Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything initially supported the tenure of Massimo Cellino, despite understandable reservations arising out of his track record at Cagliari. But he’d straighten up and drive right now he was in charge of a Porsche instead of a Fiat 500, we assured ourselves. Surely his very purchase of a sleeping giant like Leeds United was evidence of a burning ambition that would be realised through his evident wealth. And, after all, he was going to buy the ground and other assets back, pronto. It was all good. Or so we thought.
Bitter experience has been a harsh teacher in the months that have passed since those early, optimistic days. Far from straightening up, the Italian has become ever more twisted and bent with each passing court case and every glib lie. He’s presided over a revolving-door policy on coaches, recruiting a succession of nobodies and then blaming them for inevitable failure. He’s declined to invest in the squad as a club the size and reputation of Leeds demands. For every half-decent buy, there’s been two or three real lemons – and the drip, drip sale of talent has been maintained. The re-purchase of Elland Road has not happened, and there is little if any sign that it will. Cellino has been, to put it kindly, a big fat disappointment of almost Tomas Brolin proportions. He’s single-handedly made of Leeds United a laughing-stock to rival the David Moyes tenure at man u.
Now, more by the law of averages than good judgement, we seem to have a manager who shows signs of being able to produce winning football in the (admittedly unlikely) event of being left to get on with the job. Steve Evans has made it abundantly clear that the squad needs an influx of quality, and that fact is self-evident to any even half-knowledgeable fan. Evans’ impact on the club has been considerable, given the circumstances he’s had to put up with. There is a noticeable improvement in match-day performances, despite the odd dreadful blip. Even in unfortunate defeat at Hillsborough on Saturday, Leeds were far from outclassed or outplayed. There is good cause for some hope that our current manager can succeed where so many have failed.
So far this window, Liam Bridcutt‘s loan has been extended, and there has been a loan move too for Mustapha Carayol from Middlesbrough. Both have acquitted themselves well, and this is evidence that Evans’ judgement of a player has not been found wanting. We’ve lost Sam Byram to Everton, a tragic event that can be traced back to Cellino’s pig-headed contract renegotiation tactics. Leeds are now at the crossroads of the season, maybe even last-chance saloon in terms of the prospects of this campaign being anything other than yet another dull anti-climax. Cellino has to act positively now, back his manager, invest in quality and trust to a proper football man to do a job when given the tools.
There is still time – not much, but some – for Cellino to reinvent himself as an owner with the interests of what is still a major club at heart. But the clock is ticking. If this month expires to the accompaniment of that old refrain (we’re happy to see what the loan market has to offer…), then many, not least this blog, will take that as a final confirmation that il Presidente is a chancer, a fly-by-night con-man who is leading Leeds United up the garden path to nowhere. If it turns out that, yet again, the supporters’ expectations are being crudely managed with honeyed words and cynically empty promises, Cellino will be exposed once and for all as a fraud in the football world just as in the courts of his native Italy. If he blows this chance, he should not – surely – be granted another.
Put your hands in your pockets, Massimo, and dig deep. Silence those of us who are convinced you’re a waster, if you can. Act now, or pack up and ship out. Leeds United expects. You’ve let us down time after time. Now, you have to stand up and be counted – or it will be the end of the road for you. Tick tock, Signor Cellino.