Emergency! Leeds Need a Tony Pulis Type as MANAGER, Not Coach – by Rob Atkinson

Pulis: Wilko Mk II?

Pulis: Wilko Mk II?

The current situation at Leeds rather speaks for itself in the wake of a numbing defeat at the hands of Derby. We are one point above the relegation zone. We persist with the midfield diamond and we notoriously lack width as well as, it seems, desire, fight and leadership on the park. However much endeavour and work rate there might occasionally be, we always seem to be one disastrous mistake away from conceding yet another goal – and up front, there is little supply; some decent strikers are starving on an insufficient diet of crumbs. We seem always to be one decisive step away from an end product. Now, even Robbie Savage is saying that we are hopeless. Pot, kettle, black, you might say – but it does rather show that we’re in the clarts here. I firmly believe that the squad is not a bad one at all; but the whole is currently rather less than the sum of its parts.

Recent history makes for grim reading. After defeating Derby only a month or so back, we entered what could fairly be described as a tailspin. We haven’t scored at Elland Road since that day, losing to Fulham and Wigan. In the away game immediately after the Derby win, Antenucci – the man who had seen off County – scored after three minutes. But Leeds collapsed and lost 4-1 at Ipswich. Since then, our only goal has been a penalty at Nottingham Forest, producing the only point we have gained since that last win on the 29th of November.

All of this adds up to one thing: a re-think is needed.  As a Cellino supporter, it pains me to say it – but his hands-on model, whereby he deems it necessary simply to have a coach under his managership, has signally failed to work. Cellino has been responsible for recruiting a series of coaches who have in common the fact that they are patently not up to the demands of first team football at Championship level. We are being out-thought, out-fought and out-played in almost every game. Such victories as have come along have been made possible by the poverty of the opposition (Huddersfield and, to some extent, Derby at home) or a lot of luck in the face of opposition who should comfortably have beaten us (Bournemouth).

I remain a Cellino supporter. He’s what Leeds should be all about; maverick, full of charisma and possessed of a laconic wit which is unanswerable even in a language not his own. The guy knows how to spin a phrase and he is clearly passionate about his club and his football. He’s different, just like Leeds United. I do not subscribe to fanciful notions that he’s a crook intent on destroying the club – save all that for the restless and malevolent spectre of Ken Bates, still drifting about nastily on the wrong side of Elland Road. But I do think that Cellino is palpably wrong to take so much upon himself. He needs a football man with whom he can work, but to whom he would defer in football matters. That is the only way a true football man, a football manager, could work with Cellino. We have to be professional about this, because the current plan isn’t working.

The situation is grave and could swiftly become desperate. The Redfearn experiment certainly seems to be failing, and the loud voices of those who wished to see him permanently appointed post-Hockaday have fallen largely silent. In retrospect, it’s quite clear that his lack of managerial experience above a certain level ranks him alongside Hockaday, and maybe even Milanic, whose track record was in a brand of football utterly different to that played on the battlefields of the Championship.

PulisThose who point to our glaring defensive frailties might possibly agree with me then, when I say that the stand-out candidate for Leeds right now is Tony Pulis, who did such a fine job establishing Stoke in the Premier League, and then pulled off an incredible rescue act at Crystal Palace. Pulis is steeped in the top two leagues of English football; he is a football man through and through, someone who believes in building solidly from the back and does things his own, distinctive way. That is the main reason why, sadly, this has very little chance of happening – not as long as Massimo remains determined to be IT. But Pulis is the ideal man for Leeds, especially in this situation, especially at this time. Leeds United in turn would be a feather in the Pulis cap, the biggest club of his career. It could become the jewel in his crown. There are irresistible echoes of the advent of Sergeant Wilko a quarter of a century ago. How much would we all like that history to repeat itself?

