McDermott's Royal Revolution

One club’s loss is another one’s gain. Reading received a huge boost this week when manager Brian McDermott snubbed the advances of Premier League Wolves and signed a new deal at the Madejski Stadium that will keep him at the club until 2015.

The boss told BBC Berkshire “There was a lot of talk, but I didn’t say anything, I’m happy it has been done and we can get on with football.” This is typical of the man himself. McDermott doesn’t draw any attention to himself; he’s not a Neil Warnock or Ian Holloway type of character. No journalists will be chasing his car down the street as he’s not going to make any shocking quotes to provide front page news.

Certainly McDermott stays out of the limelight, indeed people often forget that he’s even in charge. The Reading fans certainly don’t however. His reputation is growing and growing, as is his popularity with the supporters. Having taken over from Brendan Rodgers in 2009 with the club in the relegation zone after the loss of their Premiership status, he turned around the club’s fortunes around, leading the side to victory over Liverpool in the FA Cup during his first month in charge. A rolling contract then followed and McDermott guided the side to a comfortable position in the Championship. The 2010/11 season represented a remarkable return for McDermott and his team. Despite a poor start, they enjoyed a run of eight successive wins in the middle of the season to help the side to 5th position and therefore a playoff spot. They ended Cardiff’s hopes (and cost Dave Jones his job) in the semi final, but lost out to Swansea in the final at Wembley 4-2. They also performed wonders in the FA Cup again, losing out to Manchester City in the quarter finals.

The summer wasn’t ideal for the Royals however, as key defender Matt Mills moved on to Leicester while Shane Long also secured a switch to the Premier League with West Brom. Events off the field have also created a difficult situation at the club as John Madejski, the long serving owner, has now relinquished control of Reading. Russian Anton Zingarevich of Thames Sports Investment has taken over, making Reading the 20th club in the Premiership and Championship to go under foreign investment.

Whilst no-one is expecting Manchester City proportions of spending, Reading fans are cautiously optimistic this could give them a significant financial boost for an assault on the Premiership. Jason Roberts joined in January and has proved an astute signing, grabbing 4 goals in 5 games since his loan switch from Blackburn. This has come at a welcome time for the club, as Reading have struggled to find the net on occasion this season, indeed their top scorer, Simon Church, only has 6 goals.

With such upheaval behind the scenes, it is testament to the managerial skills of McDermott that his side are climbing the table. Reading now lie third, just four points behind second place West Ham, and five behind Southampton with a game in hand. Promotion and a return to England’s top division is a real possibility and the Royals are on top form at the moment, hunting down those automatic places.

This has undoubtedly contributed to McDermott’s decision to stay at the club. Wolves are by no means guaranteed Premier League status, as they are languishing in the drop zone and therefore the sides could pass each other in swapping divisions. Under new ownership, the club could really go places and therefore avoid the situation where the best players move onto bigger clubs. Reading lost a lot of the stars from the Steve Coppell era and it would be nice for supporters to envisage a situation where McDermott could build a strong team in the top flight.

McDermott has promoted a really positive vibe around the club, highlighting this in his decision to stay. He said “This is my club, the fans are really important to me and I have great staff, players and we work so well together. The big thing for me was my relationship with the new owner Anton. I had a conversation with him on Sunday and another one on Monday. He said something very important to me and after that there was only one place I was going to be at.”

 

If the Reading revolution continues under McDermott, Wolves will rue the day the man who draws little attention to himself decided to stay at the Madejski Stadium. Prepare for the sight of the Royals back in the Premiership as the man in charge knows what he’s doing.

Woe-rld Club Challenge

Yet again it has become apparent that the RFL have a distinct inability to learn from their mistakes. Previous reinventions including numerous liquidated new clubs, bizarre playoff systems and the disastrous magic weekend have plagued the sport since the creation of Super League. So now the RFL have decided it’s time to reintroduce the biggest flop of all: the expanded world club challenge.

