Sometimes the concept of “miracles” can be tossed around too much in football. Yes, sometimes one Premier League team can score an improbable number of goals in a short amount of time, like when AFC Bournemouth came back against Liverpool this past season, but rarely are those sporting feats more than just very improbable. After all, Bournemouth is still a Premier League club and while this season’s Liverpool did qualify for the Champions League, it’s not as if that team was one of the Liverpool powerhouse teams of the 1980s.
But the FA Cup run of Lincoln City this past year was more than just an “improbable” run or a fluke result or two. Lincoln City became the first non-league team since 1914, when the Football League had only two divisions, to reach the quarterfinals of the FA Cup. The Imps claimed the scalps of a number of higher division clubs along the way, winning away at Burnley, at home against Brighton & Hove Albion, at home in a replay against Ipswich Town after drawing 2-2 at Portman Road, and against League One team Oldham Athletic. Lincoln City’s record-setting run ended at the hands of Arsenal, but the magical season had already been established.
The FA Cup run also overshadowed what a remarkable season Lincoln City had in the National League. The Imps won the division after spending six middling years outside of the Football League. It is a remarkable achievement, and a lot of credit, justifiably, has gone to Danny Cowley and his brother, Nicky, who serves as his assistant manager at Lincoln City.
A number of high-profile names have been linked with Leeds United, with everyone from Claudio Ranieri to Aitor Karanka being tipped in the press to take over the hot seat, and the bookies are even taking bets on names such as Ryan Giggs and Gordon Strachan to pace the sideline at Elland Road next season. But why not think outside the box and hire Danny Cowley?
Danny Cowley took an extremely average, if not below-average, Lincoln City team and, with a few quality signings, turned that team into National League champions and to the FA Cup quarterfinals. Sean Raggett was signed from Dover Athletic in the summer transfer window and is now linked with moves to teams such as West Ham United. Alex Woodyard, who joined the Cowleys at Lincoln City after moving from Braintree Town last summer, has also been linked to moves to Championship teams such as Bolton Wanderers and Aston Villa.
The Cowley brothers have proven themselves at the non-league level, and have also been able to identify talent to fit into their system, all on a shoe-string budget. While the gulf in class between the Championship and the Vanarama National League is wide, managers who can mold a collection of players into a team that is greater than the sum of their parts is a rare talent. Leeds should take the opportunity to grab an rising star in the English ranks. If Danny and his brother Nicky can turn little Lincoln City into giant killers, imagine what they could do with an actual transfer budget and the resources of Andrea Radrizzani and Leeds United. A lot of the other popular names that are fancied to take over for Garry Monk are managers who have taken teams with more resources and run them into the ground (David Moyes, Steve McClaren, and Alan Pardew come on down) or proven nothing (Ryan Giggs and James Beattie).
Take a chance on a young English manager, Radrizzani. Please. Don’t just dip into the ranks of the has-beens and never-will-be’s or the same 10 names that always seem to get jobs in England, but grab an English manager who will bring some heart and soul to Leeds.