Unexpected Bonus for Harvey and FL as Leeds Splits Start to Show – by Rob Atkinson

Elland Road: are the foundations crumbling?

Elland Road: are the foundations crumbling?

It’s been just another cataclysmic day at Elland Road. In the wake of a battling draw against Birmingham City on Saturday, when the match officials put in a disgraceful performance that will no doubt have earned them plenty of brownie points at Football League HQ, Monday brought the League’s latest confirmation that the interests of its biggest member club are a long way down the list when there are vendettas to be pursued. Massimo Cellino’s ban under the largely discredited “fit and proper test”, prompted by a legal process that has some way yet to run under Italian law, has been upheld – meaning that the King of Corn must step away from his involvement with Leeds United until April, at which point the conviction, though not finally ratified in Italian courts, will be deemed “spent” under English law. Leeds as an entity are considering their options; meanwhile the individuals concerned have had plenty to say, with alarm and confusion regrettably ensuing.

Sadly, too, there are signs that the strain is beginning to show behind the scenes at Elland Road. This is potentially calamitous, but really not all that surprising; embattled is hardly an adequate word to describe the position of the club throughout this torturous season. Great Britain in the early part of World War II could scarcely have been more isolated or heavily assailed from all directions than the hapless West Yorkshire pariahs of Leeds. It appears highly unlikely on this occasion that a convenient Eisenhower figure is going to appear over the horizon, perhaps backed up by the cavalry. If Leeds are to fight on, they will – as ever – fight alone.

Such a siege situation historically demands unity and solidarity within the ranks as well as clarity and leadership from the top. If you’re lacking those elements, you can rest assured that your walls will ultimately be breached and the barbarian hordes will inundate your enclave with gorily fatal results. At Leeds, the splits are beginning to show – and under the pressure of universal hatred and contempt, those splits, the cracks just now appearing in the very foundations of the club, are liable to widen as they threaten to topple the whole edifice. This is an outcome that Shaun Harvey and his crooked cronies at the Football League must devoutly have wished for – but scarcely dared to hope might happen.

The alarming thing about any football club in this type of situation is the marginal advantage it affords all of its rivals. In professional football, as in any top level sport, those margins separating success from disaster are always fine. Games are won and lost, seasons succeed or fail, clubs stand or fall, not by gulfs of clear blue water, but by details of fine tuning. For Leeds, against whom it is an article of faith for rival clubs to raise their game – and engaged as they are in the dog eat dog frenzy at the foot of the table – the writing is now very clearly on the wall. The situation prior to the latest Black Monday was serious enough. Now, things have taken on a still more sombre and frightening aspect.

The reactions from within the club to the League’s latest knife in the back have been confusing, dissonant, unhelpful. At a time when a United front is absolutely crucial, Leeds seems to be an organisation divided within and against itself. The signals from the top – from Cellino himself –  have been of apathy, despair, defiance and then, disastrously, of a most bizarre attempt at self-aggrandisement, all in swift and bewildering succession. First we heard that the Italian was unsure as to whether he would take the reins up again at the end of this present ban. Then it was, well, someone else will sign the cheques; nothing has changed. This was swiftly followed by a rabble-rousing “I’ll be back” in the best Arnie tradition, as he seemed set fair to terminate the League in all its Machiavellian plotting. But at the last, as Monday ebbed away into Tuesday match-day, we had Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino blurting that three players – named as Bianchi, Sloth and Doukara – wish to leave the club in the event of Cellino’s appeal being rejected.

Just how this might be imagined to help the situation is nigh-on impossible to explain – so I won’t even try, as it’s honestly beyond me. But I could provide a list as long as your arm of ways in which such a pronouncement is shatteringly unhelpful. Firstly, we must assume that none of the trio identified as wantaways can be involved in the match-day squad for the visit of league leaders Bournemouth. How can they be? They’ve been publicly outed as the first of the rats clamouring to dive off the sinking ship. Their relationship with team-mates, management and fans must surely be so compromised that they will be of no use in any game, let alone one so difficult. It’s back to that fine-tuning mentioned earlier. In the run up to kick-off in a professional football match, everything has to be exactly right. There is certainly no place for the kind of stun grenade that Cellino has carelessly lobbed into the middle of sensitive preparations for a battle with the usual, highly-motivated opposition.

