THE CHOKING embrace around the throat of Leeds United’s fraught season has finally been released – not that Neil Warnock is afforded any time to draw breath in his bid to remedy matters on the pitch.
Positive developments by five o’clock this afternoon may not be quite as significant as those which occurred late on Tuesday evening in the corridors of power at Elland Road, but neither can you downplay their importance.
The clock striking 5pm tonight represents the close of business for the emergency transfer window until the New Year.
And you suspect Warnock has been frantically scouring his considerable contacts book in a bid to do some 11th-hour business after receiving the green light he had been craving.
Some would go so far as to say praying for.
Having backed Warnock to the tune of over £2m in the summer, which facilitated the incoming transfers of Lee Peltier, Rodolph Austin and Paddy Kenny, new owners GFH Capital have now injected additional funds to enable the veteran boss to raid the market again. He won’t be caught looking a gifthorse in the mouth.
Warnock now faces a race against the clock to get some deals over the line today, but probably refreshingly for him, not against a great big elephant in the room known simply as ‘The Takeover’ which had become an obsession not just for him, but thousands upon thousands of Leeds supporters.
But if you could choose a manager to skilfully employ a persuasive tongue to get some players on board in double-quick time – the canny Yorkshireman would not be far off the top of your list.
Warnock does have previous in this respect after playing the ‘long game’ regarding recruitment at old club QPR.
Back in August 2011, Warnock – after a frustrating summer of recruitment heightened by a 4-0 opening-day reverse to Bolton Wanderers – belatedly got to work after Tony Fernandes obtained a majority share in the Loftus Road outfit from Flavio Britore and Bernie Ecclestone.
High-profile signings of Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Anton Ferdinand followed along with three others in Luke Young, Armand Traore and Jason Puncheon by the start of September, proved there is nothing wrong with Warnock’s pulling power.
Warnock’s moves have only proved abortive ones in recent weeks at Leeds, with a bid to bring in ex-Elland Road defender Matt Kilgallon floundering, after parent club Sunderland declared they were unwilling to let him go.
The Leeds boss’s quest to bring in Stoke City duo Cameron Jerome and Ryan Shotton has also proved unsuccessful, while a link with one of his old favourites at QPR in trusted centre-half Clint Hill has also resurfaced, although it is likely he may have to wait until January to land the 34-year-old.
United supporters will be keeping their fingers crossed that Warnock has managed to convince one or two loan targets to sit tight and that with his hands untied, he can now – finally – make things happen. Even more so when the January transfer window opens.
Yet in terms of the here and now and making a statement, you sense the public relations value of GFH Capital enabling Warnock to bring in an immediate signing or two will not have been lost on the publicity-conscious new owners.
They will also be mindful that amid the warm welcome of the takeover news from fans, there is a note of caution.
United supporters, frustrated by months of will it or won’t it takeover uncertainty, are solely interested in actions and not deeds after a lengthy courtship process ahead of the consummation of GFH Capital’s takeover deal
The need for reinforcements is self-evident, given a morale-sapping run of seven Championship games without a win – United’s worst run since February 2008 – during which time on-pitch fates have afforded Warnock few favours.
The sight of Ross McCormack coming onto the pitch at Millwall on Sunday was a rare positive chink of light following several blows which preceded it.
Most notably the double whammy of losing midfield enforcer Austin to a cracked ankle bone in the horrendous 6-1 home loss to Watford on November 10, shortly after a costly dismissal for defensive lieutenant Jason Pearce.
Neither has the fixture list been accommodating, seemingly, with ebullient leaders Crystal Palace, in a rich vein of form having won five Championship games on the spin and seven of their last nine matches, next in line.
Then, it’s onto a well-heeled and suitably backed Leicester City on Tuesday night with the Foxes having won their last three matches at Elland Road, while being unbeaten in five.
Following that, is the not inconsequential matter of a big Yorkshire derby at Simon Grayson’s Huddersfield Town on Saturday week.
In reality, you could not have cherry-picked three more testing assignments.
Currently eight points off the final play-off spot and the same amount of points in front of rock-bottom Peterborough United says it all about the Whites’ current Championship status, which is at a crossroads.
Warnock’s hopes of a record eighth successive promotion to crown his career is precariously balanced. A few wins and a bit of momentum over the coming weeks and that may start to appear again on the horizon. But the phoney war is now over and the serious work starts now.