It was evidently clear on Sunday that the overwhelming majority of Leeds United supporters had made their minds up. Chants of “time to go Warnock” could be heard on numerous occasions from the 6,000 strong traveling fans who had made the short journey over the Pennines to witness as one sided an FA Cup tie as you can imagine.
Of course, the pessimistic attitude aimed towards Neil Warnock hasn’t arisen directly from the lacklustre defeat at the home of the champions of England, this was largely to be expected. Rather, it was the accumulation of several below par performances in the past months and such an inept display at Man City was, for many, the final straw. Warnock has been fighting an increasingly difficult battle in recent weeks as discontent has continued to grow, with another season looking set to pass Leeds by.
The first rumblings of anti-Warnock chants began in a shambolic defeat at Barnsley last month, and each passing week has seen the chorus of disapproval grow steadily louder. A combination of poor results and poor performances has seen opinion swing so drastically against Warnock that it now seems that he is at point of no return.
Neil Warnock has always stated that his tenure at Leeds depends upon two factors. Firstly, he would only stay as long as the Leeds fans were in full support of him, and secondly, he would only stay as long as Leeds had a genuine shot at promotion. Neither are now applicable. The latter is virtually a guarantee to end in failure and the former can, at best, be described as a fractured relationship. With this in mind, the end is surely now in sight for Warnock at Leeds, and his post match interview on Sunday indicated as much.
With Leeds nine points off the play off places and seven above the relegation zone, the Whites are firmly entrenched in mid table no man’s land, not what Warnock envisaged when he embarked upon his self quoted last great challenge. Throw in the fact that Leeds’ cup exploits are over for another season, and now seems as good a time as any to make the inevitable managerial change. Warnock has already admitted that he won’t be at Leeds in the Championship next season, so why not make the alteration now and give the next manager a free period of time to assess the squad in time for the next campaign?
Who that next manager will be is anyone’s guess, but a name being touted around is Nigel Adkins, who was disgracefully sacked from Southampton last month. The appeal of Adkins is obvious. His time at Southampton was an unrivalled success, gaining successive promotions and then achieving a respectable league position in the top flight before his dismissal. With that kind of record, there is little doubt as to why he will be a much sought after manager in the coming months.
The appeal of Leeds is becoming increasingly less obvious. Boardroom uncertainty, lack of financial prowess and a decade of absence from the Premier League means a club that were once arguably England’s most prestigious are now in danger of becoming your regular second tier side, raising the question as to why a manager of Adkins’ calibre would wish to accept such a risky job. But the prospect of being the man to take Leeds back to the promise land, a land the club feel they belong, is, nevertheless, still an enthralling challenge, a challenge Adkins may wish to accept.
He would be welcomed by the Leeds faithful who, upon hearing the rumours linking him with the soon to be vacant position, chanted his name on Sunday, leaving no doubt as to where their opinions lie. But whoever arrives will be fully aware of the daunting nature of the job and the long list of those who have failed to live up to expectations that inevitably come with the position in the past.
It would be harsh to blame this seasons failings solely at the feet of Warnock. The background uncertainty has certainly not helped matters, nor too has the departure of Robert Snodgrass in August, a player Leeds have never adequately replaced, and these factors have made his job a whole lot tougher than it ought to have been. But several of his decisions haven’t aided his cause, and the net result of Warnock’s tenure at Leeds is a squad filled with very average players containing barely an ounce of quality between them, and for this, Warnock has to accept his proportion of the blame. Granted, he hasn’t been as financially backed as he should have been, but he has spent more than his predecessors without the required outcome.
When Warnock does eventually head back down South to his native Cornwall, his time at Leeds will be viewed as a disappointment, one which never lived up to the early hype and expectation. His initial appointment was greeted with positivity, but his departure will barely be met by protests. And that is a shame, because, as Sunday testified, Leeds United have one of the most passionate and vociferous set of supporters in the country, and they deserve better.