NEIL WARNOCK believes Leeds United’s promotion push has been undermined by a deficiency of on-field leaders.
The 63-year-old will officially take charge of his first game on Saturday when United travel to crisis club Portsmouth.
Midweek results involving play-off rivals Middlesbrough and Birmingham City have made the trip to Fratton Park a ‘must win’ encounter due to a five-point gap having opened between the top six and Leeds.
Warnock has spent the past few days working intensely with his squad, in particular stressing the need to be much more solid defensively than was the case last weekend when bottom club Doncaster Rovers were unfortunate to leave Elland Road empty-handed as Leeds prevailed 3-2.
Watching from the stands, United’s new manager was alarmed at the lack of leadership on the field during the derby and he has spent this week stressing that point to his new charges.
He said: “I will not say anything detrimental against Simon (Grayson, his predecessor) as he and his staff did a great job to get Leeds where they are. They deserve a lot of credit.
“But, having watched the Doncaster game closely, there are areas I feel I can improve. I feel we lack leaders. We have good players, including some top-class ones.
“But we need more leaders. It can’t just be me off the field, I need one or two on the field as well.”
Warnock outlined that point to the squad on Sunday morning at Thorp Arch along with how he envisages the club being run on a day-to-day basis.
He added: “I talked to them (on Sunday) about the little things I expect over the next 14 games – how I expect them to behave, what fines will be in place and how I expect them to be discipline-wise.”
Leeds are the fourth Yorkshire club Warnock has managed in a career that includes seven promotions.
Another at Elland Road would be enough to set a new record ahead of Dave Bassett and Graham Taylor.
Warnock added: “I love Yorkshire. I loved my time at Sheffield United. It was the same at Scarborough and Huddersfield. But if there is a club to finish my career at, Leeds United are it.”
The last comment prompts the Yorkshire Post, knowing full well Warnock said the same when in charge of his last three clubs, to ask if Leeds really will be his last job in football.
Laughing, Warnock responded: “No, I mean it this time. This is definitely the last one. I don’t know how long I’ll be here. Because of how the chairman is with me, we will know when the time has come for it to end. It won’t matter what my contract says.
“We will know. If I am not enjoying it, I won’t want to stay. Likewise, if he is not happy with the job I am doing then he will tell me to call it a day. That is the beauty of it.
“I can’t imagine there will be many managers out there who wouldn’t want a two-and-a-half-year contract, whereas I wanted an 18-month one. We could easily extend beyond that as there is scope (in the contract) for that. But I will definitely not be going anywhere else in England after Leeds.”
Aston Villa’s Fabian Delph is out for the season so will not remain with United after his loan ends this weekend.