LATE last week, Brian McDermott had a stint manning the Elland Road ticket office telephone in a PR stunt designed to boost the attendance for Bolton Wanderers’ visit towards the 30,000 mark.
Those supporters who did get through to the Leeds United manager are said to have had a genial chat before buying their tickets.
Had those same fans had an opportunity to speak to McDermott in the wake of Saturday’s display there is a distinct possibility the conversation would have been very different.
The 5-1 capitulation to Bolton may not have shocked the United faithful, who have become wearily familiar with heavy losses on home soil.
Preston North End, Nottingham Forest and Watford are among the clubs to have left LS11 in recent years glowing from an emphatic victory.
But coming on the back of the collapses against Rochdale and Sheffield Wednesday in January, Saturday’s shocking second-half display means Leeds fans have been asking some searching questions about McDermott in recent days.
The United manager is experienced enough to know that is inevitable. That said, McDermott is also keen to draw a line under the Bolton game and, instead, focus on the future, starting with tonight’s visit of his former club Reading.
He said: “I don’t want to talk about it (Bolton) so much. What is the point in talking about what has gone on in the past?
“The only thing we can do is try and get a result that will make it up to the fans. We owe the fans big-time. For the fans that travel and turn up and pay their money, we owe them.
“You don’t produce a performance like Saturday, yet we have had two or three this year, which have been embarrassing.
“For a manager, it is a horrible situation.”
United’s display against Bolton incensed prospective owner Massimo Cellino, who was heavily critical of the players in a national newspaper over the weekend.
After revealing he wanted to “kick their a*** one by one”, the Italian, whose bid to buy Leeds will be discussed by the Football League at their board meeting on Thursday, also exonerated McDermott. He added: “I blame them (the players), not Brian. I would like to support him.
“In 20 years of owning Cagliari, I never once saw them play like that.
“They might lose, but they always fight.”
Understandably perhaps, McDermott was reluctant to discuss what had been said since the weekend. But the Leeds chief added: “We are all paid to get results, I understand how it works.
“And, at this moment in time, we are not getting the results. When you get a bad result like Saturday, you get criticised. You have to take that criticism on the chin.
“Absolutely, I understand that. When you do well, you get praise. And if you get a result and performance like Saturday, you get criticised.
“I understand the fans’ reaction and how they are feeling. Listen, I understand the criticism we got.
“When you get beat 5-1 at home, you are going to get a situation like that.
“All we can do is try and get the right performance and result against Reading.”
In the kind of symmetry in which football delights, McDermott’s Leeds will take on Reading a year to the day since the Berkshire club sacked him.
McDermott added: “It has been an incredible year when you think about it. It has been a very, very interesting time, to say the least.
We have had some really good times and some difficult times. This is what makes the job so rewarding, when you get it right.
“Have we got it right? Well, no, we haven’t. But that is why you do this job. We did win the Championship at my previous club and that is why we are in this job.”
The protracted ownership saga that has seen contracts exchanged on a 75 per cent sale of the club is unlikely to be sorted this week, despite the matter being on the agenda of the League’s board meeting on Thursday.
For McDermott, though, clarity cannot come soon enough.
He added: “Obviously, we want everything to be sorted out as far as the ownership is concerned. Sooner rather than later, I think.
“It is difficult to plan for the summer when you don’t know the ownership situation,” he commented. Are we planning for the summer? No, we are not. We have to get that clarity and situation sorted out. We have got to put a pre-season together, and decide on players and stuff like that.
“The ownership situation needs to get sorted out. That is very, very important.
Last six games: Leeds United WWLDDL, Reading WLWLDD.
Last time: Leeds United 0 Reading 1; December 17, 2011; Championship.
Referee: O Langford (West Midlands).