The ill fated 1997 world club championship saw 22 sides from Australia and the European Super League battle it out and frankly it was a disaster. It was a financial catastrophe which saw the tournament lose $5,000,000, which wasn’t helped by poor television ratings and dismal crowds. The rugby didn’t go to plan either as throughout the tournament, only eight matches were won by the Europeans and none of them made it past the quarter-finals. After the Europeans proved they didn’t deserve to be on the same field as the Australians, it was abandoned after its inaugural year.

However this was 15 years ago, Super League has dramatically improved since then and as proven by Leeds’ fantastic victory over Manly and Warrington’s pre-season victory over the Rabbitohs, many believe we could now compete. The talk of a new tournament has caused quite a stir, but thankfully every suggestion made so far has only called for a small tournament involving only the best. If Leeds and Warrington are good enough to compete with the NRL’s finest then you would expect that certainly Saints and Wigan have the ability to compete, with Huddersfield and Catalans also rapidly developing, meaning the idea certainly has some potential.

However, it’s not quite as simple as the afore mentioned victors being better than their Australian counterparts. Warrington’s victory came in a meaningless pre-season friendly and not even the most devout Leeds fan would claim that Leeds are genuinely the best club in the world. After a full pre-season and two league matches it is fair to say the Rhinos were in much better shape than the jet-lagged Australians, yet to play a proper match and whose only experience of the cold being Joe Galuvao’s acclimatisation to British weather by sitting in his fridge. No matter how good Manly should have been, they weren’t. Yet with the different timings of the domestic leagues the only way both sides would be able to go into the game with equal footing would be to follow Brian McDermott’s suggestion of a post-season tournament.

Yet this causes problems in itself as there simply isn’t enough time to host the four nations alongside a fully fledged club competition. What’s more, it would hardly go down well with the clubs who regularly complain of there being too many matches in a season as it is. What’s more the Australians have never exactly embraced the competition anyway. That said, the fact they seem more committed to an expanded world club tournament than this year’s abandoned Four Nations, given their supremacy, suggests maybe it is time for the four nations to make way for an international club competition.

In the highly unlikely event of this happening, the next question would be the structure of the competition. The ideas so far would see either six or eight teams compete with most suggestions including four teams from each country in either two groups of four followed by a knockout. However the most obvious format is yet to be suggested – a straight knockout tournament, which has always been the most attractive to fans, given the continual popularity of the Challenge Cup. It also reduces the number of games which have to be played and doesn’t put people off by overcomplicating the format, as Gary Hetherington’s suggestion of a six team competition would. His idea of teams playing three matches in one weekend is what struck as particularly ridiculous as come the Sunday teams would be far from their best.

However, the Leeds CEO’s suggestion of a weekend long event reminded me of rugby union’s world sevens series which could easily be reproduced in the nines format. For those unfamiliar with the concept, the sevens tournaments see four pools of four teams with pool matches played on a Saturday and finals on a Sunday. The nines format is quickly growing in popularity and with guaranteed quality; this appears an attractive possibility for all those involved in the sport. What’s more the logistical issues of the other suggestions are wiped out, as it only takes one weekend, includes numerous teams yet doesn’t leave players too exposed to fatigue and injury meaning the only issue remaining would be the venue.

Talks of Dubai or Las Vegas sound incredible, but the tournament has to settle in rugby league strongholds first. While the sport is bigger down under, this competition has always had more support in Britain; therefore I would play the first tournament here, (but for the love of god, somewhere in rugby league heartlands, not down south). Although respect is due to the 200 Manly fans who made the trip last week, 200 fans from each club involved is not enough to fill an international standard stadium, therefore foreign venues hardly seem feasible options. Nevertheless there certainly seems to be a place in the rugby league calendar for an expanded world club challenge, and organised properly, it could be the making of global rugby league.

