Leeds United: We’re fighting for our future - McDermott

Brian McDermott
Brian McDermott
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Brian McDermott said he and his players were “fighting for our Leeds United future” as he waited to see if wages owed to the club’s staff would be paid ahead of tomorrow’s derby against Doncaster Rovers.

Brian McDermott said he and his players were “fighting for our Leeds United future” as he waited to see if wages owed to the club’s staff would be paid ahead of tomorrow’s derby against Doncaster Rovers.

The Leeds manager told his squad to concentrate on securing a role at the club next season amid an unseemly dispute over who was responsible for paying the wage bill for March.

Lawyers representing club owner Gulf Finance House and Massimo Cellino – the Italian businessman bidding to buy Leeds for £25m – remained in discussions in London yesterday evening as talks raged about funding salaries for players and staff at Elland Road this morning.

GFH wanted Cellino to meet the seven-figure bill, claiming the 57-year-old’s company – Eleonora Sport Limited – had agreed to pay United’s day-to-day costs for a six-month period as part of takeover a deal struck between the two sides in January.

But Cellino is reluctant to invest more money in Leeds after seeing the Football League rejected his bid to acquire a 75 per cent stake in the club last week.

Cellino formally appealed against that decision yesterday and is challenging the League’s ruling that a recent conviction for tax evasion in Italy breached the governing body’s Owners and Directors Test.

The past 48 hours, however, have been dominated by lengthy negotiations over wages following McDermott’s admission that he and his players were uncertain of receiving their salaries for March.

McDermott said he had sought no assurances from GFH, Cellino or United managing director David Haigh but admitted that prior to his press conference at 2pm yesterday, none of those involved had been in touch to discuss the issue with him.

Asked about the dispute, McDermott said: “I don’t look for assurances about getting paid. I’m not looking for that and I’ve never had it here or anywhere else.

“Do I need assurances? Well, we’ve been paid since I came here in April every single month. I assume at the end of every month you’ll get paid. It’s always an assumption.”

United’s game against Doncaster has been completely overshadowed by the wait to see if the wage bill would be paid, but McDermott attempted to focus the attention of his squad on the final nine games of the Championship season.

Leeds have fallen out of the fight for a play-off position after a woeful run of form, compounded by a 4-1 defeat at Bournemouth on Tuesday, and McDermott said: “All of us are fighting for our Leeds United future – players, staff, all of us.

“We’ve got nine games to go and they’re important games. Who wants to be here next season? Who wants to wear the shirt next season? I think we’re fighting for that future.

“The club’s situation is obviously priority number one, two and three. So is the ownership situation. But as a staff and a group of players, we’ve got to fight for our lives now.”

McDermott also denied that concern about wages might negatively affect United’s performance at Elland Road tomorrow, saying: “I expect the players to play, get the right result and perform to the right level.”

The players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, has been in touch with McDermott’s squad in the past few days but the organisation was itself in the dark about whether or not they would paid.

Cellino, meanwhile, is continuing to fight for ownership of Leeds after submitting his appeal to the Football League.

The League’s eight-man board were responsible for rejecting his takeover on Monday but his appeal will be heard by an independent QC with “access to independent expert evidence relating to certain aspects of Italian law.”

Cellino’s legal team is arguing that despite being convicted of failing to pay tax on a luxury yacht he bought in 2010, Cellino remains innocent in Italy until all appeals against the verdict have been exhausted.

A statement from the Football League said: “The appeal will be convened at the earliest opportunity, in line with the Football League’s previous commitment to expedite the appeal process to deliver much-needed certainty to all the relevant parties.”

Cellino’s appeal is expected to take place within the next two weeks.

The argument over funding wages at Leeds has heightened the importance of Cellino’s appeal amid suggestions that Leeds could face administration - a claim Haigh has repeatedly denied - and mounting financial pressure at Elland Road.

A spokesman for GFH refused to comment on either the wage dispute or the possible threat of insolvency last night.

McDermott said: “GFH are still owners of the club. They’ve taken on that mantle and they have that responsibility - to make sure that bills get paid and people get paid. That’s GFH’s responsibility and I’m sure they know it.”

He also said he had been told administration was not being considered, saying: “It doesn’t bear thinking about and we’ve been told that it won’t happen.”

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