Don’t take anything for granted

02 Jun 2014 02:17pm, by YorkshireSquare

With Massimo Cellino at the helm don’t take anything you know about Leeds United for granted. If you thought life under Ken Bates and GFH was a roller-coaster then buckle up because this is the ‘Big One’. He is a maverick and an autocrat, what he says goes and if you don’t agree with him then you probably won’t be around long. He endeared himself to Leeds fans early on by seemingly speaking openly and freely with fans who bumped into in him in pubs and on trains about his plans for Leeds United. But don’t take any of this for granted, if he doesn’t get his own way he is capable of changing his mind at the drop of a hat.

Most people who want to play at running a football club but Football Manager but Cellino doesn’t need to bother with this, he can just buy a club. Bored with Cagliari who he feels are too small to challenge, a Fiat 500 as he described them, he now has his Ferrari in Leeds. Disrespectful is a word I have heard used to described Cellino and his comments about his old club were certainly that, offending many of the players and fans. It seems to me he is not in this for the glory of his native club but for the glory of Massimo Cellino. Welcome to Cellino United.

His autocratic nature is demonstrated in the way he treats coaches, he is a mangiallenatori, a manager-eater, in twenty years at Cagliari he has had 35 head coaches. They though are often a front, a puppet for the person that actually makes the decisions, the person that buys the players, picks the team and the formation, Massimo Cellino. He tried to sack manager Brian McDermott before he had even completed the purchase of the club and has spent much of the past 5 months undermining him with comments about playing players in the correct positions. This weekend, when finally the inevitable happened and McDermott left Leeds he did so with dignity and grace. His first thoughts were to say farewell to and thank the staff and media who he has met during his time at Leeds. Dignity and grace however are not two words likely to be used to describe Cellino.

One area of the club that could be judged to be a success in recent years is the Academy. Neil Redfearn and the team have done a great job and the academy has recently been awarded EPPP category two status. This has been thrown into doubt recently though with the academy closed over the summer to save money and the futures of many of the staff put into doubt. Unhappy with the costs of the academy Cellino has brought in Benito Carbone as a ‘special consultant’ to rebuild the academy. He does have previous experience as a youth coach for Pavia in Italy’s Lega Pro Prima Divisione but no experience coaching in the UK.

Having previously promised to buy back Thorp Arch Cellino now appears to be having a change of heart. At £600,000 a year in rent he believes it is too expensive and seems to be hinting at a possible move away; “I cannot say ‘yes, we will stay at the training ground’ because that is not certain. But I can’t say ‘no we won’t’ either. I must look at it and decide. I need to think about at the money and say ‘can we afford the training ground?’ My feeling about Thorp Arch is that it’s too expensive and too far away from Leeds. But I’m not saying we’ll leave. I’m saying that at the moment I can’t say yes or no to that question.”

Don’t take for granted the future of Elland Road either. Just as with Thorp Arch Cellino stated that buying Elland Road was a top priority, this is a promise that also seems to have slipped. Cellino’s track record with stadiums is not great and when he has not got his own way in the past he has taken decisions without a real regard for the consequences for the fans or the team. Cellino in protest that he was not granted planning permission to build a new stadium vowed that Cagliari would never play in the Stadio Sant'Elia again. They played their remaining home matches of the 2011-12 season at Stadio Nereo Rocco in Trieste, over 600 miles away from Cagliari with very few ‘home’ fans in attendance.

Unhappy with this situation Cellino struck a deal for Cagliari to play in the Stadio Is Arenas in the towns suburbs. A small community stadium with only one stand Cellino drew up plans to build temporary seating right around the ground. With the works completed Cagliari played their first game of the season there but behind closed doors due to safety concerns. By the next game the council declared the stadium still did not meet the safety standards necessary and as such would again have to be played behind closed doors. Cellino in another petulant show of protest told fans to turn up despite the ruling. The game was called off and Roma awarded a 3-0 win. If Cellino can’t negotiate a price he is happy to pay for Elland Road, don’t expect us to play there anymore. Temporary stands at South Leeds stadium anyone?

It is this petulance that concerns me the most. If he doesn’t get his own way he seems more than happy to cut off his nose to spite his face and damn the consequences for the fans. The most infamous example of this has come when he has not had season tickets at Cagliari; “Because I was p****d off with the fans or I wasn’t sure of my engagement with them. So I say no season tickets. You pay three times more.”

Cellino could be great for Leeds, his drive for success and personal glory could take us back to where we belong. But it’s going to be a journey with ups and downs like you wouldn’t believe. Cellino has the potential to split opinion far more than Bates ever did, he is loved and hated by Cagliari fans in equal measure. He will step on toes, he will put noses out of joint, this is his club now, he will do what he wants.