Cellino needs to consider this situation very carefully indeed.  A continuation of his “rough diamond” policy is likely to see this slide continue. And yet, to be horribly blunt, the only people willing to work under the Italian right now, with the lapdog conditions that currently apply, appear to be those without much prospect of this type of employment elsewhere. We have in Redfearn an honest and capable football man, totally inexperienced in this sphere of management – a man who has left his first, best vocation behind him in order to fly, like Icarus, too close to the sun. He is now starting to talk a bit too much about luck and the rub of the green. It’s not a refrain you associate with winners. Neil should seek an immediate return to nurturing youth, before his wings get burned.

If Cellino were to show the wit and courage to change his modus operandi, and hire Pulis – a man to whom he would have to relinquish all control of football matters – then he might yet usher in another era of success at Elland Road. Otherwise, there may well be much more trouble ahead for a club never short of that unwelcome commodity.

The Championship is about men like Mick McCarthy, Steve McClaren, Eddie Howe – football men, men who paddle their own canoe as much as any man could these days – but also distinctly square pegs in square holes. Leeds United needs a football man and, moreover, we need one who is a perfect fit for the club that we are. We need a modern-day Wilko – and we need him badly.

Tony Pulis is currently available – though that surely can’t last, not with the Premier League managerial merry-go-round starting to spin – and he’s definitively the right man for us. So please – let’s get him, now. Before it really is too late.

Update: Bugger! Looks like Pulis is taking the Baggies job. Great appointment for West Brom, but dear, oh dear. It’s a missed opportunity for Leeds. I maintain we need a Pulis type.  Any ideas/candidates??

31 responses to “Emergency! Leeds Need a Tony Pulis Type as MANAGER, Not Coach – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Sadly it is too late Rob, just herd he has gone to the Baggies. MOT


      • lain Alcorn

        Hi Rob,
        l have never been convinced that Niel Redfearn was the answer. His first spell as caretaker was hardly scintillating, earlier this year his second stint was much improved but who did we play. Since his position has been made permanent the results have been poor. Last night convinced me that my concerns were justified we did not create a single chance, yet he took 80 minutes to bring on our most creative player. Our defence lets goals in like a sieve, yet apart from personel nothing changes, match after match
        The diamond system is not working, so change it, from the personel available, How about a back 3. Beradi Pierce and Cooper. A midfield 5 with Byram and Warnock flanking a middle 3 with Bellushi anchoring and two creative attack minded youngsters on either side of him. As. either Byram or Warnock join the attack Belushi is there to cover.
        To continually play youngsters in a struggling side can not do them any good. It seems that we change others but never the youngsters. From the previous game what did Tonge do wrong, he tackled and intercepted well, ok his passes could have been better but with so little match time it isn’t surprising he wasn’t perfect.
        The youngsters are great but use them sparingly at this stage in their career.
        Possibly keep them on the bench for a few weeks and bring them on when the opposition is tiring.
        The squad we now have is a vast improvement to the one that Brian McDermots had to work with, but the results are much worse. We still need three or four quality players a taller robust forward, a left winger, possibly a commanding centre half, although with the right formation in front of them, the current defenders could be good enough, and most importantly a “midfield general” in the mould of BobbieCollins, GordonStrachan, BillieBremner, Johnny Giles or even Vinnie Jones. ie someone who will grab hold of them kicking and screaming and mould them into a cohesive unit.


  2. Bitesyerlegs74

    Any ideas/candidates? . . . Aye. . . YOU. You talk more sense than 99% of the c@#ts who spout about LUFC. I cant do it. . . Not til the screaming in my heads stops anyway.


    • Ha! Thanks, but i haven’t the first clue about football, mate. Which makes me ideal fan material… Certainly appreciate the kind thought though! MOT & HNY


  3. Bitesyerlegs74

    Cheers Rob. Happy New Year to all Leeds faithfull. Remember what the Don said ” KEEP FIGHTING”. We’ve been in deeper shit than this…. just!


