Leeds United: A club marred by controversy
The corridors around Elland Road have a distinct smell. Among the standard football changing room stench of mud, deep heat and expensive aftershave, dysfunction lingers.
It won’t go away. At the start of this season, Leeds United thought they had secured the long-term future of the club when former Cagliari owner and ‘King of corn’ tycoon Massimo Cellino purchased the club.
But it’s like Leeds have a disease. Controversy loiters under the shadow of Billy Bremner’s statue.
To try to understand where this all started, we have to go back to when Don Revie managed one of the most successful sides of all time. After two First Division titles, England came calling for Revie’s sought-after services. Along came Brian Clough. Along came the dodgy Leeds.
Clough’s tenure lasted 44 days. Leeds’ glory days were in the past; former players tried to bring them back to the ecstasy of European football and First Division domination, but it was no use.
The Ridsdale years though, were the lowest point of the Yorkshire club. It inadvertently invented what is know as ‘doing a Leeds’. He borrowed so much money to buy players that when they got relegated, Leeds went into meltdown.
With crippling debts of around £79 million, the whole squad was sold to cover costs; Alan Smith, Mark Viduka and Paul Robinson among the casualties. Leeds slipped to the third tier of English football before finally stabilising.
Elland Road has been sold and repurchased, and currently owned by businessman Jacob Adler, Cellino used the repurchasing of Elland Road as his calling card with the fans. The same fans that will fall in love with someone who mutters the word “consistency”.
Point deductions, constantly changing managers and a lack of money however has meant they’re life in the second tier of English football has not yet been successful.
So Cellino’s decision to buy Leeds at the start of this season must’ve given the fans hope, surely? Well it did, but then any new Leeds owner can bring a sense of optimism. However it was different under the Italian.
15 new signings showed the Yorkshire faithful that he meant business; that he wanted to return them to the top flight. He spent money, a lot of it, on foreign imports. Again, different; Leeds normally go for a player that has past his prime but still believes he should earn what he did at his peak – cough Noel Hunt cough.
They showed promise. Mirco Antenucci, Giuseppe Bellusci, Marco Silvestri and Tommaso Bianchi would form the new look core of Leeds United.
There wouldn’t even be a manager; Dave Hockaday would be first-team coach. The audacity of what was going on gave everyone a cause to be optimistic.
But it soon became apparent that it was premature. The football league continued their prolonged fight against Leeds, or so it is believed among the fans, as Cellino was considered unfit to own a club. Why? Evading tax on his yacht named Nelie.
It also soon became apparent that the surprise choice of Hockaday was largely surprising because he was a guy who would jump at the chance to coach Leeds, a club considered larger in stature than the level of management he was used to (he’d managed at Forest Green Rovers previously). It allowed Cellino to walk all over him. He was gone by the end of August.
Cellino was then banned from owning Leeds from January to April, and it remains to be seen what entirety he will return to Leeds as, if he even does. All this during four different managerial spells (Hockaday, Neil Redfearn (caretaker) Darko Milanic, Redfearn (permanent)).
Famous actor Russell Crowe has stated that he has an interest in buying Leeds, as well as RedBull, who also own RedBull Salzburg and New York Red Bulls. So look out for RedBull Leeds.
And even in the last week the Leeds board have been at the forefront of the headlines; Redfearn has allegedly been told not to play Antenucci, because if he scores two more goals he will automatically be given another year on his two-year contract.
Perhaps linked; Redfearn’s assistant Steve Thompson has been sacked and although not officially released by Leeds, rumour has it that Thompson called a member of the Fulham coaching staff a derogatory word during an altercation.
Plenty of assumptions can be made about why this seems to happen to Leeds – the Mario Balotelli of club sides – but one thing is for sure – Leeds are one of the toughest teams to support, one of the most frustrating, one of the most annoying, but a good laugh for everyone else.