Tag Archives: Neil Redfearn

Neil Redfearn’s Sensational Exposé of Life at Cellino’s Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson


Every Leeds United fan should click this link, and read for themselves former United coach Neil Redfearn‘s sensational insider view of life at Elland Road and Thorp Arch under Massimo Cellino. Just click the link and try if you can to take it all in – freelance journalist Simon Austin has obtained the most telling exposé of the Cellino regime, from an honest pro and lifelong Leeds fan. It’s incredible stuff and compulsive reading.

I hope anybody who reads this will share with this blog their views on what Redfearn has said. I believe it’s the most shattering indictment yet of Cellino’s reign at Leeds, making an unarguable case for the club to be rid of this malign influence as soon as possible.

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Why Would ANY True Leeds Fan Trust In a Man Like Cellino? – by Rob Atkinson

MASSIMO-CELLINO

il Loco himself

Possibly the most startling thing so far about the reign of Massimo Cellino at Leeds United, is that he enjoys the continued faith and support of a vociferous minority of United fans who still insist that the Italian has “saved” the club. That this misguided loyalty is based almost entirely on smoke and mirrors is clear enough to the rest of us, and indeed we are inclined to marvel at the hopeless naivety of a group which seems willing – indeed, remorselessly determined – to overlook so much on the debit side of il Duce‘s ledger. It is for this reason that the majority of Leeds fans, those eager to see Cellino go, are wont to refer to the minority inexplicably keen to keep him in charge as “Flat Earthers“.

A few salient facts and quotes should be enough to justify the question in the headline of this piece: why would any true United fan want to keep this mendacious chancer in the owner’s chair? For instance, there’s this glowing endorsement of then Head Coach Neil Redfearn on May 7th last year: “I am in love with Neil and I don’t want to talk to anyone else about the job. I have always believed in him and I gave him his big chance”. Ten days on, and Cellino’s ardour had cooled dramatically: “Neil Redfearn does the (Leeds fans’) salute. He challenged me. If you are good I can accept the challenge. But not if you are a bad coach. He has to respect the chairman. He has to respect the club. He’s like a baby. He’s been badly advised and used by someone. He is not a bad person but he has a weak personality”.

Dear me. Where to start? For one thing, any true Leeds fan would confirm that doing the Leeds Salute is perhaps the best single way of showing respect for the club. As for respect for the chairman, or President, or Captain on the Bridge, or whatever he chooses to call himself on any given day – well, that has to be earned. And Cellino did precious little in the course of that outburst, or at any other time in his tenure, to earn anyone’s respect – let alone that of a grizzled old football pro like Redfearn. To refer to a current employee as a baby, and a weak personality, shows Cellino in the worst possible light and certainly does not merit respect. Not from the most deluded fan. And to view the Leeds salute as a challenge to himself personally serves to expose the egocentric, narcissistic personality of the Italian. It’s all about Massimo, you see. Woe betide any mere employee who shall presume to usurp his imagined place in the fans’ affections. Houston – the Ego has landed.

In between those two wildly varying quotes from Cellino, in that ten day gap during which he fell out of love with Redfearn (and Neil went from being believed in to being a baby with a weak personality) il Duce had indulged in a 70 minute car-crash of a press conference to mark the return to Elland Road of newly-appointed Executive Director Adam Pearson. That cringe-fest of a press event also featured the mockery of Redfearn’s Leeds Salute and, additionally, of its use by United fans. Normally, any such lack of respect for such an institution of the club as our trademark salute would be enough to have the offender marked for severe disapproval and censure by a constituency of at least 20,000. Given such alarmingly unbalanced and erratic behaviour, pockmarked with instances of what amount to virtual treason – how the hell does Cellino retain any support at all? Is it merely pigheaded stubbornness – or has it descended to outright stupidity?

Perhaps the most damning indictment of the disaster which has been Cellino’s tenure at the club is the following list. It is a list of senior staff who have been fired by the owner, or who have otherwise departed during what is still a fairly short reign. But it’s not a short list:

Brian McDermott, Nigel Gibbs, Richard Naylor, Leigh Bromby, Andy Leaning, Paul Dews, Benito Carbone, Graham Bean, David Hockaday, Junior Lewis, Darko Milanic, Novika Nikcevic, Matt Child, Steve Thompson, Nicola Salerno, Neil Redfearn, Steve Holmes, Steve Head, Martyn Glover, Lucy Ward, Matt Peers, Adam Pearson, Uwe Rosler, Julian Darby, Rob Kelly, Paul Hart.

