By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
He swept into Elland Road in February 2011 to hero’s reception and was promised funds to take Leeds United into the Premier League. But over 12 months on, is it a wasted year?
Admittedly the foundations have been built. Leeds have a decent goalkeeper in Paddy Kenny and solid defenders in Tom Lees and Jason Pearce. He deserves credit for spotting the potential of Sam Byram and using him week-in-week-out. But Warnock was never able to bring the quality that is needed for an attempt to gain promotion.
Previous owner Ken Bates sold Warnock the club on basis that money was there to be spent. The manager then went away and drew up a shopping list. He got Pearce, but when Joel Ward slipped through the net the holes in Leeds’ promotion aspirations began appearing.
Warnock admits he thought about walking away then and only stayed out of loyalty to the fans so he deserves credit for staying put. With a different manager, Leeds may have been in a relegation battle for the whole season. Until the last few weeks, Leeds have been hard to beat and that mentality has ensured a good base of points which Neil Redfearn should be able to build on and secure safety with ease.
The arrival of GFH Capital meant Warnock could bring Jerome Thomas from West Brom. Thomas, a quick winger, added a new dimension and wins over Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Huddersfield Town, Ipswich Town and Middlesbrough were partly because of him. Five wins out of five league games with Thomas shows the difference he made. Had Thomas stayed at Elland Road, could the play-offs have been reached?
While there no is doubt Warnock has been let down by the two boards, at times his tactics have been suspect. Warnock is a big fan of route one football and when Leeds were in a losing position, the appeared to be no plan B. And once as the play-offs began to slip away, it was clear that his interest was fading so the time was right to walk away after the defeat to Derby.
But, for all the negatives, Warnock does deserve credit for a handful of achievements. The League Cup run brought one of the most anticipated fixtures at Elland Road and in the city of Leeds for a long time. The Tottenham Hotspur FA Cup victory was a fabulous achievement so Warnock can leave with his head held high.
The real assessment of Warnock’s reign will be in a year’s time when his successor finishes his first season. If his team is added to with quality, Leeds will be a force to be reckoned with.
But while some will criticise him, Warnock should be applauded for creating a stable team and for providing memories Leeds fans won’t forget. He will feel he has done his best and there is probably no-one out that could have done a better job.
He knew how to take Leeds to take the next step, but he was held back by two boards unwilling to spend. Leeds themselves have missed a chance to reach the Premier League this season by not backing him.