Australia here and now

The back-to-back Ashes defeats and failure to retain the World Cup ensured Australia were a team in a crisis. With huge media pressures and serious selection issues, something had to give. Unfortunately for him, Ponting knew it was time to step down if not because of his personal poor form, then for the opportunity to add a new vibe to an otherwise fading team. Even after being one of Australia’s most successful captains for an extended period of time, speculation grew over his ability to captain an inexperienced side with the absence of greats such as Warne, McGrath, Hayden, Langer, and Gilchrist.

This criticism arose with the sudden departure of many of these legends. Little did the selectors know the impact this would have on the newly formed Australian side, that appeared to be all but premature. Many commentated on the need of a creative incite to Ricky’s captaincy that was previously not required, this was quickly countered by fellow team mates, however it was inevitable that with the retirement of these greats, came the unveiling of Australia’s lack of strength in depth.

Ponting’s retirement in March 2011 gave way for Michael Clarke to take the reins, however there was speculation over his popularity within the side. It would seem that the arrival of 2012 had a dream impact on the Australian team as the batsmen, both new and old, started scored heavily and the bowlers were certainly in their element. In late 2011 Australia beat Sri Lanka, drew with South Africa and New Zealand and then finally in the New Year thrashed India 4-0. This comprehensive victory came at the perfect time for Michael Clarke, who found a prolific purple patch of form scoring 626 at an average of 125.2; this included a selfless captain’s nock of 329 not out, which certainly raised his popularity, not to mention showing what an outstanding player his is.

Ponting himself also came back into form in the same series and while batting at number four, he made a spectacular return to form, scoring 544 runs at an average of 108.8, including two hundreds and three half centuries. Though he no longer expects to play limited overs cricket, he has once again proven himself in the test arena and will surely retain his place for future tours.

But why the sudden change around in confidence and ability? Have the new members of the squad introduced a new vibe to the team? Or have the selectors finally got it right?

Replacing what is considered to be the best spinner and best seam bowler of all time both was never going to be an easy ask of the Australians, although they have been extremely ruthless in selection. The retirements of these great and inspirational players were the underlying reason for Australia’s selection issues from 2007 onwards. Australia have used a staggering 11 spinners since the retirement of Shane Warne and many feel that the majority of them weren’t given long enough to impress. Were they all dropped because they simply weren’t good enough? Or were the Australian Cricket Board and selectors simply too stubborn to admit that it would be unreasonably difficult to replace Warne’s greatness? Either way they have finally found a young gun that is doing the job for them. Nathan Lyon, having just turned 24, definitely has a bright future ahead of him. He bowls with traditional flight, varying his pace and above all, he spins the ball, something that the previous 11 spinners lacked. Taking 5 for 34 on debut was a dream start and he has continued to cement his place in the side ever since, regularly taking wickets and giving the new captain Michael Clarke control.

With the spin department taken care of, it was down to the seam bowlers, a flaw in Australia’s armour since the days of McGrath, Lee and Gillespie and one that England took full advantage of during the recent Ashes series down under. Unlike Australia, England had been planning and developing their bowling attack for 18 months prior to the series, so much so that they had a full replacement bowling attack, which was called upon to great success during the series. Recently Australia have found some promising new fire bolts that could potentially guide the side through the tough tours ahead.

These names include the young Patrick Cummins and James Pattinson, who have both proved impressive so far, Cummins has real pace and the ability to bowl wicket-taking deliveries on a regular basis, as proven on debut against South Africa, taking 6 for 79. Touted to become the leader of the Australian attack, the selectors have realised his potential and offered him a central contract, at 18 he is the youngest to be contracted since the scheme was introduce in 1998. Pattinson has also put his name forward as the one to watch over the near future and the Australian selectors certainly hold him in high regard as they offered him a contract in 2011 with only six first class matches to his name. On debut he bowled with control at decent pace and got just rewards taking 5 for 27, with his accuracy and strength makes him a promising prospect for the future of Australia’s bowling attack.