Some of those names will be unlamented by many Leeds fans. Others – Steve Thompson, Adam Pearson and recent departure Paul Hart, to name but three – represent a real loss and a further stage in the downward spiral of team performance. But the sheer number of departures surely has to reflect on the wisdom and judgement of the man at the top. That would apply to any organisation of this size and profile. There is also the question of the cumulative cost to the club of severance, compensation, gagging orders, etc. etc. It’s a damning litany of failure and – in the opinion of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything – it damns Cellino far more effectively than could any of the imaginary demons that seem to haunt this strange and superstitious man.

As I mentioned earlier, the one thing that characterises the pro-Cellino minority – apart from their apparent lack of any judgement, or pride in what Leeds United used to stand for – is the vocal and outspoken tone of their dogged support for their deeply flawed “hero”. I’ve seen evidence of this whenever I’ve written an article that is seen to be critical of the owner. And yet I would welcome their input on this latest piece as I am genuinely, profoundly puzzled as to why – why?? – and how they feel able to retain faith in a man capable of the kind of crazy, schizo behaviour referred to above. And, remember, that was no exhaustive list of the man’s nuttiness. There has been much, much more, all of it well documented. So tell me, guys – why?

It would be interesting and instructive to hear some points of view, particularly as this whole “praise, damn, knife in the back then sack” cycle appears to be on the point of repeating itself for a second time since the demise of Redfearn. Don’t just rant on Facebook – stand up and be counted. But – keep it clean and decent, though. Please. It’d make a pleasant change, after so much vicious abuse in the past, to hear from a Flat Earther who doesn’t actually sound like one.

Cellino to Sack Leeds Groundsman for “Turning Pitch Against Him”   –   by Rob Atkinson

LUFC Groundsman – “weak and babyish”

There was yet another bizarre turn of events at Elland Road yesterday, as “one chip short of a butty” owner Massimo Cellino confirmed that he is on the verge of replacing the Leeds United head groundsman. In a prepared tantrum, Mr. Cellino gave a bravura five minute rant to assembled pressmen, criticising the way the stadium was being managed. 

The groundsman in question was maintaining a dignified silence yesterday, but stands accused of:

  • Using purple gardening gloves
  • Refusing to plant corn at the Kop goalmouth
  • Deliberately taking 17 minute tea breaks
  • Wibble
  • Failing to salute a Cellino family member
  • Making Redders a cup of tea without leave

It is rumoured that Cellino has a new groundsman lined up, late of a legendary but unnamed Serie C club and a man with a formidable range of experience in the continental style of digging up a pitch.

Further developments are expected next week, or at the next full moon, whichever is the sooner. 

Massimo Cellino is stark, staring mad. 

Prolific Morison Condemns Wednesday to Cup Final Defeat as Leeds Rule – by Rob Atkinson

Steve Morison - prolific

Steve Morison – prolific

Poor Sheffield Wednesday. And, make no mistake, they were poor. Insipid in build-up, impotent in front of goal – in the end, Leeds United could and perhaps should have won by more. But it would be churlish to criticise a team that comes from a goal down at half-time in a derby match – especially against opponents who traditionally regards every game against Leeds as their cup final. This is even more the case when you consider United’s recent off-the-field troubles – although, let’s face it, trouble’s as near to normality as the Whites ever get.

It’s two in a row now for United striker Steve Morison, who kept his cool to score the winner after his initial shot had been saved by Kieran Westwood in the home goal. Earlier in the second half, young Charlie Taylor had popped up in the right place at the right time to slot the equaliser home after a free kick on the edge of the area had the ball pinging about near goal. All this after the sub-par Wendies had gone in at half time leading through a disputed penalty. United manager Neil Redfearn was frank enough afterwards to admit he thought the ref had called it right. Easy to be magnanimous in victory, you might say – but in reality, so few ever are. Credit to Redders.

