Leeds United: Brian McDermott - the full press conference

Brian McDermott at the press conference at Thorp Arch. PIC: Steve Riding
Brian McDermott at the press conference at Thorp Arch. PIC: Steve Riding
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Read the transcript from Brian McDermott’s press conference in full.

Q: Brian, the last time I was sitting here, you were looking ahead to the game against Huddersfield and then everything seemed to go a little awry. What’s the timeline since then? What went on?

BM: A little awry? I’m not sure about that. What’s gone on? I got a phone call Friday night from the football club, from Chris Farnell, to say I’d been relieved of my duties and there was a letter on its way to me. That was that. Saturday morning I got another phone call from GFH to say that wasn’t the case and a couple of statements came out as you’ve seen. Obviously I’ve been speaking to the LMA and Paul Gilroy QC and we’ve now got to the stage where I’m sat here again.

Q: To be honest, on Friday evening was there any way you could anticipate that you would be sitting here again?

BM: Probably not. And the reason I’m sitting here is that I’ve been reinstated for one. But this is Leeds United and I’m Leeds United manager. I want to be Leeds United manager. I’ve spoken to a lot of people in the game, a lot of really important people, that have said ‘you shouldn’t go back.’ But if you saw the support that the team got, the staff got, on Saturday and personally the support I got, it was incredible. Nigel Gibbs proved what a class act he is, the way he conducted himself on Saturday. The way the players played, our captain scoring a hat-trick - and I know what a difficult time our captain has had over the last two or three days as well with everything leading up to the game. I have to say I was just completely proud of them. All the players, the staff, the fans. They all came together on Saturday and it was a fantastic day.

Q: Is that why you’re back?

BM: Yes. That’s why I’m back. The fans proved that they’re a class act. It’s their football club and that’s the most important thing. This football club doesn’t belong to anyone but the fans. It has to be said that whoever eventually takes this football club on has to have those people first and foremost in their minds. Nothing else matters.

Q: It’s been a mess, hasn’t it? A terrible mess.

BM: It’s been difficult - very, very difficult. For me personally it’s been difficult. It’s been difficult for the staff and the players but that performance on Saturday, that tells you everything you need to know. The most important thing for us, Leeds United, is to come together and move forward.

Q: If it was Massimo Cellino that sacked you on Friday, he may yet become the owner of the club as we sit here now. We don’t know. You could end up in the same place, could you not?

BM: No idea. That’s for the future. As far as I’m concerned I spoke to David Haigh, GFH, and Salem Patel today and they’re the owners of the football club. Now obviously I’ve had certain reassurances about my position, the running of the football club, all football matters - that’s down to me. Whoever is going to be the owner in the future, I do not know.

Q: So there’s still a question make, isn’t there? Until that issue is resolved, there will be that question mark?

BM: We don’t know who the new owners are going to be yet. That’s obviously how it is at this moment in time. I don’t know, certainly, and all I’d do is speculate. And there’s no point in me speculating. There’s been enough of that.

Q: But the football club needs that, we saw that on Saturday with the out-pouring of emotion, the players’ reaction. The football club doesn’t need another weekend like that does it, no matter what the result was?

BM: Whatever happens, we don’t need another day like we’ve had. We need some calm and we need this place to be going in the right direction and I have to say that since April, since I’ve come in, until this time it’s been going in the right direction. There’s absolutely no doubt about that in my mind. We had 31,000 people turn up for that game on Saturday and that tells you what Leeds United fans are like. That tells you everything you need to know.

Q: Massimo Cellino put out a statement on Saturday evening saying he actually did want you as the manager. Did that have any impact in terms of your thinking at all?

BM: Not really. The most important thing for me was the fans, Leeds United and being the manager. That’s the only thing I was thinking off. It would have been very, very easy for me to walk away and that would have been the advice of an awful lot of people. But in my mind, there was no way I was ever going to be walking away from this job. Why would you walk away from being Leeds United manager? It just doesn’t make any sense. All it’s done is given me more drive, the staff more drive, the players more drive and all of us coming together with the fans.

Q: Is your position more secure now than it was on Friday lunchtime when we sat here, or less secure?

BM: I’ve no idea. I can’t answer that question because you don’t know. The most important thing in football is winning games but obviously when I was brought to the football club I signed a three-year deal and we spoke, GFH the owners of the club and myself, about this long-term vision that we were trying to have - where we need to go and the stability that has to be had at a football club. For me that hasn’t changed.

Q: Were you angry on Friday night?

BM: No. What’s the point? No point. I was calm. The only thing I was thinking on Friday night was to get a result. What happened, the team was changed. I set the team up on Friday morning, the team that you saw play on the Saturday. It was changed overnight. We then changed the team back, Nigel Gibbs took the team, he did a fantastic job with Neil Redfearn and we won the game. That was the only thing was on my mind really - that we try to win the game. I was obviously upset that I’d lost my job but you would be. But then Saturday came and I was just thinking about the game.