These new players have linked well with the old warhorses Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus who are both enjoying very productive summers, and if Australia continue to prosper in this way, then it looks like we may actually get a competitive home Ashes series after all

Matt Phillips: Another story of Blackpool success

The Football League is used to Ian Holloway making outrageous comments, indeed the Blackpool manager’s sharp tongue is well known across England, brought to light during the Tangerines’ Premiership campaign last year. However, Ollie has been making loud noises about one player in particular recently, one player that has caught the eye in spectacular fashion this year, lighting up Bloomfield Road with some dazzling displays on the wing.

That player is Matt Phillips, the 20-year-old who joined Blackpool from Wycombe Wanderers back in 2010 for an initial fee of £350,000. Despite making 27 appearances in the top flight, it’s fair to say Phillips didn’t exactly catch the eye, unlike some of his more experienced teammates, who earned themselves moves to other Premier League clubs once Blackpool were relegated. Holloway was keen for Phillips to nail down a starting spot, so he sent the player on loan to Sheffield United at the start of this season.

This seemed to kick start the youngster’s career, as Phillips impressed at Bramall Lane, scoring 5 goals in a mere 6 games for the Blades. A swift return to Bloomfield Road followed, as Blackpool were struggling to recapture their sparkling attacking form that saw them entertain the Premier League. He has been nothing short of sensational since moving back to the North West, bagging 10 goals in the 23 games he has featured in so far. Hat-tricks against Barnsley on Boxing Day and then against Fleetwood in the FA Cup has made other managers sit up and take notice, prompting Cardiff City to offer £800,000 for his services during January.

Holloway laughed off this bid however, stating “I think they were a little bit ambitious there, if he goes anywhere it’ll be one of the top five clubs in the country. He won’t have to wait for Cardiff to become that, so slightly ambitious, slightly outrageous.” His manager went further in his praise, stating that his winger had the potential to be better than former Tangerine superstar Charlie Adam, telling ESPN “People didn’t realise how good Charlie [Adam] was and I think this kid could be potentially better. He’s a good lad, he’s a good player and shows what he can do. We’ve got to get everything right around him for him to shine.”

 

If Phillips continues in such a rich vein of form, Holloway’s prediction of a move to a Top 5 club could well hold sway; indeed there are rumours that Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool are taking a close look with a view to a potential summer transfer. Phillips would do well to continue his career at Blackpool for the time being, indeed the club has proved an excellent stepping stone for others to develop their careers, the most notable example obviously being Adam moving to Liverpool. Other stars of the Premiership campaign got their moves as well though, David Vaughan moved onto to Sunderland and DJ Campbell went to QPR (though that switch hasn’t been quite as successful). The stage is set therefore for Phillips, he has attracted the attention and a great career is there for the taking, indeed the player looks ready to make the step up the Premiership immediately.

There have been talks of international call-ups as well. Craig Levein is set to offer Phillips the chance to take on Slovenia in a friendly on February 29, as the player would qualify for Scotland through his grandparents. This would represent a real coup for the Scottish camp, as Phillips has already appeared for England U20; indeed he lit up the recent clash with France with a superb performance. Holloway though has advised his young star to be patient though and wait for his England chance, stating the player has a great chance of earning international honours in the future for the country of his birth. Phillips is still undecided though and may want a taste of international football, especially given that he plays alongside fellow Scots at club level, such as former captain Barry Ferguson and Matt Gilks, who has been selected in previous Scotland squads.

Whatever Phillips’s decision, he can’t let it distract him from his club form. The way Blackpool are going at the moment, he could be set for a Premiership return with the Tangerines themselves, the club are flying currently and lie 5th in the division, firmly among the promotion contenders. It seems though, that in Phillips’s case, Ollie is talking some genuine sense, he really does have a gem on his hands. Don’t be surprised to see Phillips motoring down the wing in the Premiership next season…

 

 

Arsenal: Is it a Crisis?

When Spring approaches, there are always a few certainties in life. Easter Sunday will take place, it will rain a lot and nature will restart its circle of life. Oh and Arsenal will be out of contention in all competitions.

