The distinction in Brian McDermott’s mind was obvious: no excuses for Bournemouth and the supine thrashing at Dean Court on Tuesday but reasons aplenty beyond his control for the ragged state Leeds United are in.
It is apparent to him that the distinction needs to be made, now more than ever. No manager would envy his environment at Elland Road but this is still his team, his results and his squad to bring into line.
Since the turn of the year United’s form has been as chaotic as the attempt by Gulf Finance House to hand the club over to a new owner. Fifteen games have amounted to 33 concessions, three wins and 12 points, bewildering a coach who says he has “never had this before.” “It’s not right and we know it,” he said after United’s 4-1 loss at Bournemouth.
In the short term, Leeds have a derby against Doncaster Rovers on Saturday to think about and nine league games remaining. McDermott talked about “addressing the problems” again on Tuesday but implied that it would take a full summer and another process of rebuilding to rid United of their weaknesses. McDermott cannot say with any certainty whether he will be here in the summer, only that he is under contract for another two years. There is presently no-one at Elland Road who could categorically tell him where the club are heading.
McDermott held his hands up to the most inept of performances at Bournemouth and conceded also that it was not the first this season. But he fought his corner too, insisting that GFH’s struggle to sell Leeds to Massimo Cellino was influencing the atmosphere, the mood and the attitude of the players and staff at Thorp Arch.
“I’m trying to keep as clear a head as I can,” he said. “Obviously I’m going to get criticised and I understand that completely after a performance like that (Tuesday’s). But I do know that I’m trying to keep everything on an even keel as best I can.
“This (the takeover) has been going on for quite a long time now and it’s tough – as tough a situation as I’ve been in for a while. But we’ve had that for a long time here. It just seems to be what happens at Leeds. We need to break that.
“I’ve been in times before when it was very easy. This isn’t very easy but we have to come through it. It’s bitterly disappointing for everyone but all we can do now is try and win on Saturday.”
Leeds have taken several spectacular hidings since the start of January. They conceded six unanswered goals at Sheffield Wednesday, five at home to Bolton Wanderers and four against both Reading and Bournemouth. In three of those matches, including Tuesday’s loss at Dean Court, McDermott’s side were 4-0 down inside an hour. Having remained respectable for many months, their goals-against column is higher than all bar four other clubs in the Championship.
“This is unique for me,” McDermott said. “We’ve been losing goals and it needs to be addressed. We really need to address it.
“I’ve not had this before – a team who concede four and five. It’s not right and it’s something we need to sort out very, very quickly.
“We can talk about all the off-field stuff and I said that in the dressing room (after the defeat to Bournemouth) but let’s not make excuses. We’ve got to talk about what’s going on on the pitch. We’ve got to get that right.
“We’ve got nine games to go, we’ve got to get to the summer and then what we really need is the ownership of this club to be sorted out in the right and proper way – with the right person in charge, someone with clout. Then we can do what we need to do in the summer.
“Our team aren’t doing it at the moment but that’s not permanent. It’s a temporary situation. Whether we can sort it now with nine games to go or whether we sort it in the summer, that’s what we’ve got to do. That’s our job.
“But I think we can turn it around and I think we can win on Saturday. We can go back to Elland Road and win on Saturday. It’s the short-term situation for us.”
Leeds were watched at Dean Court by a travelling crowd of 1,300, another capacity turn-out at a stadium 300 miles south of West Yorkshire.
United were behind after 67 seconds, caught out by a tap-in from Yann Kermorgant, and Bournemouth had the game sown up with a 3-0 lead on the half-hour.
“We didn’t do what we had to do from the kick-off, they got a corner and they scored,” McDermott said. “Then we’re chasing it, up against it straight away. It’s desperately disappointing, the manner of it.
“I’m bitterly disappointed because our fans once again were unbelievable. They turned up in numbers and to have to walk over to them at the end was horrendous. But we can’t hide.
“That’s the soul of the club. The fans are the soul of the club. They’ve had to put up with so much and people know that better than me, people who’ve been around Leeds season after season.
“To have someone come in and take this club to where it belongs would be fantastic.”
McDermott was asked about Cellino and what he knew about the state of the takeover following the Football League’s decision to disqualify the Italian from buying United on Monday.
“By all accounts he’s going to appeal,” McDermott said. “I think that’s the next step.”
United’s manager also alluded to doubts about whether staff at Leeds would be paid this month amid intense talks behind the scenes between Cellino and GFH yesterday
“I really don’t know what the situation is,” he said.
“That comes up on Friday or Monday, whenever it turns up. Hopefully it can be resolved.”