A fascinating quote today from Neil “Colin” Warnock’s Saturday collection of epigrams, sideswipes and bewildered bits of nonsense in The Independent. The piece opens with a characteristically self-aggrandising few paragraphs describing various situations in which he had to deal with stroppy owners or chairmen. Invariably, of course, Colin was right. It’s typical of former football managers of the Colin ilk that they will always emerge as heroes from their own reminiscences.
The bit that comes nearest to being of any interest to Leeds United fans goes as follows:
Come off it, Brian – I left you a decent side at Leeds
I heard Brian McDermott on the radio taking issue with my comment that he only needed to “put the icing on the cake” when he took over from me at Leeds. I stand by it. The main thing lacking when I left was pace – because I had to sell Robert Snodgrass.
Brian’s had good money to spend, whereas I was forced to make a profit on transfers, but they still lack pace. Eight of the XI he picked at Forest last Sunday he inherited from me.
Now obviously, this basically boils down to “I had it tough and it’s a bed of roses for the guy who’s followed me.” Standard whinging fare from yer actual has-been who still wants to have enough to say so that his weekly column remains in demand. But portions of that shortish quote do rather take the breath away.
Take for instance this gem: “The main thing lacking when I left was pace – because I had to sell Robert Snodgrass.” Pardon me? Was Snoddy really known for his pace? He’s a fine player, and I would carry him on my own back to Elland Road, should he wish to return. But the Snodmeister’s thing was trickery, sleight of foot, skill. He did not scorch past opposing full-backs, leaving them gasping for oxygen in his wake and turning the turf to cinders with his state-of-the-art afterburners. You’d have thought his manager might have noticed this, but evidently Colin had got Snoddy all wrong – which may explain a thing or two. Perhaps it also sheds some light on why he preferred the class and skill of Browneh over that mega-hyped upstart Ross Barkley, who we had on loan from Everton, but for whom Colin couldn’t find a place. Barkley has since that time somehow managed to fool everyone into rating him as a top Premier League performer and the likely future of the England national team. It’s a pity that people don’t listen to Colin about things like this.
The not-entirely-coherent Mr Warnock also points out that eight of Brian McDermott’s starting XI at Nottingham Forest were inherited from Colin’s potential top-flight squad. This may be true – as is undeniably the fact that we lost that game, looking particularly inept in the first half. It all comes down to the fact that dear old Colin seems to feel that he left Brian with the basis of a very good Championship side of promotion pedigree, needing only “the icing on the cake”. The folly of this seems obvious to anyone who has watched Leeds United this season. Things have improved, thanks to a previously unknown level of investment in the summer. There have been no 6 and 7 goal thrashings at home, for instance – things that most Leeds fans are glad to see the back of. Brian was swift to disagree with Colin’s “ice on the cake” jibe, and this is Warnock showing his displeasure at being contradicted by the current United manager who is, annoyingly for Colin, far more popular with the fans than he ever had a chance of being.
Worryingly, though, a few coldly mutinous voices are being heard to question whether things really are that much better under Brian McDermott. It seems a daft stance to take, when the stench of Bates has been fumigated from the Elland Road corridors and so many facets of the club are starting to gleam positively again, such a difference from the murky despair which typified the previous regime. The daftness can probably be explained when you look at the sources of some of these remarks – the WACCOE forum, for instance, home to so many of the younger and yappier, wet-behind-the-ears type of Leeds fan who will never be completely happy unless they’re showing how all-fired wry and cynical they can be. Or the Service Crew equivalent, mouthpiece of middle-aged boneheads who like to have a moan about a popular and progressive manager who has a good rapport with fans and owners alike, just to provide a change from espousing their right-wing agenda, or boasting about what hard and tough chaps they used to be and still could be if the need arose. Yawn, yawn. But the thing is, impressionable people read this rubbish, and there is always room on a bandwagon for a few more idiots.
Sadly, then, there will more than likely be a few dim types who will read what Colin has to say and wonder if those EDL chaps on Service Crew might not have a point. Despite the fact that Snoddy covered the ground with all the searing pace of an elderly snail, and looked tired just standing up, these easily-persuadable people might feel tempted to agree with Mr Warnock, and put down the lack of pace to the loss of our skilful Scot. They might feel that Colin did a good job after all, having provided the bulk of the side that lost so convincingly to Forest. Delusions like this spring up quite easily when fertilised by a high enough grade of manure in a seemingly respectable publication like the Independent.
It’s at times like these, with former managers injecting sly doses of poison, and the dimmer section of fans mouthing approval from the fringes of reality, that we have to make sure the bulk of the support – those able to think for themselves and recognises the inherent stupidity of Colin’s comments – need to redouble our backing of Brian McDermott and the current regime at Elland Road. Just think where we were a little over twelve months ago. Chilling, isn’t it. It may well be that the league record over that time is virtually identical to the one of the previous year or so – but that sort of thinking is akin to judging a book by its cover. The work of restoring Leeds United as a real force has, so far, been mainly a behind-the-scenes thing. There is still much to do on the field, and we should be thankful the person who will do that work is not the type of man who would prefer Browneh to Barkley, or who would regard Snoddy as someone who could routinely out-pace Theo Walcott.
We have the right man in charge. It’s important that we pay scant regard to Colin, or to anyone else – our own dumber than dumb tendency included – who might wish to persuade us otherwise.