With the departure of Giovanni Trapattoni from the managerial hot-seat after the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifying defeat to Austria this week, the gentlemen of the Press are busy compiling an initial list of names for an early guesswork list of candidates to replace the Italian. One name that has cropped up in this immediate bout of speculation is that of Leeds United’s still fairly new manager Brian McDermott.
The inclusion of the Leeds boss among the likely lads to succeed Trapattoni will not be welcome news at Elland Road and will revive unhappy memories for United fans of longer duration. Back in 1978, Leeds had dispensed with the services of Jimmy Armfield who had provided some stability after the 44 day maelstrom of Brian Clough. Armfield was replaced by a true legend of the game in Jock Stein, European Cup-winning giant of Glasgow Celtic and seen at the time as a suitably big name to revive United’s fortunes 4 years down the line from the glittering Revie era. But Stein too lasted only 44 days, departing to take over the reins of the Scotland international team after Ally McLeod’s turbulent reign ended in the wake of that summer’s World Cup disaster in Argentina. The loss of Stein hurt Leeds badly – he had started well at Elland Road but there were rumours that his wife failed to settle south of the border.
For Leeds, after Jock Stein, it was a downward spiral, through the tenure of Jimmy Adamson and then Revie old-boy Allan Clarke, to relegation from the top flight in 1982. Who knows what Jock Stein might have achieved with Leeds? He was an institution of the game, right up there with Shankly, Busby and Revie himself. He did well for Scotland right up to his sudden and untimely death at a World Cup qualifier in Wales.
Any attempt by the FAI to seduce McDermott from his burgeoning project at Leeds is likely to be stoutly resisted by United, though it would almost certainly come down to the personal preference of the man himself. Nobody can usefully hang on to an unhappy boss whose heart lies elsewhere, but there has been no suggestion of unhappiness in the Life of Brian since moving to LS11. On the contrary, he appears extremely happy to be in charge at Elland Road, being reported to have thanked Reading FC for sacking him and affording him the chance to take on such a massive club, about whom he has said all the right things since moving into Neil Warnock’s old office. The fans have taken to Brian as he seems to have taken to them – not many managers have stumped up their last 50 Euros on a pre-season tour to buy the lads on the terraces a drink. McDermott seems to relish the task he’s taken on at Leeds United.
It’s to be hoped then that the mention of Brian’s name is based on nothing more than lazy journalism, a concept not entirely unfamiliar where Leeds United reportage is concerned. Truly is it said that the grass is not always greener and despite the possible lure of international football, this applies as much to the Emerald Isle as it might to anywhere else.