Tag Archives: Italia

The Man From Udinese, He Say YES: de Paul on Way to Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Get it done now, Leeds

Yes, it’s only Twitter – but our esteemed and reliable fanzine folk at The Square Ball might just have themselves a little scoop here. It’s a YES 🤞 from Rodrigo de Paul, and our top flight status could well be about to get a lot more secure.

Marching On Together

Scotland Coach Strachan In Sly Dig at Leeds Owner Cellino?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Two things we know well about one past and one present Elland Road personality: firstly that erstwhile Leeds United hero and current Scotland coach Gordon Strachan has a dry sense of humour that spares few, especially those who stick unqualified noses into professional football matters. And secondly, that current owner and self-styled captain of the United ship Massimo Cellino is a mess of superstitions and old wives’ tales, allowing his personal and business life to be dictated by a random mix of crazy fears and whimsical beliefs.

It’s difficult not to have a wry smile, then, at the player number allocated for the first Scotland squad featuring Leeds defender Liam Cooper. Coops was handed the 17 shirt, a number that has Cellino climbing the walls to end up in the belfry with like-minded bats. That figure 17 is anathema to il Duce, along with the colour purple and various other perceived supernatural threats. It would be so in character for Strachan, that ultimate professional and put-down merchant, to use the chance to stick a metaphorical needle into Cellino’s quivering hide.

Cellino is not the first superstitious character in Leeds United‘s history of course – though it goes without saying that he bears no comparison with gypsy curse-fearing and lucky blue suit-clad United legend Don Revie. But Don’s beliefs were of a gentler sort; he didn’t press them into the very fabric of the club, inviting derision from within and without. Cellino’s Leeds published a matchday programme for the visit of 17th home league opponent Notts Forest – it was numbered 16b. Beside that, Don’s worn-out blue suit, and his regular pre-match walk down to the corner near the team hotel, seem positively lovable.

Gordon Strachan occupies his own special,  permanent niche in Leeds history. He’s moved on, as heroes do, but I have good reason to believe he retains a love of the club. I met him briefly at a function at Headingley in 1995, and he was quite clear then that he could see a return to Elland Road as United manager one day. It’s not something you can envision happening, however, under Cellino’s loco stewardship.

The thing is, despite the schism that Cellino has caused in the ranks of Leeds fans – some obstinately supporting the Italian in the face of opposition from the majority – there is hardly a good word to be heard for the current United owner among professional football people. People who really know their stuff, such as John Giles, have attacked Cellino’s regime bitterly. The more deluded fans in the street aside, il Presidente doesn’t enjoy much informed support – unsurprisingly, given his track record. 

It’s unlikely that Liam Cooper will have raised as much as a peep of protest at his dark blue No. 17 shirt. Rookie international players know which side their bread is buttered, and the Scotland dressing room will be well aware of the Boss’s waspish tongue. Once, when asked in the tunnel in the wake of a heavy defeat, “In what areas were your players inferior to the opposition?”, Strachan looked the TV man straight in the eye and replied “Mainly that big green one out there”. Wee Gordon yields to no man in the bandying of words, there’s a book to be filled with his famous and devastating put-downs. 

All of this leads me to believe that the issuing of that number 17 to Liam Cooper was no coincidence; that Strachan, with the pro’s resentment of the mess Cellino is making of a great club he loves, has casually aimed a barbed arrow in the Italian’s direction. 

I do hope it’s true, and I hope that barb has hit home to fester. The more the game can show its rejection of chancers like Cellino, the better we will all be – including the flat-earth tendency obstinately talking him up. 

Good on you, Gordon, let’s have more. It’s believed, however, that rumours the Scotland shirt is to change its colour to purple… are wide of the mark. 

Cellino Content to Delay Leeds Promotion Charge Until 2016b – by Rob Atkinson


Leeds owner Cellino, racking his brains

Leeds United owner and all-round-the-bend football nutter Massimo Cellino has confirmed he is content to put back his original target of Premier League football by at least one year, predicting that – despite the evident failure to meet his original target of 2016 – promotion can be achieved by 2016b.