Q: Given the speed at which things have changed over the last 72 hours, could you predict with any degree of confidence that you’ll actually be manager for the trip to Yeovil on Saturday?

BM: Once again, speculation. I can’t answer that question. It’s just about moving forward the best way we possibly can and putting this to bed, put what’s happened to bed. The ownership needs to be resolved very, very quickly.

Q: Brian, you must have had legal advice over the weekend. What happened to you on Friday night - from your understanding, was that illegal?

BM: Well I suppose. Whether it was illegal or not I don’t know but whoever sacks the manager has to own the football club.

Q: You talked about assurances. Can you elaborate on what sort of assurances you have been given?

BM: Basically I’m responsible for all football matters at the club. Nobody will be invited to the dug-out, the dressing room or speak with the players unless the manager okays it. Assurances about who the owners are and I’ve been given assurances that I answer to GFH and GFH only. And when the football club does change hands, I’m given assurances of who that’s going to be.

Q: Nothing surprises you in football, it won’t surprise you. But what are your personal feelings about what’s happened to you over the last 48 hours or so?

BM: My personal feelings are that I want to be Leeds United manager. That’s it. First and foremost. Nothing else matters. That hasn’t changed, it hasn’t changed, and I have to say the support I’ve received personally has been fantastic. I had a really good owner at Reading, Sir John Madejski, he did a fantastic job and I worked with him for a long time. What we need is that kind of person where we have that stability, we work together and we all go in the same direction. I certainly had that in my time at Reading and I hope to have it in my time at Leeds.

Q: Brian, where were you Saturday afternoon?

BM: Watching Sky Sports.

Q: Just if you can in a bit more detail, go through what happened on Friday night - the change of events as you saw it.

BM: That was it. I got a phone call from Chris Farnell to say that my contract was to be terminated, I was to receive a letter. That was it. Neil Redfearn had rung me to say he was going to go to the ground and meet up with Gianluca Festa. I think the team was changed from the one that I picked. Neil came out and told me that and I told him that I’d been sacked. We went into Saturday, I got a phone call from GFH, a statement came out about the ownership going to an Italian consortium. And then another statement came out later on to say I was manager of Leeds United. I that saw for the first time on my Ipad which was interesting. That was it really. Now we’ve got to this stage here. Obviously I’ve been speaking to Richard Bevan (of the LMA) and Paul Gilroy and we’ve been discussing stages. They’ve been very good theLMA, I have to say. We’re now at this stage where I’m back.

Q: Did you, when you were speaking to Chris Farnell the lawyer, know who he was acting for at the time. Was it clear to you that it was Mr Cellino that was giving you the bullet?

BM: I would imagine so.

Q: Because at some point you must have thought ‘this is dodgy now’. When did you realise that there was no way this should have been allowed to happen?

BM: Well all along you think ‘that’s very, very odd.’ You have to be the owner of the football club to bring players to the club and sack the manager I would suggest. I did think it was very strange to say the least.

Q: So what happens now for you?

BM: We train tomorrow, we trained today, and we trained really well. We prepare the team for Saturday and we try to get a result against Yeovil, that’s it.

Q: And over the weekend, the advice that you’ve taken, can you describe what that was like? Because there may have been those saying ‘no, don’t go back, it’s going to be the same within a week.’

BM: Some big people in the game have said that to me, to not go back. But how can I not go back after what happened on Saturday? How can I not go back. There’s no way that I would leave the staff I’ve got, the players I’ve got or the supporters. It just doesn’t bear thinking about for me. My job now is to get a result and that’s what we’re trying to between now and the end of the season. That’s the most important thing for me. But the bigger picture is this club, the stability of this club moving forward. That’s what I was put in this position for - to stabilise us and move us forward.

Q: As it stands, Gianluca Festa, Mr Cellino - are any of them around at the moment, are people still trying to get involved in any way?

BM: Gianluca Festa was at the training ground this morning. We have an Italian player. I’m not sure if the deal has been ratified with the Football League so that’s still kind of ongoing as far as the player’s concerned.

Q: He’s not your player though, is he?

BM: I don’t know the player. The player came on transfer deadline day. Whether it’s going to be ratified by the Football League I still don’t know. Now obviously if the player has been ratified at the Football League he’ll get the utmost respect and an opportunity - if we feel he’s a player who can help us.

Q: Has anybody described to you just how much the fans were signing your name?

BM: Yes, it was just incredible. Absolutely incredible. Nigel Gibbs said so. He said it was an amazing atmosphere, at 1-0 down the fans were still behind the players and the group and I have to say Nigel was absolutely class, the way he conducted himself. He’s a genuine person, a genuine friend, and I was delighted that we got that result. That was the team we’d been working on during the week. We’re really happy, really happy with the result.

