AMID talk of a planned walkout tomorrow by supporters angry at how Leeds United are being run, manager Steve Evans has urged everyone at the club to pull together or risk handing Hull City a derby victory.
The Elland Road club have endured a difficult seven days, which began with fans openly voicing their dissatisfaction during a 1-0 defeat at Queens Park Rangers and was followed by an unseemly row over ticket prices being increased.
Then, yesterday brought headlines in a national newspaper claiming that Massimo Cellino had put every player at the Championship club up for sale.
Evans has since firmly refuted the suggestion Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt et al were being hawked around rival clubs, describing the report as “scandalous”.
Nevertheless, there is no disguising the current chasm that exists between owner and the long-suffering Elland Road faithful right now with a fans group having called for a 17-minute walkout in the 17th minute – the number specifically chosen due to Cellino considering it unlucky.
“We took almost 3,500 fans last week (to QPR) and gave them short change,” said Evans, who has revealed that a new contract was offered to Sam Byram earlier this week.
“But the one thing we need them to do is be with us. Collectively, you can be successful against Hull. Separately and divided, you don’t have a chance.
“We don’t want Hull City to arrive believing there is already a chance that they are in front mentally. We will need the fans on the edge of their seats on Saturday against Hull.”
Tomorrow’s planned protest has been sparked by the club imposing a mandatory £5 charge on adult tickets in the south stand – an area of Elland Road that has been vocal in its condemnation of Cellino during recent matches – in return for a voucher than can be redeemed at the catering kiosks.
The move, dubbed a ‘pie tax’ by fans, has led to less than 20 complaints being made to United, but social media has been awash with fans venting their anger.
Whether this indignation translates to a mass walkout tomorrow remains to be seen.
Certainly, ticket sales have been unaffected with most areas of the south stand having already sold out.
Either way, it has still been an unedifying few days for United courtesy of yet another public relations nightmare.
“We want them marching and munching on together,” quipped Evans yesterday in an attempt to inject some humour into the saga.
The United head coach is, though, desperately serious in wanting to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s second half at QPR when the travelling fans turned on their team.
“Everyone has got feelings,” added Evans. “I heard it and it hurts, and not just for one or two days.
“But all you can do to affect that is win matches. All I have asked the fans to give me is time.
“Let’s go through a transfer window and see if I improve the team. If I have not done that, they won’t need to sing it because I won’t be here.”
As part of those attempts to revive United’s fortunes, Evans is already looking to the January transfer window and insists owner Cellino is in agreement that new faces are needed.
Leeds signed Liam Bridcutt shortly before the deadline, but were in for several other loan targets, including a highly-rated young centre-half from a Premier League club who had already impressed in the Football League this term.
As for yesterday’s claim in a national newspaper that every Leeds player was up for sale, Evans added: “It was just scandalous nonsense.
“The story was an unnamed source at an unnamed club has said that Leeds United players are up for sale because an unnamed person at Leeds United said that.
“We need more authenticity than that. Anyway, I would be alarmed if that was the case given my conversations with the president (Cellino).”
The last time Leeds met Hull in league combat came during the 2012-13 campaign, Steve Bruce’s men claiming a rare double.
Despite defeats to Derby County and Manchester City in the past week, the Tigers are strongly fancied to extend United’s woeful home record of just one win in nine months.
Evans added: “I see us as very respectful of the opposition and very respectful of the job that Steve Bruce has done. But I don’t see us as underdogs.”