Tag Archives: coaching

How a Don Revie Disciple is Spreading the Leeds Legend Down Under – by Rob Atkinson

It’s the stuff of legend; the story of how new Leeds United manager Don Revie looked for inspiration to Real Madrid in their brilliant all-white strip, as he set about the mammoth task of turning the Elland Road also-rans into the best team in Europe. There’s possibly a touch of the apocryphal about that version of events – after all, there’s strong evidence that United turned out in all-white before The Don took the helm. But the irresistible romance has persisted to this day, that of a young and visionary manager looking from afar at the early sixties Galacticos as his ideal for creating Yorkshire legends of equal prowess. Ultimately, there’s little doubt that Don Revie did create Europe’s top team, the most-feared and respected outfit just about anywhere. It was his dearest wish that United and Real should meet in competition; sadly that never happened in Revie’s lifetime.

The finished article - Yorkshire's answer to Real Madrid

The finished article – Yorkshire’s answer to Real Madrid

Now, over fifty years on, Real Madrid have emerged from their own relatively barren years to once again reign as European Champions, with another galaxy of glittering stars and wonderful footballers. They have Cristiano Ronaldo, too. At Leeds, the wheel has turned full circle in that half-century; the Whites languish once more outside the top flight, a lowly sphere they’ve inhabited now for well over a decade. A new revolution is sorely needed at Elland Road, but where is our latter-day Don Revie? The best hope for Leeds is that the club can benefit from another outstanding crop of youngsters, as we saw back at the start of the 1960s. And still we have that iconic (more or less) all white strip, the symbol of past domination and the inspiration, we hope, for future success.

All of that represents a lot of wistful nostalgia and a fair measure of somewhat shaky optimism that we might one day see achievement on a comparable scale, all based on the symbolic value of that inspirational all-white kit. But way over on the other side of the world, in New Zealand, one ex-pat Yorkshireman and fervent Leeds United fan is creating his own dominant team of all-whites – and he’s drawn inspiration from that Revie story in order to galvanise his own young team.

Jon Stanhope, Leeds United fanatic and (I’m happy to say) a regular reader of this blog, found to his bemusement when he arrived as a teacher at Trident High School in New Zealand, that none of the boys under his guidance had really heard much about Leeds United. “Brainwashed by Sky Sports Premier League coverage” is how Jon puts it. Grimly determined, he set out to put that to rights and, on taking over the reins of the school 1st XI, he echoed Don Revie’s legendary decision, changing the team’s colours from blue to all-white – their former away kit.

Jon Stanhope's Trident Whites

Jon Stanhope’s Trident Whites

The effect of that change of strip has brought about a transformation in fortunes not a million miles away from the one enjoyed by Revie’s Whites in the early days of his time at Elland Road all those years ago. Jon’s Trident High School 1st XI went on to finish third in a national tournament; the best-ever performance in their history. “It had to be the kit!!” enthused Coach Stanhope. “The lads look magnificent when they take to the field wearing the all white strip (although parents complain that it’s hard to wash !!!)”, he adds. “They know why they are wearing an all-white strip as they all know how much I love Leeds United. I feel genuinely proud when I see them lining up before games, the new white strip has lifted the team, they look like a class act wearing it and this has given them huge confidence.”

This confidence and the unprecedented achievements of Jon’s team have been rewarded by the prospect of a first-ever UK tour this coming April, playing teams from South and West Yorkshire. Jon, a native of Yeadon who moved out to New Zealand to be with his fiancée, is looking forward to seeing his charges take on all-comers in their all-white strip, as well as visiting a few stadiums and training grounds along the way. An undoubted highlight of the tour will be a visit to Elland Road to see Leeds United – “the only other team who look magnificent in all white”, as Jon puts it – taking on old enemies Cardiff City. “It should be a spicy affair,” observes Jon. “The lads and myself can’t wait to come over and they are very intrigued as to how I can be so ferociously loyal to a team that is never shown on TV!!! They don’t quite ‘get it’ just yet…..well, they will in April!!”

Jon is quite clearly one of those guys who won’t let the small matter of twelve thousand miles or so separation get in the way of his life-long love affair with Leeds United – and with the zeal of any prophet, he’s set about inspiring the young players in his team and converting them to Leeds fans as well, if he can. “The boys were not really aware of who Leeds United were when I first arrived….they know now and often come and see me on a Monday morning to tell me the Leeds score! How times are changing!!”

