In the early stages of the 2009-2010 promotion campaign, The Square Ball interviewed United’s affable, Leeds-saluting assistant manager, Glynn Snodin for issue 4 of the magazine that season. We chatted at some length about many Leeds United topics: the salute, Howard, Billy and the team’s promotion credentials. On this final topic, it’s worth noting that the interview took place on Thursday 22nd October 2009, symbolically sandwiched between clashes against our two biggest rivals in League One; it was preceded by our last minute win in the televised Monday night game at home to Norwich, who finished top that season, and was followed by our losing trip to Millwall, who finished right behind us in the table. Here, you can read the article in full, as published in the magazine.
Time is a cruel thing. As the back end of the eighties and early part of the nineties – a golden period in which to be a Leeds fan – gradually fades into memory, we are left only with remembered moments to cling onto.
Certain iconic images of that time stick in the mind: the photo of Wilko walking towards the empty kop, the league trophy in his hand, dangling by his side; the charge of fans and riot police across the dusty car park in a sweltering Bournemouth; Neville Southall’s one man goalpost sit-in at half time at Goodison, as we impudently announced our return to the top flight by dismantling Everton in the first half of our comeback game. United were back. Running through that mental showreel it quickly becomes obvious that Glynn Snodin pumping out the Leeds Salute has its place among those golden memories. There were marquee players like Chapman, Strachan and McAllister; but there was also the heart and essence of Leeds. That was Glynn Snodin’s place in the drama. There’s an iconic moment (pictured above) in the 1989-90 Race For The Title video (remember those?) where Snods, then a long term absentee thanks to glandular fever, is sat on the bench as an acting-coach, sandwiched between Sergeant Wilko and his crazy sidekick Corporal, ‘Mad’ Mick Hennigan. You almost pity the man for where he finds himself, stuck between two ranting, possibly imbalanced disciplinarians, nodding in semi-panicked agreement.
There’s a nice symmetry about the fact that Snods finds himself in that same dugout 20 years on, a part of the team
spearheading another crucial promotion push; another chance to weave himself further into the fabric of Leeds United folklore. With a mountain of enthusiastic questions to ask about both past and present, we couldn’t wait to speak to him. And so it was that TSB was sat opposite Glynn in a changing room at Thorp Arch. Where else to start but the start?
GS: Oh, massive. He was an icon to us. He came into the dressing room on the first day, he stood there and he may only have been five foot five in size but you thought he was like a mountain. To come to lowly Doncaster and be manager of us, we were excited by it. As the days and weeks and months went by he was a pleasure to work with and you’d do anything for him. A great man manager. He got the winning mentality into you as well. He hated losing. No matter if it was in training, five-a-side, if you were doing finishing, if you were playing dominos, cards… He hated losing, and he put that into us.
Did Howard Wilkinson and Mick Hennigan have an influence on your coaching style?
Howard was a great coach, to be fair. Billy had his man management style – brought that winning mentality in you – but Howard was different. He was one of those that worked you hard in training, but tactically he knew who you were playing against. Not only the team but the individuals. Everybody who played in a position knew exactly what their man was doing. He worked hard with 11 versus 11, and a lot on set plays because he realised that a lot of goals were scored from them. All these new ideas that are coming in… I worked with Howard at Sheffield Wednesday in 1985/86 and he was doing that then.
What sort of stuff are you referring to? Things like Prozone? Statistical analysis?
Yeah, things like Prozone; how many crosses you’re getting in, things like that. They were doing it all with pen and paper. Working on the training ground to build your core up – a lot of the dynamic stuff – he was doing that in those days.
What about Mick Hennigan? What was he like?
Mad as a hatter! But they went great together. Mick did everything for Howard. He took a lot of pressure off him. He did a lot of the shitty bits for him, stuff the manager doesn’t want to deal with. He respected the players and the players respected him in a way. And everybody just got on with him‘cos he was a lovable character. He’d come out with some things and you’d think, ‘What are you on about, Mick?’ And you’d have to laugh at him at times, but he was great to have around the place. Great character.
And do you still stay in touch with Howard?
