Steve Morison bemoaned the endless stream of controversy at Leeds United and said people would “draw their own conclusions” about the injury crisis which developed ahead of Saturday’s defeat to Charlton Athletic.
The striker scored a rare goal at The Valley, his first for Leeds in more than two years, but his finish and the game itself was overshadowed by the bizarre events which saw six of United’s foreign players withdraw through injury on Friday morning.
Three first-team regulars – Marco Silvestri, Giuseppe Bellusci and Mirco Antenucci – declared themselves unfit as Leeds completed their preparation for yesterday’s game in London and Edgar Cani, Souleymane Doukara and Dario Del Fabro also approached head coach Neil Redfearn to tell him that they were unavailable to play.
United defended the individuals involved by calling the situation a “disastrous week for injuries” but the loss of players en masse led to speculation that some were attempting to undermine Redfearn at a time when the 49-year-old’s job as head coach is on the line.
Morison expressed his bewilderment at the constant unrest at Elland Road, saying he had “never known anything like it in football”, and he spoke out in support of an isolated Redfearn, admitting it was “quite sad” to see the United boss in a difficult position.
Asked to comment on the withdrawal of the six players, Morison said: “We’re around it every day. People draw their own conclusions about what happened.
“It’s a tough situation because you have to take everything at face value. It is what it is and it’s been like that all season. It depends which way you want to look at it.
“It’s been one of those seasons where every day something different happens. Every week. I’ve never known anything like it in football.”
Redfearn insisted he was aware of minor problems affecting Silvestri and Antenucci before Friday morning but said he expected all six players to be available at The Valley.
Leeds, however, issued a statement tonight claiming that “several players were carrying injuries” after the club’s loss to Norwich City last Tuesday.
The statement read: “It was the medical team’s view from Thursday onwards that some first-team players would struggle to be fit for Saturday’s game at Charlton.
“It was declared that the six players were unavailable to travel to London on Friday, the club needs to protect its assets. The club completely stands by the internal medical recommendations that it receives.”
Morison, though, appeared to aim veiled criticism at the spirit in United’s camp, saying: “I’ve played in teams who are scrapping for their lives, like Millwall last year, and for teams who are promoted. I’ve played in the Premier League with a bunch of players from the Championship who should never have stayed up.
“The one thing we had, ultimately out of all of that, was team spirit. Sometimes you can get away with being very, very average if you have that. I would class myself as an average football player. But I’ve had a ‘team’ around me in my career. And it works.”
Redfearn, who lost his assistant manager Steve Thompson when Leeds suspended him earlier this month, is two games away from the end of his contract and looks increasingly unlikely to stay on as head coach when the Championship season finishes.
“Neil’s been brilliant for us,” Morison said. “It’s quite sad watching him out there every morning on his own, putting out balls and cones. I’ve never known a manager have to do that.
“He seems to be doing a hell of a lot. He counts us onto the coach, gives us our cards when we get to the hotels and all that. He has gone above and beyond.”
An away crowd of 3,000 at The Valley vented frustration at the six absent players and also at United’s banned owner Massimo Cellino, chanting “sell the club and f*** off home”.
Morison, who spent the whole of the 2013-14 season on loan at Millwall, brightened the mood with a 40th-minute volley from Luke Murphy’s corner, his first goal in 24 appearances this term and his first for Leeds since March 2013.
Charlton goalkeeper Stephen Henderson got a hand to his shot but failed to keep it out, but Guy Luzon’s side fought back to inflict a fifth straight defeat on Leeds through a Tony Watt strike and a Yoni Buyens penalty in the final 15 minutes.
“It was one of those,” Morison said. “You score a great goal and all you want to do is talk about a win. Then it ends up being a massive anti-climax.
“I saw it coming and my first thought was ‘I’m going to head this.’ As it got to me I thought ‘I’ll try a volley.’ I hit it and I looked around and thought ‘he’s going to save this, isn’t he? This just sums up my luck.’ But it went in.”
Morison has taken his share of criticism amid a long barren spell but he said: “I’m not on Twitter and I’m not on social media. I don’t do any of it. I’ve got family and friends and the only people who I actually need to have behind me are the people in the dressing room.
“To be honest, in the period when I played I was a big part - apart from goals. I was pleased with my performances and just frustrated that I wasn’t getting chances. But we were winning a lot of games and scrapping for our lives. Luckily we got them because we have just gone five on the bounce without winning.”