Leeds boss backs Worthington
CHRIS WISE Leeds United manager Kevin Blackwell has offered his support to Nigel Worthington - but he won't be doing his under pressure opposite number any favours this afternoon.
Leeds United manager Kevin Blackwell has offered his support to Nigel Worthington - but he won't be doing his under pressure opposite number any favours this afternoon.
Blackwell reckons the Norwich City boss has come in for some unfair criticism this season and, like majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones, he still believes he is the right man to lead the club forward.
“I hope Nigel stays in his position, even though I hope we beat Norwich big style this Saturday,” said the Leeds manager as he looked ahead to today's showdown at Elland Road, where Worthington spent two years as a player in the mid-90s.
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“I am not surprised Nigel has come in for criticism. I know if I lose three or four games then people will be on my back. That is the way football is.
“But I do not think it is right. People should look at where Norwich were when Nigel took them over.
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“He has given them Premiership football and I am sure with their strong financial power, they should be a strong unit again.
“It is very hard to step down, it is very hard trying to re-acclimatise and I am sure they will have a strong season next season.”
He added: “People jump on managers' backs and start screaming and shouting. That manager goes, so they bring in another manager. Then another. But then they think 'maybe we should have stuck with what we had'.
“There is a lot to be said for stability and, to be fair to the board of Norwich, that is all they have wanted. They are not prepared to jettison Nigel just because some people started have shouting for his head.
“Stability is the thing every club needs. The very moment we achieved that, our results started to improve both on and off the pitch.”
After several years of upheaval Leeds are certainly reaping the benefits of having a settled side and management team at present. Blackwell's side go into today's game in third place in the Coca-Cola Championship table, just six points adrift of Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United with a game in hand - and the man in charge is understandably happy with his lot, even though he still lacks the financial muscle of his opposite number at Carrow Road.
“I am sure Norwich used Leeds as the benchmark of how not to run a football club because they still have spending power,” he said.
“We still haven't got the buying power to go out and spend £3.5m on a striker like Norwich did with Robert Earnshaw. We simply can't do that.
“But that shows how well our players have done this year. The club lost virtually every player 18 months ago after relegation, whereas Norwich came down and kept most of them. They were able to turn down offers last summer and only cashed in on Dean Ashton in January. And then they reinvested in the team by bring new people in.
“They have players with good ability and we know it will be a particularly tough game.”
Blackwell is in good heart after signing a new three-year contract with Leeds this week but insists his prime concern is today's clash against the Canaries.
"We're not going to get carried away - it's a difficult game,” he said.
"Norwich are an unpredictable package. When they're good, they're very good we have got to stay focused on ourselves.”