Leeds United: Cellino casting net wide after McDermott’s exit

Benito Carbone, linked with manager's job at Leeds.
Benito Carbone, linked with manager's job at Leeds.
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UP to 10 potential candidates bidding to replace Brian McDermott at Leeds United will speak to owner Massimo Cellino this week, with the Italian expected to move swiftly in identifying his new head coach.

Cellino, who returned to the UK on Friday from his Miami base, announced a resolution to the protracted issue regarding McDermott’s future after several months of speculation with the former Reading chief leaving by mutual consent.

Cellino is due to address players and staff at Elland Road this afternoon and will also begin the process of interviewing for the post of head coach.

A number of names are figuring prominently in the betting, including former Middlesbrough defender Gianluca Festa, a close associate of Cellino.

The surprise inclusion at the head of the betting list is former Forest Green Rovers manager and Watford coach Dave Hockaday, with others including Gianfranco Zola, Benito Carbone and Blackburn Rovers chief Gary Bowyer.

Cellino said: “I’m planning a new coach. I have 10 coaches to meet this week.”

It is unclear if all of United’s players will attend the meeting called by Leeds’s owner for today.

McDermott’s long-time assistant, Nigel Gibbs, remains in his post and is expected to be in attendance. Another who will be present is first-team coach and development squad manager Neil Redfearn.

Players and staff are awaiting payment of their monthly wages and are expected to press for clarity on the issue, with the club unable to pay their wages on Friday.

The club stressed that a banking technicality was to blame and management remain hopeful that players will receive payment this week.

United have stated that Football Association rules preventing the payment of players’ wages from a personal bank account; the club’s main account was frozen after the Elland Road outfit were served with a winding-up petition from Sport Capital for £950,000.

This should be heard in court on June 9, but Cellino is confident it will be dismissed before that date.

Several players are thought to be unhappy about the situation regarding wages and the fact that some have had to incur costs to change or cancel their holiday plans after being ordered by letter to attend today’s meeting at Elland Road.

Professional Footballers’ Association spokesperson Richard Jobson said that the situation is “far from ideal”, but says they have received assurances from the club that the money will be paid as soon as possible.

Of the candidates to take over from McDermott, Cagliari-born Festa is someone the United owner has known for a number of years through his association with the Sardinian club, for whom he played from 1986-93.

At Cellino’s request in January, the former Lumezzane head coach monitored training at Elland Road on several occasions, with the Italian businessman pushing for Festa to be present in the dug-out for Leeds’s game with Ipswich Town on January 31.

That move was blocked by the club, but just three days later Festa was seemingly bound for the manager’s position at Elland Road after McDermott’s ‘sacking’ by Cellino following the crazy events of January 31, only for the decision to be subsequently deemed unlawful and the club to perform a massive U-turn.

The inclusion of Hockaday, 56, a full-back with Blackpool, Swindon and Hull City in his playing days, at the top of the betting list was a surprising development.

Hockaday, who worked with Baildon-born Adie Boothroyd during his time as a coach at Watford, has only managed one club, Forest Green, although his CV does include coaching stints at a number of sides, including 
MK Dons and Southampton.

When contacted over the weekend, he refused to comment on being linked with the post.

Another figuring prominently in the betting is Carbone, who was recently brought into the United set-up by Cellino.

The former Bradford City and Sheffield Wednesday striker was installed as a consultant for the club’s “technical and football operations” by the 57-year-old.

But comments from Cellino suggest Carbone’s remit will cover the Under-21 side and not the first team.

He said: “I have always said that Carbone will be in charge of the Under-21s next season and that doesn’t change now.”

Cellino insisted that he parted company with McDermott late on Friday night on gentlemen’s terms.

He and McDermott had seen their relationship deteriorate over the past month, the pair not meeting face to face since towards the end of the season, communicating instead by formal letters.

On the exit of McDermott, who had two years remaining on his contract, Cellino said: “We did not want to go on pushing, pushing each other, and we found a gentleman’s way to part. Brian leaves the club on good terms, he is a gentleman.”

Former United managing director David Haigh remains in custody in Dubai, having been accused of financial irregularities by the club’s former owners Gulf Finance House.

United captain and last season’s top scorer Ross McCormack, meanwhile, has been linked with an £8m move – West Ham, Celtic, Leicester City and Malaga are all said to be in the hunt to sign him.