Leeds United: Nigel Gibbs wins six-figure compensation for unlawful dismissal

Nigel Gibbs.

Nigel Gibbs.

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Former Leeds United assistant manager Nigel Gibbs has won six-figure compensation for unlawful dismissal.

Mr Gibbs said his position at the club became untenable after controversial owner, Massimo Cellino, told him he “could do some cleaning work” at the training ground.

A personality clash with club manager, David Hockaday - himself since sacked - led to Mr Gibbs being demoted to working with under-18 and under-21 players.

And, although he was made to turn up for work when players were on holiday, he was given no jobs to do which matched his status, said Mr Justice Langstaff.

Mr Gibbs joined the club in April 2013 on a £200,000-a-year contract, but was there for only 15 months before his resignation, London’s High Court heard.

Today (April 28) the judge said Mr Gibbs was due £331,426 in damages after ruling that his treatment amounted to constructive unlawful dismissal.

Although he will have to give credit for bonuses paid by his new bosses at Tottenham Hotspur, Leeds also faces a huge legal costs bills.

The judge rejected United’s claim that former Watford FC player Mr Gibbs had “simply chosen” to leave his post, rather than being forced out.

Trouble developed when former club manager Brian McDermott, with whom Mr Gibbs had worked for years at Reading FC, left the club.

Mr Gibbs thought he would be given his marching orders along with his mentor, but was asked to stay on and his promotion to head coach was discussed.

He said he “felt loyalty” to Mr McDermott but was told to turn up for work at Elland Road in June 2014, although players were on holiday and there was little to do.

Mr Gibbs then learnt that his name was not on the list of club staff due to fly to Italy for pre-season training, the court heard.

And, when he asked Mr Cellino what he was supposed to do with himself, he said the owner told him “I could do some cleaning work at the training ground”.

He told the judge it was “quite obvious” that Mr Cellino no longer wanted him at Leeds.

Mr Hockaday was appointed on June 19 and the judge said his relationship with Mr Gibbs “was not a happy one”.

He disagreed with the new manager’s approach to the game and it “quickly became apparent” that neither of them “much cared” for working with the other.

After receiving what he believed was “a snub” from Mr Hockaday, Mr Gibbs said he was effectively demoted to “assisting” academy manager, Neil Redfearn.

The judge said the general picture was that Mr Gibbs was being “disengaged” from training and given no appropriate work to do.

He added that there was “uncontradicted evidence” that Mr Hockaday had “excluded” him from playing any meaningful part in first team training.

The crunch came on July 23, when Mr Gibbs received an email telling him to have no further contact or involvement with the first team.

He was ordered to confine himself to working with junior and non-first team players.

In a final showdown, Mr Hockaday told him that he “did not want him to be at the club”, the court heard.

Mr Gibbs wrote to Mr Cellino two days later, resigning with immediate effect. Mr Hockaday was himself sacked a month later.

Mr Cellino said he had approached Mr Gibbs in August, during a game at Watford, and asked him if he would return to Leeds as head coach.

But he refused, saying that he had first hand experience of how he had been treated by the club’s management and had no wish to return.

He “felt that his credibility with the players had been undermined by the actions of Leeds in sidelining him”, said the judge.

He added: “There is nothing inherently unreasonable about his approach in refusing the offer made to him by Mr Cellino in August.

“The way Leeds had acted towards him made it untenable for him to return, unless he wished to take the chance it would change its behaviour towards him.

“In my judgment he was not obliged to do so”.

It was the July 23 email which prompted his resignation and Mr Gibbs had since moved from Milwall to Tottenham, where he now has a permanent contract.

Mr Gibbs’ three-year contract with Leeds had been due to expire on June 30 this year.

And the judge ruled that his damages must be reduced to reflect any bonuses he receives from Tottenham for work done before that date.

After the case, Mr Gibbs said his claim was “undertaken as a last resort after having to endure several weeks of increasingly intolerable behaviour from a number of senior figures involved with the club”.

He added: “My hope is that the club will honour the decision of the court and that we can all move on.”