Charlton’s involvement in the fa cup has come at just about the right time for leeds united and brian mcdermott. Phil Hay reports.
Brian McDermott has welcomed the opportunity to draw breath and “recharge batteries” this weekend, admitting the strain of the uncertainty at Leeds United is taking its toll on him.
McDermott said the postponement of United’s game at home to Charlton Athletic – moved from Saturday due to Charlton’s involvement in the FA Cup – had come at a good time as he and his squad waited for news of Massimo Cellino’s takeover.
The former Reading manager has experienced a gruelling and unprecedented month at Elland Road, sacked illegally by Cellino two weeks ago and forced to contend with confusion and problems caused by the protracted change of ownership at Leeds.
Cellino, the Italian president of Serie A club Cagliari, reached an agreement with United owner Gulf Finance House on January 31 and exchanged contracts with the Bahraini bank last week after making the first of several staggered payments due as part of a £25m buy-out.
The 57-year-old agricultural magnate is awaiting Football League approval of his deal and spoke with officials from the governing body in London yesterday. As yet the League has made no decision on whether to sanction his 75 per cent takeover and is believed to be waiting for all the necessary paperwork from Cellino and GFH.
Yesterday’s meeting – described by one source as “exploratory” rather than definitive – will be seen by Cellino as another step towards his acquisition of a majority stake in Leeds but McDermott revealed after United’s 1-0 defeat to Oscar Garcia’s Brighton on Tuesday that he had been given no timescale or likely date for completion of Cellino’s purchase.
He and Cellino have not spoken since the Italian attempted to dismiss him without authority on transfer deadline day – a decision GFH hastily revoked – but Cellino has talked about United’s boss with increasing positivity since trying to force a sacking which GFH subsequently described as a “misunderstanding”.
McDermott, however, has received no firm guarantee that he will remain as manager once Cellino’s takeover proceeds, and his uncertainty was evident again following a narrow but uninspired loss at The Amex Stadium.
Leeds do not play again until a week on Saturday when they make the short journey to Middlesbrough – the third of four straight away fixtures – and McDermott said: “The players need a bit of a rest. We’ll get them away from each other after everything that’s been going on.
“I need that too. I certainly feel that I do after everything that’s gone on. I need to recharge my batteries but I’ll come back re-energised and ready for Middlesbrough.
“It’s been difficult enough as you can imagine. As a football manager what you want to do is concentrate on football matters. That would be the same for any manager at any club. In the last 10 days or so – longer than that really – it hasn’t been the case for me. That hasn’t been the case in the last few weeks.”
Cellino did not attend United’s match at Brighton, despite flying in from his home from Miami in time to watch the game. McDermott said the Italian was unwell and Cellino remained in London overnight with his meeting with the Football League planned for yesterday. One of his sons was present at The Amex, alongside managing director David Haigh and club ambassador Peter Lorimer.
McDermott has spoken previously about the need for he and Cellino to talk openly and at length about their respective thoughts for the future at Elland Road but he indicated that those discussions could wait until Cellino is formally granted Football League approval and given permission to complete his buy-out of Leeds.
GFH effectively sold the club to Cellino six days ago but the bank is still officially the outright owner of United and McDermott is continuing to answer to the Bahraini firm as Cellino and the Football League work towards a resolution.
A rival group led by ex-Manchester United International managing director Mike Farnan, meanwhile, are continuing to hold out hope of forcing GFH into a sale of shares to them after asking the Football League to mediate between them.
The Together Leeds consortium made an unorthodox approach to the League for assistance after claiming that GFH was refusing to engage them in serious conversation or accept proof of funds. Farnan’s group have made few comments in public about the precise details of their proposal but claim they will match Cellino’s price.
McDermott said he was unclear about when he and Cellino might meet, saying: “I haven’t scheduled anything with him yet. He needed to meet the Football League.
“I think the most important thing is to know for certain who the new owner’s going to be. If you actually think about it, if the approval hasn’t come through then we need to wait and see who the new owner’s going to be. As it stands, it’s still GFH. But you know as much as I do. It’s all in the hands of the Football League and Mr Cellino and the sooner the better as far as I’m concerned. At the moment I’m just doing my job and doing what I’ve got to do – the training, the games. My future will take care of itself I’m sure.”
McDermott, who has allowed young midfielder Simon Lenighan to join non-league Halifax Town on a month’s loan, revealed that the situation at Elland Road and the anticipated change of ownership had prevented him from pursuing targets in the Football League’s emergency market.
“I would have wanted to sign two or three players that I’d earmarked,” he said. “Unfortunately they’ve gone.”