Leeds United suffered a dramatic and unforeseen setback last night as executive director Adam Pearson quit his job at Elland Road.
In a move which threatens Leeds’ recent stability, Pearson left the post he took up in May, telling the YEP that he was “taking a break” but saying his relationship with Massimo Cellino had ended amicably.
News of Pearson’s exit broke yesterday evening, confirmed by the 50-year-old shortly after Leeds suffered their first defeat of the Championship season at home to Ipswich Town.
The former Hull City chairman, who has continued to control rugby league side Hull FC during his time at Elland Road, played a pivotal part in a summer which saw United recruit a new coaching team and add eight players to their senior squad.
Pearson was widely credited with bringing calm to a club who stumbled from crisis to crisis during Cellino’s first year as owner.
In an open letter published on the club’s website, Pearson said: “It is with great disappointment that I have to confirm I’ll be taking a break from Leeds United and football in general, in order to focus on other personal and business interests.
“I have really enjoyed my time at Leeds United and would like to thank everybody, the staff and supporters, that have made me feel so welcome. I’d also like to thank Mr Cellino for allowing me to work closely with him in what I feel has been a very productive summer for the club.
“It is with a huge level of disappointment that I cannot continue to contribute to the revival of what now is a very strong football club once more. I wish Uwe (Rosler) and his coaching team all the very best in their quest for a successful season and it is reassuring to see the club moving forward again in such a positive manner.”
Cellino also insisted that the pair were parting as friends and said he was “keeping the role open” to Pearson. It is not yet clear if Cellino plans to make a separate appointment to assume some of Pearson’s workload.
“I want to thank Adam for his efforts and his loyalty to Leeds United,” Cellino said.
“I will be keeping the role open for him and I hope to welcome him back at some point in the future.
“We worked very well together and we will remain good friends. He will always have my support. “It saddens me that he is stepping away to focus on other interests but he knows that he is welcome back at the club if he feels ready.”
Speaking prior to the start of the season, a positive Pearson said Leeds had overcome the problems seen during the early stages of Cellino’s reign - including the dismissal of four managers and head coaches in his first 13 months as owner.
“To be honest, I think a lot of lessons have been learned from last season,” Pearson said.
“Football’s such big business in England and you have to have people with the right skill sets in the right areas. If things look better from the outside then they probably should.
“In general the club’s functioning well. The wage bill is where we want it to be. The club can wash its face without needing external money.”
Rosler, who worked closely with Pearson following his appointment as head coach in May, described the resignation as a “big blow”.
“In a very short time we established a very good relationship,” Rosler said. “I learned a lot from Adam and I was devastated when I heard the news.
“I spoke with him and I call him a friend. I wish him all the very best.
“He will have his reasons but all I can say is that the working relationships between Adam and myself and Adam and Mr Cellino have been very good. You can believe me. Nobody saw it coming.”
On the field, Leeds’ six-match unbeaten league run was ended by a first-half goal from Ipswich defender Tommy Smith.
Rosler held his hands up to a poor performance after a 1-0 loss, admitting his side lacked “courage”, but he also took issue with the failure of referee James Adcock to award a penalty for a first-half claim for handball against Smith and a late trip on Sam Byram by Jonas Knudsen.
“A few decisions went against us - crucial, crucial decisions,” Rosler said. “I’m not blaming the referee. That’s just a fact.
“Overall, I was disappointed that we didn’t show enough courage or bravery to enforce our game on the opposition. We got drawn into their style and we’re not that type of team. In the last 10 minutes we started to play our game but by then it’s too late.”