Tag Archives: Arsène Wenger

Why Leeds United Should Rescue Arsene Wenger from Ungrateful Arsenal – by Rob Atkinson

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If Arsenal turn their backs on Arsène – should Leeds pounce?

Let me say straight away that I hold Arsenal in the very highest esteem; after my beloved Whites, this is the club whose results I look for first. And, before I go on to extol the virtues of a Leeds United move to employ Arsène Wenger if his relationship with the Gunners does break down irretrievably, let me confirm that I feel we already have the right man for the job of United manager. Garry Monk is the man, he’s the right age, the right type, he’s proved his worth, and his position at Elland Road should be unassailable.

But still, Arsène Wenger would be a magnificent capture for Leeds. It would be, in transatlantic parlance, a no-brainer. If The Professor became available, he’d be just the man for a club like Leeds. And Wenger, at this stage of the game, might find that a project such as Leeds United would the very thing to bring down the curtain upon a glittering career. Because the role I see for Wenger at Leeds would be one that taps into his immense knowledge of the global game and of uncut diamonds in youth teams everywhere. It would be to work as a resource for a young manager developing in Wenger’s own image, a man who wants to play football the right way, someone that the old master Arsène could help develop into a world class coach and man manager.

I would consider that, after Arsenal, Wenger might be looking for something other than a front-line position as he seeks to remain involved in football. He’s been in North London, shaping and developing the capital’s premier football club, for two decades, encompassing some glorious success and producing football at times of breathtaking beauty. The challenge at Leeds would, initially at least, be different – and yet the aims would be comparable. It would be an ideal project for Wenger, something whereby he could wield his influence over the whole culture of a football club, without having to be involved in the nitty-gritty of day to day first team matters. Sure, he might expect to have an input, and Garry Monk is far too wise a man not to avail himself of such knowledge and experience. But there can be only one boss, and Monk is the right man for a long time to come. Still, some of the best of managers have benefited from that elder statesman, that éminence grise behind the scenes. Malcolm Allison had his Joe Mercer, Brian Clough his Peter Taylor. Neither of those two legends were quite so effective as a solo act, both needed that wise presence behind them to find true success.  After Arsenal, that kind of role would be a respectable and dignified option for Arsène at Elland Road – and he could just be the difference for Garry Monk between being a very good manager – and a great one.

And what, we have to ask ourselves, of Arsenal FC? Do they ideally want to keep Wenger, or are they considering a further year’s contract for their greatest ever boss merely as an obvious stop-gap until the real target becomes available? The truth is that the relationship between Wenger and many of the Arsenal fans is verging on the toxic. It’s a distressing situation for a great football man who genuinely loves his club; it’s a shoddy way to be winding down a stellar career. So, perhaps, for the sake of all concerned, a clean break between Arsenal and Arsène would be for the best. And, in that case – though I doubt it would actually happen – an opportunistic Leeds United should pounce. They should do whatever it takes to import the wisdom and status of one of the world’s foremost football people, someone who would have the class to respect boundaries and exercise his influence from a more detached position.

Leeds United’s gain would most definitely be Arsenal’s loss – but perhaps the situation for Wenger at the Emirates, with the Spurs-loving media pack slavering for blood, is already beyond recall. So Arsenal might appear ungrateful in dispensing with Arsène, if that’s what ends up happening – but it may just be their best option, even if results and performances were to dip in the short term.

But that’s not Leeds United’s concern – they, for their part, should be looking at what Wenger could bring to the Elland Road table, without unduly rocking the boat, if I might be permitted a mix of metaphors. The answer to that question is: plenty. Wenger has presided over a revolution at Arsenal, and in the wider English game as a whole. His ideas about diet, nutrition, the maintenance of the human machine, were revolutionary but demonstrably sound. He’s the kind of influence any forward-thinking club could do with, quietly influencing the whole setup with improvement and the maximisation of potential in mind. As somebody to stand behind Garry Monk, outside of the immediate first-team picture but always available as a consultant, his value to a club on the way up, a true giant of the game like Leeds, looking to re-establish itself as a major force, could be immeasurable.

