Massimo Cellino’s involvement at Leeds United began back in January 2014, and to give some perspective of how much has changed in such a short space of time, since Brian McDermott, we’ve seen 5 managers (6 if you count Redfearn’s two separate spells).

Back on 28th January 2014, Cellino asked for Gianluca Festa to sit with McDermott in the Leeds dugout against Ipswich, with the view of him becoming his new Head Coach. Then on the fateful evening of 31st January, McDermott was sacked by Cellino, prompting fans to head to Elland Road and prevent his taxi from leaving, in a Benny Hill-esque scene. The situation becomes even more ridiculous when you consider that this was actually transfer deadline day, and that Andrea Tabanelli was all set to join but the bizarre situation took up too much time and the deal wasn’t eligble. It transpired that although GFH had allowed Cellino to begin making decisions, he actually had no authority to do so, and the Bahraini investment bank spent the next day trying to reinstate McDermott. Nigel Gibbs took charge of the first team as Huddersfield fans chanted ‘Leeds are falling apart, again’ before being humbled 5-1 thanks to a Ross McCormack hat-trick.

Cellino eventually agreed a deal to take a 75% stake in the club, via Eleanora Sports LTD, subject to approval from the Football League. On 24th March, the Football League (Shaun Harvey being their Chief Executive) announced that Cellino had failed the Owner’s and Directors test, the first time anyone had done so. He then chose to appeal the decision, while Leeds slipped towards the annual 15th place finish. In April, an independent QC ruled that Cellino’s recent conviction did not involve conduct that would ‘reasonably be considered to be dishonest’ according to information provided at the time.

“Where’s Brian?!” Cellino had undermined McDermott to the point where it became untenable, yet he remained seemingly out of loyalty, because he was just a genuine man. Cellino questioned his decision to take a holiday, which transpired he had been visiting his mother who had been ill, further dividing opinion on the fiery Italian. McDermott eventually left Leeds, and the news that shook the world came in June. Dave Hockaday, the former Forest Green manager was announced as the new Leeds United manager, arguably the most outrageous appointment in the history of football. How on earth it was even allowed to happen is beyond comprehension. Predictably, Hockaday didn’t last long, a Capital One Cup defeat to Bradford bringing the axe down on manager number 2.

Redfearn steadies the ship. Neil Redfearn’s 4 games in temporary charge brought a dramatic upturn in fortunes, taking 10 points from a possible 12, with many expecting him to be offered the role full time. Instead, Cellino turned to Darko Milanic, who lasted 6 games without winning before he was axed, lasting just 32 days, a full 12 less than Brian Clough. By this point, the Whites had slipped down the table and the team was bereft of confidence, and Redfearn was this time given the job until the end of the season. A shaky start saw Leeds hovering around the relegation zone at Christmas, before a superb run of form lifted Leeds well clear. During this time, Cellino was officially disqualified by the Football League and asked to step down as a director, losing his eventual appeal in January. He considered his position but Andrew Umbers took charge at boardroom level while he was indisposed.

April 2015, and the decision that proved to be the final straw for many fans, as Cellino sacked Redfearn’s assistant Steve Thompson. ‘Thommo’ had been brought in during January after Redfearn targeted him back when he was appointed, sharing the workload and being credited with helping turn around the clubs fortunes. He was particularly credited with the resurgence of Luke Murphy, a player who looked to be on his way out before coming to prominence in a series of superb performances and vital goals. It was reported that there was a rumoured altercation between Thompson and Salerno, and it became subject to a legal case from Thompson.

Summer 2015 – Pearson and Rosler join in an unfamiliar show of stability and future planning. Adam Pearson was a welcome signing, helping with commercial and boardroom decisions, while the club secured the signings of Chris Wood and Sol Bamba. The season started with sense of positivity, a 2-1 win at Derby County lifting spirits and hitting new levels of optimism.

19th October 2015. Uwe Rosler is sacked as Leeds United Head Coach, after 2 wins from 12 games in charge, and former Crawley and Rotherham manager Steve Evans was appointed as the new man at the helm. The news was generally received quite negatively, not because Rosler was doing an exceptional job, but because Cellino’s chop and change mentality was driving the club into turmoil. An eventful day was transformed into Manic Monday as the news broke that Cellino had once again been banned by the Football League until next summer. Fans made their feelings known during the away games at Fulham and Bolton, with ‘Time to go, Cellino’ being sung vociferously by the strong travelling Leeds contingent.

The Thursday night game against Blackburn Rovers felt like the end for Massimo Cellino. The fans were against the owner from the start, and we barely had time to air any grievences before Blackburn scored after 17 seconds, in the quickest goal ever conceded at Elland Road. The fact it came after 17 seconds was a strange sense of coincidence, as we all know by now, Cellino has a fear of the number, removing it from being assigned as a squad number. Cellino was considering his position, and the news came the next day that he would be looking to sell the club. Further news came, as Leeds Fans United announced that they had agreed a deal in principle to purchase the club:

“Leeds Fans Utd has today reached agreement in principle with Massimo Cellino to purchase a majority stake in Leeds United Football Club.”

The news was followed by LFU looking to gain a formal exclusivity agreement, but rumours surfaced that Cellino was meeting another interested party on Monday. Then Cellino backtracked on his initial comments in which he said, he would “Sell to the fans, as my legacy” to refusing to be drawn in to a deal and commenting,
“”They (LFU) talk too much. It is too dangerous, this kind of publicity. They say a lot of fairytales. They really are like kids in a sweet shop.”

Massimo Cellino’s reign has been fraught with controversy, panic and fluctuating ideas/execution, but it looks to have ended almost as quickly as it began. . It’s hard to look at it objectively after years of Risdale, Bates and GFH, but I think Cellino’s intentions were always good, despite his execution and actual decision being pretty terrible. His treatment of staff and controlling attitude did a lot of damage to the heart of the club, losing long-term key figures such as Lucy Ward, Neil Redfearn and a list of backroom staff longer than most clubs have on the books. One thing is certain, and that is that this takeover has to be done right, because the last few have seriously damaged the club to the point where we own almost nothing, even if it is nailed down, and the only asset we have left is the fans.