Leeds United: Defiant Mac in Premier pledge

Brian McDermott
Brian McDermott
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An embattled Brian McDermott made an impassioned plea for Leeds United to stand by him last night, insisting he had not lost faith in his own ability to take the club into the Premier League.

An embattled Brian McDermott made an impassioned plea for Leeds United to stand by him last night, insisting he had not lost faith in his own ability to take the club into the Premier League.

McDermott railed defiantly against criticism of him after a damaging spell in which bad defeats to Bolton Wanderers and Reading focused attention on his position and raised questions about his future as manager of Leeds.

The 52-year-old, whose contract runs to 2016, will take Leeds to Burnley tomorrow for the first of 12 remaining Championship games with 11 points separating United from the play-offs and no prospect of McDermott delivering promotion at the first attempt.

Leeds appointed him last April on a three-year deal but McDermott is battling to shore up his job after less than 12 months at Elland Road amid a sustained loss of form and a drawn-out bid by Italian businessman Massimo Cellino to buy United.

McDermott said he and Cellino – the Cagliari owner whose 75 per cent takeover of Leeds has been delayed by a lengthy wait for Football League approval - had spoken twice in the past week, conversations he described as “good”.

But the former Reading boss, who won promotion to the Premier League at the Madejski Stadium in 2012, made no attempt to deny that he was under pressure, saying: “Is it pleasant at the moment? No, it’s not pleasant. Do you think I’m stood on the touchline thinking ‘this is a great job?’ No, I’m not.

“Looking at that scoreboard (when Leeds trailed 4-0 against Reading on Tuesday) is horrible. But it makes me stronger and it makes me want to do this more.

“I honestly believe I’m the man to do the job at this club. It’s been proven in the past. I’ve done it in this league, I’ve got out of this league. If I had no track record then you’d sit here and say ‘this guy can’t do it.’ But you know I can because it’s been done in the past.”

Cellino has stated publicly that he will retain and support McDermott if his takeover goes through, though the the Football League has yet to sanction his buy-out of current Leeds owner Gulf Finance House.

The takeover was discussed at a Football League board meeting yesterday and the governing body plans to make a decision on Cellino’s deal - a deal he and GFH finalised on February 7 – within the next 10 days. The League is waiting until after Cellino faces charges of tax evasion in Sardinia on Tuesday before announcing a decision on whether to approve his takeover.

The governing body also been seeking clarification from GFH about who has been running and funding Leeds in recent months, and about the reported transfer of a majority stake in United between GFH and club chairman Salah Nooruddin last year.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Burnley at Turf Moor, McDermott said: “When I turned up here I said that there were three words I would use (about Leeds) - hope, expectation and then disappointment. We’re now in the disappointment stage. That’s the cycle I’m trying to break and get out of, to move this club forward.”

Second-placed Burnley are unbeaten at home this season and are closing in on automatic promotion after 13 league games without defeat.

“Sean (Dyche, Burnley’s manager) has set up the sort of team which has historically got promoted from this division,” McDermott said. “What I’m trying to build is a team that can get promotion from this division but that can take time and it’s taking me time.

“All we can do now is go to Burnley and try to win. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Winger Jimmy Kebe, who missed Tuesday’s 4-2 defeat to Reading through illness, is likely to be absent again.

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