Massimo Cellino surprised Leeds United’s supporters during Saturday’s clash with Brentford – by joining them in the away end.
The club’s owner and president stood with a travelling crowd of around 1,600 as Darko Milanic’s first game as United head coach ended in a 2-0 defeat at Griffin Park.
Cellino initially took a seat amongst the home support but was asked to move by Brentford stewards after home defender James Tarkowski missed a first-half penalty.
Cellino and sporting director Nicola Salerno obliged by moving to the stand behind United goalkeeper Marco Silvestri and they remained there for the second half as Leeds attempted to salvage something from a difficult afternoon in London.
Despite Tarkowski’s bad miss, a Jota goal gave Brentford the lead in first-half injury-time and right-back Alan McCormack sealed a deserved victory when his deflected shot beat Silvestri 13 minutes from time.
The loss ended United’s four-match unbeaten run and condemned the club to their first league defeat since Cellino sacked David Hockaday as head coach late last month.
Milanic, who left Sturm Graz to take charge of Leeds on a two-year deal last week, admitted that his side had been deservedly beaten by a slick and confident Brentford team, and the 46-year-old is now preparing for his first appearance on the touchline at Elland Road.
United face back-to-back home games against Reading and Sheffield Wednesday in the next six days and Milanic said: “I know that the first game at the home stadium is extremely important for me.
“It’s the first game for me in Leeds and I expect a lot of support, like every game. With support and energy we can make a result.”
Milanic made two changes to his team for the clash with Brentford, replacing banned right-back Gaetano Berardi with Sam Byram and dropping Casper Sloth to the bench to make way for Alex Mowatt in midfield.
United struggled for much of the match, however, and threatened only once when Jason Pearce’s second-half header was tipped away by Brentford goalkeeper David Button.
In contrast, the Leeds goalkeeper, Marco Silvestri, produced a series of fine saves, keeping Milanic’s team in the game until McCormack struck on the break late on.
“For us it was a very difficult game,” Milanic said. “I expected a game like this. I saw some of Brentford’s other games and they are aggressive.
“We were not good enough in the first half in possession. We were defensive and not dangerous. We have to play with a much more offensive mentality.
“In the second half we did better and I thought it was the right moment to score the goal. We had some good shots but after that, in the second part of the second half, we were not good enough to score.
“Brentford were very dangerous on the counter attack and we had some problems with that.
“I want to play offensive, this is normal, so we played with two strikers and three offensive midfield players. You have to have offensive mentality to go into the box and go around people.”
Sloth brought some urgency to proceedings when he replaced Mowatt as a substitute in the 66th minute, though Brentford continued to create the better chances.
Milanic said: “Sloth is very good offensive player and at that time I wanted to take more risks. There was a lot of space and I wanted us to go into the space.
“But I have to work and train with these players. If you just talk, it’s not enough.”
Striker Billy Sharp made the trip to London but was not included in Milanic’s 18-man squad while Brazilian youngster Adryan was left behind with United’s development squad. Milanic said both decisions were “tactical”.