Cellino’s Promised “Beautiful Season” Turning Ugly for Leeds   –   by Rob Atkinson


cellino no

“The fans are going to enjoy next season so much, it will be a beautiful season, I promise to them.” – Massimo Cellino, April 2015

It’s been quite a week for holding people to account over promises recklessly made and then casually broken. On Thursday, ex-Tory voter Michelle Dorrell became an instant media star on the BBC’s Question Time, by castigating a shocked and speechless government minister over blatant lies told and cast-iron pledges tossed aside. The hapless Amber Rudd, incumbent Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in Cameron’s team of no talent, simply did not know where to put herself, under a withering barrage of anger and contempt from a voter who felt, with absolute justification, that she’d been conned, betrayed, abandoned. It is possible to speculate that Ms. Rudd, whose face told a tale of deep shame and helpless bewilderment, might not, perhaps, be the best card player out there. Which is unfortunate for that lady as, in her position as a professional liar, she really does need that unflinching poker face.

Compare and contrast the useless Amber Rudd with our very own master of spin and deception, Signor Massimo Cellino. It’s a bit like putting Clogiron Rovers of the Council Parks League next to European giants such as Barcelona or AC Milan. The mighty gulf is best illustrated by the fact that both these public figures lie and dissimulate – but whereas the Tory Minister looked as guilty and crestfallen as an Oxford undergraduate photographed with his wedding tackle in a dead pig’s mouth, our Massimo peddles his many fictions with a countenance as smoothly untroubled as a placid lake on a still, hot day.

Perhaps that inscrutable countenance is the key to Cellino’s undoubted success in many arenas over the span of a long, controversial and eccentric career. But there is a limit to what even such a convoluted operator as Big Mass can get away with. He is on record, as we can see above, as recently as April just gone, speaking in honeyed tones of the “beautiful season” we Leeds United fans could look forward to in 2015/16. It was a solemn and unconditional promise he made to us – a promise now being spectacularly broken as this misbegotten, shapeless, aimless, depressing campaign gets uglier by the week.

Massimo has previous form in his relatively short time at Leeds for making statements amounting to promises, which he has then patently failed to deliver. He said he’d pop down the ATM and sort out the wherewithal to buy back Elland Road upon taking control of the club; many months on, it hasn’t happened (though we’re assured the process is ongoing. Perhaps the pesky cash machine ate his card?). The timescale for promotion keeps getting pushed back, too. Just as Annie the Orphan sang about tomorrow always being a day away, so our prospects of Premier League Football seem to be holding a steady distance of two years into the future, no matter how much time passes in the real world. And Cellino speaks with misty-eyed affection about each successive coach he employs one minute and then, in the next breath, he’s picking a fight with them preparatory to inserting the trusty old stiletto blade between their vulnerable back ribs. It’s all initial promise, moving through bitter disillusion and ending in bleak disappointment.

But the thing about all these lies, as they mount up into an embarrassingly big and obvious heap, is that they tend to detract somewhat from any chap’s credibility. And credibility – the very currency of the successful sporting head honcho – is now a commodity of which Cellino, poker face notwithstanding, is rapidly running uncomfortably short.

Abraham Lincoln said, with typical wisdom: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time“. Massimo Cellino, though markedly less sage, appears to have been quite successful in fooling lots of people for the longest time. But there is a limit – and now, after the latest home defeat to Brighton, the rumblings of discontent are being felt around Elland Road, one time football fortress, now reduced to the flimsiest house of cards. Some of the fans remain defiantly faithful, holding that Cellino is the real deal, simply by virtue of not being Ken Bates. It’s a camp where I once upon a time raised this blog’s standard – but not any more. There have been too many lies, too many rash, undelivered promises. A good proportion of the fans now appear to have seen through Massimo’s affable facade, and they have detected the charlatan that lies beneath – and keeps on and on lying. It’s a harsh verdict on the face of it, but it’s one amply supported by the available evidence.

