Last updated 5 hours ago, Leeds United are facing the threat of Premier League relegation and manager Javi Gracia looks set to be sacked after 10 weeks in charge, with director of football Victor Orta leaving by mutual consent. Sam Allardyce is being lined up as the replacement for Gracia, but he will have just four games left this season to make an impact. BBC Radio Leeds reporter Adam Pope discusses the situation at the club, how the Whites got here, and what comes next.
The immediate cause of Leeds’ current predicament is conceding 23 goals in April. After an initial upturn with some shrewd tactical approaches and a composure missing from predecessor Jesse Marsch, the Spaniard appeared to be steering the club to safety. But since half-time against Crystal Palace, when they conceded a late equaliser before going on to suffer a 5-1 home defeat, the team has imploded. Allardyce is thick skinned and is unlikely to be bothered about winning any popularity contest, but fire and brimstone can only take you so far if the basics like defending properly are lacking.
The post-Bielsa plan of bringing in American head coach Marsch from the Red Bull stable has failed miserably, with no shred of the exciting football or aspirations of kicking on from a ninth-placed Premier League finish remaining from the optimism at the end of the 2020-21 season. Coupled with expensive mistakes including the Jean-Kevin Augustin transfer debacle and club-record signing Georginio Rutter left sitting on the bench, the recruitment under Orta has been questioned.
The US owners, San Francisco 49ers Enterprises, own 44% of the club and have a considerable stake in the Elland Road stadium too so their financial commitment is considerable, whatever division the cub finds itself in for next season. If Leeds are relegated then the price must be altered accordingly and it would probably delay plans to extend the capacity of the ground up to 60,000. However, Leeds United is a huge brand and while the broadcast income would significantly drop with relegation, the size of the club and its potential would still be likely to attract investors.
Many fans would have accepted relegation under Bielsa last season because he had shown he could build a competitive and dynamic team while developing youth. What is now required is a clear future together with a trusting, long term relationship between management and supporters.