James Brown: A fan’s plea for sanity in Cellino’s crazy world
I woke up yesterday morning with a feeling something really bad had happened, I hadn’t felt like this for nearly 20 years.
I’d like to say this has been a week like no other but the events of the last seven days are becoming increasingly familiar since Massimo Cellino took over the club. Coach sacked, another hired, fans in uproar with each other on Twitter, owner banned from ownership. The only saving grace is that I believe we have a squad good enough to get us into the top eight if managed correctly. And in that squad there are some genuinely talented young players to build something around, like David O’Leary and Don Revie both did in our illustrious past.
That is about the only credit you can give Cellino right now. Seemedly with former Executive Officer Adam Pearson’s help we bought some competent players in the summer and, as yet, he hasn’t sold or let talent leave for free like Ken Bates did.
Off the pitch Cellino is a disaster. Now starting his second ownership ban in a year, there can be few fans who believe Cellino is a fit and proper person to run our football club. It’s not so much the frequent tax evasion cases that stretch out behind him or the future court cases that await him in Italy so much as his total and utter inability to appoint an appropriate coach or senior executive staff and leave them to get on with the job.
He hires them, fires them then belittles them, one was “a watermelon”, another was hired just because he was “good looking”, another “a baby”, this latest to go is a “gentleman” i.e. too soft, and the new guy is a “fighter”. The only fighter Steve Evans resembles is those you get in a circle of salt in Japan.
In the summer Cellino had the chance to hire one of two former Brentford managers. Rather than choosing Mark Warburton who had just won promotion, then an unexpected Championship play-off place for Brentford and did the double over Leeds, he chose Uwe Rosler who had previously been fired by Wigan and was unemployed. The reason he chose one over the other? Warburton wanted more money. Warburton is now flying high with Glasgow Rangers, Uwe is unemployed again.
This inability to dig deeper into the pockets for a coach with a fresh approach and who left his last job on his own accord is the reason we’ve now had to hire a man who last visited Elland Road in shorts, flip-flops and a sombrero. Evans is seen as such a laughing stock in football because of his past behaviour (look it up) that few have noticed he achieved back to back promotions with Rotherham. If you wondering what the connection is to LUFC, he served his job application when his Millers side beat us in the league last year.
Importantly for Cellino this is a guy who “works without a contract”, so there’s no financial barrier to sacking him. That’s how we’re hiring people now, based on how easy it is to get rid of them.
Hopefully Evans will shock us all and become a success but not too successful or, as was the case with the too popular Neil Redfearn, he’ll be deemed to be taking all the credit while Cellino serves out his ban in Miami.
Notified of the lastest ban by the Football League last Wednesday, Cellino immediately got his weedy attempt at retaliation in by announcing Leeds would only buy the minimum 2,000 tickets for all away fixtures. Given we normally take between 4,000 and 7,000 fans away – the biggest away support in all British football – this will make it difficult and dangerous for fans. Leeds fans will go to those games but they will buy tickets from the away clubs and find themselves scattered amongst home fans. A similar set up at Blackpool last year saw blood on the terraces. Football is so intensely passionate and tribal there’s a reason home and away fans sit apart.
Just another utterly stupid action with total disregard for our fans. Monday on Twitter was genuinely funny “only three more Leeds managers until Christmas” was a typical comment amongst many and it was good of the football family to join us in mocking the arrival of our new manager. However we also saw the emergence of other fans saying they feel sorry for us. That’s right, fans of Derby, Manchester United, Chelsea expressing sympathy for previously hated rivals, even comedian and Middlesbrough man Bob Mortimer saying our great fans deserve more than we’re getting.
We don’t want their pity, we’ve had it worse before when we’ve been in terrible financial trouble, and because we have some great young players, this isn’t that bad. But what we do want is our club to come back into the land of the sane and for the idiot king with his sunglasses to head off back to South Beach or Sardinia where he can go and ruin someone else’s set up.
• James Brown is a lifelong Leeds United fan, presents on talkSPORT, started the official club mag Leeds Leeds Leeds and created Loaded magazine.
Follow him on Twitter @jamesjamesbrown