Leeds United president Massimo Cellino insists he had nothing to do with the events that led to six players pulling out of Saturday’s match against Charlton Athletic.
Mirco Antenucci, Giuseppe Bellusci, Dario Del Fabro, Marco Silvestri, Souleymane Doukara and Edgar Cani withdrew from the squad on the eve of the trip to The Valley citing injuries, prompting some accusations that the players had gone ‘on strike’.
The club released a statement on Sunday evening looking to draw a line under the controversy which read: “Leeds United Football Club wants to clarify that during the days leading up to the away Championship fixture at Charlton Athletic on Saturday April 17 that six first-team players suffered injuries.”
And Cellino, who has been banned since January after being found guilty of not paying tax on a yacht in Italy, has now also distanced himself from any possible conspiracy theory, telling the Sun: “I am not a coward and not the sort of guy who tells his players to go on strike.
“I only found out on Friday evening. I admit it looks weird. But if the players were injured, why didn’t the manager inform the chairman?
“This looks like a fight between manager Neil Redfearn and the ownership of the club, which is not good.”
Cellino’s ban and the injury controversy are just two of a string of chaotic events that have plagued Leeds recently with Redfearn’s position increasingly threatened over recent weeks
Redfearn has led the club to safety after taking over from ill-fated predecessors David Hockaday and Darko Milanic, but he saw assistant Steve Thompson lose his job without warning on April 2 and his own deal, which expires at the end of the season, looks increasingly unlikely to be renewed under the club’s current regime.
The state of flux at Elland Road has led many fans to call for Cellino to leave the club altogether but the Italian insists he still wishes to take the Whites forward.
“From day one I felt I was at the right club, because I am more f****d up than the fans,” he said.
“I am 58 and my dream is still for us to do something big here. I have asked permission to go to our last game of the season against Rotherham, a day before my ban ends.
“If the fans want to kick me and shout at me, fine. I am used to it.”