The Warnock era officially starts at Portsmouth on Saturday, although he could not resist the temptation to get his feelings across to the new players under his command at last Saturday’s Npower Championship game against Doncaster rovers.
The new manager’s half-time pep talk certainly had the desired effect as a fired up United hit back from two down to win 3-2 with goals from Andros Townsend, Adam Clayton and Luciano Becchio.
Warnock’s suggested tactical changes to give Robert Snodgrass a new role just behind front man Luciano Becchio also played a part while he has already said that he wants the Whites to play the ball up front earlier than they have been of late to suit Becchio’s style.
It was almost the perfect start for the man who took Sheffield United and QPR up from this division as his new team won to keep their play-off hopes alive yet were so poor in the first half that he saw for himself the problems he has inherited.
Defensive frailties, weak midfield play and a front line that lacked pace gave cause for concern in all the areas of the side and a lack of leadership was clear. But a much improved second half display, not for the first time this season, saw them through in the end and gave Warnock cause for optimism as well.
He knows he has plenty of work to do, but believes the Whites can still achieve their promotion aim this season if everyone pulls together.
He said: “There are areas we have to improve if we’re not to write this season off. I don’t want to write this season off, not just yet – even though the bookies aren’t giving us much opportunity.”
“It’s an opportunity now to put to bed these differences and the problems they’ve had over the past few months. Everyone get behind the team.
“We’ve only got 14 games left for heaven’s sake. Let’s put that all to bed and everyone be like they were on Saturday. It’s a great club when it’s like that.”
Warnock has made his first appointment with Mick Jones being named as his assistant. He is also looking to the loan market to bolster the playing squad at his disposal with former Whites midfielder Shaun Derry one of the potential targets.
But Fabian Delph will not be rejoining on loan after it was revealed today that his ankle injury is likely to keep him out of action for the rest of the season.
Victory over Doncaster left Leeds in tenth place in the table, but they have closed the gap a little on the teams in the play-off places and will see their next game as a winnable one as they travel to play a Portsmouth team with huge financial worries again, having gone into administration.
Pompey’s 10-point penalty has seen them drop into the bottom three, but they still have a strong first team with several players with Premiership experience even if their squad is a little thin.
Leeds will be looking to do the double over Portsmouth, having beaten them 1-0 in October and after their first week in training with their new manager the players will be keen to impress with all the shirts up for grabs.
Warnock will obviously have his own ideas on team selection with experienced midfielder Michael Brown expected to be recalled to the starting line-up for starters. Other changes will be harder for him to make so soon, although the likes of Andy O’Brien, Leigh Bromby and Lloyd Sam, who for one reason or another have not featured in recent weeks, could come into contention.