  4. whoami2day

    Well that is very sensible for a bad day after whatever that was last night.



  5. Rob, can you honestly see us staying up with things as they are? I’m sad to say that I can’t. I’m even contemplating not going on Tuesday, because I’m not sure he is the right man for us. He’s had enough time to see it’s not working.


  6. Reality Cheque

    Great post Rob which echoes the thoughts, hopes and despair of all die hard Leeds United fans in these dark times. Unfortunately, it appears that Massimo (like Margaret), is NOT for turning!! (Sorry to make reference to someone not held in very high esteem within your political allegiances).
    Furthermore, Massimo has now appointed one of Ken Bates’ biggest allies into the boardroom so those conspiracy theories will just not go away. Massimo has now made Bates a welcome guest in his very own box at Elland Road, sold(????) him match day broadcasting rights, paid off Bates’ historic legal fees to avert another ‘winding up’ order and now has a very influential spy in the boardroom!!!

    Whilst all attention is being distracted towards the FL, Uncle Ken is moving his pieces into position on the chess board, happy to sit and watch Massimo’s experiment take its course with disastrous effect. I’d like to think I am totally wrong, but that ‘smell a rat’ feeling just won’t go away.

    Here’s to a much better new year for all Leeds United fans everywhere. Thanks for your brilliant posts throughout 2014 and please keep them coming thick and fast in 2015. Happy New Year to you and yours Rob.


  7. Sorry Rob, I can’t help, no idea who we should employ but who ever we need is likely to be put off by Cellino’s methods.

    I listened to Savage last night and must admit he’s a better pundit than he was a player. He couldn’t understand why Redders didn’t change the diamond when it clearly wasn’t working and was exposing the fullbacks. He said, `if I can see it, why can’t redfearn`?

    I like redders a lot but maybe he’s not up to it, and Cellino seems to have seriously underestimated the quality of this league.

    Fingers crossed for the window, rubbish out, quality in or we’re going down.
    MOT onwards and upwards we hope.


  8. sniffersshorts

    I agee with the words of Savage we are hopeless …. Redfern like those before him is using a system that only works for short periods and we have been sussed all to often … The three substitutions last night made little impact Beradi did his upmost best out of position sharp and Adryan was left to late …. This change should have been at half time.. We had no attack at all after conceding the second . We do have some good players but redders won’t use the depth of the squad. I am not a sharp fan Montenegro would be a better choice he has been scoring in the reserves every dog should get his day. I love redders but sadly he is out of his depth at this level , time to concede and get back to improving the up and coming talent. And I agree Celino must now realise it ain’t working his way on the field, yes he Salerno and a manager must communicate and work together on present and new squad members …. The new blood on the horizon is interesting but some of them are not doing to good where they are hence clubs off loading. As for pullis not a chance in hell even before going to Baggies….. I would like to see Larry back he could sort this out he has made Preston a force again, he loves us and I believe he would come back. I really am worried who would actually take the reigns but we need a manager with league experience that is for sure or we are doomed and will drop again …. I dread the thought third rate again in my lifetime Leeds forever however MOT.


  9. As long as Redfearn keeps blaming the lack of ‘luck’ and the fact ‘we’ll see Leeds playing better football when they are mid-table’ what have we got to worry about?!! Unfortunately Rob I can’t see anyone beyond Pulis who can make us any better apart from say Eddie Howe but he ain’t going to leave AFC Bournemouth anytime soon…which tells you exactly where we are at right now:-(


  10. I agree with your sentiments, and I like cellino for his passion. But there seems to be no long term plan here. We have probably the most talented squad we have had for a while, but we don’t have a leader. If we had real ambition or a plan we would be pulling out all the stops to recruit a player like Revie did with Collins, or Wilko did with Strachan. Scott Parker, Lampard or Gerrard anyone?! It won’t happen (not least because of the FFP) but also because we don’t have the balls or forward thinking approach.