That two in two accolade for Morison loses a little of its lustre when you reflect that it could equally be interpreted as two goals in two years. But the big striker has played his part when given the chance this season, in a team that has struggled more often than not. You get the feeling with Morison that, in a team that plays to his strengths at this level, he’d still be a real handful. If he’s still in the white shirt next time around, we might just see much more in the way of fireworks from a much-maligned but still dangerous striker.

As for Wednesday – sadly for their fans (but comically for the rest of us), they’ve let down those supporters who turned up in numbers today for the match that means more to them than any other Championship fixture. In the end, it was just shy of 4,000 cock-a-hoop away supporters out of a crowd of over 28,000 who left Hillsborough raucously satisfied as the glum Wendies trooped sadly home.

It would take a lot to erase the memory of last season’s bitter Hillsborough experience, but Leeds made a start on that process of redemption with this much-improved performance. It’s always good to put South Yorkshire upstarts in their place and, as things stand right now, it may be that Leeds are destined to hammer home the final nail in Rotherham‘s Championship coffin next time out. If that proves to be the case, then Yorkshire’s least civilised quarter will have provided an upbeat end to what in truth has been another dismal season for Leeds.

For the moment, the glum look on the faces of those depressed Wendy fans at their Cup Final defeat is enough to bring a smile for even the most depressed United fan – together with some sort of hope for better things next season. Well, that’s what Massimo Cellino is promising us, and he’s bound to be sincere. Anyone remember the promises he made last season…?

Sticks and Stones? Leeds Fans Pay Dearly for Salerno’s Hurt Feelings – by Rob Atkinson

Nicola Salerno - a delicate little flower

Nicola Salerno – a delicate little flower

Without wanting to get over-simplistic about this, the facts are as follows. Steve Thompson, the assistant coach that boss Neil Redfearn so wanted at Leeds, a man he head-hunted from Huddersfield Town, was suspended and told his contract would not be renewed – sacked, in effect – apparently for being heard using a derogatory word or two about United’s then Sporting Director Nicola Salerno. Since then, Leeds – who had been doing reasonably well – have lost four games on the trot, with morale seemingly having plummeted across the whole spectrum of fans, players and staff. Right up to that lonely, newly-isolated, probably doomed figure at the top of the football part of the club, the man who carries the can for mistakes made above even his head, Redders himself.

The main question over Redders’ future now would appear to be: will he jump, or wait to be pushed? To say that there are mixed messages coming out of the United hierarchy, higher up than humble Head Coach level, would be a masterpiece of understatement. Massimo Cellino was going to stay away, then we hear he’s coming back. Salerno, having suspended Thompson for hurting his poor, delicate feelings, seems to have ended his association with Leeds since. Thompson remains suspended, Redfearn remains frustrated, isolated, powerless – so it seems – to do the job he desperately wants to do.

You might say it’s a mess – but, again, you’d be accused of putting an unrealistic gloss on the situation. It’s much worse than a mess. It’s a farce, a pantomime, a badly-written black comedy. Doomed Blackpool, with their rapist part-owner and their long-inevitable relegation, might almost look at Leeds and say to themselves – well, we weren’t the only chaotic club in this league, were we? Cellino now faces further court dates over the immediate future – a time when any proper owner might be looking at his club and wondering how such an abysmally disappointing season could be improved upon next time around.

Cellino has to accept responsibility, even in absentia, for the way the club is being – for want of a more descriptive word – run. The men making the decisions on the ground are presumably there because Cellino wanted them there. Events are not bearing out the wisdom of many of those decisions, and the Thompson fiasco is a case in point. As one glum social media user tweeted, we were rubbish, then Thompson came and we did OK – then he’s sacked and we’re rubbish again. It’s not rocket science.

Leeds United and its fans deserve far better than this. Alright, no-one should be unsackable, and insubordination is not a matter to be taken lightly. But there are degrees of appropriate response – and if a vital member of the back-room staff has been removed simply because one incautious remark caused some offence in one over-sensitive director – then the fallout from that decision is utterly disproportionate to the seriousness of such a relatively innocuous situation. Four games since then, little fight, chaotic organisation on the pitch and off, no points, decimated morale – all because of one man’s hurt feelings. If that’s the way to run a football club, then I’m a bloody Tory.

