Twenty-five thousand people listened to it in two hours, and now a lot of them are looking for some answers. Over the weekend, a Leeds United supporter managed to get hold – from, it should be added, publicly available sources – of the telephone number Man Who Be The New King Of Elland Road, Massimo Cellino, and gave him a call, with surprising results. You can hear the interview for yourself by clicking here – or there is a transcript of it here – but here are, for the benefit of those amongst you that are unwilling or unable to listen to the entire thing, some selected highlights. According to Cellino:
- The club’s chief executive David Haigh is “a son of a bitch, he’s a witch, he’s dangerous, he’s a fucking devil” who “made the problem to show that he solve the problem.”
- Ken Bates is “still behind the shit [that has been going on at the club of late]” and had dinner with Haigh at the weekend.
- Cellino requested that Haigh be removed from his position at the club, but that GFH Capital (the club’s current owners) “didn’t want to kick him out, because he’s blackmailing even Ken Bates.”
- Andrew Flowers, whose long-standing bid to purchase by the club was usurped by Cellino’s bid in January, is a “fucking arsehole.”
- Cellino doesn’t hold the current team in particularly high regard, stating that, “With the income of £28m per year. Eighteen million on wages. For the shit team like that!”
- He doesn’t hold the manager in particularly high regard either, and that his comments to Brian McDermott were to the effect that, “I’m the owner here, I want a coach, not a manager, I manage the club.”
- Coveted striker Ross McCormack requested a transfer to Cardiff City for £4m on transfer deadline day which GFH agreed, but which was stopped by Cellino.
There is much more besides, and for listening Leeds United supporters it seems to have been something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, he holds the fanbase high esteem and frequently comes across as angry on their behalf at what has happened to their club of late. On the other, however, Cellino’s loose-lippedness – as a result of a telephone conversation with somebody that he didn’t even know – hints at Cellino being precisely the sort of loose cannon that many already believed him to be, with all the potential for baggage that comes with such character traits.
Perhaps, though, for the increasingly wearied supporters of Leeds United, this was at least a little light relief after a dismal and desperate last few days. The team’s only two league wins since the middle of December have come against two of the three teams that currently occupy the Championship’s relegation positions, and there seems to be little end in sight to the misery on the pitch for a team which manager Brian McDermott last week admitted is being affected by the instability around the club at the moment. If this uncertainty was bad last Wednesday, it may have reached a crescendo when the players weren’t paid their full wage packets on Friday. The team’s performance against Doncaster Rovers last Saturday was the sort of listless fare that one might have expected from people that haven’t been paid in full.
The players have since agreed to a wage deferral, but the fact that the players couldn’t be paid in full last weeks hints at the scale of the problems that the club is having again at the moment. David Haigh is reported to have put in £1.5m of his own money into the club to keep it ticking over, while Massimo Cellino had been paying the wages for the last two months. That Cellino should have been funding the club is odd, but it understood to be in line with an agreement between him and GFH that he would do so for a period for six months and, although he confirmed this afternoon that he intends to push ahead with an appeal over the Football League’s verdict that he fails their current Owners & Directors Test, it would appear from the non-payment of these wages at the end of last week that any plans for him to bankroll the club are now firmly on ice, even though it had been previously been thought that he was contractually obliged to do so for the time being.
David Haigh had said earlier this month that there was “no chance” that the club could enter administration for a second time, but this seems less and less likely with every piece of damning news to have emanated from Elland Road over the last few weeks or so. Cellino has appealed his blocking from the club under the Owners & Directors Test but, although the Football League’s statement on the matter noted that the appeal would take place “at the earliest opportunity,” no date has yet been set for this to take place and, of course, there are far from any guarantees that this appeal will be successful. GFH, meanwhile, have spent a considerable amount of time trying to ameliorate increasingly angry supporters by making statements saying that the club isn’t in any danger of entering into administration. Failure to pay the bills on time would seem to suggest otherwise, unless players’ wages are being deliberately held back for some reason or another, contractual obligation or not.
For now, though, only uncertainty reigns at Elland Road. GFH Capital might have turned out to be yet another rotten bunch to take over the running of this football club, but they retain a responsibility for ensuring that the club is adequately funded until a new buyer – be that Massimo Cellino or anybody of the others that have expressed an interest in drinking from this exceptionally posioned chalice – no matter what “contractual agreements” they may have in place with Cellino. And ultimately, no matter what they may say about not entering into administration, the feeling of chaos coupled with the suspicion that no-one may actually know the full story of what is going on at the club at the moment that has descended upon Elland Road in recent weeks has an extremely familiar air to it. With every passing day, the risk of the club slipping back into the tailspin in which it found itself several years looms larger and larger on the horizon.
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