The Italian – so famous for being “one topping short of a pizza” that it’s rumoured he has settled on Barking as his London residence of choice – is a controversial figure for United fans, and has sharply divided opinion among a support whose fanaticism and loyalty are legendary in the game. His crazy insistence on his superstitious whims being given free rein throughout the football club – the programme for our 17th home league game against Nottingham Forest later today will be numbered 16b – is just one manifestation of an owner who puts his own ego first and foremost. It’s stupid and it’s embarrassing but, because Massimo wants it that way, that’s the way it shall be – while the rest of football looks on and laughs at us.

The schism between pro-Cellino supporters and those who want rid of the so-called King of Corn appears to be based broadly upon intellect, or the lack thereof. The more gullible, hard-of-thinking and easily-deluded tend towards a fierce but irrational devotion to Cellino, whereas those fans capable of thinking for themselves (or indeed at all) are largely anti. The Cellino supporters habitually use phrases such as “I would never of thought Evans would be a good manger but to all intensive purposes he’s defiantly doing a job”, whereas those opposed to the Italian are generally able to use their own native language to better effect.

Faced with this bafflingly obdurate (and frequently hostile/aggressive) ignorance, the more rational and thoughtful Leeds fan will doubtless wonder gloomily how Galileo Galilei must have felt when persecuted by those who still believed, against all scientific evidence, that the Earth was the centre of creation. Sadly, we are currently stuck with an owner who seems to hold much the same view about himself – and he’s supported by an uncritical minority who simply can’t seem to see or understand how ridiculous the situation has become.

This grey matter divide in the Whites support is clearly discernible in various Facebook groups, where feelings run high when the less capable “Cellino in” brigade feel themselves out-thought and out-manoeuvred – then resorting to profanity and censorship as their most effective means of coping. In the interests of clarity and transparency, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything frankly acknowledges that it was initially a vocal supporter of Cellino, but thankfully reason and common-sense prevailed. This blog believes that any rational Leeds United fan will weigh-up the evidence, as we have done, and conclude that the Italian is an overwhelmingly negative factor in the club’s quest even to regain a measure of credibility, let alone return to the top-flight. In this, we are supported by the forthright views of ex-United star and erudite football legend Johnny Giles, who believes Leeds will never prosper under such maverick and irrational control.

We’re right with our former midfield maestro – the best manager United never had, let it be remembered – in maintaining that Leeds must be rid of Cellino if we are to have any real chance of once again becoming a proper football club. If the current situation persists, it’ll be closer to 2116b than 2016b before we once again witness top-level football at Elland Road, which is an almost laughably tragic state of affairs.

Those who persist in their ill-conceived support for a man in Cellino, who has made a laughing stock of a once-great club, are now merely part of the problem. It is down to those of us who can see how bad things really are to leave il Duce in no doubt that he’s not required around LS11 any more. Not by anyone with a proper brain in their head, anyway.


Is New Leeds United Recruit Nicola Salerno the Real Deal-Maker? – by Rob Atkinson


Salerno – wheels and deals

Hold on a minute – just one cotton-picking minute. What’s all this then? The transfer window has suddenly become vibrant, even interesting – even for Leeds United. So what’s all that about? We all know, as Leeds United fans, that transfer windows are supposed to be bleak exercises in dashed hopes and futility – but all of a sudden, things are actually happening.  Good things. To Leeds. Blimey. It doesn’t seem quite real.

Today has brought a sudden flurry of news, almost all of it good – or at least, not as disastrous as the tidings we are more used to receiving. OK, our badge-kissing, self-justification-tweeting skipper, Mr Ross McCormack has departed. Amazingly, given the fact that he was our top scorer – in fact the league’s top scorer last season – this not entirely unexpected news has been greeted in a largely positive and realistic fashion, give or take the odd hopeless case who’s always going to whinge because it’s their default setting.