Yeah I spoke to him the other day when I went to watch Sheffield Wednesday v Preston. He was there because he has a bit of stuff to do behind the scenes, and it was nice to meet up. You still call him gaffer now because you have that respect for what he did at this club. Plus he did the same at Sheffield Wednesday, so he’s not daft. He knows his stuff.
And where we’re sitting, Thorp Arch, is his legacy, of course. I won’t push you too much on the issue of the training ground because it’s boardroom stuff, but the fans are all pretty pissed off at it not being bought back.
I know, ‘cos we were the same. We thought everything was done, but, again, it’s above our heads. It’d be nice to have this place back ourselves. It’s a great facility.
Surely it’s gotta be in the long term plan, whether it’s under Ken Bates or somebody else?
Yeah and I think if we can get this club to where it belongs, it’ll be a little bit easier.
What played out behind the scenes when Fabian Delph was sold? Was it something you knew was coming or did you just get a phone call saying ‘that’s it, he’s gone’?
It was to-ing and fro-ing. You didn’t know if he was gonna go or if he wasn’t. When a club like that comes in for you – and the other clubs that were mentioned as well – as a player you want to play at the highest level you can. When you’ve got Villa, Man City and Spurs banging on your door asking how much you want for him, then the agent gets to find out, then the player as well. It’s difficult for the player to turn that down. As much as we’d love Fab Delph here at this club, playing for us every week, you’ve gotta understand his side of it, and I think both parties got a great deal. I think we did for the price and age he is and I think Fab’ll learn from Martin [O’Neill] and go on and be a better player for it.
Delph had his well publicised problem, being caught drink driving. It seems to be happening more with modern day footballers. How has football changed, and footballers too, since you were playing?
It’s a little bit different! I suppose they still go out after a game, but they’re a bit discreet now, whereas when we played in the eighties and early nineties, you’d play a game, you go out and have a few pints, a curry, a bevvie, but then you worked hard in training, Monday to Friday. It was tough. Whereas now, the players of today… Money plays a bit part, and good luck to them. If they can earn it, let them get it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But all the training is completely different. We were going on six or seven mile runs, three mile runs, a lot of work in the morning and afternoon. Now it’s more dynamic stuff. There’s a lot different on the training field. There’s more intensity, the standard’s different. You’ve got better training facilities; better pitches. Some of these players would laugh now if they saw some of the training pitches and some of the pitches we used to play on. The footwear’s changed. It’s all blades, and promotion for Nike and Adidas. It’s a different mentality. It used to make or break you when you trained in the eighties ‘cos it was all physical, you did a lot of weights, and it either made you a strong person or it crushed you.
Are footballers harder to manage now with the amount of money in the game?
You’ve got to man manage them right. If you can do that, no matter what they’re earning, they’ll do anything for you. If they’ve got a belief and trust in what you’re trying to do, they could be earning 150 grand a week, they could be earning a grand a week, they’ll back you and follow you, like we did with Billy. The same with Howard. Even nowadays, you get the Lampards and Terrys that are on this big money, but if they believe in the managers that they’ve got, they’ll want to go out there, they’ll want to play every week. They don’t want to rest because they’ve still got that mentality in them.
Tell us about the Leeds Salute!
[A big grin spreads across Glynn's face]
Oh, I love it! Every time I see a Leeds fan I get excited, I’m off!
[naturally, the Leeds Salute comes out at this point and Glynn, clearly recalling a previous conversation, adopts the voice of his disapproving wife]
‘Sit down! What’s wrong with you? You’re 49!’ and I went, ‘I’m not bothered! If I’m 89 I’ll be doing it, don’t worry about that!’ I love the salute!
It’s good to have a unique thing isn’t it? That and Marching On Together.
Course it is. I’ve got that as my ringtone! There’s even times when we’ve won and we’ll be going back in the cars and you’ll see a Leeds badge on the back window of another car. I’ll be giving it [the Leeds Salute] and they’ll be thinking ‘Who’s that?!’ I do, I absolutely love it!
