It seems that even for a club as accustomed to commotion as Leeds United, the current situation is seriously unstable.
Club owner Massimo Cellino is currently serving a ban imposed by the Football League related to unpaid taxes on his yacht, and in one bizarre recent episode, six players were accused of faking injury after they refused to travel to an away match at Charlton, despite being reported as fit to play the previous day.
The eccentric Cellino is known as “The Manager Eater” in Italy for his habit of sacking managers at an astonishing rate at former club Cagliari, and his much shorter reign in West Yorkshire has been every bit as turbulent.
The Manager Eater
Just days after taking over the club in early 2014 Cellino sacked manager Brian McDermott, before re-instating him into his position by the next game after protests from fans. Perhaps inevitably, McDermott was gone for good by May.
Strangely, Cellino looked to the lower leagues for his replacement. Early in the 2013/14 season Dave Hockaday was sacked by Conference side Forest Green Rovers after a poor run of results.
He must have been as surprised as anyone to be leading one of the best supported clubs in the country for the start of the following season. A poor start to the season saw him sacked by August, and Cellino’s next appointment Darko Milanic fared no better; he was sent packing before the end of October.
United’s only brief spells of stability since Cellino arrived had taken place with Neil Redfearn in place as Interim Head Coach, following the sacking of others. Calls for Redfearn to step up from his academy coaching role to take up the managerial position full time began to grow, and on November 1 2014 the fans got their wish.
Redfearn has remained in charge to date, but the controversies have persisted, indeed Redfearn’s assistant Steve Thompson was recently fired without consultation. In the background rumours of a takeover by Red Bull have refused to go away.
Considering the energy drink company imposed a complete re-brand of SV Austria Salzburg’s club colours, kit, and team name after buying the club, Leeds fans are understandably nervous that a Red Bull takeover in Yorkshire would result in a similarly extreme makeover.
This ongoing mire of controversy has meant that Redfearn’s authority has been consistently undermined, and it remains unclear whether he will be at the club next season, as his contract ends in the summer.
Considering the circumstances Redfearn did incredibly well to steer Leeds to Championship safety with several weeks to spare, and it’s questionable whether any managers of real pedigree would want to associate themselves with the chaos at Elland Road in the current climate.
Most of the good things Leeds have done this season have been built on the use of players Redfearn brought through the club academy, with talented youngsters Sam Byram, Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt and Charlie Taylor all earning places in the starting XI on a consistent basis this campaign.
This is a squad that has a number of talented players, and it isn't unrealistic to think that they could finish much higher in the table without off the field distractions. Unfortunately it is hard to escape the reality that Leeds seem to shoot themselves in the foot on an almost weekly basis; the idea of the club keeping clear of unrest for an entire season is almost laughable.
It’s hard to see how Redfearn’s departure from the club would be anything but another extreme example of self-destruction to add to the collection.
Leeds fans: what do you think next season will hold for your club? Let us know below!
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