Ross has gone – and whither is he heading?  Why, to just any club, of course – just the very thing he said he wouldn’t do, preferring to stick it out at Leeds and win promotion, even above “just any Premier League club”. So he’s ended up at just any Championship outfit, smaller than Leeds United in every imaginable respect but the financial one.  What, I wonder, could possibly have been his motivation??  All the best, Ross – and don’t let counting your wedge put you off those goal-scoring exploits and, of course, your Twitter outbursts.  You may well end up being the least-missed top scorer in Leeds United history.

Strange as it may seem, Leeds United’s most important capture of the close season may already have taken place with the recruitment from Massimo Cellino’s former possession Cagliari of Nicola Salerno, whose speciality is apparently the sniffing-out of players for his boss to introduce into the team, nurture and then sell on – at a profit.  In this way, stability might arise out of long-term penury and crisis, with transfer net profits being re-invested into more recruitment, and so on.  It sounds good – and it worked well enough at Cagliari to keep an unfashionable and comparatively tiny club in Serie A for extended periods, including forays into Europe, with the development of several fine players from fairly low-profile raw recruits. On the same day that McCormack exited the back door at Leeds United, two such low-profile (to us) Italian players were entering via the front.  So, it seems, the process has begun; sell high, buy low, develop the talent, rinse and repeat.

So can this model work at Leeds United?  There is a glass ceiling easily detectable if we look far enough ahead into the possible future of the club; the time would come when significant investment would be needed simply to keep the club in the Premier League after promotion is secured within Salerno’s three year – ideally two year – time frame. But in the meantime, this Cellino/Salerno plan might well be the way in which we can start to make some headway again – after far too long of, at best, treading water.

Rarely have I seen the sale of arguably our best player received with such positivity and enthusiasm – even outbreaks of common sense. Probably that has a lot to do with the frankly ludicrous fee we appear to have blagged out of Fulham – more mugs them. I suspect that McCormack will not be pulling up quite such huge trees down there as he did with Leeds last season – but we will see.  The fact remains that – given the choice of a sulky striker and serial Twitter-whinger, or 11 million lovely sponds, ripe for the reinvesting – there’s little doubt that we’re better off with the latter.

Yes, folks, I’m feeling positive.  I’m expecting more deadwood to be cut away from the club, no more high-profile departures (unless, as with Ross, it’s undeniably for the good of the club) – and quite a few more arrivals. Net result; a leaner, fitter Leeds United – a Leeds United who can start to make some serious progress.

A last thought.  McCormack has said one reason behind his move (as opposed to all of those crisp, bankable, paper reasons) is that “it’s not the Leeds United I fell in love with”.  But is that a bad thing, from our point of view?  Cast your mind back.  What was the Leeds United that McCormack fell in love with?  It was a club under the jackboot of Ken Bates, wasn’t it?  A club that the fans were almost ashamed to own up to, a club in the process of decay, as that horrible Papa Smurf had decreed back in 1984 when certain freelance Yorkshire demolition contractors sorted out his Stamford Bridge scoreboard for him. Mr McCormack might wistfully pine for those days, but forgive us if we fans don’t. Perhaps Ross might not recognise or appreciate it, but the club he fell in love with is in a much better place now.  Or so I believe.

The next couple of weeks should be exciting and eventful ones for Leeds fans. We might not be signing big names, but we can hope for young, hungry, talented players who will breathe new life into what had seemed a moribund outfit.  I’ll take that, just as happily as I’d have taken Fulham’s eleven million, had it been up to me.  For a new start and some players with the appetite for the fight and an eye on success, I’d snatch your hands off.

The future starts here.  Goodbye, Ross – you are now irrelevant. It’s onwards and upwards for Leeds, our owner, our deal-fixer and a coach who sorted us out good and proper when we came up against him at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in 2006. That’s a good place from which to start Marching On Together again.  On and on and on.