So when I say “Wenger for Leeds”, I’m not joking, I’m deadly serious. As ever, I’d be interested in the views of others – but don’t be too quick, please, to leap into a dismissive posture. Consider. The question is – if a man like Wenger were to appear on the market and prepared to accept a different role – could we really afford to overlook him?

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Scintillating Arsenal So Nearly “Do a Leeds” (In a Good Way)   –   by Rob Atkinson

Özil - weakest link

Mesut Özil – weakest link in Monaco

In 1995, Leeds United were ‘The Team That Broke the Hearts in Monte Carlo’, courtesy of an unanswered hat-trick from the mighty Anthony Yeboah, striker extraordinaire. United cruised to a 3-0 win at the Stade Louis II, home of AS Monaco – and nothing like that has happened to the Ligue 1 giants again in the almost two decades since. But on Tuesday evening, a massively dominant Arsenal side came so agonisingly close to emulating Wilko’s Warriors and creating history for their club with the biggest Champions League comeback since Leeds themselves recovered from 3-0 down to VfB Stuttgart.

Back in those carefree, pre-meltdown days, Leeds United – three years or so after becoming The Last Champions – still had comfortably enough shots in their locker to give most teams a pretty tough time. A Yeboah-inspired blistering start to that season provided no hint of a clue as to the disappointment that lay ahead, with a pallid Wembley League Cup Final surrender to Aston Villa – where the seeds of Sergeant Wilko’s demise were sown. But in this early season purple patch, United were laying about them to devastating effect, with Masterblaster Yeboah scoring goal after rocket goal. Tony scored more goals of the season in that two or three months than most strikers could dream of in a career.

The assortment against the hapless Monégasques included his usual worldy, sandwiched between two more mortal efforts. That second goal was so typically Tony, instant control in the inside right channel, a sinuous turn past his marker as he progressed to the edge of the area, and a wonderful, curling finish at pace into the far top rigging. Sublime. Things looked really good for Leeds – and just around the corner lay the transfer coup of the year as world superstar Tomas Brolin signed for the Whites from Italian club Parma. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. 

Arsenal’s challenge on Tuesday night was precisely the emulation of that Leeds feat all but twenty years ago. The Gooners had to score three, or they were out of the Champions League – it was as simple as that. In the end, they fell just short – fatally damaged by a clueless performance in defeat at The Emirates – but they could take a lot of pride and encouragement from an utterly dominant return display that, in truth, should have seen the Pride of North London progress, against long, long odds. Little was lacking in a performance better even than the one that ejected Man U from the FA Cup days prior to this Riviera trip. Perhaps the weakest link on the night was Mesut Özil, as quite frankly he has been too often this season. A tendency towards misplacing final balls and running into instead of past defenders in one-on-one situations, may well have been the difference between narrow failure and spectacular success. Perhaps Özil can fill his boots in what remains of the Arse’s bid to retain the FA Cup. On this evidence, he owes his club and fans that much at least. 

The comparison between two European matches, twenty years apart, featuring my beloved Leeds and my much-admired Arsenal, reminds me that one of the young subs for Monaco that night in 1995 was a pre-Juventus youth by the name of Thierry Henry. He went on to do reasonably well for the Gooners and indeed played his part in the Premier League demise of Leeds by blasting several goals past us at Highbury in the early noughties. Henry’s loyalties were probably with Arsenal the other night in Monaco, as were the loyalties of this Leeds United fan, despite my love for and fond memories of the principality of Monaco. 

In the end, though, all of us who were hoping against hope for a Gunners recovery from that pallid home leg defeat, ended up disappointed – and yet thrilled by what had been a fantastic game with a real edge-of-the-seat climax to it. And – cold comfort though this would be to dedicated Arsenal fans – it was a match that revived memories of a golden night long ago when the Whites invaded France and prevailed through the sublime performance of a Ghanaian genius. 

It’s always futile to wish for the impossible – and anyway, while he lasted in England, he was ours – but how Arsenal could have done with Tony Yeboah, as he was in his prime, on Tuesday night.

