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A football in a Yorkshire Rose - Leeds United

The time to bring Leeds United back to the forefront of English football has begun.
Started on 1 December 2016 by lufcok
Latest Reply on 19 December 2016 by lufcok
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lufcok's avatar Group lufcok
7 yearsEdited

I've signed my name to all sorts of things over the years. Signing for deliveries, signing the mortgage application - all sorts of things it took me a few seconds to scrawl a signature to.
But this.
This seemed to take forever. Time stood still.
I looked at the crisp, white paper and it finally sunk in.
Underneath the vacant space that needed my signature in black ink, there it was.
There was my name on the contract.

'James Carr
(Leeds United Manager)'

It's taken thousands of hours and thousands of pounds to attain every qualification needed to manage at this level but finally I'd gained what I dreamt of my whole life.

Leeds United manager.

I grew up on the South Stand, the loudest home stand in England, watching the heroes like Bowyer, Viduka and Martyn take on Europe then watching the zeroes like Rachubka, Norris and Danny bleeding Webber turn out for us.

I'd seen it go from the high highs to the lows...and then even lower. I'm more accustomed to failure than success having grown up with this club.

Now it's time to change that. The black, wet ink pressed on the crisp, white paper and a giddy Italian smelling of cigarettes shook my hand and told me it was the start of something beautiful.

Am I a fool like many before me or can I finally change things here?

Job interviews are easy. I can cope with them no problem.
Smile at the right times, don't speak too much, make things light hearted to prevent awkward silences but don't try to be the clown.
My confidence around them is largely due to that invincible self belief I have as opposed to any actual success I've had with them, I must admit.

I was aware when I came for the interview that I wasn't first choice. Managers from two divisions below had rejected the job plainly due to the reputation of the owner. A Bristol Rovers manager turning down Leeds United!

I worked my magic and got the job but a narcissist like Cellino, whose actions are well covered in the media, was fairly easy to handle. Butter him up but stand your ground. A one year deal worked fine for me but what I want here is more than a year. I saw this as a year to give him promises and to then meet those promises to show I was capable. In the meantime, this would allow me to build a solid base to develop on.

Leeds United is not a one year thing. You don't chuck money at it in the hope it finds you a forward that can bang 20 in or a Goalkeeper that keeps 15 clean sheets. Planning, structure and stability was needed. I had no doubts that I was the man to draw up the blueprint.

I agreed 2 base targets for the upcoming season.

1) Concede no fewer than 45 goals in the league. (The last 3 seasons we'd conceded 58, 61 and 67!)
2) A minimum 40% clean sheet to games ratio for the Goalkeeper we play in the league.

The defence was the key to everything. Solid foundations this season then take things from there.

I was under no illusions though. Years of midtable finishes don't put bums on seats. If I went to the press and said we were going to have a defensive season as I start to look at the long term future of the club, well, the fans have heard it all before. Season ticket sales and attendances, in turn, would drop.

Speaking of the press, time to meet them.

Ben Mansford, CEO of the club, was going to sit alongside me at the table and that was going to be that. I was fine with that. After meeting the Secretary, walking on the hallowed turf and seeing my office, I noticed the club captain, Liam Bridcutt. He was giving an interview to the club's official in-house channel.

A lightbulb clicked. I'd not met Liam before and he'd not met me.
I didn't have a massive reputation and the press may choose to pick on that. I was well aware of that.
I had a word with Ben and told him I wanted Liam in the press conference with me.

In my eyes, the captain alongside the manager shows a bit of unity, the figurehead of the team getting behind the manager, showing we'd all pull together as one.

I had a few words with Liam and made it clear to him that he was exactly what I wanted from my players here. Tough, hard working and above all, a team player. I told him my ambitions for the season and the future. He looked a bit shaken that it meant he wouldn't clock off 30 minutes early but he was well on board with my projections for the club.

Before I knew it, we were in that small room packed with the flashing lights of cameras and the rabble of reporters shouting my name, begging for a response.

Ian Hughes, Daily Mirror: James, what are your aims for the club? Where do you realistically think you can take this club?

