Leeds United fans have got it good these days. Apart from the hands of fate seemingly trying to prevent them from ever returning to the Premier League, Leeds United is looking a well-run club once again.
Chairman Andrea Radrizzani and director of football Victor Orta have the fans’ desires close to heart whilst in head coach Marcelo Bielsa they have one of the games more rarified enigmas.
But just five years ago, that was not the case. In fact, this time five years ago, Leeds United went through one of their biggest scandals under the ownership of Massimo Cellino.
Neil Redfearn was in charge of Leeds at the time. The academy coach was the club’s third boss of the season after Dave Hockaday and Darko Milanic. To help himself get the best out of the team he hired his old friend Steve Thompson as an assistant manager in December 2014.
The pair led Leeds on a successful fight away from the relegation places. They beat Premier League-bound Bournemouth, play-off contenders Ipswich Town and turned Fulham over 3-0 at Craven Cottage.
But then, with Leeds on the up, Thompson was suspended. It was sporting director Nicola Salerno that sent Thompson packing, as reported by The Guardian, with Cellino serving an FA suspension at the time. However, many felt it was an attempt by the club to undermine Redfearn, who had grown immensely popular with the Leeds fanbase.
It was rumoured that a rift between Thompson and Salerno was behind the decision. Thompson later admitted to the Lancashire Evening Post that he had no idea why he got suspended. Salerno and he reportedly did not get on and it seems that was the main reason. Just five days later, the Italian followed him out of the exit door.
“One Thursday morning a letter was put on my desk informing me I had been suspended. There was no explanation and it was such a frustrating time for me. The LMA told me to keep my own counsel and that was hard when I saw my name pop up on Sky Sports News as breaking news.
“There was allegations of me falling out with Football Director Nicola Salerno, but I did not fall out with anyone.
“The most frustrating thing was the use of the word suspended. That implied I had done something wrong which could not be further from the truth.”
The situation had a devastating impact on Leeds. They lost their next five games.
Redfearn’s position at the club was eventually made untenable and he also left that summer. Cellino stuck around for another year, nearly striking gold with the pragmatic appointment of Garry Monk. Redfearn was most recently Newcastle United under-23 boss whilst Thompson has been the first-team coach at Preston North End since July 2015. Cellino is now the owner of Serie A side Brescia, where he bumps heads with Mario Balotelli.
It was a bizarre and often dark time for Leeds United fans. Compared to the way the club is being run now, it is a remarkable turnaround in just five years.
Leeds United fans will just hope it is rewarded with a return to the Premier League.