Brian McDermott – The last successful Leeds United manager TSS April 15, 2016 Leeds United 5 Comments It isn’t exactly uncommon for Leeds United to square off against a team led by one of our previous managers, and given Massimo Cellino’s propensity for sacking people, that’s unlikely to be a fading trend. Ability-wise, the ex-Leeds managers hanging around England’s lower leagues are all much of a muchness (for the most part, at least). Some we liked, some we didn’t. Some did OK, some not so much. But regardless of their likeability and performance, all of them have been hampered by the ownership to some degree. In many ways, it becomes something of a leveller. Because they’ve all experienced terrible ownership while trying to navigate Leeds United back towards the Premier League, the small handful who managed to enjoy any semblance of success amid the chaos, particularly Simon Grayson, are rightly lauded by the fanbase. And I’d argue Brian McDermott should be too. He’s perhaps the most interesting case study for terrible ownership hampering the manager of our club, for he bore witness to and worked under both GFH and Massimo Cellino, becoming an unwilling pawn in the ridiculously chaotic buy-out the two parties fumbled their way through. The events of Mad Friday, when Cellino’s taxi was chased around Elland Road while the now-owner was blocked from leaving by fans, seem little more than an amusing anecdote at this point, but it’s worth remembering why Brian McDermott was such a popular figure in the first place. Leading up to that day, McDermott had become the sole voice of Leeds United while we were being consumed by the chaos Cellino and GFH were causing. He was a shining beacon of professionalism, always on hand to try and present a dignified front for the club as fans became concerned and the press circled what was rapidly becoming a circus-like freak show. It was a front he even managed to maintain after Cellino tried to sack him. To say the transition from GFH to Cellino was a bit messy would be like calling H1N1 “the sniffles”. And while McDermott presented a composed demeanour while trying to maintain order, he would ultimately become the biggest casuality. What often gets overlooked about McDermott’s time at Elland Road is how well he was doing under GFH. For all their faults – of which, there are far too many to list – they at least recognised the manager had to be able to manage and appeared to take a relatively hands-off approach under which McDermott was doing pretty well. In December 2013, McDermott-led Leeds United were undefeated in four and sat 5th in Championship. A feat all the more remarkable given how incredibly average most of that team was. Amid all the average however was a couple of gems, particularly McCormack and Sam Byram (both of whom Massimo has since sold) Leeds could strengthen around. And had McDermott been provided the promotion-chasing funds we desperately needed in the January transfer window, it may have been a very different season. On that basis, you could rightly argue that the wheels had started to come off before Cellino burst onto the scene. The club had massively overachieved to that point and desperately required reinforcements to maintain the unlikeliest of starts, the funding for which wasn’t forthcoming. But one led into the other. The transfer window was but a minor footnote to the takeover chaos that followed. While the takeover was finalised and put behind us, the chaos remained. A noose around the neck of whoever manages this once great football club. Cellino can’t be held accountable for some of McDermott’s dodgy moments, like the 6-0 defeat to Wednesday for example, and his track record with recruitment is patchy at best. The former you could dismiss as one of those freak results we seem to get every season, while the latter is dictated as much by funding (and the scouting department we don’t have) as is it is management. You’re bound to get the odd Scott Wootton when you’re scrimping around in the bargain basement bin, but when given a few quid to spend, McDermott did OK – Luke Murphy was good value at £1m. The real mark of McDermott’s success and Cellino’s subsequent failure however is this. Only a month before Massimo completed the takeover of Leeds United, the club were 5th in the English Championship with an incredibly average, massively underfunded squad. Three years and six managers later, Leeds haven’t come close to such heights. Nor do we look likely to any time soon.