After The Scratching Shed reported on a sharp drop in the odds of Neil Warnock becoming next Leeds United manager yesterday, there was a massive scramble as people tried to figure out what had caused such a significant, and almost instantaneous change.
We were contacted by a couple of usually “in the know” types, who themselves seemed to have been caught off-guard by the events, asking if we had any explanation but all we’d done was stumble across the odds as they were free-falling. This was so out-of-the-blue that no one had tweeted, emailed or posted on the site itself to point it out to us – which in itself, is extremely unusual.
Within a couple of hours, the general rumours of sightings at Thorp Arch, Elland Road and various Leeds city centre hotels started doing the rounds, but there was no concrete proof whatsoever. The bookies themselves explained that the change was as a result of “mega money” being placed on Warnock, but even they seemed unsure as to the actual reasoning behind it.
All this left for mere speculation. Working with the facts we had, the only reasonable theory was that someone had inside knowledge or that Warnock’s comments that he wanted “one more promotion” to break the record had resulted in a flurry of bets. Considering how far the odds had fallen, and how quickly it had all happened, the latter was somewhat hard to believe. After all, Keith Curle – one of Warnock’s backroom staff – was spotted at Elland Road last week and that didn’t have the slightest effect on the odds – a flurry of £10 bets from ill-informed fans working on speculation makes little difference.
It wasn’t until around 11pm last night that things became clear, when The Sun and The Daily Mail both posted pictures of Neil Warnock meeting with Ken Bates and Shaun Harvey at Casino Square in Monaco. By this point, odds had dropped as low as 1/10 with some bookmakers closing the market completely.
Knowing that Neil Warnock is the man Ken Bates wants led many fans to conclude it’s a nailed on certainty, and it most probably is. However, it’s worth considering that Neil Warnock holds all the aces in this game. He’ll have other offers between now and next season, this isn’t a case of “we’re Leeds United, we get who we want” as Ken Bates would have you believe.
Leeds will have to convince Warnock that his record-breaking 8th promotion dreams are achievable at Elland Road and that may be easier said than done.
The problem is, Ken Bates will have a hard time convincing Neil Warnock that a £12.5m player budget – that he seems intent on cutting – is enough to battle it out with the big boys in the Championship. I sincerely doubt Warnock will be at all willing to work with the current player recruitment setup of Gwyn Williams finding the “talent” and Shaun Harvey dealing (or failing to deal) with contracts, and then there’s the clubs policy of selling key players – assurances that he can keep the likes of Aidy White and Robert Snodgrass will no doubt be sought.
This isn’t the Leeds United it once was. Where once you heard the name and pictured a club with huge resources, able to take their pick of players and retain the best of the ones they had without issue, we’re now more of an ‘also ran’, here to make the numbers up and where players are only valued as saleable commodities.
It’s certainly a challenging situation, and to give Warnock his dues, he’s never shied away from one, but there will be easier jobs out there and if this is to be his final bow, then I wouldn’t blame him for taking an easier role elsewhere.