Tag Archives: Steve Evans

Is Cellino Now Looking For a Monk With a Vow of Silence as Leeds Boss?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Garry-Monk

Monk – silent and celibate enough for Cellino?

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?

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Now Mickey Mouse Turns Down Cellino and Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

In the latest twist to the Leeds United managerial saga, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything can reveal that yet another household name has turned down the chance to take over at Elland Road.

The latest in a growing list of potential Leeds managers to decide his future lies elsewhere is Disney legend Mickey Mouse. We understand that Mr. Mouse was approached earlier this week by United owner Massimo Cellino, who told the popular cartoon rodent that Leeds was “With me in charge, a club with your name written all over it, my friend”.

Asked about his reasons for turning down this fabulous opportunity, Mr. Mouse was reticent. “I can’t say too much, as I understand personal friends of mine could also be in line for this job. But it just wasn’t right for me at this time. I’ve not been that busy lately, and I’m really looking for something slightly longer term than the next week or so that Massimo was talking about. But I appreciate his interest in me, and I wish him and Leeds well in the future”.

Cellino himself remains defiant and insists he still has “many special options”. Rumours that Miss Piggy is a candidate appear to be wide of the mark, as she has been linked with a position working under Prime Minister David Cameron on several highly sensitive projects including acting as a mouthpiece at the PM’s pleasure. The Chuckle Brothers, astrologer Russell Grant and Penelope Pitstop’s arch-nemesis, The Hooded Claw, are other names being spoken of in informed circles. But, despite his outward show of bravado, it is believed that the failure to reach agreement with Mickey Mouse has hit Cellino particularly hard, and he is now expected to spend the weekend contemplating more fibs about the possible sale of the club before launching into another impassioned rant on Monday.

The latest betting odds for next permanent (periods over 24 hours) Leeds manager reflect the uncertainty of this market. Current incumbent Steve Evans is still available at 5000/1, attracting sizeable punts from a Mr. C Ranieri of Leicester as well as an un-named former England striker. Evans’ current situation is described by the man himself as “deeply hurt but still pathetically eager”.

Massimo Cellino is a complete and utter lunatic.

Massimo Cellino Looking for Ideal Man as Leeds United Manager   –   by Rob Atkinson


Further to the forthcoming callous betrayal of the incumbent Leeds United manager, a vacancy for Head Coach, or whatever, is about to arise at Elland Road. We will require a biddable yes-man to take responsibility for the failure of a morale-sapped collection of second-tier footballers. This is a vital position; somebody very special is needed to massage the President‘s ego.

You must have a proven track record of obsequious fawning to superiors and to their families. You should also have a concrete record of professional achievement in football, yet somehow also be lacking in pride, self-esteem and any ambition to work on your own initiative. You may be required to clean out dressing rooms and to testify on the club’s behalf when inevitable discrimination cases are brought by discarded former employees. A casual relationship with the truth would be a distinct advantage.

Media savvy, you will hold of first importance the necessity of using the phrase “the President is giving me his full backing”, at every opportunity. You may also use other forms of praise for the President; you may not IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCES seek to be more popular with the supporters than the President. Use of what is known as “the Leeds Salute” is also BANNED in any circumstances. After any victory, you will acknowledge the role and inestimable contribution of The President. After draws or defeats, you will make grateful references to the President‘s benign patience, and you will explain the mistakes you have made and how, with the President‘s guidance, you intend to avoid such mistakes in future. You will appreciate the importance of not “bigging yourself up” – there’s only one star in this show, and it ain’t you*.

You will have vital input into player recruitment. You will outline to the President the type, character and identity of players you feel the club should acquire, with full reasons. You will then undertake to get the best out of the quite different players the club actually does acquire, even though these players will almost certainly not be ones you would identify as good enough. The names you have identified will be for the sole use of the President, who, when things go wrong, will point to them as the players he really wanted to sign.

You will also have vital input into team selection. You shall personally write out the team sheet in the presence of the President, as per his dictation. Shorthand skills are not necessary. The President will speak slowly and clearly, for the benefit of those who can’t understand plain Italian.

