Saturday, September 28, 2013

Long-term contracts put McDermott in difficult position

Square Ball 23/9/13
Amitai Winehouse (@awinehouse1)
I’m not declaring anything a write-off, far from it, but a combination of the economic situation in the Football League and our squad’s contracts means this season was always going to be far more difficult than you’d have hoped. Brian McDermott has the unenviable position of having to deal with a squad bloated by a Warnockian short-termist policy. It’s interesting that we find ourselves in the position of having to count down several contracts signed last summer, given the fact that the situation was already noticeably strained then.¹
Danny Pugh has been on the fringes of the team since Neil Warnock’s arrival, but is guaranteed wages until the end of the season, and has no impetus to move for less than he’s being paid here. Ditto for David Norris, who will be being paid first team wages (given the fact Warnock saw him as a key player) until the end of the 2014/15 season – with other Championship clubs tightening their belts, we’re going to struggle massively to move him on, despite the fact he’s about as far from first team football as Diouf is from a Luke Varney cross. He’ll be 34 before he departs Leeds. The same is true for Stephen Warnock, apparently one of our better paid players, who is tied down until 2015, having signed a 2 and a half year contract last January.² Michael Brown’s only saving grace is the fact he was signed to massively reduced terms last summer, which he probably only agreed to knowing he’d get the required minutes to receive a new deal for this season.
McDermott, therefore, clearly has to manoeuvre in a less than ideal way. He’s tied to the players signed by the previous regime, whilst he would almost certainly prefer to bring in others better built for the style he wants to impose. With us signing 14 players who still receive wages from the club whilst Warnock was in charge, McDermott has to involve several of them, possibly against his desires.³
Assuming things are alright this season, therefore, we have to understand as a collective that transitional seasons do exist and can be fine. Admittedly we’re only able to watch Leeds for a finite period, but it might be worth accepting a single season of near-miss or acceptability in exchange for a more positive one next time around. That said, I’m not calling the season yet, not at all, just saying that if it doesn’t turn out to be a success, it can be counted as another failing of Warnock’s time at the club, that he crafted a squad not good enough for promotion that the club was lumbered with.
¹ Players speaking to The Secret Footballer revealed their contract offers and wages were slashed in the summer of 2012.
² This doesn’t even consider Steve Morison, who will presumably return next season with two years left on his deal.
³ At a guess, the entire situation is somewhat exacerbated by the emergence of young talents like Alex Mowatt. As more come through and get game time, they will start demanding first team squad wages, which will become an issue when we can’t afford them as we’re still paying David Norris.