Fresh start: With the club’s ownership finally settled the United manager is keen to get back to what he knows best – football. Leon Wobschall reports.
AMID the FULL gamut of emotions that Brian McDermott has gone through in a tortuous spell in charge of Leeds United at times this calendar year, one currently sticks out. Embarrassment.
United’s punch-drunk fans have been left reeling on the ropes following countless blows so far in a crazy 2014, suffering a fair amount of ridicule from rival supporters in the process.
McDermott has also copped a fair few hits, with United’s on-pitch decline an open sore and something he is feeling.
Saturday’s post-match developments provided the equivalent of smelling salts being administered to an ailing patient if the reaction of the majority of United fans following the decision to overturn a Football League decision to ban Massimo Cellino from buying United and clear the way for his takeover was anything to go by.
The clarity that McDermott had been calling for on the ownership front was also finally afforded him, with his sense of relief not too long after the final whistle of Saturday’s clash at Wigan being palpable.
It remains to be seen if the 52-year-old, who celebrates his first anniversary in charge of United on Saturday when the club host Blackpool, will be a lasting part of Cellino’s brave new world.
But for the time being there is respite at a line being drawn in the sand regarding the takeover saga and a chance to be judged on purely results and with no, or fewer, distractions.
Which is all McDermott ever wanted and while United’s run in 2014 has been of the relegation form, he remains convinced he can manufacture a major upturn in his own fortunes and his side’s, given time and a level playing field.
Rest assured, he is keeping fighting.
Now more than ever and despite his amount of credit with sections of the United support having diminished by virtue of a wretched run of results which has left him wounded, regardless of some serious factors in mitigation, McDermott is no quitter.
He said: “It’s a highlight to be Leeds United manager, there’s absolutely no doubt about that.
“To be a manager of a great club with great supporters. Every time we travel away, it’s a highlight. My overriding feeling at the moment is that you are embarrassed when you don’t win games.
“That’s how you feel as a manager and it’s not pleasant.
“Now we have got an opportunity for the club to move forward in the summer and get to where we need to. I’m sure there will be changes and we’ll see what happens.
“I (just) have that sense of relief that we have a new owner. It’s clear and I am absolutely delighted about that.
“There’s no doubt about it that it’s a great club to be manager of, no matter what anybody might say. Even though all the stuff what has happened over a period of time for me, at no point have I ever wavered.
“And while I am manager, I will never wavering in wanting to be the best and do the best we can for Leeds.
“There’s a sign behind the goal at Elland Road that says: ‘Keep Fighting’ and I see that. That’s what we’ve got to do – the players, supporters, staff. That’s the only game in town as far as I am concerned.”
Cellino’s show of support for McDermott yesterday was a timely one as far as he was concerned, but equally he knows he requires results to give himself a fighting chance to ensure his stay at Leeds is anything like a lasting one.
Now it’s about channelling the hurt he has been feeling regarding United’s woeful results sequence into somehow orchestrating a renaissance between now and early May.
But don’t think for one minute, that his self-belief has been irreparably dented.
He said: “Obviously, we had all the ownership situations coming on, which has definitely affected everything. But as manager, you take responsibility for the run of results.
“I have never had a run of results like this in my life.
“But I know I can achieve promotion from this league because it has happened; I’ve done it and I’ve got to a play-off final.
“With the support of the owner, I know it is do-able. I know it might sound like hollow words at this moment because of the recent record, but without a doubt I know it’s do-able because I’ve done it.”
He added: “You are always judged on results. I don’t care what anyone says; history won’t change.
“They won’t say that there was actually a bit of turmoil between January and April, so those results don’t count. They definitely count.
“I am hurting and we are all hurting as we want to get results.
“There’s been a lot of mitigating circumstances, but you don’t like to talk about it as it looks like you are making excuses.”
Working with Cellino represents something that McDermott intends embracing despite the chaotic start to their relationship on January 31, with having a chance to prove himself all he is after.
He added: “I think he (Cellino) understands the game.
“He’s had 22 years at his club in Italy and I think he wants a fresh challenge and is coming in for the challenge.
“I hope he becomes one of the most successful owners in our history because if he does, it will mean we have been promoted.
“Generally, what is required to get out of this league is what you will see in the teams who get promoted this year ie Burnley and Leicester and a Derby or a Wigan.
“I don’t think it has changed in the Championship over a 10-year period.
“It’s definitely a blueprint for success.
“I know what that blueprint is but we haven’t got it yet.
“But with clout and the right owner in Massimo coming in and doing it the right way, I’d say we have every chance.”