Mounting unrest among the unblinkered majority of the Leeds United support is seeing the pressure grow on maverick owner Massimo Cellino to pack up and ship out. After talk of an aeroplane fly-past during the Nottingham Forest home game, the object being to trail a suitably discouraging message to the Cellino regime across the sky, the more mundane method of posters on lamp-post billboards outside Elland Road has garnered media attention in the last 24 hours. For this, all possible credit is due to the people at WACCOE.com, a site I’ve had issues with over the past couple of years – but they’ve undeniably played a blinder here. Given Liverpool fans’ recent success in bringing their owners to heel, someone had to take up the baton for Leeds – nice one, WACCOE. It’s an unerring shot that has hit its mark, alright – when local reporter Adam Pope contacted the beleaguered Italian, who is still under the threat of Football League sanctions, to put him on the spot over the poster’s “Time to go” message, Cellino’s texted reply was “I agree !!!!”
It would be easy and yet probably incautious to read into all of this that the Cellino Out movement is heading towards a successful endgame. It should, after all, be remembered – especially in the context of the owner’s surprisingly frank text to Mr. Pope – that the old maxim of “believe nothing until it has been officially denied” has particular relevance where the King of Corn is concerned. What he says and what he does tend to be wildly differing matters, and predicting his behaviour from one day to the next could lead the most canny gambler to ruin in short order. But the increasing visibility of the fans’ discontent, the fact that Steve Parkin has recently realised over £10m worth of assets into cash – and the whole mood around the club after yet another dreadful anti-climax of a transfer window, with the additional important factor of dreadful performances on the pitch – all of these factors combine towards a growing feeling that the wind of change is blowing in sharp gusts in the LS11 locality.
The next few weeks could see matters clarify themselves somewhat, both on and off the park. There is still talk that the quality of the squad might be improved via the loan market – a possibility which may not be totally unrelated to Mr. Parkin’s newly-enhanced liquidity – and, unusually for Leeds, the club is still in the FA Cup at the 5th round stage, giving some temporary meaning to an otherwise moribund season. With a high profile home match against promotion contenders Middlesbrough to come, live on Sky TV after a last-minute rearrangement which represents many fans’ only area of agreement with an angry Cellino, it could be that events on the field will either add to or detract from the intensity of the pressure being experienced by il Duce at the moment, and possibly in a decisive manner. The cruel reality is that success for United in Cup or League over the next month or so could come at the price of a bounceback factor for a man most of us would rather see bounce away. On the other hand, the bitter pills of a cup exit and continued poor form in the league could come with a sweetener in the shape of self-imposed exile for football’s nuttiest owner.
It’s a sad indictment of the nature of Cellino’s reign that circumstantial evidence is usually a better guide to his intentions than the word of the man himself. For all practical purposes, we can dismiss his probably tongue-in-cheek text to Adam Pope as yet another example of his casual attitude towards communication with the fans – and the truth in general. But other signs would seem to indicate that dark clouds are gathering for a storm which may yet blow Massimo, his family and his notorious yacht Nélie back over the sea to Florida and away from football to a quieter, less notorious life.
That, ultimately, would be the best result for all concerned.