Football owners are not, in the nature of these things, the most accountable people in the sport. The ones held to account tend to be the coaches, the visible face of a failing football club’s operation, the men charged with making inadequate resources do the job of competing with better-financed, more realistically-run operations. These men carry the can for the owner’s inadequacies, craziness, parsimony and tendency to be economical with the truth. It’s a thankless task, as Uwe Rosler – with his ominous recent vote of confidence/final warning – may soon find out. But the fans don’t have to accept that the coach is where the buck stops and where the blame resides. Not any more than the courts in Italy or elsewhere have to accept a man’s repeated insistence on his innocence – as more and more charges of tax evasion and other vices pile up.

One way or the other, whether it’s the courts or the fans who finally suss him out, surely even Massimo Cellino cannot continue with his steadfast avoidance of the truth, his plausible blandishments and promises – not in the long term. Not when he’s also taking unpopular decisions such as limiting away tickets on the back of a spat with Sky TV. Not when he appears stubbornly determined to lose Sam Byram for peanuts, having publicly hung the lad out to dry, unable to defend his corner. Not when he’s back in the public gaze since Adam Pearson‘s much-lamented departure, making more crazy statements and more rash promises – most of which, you can well believe, will end up as hollow and worthless as his promise of April last.

A beautiful season? With successive defeats, a winless run at Elland Road stretching back to March and a headlong downward spiral in what is not exactly a vintage Championship league table, it’s not beautiful at all. It’s an ugly pig of a season, a Luke Chadwick or a Gideon Osborne of a season, even a Katie Hopkins of a season. Any common or garden fan can certainly see that, it’s as obvious as weather through a window. And, little by little, the more we keep getting told that everything in the garden is rosy, when we can absolutely see the weeds and the brambles choking the place to death – surely even the die-hard Cellino supporters must be beginning to wonder exactly where Leeds United are heading next, under his bizarre and deceitful direction.

Bottom line, ladies, gentlemen and fellow Whites? We should have listened to Johnny Giles.

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27 responses to “Cellino’s Promised “Beautiful Season” Turning Ugly for Leeds   –   by Rob Atkinson

  1. David Dean

    100% agree. Another nice piece, Rob. They were better yesterday but I wouldn’t say unlucky. An injury was expected, we have had a very good run on that score. Brighton had already taken control our lads were looking a spent force and Ant and Bucks hardly had a kick. Brighton were ready to pounce. The Elephant in the room must be getting hungry now and can only be sharpening his axe. Can he restrain himself for Fulham and Bolton? The Fuhrer must be on shpilkes. Back-to-back wins might save him. Oyavay has as good a chance as anyone of being successful but he needs two years and with Adam Pearson back. He has no chance as things stand. Such a shame because this squad would be good enough in time as long if he was allowed to do what he wanted. Wooden instead of Byram? That says it all. I am waiting for the hammer to fall.

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    • I wrote it depressed and angry, but this morning? I’m just depressed :-/

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      • If we lose the next 2 games & slip in to the bottom 3 the Blackburn game (live on telly on a Thurs night, thanks Sky!) MUST be boycotted by the supporters because at the moment we just seem to be letting things drift by without a whimper. An empty stadium in front a live audience would surely send a big message to Cellino

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      • It would that. Sadly, fans just can’t be mobilised on that scale – or so it seems to me. If there were to be a campaign for this, though, I’d heartily support it.

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  2. In the early days of the Italian takeover I made the mistake of making a mildly sarcastic comment about the honesty and success of our new Emperor on your site.
    You admonished me for the temerity of such criticism. It gives me no pleasure to note that you now share my views, none what so ever, but I do respect your honesty in admitting a change in opinion.
    Now a midfield with Johnny Giles and of course Billy ……………………….

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    • I’m bang to rights for my early support of Cellino and I’ve had no problem, on several occasions now, holding my hands up to that. It’s a fool who refuses to change his views in the face of mounting, overwhelming evidence that he’s got it wrong. I’ll always try to be honest on this blog, but I make no apology for occasional testiness – it goes with the territory of having supported the Whites for far too long now. Sadly, it’s love – and there’s nowt you can do about that save suffer it. But not in silence.