Applications should be addressed, for reasons of security, to “il Duce, Elland Road”. Your remuneration package shall relate directly to your age, experience and subservient attitude. Length of contract shall be decided one week prior to your dismissal by mutual agreement with the President, whose word is law; you shall be debarred from talking to the press for a period of (to be agreed unilaterally).

This is a golden opportunity for the right man to enjoy a spell struggling against impossible odds, in the full glare of the media spotlight, before disappearing into obscurity with a shredded reputation. If you think that YOU could be this man, you’re probably stupid and lacking in any professional qualities or indeed the common sense to realise you’ll be just another patsy; The President would warmly welcome your application.

*It’s the President.

LEEDS UNITED AFC IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES EMPLOYER. NO, REALLY. WHO’S THAT LAUGHING AT THE BACK THERE? HAVE THAT MAN REMOVED IMMEDIATELY.

Give Evans the Chance to Lead From the Front and Build From the Back   –   by Rob Atkinson


Steve Evans has served his big-time apprenticeship at Leeds United – and he’s shown beyond reasonable doubt that he deserves a proper crack at the biggest job outside the Premier League. As every United fan knows, it’s a bigger job, and a hotter seat, than most in the top division too. But, while his physical frame has shrunk in size during his time at Elland Road, Evans has grown into the job, displaying determination, commitment and more dignity than is to be found elsewhere in the club. To let him go now would be the act of a fool. 

Evans has been around Leeds long enough to know the place, strengths, weaknesses and all. He has been in football long enough, and has earned success enough, to come up with the right prescription for next season – given the chance. To go back to square one, with a new coaching staff, is surely not what is now required.

The nature of the building job for a new campaign must be – initially – the provision of solid foundations for a team that has forgotten how to keep clean sheets. Building from the back, prioritising solid and reliable defence, is the long-standing recipe for football success. Once established, a mean and uncompromising defence, with cover by some grit and industry in midfield, allows for licence to create and accumulate further forward. Evans, like many a coach, knows this. But Evans is in a uniquely advantageous position when it comes to knowing how to apply such knowledge to the situation that pertains at Elland Road.

The man himself seems suddenly pessimistic about his chances of carrying on in a job he relishes. Tears will be shed, he tells us, if time is called on his United career. Indeed, anyone with the interests of United at heart might feel slightly moist about the optics if Leeds once more upset their own applecart. What then lies ahead but more uncertainty, more blind stabs in the dark of the budget end of the transfer market? 

Leeds have the chance of starting next season’s business in an unaccustomed atmosphere of stability. They must seize that chance. Evans knows the club and he knows the way forward. He’s done better than any other manager in the club’s recent, chequered history. He backs himself to succeed, knowing the price of failure. 

Now, Leeds United must back him too. 

How Will Cellino Try to Justify the Sacking of Steve Evans?   –   by Rob Atkinson

cellino-crotch

Cellino’s chopper seems to be ready to swing again

As our promised “beautiful season” drags its weary way to a mid-table close, amid a welter of unexpectedly good results, the burning issue now at hand is what we will be told when loco owner Massimo Cellino scratches that itch and sacks yet another manager.

The revolving door at Elland Road will surely also need replacing soon. It must be on its last legs after the unprecedented number of staff arrivals and departures over the last few years, as Cellino continues to feed his voracious ego. The only truly secure position at Leeds United appears to be that of Il Duce himself – and that’s only by the grace of the unusually tolerant football authorities. They have Cellino taped for what he is and yet, unaccountably, they fail to act. By his own admission, Cellino has been a dire failure at Leeds. Get rid of me if we’re not back in the Premier League by 2016, he trumpeted on arrival. There was also some stuff about repurchasing Elland Road. None of it has happened, of course – yet still Cellino is here, hiring and firing like there’s no tomorrow.