Once again, the Gunners have stuck to their yearly routine, though they disappointed earlier than usual in the Premiership this season, indeed some say their chances were over as early as losing 8-2 to United. Certainly by the time they were turned over by Fulham, Swansea and then by Fergie and his boys again in the league, they waved goodbye to the title once more.

Not content with mere Premiership capitulation, the Gunners imploded completely last week, losing the first leg of their Champions League clash to AC Milan 4-0, before crashing out of the FA Cup thanks to a 2-0 defeat to Sunderland. The defeat to Milan, shameful though it was, is more understandable, the Italian side’s frontline clicked in a way us neutral viewers in England have never seen before. Tormentors in chief were Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho and believe it or not, former Spurs reject Kevin Prince Boateng. And they had Pato on the bench. That team is enough to give anyone a hiding, but unfortunately for Wenger and his boys, it was them on the receiving end. The defeat to Sunderland was just miserable though, Martin O’Neill’s side completely outplayed Arsenal and they will be kicking themselves with City and United both out of the competition and Chelsea and Spurs facing replays.

So where now for Arsenal? Mr Wenger is in his 16th year at the club, and he faces his seventh successive season without a trophy. Let’s be honest, at any other club (bar maybe Manchester United), the Frenchman would find himself out of a job. This is now a significant period without success and they haven’t even come close to a Premier League title. OK, there was the occasion in 2008 when Gallas’s one-man pitch protest ruined team morale, but that was in March, a whole two months before the end of the season. There was the League Cup final defeat to Birmingham last year and the one to Chelsea in 2007, but who counts the League Cup anyway? And of course, the Champions League Final in 2006. As unlucky as they were in Paris that night, that’s still six years ago.

That just isn’t good enough for a side who regularly finishes in the Top Four, indeed if it wasn’t for their consistency in finishing in the Champions League places, you feel changes may already have been made. There is a realistic possibility they may miss out this year, although they currently lie fourth, they face an almighty challenge to hang onto that spot from Chelsea and to a lesser extent Liverpool and Newcastle. There’s no two ways about it, no Champions League football would ruin the club. Arsenal cannot afford to compete with City or Chelsea anyway, never mind without the revenue taken from the competition. Player exits will undoubtedly follow, the obvious one being Robin Van Persie who is already making serious noises about jumping ship in the summer. Alex Song has also been linked with PSG.

The man in question is Wenger himself. Arsenal fans have managed to defend their loved one in previous years by praising the way their club is run. His youth policy is admirable, his ability to decide when to sell a player just past their peak is second-to-none and he has an eye for foreign talent. You get the impression this has changed recently. This summer’s transfer activities were nothing short of miserable, they lost Fabregas to Barca (who certainly wasn’t past his peak), Nasri to City (couldn’t afford his wages) and Clichy also to City (never replaced.) Bringing players in was left till the last minute, hence why the defensive issue was never solved; indeed Per Mertesacker has proved disastrous. Only Mikel Arteta could really be judged to have had a positive impact at the Emirates since his move, although Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is starting to come to the fore. There have been recent signs the Arsenal faithful are starting to lose patience with Wenger; take note of the minority booing the decision to replace Oxlade Chamberlain with Arshavin during the defeat to Manchester United. A minority it was, but it was still audible.

Changes need to be made. The wage budget has to be radically altered, it is clear the policy of promoting talented youngsters is failing and big names need to be attracted to the Emirates. The likes of Mario Gotze and Eden Hazard have been mentioned, but neither of those two will sign for Arsenal if the wages aren’t there. The players currently at the club need an incentive to stay. They should throw the chequebook at Robin Van Persie, he is irreplaceable and therefore the club needs to do whatever it takes to keep him in London. The defence has to be sorted out as well, the likes of Mertesacker, Djourou and Squillaci just aren’t good enough, so why on earth wasn’t Gary Cahill bought in the summer? And the final issue revolves round the manager. Has Wenger lost his touch? There is talk of moving the man into the boardroom and taking on a fresh approach, but in all honesty, who could do a better job? Only Mourinho and Guardiola come to mind and it would take some negotiating to bring one of them to the Emirates.