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  3. A fortnight in Turkey over the international break meant only one game was to be missed. The afternoon (or early evening) didn’t start well with the TV only able to find Garth Crookes (enough said) but then proceeded to spiral as news of another defeat was transmitted. Having missed out by four days on a concessionary season ticket, a sobering thought entered my head……”I don’t think I will ever see Leeds play again in the top league”. This morning has registered similar but has also included what will this latest saviour do next…………he has imposed the away ticket fiasco in full knowledge that Sky can do whatever they want……….its frightening to think to think that when the fans finally erupt (or perhaps before the uprising) he will pull the plug……….this scenario could I feel become reality in the not too distant and can only hope that AP is waiting in the background.

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  4. Ropey Wyla

    Love the opening paragraph of this so much I might print it out and have it framed. As for the football, for me it’s time we start looking at the players and saying where’s the fight, passion and belief? Cellino promising the earth and not delivering and Rosler promising heavy metal football but giving us something more akin to a child playing a recorder badly is what we’ve come to expect but I still expect our players to try to win games, there’s been no evidence of that for weeks.

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  5. Philip of Spain.

    Hold on a minute,yes, El Presidente is as mad as a box of mad things but the team playing like a park eleven is not entirely the fault of the strange one.Pearson and Rosler must have the lions share of the blame.Start to analyse yesterday and the new boys don’t exactly shine
    However El Locos away ticket rant shambles, is not going to be his main problem,the home support is what he needs to worry about now.God ,what would Billy think if the could see what was happening now?????

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    • The thing is though, Cellino has presented himself as the bedrock on which “his” Leeds United stands. If that cracks, the whole edifice is shaky and unstable. He can’t refer to himself as the captain of the ship, and then deny responsibility (or have it denied on his behalf) when the ship founders. The signings have been good, I believer – credit to Pearson. It’s the spirit, morale, commitment that’s wrong, and I believe that can be traced to the club increasingly becoming rotten in its foundations. The whole is presently rather less than the sum of its parts – and for a good team ethic, that’s precisely the wrong way around.

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  6. Philip of Spain.

    Surely Bob,the spirit,morale and commitment is the main responsibility of the playing staff and management on match day.Apart from wages,the support and spirit of the Elland Road faithful should be enough to light anybody’s lamp.Unless of course the latter aren,t good enough!!!

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    • It all comes from the top. The mechanism that is a professional football club is surprisingly delicate – if the prime mover is flawed, the whole cannot function.

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  7. Kevin stead

    Great article. I was there yesterday for one of my 5 visits per season. I live quite far and don’t have the spare cash for a season ticket with petrol costs and all. The last 15 minutes we seemed to just let the game drift when it was actually there for the taking. Until massimo lets a manager get on with it without interfering then we are destined to struggle year after year and that’s not guaranteed to be in The championship. Redfearn had things going nicely in the new year and had the rug pulled from beneath him. Massimo is to pig headed and arrogant though to realise he’s ruined that. What now……..massimo has to go or stop interfering. I would be tempted to bring in JFH, done a great job at Burton. I have £20 on JFH being Leeds manager by January 7th.

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  8. I was one of those people who initially welcomed Cellino purely because it signalled the demise of Ken Bates. It just had to mean better things to come I thought.
    So Rob, it was not an inappropriate opinion or misplaced response to have at the time I believe. However, time and hindsight again prove themselves to be damningly harsh.
    With the new payouts coming to all Prem clubs (£100,000,000) even to those demoted as parachute payments I felt this was our last chance to go back up.
    We can never compete on that financial level. I fear we are now seeing the door being permanently closed.
    I feel cheated by about everyone. Now I know as a Leeds fan this is a natural expectation but there’s a huge groundshift taking place…and we are being buried.

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  9. I’m sorry but the team are not the problem here, its the whole club, the set up, the unprofessional antics of a screwed up Cellino and the interference and undermining of every coach we have had. These lads are not useless and they do not deserve the criticism and battering they are getting week in week out. Rosler HAS made serious mistakes, his team selection and preferences are questionable, WHY does he insist on playing with one striker. Something is seriously wrong, you can see we the lack of confidence, you can see the heads going down.
    This team is good enough to hold its own , call me naïve but that’s my opinion. Cellino is the rotten apple, he’s the virus and as long as he remains we will not get out of this league no matter who coaches the team. I just hope the Italian courts hammer him to such a degree that his days in English football are finished. Sorry guys but we are going to go through upheaval again and again for some time to come.