    It seems a shame that such a talented bunch of our homegrown youngsters will need to move on to realise their ambitions


  11. Amazing how other clubs seem to get sorted very quickly (like West Brom, Southampton etc) and Leeds ALWAYS seem to make the wrong choices….every time

    It is always harder for “big” clubs like Leeds as we are always under pressure, teams like Bournemouth can chill and crack on quietly with NO expectation or pressure, whereas Leeds are always under scrutiny and pressure and everyone is looking to shoot us down.

    We need people/players who can can handle the pressure, step up to the plate and get stuck in and play with courage and passion and have pride in the white shirt and its tradition. I am not sure NR has the credentials to lead such a big club, we all love Redders of course, but someone like Pulis would have been perfect even if the football might have been dodgy….guess we will just have to get behind NR and the boys and give them our unconditional support,I think we will stay up as our support is THE BEST and we do have some talent in the squad, but the lack of goals is always a worry.

    There must be something positive to take into the new year??????
    I guess Cellinos daughter is still hot, cant think of much else good coming out of Elland Road


  12. Thank you Rob. I have been on about this for a few days now. I really like NR but he looks like a broken man and in an interview on LUFC TV after the Wigan game he couldn’t even remember who we had just played. So, to save both himself, his health and this club he needs to step back NOW. It’s one thing managing the youngsters and being interim for the first team with little match pressure but the real job has been a step too far. I fear with the merry go round through the first half of the season Cellino will not want to make the decision for him but we are in dire straits. For me seeing a Coach / Manager walk out live on Sky Sports with three days growth did not create the impression of someone on top of himself and the job in my opinion. The Coach must look smart and sharp surely to set a standard? Here is another point, I reckon if we still had Matt Smith we could have been 12 points better off now by going long for the last 30 minutes – not pretty but effective. There is no point having width if there is no one in the box to use the crosses. The likes of Smith is a Plan B and we don’t even have a Plan A meanwhile. What was the point of bringing our only playmaker on with 10 minutes to go? Adryan can pick a killer pass for the forwards to run on to. Quite hopeless decision making and I would rather see some spark and lose 3 -2 than what we see presently. Most of these ex Serie B players are no better than somewhere between the Conference and League 1 standard as it’s a poor quality league in Italy and miles off the Championship.
    Fast and decisive action needs to be taken or we will be in League 1 for a few seasons with all out own best youngsters gone for good yet again. This is an emergency situation and I agree we need a proper Manager much as I like Cellino generally.


  13. These are desperate times but I think that we should keep our heads. The squad just needs some experience, width and a couple of hard men! One would do. Then we will see progress. Cellino is not getting yo get snyones who us any good any time soon and I am still with Refearn. Not many managers could get anymore out of this squad!


  14. If Redfearn goes,,then Grayson?


    • Id take that – if SG was allowed to do the job his way. If he’d been backed properly in that first year up out of League One, we might all be a lot happier today.


  15. Ropey Wyla

    Unless Redders has his hands tied, his refusal to change formation will see him demoted or us relegated or both.
    “What ah we a gonna do Barone, de wheels she a fall a off”.
    Merry New Year to all who are Leeds, lets hope we will still be a championship team in 2015/16


  16. Yes we are in the shit but last night i was proud to be a suppprter of Leeds United . No I’m not mad ! the football was awful !! but what we had last night on a very cold , sky televised game when a lot of people could have stayed at home with their beer swearing at the tv , was a band of brothers (sorry sisters too) over 2.200 who love this club with a passion other clubs can only dream about . Who sang ”we all love Leeds” constantly after going 2.0 down and even when derby tried to drown us out kept it going for the whole of the second half . They can throw at us what they want , they can laugh and snipe cos we’re not famous anymore , we can get relegated again but this clubs loyal supporters will always be there in numbers . To all the other guys and gals who were there last night i wanna say thank you . You were all class and a credit to our club and I for one am proud to be part of this family !!!! M.O.T FOREVER.


