Cellino and Leeds Fans: Leap of Faith Required from Both Sides – by Rob Atkinson


Cellino - can he "get" what it is to be Leeds?

Cellino – can he “get” what it is to be Leeds?

With the clock ticking down towards Saturday and another of those meaningless irrelevances that crop up now and again in the Leeds United calendar – yes, folks, I’m talking about a football match – some vital issues are becoming ever clearer as some of the murk disperses from the Elland Road neighbourhood.

The first and most significant of these is that Massimo Cellino is most likely going to be our new owner – and maybe sooner rather than later.  That story has moved on from a state of siege last Friday night, when the Italian was barricaded inside the stadium, his getaway cars chased over the horizon by vexed United supporters, to something which is developing from resigned acceptance into something approaching guarded optimism.  It will be important for us all, going forward, that this process should continue and that some mutual trust should manifest itself.

The second important factor which is becoming ever clearer is the parlous state of Leeds United as it has been trundling along over the past year or so since GFH ousted Bates.  It looks more and more as though the club has been haemorrhaging money at a rate that would prove fatal in the relatively near future.  Against the alarming nature of this unwelcome truth, little matters like winding up petitions and managerial insecurity rather pale into the background.  Leeds United need an urgent and massive transfusion of cold, hard cash – and they need it now, if not sooner.

All of this should lead us towards regarding the various parties to the current messy situation in a new and more realistic light.  GFH have been talking about working towards a sustainable future with solid investment designed to restore the club to its natural place towards the top of the English game.  It’s quite clear now that – without a major windfall – such talk was simply moonshine, a deceptive smokescreen designed to manage fans’ expectations and lull us through a succession of disappointing transfer windows.  So much for GFH.

Cellino was initially regarded with something rather worse than suspicion and cynicism.  He’s a crook, people fulminated.  He’s the worst thing that could happen to our club.  He will destroy us; we don’t want his dirty money.  But as things have started to become clearer, it’s becoming steadily more obvious that the one thing we cannot do without is Cellino’s lucre, filthy or otherwise.  And this is regardless of whether or not he intends to splash as much cash on players as the FFP rules will allow.  Leeds United is skint, and needs to be fully-capitalised; we need that security of money to buffer us against whatever the future might bring.  So, since last Friday, Cellino is being seen more as a source of salvation than our arch-Nemesis.  That’s progress for you.

The fact of the matter is that this is probably going to happen.  From that factual foundation, new attitudes have to form and all parties still engaged in and dedicated to the welfare of Leeds United AFC have to bend their efforts to that end.  This is no time to embrace negativity – there are agencies aplenty out there who are more than eager to do that without us jumping on board.  What is required here is a leap of faith – but it has to come from both sides so that we meet somewhere in the middle and find a way of taking matters forward.

From the fans’ point of view, this surely means an initial acceptance that Cellino is coming into Leeds United with the intention of succeeding.  On the face of it, it’s sensible to ask: “why would we suspect otherwise?”  Against the background of media uproar, with every anti-Leeds hack predicting dire outcomes, doom and gloom – where is the logic behind any assumption that Massimo Cellino is here to do us harm?  Even if his first move as confirmed owner were to sack Brian McDermott – something I do not want to see – then it would hardly be an unusual move on the part of a new owner.  It would not, of itself, be a malevolent or a diabolical act – as some would seem eager to portray it.  Initially, at least, we have to assume that the man – who has almost sold his first love, Cagliari, to concentrate on Leeds United – is here to succeed.

Our Brian

Our Brian

But the fact is that there is a leap of faith required from Cellino as well.  Looking at the Brian McDermott situation again – what is the major element in his appeal to the Leeds United fans?  Is it the results, the tactics, the transfer market record?  Not really – in all three areas, the record has been nothing special – mediocre at best.  Then again, Brian has been working with one hand tied behind his back, lacking any real financial support.  But the real appeal of McDermott is easy to identify: he “gets” Leeds United, and he “gets” the fans.  That has been the golden thread running through the slightly threadbare fabric of his tenure at Elland Road.  Just about everything he has said since moving into the managerial hot seat has struck exactly the right note with the club’s support.  I cannot think of a manager in the recent past – with the possible exception of Simon Grayson – who has been so demonstrably on the fans’ wavelength, so clearly in tune with the fans’ concerns.  Brian McDermott listens to our problems, feels our pain and talks our language.  For God’s sake, he even stands us drinks with his last fifty Euros. That is why, for the most part, Brian is loved.

