I’m pretty sure I’ll still be hearing some of the more deluded Whites fans telling me how Massimo Cellino has saved Leeds United. Yorkshire folk can be pretty stubborn, but sticking by Cellino after the collapse of United’s play-off challenge – seemingly nailed on only a week or so ago – that takes more than mere stubbornness.
The fact of the matter is, and despite any recent conciliatory words designed to disguise that fact, our manager Garry Monk knew in January that investment was needed to cement the promotion challenge. His statements in the press at the time were loaded and significant – words to the effect of “The club knows what is needed, and I’m sure they will act accordingly”. But former sole owner Cellino had different ideas. Despite the arrival of Andrea Radrizzani, a co-owner in equal partnership, el Loco‘s advice was not to invest money at this vital time. So the manager was casually undermined, and Leeds were sticking by the old tried and tested – but unsuccessful – formula.
That formula may be summed up as follows, to paraphrase a pissed-off but insightful LUFC tweeter as United struggled at Burton: Inadequate investment in the summer followed by a lot of ambitious talk and then a failure to invest in January, with an over-reliance on loans. Rinse and repeat.
It’s not been a recipe for success for Leeds for the last several seasons since the club first bottled a chance to go back to the top level in their first Championship season of 2010/11. It’s highly unlikely now to prove a recipe for success this season either. And for the unaccountable decision to stick to this same hopeless, hapless policy, we have only Mr. Cellino to thank. Things must change at Elland Road, or we’re going to become permanent second-tier plodders at best.
The first thing to change must be the removal of any Cellino influence at the club. This is a must – though, as I said earlier, some will fail to see it, much as Lord Nelson failed to see enemy ships through his blind eye. Secondly, there must be investment in the summer on a par with the big hitters in next season’s Championship, where I’m afraid we will still be plying our trade. Defeat at Burton pretty much confirms that. And the failure to make the play-offs may be a blessing in disguise. That mini competition is likely to turn into a “Who ends up getting thrashed by a rampant Fulham” affair.
There will be those again who will insist on hailing this ‘nearly but not quite’ season as a relative success, following years of unabashed mediocrity under various useless owners. Again, I disagree, and I turn to another despondent tweeter in Adam Turnbull, who sums up why the campaign is a failure in a few well-chosen and famous words, first uttered, after a fashion, by John Cleese in Clockwise: “It’s not the despair, I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand. MOT”
MOT indeed. But to what? Next season has to provide the right answer to such a vexed question – and that will require decisive change at the top – and for Leeds United to start acting like a big club again. In a week that marks the silver jubilee of the last United team to ascend to the top of the game – the Last Champions, no less – our allegedly big club has confirmed its failure to compete adequately at the top end of its league, and for the umpteenth time. That’s as pitiful as it’s shameful.
For now, our play-off chances are gone for a Burton – and we need to focus on a brighter future.