Taken From Us 25 Years Ago Today: Revie, The Don of Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

The Don - the Greatest

The Don – the Greatest

They say that great players don’t always make great managers, and Bobby Charlton is a stand-out example of that essential truth.  His brother Jack, by common consent not anything like the player Bobby was, but ten times the bloke, was by far the more successful manager.  Then again – he learned from the best.

And they will twist the argument around to show that average players can make great managers. We’re usually invited by a brainwashed and indoctrinated media to take Alex Ferguson as an example of this; my own choice would be Arsene Wenger, a deeply average player but a highly superior coach, tactician and innovator who made a significant dent in the Man U monopoly of the Premier League – despite the vast off-field advantages of the Salford club. Remember Wenger’s “Invincibles”?  There is also, of course, Jose Mourinho – and many others who pulled up no trees as players, but blossomed into legendary managers.

But there are a select few examples of truly great players who went on to be truly great managers – the likes of Busby and Dalglish, for instance – and I will argue passionately to my last breath that the best of the best was Donald George Revie, who died of Motor Neurone Disease 25 years ago today.

Don Revie was an innovative, thinking footballer, the pivot of the famous “Revie Plan” at Manchester City when he was the first to exploit deep-lying centre-forward play to great effect as City hit the heights in the mid to late fifties. He was instrumental in the Wembley defeat of Birmingham City in the FA Cup Final of 1956, and also helped restore English pride after two batterings by Hungary – the Magnificent Magyars having trounced England 6-3 at Wembley and 7-1 in Budapest. Revie’s adapted attacking role helped the National team annihilate Scotland 7-2 and his reputation was made as a selfless team player who was adept at making the ball do the work while team-mates found space as he dropped deep, baffling the defences of the time.

Revie was clearly a thinker, and developed very definite ideas about the game during his playing career, ideas he would later put into practice to devastating effect as a club manager. It is undeniable that, during his thirteen years in charge at Leeds, he elevated them from simply nowhere in the game to its very pinnacle, preaching togetherness and the team ethic above all else. Respected judges within the game have described the football played by Leeds at their peak as unmatched, before or since. In the eyes of many, that Leeds United team were the finest English side ever, a unit of grisly efficiency and teak-hardness yet capable of football which was outstandingly, breathtakingly beautiful, intricate in its conception and build-up, devastating in its effect.

Here is the scale of Revie’s achievement: in an era before the advent of lavish sponsorship and advanced commercial operations, he built a club from the ground upwards – a club with an apathetic support, which had hardly two ha’pennies to rub together, and whose prime asset was a group of raw but promising youngsters. The way that Revie nurtured those youngsters, moulding them into a team of supreme talent and majestic ability, is the stuff of legend. In some cases, he had to ward off the threats of homesickness: a young Billy Bremner was determined to go home to his native Scotland and Revie arranged for his girlfriend to move to Leeds, helping the lad settle down. Sometimes he had to adapt a player from one position to another – Terry Cooper was an indifferent winger who was made into a world-class overlapping full-back. Examples of his inspirational and man-management skills are many; he wrote the modern managerial manual from scratch.

Revie raised almost an entire squad from the junior ranks through to full international status, but he also had an unerring eye for a transfer market bargain. He took Bobby Collins from Everton, and saw the diminutive veteran midfielder produce the best form of his career. He lured a disaffected John Giles from Old Trafford where he was an under-rated performer. Giles swore that he would “haunt” Matt Busby, the manager who let him go, and Revie enabled this vow to be realised, converting Giles to a more central role after the end of Collins’ first team career. Giles and Bremner would form an almost telepathic central midfield partnership for Leeds, carrying all before them over the muddy battlefields of Division One. Revie later described his recruitment of Giles from Man U as “robbery with violence”.

As the sixties wore on, the Don would add Mick Jones and Allan Clarke to his formidable squad while it grew up together in a family atmosphere at Elland Road. Rarely if ever before or since can a manager have been so involved in his team’s welfare and well-being, no mere tracksuit manager this. There would be flowers and chocolates when a girlfriend or wife celebrated a birthday, a listening ear and helping hand whenever problems threatened to affect a player’s form. Revie was a father figure to his players for over a decade, forming a bond of mutual loyalty and respect that still sets the standard for enlightened management today.