Now Cellino is most probably coming in, and he comes in as a foreigner, an alien, steeped in a culture which could hardly be more different from that in which exists English football.  He must know that he will have to learn, and learn fast.  It may even be that such a learning process is already under way.  That Friday night barricaded inside Elland Road, while the whirlwind of the fans’ rage rattled the window-panes, must surely have had some impact.  Whatever Cellino is, we can safely assume that he is no fool.  It’s unlikely that he will have expected such a very demonstrative display from such a very vocal group of Leeds supporters.  But it’s equally unlikely that he’ll have been daft enough to dismiss it as irrelevant.

What we need and want is an owner who is not just “minted” – and fired with an ambition to restore our club to the top of the game.  What we need and want is an owner who “gets” Leeds United, and its fans, in a manner similar to that which has enabled Brian McDermott – who as a southerner is hardly that much less of a foreigner or alien himself in the People’s Republic of West Yorkshire – to build up such a rapport with such a notoriously truculent and suspicious group of fans.

Cellino has already said a few words to indicate that he appreciates the Leeds fans are no ordinary bunch of tifosi – that he recognises that we are a militant and fanatical group of committed loyalists who will try to move mountains in the interests of their beloved club.  He will not have been fazed by the demonstration of last Friday night; indeed he actually appears to have the cool poise to have been more impressed and moved, rather than rattled or shaken.  That itself bodes well for the future, and boy do we need some good omens right now.

The bottom line is that things could not have proceeded much longer the way they were.  Add to that the apparent lack of any other feasible alternative, and it’s not rocket science to predict that Cellino – subject always to the Football League getting off their collective arse and ratifying the deal – is by far the most likely way out of the immediate hole in which – thanks to the ineptitude of our last several owners and guardians – we now find ourselves.  So it looks like an Italian Job, and it’s up to all parties to try to make the best of it and move forward as harmoniously as possible.

A leap of faith.  It’s what you do when the future is uncertain but you’re faced with Hobson’s Choice.  It’s a situation which renders mistrust and cynicism more than ordinarily counter-productive.  It’s the very kernel of what Marching On Together should be all about.  So – if and when it’s confirmed – let’s do just that.  Let’s give it a chance and see what happens.

After all – “Siamo tutti Leeds – non siamo?”

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36 responses to “Cellino and Leeds Fans: Leap of Faith Required from Both Sides – by Rob Atkinson

  1. AllWhiteNow

    Siamo infatti tutti Leeds. Can I have some of your common-sense please Rob? I have a good feeling about this guy – no evidence other than, as you say, why would he commit millions to a football club and not want it to succeed and make more millions by getting into the PL? I may be naive – its sometimes the only way to go in this mad world – but for the first time in what? for ever? we have an owner who has money. And if there is one thing that is absolutely essential in the English game, its money. Bring it on.

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  2. signore sniffers shorts

    with the sale of his home club, things point to him wanting to succeed and invest for us, Let it be, so we can just banter about the football and who had a good or bad game for a change, lets hope the running can be smoother when he gets the nod. 100%!!!!!! unlikely as we are Leeds United, and its never that simple WE ALL LOVE LEEDS.

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  3. LeBendig Ronald

    We? I as a supporter for 36 years will walk away if Cellino comes in. I do not want to be associated with a convicted criminal nor spend my money on this thief and fraudster. Liverpool looks like a good club to me.

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  4. Dying for that two faced Lorimer to get pedalled and i’d love to see haigh get escorted out too. What a pair of rats.

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  5. Again rob you’ve hit the nail on the head,, I was one of those who was happy when gfh took over , why ? Because I thought they would lead us out of the mess we were in , maybe I’m right and that’s exactly what they have done , they got rid of bates , appointed bmac and now sold us on to someone with the financial clout we desperately need , in hindsight what else could we ask of them , I know there’s fans out there that don’t trust him and think he’s not right for the club etc , but I’m sure they’ll come around when things start looking good this summer , a few big name signings and we’ll all be back singing from the same song sheet , my gut feeling is this is a good thing for Leeds and anyone can feel free to remind me of that if it all goes Pete tong

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  6. where is the logic behind any assumption that Massimo Cellino is here to do us harm? = by sacking a fairly decent manager and bringing in someone who knows nothing about management, Festa. I get that we need his money, and I get that his is the only money on the table but his actions last week speak louder than words. Leeds United will be his and only his, not ours or anyone else’s. He is an Italian version of Ken Bates, he will be getting us publicity for all the wrong reasons and from what I have read, what I have found out about Cagliari, and from his actions last week we will rue the day he walked through the gates of ER.

