Leeds lose their soul as Cellino wields axe

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - Chris Dunlavy

GOOD luck to Steve Evans. But does any­body – even the fa­mously bel­liger­ent Scot – gen­uinely be­lieve he’ll be around in May? The new Leeds boss is Mas­simo Cellino’s sixth ‘per­ma­nent’ man­ager since buy­ing the club 18 months ago.The sack-happy Ital­ian has put so many peo­ple on gar­den­ing leave they could start a farm and cure world hunger.

Uwe Rosler clung on for 12 games be­fore be­ing canned, six more than Dave Hock­a­day and Darko Mi­lanic.

How many will Evans get? At his un­veil­ing on Tues­day, the former Rother­ham boss urged Leeds sup­port­ers to give him a chance, but he knows well enough that their opin­ion car­ries lit­tle weight with the chair­man.


Evans’ fu­ture de­pends en­tirely on whether Cellino is hav­ing a good day. It is no co­in­ci­dence that he sacked Rosler and im­posed a cap on away fans just days af­ter be­ing no­ti­fied of a fresh Foot­ball League ban. It was a clas­sic Cellino thrash out.

The former Cagliari owner acts ut­terly on im­pulse, his petu­lant fir­ings akin to punch­ing a cup­board door that’s just cracked you on the bonce. Sense­less, but cathar­tic.

Tech­ni­cally, of course, he can’t ac­tu­ally sack Evans. Con­victed in an Ital­ian court of swerv­ing the im­port duty on a Land Rover (he still faces charges of fail­ing to pay tax on a yacht, em­bez­zle­ment and a tax case re­lat­ing to former Cagliari play­ers), Cellino has been dis­qual­i­fied un­til June 2016.

But given that as­sis­tant man­ager Steve Thomp­son was mys­te­ri­ously sus­pended dur­ing Cellino’s last ban, that’s hardly a com­fort.

The sad­dest thing about all this is the grow­ing ap­a­thy. Be­fore Evans’ un­veil­ing on Tues­day, I asked a hand­ful of Leeds fans what they made of the new gaffer. “Who cares?” was the gen­eral con­sen­sus. “It’s not like he’s go­ing to last long any­way.”

It’s not hard to imag­ine that sen­ti­ment be­ing shared by Leeds play­ers. As any sup­ply teacher will at­test, the words of a man on bor­rowed time carry lit­tle author­ity. Will those play­ers re­ally bust a gut for Evans? Did they re­ally lis­ten to Rosler?

The in­sta­bil­ity Cellino cre­ates is di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for Leeds’mis­er­able form. Tenth in the Cham­pi­onship when he ar­rived in a blaze of may­hem, they have since reg­is­tered con­sec­u­tive 15th-place fin­ishes.

The Leeds United Sup­port­ers’ Trust have this week called on Cellino and mi­nor­ity own­ers Gulf Fi­nance House to clear off for good.“Leeds fans have suf­fered enough,” said a state­ment. “If, and the case grows daily, it is in the best in­ter­ests of Leeds United sup­port­ers that he and GFH should sell, we call on them both to do so with ef­fi­ciency.”

This would ob­vi­ously be bril­liant for ev­ery­one, but buy­ers are hardly likely to queue round the block for a club which owns nei­ther its sta­dium nor its train­ing ground. And with so many folk clam­our­ing to see the back of him, Cellino is likely to stay purely out of spite.

No­body can make him sell. No­body can stop him sack­ing man­agers.

The League know this – it’s why they keep ban­ning him in a war of attrition, hop­ing he’ll tire of the per­se­cu­tion and either walk away or ap­point a deputy.

I hope they suc­ceed. Be­cause while Cellino may have turned Leeds into a prof­itable busi­ness, he’s bankrupted their soul.

And un­til he is ban­ished for­ever, it is im­pos­si­ble to see how this once mighty in­sti­tu­tion can ever be any­thing but a sham­bling em­bar­rass­ment.

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