JC: You walk into Leeds these days and it's a city on the up. Construction everywhere, improvements all over the city – you get the feeling all it's missing is that football team to take it to the next step. The Cricket and Rugby teams have dominated Sport here while we've floundered. I've been here as a supporter when there's been a buzz and it's like the city runs off of the fumes of those fans.

I want a team that firstly, the fans can be proud of and truly believe in and secondly, is solid and built for success. The world can be our oyster. Look how many times the cameras are here a season, televising our games. The untapped potential is massive and I'm the person that can tap into it.

Ian Hughes, Daily Mirror: In terms of the football though, what do you think is a realistic aim for the upcoming season?

JC: The team is better than simply surviving relegation, as we have done for the past few years. We're not plodding along anymore. Realistically, we don't have tens of millions to spend like Newcastle or Aston Villa. It's tricky to produce a specific aim in terms of league standing. Anything can happen. I've agreed targets that give us an aim to work towards in line with where I want us a club to develop in terms of, at this moment in time. I want to increase the standards of coaching here, increase the standards of player we produce or bring in, increase the standards of everything down to the half time pies.


Kevin Roberts, The Sun: It's fair to say you're a bit of a left field appointment isn't it? What separates you from the likes of Dave Hockaday who didn't really carry much reputation and subsequently was sacked after a few games?

JC: I personally don't know what went on with Dave Hockaday here so it's unfair for me to comment on that. I'm not another Dave Hockaday, I'm not another Diego Simeone, another Conte, another Joe Bloggs; I'm my own man with my own ideas and my own way of doing things. I understand this football club and have grown up around it but I'll put what benefits the club first and foremost and I'm more of a head over heart kind of manager in that sense.

Kevin Roberts, The Sun: Liam, question for you. How hard will it be for you and the rest of the players to buy into the ideas that let's be fair, an unknown of a manager, tries giving you?

Liam Bridcutt: You're being a bit unfair there. I've had a word with the gaffer after he agreed to be manager and I'm well on board with where he wants to take this club and where we can realistically go. I think the players will be on board too. The thing is reputation and experience matters so little; if a manager can treat you right and do the best for you and the team, that's a big thing that a lot of players respect and will fight for. I think you've been disrespectful to him so far and your questions are a bit insulting.

Henry Winter, The Times: In terms of the tactical side of things, what will you be looking for from your Leeds United side?

JC: I wouldn't say there's a certain philosophy or tactical style I adhere to. I look at three things before deciding my approach to a match; one, what tactic suits the players available, two, what tactic will neutralise our opponent and three, what tactic can we use to expose the opponent's weaknesses. Sure, we'll have basic foundations that we lay down for where we want to progress and styles that are our 'go to' approach for games but overall, I wouldn't say we stick to one particular style.

Henry Winter, The Times: Charlie Taylor is in the last year of his contract and for whatever reason, doesn't appear to wish to sign a new one. He's arguably the best in his position in this league. How do you approach that and do you realistically think you can tie him down?

JC: It's not something I've had time to approach just yet. Charlie is an exceptional full back that will play for England, in my opinion, so I'll do everything I can to keep him here for as long as possible. I've been in touch with his agent already to see if we can work things out this week.

Ben Mansford, CEO of Leeds United: That's all for now, thanks for your questions folks.

I made the journey back to my apartment in the city centre and laid back on the bed with a short of Whisky.

For tomorrow, I met the lads.

The season had finished and despite it only being early May, I was keen to crack on with things.

After discussing my options with Ben Mansford and Pep Clotet, the club's assistant manager, we decided on a 2 week training camp in France. It coincided with the European Championships in France so I decided it would be a good opportunity for the players to take in a few matches and see some top quality players as well as allowing me and Pep the chance to scout about.

That may sound nice and relaxing and very easy for the players but it wasn't the plan. Hard work is the focus and I'm keen to let them relax but not lose too much of their conditioning. A footballer should be a footballer 365 days a year. Look at one of the top footballers on the planet, Cristiano Ronaldo. He's a physical freak and that's because he takes it seriously; in turn, it gives him the edge over other players.

