Is McClaren set to replace Christiansen as head coach?
Monday, 5th Feb 2018 10:27 by Tim Whelan
The club announced late yesterday evening that Thomas Christiansen had paid the price for our string of poor results, but the identity of the bookies’ favourite to replace him will disappoint many Leeds fans.
The disastrous defeat at home to Cardiff on Saturday had the air of that final debacle that seals a struggling manager’s fate, once everything that could go wrong did go wrong in the first half and the crowd had turned on Christiansen during the second. And at about 9pm last night it was confirmed that his time had indeed run out.
A terse statement on the club’s official website said “Leeds United can confirm that head coach Thomas Christiansen has left the club. Chairman Andrea Radrizzani and the Board of Directors would like to thank Thomas and his staff for their hard work over the past eight months. The club will be making no further comment at this time.”
The Yorkshire Evening Post’s Phil Hay has claimed that Christiansen’s coaching assistants Julio Banuelos and Paul Butler, along with fitness coach Ivan Torres, have also gone, though this has not been confirmed by the club. Many of us would also like to see Victor Orta heading out of Elland Road, but there has been no mention of his departure.
Christiansen could only work with the players he was given, and most Leeds fans think Orta’s player recruitment has been substandard. For various reasons the spine of last year’s team (Green, Bartley and Wood) were lost and not adequately replaced, as a series of players came in from various continental leagues, either ill-equipped to deal with the physical nature of the Championship or just not good enough.
Yet there was no sign that Christiansen could adapt his tactics to make the best of the squad at his disposal, nor that he had the personality to impose himself on the squad and enforce better discipline. You could say that he has been let down by certain players with the recent rash of red cards, yet only O’Kane’s dismissal at Ipswich could be said to have changed the course of the game. All the others occurred when we were already losing.
So has Radrizzani already lined up a replacement for Christiansen? I thought that the timing of the announcement was a little odd, coming so late on Sunday evening. I could understand the owner not acting immediately after the game, to give himself time to think, but then I would have expected an announcement earlier in the day yesterday.
The fact that it took all day might suggest that some negotiation was taking place in the background with the intended target, and that Christiansen wasn’t axed until the replacement had agreed to take over, to ensure we had a coach in place to prepare for Saturday’s crucial game at Brammall Lane. But who is the new man going to be?
The most popular choice on the various websites and messageboards this morning is Marco Silva, freshly available after his departure from Watford. He would certainly get my vote, but in the summer he said he didn’t want to drop into the championship with Hull City. Obviously we’re a bigger club than the Tigers, and he might see us as a good long-term prospect, but he’s more likely to bide his time and wait for the next vacancy at a club already in the Premier League.
Simon Grayson has made it clear that he’d like to come back to Leeds and Gordon Strachan has also been mentioned, but it seems that Steve McClaren has emerged as the bookies favourite this morning. Is this merely because he was in the crowd at Elland Road on Saturday, or do they know of something else that has gone on in the background?
McClaren is hardly an inspiring choice, though at least he does know English football. His managerial career began well at Middlesbrough, with a League Cup win and a UEFA Cup final, but he flopped as England boss, picking up his ‘wally with the brolly’ nickname as he stood forlornly on the touchline as England lost to Croatia while needing only a draw to qualify for Euro 2008.
That was followed by an unsuccessful stint at Twente in Holland. Since then he has twice been sacked by Derby, even though both spells began with a bit of promise, and was blamed for Newcastle’s relegation from the Premier League in 2015/16. The consensus among Geordie fans was that they would have stayed up if the board hadn’t waited until March to sack him and give Rafa Benitez more time to avoid the drop.
The prospect of McClaren’s appointment has been met by groans from Leeds fans the length and breadth of cyberspace, and while it was probably right to replace Christiansen as there was no sign of him turning things round, it would be hard to see things getting an awful lot better under McClaren.
STOP PRESS: The latest about McClaren is that he's not lined up to be manager, and was at Elland Road as a guest of one of the other coaches who has also been sacked. Meanwhile the latest press reports are saying that Marco Silva's odds have shortened, so we can but hope.
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