Well it feels like we’ve been here before, several times. But have we really? We seem to have had so many chops, changes, surprises and alarms, on an indecently regular basis within living memory. However, has our beloved club been in the midst of such an extreme revolution before?
The Revie era started in a quiet, if not actually ignored fashion over fifty years ago; the owners were the same grey suited shadows throughout that period, all happy to hide in the boardroom and let the manager talk about transition on the pitch while they puffed on their pipes. You didn’t talk about ‘revolution’ in West Yorkshire in the early sixties – bloody hell, no.
It was our fall from grace twenty years later that merited a major revolution, if only we could have afforded one – or rather have found a benefactor to propel one. After years of toil in the second tier of the English football – sound familiar? – we finally ripped up any vague plan we had and started again. It’s not disrespectful to Eddie Gray and Billy Bremner to suggest that any plan resembling a manifesto only came into being when Howard Wilkinson saw fit to drop a division and take up the challenge of restoring our pride and glory.
Old photos were dropped into the bin and talk of old triumphs were banned by Wilko – ironic since Brian Clough had suggested similar on the first day of his ill-fated stint as Gaffer, and was given the bums rush. But the difference in 1988 was, we’d gone from being a Rolls Royce of a club to a second-hand Cortina in less than a decade. Something drastic had to be done, and the good Sergeant wasn’t afraid to spoon out the nasty medicine. It’s funny how people forget the positive remedies the man prescribed to turn the malaise into prosperity – it was Wilko who blueprinted a European Academy, a la Ajax Amsterdam, and the adoption of a scientific approach to the building and maintenance of a successful football team, years before Arsene Wenger jabbed his pointy nose into English football.
What did we do when his star dipped after we’d unexpectedly reached the PromIsed Land of 1992? ‘We’ actually didn’t do anything; the new Leeds owners, Sporting PLC, sacked Wilkinson in the name of good business and heralded the dawn of ‘Absolute Owner Power’ down at LS11. Oh deary me – what we’d give to be a mid-table Premiership team as Wilko’s team was when he was given his P45.
Wilkinson’s was a different kind of revolution to the one currently being spearheaded by our new owner. It focused completely on footballers and football. Massimo’s to-do list is all-encompassing, taking in the running of the club, bricks and mortar, all employees, and the weekly shop as well as footballers and football. If he pulls it off successfully, it’ll be one hell of a trick. Which is why, I believe, he has to be given the luxury of many attempts if he doesn’t get it right first time. Luckily for him, he owns the club, or at least has a majority holding, so he can make as many attempts as he wants. But spare a thought for Wilko – he only had one chance to get his revolution right. And he did. It’s other people who screwed up the manifesto for him.