Leeds United: McDermott comes out fighting for his job

Brian McDermott
Brian McDermott
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It is not just the press or supporters of Leeds United who think that Brian McDermott is fighting for his job.

It is not just the press or supporters of Leeds United who think that Brian McDermott is fighting for his job.

He fought for his job at yesterday’s press conference – openly, passionately and aggressively at times.

McDermott chides himself for a lack of charisma but the sense of the walls closing in on him at Leeds forced him into a display of defiance which managers reserve for their darker moments.

His briefing at Thorp Arch was a desperate pitch for patience and support, both of which are in perilously short supply.

He has claimed before that he is the man for the job at Leeds, a coach who can stem the negative repercussions of 10 years outside the Premier League. But United go to Burnley tomorrow with their season in tatters and goodwill extinguished. The club have been here before, and McDermott is taking every chance to remind them of that.

Back when his 11-month tenure was in its infancy, he would speak about nurturing the academy, enhancing the training ground and bringing Leeds to the boil over two or three seasons as he did on the way to winning the Championship title with Reading.

Results since Christmas have been so inconsistent and poor that when McDermott is not being asked about the proposed takeover by Massimo Cellino, he is defending players, tactics, league position and performances.

The long-term ideals have been forgotten, he said, with attention now fixed on more immediate matters like his own future. “That’s what it feels like to me,” McDermott admitted.

“Everything is about now and I understand that because results are everything. But vision – where is the vision? We talked about a long-term vision here.

“Either we’ve got a vision at this club or we haven’t. What is this football club all about? Is it about that vision on not?

“The conversations we’re having at the moment, that’s all gone out the window.

“But we are actually improving things and trying to improve things.

“We’re trying to make the team better and to get results but at the same time we’re trying to get the training ground right and we’ve got young boys playing in the team.

“All of these things are happening but at the moment it’s popular to say ‘okay, you’re not winning so you’ve got to take this (criticism).’ My vision’s still the same. Absolutely the same.”

McDermott was asked whether recent scrutiny of him, of a league position of 13th and woeful defeats to Bolton and Reading in the past week, was excessive. “I don’t look at it as unfair,” he said. “If you’re not winning games you get criticised. It’s the same at any club.

“Our supporters pay their money and if criticism’s coming from the supporters, I understand. If it’s coming from the press, I understand. Because you want to win games.

“But we’re trying to kick this club forward and we’ve had so many managers here in a short period of time; absolutely no stability whatsoever. Has it worked? I keep asking that question. It’s always the same thing – another year on, a manager goes and another manager comes in. It’s not working and it hasn’t worked.

“There’s a part of me that feels I need to get to the summer, win as many games as we can before then, and then structure things the way we need to structure then – under the right ownership. Someone with clout.”

Cellino could yet be that man, though the Italian’s takeover is still to be given the Football League approval. It was discussed at the League’s monthly board meeting yesterday but the governing body is still to announce a final decision.

McDermott spoke to Cellino after last Saturday 5-1 thrashing against Bolton and again after Tuesday’s 4-2 defeat to Reading. He said Cellino - the owner of Serie A club Cagliari - was supportive of him and despite Cellino’s aborted attempt to sack him in January, gave the clearest suggestion yet that the two men might be on the same wavelength.

“Massimo understands football and he understands what’s gone on at this club,” McDermott said. “He gets it.

“You need the ownership to be strong and we need a leader at this club. There’s no doubt about that in my opinion. It needs to change here. The culture needs to change.

“Look at Reading and the way they play. That culture has been set up since 2000. The Reading team you saw the other night, I brought in all of those players bar one. They’ll be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. I’d like to set up a culture for how we play here and you have to play this league to get out of it. What’s the best way? I know what the best way is because I’ve done it before.”

Ross McCormack, United’s captain, defended McDermott yesterday by saying the squad were failing to do their manager justice. McDermott in turn refused to blame his players.

“No chance,” he said. “I don’t feel let down by anybody. You take responsibility as manager and you take the stick when things don’t go well.”

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