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United we fall

Dennis Wise may be facing the sack, but Leeds’ problems are mainly down to Peter Ridsdale and David O’Leary. Plus: Sam Allardyce’s departure from Bolton and candid views on Gary Lineker and Eamon Dunphy.

Tony Cascarino, 04 May 2007

To pinpoint the moment at which Leeds’ problems actually began, I think you’ve got to start with the negligence that was pretty apparent under Peter Ridsdale. There was a huge waste of money during that period and the consequences of that have been that the club has been playing catch-up ever since.

Leeds this season have been paying hundred thousand pound salaries to footballers who’ve not been playing for the club, which obviously has taken its toll. It’s denied them the opportunity to go into the transfer market, they’ve had to get players on loan and, when they’ve had injuries, they haven’t had a big enough squad to compete.

Things have really snowballed at Leeds, it’s a club that’s been in freefall. In David O’Leary’s defence, there are very few managers who would turn down money to buy better players. But managers have a responsibility to make sure that clubs are doing things for the right reasons. Likewise, if it’s required, the board should be prepared to say, “If you can keep the purse strings pretty tight, we will eventually be able to come up with something a little bit extra for you.”

I don’t think any of that ever happened at Leeds, it was basically a load of kids in a sweetshop. O’Leary spent big amounts of money and wages were far too high for the type of player they were bringing in. Leeds’ average gate is around 30,000, but they’re trying to compete with clubs that are getting 70,000 fans in their grounds, like Man Utd and Chelsea. Chelsea were in a dire situation, but they were still able to find an owner that could an invest a lot money because of where the club was.

I think Ken Bates went to Elland Road believing that there would be a lot of people interested in investing in Leeds, but that hasn’t turned out to be the case. It’s interesting when you contrast Leeds’ misfortunes with a club that runs a tight ship, like Bolton, still smarting after the depature of Sam Allardyce. I think it was pretty obvious from the fact that he went for the England job last summer that Sam always intended to leave Bolton.

He probably regretted not taking the Newcastle job a couple of seasons ago, but I think the opportunity’s come back, and I expect him to be the next Newcastle manager. What Sam did at Bolton was to pick up a vast amount of players either on free transfers or for relatively small fees. Lots of them failed, but a lot of them worked, and because they were all quite young, if they weren’t a success he was in a position to get them out of the club pretty quickly.

Sam certainly made some very bad buys – like Mario Jardel for instance – but overall his approach paid off and he managed to inspire a real atmosphere within the club. It’ll be a new scenario for him when he comes back into management, and he’ll have different problems to deal with, but what he achieved Bolton was pretty exceptional.

It was interesting to see the stories about England’s World Cup games being taken away from the BBC, supposedly because of Gary Lineker’s overly critical approach. I think Lineker has been a bit smarmy at times and prone to making stupid, quirky comments. I always felt Lineker had a bit of an agenda dating back to his final game with England, when he was subsituted by Graham Taylor. Ever since then it seems like he’s had a tendency to make swipes at decisions taken by the England management.

Having said all that, it is a bit odd that Lineker has been singled out for being too critical, given that English pundits are generally much milder than their Irish counterparts. Lots of analysts in England are ex-players who are walking on eggshells when it comes to discussing their old clubs. Whereas, someone like Eamon Dunphy can say what he wants and he doesn’t have to worry about being confronted over it.

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