The arrival of Massimo Cellino prompted much debate amongst supporters of Leeds United, though the majority were just crying out in hope that a takeover would revive the club’s fortunes. After the past nearly two years, my mind, like many supporters of Leeds, is well and truly made up that Massimo Cellino has to go. Here’s why…
At the time of Cellino’s rumoured takeover, Leeds floundered mid-table in the SkyBet Championship having previously mounted a short play-off push earlier on in the season. It was during this time (2014 January transfer window) that Leeds fans got a first taste of Cellino’s random, unpredictable nature. Current manager (or as Cellino likes to say ‘Head coach’) Brian McDermott was fired then re-hired only a day later. This, in part, only due to the fact Cellino did not have control over Leeds at this point. More upheaval took place during this ‘Cellino episode’, in which newly promoted club captain and top scorer Ross McCormack took part in a Sky Sports transfer deadline day interview. McCormack’s statement seemed one of a distraught character; however he later confirmed his allegiance to Leeds and to the recently fired McDermott. The season would again end with Leeds once more almost falling into the relegation trap door, finishing a disappointing fifteenth. McDermott’s fate was finally sealed once Cellino’s takeover was officially confirmed – this though would be a sign of things to come.
June 2014 was the month that I considered Massimo Cellino the wrong appointment for Leeds United Football Club. You may think ‘how can you make your mind up so quickly when he’s been in charge barley two months?’. Two words; Dave Hockaday. The manager, sorry, head coach that wasn’t good enough to manage Non-League Forest Green Rovers was now leading first-team affairs at Elland Road. Fans looking in at Leeds can only have been laughing at what Leeds were fast becoming – this though was just the start of a season were everyone really would see Cellino for what he is.
When Cellino took over Leeds he announced to fans a list of objectives he aimed to achieve. These included buying back Eland Road, promotion back to the Premier League by 2016 and to keep key players instead of selling them on for financial gain. These as we all now know where just false promises, he still has not made any strides towards buying back Eland Road, oh and by the way Cellino its March 2016 and Leeds sit fifteenth in the Championship, again. But the first and most disheartening broken promise for Leeds fans would be the sale of key players – the first being 2013/14 top-scorer and Player of the Season Ross McCormack. The truth behind who exactly initiated the transfer itself is still clouded. Was it Ross McCormack who sought after a team with stability and higher ambitions? Or was it money hungry Cellino cashing in on a wanted prize? At the end of the day Cellino showed McCormack no ambition of wanting to keep him and basically made the Scot’s mind up for him. The sale to Fulham however makes the mind wonder. A recently relegated Premier League club, who to be fair, weren’t messing around throwing £11,000,000 at Leeds, but surely there were better offers for Ross. But did he have a choice in the matter? One thing is for sure, and that is that Leeds are now without their star player who single-handedly kept them in the Championship. The next season would certainly be a testing one.
Throughout the 2014/15 season Leeds would be the inconsistent team in the division – recruitment along with results was chequered to say the least. Cellino believed that bargain Serie B players would easily suffice in the Championship – it was evident from the start that this was not the case. Several of Cellino’s poor signings underperformed or barley played; Tommaso Bianchi, Dario Del Fabro, an Albanian striker (yes it is hilarious I know) in Edgar Cani, the list goes on. Yes players like Marco Silvestri, Mirco Antenucci even Gaetano Beradi picked up some kind of form, but not nearly consistent enough for Leeds to sustain a respectable finish in the Championship. Managerial mishaps didn’t help either, Hockaday fired after six games (surprisingly it didn’t work out), Darko Milanic again fired after six games (Cellino stated he didn’t really know why he chose him!). Neil Redfearn was a bright spark though in a disappointing season. He resurrected Leeds mid-season and managed to guide the club to safety. Although whenever there is something good at Leeds it normally never lasts, and so this was the case. Cellino branded Redfearn as a ‘baby’ due to the fact he spoke his mind. Redfearn took charge twice during the season and performed extremely well considering he was called up from managing the under-21 squad. Though Redfearn was fired at the end of the season and Cellino was well and truly living up to his former nickname in Italy; ‘Il mangia-allenatori’, in English; ‘The manager eater’. It also worth noting that Cellino was banned from controlling Leeds from December to May, due to him failing an owner and directors test sent by the Football League.
Now, onto the current season, 2015/16 a season where again much was promised. As a club Leeds seemed to have gained some sort of stability -former Wigan coach Uwe Rosler was made the new Head Coach. Adam Pearson was appointed executive director, a somewhat surprisingly good move by Cellino. Money was spent on proven players such as Chris Wood, Stuart Dallas, and a skilful winger in Jordan Botaka. Leeds had signed a kit deal with stylish Kappa. It all seemed to be falling into place. As you might expect it didn’t work out and Rosler was fired after a poor run of results. Pearson left due to the mounting work load he was being forced to take on and more tax convictions were sent Cellino’s way. Another controversial appointment arrived in Steve Evans, the sixth United manager in 18 months under Cellino’s reign. Form picked up but performances to date are still not good enough. After all, it recently took Blackburn Rovers all of 18 seconds to score against a poor Leeds defence. To top it all, young academy starlet Sam Byram left Leeds for around £3,000,000 in the January transfer window, joining Premier League outfit West Ham. If Cellino had offered Byram a decent enough contract extension Leeds may have got more money for the player or even kept him, but now the current season already over in terms of promotion dreams the club is now once again already looking to the next season. Players like Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt and Charlie Taylor in my opinion must be tied down to new contracts or fans will witness a repeat of the Byram situation.
Honourable but strangely entertaining mentions must go to Cellino; leaving a bizarre hour long press conference half way through for a cigarette, describing managers as watermelons and retiring the number ‘17’ from seat numbers, player shirts and even the match day programme replacing it with ‘Issue 16b’ due to his own superstitions. And let’s not forget an on-going debate about Sky TV ruining Leeds’ fixture list before refusing the TV crew entry to Eland Road for a recent fixture.
Clearly Cellino is a madman close to pressing the self-destruct button. But essentially the man is an entrepreneur and owner of a huge football club, looking to make a quick buck where he can. Anyone is a fool to think that Leeds will go anywhere whilst under the ownership of Massimo Cellino. All we need is an owner with money, ambition and that can bring long awaited stability to Leeds United.
Written by Alex, BBC School News Reporter
Howden School Derwent Road Howden DN14 7AL
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