That process seems certain to continue in the near future; Steve Evans has been doing a miraculous job in circumstances that would be unbearable for less determined and self-assured men. But nevertheless, he is likely to go soon; the writing has been on the wall for a while now. Cellino’s modus operandi is a wearily familiar one: undermine and publicly rebuke your victim-in-waiting, tell him to keep quiet while you hog the headlines yourself, aim to stir up the negative feelings and prejudices of the gutter end of the United support. This campaign is in full swing against Evans, but there’s one niggling problem. The dratted man has done better in post than any of his predecessors since promotion-winner Simon Grayson. How inconvenient for Cellino is that?

How, indeed, will Cellino set about justifying the imminent betrayal of yet another solid football pro? It’s undeniable that Evans has made something of a silk purse out of what was definitely a sow’s ear when he arrived. Yes, he’s vocal at times, and has a tendency to proclaim his successes and his favoured managerial techniques. But are these really bad things? With the axe hovering above our heads as it has been for Evans, wouldn’t any of us point out as often as possible that we’re actually doing a decent job? Lifelong Celtic fan Steve Evans could, it is said, stroll into Celtic Park and occupy the manager’s chair if he so desired. But he wants to stay at Leeds. Shouldn’t we admire and relate to that?

What’s more, shouldn’t Cellino display some passing regard for a man who has overseen what looks like being our best finish for a good long time? But that would be out of character for someone who is far more at home sniping and griping at those who are trying to do their jobs under his crazy stewardship. Even Cellino, though, probably recognises that this sacking will be even harder to explain away than the others. The results have been OK, some of the displays haven’t been too bad – and we cannot now finish lower than our recently-favoured final position of fifteenth or so. Still, it’s likely that Evans will be gone, a Scot fired because Cellino says he can’t get on with English managers. That’s Massimo logic for you.

What have we to look forward to, then? Cellino appears to have put his money where his mouth is with a “season ticket part refund” undertaking if and when we fail to make at least the play-offs next season. That’s a big gamble, and there have to be concerns about the financial state of the club going into season 2017/18 if season-ticket holders have to be refunded up to half the cost of next year’s outlay. Still, that’s a promise conveniently far away. And it’s not as if Cellino has felt bound by his word in the past – is it?

And so the lunatic merry-go-round carries on apace. The next few weeks should be very interesting, though probably not in a good way, as we wait to see which direction Cellino’s grasshopper mind will jump next. The only thing that seems certain, based on the Italian’s record so far, is that stability – a commodity badly needed at Elland Road – will be as elusive as ever when il Duce once again clears the decks on the foundering ship that is Leeds United.

Some Encouragement in Defeat at Burnley for Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

Burnley v Leeds

When Leeds United‘s defence stood politely aside to allow Burnley’s Scott Arfield to score in the first minute of Saturday’s early Championship encounter at Turf Moor, it looked like a long lunchtime ahead for long-suffering Whites fans. And, ultimately, a defeat is a defeat – even by that solitary goal. It’s clearly never welcome. But the way this game panned out carried more than a little encouragement for Steve Evans‘ troops, and for that loyal travelling army. Credit too, to Steve Evans, much maligned by a section of the Leeds support and in the most ignorant and offensive manner. Evans has retained his dignity in the face of this, and he was there in the dugout – despite a family bereavement – as enthusiastic in the cause as ever.

The fact is that the dread prospect of a couple of hours watching Silvestri pick Burnley goals out of his net never actually transpired. Over the piece, as Leeds grew into the game instead of reeling from that early shock, it was United who carried the greater threat. They had more of the possession, found better spaces, forced more corners and generally bossed proceedings – save for that annoying little habit of failing throughout to trouble the scorers.

The devil, as they say, is in the detail. The only detail anyone’s ever really bothered about at the end of a football match, is that telltale scoreline to indicate who got the points. Burnley added three of those valuable items to their league total as they consolidated their position at the top of the league. But almost every other aspect of this match could easily have had you fooled as to which of these teams is sitting proudly astride the Championship.

The tragedy for Leeds on the day was their lack of a decisive finish to so much good work. On many another occasion, Chris Wood – still rusty after a long injury absence – would have had at least two goals to help rehabilitate his season. Looking at the plus side, he was at least actually there to miss the chances, an important part of any striker’s CV. Less positively, he certainly should have snapped them both up, and he will know he has no excuses. There are reasons though – form, confidence, match sharpness. In time, this burly young striker will hit a real hot streak. Will that be in a Leeds United shirt, though? Only time and perhaps the attitude of the less patient Leeds fans will help decide that.

