Leeds United: Carbone is installed to ‘rebuild academy’

Benito Carbone. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Benito Carbone. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Massimo Cellino said he was giving Benito Carbone the chance to “help me rebuild the academy” at Leeds United as he moved to dampen speculation that the former Bradford City player is primed to replace manager Brian McDermott.

Carbone has joined the youth team set-up at Thorp Arch after reaching an agreement which Cellino claimed would see the 42-year-old work without wages for at least six months.

United’s Italian owner invited Carbone to England last week and Carbone visited United’s training ground on Thursday and Friday before travelling to Saturday’s Championship game between Leeds and Birmingham City at St Andrews.

His appearance in Birmingham fuelled speculation that Cellino was lining up Carbone – to date a coach with limited experience in the Italian lower leagues – to take McDermott’s job but he will instead be involved in running an academy which Cellino said was “not giving us enough, or anything.”

“Benito knows English football,” Cellino said. “He wants to be a coach in England so he came to me and we spoke about him coming here, coaching the Under-21s. I have known him since he was a boy.

“The academy at Leeds, it costs us £2million a year and we don’t grow any players or not enough. It’s not giving us enough, or anything. Benito will help me to rebuild the academy, to make it good, to make it better.”

United’s academy has a healthy reputation and was recently awarded category two status under the newly-implemented Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP).

The club’s Under-18s, coached by ex-Leeds captain Richard Naylor, won their division last season and development-squad manager Neil Redfearn has controlled the youth-team system to good effect since April 2012.

Five members of McDermott’s 18-man squad at Birmingham were self-produced and development-squad player Lewis Cook was called up by England’s Under-17s for the forthcoming European Championships last week.

Carbone’s arrival, however, will be the first of numerous changes as Cellino imposes himself on the club he bought from Gulf Finance House earlier this month.

The ex-Bradford and Sheffield Wednesday player, who retired in 2010, has been coaching Italian side Saint Christophe Valle D’Aosta but is relocating to England on a deal which Cellino said would pay no money in the short term.

“We are not a rich club,” Cellino said. “I have money but this club, it loses money. It’s like an ex-rich man but instead of eating cheese, it still eats caviar.

“When I spoke to Benito, we didn’t worry about money. I’ll pay what it costs for him to live with me here and in six months, if we’re a rich club again, then we talk money. It doesn’t matter, it’s not a problem.”

Cellino gave no indication of what impact Carbone’s appointment would have on Redfearn or other prominent members of United’s academy staff.

McDermott, meanwhile, said he had spoken to Carbone on Friday, before United’s senior squad travelled to Birmingham, but had not been told about the Italian’s role at Thorp Arch.

“I’ve no idea,” McDermott said. “I haven’t been told.

“It’s not unsettling or frustrating. I met him on Friday and said hello to him. He was a really good player but I don’t know him.

“Things like this happen at football clubs but the most important thing is Leeds United, not me personally. It’s the only agenda I’ve got.”

Leeds claimed a deserved 3-1 win at Birmingham, though the result was overshadowed by a potentially serious knee injury suffered by midfielder Alex Mowatt.

Mowatt was stretchered off in injury-time and McDermott said: “It’s difficult to analyse that straight after a game. He heard something in his knee.”