Leeds United have engaged in a high-profile coaching search, with multiple reports indicating that the club have been pursuing a coaching legend, former Argentina, Chile, and Athletic Bilbao manager Marcelo Bielsa. Negotiations have been dragging on a while now, making the Leeds faithful nervous.
The search is necessary, of course, because Leeds sacked Paul Heckingbottom last Friday. The former Barnsley FC manager had been brought to the club in February after Leeds had dismissed yet another head coach, Thomas Christiansen, because of a dire run of form in January that resulted in some ugly losses against Cardiff City and Millwall.
However, the Telegraph is reporting that Leeds have made an approach to Steve Bruce to gauge his interest in taking up the hot seat at Elland Road. Bruce most recently lost the playoff final to Fulham, but his position at Aston Villa is likely on shaky ground, with the coming financial implosion at Aston Villa meaning that a number of star players will be set to leave and the spectre of FFP sanctions and administration now loom over the West Midlands club.
Bruce has gotten teams promoted to the Premier League more than any other manager, but many Leeds fans are turned off by a possible appointment for the former Manchester United player. Bruce is an experienced manager, however there is a reason he hasn’t stuck in the Premier League for very long, and it’s not because he loves a good challenge.
Bruce makes no sense. Radrizzani talks about having an ethos with a manager. Said the same with Hecky, wanted youth, now wants experience, fair enough.— RamblingsoftheSS (@_ROTSS_) June 8, 2018
But going from Bielsa or Almeyda to Bruce is stylistically polar opposites and just feels like a panicky second option.
Additionally, stylistically the two candidates couldn’t be further apart. Bielsa believes in attacking football, and his sides have not only gotten results, but have played brilliantly to get those results. Bruce, on the other hand, has a more traditional English approach to his team’s structure, and his teams, while effective, will not thrill the fans at Elland Road.
The squad that was assembled by him and the other people in charge of Aston Villa was one of the most expensive second division clubs in recent memory, but despite all of the spending, the club failed to get promoted and is now looking at a financial meltdown, with their owner, Dr Tony Xia, unable to secure the funds to continue the operations of the club because of cash flow issues and capital restrictions on his wealth in China.
An approach for Bruce seems rather disappointing, and even with Villa’s current issues, Bruce leaving Aston Villa for another job isn’t as easy as you would think. He’s still under contract at Villa Park and without permission and an official approach from Leeds, any hiring of Bruce would get ugly and could result in EFL complaints, financial penalties, and court cases, none of which would assist either team right now.
The interest in Bruce seems like the reported interest that Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani had last summer for Jaap Stam, another losing playoff finalist. And while Reading FC weren’t interested in letting Stam go, his subsequent sacking after an awful year for Reading has resulted in Radrizzani not being interested in pursuing him anymore.
While it might seem like a good idea to get a head coach who has been to a playoff final, the lack of repeat success of those teams and managers should give Radrizzani and the board pause, because if Stam couldn’t repeat the performance of the previous year, there is no guarantee that Bruce could either.
This approach seems panicky and is slightly off-putting. Rather than pursue a high-profile foreign manager with great experience, another domestic retread seems anti-climatic. Bruce failed to get Aston Villa up with a squad that cost almost £70 million in transfer fees, what makes anyone think that he could get Leeds up with a squad that cost a third of that?Here’s hoping that this is all a tactic to put pressure on negotiations or a ruse to disguise other targets. After all, last summer no one had heard Thomas Christiansen’s name touch the lips of the press before he was reveale. Rumours even flourished after Christiansen’s departure, with foreign names being linked before Heckingbottom’s rather quick appointment.
Steve Bruce might be a decent manager for a team, but not this team at Leeds, and not for the Leeds faithful. After dreaming of an innovative, ground-breaking appointment like Bielsa, bringing in the manager of the team that lost the playoff final just seems uninspired.