Players hungry for Leeds project, says Cellino

Massimo Cellino.
Massimo Cellino.
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One day after breaking off from their summer holidays, Leeds United’s players can today relax.

They had to attend Elland Road yesterday for personal meetings with new Italian owner Massimo Cellino when they were informed that they will be required to return for pre-season training on June 26.

Some players had either cancelled or curtailed holidays to attend.

Cellino announced himself impressed with the “fantastic professionalism” of the players – who are still awaiting payment of their wages – in showing him “respect” by attending the meeting.

The club remain optimistic of being able to pay them this week and of successfully challenging the winding-up order against Leeds before June 9.

They have mapped out a 15-day pre-season tour in northern Italy in the municipality of Santa Cristina in Val Gardena. Details regarding matches have yet to be formalised.

Cellino said: “I met all the players and they showed me that they wanted to stay at the club. They work for the club, not Massimo Cellino.

“They showed me respect and have a fantastic professionalism towards the club.

“We are a better team than we first thought.

“All the players are hungry to be involved in this new project at Leeds United.”

Leeds’s return date is a week ahead of the prior schedule to report into Thorp Arch for the start of pre-season training on Thursday, July 3, five weeks before the new season begins.

Last month, Cellino had stated he expected United’s players and coaching staff to report back to work on May 28 – less than four weeks after the end of the Championship season.

Cellino had claimed that the 25-day gap would account for the squad’s entire holiday allowance, but subsequently put back the date for their return to yesterday.

Cellino is now focusing his attentions on speaking to candidates for a new head coach role at Elland Road, as well as grappling with the financial issues engulfing the club, with a £950,000 winding-up order issued by Sport Capital high on his list of priorities.

Reports in Italy late last night suggested that former Middlesbrough defender Gianluca Festa was emerging as the strongest candidate for the job.