Cellino and Leeds Fans: Leap of Faith Required from Both Sides – by Rob Atkinson

Cellino - can he "get" what it is to be Leeds?

Cellino – can he “get” what it is to be Leeds?

With the clock ticking down towards Saturday and another of those meaningless irrelevances that crop up now and again in the Leeds United calendar – yes, folks, I’m talking about a football match – some vital issues are becoming ever clearer as some of the murk disperses from the Elland Road neighbourhood.

The first and most significant of these is that Massimo Cellino is most likely going to be our new owner – and maybe sooner rather than later.  That story has moved on from a state of siege last Friday night, when the Italian was barricaded inside the stadium, his getaway cars chased over the horizon by vexed United supporters, to something which is developing from resigned acceptance into something approaching guarded optimism.  It will be important for us all, going forward, that this process should continue and that some mutual trust should manifest itself.

The second important factor which is becoming ever clearer is the parlous state of Leeds United as it has been trundling along over the past year or so since GFH ousted Bates.  It looks more and more as though the club has been haemorrhaging money at a rate that would prove fatal in the relatively near future.  Against the alarming nature of this unwelcome truth, little matters like winding up petitions and managerial insecurity rather pale into the background.  Leeds United need an urgent and massive transfusion of cold, hard cash – and they need it now, if not sooner.

All of this should lead us towards regarding the various parties to the current messy situation in a new and more realistic light.  GFH have been talking about working towards a sustainable future with solid investment designed to restore the club to its natural place towards the top of the English game.  It’s quite clear now that – without a major windfall – such talk was simply moonshine, a deceptive smokescreen designed to manage fans’ expectations and lull us through a succession of disappointing transfer windows.  So much for GFH.

Cellino was initially regarded with something rather worse than suspicion and cynicism.  He’s a crook, people fulminated.  He’s the worst thing that could happen to our club.  He will destroy us; we don’t want his dirty money.  But as things have started to become clearer, it’s becoming steadily more obvious that the one thing we cannot do without is Cellino’s lucre, filthy or otherwise.  And this is regardless of whether or not he intends to splash as much cash on players as the FFP rules will allow.  Leeds United is skint, and needs to be fully-capitalised; we need that security of money to buffer us against whatever the future might bring.  So, since last Friday, Cellino is being seen more as a source of salvation than our arch-Nemesis.  That’s progress for you.

The fact of the matter is that this is probably going to happen.  From that factual foundation, new attitudes have to form and all parties still engaged in and dedicated to the welfare of Leeds United AFC have to bend their efforts to that end.  This is no time to embrace negativity – there are agencies aplenty out there who are more than eager to do that without us jumping on board.  What is required here is a leap of faith – but it has to come from both sides so that we meet somewhere in the middle and find a way of taking matters forward.

From the fans’ point of view, this surely means an initial acceptance that Cellino is coming into Leeds United with the intention of succeeding.  On the face of it, it’s sensible to ask: “why would we suspect otherwise?”  Against the background of media uproar, with every anti-Leeds hack predicting dire outcomes, doom and gloom – where is the logic behind any assumption that Massimo Cellino is here to do us harm?  Even if his first move as confirmed owner were to sack Brian McDermott – something I do not want to see – then it would hardly be an unusual move on the part of a new owner.  It would not, of itself, be a malevolent or a diabolical act – as some would seem eager to portray it.  Initially, at least, we have to assume that the man – who has almost sold his first love, Cagliari, to concentrate on Leeds United – is here to succeed.

