LEEDS United’s competitive season may pretty much be over with eight Championship games still to go, but there remains one looming ‘live’ issue which is dominating supporters’ attentions and is refusing to go away.
No prizes for guessing what it is. Neil Warnock’s long-term successor.
The merits of numerous runners and riders are already being discussed vigorously on various messageboards and chatrooms, although it remains to be seen how far club owners GFH Capital are currently down the line regarding plans to bring in a replacement for Warnock.
If at all, with the only brief clue regarding the key issue have come via GFH chief investment officer club director Salem Patel back in February when he stated that the club would be looking for a “young manager” to succeed Warnock. Whenever that may be.
If most fans had their way, it would be sooner rather than later with Warnock now planning for life after Elland Road – and full-time football management – with his dreams of a record eighth promotion of his career having all but bitten the dust in the wake of Saturday’s derby loss to Huddersfield Town.
After the game, Warnock announced his willingness to step aside if GFH wanted to bring in a replacement now, with the ball unmistakably in their court regarding the managerial issue.
GFH may well elect to twist shortly, but the pragmatic option appears to be to stick for the time being at least, with Warnock willing to fulfil his commitments and stay for the rest of the season.
This would effectively give the owners some breathing space and time before making a considered decision on their move, which promises to be a massive decision.
Warnock himself has said he expects to be in charge for the trip to Ipswich Town in 11 days’ time and the smart money would appear to be on him being in the dug-out at Portman Road. Unless GFH know otherwise.
If the serious background work regarding sounding out replacements for Warnock hasn’t yet started in earnest yet, it will do now this week for GFH with a number of leading names figuring prominently.
The one that has plainly refused to go away since his ultra-harsh sacking by Southampton on January 18 is bookies’ and fans’ favourite Nigel Adkins.
With two back-to-back promotions on his CV with Saints, Adkins’ credentials are there for all to see.
But don’t think for one moment his accomplishments have drawn just admiring glances from United fans either.
Adkins is heading to a tribunal to sort out his compensation from Saints this summer, having failed to reach a compromise with chairman Nicola Cortese over the remaining three years on his contract.
The 48-year-old had been placed initially on gardening leave by Saints, but his decision to follow the route to a settlement via the Premier League Managers’ Arbitration Tribunal has now freed him up to seek fresh employment.
Given that, time could well be of the essence regarding any successful move by United, with the Liverpudlian also strongly linked with the vacant managerial hotseat at Reading, who parted company with Brian McDermott last week.
Another name figuring in the betting is a controversial, if colourful character in former Swindon Town chief Paolo Di Canio, who left the County Ground last month in somewhat acrimonious circumstances after 20 months of success in Wiltshire where he achieved promotion from League Two with the Robins and left them well placed for a second successive promotion.
Di Canio has made it known he wants to manage either in the Championship or Premier League.
But only this weekend he insisted there was ‘no story’ in speculation linking him to Reading and West Ham and for many, he represents a somewhat left-field option.
Gareth Southgate’s prominent place in the betting in the list of runners and riders to take over from Warnock is somewhat of a surprise, with the former England defender having been out of frontline management for three-and-half years since his tenure at Middlesbrough was abruptly ended in October 2009.
At the end of last year, Southgate, whose family home is in Harrogate, has previously spoken about having a point to prove after his axing at Boro.
The appointment of Southgate at the Riverside caused controversy in 2006 despite not having the necessary qualifications to coach in the Premier League.
But he was given special dispensation to take over and the 42-year-old has now subsequently completed all his coaching badges after very much having to learn on the job during the early years of his time on Teesside.
Southgate – who last year turned down a technical director’s role at the Football Association – currently combines coaching work with media duties with ITV, a comfortable life in comparison to the exacting task of managing a club like Leeds.
Gus Poyet’s name is one well known to United’s supporters, with his switch from assistant-boss to manager during his fruitful time on the south coast at Brighton having been seamless.
But with the Seagulls pushing for promotion to the top-flight and that fact that the Uruguayan’s deal at the Amex Stadium does not run out until the summer of 2016, a move would appear remote with United potentially faced with paying a considerable fee to Brighton.
That is presuming Poyet, 45, would want to try his hand again up north in the first place after spending 12 months as Dennis Wise’s no.2 at Leeds from October 2006 to October 2007.