STEVE EVANS has ordered his Leeds United players not to be distracted by the chaotic off-the-field situation at the club – and to focus all their energies on transforming matters on it.
Takeover talk is again in the air among Whites supporters with Leeds Fans United (LFU) chief executive Dylan Thwaites yesterday announcing that the group are confident of securing a written guarantee of exclusivity to enable them to push ahead with plans to buy out Massimo Cellino.
Thwaites claims that Cellino has promised that he would only consider offers “from the fans” – although it is understood that the United owner has also met with another potential bidder in London following a separate approach.
In a fresh development, the Italian last night revealed that he plans not to attend any further matches after being barracked by furious supporters during Thursday’s home loss to Blackburn Rovers, who demanded that he sell the club – with the 59-year-old now appearing to be ready to bow to their wishes.
In a statement, Cellino said: “It pains me to make this decision as I have put my heart and soul into this club.
“But what I was subjected to at the Blackburn game left me feeling like I had no other option but to take a step away.
“After the time, effort and emotion I have given to the club to try and enable us to move forward, it hurt me a lot to hear the fans singing what they did on Thursday night.
“The fans made it clear they believe I am no longer the best person for this job, and for the first time I am starting to think that they may be correct.”
Given all the developments in the corridors of power, with Cellino also appealing against his second Football League disqualification from being an owner and director at the club within the space of a year, it is easy to forget that United are also in a mess on the pitch.
Nineteenth-placed Leeds, hoping to finalise the signing of Sunderland midfielder Liam Bridcutt on an emergency loan before noon today to enable him to feature in tonight’s game with bogey side Cardiff City – are six matches without a win.
Their homesickness at Elland Road has evolved into a debilitating contagion. United are without a victory in a club record 12 home matches since early March, with the limp loss to Blackburn effectively being the straw that broke the camel’s back for many mutinous supporters.
Head coach Evans has acknowledged that players are being sidetracked by matters off the pitch, but the Scot insists that remains no excuse for their appalling Elland Road sequence.
He said: “I think there may be a confidence factor and too many people think too much about what’s going on off the pitch and are not concentrating on what’s happening on it.
“I can’t get involved with who owns Leeds United. It’s an oil tanker in the ocean and I am trying to swim against the tide.
“We just focus on the grass but, at the moment, if we are being honest, it’s the grass that is letting us down and there would be less heat and less pressure on everyone if the results were right.
“That’s what we need to keep our concentration on.
“I’ve always said my job is not to get involved in any way shape or form with what happens off the pitch, that’s a decision left for the owner and of course if the supporters are involved it’s left to them. They are, after all the lifeblood of any football club.”
Adamant that the sense of flux at the club should not affect players once they cross the white line, he added: “It doesn’t bring any uncertainty to me or the players.
“We are here until somebody tells us any different – whether it’s Mr Cellino or whether it’s supporters as they may have opinions on who should coach, who should be play etcetera, but that’s left for another day.
“There’s a lot of water that has to flow under the bridge before that happens and we can only affect Cardiff City.”
The Bluebirds boast a scarcely believable record against Leeds.
All told, the Welsh outfit are unbeaten in 17 matches against them and you have to go back to February 1984 for United’s last victory over their rivals from the Principality.
Given Cardiff’s record against Leeds, the loyal home diehards who will be resident at Elland Road would be forgiven for fearing the worst, with it currently being Evans’s job to start to lift the prevailing gloom.
If the 53-year-old requires a positive omen, maybe there is one. He enjoyed arguably his finest hour in management at the expense of the man who will stride out in the opposing dug-out tonight in Russell Slade, manager at Leyton Orient when they lost out to Evans’s previous club Rotherham in the League One play-off final at Wembley in May 2014.
Victory this evening would not be quite as momentous, but it would still represent a landmark one in the career of Evans.
Captain Sol Bamba serves a one-match ban, while Tom Adeyemi is ineligible of playing against his parent club.
Left-back Charlie Taylor remains sidelined with a virus.
Last six games: Leeds LLLDDL, Cardiff WDDWDD.
Referee: C Boyeson (East Yorkshire).
Last time: Leeds 1 Cardiff 2; April 11, 2015; Championship.