Listening to Noel Whelan’s commentary on Leeds United games is a definite experience, some of his gems outweigh even his “Get in!!” celebrations of Whites goals.
If it’s not comparing the Huddersfield Town away kit to teeth colour or bemoaning the lack of looks of people from Blackburn then it’s advising the Hull City medical team to give a double dose of Calpol to an injured player.
However, what is consistent amongst whatever Whelan says is his level of consistency and measured outspokenness – something that is refreshing amongst football pundits with many preferring to sit on the fence so much that they have splintered derrières.
Not Noel Whelan, definitely not Noel Whelan. When he speaks, it may well be outspoken but it carries gravitas and weight behind it. One such view is the one in his Yorkshire Evening Post (YEP) column where he says that the Elland Road outfit need to spend big to go up.
It’s common conversation amongst Leeds fans that the club need an influx of players in order to challenge for the playoffs next season. Current head coach Steve Evans has spoken about Leeds needing 4-6 ‘quality’ signings, something that Whelan picks up on in his YEP column.
Whelan’s basic point is simple in that going up is a combination of two things: the need for quality players and the need to spend big to get them. For him, indeed even for the ‘Average Joe’ Leeds United fan, quality players, and proven quality players at that, don’t grow on trees nor do they come ‘on the cheap’. Money has to be spent to achieve that push towards the play-off places and promotion hopes.
Whelan sets out the stall that he feels Leeds United must follow in order to have success in a “promotion push”. For him, Leeds need at least four players with him pointing out that the Whites need “to strengthen in the centre-half department, maybe even with two centre-halves”, must sign “a creative midfield player, a natural no 10” and also “a striker with lots of pace.”
As everyone knows, well on a colloquial level, quality costs and costs big; something that Noel Whelan also addresses. As he says, “I think Massimo Cellino is going to have to spend some good money…I think we need to speand between 15 and 20 million, I’ll be honest.” He also mentions that ‘looking down the leagues’ is something that doesn’t really wash it for promotion-chasing sides and even went as far as to say that players such as winger Jordan Botaka need to up their game to seize their chances.
As frightening as that figure sounds, the Leeds fans who have watched this season will agree with him; Leeds United do need to spend big if they are wanting to achieve promotion. As Whelan goes on to say, looking at middling will not lead to success and it is the need to take that deep breath and sign the cheque book that ultimately gives teams the footing that they need to challenge.
Whelan simply states: “You can’t just keep thinking ‘well, I’ll buy average which will get us up’ because it won’t get you up. That’s just not the way it works and there are some areas of the field where you have got to spend bigger than others.”