Part of me thinks that Massimo Cellino should bite the bullet and go to tomorrow’s game against Rotherham United.
I can understand why he’d be wary of turning up and let’s not beat around the bush: he’d take some hammer from Leeds fans, without a doubt. But it might not be a bad thing for him to realise just how unhappy some people are. You’d like to think that deep down he’s already aware that the supporters aren’t satisfied – and that many of them are pointing the finger directly at him. It’s not nice to be in that situation but the best way to react is to front up to it and put it right. Otherwise the situation just festers.
Even if he misses Saturday’s game, Cellino will be back at Elland Road next week. His ban as owner ends on Sunday and I’d expect him to be in his office early on Monday, getting to grips with all the things that need to be sorted out.
The club and people working there need clarity from him and they need it straight away. That’s imperative. It’s not fair to expect Cellino to sort out a million things in one day but we have to see some rapid action – a decision about Neil Redfearn, decisions about which players are staying and hopefully decisions on new contracts for the young kids.
Neil’s job has got to be the immediate priority. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d like to see him carry on as head coach next season but I’m clever enough to know that Cellino can do as he pleases. The bottom line is that it’s all about timing. Cellino has had ages to ponder his next move and surely come Monday it’ll be a case of “yes, here’s a new contract” or “no, sorry, we’re going to appoint someone else.”
The last thing Leeds can afford at this stage is another month of uncertainty. All that will do is create more ill-feeling. I’ll feel really sorry for Neil if he goes but he’d admit himself that football’s a ruthless game. From the club’s point of view, it’ll be a relief and good start to have some clarity about the head coach’s position.
I have to say that the idea of a change at this stage concerns me – unless, of course, Cellino already has someone lined up to take over from Neil. The players will head off on holiday shortly so a new coach won’t have a chance to assess them properly until pre-season training starts.
Managers generally keep an eye on the game and watch as many teams as possible but unless you know well in advance that you’re going to be taking over at Leeds, you’re unlikely to have watched this squad too often. So a new man would be coming in cold and coming in with the transfer market about to go into full swing. That’s not an easy situation.
But at the same time, it can be done. Some coaches are very good at stepping into a club and getting to grips with things rapidly. For me, this whole summer and the prospects for Leeds going forward depend entirely on Cellino. They depend on his ideas and the plans he’s drawn up during his time away from the club. You’d certainly assume that he’s coming back to Leeds with a plan because it would be a waste of three months if he hasn’t got everything straight in his head. I know that officially he’s had no involvement with the club but I honestly doubt that he’s totally out of touch with what’s been happening.
If I was him, before returning to my desk on Monday, I’d want to be very clear about the entire situation – what’s changed and what needs to been sorted. It’s the only way he can hit the ground running.
It’s a little disappointing that he hasn’t tried at any stage to calm the waters. Again, I accept that he’s subject to a ban, but would it really have done any harm to put out a statement a few weeks ago letting people know that he was aware of the problems Leeds were having and would deal with it as soon as he returned? Part of the reason for all the unrest is because no-one is really sure if help is on the way. You hope Cellino will get a grip of things but it remains to be seen.
This is going to be a massive summer and Cellino has to get a lot of things right. He has to bring stability to Elland Road. I go on about it all the time but I’m firmly of the belief that Leeds will never go anywhere without stability, continuity and consistency.
All clubs have problems – of course they do – but those who do well always maintain a stable core. If Cellino can find a way to create that this summer then the club have a fighting chance. If not, I can only see more trouble ahead.