Despite the horrible state that Leeds United are in at the moment, there are precedents in the clubs history where out of darkness have come some of our most shining moments. What they all have in common is an appointment of a manager who had a vision for the long term future of the club, using a core of young homegrown players with a spine of experience to produce a brand of hardworking, attacking football which was lapped up by the supporters.
Don Revie in the 60's took over with Leeds languishing at the foot of the second division. His team was full of journeymen players, past thier best, playing in front of dwindling crowds. Revie introduced a host of young players, including Billy Bremner, Gary Sprake, Norman Hunter, Paul Reaney and Peter Lorimer, and brought in an experienced model professional in Bobby Collins to guide his young charges to promotion and a set the foundations for a 10 year domination of English and European football.
The parallels with the state of the club when Howard Wilkinson was tempted from 1st Division Sheffield Wednesday in 1988 are uncanny. Leeds were struggling at the foot of the 2nd Division, crowds were pitifully low and the glory days were a long time in the past. Wilkinson, like Revie had a plan to make United one of the biggest clubs in the country, and it was based on bringing through the best young talent and matching them with model professionals. In came Gordon Strachan and Chris Fairclough and with David Batty and Gary Speed breaking into the side the Whites earned promotion and within two years were champions of England. Wilkinson was sacked before his long term plan bore it's fruit, David O'Leary benefiting with his "babies" who were actually graduates of Wilko's academy. The side which made the semi-finals of the Champions League are the legacy of Howard Wilkinson's appointment.
Now another 20+ years on, and Leeds are in a similar position. The Whites are struggling to get out of a division devoid of any real class. The club has been ruined by the vanity projects of a chairman to whom a football club is a chance to build unwanted and unrequired commercial ventures. Neil Warnock as manager also saw Leeds United as a vanity project, using the club to try and piggyback himself into the history books with a record number of promotions. With both Bates ans Warnock at the end of their careers, short termism was the by word at Elland Road, a one season gamble to spend pennies to try to make millions.
Saturday's defeat to Huddersfield Town has surely signalled the end of Warnock's time in charge at the club. GFH Capital as new owners of the club have the opportunity to make an appointment that is for the long term good of Leeds United. They need to look back at the history of the club, see what has been succesful in the past and pick the man with the plan to make the future of the club a bright one.
The bookies list of candidates is a long one, but of the men in the frame for the job, which of them has the potential to take the club forward to where we all want to be.
Adkins ticks all the boxes to be the next Leeds manager. He has enjoyed success on a shoestring at Scunthorpe, earning promotion from League One and keeping them in the Championship. He has also enjoyed success when backed financially, lifting Southampton to successive promotions and was in the process of stabilizing them in the Premier League before his bizarre sacking.
At 11-4 with Sky Bet he remains the hot favourite, and seems to be the choice of the vast majority of the support. His sides have played attractive attacking football and he has a reputation for methodical planning. Unfortunately for Leeds there are plenty of jobs out there for the taking and Adkins will need to be won over if he is to choose Leeds United.
PAOLO DI CANIO
Di Canio has the potential to either be a massive success or an unmitigated disaster. There is no doubt that he has done an incredible job at SWindon Town, dragging the club out of League Two and putting them on the verge of a second successive promotion before his recent resignation.
His hot headed, passionate persona would either endear him to the support, a la Vinnie Jones, or drive them to distraction. He has dubious political affiliations and hardly seems like a man with a long term plan. A 9-1 shot, his appointment would be a massive gamble, and Leeds are not in a position to be rolling the dice in the quest for promotion.
Poyet was widely believed to be the brains behind the success Leeds had at the start of our first season in League One, a belief that has legs when Dennis Wise's side suffered a relative collapse when Poyet jumped ship to move to Tottenham Hotspur.
The former Chelsea man has done a great job at Brighton, lifting them from League One relegation candidates to Championship promotion contenders. Again his sides play attractive football and he has blended young homegrown talent with decent signings. He has stated a desire to return to Elland Road at some point, however having jumped ship for bigger things before, can he be trusted to stick around for the long term. Another 9-1 shot, you would have to feel that the only chance of getting him is for Brighton to fail to go up.
OWEN COYLE & ALEX MCLEISH
With a team already full of journeymen players, the last thing that Leeds United fans want is a manager who is just looking for a regular pay-packet.
Owen Coyle (10-1) did a decent job at St Johnstone and Burnley but failed when he took the step up to a relatively bigger club at Bolton. Coyle would be a totally uninspiring appointment, and after years of mediocrity, Leeds fans need to feel inspired.
When pictures were released of Alex McLeish in the stands at the Etihad Stadium when Leeds took on Manchester City in the FA Cup, a collective shiver could be felt down the spines of every Leeds fan.
A failure in his last three jobs, the appointment of Mcleish would suck out any feeling of hope that remains in the United support base. At 25-1 he is a long shot, but not long enough for it to never happen.
The sighting of Southgate on the list of candidates was a massive shock, but the fact that he is quite heavily favoured by the bookies (16-1) means there is no smoke without fire. On the face of it, Southgate would be a strange appointment, and whilst certainly not my choice, one can see that he has some merits.
Despite a poor record at Middlesbrough, Southgate is a highly qualified coach. He has recently been the FA's Head of Elite Development and was responsible for bringing some good young talent through at the Riverside Stadium, such as Stewart Downing (don't laugh!), Lee Catermole and Adam Johnson.
If he was appointed he would need to have some early success to win over the Leeds supporters, but it would certainly be an interesting call.
There are some other interesting names. Karl Robinson of MK Dons is one of the brightest young managers around (and was a choice of mine on a previous blog!) and there are are also the current youth team managers at Elland Road, Neil Redfern and Richard Naylor, who I personally would like to see step in as caretakers until the end of the season, and hopefully they will have some part to play in the future of the club.
What the future holds is unknown. As I write this piece there are more rumours of GFH selling the club, meaning that we could be entering another period of limbo. What is clear that although it is not a decision to be rushed, paradoxically the club cannot hesitate for too long in case their number one target is snapped up by another club. As long as Neil is back on the farm, and no dour Scotsman are allowed any where near an interview, any of the above candidates would be acceptable, so long as they are given the time and resources to plan for the future.