Our Brian

Our Brian

But the fact is that there is a leap of faith required from Cellino as well.  Looking at the Brian McDermott situation again – what is the major element in his appeal to the Leeds United fans?  Is it the results, the tactics, the transfer market record?  Not really – in all three areas, the record has been nothing special – mediocre at best.  Then again, Brian has been working with one hand tied behind his back, lacking any real financial support.  But the real appeal of McDermott is easy to identify: he “gets” Leeds United, and he “gets” the fans.  That has been the golden thread running through the slightly threadbare fabric of his tenure at Elland Road.  Just about everything he has said since moving into the managerial hot seat has struck exactly the right note with the club’s support.  I cannot think of a manager in the recent past – with the possible exception of Simon Grayson – who has been so demonstrably on the fans’ wavelength, so clearly in tune with the fans’ concerns.  Brian McDermott listens to our problems, feels our pain and talks our language.  For God’s sake, he even stands us drinks with his last fifty Euros. That is why, for the most part, Brian is loved.

Now Cellino is most probably coming in, and he comes in as a foreigner, an alien, steeped in a culture which could hardly be more different from that in which exists English football.  He must know that he will have to learn, and learn fast.  It may even be that such a learning process is already under way.  That Friday night barricaded inside Elland Road, while the whirlwind of the fans’ rage rattled the window-panes, must surely have had some impact.  Whatever Cellino is, we can safely assume that he is no fool.  It’s unlikely that he will have expected such a very demonstrative display from such a very vocal group of Leeds supporters.  But it’s equally unlikely that he’ll have been daft enough to dismiss it as irrelevant.

What we need and want is an owner who is not just “minted” – and fired with an ambition to restore our club to the top of the game.  What we need and want is an owner who “gets” Leeds United, and its fans, in a manner similar to that which has enabled Brian McDermott – who as a southerner is hardly that much less of a foreigner or alien himself in the People’s Republic of West Yorkshire – to build up such a rapport with such a notoriously truculent and suspicious group of fans.

Cellino has already said a few words to indicate that he appreciates the Leeds fans are no ordinary bunch of tifosi – that he recognises that we are a militant and fanatical group of committed loyalists who will try to move mountains in the interests of their beloved club.  He will not have been fazed by the demonstration of last Friday night; indeed he actually appears to have the cool poise to have been more impressed and moved, rather than rattled or shaken.  That itself bodes well for the future, and boy do we need some good omens right now.

The bottom line is that things could not have proceeded much longer the way they were.  Add to that the apparent lack of any other feasible alternative, and it’s not rocket science to predict that Cellino – subject always to the Football League getting off their collective arse and ratifying the deal – is by far the most likely way out of the immediate hole in which – thanks to the ineptitude of our last several owners and guardians – we now find ourselves.  So it looks like an Italian Job, and it’s up to all parties to try to make the best of it and move forward as harmoniously as possible.

A leap of faith.  It’s what you do when the future is uncertain but you’re faced with Hobson’s Choice.  It’s a situation which renders mistrust and cynicism more than ordinarily counter-productive.  It’s the very kernel of what Marching On Together should be all about.  So – if and when it’s confirmed – let’s do just that.  Let’s give it a chance and see what happens.

After all – “Siamo tutti Leeds – non siamo?”

Vita, Leeds United, l’Universo e Tutto? – di Roberto Atkinson


Massimo Cellino – Leeds takeover??

Reports coming from out of Italy tonight, notably in the La Gazzetta dello Sport and the Corriere dello Sport, strongly indicate that Leeds United AFC has been taken over by Cagliari president Massimo Cellino. Both papers claim the deal for the Championship club is essentially complete, although news outlets in the UK are being somewhat more cautious.

Nothing has been heard from Leeds United FC so far, nor from GFH or David Haigh himself. Doubtless more news and reaction will follow tomorrow.  There have been suggestions that Cellino would not find it a straightforward matter to pass the “fit and proper person” test – but at a club for whom Ken Bates was deemed fit and proper, nothing is impossible.

Meanwhile, reports that David Haigh woke up this morning to find a horse’s head in bed next to him are reckoned to be exaggerated.

TOMA or no TOMA – Noi tutti amiamo Leeds!!