Q: It is your team, the biggest win Leeds have had in your time. How disappointing was it not to be there and see it in person?

BM: I wasn’t disappointed. There are lots of things you can disappointed with. You can be disappointed with every day if you like. That’s not my style and I don’t hold grudges, I’m not disappointed with people. People are doing their best, whatever you think about them. The most important thing is that the Leeds fans showed absolute class on Saturday and they have do for a long period of time.

Q: There’s talk of a joint bid coming in now. You know a lot of people that have been involved in the club. What would you like to happen? What’s the best for Brian McDermott and his team?

BM: What’s the best for Leeds United. That’s the most important thing. Whatever happens, what’s best for Leeds United and our fans is the only thing I’m concerned about. Nothing else.

Q: Do you feel let down about the whole episode?

BM: It would be easy to sit here and say I’m let down and start blaming people. I would suggest that this situation should never happen to a football manager or to staff or to players. It shouldn’t and it’s not right. Let’s hope it never happens again.

Q: Did you actually receive the letter they sent?

BM: No

Q: So it was just a verbal conversation?

BM: A conversation on a telephone, the letter would come out. I believe the letter was written and signed.

Q: The current owners have said you’re still our manager and always have been. Have they told you up to a point because they want the sale to go through with Cellino? Have they said ‘after that, we’re out of it?’

BM: No they haven’t. All they’ve said to me is that I speak to them, I answer to them, I run the football business at the football club. That’s basically where we are. What comes in the future I don’t know. We’re still up in the air as far as that’s concerned. There’s still talks and there’s rumours about rumours. There’s been a lot of speculation about all sorts of things, so as far as the ownership’s concerned, it’s still to be settled I’d imagine.

Q: Hearing your captain on television on Friday night must have been a surreal experience.

BM: He’s been phenomenal, Ross McCormack has become and is a real leader with what he’s had to go through for a period of time. To play like that and put on a performance like that. He nearly came off after half an hour. He had real pain in his head, no-one knew that, but he wouldn’t have come off. You’ve got to admire him for what he’s doing for Leeds United.

Q: Do you feel that the current owners have confidence in you, GFH?

BM: I’ve no idea. I’ve got confidence in me, I’ve got confidence in the players and confidence in the staff. That’s the most important thing for me. Everything else is not an issue.

Q: Because they’ve given you assurances but the question is, do you believe those assurances?

BM: I’ve got assurances written down. I needed that.

Q: Have you had any conversations with Gianluca Festa.

BM: I spoke to him once, early on when he first came over. Not since.

Q: Have you spoken to Cellino at all?

BM: Once.

Q: Can you say what he said to you?

BM: I was in there for an hour. We were just talking about football and stuff like that.

Q: You said people suggested to you that you should walk away. Was there one particular voice other than your own thoughts that you’ve expressed? Was there anyone who said stick with it and go for it?

BM: Yeah. But not too many. For me it would have been easy to do that (walk away). It’s the easy thing to do. You do have your thoughts but I wasn’t interested in doing that. I want to be Leeds United manager.

Q: If Mr Cellino does take over, would you be willing to keep working as Leeds manager?

BM: It’s all speculation. Who knows who’s going to take over? At the moment it’s all up in the air still and until GFH tell me that there’s a new owner in place, I work for GFH.

Q: You said that a manager shouldn’t be put in this situation. What do you think this says generally about football. Do you think the Football League should do due diligence on the type of people that own clubs?

BM: Forget the situation we’ve got going on now. There’s absolutely no doubt that the Football League have got to get that right. Because that’s a duty of care. Now I’m not commenting on our position, I’m talking about in

general. That’s one of the most important decisions that the Football League will take. It’s so important that they get that right and do their due diligence, and that the right people run football clubs.

Q: Do you worry about what’s happening?

BM: This is 2014 and I know that a lot of the time in the last three weeks I’ve not been talking about football. I’m managing other situations and other things. The manager needs to be fresh to think about football and talk about football. If I’m absolutely honest, that hasn’t been the case.

Q: Do you think this has the potential to be a watershed moment?

BM: I hope so. I hope so. I really think that it could be. Especially for this club, it needs to be. We need to get this place right back on track.

Q: On a positive note, what was the reaction of the players when you walked in this morning?

BM: “Have a good weekend?” “What you done this weekend?” Watched you lot on the telly. They were great. I got a lot of texts. The staff came in and they were pleased to see me. That’s because I always pay for the meal at Christmas.

Q: You said you can’t guarantee you’ll be there at the weekend. How do you work with that hanging over you?

BM: I can’t guarantee it. Nobody can. No manager can guarantee anything in this day and age. That’s what you work under. I don’t take that personally, that’s how it is. We all work under these situations and look at the amount of managers who go. I just conduct myself day-to-day, live my life, do my best.

