It’s tough being a football supporter sometimes. Supporters of Leeds United Football Club will certainly testify to that. For it has now been 13 long years since the three times champions of England were relegated from the Premier League.
In that time they have seen their club go through administration, suffer the indignation of relegation to the third tier of English football, witnessed managers come and go in farcical merry-go-round fashion and watched most of their heroes being sold off left, right and centre sometimes for next to nothing. It has been a decade or so to forget for the Yorkshire club’s passionate fanbase but when controversial and unpopular owner Massimo Cellino recruited Garry Monk in the summer of 2016, his sixth manager in just two years at the helm, things started to look up for the Elland Road outfit.
With the impressive figure of Monk calling the shots and preaching his brand of stylish football and star forward Chris Wood finding the net with unerring regularity, 27 times to be exact, the Whites’ long-suffering supporters were finally beginning to see light at the end of a long and frustrating tunnel.
Indeed the 2016-17 campaign saw the club achieve an impressive seventh-placed finish, their best since the 2010-11 season. The team also posted their highest points return of 75 in the Championship since Kevin Blackwell’s team of 2005-06 finished with 78. And but for an untimely and miserable run of form yielding just 10 points from their last 10 matches of the season, Monk’s men could well have been competing in the play-offs for a long-awaited return to the Premier League.
Another One Bites The Dust
However, no sooner had the season ended than Leeds supporters were once again left scratching their heads in disbelief. After celebrating the welcome departure of Cellino who offloaded the club to fellow Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani, just two days later their celebrations turned to sorrow when Monk resigned his post as first team manager.
The former Swansea supremo had constructed a squad brimming with a mixture of experience and youthful promise, recruiting players of the stature of ex-England goalkeeper Robert Green, Scottish international Liam Bridcutt, Sweden defender Pontus Jansson, creative midfielder and former Spanish international Pablo Hernández and the highly-rated winger Kemar Roofe.
With the backing of the new board the fans would have been expecting 38-year-old Monk to supplement his squad in an effort to mount an even stronger promotion push next season. Yet now, for the 13th time in 13 years since their relegation from the big time they are left to ponder what will happen next and where they go from here.
Next In Line Please
Monk, upon his departure reasoned that he didn’t feel he had the complete support of the new owner despite Radrizzani’s claims that he wanted to tie his manager down to a longer deal than his rolling one-year contract. So where do Leeds go from here? First and most importantly Radrizzani and new director of football Victor Orta, who has joined from Middlesbrough, will need to appease the club’s disgruntled supporters by recruiting a manager, the right manager, who can build upon the foundations already established by Monk. There have been names aplenty bandied about including Orta’s former colleague at Middlesbrough Aitor Karanka, ex-Leicester City boss Nigel Pearson and most recently Monk’s assistant from last season and at Swansea, Pep Clotet. Alan Pardew has also been linked while an approach for Claudio Ranieri would represent perhaps the most ambitious and popular among supporters given his success in leading complete outsiders Leicester to a fairytale first-ever title win in 2016.
Whoever lands the coveted position will undoubtedly have a big job in their hands. Leeds is still a massive club with a huge fanbase and many have tried and sometimes unfairly failed in the past to resurrect the fortunes of one of England’s sleeping giants. One of the new manager’s top priorities this summer will be to retain the services of the prolific Wood who has been linked with a move to the Chinese Super League. The New Zealand international will also require more assistance in front of goal next season if Leeds are to mount a credible promotion push. The Championship’s top goalscorer was the only player at Elland Road to reach double figures last term and additional help is a must, as is holding on to Swedish international Jansson, the rock at the heart of Leeds’ defence.
Strong And Stable Leadership? That’d Make A Nice Change
Having recruited well last summer and laid the foundations for the club’s immediate future there can be no doubting the loss of Monk is a huge blow to the club. But if Radrizzani can acquire the right man and provide him with the dare I say it in these tense political times, strong and stable leadership (I’m no Tory by the way), something Cellino lacked in abundance, there’s no reason why Leeds and their incredibly faithful supporters cannot defy their current Championship football betting odds of 16/1 and go ‘Marching on Together’ back into the Premier League in time to celebrate their centenary year in 2018-19.