The unthinkable has happened. It’s been the talk of football for the past few weeks, the subject of fevered speculation. Debates in pubs and clubs up and down the country have raged white hot, with arguments put passionately on either side. And now, after a comprehensive two goal defeat at the weekend, the sensational news can be confirmed: Brian McDermott is still in his job at Leeds United.
In other news, Man U have sacked David Moyes.
On the face of it, these two facts have very little to do with each other. But McDermott’s continued tenure at Elland Road is, if anything, much more unexpected and sensational news than even the sacking of Moyes. The received wisdom has been than Man U are a club that do not subscribe to the hire and fire cycle common to – well, more common clubs. This is all part of the Man U self-image as something special, the hollow “biggest club in the world” façade that is rapidly being eroded away by a new, post-Ferguson reality. The news that Moyes has finally gone is, really, no surprise. He had been struggling with a job at a club founded on self-delusion, the “Biggest & Greatest” myth. Anybody would have struggled. The next man will too, unless Man U wake up and smell the coffee. But that’s their problem, and I wish them endless bad luck with it.
The point, as far as Leeds United are concerned, is that there is now a managerial high-roller on the market, at a time when our incumbent man – nice guy though he undoubtedly is – has a record which would normally have earned him a whole pile of P45s under previous regimes at Elland Road. It might be that people would scoff at the idea of somebody like Moyes at Elland Road – and yet ex-England boss and former Dutchman Schteve McClaren has been in charge of comparative minnows Derby County this season, to good effect. It may also be that Moyes himself, once bitten and twice shy, would not wish to work with a character like Massimo Cellino who appears to change managers on a whim, depending how he feels when he gets up that morning. But the question is still there to be asked: would Leeds United fans welcome Moyes to Elland Road?
The immediate objection is the fact that he’s been in charge of “them”. But really, the Man U pedigree is a non-factor. Let’s not forget, two of our favourite sons in Johnny Giles and Gordon Strachan were denizens of the Theatre of Hollow Myths, until they saw the light and bettered themselves. And Moyes was a square peg in a round hole at Man U – he started out by trying to act like a Fergie-Lite, attempting to carry off a whinging and moaning act worthy of the Govan tyrant. It wasn’t in him; he’s not that type of guy, and the Man U experience has worn him down to a twitching and Gollum-esque husk of a man, bug-eyed and hunted – it’s easy to feel relief for him that his misery there is over.
What could Moyes bring to Elland Road? A reputation untarnished by his time with Man U, for a start – certainly among football people including the more enlightened fans. He’s liable to have benefited from a massive pay-off from his former employers, who have torn up most of a six-year contract before his bewildered eyes. It may well be a more relaxed and a happier Moyes that walks into his next job. And he might possibly prefer, in the immediate aftermath of his Pride of Devon experience, to shun the Premier League limelight. Again, this appears to have been the option favoured by McClaren, another former Man U man and another highly effective operator in more conducive circumstances. Moyes did a solid job over many years with little money at Everton. He was recognised as a highly competent coach before that, at Preston.
The hole that Brian McDermott currently finds himself in, following yet another abject display against Notts Forest, could well be too deep for him successfully to clamber out of. His first year at Elland Road has been one of upheaval; takeovers protracted to a farcical degree, sackings and reinstatements, the whole nine yards. Leeds United have been – along with possibly Blackpool – the Charlie Corrolli of the Championship, the laughing-stock of the league. In these circumstances, it’s difficult for any manager to manage but – again, even acknowledging his undoubted good-guy credentials – the performances have been abject and now the excuses are beginning to have the dull ring of repetitive hopelessness.
This blog has been a supporter of Brian McDermott – but there comes a time when you just have to acknowledge that something isn’t working and that it urgently needs remedial action. If the time is right for a change of management (or coaching) at Elland Road, then it’s also an appropriate time to be looking at who is out there, who might be available. Malky Mackay is a name that many might advance, and with good cause. Billy “Job Done” Davies? No, thanks. David Moyes – hmmm. It’s a fascinating thought, not all that realistic on the face of it – but just imagine. What if Moyes, not short of a quid or two after his Man U contract is settled, were to stroll into Elland Road and re-establish himself as a football man who knows what he’s doing? What if he were to drag our club back up by the bootstraps and get us motoring into the Promised Land? Giles came from Man U as a player and did it for us. Strachan too. Could Moyes be the latest Man U discard to find success in LS11? Could he complete a hat-trick for us to relish?
Stranger things have happened. If you want to identify just one – it’s the fact that, after Forest cruised to victory at Elland Road in second or third gear, Brian McDermott remains Leeds United manager. Surely that is one ongoing miracle whose days are well and truly numbered.