The idea of changing times is one that all Leeds fans will wish to embrace after the last mainly miserable decade and a half at Elland Road. The fans, as Massimo Cellino has pointed out, remain the real wealth of the club – with enthusiasm bordering on the fanatical among thousands who live too far from LS11 to hope to see their heroes in the flesh. It’s a globe-spanning devotion that deserves to be rewarded by success. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything wishes the Trident High School team – and their inspirational Coach Stanhope – every success on their forthcoming tour to the UK. Three points against Cardiff City wouldn’t go amiss, either.

I’d like to think that Leeds United itself might perhaps extend some courtesy to a team visiting from so far away. The story of success after a change to all-white is a blessedly familiar one in Leeds, and maybe the way it seems to be playing itself out again half a century on and half a world away, can serve as some little inspiration for the current staff and players of the Mighty Whites. Let’s hope so. Leeds United and Trident High School 1st XI – Marching On Together! 

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High Stakes at Leeds United: Is Cellino Gambling With the Fans’ Faith? – by Rob Atkinson

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Cellino: gambling with high stakes?

Rumours abound that a new Head Coach appointment is imminent at Leeds United, though there is as yet no white smoke emanating from Elland Road. What there is plenty of, however, is sound and fury from the club’s supporter base, a goodly proportion of which are expressing some dissatisfaction with the mooted appointment of Dave Hockaday to the senior position within United’s first team coaching structure.  It is fair to say that some parts of his CV make for worrying reading; naysayers are quick to point at what they would term a failure at lowly Forest Green Rovers.  Others, more inclined to give a new man a fair crack of the whip, will recall that Hockaday was instrumental in the preparation of the Watford side that stepped out for a play-off final at Cardiff in 2006, looking ready for business, and easily dismissed fellow promotion hopefuls Leeds United 3-0 to add another chapter to our dismal record in that end of season lottery. The truth is that nobody out here in Fanland can really know which Hockaday incarnation we are likely to see if this surprising appointment does go through.  It’s going to be very much a case of awaiting the proof of the pudding.  The big question at this time must be: just how much of a gamble is Massimo Cellino taking – and is he confident that such a relatively unknown recruit can gain the faith and trust of players and fans alike?

As my good friends and partners at GamblingSitesOnline.org would confirm, a gamble is a pleasurable distraction; an exciting chance to gain much for a relatively small outlay.  There is enjoyment win or lose, and your seasoned gambler knows the score and sets his sights accordingly.  So what is Cellino’s mindset as he contemplates the final unveiling of his head coach?  He must be aware of the need to have the bulk of the fan base on board as Leeds United embark on a vital season, with the composition of the squad still very uncertain, with the pre-season programme sketchy to say the least and with a growing sense of disgruntlement after the brief honeymoon enjoyed by the man from Cagliari via Miami.

There is even ongoing doubt about Cellino’s involvement with Leeds in the medium to long term.  The judgement of the Italian court in the Nélie yacht import duty case was not, at the time, enough to back up the Football League’s intention of blocking the Eleonora Sport takeover of United.  But a full statement of that judgement, expected within 90 days of the case initially, could – if it imputes dishonesty – open the way for further action. It is fair to say that the League are watching events closely, stung as they were by the overturning of their original decision.  The latest suggestion is that the judge in the Nélie case may even have asked for a further 90 days before handing down her reasoned judgement.  The reasons for what would be a fairly unusual request for extension of that time limit are not clear.

Any football decision is, to a greater or lesser degree, a gamble.  Football is not an exact science, and gut feeling, instinct, call it what you will, must play a large part in the process behind any transfer or other recruitment.  A man might succeed in one job, as Hockaday certainly did at Watford – and fail in another, as he appears to have done way down the ladder at Forest Green.  None of this is a sure guide to future performance – but questions will be asked by a notoriously militant group of passionate and involved supporters, about such a seemingly low-profile appointment at what is still a major football club with a global reputation.

