Business as usual, Steve Evans said today, but doubts about his future at Leeds United are growing again. Massimo Cellino routinely claims that he prefers not to sack managers, that doing so puts a heavy burden on the club’s wage bill, but as Cellino approaches his second anniversary as owner of Leeds, he is deciding the fate of head coach number six:
Brian McDermott (April 2014 - May 2014)
Record under Cellino: P6 W3 D1 L2
It could be said that McDermott worked under the shadow of Cellino for more than six games - in reality, from Mad Friday onwards - but the Italian did not persist with him for long after finalising his takeover on April 7. Things started badly the following night as Leeds folded away at Watford and amid a near total lack of communication from the boardroom, McDermott saw out the last five games of the Championship term. A deal to sever his contract, which ran to 2016, was agreed almost a month after the season finished.
David Hockaday (June 2014 - August 2014)
Record under Cellino: P6 W2 D0 L4
Cellino considered other coaches before appointing Hockaday, specifically Reading’s academy coach Eamonn Dolan, but Reading held out for a substantial compensation fee and Cellino fell back on a little-known manager whose previous job had been at Forest Green Rovers. Neither Cellino nor Hockaday have ever explained how it was that their paths came to cross and an obscure appointment went exactly as the laws of chances said it would. Cellino quickly took issue with Hockaday’s approach - his team selections, his suggested transfer targets - and having toyed with the idea of sacking him in the wake of a 4-1 defeat at Watford, he duly did so after a League Cup exit at the hands of Bradford City the following week.
Darko Milanic (September 2014 - October 2014)
Record under Cellino: P6 W0 D3 L3
In spite of Neil Redfearn productive spell as caretaker, Cellino decided to replace Hockaday with Sturm Graz’s Milanic. For Milanic, a former Yugoslavia international, it was a big decision to leave Austria. He paid a six-figure sum to buy out his contract at Graz and came to England to immerse himself in a division he barely knew. After 32 days in which Milanic failed to win a game and was forced to deal with allegations of racism made against Giuseppe Bellusci, he was dismissed on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Wolves - the shortest reign of any manager in United’s history. “He’s negative, he has a losing mentality,” Cellino said. In jest, Graz had bought him a one-way ticket to return to Austria if things didn’t work out but it was not all bad news for Milanic. Until very recently, he sat on the payroll at Elland Road on a salary of around £400,000 a year. He is now in charge of Slovenian side Maribor.
Neil Redfearn (October 2014 - May 2015)
Record under Cellino: P33 W11 D7 L15
Redfearn - named as Milanic’s replacement in October 2014 - is currently the longest-serving head coach under Cellino at Leeds. It may be coincidence that much of his tenure spanned Cellino’s Football League ownership ban between January and May of 2015. Redfearn started badly and Leeds were in trouble at Christmas but a change in formation and personnel led to a run of five wins in six games, effectively ending the threat of relegation. There were problems nonetheless. As Easter approached, Redfearn came under pressure to avoid playing striker Mirco Antenucci due to goal-related clause in his contract. Soon after, his assistant Steve Thompson was suspended without explanation. A visit to Charlton Athletic was overshadowed by the late withdrawal of six of Leeds’ foreign players through injury and United lost five games on the bounce before winning at Hillsborough in their penultimate fixture. Cellino returned from his suspension and promptly accused Redfearn of trying to undermine him and turn the club’s supporters against him. The writing was on the wall.
Uwe Rosler (May 2015 - October 2015)
Record under Cellino: P12 W2 D6 L4
Rosler was arguably Cellino’s first considered appointment - an appointment made with a firm commitment to create a large coaching team, a specialist head of recruitment and a squad in Rosler’s own image. Chris Wood became the club’s most expensive signing in a decade and more than £1m was spent on Stuart Dallas. The presence of executive director Adam Pearson helped the summer to progress as intended and Leeds went unbeaten in the first month of the 2015-16 season. But Pearson quit his post in September, results began to falter under Rosler and Cellino lost patience with him after Bobby Zamora’s injury-time goal earned Brighton a 2-1 win at Elland Road on October 17. Cellino said Rosler had been too much of a “gentleman” and claimed his side were too scared to try and win games.
Steve Evans (October 2015 to present)
Record under Cellino to date: P29 W11 D9 L9
“He’s a motherf*****,” Cellino said after announcing Evans as Rosler’s successor. It was meant as a compliment - a way of describing Evans’ brash, aggressive style in comparison to Rosler’s focused, deliberate demeanour. Evans was shortlisted for the manager-of-the-month award after Leeds produced an unbeaten during December but their form dropped off at the turn of the year and a 4-0 rout at Brighton last month was the heaviest defeat in all of Cellino’s time as owner. Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Huddersfield Town, on the back of three straight wins, has now called Evans’ position into question as Cellino considers his options for next season. The Scot’s contract runs to the end of June.