Q: Were the LMA important?

BM: Massively. Richard Bevan and Paul Gilroy have been really supportive. The LMA needs to be listened to because they’re a very good organisation.

Q: Listen to in terms of what’s happening to managers?

BM: Yes.

Q: You don’t know what’s around the corner but in some sort of perverse way, can you, the staff and the players use this as a galvanising force?

BM: We’ve got what hardly any club has got - a machine behind us. You’ve seen that reaction from our fans. They want what’s best for our football club. They believe passionately. They’re different. At a lot of clubs, not to many would have turned up on Saturday. But 31,000 turned up, screaming the roof down. At 1-0 down they were still getting behind the players. There’s a real siege mentality.

Q: What’s it like emotionally listening when they were chanting?

BM: That’s a tough question. You can’t walk away from that. You can’t walk away from that feeling. Can you imagine when we start winning every week what this place is going to be like? That’s my only vision. It’s my only vision for this club, when we start winning all the time with those fans behind us.

Q: Has anyone explained to you why it was that Cellino thought he had the authority to sack you? What happened to make him think he could phone you and say you’re no longer manager?

BM: I’ve no idea. No idea. I don’t know the answer. All I’m doing here is stating the facts of everything that happened from my point of view.

Q: Do you know if the sponsors are back on board?

BM: I’ve no idea. I’ve read reports that two have pulled out, whether they’re back on board or not I really don’t know. Obviously you don’t want to lose main sponsors. But that’s between the sponsors and GFH.

Q: Might you have walked away in different circumstances on Saturday? Say if 15,000 had turned up, it was a bit flat and no-one was bothered either way?

BM: It wasn’t like that. You can only deal in the facts. But if there was 15,000 there then I’ve still got the privilege of being Leeds United manager. That doesn’t change.

Q: When did you speak to Cellino?

BM: I first met him last week I think.

Q: But since Friday night you’ve not spoken to him?

BM: No.

Q: He said in his quotes that he tried to call you. If he tried to get in touch would you speak to him?

BM: I’ve spoken to GFH. GFH are my owners. They’re the people that I speak to.

Q: What do you know about this Italian player who’s come in?

BM: I think he’s from Cagliari.

Q: Cellino’s brought him in, presumably?

BM: Yes.

Q: He’s unlikely to have much of a future then?

BM: I don’t know.

Q: Did he train today?

BM: No. He turned up but it’s not been ratified by the Football League yet so if it does, like I say, he’ll get the utmost respect like all the players do. Because that’s the right and proper thing to do.

Q: Were you surprised by how strong the reaction was from the fans because it’s not been a good five or six weeks?

BM: They believe passionately in their football club. They deserve an awful lot. They’re proper people and I’ve said that from the day I arrived here. I’m from the south. These are proper people, absolutely. They know what they want and they know what’s right.

Q: Some transfer business had been set up before the deadline. Can any of that be revived?

BM: Possibly. I have to say I feel a bit sorry for three players here who were going to go out and play. That didn’t happen and they were victims of circumstance.

Q: Luke Varney is obviously one. He’s in a difficult position now, isn’t he?

BM: Everything is retrievable. Nothing’s irretrievable. That’s the same with Luke. Luke’s still a Leeds United player and it’s important to move on, whether you make mistakes or not. We all make mistakes. Nothing irretrievable. He’s a good man and he’s trying to do what’s best for him and his family, like we’re all trying to do. I’m sure that Leeds fans, if he puts on that shirt again, will give him respect and it’s the right thing because he’s got a Leeds jersey on.

Q: At what exact point were you reinstated in that timeline?

BM: I actually don’t know. You could probably say I was reinstated when the statement came out to say I was reinstated as Leeds manager. What time was that? Half four on the Saturday. Personally I still wasn’t sure. Then obviously we had a lot of stuff going on last night and I suppose just being back now and sitting here...this morning I reckon, about nine o’clock.

Q: Have you had phone calls from other managers?

BM: Yeah, great support. Lots of players, lots of manager, lost of people in the game. Journalists and stuff ringing me. I apologise for not returning any calls by the way.

Q: Who was the first person you rang about the situation?

BM: I spoke to Pat (Dolan, McDermott’s advisor). He looks after me. We just had a chat and I said ‘I’ve been sacked.’ He went silent for two minutes. I thought he’d crashed the car.

Q: How brief was the phone call on Friday night? Did you ask for any clarification about where this was coming from or why?

BM: No. All he said was that there was a letter on the way to my address. The secretary Ali (Royston) had asked what my address was. I didn’t know actually. I didn’t.

Q: What happened to the letter than?

BM: I don’t know.

Q: Lost in the post?

BM: I don’t know. I haven’t got it. It might be there when I get back.

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