The idea was simple with the focus on fitness and cementing the basics. We'd play a total of 9 matches. The first four matches were purely fitness focused. I wasn't expecting anything to develop other than the fitness of the players and the result was insignificant to me. We'd have a template of the formations to play but other than that, the players could play how they saw fit while the style and tactics weren't heavily important. The other five matches would allow me to implement my style onto the players.

Before meeting up with the players, I arranged a meeting with Charlie Taylor and his agent. Ordinarily, the players have little say in these talks and leave it to their agents. But I felt it was important for Charlie to be there to see if I could sweet talk him into staying.

How did things go?

I explained to Charlie he's the first name on the team sheet. He's a future England international. He's the strongest full back in the league. I had big plans for the club. Big plans for him.

For a minute, I thought I had him. I thought he'd at least let me negotiate terms with him. But his agent was clear. It wasn't me. It wasn't the other players. It wasn't the club. It wasn't yet another new manager.

It was the owner. The headline generating owner had offered no improvement on wages for Taylor's loyalty and improvement and had consequently bad mouthed him, turned him into the villain of the piece, in the press.

I told him one day he'd be back here. One day, when I got the club back to where they belong, he'd be back here playing under me. He shook my hand, we left it at 'no hard feelings' and parted ways. He wouldn't be part of the team meeting. I told Ben Mansford, the CEO, that it was time to cash in on him.

A paltry £200,000 transfer budget and £5k per week available in wages was nowhere near enough to let me manouvere my way in the market. I wouldn't take a penny less than £5m for Taylor.

I made my way back to the training ground where I met the players.

JC: Gents, take a seat. I'm your new manager. I'm not a big name but believe me when I say I will only demand and get out the very best from you. Whatever has gone on before, whatever quarrels you've had before - forget them. I can turn you into a hero or you can make yourself into a zero. My door is always open to you, you can always approach me and you can talk to me about anything at anytime.

PC: Boys, you're here to work hard. Nothing less than the maximum effort psychically and mentally is expected. We're here to take this club back to the top and you can either be part of that or sit at the end of the career wondering why you weren't.

Liam Briductt: I'm well on board with you boss. I'll make sure everyone here pulls along. Are we all on track boys?

I looked around the room and saw most of the room nodding along as many of them were saying 'Yes boss'. I wasn't expecting an overwhelming response as these players have had a few managers here and will have heard the same thing multiple times now.

JC: Okay boys, first things first. Our ambitions. Getting out of this league will take a minimum of 2 years. The champagne tastes better when it's been chilled. The primary aim this season is to secure a comfortable midtable finish. I know you've done it in the past few seasons but when I say comfortable, I mean comfortable. No worrying relegation battles. The focus is to defend well. The foundations of what we're building will come from that strong defence. Teamwork and mental toughness will be the key skills required to succeed this season. You all have a goal of conceding no more than 45 goals in the league season. That's just under 1 a game at the very maximum. This will help you in the long run. Good defensive work all over the pitch from the front to the back. Does everyone think that's an achievable goal?

Again, the majority of the room agreed. One solitary voice, our forward Souleymane Doukara, voice his disagreement.

SD: Boss, I'm paid to score goals. If we're just defending, that makes my value go down and I'm on a comfortable goal bonus. It's not something I'm fully behind.

For me, this was something I didn't want to see here. I don't mind disagreement but the attitude was selfish. Not the attitude of a team player. It was a rash decision that I made in a split second but Doukara would be the second name on my list of exits.

JC: While I can understand the concerns you've brought up, it's not the attitude I want of a player here. Side before self everytime, not self before side. Look at the bigger picture. 1 year from now, we'll be in the same meeting discussing how we defended excellently and we've built a strong base but now we're looking at increasing our goal scoring.

SD: I can't wait that long boss. Great clubs don't wait that long.

I could see his reaction had made the atmosphere a bit tense but nobody was backing him up. Our trouble causing centre back, Guiseppe Bellusci, was smirking though. Along with Goalkeeper Marco Silvestri. They'd be names 3 and 4 on the transfer list. I wasn't in the mood for trouble causers and I wasn't taking things as lightly as previous managers would.

PC: Souleymane, if you can't wait that long, we'll have to have a private meeting after this and discuss the options further.