On this occasion, and in marked contrast to many recent performances, I feel that Evans has much to take from the game. Sadly, that doesn’t include any points, despite the fact that United deserved something from a match they dominated for long spells. But, at this stage of our promised “beautiful” season, the ugly truth is that points are not all that relevant. The threat of relegation is almost gone, and any fanciful ideas of play-off chances have long since been laughed out of court. It’s evidence that Leeds can perform as a team that matters now – and there was plenty of that at Turf Moor.

The sooner yet another bleakly disappointing season is over, with United safe for another year, the better. Then, it’ll just be a matter of waiting for the positive spin to start emerging from Elland Road, with “We’re looking to get our business done early” the ante post favourite. For the time being, let’s be grateful for the extremely small mercy of a decent performance, albeit in defeat. 

For Leeds United fans, in these bleak and troubled times, that’s about as good as it gets. 

Cellino and Evans: Explain Yourselves, Gentlemen   –   by Rob Atkinson

CellinoLiar

Tell us what’s really going on, Cellino

It almost goes without saying that there is a lot wrong with Leeds United at the moment. Almost. But there’s always a few that need it spelling out, and the Leeds United online community of fans does not lack for the less mentally acute, as I’ll be mentioning again later. So let’s say it, whether it really needs saying or not. Leeds United is a club in crisis, rotten to the core, dead from the neck up. There’s that carrion reek about them, the stench of decay which is starting to bring out the vulture in opposing teams. As Brighton did tonight, they tend to circle for a while, then flap down to peck our eyes out. It’s not a pretty sight. 

There’s so much wrong with Leeds United right now that it’s not that easy to know where to start. But common sense says you should start at the top, especially given the headless chicken of a performance we witnessed tonight. Despite this, some of our online fanbase are letting themselves down badly, by going for cheap, easy shots, aimed at a manager who, like all the others, has been let down and betrayed by the club owner. And, like all the others, Steve Evans is having to toe the party line as long as he remains manager. Like all the others, the time for him to dare to tell the truth will be at some point after his inevitable sacking.

Steve Evans is having to manage with a bunch of players, a good proportion of whom he’s not all that keen on. He’s not been allowed the level of recruitment he publicly wanted, and stated was necessary. He’s biting his lip and making the best of the original, proverbial bad job. Too many of the Leeds Twitteratti, a notoriously dense bunch of bandwagon-jumpers for the most part, are disgracing themselves by descending to the bottom of their particular gutter and aiming personal abuse at a man who can’t hit back. Yes, Steve Evans is rotund. So what. We need to judge him on his ability once granted – if he ever is – the tools to do the job. To aim playground insults at him is the act of the intellectually bankrupt. These are not supporters, they are cretins.

None of that is to say that Evans is beyond reproach. I would love to hold him to account, if I thought for one moment that he would be free to speak his mind or tell the whole truth. I would like to know the thinking behind Scott Wootton’s unaccountable tenure in the team, and on the flank of the defence as opposed to the middle, when he is clearly out of his depth. But Evans is in no position to say anything that Cellino might object to. 

It is Cellino that is the problem here. Any professional sports club needs overall leadership and also separate and distinct sources of direction on the playing and non-playing sides. The problem at Leeds is that the ultimate leader is far too volatile, mendacious and untrustworthy to inspire confidence and commitment among the troops. And those playing and non-playing sides are not separate – confusion reigns because the lines that should divide these areas are blurred. 

Who picks the team? Who decides and changes tactics? We cannot know for certain, despite Evans’ frequent, hot denials of interference. We hear enough from other sources to lend some credence to persistent allegations that the hand of Cellino can be seen in areas a mere owner should leave to the professionals.