The sooner this bunch of clowns do the right thing and sell their interest in our club to someone better able to run the place – i.e. almost anyone – the better for everybody, maybe even the clowns themselves, not that I care a slice of pizza for them. There is far too much of a feeling that certain individuals think themselves bigger than the club – and that can never be true. If Salerno has gone, then we have one less of those individuals and that’s a step in the right direction – but then, why not get Thompson back? If he’d be willing to come back, that is.

Now, the rest of them, the rest of those clueless idiots in the boardroom, should get out. Because Leeds United fans – even those of us who were prepared to give this regime a chance at the outset – have had enough. Much more than enough. Yet again, it’s time for change; this time we have to get it right. Leeds United is a global name; when you look at what has been achieved at relatively small and unknown (with all due respect) clubs such as Southampton and Swansea City – surely, then, the potential at Leeds is huge and realisable.

Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany feels that the so-called Financial Fair Play rules will mitigate against the likes of Leeds and Forest ever being successful again. I’m not so sure about that. David Batty on the other hand speaks optimistically, stating that we’ll be back towards the top soon. I’m not too sure about that either. But somewhere in between is a level we can still hit – and yet, the way things are now, we’re a million miles away even from that.

As a wise man once said, a journey of a million miles starts with a single step, but all our steps right now appear to be backward ones – it’s very tempting to talk here about the proverbial Italian tank with no forward and fifteen reverse gears. And yet, really, it would be misleading to talk about cowardice – it’s not even as forgiveable as that. It’s incompetence we’re seeing, indulgence of ego against the interests of the greater good. That’s what’s so hard to forgive.

It hasn’t worked, this Italian experiment. With the League dead set against Cellino, it’s highly unlikely it can ever work. Let’s all just acknowledge that, all of us – the owners too. Cut your losses, sell up, bugger off.

We’re Leeds United – and we’ve got a future to carve for ourselves, somewhere a lot higher up the game than the humiliating rut you’ve got us stuck in right now. Just go. In the name of God – GO.

 

Next Leeds United Wonderkid to Figure in Matchday Squad v Forest? – by Rob Atkinson

Kalvin Phillips - latest Wonderkid to make the grade?

Kalvin Phillips – latest Wonderkid to make the grade?

Vastly promising performances, fulsome praise from the management, a fantastic strike for the development squad at Huddersfield – and now today a non-appearance at that same development level; these progressive steps would seem to be the road by which 19 year old hot prospect Kalvin Phillips will arrive, quite possibly as soon as the Nottingham Forest game on Saturday, as a first team squad member for Leeds United.

It’s never all that easy to say how a promising youngster will cut it at first team level, but all the talk is that young Phillips has as good a chance as anyone, shining at a level not short of promise for Leeds, with several other Academy products either having already made their mark or pushing hard for recognition. Obviously, Neil Redfearn has the advantage of knowing all these kids well, having worked with them before his elevation to Head Coach. He is also quoted as saying that he would like “if possible” to field a full first eleven comprising home-grown players. Now that would be interesting.

A nod is as good as a wink, and such has been the progress of young Kalvin this season, culminating in that blistering strike at Huddersfield Town in a 5-0 stroll, you’d have thought he’d have been among the first names on Friday’s team-sheet for the reserve match against Forest. But no – nary a sign of him, not even on the bench. What other conclusion is there to draw? It seems certain that Phillips, maybe del Fabro also, are in line for at least a bench spot for tomorrow’s meeting of the two Championship giants – a match that is assured of a crowd well in excess of 30,000.

If Phillips does manage to get some game time against Dougie Freedman‘s men, it will be just the latest in a whole string of recent first-team débuts for home-produced stars at Leeds. As this is surely the best and most effective way for the club to guarantee the quality of their first eleven for the foreseeable future, it is reassuring to see the quality that is being produced, time and time again. Such a rich seam of talent means that the Club’s future should be bright, whatever the varying fortunes of owners and directors, or the effects of what is laughably called “Financial Fair Play“.

The last really promising era at Leeds hit the peaks when youngsters were blooded en masse in the first team, the likes of Smith, Kewell, Robinson, McPhail bridging the gap and supplementing the experience already there. Only when the focus shifted to over-rated, overpaid, over-the-hill “stars” did that vast promise start to turn to dust. The lesson is clear enough and, perhaps, even more applicable today than it has ever been. The uncut diamonds in reserve at Leeds could yet form the backbone of our next great team.