JC: Okay lads, I suppose you want to know about pre-season now, right? As you all know boys, the little matter of the European Championships is currently ongoing across the Channel in France. We'll be having a training camp there for two weeks. The club have arranged accommodation and we'll be taking in a few of the games featuring Italy, Belgium, Austria and France. The downside to this is you'll only have one month off, starting from the end of this meeting. After that, you'll report back here to begin 3 weeks of fitness training to fine tune you for the long season in this league. You can go where you like on holiday, do what you like, eat what you like, drink what you like. But think about things. The fitness training sessions will be hard work. The harder you party, the harder those training sessions are. Don't be the bloke throwing up the contents of his holiday on the first day back after exhausting shuttle runs. Enjoy your holiday boys!

I looked around again. A few smiles and chuckles. I felt as I'd got off to a good start. As I said my goodbyes to the lads, two figures remained. Midfielder Luke Murphy and Souleymane Doukara.

LM: Boss, can I have a word in private?

He'd handed a transfer request in.

Luke wasn't happy about the fact that his holiday would only last 4 weeks. I told him that's how it'd be. In my mind, it was setting a precedent. Finding out who had the balls to put the hard work in. The primary aim of a long pre-season was to build a solid core of fitness but there was a secondary aim which was to let me see just who'd put the hard work in.

Luke made it clear to me with his disagreement over my plans that he wasn't the type of player I needed. To be honest, it was a bit of a relief. We were overloaded with central midfielders and he wasn't one of our strongest players in that position. There was no anger, no aggressiveness; we amicably agreed that he'd not suit my plans. By now Ben Mansford must have been sick to the back teeth of getting phone calls from me as he tried to find yet another player a new club.

The conversation with Souleymane was a bit more heated. He was a bit impatient at being kept waiting for so long and impatience has always been a bug bear of mine. Answering his phone during the meeting. Not making eye contact. This joker wasn't serious about his time here and I knew he wouldn't fit my plans. I told him firmly he wouldn't be here for the first game of the season. He walked out angry, swearing - one of the most unprofessional players I've ever dealt with.

Me and Pep had drawn up our list of fixtures for pre-season. We were to face the following:

The plan was as follows. The fixtures against the French sides to translate conditioning from training into match time then games against non-league and local sides to start forming the base of our style of play. We'd finish with a test against Coventry; I predicted that strong results throughout would keep the lads morale up ready for our opening day fixture away to QPR. Along the way, the focus on tactics would steadily increase, so the players at least had some idea of what I was expecting long term and for the upcoming season.

However, as of yet, I hadn't planned anything beyond the fitness regimes. I saw no point while I still had to arrange incomings and outgoings. I considered the money we'd make through getting rid of those on the transfer list. In all, I was aiming to make £10m. We'd be able to free up around 35k a week in wages. More than enough for me to operate with.

I got in my car and drove back to my apartment. Another day ended with a short of Whisky.

With only 3 weeks until we set off for the delights of France, I needed to work quickly with Ben to ensure that the 25 players going there were the players I was set on using for the season itself. This meant we had to say goodbye to some players but it also meant arrivals.


Charlie Taylor (£6m to Watford)

It was hard to get rid of Charlie as he was arguably our most talented player but with 12 months on his contract left and him not wanting to negotiate terms on a new one, it made sense whilst the transfer budget remained so low. A number of clubs - namely Celtic, Sunderland, West Brom and Stoke - were interested but it was Watford who won the bid as they were the only club prepared to pay the full balance upfront. We went our separate ways and I told Charlie that when we're back, he'll be someone I come after and he'll be one of the first names on my teamsheet. This boy WILL play for England.

Marco Silvestri (£1.8m to Toronto FC)

I had no intention of keeping Marco. I didn't want him on that plane to France and he wasn't in my short or long term plans. The laughing incident only cemented his exit from the club. We're okay on the Goalkeeping front at the moment and the money raised from his sale was good business for someone who I saw as a bit part player, nothing more.

Giuseppe Bellusci (Season long loan to Empoli)

Member two of the laughing gang would be spending this season in his native Italy. I'd been told by many that he was a nasty character - to hear the same opinion from so many people this early into my reign meant I knew he'd only be trouble. We've got better in the position and hopefully he'll impress meaning it's easy to get rid of him when his loan finishes in 12 months time.

