BRIAN McDERMOTT last night pleaded for clarity over the ownership of Leeds United, insisting that the on-going saga is in danger of overshadowing what happens on the pitch at Elland Road.
Confusion reigns in LS11 with the bid by current managing director David Haigh to buy a 75 per cent stake having run into serious difficulties over the past fortnight.
This has alerted a rival group, headed by former Sunderland marketing chief Mike Farnan, who seems intent on launching a second attempt to buy into the Championship club after being rebuffed late last year by United’s owners, Gulf Finance House.
Then there is Massimo Cellino, the controversial owner of Serie A side Cagliari: the Yorkshire Post has been told by sources in Italy that Cellino believes a deal is imminent and that several of his business associates have spent time recently at Thorp Arch.
Amid this behind-the-scenes chaos, McDermott has the task of trying to unite a fractured club and elicit a performance from his Leeds players that can bring an end to a five-game losing run.
The United chief last night said: “This football club now is in a place where it has to go and be looked after by the right people in the right hands. Whoever that might be, that is so important for this club – our club.
“These are massively important times. It has got to a point where it seems as if the football has been secondary. That should never be the case at a football club, especially at Leeds United.
“But, first things first, the ownership needs to be resolved. It is so, so important.
“Forget my interests. It is not about me, but the football club. The interest I have got is Leeds United and that is absolutely genuine.
“It is not about the interests of me, David Haigh or anyone. It is about our fans and about our club. It has got to be done for the right reasons, for Leeds United. That is 100 per cent my opinion.
“You don’t want it to drag on, but be done. That is the important thing. That is number one, two and three priority at this football club – to get the ownership resolved.”
Haigh took to social network site Twitter over the weekend to reiterate that Sport Capital – the name of the consortium he heads along with Andrew Flowers, managing director of current shirt sponsors, Enterprise Insurance – “remain as committed as ever to finalising this”.
That, though, has done little to placate supporters, who are as keen as McDermott to see the ownership saga resolved.
West Ham United had a £3.5m bid for Whites’ captain Ross McCormack turned down last Friday and the worry is that if the current impasse continues, either the Hammers or another club may try to prise the Scot away with an improved bid before the transfer window shuts on Friday night.
Other players are also on the radar of rival clubs with Blackburn Rovers manager Gary Bowyer determined to land striker Luke Varney.
As all this uncertainty continues, McDermott’s priority is three points tonight at home to Ipswich Town.
The Leeds manager added: “The ownership needs to be resolved, that’s it. Let us get this business out of the way so we can stop talking about it, then we can move on. That is what I think is absolutely key, first and foremost.
“It is not easy at the moment. These are difficult times, there is no doubt about that. For myself and for the staff, we try and keep this away from the players.
“The players will go out and do their jobs against Ipswich, absolutely.”
United’s last win came seven games ago at Doncaster Rovers on December 14, when the club were sitting in the play-off spots.
Since then, however, the wheels have come off Leeds’s season to leave McDermott needing a huge lift from this week’s back-to-back home games against Ipswich tonight and Huddersfield Town on Saturday.
On his side’s prospects, McDermott added: “We are 12th in the league and that is probably about right. We started the season well and have had a little bit of a run that has not been great. We know that.
“But I keep coming back to the long-term stability of the club.
“When I was brought to this football club, I signed a three-year deal.
“I signed it because I was asked to do a job long-term, until I am told differently. That is the most important thing for me. To build up the stability, squad, team and fanbase – everything about it to make this club great again.”
The visit of Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich is Leeds’s first outing since being unfortunate to lose 1-0 at home to leaders Leicester City ten days ago.
McDermott said: “We know Ipswich and Mick well and know his teams are right up for games.
“We are going to have to make sure we win the battles early on and then do our stuff.
“We need to get our quality going and our wide players getting in crosses and creating chances.
“Leicester was the first time that I have been able to put two wingers on the pitch since I have been at Leeds.
“I think the performance, if not the result, was much better. We looked much more solid and that we were going to score goals.”
Last six games: Leeds United DLLLLL, Ipswich Town DDLLLW.
Last time: Leeds United 2 Ipswich Town 0; December 15, 2012; Championship.
Referee: D Webb (County Durham).