Massimo Cellino has thrown down the gauntlet to Brian McDermott to prove himself as the man to lead his Leeds United revolution on the pitch – starting at Watford this evening.
The Italian’s official completion of his takeover is imminent after he won his appeal against the Football League banning him from becoming the new majority shareholder of the club in stunning fashion on Saturday.
The 57-year-old flew into England yesterday and will attend tonight’s match at Vicarage Road ahead of embarking on his club restructuring once the takeover formalities are completed.
The league have confirmed they will discuss the weekend developments regarding Cellino at a board meeting on Thursday, when his takeover could be ratified.
With some form of clarity on the takeover issue provided after Cellino won his appeal to prevent him from acquiring 75 per cent share of the club, attention quickly switched to speculation over McDermott’s future.
But Cellino last night offered the former Reading boss a welcome vote of support, despite a weekend interview in which he was quoted as saying McDermott should have been encouraged to resign by United’s poor form, which has seen them win just three times in 21 matches.
McDermott’s side head into tonight’s game on the back of a run of seven defeats in eight matches, but the prospective new Whites owner – who sacked his 36th manager in his 22-year reign at Cagliari when he axed Diego Lopez on Sunday – has handed a lifeline to McDermott.
The 52-year-old is 12 months into a three-year deal at Leeds, with Cellino admitting that he sees no need to ‘waste money’ by sackingMcDermott without giving him chance of first proving himself.
On the situation with McDermott, Cellino, who confirmed that the remaining 35 per cent of the players and staff’s outstanding wages from March will be paid, said: “Why should I fire him to waste money? Leeds’ needs money and he is a good manager.
“I think he has to show that he is a good manager. He has had a lot of problems with the team, the properties, with the market.
“But we now solve the problem and paying the wages is no problem. He’s got a president, chairman and a property.
“He’s got to do his job good and I’ve got to give him what is good for the team. Ok, let’s play now. Let’s see.
“I think it’s important to pay the players on time. They need money. I don’t think that’s a big problem.”
Cellino authorised the sacking of McDermott - via a phone call from solicitor Chris Farnell - amid the chaotic events of January 31, only for the former Reading chief to be subsequently reinstated less than 24 hours later following a dramatic club U-turn, with the Italian not having the authority to do so.
Cellino went onto claim he did not dismiss McDermott.
Relations between the pair have significantly improved since, with Cellino texting McDermott once he was told that his appeal about the Football League’s decision to block his takeover had been successful on Saturday.
McDermott publicly backed Cellino’s takeover attempts last month and has spoken about not having any problem working with the Italian, who he has described as a ‘football man.’
The United boss says he took Sunday reports suggesting that Cellino felt he should have stepped down as manager following Leeds’ shocking recent run with a pinch of salt, with the pair likely to sit down later this week.
McDermott said: “As a new owner, you always sit down with a manager and it will become very clear.
“I think the proof of the pudding will be in time and seeing what happens. I think the most important thing is that it’s an exciting time now. We have an owner where the club is going to be solvent and the players will be paid and we can move forward knowing we have a clear situation.
“He will have a plan and want to do right by Leeds United, which is really important. There is no doubt we are going in the same direction because we both want to get Leeds United promoted. We have both got the same ambition and aim for the club.”