LATE spring and early summer – a time to reflect, recharge and even briefly relax for much of the domestic football community, away from the pressures of the nine-and-a-half-month ‘slog’.
There will, however, be precious little time for that in Yorkshire this year. Perish the thought.
‘R and R’ will be off the agenda for many. The natives are getting restless, with several managers seeking reassurances and clarity too and many club hierarchies facing some key strategic decisions.
For anyone who surveys the current Yorkshire footballing landscape, the inescapable conclusion is that events in the forthcoming close season will assume fundamental importance for the majority of its clubs and supporters.
A season which started with hope has seen the light dim and deteriorate, for contrasting reasons, at the likes of Sheffield United, Leeds United, Bradford City and Hull City.
The future cannot be viewed with any degree of certainty at the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley, either, after troublesome seasons with some big decisions and joined-up thinking required there too.
There are important decisions, to a lesser extent, at Doncaster Rovers too, while the divisional fates of the county’s current standard bearer in the shape of Huddersfield Town remains firmly in the balance. Fingers crossed on that count.
A year on from champagne, century points hauls, open-top buses and civic receptions at the Blades, there is now an internecine boardroom conflict between a relative newcomer in Prince Abdulallah bin Mus’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the establishment figure in Kevin McCabe - both battling for sole control of the club.
Effectively caught in the crossfire is manager Chris Wilder. What a difference a year makes.
His planning for next season has been left hamstrung by the kind of bitter divisions that most Unitedities had hoped were a thing of the past - after previous painful episodes of in-fighting under previous regimes.
Wilder is also streetwise; his managerial stock is high and his open questioning of where his career is going if events are not resolved at the Lane is fair comment.Leon Wobschall
A ‘Blade’ to the core he may be, but Wilder will be equally mindful of the club’s history too and some of the difficulties experienced by some of his predecessors down the lines due to boardroom issues.
Wilder is nothing less than a streetfighter, having done the hard yards and prospered amid some tough lower-league managerial gigs at the likes of Northampton Town.
But he is also streetwise; his managerial stock is high and his open questioning of where his career is going if events are not resolved at the Lane is fair comment.
Having turned 50 last autumn, he has made no secret of his desire to manage in the Premier League, ideally with the Blades and sooner rather than later. And why shouldn’t he, given his recent record
Across the city and despite a late-season renaissance at Hillsborough, aided by the sight of a number of players returning to fitness, it has been an underwhelming campaign at Sheffield Wednesday.
No-one should be fooled too much by recent events either, least of all those in the corridors of power. A squad bloated with senior players on big deals, with some plainly in the comfort zone and the motivation of several appearing to be questionable, it will surely need pruning if Wednesday are to be tighter and more streamlined for a genuine promotion push next term.
There are issues aplenty at Leeds too where a squad painfully weak in character, resolve and Championship wherewithal requires mass surgery to make the Whites fit for purpose – easier said than done when the vast majority of the players are insulated by long-term deals.
With the future of Bradford City manager Simon Grayson uncertain – his deal running out at the end of the season – the summer will also be a huge one at Valley Parade. Just where are the Bantams currently going?
There are questions too at Hull, another club whose direction is difficult to map out. With a raft of senior players likely to leave this summer and the likelihood of limited funds available to inject into the squad from an ownership whose ultimate aim is to sell up, the Tigers are currently listing.
As for Barnsley? Well no-one will quite know until after Sunday. Survival may be achieved, but it promises to be a big summer all the same at Oakwell, where recruitment has been a problematic issue for some time and visible leadership needing to be shown from the club’s owners.
Staying up would be a hollow victory if lessons are not taken on board and changes not made. Interesting, if testing times across the county at any rate.