  17. I make no bones about this, I am and will remain a Cellino fan. If it wasn’t for him, from a financial perspective we really would be up the wotsit without the proverbial doo-dah. However, my take on it is that real men are bold enough and brave enough to understand their weaknesses. I really hope MC has the savvy to recognise that we all respect his passion but also that he has the goollies to realise that a “proper” football manager should run the team!! At the start of the season I was confident of two things, not going up and not going down, I am a bit concerned about the latter!! Happy new year Rob, keep tickling the ivorys!! xx


  18. Very well put Rob, you speak for a lot of people on this subject, it should be clear by now to signor Cellino that his Continental model does not translate easily to Championship Football and a change of management style is inevitable if we are avoid further pain, you are right about having the nucleus of a decent team, it just needs harnessing and guided in the right direction, in short, you’re right Tony Pulis is the man for this particular job.
    Onwards and (hopefully) upwards.


  19. Alas, Tony Pulis would never have considered coming to Leeds and stepping down a division; English football has changed beyond recognition since Howard Wilkinson did that in 1988. And even if we had approached him, why would he come to a club where the owner usurps the manager’s role in picking players to sign when he already left Crystal Palace for that reason this year? I didn’t expect anything from Derby but the Fulham and Wigan home defeats showed how badly we’re drifting. I feel sorry for Redders because he inherited a near-impossible situation and a squad lacking in quality, but I can’t help feeling his talents are more suited to the development of young players than to the cut and thrust of Championship management. Simon Grayson would indeed be an option, assuming he was daft enough to come back, but I would also welcome back Gary McAllister, who gave us Becchio and Snodgrass, has some of the coaching rigour Wilko had and could have been successful first time round had he not been working for a certain chairman.
    MoT and HNY to all, especially you Rob.


  20. Pulis would have been a great choice for a Leeds coach, but sadly anybody who has a tongue in his head and is not a yes man, is certainly not the man on Cellino’s wanted list for the next Leeds coach after Redfern.
    All Cellino wants is a puppet, who has NO input into signings and NO opinions and those crazy employment terms are now dragging Leeds to certain relegation to League 1.
    I lost total respect for Cellino, the moment that he rubbished and ridiculed Dave Hockaday, only a few days after giving him the coaches job last Summer.
    Why waste valuable weeks of the Summer in carefully choosing the unknown Hockaday and then call him 5th division, when he dared to give an opinion about McCormack?
    I would love to have a modern day Wilko as coach or manager, but without a sensible chairman, in the mould of the late Leslie Silver, there is absolutely NO chance of bringing in another Wilko or a person that we have actually heard of.


  21. Dirty Deputy Dane

    Great article Rob and I agree to still being positive to Cellino! The Sunderland game is only important if Redders give som squad players the chance and drop the disastrous diamond midfield formation. Now Warnock and Pearce are injured I would like to see Del Fabro alongside Cooper as CB and Charlie Taylor taking RB. Even though Byram is miles away from last year’s performances he should take the LB position. Midfield should consist of Cook, Sloth, Montenegro and Adryan – four players that could create passes to Sharp and Antenucci. And then use Stuar Tayler in goal as Silvesti clearly needs a break. If Redders/Cellino do not go for a 4-4-2 formation they must be insane! I would go for Simon Grayson then
    By the way – watching the Derby game on the telly made me so proud and impressed with the massive chanting throughout the game. And reading the article posted by Rob regarding the positive views from the Derby and Cardiff fan iI think was spot on – all the other fans that hate Leeds do it because they envy our “let’s go f…..mental attitudes 🙂 Finally I’d like to thank You Rob for a lot of interesting reading throughout 2014 and hope You keep going for 2015. Happy New Year to all of You wonderful fans MOT


  22. Curbishley. Pulls type, free and great track record especially working on a budget and with young talent as he did at Charlton.


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