For those that missed it, The Square Ball broke the news yesterday that Chris Sulley is no longer Leeds United’s Academy manager. Sulley was appointed in March 2011 on a one year contract after a four month search, but did not see his contract extended. Sulley came with his own half-finished website and experience at the cutting edge youth academies of Bolton, Preston North End and Blackburn and signed on the back of a ten-month field trip to Europe.
On the official site, Technical Director Gwynn Williams summed up:
We interviewed a number of potential candidates for the post and we were very impressed with the standard of people who wanted to come here. After interviewing, we went through a discussion process and we hope that Chris will prove to be a successful appointment for the future of the Academy.
In a five-minute interview broadcast on LUTV he managed to cram in references to his MBA, recent socio-economic changes in youth football and the introduction of best practice to Thorp Arch. The contrast between Sulley’s managment speak and his predecessor, the affable Beverley-born Neil Thompson who is very much an old school footballing man, couldn’t be greater.
This was a man who knew his stuff. Well, he talked a good game anyway. Maybe he does know his stuff, but articles on “holistic support mechanisms” and his half-finished website (you know you’re important if you have your own bio – even if you wrote it yourself) aren’t my cup of tea. I’ve never met Chris Sulley or seen him in action, maybe he’s great, but maybe he wasn’t the vanguard signing Leeds hoped. In fact, his cutting edge professional image reminds me a little of Gus Hedges from Drop the Dead Donkey!
Who will replace him? A decent bet might be a return to the old-school with now well known Neil Redfearn who has been hugely popular with youngsters and senior players like Ross McCormack who was stuck in the reserves in his early time at Elland Road. You can be popular without being successful, but success also makes for popularity. Redfearn’s youngsters are doing pretty well.
Really, though, we have no idea. According to TSB, we can expect an official comment on Sulley’s departure after the Easter weekend. I’ll get in early: this is almost definitely not part of a masterplan from Ken to turn Leeds into a “Tier One” academy under the jargony Elite Player Performance Plan, due for 2012-13. The EPPP is set to damage non-Premiership clubs by lessening poaching penalties and removing the 90-minute rule from Tier One and Two academies. Tier One classification would require an investment of about £3.3m per year into the Academy. Out of reach of even some Premier League clubs.
Leeds, incidentally, are thought the be shoe-ins for a Tier Two rating which would mean we at least benefit from the ability to grab kids from far and wide, just like Tier One academies at the top of the Premiership, before they steal the promising kids off us for about £2. So it’ll be great at least having the kids for a few years, and having that warm glow as we see players winning competitions who spent their youth career at Thorp Arch. Don’t you just love Tavernier on the subs bench for Newcastle and Howson scoring equalizers for Norwich? It’s really great to help other clubs!