Speculation linking Paolo Di Canio with the managers job at Elland Road is something I’ve spent the last month or so laughing off, but when it looked like Nigel Adkins was heading for Reading, it forced everyone to have a rethink.
Gus Poyet aside, the rest of the names being linked with the Leeds United job do little to get the heart-racing.
But Di Canio never fails to stir emotions, the pantomime villain of this tale, his madcap antics and dubious political beliefs make him an incredibly controversial figure, and while that wouldn’t work for most clubs, it probably would for Leeds.
No one likes being hated more than we do. We thrive on the “everyone hates us and we don’t care” mentality, we’ve actively encouraged it for decades. A few years back there was a supporters’ poll which ranked Leeds United as the most hated club in England, our fans celebrated that like Huddersfield Town fans celebrate a victory at Elland Road.
Warnock’s appointment didn’t please the majority of Leeds United fans based on his record alone, many perceived his style of management to be just what we needed. A universally despised figure who would inspire the ‘us against the world’ mentality so prevalent amongst our fanbase, but so often lacking in the players.
As things turned out, Warnock was a bit of a damp squib. Perhaps he mellowed in old age or lost the passion which saw him succeed previously, his constant self-pitying remarks about being away from his family in Cornwall suggests he’s taken his eye off the ball somewhat. I wouldn’t say he’s lost his love for the game, but he’s certainly been worn down by it. He cuts a dejected figure nowadays, one who’s come to realise that there’s more to life than football.
And that’s great for Neil. Healthy, in fact. But not what you want in a football manager I’m afraid.
It takes a lot of long hours, self-sacrifice, and passion to succeed in football management and fans recognise that. No one wants to see their manager casually shrug off poor result after poor result like he hasn’t got a care in the world, there’s nothing that frustrates Leeds fans more than throwaway comments like “I can’t fault the lads efforts” and “luck wasn’t on our side today!”
Successful clubs aren’t built on the acceptance they’re going to be second best sometimes or that luck can effect the outcome, they’re built upon a community who refuse to accept that has to be the case. You’ll never see Paolo Di Canio shrugging off defeat and poor performances in the manner Warnock does, instead you’ll get anger and frustration, and you’ll be left with the comforting reassurance that there will be consequences.
He approaches management with the exact same attitude he had to playing the game, without ever considering the possibility he may lose. It’s incomprehensible to people like him, that’s why you get the slightly unhinged reactions when it does happen.
Like Di Canio, Leeds isn’t a football club willing to accept mediocrity. We don’t want to hear Neil Warnock moan about being away from his family instead of the reasons we’re losing games, because as selfish as this may be, we don’t care. Leeds United must be his only concern, especially in defeat. We expect an immediate inquest into our failure followed by restless nights working on how we’re going to turn things around which will then be implemented during the extended training sessions he’s insisted on.
Defeat shouldn’t be followed by a manager applauding the players’ efforts. That might be acceptable at the lesser clubs Warnock has managed, but it won’t wash at Elland Road. If we didn’t win, it wasn’t good enough. Simple.
Leeds United need a manager who embodies the ethos of this football club. A manager with a ‘win at all costs’ mentality, someone to whom the concept of defeat is so inconceivable, it’s only a matter of time before it leads to a nervous breakdown and he’s committed to a mental health institute after butchering several players.
Yes, he’s an absolute madman, yes it’d be messy (especially the butchering part) and yes, it could be an absolute disaster. But I can’t shake the thought that Leeds United needs a Paolo Di Canio shaped boot up the arse, not just for the players sake, but the fans as well. Someone who can cut through all the excuses, the moaning and self-pity and have everyone so fired up behind his own God complex, all the other nonsense quickly fades away.
Nigel Adkins probably is the sensible choice here. But how will he cope being second-guessed and undermined by the perpetual moaning of our fanbase? It’ll likely take time and patience for Adkins to succeed at Elland Road, a luxury Leeds United fans won’t afford anyone after so many years outside the Premiership.
Paolo Di Canio on the other hand will get an immediate reaction. For better or for worse, it won’t take long to see his impact. The whole club will be shaken from it’s very foundations, players and staff will be forced to subscribe to the Paolo Di Canio way or head for the exit.
The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that we need a character like Paolo. The ego, the passion, the madcap antics and the God complex, because it’ll take a man like that to turn people’s attention back towards what matters and away from all the other nonsense that surrounds our football club.
Maybe I’ve lost the plot (or never had it to begin with), but the club has seemed so lethargic under Neil Warnock I really think we could use a little volatility to liven things up a bit. If nothing else, it’d be entertaining.
What’s the worst that could happen?