Above all, the parlous state of a famous old club cannot be laid at the feet of the well-paid players who are failing all too often to perform. Neither can the blame be ascribed to a hamstrung and at least partially gagged manager. It was Cellino who has presided over this car crash of a season, which he promised would be beautiful. It was Cellino who promised promotion to the top flight by 2016, a year that is, instead, taking us much closer to demotion. It is Cellino who has failed to deliver the squad improvements that everyone else, not least his beleaguered manager, could see were necessary. 

I’d love to see Evans able to put his side of the story forward, without fear or favour. That, though, would be tantamount to professional suicide. But somebody should be speaking to the fans about what’s really going on. Instead, we’re invited to cheer an improved business performance instead of goals, whilst paying pie tax and pandering to silly superstitions as exemplified by issue 16b of the matchday programme. We’re asked, remarkably, to believe in a regime that, time after time, has proven itself utterly unworthy of belief. 

So, step up and talk to us, Mr. Evans (if you’re allowed to). Talk to us honestly, Mr. Cellino (if you have it in you). We deserve an explanation for the state of the club, for a state of affairs at a legendary institution of the game, now reduced to the kind of spineless, gutless, clueless and shameless display we saw at Brighton on Monday evening. That will take some explaining, but surely someone has to try.

The problem, you see, is that the fans – the real fans – can only take so much. At some point, they’re going to be less keen to give up their time and money supporting a football club which seems to have lost its soul. And here I mean the diehard, long-suffering fans who put in the miles and the hours, not a set of clueless kids mouthing childish insults from behind computer screens. Leeds United could, after all, do without the Twitteratti, they’re just annoying noise. 

But those lads and lasses who follow and chant and sing, the length and breadth of the country? They’re Leeds’ last real asset, make no mistake about it. Alienate and disillusion them at your peril, Mr. Cellino. And we’re very nearly at breaking point now.

Leeds Utd Boss Evans Heralds Radical Shift in Transfer Policy – by Rob Atkinson

cellino-and-steve-evans

One of these men controversially wants to sign “good players”. No, really.

In a shock move that will sweep away well over a decade of tradition, Leeds United boss Steve Evans has signalled a sea-change in the Elland Road club’s transfer policy. Boldly, daringly even, Evans has stated his intent to depart from well-established practice and sign the type of player not seen in the United team for many a long year.

Always a man to speak his mind and think the unthinkable, the Leeds boss is quite explicit in his revolutionary plans – and these plans, remarkably, are already underway. For today, Steve Evans has  revealed that the Whites have held advance talks with summer targets that he controversially categorises as “good players“.

Clearly, Evans is aware that this would be a radical departure from normal practice at Leeds, but insists that these “good players”, bizarre as this might sound, can help to form a good team that can be contenders for promotion to the Premier League. “Good players can be central to competitive league performance”, maintained the ebullient Scot. “Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done OK with the players we’ve signed before. But there’s a school of thought out there which holds that there’s a place for good players in a winning manager’s strategy. That’s something I’m prepared to at least try.”

Leeds fans will be well aware that the club’s usual transfer policy is unsullied by words like “good”. Our squad has mainly been built on solid Yorkshire/Italian traditions characterised by words like “cheap”, “free”, “past-it” and “crap”. The abandonment of these sterling attributes will not be met by universal acclaim. One Elland Road insider expressed grave doubts in the wake of Evans’ controversial remarks. “Is not set in stone, my friend”, our source confided. “Good might mean expensive, for sell, not buy. Is like paying taxes – not necessarily way to go. You can buy a journeyman for your bench, but you can’t buy promotion, my friend.”

Some fans, too, remain unconvinced by this latest statement of transfer strategy. We interviewed a typical supporter as he headed for the White Hart for a lunchtime libation. “Pull the other one, lad”, quipped the cynical one, cynically. “We were promised a beautiful season and that seemed a bit unlikely. Now look what bloody happened there. Then we were told that we had the Sam Byram money, and more besides, to compete in the January transfer window. And what did we end up with – three million profit and chuffin’ Wootton at right back, that’s what. Now they say they’re going to sign “good players”. You bloody what?? That’s the biggest whopper I’ve heard yet, and I’ve interviewed Ken Bates.”

Steve Evans’ P45 is described as “pending”.