Even if it’s all just hype and brinkmanship, and the players concerned have no intention of seeking to absent themselves from a struggling, failing club – the damage may well have been done. Even if there are no schisms within the squad, even if Redders does not feel that he’s been dealt an exceptionally cruel hand by his maverick owner – what are the poor, bewildered fans to make of it all? Just what will the atmosphere be like at Elland Road, a ground that should be a cauldron of white-hot support to test the nerve of any opposition? How much good will it do Leeds United if that normally vociferous support are stunned and demoralised, reeling from the news that a good proportion of the squad want out? In the event, Casper Sloth seems to have come out and denied that he’s anything other than totally committed to the Leeds United cause, asserting his own commitment to fight for the shirt and produce better than we have so far seen from him. But, welcome though that might be of itself, doesn’t it merely emphasise the utter failure of Leeds United’s personnel to be seen to be singing from the same hymn sheet? The damage has most likely been done – just how much of a disunited United side will take the field against the table toppers, who are seeking to avenge an unlikely early-season defeat on their own patch?

We keep on saying this – but it’s difficult to think of a worse day in the club’s history, and that is not primarily down to the corrupt and foolish League’s latest travesty; it is more down to the appearance of turmoil and chaos within what should be the Leeds United “circle of trust”. You might argue for the post points deduction era as being comparable in terms of crisis, but that whole minus 15 thing was demonstrably a unifying factor in Dennis Wise’s cobbled-together League One squad. Now, at a time when, more than ever, they need to be able to rely on each other, that priceless quality of unity seems to have been recklessly, thoughtlessly tossed away as intemperate mouths have spoken without caution or reason, with no regard to team spirit or the need to be together and fight a common foe. It might now be down to the fans to somehow overcome their own doubts and trepidation, to get behind the team and inspire them as few if any bands of supporters anywhere are better able to do. But what sort of shape is that support in right now? Not very happy, not very united and not very impressed with the man who had appeared as a saviour – that, surely, is the absolute least of it.

It would be just like Leeds United to bounce back after all, in the course of what must be a Tuesday of healing and rapprochement. It’s happened before, hasn’t it, and not so long ago at that. In the wake of last season’s lowest ebb, with the summary dismissal of McDermott by an owner not yet in situ and Sky TV’s urgent efforts to persuade our star striker he should be demanding a transfer, the team responded and, after a nervous start, utterly destroyed Huddersfield Town 5-1 with that striker – I forget his name – notching a hat-trick. It’s not impossible that a similar scenario could unfold with Bournemouth in opposition (and probably feeling that crisis-torn Leeds are there for the taking). Morison to score three, anyone? It’s not impossible – it’s merely bloody unlikely.

Whatever the outcome of the match on Tuesday evening, Leeds have to get it right in the hours and days immediately afterwards. They have to put a stop to all of these mixed messages – and certainly there should be an immediate halt to any tactic of broadcasting the message of “the players love me so much, they don’t want to stay without me”. Wiser counsel must prevail and, with that in mind, it is to be hoped we hear a bit less of certain highly vocal and emotional parties – and a lot more of the new Chief Operating Officer, Matt Child. His was the sole voice of reason and sanity on Monday; amid all of the confusion swirling around him, he spoke quite well. He might just offer some sort of navigable route out of the morass in which we currently flounder.

The one thing we cannot hope for is any sympathy from outside of the club, its support and a very few gentlemen of the press who have demonstrated in the past their unwillingness to follow the herd on its Leeds-hating stampede towards the common gutter. So, we are just going to have to make the best of things, as usual, strive to support the team against the south-coast high-flyers on Tuesday evening – and simply hope against hope (and against all realistic probability) for better times ahead. Surely, even this remorselessly grim season must yet have some positive moments in store for us?


15 responses to “Unexpected Bonus for Harvey and FL as Leeds Splits Start to Show – by Rob Atkinson

  1. What worries me now is the fact the corrupt tribe known as the FL have charged Cellino with not informing them of the outcome of the judge,s findings,so when and not iff Cellino is found guilty they will go in for the kill and give us a 15pt ban just for the hell of it and in an attempt to get the fans to turn on Cellino and drive him out. Yet the bastards who got us into this shambles are still allowed to have a 25% stake in the club. I hope im wrong on what iv written.