This summer is important for the Gunners. There is no doubt the squad has a decent backbone, there are some talented youngsters there. The deadwood needs shifting on though, there are a number of players stealing a living off the football club (mentioning no names Mr Arshavin). However, the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey, Szczesny and Oxlade Chamberlain can form the basis of the squad for the future. Others like Walcott, Song, Vermaelen and Koscielny are also quality players, so therefore only a couple of new signings would have to be brought in to the club to fit around the talent already there. Wenger needs to be given a chance, given financial backing and most importantly, hold onto Van the Man. There is still hope for the Gunners, indeed most other clubs in England would snap your hand off to face the ‘crisis’ evolving at Arsenal. But things need to change. And quickly.

Left, Right, Goodnight?

After enjoying a couple of years of sensational highs, British boxing has been dragged through the mud in a big way by two petulant, egotistical and quite frankly disappointing heavyweight boxers. Dereck Chisora and David Haye clashed violently following the post-match conference of Chisora’s gutsy defeat to Vitali Klitschko, shaming the sport as a whole.

Chisora had started the week badly, astonishingly slapping Vitali during the weigh-in, which can be viewed here for those of you who have managed to miss it – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxHkJq1ICOE.

This was a miscalculated gamble, it riled Klitschko himself, not to mention alienating any support Chisora had gained, indeed his own trainer Don Charles criticised his fighter’s actions. Still, ‘Del Boy’ went some way to regaining a miniscule of respect, turning in a battling performance to go the distance with Vitali, showing far more talent and skill that David Haye managed during that dismal defeat to Vitali’s brother Wladimir last summer. Chisora had done himself proud and many experts suspected that Vitali had faced his biggest test since Lennox Lewis beat him controversially back in 2003.

Then came the furore. Haye gatecrashed the press conference apparently angry at revelations that Vitali had decided not to fight him, despite the Hayemaker considering a return from retirement to set up the big clash. Chisora then goaded his heavyweight rival, asking ‘How’s your toe’ in reference to the apparent injury Haye used as an excuse for his no-show against Wladimir, before Chisora left the stage to confront Haye in the middle of the packed media room. What happened next was nothing like anything anyone has seen in boxing before.

The pair traded blows, with Haye swinging a camera tripod around, injuring his own trainer Adam Booth. Talks of ‘glassing’ were also mentioned. Just to add further classiness to the whole sordid affair, Chisora afterwards threatened to ‘shoot’ Haye, before stating “If David don’t fight me, I am going to physically burn him.” These comments have done the fighter no favours; he is currently being interviewed by the Munich police, who picked him up at the airport this morning on his way home. Haye went missing from his hotel and the police have asked him to turn himself in.

 The whole incident is just embarrassing for British boxing. Chisora had already proved his lack of decency in the build-up to the fight, while his promoter Frank Warren is said to be furious and considering his options regarding his fighter. As for Haye, well the story just goes on. He has always been a tasteless individual, who can forget the decapitated heads of the Klitschko brothers or the constant trash-talking that captivated the British public. That was acceptable in the context of the fight though; Haye raised expectation levels through the roof, attracting a paying public and leading everyone to believe he had the ability to unify the heavyweight division, especially after his victory over Nikolai Valuev in 2009. He didn’t have that ability. His performance against Wladimir was embarrassing, disappointing all those who backed him and should have essentially ended his career. The later talks about him fighting Vitali had everyone groaning, the country has had enough of David Haye and his big mouth.

The man has talked the talk, in a big way as well, but he certainly didn’t walk the walk. He can’t seem to accept that his career is over and is hell bent on further ruining a reputation that once stood so tall. Haye should stand back and look at what he has achieved; he was a superb world cruiserweight champion and could have gone on to be one of the greatest ever. He took the brave decision to step up a division and kept the public entertained for a number of years. What he needs to understand is, we’ve had enough David. You’ve had your chance and you blew it. A match-up with Chisora would be tasty, but potentially damaging for the sport’s name, the two can’t even behave themselves in a room full of people.

