Leeds United’s signing of the summer emerges even before Joel Piroe deal can be completed

If Leeds United were to adopt a secondary motto on top of ‘side before self’ it might be ‘don’t count your chickens before they hatch.’ There’s a reluctance to talk transfers this summer and it would be understandable in the circumstances.

Just a few weeks ago they were all set to present to the world their new defender and multi-million pound signing, Max Aarons from Norwich City, until, suddenly, he was gone.

Aarons, with all due respect to the right-back, is far from unique in lining up a move to Elland Road and then going elsewhere.

Daniel James, Michael Cuisance and Bamba Dieng walked so that Aarons could run away to Bournemouth. Each of those cases are all different, of course, but the end result was the same – a player everyone thought destined for a Leeds shirt was not unveiled in one.

Even if Leeds have made no real secret of their admiration for striker target Joel Piroe, all the noise around the Whites’ attempt to land him has come from elsewhere. Given the presence of Southampton and Premier League clubs among Piroe’s admirers, and the recent Aarons situation, a few nerves are to be expected until such a time as he puts pen to paper. Just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get your player.

Should Leeds get this one over the line – no medical had taken place by Thursday afternoon but it was heading in a hopeful direction – then Piroe would join Ethan Ampadu in best representing the ‘aggression’ promised by Paraag Marathe at the outset of the window. A proven goalscorer at Championship level, at a good age, with potential to get better and ambition to match Leeds’ own. This is the stuff. Or it will be if it happens – only a fool would talk in certainties in any summer window, but this one in particular. Likewise the potential addition of Nadiem Amiri, a player who could fill that number 10 role in Farke’s side. If it looks and smells like good business then it likely is. He hadn’t boarded a plane to LBA by Thursday afternoon but the noise in Germany suggests it’s a goer. With one change of heart already it’s too early to start any clucking.

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Fortunately Leeds already have their signing of the summer in the building. Step forward Farke.

PURSUIT ONGOING - Leeds United's pursuit of Swansea City striker Joel Piroe is moving in a hopeful direction but no one at Elland Road counts chickens before they hatch. Pic: Getty
PURSUIT ONGOING – Leeds United’s pursuit of Swansea City striker Joel Piroe is moving in a hopeful direction but no one at Elland Road counts chickens before they hatch. Pic: Getty

In a transfer window far more complex and treacherous than any his recent predecessors had to contend with, Farke has handled himself and the various flaming curve balls thrown his way with a calm head and a safe pair of hands. He hasn’t worn out the word stress, either.

In the absence of public appearances or utterances from the ownership group during the difficult spell in which so many players availed themselves of release clauses and transfer business became a bit too much like one-way traffic, Farke was a manager and a spokesperson. He spoke up for the club’s interests, acknowledged the negativity around the situation and was not afraid to share his chagrin. He vowed the contract situation wouldn’t happen again and not once did he sugarcoat the sour taste of it all.

When the Willy Gnonto situation arose, Farke was a manager and a bouncer. Gnonto did not meet the entry requirements for the dressing room or the training pitch, so Farke removed him.

Once reconciliation was on the cards, Farke was a manager and a counsellor – offering not a placating cuddle but sage advice for the teenager.

Farke gave an insight into the Gnonto saga in his pre-Ipswich press conference that was genuinely impressive in its balance and tone.

Crucially, Gnonto took the first necessary step and said sorry.

“In the beginning of the week he came to see me in order to explain his situation, he apologised, he knows that he has made a mistake,” said Farke.

“He also spoke to the key people of our club and had lots of support from them, I’m pretty pleased. So our owners and Angus handled the situation so we are 100 per cent on one page. I also like the explanation of Willy and also that he apologised and was asking if he could be involved back into training and also he’s 100 per cent ready if I choose to pick him into the game day squad.

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“He’s also 100 per cent ready to go and to fight. Yes for that my decision was to give him a second chance and that’s why he’s back in team training and has the chance to impress in training and to earn a spot in the travelling squad and perhaps even play minutes for us.”

Some sections of the support might not forgive the winger as easily but there should be no mistaking Farke’s mercy for weakness.

Yes Gnonto is young, yes everyone makes mistakes and all deserve a second chance, but they have to take it because there won’t be another.

“He’s a 19-year-old boy, sometimes they have mistakes,” said Farke.

“I wouldn’t like to tell you what my mistakes were when I was 19. My big advantage was I was not an international player or not playing for such a massive club in the spotlight.

I think we all make mistakes in the age of 18-19 and when sometimes you also get some poor advice, I can totally understand why the head of such a young player was perhaps attracted by an offer .

“Obviously we would have wished that he would have behaved in a different way. But also can understand why his head was a bit gone. But that doesn’t mean that we have to accept it.

So in this moment, it’s also important to be strict and also to educate our players and also to send a sign. If Willy has learned his lesson, he has apologised, he has spoken about that he made a mistake, then I’m always open also to give such a young lad a second chance.

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“We give him a second chance and he also 100 per cent knows there is no third chance. You get a second chance but there is no third chance and right now it’s up to him to impress with unbelievable hard work and he has to work even harder in training and in the games to win also all the love and also all the trust and also support back, the ball is in his court right now.”

Whether Gnonto knows it or not, Farke has done him a great service because just the right amount of steely resolve in those comments will appease some whose minds had been made up on whether or not there was a way back for the winger.

Convincing everyone is Gnonto’s job however and Farke has put that responsibility on his player’s young shoulders.

However Gnonto responds, whether with goals, a new contract or sulking and a relapse to his previous stance, Farke has been a manager and as close to a unifying figurehead as Leeds have had since Marcelo Bielsa.

Care must be taken at such an early stage when it comes to comparisons but there has been an unfilled post-Bielsa vacancy for a leader who can bridge gaps between the squad and the fanbase and speak with authority on behalf of the badge.

Farke’s talk of defending the shirt plays well, sending messages to the outside world that ‘no one plays games with Leeds United‘ is the media suite version of a man-and-ball sliding tackle. His own actions to defend the shirt speak louder though.

Farke’s results will dictate his popularity, as is the case with any manager, but his appointment already has the look of the best bit of business 49ers Enterprises have done since they took on decision-making power at Elland Road. Now they’ve got to feed the man some more chickens.