In an uncharacteristic burst of frankness and honesty, a highly-placed source at the Football League has freely admitted that the problem they have with Massimo Cellino, shortly due to have an appeal heard against his banning as Leeds United owner, is that he’s “just that bit too honest and successful” for what the League see as ideal Leeds United ownership material. Sh**n H*rv*y (name disguised to protect the guilty) told a Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything reporter last night, “Signor Cellino isn’t really what we’re looking for in the case of Leeds United. He’s had a couple of convictions, but they’re really not all that promising – one quashed and the other soon to be “spent” under English law. There’s talk of an embezzlement rap, but – you know – we had the ideal man in there for a decade, he was set fair to ruin Leeds as who knows better than me? And now they’re looking at someone with real money? No, it’s not what the League are looking for, it’s not what the Football Family are looking for.”
Pressed on the FL requirements for approval, Mr. H*rv*y revealed, “We’re looking for the kind of man who would get in there and start upsetting people. The League feel that they have a responsibility to the memory of the late, great Alan Hardaker here. He set the standard for hating Leeds, a standard which, as an institution, we hold dear – one we’re very proud of. What we’re really after is someone like Mr Tan down at Cardiff – imagine if he had gone up to Leeds and had them playing in red! Even dear old Ken never dared try that.” Our reporter asked about other owners who had received approval without too much fuss and bother, citing the porn barons who control West Ham, people with Russian mafia connections who are doing very well in West London and various other members of what is known as the “Well Dodgy Geezers Club” including rapists and money-launderers. Again, our League spokesman was very clear about this:
“It’s a matter of choosing the best man for a particular job. You’re quite right in saying that Cellino is squeaky clean compared to certain other football owners – but we have to do something to stretch this out. Cellino is seriously rich, and there’s a very real fear out there that Leeds United could enter an extremely successful period unless we’re very, very careful. That’s happened before, on more than one occasion, and it’s not something our members like, it’s not something 99.9% of the fans out there want to see happening. Because don’t forget – once they’re up, there’s nothing much we of the Football League can do, with dodgy refs and the like, to prevent them being successful. Mr Tinkler has been retired a long time, after all! As a responsible governing body, we just have to get this right for the many – and not just look at the selfish interests of one deeply unpopular club.”
So, what’s actually going to happen? Mr H*rv*y smiled, winked, tapped his nose conspiratorially and told us that the League are happy to play a long game here. “We know that Leeds are financially stretched again just now, and our utterly brilliant transfer embargo will put the bite on their squad plans – not to mention this pesky £20 million capital injection. Let’s just spin it out and see what happens. Our back-room staff have dug out all of the legal documentation surrounding that whole minus fifteen points thing, and we’re ready to go again at the drop of a hat.” He chuckled, ever so slightly maliciously. “I’m really hopeful that, if Leeds do get out of the Championship, it’ll be in the ‘down’ direction – not ‘up’. And then – well, it’s game on, isn’t it!!”
Our reporter gently pointed out that Mr Cellino appeared perfectly willing to keep guiding the club through any short-term difficulties even while his appeal was pending, and that there was even talk of high-profile loan signings with a view to securing Championship survival and pushing on next year. “You bloody what!?” bellowed an exasperated Chief Executive. “Well, that’s bloody torn it, hasn’t it? So what about poor old Millwall and Blackpool, eh?? Back to the drawing board, then. Christ all bloody mighty….!!”
The League later contacted us by phone, asking us not to take Mr H*rv*y’s statement to us, as above, too literally. “He’s been working hard on this, and things had been going extremely well, or so we’d thought. Sh**n had put away a couple of shandies when he spoke to you, and this has possibly led to him – ahem – quoting himself out of context. The Football League do not hate Leeds United, who are a very valuable part of the Football Family. We will continue to do everything possible to expedite this ownership appeal situation, and we hope to have a further, definitive statement sometime before the end of next season.”
Brian Mawhinney is 94.