Leeds United nostalgia: How Mad Friday became a Super Saturday

Ross McCormack is congratulated by Luke Murphy and Rodolph Austin after completing his hat-trick against Huddersfield Town last year.
Ross McCormack is congratulated by Luke Murphy and Rodolph Austin after completing his hat-trick against Huddersfield Town last year.
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Over a year ago, Leeds United fans underwent one of the most dramatic 24 hours that any football fan could possibly picture.

While there had been rumours swirling around an impending takeover by Italian corn magnate Massimo Cellino, they had been taken with a pinch of salt by the majority of Leeds fans, up to a point.

Since last January, we’ve heard about Gulf Finance House’s impositions on the former Reading boss. For the fanbase, however, very few of the conditions McDermott was being forced to work under were known. The pressure was clearly there, but no-one thought any decision on his future was particularly imminent.

Then the shock came, reported first by Phil Hay. Cellino was informed that he had officially taken charge of the club by Salah Nooruddin, then chairman. An article from the time says that McDermott was then phoned at around 7pm by a lawyer representing Cellino, who simply told him he was gone.

Twitter went into meltdown. Sky Sports News, presenting a particularly boring transfer deadline day, made Leeds United the story of the night. Ross McCormack phoned up the station, either agitating for a move, with several clubs circling, or attempting to save the job of the manager who had just made him captain, depending on which way you look at it.

The night ran on and the story never really reached a conclusion. It seemed difficult to imagine one. Leeds fans went down to Elland Road and ended up barricading Cellino inside the ground as a taxi circled. The night ended in pure farce.

Unseasonably, the sun shone brightly the next day as fans gathered outside the East Stand to protest Cellino’s purchase of the club and McDermott’s sacking.

Huddersfield, the opponents for the day and arguably Leeds’ biggest rivals in the Championship, had become something of an afterthought.

At one point, Gianluca Festa looked set to take charge of the team, with a series of planned changes to the side McDermott had picked. Instead, Nigel Gibbs and current head coach Neil Redfearn were put in charge. McDermott’s name was sung by Leeds fans from the moment the teams emerged from the tunnels, with captain McCormack openly encouraging it.

Huddersfield’s solitary goal was the only dampener on a day that turned out to be one to savour. McCormack, accused of not wanting to play by the Town faithful, put Leeds back on level terms. Jimmy Kebe belied his displays in other games to make it 2-1 to Leeds, before McCormack bagged another two to complete a hat-trick. Alex Mowatt then wrapped it up with a long range effort, 5-1 to Leeds.

The result was enough, and then further news broke – McDermott was never sacked. As questionable as his later record was, the pure elation experienced by fans travelling through the Lowfields tunnel, who must have checked their phones and seen the news at exactly the same time, was clear, as McDermott’s name was spontaneously sung once more.

This day last year was one of those that justifies being a football fan. It showed in a microcosm that as bad as the bad can be, the good is always worth waiting for.