Toumani Diagouraga (£1.4m to SM Caen)

Toums told me his family wasn't happy here and wanted a move back to France. In that circumstance, I couldn't stand in his way. He's a big, talented bloke but I can't have an unhappy, big, talented bloke. That's nothing against Toums - his and his family's happiness has to be the priority. I was disappointed as I felt we could have got more money but I wanted a deal done quickly.

Luke Murphy (Season long loan to Nottingham Forest)

Luke wanted out, I let him go. His 10k a week wages are being covered by Forest so it makes savings on that part of things. He's in a position that we have plenty of depth in, he actually wanted to leave and he's hardly a stand out player in this league so I was quite happy that we managed to get rid of him. Like Bellusci, if he can have a decent season and we can sell him on next Summer, I'll be very happy.

After the club had taken their share of the income, due to the finances not being that great, I had roughly £5m to spend with £35k a week in wages available. I moved fast to bring my targets in.


Matt Smith (£375k from Fulham)

My first signing was Fulham's Matt Smith for £375k. I was quite happy with this piece of business. We really lacked strength in the air up front and that's why I've signed Matt. He's played for us before and did well so he's a bit of a fans favourite. He's huge, works hard and is an intelligent bloke; he offers us a different dimension in attack and we can use his size and aerial threat to our advantage for set pieces. For that price, it's a good deal.

Francesco Migliore (£900k from Spezia)

Selling Charlie Taylor was quite easy. Looking for a reasonably priced replacement was not. After scouring the offers we'd received from various agents and looking at the shortlists the scouts had recommended, I had nothing I really wanted. We then used a recruitment piece of software and one player sprung up. Francesco Migliore. On his record there was clips of his play, heat maps, stats - all the bits of kit to persuade me to fork out for him. Ben met with officials from Serie B's Spezia and agreed a £900k fee for Francesco. At 28, he's the ideal age for a young team that needs a bit of experience in it. He's quick, fit, works hard, is mentally strong, great defensively and is an excellent crosser of the ball. I'm very happy with this deal and I'm looking forward to seeing how he performs.

Nikolay Bodurov (Free - contract expired)

With Bellusci gone, I needed an experienced replacement to take my number of centre backs to 4. Nikolay Bodurov was recommended to me by all of my scouts and the recruitment software so I made a move for him. He had a behind closed doors game and I was immediately impressed. He was extremely strong, so brave and hunted his opposition forward every time he got the ball. That's exactly what I felt was the missing piece here. At 30 years of age, I feel he still has a lot to offer and I had no hesitation in giving Nikolay a 3 year deal. To some, that's excessive but I'm certain I'm onto a good thing - plus he's a Bulgarian international and that experience will be essential to our younger players.

Gedion Zelalem (£650k from Arsenal)

Gedion was a player recommended to me by my assistant Pep Clotet. I told him I felt we needed a bit of flair to link the midfield to the attack and he told me he knew from his contacts that Gedion was available for the right price. I spoke to Arsene Wenger and to his credit, he was honest with me. He told me he thought Gedion was an excellent player with a lot to offer but he'd reached the point where he just couldn't find an opportunity to blood him into the Arsenal team. We shook hands on a fee of £650k rising to £950k depending on bonuses. I'm very excited to see how he develops here and it's a signing that the fans of the club have reacted very positively to.

Diego Poyet (Free - Contract expired)

We initially looked at Diego and discussed terms with him and his agent but I felt he was being unreasonable. In my opinion, he was only looking to use the club as a stepping stone. So talks broke down. However, yesterday Diego approached me himself and told me he was desperate to start talks again. He was more reasonable this time. We agreed a deal and here we are. Diego is an excellent player and I'm shocked that he was available on a free. He's a good rotation option with Eunan O'Kane and has enough quality at this level to develop in line with the club. It's another deal that I'm very happy to announce.