Latest Cellino Lie Could Signal Late Arrivals for Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

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These are confusing times, even for supporters of such a very baffling football club as Leeds United. In the last few days, the owner and the manager have been singing from radically different hymn sheets, giving your average fan in the street very little chance of divining just what the hell is going on as regards squad strengthening during this transfer window.

If this is just another attempt on the part of the club to “manage fans’ expectations”, it would be disappointing – but hardly surprising. Over the past few years, the standard modus operandi for Yorkshire‘s top club has been to encourage a froth of speculation at these troublesome times of the year, continually talking up the chances of, at first, “getting our business done early” – and then, as the days pass with very little of note happening, turning to coy references to the goodies we might expect to snap up in the emergency loans market, once that bothersome window finally slams shut (sighs of relief from the purse-string holders at Elland Road).

This time around, the story has been quite familiar – names are dropped for speculation purposes and, one by one, these names find comfortable billets at other club. Some incoming business is completed (loan for a winger, loan extension for a midfield enforcer – and even a permanent deal for the boy Dave from Brentford FC), all more than offset by the departure of one of our own (Sam Byram to Eastenders) – said departure having been made inevitable by an insulting contract renewal offer for a young man of high potential who will inevitably play for England.

The new and somewhat disturbing ingredient in this January’s melange of diversion and deception is the sharp variance in the public statements of owner and manager. In the past few days, we’ve had excited positivity from Steve Evans, talk of “going in heavy” for targets unspecified, assurances that no-one is anywhere near the mark speculation-wise – all generally exciting stuff.

Il Duce Cellino, on the other hand, has come out and said that it’s now “unlikely” Leeds will be making any further signings. This is despite another worrying injury to Chris Wood, casting doubt over our already dubious striking options, and well-documented areas of concern in the squad, notably central defenders and attacking midfielders. The thing is that Cellino said something similarly negative just before Leeds moved for Toumani Diagouraga. So who do you believe?

The lesson of recent history is that the answer to that question is “not Cellino”, given his track record for broken promises and a generally dodgy relationship with the truth. This season alone, we’ve heard that he’s selling up and shipping out – a promise that has so far, sadly, failed to come to fruition – although there are fresh rumours of Mr. Parkin circling like a shark around an illegally-imported yacht. The overall effect is that, if you adopt a standard approach of disregarding or disbelieving il Presidente‘s public utterances, you’ll probably end up nearer to the truth than if you naively give him the benefit of any remaining doubt.

This blog, then, having listened to and digested both versions of the current Leeds United stance, will choose to take the glass-half-full approach, eagerly anticipating at least one further arrival before February dawns to banish the last realistic bit of excitement in yet another dreadfully frustrating, disappointing and bleak season (remember, Massimo promised “beautiful football and a season to remember). It’s all been dreadfully forgettable, yet again – another reminder that, if Cellino tells you it’s sunny, you only need to look out of the window to see the rain lashing down like stair-rods.

But the bottom line here is that Leeds United do need to add to the squad in this window – and not, as the popular fiction has gone, to keep alive faint hopes of participation in the play-offs. The reality is that we have lost a top performer in Byram, and the squad as it stands cannot absolutely guarantee safety from relegation, much less any starry-eyed notions of back-door promotion. Last season, we flirted with demotion – and the same uncomfortable scenario could still revisit us, make no mistake. There’s absolutely no point in being complacent on that score.

Besides which, the fans deserve to see better players – and better football. It’s been far too many years of mediocrity now and it’s way overdue that things started to improve around LS11. For this reason above all, and bearing in mind those nagging doubts over Championship security, let’s all hope that Mr. Evans is the one speaking the truth here – and that our less-than-entirely-believable owner is yet again indulging his passion for telling porkies.

The next four days will leave us all that bit more well-informed as to exactly who is on the up and up at Elland Road.

