Leeds are doing it right this time around – so long as the manager gets his way. After revealing his desire to talk contracts a week or so ago, Neil Warnock has added an update. He is holding ‘provisional’ talks with five key players, including Darren O’Dea, on their futures at the club.
Speaking to media he summed up the fallout from a week that saw a horrible 7-3 defeat to Forest and a very good 1-0 victory at Millwall concluding:
I think [the players] know that if we’re below par we won’t beat anybody at the bottom of the table let alone the top end of the table. We can’t be like that. Next season you can’t have inconsistency like that, you might as well be playing roulette; is it going to be black or red? Nobody knows with Leeds at the moment.
We need an “ins and outs” summer, but there’s still players surprising me and doing better than I thought. Likewise there are some players not doing as well.
With Ross McCormack, Robert Snodgrass and Adam Clayton’s contracts running down in a year, plus Aidy White’s contract expiring this summer (along with Darren O’Dea’s at Celtic) it seems likely that these are the five in question.
These are encouraging signs from Elland Road with each of the five above playing important roles in the team under Neil Warnock – and playing them well. Faced with the impossible task of mending the team in the face of fans looking for a big-name manager, Neil Redfearn summarized Leeds’ forward line as ‘enough to sink a battleship‘. Four of these five players represent four of our five indispensable attacking players. Players who could cost an arm and a leg to replace sufficiently – and that before even talking contracts!
Darren O’Dea’s is an especially interesting situation as it suggests Tom Lees might be given more freedom to develop. Lees has impressed at Leeds considering his age and experience, after being thrown in at the deep end by Simon Grayson. But Neil Warnock seemed to hint at a less pressured role for the lad next season, telling media:
[O'Dea] has got a lot to learn. It’s how you get the partnership at centre-half. Who we might bring in, who he might play with?
It will be interesting to see who Warnock decides to keep at centre-half. Despite O’Dea’s two-match suspension Warnock does not want to rush O’Brien or Bromby back to action too quickly, and both players along with Alex Bruce and Paddy Kisnorbo see their contracts end in 2013. The two remaining centre-halfs are Tom Lees (2015) and Darren O’Dea. With the difficulty Leeds had last season offloading unnecessary players, despite the well connected Gwynn Williams’ role at the club, releasing O’Dea would have seemed the easiest option but Neil Warnock seems impressed by the lad’s contribution so far while O’Dea spoke of his willingness to sign on a permanent basis at “massive club” Leeds in January.
Warnock also made a clear statement to the Leeds Board:
We’ve got to be positive this year; we’ve got to sign players at the end of the season not August.
I can’t put up with the inconsistency and the mid-table next season – that’s not my scene at my age really!
It’s a great pull having a club like Leeds United to manage. If you don’t want to come to Leeds United if you can agree terms… I don’t think there’s another club in the Championship I’d want to come to if I were a player.
I think in the past we probably let things drift a little bit too much and you’ve got to plan ahead.
The joint-record-holding promotion specialist seems clear in his assertions: Ken Bates is a man he can work with, but (as Dom Matteo opined in the YEP) Leeds United has to have the courage to back him in the summer if it wants promotion. If he is backed, Leeds United’s facilities, regular support (outstripping the capacity at many Premiership grounds), and responsible owners together provide the kind of attraction that no other Championship club will be able to compete with. If not, perhaps we should consider Warnock’s parting message in his press conference. Asked about Leeds’ hopes of a playoff place he said:
I keep hearing people saying Warnock’s a wily old character. I’m a good manager, but I don’t walk on water – although sometimes I feel as if I have!