Does Leeds as a club get under your skin? Players and ex-players often talk about how special it is, but as a fan you often think those things are almost said for your benefit. Is it really different to other clubs?
Yeah, yeah it is. As a kid I used to watch Leeds and loved it. When you came to be a player, you just give everything to them. It’s a famous club, not only here but around the world. You’ve had famous players that’ve been here. It’s a great club to come and play for and anybody that doesn’t like playing here, there must be something wrong with them. Or they can’t handle it. The supporters that you play for every week are magnificent. Even when we go away and I get back on the coach they’ll say, ‘Well done today,’ and I’ll say ‘No, well done to you as well. You’ve come all this way again, you’ve spent your money, you’ve cheered us on, you’ve been there for us.’ We need them. They are different. I bought my lad a season ticket for Doncaster last year and he renewed it again this season, but then all of a sudden he started coming here. He won’t go anywhere near Doncaster now, and he’s got a season ticket! He’s bought all the Leeds gear, he wants to go home and away. He says ‘I love the fans, the way they are, how they sing, what they do.’ It’s just grabbed him and he’s 14 years of age. It’s got him. He’s got that bug. That’s what it does to you!
You joined Leeds at the start of February this year and the 2-0 away defeat to Hereford, the real low point, was a couple of weeks afterwards. That game was seen as a pivotal moment, a line in the sand. What was said in the dressing room to turn things around?
At that time I was just observing the staff, finding out what their characters were, what their personalities were like, watching the players train. That night, as a Leeds fan, staff, player – everybody was gutted. They came in that dressing room and you could see their heads, chins were on the floor. It was a low point. But that’s not the Leeds United I knew, or that I’d seen. OK, you’re gonna get the odd game, but at least you show a bit of character and have a go. We didn’t seem to have that on the night. We must’ve been in the dressing room for 45 minutes, but it was no bollockings or shouting and screaming at each other. It was just being honest and telling them exactly what you’ve got to do when you put on the white or yellow shirt with the Leeds United badge, what you need to do. Can you do it when the pressure’s on to finish top? You’ve got to go out and perform every week because everybody wants to beat Leeds United. [We told them] what the fans expect, what we expect as management. From that day on they’ve turned it around. We said we had to look at ourselves, too, as management staff. We upped the training intensity – we said we needed to. We got a system, made sure we were organised, and we had to make sure we had leaders out there as well, that could sort it out on the field as well as we could off it.
When we spoke to Richard Naylor he said that there weren’t that many dressing room leaders around the turn of the year.
Yeah, you’ve got to have a mix. You can’t just have eleven pretty players. Hey, you’ll win games, of course you will. You might finish mid-table. If you get eleven players that are gonna be physical and strong and bustle, again, you might finish mid-table. But if you’ve got that blend – three or four that can do a little bit, three or four warriors – you’ve got that mixture. That’s why we got Richard [Naylor] in, that’s why we got Paddy Kisnorbo in. You’ve got Lucio who’s a quiet lad, can only speak a bit of English, but leads by example. He shows you; he get his body in, gets his backside in. You need
that spine down the middle. It’s not rocket science, the best teams have got that spine, got the resilience, don’t want to get beat.
Leeds is a funny club in that some players really thrive in playing for us but others seem to wilt under the pressure. How do you get the players to deal with the expectation that comes from the fans?
That’s something that you’ve got to have as well: players that can play in front of this crowd. And you find them out. Can they do it? It alright going out and playing – and no disrespect to them – for Brighton or Yeovil or Crewe and doing it in front of three or four thousand people, but can you do it when the pressure’s on to finish top? And you’ve got to go out and perform every week because everybody wants to beat Leeds United. We watch games and think ‘What’s this?’ yet when we play them they step it up and raise their game. We watch a lot of DVDs on opposition and it’s amazing, the difference from watching the DVDs to when we play them; they just step it up. Elland Road’s a great place to come and play. The manager will be saying, ‘Try and quieten the crowd, get them on their backs, try and get in their faces,’ and that’s it: you’ve got to have the strong character to go and play in front of these fans. And if you give a ball away or it’s a bad pass or a bad save then so be it. Get on with it, let’s go again. As long as you give that effort. Against Liverpool I thought the fans were magnificent. Even when we went 1-0 down, for five seconds it went quiet and then all of a sudden everyone stood up and it erupted. It put the hairs up on the back of your neck and on your arms. It was magnificent. The fans’ll back you, but if you give the other performance like you did at Hereford, no matter
what team you play for, they will give you some stick and deservedly so.
