There is a strange feeling coursing through the veins, pumping the hearts and stimulating the senses of Leeds fans all around the world. For the first time in a long while there is an air of optimism, excitement and pride in the club.
Massimo Cellino is a verifiable nutter but he is our verifiable nutter. He spent his first year making massive investment to right the wrongs of previous regimes and clearing up more mess than even he - with his no due diligence risk taking - could have envisaged.
This was peppered with decisions that ranged from daft to catastrophic and more controversy than a whole series of Big Brother. The Thorp Arch canteen closure and a pre-season featuring pub team opposition, playing ourselves and river baths was beyond parody. Hock & Junior Lewis were a comedy act, Darko was an ill-advised appointment, pasta day, the Football League ban, Umbers’ caretakership, Thompson-gate, it goes on.
Salerno tried hard but his recruitment from the Italian market he knows so well was generally disastrous, because the players appeared to think that integration was a dirty word and the camp was split.
Warning: controversial paragraph alert.
The eventual employment of Redfearn was a panic measure and although with Thompson’s help we survived, it was in hindsight a mistake - like putting the manager of the meat counter in Harehills into the chief executive’s job at Tesco. Redfearn is a great Leeds man with the club at heart and an outstanding coach, but a manager capable of mending a split camp with at least three factions, foreigners, big money pros & youth and leading us to the Premier League? No chance.
Redfearn was offered and accepted his contractual obligation to return to his role at the Academy. How that pans out is anyone’s guess.
There were good parts. The emergence of Cook who will play for England one day, Charlie Taylor, Mowatt & Byram, plus chances for a few of the other young players.
Still the fans came in their droves, week in, week out, home and away, distance no object to watch average at best, lots of crap sprinkled with the odd good performance.
Then the world tilted on it’s axis and Lewis Cook signed a new contract, Adam Pearson was appointed as Executive Director - albeit in the most bizarre press conference of all time - and since then mad Massimo has hardly been seen in the public eye as Pearson has led the club into an unprecedented summer.
The offices & corporate areas of the stadium have been given a much needed revamp, the FFP embargo was lifted, loads of Academy players signed professional contracts, Uwe Rösler - a charismatic leader who wants to play aggressive heavy metal football - was appointed, season ticket sales surged, a proper pre-season with an Austrian training camp and games against proper opposition including Hoffenheim, Eintracht Frankfurt & Everton were announced, we get a company secretary, head of recruitment, goalkeeping coach, assistant coach & first team coach, sign Erwin - a promising young striker, Horton - a promising young goalkeeper, loads of the under-21 squad sign new contracts, the club announce that the long awaited fans forum will be held, we sign Bamba and pay a reported £2M plus add-ons for Chris Wood, take Drury from Manchester City on trial and look to loan Brandon Barker - a star of City’s elite academy, there is talk of another two or three quality signings, we sign a huge deal with Kappa who have produced a brilliant kit, training & leisurewear and Sky have started a new channel called Sky Leeds for August with us getting more airtime than any other club. Standard.
Phew, and that’s just the stuff we can see on the surface.
Cellino must take huge credit for identifying he needed Pearson, employing him and funding the execution of the masterplan.
Imagine if Uwe has rallied the troops and they have bought into his philosophy and we watch the team play aggressive, attacking, pressing football, then we’ll see real passion from the stands, like the Wilko era, like O’Leary’s young guns generated. Again we can be dirty Leeds, loud, proud and together.
So if there are any Leeds fans out there who don’t feel this optimism and excitement and can’t wait for the season to start and be associated with a club and a committed team we can be proud of again, go take a long hard look in the mirror. Because after all these years, at last there is light at then of the tunnel and it’s not a train, it’s the bright, white light leading to success and eventually the promised land of the Premier League.