Cellino – end of the road?
Three bits of good news for Leeds United fans over the past few days – a week worthy indeed to be marked with a white stone. That’s normally our ration for a season or more in the glad tidings stakes, after all – so what can all of this mean?
On the wonderkid retention front, the fact that Lewis Cook has extended his stay with the Whites is the best possible example of A Good Thing you will see this side of United’s next promotion. Cook is, by common consent, the real deal – and even if this contract extension is merely the Leeds United take on fattening the lad for the next propitious market day, still it’s a mighty welcome development for the here and now.
On the player recruitment front – wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles – the League’s transfer embargo has been lifted, meaning that Leeds United are once again free to raid for Serie B for the cream of its dubious talent – or maybe even to buy some serious candidates for enhancing a team which aims to compete in the hurly-burly of The Championship. That’s as vexed a question as it’s been at any time recently; much will depend on who, precisely, will be pulling the transfer strings – about which more anon.
The return of Adam Pearson is a more puzzling if still very welcome piece of news. Right out of the blue, we have a person at the top end of the club who could quite conceivably restore some credibility to the senior executive management levels at Leeds. Pearson is the kind of person who will know before striking any agreement precisely what the parameters are and with what measure of unfettered freedom he’ll be able to go about his clearly-defined role. He’ll be Massimo Cellino‘s right hand man, so we’re told, but there are complexities afoot, surely. Wiser heads than mine are nodding sagely and prophesying that great changes are in the offing.
These great changes may, of course, not be a matter of choice or election on the part of those within the club. Further legal hurdles are ahead for Cellino to attempt to vault – or more likely to stumble over and carve a furrow in the track with that ever-lengthening nose. The Italian may be many things, but he’s not daft – he ahead of almost anyone else must be aware that knives are still out for him, and being stealthily sharpened by cold-eyed men with grim and determined smiles on their grim and determined faces. It’s been open season on Cellino since the day he set foot in Elland Road, and the fact that he’s back for the time being – with a blessing of sorts from the Football League – amounts to the square root of not very much, if the judicial sky is about to fall once more on our President’s head.
This being the case, Cellino may well be acting under notice of his own impending demise. That’s the sort of information that sharpens and concentrates the mind wonderfully, turning it to securing the best possible exit under the most advantageous terms. Simple economics dictates that a forced sale attracts a lower price; the buyers out there act in full knowledge of the lack of options a banned seller has – and the price goes down. The sudden appearance of Pearson on the scene could well mean that Cellino is preparing to bow his head to the inevitable and, in effect, cut his losses by selling before he has to do. Pearson would be there to ensure smooth running during any interregnum – which is a selling point in itself. Meanwhile, the main people will continue to talk the talk as if they’re going to carry right on walking the walk. But the rumours won’t go away about a change of ownership in the near future – and the logic is appealing.
It’s going to be a very interesting and probably confusing summer at Elland Road, certainly over the next few days and weeks as poor Neil Redfearn continues to dangle and the Press conjure up more or less ridiculous candidates to inherit the poisoned chalice Redders has been supping from. It’s a thankless position for Redfearn to be in, and so much more so for his erstwhile assistant Steve Thompson. This issue, surely, must be the first of many that require clarification before any other business can realistically be done.
All of which begs the question of what is Lewis Cook’s understanding of the current situation at Elland Road. Or, more likely, that of his agent and advisers. Cook is a hot property with options reportedly available at the top end of the Premier League. He must presumably have received some assurances as to the wisdom or otherwise of signing the next phase of a richly promising career over to a club many football people – and Rodney Marsh – consider to be fatally ill-run. So there’s another glimmer of encouragement – if young Cook, or his cadre of assistants, is happy with the way things are shaping up, perhaps we can dare to be a little more optimistic too?
All now depends on how this Elland Road game of musical chairs proceeds as the summer draws on. We can properly expect big changes, with outside events in foreign courts likely to have a telling influence either directly, if Cellino sits it out, or more indirectly if he takes the pragmatic view and goes – more or less – quietly. As ever this past decade or so in and around LS11, the summer promises to be the most significant and entertaining part of the LUFC year – far more riveting and compelling than that dreary and frustrating portion of the calendar when they actually try to play and win football matches.
Watch this space – it’s going to be a bumpy ride…