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…

29 Responses

  1. Jon Cuthbert

    Good article that raises some extremely valid points. To be fair to Cellino though he has spent a lot of time, and money sorting out the devastation that previous regimes left behind. I still think he’s good for the club and, save for his choice of head coaches (Neil Redfearn excluded), most of his decisions have been good for the club #MOT

    • Kenno

      Well, hack it anyway you want, but if we continue to play football like we are doing then it will mean relegation for us. There are no quick fixes here and no easy answers either. I stood amongst nearly 28.500 people on Boxing Day, it beggers all belief that this club can still generate support on such a massive scale! That must mean something?

      • henrymouni

        I think it means we are gluttons for punishment, and eternal optimists Kenno!

        Redders is getting that drained, drowning look, we have seen so many times before.
        His “we must be more clinical upfront, and be tighter at the back”, has been the fans mantra for many a season.

        Massimo must be bursting a gut to ‘do’ something.

        twas ever thus!

  2. Uniteds21

    Strangely enough our problem now is light years away from the problem we had under McD – as Gary Neville (and it hurts me to use those two words) said when referring to Arsenal and Liverpool we have too many technically good players and no one to do the horrible nasty stuff like preventing the opposition playing. This time last year we were the exact opposite! Maybe next year we will get the balance right! Happy Christmas MOT

  3. Tyler75

    No comparison – we were 5th last year by pure luck, playing horrible, regressive football and we soon got found out. Although we’re certainly inconsistent and suffering from the turmoil in the summer and at the start of the season; who would you prefer to pay your money to watch, Adryan, Silvestri and Lewis Cook or Michael Brown , Paddy Kenny and Jimmy Kebe ? No doubt in my mind with Redders providing stability and the new lads bedding in we’ll have a much better second half of the season. Merry Christmas and MOT !

  4. henrymouni

    We have a better team now, and you can see a future for us with 2 or 3 strong players added.
    We had a dreadful start to the season with ‘The Hock’ and no pre-season, and new players arriving who were not match fit.
    Because it is a young team we have to be patient.
    Mowatt, Cook, Dawson, and a few others who may break into the squad, we have a wealth of talent – Lets hope we hang onto them.
    Massimo has a history of ‘cashing-in’ his best players.
    In the January window we may end up with ANOTHER striker, AND ANOTHER midfield player!!
    I hope Redders makes it clear to Massimo, which type of players he wants!!

    Merry Christmas to everyone!!

  5. Peter

    I hope things are different but going back to when we got promotion from Division One we were streets ahead of Norwich and in the end actually struggled to get promoted. Year after year we are in a good position at Christmas only for it to fall away in a Grayson’s “Blip” thereafter.

  6. Chareose

    no we are not worse, we just don’t have the best striker outside the premiership in the hottest form of his life to bail us out.
    The players now have more skill and more potential but lack the experience of BMs charges…..
    Last season I think the averageness of our team was exposed by Xmas and the mood on the terraces began to turn. BM admitted publically that the squad wasn’t good enough so most of our squad knew they were not wanted which in turn to further loss of moral and form

    • Chareose

      I also think that our division is far stronger this season….as the scramble for world class foreign talent in the prem continues and money pouring into the top flight continues to increase, relegated sides have managed to keep much of their premiership squads and other championship regulars like Derby and Forrest have been carefully building for years. I would say that 1/4 of the championships current first team players would have been good enough for the Premiership say 12 years ago…… As another example, Stuart Pearce himself stated that he could see the likes of Wigan and Fulham rising to the top along with Middlesborough, Norwhich, Cardiff, Bounmouth ??!!
      Cardiff have squad players from Man United and Norwhich still retain the nucleus of the side that kept them in the premiership for 2 seasons. Wigan also have the likes of Mcanaman……Watford like Leeds have a host of half decent Italians……..People may disagree saying nothings changed but personally I think standards have never been higher in the championship

  7. Chareose

    Also TSS your point about Cellino……. If GFH had been allowed to continue (adding to leeds debts by granting high interest loans to pay running costs) we would be in administration

    • TSS

      I made no such point about Cellino or GFH. You’re mixing their financing in with the structure of power they had setup, I simply stated that Cellino’s ‘I am everything’ approach isn’t without it’s drawbacks and that having people around who understand the English leagues (who’d need to be given some actual power and not just a yes man) would be hugely beneficial.