Don Revie has been described in scornful terms by the ignorant, as a dossier-obsessed and over-superstitious manager by some people of insight and judgement, and as simply the best by his players who still survive from that amazing period of Leeds United’s dominance at home and abroad. He was perhaps too reliant on lucky suits and the lifting of gypsy curses, and other such supernatural preoccupations. He could maybe have let his team “off the leash” a little earlier than he did – when given full rein, they were next door to unstoppable. But it’s hard to hold the caution and superstition of the man against him; this was a time unlike today when livelihoods depended on a bounce of the ball, when results mattered in a bread and butter way. There were no cossetted millionaires then, no examples of young men who could pack it all in tomorrow and live in luxury for the rest of their lives. It all meant so much more in those days and the word “pressure” had real resonance.

The modern coaches have greats among their number, there’s no doubt about that. It would be invidious to single out names; after all, the media in a misguided fit of uncritical and commercially-motivated hero-worship have been busily engaged for most of the last three decades in dubbing “S’ralex” as the greatest ever. But the legend that is Don Revie can sit comfortably on his laurels, the man who – more than any other – took a sow’s ear of a football club and made of it a purse of the very finest silk which yet concealed a core of Yorkshire steel.

Donald George Revie (1927 – 1989) – Simply The Best.

Arsenal Cup Victory Will Be So Good for the Game & For This Leeds Fan – by Rob Atkinson

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Arsenal beat no-hopers Newton Heath to win 1979 FA Cup

Last weekend’s cup-ties almost certainly sealed the end of the Arsenal trophy drought, which has gone on far too long for a club that represents all that is best about English football.  And it’s undeniable, in this blog’s opinion, that some tangible Gooners success would be A Good Thing.  Good for the game, and good for me.

Now I should perhaps explain this attraction that Arsenal have for me. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Leeds United fan, but I feel no guilt about this.  Why? Well, like anybody in a long-term, committed relationship, I occasionally feel the need for a bit of a change, a break from an otherwise humdrum routine.  And just as many married men – and women, come to that – will argue that it’s OK to look as long as you don’t touch, I feel it’s occasionally alright to let my hungry eye wander a little. So while my heart belongs to Leeds, I’ve long had a passing fancy for The Arse and I feel that this in no way compromises my fidelity where the Whites are concerned.  After all, it’s not like I’m buying a season ticket or anything.

Arsenal is a club that commands respect, they have done for decades – but it’s been so much more the case in the Arsène Wenger era.  In this period, they’ve played football of surpassing beauty – and of course they’ve won just about every honour in the book too, giving the football world a welcome break, on a few occasions, from the grinding monotony of Ferguson’s charmless winning machine at the Theatre of Hollow Myths. The trophy cupboard has been bare for a good few seasons now, but the quality of the football has remained consistently wonderful, a treat for the most jaundiced eye.

Now that the most significant obstacles have been removed from their path to FA Cup glory, I fully expect them to go on and capitalise, bringing home a legendary piece of silverware to the Emirates Stadium.  A Wembley date with Wigan should not unduly worry a team with Arsenal’s class, despite the fact that the Pies saw off Manchester’s finest in the last round.  And then it will be either Hull or Sheffield United in the Final – again, neither of those sides would be likely to present a problem.  I have my fingers crossed here that I’m not jinxing the whole thing – not just for the Gooners fans’ sake, but also because I have a financial and family interest in Arsenal finally ending that annoying trophy-less run.

Firstly – in the wake of Man City’s exit, I was on Facebook proclaiming Arsenal’s forthcoming Cup triumph – and a friend saw fit to bet me they wouldn’t win it. A gift, I thought, and I suggested a friendly tenner as an appropriate wager. Really, it should just be a matter of picking up the dosh – but the rub is that, if Arsenal now lose in the semi or the Final, I shall now feel more than my usual pang of regret.  Losing a tenner is no small matter for even the least parsimonious of Yorkshiremen, and my last football bet ended with me a fiver down, something I’ve yet to recover from.  So clearly there’s at least ten good reasons for me to keep everything crossed.