It’s often said that all you need to give is 100% effort to win the fans but at Leeds that’s not always the case. Often the pressure comes from players not doing the basics right, like misplacing passes or when Casper Ankergren takes a cross after a previous fumble and you get ironic cheers. It’s not malicious by the fans, it’s just a release of frustration. How do you get the players to deal with that, and how do you get them to prevent it and do the basics right?
You’ve gotta do your work here on this training field. Everything you do on here guarantees that you’ll do it on a Saturday. Say, we’re playing Millwall this Saturday, we came in on Tuesday and said, ‘Right, Millwall starts now. Get your minds right, get focused.’ We’re not gonna wait until three o’clock on Saturday. We make sure their minds are switched on – they’re tuned in. If you get your good habits on the training ground hopefully it’ll filter through to Saturday.
How did the job come about and did you have any previous working history with Simon?
Simon rang me. I hadn’t worked with him before. The only time I used to speak to Simon was when I was at Charlton and Southampton and he used to ring up – he was manager of Blackpool then – about players, and we used to talk about the game and I thought, ‘This kid’s switched on for his age, saying he’s just got into management’. I was really chuffed with the way he was talking and what he was on about and I thought, ‘Not bad, you.’ When he rang me that day I thought he was joking! It was near Christmas and I was having to sort things out with West Ham then [Glynn had left, along with Mervyn Day, at the same time Alan Curbishley resigned]. It took a lot longer than we’d hoped and I said to Simon, ‘Look, if you’ve gotta get somebody else in then you’ve gotta do it,’ and I was thinking, ‘Please don’t! I’d be gutted.’ He said he’d hang on and wait until it was sorted and finalised. I’m glad he gave me that phone call that day because I really appreciated the call, and working with him now, and knowing what he’s got and what he does, I think the kid’s got a great future.
How do you and Simon work together? What’s your role in things?
We all do our stuff, it’s not only me and Simon, there’s Ian Miller as well. He’s a great bubbly character to have around, he’s a good coach, the lads love him. So we all do our little bits each day. Out there on the training field we all do our different sessions, because it’s nice to have different voices. But I’m one that likes to stand and observe things and perhaps just dip in and give reminders. So whoever’s coaching, the others will observe and see things and say ‘What about him today?’ Because you get to know them. It’s like your kids. You can tell when they’re not right or if they’re a little bit off it. Then we pull them to one side and have a chat with them and try and get them back on it. But then there’s a lot of work off the field: agents, press, media. And we’ll do a lot of DVD work on [our performance] when we’ve played a game, to see where we can put things right next time, or on the opposition to see who we’ve got coming up. There’s a lot of stuff goes on behind the scenes.
Is it a case of spreading out the workload?
That’s right, yeah. Going back to what I said about Howard: the manager can’t do everything. There’s too much pressure as it is in this job. Whatever Simon wants us to do, we’ll do it for him. We get on great as a team, even Andy Beasley. There’s four of us who get on fantastically, even off the field. We’ll have our laughs, our jokes, we mess about with each other, but then when we’re out to work, we work.
Simon’s been great. I had a contract for two years and that runs out in January, I think. He was fine with it, he was fantastic. Even the last game, it worked out great ‘cos we had three call ups so the [Bristol Rovers] game was off, so it didn’t make any difference. It’s been great working with the international side because you pick things up from there as well, you learn about other players and what’s out there in other countries.
One of the Northern Irish lads on the forum asked me to say thanks to you for helping to move the side up from 130th to 31st in the FIFA rankings.
