Leeds United fire Javi Gracia, appoint Sam Allardyce
Leeds United has fired Javi Gracia and hired Sam Allardyce as manager for the final four games of the Premier League season in a desperation move to jumpstart its players.
The move follows Leeds’ Monday announcement that director of football Victor Orta left the club.
Oddly enough, Allardyce’s last Premier League match was a May 23, 2021 defeat to Leeds at Elland Road.
[ MORE: Premier League relegation scrap ]
The 68-year-old Allardyce gave an interview to TalkSport on Wednesday and says he’s up for the fight.
“I was shocked. I never thought at this stage of the season… I thought there would be no jobs,” he said.
“The phone popped up with a name I knew fairly well, I knew what it was, and it took me two seconds to say yes. I’m here overlooking the training ground and the fabulous facilities and I’m excited to be involved. A tingle runs through your veins when you take over at a football club. I know it’s in a lot of trouble, but I’ve seen a lot of trouble before. I could’ve done with more time, but we’ve got four games and hopefully I can keep this fabulous club in the Premier League.”
Gracia was hired in February after the club fired American boss Jesse Marsch with the club in 17th place and in one of the most congested relegation fights in history.
Michael Skubala led Leeds to a draw and loss before Gracia took the reins, and Leeds won three and drew one in a six-match stretch that saw the club rise as high as 13th.
But the club has conceded four or more goals three times in an ensuing five-match winless run and Gracia, seemingly, has run out of time. Known as a defensive-minded coach, oddly enough, Gracia’s overseen a goal or more in his last nine games at Leeds.
The Spaniard released a statement following his exit, saying, “It has been a very intense period for many reasons. A busy schedule, injuries and a young but skilled team. However, we managed to position ourselves better than our rivals and this is shown by the results. Compared to our direct rivals and since we were hired, we are the team with the most points — eleven in total — compared to our main competitors. I am confident that the team will achieve its objective. It is a committed squad full of quality.”
The full statement is below.
Why Big Sam? And what’s next for Leeds?
Allardyce will have some task ahead of him, with Manchester City away, Newcastle at home, West Ham away, and Spurs at Elland Road to finish the season.
“Big Sam” has a reputation as a relegation specialist but suffered his first at his last job, the 2020-21 campaign at West Bromwich Albion.
He hasn’t been in a job for more than 31 matches over his last five stops including an ill-fated one-match run in charge of England: Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Everton, and West Brom.
Leeds is currently out of the bottom three on goal difference, one of three teams on 30 points. Everton has 29 points while bottom-placed Southampton has 24.
This whole hire may be geared toward beating West Ham and maybe Spurs. Allardyce is 0-4 against Man City boss Pep Guardiola, and Newcastle’s been in fine form as well. Allardyce has not won more than 40 percent of his matches at any stop since leaving Bolton in 2007.
Full Javi Gracia statement
“I’m grateful for this opportunity and proud of the team, both players and coaching staff. That’s how I would like to summarise my time at Leeds United. I would have preferred a different moment, but the circumstances have changed.
“We arrived on a short three-month contract. And we did it because we believed in this team. We considered our chances and had confidence. And we know it is possible. We are not talking about miracles, but about the efficient result of a well done work and a process of improvement.
“The coaching staff and I took over the team in 19th position, with a run of ten games without a win. Today, after eleven games played and four games left in the league, the team is out of the relegation zone and with a good chance of achieving the objective.
“It has been a very intense period for many reasons. A busy schedule, injuries and a young but skilled team. However, we managed to position ourselves better than our rivals and this is shown by the results. Compared to our direct rivals and since we were hired, we are the team with the most points — eleven in total — compared to our main competitors. I am confident that the team will achieve its objective. It is a committed squad full of quality.
“I would like to acknowledge the work of the fans. A fan base that supports you, that cheers you on and that I know will never give up. Best wishes for success to Leeds United.”