      • Chareose

        I accept that but im pointing out that IF cellino hadn’t taken us over we would be screwed

      • TSS

        But that’s an entirely unrelated point. Too many fans seem to think that having money is the only thing that matters and everything else just takes care of itself, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

        Had we not been through numerous management changes this season and employed two of the most unsuitable men in the club’s history, our progress would have been much smoother and I have absolutely no doubts in my mind we’d be higher in the league, but crazy decisions like hiring The Hock are costing us. I agree we have a better team now than last season and that the club is in better shape, but we are where we are in the league for good reason and it isn’t because of youngsters or a gelling process, it’s the total lunacy of hiring a man no one has ever heard of based on his ability to move salt and pepper shakers around a table. Say what you will about GFH and I agree they were totally out of their depth, but they at least hired someone who made sense to take care of the football.

        Similarly, sacking a man who could deal with The FL and understands the rules was madness considering the troubles Cellino has. He’s just making matters so much harder than they should be with these decisions.

      • Chareose

        So you know everything involved with the Graham Bean sacking then ? You were there were you ? Perhaps he got what he deserved…..
        Yes the Hock appointment was stupid and no its not a question of money, perhaps its a question of having an owner for once who is quite obviously not here for money…… The point is entirely relevant because you are criticizing Cellino and im merely pointing out that we didn’t have much of a choice….

      • TSS

        No, of course not, but when you exhibit the kind of erratic personality Cellino does and have a reputation for sacking people on a whim, people are going to draw conclusions.

        The point isn’t relevant, Mike Ashley has plenty of cash and has lost tens of millions on Newcastle but the crazy decisions he’s made haven’t done them any favours. Sure, he’s getting there now, but look at the chaos they’ve been through leading up to that stage. And that’s the only thing that’s relevant – it’s not that I dislike Cellino and think he’s bad for the club, he’s just prone to making bad decisions because he wants to be a one-man army and it’s making the whole process so much more difficult than it ought to be, which is incredibly frustrating, especially when you look back at where we were at this point last season with total chancers in charge who know nothing about football.

      • Irving08

        TSS we like Cellino precisely because he has personality. What sort of owner do you want ? – you hated Bates, were not keen on GFH, and don’t seem to warm to Cellino. You’re coming over as a bit of a curmudgeon !

  8. Irving08

    Cellino has put his own money into the club; a rational management structure would not have flushed out so soon the profligacy and waste inherited from previous dispensations; trial and error is, to a great extent, dictated by our volatile fan base, and the restless culture of the city of Leeds; one year ago we were a one-man band, now we at least look like a team, and are not far away, from being a good one; finally, we have an owner with passion and a big heart.

  9. Yorkiejules

    In league position we are certainly Michu worse than last season. We have the elements of a squad that can play attractive passing football which is attractive in the eye. However, they have no hard, resilient edge and are too easily and frequently bullied by more streetwise championship sides. Sides that are not necessarily more talented, just have more balance and nouse. The stage f development and team style reminds me a little of the McAllister era. Pretty football played by some great young talent but the results were not there. Like that era I am sure that some of the current squad will go on to great things with other clubs. UNLESS we sort out our midfield and defence with some tough talking no nonsense players to complement the solid attacking midfield players and forwards we have at the club

  10. Dr Zen

    At least we get to watch our collection of powderpuff relegation candidates in the stadium we own ourselves, right? Oh, wait.