It’s been brilliant. I know Lawrie Sanchez [previous Northern Ireland coach] did a lot of work to get us up there, but Nigel [Worthington] and I like working with them. They’re a good group of lads. If we can find another couple of goalscorers that’ll be the icing on the cake, but they’re not easy to find. But they’re a good squad. Hopefully we’ll make that European
Championship one year.
David Healy’s an odd one because he’s scored loads at international level, even though he hasn’t scored many recently, but he’s struggled at club level at times. He‘s never been that prolific. Why do you think that is?
I know he was stuck out wide a lot of the time at Leeds, but he’s scored some great goals for us, for Northern Ireland. When you watch him train – and alright, he’s not a trainer that goes here, there and everywhere – as soon as that ball comes around the box… oh, what a finisher! And either foot. And you think, Jesus how come he’s not playing? But the Premier League, god bless him, is a lot quicker and that’s probably why. I think he should be playing now at Championship level and it’ll benefit himself, the club he’s playing for and Northern Ireland. Because it’s hard to go back to international football when you’re not playing at club level.
Another Northern Ireland-related question. Was there an interest from Leeds in Colin Coates at Crusaders, and did you choose to not follow it up?
We’re keeping tabs on that still. We’ve had him watched a couple of times now and I’ve seen him in training with the Northern Ireland squad. He’s still got a little bit to work on his stuff, on his quick feet and that. But he’s an out-and-out defender, the kid, he’s like Paddy, he’s like Richard, he just wants to go out there and defend – head the ball, kick people – he’s one of them! There is interest and we’re keeping tabs on that.
Talking of foreigners, so as to speak… Does the club have interpreters for the non-English speakers? Or is it a case of muddling along?
Mikey Grella’s good for when we speak to Luciano, especially. He’s the one who find it a bit too quick at times. It’s no good us trying to explain it in Yorkshire, so Mikey does it. It was funny the other day when Luciano’s wife was about to give birth, and we were playing away, so we said to Mikey, ‘Ask him what he wants to do. Is he gonna come down or does he want to stay at home and see his baby being born?’ Mikey asked him in Spanish and Lucio explained back. So, Mikey says “Yeah, he doesn’t wanna go.” And we said, ‘Hold on a minute, I bet he’s said yeah, he’ll play!’ Mikey said, “Nah, he doesn’t wanna go, so I can play!”
What about Lubo? Is he English speaking or is it that he just doesn’t speak much full stop?!
Lubo’s quite good. But no, he doesn’t say a lot! He’s a gentle giant. Reminds me of John Charles: massive physically but, oh, what a magnificent fella. I mean, he’s been in and out of the side, but he comes in here and trains with great professionalism every day, and he’s a lovely man as well.
Into slightly comedy territory now. This is a question from one of our forum members. Who would you rather take on in a fight, Patrick Kisnorbo or Enoch Showunmi?
Ooh, what a good question that is! [Glynn pauses for several seconds] Probably Paddy. He’s soft ain’t he? He’s had that headband on for what, 12 weeks now? He doesn’t need it on now. It’s just keeping his hair in place. Yeah, just put Paddy cos he’s an Aussie.
It takes about 91 points on average to guarantee promotion. Have you set the squad a points total this season or is it a case of the old cliche of taking each game as it comes and getting as many as possible?
We said at the beginning of the season that we know how many points it takes – about 90 or 91, as you say. If you want to go up that’s what you’re aiming for. We’ll look at it at Christmas and see where we are and then we’ll look at it again in March.
Working it out, we’re getting 2.5 points per game at the minute, which means we’ve got to get about 1.75 points per game from now on, which is totally doable isn’t it?
Of course it is. We know they’ll say you’re gonna have a blip, but hopefully it’ll just be for two or three games.
We seem to have been having it on the field since Liverpool!
Yeah, we have. We haven’t been at our best, we’ve said that. We know we’ve come down a notch, but I think they were a bit weary, a bit tired, the lads. With the games that have been coming up, the same players playing each week and the pressure that’s on them – not only physically but mentally, as well – with all the travelling and training, we discuss that every week: when to give them rest and recovery. Going back to what we were saying earlier: in the eighties they used to flog you. They’d give you a run on the Monday and then you’d be straight in the weight rooms. But now it’s case of saying hold on a minute, they need a bit of rest here; they need a day or two off, or they need a bit of light training.
