BEN MANSFORD says he will leave Leeds United “in awe” of the club’s fans – and convinced that 2016-17 will prove the foundation for a Whites return to the “very top”.
Mansford will leave his role as Whites chief executive on May 31 with co-owner Andrea Radrizzani having been keen to recruit West Ham United managing director Angus Kinnear whom he has worked with before.
But Radrizzani has been deeply impressed with Mansford since his arrival from Barnsley last summer – offering the former Tyke new roles at the club in a bid to make him stay – and Mansford has spoken highly about United upon his departure.
Mansford joined the Whites from Barnsley in June 2016, playing a key role by assisting in the process to bring investment to Elland Road in the form of new co-owner Radrizzani.
Radrizzani currently owns 50 per cent of the club alongside fellow co-owner Massimo Cellino but Radrizzani is expected to complete a 100 per cent buy-out of the Whites next week.
And Mansford is confident that the Whites are on their way back to the promised land of the Premier League, despite falling short of the Championship’s – play-off places having looked certain to finish in the top six.
“I feel that once the dust settles, the history books will show this season was the start of the club’s journey back to the Premier League,” said Mansford. “Not only did this season bring together a team of players that the fans could unite behind but you secured a proper and truly appropriate new custodian of Leeds United in Andrea.
“I would like to start by saying a huge thank-you to Garry Monk, his backroom staff and all the players who have represented Leeds United during this season. It is a very special group which has reconnected with the fans and followed Garry in to battle every week.”
Mansford joined the club in June but the chief executive looked on as United took just two points from their first three league games. But the subsequent 2-0 success at Sheffield Wednesday is one the outgoing chief executive will always remember.
In an outgoing letter to the club’s fans, Mansford recalled: “We have enjoyed some incredible highs together over the past season, none more so than at Hillsborough in September when we saw the first signs of everything coming together and Brighton at home when you showed that on your day you can beat anyone in this division.”
Mansford has also consistently praised United’s fan base during this season’s programme notes and saved the biggest praise for them.
He added: “I would like to say my biggest thank you to the supporters of Leeds United – you have left me in awe at times this season. You have travelled up and down the country in huge numbers and made Elland Road a fortress again.
“I sincerely believe the foundations have now been laid to allow this club to go back to where you belong and deserve to be – the very top.”