Secondly, my daughter’s Significant Other is an Arsenal fan – so I’d like to see them win something just for him.  Apparently, he flirted with being a scum fan as a young kid – and while I have magnanimously forgiven him such a childish faux pas, I certainly don’t want him going back down THAT route – so a Cup win to keep him honest would be just the thing.  My late father-in-law, Michael, was also a Gunners aficionado, bless him – he was able to remember Herbert Chapman’s fantastic team of the thirties, Ted Drake, Alex James, Cliff Bastin and all.  I’ll raise a glass to him, if The Arse can lift silverware at Wembley in May.

Some Whites will find all of this eulogising of another team a little distasteful, and I can understand that.  But it can be taken on trust that Leeds United are my one true love, unlovable though they mostly are, and that there’s really no other thing in the world outside of my family that can move me to such depths of despair, or even raise me to such heights of jubilation (if I recall correctly). Arsenal – well. they’re not really even the bit on the side.  I’m too faithful for that – it’s just that I’m a student of the game and its exposition à la  the Gunners seems to me to be the finest thing you’ll see in these islands. When they’re on song, there’s not too many better sights in the whole football world.  My connoisseur’s eye can appreciate this, but my Yorkshire heart still beats for Leeds United – and my blood runs yellow, white and blue.

The only time I went to Highbury, it was to see Leeds win there by three goals to one in a daft game that saw Phil Masinga score twice as George Graham’s managership of his beloved Gunners was coming to a tragically shady end.  I was overjoyed – when Leeds play Arsenal, my loyalties are firmly with the Whites.  That goes without saying. Even when victories over the Gunners have seen another undeserved title go to the Pride of Devon, I’ve been able to take great satisfaction in United beating my Capital favourites.  So, you see, I’m still the genuine article as far as Leeds fans go. It’s just that I have this need to appreciate class and beauty – and Arsenal’s football is beautiful, their history glitters with class.

Forgive me then for taking pleasure in Arsenal’s success – when it’s not at the expense of my beloved Leeds.  A handy by-product is that this regard for The Arse also helps me to dislike Tottenham Hotspur, although I’m sure that’s quite an easy thing to do really.  As I write, the hapless Spuds have just lost 1-3 at home to Benfica, which I enjoyed a lot.  So it’s been a good night off from Leeds United’s ongoing trauma, what with writing optimistically about Arsenal – and watching their so-called rivals lose. Tomorrow it’ll be back to the current purgatory of trying to find some glimmer of light in the Whites’ murky situation.  But still – that’s where my heart is.

At least, in May, I’ll have the distinct pleasure of seeing London’s finest lift the FA Cup, as well as the equal joy of taking a tenner off my good friend Muddy. At least, I hope so.  Surely, I haven’t given the kiss of death to the Gooners’ trophy prospects?  And for God’s sake – I have to win a bet one day.

Happy Days Are Here Again – Bring On the New Season!

Good Riddance, Taggart

Good Riddance, Taggart

The best football season since the mid-eighties (apart from 1991-92, obviously) is almost upon us.  Despite the recession, austerity, bankers bonuses and the scandalous price of a pint, I’ve rarely felt so positive and optimistic about the immediate future.  Even the fact that Leeds United are crap, and will almost certainly remain crap despite the best efforts of poor old Brian McDermott, my outlook is one of sunny anticipation and excitement for the feast of football that awaits my tired and cynical old eyes.  And why?  I’ll tell you why. It’s because Fergie’s gone, that’s why.  Say it again and say it with relish.  Fergie.  Is. GONE.

Don’t get me wrong.  It wasn’t his annoying habit of winning things for the Mighty Man U that bothered me.  It wasn’t his oft-paraded bloody stop-watch held up as a mute instruction to the ref regarding time-keeping.  It wasn’t even his arrogance over whether he chose to adhere to various rules which bound other managers, things like press interviews, his notorious BBC ban, stuff like that.  The fact that he clearly considered himself above mere rules was irritating, but not on its own the reason why I loathed him so much.  It was none of these things in isolation.  And after all, when he lost it was such a pleasure.  Thank you Leeds in ’92, Blackburn in ’95, City in ’12 and a few others.  But it didn’t happen often enough, and really, he was almost as horrific in defeat as he was in – shudder – triumph.

