Sol Bamba has revealed how he spoke to Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino and told him the club’s players and supporters “want to see actions” ahead of another uncertain summer at Elland Road.
Bamba said people around the club were “desperate” for answers about United’s direction under Cellino and said Leeds were making “lots of promises” without fully delivering on them.
The Ivory Coast international, who voiced frank views after Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Preston North End, the last game of the Championship season, criticised the delay in announcing whether Steve Evans would stay on as head coach and said a sizeable number of additions to the squad were necessary to give Leeds a chance of promotion next season.
United, who have guaranteed supporters a partial refund of season-ticket money for the 2016-17 term if they fail to make the play-offs in 12 months’ time, finished 13th in the table at the weekend and are heading for more substantial change in the months ahead.
Evans holds a deal until June 30 but expects to be replaced by Cellino after 38 games in charge, potentially the sixth managerial departure since Cellino bought Leeds in April 2014.
In an interview with The Mirror, Cellino insisted he was in no rush to decide Evans’ fate and said he had called a meeting of United’s directors for May 18, a week on Wednesday, to finalise plans for the summer.
Bamba, Leeds’ captain for the past 18 months, said he had spoke with Cellino earlier in the year to urge the Italian to spell out his strategy with Evans’ contract running down and Leeds moving towards another mid-table finish.
“We had those kind of conversations a couple of months ago,” said Bamba. “He can’t say more to me about who’s going to be the manager, if we’re going to keep the manager or not, but he did say he’s going to have a big go next year, to add to the squad to try and at least get into the play-offs.
“That’s all I know but like I said to him, it’s good to talk but we need to act as well. At the moment we make a lot of promises but the fans, everyone involved, wants to see actions and they’re desperate for that.”
Evans appears to have conceded defeat in his fight to convince Cellino to retain him as head coach, admitting after Saturday’s trip to Preston that he was no longer optimistic of remaining in charge next season.
The former Rotherham United boss has repeatedly claimed that he will mount a concerted bid for promotion if Cellino keeps faith in him and Bamba, who gave a speech thanking Evans in the dressing room at Deepdale, said: “He’s a confident man and he’s right to say that.
“He’s been here for six, seven months and he’s done well. The results talk for themselves. If he goes through a whole season then he can do very well. It’s a tough league and there are a lot of good teams in it but he’d have a good chance in a full season.
“In the dressing room he thanked us for everything we’ve done since he was appointed. He said he hopes he’ll be here next season but if that’s not the case, he’ll be somewhere else and he’ll be happy to see us.
“He was emotional and so were we. I made a small speech I don’t like to do that but I needed to do it – to thank him on behalf of the players. We were very happy to work with him. Hopefully, we’ll see him again.”
United’s squad departed on holiday after Preston and are due to be contacted by text message with confirmation of who will be head coach at Elland Road next season and a date for the start of pre-season training.
The majority of the club’s players, Bamba included, are under contract for the 2016-17 campaign and news of Mirco Antenucci’s departure on Saturday night leaves 19-year-old goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell as the only first-team player whose deal ends in June.
Peacock-Farrell is currently weighing up the offer of a new two-year contract and is expected to hold more talks with Leeds this week.
The club finished 25 points behind the play-off positions and 34 points adrift of Championship title winners Burnley, and Bamba pointed to a lack of depth in the squad at Elland Road, saying youngsters like Lewis Cook and Charlie Taylor – both of whom started more than 40 games – had been pushed too far by a lack of cover.
“If we can get double in every position then we’ve got a chance,” Bamba said. “Players like Charlie Taylor and Cooky, they’ve played a lot of games and sometime you need a break. If we double up in every position then we’d have a good chance.
“I love every minute at the club, I’m not going to lie, but it’s not easy mentally. There are a lot of things to deal with so we need a good break now and then we can come back fresh.
“I always say that if you try but miss out, I think the fans will be happy. Sometimes what the fans can see is that we’re not trying hard enough, above us and us as well on the pitch. If you give it a real go the fans will be happy with that.”
United’s inevitable mid-table finish did not stop the club selling more than 5,500 tickets for their last game at Deepdale and Bamba said the thought of winning promotion in front of a following so big was something he “can’t even imagine”.
“That would be definitely the best moment of my career,” he said. “I’m dreaming it could happen next season but it’s going to need a lot of hard work. It’s possible though. When you see Leicester this season, anything is possible.”