Leeds lose their soul as Cellino wields axe
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.