Michael Kightly (£700k from Burnley)

This is a fresh deal that has literally only just been completed within the last two hours. We were lacking a bit of depth on the right wing and I felt the workrate in our attack would be low with the players we already had. After shopping around, I noticed Michael Kightly was surplus to requirements at Burnley. It took me all of about 5 seconds to make a decision on buying him. A fee of £700k was ideal. Michael is someone that has bags of experience at this level, works very hard and can take a man on all day long. It was a no-brainer.


With around £1.6m and 9k per week left to spend, I've decided to keep it in the kitty until January. We have the likes of Jansson, Sacko, Hernandez and Bartley all on loans with a view to a permanent deal and if I feel the need to make their deals permanent, I want to have the cash to do so.
lufcok's avatar Group lufcok
6 yearsEdited

With the players being on holiday, the club was quiet.

I'd done our transfer business and had told the new arrivals when they were due to check in for pre-season but that seemed ages away. With this being a sort of 'day off', I headed down to Thorp Arch, the club's training ground and academy, to discuss my youth philosophies with the U23 manager Jason Blunt and U18 manager Andy Gray.

We agreed on two things that would be part of the philosophy, regardless of the results.

1) The Under 23 and Under 18 players will be expected to learn and play the same styles and tactics as the first team.

2) The player development will be as follows:
- Up to the age of 18, the focus is honing a player's technical skills.
- From the age of 18 up to 20, the focus will switch to developing a player's mental skills.
- From the age of 20, the focus will switch to developing a player's physical skills.

These were two things I always believed in and something I felt would be highly beneficial to our progress as a club. Running a similar tactical outlook or style throughout the club would help the younger players to adjust quickly when their chance in the first team came. The second point of our philosophy was something I'd picked up from Ajax. If the focus is on a player's technical skills and their ability on the ball, that helps to create a player that can perform for longer. If a young player is picked purely for their physicality, whilst that's not anti-football, it does risk them being burnt out earlier in their careers.

Whilst talking over our youth prospects and discussing the pre-season regime, I stopped mid-sentence. I thought I saw something move across the floor. Never mind, probably my mind playing tricks on me. I started speaking again and then I saw it. A massive rat. "What the ****'s a rat doing here?!" I shouted. It ran off but the incident was the best thing that could have happened.

Andy and Jason explained to me that the facilities weren't what they used to be. Where they were once something to brag about, now they were underpar or mediocre at best. They guided me around the academy and I was shocked. Mess everywhere, weights left all over the gym, broken equipment, footballs that knackered that you wouldn't give them to a dog to play with; it wasn't good enough. After the tour had finished, I went into an office and rang Ben.

JC: Ben, one question. What the hell is going on with the academy? It's a disgrace. We've got to look after our young players. This is important!

BM: James, calm down. I'm working on it.

JC: Sorry Ben, that's not good enough. We've just made near enough £10m from selling players and I know there's enough to work with in order to improve these facilities. You do understand we have a duty of care to our young players, right?

BM: (sigh) I'll have a word with Massimo and see if I can free any funds up. I'm not promising anything though.

JC: Ben, I don't need any more transfer funds. The squad's fine. But this is a priority. Drop everything and make this your number 1 item on the agenda. Listen, if this club improves, the players improve, the position improves, your wage improves, your reputation improves. Short term loss for long term gain.

BM: I'll see what I can do James. Give me 10 minutes.

I sat in the chair, looking over the training pitches, reading last season's results and player ratings. Seeing who impressed, who hadn't. Then after 5 minutes, I got a text. ****ing PPI.

I returned to the book and kept reading through, going further back as the agonising wait continued. Seeing the names of the old youth players...Howson...Lees...Lennon...Milner....Smith...Harte. It was my ambition to get back to those days. Then, another vibrate of my phone. I opened the text....

'Approved. It'll cost the club £2m so make sure you use it effectively. I've had to pull a lot of strings here. Ben'

Get in! Ben was proving to be a very effective tool for the club to make the progress it needed and he'd supported me and my ideas since I came in. Things were moving on well.

Now the countdown began for the 3 weeks of boot camp that the players would have.

Training when the sole focus is conditioning is horrible. Even worse when you've just come back off of holiday. Even worse when it's me in charge of that fitness.

