An Interview with Gary McAllister
Gary McAllister Interview
by David Gilbank
For long-suffering Leeds United fans, the last few seasons have been particularly hard. No, not just hard – tough. Well, actually… to tell the truth, they’ve had to endure one of the most horrific and dark eras in their long and proud history. It’s been bloody awful.
It’s been so tough that even the oft-used term ‘roller-coaster ride’ – up there with the football journalist’s other favourite “game of two halves” – couldn’t even describe Leeds’recent fortunes. There have been very few ‘ups’, just a long slide down a steadily collapsing bridge of despair. Gathering momentum as they slid further and deeper into the gloom that hovers over a football apocalypse. No,it has not been good.
It’s almost as if we were watching a long drawn out car crash with us fans in the back-seat looking on as the bonnet started to crumple. However, just as it looked like the last flickering embers in that huge smouldering Leeds bonfire were about to wink out, one of our favourite sons, a hero from the glory years, came back to Leeds at the last minute and started blowing on the coals.
And, praise the Lord, a fire took hold. When Gary McAllister took the reins to replace Newcastle-bound Dennis Wise, even the most hopeful Leeds fans didn’t believe the Whites could go back up. Not after the usually fatal ‘sudden, mid-season change of manager’. And surely not after that soul-destroying 15 point deduction which set us as far behind the eight-ball as you could possibly get. Surely not.
“A fresh start”
Yet against all the odds, and thanks to a solid player squad that performed obediently to McAllister’s tune – a marvellous ode which favoured stylish, passing football over the boring long-ball, or bully-and-barge philosophies that reflected previous managers’ personalities – Leeds clawed, fought and finessed their way, almost unbelievably, to the very precipice of promotion. They made it to the Ball.
Unfortunately, history shows that in Leeds’s case their Cinderella story sadly veered off course. When the clock struck midnight Leeds broke their glass slipper in the hurry to leave the Ball and the Handsome Prince, with a few jars under his belt and with some beer goggles on, went home, tragically, with the Ugly Step Sister from Doncaster.
Yes, for the third successive time at Wembley, Leeds choked when it really counted. But their grit and determination, particularly in the latter half of the season showed everyone that just maybe the signs were good that Leeds were on an upward trajectory. On paper at least the team are ticking all the boxes to gain promotion in 2009. But there’s one man who really knows what the chances are of Elland Road hosting a higher standard of football in 2009/10: Gary McAllister.
“I can decide who stays”
“That will be reiterated to the players, because that episode is all over now,” says the no-nonsense former Leeds midfielder and skipper. “It is gone. There is no fifteen point reduction and they will know categorically that Leeds is making a fresh start. It is definitely a case of onwards and upwards.”
As you would expect from such a canny operator, McAllister is very aware that all the promise of last season means huge expectations from the fans.
“Of course expectations are high, and it is something we have to get used to. We go in as favourites. We don’t have a problem with that.”
It is refreshing to learn that the team is in the hands of such a calm and focused presence. It’s a presence that includes, McAllister explains, the owner.
“The Chairman Ken Bates has told me, with regards to building a squad, that I don’t have to sell any players if I don’t want to. As the manager I can decide who stays. And I can also add to the squad. Right now I’m looking to recruit two more strikers if possible.”
So what’s the formula for success in season 08/09?
“It is simply a case of repeating the number of wins we got last season and trying to improve on that.”
Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? With McAllister’s steady hand at the helm, financial stability and an enthusiastic squad of players on the field, it seems that Leeds United might just be on their way back up in to the upper echelons of English Football.
Get your season tickets and watch a great football story unfold. Let’s hope.
Editor’s note: McAllister was sacked in December 2008 after a string of poor results.