Cellino orders Leeds boss and players back a month early - by letter

Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino
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Brian McDermott has been formally ordered to report back to Leeds United with his coaching staff and first-team squad on May 28 in another letter from owner Massimo Cellino.

A second written message from Cellino to McDermott said he expected United’s playing staff to be present at Elland Road at 10am a week on Wednesday – more than a month before the squad intend to return for the start of pre-season training.

A simmering dispute between United’s president and manager has grown more bitter in the past week following an exchange of letters between the pair.

McDermott, who has not spoken to Cellino directly since the end of the Championship season, was contacted by Leeds’ Italian owner around 10 days ago, asking him to explain his absence from Elland Road and to provide details of his plans for pre-season and the senior squad.

A reply from McDermott is understood to have prompted a further letter from Cellino towards the end of this week, telling United’s boss that he had taken holiday without authorisation and should be back in Leeds no later than May 28. It also stressed the scale of the work ahead of them this summer.

Sources close to McDermott spoken to by the Yorkshire Evening Post have denied that he is away on holiday, saying McDermott travelled back to his home in the south of England after his mother was admitted to hospital.

They also claimed that the 53-year-old has spent the past fortnight contacting agents about potential summer signings and discussing possible pre-season friendlies. They rejected allegations from Cellino that McDermott had been uncontactable since leaving his home in Harrogate shortly after the last game of the term.

McDermott was contacted directly by the Evening Post but declined to comment.

The conflict between Cellino and McDermott is threatening to render McDermott’s position untenable, though Cellino has made no move to sack him.

McDermott’s contract runs for another two years and would cost Cellino around £1.5million to sever. The League Managers’ Association (LMA) is believed to be working in support of McDermott but has not responded to repeated requests for comment on his position.

The former Reading coach has been under constant scrutiny since Cellino failed with an attempt to dismiss him in January, before the 57-year-old’s takeover of Leeds was officially complete.

McDermott’s first full season in charge ended a fortnight ago with Leeds ranked 15th in the Championship.

Under previous plans, the squad at Leeds were due to report into Thorp Arch for the start of pre-season training on Thursday, July 3, five weeks before the new season begins.

An early recall is likely to lead to questions from the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), though a spokesman for the union said he was unaware of any official instruction to the players from Cellino.

Club captain Ross McCormack has been called up by Scotland to play in a friendly against Nigeria at Craven Cottage on May 28.

Cellino made his position clear on Thursday, saying the squad’s holiday allowance would end 25 days after their 1-1 draw with Derby County on May 3, the last day of the 2013-14 term.

“I think and I believe that in the contract of my employees, they have 25 days of holiday,” Cellino said.

“They (the players and staff) left on May 3. On May 28 everybody is going to be here. We go by contract. They’re going to get everything they got in contracts, nothing more.”

The future of Leeds’ out-of-contract players remains unclear, meanwhile, after the club failed to publish a retained list yesterday.

Leeds had until today to offer new terms to any professionals in the final stages of their deals but they are still to confirm the identity of those being released.