Monday, 3 February 2014

The Italian Jobby.

The situation at Leeds United is one that practically invites sweeping statements. Brian McDermott, the respected manager, already somewhat harshly treated at Reading, is now at the centre of a situation threatening to tear Elland Road apart.

Massimo Cellino is the latest in a long line of foreign owners; some being more suitable than others. It is wise not to tar all new arrivals with the same brush, as Manchester City and Southampton are examples of clubs who have blossomed with foreign intervention.

The problem is, some bring with them financial instability, while at the same time claiming to be the solution to a club's woes. Leeds are thought to be in yet another spot of monetary bother, and growing ever more desperate for a suitable buyer to dig them out of their latest hole. It looks like they will have to wait a while longer after a quick skim through Cellino's financial misdemeanours.

Cellino has a criminal record, containing two suspended sentences, one for defrauding the EU and Italian Ministry for Agriculture out of £7.5m, the other for false acounting at Cagliari. He may yet face further action, as he will soon stand trial for embezzlement related to the Cagliari stadium rebuilding. The Football League's regulations already bar Cellino from taking over at Leeds, despite the Italian claiming to have bought 75% of the club.

Financial/criminal problems aside, does he really have the knowledge of English football, or the due respect for a manager who has stabilised the club? When McDermott took over in April, the club was in disarray - Warnock had left Leeds five points above the relegation with six games remaining. McDermott steadied the ship, delivering 13th place for a team that had been expected to challenge for promotion.

While Leeds have fallen off the pace in recent weeks, the 5-1 thrashing of Huddersfield leaves them eight points off the top six, with a game in hand on some teams above them. Relegation is not even crossing the minds of the Elland Road faithful, and nor should it with crowds of over 30,000 every week. McDermott performed a miracle to get Reading into the Premier League, and if he remains in charge next season should be backed to go all the way again.

The FA's much-maligned 'fit and proper person' test is all very well for financial purposes, and will probably eventually bar Cellino from ever taking charge of Leeds, or any other club in England, but tradition and courtesy is just as important for new owners to take into account. At Blackburn, Cardiff, Man United, Newcastle, and countless other clubs, fans' feelings have been dismissed as old-fashioned in today's glitzy glamorous footballing world. To dismiss a well-respected manager by phone via a lawyer, before even formally taking charge, is quite low on the moral-ometer indeed.

Leeds should pray the FA stick to their guns, and tell the Italian arrivederci.

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