NEIL WARNOCK is a man in a hurry.
A hurry to get new players in, a hurry to get others out the door and a hurry to tie down key members of a squad he inherited in February to long-term contracts.
Above all, the Leeds United manager is in a hurry to claim a record-breaking eighth promotion of his career and no stone will be left unturned in that quest.
“I didn’t get away from here until 9pm on Wednesday night because there is just so much to do,” he says with a smile during a half-hour media briefing yesterday that saw his mobile phone, placed in silent mode, flash six times to indicate an incoming call.
Much has already been achieved. A first signing, Portsmouth’s Jason Pearce, will be confirmed today, while on Wednesday five players were released and another six placed on the transfer list.
Other signings are in the pipeline as Warnock looks to banish the memory of what was a hugely disappointing 2011-12 for everyone at Elland Road. It won’t, though, be easy, as the Leeds manager is the first to admit.
“It is going to be my hardest job,” said Warnock.
“My time at Scarborough does ring a bell because I only had two players signed when I took over.
“Neil Thompson and Neil Sellers were there and I signed another 17. But we proved it can be done because Scarborough won the Conference that year and were promoted to the Football League.”
That title success of 1986-87 was the first of the seven career promotions that mean another one will make Warnock officially the most successful manager when it comes to taking a team up a division, eclipsing the efforts of Graham Taylor and Dave Bassett.
Judging by the sorry state of United’s displays during much of the run-in as the Yorkshire club slumped to a disappointing 14th place finish, achieving such an accolade won’t be easy.
It is why Warnock has been so busy since last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Leicester City – which set an unwanted club record of 11 defeats on home soil – and why he is now in such a hurry to get things done.
He said: “I am looking forward to getting my first signing in and then moving on to the next. I am in talks with quite a number at the minute.
“I want a large influx to come in. How many will depend on those who I have transfer listed going. I am sure they will, there will be interest in those lads and that will bring money into the kitty through transfer fees and saved wages.
“I want to get three or four in before I go away on holiday, even if they are those who I can’t say anything about until July 1. I am down the line with a number of targets, it is just a case of getting them over the line.
“Usually, you don’t rush things until the lads are coming back in July for pre-season. But it showed last summer at QPR that approach can be a disaster. We weren’t allowed to sign anyone until the (Premier League) season started and we suffered the consequences.
“I don’t want to be in that position so we need to crack on. What helps is Leeds’s name. It is a big draw. At most of my other clubs, I had to take a possible new signing to my house.
“I didn’t want them to see the training ground but here, you bring them through the front door and show them around.”
The United squad will return for the start of pre-season training on July 11, though there will be a couple of get-togethers during the previous week.
By then, Warnock hopes the squad will look very different with, he hopes, the six who he transfer listed this week already having left.
Of that half dozen, only one name, Adam Clayton, came as a genuine surprise with the Elland Road careers of Ramon Nunez, Andy O’Brien, Billy Paynter, Paul Connolly and Paul Rachubka never really having got going.
On Clayton, who is approaching the final year of his contract, Warnock said: “With Adam, I thought it was pointless fudging it. I am sure there will be a number of clubs after Adam. He has done well in a lot of games but I just feel what I am looking for. I have to generate something to get me what I want. If there are casualties, so be it.”
Warnock already has his eye on a potential replacement for Clayton, who made 46 appearances last term. The Leeds chief said: “I am signing a player for £500,000 and I don’t feel at this moment in time that Adam is worth more than the player I am signing. That is how I am looking at it.”
With Portsmouth defender Pearce due to be unveiled today, United’s attentions will then turn to the other signings Warnock wants to make.
Among the names to have been linked with Leeds in recent weeks is El-Hadji Diouf and while Warnock is refusing to comment on the identity of any targets, he does admit a striker could be on his wishlist.
He said: “I am a big fan of (Luciano) Becchio, though I think he can be a lot better player than what I have seen. We will be working on that in pre-season.
“That was why I put Billy Paynter on the list because I feel if I do bring another striker in then it has to be totally different to what those two are. It is about trying to get the right balance.”
On the transfer targets he has in mind, Warnock added: “There is a certain type of lad that fits the bill. Hunger and ability, that is what I want while I have felt for sometime that we lack a bit of power and pace.”