The real problem with Fergie was the sheer, all-round, ever-present, all-pervading unpleasantness of the man.  His particular brand of arrogant Glaswegian gittery and the way in which he held sway over the entire game and media too – the whole Fergie package – that’s what got my goat.  Whoever we support, we’ll have had managers who crossed the line in this or that respect, and made you see why fans of other clubs regarded them as less than nice.  But Ferguson exceeded all these limits, most of the time – and not in a good way.  Comical defeats apart, I really can’t think of a solitary redeeming feature.  If I absolutely HAD to put my finger on one thing that annoyed me above all else – it was the demeanour of the man when he was happy, when he’d just won or when Man U had scored a goal.  Sadly, these events happened all too often, and the results were always utterly repellent.  When the Mighty Reds scored, there he’d be, emerging from his dug-out in that annoying daft old man shuffle, fists clenched and waving in uncoordinated celebration, casting a glance of odious triumphalism at the sullen members of the opposition coaching staff, champing away happily on his ever-present wad of gum while his nose throbbed an ugly shade of victorious purple.  A most unpleasant sight.

Happily though, it is one we shall behold no more.  Fergie has retired upstairs, where his baleful presence need be of concern only to the inheritor of the poisoned chalice, David Moyes Esq.  Moyes may wish to cast his mind back 43 years to the effect a newly-retired but still-powerful-in-the-background Busby had on HIS successor.  But that is his problem.  All we need wish is that an early and unceremonious exit for Moyes – should he fail – isn’t a signal for the caretaker return of the Govan Guv’nor, just when we all thought that nightmare was over.  Perish the thought.

So I’m really looking forward to a Fergie-less season, and even to the slight bewilderment of the assembled media, who will be wondering where to brown-nose, who to target for their obsequious flattery.  Again, their bereft sadness is not my problem.  I’m just going to enjoy the football scene as it will appear to me – bright and shiny, replete with promise and optimism after the removal of that horrible, nasty man.  Man U will be that bit more difficult to hate, with the really-quite-likeable Moyes in charge, however long that lasts. But I’ll manage, it’s in my DNA as a fan of the One True United after all.  And Mourinho is back, and Wenger is still there – men you can’t help but respect and admire.  It’s going to be a good season in the Premier League, something I can really enjoy for once, whatever my beloved Leeds United do to screw things up one division lower.

And it’s all thanks to That Man finally being gone. Hallelujah!!

There’s Only Two Brian McDermotts

In 1996, Arsenal confirmed the appointment as their new manager of one Monsieur Arsène Wenger. I took a distant but distinct interest as I did with any news story concerning Arsenal, a club I have always thoroughly admired. And I must confess; at first I thought it was a wind-up, some weak attempt at a joke. An Arsenal manager called Arsène? Were our major clubs recruiting managers on the basis of weirdly appropriate names now? How ridiculous. You couldn’t make it up.

History shows of course that Arsenal FC was being deadly serious and decidedly astute. They were appointing a man who would become their longest-serving and most successful manager, a man widely credited with revolutionising the whole of English football, a cerebral man with a scientific approach to the art of beautiful football. But others reacted initially as I had. Former Arsenal captain Tony Adams has said

“At first, I thought: What does this Frenchman know about football? He wears glasses and looks more like a schoolteacher. He’s not going to be as good as George [Graham]. Does he even speak English properly?”

This seemed to reflect most people’s level of incredulity at what appeared an odd decision. Who, indeed, was Wenger? What had he done? He was certainly no Johan Cruyff, a global “name” who had been touted by many for the Highbury hot-seat. Rarely though can such a seemingly strange appointment have turned out so well. Despite the more recent lack of actual silverware, look at Arsenal now. Look at the football they play. It’s enough to make a Leeds fan drool – I know I do.

