the timing of their next decision was “dependent on the availability of the club’s preferred choice.”
Former Reading manager Brian McDermott and ex-Bolton Wanderers boss Owen Coyle are both certain to apply for the post and YEP understands that Brighton’s Gus Poyet – formerly assistant at Elland Road under Dennis Wise – will figure prominently in United’s thinking.
Leeds, however, are unlikely to be in a position to make a move for Poyet while Brighton remain in contention for promotion to the Premier League.
Warnock’s dismissal, meanwhile, drew a line under a tough 13-month tenure in which he tried and failed to win a record eighth Football League promotion as a manager and fought through the seven-month takeover by Dubai-based GFH Capital.
He left the club after 62 games in charge having stated in his post-match press conference that GFH Capital had no option but to appoint a caretaker and respond to the angry reaction of the crowd to Leeds’ latest defeat.
Warnock said: “I don’t think it’s the right move, but for me to have stayed on would have had to be down to the fans.
“If the fans had said ‘stay on Neil and do this, that and the other’ then it’s a different ball game but I think it’s easier to bring a temporary manager in.”
Asked if he thought Leeds knew who they wanted to replace him permanently, Warnock said: “No, I don’t think they do.
“Nigel Adkins would have been a decent shout but there’ll be more options available in three or four weeks’ time than there are now. I don’t think the club should rush into getting a manager and panic.
“I’ve been a manager for 33 years and this has been the hardest 12 months I’ve had anywhere. Leeds United consumes everyone. It’s everyone’s life. But I’ve given it my best shot.”