Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino said today that he had “lots of good managers willing to come” to Elland Road - and claimed his strategy for next season would make disillusioned fans “understand” him.
Cellino refused to discuss Leeds’ on-going approach for Bristol Rovers boss Darrell Clarke but gave an upbeat view of the weeks ahead, promising to appoint “someone special” as head coach.
United still have an incumbent first-team boss in Steve Evans but Cellino’s search for a replacement and recent talks between the Italian and potential successors has effectively confirmed that Evans will be replaced before his contract ends on June 30.
Leeds have made a bid to recruit Clarke, Bristol Rovers’ 38-year-old manager, but are yet to formally agree to a deal which will see them finance £250,000 of compensation in structured payment.
Cellino, however, is expected to give the go-ahead in the next few days and clear the way for the start of negotiations with Clarke.
Reports from Bristol say Rovers want an answer from Leeds before Monday. Cellino is abroad in Italy and not due to return until the weekend.
Earlier this month, he cut a resigned figure at the end of another disappointing and fractious Championship season, saying he was “tired” of running Leeds and insisting he would sell his shares in the club if a buyer came forward.
In the past 12 months he has fought running battles with the Football League, Sky Sports and group of supporters opposed to his ownership and both he and Leeds were recently hit with Football Association misconduct charges relating to an alleged illegal payment made after the sale of Ross McCormack to Fulham in 2014.
Cellino, who has until tomorrow to respond to that charge, could face a ban from football if found guilty.
But the 59-year-old was in bullish mood today, telling The Mirror: “For the first time in England I have a lot of good managers willing to come to us at Leeds United.
"I have a good feeling. I cannot make a mistake this time. My players need someone special.
"After all the things the fans have said about me, now they will start to understand. Next year, we'll play football."
Evans responded to Cellino's remarks by saying: "I'm happy to step aside if the new prospective coach is one of the best around. The supporters of Leeds United, the best there are anywhere, deserve that.
"I'm confident I would lead us to promotion so I presume the remit is now to be champions."
Leeds are already three weeks on from the final game of the Championship term and their players will report back for pre-season training in little over a month’s time.
Replacing Evans is one of several tasks facing Cellino with Leeds currently without a head of recruitment and an academy director.
His promise of a big year ahead is an echo of last summer when he predicted a “beautiful season” prior to the appointment of Uwe Rosler as head coach.
Rosler was sacked after only 12 games and Leeds finished 13th in the table under Evans.