Leeds United have confirmed Javi Gracia has been sacked – and has been replaced until the end of the season by former England boss Sam Allardyce.
Spaniard Gracia was eventually chosen as the replacement for the sacked Jesse Marsch in February. The American had lasted a year in the post, having himself replaced the legendary Marcelo Bielsa. However, Marsch’s successor – who admittedly was far from the club’s first choice – lasted just 11 Premier League games before losing the job himself.
Indeed, Gracia failed to help Leeds pull clear of the clutches of relegation. And a run of one point from the last 15 avaliable saw the former Watford boss lose his job. A shambolic 4-1 defeat at Bournemouth on Sunday proved the Spaniard’s final act.
Now the mantle of saving Leeds from the drop falls upon Allardyce. And with just four games to go – the next two of which are against champions Manchester City and the ever-improving Newcastle – he faces perhaps his toughest assignment yet.
He inherits a Leeds side in 17th place, but only out of the relegation zone on goal difference only. With a trip to the Etihad to come, Allardyce will need to shore up the Leeds rearguard.
Confirming Gracia’s axe, Leeds made a statement on their official site.
“Leeds United can confirm Javi Gracia will leave the club after 12 games in charge. Zigor Aranalde, Mikel Antia and Juan Solla, who joined alongside Gracia, will also leave the club.
“We thank Javi and his team for their efforts under difficult circumstances.
“The remaining four games of the season will be overseen by experienced head coach Sam Allardyce.”
Sam Allardyce contract details at Leeds emerge
Allardyce’s deal at Leeds will be for an initial four-game contract.
Per the Daily Mail, he will be paid £500,000 for that work; a fee that will be paid in full regardless of how the season pans out.
But if he manages to pull Leeds to safety – West Ham away and Tottenham at home conclude their season – then he will earn a handsome £2.5m bonus.
TEAMtalk understands that, at this stage, Leeds do not have any plans to keep Allardyce at the helm for any longer than the initial four-game period.
As a result, the club will undergo a thorough-review of both their coaching and director of football positions once the season is over. Indeed, with Victor Orta having been axed from the director of football role on Tuesday after six years at the helm, the club are considering what to do for the best next.
Much will depend, of course, on what division Leeds find themselves in. Survival in the Premier League could well see Leeds turn back to one of their previous targets. To that end, their top target when Marsch was axed, Andoni Iraola, could well find himself targeted once again.
And even though he was, effectively, the choice of Orta, Leeds may still fancy their chances of landing the Spaniard if they retain their status.
Dropping into the Championship, however, could ironically, further Allardyce’s chances of taking on the job permanently.
Much of course will depend on the club’s thinking and how he is perceived among supporters during his initial brief period.
Furthermore, the club are likely to see 49ers Enterprises become majority stakeholders this summer. As a result, much of the decision making is likely to lie with them. And they may well opt for an entirely new direction altogether.
Allardyce gives indicator of what to expect at Leeds
Allardyce arrives at Leeds without the services of long-term No 2 Sammy Leeds. He is currently unavailable due to attending jury service, but could be available before the game against Newcastle or, failing that, West Ham.
Instead, Allardyce will be assisted at Leeds by former MK Dons and Oxford boss Karl Robinson. Former Leeds striker Robbie Keane also returns to the club as part of the coaching set-up.
Either way, Leeds will likely adopt a very different approach with Allardyce at the helm.
Speaking during his last appointment at West Brom, he was adamant that he does not have anything to prove.
“There is only me. Here I am, battling away, over 1,000 games. My teams play to the strengths and abilities we have. My pragmatic approach has always been what are the players capable of.
“If that means we have to play a little bit less in terms of how we get from A to B then we plan that way. That is what they are best capable of. I play winning football. Winning is the only thing that keeps me in a job.”