High Stakes at Leeds United: Is Cellino Gambling With the Fans’ Faith? – by Rob Atkinson


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Cellino: gambling with high stakes?

Rumours abound that a new Head Coach appointment is imminent at Leeds United, though there is as yet no white smoke emanating from Elland Road. What there is plenty of, however, is sound and fury from the club’s supporter base, a goodly proportion of which are expressing some dissatisfaction with the mooted appointment of Dave Hockaday to the senior position within United’s first team coaching structure.  It is fair to say that some parts of his CV make for worrying reading; naysayers are quick to point at what they would term a failure at lowly Forest Green Rovers.  Others, more inclined to give a new man a fair crack of the whip, will recall that Hockaday was instrumental in the preparation of the Watford side that stepped out for a play-off final at Cardiff in 2006, looking ready for business, and easily dismissed fellow promotion hopefuls Leeds United 3-0 to add another chapter to our dismal record in that end of season lottery. The truth is that nobody out here in Fanland can really know which Hockaday incarnation we are likely to see if this surprising appointment does go through.  It’s going to be very much a case of awaiting the proof of the pudding.  The big question at this time must be: just how much of a gamble is Massimo Cellino taking – and is he confident that such a relatively unknown recruit can gain the faith and trust of players and fans alike?

As my good friends and partners at GamblingSitesOnline.org would confirm, a gamble is a pleasurable distraction; an exciting chance to gain much for a relatively small outlay.  There is enjoyment win or lose, and your seasoned gambler knows the score and sets his sights accordingly.  So what is Cellino’s mindset as he contemplates the final unveiling of his head coach?  He must be aware of the need to have the bulk of the fan base on board as Leeds United embark on a vital season, with the composition of the squad still very uncertain, with the pre-season programme sketchy to say the least and with a growing sense of disgruntlement after the brief honeymoon enjoyed by the man from Cagliari via Miami.

There is even ongoing doubt about Cellino’s involvement with Leeds in the medium to long term.  The judgement of the Italian court in the Nélie yacht import duty case was not, at the time, enough to back up the Football League’s intention of blocking the Eleonora Sport takeover of United.  But a full statement of that judgement, expected within 90 days of the case initially, could – if it imputes dishonesty – open the way for further action. It is fair to say that the League are watching events closely, stung as they were by the overturning of their original decision.  The latest suggestion is that the judge in the Nélie case may even have asked for a further 90 days before handing down her reasoned judgement.  The reasons for what would be a fairly unusual request for extension of that time limit are not clear.

Any football decision is, to a greater or lesser degree, a gamble.  Football is not an exact science, and gut feeling, instinct, call it what you will, must play a large part in the process behind any transfer or other recruitment.  A man might succeed in one job, as Hockaday certainly did at Watford – and fail in another, as he appears to have done way down the ladder at Forest Green.  None of this is a sure guide to future performance – but questions will be asked by a notoriously militant group of passionate and involved supporters, about such a seemingly low-profile appointment at what is still a major football club with a global reputation.

Massimo Cellino has shown himself to be a prudent financial manager – especially for an allegedly very wealthy man – since he walked through the doors at Elland Road.  Some of his cost-cutting measures have bordered on the parsimonious, yet he has been quite prompt in paying off certain pressing bills and seeing off wolves from our door; then again, stories persist of wages unpaid as the club’s accounts have been frozen.  All in all, there has been progress of a sort – getting rid of various undesirables from the club certainly constitutes positive progress – and yet nasty little doubts persist, drifting around the club and through the hearts and minds of each devoted fan.

At the end of the day, as supporters, it behoves us to support – and that means giving the owner the latitude to make the decisions he considers necessary and best for the future of the club.  We then also have to give any Cellino appointment a chance to show us what he’s made of, instead of pouncing upon the guy before he’s even got his feet under the table.  To do otherwise would be unfair and counter-productive.  Supporters have a vital role to play in the success of any football club – and if it is to be success, then that role must be a positive one.  In other words, we need to reserve judgement and see how things pan out.  That’s the view of this blog, anyway – taken in full appreciation that these are uncertain times and that many people with Leeds United held dear in their hearts are not at all happy with the way things seem to be going.  But we have to keep the faith.

