For the last year and more I’ve been writing in this column about the need for stability at Leeds United.
We’re almost 12 months on from Massimo Cellino’s takeover and in all that time the club have had none.
It has to be said that in the circumstance, the club’s results recently have been astounding.
It’s been a really hard and turbulent year and after his statement on Tuesday, it’s hard to know what’s coming next.
His admission that he won’t return as president until after he contests his ownership ban begs the question of whether Cellino will return at all.
His fight with the Football League can’t go on forever and I wonder if he’s reached that conclusion himself.
It seems to me that in taking himself away from the club while his battle with the League goes on, he’s basically trying to resolve his future one way or the other.
In truth, there isn’t a lot of point in him coming back to Elland Road if he’s got problems and other potential bans hanging over him. He needs a clean slate.
I suspect he’s taken the view that it’s better to try and clear the decks so if he does take control of the club again he can do so without any fear of what’s lurking around the corner.
For the club’s sake and for the sake of the supporters, there needs to be a definitive ruling.
Either Cellino is banned from the running of the club and banned – period. Or the authorities decide that he’s done his time, he’s served some punishment and he can carry on in charge of Leeds forever and a day.
Until that happens, we’re stuck in a will-he, won’t-he environment.
Leeds are in limbo. It’s not good for the club, it’s not good for the fans and it’s certainly not good for Cellino himself. We all know he’s piled in loads of money and hours since buying Leeds and I sympathise with him. It’s not fair on him to be stuck in this situation, with a bundle of cash already invested.
The timing of his statement on Tuesday was odd. Releasing it a couple of hours before a game – and quite an important game given that relegation isn’t mathematically impossible – seemed like a strange decision.
That sort of thing can upset the apple cart, although I honestly don’t think anyone should be trying to blame the defeat to Brighton on Cellino’s announcement.
I know how management works and Neil Redfearn will have made it very clear to the players that they had their job to focus on and nothing else.
It’s probably fair to say that the team simply ran out of steam at The Amex.
In my experience, events like Tuesday rarely affect individual matches. Players don’t down tools or under-perform because of a few comments from the top.
But I do think these situations create an issue with the general atmosphere around a club. People ask questions.
What’s happening with the owner and what would it mean if he sells? That applies to the general staff too. Everyone likes to feel secure and no-one is at their best with uncertainty around them.
It has to be said that in the circumstances, the club’s results recently have been astounding.
Considering everything that’s been going on, the run of five wins from six games was so impressive.
Even the best and most stable Championship sides struggle to put a sequence like that together. It’s difficult to establish any consistency in this league and it’s quite easy to under-estimate how good Leeds’ form has been.
For me, Neil and his players are showing a lot of promise. That doesn’t mean that the balance of the squad is perfect or that additions aren’t needed in the summer but the club have got something to build on now – and I’m not sure any of us would have predicted that at Christmas time.
But all the same, I understand Cellino’s attitude. How can you build on anything or plan for anything when you’re constantly fighting the world? Won’t the club just go round in circles until this is resolved one way or the other?
Something tells me that this latest move by Cellino is a bit of an end-game.
Either he’ll win the fight and march back into Leeds or he’ll lose and he’ll go. That’s my view anyway.
As ever, the sooner we see the bigger picture the better for everyone – Cellino included.