It’s a shame for British boxing; indeed the sport had reached an all-time high in this country when Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton were taking it to America. Fighters like Carl Froch, Amir Khan and even Haye himself kept the sport in the public eye, competing against the best fighters in the world, though none of them ever quite managed the victory that would have propelled them to greatness. It’s difficult to see how Haye and Chisora can salvage their reputations, indeed Munich was like a scene of ‘Brits abroad’ that is normally witnessed on the beaches of the Costa Del Sol. Bernd Boente, the Klitchsko’s manager said: “With the bad experience we’ve had with British fighters we will now look for other countries.” The worrying question is, after all this, how many other fighters will follow this approach?

Warnock the man for Elland Road

The wait for Leeds United’s next manager is finally over as Neil Warnock was appointed on a contract until the end of next season. The 63-year-old was sacked by QPR after failing to arrest an alarming slide towards the Premiership drop zone, but Ken Bates believes he is the man to deliver promotion to Elland Road, given his experience in getting sides out of the Championship.

Bates told the club’s official website “We believe the appointment is arguably the most important we have made. The objective was to appoint a manager who had a proven track record of getting teams promoted and in Neil we have a man whose record is second to none. We want to be in the Premier League and we will support him in the quest to get us there.”

 

The race for the hot seat at Elland Road was a rather bizarre one that saw many twists and turns along the way. Warnock himself was actually the strong favourite when the opening first appeared, but the club decided to give Neil Redfearn an opportunity on a temporary basis, an experiment that ended after defeats to Brighton and Coventry. Various names were linked, but it looked as if Lee Clark might be offered the role following his surprise sacking from Huddersfield. Mick McCarthy also attracted a flurry of bets following his departure from Wolves, but in the end, Bates turned to the original target, giving the man known as ‘Colin’ a swift return to management.

Warnock’s appointment is an interesting decision; the man has never exactly been universally popular at Elland Road, cutting a miserable figure in the opposition dugout, while he was the subject of much abuse during his spell in charge of Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United. Initial response to Warnock’s name being linked to the position was lukewarm to say the least; indeed most Whites fans would have preferred someone else to take the job. However, as developments took place, it became clear there really wasn’t anyone more suitable to take charge, as it dawned on supporters that Leeds are no longer a big enough draw to bring in a top name.

It is important there are no signs of discontent with this appointment, Warnock faces a tricky task ahead of him as it is and needs the full backing of the fans to help revive the team’s morale for a promotion campaign that has hit the rocks recently. To Warnock’s credit, he has shown an enthusiasm for the role that hasn’t been apparent from anyone else, stating “I feel I have one big challenge left in me and believe Leeds is a club that should be in the Premier League.I want to be the man who is able to deliver this for a set of fans who never cease to amaze me with their numbers and their loyalty. Having met with Ken Bates it was an easy decision to take up the challenge and with his support, we share the same vision of getting Leeds United in the Premier League.”

 

The new manager faces an almost impossible challenge at getting the side back to the Promised Land though, especially with the respective playing budget in comparison to their promotion rivals. How Warnock and the Chairman will get on remains to be seen, as Warnock’s ego does need a bit of massaging now and again, a situation that has led to a few boardroom disputes, as highlighted by the end of his spell in charge of QPR. Bates is always a tricky customer to deal with and Simon Grayson offered little resistance to his employer, always sticking to the script Bates had prepared, even when the Chairman sold his best players. Warnock may not be prepared to do this and he faces a challenge to hold onto his best stars, with the likes of Robert Snodgrass and Ross McCormack linked with moves away.

Still, the two weeks of speculation are over and Leeds can settle down to business and try and push on towards the playoffs and then the Premiership. Warnock will need all his vast experience and this could well be his toughest assignment yet. Good luck Neil, you’ll need it.