Leeds United: Cellino is impressed by players

Sam Byram leaves Elland Road after his meeting with Leeds owner Massimo Cellino.
Sam Byram leaves Elland Road after his meeting with Leeds owner Massimo Cellino.
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LEEDS UNITED players are back on their holidays – just one day on from interrupting their breaks to attend a club meeting ordered by owner Massimo Cellino.

Players convened at Elland Road for one-on-one meetings with the Italian yesterday afternoon and were informed that they will now return for pre-season training in just over three weeks on June 26.

Some who attended had been forced to cancel or cut short holidays booked prior to the end of the season to attend the get-together – after the club wrote to players and coaching staff last month telling them to be present at the stadium yesterday.

Cellino met the players on his own at Elland Road, with groups of three at a time taken up to see him, two then waiting outside while the other member was spoken to.

After the series of meetings, Cellino revealed that he was satisfied by the ‘fantastic professionalism’ of the players in showing him ‘respect’ by attending the meeting.

Meanwhile, players are still awaiting payment of their wages, which failed to be paid on time on Friday.

The club remain optimistic of being able to pay them this week and of successfully challenging the winding-up order against the club before June 9.

Players who attended yesterday were also informed that the club will spend 15 days during pre-season in northern Italy in the municipality of Santa Cristina in Val Gardena with details regarding matches to be confirmed in due course.

Cellino said: “I met all the players and they showed me that they wanted to stay at the club. They work for the club, not Massimo Cellino.

“They showed me respect and have a fantastic professionalism towards the club.

“We are a better team than we first thought.

“All the players are hungry to be involved in this new project at Leeds United.”

Under previous plans, the squad at Leeds were due to report into Thorp Arch for the start of pre-season training on Thursday, July 3, five weeks before the new season begins.

But last month, Cellino, in his first directive regarding pre-season, told United’s players and coaching staff to report back to work on May 28, 25 days after the end of the Championship season.

Cellino had claimed that the 25-day gap between those dates would account for the squad’s entire holiday allowance, but subsequently put back the date for their return to June 2.

Cellino is now focusing his attentions on speaking to candidates for a new head coach role at Elland Road, alongside grappling with the considerable financial issues engulfing the club, with a £950,000 winding order issued by Sport Capital high on his list of priorities.

Speculation that surprise coaching candidate Dave Hockaday, who leapt to the top of the betting on Saturday following the departure of Brian McDermott the previous evening, would be at Elland Road yesterday, appears to have proved wide of the mark.

A number of other candidates remain at the forefront of the betting including the likes of Gianluca Festa and Gianfranco Zola, although there are suggestions that Cellino is more inclined to opt for a British coach.

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