Fingers crossed that this is so. It would appear that the path to Premier League glory is via the multi-million pound acquisition of an array of European and South American talent of indisputable skill but all too often dodgy temperament and questionable commitment. Success thus obtained might well be wonderful, if a little nerve-shredding – but does it really taste quite as sweet as watching a team of home-produced lads fighting and winning together, for the shirt they’ve worn since they were kids? I seriously doubt it.

Good luck to all the wearers of those famous white shirts tomorrow, and for the rest of the season. And, of course for the years ahead too – years that suddenly do seem to hold the promise of something really worthwhile, something to be genuinely proud of.

Here’s hoping such rich promise really can be fulfilled. 

Millwall Seek Away Win Hat-Trick in Elland Road Six Pointer – by Rob Atkinson

3-0 .... in OUR cup final??

3-0 …. in OUR cup final??

Had it not been for Millwall’s last two performances away from home, when they have recorded successive 1-0 wins at Notts Forest and at Birmingham, Leeds United might by now be breathing easy – and thinking more of the Championship top half than that worryingly close relegation battle.

The truth of the matter is, it’s only Millwall of the bottom three clubs that are close enough really to worry the Whites, and that’s only because of those six points extorted out of their last two road trips. If they were to complete a hat-trick of away wins in LS11, it would be more than unacceptably embarrassing – it would put our whole season right back into the melting pot, just when we need to be stretching away from the unseemly brawl at the bottom.

Looking at the current league table, there are pesky little Millwall, neck and neck with Brighton as they compete for the honour of not being that third relegated club. As it stands, Blackpool look dead, while Wigan are on the floor and seem to be breathing their last. Those two are a full ten and eight points respectively behind our friends from Bermondsey.

If Millwall had done the decent thing, and had rolled over at Forest and Brum, they would now be making up a neat little relegation trio with the two Lancastrian dead men walking – all of them clustered cosily together on the gallows, all nicely two points apart from each other; and the nearest to us would be a distant eleven points away. Then again, if my auntie had balls she’d be my uncle, wouldn’t she – but Birmingham had been doing so well until lately, and Forest have just slapped Wigan 3-0. Surely, it was not unreasonable to expect Millwall to lose those two. But no, they ignorantly got two unlikely wins, so what should be a comfortable gulf between us is instead a dicey-looking 5 points – though we do have four other clubs between us, as insulation if you like.

All of this means one thing: Leeds must beat Millwall at Elland Road on Saturday. For once, it is nearly as much our cup final as it is for those envious docklands pariahs with their scummy, inbred fans. Not that the away support will be anything to worry about – a few dozen cold and shivering die-hards are expected to negotiate the security curtain in order to attend. That’s all plucky Millwall bring these days. Not that they’re scared, of course.

So the away support won’t add much to the atmosphere, and it’ll be down to the White army to back their heroes or have the game played in a sterile vacuum. Either way, no slip-ups can be tolerated. The last home performance, as well as the showing of that appalling ref, must be forgotten. We have to draw on the positives of the Reading game (and Huddersfield – yes, we’re on an away hat-trick too) and we have to win. Simple as that. Easier said than done, of course. Millwall will fight like the dockland rats they are.

But the prize for Leeds is enticing – an eight point cushion from that dreaded trapdoor. If we were to lose – horror of horrors – it could be down to as little as two points, and that’s when bums start to squeak. Besides which – I don’t want my email inbox clogged with triumphal if illiterate outpourings from my fans down Millwall way. It’d be irksome in the extreme.

One change at least will be enforced on Leeds as Tommaso Bianchi awaits an operation to repair a cruciate ligament injury. It’s never particularly edifying, trawling through the musings of some of the Leeds United Twatterati, but much of the output in the wake of Reading was horrifyingly unimpressive, as several morons so far forgot themselves as to actually celebrate a United player’s serious injury. That’s simply unacceptable; some people need to take a serious look at themselves.

In another area of the team, Redders is backing “unlucky” Steve Morison to end his goal drought and, really, the law of averages if nothing else would seem to be in favour of the coach having a point. The striker’s hard work and application, the way he has led the line, means that his value to the team can be measured other than in terms of goal output (thankfully). But he’s also struck the woodwork on a couple of occasions and has been denied by some decent goalkeeping too. So there has been a bit of bad luck dogging him – and there’d be no better time to bag a couple than against one of his old employers on Saturday.

