Down Memory Lane – Grayson to Leeds

Today’s news surrounding Nigel Adkins’ proposed move to Southampton brings to mind the departure of Simon Grayson to Leeds United, albeit with a couple of key differences. Like the Adkins situation, Grayson was targeted by a club in a lower division, but a club with an arguably far greater potential. The common belief in Blackpool was that Grayson had worked wonders with a squad on a minimal budget. Not only had he taken ‘Pool back into the second tier of English football for the first time in almost 30 years, he had been able to keep us there in our first season in the Championship.
When Leeds said goodbye to Gary McAllister, ‘Larry’ quickly emerged as the leading candidate. Grayson had ties to the club, both professionally by coming through their youth system and emotionally through his boyhood support for the club. The lure of Leeds was undeniable. Not only would Leeds pay him more than Blackpool ever could, he had the opportunity to manage the club he loves. When you also consider the fanbase at Elland Road, Grayson obviously saw more long-term potential in the Yorkshire club. 
It was hard to argue with this at the time. Blackpool were already punching above their weight by retaining Championship status, and with little visible sign of either investment in the squad or stadium improvements, it’s fair to say Grayson had taken the Seasiders as far as he could. What left a bitter taste in the mouth, though, was how the move finally came about. An official statement released by the club at the time outlines the situation:
“Leeds United first approached us on Sunday afternoon requesting permission to speak to Simon Grayson regarding their vacant manager’s position, this approach was immediately rejected by the club. Following a meeting with Simon Grayson on Monday morning, we reiterated our position to both Simon and Leeds United and permission was once again not granted for Simon to discuss the vacancy at Elland Road. Permission was refused for a third time following a telephone conversation whereby Leeds United made the club a derisory offer of compensation. Leeds United reaffirmed their position via fax once again requesting permission to speak to Simon and gave the club a deadline of 8pm to reply to the fax. The club, via e-mail reaffirmed their position and wished Leeds every success in their search for a new manager.
On Tuesday morning, Simon Grayson, via a hand delivered letter, offered his resignation to the club which was immediately rejected by the board of directors. Less than an hour after the club had received Simon’s offer of resignation, the Leeds Chief Executive once again contacted chairman Karl Oyston and reaffirmed their derisory offer. The chairman once again informed Leeds that permission was not granted to speak to the manager.

At 12.15pm, the club were notified that Leeds United “had been made aware” that Simon Grayson had resigned from the club’s employment and that he had accepted their offer of employment as manager and that he had signed a contract with Leeds United.

In light of the above, the board of directors have reluctantly reported Leeds United to the Football League for breaches of Football League regulations 20.1 and 20.2. In addition, the club are currently seeking advice from the Football League and the club’s lawyers as to the breach of contract by Simon Grayson whose contract was not due to expire for at least another 18 months.

The board feel Leeds United have acted completely unprofessionally and underhandedly and have shown a total disregard for the rules and regulations that govern football.”
Quite clearly, the way things panned out upset Blackpool. Eventually, under the threat of court action, a settlement was agreed. This figure was never released, but was rumoured at the time to be somewhere in the region of £400,000. Tony Parkes, ever the reliable caretaker, took the reins and guided Blackpool to safety once more, greatly assisted by the loan signings of Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell. Surprisingly, Parkes was not given the job despite this success, which drew criticism from a large sections of the fans, myself included, with Ian Holloway taking over the top job. Whether this was a masterstroke by Karl Oyston or a large slice of luck is immaterial – it was the positive move the club required.

Nearly two years on from Grayson’s resignation, Blackpool are still one division higher than the club he joined. How much longer this lasts is debatable, of course. When Larry finally does return to Bloomfield Road as an opposing manager, it will be interesting to see what reception he garners. All Blackpool fans will always remember the contribution Grayson made in taking the club out of obscurity. His acrimonious departure clouds the issue however and he did tarnish his reputation. Rightly or wrongly, some fans will boo him when Blackpool come up against Leeds, or another team should he move on from there.

By refusing to sell his club out, Adkins will only have strengthened his reputation at Glanford Park. Southampton are something of an enigma at the moment, and moving from the safety of Scunthorpe to St Mary’s would be a huge gamble. Even if Scunny were to go down, which is by no means the certainty some pundits would have you believe, Adkins could still boost an impressive record at a club with minimal resources. Chances to progress his career will continue to present themselves to Adkins. In fact, if Holloway were to leave Blackpool, Adkins would be a worthy candidate to replace him.