Massimo Cellino has shown himself to be a prudent financial manager – especially for an allegedly very wealthy man – since he walked through the doors at Elland Road.  Some of his cost-cutting measures have bordered on the parsimonious, yet he has been quite prompt in paying off certain pressing bills and seeing off wolves from our door; then again, stories persist of wages unpaid as the club’s accounts have been frozen.  All in all, there has been progress of a sort – getting rid of various undesirables from the club certainly constitutes positive progress – and yet nasty little doubts persist, drifting around the club and through the hearts and minds of each devoted fan.

At the end of the day, as supporters, it behoves us to support – and that means giving the owner the latitude to make the decisions he considers necessary and best for the future of the club.  We then also have to give any Cellino appointment a chance to show us what he’s made of, instead of pouncing upon the guy before he’s even got his feet under the table.  To do otherwise would be unfair and counter-productive.  Supporters have a vital role to play in the success of any football club – and if it is to be success, then that role must be a positive one.  In other words, we need to reserve judgement and see how things pan out.  That’s the view of this blog, anyway – taken in full appreciation that these are uncertain times and that many people with Leeds United held dear in their hearts are not at all happy with the way things seem to be going.  But we have to keep the faith.

Is Cellino gambling with the hearts and minds of the fans?  Probably he is – and he will be aware that those are high stakes.  But he also has the right to expect that, as a body of support, we will keep our nerve and stay in the game.  We have to believe that, from Cellino downwards, everyone involved wants the best for the club.  Time alone will tell whether the decisions being made now will prove to be the right ones to bring about desirable outcomes – that’s the gamble we all have to be a party to.

If it is to be Hockaday – possibly with other staff yet to be confirmed alongside him – then let’s at least acknowledge them as part of Leeds United and therefore entitled to our full support.  And let’s see where we go from there. 

Would Leeds United Fans Welcome David Moyes? – by Rob Atkinson

McDermott: miracle man

McDermott: miracle man

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.

Best Leeds United Signing of the Summer

Nayls v Shrek

Nayls v Shrek

Leeds United will be linked with many new signings this summer, and the squad is definitely in need of a major tweak or three.  Or four, possibly five.  But it may well be that, for the medium and longer term good of our club, we’ve already secured our most valuable signature of this or many other summers.  Take a bow, Richard Naylor – who will now remain as the Leeds United U-18 Coach, charged with overseeing the development of youth players who will hopefully contribute to first team success in the not-too-distant future.

Fresh from the triumphs of last season, when his youngsters won their League and performed brilliantly in defeat at Anfield in the FA Youth Cup, Naylor has taken to this role like a duck to water.  With his input, the famed Leeds United Academy production line seems to be in the rudest health it’s enjoyed for quite some time.  Naylor only quit as a player last summer and has still to go through the formal necessities of obtaining the various coaching badges he will need to carve out a career in management.  But all the badges in the world are no substitute for natural ability and a way with young people that nurtures progress and success.  It is this intangible quality which seems to mark out Naylor as a potential coach to watch out for.

It is to be hoped that Naylor will make a big impact on the coaching and managerial side of the game – given his early achievements there’s little reason to doubt he will – and obviously everyone with a love for Leeds United will be desperate for Big Nayls to make his mark with his home town team.  Manager Brian McDermott is in no doubt that Leeds have got a winner in Naylor.  “If you look at the history of the Academy at Leeds they have produced some fantastic players and I think we have got a fantastic Academy,” said Brian. “Getting Richard signed up was very important to us, he is a Leeds man and he is a young coach.  I’m sure he is going to be doing his badges and working with the younger players, we are really pleased.  Richard enjoys coming to work, that is one of the things you try to create at any football club.  I certainly wouldn’t want to come to a place where you don’t have a bit of fun and you don’t enjoy what you do.”

Encouraging stuff, and music to the ears of anyone who believes the long-term good of the club is best served by excellence in the Academy – and an Academy is only as good as its coaches, whatever the talent that might be available in the youth ranks.  Naylor has made an excellent start to his coaching career, and appears to have a thorough understanding of the demands of his job.  Perhaps this is because, although he played most of his career as a central defender, he was a striker at Ipswich until the age of 25.  He therefore has top-level knowledge of radically different ways of playing; looking forward as a defender after previously operating with his back to goal as a striker.  This professional experience in two very dissimilar roles will maybe have given him a more complete and all-round appreciation of the game as a whole, something his young charges could well benefit from as they develop.

All the best for the future with Leeds, Nayls – may your association with your beloved United be a long, happy and successful one.