  2. Well, Cellino MIGHT after all, sit it out until April and come back, waiting for the next Italian verdict(s) and ensuing humiliation(s) ad nauseam at FL HQ.
    If the tax transgressions had taken place in the UK or certainly in Australia, the Tax Office is almost always willing to talk turkey with non- or short -payers. It tends to take the pragmatic approach that it’s better to work things out and avoid expensive legal battles and convictions/bankruptcy. A figure is arrived at and a payment plan arranged, or something to that effect.
    While I don’t know the first thing about Italian taxation, I would find it incredible – Cellino’s over-inflated ego and pride notwithstanding – if Cellino or his legal or accounting people had not approached the Italian Taxman with an olive branch and asked for a settlement. Hell, he could pay the FULL amount allegedly outstanding plus interest, and I am positive that considering the lawyers he would have to pay, the innuendo and press attention, the bullshit he’d have to put up with from Harvey and the rest of his Football League colleagues (oops, I mean “enemies”) etc etc , he’d probably consider a lump sum plus a sweetener to be money well-spent indeed.
    If, and it’s a big “IF”, their tax people are receptive of an approach, he should pursue it with all his might, because any agreement would equal no trials in Italy, which would immediately render Shaun Harvey & Co completely impotent which is entirely fitting!
    I am hoping Redders can get the lads up for a fight today. It will say a lot about their character. Still, it’s only a football match; they’re not being asked to fight in Syria, or sleep rough for a month. They are very well-paid professionals and it would be a great time to live up to the job description.


    • Well said as ever – particularly agree with your context at the end. Whatever the stresses and strains, let’s not feel TOO sorry for these pampered pros in their well-paid and insulated from reality exclusive bubbles.


  3. Jonathan O

    There is something rotten in the state of the FL. I believe strongly that if challenged in the Courts that this will be thrown out. In England as in the British Commonwealth one is not guilty until the appeal process has been exhausted. Are we to now judge our owners based upon what Iran or Zimbabwe decide is a crime. Do we now bar somebody who has not worn a vale or who has stolen a chicken feed? We used to send them to Australia for that. For the most part prosecutions by the Tax dep’t are simply arguments about the law which have reached a standoff and need to be decided by a court. Most of society runs when they see the HMRC coming. That is how cowed and intimidated by them you are. The crime alleged against Massimo is a tax grab and the fine grotesque for the asset and “crime”. And do not forget the bad blood in Cagliari over the stadium where the local magistrate is appointed. Smell the foul odour? And please do not forget that the accuser cannot also be the trier of fact.

    These people just play out their personal vendettas under the guise of “doing good” and are laughing all the way to the bank and without personal onus of responsibility.

    And would somebody please teach the good citizens of Leeds a little about corporate structures and law before they go launching into all kinds of bizarre analysies. And the worst part is they don’t even admit to not knowing a damn thing.

    Massimo is what we need. He is naïve in many ways. Those in the typical three pieces do not like his kind. He is exactly what we need to stick it up their proverbial.


  4. What LUFC needs is to believe in themselves . Seattle Seahawks beat Green Bay Packers 28-16 after being 16 points down at half time to get them into the Superbowl which they won last year. They started the “12th” man and to see the emotion come out of them shows what a true sports team can do.Leeds can accomplish and beat their present position by taking an example of the Hawks attitude.


  5. Its as i suspected rob , all this is just a farce , cellino was last night quoted as saying , “this changes nothing , i will just get someone else to write my cheques ” i:e his son ??!!
    the FL are a disgrace , may they all lose their hands then get bitten by the fleas of a thousand camels


  6. I like your passion Rob but the writing has been on the wall for quite sometime in regard to what was going to happen under the leadership of Cellino. I, like you and many other loyal Leeds supporters have been desperate to tie our sails to a saviour. Alas, Cellino has only proven from the outset that he is a disaster waiting to happen. I do not need to chronicle the extraordinary lack of tact or commonsense that Cellino has exhibited since his arrival – the fact that so many still went along for the ride is testament of our collective desire to follow a much needed leader. I too hope for a miracle when I wake up in the early hours tomorrow (Aussie timescale) but if that happens I hope no credit is lauded over Cellino. Leeds United have been the envy of many clubs but that envy has long been replaced by hysterical amusement. From Risdale to Bates to GFH to Cellino the club has become a toy for parasites and could have been’s. Tragically the sufferers are the supporters and one wonders how long they can hang on. Cellino needs to do something he has as yet been unable to demonstrate and that is a level of maturity and leadership. He should either find a buyer with an understanding of British football or become a real owner by contacting the Italian judisiary and coming to some acceptable financial arrangement to make the outstanding court appearances disappear. If he does and then gets serious about properly investing in Leeds United, appoint a proper CEO to run the daily business then he would become the saviour we all crave. However, if we are all honest with ourselves, we know Cellino is not capable of such actions. Therefore Mr Cellino please put us out of our collective misery and just GO!