The Championship is a relentless league. For my money, it's the most physically testing league in the world. 46 games including League and FA Cup games - it's no mean feat. I knew we had to be both mentally and physically strong.

The plan for this 3 week boot camp was as follows:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday
11am-1pm Aerobic training (long distance runs, 50m sprints, Beep Test)
1pm-2pm Dinner
2pm-4pm Strength and weights training
4pm-5pm Tea
5pm-6pm Rest (Swimming/Steam Room/Ice Chamber)

Tuesday, Thursday
12pm-2pm Study
2pm-3pm Dinner
3pm-5pm Study
5pm-6pm Tea

The late training session on a Tuesday and a Saturday was simply to match the kick off times that we'd be playing this season. It's best for the body to get into a routine of being able to used to it's maximum effectiveness at this time so I felt that this was a major foundation to lay down for training. A lateish start in the morning allowed the players to recover effectively but what they lost in an early start, they made up for in how hard they worked. The idea behind having a Beep Test twice a week was firstly to push the players and get them back into the swing of things but also to see who could build on their time and work hard to improve it. There'd also be added incentives for those that impressed and punishments for those that didn't.

As you can see from the 'one day on, one day off' plan, I wanted the team to place focus on the mental and logical side of things as well as the physical side of things. A smart, intelligent footballer that can keep on guessing his opponent's next move will have to work less intensely physically in order to get the better of him and that's what I wanted my players to be able to do. The 'Study' title was perhaps a bit vague from the outside but I and my coaches knew exactly what it meant. It would be an education of this great club. Legendary players coming in to discuss the club and pass on their tales, watching old videos of the glory years, reading a wide selection of a fan of the club, I knew just how important it can be when a player 'gets' the club and I wanted this from all of my players. The afternoon study would be spent teaching the players the tactical side of things, letting them understand the different tactical styles and approaches to play.

All meals would be eaten, together, as a group. I wanted to put together some squad unity and not overwork the players but at least work them mentally and physically to the point that they'd have no troubles sleeping that night and that they weren't tempted to go out partying. Educating the players on the club's history and it's legends allowed them to commit to the club and gave them a reason to put everything on the line during their time on the pitch.

I had nutritionists, masseurs, translators - all sorts of extra bodies to ensure the players all pulled in one direction and understood what was required. It was a busy set up but I knew if we were to achieve our goals, it was the right way to go about things.

The sick bucket filled quickly as the effects of the players holiday boozing and calorie ridden meals came back up on them. Short term pain for long term gain. Nobody really underestimated - I'm proud to say that there were no let downs or failures and the lads really did give everything. There was one player above all that stood out and actually won the Beep Test. One I really didn't expect. Souleymane Doukara.

The transfer listed, whinging, unreasonable nature of Doukara meant he wasn't even in my plans after the initial team meeting but this show impressed me. As I was packing up the gear and congratulating the players before sending them off to Dinner, he approached me.

SD: Boss, can I have a word in private?

JC: Of course.

We went upstairs to the office.

JC: So what is it Souleymane, how can I help?

SD: I wanted to apologise boss. The way I behaved last week...I was out of line. I want to stay here. I was wrong about everything. It's just, it's another manager again and I can't settle here if we keep changing managers.

JC: I understand. However, there's plenty of players that have been here as long as you that have been through the same thing and didn't react like you did. Looking back now, your reaction was shocking. The attitude you just showed for that Beep Test was great and was exactly why you won...which makes it all the more baffling that you reacted like you did.

SD: I know boss, I'm sorry. I want to stay here. Please take me off the transfer list. I've still got a role to play here.

JC: I'm prepared to compromise Souley. If you can beat your Beep Test score every time for the next 3 weeks, I'll look at keeping you here.

SD: Ok, boss, perfect! I'd best go get some food in me for this afternoon, eh?

Souleymane left and went down to the cafeteria. I'm a very moralistic person but that doesn't mean I'm stuck in my ways; if someone impresses me like Souleymane did, I'll do what's best for the club. The target gives him something to work towards for the next few weeks.

I grabbed a notepad and a pen and started writing down my squad list for our trip to France.

You are reading "A football in a Yorkshire Rose - Leeds United".

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