Christmas 2013, much like the rest of 2013 and the month and half that followed, was a time of great speculation at Elland Road. GFH Capital remained owners of the club but it had been apparent for some time the group were looking toward the exit and as speculation intensified, football became something of an afterthought.

But things had been going relatively well for Leeds United on the pitch. We’d ridden our luck a little at times and the football wasn’t particularly impressive, but Brian McDermott’s side had somehow managed to claw their way to fifth place despite ongoing chaos off the pitch and a summer transfer window that had promised so much yet delivered so little.

Since then, the club has seen a lot of change. Brian McDermott was twice sacked by new owner Massimo Cellino, Neil Redfearn is now on his second spell leading the first team for Massimo, Darko Milanic came, saw and was quickly put on a return flight and in a move worthy of a Mike Bassett sequel, David ‘Pressure’ Hockaday – an obscure name whose only previous experience was failing spectacularly at non-League side Forest Green Rovers – was given the Leeds United job, where, rather unsurprisingly, he failed.

Add in the financial uncertainty, ongoing battles with The Football League, the loss of our longest-serving player and influential talisman Ross McCormack (albeit for a very healthy fee) and a squad full of mostly new arrivals with little to no experience in the English Championship and it’s perhaps no surprise to see Leeds United struggling.


The thing is, most would agree that our squad is better now than the one Brian McDermott had. Most would argue that Cellino is a better owner than GFH and that the club is in a healthier position now than it was during their tenure.

But if both those points are true, and it’d be hard to argue otherwise, why then has Cellino’s reign seen a near constant decline while GFH’s reign, as utterly incompetent as they were, had us in fifth with a worse team?


Perhaps the difference is that GFH recognised some of their weaknesses. Instead of hiring an unknown who knew nothing about the English Championship, compounding the issue of having owners who knew nothing about the English Championship (or indeed, football in general), GFH hired McDermott. And while people will argue ’til my dying day over how well he did with Leeds, he had us in a better position than we’ve been in since and he had us there despite a tragedy of a summer transfer window, absentee owners who were too busy fighting with each other and all the other chaos he endured.

There’s other things too of course, most notably the loss of Ross McCormack and the bedding-in of new players, but McDermott also had new players he had to work with and he couldn’t afford players of the same quality as we brought in this summer.

But we can compare and contrast until the cows come home, the real difference is a style of ownership I’m not convinced is working for us. It’s unsettling to all involved, Brian McDermott was immediately undermined by Cellino’s arrival and never recovered (granted, he was experiencing a bit of a dodgy patch already but nothing some stability and a couple of signings couldn’t have resolved). Since then we’ve had yes men who, Redders aside, simply weren’t cut out to be managing Leeds United Football Club.

Cellino comes with such a whirlwind of chaos that if he insists upon involving himself in every facet of the club, every facet of the club is going to be effected by that chaos. There’s a reason companies have boards of directors and a pyramid of management, it’s because it allows them to isolate problems. People are responsible for set things and when that thing isn’t working, you can fix it quickly without any effect to the rest of the operation. But if the person responsible for everything at Leeds is Cellino, then how do we fix problems? Particularly those he’s unwilling to recognise like his poor form in selecting the ‘head coach’.

I do expect us to improve and eventually progress under Cellino, I just feel we’re going the hard way about everything. Like most of our squad, Cellino is still adapting to life in England and appears to be making decisions on what often feels like a trial and error basis, most evident in his hiring of head coaches and playing staff.

He hasn’t quite sussed out The Football League either. Ken Bates committed far worse sins as owner of Leeds United than Massimo Cellino could ever dream of, but he never faced real punishment because he’s been playing this game too long and knows how to work the system.

There was a brief moment when it seemed Massimo Cellino had recognised that problem and took an important step by hiring Graham Bean, a one-time compliance officer for The Football Association – or in other words. a man who knows his way around a loophole.

Cellino being Cellino, Bean was of course fired within a matter of months.

No one wants a return to the shady world of GFH Capital and of course their era had a knock-on effect to Cellino’s (as Bates’ era did for them), but Massimo Cellino must recognise that his approach thus far has been less successful than a skint Bahraini bank who knew nothing about football, and if that doesn’t make him reconsider his approach to the English game, I don’t know what will…