The current situation at Leeds United and the pressure on Massimo Cellino saddens me.
My view on Massimo has always been clear: with him we’ve found an owner who has the finances and ideas to get it right at Elland Road. I genuinely believe that.
Unfortunately, what we keep getting time after time is a group of people who seem determined to hound and hassle owners until they give up and walk away from the club. It has to stop because, in the long-term, it’s not going to do the club any good at all.
I joined the board at Leeds when Gerald Krasner’s consortium took over in 2004. In that spell one of the club’s directors, David Richmond, had the gates of his house chained up and graffiti sprayed on the walls. Ken Bates got no end of abuse while he was in charge and there were times when Shaun Harvey needed police protection outside his home. That’s totally wrong.
Massimo is getting the same treatment. His family had to move away because of the abuse they were receiving in the street. In the past 11 years, four different owners have come under attack and been forced into a position where they had to sell – the Krasner group, Ken, GFH and now Massimo. I don’t know exactly what Massimo will do now but he’s very disillusioned. I’d like to think that things can be patched up but I honestly have my doubts.
It’s the not the majority who want him to go. To speak to the people who come into my pub, the fans I talk to on the street, I’m 100 per cent certain of that.
The pressure on him is coming from the same small minority who always think they have the right to speak louder than everyone else and decide what goes on here.
Yes, we’re all frustrated. There was so much optimism a couple of months ago and now it’s doom and gloom again but that’s in no small part due to results. I accept that Massimo does things his own way but some of the criticism of him has been very unfair.
Uwe Rosler, for example, had to go. That’s the way I saw it. He’d been backed heavily in the summer and to be perfectly honest, very few of the performances in his 12 games impressed me. It’s not like Massimo wants to be paying people off but that was the right decision. He got slated for it anyway.
I saw the supporters group Leeds Fans United talking about buying him out earlier this week, although that seems to have fallen through now. I don’t know if they had the money or if they didn’t, but from what I was reading, they’d raised about £500,000.
In reality it’s going to take £30m to £40m to buy this club so you have to question whether they could have got the cash together or provided funding in future. Football clubs like ours need big finance. I’m sorry but they do. Massimo has money, there’s no doubt about that, and he’s put plenty into the club.
And when you speak to him in private, you find out how badly he wants it to work. Given enough time I think he’ll make it happen in a very, very tough division. But it’s obvious now that he’s not going to get that time.
What worries me is where we go next. Does anyone really think that the way in which owners are treated here will encourage people to invest? Will they not look at the language and the louts who’ve abused Massimo’s family and think ‘that’ll be me if I stick my money in’?
There are too many factions and too much anger. The constant aggression and fighting can’t go on.
I don’t believe that lots of wealthy people are out there waiting to buy Championship clubs. I just don’t see it.
A minority are trying to chase Massimo out without being able to say what will replace him.
It’s all very well talking about a fans’ buy-out but what if that goes wrong? What if it doesn’t work or they can’t find the funds? Do we turn on them too?
I’ve said before that we can be our own worst enemies at times.
The best scenario now would be to restore some calm, let things settle down, let Steve Evans gets a few players in and look for the results to turn around fully. Because the way football works, if the team gets on a roll then suddenly Massimo will be in favour again, just like he was at the start of the summer.
I think he can do it here. But I’m honest enough to realise that he might be sick of all this. And I can understand why.