Here is a piece I wrote for Leeds United blog Lee Champan’s Sofa. Even though it’s a couple of weeks old, it is more relevant than ever as more and more fans voice their support for Massimo Cellino.
For a group of supporters famed for living on past glories, a lot of Leeds fans have demonstrated very short memories over the past two weeks. The U turn that many supporters have made is extremely worrying for those of us that haven’t forgotten. Less than two weeks ago hundreds protested outside Elland Road, 30,000 of us sang Brian McDermott’s name for 90 minutes and even more voiced their anger at the way Massimo Cellino and GFH had treated the manager, the fans and the club. Here we are, just days later, with an ownership structure looming compromising of every single party guilty of this latest mess we’re in. Yet a worrying amount of fans seem content and willing to “give Cellino a chance”.
I’m well aware that the Italian’s arrival is inevitable, but he has some serious questions to answer before anyone should even think about welcoming him. For those of you struggling to remember the facts about Massimo Cellino, let’s revisit them. Warning: You’re about to read things you already know.
1. He’s a twice convicted fraudster.
This should be enough to put anybody off. Apparently not. Neither GFH or apparently the Football League deem Cellino to be an unsuitable person to take control of a football club. Leeds United fans also seem prepared to overlook this fact provided he puts some money into the club (don’t count on that by the way).
2. He has current legal issues.
After financing the illegal development of Cagliari’s current ground, Cellino could yet face further legal battles. Fit and proper indeed.
3. He sacked Brian McDermott.
Remember how angry we all were when he illegally (that word’s cropped up a few times now hasn’t it?) fired our manager?
4. He lied about sacking Brian McDermott.
He then backtracked quicker than a Leeds fan on hearing a prospective owner has money. There are texts and documents which prove Cellino ordered McDermott to be sacked, yet he passed the blame on to GFH, calling them cowards. GFH’s key members are now part of a group that are in cahoots with Cellino going forward to take over the club. You couldn’t make it up.
5. He has forced players on McDermott.
Andrea Tabanelli is a player McDermott knew nothing about but one that that was brought into the club nonetheless. Imagine if McDermott hadn’t have been reinstated and Gianluca Festa was put in charge for the Huddersfield game. Would he have tried to play this unratified player? That would have been, you guessed it, illegal.
6. He is still trying to get Festa into the club.
He said that he didn’t want Festa as manager and that he was just there as a translator. So why did he try to get him in the dugout? He then claimed the reason he was hanging round Thorp Arch was to chaperone Tabanelli , so then why is McDermott talking about working with him in the future? Expect him as manager soon.
7. He has hired 36 managers in 20 years
Yes, yes, we’ve all heard the statistic. In fact we’ve all heard every single fact I’ve just listed dozens of times. So why do a large group of Leeds fans think that this man will be a success at Leeds United?
We keep using this term “short-termism” on this blog, and for good reason. For us to be truly successful in the long term, McDermott has to stay. He came in with the primary aim of stablising the club. He began by reforming structures from the ground up, addressing an ailing scouting system and training facilities. He has only just began to get his feet under the table and was promised a fair crack of the whip in the transfer market this January begin to assemble a squad that may one day be capable of promotion.
Unfortunately, he was lied to. The first in a long line of lies. No money was given to him to bring in players he wanted. He has been forced to settle for free transfers and loans, primary targets of his were blocked and opportunities were allowed to pass him by as the owners let him down. For anybody doubting McDermott’s ability as a manager, you have to look at the squad he was left with and the funds he has been provided to realise he is a man operating under extremely difficult circumstances.
Leeds fans looking for a quick fix to our current situation need to get smart. There isn’t one. If you think Cellino has a solution, you will do well to look at the impact he has had on the club already. He doesn’t strike me as a man that is capable of getting things done smoothly. Cellino’s track record proves he is the complete antithesis of long term solution, and a man that we should all be wary of.
The term “foreign owner” has become synonymous with big bucks and cash splashing. Not every club is blessed in the way that Chelsea and Manchester City have been though, as “foreign owners”, while associated with success, are also capable of destroying a club’s identity.
Examples in recent seasons include the Cardiff City Reds and The Hull Stripey Tigers. I’m sure every single fan of each of those clubs were thrilled to take up their place in the Premier League this season, however there have been protests by supporters at both clubs since their promotions. The sacking of McDermott was eerily similar to the sacking of Malky MacKay and any successes those clubs have experienced are completely overlooked by the chaos caused and the steps they have taken to achieve them.
We don’t just need to get promoted, we need to be steadied and made self sufficient to avoid complete collapse again. Just consider the type of people taking over the club and ask yourself, “can they provide stability”? If you concluded that yes, you think they can, please scroll up and read this piece again.
Read this article and more on Lee Chapman’s Sofa.
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