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  7. TOTALLY AGREE now more than any time in our recent past we need to give this guy a chance, he has money, he has passion for football not yet LEEDS but given time that will come McD didnt when he came but look at him now he is one of us.
    the money side was scary to hear over the last few days and GFH have lied to us since day one they had no substance all they wanted to do was flip us over make a few pounds and keep there shareholders happy and we fell for it to get rid of Bates

    lets move on and give the guy some time
    MOTY

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  8. Spot on there lad. Couldn’t agree more. Great sensible article. We need these bloke. More and more by the day with all the depression thats is coming out of Elland Road. Lets hope it turns out to be just what we have been waiting for for this past decade. I’m hopeful it will. Mind you thats all we’ve had this last number of years….hope! MOT

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  9. Ropey Wyla

    Have to agree with Rob on this, despite having reservations over all parties involved, we need money like a pooh bear needs honey!

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  10. richierich

    I think you’re asking too much to have an owner who gets us fans.
    If we want a rich owner we have to give a bit or we get stuck with Bates or Gfh type people. Typical of some fans to wish for a rich buyer and when one comes they complain he is not squeaky clean.

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  11. Northeastcorner.
    Cellino has loads of cash with which to service the debt, bring more quality into the squad and to buy back ER and TA.
    And having ‘lionelmassi.com’ as a website anagram of your name is beyond cool – and is perhaps a good omen for the future.
    So it’s take the leap of faith and MOT with Lionel !!!

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  12. I think Brian has been good in all 3 areas actually – 40% win rate with bad inherited players, Stewart, Smith, Murphy, even Wootton have shown potential, Zaliukas put in some good performances. Kebe looks good too, now he’s match fit. Arguably Brian got the tactics wrong against Rochdale and the Wendies, but playing that way had to be tried sometime. People say he’s Warnock again, but on close inspection nothing like.

    Re money.

    11 million a year loss, due to Bates, and a wage bill. Did you or didn’t you want players bought in? Do you not realise that if even more money is spent then the annual balance sheet looks worse?

    3.3 M of season ticket money lost. That comes back next season, so the annual loss becomes 7.7 M. Diouf, Brown, Drury, Varney, Norris, Pugh, (Tonge too?) off of our wage bill (and Green, who I suspect might be kept on for a year, and Ashdown, who if not kept would be replaced). Diouf costs us £520,000 a year, Brown half that. Pugh earns more than Diouf, but I don’t know how much; I’d guess the others are on more than Diouf too.

    Our catering money is also mortgaged, and we get that back within a year or two. And our ground is rented, but both Cellino and TL say that they’ll buy it, so that 1.5-2 M a year back (I know you think Cellino is telling the truth and that TL are a pack of liars, but I can’t see why).

    Please do the sums before announcing that we’re losing money at an unacceptable rate. We aren’t. We’re temporarily losing money during a post-Bates period of recovery. All that’s happened is that GFH have run out of money to cover the losses – not that they seem to have done that much anyway; it looks like Flowers’ sponsorship and Haigh’s pockets kept us going.

    An annual loss is not inevitable. It’s cut, without players sales, next season, and turned to profit the season after.

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  13. insieme a marciare!!!!!!

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  14. OneTonyCurrie

    Great article and I agree with the sentiment and the attitude. My fear re Cellino is that his plan – his reason for getting involved – is to bring a succession of unknown Italians into Leeds in the hope that a few may do well enough to command a big money transfer. It fits the transfer record at Cagliari and also his “hands on” approach to team selection. I hope I’m wrong. And I’m prepared to make that leap of faith because the alternative is too depressing to contemplate. How bad has it got that Gary Neville feels sorry for us?

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  15. marciare su insieme

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  16. Rob, I hope you meant “Siamo tutti Leeds-Siamo non?”- (We are Leeds -Are we not?) and not as you put “Siamo tutti Leeds – non siamo?”-(We are Leeds-We are not)

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  17. Most of your blogs are much better than respectable, but this one is excellent. Well written and in true Leeds United colours. I have to say, I am half convinced, but if he sacks B M he will be getting chased round Leeds for a long time to come! If Cellino comes we should greet him properly and demonstrate courtesy and respect, but the same needs to be reciprocated. There is one thing for sure, ew have has our share in ex enteric owners recently and we seem to building on that terns,lol! I think that you are right though, Rob. Cellino needs to learn the culture and protocols at ER. He needs to avoid confrontation with the authorities and the fans! Most of all though, he needs someone who is honest, knowledgeable, trustworthy and reliable. Someone who can advise him and not the other way round. In other words a good all round guy with bags of experience and credibility. Not sure who that person is -of, yes! It is the manager that we have already got – Brian McDermott!!!

