I’ve got a lot of sympathy for Massimo Cellino. Genuine sympathy. He’s been owner of Leeds United for nine months and it seems to me that he’s never had a chance.
Whether you like him or not, he’s faced problems from the word go.
Having come through the Football League’s attempt to block his original takeover, he then discovered that the club were in a far bigger mess than anyone realised.
For a lot of Gulf Finance House’s time as owner, we were told that things were picking up behind the scenes.
As it turned out they were actually getting worse.
Cellino threw himself into a right old mess and I’d still question whether anyone else would have taken on the shambles he paid for last April. It felt like a massive job.
As far as I can tell, since then he’s found bill after bill, debt after debt and liability after liability.
I don’t think at any stage he’s ever had the opportunity to feel like everything was in hand or in control.
And now he’s been told to step away from the club until April 10.
In his shoes, I’d be very deflated and a bit sick of it all.
Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been plain sailing with him in charge and he’d probably admit himself that he’s made mistakes.
But I find it quite hard to judge these nine months objectively.
It seems like at every turn, someone has been trying to pull the rug out from under his feet. And at the end of the day it’s the club that will suffer.
As far as his disqualification as owner goes, the Football League will say that it’s enforcing the rules that every club agreed to.
I guess that’s true. But in some cases I wonder if many of the rules are fit for purpose.
Take our transfer embargo. The reason we’re under embargo this month is because the club lost so much money during GFH’s time in charge.
How is it fair that a different owner has to pay the price for that?
It doesn’t make sense to me.
And once again this has been dumped directly on Cellino’s doormat.
If you think about it, in the summer transfer window we signed 15 players.
Not all of those deals have worked out well.
But still, bringing new faces to the club wasn’t a problem.
This month we’ve signed no-one and while I don’t doubt that the uncertainty about ownership has played a part, I wonder too if part of the problem is the limits set by this transfer embargo.
We need new players because it’s going to take a massive effort from the squad to reach the end of the season unscathed.
I’m still hopeful that we’ll avoid relegation.
But I do worry that for the duration of Cellino’s ban, the impact on the squad could be a negative one.
And if it is a negative one, we’re in very serious trouble. This is my big frustration with the Football League.
We’re being told that this ban is for the good of the game and for the good of our club but I don’t see that it is.
There’ll be some supporters out there who don’t like Cellino and want a change of ownership, and that’s up to them.
Everyone’s entitled to their opinion.
But how many other buyers are out there? In all seriousness, how many have the money to buy the club and turn it around?
It’s a bit flippant to assume that if Cellino gives up we’ll have a crowd of wealthy investors to choose from.
When Cellino first bought Leeds I honestly thought that he had the money and the vision to get it right at Elland Road.
When I speak to him, I still think he knows what he wants to do – if only he was given the chance and the freedom to do it.
I’ve no idea how he’ll be feeling now and I’ve no idea what his next move will be.
I assume we’ll see him back in April but 79 days is quite a long time in football.
In the meantime, I worry for our club and the damage this will do.