Daily Archives: 29/02/2016

Cellino and Evans: Explain Yourselves, Gentlemen   –   by Rob Atkinson


Tell us what’s really going on, Cellino

It almost goes without saying that there is a lot wrong with Leeds United at the moment. Almost. But there’s always a few that need it spelling out, and the Leeds United online community of fans does not lack for the less mentally acute, as I’ll be mentioning again later. So let’s say it, whether it really needs saying or not. Leeds United is a club in crisis, rotten to the core, dead from the neck up. There’s that carrion reek about them, the stench of decay which is starting to bring out the vulture in opposing teams. As Brighton did tonight, they tend to circle for a while, then flap down to peck our eyes out. It’s not a pretty sight. 

There’s so much wrong with Leeds United right now that it’s not that easy to know where to start. But common sense says you should start at the top, especially given the headless chicken of a performance we witnessed tonight. Despite this, some of our online fanbase are letting themselves down badly, by going for cheap, easy shots, aimed at a manager who, like all the others, has been let down and betrayed by the club owner. And, like all the others, Steve Evans is having to toe the party line as long as he remains manager. Like all the others, the time for him to dare to tell the truth will be at some point after his inevitable sacking.

Steve Evans is having to manage with a bunch of players, a good proportion of whom he’s not all that keen on. He’s not been allowed the level of recruitment he publicly wanted, and stated was necessary. He’s biting his lip and making the best of the original, proverbial bad job. Too many of the Leeds Twitteratti, a notoriously dense bunch of bandwagon-jumpers for the most part, are disgracing themselves by descending to the bottom of their particular gutter and aiming personal abuse at a man who can’t hit back. Yes, Steve Evans is rotund. So what. We need to judge him on his ability once granted – if he ever is – the tools to do the job. To aim playground insults at him is the act of the intellectually bankrupt. These are not supporters, they are cretins.

None of that is to say that Evans is beyond reproach. I would love to hold him to account, if I thought for one moment that he would be free to speak his mind or tell the whole truth. I would like to know the thinking behind Scott Wootton’s unaccountable tenure in the team, and on the flank of the defence as opposed to the middle, when he is clearly out of his depth. But Evans is in no position to say anything that Cellino might object to. 

It is Cellino that is the problem here. Any professional sports club needs overall leadership and also separate and distinct sources of direction on the playing and non-playing sides. The problem at Leeds is that the ultimate leader is far too volatile, mendacious and untrustworthy to inspire confidence and commitment among the troops. And those playing and non-playing sides are not separate – confusion reigns because the lines that should divide these areas are blurred. 

Who picks the team? Who decides and changes tactics? We cannot know for certain, despite Evans’ frequent, hot denials of interference. We hear enough from other sources to lend some credence to persistent allegations that the hand of Cellino can be seen in areas a mere owner should leave to the professionals.

Above all, the parlous state of a famous old club cannot be laid at the feet of the well-paid players who are failing all too often to perform. Neither can the blame be ascribed to a hamstrung and at least partially gagged manager. It was Cellino who has presided over this car crash of a season, which he promised would be beautiful. It was Cellino who promised promotion to the top flight by 2016, a year that is, instead, taking us much closer to demotion. It is Cellino who has failed to deliver the squad improvements that everyone else, not least his beleaguered manager, could see were necessary. 

I’d love to see Evans able to put his side of the story forward, without fear or favour. That, though, would be tantamount to professional suicide. But somebody should be speaking to the fans about what’s really going on. Instead, we’re invited to cheer an improved business performance instead of goals, whilst paying pie tax and pandering to silly superstitions as exemplified by issue 16b of the matchday programme. We’re asked, remarkably, to believe in a regime that, time after time, has proven itself utterly unworthy of belief. 

So, step up and talk to us, Mr. Evans (if you’re allowed to). Talk to us honestly, Mr. Cellino (if you have it in you). We deserve an explanation for the state of the club, for a state of affairs at a legendary institution of the game, now reduced to the kind of spineless, gutless, clueless and shameless display we saw at Brighton on Monday evening. That will take some explaining, but surely someone has to try.

The problem, you see, is that the fans – the real fans – can only take so much. At some point, they’re going to be less keen to give up their time and money supporting a football club which seems to have lost its soul. And here I mean the diehard, long-suffering fans who put in the miles and the hours, not a set of clueless kids mouthing childish insults from behind computer screens. Leeds United could, after all, do without the Twitteratti, they’re just annoying noise. 

But those lads and lasses who follow and chant and sing, the length and breadth of the country? They’re Leeds’ last real asset, make no mistake about it. Alienate and disillusion them at your peril, Mr. Cellino. And we’re very nearly at breaking point now.