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything was feeling quite confident after a spot-on prediction for the Huddersfield game. That breezy smugness evaporated after we caught a cold against Brentford, when a 3-1 victory had been politely requested. We kept schtum for Reading, and got our reward. But this is a must win game, so I’m going to direct the jury to find for the home team, to the optimistic tune of 3-0. That would do very nicely indeed, and would also – I suspect – keep my email inbox troglodyte-free for the foreseeable future.

The nil part of the prediction is inspired by the massively reassuring presence of a certain Sol Bamba in the back line. That’s asking for trouble, I know. As for the three goals predicted for Leeds – well, you never know. Luke Murphy seems to have developed a knack for scoring and creating during his recent renaissance. We do have some potential going forward, again partly due to the increased sense of security at the back. So, a solid display against Millwall, plenty of endeavour and hard work, and maybe the odd flash of inspiration too.

And if Mr. Morison could come up with a brace or a hat-trick then, let’s face it, we’d all be extremely happy. Apart, perhaps, from those who’d been looking forward to another good old whinge on Twitter. And who gives a toss what they think?

“Uninvolved” Cellino Vetoed Winger Signing, London Press Claim – by Rob Atkinson

Woolford? I don't think so, my friend.

Woolford? I don’t think so, my friend.

It is being claimed by elements of the south London press that Neil Redfearn’s wish to add Millwall winger Martyn Woolford to his squad has been denied by Massimo Cellino, currently barred from “significant involvement” at the club under the terms of his Football League temporary ban.

If true, this development raises serious questions, not only about who calls the transfer shots at Leeds (that has long been a thorny issue) – but also about the extent to which Cellino is still influencing policy at Leeds, despite the measures the League has taken against him.

It is common ground among the bulk of the United support that the squad is lacking in quality options in wide attacking areas. If the Woolford rumours are true – and Millwall manager Ian Holloway certainly appeared to think a move was likely, as recently as the weekend – then it is clear that Redders agrees with the fans, at least to the extent that he would prefer to recruit a winger for the rest of this season. The question now remains – if Leeds have to go through what remains of the campaign, and conducting a relegation fight at that, then who would carry the can if the unthinkable were to happen, and the Whites sank once more into League One? Answers on a postcard…

Nevertheless, I don’t think that a disastrous relegation is actually all that likely to happen – and, of course, there’s always the emergency loan window to plug any serious gaps in the squad, as we keep hearing year after year. But the reports from London allude to Cellino not wanting Woolford because he “didn’t know enough about him”.  Redders clearly feels that he does know enough to back the signing of the lad – so we may still be in the situation of a stand-off between an owner who wants to remain “hands on” (whatever the League might say or do) and a football pro who understandably wants to exercise his own judgement in football matters.

This could well be yet another unwelcome can of worms, freshly opened at Elland Road.

‘Mad’ Max Gradel Points Bamba to Home Comforts at Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

Striking success - Gradel scores his second for Leeds against QPR

Striking success – Gradel scores his second for Leeds against QPR

By common consent, one vital ingredient missing from the Leeds United recipe over recent years has been a class act on the wing. Somebody exciting, with the gift of pace and the trickery to go past people as if they were not there. Somebody with a goal or two in him; someone to terrify the opposition. Such a man was and is Mad Maxi Gradel, a raw talent when he was foolishly discarded by Leicester City, but a talent that blossomed – and how – at Elland Road.

Now, even after a few years away from Leeds, Mad Max is demonstrating that he still has deep feelings for the club where he strutted his stuff briefly, but to such effect. The Ivorian international, it’s been revealed, texted his countryman Sol Bamba – another former Leicester man – and recommended the Leeds move to the huge defender. “He text me two days ago and said he’d heard about my move and he was happy,” said Bamba. “He said I will love it here. He said the fans will be good with me if I do the business. He told me all the good things about the club and that gives me even more positive things about the club. He said only good things. I’m happy to be here and I cannot wait to get started.”

