Leeds United’s loss at home to Wolves proved to be the final straw for owner Massimo Cellino, as he pulled the curtain prematurely on Darko Milanic’s short spell at the club.
The dismissal adds to the shambolic situation currently blighting the Yorkshire side and proves how some investors do not know enough about the beautiful game to be a part of it.
It would be fair to say that there have been some very short managerial stints over the past two years, and Leeds seem to be pulling no punches in their attempt to break the record. Over at Blackburn Rovers, we have seen Henning Berg and Michael Appleton oversee 57 days (10 games) and 67 days (15 games) respectively, and their dismissals rocked the club, which almost suffered a consecutive relegation down to League One.
Of course, throughout the last decade or so, we have seen some incredibly short managerial reigns across the divisions, including Alex McLeish at Nottingham Forest, Paul Hart at Queens Park Rangers and, not forgetting, Leeroy Rosenior, who enjoyed a ten minute spell at Torquay United as the club were being taken over. While freak stories like this do happen from time to time, the fact that it is happening so frequently at what was once a big club shows just how far Leeds have fallen from grace and how their once big reputation has seemingly worked against them.
It began in January earlier this year, when Cellino – who also owned Cagliari in Italy – who rumoured to take over the club. Leeds were suffering a sharp dip in form following their exit in the FA Cup to Rochdale and a 6-0 thumping by neighbours Sheffield Wednesday, and Brian McDermott was sacked shortly afterwards. However, it came to light that it was apparently Cellino himself who fired him, despite the fact he hadn’t yet legitimately taken over the club. The club’s directors claimed he had no right to sack McDermott and he was reinstated in early February.
Leeds finished in a mediocre 15th place and there was disarray at the club, with the delegation of who to release and who to keep handed to Cellino, rather than McDermott. Inevitably, the club parted company with him and Dave Hockaday was made manager in June, as the club wanted a ‘fresh approach’.
The controversy didn’t stop there. If anything, the flames rose with Hockaday’s installation, as his only previous managerial role at was at Conference side Forest Green Rovers. He was thought to be unproven and far from the level that Leeds required, and despite enjoying a good pre-season, he lost his opening game 2-0 to Millwall. Hockaday managed just two wins and four loses and their early League Cup exit to local rivals Bradford City proved to be the final straw for Cellino, who sacked Hockaday and his assistant, Junior Lewis, just 70 days in to their reign.
Academy manager Neil Redfearn took temporary charge of the club and made a name for himself as he claimed Leeds 10 points from a possible 12; his final win a 3-0 win over another Yorkshire neighbours, Huddersfield Town. However, he soon stepped back down into his academy role, with former Maribor boss Milanic given the opportunity to try and turn the club’s fortunes around. However, the Slovenian’s efforts were vain, as he failed to win any of his six games in charge and was given the boot just an hour after the final whistle blew to signify the 2-1 loss to Wolverhampton, beating Hockaday’s short stint after just 32 days at the club.
It’s a staggering statistic and Cellino will now likely struggle to attract a proven manager to Elland Road, considering his rash habit of sacking managers. It would be fair to say that Leeds fans, despite of an up-and-down decade, are very proud of their club, but even the most hardcore of fans must be scratching their heads concerning the disorganisation around the club. Whites fans haven’t had the best of times when it comes to club owners, as previous director Ken Bates was largely shunned by fans for his poor running of the club and they were glad to see the back of him when he was fired from his presidential position in 2013.
However, former Leeds striker Patrick Kisnorbo has recently claimed that United fans would rather have Ken Bates over Cellino.
He told HITC Sport, “When the old owner was there, Ken Bates, he wore that club on his sleeve. And people were saying how bad it was then.
“I bet you if people could [get] him back, they would. He made that club his own and he treated that club like his own family.”
Neil Redfearn will once again take temporary charge of the club and will be looking to throw his hat in the ring for the vacancy when Leeds take on Cardiff next weekend.