  11. Raymond Pettersen

    We have a better team, and will be in a stronger position before the season ends. With an entirely new squad, a rocky start was to be expected. The only thing lacking is 1-2 players that won’t get bullied in this league. One in midfield and perhaps one in CB. The rest will happen by itself, with guidance from Redders. MOT

  12. Graham

    We might not have the right system? We might have the right system but not the right players for it. We might have the wrong system but the right players for a different system. I did write na article a long time ago looking at last season and the bulk reason we were in 5th at Chrimble was the fact that we played 5-3-2 and had the players to play it. Then after start of 2014 we changed to a largely 4-4-2 and went downhill. Only changing back to 5-3-2 for four games saved us.

    Look at Mourinho at Chelsea. He’s set his system and bought the players to match it.

    We have Adryan but he’s not getting enough ball yet when he does his shot assists for teammates compared to his accurate passes is higher than Cesc Fàbregas. I’ll pop a link on here if you fancy reading the original article.

    • henrymouni

      Merry Christmas Graham.
      Me feeling on 4-4-2 or 5-3-2 or 4-5-1 is that it does not really matter.
      It is all about players.
      If we had not let in so many stupid goals, we would be in the top half by now.
      All the best teams start from the back with a solid defence which changes only with injury or suspension.
      Chelsea have a strong, solid back four.
      Our defence is powder puff, and we have let in some comical goals this season, that have cost us valuable points.
      Our talented midfield (Cook apart) cannot tackle for toffee.
      They are useless at defending set pieces, and so we cannot command our box on those occasions particularly.
      How many soft goals have we conceded this season?
      How many ‘free’ headers have we allowed in our box?
      The only stat worth anything is the points we have accumulated.
      Adryan is a fans favourite, because he has flair, and you always need that.
      He is a luxury player, but he cannot defend.
      He works hard and will only get better.
      Our team will get better and Redders is on the right track.
      His first priority must be the back four, and a strong tall midfield player.
      I have suggested many times that we play Morison up front for his physical presence, hard work and no little skill.
      Also his defensive height & power in the box.
      You could then leave Adryan upfield for a breakaway.
      I miss Becchio, not least for his power in defence at set pieces.
      I am enjoying our football at last!

      Come on the boys!!

      • Mike

        Defending set pieces has been where we’ve lost the most points this season, I literally panic when i see a corner or a crossable FK given up.

  13. henrymouni

    Another pathetic own goal, to add to all the other sloppy goals this season.
    Another powder puff performance.
    They are not reacting to Redders anymore, and they show little fight once they go behind!!
    This squad is not good enough!!
    Nothing new there then!

  14. Scally Lad

    Redders has demonstrated that he is ineffectual. Time for him to go – preferably back to the Academy. When we’re clean-sheeted by the likes of Wigan at home and hover a razor’s edge above relegation to League One with half the season gone, it’s time for serious remedies – and not in the new year.

  15. Mike

    I didn’t think we were until Friday’s game against Wigan happened… It’s annoying because we see games like the Derby one and then we have ones like this Wigan one and unfortunately we’ve had a lot more similar to this Wigan game. I try not to be negative most of the time but they’re starting to bleed me dry of things to be positive on.

  16. Mike

    If width is the issue and our fullbacks being too forward why not try out the 5-3-2 again or a 5-4-1 and play wingbacks in games where we need it. I just can’t understand why there has been no changes despite the poor form, something has to give sooner or later and it will be Redders head on the block. I like him i just think he’s starting to feel the kind of pressure that he wasn’t receiving as a caretaker and defaulting to decisions. Biggest problem is finding a manager that can deal with this kind of pressure, and i think any that can wouldn’t be willing to coach on the Championship level

  17. henrymouni

    Selling Ross does not look very good now!

    Our habit from Bates times of selling our best players and bringing in lesser players lives on.

    Tom Lees is better than Pearce or our Italian Mohecian!



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