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.