Sam Byram Should Put Himself First; and Stay at Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson

Sam Byram: learning his trade at Leeds United

Sam Byram: learning his trade at Leeds United

Wolves 2, Leeds United 3

Sam Byram is already a very good footballer as well as a tolerably wealthy young man. These twin attributes should see him able to set himself up for life by the time those distant days of his mid-thirties are upon him. Given ordinary luck, he will then be able to look back upon a long and successful career with the security of a good few million in his Post Office Savings Account. All of which means that the contract decision he is now in the process of making is unlikely to have major long-term financial implications. What Byram really needs to consider is where best to spend the next few, still formative, years of his football education. And, despite the lure of fatter contracts elsewhere, it may well be that those long-term interests will be best served by remaining at Elland Road for the immediate future at least.

The wisdom of this could be illustrated by considering the differing fates of those who have previously struck out along the path to fame, fortune and some Premier League giant’s reserve side, as opposed to the more cautious types who stuck with their club of origin until a degree of maturity grew about them. There’s no hard and fast rule here, and no real need to name names. But let’s do so anyway – take the example of our own Gary Speed, who stayed with Leeds and built a firm foundation for a lengthy career that now sees him venerated as a legend, a status that owes little if anything to his tragic early death. Speed enjoyed the fruits of success at several other top-flight clubs after putting in the years at Leeds, not incidentally picking up a Title-winner’s medal while he was here. His mark on the game was made indelibly before he secured a move to his boyhood heroes Everton

Consider also the case of Aaron Lennon, a teen speed machine at Leeds who was sold early to Spurs when the Ridsdale house of cards came tumbling down. It was crisis time at Leeds, and Lennon’s move to London was inevitable – but if he’d had the chance to follow Gary Speed’s example, might he not have made slightly more of an impression later on in his career? There is the air of potential not quite fulfilled about Lennon – and who knows what a few more years in his formative environment might have done for him? No matter, you might say – he’s still loaded and made for life. But, even today, football is not all about money. Byram will wind up extremely wealthy whatever path he takes, barring some unforeseen misfortune. Short term financial gain should, perhaps, take second place to his prospects of securing for himself a place in football history. 

This was really the theme of United manager Steve Evans‘ post-match remarks after United’s 3-2 success at Wolves, in which Byram returned to the starting line-up and scored twice. If the lad wants to stay and play for a club and manager that appreciates him, earning “decent money”, then he’ll have a chance of being part of whatever Evans and Leeds can achieve over the next few years. “We’re trying to build something here”, says Evans – and as we all know, if you build something at Leeds United, then the world sits up and takes notice. 

Byram’s choice is not really about money at all – it’s about how best to ensure the game will remember him after his playing days are over. Terrific prospect though he is, it’s quite possible that Leeds could be the biggest club Byram ever plays for. Where else might he end up? Norwich, like Jonny Howson? Hull, like Rob Snodgrass?

For all but the very best, the only way from Elland Road is down, whatever the league tables might temporarily say. And it will be a few years yet before we can say with any certainty whether Byram is out of that very top drawer. If he is, then he might have his choice of big clubs in his mid-twenties, at home or abroad. The sky could be the limit. And if he’s not – well, then, he might be ushered out of Leeds United anyway. Better, surely, to stay with an indisputably massive football institution while he can, buckle down and learn the rest of his trade – and see where the journey takes both himself and the club. Byram has the luxury of time and an enviable situation. He must be sure not to fritter either away.

This blog is on record as stating more than once that Sam Byram is not indispensable as far as Leeds and their battle to achieve top-flight status are concerned. I stand by that. If the club can get decent money for Sam – and reinvest it – then the loss of one precocious talent need not prevent the club returning to its natural level. And even if he were to go for a song – the club is still bigger than any one talent. Leeds will be back anyway, sooner or later.

It is probably fair to argue, as this article has set out to do, that Byram needs Leeds more than Leeds United needs Sam Byram – certainly at this point in his development. A few years on, the shoe might very well be on the other foot. Who knows? But, for the time being, Sam’s best bet could be to put pen to paper, get on with his work – and do his best to reward the fans who have supported him so well and with such pride thus far in his fledgling career. 

Do yourself a favour, Sam. Put your own best interests first. Stay at Leeds United, stay true to your roots – and help restore a true giant of the game back to its proper place. Deep down, mere considerations of pounds and pence notwithstanding, you must know it makes sense.