Is Cellino gambling with the hearts and minds of the fans?  Probably he is – and he will be aware that those are high stakes.  But he also has the right to expect that, as a body of support, we will keep our nerve and stay in the game.  We have to believe that, from Cellino downwards, everyone involved wants the best for the club.  Time alone will tell whether the decisions being made now will prove to be the right ones to bring about desirable outcomes – that’s the gamble we all have to be a party to.

If it is to be Hockaday – possibly with other staff yet to be confirmed alongside him – then let’s at least acknowledge them as part of Leeds United and therefore entitled to our full support.  And let’s see where we go from there. 

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23 responses to “High Stakes at Leeds United: Is Cellino Gambling With the Fans’ Faith? – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Thank god for some sense being written at last.
    Some of the daft over-reaction ive read on twitter beggars belief.
    My fear is the ‘doom and gloom’ brigade will actually invite failure, like a self fulfilling prophecy, that constantly undermines everything the owner/coach/manager does, before a ball is even kicked, and will create a climate of fear that paralyses the club.
    Everyone, let people in charge get on with their jobs, and stop moaning.

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    • Hes signed a 2yr contract rob.could have been worse.it could have been a 3yr contract.

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    • Your continuing blind faith does you credit, I think?
      But Leeds United fans have been indulging in that for 10 years now and I personally do not have it any longer, I believe he should not have been gambling just to save money because the possible lower gate receipts may well cancel that out.
      I am not knocking Hockaday but his credentials are simply not good enough for Leeds United. Even Bates was not this cheap.
      Maybe Cellino knows something no one else does….
      Well thought out and written article though Rob.

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  2. hi Rob
    i have read your blogs and always seem to agree with your comments and arguments i just think all Leeds Fans should give MC a chance fully support the club home and away till middle of September by then we should have an indication of where we are and where we are going, then we can criticise MC or congratulate him MOT

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  3. Mike Durham

    Well said that man!! I can’t believe that Mr C is going ” buy his Ferrari ” and proceed to put sand in the petrol tank so let’s see where we are a couple of months down the road.
    The Championship is, in reality, a simple league where organisation, strength and pace can almost certainly guarantee you a top-six finish :
    if I remember correctly, weren’t that Watford side constructed along those lines?
    Keep up the great work Roberto!!

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  4. BringBackOLeary

    Why do we have to settle for second rate failures like Hockaday? I understand that he’s supposed to be a coach rather than a manager, but as far as I can see the distinction between the two isn’t exactly crystal clear. We will still rely on this guy to set tactics and train the players. However, the most irritating aspect of Cellino’s early tenureship is the complete lack of communication between himself and the fans. Unless he’s spouting a load of inane bollocks, that is. Unambitious levels of investment coupled with an arrogant disregard of Leeds fans…erm, does that sound familiar? No difference between this bloke and the other clowns who have run the club over the previous 10 years, as far as I can see anyway.

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    • Cant argue with that BBOL

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    • So true at time of writing BBOL, but then again I wasn’t in the Peacock having a pint with our newest “saviour ” to be bought over so easy like many posters on leeds forums.

      Excellent Comment.

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  5. I’m more worried about what the better players think.

    We’ve got Ross who played his best football for mcdermott, was unhappy with mcdermott leaving, but I reckon would have been excited to play for Gary mac.

    We’ve got the likes of smith, Murphy & byram who could develop into very good players, should we really be trusting their development to a 56 year old that was sacked by a conference side?

    Should have got mcallister in. Football is changing into a more attack orientated game, garys style of play is the right style for 2014. But we didn’t, because cellinos ego demands that he be the main man, can’t have a legendary ex player taking all the plaudits.

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  6. Dave Hockaday is now our head coach and as such needs to be fully supported in that role by all, my question would be should it all go wrong who will the fans blame? MC is the manager he dictates who comes in or is sold. He is the one responsible for the players, Hockaday will only implement MC’s instruction but he will incur the wrath you mark my words. MC won’t sack himself that’s for sure. But let’s be positive and back our man and hope he can do what proven men have failed all be it with no real financial support or in the case of McD no support at all from the club who employed him.

    Another good article Rob.

