Leeds fan Kyle Hulme gives his take on the sorry state of affairs at Elland Road…
In an act that is the culmination of a dark week in the history of Leeds United, Brian McDermott has been sacked as manager of the club, leaving fans angry, bemused and already planning a boycott of future games.
Despite Leeds’ form over the last couple of months, fans have been quick to jump to the defence of the man whom many thought would be the one to bring stability and success back to the club. Yet his dismissal follows a farcical week at the club, in which prospective new owner Massimo Cellino – the current owner of Cagliari – took former Middlesbrough players and current Lumezzane manager Gianluca Festa around Thorpe Arch, the clubs training ground, and even asked if he could sit on the bench during Leeds’ midweek game against Ipswich Town.
Cellino is expected at any moment to secure a 75% stakehold in the club, at a figure rumoured to be around £22m. This is regardless of staunch opposition to the takeover from the vast majority of fans and the Leeds United Supporters Trust. The Italian has convictions of fraud and embezzlement centered around his construction of the Is Arena, which was proposed to be a new stadium for Cagliari, but irregularities surrounding the building of the ground has seen his club play games hundreds of miles away from the city of Cagliari, on mainland Italy.
Up until a week or so ago ownership of Leeds United looked set to be passed on to Sports Capital, a group spearheaded by current managing director David Haigh and containing wealthy backers such as Andrew Flowers, the owner of Enterprise Insurance. However, life-long Leeds fan Flowers recently announced he was withdrawing his interest in the club. Flowers claimed that due to “a number of things” that arose during the due diligence period he submitted a revised offer for the club, that was then rejected by current owners GFH, and Haigh’s courtship of Cellino is thought to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, with Flower’s saying that it would “not be in the best interests of the club”. Rumours quickly circulated that the club were currently being propped up on loan payments, and that there was a big chance that both playing and non-playing staff members were at risk of not being paid, until Ross McCormack tweeted that he has been paid on time.
On the field, Cellino’s tenure as Cagliari chairman has been a relative success, seeing the Sardinian club establish themselves as a mid-table Serie A side and even reach a UEFA Cup semi-final. But his frequent firing of managers – 36 in two decades – coupled with his shady background was immediately a red flag to many fans who do not want to go through another Ken Bates-esque period at the club. The appalling treatment and eventual sacking of McDermott, a day before a crunch game with local rivals Huddersfield Town, is unlikely to further endear Cellino to the fans, with many on the internet already calling for protests and marches against his ownership. Many already started emailing the Football League in opposition to Cellino, citing the fact that he is unlikely to pass the fit and proper person test – a scenario which saw him curtail his interest in Crystal Palace and West Ham – though he is expected to get around this by working through his son Ercole, who has also been shown around the city and Elland Road.
Fans are calling for Mike Farnan, a man who has previously worked for Manchester United and Sunderland, to try and salvage his bid for the club but it seems too late in the day for this to happen. Farnan claims to have been ready to buy since July but has never been the primary interest of GFH, with a £7m offer for the club earlier in the season deemed as “risible”. Farnan’s group, which goes by the name of “Together Leeds”, has the support of the Leeds United Supporters Trust (LUST) and contains “credible Yorkshire and football people” who have the interests of the local community and rebuilding of the club at heart, according to a statement in an email from LUST.
Whatever the outcome of the takeover, Leeds fans are wondering why it’s always them. The next couple of weeks are going to be interesting for Leeds United but, as is often the case, for all the wrong reasons.