Brian McDermott believes Leeds United can still mount a late bid for promotion this season – provided the club reach the last 10 games with their ownership resolved and the play-offs within touching distance.
McDermott refused to concede that Leeds’s Championship term was running out of steam, despite their defeat to Brighton on Tuesday and the on-going battle to sell the club to Italian businessman Massimo Cellino.
United’s manager, who was illegitimately sacked by owner-in-waiting Cellino last month and then reinstated, is fighting on after a 1-0 loss in Sussex denied Leeds the chance to climb to within two points of the Championship’s top six.
The defeat was Leeds’s 12th of the league season – more than any other club in the top-half of the table – and McDermott’s squad have 16 games to bridge a five-point gap to Reading in sixth.
The scramble for a top-six finishing is rapidly focusing on one position with the leading five clubs pulling away from the rest of the field but McDermott hopes his side will mount a dramatic bid to qualify if they remain in contention during the coming month.
“We’re not out of the running,” McDermott said. “You’ve got to believe that we’ve still got a real chance of getting there.
“With 10 games to go if we’re four or five points off the top six then who knows? We’ll have home games coming up and we might have a chance.
“At that stage I’m pretty sure that the ownership situation will have been resolved too. That would be great for everybody.”
Cagliari owner Cellino met with Football League representatives in London yesterday to discuss his proposed £25m buy-out of current Leeds owner Gulf Finance House.
The meeting, which Cellino is understood to have requested, came and went without a decision from the League on whether to approve his purchase, and the governing body could take as long as two weeks to return a decision on his plan to take control of United.
Cellino and GFH finalised his takeover last Friday, exchanging contracts after the 57-year-old made an initial payment to the Bahraini bank.
Football League approval is the only obstacle facing him and United are keen for the League to sanction his purchase quickly after mounting financial pressure saw them take a £1.5m loan from Cellino to help cover the wage bill for January.
The YEP has been told that Cellino’s initial plans for United include a sizeable clear-out of surplus senior players and a reduction of the monthly cost of salaries.
Paul Green and Luke Varney left Leeds on loan last week and others are likely to follow before the emergency window closes next month.