A bit of Revie magic needed

The sacking of Thorp Arch Academy boss, Neil Thompson will be seen as long overdue by many Leeds United fans who feel the former treasure trove of talent has run dry over the last couple of seasons.

The sudden dry-patch experienced in Thorp Arch produced talent has been a big talking point for a while now amongst supporters, with many fans – myself included – questioning Simon Grayson’s faith in young players and willingness to introduce them to the first team.

Ken Bates is pointing no fingers at the door of Simon Grayson though, and firmly believes the failings rest with Neil Thompson.

Whilst Technical Director, Gywn Williams works his way through a pile of applications looking for a suitable replacement, Ken Bates explains a vision of a Leeds United team made of strong home-grown talent;

“If you think about it there hasn’t been a new name coming out of the academy for two or three seasons now.

“Leeds should be primarily a strong Yorkshire team and you won’t get that unless you sign strong Yorkshire boys and that is what we are hoping to do.

“Every now and again clubs do change their philosophy. Gwyn Williams, our head of football is taking over the running of the academy between now and Christmas to assess our shortcoming and what we need to improve.

“With his vast knowledge, both national and international, he will know the best people to bring in to change the academy, the direction of the academy and hopefully will start producing us players again.”

Whilst I don’t dispute the need for a new direction, Neil Thompson’s reign as academy boss was under extremely difficult circumstances. In the space of a decade we went from being experienced tappers-up ourselves to vulnerable shark-bait and any half-decent players we did produce (Fabian Delph, Danny Rose et al.) were quickly snapped up by the Premier League teams for a life of bench-warming and reserve team football.

Meanwhile, Ken Bates lined his pockets from transfer fees and by suing the clubs for stealing our players. I suspect Ken’s real frustration is more to do with the lack of transfer fees being received, as opposed to players making the first team but I’m forever cynical of his motives and even if it is solely for the financial gains then this is of benefit to the club too – it’ll help fund the demolition of the Kop to make way for a new restaurant and bar.

I suppose Neil Thompson’s real failing was the inability to keep youngsters at the club when big teams came knocking. There’s lessons to be learnt here from the master of keeping players happy, Don Revie.

In creating the greatest Leeds United team of all time, Revie plucked the best young players from all over the country from beneath the noses of bigger teams. There are many similarities between our current situation and that which Revie inherited, not least the division we find ourselves in and a team made up of largely average players.

But by going the extra mile to sign the likes of Lorimer, Gray and to keep Bremner at Leeds when he was suffering from homesickness, Revie created a close-knit family of superstars where everyone would die for the cause and no one ever dreamed of leaving. Revie always went the extra mile for them, and they would do anything to repay his efforts. It wasn’t just Leeds United they felt a part of, but the city too, which is why many of them still live in the area and are still involved with the club to this day.

Of course, football has changed a lot since Revie’s day, but the underlying principles remain the same. Players will stay where they feel wanted and where they believe they can have a successful future. Just look at Gareth Bale and Tottenham. Harry Redknapp is the modern day God of remarkable signings (van der Vaart being a recent example) and every player loves to play for him because he convinces players that the grass isn’t greener elsewhere.