BRIAN MCDERMOTT last night admitted to taking the Leeds United job earlier than planned following an appeal from the board sparked by fears the club could be dragged into a relegation fight.
The former Reading chief has signed a three-year deal at Elland Road and will be in charge of today’s derby with Sheffield Wednesday.
Talks first took place between Leeds and McDermott in the wake of Neil Warnock’s departure on April 1 and a deal was struck that would have seen the 52-year-old appointed in the summer.
However, following last weekend’s defeat to Charlton Athletic – United’s fourth in a row – the timescale was suddenly shortened to ensure McDermott and assistant Nigel Gibbs could be in the dugout for the lunchtime meeting with the Owls.
The new Leeds manager said: “I wasn’t coming 10 days ago. We had talked about the summer, when to come and when not to come.
“But then I spoke to Shaun (Harvey) a few days ago and he said the club really wanted me to come in at this stage. So, I had a long think about it and thought, ‘Let’s get in amongst this and let’s do it now with five games to go’.
“It just felt right and I probably wouldn’t have done it for any other club apart from Leeds United.”
In becoming United’s sixth permanent boss in nine years, McDermott has returned to management a month on from his shock dismissal by Reading.
His arrival has helped appease fans increasingly worried that Leeds, who sit just five points clear of the bottom three, could yet become embroiled in a relegation fight.
In most seasons, the Yorkshire club’s 52-point haul would be enough to guarantee survival.
This year, however, is likely to be different with the near title-winning form in recent weeks of the teams near the bottom of the Championship making it likely that a new record will be set in terms of points for a side demoted from the second tier.
McDermott insists relegation is not something he has even considered for his new charges, but chief executive Shaun Harvey has hinted that yesterday’s appointment was made in an attempt to ensure the club does not become embroiled in trouble.
Harvey said: “We need to make sure we don’t get relegated. We want to stay up and we don’t want to take a gamble if there is a positive way we can act.”
In offering McDermott a three-year deal, the Leeds board clearly see the former Reading manager as the man to bring to an end an exile from the Premier League that currently stands at nine years.
To do so, of course, it is likely funds will have to be provided – particularly as next season the parachute payment for clubs relegated from the top flight will be £23m.
McDermott, a former chief scout at Reading before being appointed manager in 2009, is regarded as one of the best unearthers of previously unmined talent in the country.
A CV with such quality was always going to be of interest to United’s owners, GFH Capital, and the new manager is looking forward to being able to implement his own plans.
He said: “Transfer policy is one thing we really need to get right. Recruitment is key. (Director of football) Gwyn Williams is here. I have known Gwyn for many, many years.
“When I used to turn up at a game, he was already there. And then I’d get to a game and Gwyn would arrive. He does his graft and works hard. I am sure the scouts work really hard at Leeds.
“We need to look at it and how we recruit. What is really important is getting the right person and the right characters to this football club.”
Asked if he had been given any assurances by the club on what budget he will have to work with come the next transfer window, McDermott said: “That question will be answered in the summer.
“I don’t know the answer to that. I have come here on a lot of good will. I spoke to Shaun and I had a lot of assurances. I have spoken to one of the owners who has given me reassurances that they want to take the club forward with me as manager.
“That was really important to hear. I wouldn’t have come to a football club where that wasn’t the case. You need to have a chance.
“I got a good vibe and there is an awful lot for the owners to gain if the club is successful. That is a key point. They have got an awful lot to gain if they can back the football to the best of their ability.”
McDermott and Gibbs, his assistant at the Madejski Stadium, will be joined in the dugout today by United Academy manager Neil Redfearn, who took charge of the first team at Charlton last week along with Under-18s coach Richard Naylor.
Both Redfearn and Naylor met the new management duo yesterday at Thorp Arch, as did the first-team squad.
McDermott, who led Reading to the Championship title last May, said: “I felt really comfortable in that dressing room (yesterday). Just looking at the players and being around the training ground gave me a good vibe.
“I enjoy the company of players. There was an awful lot of respect at the training ground and that was tangible. To take the club forward, not one person will do that on his own.
“It is a group situation where everyone needs to go in the right direction.
“I do a lot of things on gut feeling. This isn’t about (fighting) relegation, it is more about the fact it is Leeds United. I had the opportunity to become manager of this club and it just felt right.”
New man gets to work: Page 3.