Leeds United chairman Andrew Umbers admitted last night that the club had been left with bridges to build and supporters to appease at the end of the first year of Massimo Cellino’s reign.
In an interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post, Umbers defended United after another controversial week but said he and Cellino were aware of a mood of rising anger among the club’s fans.
Cellino, who is nearing the end of a Football League order banning him from running Leeds, faced calls for him to sell the club from an away crowd of 3,000 during last Saturday’s defeat at Charlton Athletic.
The Italian bought Leeds last April but has experienced a harsh first season in English football.
More controversy developed last Friday when six of United’s foreign players were declared unfit ahead of the visit to Charlton, a spate of withdrawals which prompted accusations that the individuals involved were trying to undermine head coach Neil Redfearn.
Umbers, however, said he was “satisfied” that the six players were “genuinely injured.”
Asked about the dissent from the crowd at The Valley, Umbers said: “It’s very sad. You set expectations and you manage expectations. We haven’t set many expectations and people might say that’s down to the fact that we don’t communicate.
“Part of the reason we don’t communicate is because we’re dealing with so many issues at so many times, we can’t. We want to tell people all the good news.
“In good time we’ll set the bar right in the close season. We’ll set the right expectations for the fans. When you hear chants that are personal and divisive, they affect the players on the pitch. They affect family. But look, they’re a minority.”
When it was pointed out that most of the 3,000 at Charlton appeared to be chanting against Cellino, Umbers said: “I hope in time we can win them all over. We’ll do our best to win all of them over.
“It’s not an easy job running a club when you have such passionate fans who have such great loyalty. You only do your best. Sometimes you have to be unpopular but you always have to think you’re doing the right thing.
“If we get communication and expectation-management right then people will see what we’re doing. But I accept that people want to see contracts signed. They want to see stability on the management and the football side. I get that. All these things are going to come.”
Umbers said news of the protests against Cellino had reached the Italian on Saturday. Cellino is due to resume control of Leeds immediately after his Football League ban ends on May 3 and United are attempting to secure permission from the League for him to attend their last game of the season against Rotherham United on May 2.
“He’s aware of it (the dissent),” Umbers said. “He was told about it.
“He’s adamant that what he’s doing is for the benefit of Leeds United and its fans. He’s adamant and more steadfast and he would ask for the fans to be more patient.”