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Dioufy meets McDermotty

Fast forward to 2013 and there has been another “you couldn’t make it up” appointment – the strangeness being of a somewhat different nature, but nonetheless bizarre for that. Leeds United have recruited one Brian McDermott, recently sacked by Reading FC. This appointment has come with just five games to go of a season that was always supposed to be about promotion to the top league, but has latterly taken a nightmare downturn towards a struggle to avoid relegation back to the third tier. United of course share the city of Leeds with Rugby League superstars Leeds Rhinos – Coach: another Brian McDermott. Furthermore, the Rhinos have an outstanding winger called Ryan Hall, a world-class exponent of the game and prolific try-scorer; a major contributor to his club’s dominance of the Super League. And – lo and behold – we find that Leeds United also have a winger called Ryan Hall, a man of more modest accomplishments but much promise; one who produced a game-changing, match-winning performance at Huddersfield which gave Leeds United fans a lot of hope for his future.

Two clubs in two different sports sharing one city; both managed by a Brian McDermott, both with wingers named Ryan Hall. That’s stretching credibility quite a long way; has anything like it happened before? Could weirdness of that degree have a happy ending comparable to the way the weird Wenger story turned out?

Well, maybe it could. Once you get past the long-odds coincidence which certainly rivals the strangeness of Arsenal’s Arsène, you begin to look at the merits of the appointment. It’s an move being welcomed quite whole-heartedly by long-suffering Leeds fans, who had been certain for a while that former manager Neil Warnock’s approach was going to produce nothing but dire football, inexplicable substitution decisions and a heavy reliance on his old favourites from previous incarnations of his managerial career. He was going to build on his excellent record of promotions gained; he was going to top off that record by returning his biggest-ever club to the Premier League. But it all went horribly wrong, and Neil has clearly been yearning for his Cornwall home, hearth and tractor for months now. He’s seemed tired and dispirited, forced to defend the inadequate efforts of a palpably rudderless team, reduced to cliché after cliché as he attempted to deflect criticism of the performances of a squad he’d recently described as “Leeds’ best in years.”

McDermott though appears to be a horse of a different colour. A younger, hungry man, a still slightly angry man who you’d guess feels wronged by his dismissal from Premier League Reading, a club he’d served undeniably well and against whom he now seems destined to compete in the Championship next season. That’s if Leeds stay in that league – which is by no means certain as yet. With five games to go, McDermott quite possibly needs at least four more points to secure Championship football for next season and give him the chance to plan in the longer term. He has said already that he’s been given “assurances of support”, and we can but hope that these don’t turn out to be yet more of the same forked-tongue promises we’ve heard for a good many seasons now. McDermott though has the air of a man who is happy and confident as he picks up what many in the game see as a poisoned chalice. Leeds United has the reputation of a managers’ graveyard going back many years now and – surely – nobody entering via the revolving doors that have seen so many unceremonious exits can be at all optimistic they won’t share the same fate. Nevertheless, Brian McDermott has made all the right confident and determined noises, he has his right-hand man with him and he says he can’t wait to get stuck in. This is what we want to hear.

At some point, for heaven’s sake, Leeds United’s owners have to get it right. We’ve had a decade or more of stumbling, shambling descent into the pits of despair, followed by an almost equally stumbling and shambling partial recovery. As yet another era starts – and at Leeds we seem to have two or three new eras per season – the patience of the always potentially truculent masses cannot be relied upon for much longer. Leeds could so easily go the wrong way in just the next few weeks, and that would make for a terrifyingly long journey back at a time when – as in wider society – the rich are getting ever rich while the rest scrap for crumbs. Those who seek happy omens might look at how Arsenal’s strange appointment of Arsène turned out, or they may look across the city and look at the Brian McDermott who is in charge of the current Super League Champions. The omens are there, and in hard times they’re the straws we might reasonably clutch at.

We could go the wrong way – but we simply can’t afford to. It has to be safety first, followed as soon as possible by definite progress on and off the field. New investment is clearly sought, and appears to be a must-have without which the club will, at very best, continue to tread water.

This is not an option if the club is to have any real success in the foreseeable future, so the owners must deliver support to their new man. And Brian McDermott just has to be the right man; he has to get it very right very soon, establishing a pattern of success comparable with his fine work at Reading and leading us back to the top before the club is cut irretrievably adrift of the powers in the game.

That’s the scale of his task. That’s the urgency of the situation we now face. Good luck, Brian.