With Sam Vokes and Max Gradel coming in, what will they bring to the squad and is it realistic to think we could get them beyond their initial loans?
Yeah, we’ll be looking at that as the weeks go on, and hopefully, if the performances are there, then we’ll want to do it. They were brought in to freshen it up, ‘cos Lucio’s gonna be out for quite a while. I know we’ve still got Enoch and Tres, but it’s to keep everybody on their toes, to freshen the changing room up again. I think it worked well on Monday [the Norwich game]. We came in a half time and said they’re playing better than us, we’ve got to hold our hands up. We’ve got to stop them playing, and if we can stop them then we’ve got to see what we can do. And as it went on we said it’s time for Max to go on and make an impact. And he did. Let’s hope he does that each week. At times you can see he’s probably gonna frustrate you as a fan, as a player, as a manager, ‘cos he’ll do some things and you’ll think ‘what are you doing?’ But hopefully he’ll do plenty on the other side and create and score some goals.
I think, for the fans, there was a sense of being thankful that, in Max Gradel, we’d finally got someone who’s fast and can run at the opposition. It’s something Leeds seem to have been lacking for years.
That’s right, yeah. It was something different we needed. We’d got everything else but we hadn’t got that quickie that can put teams on the back foot straightaway. So we’ve got that, and we’ve got Sam who can hold balls up and get in the box. I think we’ll see better of them when they play games ‘cos they’ve been playing reserve team football or they’ve been out. Once they get a few games under their belts, they’ll go and express themselves a bit more.
Do you have plans in place for if we are promoted? Are you looking beyond this season or is the sole focus on getting out of this division this season?
We’ve said to ourselves and we’ve said the players that hopefully this will be the year. We don’t want to spend too many years at this level. Now, you’ve got no god-given right to go up because you’re Leeds United. As long as you put the hard work in, as long as you do everything we’re trying to get you to believe in and trust in, then we’ll have a good chance. You’ve got to have a couple of plans anyway. We did last year. We had plans for the Championship and we had plans if we stayed in this division. The start we’ve got now is magnificent, but once we get to January we’ll have a better idea, but you’ve got to have both in place, ready.
Do you think the majority of the current squad would be capable in the Championship?
Yeah, we do, yeah. Me and [brother] Ian went to watch Sheffield Wednesday v Preston the other night – it was a great game, I really enjoyed it – and I went to watch Scunthorpe v Preston a couple of weeks before that and you think probably three or four additions and we’d have no problem. We’ve got some good players, they’re at a good age. We can cope at that level.
The most encouraging thing from the Liverpool game was showing that we can do it at a higher level. Is it then a case of trying to replicate it week in, week out?
That’s what you’ve gotta do. You saw how tired we got after that game. We’ve got to be on our game and do that every week, but I think the higher you go up, you’ve got more good games, more tough games. Who’s gonna be in that Championship that are gonna be as good and as big a club as you are?
Is is fair to say that sometimes players find it harder to be up for games against smaller clubs?
Yeah it is. When Liverpool come to town you don’t need a team talk. You put Liverpool’s team up and let them go out there and play and show them what they’ve got. When you’re playing lower league clubs you’ve got to make sure the mindset’s right, otherwise you get what happened at Hereford.
What do you make of the other big teams in this division and how they’re coping with League One?
Norwich have got it going again now and they looked different class when they played us the other night. They’re the best team that’s played here. They were unlucky not to get anything out of the game. But even when teams go to a club like Charlton – alright, they’ve been in the Premier League, but they don’t have that same thing as Leeds United – they’re still known as a family club. They don’t create that same feeling as when teams come here. It’s because of the history, and that’s credit to the boys from the seventies and what they achieved.
Last word about the boss, then. You were at the club when Simon Grayson was a young Leeds player. What did you make of him as a player?
Useless! Absolutely useless. I knew he’d make a manager, not a player!