Massimo Cellino this week proved that getting his own way was more important to him than Leeds United winning. And that is why it’s time to leave. One thing that people like Cellino don’t understand is that he isn’t Leeds United, he simply currently owns it. If a man owns a dog, he isn’t the dog, he’s just responsible for it’s well-being and behaviour. Cellino’s behaviour has shown it’s time to take us back to the Dogs Home or hand us to a better owner.
From the off I liked Cellino. I liked the way he was shaking things up, to me there seemed method to his madness. A lot of what he did: the redundancies, closing Thorp Arch over the summer, making players bring their own lunch, appointing a wildcard manager out of his depth, ushering the Championship’s leading scorer out of the door, were hugely unpopular but he was doing it to balance the books.
Any Leeds fan over the age of 20 should know and understand the importance of stopping the club operating at a loss.
I could forgive him David Hockaday. It was a massive mistake that seemed to reflect Cellino’s over-confidence in the league. After Neil Redfearn had an almost 100% month in charge it seemed hasty to appoint another guy with no track record and the arrival of Darko from Darkest Slovenia was a bad appointment. If Leeds were going to give someone with little managerial experience in this league a chance, then surely the caretaker with ten points out of a possible 12 would have been the man to back.
After a difficult end to last year when Redfearn struggled to remotivate an unbalanced squad of youngsters, foreign newcomers and lagging journeymen, the new year saw the arrival of a good assistant coach. A new formation and first team line-up emerged, that whilst still lacking a cutting edge, found a way to win and accumulate points.
Before Steve Thompson arrived our win ratio was 29%, since then it has grown to 42%, and that’s from a team with a regular centre forward who hasn’t actually scored since Alex Ferguson was manager of Manchester United.
The decision to not play Antennucci over the last few months has been the only baffling element of what has progressively been a very enjoyable second half to the season. Coming on at Brighton and Fulham he looked inventive, sharp and a cut above some of the players around him.
This has now emerged yesterday was a Cellino directive. If Antenucci scores another two goals the club are contractually obliged to retain him for another two seasons. Weird. I’d have thought that was a good thing. He looks the sort of player like a Strachan or Sheringham whose brain would keep him ahead of the opposition, despite him turning the grand old age of 31.
That Cellino had insisted Antennucci doesn’t play full games has proven he would rather save money than win games. He knows Leeds are safe from relegation so now he wants to keep the costs down. Packed lunches are one thing but holding your team back from winning is another.
Which brings us onto the effective dismissal of Steve Thompson. As soon as I heard he had gone I tweeted what I have known for a while. Cellino has repeatedly wanted to fire Redfearn during the current excellent run for drawing games he believes we should have won, and not fielding enough of the players he himself helped chose.
This is rich given he doesn’t want to field one of the best players he brought in. In Silvestre, Bamba, Bellusci and Berardi, Cellino has added enough imported blood to the team for the rest of it to be pretty much filled with home-grown academy talent. This was exactly the ratio Benito Carbone said Cellino wanted when he was doing voluntary work for the owner at the start of his reign.
Most of his imports have been given a fair chance. The best have established themselves whilst others like Bianchi were tolerated far longer than form should have allowed.
His decision yesterday was a deliberate attempt to get Redfearn to walk away. No doubt he believes the director of football, Mr Salerno, who has always seemed to be behind the club in a good way and was unfortunate in being told to deliver the bad news yesterday, can sit on the bench for the last handful of games.
The Antennucci and Thompson decisions are not in the best interest of the club, team, manager or fans. One is a pointless financial saving that wont even have any impact for 14 months and the other is the petty action of a spoilt Italian brat, cushioned by the success his father brought to the family business, thrashing in his utter frustration that The Guardian picked the coach and not the owner, as reason for the club’s on-field improvements.
Antennucci, Thompson and Redfearn have all been very good for Leeds United this year, the atmosphere at recent games on and off the pitch has been brilliant, and everything was becoming nicely balanced to create a foundation for future success.
I don’t think Neil Redfearn will be the manager come the summer holidays and at that point you will have players worth a lot of money without their mentor and who could blame them when the Villas of this world come knocking with contracts worth four times what they are on.
For those who I argued with when I believed Cellino would be good for the club, I now stand corrected. He has given the framework for the coach to improve on the pitch but he is now nothing more than the enemy within. God only knows who he will appoint as the next manager but don’t back anyone who might make sense. Our only hope is a better owner will make him an offer he can’t turn down.