Could such enthusiasm for our beloved Leeds hold out any hope that we may yet see Gradel himself back in a United shirt? Maxi’s return to LS11 has been mooted many a time and oft, but for various reasons it’s never quite happened up to press. That’s surely not to say that the player wouldn’t be up for it, though. The feeling during Maxi’s too-brief time at Leeds was that he formed a strong attachment to the club and to the fans. This was despite his occasional red-mist moments – notably of course the one that so nearly upset United’s promotion clincher at home to Bristol Rovers back in 2010. Leeds fans have always been partial to the presence of a certifiable nutter in the team – but it’s probable that tolerance would have snapped had Gradel’s insane reaction and sending-off cost his team dear that day. Happily, as we know, it all came right – and Max survived to demonstrate that he was a force in the Championship during Leeds’ first season back, when we briefly threatened to charge through the second tier and into the top flight at the first time of asking.

Sadly, the executive management of the club was deeply flawed at that time, and a succession of managers found themselves hamstrung by the dodgy policies of the bearded menace in the boardroom. Gradel was one casualty of a bizarre transfer ethos which seemed to identify any player with real potential to take the club forward as a priority sale item. We lost a lot of good players, and the best we have done since, really, is tread water in the Championship – nowhere near good enough for a club like Leeds.

Now, current crises notwithstanding, there may be a glimmer of light at the end of a long tunnel – certainly as far as player recruitment goes. The club has managed to secure the services of some genuinely exciting players, without (so far) revisiting the past – although there have always been calls for the likes of Beckford, Snoddy and even Howson to return and fulfil their destiny at Elland Road. The Cellino policy (when he has been allowed to get on with his running of the club) has been to seek out good prospects at the right price, supplementing the signings with an injection of talent from the youth and development squads. Against this background, the re-signing of Gradel would buck the trend somewhat – then again, trends are there to be bucked.

The difference with Gradel is that you feel he needs to be at a club where he’s loved and believed in; he seemed a player who would give of his best most reliably with a vociferous crowd behind him to light the blue touch paper. For this reason above all, the feeling at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is that – if there is just one past player Leeds should be looking at re-engaging, then Mad Max Gradel is that man. His ability and pace out wide – something still notably absent in this group – could open up new dimensions for the likes of Sharp, Antenucci, even Doukara and – as we fondly remember – he had a hell of a finish on him as and when he got a sight of the target. His goals against Notts Forest in a pulsating victory at Elland Road (the one where TV commentators tried to excuse a two-footed challenge by a Florist player to claim he shouldn’t have been sent off) will stay long in the memory. The feeling was that Max loved Leeds and that Leeds loved Max – why shouldn’t such a reciprocal passion be re-ignited?

Allowing for whatever may yet happen in the remainder of this window, a move for Gradel could kick-start a survival push this season. It’s a season that few really expected to bring concrete rewards – although you had hopes. But even as part of a rescue mission for a squad that could challenge more confidently next time around, the addition of Max would be an exciting and potentially productive development. As far as this blog is concerned, he would be the top choice should Leeds after all look to bring back just one old favourite.

Maxi for Leeds – yes please. Let’s have a bit of Gradel madness for the rest of this turbulent season.

Emergency! Leeds Need a Tony Pulis Type as MANAGER, Not Coach – by Rob Atkinson

Pulis: Wilko Mk II?

Pulis: Wilko Mk II?

The current situation at Leeds rather speaks for itself in the wake of a numbing defeat at the hands of Derby. We are one point above the relegation zone. We persist with the midfield diamond and we notoriously lack width as well as, it seems, desire, fight and leadership on the park. However much endeavour and work rate there might occasionally be, we always seem to be one disastrous mistake away from conceding yet another goal – and up front, there is little supply; some decent strikers are starving on an insufficient diet of crumbs. We seem always to be one decisive step away from an end product. Now, even Robbie Savage is saying that we are hopeless. Pot, kettle, black, you might say – but it does rather show that we’re in the clarts here. I firmly believe that the squad is not a bad one at all; but the whole is currently rather less than the sum of its parts.

Recent history makes for grim reading. After defeating Derby only a month or so back, we entered what could fairly be described as a tailspin. We haven’t scored at Elland Road since that day, losing to Fulham and Wigan. In the away game immediately after the Derby win, Antenucci – the man who had seen off County – scored after three minutes. But Leeds collapsed and lost 4-1 at Ipswich. Since then, our only goal has been a penalty at Nottingham Forest, producing the only point we have gained since that last win on the 29th of November.

