Heirs and Grayson

grayson01THE BENCHMARK they surpassed recently may have belonged to Don Revie and those eleven names that still roll from fans’ tongues, but parallels between this season’s Leeds United are more readily made with that of 2007/08. Right now, Simon Grayson’s side is a more invincible mix of guile and determination than that of Dennis Wise – but without Dennis Wise, which is an obvious bonus.

Even at the time, the flyer that Wise (and Gus Poyet) got off to in 2007 – as Newcastle United (and Tottenham Hotspur) were soon to discover – seemed more to do with Elland Road’s intoxicating brand of hysteria than managerial nouse. It couldn’t last, and it didn’t.

To me, Dennis Wise’s face – bobbling around, a doodle on a deflating balloon full of farts – only seemed to fit because it’d be sure to smile as the club’s finances embarked on a Donald Crowhurst-esque meander on the high seas to the Caribbean and back.

Two years on, and Leeds United remains a murky mix of money and mediocrity. Yet, with even the embers of indignation at the perceived injustice long since forgotten, Simon Grayson still masters mesmerising form from his men.

Since Boxing Day last year, when he pitted that first line up against the club for whom he made his most appearances, Leeds United have been on the road to becoming the sort of title contenders Leicester City so obviously were that day.

It’s exciting, but it’s early. At Chelsea, around the time the words “Chelsea Village” became a byword for either genius or psychosis (delete as applicable), Ken Bates shifted from trusting older managers to taking short-lived punts on the promise of younger, more impressionable characters. Funnily enough, he maintained a direct line to all of his appointments via a chap by the name of Gwyn Williams.

In 19 years at Stamford Bridge, Bates averaged a managerial sacking roughly every two years. In attempting to reinstall Leeds United to the second division, where it was when he became chairman in 2005, that rate has doubled.

Both Kevin Blackwell and Dennis Wise floundered in their second year under Bates. Gary McAllister didn’t even get that far. In November last year, McAllister was just four games from three words which simply don’t belong in the same sentence: Shaun Harvey’s wrath.

baldwin01There’s a memorable scene in David Mamet’s film Glengarry Glen Ross in which Alec Baldwin (bear with me here) plays a character who’s sent from head office to motivate a bunch of underlings. It’s not saying much, but that bollocking is the performance of Baldwin’s life, and what Shaun Harvey delivered was nothing like it – though in his mind I suspect he believes it was.

But mediocrity’s just what happens when you surround yourself with solicitors and arse-coverers like him. And long may Simon Grayson keep it at bay.

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