BRIAN McDermott and Leeds United’s players are to meet with Massimo Cellino on June 2 after the club’s owner reversed a previous instruction ordering them back to Elland Road next week.
Leeds have written to their coaching staff and playing squad telling them to be present at the stadium a week on Monday, lining up the first face-to-face conversation between Cellino and McDermott in over a month.
McDermott, whose future as manager is highly uncertain due to his distant and fractious relationship with Cellino, was originally told to report back with his players and staff on Wednesday of next week, 25 days after the end of the Championship season.
Cellino claimed that the 25-day gap between those dates would account for the squad’s entire holiday allowance but their return has been delayed with Cellino due to fly home to Miami after holding talks with prospective buyers of his Italian club Cagliari in the past few days.
The deals held by United’s professional players – standard contracts issued to footballers in the Premier League and Football League – entitle them to five weeks’ paid leave, at least three of which are allowed to be taken consecutively.
United’s coaching team originally arranged for the squad to begin pre-season training at Thorp Arch on July 3, though the players were issued with individual fitness programmes prior to the final game of the 2013-14 season against Derby County on May 3.
Cellino’s initial attempt to recall the playing staff to Elland Road on May 28 caused confusion among them and the players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, confirmed that it had been in touch with the squad to discuss the early return date.
Richard Jobson, one of the PFA’s assistant chief executives, said: “We’re aware of the situation and we’re dealing with it as best we can. We’re in touch with some of the players.”
Cellino has openly criticised McDermott for his recent absence from Leeds, and United’s owner and manager have been communicating only in written exchanges during the past fortnight.
McDermott is currently in the south of England after his mother was admitted to hospital with illness.
The 53-year-old has failed to secure the unequivocal backing of Cellino since the Italian bought Leeds on April 7 but he has two years on his contract at Elland Road and would cost around £1.5million to pay off.
Cellino has as yet made no move to sack him or replace him with another coach.
It is still not clear if the Italian businessman will ask United’s squad to begin training after their return on June 2, a month ahead of McDermott’s scheduled date for the start of pre-season.
United’s training ground at Thorp Arch is currently closed to save costs and asked what would happen after his meeting with McDermott and the players, Cellino said: “I don’t know, I work day-by-day. I have to see.
“I need everyone back here, the players, the manager. I need to speak to them. They are on holiday but we need to work for next season.”