Leeds United: Cellino finally providing framework for success

Rob Kelly, right.
Rob Kelly, right.
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The arrival of Rob Kelly as Uwe Rosler’s No 2 is virtually finalised and little by little Leeds United look less like a one-man club.

Adam Pearson, their new director, made the point last week that Leeds still have a solitary owner – “he’ll set the policies and he’ll make the ultimate decisions” – but Massimo Cellino appears to be embracing the framework of staff which many think he needs.

The involvement of Pearson himself is progress for a club who, Cellino aside, have not had an experienced football mind in the boardroom for the best part of two years. Rosler, too, is a credible head coach; good enough to justify replacing Neil Redfearn, though not to justify the treatment of Redfearn in general.

Rosler was given free rein to appoint his own backroom team and Kelly should become the first addition to it before the end of this week, returning to the game four months after leaving West Brom in the aftermath of Tony Pulis’ appointment at the Hawthorns.

Kelly, 46, had a limited profile as a player, largely because a back injury forced him to retire before his 25th birthday. Between periods at Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and a loan with Tranmere, he made fewer than 100 league appearances. His first coaching job was with the youth-team ranks at Molineux.

As a coach, Kelly is well regarded and has found regular work in the Football League, much of it coming as assistant to Alan Irvine – they were together at Sheffield Wednesday. His reign at Leicester City in 2006 and 2007 was his only spell as a full-time manager but he has acted as caretaker at almost all of his clubs, most recently at West Brom.

Kelly’s input at Thorp Arch will be supplemented by the arrival of another, as yet unnamed, first-team coach. In his discussions with Cellino, Rosler was told that he could fill both positions and would also be supported by a dedicated head of recruitment.

United have not officially parted company with their existing sporting director, Nicola Salerno, but the Italian is highly unlikely to play any active role at Elland Road next season. He has been absent from the club since becoming embroiled in the suspension of Steve Thompson – Redfearn’s assistant – at the beginning of April.

Earlier this month, Cellino spoke with David Moss, a scout at Celtic, about the head of recruitment post but Moss will not be taking it up. Steve Head, Norwich City’s chief scout, was strongly linked with the job over the weekend and is understood to have visited United’s training ground at Thorp Arch last Friday but sources at Leeds say it is not certain that Head will join the club.

Cellino, meanwhile, is an admirer of Francesco Marroccu – the outgoing sporting director at his former club Cagliari – but Marroccu speaks little English and is not seen as a viable candidate.

Rosler appears happy to work with a recruitment specialist, saying: “I like it, whatever you call (the job). You need to work with somebody who lets you focus on what’s the most important thing – working and being around the players and having an influence on recruitment.

“I like to work with someone in this role and I’ve got experience of this. I think it will come more and more into English football.”

United’s approach to transfers last season paid close attention to the foreign market and particularly the Italian leagues. Eight of their 15 summer signings arrived from abroad and all three transfers in January – Sol Bamba, Granddi Ngoyi and Edgar Cani – were brought in from Italy.

Rosler has inherited a squad with a continental feel and the German said he would not be averse to more foreign arrivals.

“It’s all about balance,” he said. “If you get the balance in the team right between know-how and hunger, spirit and talent then I think you can go a long, long way.

“For us, we are under financial restrictions so we have to look where we are getting that sort of talent. Sometimes you have to go outside the UK to find that sort of talent. The balance has to be right.”