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  7. Yes a good read and yes we all need to give them both a chance to prove us wrong, it does seem a strange choice. But lets face it the Italian mafiola man is a true football man and he has and is willing to spend money on our little Fiat 500 so leats hope he transforms it into a Ferrari. I for one have all my fingers crossed that he knows what he is doing

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  8. sniffershorts

    God must have shut down the web, as I had written a piece and bang it went off, so I have just read the news sent by the arc angel Cellino, he obviously knew before his Disciples and before Cellino had written the 11th commandment …. you will bring doom and gloom to those anointed as Leeds united fans….. vivre papae ….. so we have Wack a day/ god I can walk on water / and divine intervention in form of the chosen one to find us god given talent, so it came to pass in the valley of gods own country we all sang and rejoiced with merriment ….. the grey smoke was an absolute gem Rob your best yet ….. long live Il Duce ….. I feel sick am off to boil my balls in brimstone !!!!!!!!!!

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  9. Some food for thought for sure, but some people need a reality check, we were never going to get a big name. If you look at Cellino’s history at Cagliari(reports vary but something akin to 25+ coaches employed and sacked in 20 years) there is no surprise in appointing a guy on much, much lower wages than B McD and only giving him a 2 year contract. Whilst almost everyone sees this as a disaster just ask how many ‘big’ name manager across the game turn out to be duds. Let’s give Hockaday a chance, football is a really simple game in truth so I don’t buy into coaches who are perceived to be the tactical genius – if he can come in and get the players motivated to go out and put in a shift for that shirt, give everything for the fans then I think he will be an improvement on what has happened over recent months (you wouldn’t have bet your mortgage on a Leeds United team beating Forest Green at any time in January and February) it all depends if the players buy into it…. and I think Mr Cellino will let them know where they stand on that one!!!

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  10. Fair Enough Robo…… cant help not feeling very excited though can we ??

    Need some exciting signings to lift the spirits of the beleaguered support though, its been bad news after bad news

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  11. sniffersshorts

    I was only jesting, and would whole heartedly agree, don’t condemn a man before its proven he was the wrong , football is about grass roots, blood and guts, and oh so simple ….. look at Chile last night they gave the masters a taste of their own sangre ….. simple pacey direct with self belief and a great crowd behind them …. we have the support, we have the crowd home and away , get behind the men , the coach and Cellino …. like us all some new talent is what we need, to really brighten us up, hopefully signatures will come thick and fast…. we have paid our debt, we have appointed our non playing staff ….. vivre le revolution MOT

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  12. Ian Finlay

    Hi rob , I think Hockadays cannon fodder,if things go tits up , possibly carbone waiting in the wings to step in.I don’t think he wanted to risk his main choices first,,, Elland Rd ,is like a cauldron I don’t think Hockaday will be up to the task,like several players we’ve brought in ,they just can’t hack it..But like you said he’s leeds now and we all stick together ,,MOT

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  13. We are talking about a multi-millionaire who loves football and who is quite comfortable having a pint with the fans in the Peacock . He doesn’t want a fancy dan , he wants a grafter
    The question we should be asking is not wether Hock will get the best out of the players. , but wether Massimo will get the best out of the Hock . He obviously thinks he will . That’s good enough for me .

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  14. I agree mostly with your sentiments especially with giving this new setup a chance to prove or disprove itself. My Leeds heart sank when I heard the news of such a low profile appointment and I will be reluctant to spend too much hard earned cash in the club until I see some positive signs on the field. That said previous incumbents in the “managerial” roll have been totally unsuccessful in my eyes, last season was a disgrace in anyone’s book but also in our record book, so something had to change. Certainly Cellino talks the talk but also has a good record with a provincial Serie A club in Italy. Certainly he has gone left field with this appointment but I sense the real Director of Football at Leeds is the Carbone Cellino team, For sure fans will be quick to react if it all goes pear shaped but for now the man is putting his money where his mouth is and seems to have a good grasp of how to run a business that is bother profitable and sustainable; I just hope that Cellion’s confidence and everything is possible attitude transfers to the players who on many occasions let the club down in recent times.

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  15. All I’ve heard from fans of other clubs is ridicule and the same disbelief as most Leeds fans,, you’re right rob , this is a gamble and it’ll either be a master stroke or a disaster, lets hope its one of Cellino’s finest hours…

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    • I think hammers fan has spontaneously combusted with excitement at this news. He’s gone strangely quiet.

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  16. If I wanted to watch non-league football I’d go support my local team in the Conference North & funnily enough that is exactly what I will now be doing from next season. God only knows what the Don & King Billy are thinking?

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  17. As much as I would have liked to have got Gary Mac instead let’s see how he gets on, might turn out to be a master stroke or might be a failure only one way to find out. Onwards and upwards!! MOT

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