tom-leesSo predictable and tiresome had Neil Warnock’s excuses become by the time we lost 3-0 to Ipswich Town last month, it’s a wonder anyone was still listening when he inexplicably blamed Tom Lees for defeat.

“We’ve got one lad who’s let everyone down. He’s let me down, the team down and the fans who travelled here. It was one stupid moment.”

While there’s no denying the effect Tom Lees’ dismissal had on the match, the response from the former Leeds United boss helped nothing. ‘Young players make mistakes’ most Leeds United fans reasoned, ‘no one will feel worse than Tom does’.

It’s at moments like these the manager and the rest of the team need to step-up and have his back, not hang him out to dry and pin all of the blame for another dreadful performance on one player.

But this is what had become of the Neil Warnock era. Tom Lees was just another one of those “fine lines” preventing Neil Warnock’s masterclass of anti-football from delivering the results we needed.

It wasn’t the negative football Warnock had us playing, the distinct lack of width, players played in the wrong positions, an inability to create enough chances or convert the ones we did. No, it was Tom Lees’ fault. Or the referees fault. Or lady luck. Or the guy who stared at “Brown-eh” in a funny way causing him to lose concentration.

The excuses went on and on, and as they did, they grew ever more inconsistent. One week Warnock was happy with the team he had and felt it was good enough to finish in the play-off spots, the next week he had a squad which was 2-3 players short of being play-off contenders.

From “can’t fault the players” to singling one out to blame, it was standard Neil Warnock, and the Leeds United fans had heard enough.

Within a few minutes of Warnock’s rant #BlameTomLees was trending on Twitter. The “stupid” Leeds United centre-back was being blamed for everything, from hangovers to potential wars;

Fat North Korean kid with a bad haircut trying to start a nuclear war? Blame Tom Lees.

Drank too much last night and don’t feel like going to work? Phone your boss and blame Tom Lees.

Traffic congestion on the M62? Damn you Tom Lees!

Silly though the Twitter trend may have been, it highlights how intolerant Leeds United fans were of Neil Warnock’s blame game and how badly he’d misjudged the people he was speaking to.

Leeds United fans didn’t care that we’d lost, we were expecting to. What really grates is the lack of effort, the ease at which Warnock was dismissing such results and finding targets to blame it on. You could see it in the body language of every Leeds United player, they’d already accepted their fate. The second Tom Lees was sent off, they gave up. They had their excuse to quit.

Where was the “keep fighting” mentality that has seen Leeds United through so much adversity in the past? If Simon Grayson had reacted to a red card like Neil Warnock and his team did, we could still be in League One right now.

Down to ten men against Bristol on the final day of that infamous League One season, the players stepped up. They didn’t let their heads drop and accept the perfect excuse they’d been handed, they re-grouped and fought on to spark the craziest celebrations I’ve ever seen inside Elland Road.

That’s the mark of a good team. Players who continue to fight for each other no matter what the circumstance, players who don’t make excuses and refuse to give up even when the odds are stacked against them. It’s a trait they’d had drilled into them by their manager, a man who didn’t understand the concept of a “lost cause”. And the fans knew that. We could be 3-0 down at half-time and no one was heading home because we knew the team would come back out and throw everything at the opposition.

Even at their worst, when they got complacent and recorded silly results, no one was blaming individuals. They lost as they won – as a team.

It’s an approach Brian McDermott is now looking to adopt, quickly recognising the mistakes of his predecessor and the blame game culture Warnock left behind. “If I had a philosophy in life, it’d be Marching On Together” said the new Leeds United boss today, explaining that it’s the perfect metaphor for how a football club should be run.

Win, lose or draw, we’ll do it together, “there’ll be no blame game” McDermott insisted as he tries to instil a long lost sense of unity in his Leeds United side. Viva la Revolución.

20 Responses

  1. Gerald Hobbs

    Sums up the Warnock era!
    Great to see Neil being recognised, great to see a win, great to see us fight as a team again!
    Roll on Burnley – Come on Leeds! Come on you fans – sell us out tomorrow and get behind THE team! MOT

  2. Tare

    Blaming your employees is last thing to do in any business. 1st look in the mirror and then some thinking what I have done here to make things happen. This is man-management issue and a bad example of it. If you have a employee who has done something wrong then you just meet him/her privately and go the things through. After the matter case is closed and will not be mentioned or even hinted afterwards. I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I read it.

