Sam Allardyce’s decision to castigate his Leeds United players after the defeat to West Ham left them on the brink of relegation has been blasted as “damning”, “strange” and “really defeatist” by BBC 5 Live pundits.
The Whites went to the London Stadium on Sunday (21 May) looking to keep their fate in their own hands for the final day but threw away a one-goal lead to lose 3-1, after which the manager bemoaned his team and his substitute options [via Leeds Live], while Luke Ayling spoke about lacking the fitness of old [via Leeds Live].
Mark Chapman, Micah Richards and Chris Sutton were bemused by the attitude coming out of the Whites camp, with one game left against Tottenham where they have to win to have any chance of staying up.
On the Monday Night Club for BBC Radio 5 Live (22 May, 1h 27m 50s) Richards said: “The comments from Allardyce and Ayling were damning.”
Chapman summarised: “If people didn’t hear that post-match, Allardyce said they weren’t very good at defending, their final ball was terrible so their attacking play was awful, and then Luke Ayling managed to say they weren’t fit enough. So I think the only thing that wasn’t criticised was the goalkeeper and the midfield…
“With Tottenham at home on the final day that seems really defeatist, unless he’s trying to play some psychological game and fire the players up a different way, they just seemed very odd post-match comments when you have one game to go and you are not out of it.”
Sutton added: “Yeah, and he can’t reverse those comments now with the players. That’s a strange sort of psychology to tell the team they’re useless, bearing in mind that Sam Allardyce was celebrating a 2-1 defeat against Manchester City that could have been 8-1 in truth.
“I think he’s realised in a very short space of time what we all know, that Leeds are a club who are in big, big trouble.”
If the Big Sam honeymoon period lasted all of two games, with an encouraging second-half performance at the champions avoiding a huge defeat and a battling draw against Champions League-qualifiers Newcastle, then it will follow that of the Javi Gracia reign in percentage terms.
The fourth manager of the season arrived with as many games left to rescue the season and appeared to have a plan as he took the heat off the players in the media, and there was the appearance of new-found fight after mounting defeats under his predecessor.
But there was none of that left at the London Stadium, just as a positive first half of the Gracia era had brought in some crucial wins and appeared to be building towards something before it too fell off a cliff at half time against Crystal Palace on 9 April.
Even the interim Michael Skubala period had a decent start with a draw at Manchester United but soon set alarm bells ringing with a miserable defeat at Everton, so the Leeds United tactic of banking on multiple new manager bounces has clearly not worked.
If the performance against West Ham was concerning then the assessment from the manager and his players afterwards suggested they felt the game was up.
It may be that an even more unexpected escape on the final day materialises a year on from the dramatic win at Brentford last season, but unless it was all a committed ploy to lull rivals into a false sense of security it certainly appears that the belief to make it happen has wavered.