Leeds united manager brian mcdermott is past the point of pretending the season is salvageable. Phil Hay reports.
It was a candid admission from Brian McDermott and an unusual thing for a manager to say: that in calmer times and without mitigating circumstances, Leeds United would have sacked him by now.
The statistics give the club a stick to beat him with and McDermott is past the point of pretending that this season is in any way salvageable. Even the demand from his board that Leeds finish higher than 13th in the league is proving a struggle as points spill from almost every fixture.
United’s manager is not quite 12 months into the job and he expected an extended period of grace to get Leeds in order when he took up a contract last April. But McDermott has worked in professional football throughout his life and the club’s form looks as shocking to him as it does to anyone else. As he said himself, the average owner in a typical season would not accept it.
“If everything was right at the club then I probably wouldn’t be here and they (the owners) would have made a decision,” he said after Tuesday’s loss to Charlton. “But we don’t have that.”
In the same breath, he resisted calls for him to resign and described them as a “joke”, bemoaning the strife at Elland Road which gets deeper by the day. McDermott sees himself as an able Championship manager who would fare far better were politics and financial problems not all-consuming. He is still of the view that the shambles behind the scenes at Leeds has not given him a chance.
“Someone who’s been here a long time said to me the other day that this is as bad as they’ve ever seen it,” he said.
“I’m not finding it easy and it definitely tests you. I’ve been tested, we’ve all been tested, and the fans are being tested too. They’ve been tested here for 10, 11 years. But somehow we’ve got to get through it.”
An hour or so before Tuesday’s defeat, United managing director David Haigh appeared in the dressing room to explain why wages deferred by Leeds’ players and coaching staff last week had not been paid that morning as expected.
McDermott asked Haigh to address the squad personally. United’s manager had taken on the job of telling his players and backroom team on Friday that some of their pay would be late but felt the message on Tuesday should come from someone more senior, someone closer to the proposed takeover by Massimo Cellino which caused the shortage of cash in the first place.
“We’ve been paid half but we didn’t get paid (on Tuesday),” McDermott said. “David came into the dressing room and it was important that he did, from GFH’s side, to discuss it with the players before the game. From my point of view, I can’t talk to the players about not being paid. I’ve done it before but I won’t be doing it again.”
The mess and the crisis is what McDermott resents and why the 52-year-old thinks Leeds have not had the chance to see him at his best or to see the standard of management which brought Reading the Championship title in 2012.
The bare facts make painful reading: 18 wins from 48 matches in charge of Leeds; almost half the defeats in less than a year that he suffered in three-and-a-half at Reading. Ross McCormack had the chance to avert Tuesday’s loss with an injury-time penalty but saw the effort saved by goalkeeper Ben Hamer. McDermott said the drama “sums things up at the moment.”
The crowd did not turn on him on Tuesday evening, reserving their criticism for GFH and Haigh, and McDermott is highly unlikely to be sacked while United sit between owners. But his position is the topic of fierce discussion on social media as defeat follows defeat.
“You could go and bring in another manager tomorrow and that’s what Leeds United do,” he said. “Every year they bring in a new manager.
“But you’ve got a manager here with a track record and you’ve had managers with track records here previously, and it hasn’t happened. You can keep on changing the manager but you need to get the football club secure and solid. We need calmness and I think that when you’ve got a manager with a track record in the Championship which is very good, and now we’re struggling, you’ve got to question certain things. What’s happened here over the past three or four months hasn’t been right.”
The breathtaking discussion between Cellino and a Leeds supporter on Sunday – broadcast on the Internet and the talk of Leeds this week – did not foster hope that completion of the Italian’s £25m buy-out of Gulf Finance House would bring “calmness” to Elland Road, but it is the club’s quickest route to clarity and financial safety.
Cellino is still awaiting the judgement of an independent QC after appealing against the Football League’s decision to disqualify him from buying Leeds on the grounds of his recent conviction for tax evasion. The case was heard in London on Monday but Tim Kerr, the QC responsible, has not indicated when he will reach a conclusion. In the meantime, McDermott and his squad are preparing for an away game at Wigan Athletic on Saturday, a club with one of the best home records in the Championship. McDermott said: “We have to be in this together. It’s not an easy situation but we have to be in it together. From the owners down, we have to be singing from the same songsheet.
“The senior players are going to be really important now – the ones who are playing and the ones who aren’t. You always look to them at this stage and you’re only as good as the experienced players at your club. I feel disappointed, upset, whatever the words are, and we really need to get a result from somewhere. But we need everybody in it together. The reason people fail in life is because they give up. Well, I won’t give up on this and the players won’t either.”