  7. Sylvia Wilkinson

    Excellent article,I also was impressed with our COO,he spoke sensibly,but surely they knew the outcome and had planned for it? We must rally round the team tonight. MOT


  8. Paul Cranswick

    Rob, thoughtful and persuasive as always.
    I have come to the view that Cellino, his family and the club should comply but effectively ignore the nonsensical ruling at the same time. The FL requires him to step down as President – he should do so. It does not require, nor could it, the company that holds 75% of the shares to divest itself of the said shares. Step back and let the sons sign the cheques and then carry on business as usual. The football league and their rules are an arbitrary sick joke and LUFC should treat them as such.
    We need to pull together as a club, add a bit more width on the left hand side and it will be onwards and upwards.
    Cellino should take a few deep gulps of rich West Yorkshire air and simply be seen to toe the line.


  9. Look, it’s another day in the life of Leeds United. Cellino won’t be around for a few weeks just as if he is in recovery after an illness, a couple of new players will come in, the next charge from the F A will be a damp squib and we move on. Cellino isn’t selling and actually there is no one out there who would buy, so without him it would be liquidation. The Farnans of this world don’t have a pot to piss in so let’s settle down and stop all this hysteria. We have some football games to win and actually if we can now get our act together on the pitch you just never know where we might be by the end of the season and certainly not being relegated This is Leeds United and it was ever thus so.


  10. sniffersshorts

    it would appear from the lack of response me ald mate, the crew is pretty sick to the stomach with it all, you have covered most that needs to be said and likewise madman and sickpot, apt names as you would ever need to be a whites supporter. The fear other than the Judas in our professional ranks, is the youth will jump the sinking ship like hordes of rats. we will undoubtably now take a misconduct charge and be given 10/15 points deduction… I cant see the troops rallying as they did in league one and besides the team as rag bag as it may have been, I wish we had now. I have for one always backed Il Duce,and for the time being will still do so, what else do we have.

    however he will be back in April, the knob wallets at the FL are still honing their blades to sink them deeper into our already bleeding and fleshy corpse, he still has to give answers to why evidence was never forth coming and further the two points misadventure he has undertaken in the homeland.

    His arrogance of which we admire,as I will do it my way, may work in Italy but it cuts no cloth here. But why judge his past which is nothing to do with them or his actions in this country. Please tell me if they were asked on a face to face level what they could say nothing, mob rule and follow the leader. Until he does something wrong here and with the ownership of our beloved club, other than purchase a few wrong uns, then their stance should be level. My thoughts are that it all runs a little deeper, and dare I say Bates and co are waiting in the wings.

    Will the likes of Red Bull or Farnall now approach him to take the piss after all he has paid into the club, who knows. Will GFH also now throw in the towel to either of these or others!

    And finally as my good friends have said above, the team need to rise above this and stop sulking, we are a squad not just a team on the day or night. I was never sorry to see S.Warnock go, he was a bloody moaner, let the Judas go they have shown their colours we don’t want them. send them of into a little group to train on their own, no support from the rest, go on go over there and until you learn about being a team player and the value of us paying you, and putting faith in your club, we wont put faith in you, go sit around moan like spoilt kids. Because us lot over here are trying to be winners. I just hope the faithful come in their hordes tonight and raise the rafters with song and support, its about time we gave a top team a damned good thrashing ……………… please ON ON ON KEEP FIGHTING MOT BROTHERS.


  11. Good article . ROB , the YEP website is like a feeding frenzy the anti Cellino brigade are in their element ,saying I told you so. What ever peoples thoughts are on Massimo Cellino ,he has good intentions. He does put his foot in it . Give him his due he has been quiet of late .


  12. I’m surprised Cellino hasn’t publicly sacked the players who have shown such disloyalty to the club. What are they hoping to achieve? it seems a hell of a coincidence that they are Italian- and I don’t mean that in the cowardly sense- I mean do they think they are showing some sort of misguided loyalty towards Celino? There’s something very dodgy going on behind the scenes at Leeds United and people are being hood winked in my opinion. After all Celino is still running the club in all but name as he’s still financing the wages and bills even if he’s not the man who’s “officially” in charge. Them three Italians wanting out at the same time? – there must be more to it than they have all become suddenly collectively disillusioned? It doesn’t add up.


    • Something dodgy going on – nail on the head again. The League have left us exposed to the nefarious goings-on that inevitably start when the likes of Bates, Harvey etc resume their machinations. Cellino isn’t perfect – but LUFC is a club that needs a sheriff.


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