    This blaming and fear culture in work life it is totally gone for good so prepare to educate yourselves old alliance supervisors.


  3. gistheman

    I’m hoping we can go on a run now and finish this crap season on a high and roll on the summer things could be on the up at long last mot

  4. wurzelcol

    It’s very early days but BMc is making all the right noises! ON,ON,ON MOT !!!

  5. Tom_1919

    Great writing mate – highlights perfectly why we became so disenchanted with Colin and his footballing philosophy and why we have, even in these early days of BMcD, cause for cautious optimism. Pre-match bingo anyone?

  6. Matthew

    At the end of the day, everyone was behind Tom Lees. No one was behind Warnock. Everyone makes mistakes, he made one, no one blames him. He’s been great for us all season, that more than makes up for it.

  7. Chris

    Excellent summary of the clear difference in philosophy of the 2 managers.

    NW surprised me. Just after he took over, Mick Jones told us at a Leeds On The Road event that NW would make all the players feel loved and believe they are world beaters. I expected him to defend the players to the hilt, not single them out for criticism.

  8. spellz

    We are all humans and make mistakes, its the abundance of errors under Warnocks reign that left us in the position we are in now, so if there should be anyone to blame he was that figure, not for a moment of madness but a whole season full of them.

    Anyway the past is what it is and like TSS added at the end, viva la revolucion, I just cant wait for August already.

  9. Graham

    Interesting comments in the YEP from Varney – one of the players Warnock claimed to have been trying to sign since the last century – including this:

    “It really helped to have a different voice in there, just to give a
    positive outlook on the game and to have a gaffer who was cool, calm and
    collected……….Under the old gaffer (Warnock) we were in a bit of a rut. We probably
    got too hooked up on the idea of getting the ball forward as quickly as
    we could”

    Erm….. I think it’s known as hoofball.

    If that’s what one of Colin’s players was thinking, God only knows what the likes of Snodgrass and McCormack were making of it.

  10. Irving08

    Agree – but perhaps some fans need to get the message too. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, one or other Leeds player invariably gets gets singled out for criticism, and other fans take it up, creating an atmosphere about the player or players in question. A little more kindness and generosity in our judgements would not go amiss. Warnock in some ways was just the typical football fan writ large – emotional, hyperbolic and too often looking for a whipping boy.

    • TSS

      Worst thing is, it doesn’t make sense half the time. There used to be loads of people in the Kop who swore Howson “went missing” every game, that used to drive me mental.

      Beckford used to get it bad too. Fans insisted he was lazy because he didn’t chase lost causes and run around like an headless chicken, instead he held the position he was supposed to be playing and made sure he was available to score 30 goals in a season. Viduka got stick for exactly the same thing. Beckford and Viduka staying where they were forced the opposition to hold players back, it allowed Leeds to play further up the field, but some fans seem to want an under 9’s game where all 22 players chase the ball around.

      • Irving08

        Too many to mention, I am afraid TSS. The otherwise estimable ‘Square Ball’ falls down in this respect too. Take the most recent issue, for example, pillorying Luke Varney on its cover. Not very clever either.

  11. Dr Zen

    “If I had a philosophy in life, it’d be Marching On Together”


  12. Sussex White

    Tom Lees should have been backed publicly by NW and b*llocked privately for his sending off.

  13. Shazzan

    Reading are a decent enough team and are doing well. Brian enjoyed his time there. Well the message from me is he will just love it at Leeds. If McDermott thinks the support was good on saturday just wait til he really see’s us in action. We all love Leeds and have the best support in the land. When we really let rip there is no better place to be than at Elland Road. Welcome Brian McDermott

  14. Paul Iddiols

    It’s even worse living here in Oz as you have to stay up half the night to see a result and then listen to excuses and having been a supporter since the 1963-4 season we just want honesty and hard work. Lose to a better side is one thing but not trying or passing the buck is inexcusable. Regards from Perth Western Australia. Roll on next season.


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