It’s been another up and down week on the crazy roller-coaster ride that is modern-day Leeds United. Down in the dumps last Thurday with an abject defeat live on Sky to a Blackburn Rovers side that had it all too humiliatingly easy. Then an upswing, with embarrassing owner Cellino indicating he’d had enough (you’ve had enough, Massimo? How do you think we feel?) and was prepared to sell.
Then it was a gradual upswing of wonder and optimism, with talk of fan ownership and Gladiatorial involvement from a Leeds fan of Maximus commitment and credibility. The feel-good factor peaked with the end of an eight month winless run at Elland Road and, for the first time in 32 years, a home ground slaying of the Welsh Drags. It was only one little 1-0 win over nobody much, but young Alex Mowatt‘s goal was a snorter and, all of a sudden, we were all feeling unaccountably pleased with life in the Leeds United universe.
And then – the inevitable plummet back towards confusion and disappointment as Cellino proved once again that he’s more towards the compulsive Billy Liar end of the scale than the heroic Billy Bremner end. Having confirmed last week that he would sell to the fans group – “Who else would I sell to?” – il Duce now feels that mere supporters are like kids in a sweetshop, not serous buyers. That’s a step up from “morons”, I suppose, but still not exactly the epitome of respect. Still, most of us know what Cellino is all about by now, and would doubt his word if he confided to us that night follows day. Which brings into question the integrity of his assurance that Leeds is now up for sale. On that front, there may be trouble – and deep, frustrating disappointment – ahead.
Why else would long-standing Leeds United top-brass mouthpiece Peter Lorimer be ruminating in the press that Cellino can still succeed “if given time”? Lorimer is presumably closer to the inner workings of that Machiavellian mind than most of us mere fans – so why would he be talking up the prospects should Cellino retain control, when the owner publicly maintains he’s selling up for reasons of demoralisation and shrunken balls?
Could it be, fellow Leeds sufferers, that we are having our heads messed with once again? Is Cellino yet again saying x whilst plotting y – and is Lorimer the poor sap being used as a one man Ministry of Disinformation? It wouldn’t be a massive surprise – but after half a dozen abortive attempts to find a football man who can work with a mad Italian fraudster, a promised “beautiful season” turning hideously ugly before our horrified eyes – and the general, sickening, lurch up and more often down of that Damned United roller-coaster – the United support can be expected to be very, very cross if they find they’ve been casually manked about with yet again.
And yet what can we do? The vision of fan ownership turns out to be the mirage some of us foresaw, the relentless hiring and firing has become a sickening pattern, our club is held as a laughing stock by fans of clubs who should be knuckling their foreheads and addressing us as “Sir”. If an end is in sight to all of that, then it would be a worthy outcome in itself. But I have this sneaking feeling that the Cellino ego-trip has a while to run yet. Sadly, he might not be finished with us any time soon.
That all sounds distressingly cynical and I hope I’m wrong. But, when the pirate captain of the not-so-good ship Nélie is saying one thing, while on his shoulder, Peter the Parrot is squawking quite another, then I feel that there is good cause to be both alarmed and disbelieving. That long-overdue win over Cardiff might just have been interpreted by the owner as a green light to carry on – with Lorimer smoothing the path.
Please, please – let me be back in a short while holding my hands up and admitting I read it all wrong. Let this nightmare be over soon – so that we can lurch wearily on to the next one.