Leeds fans want man 'they can't stand'

 

A quiet life on the farm in Cornwall or a lively one working for Ken Bates? That is the choice Neil Warnock could be faced with after Bates lost patience with Leeds United manager Simon Grayson yesterday after the 4-1 home defeat to Birmingham City on Tuesday.

Within minutes of Grayson being fired, Warnock, who turned down the Leeds chairman 20 years ago when he was at Notts County and Bates was chairman of Chelsea, was installed as favourite to take over.

"It's a massive club, obviously I'm aware of that," said Warnock, who spent seven years managing Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United. "Even in the third tier they were pulling in 30,000. It is a great job for whoever takes over."

Warnock heads a list of managers that includes those who played at Chelsea under Bates (Gus Poyet, Robbie Di Matteo), ex-Leeds players (Gordon Strachan, John Sheridan), out-of-work trio Steve Bruce, Dave Jones and Billy Davies, and Lee Clark, who is impressing at nearby Huddersfield Town.

It was Warnock, though, who appears the preferred candidate of Leeds fans despite his association with Sheffield. One post on a message board summed up the prevailing mood: "I can't stand the man, but he's proven at this level and God knows we're desperate."

In the immediate wake of his dismissal by QPR last month, Warnock's inclination was to retire with his young family to Cornwall, but the nature of his departure rankled. In a 30-year management career he feels he has not had the chance to do himself justice in the top flight. Leeds could offer that.

Even after picking up eight points in eight matches, Leeds are only one win off the play-off places. They have just sold Jonny Howson to Norwich, and Kasper Schmeichel, Max Gradel, Bradley Johnson and Jermaine Beckford have all left in the last 18 months.

Whether Bates, who has disappointed Leeds fans with his level of investment, can convince Warnock to join him remains to be seen. Warnock does have family in Yorkshire, but he will be aware that there could yet be vacancies at Premier League clubs.

Compensation would be required for Clark, Poyet and probably Di Matteo. Bruce is unlikely to be popular for his Manchester United links, and the prospect of Davies and Bates working together in harmony seems unlikely.

Grayson was appointed in December 2008 and led Leeds out of League One, but results have dipped and Tuesday's gate was the first sub-20,000 league attendance in two years. Shaun Harvey, the chief executive, said: "With the transfer window closed we needed to make the change in the belief that a new managerial team will be able to get more out of the squad."

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