REDFEARN BACKING FOR LEEDS OWNER
MASSIMO Cellino is often cast in the role of pantomime villain but Neil Redfearn is convinced the Leeds owner is just misunderstood.
The Football League asked Cellino to resign after finding out about a tax evasion charge which puts him in breach of its ‘fit and proper’ ownership test.
But the Italian will appeal the decision and Redfearn believes his owner is still the best man to lead the Whites.
“Everything he’s done is in the best interests of the club,” said the Leeds boss.
“Hand on heart, I honestly believe it. We’re fortunate to have an owner who’s football daft and loves the club. He’s spoken about it briefly but he doesn’t seem too concerned.
“I’ve mainly just been talking to him about the side and how we can make that better.”
Logic suggests that yet more boardroom controversy at Elland Road would be a distraction for the players but Redfearn claims that is not the case.
“We come to the training ground and we lose ourselves in what we’re doing through the week,” he added. “We can’t affect anything else that goes on.
“The players have been focused and it’s good because we have a young group who are enthusiastic about training.”
MASSIMO Cellino says his three-month ban from Leeds United will “destabilise” the club. Is he having a laugh or what? That’s like Lex Luther calling Superman a threat to world peace. This is a bloke who sacked three managers in six months, signed players nobody had heard of and is more superstitious than Stevie Wonder. He brings about as much stability to Elland Road as a three-legged barstool.
Cellino’s disqualification is fantastic news – for football, for Leeds, and for their manager Neil Redfearn.
Belatedly found to have breached the Football League’s owners’ and directors’ test, the Italian tax evader has been ordered to relinquish control of the club he bought for £25m in March.
Though he can retain his 75 per cent stake, he must have no ‘financial or executive influence’ until March 18, when his conviction will be considered spent.
That’s three blessed months in which Redfearn can go about the business of building a side without looking over his shoulder.
I was at Elland Road last week as the Whites notched a surprising but fully deserved 2-0 win over leaders Derby.
For the first time in several years I saw a Leeds side playing with verve and confidence.
Safe in the knowledge that his old job as academy chief remains open, Redfearn has thrown off the shackles, encouraging his team to pass, move and attack.
Tactically, he was spot on against the Rams. And it was clear from the heartfelt embrace with the substituted Adryan that the players – many of whom he nurtured through the ranks – are desperate for him to succeed.
Having spent an hour with the former Barnsley man last week, it’s not hard to see why. Honest and straightforward, demanding yet positive, he is the kind of coach every young player loves.
But we all know the score at Leeds. There is no such thing as two steps forward and one step back. It’s relentless progress or the executioner’s axe.
If Redfearn loses three straight games, who’s to say Cellino won’t have a hissy fit and wield the blade? Then all that progress, all that belief and confidence, will be destroyed at a stroke.
Redfearn will be sacked at some point. Cellino can’t help himself. But for the moment, he can at least get the foundations in place.
For the Football League, too, this is an encouraging victory. It is perfectly reasonable to argue that Cellino has been a positive influence on Leeds.
After years of stasis at the hands of Ken Bates and the farcical, destructive reign of GFH Capital, the 58-year-old has cleared the club’s debts and pledged to invest a further £20m. Though brutal, he has also tightened up day-to-day spending.
Yet the end should not be allowed to justify the means. Cellino’s takeover made a mockery of the owners’ and directors’ test, which was designed specifically to prevent those with unspent convictions for a “dishonest act” from ownership of a football club.
Despite being convicted of tax evasion with “elusive intent” by an Italian judge, Cellino argued that the final written judgement had not yet been delivered and so his ‘dishonesty’ in the matter could not be proven.
With an independent QC backing this legally sound but highly implausible argument, the League had no choice but to wave Cellino through.
Now that the judgement has been delivered and it has been proven that he was dishonest, Cellino seems to think it is unfair.
It is not. He broke the law and bent the rules, then used expensive lawyers to get round them.
His subsequent impact on Leeds is irrelevant. If the owners’ and directors’ test is to stand any chance of protecting clubs from the crooks and shysters we’ve all seen before, behaviour like that cannot be allowed to stand.