So, the least surprising Leeds United news of all time is finally confirmed, after weeks of needless shilly-shallying during which owner Massimo Cellino displayed a characteristic lack of class, guts and decency. Rumour has it that il Loco wasn’t even man enough to tell Steve Evans in person that he was no longer required. Well done, thou good and faithful servant – now, kindly leave the building.
Various betting markets will now open. The first may well be as to how many Leeds coaches it is till Christmas, with five as the even money favourite. More seriously, speculation is rife as to the identity of the next mug stupid enough to work for an incompetent egomaniac like Cellino. Evans’ departure may mean that a new patsy, number seven of that ilk, is in the offing – or it may simply be that today was the last possible day to announce Big Steve’s contract would not be renewed. It’s humiliatingly disgusting either way. Leeds United is a difficult club to be proud of supporting these days.
If the next dead man walking has at last been identified, then a fair bit of money says it could be former Swansea manager Garry Monk. (Swansea, you may remember, are one of that clutch of clubs which shared with us our dismal League One days, and who have now established themselves way ahead of us in the Premier League with a trophy on the sideboard. Current English Champions Leicester City are another).
If it is to be Monk, he will presumably have been briefed as to his working conditions. The lower league managers approached in the last week or so appear to have asked awkward questions about those conditions, before wisely concluding that they’re better off where they are. Monk, if he is the one, would have to understand that as Leeds Head Coach, he would be very much the President’s man. There must be no unauthorised yapping to the Press, like that maverick Evans. No whipping up the crowd with the Leeds salute, like that self-promoting Redders. And definitely NO attempts to become more popular with the fans than Cellino himself. That’s the ultimate no no.
Anyone who accepts a job like Leeds under the kind of restrictions that proved unpalatable to the managers of MK Dons and Bristol Rovers may not – we might ruefully suppose – be the type of guy we really need. And therein lies the conundrum, that’s the real Catch-22. The kind of man and manager we really need – able to handle himself in the media, principled, tough, decisive, all that malarkey – would be anathema to Signor Cellino. Heavens above, we’ve just this minute got rid of one like that!
And, by the same token, the sort that il Duce really seems to want – a yes man, unprotesting, biddable sort of chap – that’s the exact opposite of the archetypal successful Leeds United boss down the years. It’s an equation that just will not balance. The best we can hope for is that Cellino might be taken out of that equation, and soon, by some court or governing body or other. Because, otherwise, the craziness and the shame will continue.
If the President’s Lucky Seven choice for Leeds turns out to be Monk (and, of course, if Monk recklessly accepts a doomed commission) then we can assume that the vow of silence will already be signed, sealed and delivered. And the vow of celibacy can be taken as read, too – after all, no-one with the balls to stand up to Cellino will be getting anywhere near the manager’s office at Elland Road.
And – to my many detractors, most of whom have had silence imposed upon them – believe me, it gives me no pleasure to write in this vein. I would not choose to pour scorn or drip sarcasm over my beloved Leeds United. It’s painful and heart-rending. But take a step back from your lifelong loyalty and your blindness to the truth – and look at Cellino’s Leeds in the cold light of day. It’s not a pretty sight, is it?
Whoever gets the job next, unless he finds himself freed by exterior forces from Cellino, he will most certainly fail. Hamstrung, gagged and with his hands tied behind his back, just ask yourselves – how could he do otherwise?