FORGET the alleged player power that did for Brian Clough, the fate of a Leeds United manager is about to be decided by fan power.
Who says so? Only the man himself, Neil Warnock having made it clear on the eve of the trip to Portsmouth that his future at Elland Road beyond the end of this season will very much depend on the supporters.
“Leeds were one of the few clubs I would come to at this stage of my career,” says the 63-year-old about the events of last weekend that saw him sign a 16-month deal but with a proviso that the two parties can go their separate ways in May if things are not working out.
“It was something exciting that whetted my appetite and I can’t remember celebrating a goal like I did the winner last Saturday (against Doncaster Rovers) in a long time.
“Now, though, it is all about pushing on and the fans have a massive part to play. My message is, ‘Just show your support and get behind the team. Let’s have no negativity between now and the end of the season’.
“We need the fans to lift the roof off and create an intimidating atmosphere.
“I want to give them a team to be proud of. If they have that, there is nothing the club can’t do.”
Warnock’s appointment has been warmly welcomed by United fans, who now hope he can apply the Midas touch that has brought a record-equalling seven promotions.
Doing so this season may, by even the new manager’s admission, be a tall order. But even if Leeds do miss out, Warnock insists the final two months of the season will be vitally important – not least in determining his own future beyond August.
He said: “We have 14 games to go.
“Now I have come and committed myself, they have to get behind me and the team – whatever their differences (with the board). They have to be put to bed now.
“The fans have to show they want me for next season. That is what I want to see. If they don’t, then I won’t be here.
“It is up to the fans. I will be doing my best for the next 14 games to show what we can do at the club.
“I want to be at a club that can get promotion.”
Warnock’s decision to take on the challenge of getting Leeds back into the Premier League just a few weeks after being sacked by QPR was a big one.
The manner of his departure from Loftus Road had stung the former Sheffield United manager to such an extent that, for a time, he considered packing it all in.
A desire to enjoy time with wife Sharon and the couple’s two children was a big attraction, especially after news reached Warnock of Nottingham Forest owner Nigel Doughty’s death from a heart-attack.
Just a few hours earlier, Doughty had been in contact with Warnock – something that the Leeds manager admits left him shaken.
He said: “If I am honest, I read about people dying every week. A 53-year-old like Nigel Dougherty.
“I spoke to Nigel on the day that he died and that shook me. I left a voice message and got one back from him.
“Football is a great sport and gives us a great living but I do think there are more important things, if I am honest.
“When something like that happens, you just have to stand back. I don’t want to die on the job.
“I want to go and see my lad (William) play in the academy and take him fishing. There are other things to do.
“I think there is a right time to retire but I didn’t think this was it. I am not ready to put my slippers on, even though I did think about it for quite a time after QPR.”
Warnock’s desire to carry on could prove to be to United’s advantage, especially if he can inspire a late push for the play-offs.
He will have to do so, however, without winger Andros Townsend after the loanee asked to return to Spurs despite being due to remain at Leeds until the end of the season.
The request, made via the player’s agent, came as a surprise to the new United manager, who said: “I have no idea why he wants to go back, though I did say (to the agent) ‘I don’t suppose it is anything with Birmingham City wanting him, is it?’
“I am disappointed but I don’t want anyone who doesn’t want to play for the club.”
Losing Townsend just a couple of days after it was confirmed Fabian Delph is out for the season means Warnock will be forced into a reshuffle for tomorrow’s Championship game at crisis club Portsmouth.
The south coast club were docked 10 points a week ago after going into administration for a second time in three years.
It means a worrying time for supporters concerned Pompey may fold.
Warnock, though, insists tomorrow’s opponents are in a decent shape on the field.
He said: “Just look at their players. They aren’t a bad side.
“I remember the last time Portsmouth went into administration, they signed two players on £20,000 per week.
“That isn’t bad, is it?
“No wonder they are in trouble. Just look at Benjani and some of the others, such as (Hayden) Mullins in midfield and (Ricardo) Rocha at the back. They have a hell of a team.”
A more pressing concern than the strength of Portsmouth’s first choice XI for Warnock is the task of trying to gatecrash the play-offs.
Five points adrift with many of their rivals also having games in hand, Leeds will undoubtedly find it a tough ask. Just don’t tell Warnock promotion is an impossible aim.
He said: “When I went to Sheffield United, we were second class in that city and people didn’t think it would be possible to turn it around and do what we did.
“They also did not think it would be possible to get QPR up. But there is no such word as ‘impossible’, not to me.
“You need support from the fans, a bit of luck and the drive. That is what I ask of my players.
“It is why Townsend has missed out, not us. It is his loss.
“If he doesn’t want to play for Leeds United, we don’t want him.”