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  10. yellandroar

    I’m depressed about Leeds United. Nothing new there – I’ve supported them since 1959. But I am wondering a. how a squad that looks as good as most in this division, and certainly better than last season’s, is under-performing so badly; and why Cellino’s judgement is so shockingly skewed as to piss off the hardcore of our support, ie. the thousands who follow Leeds away. It beggars belief.
    On the first score – the team – Rosler appears incapable of getting the best from the players. That is both to do with the formation he plays, which, in the Birmingham game, made a pretty average side look like Real Madrid, and with motivation. I have always argued that players shouldn’t need motivating when they pull on the Leeds shirt, but this is not the era of Bremner, Madeley, Jones et al. Watching Alex Mowatt’s vast promise evaporate this season has been distressing (incidentally, not a single goal from Mowatt, Murphy and Dallas to date – a shocking stat).
    As for the away-tickets lunacy, a Leeds-mad friend said Cellino’s decision reminded him of the NASA astronaut training maxim that “There’s no problem that can’t be made worse by doing the wrong thing next.” Yes, we are being mucked around by Sky and the League, but cutting the numbers of fans at away games – one of the most heartening things about supporting Leeds this past decade – is NOT the way to do it.
    Anyone who has Signor Cellino’s ear, PLEASE persuade him to think again.

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  11. When Cellino leaves there will be nothing left. ABSOLUTELY WRONG
    That’s what he doesn’t get.

    WHY? BECAUSE….”WE ARE LEEDS” …..We are the club, not the owner, not the manager, not the players, US the fans and we will never stop supporting Leeds United, not even if we had to do something like they did in Mancunia with FC United and run it ourselves. If Cellino were to leave us with nothing else. The tosser.

    ALLWAYS MOT.

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  12. Hard to disagree Rob. Heavy metal football turned to a helium balloon and the massive smug ego of Cellino making promises never delivered. I do wonder what he is getting out of all this. If you compare us to other clubs in this league i bet most of us can barely name half the chairmen of their clubs as they know better than shouting off but not backing it up.

    The bookies backed us to go down in August. The rest of the campaign may well be a relegation batte. Will things ever get better at the once mighty whites? I think Rosler will be gone by Xmas at this rate,the manager,as always takes the bullet. I’d like to see some of these underperforming players punished where they care most,the wage packet.

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    • Certainly in Sam Byram’s case Michael, he already has been punished, or should I say “offered” punishment, in the form of a derisory contract extension.

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  13. Eddiegraysshoulderdrop

    Yesterday’s result compounded a very poor few days for those of us that love and follow Leeds Utd. I always had the horrible feeling that once Adam Pearson had “left” it was only a matter of time that our loose cannon of a president would fire off a volley of insanity. Restricting our away allocation hurts, Leeds Away….it’s what we do! I never miss a home game but in recent years, a trip to Elland Road has not been half as much enjoyable as an away game.

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  14. The squad has improved (on paper, at least) and we have a manager who had way better credentials than at least 2 of his predecessors. In a league that is arguably worse than last season’s, it is not logical that we languish so far down the table.
    There’s always the conspiracy theory – concerning Uncle Ken’s dodgy CVA, whereby LUFC must cough up millions to our creditors if we reach the Premier League before 20XX – to fall back on.

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  15. Good article Rob, and I’m on board with you. I was all in favour of Mr C at one stage and had high hopes for this season but that view has changed. He needs to shut up and take a long hard look at himself and the direction he is trying to take the club.

    I think old Albert Einstein summed it up when he said “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

    The whole club needs to take a long hard look at itself from top to bottom, no one is excused, and be open to change and thinking outside of the box.
    Oh to invest in a new Vinnie Jones and Tony Yeboah. Someone with grit and determination and a striker who can shoot inside and outside the box, head a ball and poach a goal. Wouldn’t that be nice. Oh and a manager who has a plan B and can shift from heavy metal to smooth flowing reggae. Will the insanity ever end.

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  16. Well silly me,saying he’d be out by Xmas! I should have known Cellino off the leash would yet again give the rest of football another reason to laugh at Leeds. Good posts Jon. Sicknote i agree Uwe had credentials and should have been given time to sort things,fat chance! Now we have a manager notorious for his big mouth he’ll get on great with his boss…for a while anyway.

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