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  18. 1st It sounds like G F H not only have no money to invest in the playing side , they can’t even break even with the business side of things
    2nd The British consortium are a bunch of cashless wanabees who can’t see the sence of making an offer G F H can’t refuse . If they really want a club , who in 2002 had the 16th largest turnover on the planet then get the money . Stop messing
    3rd If Cellino buys this club , and he is a football nut , how can he not get the ‘bug ‘ ? He’s already aware that we can be humiliated and still 31000 turn up at the theatre of hope . Could it be anywhere near as bad as being ‘saved’ by Bates . I don’t think it could . Incidentally if I was to buy a club in trouble off and on the pitch I would want a new manager as well . No room for sentiment and nice guys here . Only winners . We are Leeds . Onwards and upwards .

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  19. oop’s
    marciando su insieme !!!!

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  20. Agree with all Rob,iwas one of 1st to support Cellino coming in its ano brainer,I agree with the nice things saidv about BMD but people are too blinkerd over results,tactics,perfomances&signings ,they have been EVEN worse than Warnock when sacked ,Mcallaster when sacked Wise when sacked & Grayson when sacked .Ithink we will find BMD will be out & Fester in once the ink dries .

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  21. Looks like I’m going to have to learn some Italian if I want to read your stuff Rob, cappuccino anyone?

    I don’t like what I’ve read about this guy and given the option I would rather have someone else BUT beggars can’t be choosers, so fingers crossed that he genuinely wants to take us back to where we belong and I will respect him so long as he doesn’t mess me or the club that I love about.
    MOT forever.

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  22. David Smith

    Rob – have to agree totally with your revised stance on Mr Collino, albeit that I do feel somewhat hypocritical having been very much in the anti-Italian camp, following last Friday’s shenanigans !
    Latest reports are suggesting that one of the first things he will do is buy back Elland Road, which will certainly endear him to many, who like myself were refusing to sup with the devil !
    My long jump days are well behind me, but as you say, it is time for that leap of faith. MOT

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  23. lets get behind him until we have reason not to . H es going to buy the ground back,this could be the start of something big,.BMD lost me picking the hopeless Austin everyweek ,

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  24. Great article rob. As I was reading it i could hear an arrow fly unerringly into the centre of its target. You should get yourself a blog site 🙂

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  25. I REALLY want to believe Mr Cellino, but if he’s loaded and so passionate about football, why in 20 years has he not turned Cagliari into a major force?
    Still, he looks like assuming control very soon at a MUCH bigger club than Cagliari will ever be, and here is a golden opportunity for Mr Cellino to get the fans and everyone at Leeds United WITH him. UNITED, Leeds is a formidable and almost unstoppable force and he will understand a little of that from last Saturday.
    He COULD be great for Leeds United, and we could be great for him. I just hope he can modify his controlling behaviour and show some TRUST and RESPECT to his employees. Running a place on fear may show a short-term “dead cat bounce”, but having everyone standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Massimo would surely be so much more enjoyable and productive!

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  26. You’ve all got your way – contracts have been exchanged between GFH and the convicted criminal who said they’d done that last week. The liars and parasites at TL, Farnan, Radebe, Verity and Pearson, who obviously mean us harm, have been ignored.

    Leeds United’s last ever game was won 5-1, with Leeds taking revenge on self-styled rivals. How appropriate that it took place so soon after Bobby Collins’ funeral.

    I’ll be back in a while to say I TOLD YOU SO. If I ever go to a football match again it won’t be to support the morally (and probably legally and financially) bankrupt horror that occupies Elland Road (for a short while only, I imagine.)

    Within months; Briam McDermott will find another club. If it’s a properly managed one, I’ve no doubt there’ll be great success there within a few years. Where will ex-LU be by then?

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  27. sniffersshorts

    Another day of ups and downs ….. negatives and head hanging in disbelief and POW …. contracts exchanged just FL approval next Weds and hopefully put your money where your mouth ER back to whom it belongs, Thursday.
    fingers ruddy crossed no hiccups ….. and full Support behind us, a year hence we will see where we are at. But smiling and happy, and broadcasting it to all and sundry ….. cant wait for tomorrows game we should have our tails in the air onwards and upwards to THE PROMISED LAND.

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  28. Done deal now lets move onwards and upwards , but reading this blog as I have for the past twelve months or so I have learnt a lot , not just from the host but a lot about my fellow Leeds fans , some are good for a laugh , some are cynical to the core , some are obviously highly educated and others not , but one thing we all have in common ( apart from one or two) is our love for all things Leeds united , as our anthem says , were gonna stay with you forever , at least until the world stops going round , marching on together boys , on and on

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