All of this adds up to one thing: a re-think is needed.  As a Cellino supporter, it pains me to say it – but his hands-on model, whereby he deems it necessary simply to have a coach under his managership, has signally failed to work. Cellino has been responsible for recruiting a series of coaches who have in common the fact that they are patently not up to the demands of first team football at Championship level. We are being out-thought, out-fought and out-played in almost every game. Such victories as have come along have been made possible by the poverty of the opposition (Huddersfield and, to some extent, Derby at home) or a lot of luck in the face of opposition who should comfortably have beaten us (Bournemouth).

I remain a Cellino supporter. He’s what Leeds should be all about; maverick, full of charisma and possessed of a laconic wit which is unanswerable even in a language not his own. The guy knows how to spin a phrase and he is clearly passionate about his club and his football. He’s different, just like Leeds United. I do not subscribe to fanciful notions that he’s a crook intent on destroying the club – save all that for the restless and malevolent spectre of Ken Bates, still drifting about nastily on the wrong side of Elland Road. But I do think that Cellino is palpably wrong to take so much upon himself. He needs a football man with whom he can work, but to whom he would defer in football matters. That is the only way a true football man, a football manager, could work with Cellino. We have to be professional about this, because the current plan isn’t working.

The situation is grave and could swiftly become desperate. The Redfearn experiment certainly seems to be failing, and the loud voices of those who wished to see him permanently appointed post-Hockaday have fallen largely silent. In retrospect, it’s quite clear that his lack of managerial experience above a certain level ranks him alongside Hockaday, and maybe even Milanic, whose track record was in a brand of football utterly different to that played on the battlefields of the Championship.

PulisThose who point to our glaring defensive frailties might possibly agree with me then, when I say that the stand-out candidate for Leeds right now is Tony Pulis, who did such a fine job establishing Stoke in the Premier League, and then pulled off an incredible rescue act at Crystal Palace. Pulis is steeped in the top two leagues of English football; he is a football man through and through, someone who believes in building solidly from the back and does things his own, distinctive way. That is the main reason why, sadly, this has very little chance of happening – not as long as Massimo remains determined to be IT. But Pulis is the ideal man for Leeds, especially in this situation, especially at this time. Leeds United in turn would be a feather in the Pulis cap, the biggest club of his career. It could become the jewel in his crown. There are irresistible echoes of the advent of Sergeant Wilko a quarter of a century ago. How much would we all like that history to repeat itself?

Cellino needs to consider this situation very carefully indeed.  A continuation of his “rough diamond” policy is likely to see this slide continue. And yet, to be horribly blunt, the only people willing to work under the Italian right now, with the lapdog conditions that currently apply, appear to be those without much prospect of this type of employment elsewhere. We have in Redfearn an honest and capable football man, totally inexperienced in this sphere of management – a man who has left his first, best vocation behind him in order to fly, like Icarus, too close to the sun. He is now starting to talk a bit too much about luck and the rub of the green. It’s not a refrain you associate with winners. Neil should seek an immediate return to nurturing youth, before his wings get burned.

If Cellino were to show the wit and courage to change his modus operandi, and hire Pulis – a man to whom he would have to relinquish all control of football matters – then he might yet usher in another era of success at Elland Road. Otherwise, there may well be much more trouble ahead for a club never short of that unwelcome commodity.

The Championship is about men like Mick McCarthy, Steve McClaren, Eddie Howe – football men, men who paddle their own canoe as much as any man could these days – but also distinctly square pegs in square holes. Leeds United needs a football man and, moreover, we need one who is a perfect fit for the club that we are. We need a modern-day Wilko – and we need him badly.

Tony Pulis is currently available – though that surely can’t last, not with the Premier League managerial merry-go-round starting to spin – and he’s definitively the right man for us. So please – let’s get him, now. Before it really is too late.

Update: Bugger! Looks like Pulis is taking the Baggies job. Great appointment for West Brom, but dear, oh dear. It’s a missed opportunity for Leeds. I maintain we need a Pulis type.  Any ideas/candidates??