AS Leeds United supporters last night held their breath over whether the club’s monthly wage bill will be paid as scheduled, Brian McDermott admitted that everyone at Elland Road is fighting for their future.
The ownership saga at the Championship club took another twist yesterday with Massimo Cellino launching an appeal against the Football League’s decision to block his proposed £25m deal to buy a majority stake.
League officials have promised to deal with the appeal – which will be heard by an independent QC – as soon as possible but that has done little to ease the anxiety levels at Elland Road.
With the wages – which since the turn of the year have been paid by Cellino – due this morning, uncertainty abounds at Leeds ahead of tomorrow’s derby clash with Doncaster Rovers.
For McDermott, the focus has to be on completing a league double over the south Yorkshire club. However, with the chaos that has engulfed Elland Road since Cellino’s takeover was rejected on Monday showing no signs of abating, the United manager admits that isn’t as straightforward as it should be.
He said: “We haven’t really talked about football since when? January? February? March? We won’t talk about Doncaster too much, even though it is the only thing we should be talking about.
“Unfortunately, we are talking about other issues. Again.”
After the relief of beating Millwall last Saturday, United’s season suffered the latest in a long line of humiliations when McDermott’s side were beaten 4-1 at Bournemouth on Tuesday night.
It was merely the latest chapter in what has so far been a truly woeful 2014, with Leeds having already suffered the ignominy of being beaten by League Two Rochdale in the FA Cup as well as losing 6-0, 5-1, 4-2 and now 4-1.
McDermott, who yesterday loaned Lee Peltier to Nottingham Forest for the rest of the season, added: “I would say that all of us are fighting for our Leeds United future – players staff, all of us. We have got nine games to go and they are an important nine games.
“Who wants to be here next season? Who wants to wear the shirt next season? I think we are fighting for that future. The club’s situation is obviously priority number one, two and three.
“So is the ownership situation. But as a staff and a group of players, we have got to fight for our lives now.”
The “ownership situation” is, of course, the most pressing matter facing Leeds right now.
Cellino’s failure to pass the League’s ‘Owners and Directors’ Test’ has thrown the club into turmoil.
The Italian’s lodging of an appeal yesterday was confirmed by the League and the matter is likely to be dealt with in the very near future.
A spokesman for the governing body said: “The appeal will be heard by an independent QC, who will have access to independent expert evidence relating to certain aspects of Italian law and will determine the matter following submissions from both parties.”
Cellino has paid the wages for the past month and settled a winding up order from Andrew Flowers, a previous bidder who had covered the monthly bill before his own takeover hit the buffers.
His rejection by the League has, therefore, left a huge cloud over United with even first-team players not knowing if they will be paid as scheduled today.
When asked about the matter yesterday, McDermott said: “How I see it, we have been paid since I turned up in April. We have been paid every month. So I would assume that that would be the case.
“I assume at the end of every month you get paid. It is always an assumption. I haven’t spoken to them about that situation and the end of the month is Monday.
“GFH are still owners of the club. They have taken on that mantle and they have that responsibility – to make sure that bills get paid, people get paid. That is GFH’s responsibility and I am sure they know it.
“I have got to do what I have got to do. I have got no reason to believe that people won’t be paid.”
The big fear for supporters amid all this off-field uncertainty is that United could fall into administration for the second time in seven years.
That would trigger a 10-point deduction which, with the club sitting in mid-table, would condemn Leeds to a relegation scrap for the rest of the season.
Haigh, however, told The Yorkshire Post two weeks ago that United would definitely not fall into administration. It is a stance he repeated to this newspaper a week ago.
Asked about the possibility, McDermott was equally adamant that such a doomsday scenario would not occur. He said: “No, it doesn’t bear thinking about and we have been told that won’t happen.”
Providing the monthly wage bill is settled, McDermott expects his players to be focused when taking on Rovers tomorrow.
He added: “I don’t get assurances at any club about getting paid. That is why you make the assumption. You don’t ever get assurances about getting paid, it is something you don’t get involved in.
“It definitely has been a test as a fella and as a manager. I am learning. I took the Pro-licence three summers ago and they didn’t tell you about this in the Pro-licence.”