Dressing room fractures and strikes might open the door for Leeds United to take major August shift

-Credit: (Image: Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Twelve months ago, Angus Kinnear was still weeks away from seeing how devastatingly chaotic a post-relegation summer can be at a football club. The takeover brought its own challenges to Leeds United, but that only served as an hors d’oeuvre for what would be brought to the chief executive’s door, day after day, by the playing staff.

One by one, as players arrived at Elland Road, in the windows before relegation, all of the polished, outsourced social media posts trumpeted dreams of playing in Leeds white, of serving a world-famous fanbase. They continued into the 2023 dogfight with determinations to get the team out of that mess.

Even to an experienced football administrator like Kinnear, it was an eye-opener to see how quickly the powers of self-preservation can kick in at football’s elite level. Despite their culpability in taking United out of the top flight, there were many players with little interest in staying to get them back up.

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The loan clauses, triggered by relegation, only made the exodus easier and bigger. This was a dressing room, hammered by constant losses and managerial churn, that needed uniting by Daniel Farke when he, eventually, arrived. There was no magic wand from the German, however.

The problems, the strikes, the strops and the plotting to get out of Thorp Arch did not end until September 1. Not only was the newly installed manager fighting to beat Championship opponents playing their weekly cup finals, but he was fighting to sort the wheat from the chaff in his own dressing room.

Farke, with five minutes under his belt with some of these players, had to work out who was up for the fight and whose heads had gone. These are the problems the three clubs dropping down from the Premier League will have at this very moment.

Sheffield United, Burnley and Luton Town will have a lot of players on their books, right now, with zero intention of sticking around for a Championship promotion tilt. Agents will be knocking on their chief executives’ doors and making it abundantly clear how their client wishes to see this summer pan out, regardless of the multi-year contracts they signed with eye-watering signing-on fees.

They do not want 25 per cent of their wages cut to accommodate Championship life and they do not want to see what a three-stand stadium in Oxfordshire looks like. Rob Edwards, Chris Wilder and Vincent Kompany’s successor will need to navigate the same issues Farke had until the dying moments of last summer’s transfer window.

While they face the Whites’ 2023 problems, Leeds are in a far more certain, stable place, albeit with a smaller parachute payment to use. Farke and United need to take advantage of that uncertainty elsewhere they know so well.

Leeds need to be that team stealing a march in August with a harmonious dressing room and a settled squad that all but has its business done. If that chaos was what ultimately saw the Whites fall short last month, they need to turn it in their favour from August 10, before that relegated trio gets its act together.