BRIAN McDermott made an impassioned plea for patience and support from Leeds United as he vowed to overcome his immediate troubles and repeat the success he inspired at Reading.
The 52-year-old coach spoke out in defence of his credentials and track record by saying he would “get this club into the right place – given time.”
McDermott has spent this week picking up the pieces from Leeds’ rout at Sheffield Wednesday and regrouping his squad for tomorrow’s meeting with Leicester City, the Championship’s title favourites.
The United manager said Saturday’s 6-0 thrashing at Hillsborough – the club’s fourth straight defeat and their heaviest in a league match for more than half a century – left him fearing that the board at Elland Road might soon lose patience with deteriorating results.
But McDermott, who signed a three-year deal with Leeds less than 12 months ago, believes he has the “100 per cent” backing of managing director David Haigh and acting chief executive Paul Hunt.
He said he was confident that long-term commitment would allow him to replicate the progress which brought Reading the Championship title in 2012.
“When I took the job at Reading we were 23rd in the league,” McDermott said. “We came eighth that season.
“The following season we got to the quarter-finals of a cup twice and got beaten in the play-off final. The season after that we won the league. So it took two-and-a-half years to get to where I wanted us to be.
“Given time I know that I can get this club into the right place – given time. That’s what you hope for. You certainly need it at this club.
“When I first came here I was told that this was a long-term project. The club wanted me to build the infrastructure, the academy, the training ground and build up numbers at Elland Road. That can’t be forgotten and I have to focus on that, until I’m told that they’ve changed their minds and this is now a short-term project.
“In the medium term and long term, given time I’m sure, absolutely sure, we’ll get it right.”
Asked if he was anxious about his board’s reaction to the 6-0 loss at Hillsborough, McDermott said: “Yes, when you get beat 6-0. This is 2014. That (the possibility of time running out) would cross your mind. But we’ve had three managers in 20 months here. If you’ve got a manager with a track record who’s done it before, he needs time.
“David Haigh has been nothing but supportive. Paul Hunt and David Haigh, 100 per cent supportive. When you’re a manager and you get beaten in the way we’ve been beaten, you need that support.”
McDermott brought in two new players before United’s derby at Wednesday, signing Cameron Stewart and Jimmy Kebe from Hull City and Crystal Palace respectively, but a bid to land Ashley Barnes from Brighton fell foul of high-level politics at Leeds. The YEP revealed yesterday that the move for Barnes was blocked by United owner Gulf Finance House, despite Sport Capital – the consortium who are poised to buy a majority stake in Leeds – promising to fund an up-front fee of £500,000.
Barnes signed for Burnley last Friday, depriving McDermott of a key January target.
“It didn’t happen,” McDermott said. “The whys and wherefores don’t matter to me. If we start talking about the whys and wherefores it might not be a good thing.
“I thought there was a good chance it would happen. He didn’t sign till quite late in the day for Burnley went but he signed for Burnley. He’s gone.
“As far as I’m concerned, all that matters is getting the club to the right place and getting a result against Leicester.”
The takeover planned by Sport Capital – a deal which was agreed on November 30 but has dragged into the second half of the transfer window – would negate the influence of Gulf Finance House on operations at Elland Road, with the Bahrain-based bank set to retain a small stake.
The delay in completing the buy-out has created uncertainty for McDermott and the club, though Sport Capital – a group which includes Haigh – continue to insist that they have the necessary funds in place to secure 75 per cent of shares from GFH.
McDermott said: “I speak to David every day and we’re hopeful that everything will be done and dusted. Because that’s what we need. We need everything clarified now. Then we can concentrate solely on the football.”
United have taken an interest in Reading’s Adam Le Fondre after failing to sign Barnes but McDermott appeared sceptical about the striker’s availability, saying: “I don’t think Reading would sell Adam Le Fondre to Leeds. I don’t think it would happen whether I wanted him or not.”