Leeds United: The more things change, the more they stay the same

Kyle Oliver Hulme gives us the low-down on what’s going on with sack happy Leeds United at Elland Road…

Since I last wrote, Leeds have sacked a manager, lost a few games and had more details about past, present and potentially future owners emerge.

You’ll have to forgive me if it sounds like I’m repeating myself – it’s just that Leeds United seem to exist in a Groundhog Day-like world where events seem bound to repeat themselves unless the protagonist changes the way they go about their business. But try telling that to Massimo Cellino.

Darko Milanic was sacked after just 32 days in charge of Leeds. He left behind his family, his successful team and bought a one way ticket to Leeds – literally. And as one might expect, being the third manager of the season already in the month of September, he found it difficult to motivate the squad and get them to play his way.

One of the key aspects, if not the defining aspect, of what made Manchester United such a dominant force was that continuity and harmonisation of the playing and coaching squad. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United won when they looked beaten, and triumphed at times when you’d look at their squad and wonder how they did it. The players played for the fans, for one another and for the manager.

This isn’t necessarily an argument to suggest that we should have kept Milanic longer; despite me appealing for this in my last column it was apparent that, after failing to hold leads in games and seeing one too many second-half capitulation, something needed to be done to halt our rapid descent towards the relegation zone. Instead, this is more of an appeal – which may well fall upon death ears – to stick with Neil Redfearn for the foreseeable future.

Redfearn knows Leeds inside out; he knows what the fans want, he knows the players better than anyone and he showed in his brief stint as caretaker boss that he knows how to win, and win well. His work with the academy has been outstanding, nurturing Lewis Cook well enough to see him win silverware with England earlier this year and ensuring he was aptly prepared for this Championship campaign in which he’s blossomed. He also saw over the development of Sam Byram and Alex Mowatt, the latter of whom has scored three goals in two games, including two stunning efforts into the top corner on Tuesday, and has been called up to the England under-20 squad to face Canada and Portugal.

It’s a weird situation to be in, actively willing the best person for the job not to get it because you don’t want them to be sacked after just a few weeks. Redfearn is more than just our manager; seeing him gone would leave a gaping hole in the academy too, especially since Richard Naylor was unceremonially binned by Cellino in the summer.

With Berardi looking ever the liability at right back, Bellusci error-prone and Bianchi looking jaded in the middle, it will be interesting to see what action Redfearn takes towards Cellino’s influence in team selection; will he stick with Cellino’s signings or involve the academy graduates he knows so well? The likes of Charlie Taylor and Chris Dawson know that under Redfearn they won’t be far from first-team involvement, with both making the bench on Tuesday night, and hungry players are exactly what Leeds need at this moment in time.

In terms of Cellino and ownership of the club, nothing is ever simple. Increasingly under pressure to buy the stadium back after having said he would, Cellino dropped the bombshell that he was currently unable to do so because GFH – the club’s previous owners – have yet to sign an agreement made between the two that would see debt owed to the bank reduced. Yet GFH refute this, saying there is no truth in his comments, and counter-claim that Cellino has been trying to renegotiate the terms on which he bought the club.

This scandal emerged after fans entertained rumours of a potential sale to Red Bull – the idea of which, falling so close to Halloween, was nothing short of horrifying. Despite Cellino moving quickly to quash the rumour, a concept of partial investment into either the academy or stadium has been floated around, yet this seems both at odds with Red Bull’s “all or nothing” approach and the Yorkshire Evening Post’s source, who maintains that Red Bull actually do want to add Leeds United to their portfolio. Regardless, with the Football League board to be updated on Cellino on Thursday, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.

It’s sad that this season is over pretty much already, and I’m sure fans are unhappy at constantly being told to “wait for next year”. But should Redfearn keep the job until the start of the next campaign, using this one to cement his philosophy, blood the youngsters and let the foreign recruits settle in, we could see something special next year. And what would be sweeter than seeing a host of locally produced boys climb to the summit of the league?

We can at least dream. We’ve had to.

Anti-social media

Twitter isn’t a nice place to be at the moment if you’re a Leeds fan. For starters, it’s boring as sin, with constant battles between “Celliebers” (the name given to those who worship the very ground Cellino stands on) and… well, the normal fans who praise him when it’s deserved and let him have it when he’s got something spectacularly wrong – you know, like being on your fourth manager in just October, selling your 42-goal strike force and being generally a pretty shady character.

I mean, someone actually tweeted me saying “unfollowed” after I dared to criticise Bellusci (I called him BelluSHIT, which is fair enough given that he’s playing as though he followed Marius Zaliukas’ lead and starting playing games not sober). Between this, a series of “the Football League is corrupt” tweets. The only redeeming thing on Twitter now for Leeds fan is @EAMOV1’s series of photoshops, in which he’s releasing a picture a day until Redfearn’s dismissal of every potential Leeds manager, from Max and Paddy to Ned Flanders. I hope Ash Ketchum is next…


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